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.