London – Under the gaze of an enthusiastic full house at Olympia, The London International Horse Show, British Olympic gold medalist Ben Maher claimed the Alltech Christmas Puissance title for a second time Dec. 20. After going head-to-head with Britain’s top female rider Laura Renwick in the fourth round, Maher was the only rider to attempt the 7-foot Puissance Wall for a fifth and final time. Renwick decided to bow out of the competition, leaving Maher to claim victory no matter the outcome in the final round.
“My horse has already finished second in a speed class today and he has to jump again tomorrow,” said Renwick. “That was the best I’ve ever felt competing in a Puissance, so I went out on a good note.”
Maher, jumping Noctambule Courcelle, looked as though he was going to complete a clean sheet with his winning partner from two years ago. However, the chestnut gelding tapped one of the very top bricks of the obstacle with his back hooves. The block swayed for a few moments before dropping to the floor.
“I thought he had cleared it, so he was a bit unlucky,” said Maher, who was riding his mount for the first time in six months. “But it’s been a really great night with an amazing atmosphere.” The route to the win had a few hiccups along the way. Maher had bent his thumb backward in the collecting ring before going in for the first round and said he 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 Maher of his mount. “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!”
Photo Caption: Olympic gold medallist Ben Maher and Noctambule Courcelle claim the Alltech Christmas Puissance for a second time on Thursday, Dec. 20, at Olympia, The London International Horse Show. Credit: Kit Houghton