Friday, 31 December 2010
Monday, 27 December 2010
Now more than ever, as the ban on hunting remains in place, it's important that everyone shows their support for hunting as a way of life, and as a huge part of the fabric of our countryside and livelihood of so many. This year, due to Boxing Day falling on a Sunday, most hunts met on Monday 27th December, and this despite frigid temperatures, hard frosts, and plenty of snow on the ground in most places.
Wednesday, 15 December 2010
|Have Fun Cross Country But Be Safe|
A number of things in recent weeks have been discussed or published on the safety topic, and then there's a visit I made to America earlier this year, and a somewhat eye opening spectacle at a one day event.
|Dressage | Not As Safe As It First Looks|
But then I have always found Eventing really doesn't seem to take dress code seriously at all, my favourite gripe at the moment is the ridiculous bibs situation, in which case I really don't see why we have top hats in the Dressage phase, so perhaps it's time to make hard hats mandatory purely for dress sense!
Monday, 22 November 2010
|I Said 'Hedge' Not 'Hedgehog'|
So without further ado....
Saturday, 20 November 2010
|Make Sure Everyone Knows What Is Expected|
Beyond this I have previously competed horses for others (in Europe) and owned numerous 'legs' in racehorses, eventers, and other such equines. Whilst I have experienced disputes within these syndicates, we have always managed to keep these very professional thanks to solid legal agreements (more on that in a minute). I have seen several friends go through the mill and legal system in ownership disputes, that have risen from all manner of issues, that have brought about nothing but misery and ill-will.
|The Grass Is Always Greener On The Other Side!|
I don't live in Lexington, Kentucky or the USA, so I'm a little surprised I haven't been more cynical about the games, but given scale of the task undertaken, and the order of magnitude putting on these games has been compared to any of it's predecessors, you have to admire the steely determination that the organisers have shown in getting it away.
Tuesday, 9 November 2010
This is such a lovely setting, and the perfect opportunity to have a "let's slow them up" fence before the first water and early on the course, that I thought it might be fun to introduce 2 corners in the form of some pirate ships, and I was given some external inspiration for which I'm very grateful.
Let's take a look at the fences....
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
One of the great things about using Hyde Park as the venue is there is just so much history surrounding this patch of ground from which to draw inspiration. Amongst other things, Britain is famous for it's democratic style of government, and freedom of speech. Hyde Park is actually where much of this was born, illustrated so well by Speakers' Corner and The Reformers' Tree.
Fence 18 is sited where this famous tree once stood, the meeting point for many demonstrations and marches. The tree itself was burnt down in 1866 by people campaigning for the right to vote after they were banned from holding a meeting in the park. The stump of the tree continued to serve as the meeting point for protests, rallies and all manner of gatherings for years to come. Let's take a look at the fence:
Thursday, 21 October 2010
|Hyde Park | The London Alternative|
It's a very interesting challenge for the cross country course designer. As the "Volunteer Course Designer" let me walk you through my cross country course. Whilst I haven't finished all of the fences, the majority of significant fences are now fleshed out and the track is pretty much fixed. I am still in two minds as to where to put the main area, over by Park Lane out of the way or between Fences 8 & 9. If it goes over by fence 8 I can foresee some great hospitality opportunities, with private boxes that over look fence 8 and few others, plus the arena.
Tuesday, 19 October 2010
With this in mind I wanted to briefly outline other, more suitable, venues. When suggesting these venues I am ignoring any potential opposition or other reasons why they couldn't be used, making suggestions purely based on a desire to make the event as good as, if not better than, our other 4 star 3 day events.
Monday, 18 October 2010
Gatwick claims to have the busiest single runway in the world, and that's not hard to believe since many of the budget airlines hop over to Europe from here. My airport themed fence is pretty straight forward really, a 2 part fence complex with minimum difficulty.
Sunday, 17 October 2010
|Hampton Court Maze|
Friday, 15 October 2010
|Greenwich Park | London 2012 3-Day-Event Site|
The Greenwich site has become controversial for a number of reasons primarily because it is a world heritage site, and a local residents committee has long been campaigning for the equestrian events to be moved elsewhere, gathering over 12,000 signatures by all accounts. You can see the logic behind holding the event here, in as much as it is undulating parkland (albeit more formal parkland), and it is close to the rest of the olympics so the desire of 'keeping all the athletes together in an athlete's village' can be met.
Thursday, 14 October 2010
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
|London Bridge | Arizona|
The concept of the broken/unfinished bridge is not new, and I have to say, is one of my favourites to jump, as they can be a bit "jump into mid air" if constructed properly, providing a real "yippee" moment. A first glance of my diagram and you're probably thinking "that's pretty straightforward", well yes and no.
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
|Bees | Scary Stuff|
Robin Pemberton-Jones, a former governor of the Bank of England, kept hives on top of the Bank, and many of the other best know London landmarks host bee hives too. OK, enough of the reasoning, let's take a look at the fence complex.
Monday, 11 October 2010
|NZB Land Vision | London 2012 Aim|
Now, we're constantly reminded that this is a sport built on the foundations of the volunteer workforce, after all our big 3-Day Events just wouldn't run without the thousands of volunteers who sacrifice their time to man everything from the car parks to the media centre. With this in mind I have decided to volunteer to design the cross country course - what a good samaritan I am, and Sue Benson (the official course designer) is of course welcome to have some input, and borrow my ideas.
Every cross country course needs a theme, and there are of course two obvious themes; London itself and GBR - spiritual home of the 3 day event, so these will be my inspiration for my London 2012 Olympic Course. To begin with I will share fence, and fence combination ideas, and then once I've discussed the venue in more detail I'll start to layout the course a little more. The reason for this will become apparent as I reveal more about the venue.
Friday, 8 October 2010
|Team GBR | World Class|
Sunday, 3 October 2010
|Well Done William et al|
The mistakes and bad luck that befell the Germans & Australians, allowed two other nations a great shot at medals, and I can't think of two better teams, Canada & New Zealand. Well deserved medal wins.
No one could begrudge Michael Jung his individual gold. He was foot perfect from start to finish, and a joy to watch.
I hope those that ran in to bad luck or injury get their day in the limelight.
Let the celebrations begin, then on to London 2012!
More on all this soon.....when I calm down.....
|Hamish & Dave were spared a streak|
Firstly, I really feel for the Germans. Simone Deitermann was going so well on her lovely horse, and then towards the end of the course you could see the horse started to tire, and I just felt she didn't respond to that, letting him just bowl straight into the bottom of the very last fence, on his forehand. Nobody could have foreseen the issues Andreas Dibowski had at the hollow, this horse has been round Badminton, Pau & Luhmuhlen finishing in the top 3, so spooking at a coffin was never on anyone's list of predictions, and Dirk Schrade just completely mis judged that second to last fence. I'm sure there'll be lots of reports about how the Germans became complacent, and let gold slip through their fingers, but I think they had a little hard luck too. The shake up in the leaderboard today has demonstrated how the format of our sport leads you to thinking if you're not in the lead after dressage, you don't win the event, someone else loses it.
Saturday, 2 October 2010
|German Coach, Chris Bartle | Walking The Lines|
Karin Dockers is one of the best riders we've had in Europe in recent years, and I have to say I completely over looked her as I hadn't bothered looking up this horse's form, but she's currently lying in fourth on 38.8, a decent improvement in dressage over the last year.
Friday, 1 October 2010
|Ladies & Axes | No!|
You rarely get to see the young riders from other nations, and I remember seeing Simone go round her first Badminton earlier this year and thinking wow, this lady can really ride, but although she has lead the dressage before in some hotly contested big events, I have to say, I really didn't expect to see her so far ahead.
Another pleasant surprise was Mark Todd, who managed to get a score into the late forties, not an easy task with this horse. He's must has squeezed every last ounce out of Grass Valley to get that score. This might just put him in contention for some personal honours.
Thursday, 30 September 2010
|Team GBR Selections Reflect The Importance Of Dressage|
Both this WEG and the last one, at Aachen, have very large arenas, more reminiscent of a sandy baseball field than a horse stadium, but judging by how well the pure dressage has gone over the last few days, I don't think this will phase the horses much more they get phased at any of the big 4 star competitions.
All the teams, and individuals have now been announced and looking through the list I don't really see any serious surprises in any of the teams. The only shock being the sad withdrawal of Kim Severson's grey due to infection, being replaced with Karen O'Connor. Reading between the lines, listening to The Captain in an audio interview, you could tell this was just one of many headaches Mark has faced in the run-up to tomorrow's competition.
Wednesday, 29 September 2010
|WEG Cross Country | Expect Lots of These!|
Then you hunt around and find a few more pictures from the last few days and you start to see that this course really is up there with Badminton and Burghley, as a true championship test, in particular the main water complex (part 1, part 2). I'm little disappointed to see a lot of ideas from those two course in here, but it still looks like big step up for many of the field so should be a corker to watch.
|Only One Plait!|
One thing's for sure there'll be no ugly bibs in this phase!
|Moorelands Totilas | Photo: Samantha Clark|
Today though was all about pure dressage, and for those of us not at the World Equestrian Games, a first chance to see some Kentucky action via the TV. Now normally you wouldn't catch me watching this much dressage even at a horse trials, but there was such a buzz beforehand about Totilas, and one or two others I just had to take a look. Even though I find some of these pure dressage movements a little laboured (like the canter pirouettes), I was in total awe at how athletic these horses are, and with such control.
Moorelands Totilas, ridden by Edward Gal, did live up to his reputation, and I'm no dressage aficionado or geek, but even I could appreciate the silky elegant of this horse's performance. For me this was almost over shadowed by the incredible performance of the British team who wiped the floor with the remaining competition producing personal bests to win silver. British dressage hasn't been this good since Torvil & Dean!
Monday, 27 September 2010
|Equestrian Sporting Athletes | An Eclectic Bunch|
So far we've seen two of the 8 disciplines and I don't think you'd ever find a more eclectic bunch of people across any other sport. We've seen the ye-ha cowboy dressage sport of reining, which bears very little resemblance to the more
Generally, when you think of world championship or olympic athletes, it conjures up images of fit lean six-pack toting men and women that you see in track and field, but you've only got to look around WEG disciplines to see we really do come in all shapes, sizes, demographics, and any other segmentation you can think of. Although sifting through the multitude of photos from the bun-fight that was the Endurance race, these guys do all pretty much resemble marathon runners!
Sunday, 26 September 2010
|Sheikh Mohammed | Entered for WEG Endurance|
Photo courtesy of 2010 Radio Show
- They ride in fluffy saddles
- The horses all have dish faces
- The best riders all have dark hair, beards or mustaches
It's one of those equestrian sports you have to admire though, because a bit like watching the London Marathon, you think "yeah, I could do that" right up until the moment you start training, then it's "I really admire those guys".
With Zara Phillips out of the running, and her Grandfather (Prince Phillip) no longer driving competitively, at this year's World Equestrian Games, the Endurance is the only chance you'll get to see Royalty competing in the shape of Sheikh Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai. Unless the American's class Lyle Lovett's horse as royalty!
Saturday, 25 September 2010
|Flags | A Popular "Souvenir"|
In terms of organisation, a WEG or Olympics is like no other, in that with the usual annual horse trials, you always have the benefit of 'what worked and what didn't work last year'. You then have the added complication of horses, competitors, team staff, uncle tom cobbly and all heading your way from all corners of the globe speaking all manner of languages, and if you're not careful the tail spin can gather momentum...(do a google search on the Delhi Commonwealth Games, you'll see what I mean).
Friday, 24 September 2010
|Reining | Not Exactly!|
Wednesday, 22 September 2010
|Samantha & Glenn|
courtesy of Samantha
Although I find myself deep in the English countryside I am surrounded, it seems, by Australians & New Zealanders, and they really are the best humoured bunch you could come across, and you'll rarely find a photo of Clayton Fredericks, Andrew Nicholson or Matt Ryan where they're not smiling or joking. A few months ago I found a hilarious interview with Heath Ryan, which I would encourage you to revisit. His brother Matt can be quite infectious too.
First they gave us Dame Edna & Les Patterson, then we were fed Kath & Kim, now the Australian's have sent forth Hamish & Dave on their "Kentucky Adventure". These two dusty outback characters describe themselves as "Elite Riders & General Larrikins". According to my google search a Larrikin is A person given to comical or outlandish behavior (unknown Australian origin). Now I thought that described every Australian, except Wayne Roycroft!
Monday, 20 September 2010
|Pippa Funnell | Running Right Up To WEG|
For those of you unfamiliar with this event, it runs over completely different ground to the 'main' Gatcombe Festival, but is undulating nevertheless. Unfortunately I didn't take any photos, and only a few short video clips at the water fence (below). I wouldn't say either course was "massive", but they are both very technical, and there are quite a few long steep descents and climbs to contend with.
On the CIC** course there was almost no let up with real thought provoking fences all the way through from the 4th fence right on to the second last. Halfway through the course in the woods, there was a very deep but small natural bowl with an upright on entry, a drop fence in the bottom (yes!), then a steep climb out over another upright at the top. This was where the majority of those that didn't go clear, had problems, including Matt Ryan.
Friday, 17 September 2010
|William Fox-Pitt | Favourite For A Medal|
What's very exciting at about these World Equestrian Games is they are being held in the US, and there have been a number of excellent performances from a variety of nations during this season. It's always so different watching eventing during a Games year. I think it'll be even more interesting in 2012 as with the Olympics being held in the UK I think we'll see so many teams looking to train in Britain that year, and we've already been fielding calls about riders wanting to be based at our yard.
Tuesday, 14 September 2010
|Kim Severson | Off To WEG|
Philip Dutton - Woodburn (T)
Boyd Martin - Neville Bardos (T)
Buck Davidson - Ballynoe Castle (T)
Karen O'Connor - Mandiba
Kim Severson - Tippery Laidhnan (T)
Becky Holder - Courageous Comet
Sunday, 12 September 2010
So we set off in high spirits on thursday after school, for the American Eventing Championships in Georgia at Chattahoochee Hills, the amazing 8,000 acre farm that belongs to Carl Bouckaert. Sadly, I have no sense of direction, I had no sat-nav, and no sense, so although we made it to Atlanta in good time, we then spent several hours driving around, and around, and around, trying to find the exact location. Maybe I'm spoilt by all those lovely yellow AA signs escorting me off the motorway to Horse Trials in England, but until we got to the last lane and a handwritten sign with an arrow, there was nothing. By this time it was dark, late, (or early! 2am!) and I was on the verge of tears and a nervous breakdown. Thankfully, the children and the labrador slept oblivious in the back. We rumbled down the track, past the trailers, and parked in an empty space, only to wake up a few hours later practically on the cross country course, minutes from the start of the lower divisions.
Chattahoochee Hills is vast, and very much still a work in progress. Getting around is problematic; realistically if you were competing you needed a golf cart to transport kit from trailer to stables (about half a mile) as there was no parking at the stables, but there were no golf carts available from about 10 days before the event. Bicycles were a help, ( I love my bike which has taken on it's own personality - are you surprised?! ) and there were lots of vespas and mini mopeds.
|Ruth Edge | 2nd After The Cross Country Phase|
Dressage supremo, Ruth Edge, sadly picked up a few time faults on her way round the Blenheim cross country course, but I watched her through the water and I thought she looked every bit a winner. The 3.6 time faults does, however push William Fox-Pitt into the lead, by just under 2 points. Ruth has at least laid any cross country gremlins to rest and can sleep easy tonight. I hope she manages to end the 'big stars' season on a high with a win here.
Saturday, 11 September 2010
|The Start | Blenheim Cross Country Day|
Anyway, I just wanted to do a short post having looked through the CCI dressage scores, to see which horses I was most interested in watching, so I can plan my 'family duties' around these where possible. So apart from watching Ruth, I will be looking out for Matt Ryan on MayBee, as I'm interested to see whether this is a London 2012 prospect for him, if he ever gets his nationality sorted one way or another.
Others include Mark Todd, just because it's Mark Todd. Sharon White, as I've read a little about her recently. Kitty King on High Havoc, because I know the owners, and Andrew Nicholson because he's so exciting to watch cross country, especially at this level on his 'not so top' horses. I might also watch Pippa Funnell on Pure Addiction, but probably only because I managed to video this horse's dressage test at Highclere but missed the cross country.
Blenheim beckons.... "come eventing, come eventing"
Thursday, 9 September 2010
Dressage starts on Thursday (today), and even with the World Equestrian Games only days aways now, there is a big international field with plenty of WEG contenders taking our their green advanced horses in preparation for earning a shot at a 4* next season.
Here's my tourism pitch, as to why you should visit Blenheim:
These are the most ostentatious surroundings for a horse trials you will ever come across, it's the largest 'palace' in the UK (I think!), and the birth place of Winston Churchill (UK prime-minister), he's buried just around the corner in Bladon, and is situated just outside Oxford.
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
|A Crime Of Fashion | Top Hat, Tails & Cheap Plastic Bib!|
I know there are plenty of practical reasons we have these bibs, particularly at the one day events, and in the cross country phase, but I can't believe, in this age of technology we can't find a way round this out dated and totally ridiculous accessory.
Tuesday, 7 September 2010
|Ah! Ms. Clark, We've Been Expecting You|
I have to confess to being only a recent convert to the avid following they seem to have built up over the years, but now never miss an episode, and I'm discovering hilarious moments in old episodes. Too many to list here, but listen to episode 90, entitled "Smanatha gets her own way", this should give you an idea of who's really running the show. I recon Samantha could even charm Wayne Roycroft into thinking his team horses' travel plans were ideal!
Monday, 6 September 2010
|Argentinian Eventer Jose Ortelli | Road To WEG 2010|
At just 26 years old, Jose already has a wealth of 3* and some 4* experience under his belt; he has completed Rolex these last two years on his WEG horse, JOS Aladar, and has been quietly earning respect in his own right as an accomplished, hard-working and well-liked rider on the US circuit.
Sunday, 5 September 2010
|Caroline & Lenamore | Burghley 2010 Winners|
A win like this is bound to lift the spirits going into the World Equestrian Games, and I've long thought the New Zealanders are on song this year, and have an excellence chance of at least a team medal, and Andrew Nicholson should be able to drum up a good dressage score without the day-to-day distractions he would usually face here at home.
|Mark Phillips | Burghley Course Designer|
Quite apart from all the ooh and aah moments, it's been very interesting reviewing all the cross country footage and seeing all the different styles of riding and the differences between the horses.
Friday, 3 September 2010
|Mary King | A little too relaxed in the Burghley Dressage|
Ruth Edge leads after the dressage, which is not that surprising, and all credit to her as I think she's made a good choice to concentrate on pure dressage when she can. At Badminton this year she had a very unlucky elimination which could possibly have been avoided but that might be a little harsh, but if she can find a good rhythm cross country at Burghley, Ruth will have a good chance of maintaining her lead and picking up a top prize in championship year, something she's very good at doing.
|Flying The Union Jack in Richland, USA|
One of the things I love about eventing is the "international community" feel it has, no matter which country you are in. Within a 20 mile radius of my yard we have riders from Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Brazil, Portugal, and the US. Whilst most eventing migration is to the UK and Europe, there is still plenty that flows to other nations, particularly the US. Some years ago I rode in continental Europe and the west coast of America, and loved every minute of it.
Tuesday, 31 August 2010
|NZB Land Vision | London 2012 Bound|
Highclere is one of those great tracks when you can be guaranteed a good testing run without blowing the brain of your horse. In the five or so years I've competed here I've never seen an overly technical track, just good galloping, big-ish fences, and a real fitness tester. Rain earlier in the week meant good ground, which considering it's all short downward slopes and long hill climbs is a godsend as when it does get soft here the ground becomes spongy and saps energy. I love it, and it always rides better than it walks.
The place was awash with national team selectors, which produced a real buzz, especially around the Advanced dressage, tucked away in a corner of the park with plenty of flat ground to practice on. It was so busy up there you had to watch where you walked for fear of being mown down by a WEG hopeful, one lady on crutches nearly lost her 'good' leg as she tried to pass in front of NZB Land Vision.