Friday, 6 August 2010

Gatcombe, The Festival of British Eventing 2010 - Friday

Gatcombe Park
I'm extremely flattered to have been asked to contribute to Monty's blog, and hope that I'll be able to hold my end up, as I'm a big fan of Eventing and Horse Trials/Talking Although I currently live in Lexington, KY, home of the 2010 WEG, I'm an english girl at heart, brought up via Enid Blyton, boarding school, British Eventing etc, and nothing pulls at the heart strings more than returning to Gatcombe, home of Princess Anne, in the heart of the Cotswolds.

 It's hard to describe how picturesque and unspoilt this part of the world is; how refreshing to see hedgerows, grazing sheep and cattle dotted in sloping, patchwork fields, narrow roads littered with horse droppings - how I miss hacking out in the countryside!

Friday saw a full slate of dressage: the 2 advanced sections, with about 40 horses each, the British Novice and Intermediate Championships, the Burghley Young Event Horse Qualifiers for four and five year old horses, and the Pony Club Team Jumping in the main arena. One of the first things that struck me was the sheer quality of all the horses today across the board, there wasn't one I wouldn't have liked to hop on and have a go on.

Maybe it's just been too long since I competed, but the warm-up jumps for the 5 year old BYEH class looked really big- the actual course in the "Top Arena" was much smaller, although still decent, and I was also surprised how well-behaved most of the horses were doing their dressage literally right next to the previous competitor jumping. Helen Wilson did a nice job riding all the Billy bred horses for Pippa Funnell; out of three in the top ten of the four year section, she rode Billy Pastime to the win. Antoinette McKeowen took the five year old section on A.

Twenty-four teams took part in the Pony Club Inter branch Jumping Championship, and the VWH were the winners, and Stroud came in second. These riders all seemed to be enjoying their chance to ride in the main arena, although the couple I talked to admitted they were "terrified"!

The cross country course for the advanced and Open Championships are big, and makefull use of Gatcombe's terrain to add further complication. Although the going has obviously been worked on, it is still quite firm, and there were lots of competitors worrying about it. The Good Luck sign before you even start is a nice touch, and the first fence, the Dubarry boot is a prime example of the beautifully designed and crafted, creative jumps to come. Fence 3 with the steep, steep drop behind it is the first real question, and then until the Steps Up to a narrow house at 8, it's big, attacking straight-forward fences. Stone walls that are natural in this part of England, set in the fenceline, feature quite prominently, and the House at 9 may look charming and inviting, but that's a massive table to be jumped out.

The combination at 13, two big square, hedge-topped oxers set at an angle to each other and then a skinny, triple brush replaces the corners that used to be here, and are beginning to look familiar, there was a similar fence at Rolex this spring, but with 3 big tables, and I'm sure they're popping up all over the place.

The Land Rovers in an arc over the folly are always impressive, and this year competitors will have to jump two angled houses before going under the arch to a narrow corner set on the side of the hill. The first time horses get wet feet comes soon after, at the bottom of the hill, both water jumps are fairly straightforward, big, single jumps into the pond, and in between them you have another steep climb up the gorgeous, fair-tale "Countrywide Mushrooms", a narrow toadstool on top of the hill, before turning and heading back down to the water via the imposing hedge at 19, to a skinny triple brush again. Essentially after the second water, you have five, plain fences until you're home. The course is hilly and testing, but fabulously presented.

William Fox-Pitt took control of both advanced sections after the dressage leading one on Seacookie, and the other on Cool Mountain, and Andrew Nicholson is close behind him in both sections riding Calico and Quimbo respectively. William and Mary King are the only two members of the British WEG team competing this weekend, and it's unsure if they will run across country, although Mary said she would very much like to be "competitive" on Imperial Cavalier. Ruth Edge leads the Intermediate Championship after dressage on her lovely AppleJack and Lucinda Fredericks won the British Novice Championship Dressage on Flying Finish. The novice championship cross country definitely looks tough and demanding.
Saturday and Sunday should both be exciting days, I'm looking forward to an early start - the intermediate Championship show jumping starts at 8am in the Top Arena and the advanced show jumping starts at 8:30 in the main arena. Hopefully I'll be bringing you another report tomorrow to bring you up to date on that and the cross country, but before I go let's not forget the final phase - the shopping, eating and drinking, which is spectacular at Gatcombe, and how could I not mention the weather! We endured a bit of everything today, blustery wind, drizzle, sunshine, some mugginess and a downright chill setting in by the time we left. Please let me, or Monty know if you've enjoyed this update/preview, and what else you'd like to see, and thanks for reading. Time to recharge the batteries on everything, myself included, I hope to have some video tomorrow too,


More Photos

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks Samantha, a great blog post, and some really fabulous pictures.

    It's a shame about the ground, as I know a few riders after intending to pull out, hopefully the overnight rain will improve conditions. It's not the easiest venue when you need to work on the going during a dry spell.

    Looking forward to further updates.......