THIS YEAR started with a few riders heading off to the ill-fated Liverpool International Horse Show, held from the end of December through into January.

The headlines were grabbed by the car park fire next door to the arena which forced the show to be cancelled on the final day, but before the chaos ensued a small number of Scottish riders had had the chance to compete in this wonderful atmosphere.

Tillyoch-based Charley Hamilton only just rubbed a pole out in the first round of the 148cm championship with Novella, but the tough course saw just two go clear and only one go double clear leaving her in a respectable fourth.

Jordan Thompson’s ride, Uni Stop, is currently on the market but gave a good display jumping double clear and finishing fifth in a strong 1.5m under 25 class.

Reigning RHS ‘Young Masters’ champion, this horse has allowed Jordan to jump his first area trial as well as tackle the ‘International Stairway’ classes, giving him invaluable experience along the way.

In the 128cm class, it didn’t quite happen for the younger riders, with both Amy Morris and Fergal Holohan having a few poles each, but this was Amy’s last ride on the wonderful Madonna, which left for her new home, while Fergal grew in confidence jumping in such an amazing arena to go on and score at his next big outing, the South View Small Pony Premier.

Contesting the winter second rounds, Coylton-based Fergal jumped three foot-perfect clears on his little grey, Harri Potter, over Gillian Milner’s substantial track even turning inside back to the final oxer which was almost bigger than the ponies themselves to stay 0.19 of a second clear of Cumbrian Sophie Wicks, on Camizian.

With a selection of horses and ponies to ride at his mother, Fiona’s Lochend Farm yard, this was Fergal’s first attempt at the second rounds and sees him qualify for the Royal International, in July.

Madelaine Archibald never hit a pole to slot into a lower placing with My Little Sweetheart, so it won’t be too long before she qualifies with a few more chances still to come.

In the 138cm section, Codie McGowan was upset to finish third and just outside the qualifying places, but it was Claudia Moore on the experienced pair My Bugsy Malone and Sonas Barney, who stood above her, so there was no disgrace in being beaten. That was especially so as she is one of the youngest in the class and at her first attempt at this height she kept her cool and tackled both days bravely finishing seventh at her next attempt.

As with Madelaine, this young lady will still have a few more chances and with this consistency will be in with a shout.

Slightly closer to home and a trip to Alnwick Ford, just outside Morpeth, in Northumberland, and another Royal International ticket made its way home to Scotland.

Kelly Connor made the trip south with Lindsay Jeffrey’s lovely chestnut mare, Cool Flo, to take their chances in the winter novice qualifier.

Slotting into second behind Annabel Shields on The Cartendern Kelly was delighted to earn her qualifying ticket.

Cool Flo is a seven-year-old by the Burggraaf/Nimmerdor stallion, Think Twice CICI out of a Stakkato/Lord mare which was originally bought by Lindsay Jeffrey to compete, but due to bouts of ill health Lindsay handed the reins to Kelly.

Being produced carefully from Kelly’s Barkeldy Equestrian yard, in Fife, this mare also recently won a six-bar at Morris clearing 1.4m for fun and will now be aimed at second rounds this summer then the final of the winter novice with Lindsay enjoying taking a step back to being an owner this time.

Back at home and SNEC ran their first show of the year with a category one containing classes up to 1.15m.

On form and taking a step down from the 1.3m classes, Lucy Stewart is seen at every show chasing points with her black gelding, Cancun, which galloped flat out to head a 1.1m and a 1.15m to step her up to the top of the Silver League.

Megan Cowan ensured she stayed at the top of the ‘Bronze’ league with wins in two 85cm classes – her speedy Pieter just outpacing stablemate Tullycars Peekaboo.

Lauren Forrest was in the same form in the 95cm, standing first both times with WKD Cosmopolitan and second with Cyrena Du Carel.

Megan, Lauren and Rachel Aitken are all at the top of the Bronze league table at the moment, with Rachel adding valuable points with a win and three placings over the three days with her own Harleys Revenge.

Equine dentist, David Brown, has found a useful partner in the shape of the nine-year-old Al Pacino sired Americo. Bought from George Babes at the start of last year, they have steadily worked their way up from jumping 1m classes to collecting all their double clears in foxhunters and tackling their first at Morris, recently.

Their double clear at SNEC was fast enough to secure a win in Saturday’s 1.15m members cup.

Lanarkshire’s Alana Quin maintained the form that saw her win by a huge margin at Blue Ridge, recently, when she flew round again to win a 1m open on the Irish-bred Drop Anchor, a daughter of Cruisings Mickey Finn out of a Touchdown mare.

LEADING awards

85cm Nat Am – 1, Pieter, M Cowan; 2, Jack The Lad, W Mahoney; 3, Ally D, A Gardiner. 95cm Nat Am – 1, WKD Cosmopolitan, L Forrest; 2, Cyrena Du Carel, L Forrest; 3, Ally D. 1m open – 1, Drop Anchor, A Quinn; 2, Harleys Revenge, R Aitken; 3, Hi Ho, H Pele. 1.05m Nat Am – 1, Fernhill Inspector, L Harley; 2, CCs Robin, H Pele; 3, Leandro VD Eikelboscherheide, A Ogilvie. 1.1m Nat Am – 1, Dali V, S Laird; 2, Amadeus XV, A Green; 3, Fernhill Inspector. National 1.15m – 1, Americo, D Brown; 2, Tiffany, R Clark. 85cm Nat Am – 1, Pieter; 2, Tullycars Peek A Boo, M Cowan; 3, Broomhill Freddie, F Hunt. 95cm Nat Am – 1, WKD Cosmopolitan; 2, Cyrena Du Carel; 3, Starsky Prince, K Allison. 1m open – 1, Harleys Revenge; 2, Bambi, A Gray; 3, Baloubet Du Pleasur, A Crombie. 1.05m Nat Am – 1, Pippa Du Perron, E Ryder; 2, Optimist, D Ockenden; 3, Harleys Revenge. 1.1m Nat Am – 1, Cancun, L Stewart; 2, El Diviro, K Dunlop; 3, Dougie The Dude, S Lohoar.National 1.15m – 1, Cancun; 2, Glow DK, L Stewart; 3, Vurelise, C Templeton.