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?

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Somerley Park CIC** - The Drinks Are On Kitty

It was definitely warmer yesterday, and there did seem to be a bigger crowd at Somerley Park for the Chesterton Humberts CIC**. Unfortunately a combination of the day job and needing to get home for my kids prevented me from spending more than a few hours to watch the main event. The international class didn't start cross country until late afternoon, and with the sun getting low I had expected to see more than just Andrew Nicholson wearing sun glasses.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Sunshine & Somerley Park Horse Trials

Somerley Park Horse Trials | Another Great UK Eventing Venue
I love my day job, but after two weeks in the US trawling back and forth to San Francisco airport more times than I care to remember, the unseasonably good weather and Somerley Park Horse Trials was an opportunity not to be missed, so I downed tools for an afternoon and headed off.

Situated in the northern reaches of the New Forest, one of the most picturesque parts of southern England, Somerley Park is a truly great eventing venue, with acre upon acre of relatively level park land, which means good going and plenty of space, complete with the requisite stately home back drop.

Running Pre-Novice (BE100) up to Intermediate plus a CIC** over two days there were plenty of entries and a surprising amount of Tradestands around the show jumping arena. I seem to have chosen the best year to make my first visit. Apparently the last years have been a complete disaster weather wise, and judging by the size of the sponsor's tent, plenty of others were making the most of a mid-week break too.

UK Eventing's elite had an outbreak of short sleeves, and a cluster of course designers descended on Somerley , amongst which were Mike Etherington-Smith, Eric Winter & even London Olympic Course Designer, Sue Benson, who had a horse in one of the Novice classes ridden by David Doel.

Badminton 2012 – Just Who Is "Leading The Field"?

Andrew Nicholson & Mr. Cruise Control | My Favourite For Badminton 2012
The entry list for the 2012 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials was released a few days ago, and ever since almost every headline I’ve read has gone with “So-And-So Leads A Strong Field For Badminton, or words to that effect.

Michael Jung | Current World Champion
Personally, I think it would be very hard to call who is leading the field. Is it last year’s winner Toddy with Grass Valley, Former World Champion & Paparazzi favourite Zara Phillips, or current World Champion and Badminton virgin, Michael Jung?

So many on the entry list have a rightful claim to ‘lead’, and no doubt Hugh Thomas will once again tell us this is the strongest field he’s ever seen at Badminton – actually this year, he wouldn’t be far wrong.

Although this is something of a jinx event for Andrew Nicholson I think he really could have a live chance of grabbing the Mitsubishi Motors Trophy for the first time. Mr. Cruise Control is a horse I have followed closely ever since I saw the him stood in his stable at Andrew’s yard in February last year. This horse just oozes presence, has lovely paces and sailed around Pau CCI**** like a feather in a breeze. I go as far as saying this horse is as good as any on the circuit.

Here’s a quick run down of combinations I’ll be watching closely:

Sunday, 18 March 2012

iPad - At last in Glorious HD

Horse & Hound | Now in Glorious HD
OK, a slight deviation from eventing, but the all new iPad is worthy of a little diversion particularly for eventers & eventing followers forever on the road. Usually I am an 'early adopter' of technology - I love tinkering with new technology, but I have resisted buying an iPad until now as there was so much more I felt it needed, like a high definition screen, and meaty processor, both of which have now been delivered in the latest version that launched in stores yesterday.

This model really does live up to the hype, the screen resolution is phenomenal! 16 megapixel photos from my camera look stunning, and reveal even more detail that you thought possible. It really does have to be seen to be believed, and the richness of colours is truly life like, makes other devices look fussy in comparison. New photo & video editing apps make it really useful for quick uploads from the field. Plenty of apps are, understandably, lagging behind fully supporting the high definition screen, but I'm pleased to report the digital version of the Horse & Hound scales up nicely - no more paper version for me. If I can persuade IPC Media to release Eventing Magazine into the ether now I'll be all set.

Friday, 16 March 2012

The Social Experiment - It's For Charity

San Francisco | An Eventing Wasteland This Weekend
If you're foolish enough to be following me on twitter (and pay any attention to my tweets), then you'll know I'm currently out in San Francisco on a business trip, which sadly means I'm missing Aldon Horse Trials back home in the UK. I had planned to visit for the first time as it usually plays host to a number of Badminton hopefuls. It also seems there is little happening eventing wise out here in California this coming weekend, other than an event south of LA at 3 Day Ranch, which unfortunately would mean as much time travelling as I would spend getting back to the east coast.

So whilst I plan my weekend and decide between assisting with some foaling down, a ride on along the Pacific here in northern CA, doing something completely non horsey like visit Lake Tahoe, Chicago for St. Patricks Day, or go in search of the giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), I've come up with a master plan (and social experiment) to vicariously enjoy eventing this weekend!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Tweseldown And That Pink Life Jacket

Lucinda Fredericks Completes The Cross Country With An Inflated Life Jacket
Are there any eventers left in New Zealand at the moment? Tweseldown hosts one of the season openers for the Open Intermediate class giving Badminton bound horses a pipe opener, and the Kiwis were out in force today. It felt like a third of the field in the 3 OI classes were ridden by New Zealanders, and everytime I looked round there was William Fox-Pitt on course - I recon he accounted for another third of the field!

Andrew Nicholson | One of Several Kiwis Competing
Seriously though, today's OI sections were littered with contenders for Badminton & this year's London Olympics, with a good mix of riders who have little to prove, those bringing horses back from injury, and those challenging for their first slot on a senior team, not to mention those looking to run at Badminton irrespective of the Greenwich gig, with riders from Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and the UK.

The kiwis seemed to be out to win, or at least put their horses' fitness to the test. Andrew Nicholson rarely canters round the cross country and today was no exception giving each of his rides a good run that gave him a first and second in one of the IO classes, followed closely by Mark Todd on NZB Campino, one of the best horses he currently has.