Wilts & Glos Standard 21 Jul 2011
Aldsworth rider makes GB debut against South Africa
9:10am Thursday 21st July 2011 in
- By Danny Hall » Sports Editor
BY DAY, Jenna Copley earns her living in the staid world of accountancy. But this weekend (July 23-24) Jenna temporarily puts aside her number crunching at the Westcon Group in Cirencester to take up a sword, lance and revolver for Queen and country.
The 32-year-old from Aldsworth has been selected for the first time to compete for Great Britain in the ancient equestrian skill of tent pegging. Over two days they face one of the top teams in the world, South Africa, at Bodney in Norfolk.
Forget Carry On Camping. Instead, tent pegging is an equestrian discipline practised by cavalries since the fourth century BC with its origins predominantly in Asia.
Mounted soldiers would raid enemy camps at high speed, lancing pegs to collapse tents and cause confusion, before a second wave of armed soldiers would come through to do their worst. Its popularity as a sport took off when it was introduced to the New Delhi Asian Games in 1982 and it was recognised by the FEI (International Equestrian Federation) in 2004.
Now it is a fast growing sport in Australia, India, Israel, Oman, Pakistan and South Africa while it is beginning to break through in the UK.
Essentially, the classic tent pegging discipline is where a mounted rider, at full tilt, spears a symbolic tent peg in the ground.
Other routines include ring jousting in which the galloping rider tries to collect a suspended ring on the end of his or her lance.
And then there is ‘SLR’ where the mounted rider uses a sword to stab a mannequin, the lance to pick up a tent peg and then a revolver (with blanks) to shoot a balloon – all while jumping small brush fences.
The sport is steeped in the military and they still have a massive presence on the British Merits Team that takes on South Africa this weekend. They include Major David Puckey (Royal Logistics Corp), Corp of Horse Daniel Powell (Household Cavalry), S Sgt Jerry Faulkner (Kings Troop R.A) and PC Paul Brown of the South Yorkshire Police.
But as Jenna admits ‘the civilians are taking over the sport’ and there is only one member of the military in the British Ladies team that faces South Africa.
So how did Copley, who does not possess a drop of Cossack blood, come to be tent pegging for Team GB at the Household Cavalry Open Day in front of an anticipated 5,000 crowd?
“I have always down a serious amount of show jumping as well as a lot of polo and polo cross which requires the same sort of hand eye coordination used in tent pegging,” said Jenna.
“I am a newbie to the sport as I met Major Puckey, who is from Banbury, at the Cotswold Fun Ride last year and he brainwashed me for half an hour about his sport.
“I drew a blank in my first competition but at the Defence Animal Centre in Melton Mowbray I finished fourth in the tent pegging, and first girl, which prompted my selection for the GB team.
“We have a very tough task against the South Africans because it is a big sport over there.
“Tent pegging would take place at every gymkhana and they are international champions having beaten the likes of Pakistan and India.
“It’s great fun and if I don’t disgrace myself in Norfolk there are some big international events to come.”
Laura Webster practices her tent pegging manoeuvres at a taster day