Friday, 21 May 2010

Events of yester-year

I was looking through my Aperture library and the BE fixture just now to see which events I should enter this season, and was reminded of a few favourite events that have now bitten the dust.

Charlton Park Horse Trials was always one of my favourites, a really nice big flowing track over parkland, parking could be tricky, but the showground had plenty of space for warm-up etc. I'm not sure why this one shut down, but it is a real shame.

Savernake Horse Trials in Wiltshire was another great event, a lovely vista, a decent track (and for me very local). This event shut down after a rider death a few years back.

Mattingley is apparently moving to Wellington Riding School. I hope Wellington have spent some of the £0.75M refurb on the cross country facilities, because I didn't find them particularly impressive when I saw them 3 or 4 years ago. Mattingley was also one of my favourites, despite having mixed results here (eliminated in the showjumping after slipping in mud, snapped a rein cross country - finished albeit with time penalties, coming 4th & 5th, beating Zara Phillips!) It has a really well balanced track and given they spent a far bit on further groundworks for last year I'm a little surprised it's changing venue, a good 'medium-tough' set of courses.

Lulworth Castle, what a great event.

Oh well, no use crying in our milk, I just hope Brockenhurst, Highclere and Hambleden continue to feature in the fixture list......bring it on.....

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

When is an Event Horse not an Event Horse?

A: When he's a sub mariner.

Just had to share this with you, made us chuckle....

Play the video below and pay special attention when you get to 3mins 23secs. This is an interview with Heath Ryan who compares his horse to "Red October"out on the cross country course. For those of you who don't know Heath, he's Matt Ryan's brother and just as off the wall, and just as good an eventer inspite of the stroke, what a wag! Then compare it to the interview that follows on....what a difference, I recon he should certainly be on the selector's list for London if this is how he gets round cross country.

Thanks to Horse Talk TV & Rose Read of Sydney 3DE for sharing with us.

London 2012: A few GBRs to watch out for.....

The Olympics may be more than two years away, and I know we have a WEG & Euro Champs before then, but this is the first year to really start watching out for new horses and riders, and I often find the best year to see real talent (next year we'll see too many nerves taking affect). Rather than do this retrospectively at the end of the season I thought I'd see if I can predict some of the best events to see some of the best performances.

For this post I'm just going to cover the British potentials, I'll cover a few other nations as the year progresses.

So the events I think worth watching this year are:

  • Luhmulhen
  • Barbury Castle
  • Blenheim
  • Burghley
and here's the young pretenders I think are worth watching out for:

Thursday, 13 May 2010

WEG 2010 likely to be dominated by Yanks and Aussies

But who will get the selectors' call.....

I know it's probably a little early to be discussing team selections for the World Equestrian Games but I really couldn't wait for Barbury before speculating a little from whispers I've heard. There must be a number of national team selectors around the world scratching their heads as to how they are going to break the strength of the Americans, and particularly the Australians in the forth coming WEG festivities. That is any other nation that might otherwise has a reasonable chance of collecting a medal!

Paul Tapner's Badminton win is guaranteed to promote him off the Australian subs bench to first squad, and he could take either (or both) of his Badminton rides to Kentucky, and with a small battalion of other horses in reaching distance of winning at 4* it would be foolish to leave him off the team. Whilst I think of it, doesn't Paul Tapner remind you of the young Andrew Hoy? (laidback, but serious and focussed, likeable too) And what has happened to Andrew Hoy? I'd thought he dropped off the planet, but then remembered he jumped the channel to Germany. Seems to have the odd entry here though ( Houghton 2* in a few weeks time). Needs to update his website.

Anyway I digress.....back to WEG....

Monday, 10 May 2010

Hambleden Horse Trials 2010, firm ground but still a great event.

I'm sorry if you were hoping to find some detailed wordy event report full of superlatives and mentions for owners, the breeding of horses, and other uninteresting facts, because you won't find it here. For that you'll need to try the Horse & Hound or Eventing Magazine.

Hambleden doesn't normally feature in my blog as it's usually on my own calendar of events, but this year I visited in a supporting role, which meant a little spare time to take a few photos and video, and chat to a few old faces I would otherwise not have time to talk too.

If you've never been to Hambleden (as a competitor) then I highly recommend giving it a try, if only for the bluebells! It runs a decent Pre-Novice & Novice as well as a really nice Intermediate that's not too strong, just challenging enough not to put off those rising from Novice, and bearing in mind it runs early in the season (well early for me anyway).

This year the ground was good-firm, the firmest I've ever seen it here, but this really only affects the show jumping, as a good deal of the cross country is through woodland, littered with bluebells.   The lorry park was busier than I've ever seen it, to the point where one poor competitor trying to leave got on the wrong side of Pippa Funnell's frustration at being parked on the end of a busy thoroughfare as her horse shy'd whilst having studs inserted.

Ringside at the show jumping arena was 2 or 3 cars deep with spectators and the picnic brigade, and judging by the constant warnings about how narrow the track was through the woods there were plenty of people out on the course too. Fun for all ages is probably what the brochure would say.

I suppose running after Badminton (it's usually run earlier) meant attracting more big names and therefore crowds, but quite honestly the vista from this showground nestled in the surrounding hills with Red Kites flying high and the woodlands sporting a carpet of bluebells should be enough to attract anyone at a loose end on a Sunday with mild interest in horses.

I have no idea who came where, but you should be able to find out all of that on What I can tell you is the top flight of eventing's elite were out en mass. I spotted William Fox-Pitt, Andrew Nicholson, Badminton winner Paul Tapner, Mark Todd, Zara Phillips, Pippa Funnell, Daisy Berkeley and host of others fresh out of the Badminton line-up, all in good spirits, and all none the worse for wear.

I did manage to spot the most fantastic appaloosa too (see video). This lovely energetic horse proved lively in the Dressage warm up and then in the show jumping, unfortunately home time came before its cross country so I'd didn't manage to capture that.

You wouldn't call it a particularly undulating course, but with a few twists and turns, and a 'quarry' to go through, making the time really does mean stepping on the gas.

Anyway I hope you enjoy the video clips and make a note to look this event up early next season.

Is Eventing Really Elitist?

Now we'd all love to see more eventing on TV and Paul Tapner's recent win at Badminton Horse Trials reminded me of something I heard from a top TV exec recently, 'its very hard to get Eventing any airtime as it's seen as elitist".

So is it? [Elitist]. Well, it does have a 'Royal' at the top of the sport, but Zara Phillips has to be one of the most down to earth royals around, so I'm tempted to answer 'no'.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Mary King is one of the world's greatest Eventers, but.......

I know, I know, more Badminton stuff, but this will make you chuckle! I have the greatest respect for Mary King, you just have to look at her biography to see she makes some of the biggest names in Eventing look like sunday drivers, but one thing I kept seeing on TV during Badminton was the ad she very kindly did for Ride Alert.

When I first saw this I thought it was a spoof, and I can't believe someone posted it on youtube....sorry to tease Mary, we love seeing you at Badminton (on a horse), but we couldn't resist ;-). In fact we're sure daughter Emily is fighting back the giggles, which is really why this makes us chuckle......

All for a good cause though.....

The Frangible Pin Saga continues.....

Apologies, my head is still full of Badminton and something I wrote about last year has cropped up again, the Frangible Pin. Back then it was all about some bright spark at the FEI wanting to add penalty points for breaking one, as if it were showjumping, this time it's more about improvements.

They [Frangible Pins] are undoubtedly making a positive contribution to safety and a new design was tried out at Badminton Horse Trials in 2010 (see picture, courtesy of the Badminton website). The young Chinese rider Alex Hau Tain experienced the effect of these when falling off his first horse, Jeans, this year.

There is talk again of introducing penalty points for breaking these, which is of course a ridiculous suggestion. I notice 'The Captain' suggests £90 is expensive - Gatcombe ticket sales must be down on last year!

Improvements in safety are priceless, and it beats having to having to soften the courses any further.

Grassroots Championship should stay for Badminton 2011

So over the last few days I've been surfing around the web looking at the reviews and opinion from Badminton and noticed some chat (and a H&H article) about how some riders from the main event were complaining about the Grassroots Championship disrupting the main Badminton event.

A little surprisingly perhaps, 'The Captain' (Mark Phillips) seemed to disagree and thought it all rather jolly, although he admitted not going over to watch.

I have to say I thought this was an excellent decision to include this in the Badminton schedule and perhaps one of the only ways in which the top end of the sport really gives back to the grassroots that feeds it.

Now it's all too easy for all of us on the sidelines to sit in judgement on what should have been done or isn't being done, but give Badminton its due, they did run the grassroots cross country through the main deer park and even through the lake, albeit a toe in the water.

Friday, 7 May 2010

2010 provides another Cracking Badminton Horse Trials

Once again Badminton Horse Trials provided another cracking spectacle for the masses. A host of new names finished in the top 20 and a new winner in Paul Tapner. Yogi Brisener and the British Selectors must be scratching their heads though! Apart from the ever present Mary King, and Daisy Berkeley (and Daisy's horse is getting a little long in the tooth) there was a distinct lack of other British stalewart anywhere near the prize money.

Moving the days to finish on a Monday, was of course predominantly done to avoid TV scheduling clashes with other sports (well football anyway). I recon the gate receipts would have been up though as there did seem to be a bigger crowd, and I'm sure the opportunity to cram in an extra day's action and shopping without the need to take time off work helped.

Now if you take a look at the final results the cross country phase was the most decisive phase, something we haven't seen at Badminton for some time. And having carefully watched a number of cross country rounds, I still believe the chaos on Sunday was generally due to complacency of riders, who walked the course when the weather was good and didn't take into account the effect this had on both the conditions and their horses.

I had just walked away from the Huntsmans Close when Desert Island fell, returning when I heard the commotion. What I found particularly distressing about this incident was the reaction of some of the crowd, who felt it necessary to scream and shout at the marshalls to 'grab the horse', and thus distressing the poor horse further. Having had to deal with several incidents of this nature over the past twenty years (including two of my own horses), the only criticism of Marshals should be not getting someone to make sure the course was 'held', but bearing in mind this was early on in the course at fence 7 and only a short gallop from fence 6 you can understand how the following competitor managed to get so close. A very unfortunate incident but not badly managed.

Now if you ask any rider or spectator the cross country phase is the one they all love and believe should have greatest influence. This year's course whilst not inspired has proved you do not need to build a 'horse frightener' in order to exert decent influence, or at least not in wet conditions.

This brings me onto my next point. Why do we not run cross country on the last day? I think this can only bring more benefit (especially to horses) and much greater excitement. If this were the case, making the allowed time would be the key to winning (Just take a look at how many horses made the time in the XC results). This would make for a far more exciting finale. If we are still running the current order of service because of some historic military reason, then all I can say is "We haven't used horses on the battle field for sometime"

Time for change!

Anyway, with a rare day off this weekend I'll be winding my way to Hambleden and with early times I might get a chance to film a few top riders ( I notice the new Badminton Champion and Mark Todd are both planning to be there), so might do a little report from one of my favourite events.

ps. that reminds me, it was amusing to watch Mark Todd during his Cross Country Round on the "Mark Todd (sponsored) Big Screen"

Monday, 3 May 2010

Badminton Horse Trials 2010 Cross Country Day - Carnage!

Twenty-five percent of the field didn't finish Sunday's Cross Country phase at Badminton Horse Trials, and the carnage was wide spread around the course. There were the obvious bogey fences that you just knew were going to catch a few out but the problems weren't limited to these by any means.

Dan Jocelyn kicked things off but only managed to get as far as the Colt pond, and standing on the sidelines it became very clear he, and more importantly, his horse just didn't seem committed to getting over this fence. He had started well but perhaps burnt a little too much fuel.

Probably the biggest shock was Tina Cook taking to water like a duck on the fabulous Miner's Frolic (see clip). A little too much hesitation in putting the strides together on the way into the lake meant leaving a leg behind over the narrow willow fence. She survived this well with her spirits intact though.

Today's conditions of course made the track more challenging but the going was generally considered very good and whilst 2 fences were removed for safety the ground held up well and we didn't see bucket loads of sand that are usually used to secure the footing on slopes in these conditions.

I think the main cause of problems was riders getting a little complacent and misreading the effort required in certain sections of the course in wet and cold conditions. The riders who went clear kept a steady even pace up to fence 15, resisting temptation to gallop on too strongly between the lake and the sunken road.

With fence 15 (farmyard corners) behind them, the more challenging Colt Pond and Hexagon Hedge could be tackled with a calm, clear head. Get over these and the rest of the course could be attacked with some vigour, with opportunity to make up time. There were probably only half a dozen issues on the later half of the course, half of which could be put down to first timer inexperience and another, the very unfortunate Francis Whittington.

Interestingly a good few of the clear round riders do not watch others go round the course, Andrew Nicholson and Paul Tapner to name two, instead preferring not to let others' problems cloud their judgement. (most wise).

Certainly not the toughest course we've seen at Badminton over the last decade, just a year in which many rider's had become complacent. You could almost suggest the Hugh Thomas had designed the course specifically for a rainy Badminton! (very clever if he did)

Mark Todd, the comeback king, rode a very positive and attacking round on a relatively inexperienced horse and with a glut of withdrawals likely before the showjumping probably has a decent chance of making the top 10, if his horse stays sound.

Sasha Pemble & Nicola Wilson also both rode exceptionally well and deserve to finish the competition with something to show for their efforts. Good Luck!