Under the gaze of one of the most enthusiastic full houses ever at Olympia, The London International Horse Show, British Olympic gold medallist Ben Maher reclaimed the Alltech Christmas Puissance title for a second time. After going head-to-head with Britain’s top female rider Laura Renwick in round four, only Ben attempted the wall for a fifth and final time. His friend and rival decided to bow out of trying to claim the win herself, leaving him to claim victory whatever the outcome in the final round.
“My horse (Roller Coaster) has already finished second in a speed class today and he has to jump again tomorrow,” said Laura. “That was the best I’ve ever felt competing in a puissance, so I went out on a good note.”
Ben, jumping Noctambule Courcelle, his winning partner two years ago, looked as though he was going to complete with a clean sheet. However, the big chestnut gelding just tapped one of the very top bricks of the enormous 2.15m (7ft 1in) obstacle with his back hooves. The block swayed for a few moments before dropping to the floor, but it didn’t matter, Ben had claimed the win.
“I thought he had cleared it, so he was a bit unlucky,” said Ben. “But it’s been a really great night with an amazing atmosphere.” Ben was partnering Noctambule Courcelle for the first time in six months here. “He was sold to Elaine and Michael Anderson and they have been doing all sorts with him, including side-saddle high jump classes, hunting and normal show jumping classes,” said Ben. “They are here tonight, so it’s been really good for them. I probably won’t see the horse again until about this time next year.
The route to the win had a few hiccups along the way. Ben had bent his thumb right back in the collecting ring before going in for the first round and then didn’t get it quite right in the ring. “He’s very excitable and I let him have too much of a run to the wall,” said Ben, who was eliminated in round one last year. “I was a few feet further away on takeoff than I wanted to be, so I didn’t give him such a long run in the following rounds. “As for the thumb, it definitely went back a lot further than it’s supposed to!”