Friday, 30 December 2011

A Peek Round The Corner To 2012

My Daughter & I Playing Peek-A-Boo With Our Cameras
The holidays are coming to an end, and that means everyone's thoughts turn to New Year's resolutions, turning over a new leaf, or the excitements for the year ahead. For the first time that I can remember I don't really have a new resolution I feel a burning need to fullfil, but having just had the most wonderful holiday with my children in the relative peace and tranquillity of the Welsh valleys, enjoying the simple pleasures of family life, I probably will seek to simplify my personal life next year, if only because my professional life has been so hectic this year, and that looks set to continue throughout most of 2012.

2011 was a cracking year for me eventing wise (sadly only as a spectator). Despite some logistical hiccups I managed to get to most of the big events that I intended to in the UK plus a few abroad, and even managed to snap some golden moments for my sporting year book. 2012 brings probably the most exciting Olympics, for this sport, there has been since the games were last held in London back in 1948. It was, after all, those games that gave rise to Badminton Horse Trials, the foundation of our sport, and Great Britain is widely acknowledged as having the best eventing circuit in the world, so with the eventing elite on our doorstep what better place to enjoy Olympic Eventing!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Time: The One Thing You Can’t Buy - Carpe Diem

Mark Todd Squeezes Through The Trout Hatchery At Burghley
Adelaide CCI**** finished yesterday and with it the end of eventing in 2011, well except maybe for some crazy Americans down in the depth south and some in the southern hemisphere. So as we prepare enter December, and I prepare to enter Dubai on my way round the world (the wrong way round!) I got to thinking about how fabulous the sport has been this year, and all the fun I’ve had eventing or otherwise.

It’s been a year of opportunities not to be missed, in my personal life, my professional life, and my horsey life. The ‘big’ season for me always starts with Badminton and this year’s event gave me the chance to witness everybody’s favourite eventer, Mark Todd, take the title for a 4th time, in what proved to be one of the best Badmintons for many years. We had great weather, most of the world’s best event riders vying to catch the selectors eye, and the greatest collection of event horses I’ve ever seen gathered in one place.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Pau 2011: Missing You Already

Les Etoiles Du Pau CCI**** | So Relaxed The Riders Even Have Time For A Smile To Camera From XC
If you're going to frequent a 4 star in October, I can't think of a better event than Les Etoiles Du Pau. As I sit here in the UK, one week on from embarking for Pau, with the reality of two children to look after, not to mention the prospects of the days and nights getting colder [they have already], I can't help but think of the warm sunshine and French hospitality (plus wine) I left behind only days ago with a great deal of fondness.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Pau 2011: Sunday's Action | The Winners, The Losers & The Great Grey

Mary King Takes Home The Big Money Winning The 2011 HSBC FEI Cassics™ Series
I'd just started writing my love letter to Pau and lamenting about having to leave when I suddenly remembered I should at least briefly recap Sunday's goings on and post some pictures as yet unpublished. Saturday's cross country phase left many a sore leg on a horse, giving grooms and riders plenty to do overnight. As I left the event around 11 pm that night horses were being inspected for soundness on the tarmac roadways in preparation for the morning's trot up.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Pau CCI**** 2011 ✔ Done: WINNER - William Fox Pitt

William Fox-Pitt Wins Pau CCI**** 2011

Pau 2011 CIC** Showjumping ✔ Done

I'll keep this short and sweet:

Andrew Nicholson jumped clear, Paul Tapner didn't, Nicholson Wins:

More photos will appear here soon

Pau CIC** Results

Pau 2011: All To Play For

It All Starts Here
Eight horses are within one rail of winning Europe's 4 star swan song for 2011 in today's showjumping after a day of cross country that has undoubtedly left many horses stiff and a little sore after jumping all those fences on the top on mounds, so there's everything to play for, and two of those horses are ridden by none other than William Fox-Pitt which also means the lady with the big green truck, can't count her HSBC $s until the final whistle!

It all starts here at about 2PM GMT+1, until then, there's sunshine, horse inspections, CIC** Show Jumping, and tales of the unexpected.

All On Their Way.....

Pau CCI**** Cross Country | The Course, The Competition & The Crowd

Mr Cruise Control | Still the "Horse To Take Home From Pau"
Well, What A Day, What A Four Star! After today Pau is definitely on my calendar as a permanent fixture! The weather and the end of season atmosphere certainly helps, but this is also a very interesting track. Pierre Michelet had clearly planned the placement of every fence to the last millimetre, making use of every opportunity to break concentration, and force riders to think how their horses might react.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Pau CCI**** Cross Country ✔ Done

William Fox-Pitt 
Hang on to your horses, I'll be back shortly with a round up and another Helmet Cam. Mean while here are the photos:



Pau CIC** Cross Country ✔ Done

Paul Tapner Foot Perfect In The CIC** Cross Country To Maintain His Lead Of 4.8 Points
The two star cross country from Pau has been full of thrills and spills, with a large number of the field stumbling and fumbling their way through the water fences, whether they went clear or not. It is a lovely course with far less mole hills to deal with compared to the four star track.

Paul Tapner has maintained his lead heading into the showjumping, and both  he and Andrew Nicholson (in 2nd place) provided a masterclass in cross country riding, with the two cleanest rounds of the day, on a track that was not helped by a low early morning sun and most of the fences in shade.

Pau 2011: Cross Country Morning - Here We Go!

It All Starts Here
Pau 9AM:

It's been a pleasantly gentle start to the day this morning, the sun only peeped over the horizon an hour ago,   sending the picturesque moon into hiding for the day. Most riders have been keeping a low profile as they prepare for the big day. So far I've only spotted Mary King, out on course and Georgina Tapner busy grooming away for husband Paul.

The main arena has been prepared, for the start and finish, and the enormous warm up sand arena has been cleared to make way for three practice fences. Tradestands are opening up for business, and the crowds are trickling in, which is more than can be said for the media.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Pau 2011 Friday | Andrew Nicholson Well Positioned For XC

Andrew Nicholson & Armada
Andrew Nicholson has come to Pau with a full arsenal of 3 horses (Henry Tankerville, Armada, Mr. Cruise Control) for the CCI****, plus one in the 2 star. I caught up with him after his dressage test on Armada, which is a horse I've always admired as he's a 'little' exciting to watch on the cross country. This video interview turned out a little shorter than I expected due to a battery failure, but continues below. The thing I like about Andrew is he speaks his mind, and enjoys pulling your leg or trying to trip you up!

Pau 2011 - Dressage ✔ Done

Andrew Nicholson & Mr. Cruise Control | The Horse To Take Home From Pau
The sun here in Pau is still shining as the dressage phase finally draws to a close. Two Aussies, Clayton Fredericks & Chris Burton, sit neck-a-neck on 43.7, with William Fox-Pitt and Oslo half a point behind.

Pau 2011 Friday | Mary King Scores 51.0

Mary King & Imperial Cavalier Score 51.0
The more I watch dressage, the less I understand it. OK it wasn't a stunning test, but it was better than a lot of those ahead of her in the leader board.

Pau 2011- Friday | Ruth Edge In The Nick Of Thyme

Ruth Edge (right) & Judy Harvey
Ruth Edge is probably mentioned more times on the second day of dressage at a CCI****, as Mickey Mouse is at Disneyland. With the scores to back it up, she leads the dressage more than any other rider before her. At Pau this year Ruth is riding only one horse, Nick Of Thyme, a relative new comer to the CCI**** circuit, but never the less an impressive one. 19th at his first 4 star at Badminton last year and placed more than once at 3 star this year.

I stood mesmerised in the warm arenas watching this big graceful horse float around the arenas, producing some fabulous suspension in his paces. Almost as interesting, was the fact that Ruth and her dressage coach, Judy Harvey seemed to be talking to themselves, when in fact they were talking to each other via a radio link, so I decided to find out more about the tech, the horse, and Ruth's thoughts on Pau this year:

Pau 2011 Friday | More Sunshine - More Dressage - More of Everything

Ruth Edge & Nick Of Thyme
Whilst I grab a quick bite to eat and prepare 2 videos, take a look at a few more magnificent horses out schooling this morning:

More Photos

Pau 2011 - Friday Morning | More Dressage - More Training - More Sunshine

Andrew Nicholson & Armada
Friday's at these big 3 Day's I always find more relaxed, especially the mornings. Pau is possibly a little different, only in the fact that there are a few key riders who have 3 horses in the CCI****, which means the Friday morning session will include some of these.

William Fox-Pitt is currently leading on Oslo on 44.2. Andrew Nicholson didn't produce his best from Armada, but as he would say "this isn't a dressage competition", and this horse is awesome cross country.

Here's  a few photos whilst I go hunting for more interesting stuff

Pau 2011- Day One: There's Something About Mary

Mary King | Current Leader 
Mary King is currently leading the CCI**** here at Pau, with both William Fox-Pitt & Andrew Nicholson in her slipstream. Something, someone said at dinner this evening, made me think there really is something about Mary that sets her apart from the rest; she always has a smile and hello for everyone, always willing to help out, and as I said in a previous post she's the eventer most young riders admire, and Thursday at Pau belongs to Mary.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Pau Is Where It's At

Mary King & Apache Sauce
I've literally only just arrived at Pau CCI**** in South West France, after a short detour following endless yellow signs for "The Stars Of Pau", and finally giving in and phoning the press office, who beyond the call of duty came out to find me and lead me by the nose to the entrance, which incidently I would never have found under my own steam. I even had trouble finding the media centre. I did manage to find the lorry park, the warm up area, a bunch of friendly Aussie riders from back home, and one of the central stars of this year's event, Mary King, out on Apache Sauce.

Segway | Transport of Choice
The plane on the way over was full to the gills with owners, supporters and general eventing fans, plus a certain Press Officer from Badminton, Julian Seaman, who is helping out here for the week, and is making me work for my accreditation by holding pre-Badminton meetings with some of the representatives from HSBC. Nothing like early planning!

Even though we have great weather here, this event has a great end of summer feel, where everyone is relaxed, smiling, tanned, soaking up the atmosphere, and plenty are zipping around on Segways. This is shaping up to be a good week.

Anyhow, now that I've managed to find my base for the week, I'm off to get my bearings, some photos, and see what's generally happening, before getting a guided course walk with a few of the riders.

I'm so excited I can't think straight!

More from Pau very soon.....

Pau CCI**** | The Beginning & The End

Pau CCI**** gets underway today with the first horse inspection shortly before 1PM local time. I had originally though I might miss both this and some of the dressage, but I should make it to Pau in time for a sunny afternoon walk the around the cross country course before the competition begins in earnest with tomorrow's dressage.

There are riders from 17 nations in the mix, with the largest contingents being sent from France and Great Britain, but as with any of these European top flight events, very strong entries from UK based Aussie's, Kiwis, not forgetting a handful of Germans, all keen to make use of double points on offer for the HSBC Classics Series.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Battle Of The Kings & A Little Last Minute Dot Com

Will He Win?
So here I am sat in my sister's house again,  a few minutes up the road from Gatwick Airport, only days after the last impromptu stay on route to somewhere that sounds so much more glamourous than it really is.

The eventing season (in Europe at least) is drawing to a close, and that means Pau CCI****. It's already all over the news that there is some serious $$$$$ at stake courtesy of the HSBC FEI Classics Series, and William Fox-Pitt needs to win Pau in order to snatch the bonus right from underneath Mary King's nose.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Dauntsey Horse Trials | A Bonus Throw Back To Summer

Sarah-Jane Brown Flys Over The Hanging Log
I thought Gatcombe had given the British summer a final send off, but the current mini heat wave has provided a bonus weekend of sunny eventing in the UK. Osberton & Duantsey were the two main events to benefits, and I had hoped to get to Osberton, but an early flight to Europe for my day job left me the local option of Dauntsey, and I’m very pleased it did.

I’ve been trying to get to Dauntsey for the last 3 years, the previous two with my horse. This event is a welcome replacement to the fabulous Charlton Park event, taking over it’s slot in the calendar, and being only a stone’s throw away hasn’t had to compete for entries. I think there were 800 odd entries.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

CrossCountry | Now There's Another App For That......

Cross Country App
Like a bus, you wait and wait, and then 2 come along at once! Well now we have two apps for memorising your cross country course. To rival CourseWalk, CrossCountry is the latest iPhone App to launch that helps you memorise your cross country course, and it's a pretty strong contender for the App Store's "New & Noteworthy", and should have metre wheel manufacturers quaking in their boots. [Not that anyone competing below intermediate needs a metre wheel]

This App hails from Australia, developed by the Diacono family from Sydney (Mum Jose, Son James & Daughter Helen), and unsurprisingly they have a fair bit of experience in Eventing, Jose is involved at the Sydney 3 Day Event and has an 'ology' in mapping, Helen is an event rider, whilst James has provided the technical wizardry behind the app.

The principles are very simple; provide some basic information about the course you are about to walk then start recording as you walk round your course. Along the way take snaps of each fence, and other relevant points. You can record video clips too.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Gatcombe | A Fond Farewell To The British Summer

Gatcombe | Great For Practicing My Photographic Skills
The Whatley Manor International Horse Trials [or "Gatcombe (2)" as it is often referred to] often signals the last of the good weather events in the UK. By mid September it really is a case of "if it's not raining, wait 5 minutes" [it will], so you might as well flip a coin before deciding what to wear and setting off for this event, and I did spot a few horses that had already been clipped, so the great British autumn really has arrived......brrr!

Autumn colours were breaking through everywhere, and the varying terrain of Gatcombe provided some great opportunities for practicing my photographic skills in a variety of settings. I've still a way to go on the photography front, and I will have to go on a few photography courses this winter to get more of a handle on my camera, but I think I came away from Gatcombe with at least a couple of nice photos.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Cross Country - There's Now An App For That Too

Course Walk App
The growing band of iPhone Apps for eventing fans everywhere is about to increase by one, thanks to the imminent arrival of the Course Walk app, that will help you record your course walk, automatically work out where your minute markers are and let you take photos of every fence along the way.

I have to confess I got quite excited when "CourseWalk" started following me on twitter, and I discovered this was a new app, with some cool tech use of the iPhone for eventing. The app has been developed by Nicolas & Tracy Hinze from Bedford, Virginia. Tracy has been eventing for 20 years and currently rides at the Preliminary and Intermediate levels in the US, and her software developer husband, Nick, seems to have caught the eventing bug in the last few years, and is running around some of the beginner novice level courses on a percheron cross named Picasso - brave guy!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Blenheim | A Change In Nations Fortunes

Piggy French Warms Up To Win Blenheim CCI***
A change of venue, from the grand surroundings of Burghley, to the even grander surroundings of Blenheim Palace, gave many a change of fortune, expect perhaps the British, who excelled at both. William Fox-Pitt added 1st & 3rd in the CIC*** (split by Sarah Cohen) to his historic Burghley win, and finished 10th in the CCI*** won by Piggy French aboard the horse she won the Olympic test event on.

The fate of nations in eventing is so often cyclical, dependent on bringing enough elite horsepower together at the same time. British & New Zealand are currently the super powers with riders having invested heavily in breeding and selective purchasing like no other nation except perhaps Germany, in a bid to break the cycle. The Australians who, not too long ago, could boast triple Olympic medalists on their team with elite 4 star horses, are currently climbing out of 'recession' with fresh talent like Paul Tapner & Sam Griffiths, and may perhaps not make up an all conquering team in time for London 2012, having failed to qualify so far, plus two of Paul Tapner's elite list horses are currently on the injury list.  None of this would prevent them from fielding some pretty strong individuals.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Team Australia - In My Back Yard

Paul Tapner & Sam Griffiths | On The Australian Elite List
One of, if not, the largest contingents of foreign event riders based here in the UK hail from Australia, and after two weeks in and out of planes, trains & automobiles watching events (in-between the day job) I finally managed to get to see my own horse earlier this week, only to find almost all of the Aussies in my back yard for an Australian Event Team training clinic. What a treat!

Boomerang Stables near Lambourn in Berkshire is something of a hub for many Australian & New Zealand riders, most of whom are based within a short drive of the place. With eventing facilities to rival any available in the UK; 2 outdoor all weather arenas, a decent sized indoor arena with viewing gallery, a 40 acre cross country schooling facility with over 100 fences of all types (see link below), and enough stables & grazing to support 40+ horses plus hay production. It's been base camp for many international riders over the years, including Mark & Sandy Phillips, and Bltyh Tait, and before that was an 400 acre thoroughbred stud, subsequently carved up. I've been here for 10 years now.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Burghley, As Only Burghley Can

This year's Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials cross country day, lived up to all my expectations as the best Burghley for many years. Probably the most international line up of any CCI**** I've ever seen, with horses and riders having travelled from as far afield as Australia, California, and of course Europe.

I've spent most of the day out on the cross country course, partially succeeding in fine tuning my camera skills, although I have to confess to being a little ill prepared by not having a course map with me until I blagged one from an official, but not before I'd walked far more than I needed to.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Germany Leads, But Andrew, William & Mary Still Own Burghley

Dressage Leader | Simone Dietermann
With only 6 points separating the top 10, and a much needed clear run over tomorrow's Land Rover Burghley cross country course, the current leader Simone Deitermann, has quite a task ahead of her if she is to maintain her lead. A fast clear round, even with a few time faults should still aid her primary aim of gaining an olympic qualification after a few disappointing runs at 3 & 4 star recently.

This pair were so impressive at Badminton in 2010, only to have an unfortunate tumble, crashing literally into the last fence at the WEG in Kentucky last autumn.

The next 5 horses in the pecking order are all ridden by previous Burghley winners, with William Fox-Pitt less than a point behind the leader, and no doubt eager to make an historic 6th win to equal Lucinda Green's record at Badminton. Andrew Nicholson, Mary King  and William all have two chances in the top ten, and last year's popular winner, Caroline Powell with Lenamore is poised in equal fifth. It is possibly these riders who know Burghley like the back of their hand and where to shave that vital second or two that will own this competition.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Two 5 Timers In The Burghley Field | 6 Anyone?

William Fox-Pitt
Day One of Dressage complete at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, and one of the three people to have won the event 5 times, William Fox-Pitt, is in the lead with the decent chance of getting his second ride, Neuf De Coeurs, in front or close to the leading score of 39.7. In a what might almost seem like a re-run from last year, Fox-Pitt had an error of course, in an otherwise exemplary test to sit 3 point clear of Andrew Nicholson on Avebury.

Another Burghley 5-time winner, Mark Todd, is also in the field, only a lot further down the pecking order on 56.5. When I asked Mark back in the beginning of August, about his chances of making it 6 Burghleys, he said " Realistically No. Last year he [Major Milestone] was there and he finished 11th, and we were really pleased with it. He's a very good cross country horse, and he's normally a pretty reliable showjumper, but he struggles a bit in the dressage, and although I think he's going better than ever at this stage it depends on what the track is like and what effect that has on it [the competition], but with the sport today you really need to be in the top five after the dressage to have a realistic chance of winning, I don't think we're going to be doing that." (but he is Mark Todd, and anything can happen, can't it?)

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Probably The Best Burghley For 50 Years

Could there be a more exciting place to be than England right now? Less than one year to what promises to be the most exciting Equestrian Olympics we've seen for generations. The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials entry list illustrates the influx of foreign riders, basing themselves here or simply visiting to step up their competition experience in the run up to the games. This event or Pau is likely to be the last 4 star event where any of the big Olympic certainties are given a run, and there are more flags from other nations next to the names in the entry list than we've seen for decades. So perhaps, more than any other, celebrating 50 years of Burghley, makes this year all the more special.

Hamish Cargill
The draw is always a little tongue in cheek at these big events; one, because riders often run two horses, so these two mounts need to be spread down the running order, and two, because what better way to hold the crowd for the entire day than to slip one or two of the very best in at the end. I predict this will be a Burghley to remember, not necessarily because there is an exceptionally strong field [there is every year], but because there are so many new foreign faces, many of whom have never ridden over what looks to be the most imposing course we've seen at 4 star for some years, so we're bound to see a few run outs and refusals throughout the day.

Unsurprisingly, my money is on the back end of the field. Although I don't think I'll be taking too much of a break in the middle of the day as there will be some very interesting combinations going through, some of whom have travelled the furtherest to be here. The witty and amusing Australian, Hamish Cargill, will be on course mid afternoon, and this fiery little brown horse has flown all the way from Australian, via Kentucky, and a number of other obscure locations to be here (Anchorage?, was that really necessary!).

Home In Time For Tea & Medals

This last Saturday proved most eventful, after 1 puncture, 3 flights (one missed), and 16 hours I managed to get to Luhmuhlen for the HSBC European Eventing Championships, and back home in time for Highclere and a day out with the children. Home in time for tea and medals, mission accomplished!

For a moment, as I sat on the hard shoulder of the M4 in a 'lame' car, I almost gave in, and was prepared to just turn around and head home. Trusty iphone to the rescue, and a few searches later revealed a further flight out of LHR that would get me to the Europeans. OK, it was going to cost me a little more than I bargained for but money's replaceable, you can't buy back time or experiences - Sod it! Time to get that wheel changed.

Monday, 29 August 2011

The Germans Are Back

Michael Jung | European Champion
It was perhaps inevitable mid way through yesterday's cross country phase that preventing a clean sweep by the Germans of the HSBC European Eventing Championship medals, was going to take a little more luck, and you'd have to conclude the Germans really deserved the spoils. All the medal winners were so focused, and Michael Jung & Ingrid Klimke were so impressive throughout the competition.

Whilst Ingrid is as experienced as any senior British squad member, Michael Jung made his 4 star debut only two years ago,  and is now the current holder of both European & World championship titles. Now that is some achievement for someone so young!

Taking all the medals on home turf is a fairytale ending for Germany, and a well deserved win all round, something I hope Team GBR will be looking to emulate next year. Ingrid was pushing for home right from the start, making one or two fences look a little rushed, and the rest of the German team took their fair share of risks out on the cross country course, which in the end paid off, but have they peaked too early?

Sunday, 28 August 2011

All In An Afternoon's Work | HSBC European Eventing Championships

William Fox-Pitt | Glued To Cool Mountain
Eventing at championship level is a challenge of the tallest order, just ask William Fox-Pitt who somehow managed to glue himself to the saddle not once, but twice during the cross country phase, see my photo sequence of his unfortunate stumble through the water. To top it all he finished clear, and inside the time, to keep Team GBR in the silver medal position, when horses and riders were falling like dominos throughout the day. If we gave a rosette for ‘man of the match’ he’d win hands down, and this really was 'save of the century'.

If you’ve been reading my earlier posts, you’ll know my own championship trip has been something of challenge in itself. I eventually arrived at about one thirty, and promptly on arrival, the rain subsided from the torrential downpour that had turned Luhmuhlen in late summer, to something more reminiscent of Badminton in May or Glastonbury in June – a sea of fine, sloshy mud. A lot of this was eased throughout the day by a constant stream of wood chippings laid down in the main thoroughfares by Event Director, Julia Otto's team. Sadly the sun failed to make an appearance until the crowds started to drift slowly away, and this must have been the largest crowd Luhmuhlen has ever seen, particularly impressive given the weather, just take a look at how deep the spectators were around the lake fence, and it was this busy at other significant complexes.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

WOW - That Really Was A Climatic Finish To Cross Country

William Fox-Pitt
I'm rushing round like a Tasmanian Devil, just now so just a quick post with a few pictures from Cross Country Day at the HSBC European Championships here in Luhmuhlen:

William Fox Pitt gave us all a bit of a scare twice on course, once at the Rolex fence, and Also at the Water complex at fence 14. I captured the the stumble at the water: Sequence

I also managed to see and snap two of the people I had come to watch ride, Nicholas Touzaint & Michael Jung.

More later, including a proper (ish) report on all that's happened, plus a pictures from around the cross country.

ps. as you can see I eventually made it and managed to Barter and Bribe a Taxi Driver into being my personal driver for the day!

Lost In Translation - Luhmühlen Or Bust

Highclere Horse Trials This Weekend Too
I keep telling myself I planned it this way, but the truth is I've been procrastinating over this particular holiday weekend for while. It's the Europeans at Luhmühlen, and I've not been there since I lived in Aachen when Thatcher was in power, and continental Europe still had controlled borders, where they made you unload travelling horses on a whim (what a pain that was, when you lived literally 50 yards the wrong side of the border). Highclere is also running this weekend, one of my all time favourite events. I've competed there every year for a while now, and with the prospect of my horse's imminent retirement, Highclere was high on my bucket list. Add to this a commitment to look after the children at least one day over the weekend, and hopefully you're starting to see my dilemma, or at least I hope you are. Can I do all three? That's surely pushing it!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Burghley In Your Pocket

Burghley App
The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials has released (or possibly leaked!) it's official iPhone App in preparation for what promises to be one of the greatest Burghley's of all time! Whether you're sitting in the relative comfort of your saddle or armchair, or attending the event to gaze in awe at the sheer size of this year's retro cross country course, provided you have one of those new fangled 'i' thingys in your pocket  you will be able to keep right up to the minute on all the goings on at Burghley, as the press tent spills the beans on who's leading who down winner's avenue or who's being dragged through the leaf pit as the action unfolds.

Sitting neatly beside your official Badminton App, you can now take pride in being joined at the hip with the world's two largest 4 star 3 day events. Burghley's App whilst very similar to the Badminton one, will let you remember where you parked your car, enter an amazing competition to win a 'Nordic Adventure' courtesy of the title sponsor  which presumably involves driving a 4x4 across frozen wastelands, something us Brits are used to in recent winters, and will give you plenty of ideas on where to spend your hard currency. Social media integration is inherent in the app too, and if you're a tweeter, you'll be pleased to see the app even saves you the hassle of constructing a suitable hash tag, it automatically puts #BHT2011 in for you.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Europeans Seemed To Have Arrived From Nowhere

All The Aussies Are Over Here!
It seems to have been a quirky year for eventing. A number of top horses are out with injury, we've had a southern hemisphere invasion, Badminton ran over Easter weekend, a few Germans ran their Badminton mounts again at Luhmühlen in June, and now it's back to Luhmühlen for the HSBC FEI European Eventing Championships, which doesn't see to have got as much air time as it usually does.

Perhaps I've just been spending too much time in the States (which is about to increase!), and have missed all this, but I think it's more likely being over shadowed by talk of the Olympics and all the Antipodeans who have been rifling through their ancestry to satisfy visa conditions or residency status, and are pitching up in the UK for pre-Olympic prep, or just to get caught up in the general euphoria that's erupting here at the moment. Whether it's Hamish on his English adventure or the entire Kiwi squad, there are Antipodeans everywhere!

Anyway, back to the European Championships.... From the freshly updated list of entries (see below), hot off the press this morning, the first thing that strikes you is the number of new names on the list. Team GBR has only one new name on the list, Laura Collett, who is no stranger to the championship podium, with a medal haul of what seems like everything from tiddly-winks right up to Young Rider Europeans, having been hung round her neck.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Barbury Castle Horse Trials | CIC*** XC Photos

A few photos from CIC*** Cross Country Day:

Video from Saturday & Sunday shortly.

Barbury Castle Horse Trials | CIC** Cross Country

In the end I only managed to spend a few hours at Barbury on Saturday for the CIC**, but here are a few photos:

Some video to follow....

Saturday, 9 July 2011

To Barbury Once More

Barbury Castle Horse Trials
I got up way too early this morning, cantered the horse, arrived at work early, got the important things out of the way, and promptly left headed to Barbury for a few hours to "walk the dog" and see how things were shaping up for the weekend.

The lorry park was tightly packed, so full classes all round. We'd had rain most of the night and all morning, but by the time I arrived it was dry enough for the dust to be kicked up off the stone tracks, but the turf here is so thick, well established and well maintained the going is pretty decent, and usually always is these days.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Greenwich - Awash With Challenges

Hyde Park | More Suitable
It's no secret that the ticketing policy for London 2012 has been wholly unpopular, across all the sporting disciplines, and I have previously expressed my opinion that the venue chosen for the eventing, Greenwich Park, is unsuitable due to the pint-size nature of the venue and therefore it's ability to satisfy anywhere near the demand there would be for the event.

Pippa Cuckson recently blogged about the ticketing allocations for the equestrian events, noting some half a million people expressed interest in the tickets for the horsey olympics. I've also just listened to a very interesting interview on the Eventing Radio Show with Sue Benson, the London 2012 course designer, who throughout the interview describes almost every part of her job relating the Greenwich venue as 'a challenge'. I'd love to be a fly on the wall in the LOCOG PR office when that interview gets mentioned in internal dispatches.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Destitutes, Double Bridles & Delicious Ice-Cream

Greatwood Ex-Racehorse Rehabilitation
Every since I was privy to some investigative journalism on animal charities, including a big name animal charity, I've always been skeptical first of these charities, particularly animal welfare ones. I happy to report I afford Greatwood, which re-homes neglected & unwanted ex-racehorses no such skepticism, having just returned from an open day at their facility just south at Marlborough, ably supported by some of our local celebraties, including Andrew Hoy and Jodie Kidd.

Armed with my 2 small children, ready to pet and pat anything in sight, (including an attempt on a gaggle of geese - never wise!) I turned up at the open day half expecting it to be sparsely supported due to the down pour, but it was pretty busy and until the rain subsided at lunchtime the stable barns were overflowing with people taking shelter  - amazing how relaxed all these horses were considering the sheer volume of people in their barn.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Rolex Kentucky 3 Day Event - Officially Fabulous

RK3DE 2011 "Officially" Over
As Nigel Casserley might say over the loudspeakers of the Horse Park “Official Rolex Time is over for another year”, the scoreboard is finalised and with it my own Grand Slam, having at last visited Lexington for the Rolex Kentucky 3 Day Event. [interesting how this is titled a “3 day event’ yet Badminton & Burghley are titled as “horse trials”, historic I guess?]

So far it’s been a great year for big four stars, in terms of top class competition, Badminton produced one of the best competitions for many years, and benefited from the best weather it’s seen for some time. Rolex hit a few milestones too. Mary King took the top 2 slots, a first at Rolex, she’s the oldest woman to win a 4 star, and, and, and….

Monday, 2 May 2011

Rolex: Mary King Wins

Until I get round to uploading all the other footage, here's Mary King's winning show jump round from Rolex:

Friday, 29 April 2011

Walmart & Rolex

Hello Lexington!

The odometer on my car ticked up to 200,000 kilometres as I drove to the airport for this trip to the US, my 5th or 6th trip in as many months, and I’m back again later this month, so my air miles odometer is racking up nicely too. The prospect of a move to the US for a few years still has me nervous, and also excited, but I doubt my travelling days will end, they’ll hopefully just slow down a little with a trip back to Europe every month or two. As I’m planning to be not a million miles from Lexington, I’m also chalking some of this trip up to research – well at least that’s what I’m telling myself.

For the first time Rolex presented me with an opportunity to visit this leg of the Grand Slam, not least because this year’s Badminton ran before Rolex. Having brought a few DVDs of the TV coverage with me to watch on the plane trips, Badminton is still fresh in my mind, so in amongst the cloud of thoughts from my business meetings whilst over here, I’m getting ‘pumped’ for Rolex - as the Americans would say!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

William Fox-Pitt Isn't Retiring - Unofficially

The New Fox-Pitt Luxury Liner
Mark Todd doubted it, and after today I agree! In a recent interview William Fox-Pitt indicated he was giving up after London 2012, soon after that interview Mark Todd said he doubted it would happen having seen William out buying more young horses, and today William turned up to Larkhill Horse Trials in a shiny new horsebox, the cost of which would probably cover the GDP of a small African nation. So I for one will need a little more convincing. Perhaps he's just planning a comeback, without the need to comeback!

I attended Larkhill for a special filming mission which didn't really work out, but it wasn't a completely wasted trip as I hadn't been here for some years, and it's a lovely event for the lower level horses - relatively flat and fabulous ancient turf on an established point-to-point course. A good early season pre-novice and novice event sat in the middle of Salisbury Plain. The drive down from Marlborough takes you through some 'chocolate box' countryside too, but if you're unfortunate enough to be travelling from the south or south west you have the traffic congestion around Stonehenge to contend with in the last few miles.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Man, What A Week!

Badminton | It looks tranquil, but just to the left.....
I'm starting to sound like I live in the States already. "The world's gone and got itself in a big damn hurry" It's a line from one of my favourite films [movies], The Shawshank Redemption, and sums up the last few days for me. This week has flown by and I haven't done a bunch of things I planned, but what an exciting week. Wednesday brought fabulous weather and car problems on my way down to Badminton for the annual unveiling of the cross country course.

With just 2 weeks to go everything, at Badminton is lush, green and a hive of activity! The area in front of the house is purposefully keep peaceful and tranquil, even during the build up to the event, strict orders from the Duke.

 Lots of people always say the Badminton course doesn't change much year to year, and it's easier than Burghley, but without fail this course walks easier than it rides, and more of the top ten riders win Burghley than they do Badminton. This could be for a variety of reasons, like it's position in the calendar, weather etc, etc.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

World Clique

Blenheim would be a poorer event without foreign competition
Some months back I wrote about the unofficial cultural exchange programme we have in eventing and how wonderful it was to see so many people flourishing in pastures new. I do constantly thank my lucky stars that the UK has the best eventing circuit in the world, and a large part of it's success is the diverse nationalities we have camped in our back yards.

I'm not talking about the superficial marketing spin we're fed of how great it is to compete against the William Fox-Pitts & Andrew Hoys of this world, because after a few times it's just a nuisance knowing that as an amateur you haven't hope in hell of beating him in a pre-novice or novice that's pretty inconsequential to the professionals, but I'm not going to complain about that.

Friday, 11 March 2011

2011: The Year To Be At Badminton

Team Selection | All To Play For
I love this time of year! Anticipation is a huge part of the overall euphoria, and as the season gets underway, the first tingle up the spine comes courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials and publication of the list of entries.  Thankfully they gave the world at large some warning of the list's publication, so journos, hacks, and bloggers around the globe could sharpen their pencil and get t'd up!  I thought Pippa Roome from the Horse & Hound did a good angle on the whole thing with her, how does the new qualification requirement affect things.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Racing start

I am the proud owner of a six-year-old ex-racehorse. He’s terribly well bred — his sire’s stud fee was in the region of $60,000, and his mother won the Princess Margaret Stakes at Ascot. If he was a human, he most definitely wouldn’t talk to me — though he was born in America, and they’re not as hung-up about class over there, are they?
Despite his grand start in life, his racing career was somewhat short-lived: having been flown to the UK at the tender age of two, he raced twice, won the second time, then tweaked a suspensory and was retired. He had a year off completely, before being brought back in for retraining, and 18 months ago I bought him for the princely sum of £100 plus VAT (which, at the time, was only 15% — as if he wasn’t bargain enough already).

Monday, 7 March 2011

The Best Laid Plans

My Own Personal Gym
I'm loving the weather this week, I don't mind the cold too much as long as it's dry and means I have an opportunity to dust of my sunglasses. The eventing season is under way, and whilst Mark Todd may turn to Yoga, or Jay Halim may turn to Zumba classes, I break out the mountain bike and Lizzie the labrador to warm my muscles up in preparation for riding.

With a few days of sunshine in the forecast I plan to make the most of the weather this week, before stepping on a transatlantic flight to San Francisco. Cycling around the forest today got me thinking about my plans for the year ahead, and particularly which events I should go and spectate at. I plan to go to a few overseas events this year, particularly in the US, and have Rolex Kentucky on my definite list, and amongst others, Rebecca Farm on my list of possibles. Pau, Luhmuhlen & Beokelo are all places I'd like to revisit as well.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Reasons To Be Cheerful.....(and one or two to groan about)

Spring Is Here | Time to Unwrap Badminton
The first week of March brings more promise, inspiration and a buzz back to my life. I feel like a sleepy bear awakening from slumber, but probably look more like a hedgehog!

The UK eventing season is imminent and I'm champing at the bit! And apart from the re-insurgence of exchanging blows views with Mark Phillips, albeit via his column in Horse & Hound and my blog, due to the sheer volume of air miles we are collectively racking up, this first week of March sees two other great milestones.

Badminton Horse Trials entries have closed, and that means we'll very shortly know the extent of the foreign invasion beach-heading in Gloucestershire in preparation for London 2012. The second great milestone is the launch of Apple's iPad 2, a major leap forward from the first iteration and very nearly perfect as a laptop replacement.