The brave and the keen battled their way through snow, sleet and freezing conditions to compete at the Small Pony Premier, held at Morris EC, just outside Kilmarnock.

The forecast wasn’t great yet the show went ahead and those travelling from the south had a clear route up the motorway, but it was a few of the home side riders who had to sit this one out not being able to get out their own road ends.

Numbers were down in the classes but the competition was still fierce as the 128cm and 138cm ponies battled it out to see who could take home the Royal International tickets in each of the four second rounds.

One home side rider who scored a popular win was Tillyoch-based Natasha Hamilton who took charge of the first day’s 138cm second round and made it her own.

Having missed out jumping the 128cm final, this will be Natasha’s first visit to Hickstead on her former Shaunie Greig ride, which she has been riding for under a year.

Warming up with a double clear and a fast win in a 31-starter Graham Heath, Natasha had asked Johnny Aird for help recently and with him at the practice fence and coaching her throughout they made a good team.

Grinning from ear to ear and with her parents over the moon she rode a confident round in the final jump off to record a winning treble clear.

This was no mean feat when she left reigning Winter 138cm champion, Claudia Moore, on the evergreen 26-year-old My Bugsy Malone, almost a full second in arrears.

The Squib family had a great show throughout collecting four RIHS tickets justifying their long drive from Brentwood just outside London.

The first of these was when Eloise settled for third behind Natasha and Claudia in Saturday’s 138cm section on board a new ride of just a few weeks Thelma’s Gift who just rubbed one pole out in the final round.

Eloise has made it through to the third round in every one of her qualifiers so far but on the Saturday their final jump off didn’t go quite to plan. Regrouping and coming out positive on Sunday she and the former Shaunie Greig ride, Drumaclan Flight, looked confident to score a third round clear.

Drawn second, Eloise set off at speed to kick on and really ride forward attacking every fence. Drumaclan Flight responded by dropping his head and jumping every fence being quick across the ground crossing the line clear and fast in 35.10s.

With poles falling around Ian Clark’s track, it was up to Welshman Iwan Carpenter to record the next clear which he did with his father John’s Fancy A Baileys taking the slightly wider route to the last to stop the clock on 38.10s.

Tabitha Kyle absolutely flew the course with last year’s finalist, Lissduff Royal, but a rub at the second fence saw them drop to eventual fourth place.

Entering with his second ride, Rhona Henderson’s home-bred Follow Jazzy Lady, Iwan knew there were no other clears and steered the ever-exuberant mare round to contain her enthusiasm, jump clear and qualify in third

Tia Squib picked up two RIHS tickets starting with an outright win in the first day’s winter 128cm. Riding Gorm And Ban this was Tia’s first attempt at a second round this year and will be her second appearance at Hickstead.

Having just four faults in the final in 2017 this pair will be determined to have another crack at it and after almost three years together they know each other inside and out.

Ian Clark had once again measure it well to finish the 27-starter class with just three treble clears. Drawn first, Tia took an inside line after an oxer across the middle of the arena back to a fence which was to be her winning manoeuvre keeping her just under a second in front.

Sophie Wicks is already qualified from South View but she was still annoyed with herself for missing this turn sending her round half the arena back to the next fence then finding out it she was less than a second in arrears on a pony having his first taste at second rounds, Camizion.

This was Noora Von Bulow’s third attempt at qualifying, having just missed out at South View a few weeks earlier on Peppino Il Grande. Riding for a clear she took the easy route but the tactics paid off when they left the fences standing to slot into third.

RIHS ticket number four for the Squib family came from a second place in Sunday’s 128cm qualifier and Tia again this time on board Wyndham Tom Thumb. This time the competition only went two rounds, with Tia and Madelaine Archibald on My Little Sweetheart both having a couple of poles off in the second round.

This didn’t matter as much to Madelaine, who was in top form recently at South View where she made it into the third round on both days jumping treble clear for a third and qualifying ticket.

Jumping two clears to take the class on this occasion was Liverpool 128cm champion, Poppy Deakin. Travelling from Newcastle, Poppy had already qualified from South View and has been through to the third and final round in every second round so far.

One of the furthest travelled riders was Oscar Hobby, who made it all the way from Wiltshire through blizzards to justify the trip with three convincing wins on his Sweet Delight.

Three 128/138cm handicaps were theirs for the taking, including Sunday’s 40-starter Graham Heath qualifier.

Leading awards

BS 11 and under – 1, 5 shared. 90cm open – 1, Real Cool Dude, S Proudley; 2, Legend Reborn, R Proudley; 3, Llettycrudd Cardi Bach, M Grey. Graham Heath 128/138cm handicap – 1,Aristo Justice, S Hamilton; 2, Noahs Lady. Winter 128cm second round – 1, Gorm And Ban, T Squib; 2, Camizion, S Wicks; 3, Peppino II Grande, N Van Bulow. . Winter 138cm second round – 1, Aristo Justice, N Hamilton; 2, My Bugsy Malone, C Moore; 3, Thelmers Gift, E Squib. 128/138cm handicap – 1, Sweet Delight, O Hobby; 2, Mitchel Troy Welsh Express, M Archibald; 3, Llettycrudd Cardi Bach, M Grey. Graham Heath 128/138cm handicap – 1, Sweet Delight; 2, Lissduff Royal, T Kyle; 3, Noahs Lady, R Proudley. . Winter 128cm – 1, Munsboro Plunkett, P Deakin; 2, Wyndham Tom Thumb, T Squib; 3, My Little Sweetheart, M Archibald. Winter 138cm second round – 1, Drumaclan Flight, E Squib; 2, Fancy A Baileys, I Carpenter; 3, Follow Jazzy Lady, I Carpenter. BS 10 and under/11 and under – 1, 5 shared. 128/138 cm handicap – 1, Sweet Delight, O Hobby; 2, Connie VII, O Carpenter; 3, Makarli, O Hobby.