Wednesday, 26 December 2012

2012: Wet And Wonderful

The Wonderful - History In The Making - The Unassailable Michael Jung Adds "Olympic Champion" To His CV
The Wet - A Common Sight All Year Despite An Official Drought
The 2012 Eventing season was ushered in with so much anticipation, and with a resoundingly great start in March, it was hard to imagine anything could slow the momentum,  prior to what would ultimately become the biggest and best Olympics the sport had ever seen. Weather patterns across the northern hemisphere caused havoc and unleashed extreme climate conditions. Whilst the US went from high, dry temperatures in the summer adversely affecting crop yields, to the flooding and devastating hurricanes along the eastern seaboard that left millions of lives in tatters or lost as far north as New York City, here in the UK mother nature threw everything she could at us as we experienced our wettest draught on record, forcing cancellation of the vast majority of events in the British calendar.

In spite of all this we built the greatest show on earth and the world's eventing nations sent their elite riders to challenge each other for the most coveted prizes in the sport - Olympic Medals.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Running The Ridgeway - #RWBAM

Charlie Massey's Bumper Sticker Says It All
Charlie [The Coffee Man] Massey's bumper sticker sums up his next few days succinctly - I Run Far! At 9AM this morning Charlie set off on the first leg of an 87 mile run along what is thought to be Britain's oldest road, The Ridgeway (est. 5,000 years old), a journey that will take him 4 days to complete.

In case you haven't been following Charlie on Twitter (and you should), the reason our Eventing Barista is running up hill and down dale is to raise funds for Spinal Research. During this epic run Charlie will have notched up over 2,000 miles this year, raising much needed funds for a charity our sport has a vested interest in.

Racehorses Exercising In Lambourn
I rarely travel through Lambourn in the morning these days, but I'm glad I did agree to pick Charlie up at his finishing stage for today and ferry him to the start over near Marlborough - From Seven Barrows To Long Barrows! As you may have seen from my tweet early this morning, you can get one of the best views in England on a winter's morning here in Lambourn as the racehorses gallop up the hills and saunter back during the early morning mists as dawn breaks.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Your Barista Needs You

Charlie (White T-Shirt), On Hand To Help At Claire Lomas's London Marathon Walk 
Charlie Massey, eventing's very own Barista, AKA "Charlie The Coffee Man" must go through trainers (sneakers) like my daughter goes through nappies. Charlie is a passionate runner and fundraiser, and throughout 2012 has been raising funds for Spinal Research by running Marathons and all manner of crazy challenges to attract sponsorship. With Marathons in London & the US, and about 2000 miles in between, his fundraising efforts are still ongoing. The man that serves us coffee at events is also a friend and big supporter of Claire Lomas, assisting during her monumental Robotic London Marathon Walk, and is helping with her plans to cycle from Paris to London.

On the 6th December Charlie will be running the Ridgeway, an ancient bridleway in the heart of eventing country in the UK, that stretches from Malborough in Wiltshire all the way through to the Chiltern Hills in Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire.  This challenge will take place over four days (6th - 9th Dec) and is no walk in park, especially at this time of year, with some steep hills to climb. On the plus side the route does include some of the great hillside chalk horses Wiltshire is so famous for, and a few great pubs, I can highly recommend!

Charlie is looking for a few volunteers at the various checkpoints ("Aid Stations"), to be ready with much needed refreshment, so if you do have an hour to spare on any of these days and are in the general area please come out and support Charlie as he continues his fundraising efforts for this poignant and worthy cause.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Many Faces Of Cross Country

Happy & Relaxed On Cross Country
As any eventing fanatic can tell you cross country is the phase that stirs the endorphins, gets the adrenaline pumping, and brings out all sorts of emotions depending on how your cross country ride goes. Searching through my photos recently for a winter project, I came across a number of photos of riders with the full range of  facial expressions captured, many of which you expect but several of which are quite surprising, and sometimes unintentionally comical.

Pippa Funnel - Expressive Rider
I've alway found Pippa Funnel one of the best to watch on cross country, not only because of her experience, but she is also a very expressive rider, which illustrates the talent needed to tackle some of these courses. At the other end of scale watch Andrew Nicholson or Andrew Hoy, and they barely use any of the 52 muscles in their face out on cross country, they're just fixed and focused from start box to finish line. In between you'll find a full compliment of emotional displays from frustration to elation.

Still photos capture a mere fraction in time of these emotions, but allow you to study those in more detail and I always find are more dramatic, more so than watching video (eg. watch the sequence of William Fox-Pitt at the 2011 European Championships) This can often leave you thinking "I wonder how that felt?" or "I wonder what was going through their mind at that point"

Here are a few photos to illustrate my point (I'll leave you to think up your own captions):

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

HorseHub | The App We've All Been Waiting For Is Finally Here!

The HorseHub App is finally here, available to download via iTunes for your iPhone & iPad (iOS v5.1+ required). After months of blood, sweat & fine tuning the most useful app for horse owners everywhere is finally here! Before I give you the run down and review it, let me first state that I have a vested interest in this app, as it's a joint venture between myself and Paul Tapner, so I am a little biased in my opinion of the app. 

HorseHub | Your Equestrian iTunes
What does the app do?
In a way you can think of HorseHub as your equestrian iTunes. 

It's a free app, and quite simply the app gives you access to a range of content (video, audio & text - currently) from a variety of sources (Authors) that you will find useful and/or entertaining in your equestrian life. The most obvious example of content is training material. Content is delivered in bite size chunks, for instance, Paul has himself created a "Training With Taperz" series, which rather than being a 3 hour DVD, is broken down into smaller video pieces that allow you to pick and choose the pieces you are particularly interested in. This means if you need help with riding ditch fences, you don't need to sit through hours of dressage training as well, you just bite off what you need, and pay for what you want. Bite size chunks means bite size prices too, and probably less than you'd pay for a cup of coffee. You'll also find plenty of free downloads too. 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Little Gatcombe 2012 | Success & Luck Can Change In A Second

Lucy Jackson | Leading The CIC** After The ShowJumping Only To Lose The Lead By 1 sec. On Cross Country
Princess Anne (who I nearly bumped into literally today!) , hosts one of my favourite horse trials, The Whatley Manor Horse Trials, at her home in Gloucestershire, which is affectionately known as 'Little Gatcombe'. Held in both April & September the events run Novice & Intermediate classes and in September these include a CIC* & CIC**.  These courses use less demanding terrain than the main Gatcombe festival event held in early August, but still make use of some steep hills, woodland, and established pasture. They also have some great hedges to jump!

Lucy Jackson & Wellshead Munnings | Chasing Time On The XC
With a beautifully ridden & scopey clear show jumping round, Lucy Jackson was poised to maintain her lead going into the cross country in the CIC**, but one second over the optimum time left the door open for Kitty King to steal the lead by the narrowest of margins (0.1pt) if she went inside the time, which she did - one second inside the time to win the class on her lovely little horse, Persimmon.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Blenheim 2012 | Spectacular Sunshine & Competition Once More

Fidelity Blenheim Horse Trials | Cross Country Day
This year's Fidelity Blenheim International Horse Trials, was as good as any I've been too over the last 10 years - the weather was the best we've seen at a horse trials in the UK all year, and bumper entries for both the CIC & CCI classes, including a few new international faces we've not seen on these shores, provided all the thrills & spills you could want from a three star competition. Sadly I only managed to attend on Saturday for the CCI cross country.

Paul Tapner | Classic XC Position
Australian man in form, Chris Burton, had led the dressage on the Hanoverian, UnderDiscussion, that he brought with him from Australia, and won Aachen with in the run up to the Olympics. When I saw him about half way round the cross country at the big drop fence they were travelling well, but uncharacteristically for both horse and rider they picked up 20 penalties further on the course, ruling out any chance of holding their lead. Still, with only 8 time penalties, a good dressage score, and a clear show jumping round they managed to stay in the top 20 - pretty unusual in a competitive 3 star.

His countryman, and good friend, Paul Tapner, had a mixed weekend with his two horses. Setting out on his first horse, the stallion Wickstead Didgeridoo, Paul had a sticky moment at the huge ditch early on course, and had an unfortunate fall at the big drop half way round. He followed this up with a masterclass of competitive cross country in his second round on Kilronan, finishing the weekend off with a clear showjumping round to end up 5th. I've loved this little grey horse every since seeing them at Gatcombe CIC** & Pau CIC** last year. He possibly heads to Badminton next year now.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Wellington Horse Trials 2012 | Looking For The Next Fence

Bill Levett | Looking For The Next Fence
Intermediate day at the inaugural KBIS Wellington Horse Trials provided a real treat of cross country action and plenty of great riding from a mixed group of riders.  I'm not sure if it was just that I noticed it more today, or they were all on form, but just about every rider I watched today jumping was 'looking for their next fence' as they flew over the obstacles - almost no one was looking down as you can often find. It makes for a great photo!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

London 2012 | The Greatest Eventing Show On Earth

Mark Todd | One Second Away From Gold After Cross Country
The Cross Country Phase of the London 2012 Olympic Eventing competition will surely go down as one of the greatest events the sport has ever seen, and probably the most exciting day the London Games is likely to witness. 74 horses jumped out of the start box, and fifteen did not make it through to the finish, a number of which surprised everyone. Four nations held firm, to maintain team scores that have a chance of putting their team on the podium, Great Britain, Germany, New Zealand & Sweden.

Monday, 30 July 2012

London 2012 | Dressage, Drama & An Inspirational Leader Board

Truly Inspirational | Day 2 of London 2012 Olympic Eventing
The lead up to these games has been nothing short of an epic novel or Hollywood Blockbuster. You really couldn't make this stuff up. Day 2 of Dressage for the London 2012 Olympic Games Eventing at Greenwich Park has been nothing short of inspirational, surprising and full of stories that will make this competition the most interesting of recent times.

Yoshi Oiwa | Leader After Dressage
It promised to be a truly ground breaking day of dressage, with an ample helping of World, European & Olympic Gold Medalists in the hot seat. I knew we might see a few more break into under 40s club, I think we were just a little surprised at who managed that and who didn't.

First on my watch list was Zara Phillips. To my untrained eye this was a beautiful test. Both horse and rider totally composed, soft, yet energetic and "in sync". 3 of the flying changes looked faultless, but perhaps not as expressive as judges seem to like to see. Lenamore threw out some nice extended trot but didn't seem to really steal the show today, and suffered as a consequence posting a score in the fifties. 

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

London 2012 | Team Talk - The 5 Nations

Team Talk | A Team Gold Medal for GBR Would Crown Both Of These Mens' Careers Nicely
I haven't played any team sports since I left school, a bit of Badminton doubles maybe or Sunday soccer, but that's as close as I've come to being in a team for some time. Eventing isn't really what you'd call a team sport, I mean it's not like they pass a baton to one another, but this is a home games and there are team medals to play for so I'll park that discussion!

What I love about the team game is how it highlights the uniqueness of the equestrian disciplines amongst the Olympic mix. Look at the ages of some of the guys in these teams; Mark Todd, Mary King, Andrew Hoy, Andrew Nicholson,- all in their 50's, these guys must have been born into the games, not to mention some of the showjumpers, and the 71 year-old dressage rider from Japan. To me this illustrates just how difficult it is to control half a ton of horse flesh around a given task, and how much effort, skill and experience that requires. Yet we also have some of the youngest competitors giving these living legends a run for their money, now that's real talent! I just wish our only Rolex Grand Slam winner, Pippa Funnell, was in a position to challenge for a home games, that really would complete the set. 

Thirteen teams, from every continent bar Africa, are all dreaming of chalking up a victory of some sort in London. When you consider what you need to do just to get a team qualified for the Olympics - just understanding what's needed, let alone qualifying, it's quite an achievement in a sport such as ours for so many to get a full squad to the games. Hats off to them all!

Friday, 20 July 2012

London 2012 | History In The Making & Dream Headlines

Sadly No Fairytale Headline For Neville Bardos, But Perhaps A Medal & An Underwear Deal For Boyd
One of the legacies I'm left with after five years of living with a broadsheet journalist is the little game of "Guess Tomorrow's Headline" we played as we waited for the morning papers, each paper adding their own particular style (or lack of it in the case of the tabloids) to the big story of the day. Every single Olympian must dream of winning one of those shiny metal medallions, and speculate over the headlines in the national & trade press the following morning. 

This year's Olympics, more than any other I can remember, gives rise to so many dream headlines depending on the winners, losers, lovers and sinners from the eventing world stage. Just run your eyes over the long list of horses and riders in the line up for the eventing at Greenwich and it's not hard to image what any number of headlines, littered with superlatives, might read given the number of hugely popular combinations dreaming of making history in the London 2012 Olympic Games. 

Monday, 2 July 2012

Barbury 2012 - CIC*** Cross Country | #EventingLive At It's Very Best

Andrew Nicholson & Avebury | Lead The CIC*** From Start To Finish
The New Zealanders owned Barbury CIC*** from the very beginning, and very nearly gave it all away in the closing minutes of the competition. After phase 2, the showjumping, all three top slots were occupied by much fancied NZ team selections; Andrew Nicholson, Jock Paget & Mark Todd.

Jock Paget | The Long Walk Home
Barbury 3* always finishes with the cross country phase, and run in reverse order, creating the perfect climax to the weekend of sport. Jock Paget, in second place and second last to go, left the start box cruising through the first part of the course on Clifton Lush with very little to do in order to prove his worth, but tipped up at the first water, not a difficult fence, but one that perhaps required too little effort to ride through. They were reunited for the long walk home but of the competition. Fellow kiwi, Mark Todd was already on course ahead of him, and seconds later eliminated himself by missing out a fence.

Andrew Nicholson & Quimbo | 2nd in the CIC***
This left current leader, Andrew Nicholson, with an 8 point advantage over this other horse Quimbo before leaving the start box. Nicholson left nothing to chance and cruised around the course under the optimum time on Avebury to secure 1st and 2nd slot.

The New Zealand Team are announcing their riders tomorrow, in a pub, not too far from me! Even with Mark Todd's senior moment, and Jock Paget's ducking at Barbury, it would be hard to imagine good reason why either of these two won't be joining Andrew Nicholson on the team.

Barbury 2012 | The XC Style Council

Sinead Halpin
Whilst going through my photos from today's epic action at Barbury Castle Horse Trials I've been thinking "I wish I could ride like that!"

So before I gather my thoughts on all that I've witnessed today at Barbury in a wrap up, here's a few photos of the most stylish riders I've watched glide round the Wiltshire hillside. If I could ride one side of a horse as well as this group I'd die happy!

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Barbury 2012 | Friday - Kiwis, Colletts, Coat Tails & Cross Country

Mark Todd & NZB Campino | Olympic Selection Contender - 5th After Dressage
The New Zealanders pretty much owned Barbury Castle Horse Trials today in the final day of CIC*** dressage, probably the largest, and most competitive 3 star class we've ever seen. With a truly international field of 110, four nations dominate the top ten, New Zealand (4), Great Britain (4), Australia (1), USA (1). The next ten tells a similar story with just Ireland's rising star Camilla Speirs on Portersize Just A Jiff in equal 15th, adding another nation into the mix.

I missed the rainy start to the day, and sadly also Phillip Dutton's ride on Mystery Whisper. I was however very pleased to have caught Mark Todd's ride on NZB Campino, probably his best team selection candidate for the London Olympics. Campino's test today might not have been the most exuberant & stunning we have seen over the past few days, or perhaps as good as his Houghton score in warm sunny conditions, but this was a very nice relaxed, athletic and correct test to score 44.0, just 2.4 marks off Andrew Nicholson's leading score of 41.6 on Avebury. I think Mark's horse has every chance of finishing on his dressage score here.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Barbury Dressage | Is Going To Be Interesting (No Really, It Will!)

Laura Collett & Rayef | Last Year's CIC*** Dressage Leader
 Barbury Castle Horse Trials is, along with many of the other European events, as the cliche goes, not a dressage competition. Last year, one of our rising stars, Laura Collett lead the dressage (and showjumping) on a sub 40 mark, one of only two, the other being eventual winner Pippa Funnell. Laura dropped to third after 6 time penalities on Cross Country - but I doubt a few time penalties was her key concern with European selection on the cards at the time. Rayef has continued to prove a strong performer in the CIC/One-day classes, only last week notching a 13 point advantage at Salperton. 

Monday, 25 June 2012

Barbury 2012 | Officially Time To Get Your Games Face On

Barbury Castle Horse Trials | The Place To Be This Weekend
Wonder Horse Neville Bardos
Barbury Castle Horse Trials is about to become host to the most exciting pre-Olympic warm-up event ever seen. The Olympics being held on home turf has attracted the world's biggest names to camp in the UK during the build up to the games. The Australians & New Zealanders were first to arrive a year ago, joined by a smattering of other nations, including America's Tiana Coudray, who laid many a ghost to rest when coming second at Blenheim last year. She is now joined by the entire American Olympic shortlist, the latest contingent to arrive for their final selection trial at Barbury this coming weekend, including the two US wonder horses, Neville Bardos & Mystery Whisper.

Barbury has grown in stature over a very short space of time, and since the demise of Savernake Horse Trials, is my most local, and one of my favourite events in the calendar. Taking a look through the entry list for the CIC*** it's really hard not to get excited about the Olympics - it reads like a who's who of eventing, and pretty much anyone that is missing from this list can be found in the 3 CIC** sections, along side many of the horses that made Salperton so memorable.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Salperton Horse Trials: Rayef, The Kings & The Olympics

Laura Collett & Rayef | Open Intermediate Winners on a score of 25.0 (Dressage 21.4!)
Young Laura Collett illustrated that with all the stars aligned, and in the right circumstances she & Rayef are unassailable. With a dressage score any German would be envious of (a staggering 21.4) they led from the get go, winning their OI section by an equally staggering 13.3 point advantage finishing on a score of 25.0 ahead of the even younger Emily King (a surname that was to haunt me all day).

Salperton is hosted by Rayef's owner, Jason Houghton, on the most wonderful undulating parkland of magnificent, clover rich pasture. Walker Logistics, another Patron of Laura's were sponsors at the event, making this very much the Collett Eventing Team Show.
Chris King Racing Home To Take 2nd In AI Section F On Idol Hero

This being the heart of the Cotswolds, the course has plenty of steep inclines and descents on the way round, making it easy to bowl along on the forehand or run out of steam if not careful, but Laura & Rayef just sailed round, as did another of the leading Kings of this sport, Chris King. He rowed home one second over the optimum time looking every bit a NH jockey as he thundered past me on Idol Hero to finish second on a score of 28.9 behind yet another King, Kitty King, who won AI Section F on her dressage score of 27.9 aboard the fabulous little mare Zindante. By the way all of these King's are unrelated, and with so many of them being announced (Mary [King] also made an appearance)  I incorrectly tweeted earlier today that Chris had won this section. I'm very much looking forward to seeing more of these two horses and the Kings later this season (weather permitting).

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The TEAM GB Olympic Quest | Rockers, Ravers, Lovers & Sinners

WFP & Lionheart Headed To Greenwich | The Olympics Are So Nearly Here It's Scary
The waiting is over (well almost - we wait to see who is on the subs bench), Team GB Eventing has been announced amongst much comment, opinion, and heated discussion - it's all a little scary! Some are ranting, some are raving, and others are just loving the debate about selection choices.

The 5 members making up the team are:

Kristina Cook - (41)  Miners Frolic
William Fox-Pitt (43) Lionheart
Piggy (Georgina) French (31) Jakata or DHI Topper W
Mary King (51) Imperial Cavalier
Zara Phillips (31) High Kingdom

Zara Phillips | On The Team
Personally I think Zara is an inspired choice. The Olympics is nothing but pressure, and a home Olympics is like turning up the gas and leaving the lid on! Her horse has continued to grow, mature and improve event after event, and Zara has achieved more than any other her age at senior level. I would suggest aided by the fact that she can handle the pressure better than most due largely to the attention she attracts because of her royal connections.

If you look down this list you'll notice that each of these riders is predisposed to handling pressure very well.   I've always thought this is what separates the best from the very best, and given the right horsepower you'd expect to see Pippa Funnell in that list, given how well she has learnt to manage nerves when it matters most.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Woodside Cross Country Day | California Dreaming

A Full Day of Cross Country At Woodside's Spring Event
 With just under 400 entries, cross country day at Woodside was pretty busy, running classes right across the spectrum. Sadly I missed the Advanced class at Woodside this morning, waylaid by the day job, and turned up half way through the training level classes, so spent a good deal of time at the cross country warm up which unlike back home is hosted in a surfaced arena.
Cross Country Warm Up On An All Weather Surface

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Welcome To Woodside | "The Silicon Valley Horse Trials"

Woodside Horse Trials - San Francisco CA
Just hours before I was due to depart for good old Blighty, my trip to Silicon Valley got extended by 12 days,  which I have to be honest I half expected, but I was beginning to feel stranded and in danger of seeing no horses for a fortnight, until I realised Woodside Horse Park was just a few miles away and was running an event this weekend.

This is California, albeit northern CA, so not exactly the lush green galloping lanes of Bramham Horse Trials I remember seeing pictures of earlier today in their build up to the most anticipated event of the UK calendar, since the demised of Badminton & Chatsworth, but it was a welcome site nevertheless after the concrete jungle that is Silicon Valley.

Woodside is a compact site, very similar to Tweseldown in the UK, with several 'all weather' tracks twisting and turning across each other, and two small water complexes, plus a variety of drops, steps, and deceptive undulations.

Monday, 14 May 2012

FEI Driving Marathon | Royal Windsor Horse Show 2012

Karen Bassett | 4-In-Hand
With Chatsworth Horse Trials and a host of other events cancelled due to bad weather I made my way to the Royal Windsor Horse Show, which holds one of the best driving marathons in the country where the stars of the european driving scene were out in force. Carriage driving is something I had always promised myself I would 'give a go' at some point and a few years ago I started driving lessons during the winters. What a blast! If you've never tried it I highly recommend it - it's more exhilarating than you think! The sport is great for photography too....

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Chatsworth 2012 | The Olympic Quest Continues

Mary King & Imperial Cavalier On The 'Badminton Bypass' To Chatsworth
Over the coming few days we'll learn more of the back-up plans for many riders for whom a main pre-Olympic run was brought to an abrupt halt by the cancellation of Badminton earlier this week. Statements of how little impact this has had, have been dotted around all over the news in the last few days, even though Badminton's profile and position in the eventing calendar makes it a very useful event as a Key Performance Indicator in Olympic year, not to mention one of the best qualifying events to tackle for European based riders.

All that aside, many of the elite were already heading to the Peak District for Chatsworth Horse Trials and a slightly less demanding Olympic prep run to showcase their fitness and agility in what often provides one of the best indicators for competitive form.

Badminton 2011 | Fonder Memories Than 2012

The Green Galloping Lanes From Badminton 2011 | Wishing We Could Roll Back A Year
Badminton 2012 Cancelled Due to Waterlogged Ground - Bugger!

I'm still lost in a sea of email and other messages as I deal with the my own little corner of the fall out of Badminton being cancelled the day I was due to turn up. My first wet weather cancellation experience of the event since first getting involved over a decade ago. As much as I hate the rain, I would have preferred a wet Badminton to no Badminton. The foot and mouth epidemic in 2001 was the last time it was cancelled.

Whilst I lament and wallow my own whoas of all the hard work that has gone into this year's event and the exciting new things we had planned, I'm reminded of the enormous knock on effects this has on so many others:

Monday, 30 April 2012

The Safety Pin Rule | Keep, Amend Or Remove?

Astier Nicolas picks up 21 penalties at Belton CIC*** For Breaking A Frangible Pin

But Negotiates The Fence Safely To Complete
Some of the fall out from the problems on cross country at Rolex Kentucky, surrounds a FEI rule, and the 21 penalty points it imposes on any competitor breaking a frangible pin. A fate suffered by both Clark Montgomery & Andrew Nicholson at fence 9. In a recent podcast interview Andrew Nicholson made some interesting observations about how this can influence things depending on how a horse with a particular type of jumping style likes to moves over a fence, but he seemed to accept this was now part of the job and you just have to deal with it.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Virgin London Marathon - It Ain't Over Yet!

Claire Lomas With Tim & Lucy Henman
Former eventer, Claire Lomas has energised the eventing community into supporting Spinal Research and her quest to raise £50,000 for the charity, by walking the Virgin London Marathon in a pair of robotic trousers. Whilst the rest of the marathon field have long finished, Claire is setting her own pace aiming to walk up The Mall over the finish line a day or two after next week’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Digging Deep For Spinal Research | Charlie, Coffee, Charity & Runner Cam

The Eventing Barista At Work
If you've ever attended any of the one day events in the southern UK, chances are you've come across Charlie Massey, AKA "Charlie The Coffee Man", also know as The Eventing Barista. His 'Speciality Coffees To Go' are the best on the circuit, and like every good bar tender or barista has the conversation to match.

Thankfully Charlie attends all of my favourite one day events, and for some time now I have abandoned taking a flask with me when I compete, and just pitch up with a fist full of coins. For as long as I can remember there has always been a charity pot sat on the counter of his wagon, helping many of the charities that us eventers have an affinity with. This year it's Spinal Research, and already Charlie has raised several thousands of pounds for a cause that anyone who dons cross country colours can see is vital for our sport.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Badminton 2012 Cross Country - 11 Minutes You'll Want to Re-Live

Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials Press Preview Day
In a little over 3 weeks 80 or so horses & riders are going to descend on Badminton with dreams of galloping round the hallowed grounds of Badminton House, where eventing as we know it really began. Some will be coming to prove to selectors their horse is back on it's game after a long lay off, whilst others will be looking for the last minute slots on a team for the London Olympics, and the rest will no doubt be looking to pick up qualifications, from what might at first appear to be a less than competitive field, and perhaps pick up some prizemoney. For many I think this will include 11 minutes of cross country they will want to relive time and time again.

Hugh Thomas unveiled his cross country course today in the ritual that is Badminton Press Preview Day, a day that runs to tried and test format year after year. If any sponsor knows how to make the most of an eventing sponsorship it's Mitsubishi Motors - Press Day is just a small part of their plans, and this year for the first time will include a live internet broadcast of the end of day press conferences. The entry list this year is very interesting, one of the more interesting years I've see for some time. I have another post in mind for that later, but for the facts and figures fanatics, here's a couple of interesting facts:

1. There are more entries from foreign riders than Brits for the first time anyone can remember.
2. There are 3 World Champions in the field (Zara Phillips, Michael Young & Jean Teulère) - none of them have won Badminton before.
3. Andrew Nicholson has completed 31 times, and yet to win.
4. Two veterans are aiming for a record 8 completions (Comanche & Lenamore) Testament to the value of the short format in giving longevity to event horses.
5. There's one previous winning horse in the field - Inonothing (Paul Tapner, 2010)

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Bright & Breezy At Larkhill

Salisbury Plain, not far from Stonehenge, is one of the UK's largest military exercise grounds, but it's also home to Larkhill Horse Trials, run over a point-to-point course. The open and exposed landscape may not have the hallmarks many associate with eventing venues, but it does attract many of the top riders who use it as a good building block in the education of their younger horses, and today was no exception. Mark Todd, Sam Griffiths, Chris King, Paul Tapner and a host of others were in attendance, all with lorry loads of green horses out for an educational run.

The Charlie Massey Cup Cake Shrine!
I had only intended to drop in briefly to deliver some madeleines for "Charlie The Coffee Man" to sell for charity as it seems there was a charity bake off going on in aid of Spinal Research, Charlie's cause for this year. #JustEatCake day spread from the coffee van all the way over to the secretaries office where a shrine to Charlie and his cause was set up selling cup cakes for the charity fund!

Everyone was talking about it on course, and I overheard several people pledging support, from all corners of the showground. The occasional hold in proceeding as we waited for horses to arrive in the cross country warm up, provided the commentators with plenty of opportunity to give the cause a plug.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Belton Horse Trials - The Benchmark For 2012

Belton Horse Trials | Hopefully A Sign Of Things to Come This Season
If today's conclusion to Belton Horse Trials is a sign of things to come over the rest of the season, this year will live up to all my expectations! Blessed with bright sunshine all day, the crowds poured out of Grantham and the surrounding area for what was a truly great day of Advanced cross country the likes of which you don't see very often. It was a day of fortunes won and lost, meteoric returns to form of riders & horses sidelined for one reason or another, and a little heartache too.

Andrew Nicholson & Avebury | Winners Advanced Section O
Three sections, 2 Advanced & 1 CIC***, with the challenge of a course with pretty good going, thanks to sandy soil, that would prove pretty impossible to complete without penalty. This left the leader board changing almost constantly in all three sections.

As this is cross country day, that usually means Andrew Nicholson dominates the action - and he did! He ran the three greys he has entered for Badminton, Shady Grey, Avebury & Mr. Cruise Control. He completely owned the cross country course, as he often does, and took the Advanced section O on Avebury, and slotted Mr. Cruise Control into 5th, both apparently run without really gunning it. Fellow New Zealander, Caroline Powell ran the wonderful little Lenamore round to finish 3rd just behind Sarah Stretton in 2nd.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Belton - Perfectly Pitched

Laura Collett | Getting Some Intermediate Cross Country Practice In For Tomorrow's CIC*** Which She Leads
It's very easy to see why almost all the UK based entries for Badminton are here at Belton. It has everything you want want from an early season competitive run at Advanced in preparation for the spring four stars. I haven't walked the full extent of the cross country course yet, which doesn't look as strong as some that you'll find later in the season, but that's exactly what you'd hope for.

Rayef Will Prove Hard To Catch At Belton

Laura Collett & Rayef Lead The CIC*** Dressage
The only thing not up to scratch at Belton is the weather - it's parky at best and my hands have turned red! Everything else about Belton is just spot on, and one of the best CIC*** I've ever attended. Despite the weather there's a lot to to be happy about. I was especially pleased to see Tina Cook had a smile on her face after Miners Frolic's test and as I await scores I can't believe she'd be far off Rayef's exemplary test who score of over 78% left Laura Collet taking over at the top of the scoreboard from Willa Newton's long held lead.

Hello Belton

Belton Horse Trials
I seem to continuously live my life last minute dot com! Yesterday I planned to get to Belton for at least some of CIC*** dressage, but a sick car left me limping home instead, and I'd pretty much given up on getting here at all. Add to that a little guilt in leaving the children again so soon after a 2 week stint away, and a number of chores needing my attention at home, and there was little chance of me seeing a horse, let alone the weekend's key event. A tweet from someone I used to know spurred me into action though and I swapped cars for the old jalopy and risked it up the M40 in a vehicle I rarely take over the county line let alone on a 3 hour drive.

Anyway welcome to Belton here's to a great weekend of #EventingLive, Tea, and everything else the East Midlands has to offer.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Belton CIC*** - Where Badminton Really Begins

Pippa Funnell & Redesigned | On The Belton CIC*** Entry List
It never ceases to amaze me how many of our key CIC*** events attract such an enormous field littered with so many 4 star winners, Olympians, and a large slice of the world's top 100 horses. Add to this the 2 Advanced sections and just about every horse based in this country entered for Badminton will be having their final prep run at Belton before the main event in May. It's like having a super short format Badminton or Burghley, or a mini Olympics, and I'm struggling to think of a nation that isn't represented in the entry list - Austria perhaps?