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.

Vicky Brake
Last year Dauntsey suffered from the normal British weather and cancelled part way through. The event runs over well established turf, used to graze cattle, and has a fine soil base that holds plenty of moisture so even the ravishes of +26C temperatures, and cloudless skies didn’t prevent near perfect going. I still can’t believe I was at an event in the UK, in October and I didn’t need either a jumper or a coat (and I feel the cold!), in fact the only long sleeves I spotted all day were on Mark Todd & Vicky Brake.

Jamie Goddard
The biggest class they run here is Intermediate Novice and all of the classes on the Sunday were littered with entries from the elite ranks of eventing. The Novice course left plenty with some schooling to do over the winter, from the very first fence through to the very last. The angled hedges at fence 8 must have had a tricky stride as I only saw 2 riders take this flawlessly, Sarah-Jane Brown of Shoestring Eventing fame, and farrier to the stars, Jamie Goddard. The previous fence, a hanging log, had almost all the horses sailing over it. One rider even managed to navigate this fence ‘no handed’, yikes!

Pony Clubber
I think the local hunter trials, taking place up along the road may have suffered from the lure of so many elite riders at Dauntsey, the tradestand area was busy, but more importantly everywhere you looked you couldn’t help but notice the very smartly turned out, happy and polite members of the local Pony Club, running scorecards, and messages back to control. It’s the first event I can remember for some time that didn’t use trials bikes, which is a refreshing and peaceful change.

Last Stream Crossing

The property has the most wonderful stream running through it, and the course crosses through this at two points, providing a picturesque splash half way round and towards the end of the course, and the steep sided banks provide the only undulation on an otherwise level course. The last crossing was proving difficult to photograph, with over hanging trees or poor light, or as Fiona Scott-Maxwell told me, “we’ve all tried it…”, but I did mange to find a spot amongst the nettles to grab a few I think worked!

Event Groom In The Making
The unrelenting heat keep the number of horses making the time to a minimum, and Mark Todd even had time for a nod ‘hello’ as he hacked home in one of the novice classes on board NZB The Chosen One. He was joined by fellow kiwis Jock Paget (placed on both his horses) & Blyth Tait, out for a little practive on his Burghley ride Santos II and the most fabulous looking 17.1hh mare, Sonate V, previously ridden by William Fox-Pitt. This horse definitely won the “most want to take home” prize, and my daughter gets the best turned out award this weekend.

Dauntsey has been an absolute bonus, and the season is really is now coming to a close. I can’t think I’ll make to another UK horse trials this year, but as my business travel ramps up again, starting today with a day return to France, via Switzerland, I have a few foreign events planned before the 2012 season kicks in.



If your interested in Oberston photos, keep an eye on Nico Morgan's site, he was the official snapper up there, and no doubt there'll be plenty of photos there in the coming days.

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