LOUGHNATOUSA RAVEN ridden by John Crippen finished an extraordinary 4th in the Foxhunter Final at the Horse of the Year Show – arguably the most prestigious of all the finals. The de facto National Championship for Novice Horses, the competition attracted over 20,000 competitors, whittled down to 24 qualifiers for the Final. To be there with such an inexperienced horse was a strong achievement for the young team with the added comfort that so many of those competing in this Final go on to great things.

Jumping 22nd of 24, Raven was cantered boldly into the ring by John Crippen. Team Consultant Tim Beecher’s advice had been to ride strongly into the first fence with all its potential distractions and strongly he rode, conscious that a big and very technical course had caught out all but two of the previous twenty one competitors. Immediately it was apparent that Raven was comfortable in the live-televised arena with its capacity crowd and she cleared the first four with ease. Inexperience let her down for a split second when she looked up into the crowd and touched the top pole of probably the easiest fence in the 12 fence (15 jumps) circuit. Down it went but Raven was unphased. Fastidious and imaginative preparation by Bernice Cuthbert assisted by Beecher, and John Crippen’s understanding of the mare all combined to produce a highly professional round. A brutal purple oxer positioned on a difficult line against the crowd had been the downfall of many Slightly wrong on the approach, John and Raven sorted each other out neatly and stylishly and cleared the obstacle with seemingly feet to spare. By this time, commentators and crowd alike knew they were looking at a mare with a big future and she did not disappoint when putting in a huge jump over the last.

Having not touched a twig, so to speak, except the one when she glanced away at the wrong moment, Raven added to this achievement with a very good time. There were no more clears and Raven finished second fastest of the one fence down brigade, 4th overall. Briefly, rueful glances were exchanged between Team Principal David Allan, Crippen and Beecher. They knew that the mare was a glance away from a jump off in which she could have pressured the other two into errors. But “rueful” was overpowered by the enormity of the young horse’s and the young rider’s achievement in the ring.

The Foxhunter Final gets even the most hardened professionals teary and bleary. Some of those horses competing had already progressed to International Level whilst maintaining their Foxhunter Qualification from earlier in the season – indeed the excellent winner had recently finished 2nd in a World Championship class no less. In this matrix of performance, the team members joined the teary brigade. Allan, a member of that brigade and grimy from fence-setting in the preparation, spent a quiet 15 minutes leading Raven around until rejoining the team and the most welcome supporters to watch the Household Cavalry escort the leading horses, including Raven, into the presentation. Quite a night.

Foxhunter Final performance caps a wonderful outdoor season