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.