Equestrianism: Charles savours the green road to success

Peter Charles rode the versatile nine-year-old French-bred mare, Dolly, to just about the fastest round that she has ever jumped when winning yesterday's Christmas Hamper on the closing day of the Olympia Show Jumping Championships.

Charles, who has ridden Dolly for the last four years, was dropping the mare down a level when he won this speed competition for Ireland.

"It was her last class of the year and everyone was trying their hardest. Dolly enjoyed it," Charles said, after defeating Di Lampard on Flaminka 004 and Rodrigo Pessoa on Loro Piana Wanda.

Since opting to abandon the Union Flag and don a green coat for Ireland in 1992, Charles has built up the best string of horses he has ever ridden. He still lives in England, but has no regrets about deciding to represent the Irish side of his family. It has opened doors that seemed to be securely locked while he was trying to get on a British Championship team.

Both Charles and Rodrigo Pessoa, the 25-year-old Brazilian who finished third yesterday, suggest that the future for British show jumping is decidedly bleak. "If you don't start making clones of John and Michael Whitaker, Britain will be dropping further and further back," Pessoa said.

The Brazilian's assessment was based on the British Horse Society's Instructors' Conference which he chaired at Stoneleigh last week, having stood in for his father, Nelson Pessoa, who was unwell. Pessoa Jnr was not impressed by the instructors, or by the young riders and their horses.

There was, however, one notable exception. He was impressed by Jackson Reed-Stephenson and his horse, No Complaints, with whom he won last Friday's Young Show Jumper Award. Rob Hoekstra, the joint winner of yesterday's Christmas Eve Six Bar, was even more delighted by Reed-Stephenson's victory, for he is the rider's trainer.

"I feel as though I have had two victories," Hoekstra said yesterday, after five clear rounds on the former American racehorse, Lionel, left him equal first with Switzerland's Willi Melliger on Domina III.