Equestrianism: Trials are must for Hickstead hopefuls

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The Independent Online
SHOW JUMPING riders wishing to compete in the Royal International Horse Show and the European Championships, which are both to be held at Hickstead this year, will be obliged to compete in at least one of the preceding International Championship Team Trials.

The results of the first two trials - at Windsor and the Suffolk County Show at Ipswich - will replace the rider rankings as qualification for the Royal International, with the top 12 riders gaining entry to the Hickstead show, where the last of the three championship trials will take place in July. They will join three others (Andrew Davies, Jane Annett and John Renwick), who have already qualified through the long- standing series of Area International Trials.

Last year Geoff Billington declined to compete in the championship trials, which decided three of the five places on the British squad for the World Equestrian Games. Believing that he had the best horse in the country in Virtual Village It's Otto, he was confident of gaining one of the two places chosen by the selectors.

The revised rules mean that Billington will have to take the trials seriously in order to be considered for the Great Britain team for this year's European Show Jumping Championships.

The trials have produced satisfactory results. Robert Smith (in 1997) and Di Lampard (last year) earned their places on championship squads through the trials and both went on to achieve the best score for the British team.

VENUES FOR INTERNATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM TRIALS (show jumping): Royal Windsor Horse Show (15 May), Suffolk County Show, Ipswich (2-3 June), Royal International Horse Show, Hickstead (7-11 July).