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RIDING - Seconds Qualify for Regional Championships

The CUET Second Team have had a fantastic season competing in their mini league, culminating in ending top of the league and progressing to the Regional Finals.

BUCS Equestrian competitions take the form of combined dressage and show jumping rounds (judged both on style and faults) on randomly drawn horses provided by the home venue. Each member of the University team rides one of the dressage horses and a different one for show jumping, and competes against the other universities' members on those horses, so that scores are directly comparable. The best score on a horse will get zero penalties, with the aim of the competition both individually and as a team to gain the least penalties possible. If overall penalties are tied, the placings are decided on the 'collective marks' each rider is given by the judge, for their position, effectiveness of their riding and influence on the horse's way of going.

The CUET Second Team consists of Captain Ali Simon (Fitzwilliam), Kate Branley (Newnham), Helena Gostelow (Queens') and Hannah Kirk (Trinity). The universities in Cambridge's mini league are the University of East Anglia, the University of Essex and Writtle College. Each university hosts one home competition through the season, so the teams compete in four matches between October and March.

The first league competition for the CUET Seconds on 4th November 2015 was the trickiest for Cambridge; with less than one week's notice of the date before the competition only Kate and Helena were able to make the match, held at Writtle College in Chelmsford. Luckily, 2014-15 CUET Captain Alice Strang Steel (Emmanuel) stepped in and was joined by CUET Development Squad Emily Hopgood (Emmanuel) to complete the four team riders needed for the competition. Whilst Alice is a seasoned BUCS competitor, Kate, Helena and Emily were all making their CUET debuts.

Good performances from Cambridge in the first phase meant that they were leading after dressage, with both Alice and Kate on zero penalty scores. Writtle College has a strong Equine programme and therefore a competitive pool of riders to chose a team from. This, coupled with the significant home advantage of knowing the jumping horses very well meant that despite Cambridge's skilful riding and individual zero penalties from Kate, Writtle overtook the lead to finish just ahead of Cambridge overall. Individually Kate was placed second on zero penalties (the same score as the winner but behind on collective marks), Alice placed 5th and Emily 8th. With a team second placing, Cambridge gained 3 points towards league qualification, a strong start to the BUCS campaign.

The next BUCS competition was held at home by Cambridge on 2nd December 2015, at Hilltop Equestrian Centre where CUET regularly train under the coaching of owner Sharon Newbound. This afforded Cambridge a good home advantage, as the team had been to several sessions on the competition horses in preparation.

After the dressage phase, CUET were in front by a whopping 30 penalties from their closest competitors Writtle, with Ali, Kate and Helena all on zero penalty scores and Hannah gaining 5.5. Ali scored a fabulous 79% in the dressage riding the infamous Fern; a Cambridge personal best. The jumping horses were more tricky, with Hannah's ride King being especially nervous and excitable, but all CUET riders coped very well with the tight and twisty course with Ali and Hannah both scoring zero penalties. This left Cambridge ahead overall with all individual riders being placed in the top 7; Ali 1st on zero penalties, Hannah 2nd, Kate 6th and Helena 7th. A win at this match meant that Cambridge were now tied for top of the league with Writtle; to guarantee victory in the league overall, the pressure was on CUET to win the next two matches.

After a productive Christmas break with all team members getting in plenty of riding and competing at home it was back to BUCS for the third league match, held by the University of East Anglia on 10th February. A variety of dressage and jumping horses awaited the team; Hannah drew an 18.1hh dressage horse and a 13.2hh show jumping pony! Very strong performances from CUET led to them  being in the lead following the dressage phase on a total score of 9 penalties, with Ali and Helena on zero. Cambridge managed to maintain this lead through the jumping, with Helena on an ex-Grade A show jumper and Kate on the opposite; a feisty little Irish Cob, but she rode a beautiful flowing round to gain zero penalties to add to her dressage score of 4. Overall this led to Kate winning individually, Ali 2nd, Helena 7th and Hannah 8th. With this win Cambridge took the lead in the league, but the overall league win and regional qualification hung on the final match.

A week later the four universities met at Essex's home venue for the final competition. Kate's practical meant that she couldn't make the competition, but was subbed by previous CUET member and international show jumper Clark Glasgow who has returned to Cambridge to study Graduate Medicine. Clark drew a very spooky and forward dressage horse who took offence to the judge's box but Clark rode a very calm and accurate test nonetheless, whereas Ali's horse was a rather temperamental chestnut mare who enjoyed bucking throughout the canter in the test. Nevertheless, CUET led after dressage, with Ali and Hannah on zero penalties and Helena on 2. Clark gave CUET fantastic warm ups for the show jumping, using all his experience and CUET all therefore rode superbly accurate and polished rounds, with Ali and Helena ending on zero penalties. This led to CUET being able to increase their lead and winning the competition by over 50 penalties and qualifying for Regionals! Ali placed 2nd, Helena 3rd and Hannah 7th.

As clear winners of their mini league, CUET Seconds now progress to the Regional Final where they will compete against other league winners across the Midlands. This is held at Talland Equestrian Centre on 30th April. If successful at the Regionals, Cambridge will qualify for the National Championships held in June.