All photos by Calina. – As the Mary Kings and William Fox-Pitts of the world prepared to face an imposing show jump course that would decide the outcome of the CCI**** as well as the HSBC FEI Classics Series standings, some future top eventers were at Pau engaged in an epic battle involving Shetland Ponies.
Several teams made up of riders from different areas of France competed in the Shetland Pony CCE (CCE stands for Concours Complet d’Equitation ) which had all the usual three phases. We were off watching Lindsay Pearce show jump so we missed dressage, but we did get to see these adorable pairs jump their own miniature show jump rounds as well as contest the pretty tough cross-country course.
These pint sized equines and their riders were impressive. The riders had some good stick-ability (more than one came home without any stirrups!) and some of the ponies were quite athletic.
After more than a few good rounds in both jumping phases, I was starting to wonder whether these French ponies were the product of a secret pony breeding program to produce biddable, willing ponies. I had yet to see any of the trademark pony naughtiness! And then I saw the first hint of trouble, as one pony was tempted by the delicious grass beneath its feet. I was oddly comforted by the sight of the small child on his back, urging him on.
The pony antics didn’t end there! Fence 5 was a brush jump in one of the areas furthest away from the other horses and more than one pony clearly thought there were gremlins lurking.
There was also some pony attitude at the start, as this rider headed toward the first fence.
Despite a few mishaps, most of the ponies (and riders) were quite well behaved and there were lots of smiles to be seen.
There was more excitement in store for the winning teams. The winning riders were awarded their prizes in the big ring at the same time as the CIC2* prizes were awarded. Andrew Nicholson handed out the prizes to the top placed team, while Paul Tapner did the honours for the team that placed second.