ISSUE 66
MAY 2021
SANTIAGO
SINGS

FOR MATTHEW DOWSLEY
SAM JEFFREE
MAN ON A MISSION
SHARON JARVIS FINDS
HER UNICORN

PLUS: GRACE KAY, THE HORSES OF GILI, CELEBRITY CUTTING CHALLENGE, PIGGY MARCH, WILLINGA PARK’S GOLD BUCKLE, ROGER’S TIPS FOR THE MEDIUM TOUR, KERRY MACK’S DRESSAGE FOR JUMPERS, THE INS AND OUTS OF BUYING A HORSE, A NEW APPROACH TO LAMENESS DETECTION & MY FRIEND FLICKA

AUSTRALIA`S BEST EQUINE MAGAZINE
click here to start reading

ISSUE 66

CONTENTS

MAY 2021
click on left side to read the previous article
click on right side to read the next article
scroll down or click icon to read article

A few Words

FROM THE CHAIRMAN

ROBERT MCKAY

Ryan's Rave

SELECTION DIFFICULTIES FOR AUSSIE DRESSAGE RIDERS

BY HEATH RYAN

Dressage

MATTHEW DOWSLEY & SANTIAGO NAIL IT

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE

Campdrafting

BUCKLE UP FOR A WILD TIME AT WILLINGA PARK

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE

Dressage

GRACE KAY GOES HER OWN WAY

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE

Special feature

THE INS & OUTS OF BUYING A HORSE

BY AMANDA YOUNG

Cutting

SPARKS FLY WHEN CUTTING MEETS RACING

BY AMANDA YOUNG

EQ Journeys

HELPING THE HORSES OF GILI

BY ELLIE JOLLEY

Eventing

SAM JEFFREE, MAN ON A MISSION

BY AMANDA YOUNG

Dressage

10 TIPS FOR RIDING THE MEDIUM TOUR TESTS

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE / EQ LIFE

Eventing

PIGGY’S SUCCESS KEEPS MARCHING ON

BY ELLI BIRCH

Health

THE RIDDEN HORSE PAIN ETHOGRAM

BY DR MAXINE BRAIN

Lifestyle

MY FRIEND FLICKA

BY SUZY JARRATT

Para Equestrian

SHARON JARVIS FINDS HER UNICORN

BY ADELE SEVERS

Training

DRESSAGE FOR SHOWJUMPERS

BY DR KERRY MACK
content placeholder
Previous
Next

The daughter of an eventing mum, stalwart of her local Pony Club team, and pen pal with eventing royalty Mary King — just a few of the things that set Piggy March on her road to eventing success.

Like all journeys there have been ups and downs, twists and turns and bumps in the road, all of which have ultimately led Piggy March (née French) to become part of the eventing “royal family” herself. Piggy is currently topping the eventing rankings in the UK and is third in the world rankings.

Piggy, whose real name is Georgina, had her nickname bestowed upon her by her sisters, because as a baby they thought she looked like the character Piglet from the story of Winnie the Pooh! The young Piggy was not really competitive, but that changed when she transformed a horse, Lloyd’s Gamble, bought for her by her father, from an inconsistent and difficult character who stopped a lot, into a winner. Lloyd’s Gamble was the horse that taught Piggy the importance of building a unique partnership with every horse, understanding their quirks, strengths and weaknesses, and adapting her way of riding. That is how she brings out the best in each horse she rides.

In 1998, Piggy bought a young four-year-old and named him Burning Ambition, an apt name for a horse ridden by the determined teenage Piggy, as her desire to win had been well and truly ignited by then. Piggy continued to ride a number of different horses and her first major successes were with Flintlock II who Piggy had brought up through the grades. Together they were part of the 2001 gold medal-winning team at the European Young Rider Championships, taking fourth individually. Their progress continued and they completed Burghley Horse Trials in 2002 and Badminton Horse Trials in 2003.

Year on year, Piggy’s success kept growing, her first senior team call-up coming in 2009 when she won individual silver at the European Championships aboard Some Day Soon in Fontainebleau, France, a truly wonderful debut. In 2011 she was part of the bronze medal-winning team aboard Jakata at the European Championships in Luhmühlen, Germany. In 2018 Piggy was part of the gold medal-winning team at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon North Carolina, USA, aboard Jayne McGivern’s Quarrycrest Echo.

“I am always watching, asking,
analysing, just being open-minded.”

EVENTING IDOL

As a child, Piggy’s idol was Mary King. Having been introduced to her once by her mother, Piggy proceeded to write to Mary on a regular basis and Mary would always write back. I doubt the young Piggy, even in her wildest dreams, ever thought that she would be competing at the same level as her idol. In fact, she ended up taking Mary’s place in the 2009 European team in Fontainebleau when Mary’s horse became lame… and the rest, as they say, is history.

Piggy and Mary were both in the British squad for the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. Piggy tells a story about beating Mary at Badminton in 2011 when she was second and Mary third, and during the press conference Mary recounted the story of Piggy the “superfan” writing to her since she was a little girl. To this day, Piggy tells me that she is “proud to be a Mary fan”.

Misfortune came along in 2012: Piggy’s two potential Olympic rides, DHI Topper W and Jakata, both went lame just weeks before the Games and she lost her place on the team. Naturally very disappointed, Piggy was undeterred and continued in her own determined way to work with all her horses, ranging from Pre-Novice to Advanced. Piggy tells me that she would love to go to Tokyo this year, but is very philosophical: “What will be, will be. I would only want to go if I am truly ready to go.” Maybe 2021 could be the year of Piggy’s Olympic debut.

Piggy and partner (now husband) Tom March became the proud parents of Max in 2016. As Piggy had taken a year out for Max’s arrival, a variety of elite riders took over the reins of Piggy’s horses, including Tina Cook, Pippa Funnell, Izzy Taylor, partner Tom and sister Nini. In 2017, Piggy returned to the saddle, enjoying success at all levels, including second place at Burghley with Trevor Dickens’ Vanir Kamira that Piggy has produced from a seven-year-old.

YEAR OF THE PIG

Piggy’s most successful season to date was 2019, winning her first Badminton Horse Trials aboard the tricky Vanir Kamira. Badminton was just one of an incredible 15 international wins for Piggy in 2019; she took top spot at Blenheim, Chatsworth, Barbury Castle, Rockingham, Hartpury, Houghton, Osberton and Le Lion — a record previously held by the inimitable Michael Jung of Germany with 13 international wins in one season.

I visited Piggy’s yard in the small village of Maidwell, Northamptonshire, 130km north of central London, on a beautiful spring day. Its immaculate driveway makes its way up a hill and presents clues that the property belongs to an equestrian — a variety of cross country jumps can be seen in the well-manicured fields, and horses are turned out in their New Zealand rugs in the neat post-and-rail paddocks.

EVENTER’S PARADISE

In 2013, owners Belinda and David Keir transformed Maidwell Lodge Farm from a cattle farm to an eventer’s. Consisting of barn-style Monarch stabling, facilities include wash-down areas, solarium, rug room, feed room — and a tack room so large that it must have its own postcode! In addition, there is a quarantine block, spa, weighing machine, horse walker and a superb 60×40 metre manège, lunge pen, lots of paddocks, cross country fences and a four-furlong gallop; it really is a top-notch equestrian yard.

On my arrival at Maidwell, a smiling Piggy was finishing a Pilates class in her vast tack room — as if 25 horses were not enough to keep her fit! The yard is immaculate and an absolute tribute to her team. Happy and gleaming horses peered inquisitively over their doors as we passed. All the stables have a large window at the rear, enabling the inhabitants to look outside, too. The views from every angle of the yard are truly breathtaking, a rolling patchwork-quilt of Northamptonshire countryside extending as far as the eye can see.

Pilates completed, we head out to the manège where Piggy rides one of the young horses on the flat, Geoff Burton’s eight-year-old I Diablo Joe — a combination that won five of their 10 outings in 2020 and wrapped up the season in third place at the Osberton at Thoresby International and Young Horse Championship CCI-S YH3*. Since my visit, Piggy has ridden this talented horse to first place in the Open Intermediate section at Burnham Market International on 26 penalties — more than 10 penalties ahead of the runner up!

Being a spectator in Piggy’s manège really does make you feel as though you are on top of the world. Piggy’s description of it as “an infinity manège” is most apt. As I enjoyed watching and photographing what felt like a flatwork masterclass from Piggy, a half dozen of her horses were enjoying the sunshine while being hand-grazed, the grooms chatting, watching Piggy and one even reading a book. Piggy explains that she “likes the horses to leave their stables at least twice a day”. In fact her Badminton winner Tilly, aka Vanir Kamira, spends the majority of her time in the field where she is happiest; true to form, the mare just about manages a brief smile in my direction as Piggy points her out to me in a paddock close to the yard.

Piggy talks with great warmth about all of her horses. Watching her recent video diaries, it is clear to all that she spends a great deal of time working on her individual relationship with each horse in the yard. It is fair to say that her methods are very successful, spanning newly-broken to five-star horses. In addition to her numerous successes to date, I feel there are many more to come from this lady. Unlike some sports, eventing athletes are able to compete into their 50s and 60s; New Zealand’s Sir Mark Todd being the obvious seemingly ageless rider to spring to mind.

GREAT TRAINERS

Over the years, Piggy is in the fortunate position to have received training from some of the sport’s best, including dressage coach Ian Woodhead, New Zealand showjumper Sharn Wordley — who trained Piggy in her early years and who she says is “brilliant” — the incomparable Yogi Breisner, Chris Bartle, and British Eventing Team manager Dickie Waygood.

In addition to being part of the British Eventing World Class Programme, Piggy tells me that she is fortunate to have so many great friends in the sport who are more than happy to help: “And always keep your eyes open and watch other riders. We all help each other. You get out what you put in.” Piggy continues: “Eventing is a very friendly sport, probably because of its levelling aspect of it. The high risk attached to the sport keeps everyone grounded.” Piggy knows Pippa Funnell very well and cites her as not only a great friend but also a massive inspiration, always there to advise and help.

Piggy revealed the most amazing dream to me: “I would love to spend a week at Scott Brash’s yard. I have no idea how that would work. I would muck out his stables just to be able to watch him work his horses — in fact I would muck out the whole yard, every day! I am always watching, asking, analysing, just being open-minded, as none of us ever know it all. Just when we think we have got it right with one horse, another will bring us back to earth with a big bump!”

BADMINTON HORSE TRIALS

Badminton Horse Trials have sadly been cancelled for 2021 again due to the Covid-19 pandemic, making Piggy the defending champion for three years when it hopefully runs again in 2022. I ask her if she feels added pressure being the defending champion, “Only if I really think about it, but no, not really, I just have to get on with it. I try to train myself to treat it as just another event; getting to Badminton is such a major achievement in itself.”

When I ask Piggy what she would have done if she had not become an eventer, she says: “Eventing is a way of life. I wasn’t very successful at school and cannot imagine doing anything else. If I were not physically able to event, then I would help other riders; I enjoy training and love sharing my knowledge with others. People need to understand that eventing is not all brilliant, it’s not all red rosettes; eventing really is a rollercoaster ride. I hope that when my students leave me they have a realistic view about eventing and that I have equipped them with the knowledge to do it themselves.”

Piggy is a lady that has little free time, but when she has, she loves family time. A whole day trip, maybe to the beach, with four-year-old son Max, husband Tom and not a horse in sight, is her guilty pleasure!

×

Enter your name and email to view the content.



* By providing your email via this form, you agree to receiving emails from Equestrian Life. You can unsubscribe at any time.