RAF Coningsby Equitation Club

The RAF Coningsby Equitation Club is a small but friendly club that aims to foster an interest in all things equine and actively encourage personnel to give horse riding a try.

You never know, you might enjoy it! Each year the RAF Equitation Association (RAFEA) holds two levels of competition for RAF personnel: the RAFEA Inter-Station League and the RAFEA Championship. This year RAF Coningsby competed in both competitions.

The equine year started off with entry to the RAF Equitation Association Inter-Station League (ISL) and a mad scrabble ensued to find five willing RAF personnel (4 riders and 1 reserve) to make up the RAF Coningsby Team. The aim of the RAF Equitation Association Inter-Station League is to introduce and encourage competitive riding at Station level and to allow personnel who would not normally have the opportunity to take part in riding competitions to ‘give it a go’. For this reason there are strict rules as to who can compete and who cannot. Current RAFEA team members, or personnel who have competed in the RAFEA team in the last 3 years, personnel who have competed in the Intermediate or Open classes at the RAFEA Championships, winners of the previous years ISL individual placings at both finals and Service dependants are exempt from competing.

In the ISL, 4 riders compete against other RAF Saddle Clubs within a geographical area in a riding test and show jumping competition. 4 horses are used and 1 rider from each team will “share” a horse, with the riders and horses being “matched” as best as possible. Each rider then completes a riding test where they are required to carry out a series of movements designed to show the judge their ability to influence the horse’s natural paces and obedience. Once all riders have completed the riding test, they then each jump a course of show jumps where the height of the fences is set at 2’3” – 2’ 6” for the initial rounds with faults awarded for a knock down, refusal or a combination of both.

Coningsby’s first match was planned for June against RAF High Wycombe at Flemish Farm in Windsor Great Park. Although this was to be held in a fantastic location, and presented the chance for a “bimble” around Windsor Great Park, unfortunately we had to forfeit this match as various issues prevented us from raising the number of participants required to compete – not the most promising start to the season!

Match number 2 was a home match against RAF Halton. Castledyke Equestrian Centre (EC) at Gypsey Bridge had generously agreed to us riding and holding the matches there and after several training sessions hopes were high. But horses are nothing if not great levellers and Coningsby lost the match by 6 points to 15. However the team had only recently been formed, with two experienced ISL riders (FS Saul Vine and Sgt Vinny Potts) and 2 new members to the Coningsby team (Cpl Michelle Jones and SAC Hannah Harvey). All were pleased with the results and there were individual placings for FS Vine (2nd) and Cpl Jones (4th). Due to ISL rulings from last year Sgt Potts’ scores were not counted but we allowed him to ride to make up the team and stop him throwing any temper tantrums!

The final match was against RAF Northolt, again a home match at Castledyke EC. This time the home advantage worked in our favour and we won by 12 points to 9. Fantastic performances were put in by FS Vine, SAC Harvey and Cpl Jones to achieve 2nd, 3rd and 5th places individually. New team member SAC Al Beasley was a respectable 6th.

On completion of the area matches the results are forwarded to the ISL Co-ordinators who then advise on which two teams will go through to the “A” final and who will go through to the “B” final to be ridden at RAF Cranwell Saddle Club in August.

As a result of the teams’ efforts, Coningsby went through to the “B” final at Cranwell on 22 Aug. Here the stakes are raised, with the show jumping being set at 2’6” – 2‘ 9”, not an easy feat to accomplish when you have only sat on the horse for approximately 15 minutes! All team members rode brilliantly, and at the end of the day Coningsby were a close 2nd in the team placings behind RAF Northolt. Individual placings went to SAC Beasley, 4th and FS Vine, 6th, with SAC Harvey being awarded the “Spirit of ISL” trophy for the rider who shows the true meaning of the Inter Station League competition. A great day was had by the Club members present and in the true spirit of the ISL all went away eager for next year’s competition and the chance to improve on this year’s result.

The 2011 RAFEA season ended with the RAFEA Championships held at RAF Cranwell over the weekend 10/11 Sep. Here riders compete in dressage, show jumping and cross-country, against other military personnel from all 3 Services, MOD Civilians, dependants and the civilian Police force. At the RAFEA Champs, personnel compete either individually or as a team, partaking in each discipline separately or enter all 3 in what is known as a One Day Event (ODE), a smaller version of the Badminton and Burghley 3 day events that professionals strive to win.

As the RAF does not own horses, it is the entrant’s or individual Station’s own responsibility to beg, borrow or steal an equine to compete on over the weekend if they are unlucky enough not to own their own horse. Due to the lack of available horses only 2 RAF Coningsby personnel competed at the RAFEA Champs.

FS Vine competed in the dressage competition in two individual classes on the Saturday on 2 different horses. He produced two lovely tests but was unfortunate not to be placed.

Sgt Kilbourn took part in all three phases over the weekend: dressage and show jumping on the Saturday and cross country on the Sunday. Unplaced in the dressage and having 4 faults in both the 80cm and 90cm meant no individual rosettes this time, however she was exceedingly happy with both show jumping rounds, not having show jumped 90cm in a long time. A fast, brilliant clear round on the cross country on the Sunday culminated in a 2nd placing for Sgt Kilbourn and Holly in the cross country event. In addition, scores from the 3 phases of: dressage, 90cm show jumping and cross country, resulted in a 2nd place in the Novice Individual ODE for the pair. To round it all off, Sgt Kilbourn agreed at the last minute on the Saturday morning to make up a team with 2 other riders for the team ODE. As a result of the hard work and efforts put in by all 3 team members a 3rd place was awarded in the team Novice ODE. The RAFEA Championships ended an excellent year for the RAF Coningsby Equitation Club, one in which the club intends to capitalise on with training sessions over the winter months.

As 2 I/C RAF Coningsby Equitation Club, I would like to thank FS Saul Vine (17 Sqn), Sgt Vinny Potts (MT), Cpl Michelle Jones and SAC Hannah Harvey (EMSG) and SAC Al Beasley (29 Sqn) for their participation this year. Without their enthusiasm and dedication, the ISL Competition for Coningsby this year would have been a poor one.

As a club we would like to thank Castledyke Equestrian Centre for the use of their facilities, Jayne for her instruction and for judging the ISL and the horses that put up with us each and every time we climb on board:

Where, in this wide world,

Can man find nobility without pride, Friendship without envy,

Or beauty without vanity?

Here, where grace is laced with muscle, And strength by gentleness confined.

He serves without servility.

He has fought without enmity.

There is nothing so powerful,

Nothing less violent.

There is nothing so quick, Nothing more patient.

The worlds past has been borne on his back, All our history is his industry. We are his heirs,

He our inheritance.

The Horse.

By Sgt Claire Kilbourn