The weather, juniors changing rides, the rigidity of the pre-entry system and the festive season all took their toll on Scottish show jumping at home with a few shows cancelling but thankfully the London International Horse Show was scheduled at the right time to fuel everyone’s enthusiasm for the sport.

In the international classes, Scott Brash looked to have done more than enough to secure the British leg of the World Cup series when Hello Jefferson skipped around the 1.60m fences as if they were 1.10 only to be pipped at the post by Ben Maher on Enjeu De Grisien.

The following day’s Grand Prix provided yet more unbelievable competition, excitement, thrills and edge of the seat moments watching some of the world’s best riders gallop around a huge track, coming inside on almost impossible angles chasing the £30,000 first prize.

Scott was mounted on Hello Valentino for this class, a former approved stallion produced by Dreeling Sport horses and having only been with Scott for a year. In that time they have amassed some £50,000 in prize money coming to London via a successful trip to Geneva.

Looking a bit unsettled in his mouth but with one of the most talented Jockeys on board, the flashy grey showed the quality of the class when their superb round left them in a very creditable seventh place.

The Scots were very well represented in the Yeti Under 25 Championship where no less than six of our young riders had qualified.

Careful planning, choosing the right shows and saving his horse for the big one was Sandy McLean who has been on fire so far in the Winter Premier circuit.

Moving up into seniors Sandy worked for Jonathan Dixon’s QC Sporthorses yard where he met and started competing with the then seven-year-old Dutch import Gino F. The tall chestnut gelding by Ultimo out of a Grannus dam suited Sandy who purchased him for himself with their performances in 2023 resulting in them being selected for British Team duty.

Already a Grand Prix winner this winter they came to London on form jumping clear joining another seven combinations for the jump off. They looked steady over the first few fences in the jump off, moved up a gear to a double before taking an inside line to an upright, a slight kick and flap when really tight to the penultimate oxer before cruising with Gino’s big stride to the last to finish over two seconds clear of the only other rider to leave all the fences intact Jennifer Billington on Flipper Darco UK Z.

Nicole Lockhead Anderson finished sixth with I Am Harley on a quick four but Fergal Holohan on Kan Annie, Emma Crawford on Dukes of Hazzard, Amy Morris on Up To Date Showgirl and Fraser Reed on Westbank Rio all performed well but were knocked out in the first round.

Born and bred into a very experienced equestrian family, Sandy learnt his trade at his mother’s Edinburgh and Lasswade Riding School in Midlothian winning all through juniors before heading into the senior ranks.

A recent move has seen Sandy take up residence in West Sussex at dealer and producer Matt Pike’s yard where he now has more horses to ride and better access to shows, especially for travelling abroad.

His top horses include Gino F then Jemma and Johnny Williams Zoey 12, winner of the Hartpury Winter Grand Prix just before Christmas then his own Eagele Z, bought from Annaliese Aitken in the summer winning the Onley Grounds EC Grand Prix the first big class in 2024.

Lucy Capper and Capability Brown contested the Voltaire Design Mini Stakes at the London International just a few weeks after their first ever and successful trip abroad. With trainer Douglas Duffin on hand for advice a super round was only slightly marred by one fence falling but still leaving them in seventh place.

Little sister Amy had two classes to aim for being paired with Sebastian Hughes to finish runner up in the Mini-Major with Laithehill Paisley before really having a go in the 128cms Championship in which her jump off round was the quickest overall but a rub at one fence saw Amy and Dooneens Electric drop to sixth.

Morris EC’s 148cm Pony Premier run in January is always an early one for new combinations to be ready, the lack of Scottish juniors in the bigger classes was evident. That said, Lucy maintained her form managing to secure the first Winter JA Classic of the year jumping three immaculate rounds again on Capability Brown.

Lucy also took third and a qualifying place in the Blue Chip Pro JA/JC Handicap with Oscar Van De Beekerheide.

Michael McColm made the Winter JC/JA qualifier look easy on his first attempt this year finishing third and collecting his ticket with the scopey Legend SCAIS.

Both the Winter JC/JA qualifiers fell into the grasp of visiting riders. HOYS 128cms champion last year, Ella Kay produced a fluent, balanced, stylish round on Lucky Clover Boy to secure her winning ticket on the Saturday then Cambridge’s Lola Thulborn adding her winning ticket on the Sunday with new ride Ella Z to their Coral Qualifier won at Onley.

Darcy Breen travelled from Sussex to return a very impressive round on the beautiful grey One Saharah to secure Sunday’s Winter JA Classic. Stylish, accurate and with plenty of scope at her disposal Darcy had finished sixth at the London International before qualifying for the Blue Chip Sparkle at Onley then this easy win at Morris.

Darcy was also seen winning and being well placed in the Children on Horses under 16 class on Kunis.

Picking up his trophy at the BS Scotland Awards Ball for winning the Children on Horses section with Seefin Surprise was Turlood Stables’ Jackson Stewart.

At Morris, he filled the top three placings in this class winning with Seefin Surprise, second with Aeriocht and third with Amazon JD on which he also won the 1.20m section.

Aimee Paxton was seen back in action with her good partner Las Vegas after a break but it was a catch ride Pitchwoods Ceasar’s Palace who headed a Coral qualifier and Eyre Dior Diva who won a class.

Eleanor Archibald went home with a red and blue courtesy of Garryduff Bella in two Newcomers with Eleanor already qualified for a few Blue Chip finals from Southview with this mare and LCS Peachy Beachy.

At only nine years old Lily Dow looks to have got to grips with the twenty-two-year-old Red Flamenco which she’s had the ride on since October. Placed in both her 1m classes, Lily who also competes in cross country and pony racing was only jumping 70cms classes before acquiring ‘Ruby’ a former mount of her uncle Sandy McLean.

Rounding off 2023 at the top of the Silver League was Rachel Aitken whose partnership with Madame Shutterfly continues to develop thanks to training from Kelly Connor. This pair won their first two classes of 2024, a 1.15 and a 1.20m at Highfield at Howe.

Topping the Bronze League currently is Isla Stewart with Jim Wilmer’s super speedy Tarnside Globetrotter who was also on form at Howe.

Following close behind are Andrew Blackwood on Copper, Alistair White on Hanleen O Tess, Cara Wilmer with Khaleesi and new partnership Natasha McKee on Larezzo P who were all in the money at Howe.

Congratulations must go to Jane Pelly who was awarded for her significant contribution to the sport of show jumping when accepting the Ryans Son Trophy at the London International. A well-known and much respected judge, commentator, mentor and completely dedicated to the sport this accolade was very well deserved and a great achievement.

Another well known face on the circuit is that of course designer Shaun Sands who was pleased to pass all his final requirements elevating him to a Level 5 course designer.

Sad news brought the year to a close when show jumping enthusiast and a big personality on the Scottish circuit Jimmy Lamont lost his battle with cancer at the end of December. Jimmy loved his horses, loved the sport and had a smile for everyone. He competed at the highest level in Scotland on the grey Rubber Bullet in the early eighties winning over £10,000 which then was a fortune. Latterly he was impossible to catch in speed classes with Lynbank Aragorn, like all his horses were produced from scratch. Underneath the smiles and jokes was a warm hearted, knowledgeable character who will be sorely missed.