Injury scare doesn’t stop Jill

Jill Blackshaw and Hugo Light who are going to the Badminton Grassroots event.
Jill Blackshaw and Hugo Light who are going to the Badminton Grassroots event.

A LESBURY rider has qualified for a prestigious equestrian championship.

Jill Blackshaw has sealed a place at next year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Grassroots Festival.

The 29-year-old bagged her spot after finishing first at the BE100 Regional Final at Norton Disney last month. And she has spoken of her surprise at reaching the eventing festival, as her horse Hugo Light has overcome an injury-marred season.

“It is a bit of a shock really,” says Jill, who works at Blackshaws of Alnwick. “Everything was a bit crazy this year. I started off having a really good start to the season and won the first three competitions on the trot.

“We went to another competition and it was really slippy and Hugo wasn’t right after that.

“I wasn’t sure if we would get to Norton Disney but I said if he gets right in time then we should go and it all came together in the end.”

And Jill admits that reaching the Grassroots event is ‘extra special’ in light of eight-year-old Hugo’s injury battle.

“Hugo had quite a lot of time off. It was a case of trying to get him fit for the competition. Luckily, Hugo has got very consistent at that level now.

“He does a good dressage test and we have done a lot of on flat work.

“I knew I had this one shot at Norton Disney so I was hoping just to qualify for the Badminton Grassroots Festival, but to win at Norton was crazy. I was really shocked. All I wanted to do was to grab qualification,” she said.

The popular Grassroots Festival is held during the illustrious Badminton Horse Trials.

Taking place at the beginning of May, it brings together winners from BE90 and BE100 Regional Finals from around the country to contest the overall Championship which has been held at Badminton since 2010.

Jill said: “Just to be at the Grassroots Festival is enough for me.

“I am of the opinion of let’s go and have some fun but everyone else is saying you have got to go and have a proper stab at it.”

Jill will start preparing Hugo in the New Year as she looks ahead to the Championship.

“He will have a bit of down-time until Christmas and then we will get properly training again in January and get him ready for Badminton.”

Jill thanked her mum and dad for their support, as well as her instructors and her friends.