Friday, 31 December 2010

Are Fat People Dangerous?

One of the major themes for 2010 in eventing has been safety, and British Eventing's final magazine of the year devotes many pages to safety, but just when I was beginning to think that British Eventing were at the top of the tree when it comes to safety in eventing and I was feeling pretty proud of the sport we run in this country, Chairman of the BE Safety committee, Jonathan Chapman, starts another epidemic of foot in mouth!

Monday, 27 December 2010

The Great British Boxing Day Meet

One of my favourite things about Christmas is when it's over! No, not really, but I do have terrific memories of the Boxing Day meet: children and ponies decorated in tinsel, a great way to resume normal life after the indulgence of the festive season, but also celebrate with friends, on horseback, riding across country, and just a couple more drinks!  All over England hunts meet at local pubs in the countryside or on high streets the day after Christmas, spreading good cheer, sausage rolls, and glasses of port.

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

Hats, Safety Pins & Riding Safely | Education, Education, Education

Have Fun Cross Country But Be Safe
Eventing has become very safety conscious over the last 5-10 years, and quite rightly so in light of fatalities that occurred in the preceding years. An Australian Assistant Technical Delegate, John Lechner, even devotes an entire blog to eventing safety, and so vehemently champions the safety mantle he's known as "Eventing Safety John". (he scares me!) Anyway on to my point for this post.....

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
Firstly, the subject of hard hats in the dressage phase was raised again recently, this time by ECOGOLD. I have to admit, although I've not always worn a hat myself in the past (I do now) whilst working on the flat, I've always found it a little ridiculous that all the teaching and education we do from Pony Club right through to young riders, hammers home "always wear a hard hat", yet in upper level competition (where our role models sit) we throw caution to the wind. Perhaps the safety forum planned for January by Riders4Helmets will tackle some of these points.

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

London 2012: Fence 6: Big & Bold

I Said 'Hedge' Not 'Hedgehog'
Now it can't all be technical and about the corners and angles. Sometimes you just need a ruddy great big fence in front of you to get the blood up, and get you and the horse in the mood for the rest of the course.

So without further ado....

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Horse Ownership: My Bat, My Ball & I'm Going Home....

Make Sure Everyone Knows What Is Expected
My own forays into horse ownership have produced mixed results. All the horses I've owned to ride myself have been other peoples' cast offs, but I've managed to sell all of them well, except one. My current horse I've turned away offers way beyond his value, because I've finally become too emotionally attached to him. He's as much part of the yard as the indoor school or the cross country schooling field is.

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.

WEG2010: The Grass Is Always Greener....

The Grass Is Always Greener On The Other Side!
It's a month now since the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington staged it's closing ceremony, closed the gates and proverbially let the tumble weed blow across the Kentucky Horse Park. These games have not been without controversy, and much has been written to slate the games  since their conclusion. This could easily make you think they were a complete disaster. I for one, say, "Not so"

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

London 2012: Cross Country Course - Peter Pan Pirate Ships

Did you know there's a Peter Pan statue in Hyde Park (or rather Kensington Gardens to be precise), and apparently there's quite a tie-up with Hyde Park in the origins of this novel. 'Legend' has it Peter Pan sailed on an old birds nest across the serpentine escaping the small island there.

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

London 2012: Cross Country Course - The Reformers' Tree

I just love big trees, there's something majestic about a living thing that has been around for centuries, sometimes millennia. Here's one of my favourite old trees that I pass everyday, and before you start thinking "he's off his trolley and become a tree hugging hippie", it this tree that has proved, in part, the inspiration for this next fence, due to the 'boxed in' root base it has.

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

London 2012: Cross Country Course - Hyde Park Course Map

Hyde Park | The London Alternative
If you've been following my posts, you'll know that Greenwich Park isn't my preferred location for holding the London 2012 Olympic 3 Day Event. Whilst I believe Windsor Great Park is the most suitable location, I really like the idea of holding the event in the centre of London, and Hyde Park I think provides a very popular location, it's a real "peoples' park", where numerous outdoor events are held each year, from demonstrations to 'Proms In The Park'. In case you are interested in the history of the park, rather than regurgitate anything, here's the park's wikipedia entry.  I have some fond memories of walking through the park from Chelsea to Mayfair on my way to work some years ago, during the summer months and watching the cavalry horses out on exercise.

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

London 2012: Alternative Venues For Eventing

Greenwich Park
First let me just reiterate that my reservations over Greenwich as the venue for the Olympic 3-day-event venue stem from the size, location and status of the Park, and it's ability to support the size of audience that this event is capable of attracting in this country.(see earlier post) I'm sure the venue can host a three day event, but probably not a championship 4 star one.

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

London 2012: Cross Country Course - The Airport

London has two of the busiest airports in the world, Heathrow & Gatwick. Heathrow apparently handles more international travellers than any other airport, you only have to drive down the M4 motorway, glance up and you will see at least one aircraft coming in any another leaving.

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

London 2012: Cross Country Course - The Maze

Hampton Court Maze
Just in case you thought we weren't going to see a more tradition hedge, here's one of the most famous hedges of all. The UK and in particular, London, is a huge draw for tourism, the vast majority of which revolves around the British Monarchy. Probably the most famous of the monarchs is Henry VIII who's favourite haunt was Hampton Court Palace in West London, home to probably the most famous maze "in the world". So with this in mind and taking in to consideration mazes are designed to be confusing, here's the next next installment in my 'Volunteer Course Design Portfolio'.

Friday, 15 October 2010

London 2012: Cross Country Course - Busy On The Underground

One of the fastest ways to get around London, is obviously 'the tube', it's also one of the busiest, so I could think of no better way to portrait this than to use an underground train (which often appear above ground) as a 'let up' fence that allows the rider to gallop on their way around the course, and provides spectators with the perfect method of getting across the course without having to wait for a horse to go by.

London 2012: Eventing - The Greenwich Venue

Greenwich Park | London 2012 3-Day-Event Site
We're less than 2 years away from The London Olympics and ever since the announcement of the venue for equestrian disciplines would be Greenwich Park, the organisers have come under intense criticism, and gone all out on a charm offensive in their attempt to woo the general public, press, eventing fraternity, and local residents.

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

London 2012: Cross Country Course - The Olympic Cascade

As this is the Olympics and I'm a volunteer, I have no budgetary restraints, and this fence will require a fair bit of ground work but will provide a legacy feature for the park post games. The majority of water complexes used on 3 day event courses tend to be still ponds or lakes, and most jumping elements are reworked themes, with slight variations. One of the interesting uses of water I have seen, was at the Punchestown 2003 Europeans, where aqueducts were used, sadly only for decoration, the other water fences were quite spectacular as well and did cause one or two problems.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

London 2012: Cross Country Course - London Bridge Is Falling Down

London Bridge | Arizona
London, like most European cities, is built on a major river estuary, and therefore has plenty of bridges. One of the most famous of these bridges is London Bridge, and Yes, this time I do mean the one we sold to the Americans for their desert retreat, and it's predecessor, immortalised in the nursery rhyme. Anyone who knows London will have heard "London Bridge is falling down, falling down...." .

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

London 2012: Cross Country Course - The Apiary Fences

Bees | Scary Stuff
Your first thought is probably "What the hell have Bee Hives got to do with London or a cross country course"? Well, let me explain. London has thousand upon thousand beekeepers, and produces some of the best honey in the country, the other good place for honey production being, the Highlands of Scotland. The success of bee keeping in London is down to the huge variety of flowers, and lack of pesticides.

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

London 2012: Making It "As Good As It Gets"

NZB Land Vision | London 2012 Aim
With the eventing season drawing to a close, and the curtains firmly drawn on the World Equestrian Games stage, the next 'really big' competition to look forward is the London 2012 Olympics, so I thought I'd start a series of posts about the event. In particular I wanted to talk about the cross country course and the venue. So first of all, the cross country course.

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

WEG 2010: Eventing - The "coulda, woulda, shoulda's"

Team GBR | World Class
I have finally calmed down having watched the highlights again (more than once). Did I mention WE WON the World Equestrian Games! (and William Fox-Pitt took home a Silver Medal too). I have to admit, after the dressage, I was a little concerned that Team GBR would be left fighting tooth and nail to get a Bronze by the end of Sunday, but this WEG really have proved to be a well balanced 3 day event with just the right amount of influence between the phases, although it does prove the dressage is still the phase separating the best from the very best. Possibly not the most ideal situation given it's the most subjective phase. I really liked the cross country course, despite the very Burghley-Badminton feel, and the show jumping produced probably the biggest stadium audience the sport has seen for sometime. All in all a cracking competition......

Sunday, 3 October 2010

WEG 2010: Eventing - WE WON

Well Done William et al
Yes, Britain Wins Gold by jumping clear showjumping. There really is little more to say about all of this except:

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.....

WEG 2010: Eventing - Cross Country: Best Fun With Your Clothes On

Hamish & Dave were spared a streak
Today's action from the World Equestrian Games really was one of the best cross country days I've ever watched, and we have the Germans to thank for what promises to be a breath taking finish tomorrow. The atmosphere here at home was pretty electric too, with so much 'edge of your seat' action, and we're all still buzzing, although one or two here recon they should have been riding for one or two of the teams instead!

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

WEG 2010: Eventing - Cross Country Time

German Coach, Chris Bartle | Walking The Lines
Day 2 of eventing dressage at the World Equestrian Games is over, a few surprises in the scores, and I honestly didn't think so many would score well into the 30s, but not really that surprised at those in the top 5, except perhaps the number two, just a little disappointed the British didn't get a little higher up. The team competition though is all about a good solid  allround performance, which the Brits have achieved and are currently in 2nd going into the cross country, but the Germans have a good lead on us, and the Swedes and Australians are only a few points behind (see team scores).

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

WEG 2010: Eventing | Watch Out Axe Wielding Maidens on Cross Country

Ladies & Axes | No!
My first reaction on seeing this video (see below) was to tweet @hamishanddave and warn them! At first glance, it seems US Eventing's adopted fashionista, Courtney Young, along with two assistants who magically appear like something out of Charmed had all gone bananas, taking an axe to set of cross country boots. Then you realise this is an 'infomercial' independent 3D3Ws spoof stress test of ECOGOLD's cross country boots, which they claim are stronger than an axe. Quite why they chose an axe to demonstrate strength I'm not quite sure? If anything even remsembling an axe were ever to be encountered on a cross country course I'm sure the course builder would have Eventing Safety John after them like a shot......

WEG 2010: Eventing - Dressage Day 1 | I Told You Ze Germans Were Coming

Simone Deitermann
The German dressage supremos exited the World Equestrian Games arena with the heating left turned right up today in the first day of the eventing competition, leaving a number of 4* winners in their wake. Simone Deitermann, the 28 year-old accountant, leads the dressage on 36.0 a full five points clear of her countryman, Ingrid Klimke (41.3), and the multi-talented William Fox-Pitt in 3rd (42.0).

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

WEG 2010: Eventing - The Dressage | The Most Important Phase

Team GBR Selections Reflect The Importance Of Dressage 
The formalities of the World Equestrian Games Eventing trot-up are now over, so it's time to draw a line in the sand between each nation, and get on with the serious business of winning. Team GBR's Nicola Wilson will be the first to kick off the competition tomorrow morning at 9:00AM sharp, on her wonder horse, Opposition Buzz. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is one fabulous horse to watch go cross country, and Nicola has spent the last year improving her dressage, with much success. Her win at Barbury CIC*** sealed the decision for her inclusion in this WEG team.

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 2010: Eventing - The Cross Country Course

WEG Cross Country | Expect Lots of These!
Pictures have started appearing all over the web now of the World Equestrian Games cross country course for the eventing discipline, and at first glance of Horse & Hound's pictures, which must have been taken some time ago, you think "ahh, this isn't right up there with the trickiest", but these photos were taken before ponds were filled and brush fences finished!

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.

WEG 2010: Eventing Trot-Up - Chanel or Gucci?

Only One Plait!
Hurrah! Eventing starts today with the Trot-up, and previews of the cross country course, so by now there'll have be plenty of indecision in the wardrobe department as the ladies decide whether it it's the Chanel wooly coat or the Gucci tailored jacket with the knee length skirt and long boots, whilst Mark Todd just play's it safe and wears jacket, tie and body warmer. There will undoubtedly be a few colour co-ordinated teams, I predict most notably the Americans and Canadas. I'm just as interested to see what the ground jury will be wearing, as here in the UK, it's pretty much always tweed and a bowler hat.

One thing's for sure there'll be no ugly bibs in this phase!

WEG 2010: Dressage (Not In Jeans)

Moorelands Totilas | Photo: Samantha Clark
Another day nearer to Eventing, and it really isn't too far away now.......

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

WEG 2010: Aren't We All An Eclectic Bunch

Equestrian Sporting Athletes | An Eclectic Bunch
Only 2 days to go before the start of the World Equestrian Games eventing discipline - it's getting closer!

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 serious formal sport of pure dressage, but is taken just as seriously (seriously good fun), by not just the gold winning host nation, but a number of European nations as well. The big story was dressage diva Anky Van Grunsven switching to reining and representing the Dutch at WEG.

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

WEG 2010: A Right Royal 100 Mile Slog Round The Park

Sheikh Mohammed | Entered for WEG Endurance
Photo courtesy of 2010 Radio Show
I'm still waiting for the Eventing to start! But endurance is about to begin, something I know nix about, apart from:

  • 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

You Can Please Some Of The People.....

Flags | A Popular "Souvenir"
Trawling through the web over the last 24 hours, it's very plain to see the AllTech FEI World Equestrian Games are imminent, and rather like a baby elephant, they have been two years in the making. You can feel the buzz from across the pond over here in the UK, just by reading the multitude of blogs, facebook pages, twitter and no end of other online social phenomenon that collectively we call the Internet.

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

WEG 2010: Dressage in Jeans

Reining | Not Exactly!
It's intermission time whilst we wait for the Eventing discipline to gather some pace and the horses to arrive at Kentucky and settle in. Today I rode the Great White Charger in jeans and long chaps as I tried out a new brand of French saddle making an appearance on the UK scene, and this got me thinking, one discipline I had absolutely no clue about was Reining, and boy was I surprised to find out what it's all about. I was expecting it to be more cowboys without the cows, more cowboy gymkhana, but....

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

WEG2010: Aussie Eventing's Kings of Comedy

Samantha & Glenn
courtesy of Samantha
Whilst Eventing & the WEG is a deadly serious business sport it's important to laugh, even at oneself, occassionally! Surely that's why we have sites like and eventing nation. What's tickled me pink very recently is, not just the banter from the 2010 Radio Show dynamic duo (Samantha & Glenn) and the two aforementioned sites, but the new Aussie contenders, Hamish & Dave.

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

Gatcombe CIC**

Pippa Funnell | Running Right Up To WEG
Gatcombe's September event when they run a CIC* and CIC** is one of my favourite events, and whilst my own horse wasn't ready for this event, I was asked by a friend to help walk a few lines on the 2* cross country, which meant a final opportunity to watch one or two top riders competing some of their up and coming horses.

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

WEG 2010 Eventing: The Top 6

William Fox-Pitt | Favourite For A Medal
Why 6? Well if Team GBR get into the top 5 the top 6 auto qualify for London 2012. Now I've never really understood the concept of this being a "team" sport, considering there really aren't any tactics you can undertake to effect the outcome that can't be achieved in the individual listings, and it's format is still laid out as a 'test' rather than a competition. But I'll play along for now and leave that discussion for another post later on.

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

WEG 2010 Eventing: The US & CAN Selections, Finally!

Kim Severson | Off To WEG
After something that looked nothing like a selection trial at the US national championships last weekend, the American eventing selections for the World Equestrian Games has finally been announced, and there really are few surprises - the two Australians, the two stalwarts, the two tough greys.

They are:

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

US WEG Team Final Selection Trials at Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia

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.

Blenheim Horse Trials | Ruth Edge Sitting Pretty Once Again

Ruth Edge | 2nd After The Cross Country Phase
We set off for Blenheim Horse Trials in full combat gear, prepared for anything the great British weather could throw at us, which proved completely unnecessary as by the time we'd walked from the carpark to the course, the sun came out, and barely took a break all day. The conditions could hardly have been more perfect for horse, rider, or spectator. Blenheim has the best going of any parkland venue you'll find in the UK, and the only hard ground you came across today was on the well worn crossing points on course. I'll bet the American riders were pleased they were here rather than at the AECs in Chattahochee Hills, which looked like a bit of a dust bowl, which is a shame as it looked like being a fab event, with bumper entries, albeit also host to what turned out to be a rather unorthodox US WEG Team Selection Trial in the Advanced Championship.

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.

Blenheim Horse Trials | The Cross Country Photos

Here's a selection of photos from Blenheim Horse Trials 2010 CCI*** cross country day. Video footage follows shortly....

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Blenheim Horse Trials | The Cross Country Watch List

The Start | Blenheim Cross Country Day
Surprise, Surprise Ruth Edge heads the leader board going into the Cross Country, for both CIC & CCI classes. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Ruth Edge, and I don't envy her, as everybody must be thinking 'here we go again". Ruth is very capable and has managed to pick up a few big prizes during championship years, like the British Open during the Athens Olympics year. This year's field is missing many of the usual horses you'd expect, but does at least provide a chance for some of the rising horses and riders to get a little more experience.

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

Blenheim Horse Trials | Last of The Big Three

Ostentatious Surroundings
Blenheim always signals to me, the end of the UK eventing season, as the last of the big events before the nights draw in and weather really starts to turn cold. I'll be going this year for cross country day, for the first time in a few years, so this is just a short post to get the ball rolling, and get myself in the mood.

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

Someone Call 911 And Ask For The Eventing Fashionistas

A Crime Of Fashion | Top Hat, Tails & Cheap Plastic Bib!
I've just been looking at this fabulous new piece of technology that's making the headlines at the moment, the Point 2 Air Jacket, which got me thinking about the fashion blunders in eventing. This great sport of ours is full of fashion trends, and no end of rules about what you can wear , what colours your breeches need to be, the colour of your hat, your jacket, and even your boots. Then we go and commit the ultimate fashion crime by sticking a dirty great big piece of A4 paper with number over the top! What's all that about?

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

WEG 2010 Radio Show | How Do You Like Them Apples?

Ah! Ms. Clark, We've Been Expecting You
I swear if Glenn The Geek, got any more 'excited' he'll literally go "pop"! I'm not sure he'll last the 18 days left to WEG. For 2 years now Glenn and co-host, Samantha Clark, have been winding us up to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, as the "unofficial" source of news, views and interviews on a weekly basis with their 2010 WEG Radio Show (podcast).

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

Jose Ortelli's Path To The 2010 WEG

Argentinian Eventer Jose Ortelli | Road To WEG 2010
Inspired by Monty's blogs about foreign riders and trainers, and the cross-fertilisation between countries, and then of course, as it so often is, I happened to be in the right place at the right time, chatting oddly enough with my son's teacher, although, personally that's a rare occurence (being in the right time...) Nonetheless, yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Jose Ortelli Jr.

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

Burghley Horse Trials - A Great Result

Caroline & Lenamore | Burghley 2010 Winners
As you will have read all over the internet already, Lenamore is a very popular winner, and an extremely well deserved win it is too. I've always liked this horse and rider, since I first saw them at Badminton in 2005, and I'm probably a little bias as Lenamore is a lovely grey!

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.

Burghley Horse Trials - Cross Country

Mark Phillips | Burghley Course Designer
I've always thought the course at Burghley rides so much better than it walks, which I think is all credit to Mark Phillips, whereas the course at Badminton walks better than it rides, which is no bad thing and makes it all the more interesting. There is so much to play with at Burghley with regards to terrain and natural features, and whilst there are always a fair few fences where, if you're not careful, you can be on the horse's mouth a lot, it does always deliver a nice flowing ride.

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

Burghley Horse Trials Dressage

Mary King | A little too relaxed in the Burghley Dressage
I almost forgot about Burghley this year, with all the noise around the World Equestrian Games, and whilst the dressage hasn't really produced any shocks, apart from the two senior GBR Team members (Mary & William) getting additional penalty points, due to lack of concentration! Let's hope they're a little more switched on at the WEG.

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.

The Unofficial Cultural Exchange Program

Flying The Union Jack in Richland, USA
Following the Richland CICs in the US from across the pond, reminded me to resurrect a subject I had long thought of writing about, and seeing Leslie Law doing so well over the in the States has provided the perfect opportunity.

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

Kiwis Clean Up At Highclere Horse Trials

NZB Land Vision | London 2012 Bound
Apart from my own competition experience at Highclere this year, I went back on the Monday to watch the remaining Intermediate classes and the first running of the Advanced classes, which with 3 full sections and the World Equestrian Games only weeks away meant plenty of top classes horses out for last chance prep run.

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.