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Jessica Calder chosen for national working hunter team event

By Jean Gunn

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A Caithness rider has been selected to represent Scotland at the British Show Pony Society (BSPS) summer championship show at Arena UK, Lincolnshire, this week.

Twelve-year-old Jessica Calder and her Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) supreme champion working hunter pony Coco Bongo were chosen following a number of successes at shows in the south this summer.

She is one of eight young Scottish riders chosen to take part in the inter country teams working hunter competition which takes place today (Wednesday). They will be split into two teams – Nevis and Lomond – and compete against riders from England, Wales and Ireland.

The teams will also take part in a parade during the evening performance.

Jessica's father Will Calder of Scrabster Seafoods Ltd, explained that the selection was based on the combination's performance over the season and teams were made up of ponies from the different height classes. "We have been doing lots of qualifiers this year," he said. "She qualified for the Royal International in the 133cm plaited workers and has qualified for HOYS in the plaited workers."

Coco Bongo made history at the last HOYS in 2019 being the first working hunter pony to take the supreme championship on the final night of the show. The talented grey mare was ridden on that occasion by Chloe Lemieux, however this year it will be Jess herself riding the 12-year-old pony – they qualified at the Stoneleigh Horse Show.

Commenting on all the miles they have clocked up travelling to events, Will said: "When you look at the map you think that is quite far down, then you arrive and see a sign saying 90 miles to London – it's further than you think. There has been a fair bit of travelling."

Jess, who is very excited about being selected, is just back from a training day in Ayrshire where the riders were put through their paces and the final decisions were made on who would be in each team.

She has been selected as the 133cm representative in Team Nevis along with Eliza England 143cm, Beri Brown 153cm and Olivia Grant, intermediate. Jess and Olivia both benefit from coaching sessions with James Munro and Russell Skelton who are based at the North Highland College Equestrian Centre at Dale.

Team Lomond comprises James Houlden 133cms, Rory Houlden 143cm, Sophie Maher 153cm and Zara Weir, intermediate.

The national team competition course will be quite a bit harder than some of the working hunter tracks the riders take part on so it will prove quite demanding on both the riders and horses.

Jess set off on Sunday to Arena UK and she will take part in other classes at the show while there including the Desert Orchid Working Hunter Pony competition which is an 18 fence course up to 10cm higher than usual which will be a real tester.

Will said it had been a fair step up for his daughter who has gone straight from nursery stakes to open classes after missing a year of competitions due to the pandemic, but the partnership have developed a good bond.

The team results will not be unveiled until the Saturday.

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