A RIDING club finally went to a competition that it had been preparing for since before the start of the pandemic. 

The horses and riders from Lakes Riding Club at Crooklands participated in the STARS event in Aintree. The event was established in 2018 to give 'young and aspiring equestrians something to aim for and the honour of representing the clubs which they ride for' at the end of the season. 

The Westmorland Gazette: Anna Mackay and Benedict Legacy 1st place working hunter horseAnna Mackay and Benedict Legacy 1st place working hunter horse (Image: Anna Mackay)

The event was held at Aintree Equestrian Centre, near the famous racecourse which is the home of the Grand National, on the weekend of 17-20 November. 

16 competitors from Lakes Riding Club represented the club in 25 classes: from Working Hunter, Equitation, Ridden and In Hand Showing, to where combinations (a horse's balance, agility, and confidence) were judged on the horses' breed type, conformation (the shape and structure of a horse), way of going and manners. 

The Westmorland Gazette: Julie Roberts and Lowhaygarth's the GoldsmithJulie Roberts and Lowhaygarth's the Goldsmith (Image: Alice Longmire)

Some standout performances include Anna Mackay, from Levens, and Benedict Legacy, who got first place in the Working Hunter-Horse category. They then went on to compete in the supreme final on Sunday evening, against all the other winners. 

15-year-old Holly Booth, from Kendal, got the best junior rider in her class (Open Working Hunter Pony exceeding 133cm but not exceeding 153cm) with Hazelrock Quest. They came sixth overall.

Rachel Baxter, from Carnforth, got the Picture Perfect Award with Cartoon Cody in the Hand-Plaited Horse category. 

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Alice Longmire, a member of the committee at Lakes Riding Club who helped organise the trip to the STARS event said: "This the first time we've gone - we trained for the event a few years ago but then we didn't do it because of Covid. We had to go through a selection process, over a hundred riding clubs applied for only 60 places. 

"We ran our events through the summer at Westmorland County Showground. It was a massive achievement just to qualify, you need commitment to even get there. All the members did really well. Some members are quite new to showing, but everyone took on the experience really well and did a really good job."