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.

Here's A Little Magic | Not like that, like this!
I find the majority of the New Zealanders are always so laid back. Most of the photos you take or see of Andrew Nicholson are of him smiling and laughing, and Mark Todd is often happy to stop and chat. I love capturing the incidental moments on camera, although I don't profess to be the world's greatest photographer (see photos below).

Dan Jocelyn | No Boots
Dan Jocelyn is so laid back he forgot his long boots, and had to send someone home to get them, while he warmed up in short boots! Luckily he only lives a few miles away.

Come On, Own Up - Who Called 911?
The British WEG Team were out in force too, with William Fox-Pitt drawing the 'emergency number' (911) on Cool Mountain. All of them except perhaps Mary King, are always so focussed in their warm-ups, not that I'm saying Mary isn't focussed, but you can usually raise a smile out of her. I also managed to video one of Pippa Funnell's dressage tests, and you'll find a few nice snapshots from the Advance dressage in my photo slide show from the event.

Sharon Hunt | Signature Please!

The showjumping arena party earned their lunch with rails failing for most of the riders in the advanced, but two lucky volunteers were rewarded with autographs from Sharon Hunt as she scribbled aboard an impatient KENNY. The horse that wowed me most in the show jumping was NZB Land Vision, this horse isn't much to look at, but boy can he jump and move. He won his section on a dressage score of 27.7 adding just a few more points for xc time, and this is Mark's favoured horse for the London Olympics (see my chat with Mark, below). Badminton winner, Paul Tapner, was pretty impressive in the ring too on his Advanced rides.

Clayton Fredericks | Advanced Class
The Advanced classes didn't start cross country until late afternoon, and chatting to a couple of officials it looks like this might just be a prelude to running FEI internationals in the near future. I have to say I think this would work well here, if they have a few more road access points for spectators, as currently everyone arrives via a narrow bridge (see the start of my other video). Apparently Lord Canarvon (or Elsie - LC, as he's affectionately known) is more accommodating to this idea than his father would have been. Because of the late start I had to leave before the really interesting horses ran, due to childcare commitments (the joys of a young family), but I did capture the first few out in the video below at one of the more interesting combination fences. Overall the course didn't demolish the field, and I think that was good thing, especially as this was a WEG warm up, not an International CIC. What was surprising was nobody managed the time, which whilst I didn't expect the WEG bound horses  to be pushed I would have expected one or two to push for home. A lot of fences got rapped on the way round, and there were a lot of tired finishers too!

New Zealanders won all three Advanced Classes, and let's just say I think all of the teams were already choosen before Highclere. If Mark Todd, Paul Tapner, Sam Griffiths, Joe Meyer, and Andrew Nicholson's Nereo aren't on teams, I'll be surprised!

Highclere Horse Trials Results

Mark Todd Interview

Photos From Highclere Horse Trials

Here's my video round-up:

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