March 10 2014 Latest news:
Friday, March 9, 2012
The proprietors of a Fenland stud farm are eagerly awaiting news of the selection of one of their horses for the Modern Pentathlon event at this summer’s Olympics.
For the last 12 months A Brightwood Ursa Major (Major) has been with trainers Elite Sport Horses in Shropshire as part of the stud’s Development Programme. Major was bred and trained by Gemma Wiffen, and her grandfather James, at Brightwood Stud, Walsoken in West Norfolk.
Major, a 16.1hh chestnut gelding, is now a seven-year-old and currently competing at 1.35m level, showing every indication that he has the ability to be competitive at international and Grand Prix level. This year he will be targeted at several age championships and will also compete in his first international.
Last December, Major took part in selection trials to be used as a Modern Pentathlon horse at the London Olympic Games. At the trials he jumped three clear rounds with three different riders, including one of the British pentathletes, and has now gone forward to final selection trials which will be held in April; it is now looking very likely that Major will be used in London this summer.
Unlike Olympic equestrian competitions, pentathletes do not ride their own horses, so this poses something of a conundrum for the competition manager Peter Hart. He said: “It’s quite a challenge. They have just 15 minutes to get the measure of a horse they’ve no experience of and then they jump a 1.20m course.”
Alexandra Bratt of Elite, who spotted Major while he was being ridden by Wiffen, said: “Major is a very exciting prospect for British show jumping and could very well become a top class international horse in years to come.”
Major will be jumping abroad this summer in addition to any Olympic duties.
The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) is leasing the horses, which have been selected through a tendering process, and has vetted both the horses and providers.
James Wiffen added: “As you can imagine we were delighted to have a horse short-listed, as this not only recognises our considerable investment in the lengthy process of breeding and development, but also is a great indicator that we’re moving in the right direction with our breeding programme. In addition to this the family are obviously excited at the prospect of going to watch Major at the Olympics.”
Major has a half sister, who is only a yearling, but the family have high hopes that he could represent the region at the 2016 Olympics.