Friday, 20 September 2013

NZB Land Vision - Return Of A Champion

Badminton 2011 Winner NZB Land Vision Back To Winning Ways After A Two Year Absence
NZB Land Vision returned to the eventing scene at Gatcombe today with all the familiar hallmarks of a Badminton champion despite over 2 years away from the scene due to injury. The two Open Intermediate sections were full of 4 star performers and a number of winners, including Andrew Nicholson's extra special horse Quimbo, winner of Rolex Kentucky 3DE.

The day however belonged to Sir Mark Todd & NZB Land Vision. It's no secret that I am partial to a grey horse, but this horse I have followed in earnest since seeing him for the first time in the flesh at Highclere Horse Trials a few years back. He is tall, sleek, elegant & powerful with a fabulous temperament. His perfectly balanced self carriage exudes such presence and power that I could spot him amongst 3 greys in the dressage warm up from 200 yards away.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Blenheim 2013 - Still Clutching On To Summer

Blenheim Palace - Host To Possibly My Favourite 3 Day Event
I made a quick, impromptu visit to The Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials today to set up FREE WiFi on our HorseHub stand. Even though it's only first day of dressage the car parks were full enough to force me into a serious hike to the main entrance.

If you get a chance go along, as quite apart from the beautiful surroundings of the magnificent parkland with it's ostentatious palace, this is a very competitive CCI 3 star, and the CIC equivalent for 8 & 9 year olds is perfect for spotting the real shining stars of tomorrow.

Friday, 23 August 2013

App Review: Horse Side Vet Guide™ - Polished, Comprehensive & Perfectly Pitched.

The Horse Side Vet Guide™ App
I wondered how long it would take for someone to produce a really polished horse owners veterinary manual app. They have now!

The new Horse Side Vet Guide™ App (or HSVG for short) is pretty much what you'd hope it to be, an app crammed full of veterinary advice pitched perfectly for the horse owner, with detailed reference text, things to look for, related items, questions to ask your vet, treatments, etc, etc, etc, on an exhaustive range of conditions, traumas and the such like. On top of all that there's a library of short videos on everything from finding the facial artery to take your horse's pulse to bandaging lower limbs correctly. 

I'm more of 'worrier' than a 'long way from his heart' type of horse owner, and my book shelves are crammed full of veterinary books (over 100 I guess), but this app makes finding information so much easier. It is a very well thought through architecture of information which at first glance is overwhelming because of the sheer volume of data in here (1,000 or so entries), but dig into the app a little and you soon discover the simplicity of the structure.
All of the subjects contain a relatively plain English summary plus a variety of sub headings like "Supplied Needed", "Procedure", "Prognosis" and "Tips for Safety & Success". Add to this a search feature and this app just made dealing with everything from minor abrasions to colic a hell of a lot easier. (there are 17 search results for Colic)

Monday, 12 August 2013

Hartpury Horse Trials 2013 - A Destination Or An Autumn Warm-Up

CIC*** 2nd Water
Hartpury College is one of our best equestrian facilities, possibly the best in the UK, and runs a great event in August with CCI*, CCI** and CIC*** supported by feed supplements company, NAF UK. Set in the rolling hills of the west Gloucestershire countryside the courses are a decent challenge, often used as a warm up for bigger autumn events, but also a destination event for many in it's own right.

Horses Are Welcomed From Cross Country By A Cool Mist Tent

Sunday, 4 August 2013

BRC Eventing Championships 2013 - Run In Classic Format

The Wonderfully Colourful British Riding Club Eventing Championships At Swalcliffe Park 
With the children happily engaged in a play date, I found myself with a free day - bonus! There was little prospect of carriage driving or riding at such short notice, so decided to head out with the camera for a little more practice.

Watching The Show Jumping
I couldn't face dodging the showers at Gatcombe so had planned to go to Chilham Horse Trials in Canterbury, which is a beautiful setting.

With a late start to the day, and on the toss of a coin at a petrol station I decided to go to Swalcliffe Park, near Banbury for the SEIB British Riding Clubs National Horse Trials Championships after a tip off on twitter from course builder, Carl Fletcher. Just as well as I would probably have missed most of the cross country at Chilham had I attempted to tackle the M25 at that time of day.

Instead I wound my way through the pretty chocolate box villages of Oxfordshire between Blenheim and Banbury to eventually arrive at Swalcliffe Park, and a "grassroots festival of eventing". Rows upon rows of horsesboxes, tents, trailers and anything else you might find at Glastonbury filled a quarter mile stretch between the gateway and the dressage arenas, and I don't think I've seen so many people sat on horses in the warm up watching the show jumping.
Great Riding Skills On Display Throughout The Day 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Aston-le-Walls - Summer is Back!

Pippa Funnell & Redesigned Makes A Splash To Win Mulberry Insurance Advanced Section K
This time last year Aston-le-Walls came to the rescue by running extra days when the UK eventing circuit was essentially rained off. Weather wise the tables are completely turned this year. Much of the ground was baked so dry it had cracked, yet all of the tracks had been well watered and the going was perfect - truly amazing!
Tour De Force: Andrew Nicholson - Winner of Advanced Sections J & L
Mid-season, with a fist full of Advanced sections including a special 8/9-y-old section, Aston-le-Walls entries were littered with 3 & 4 star horses continuing a comeback from injury or falls plus a healthy dose of those stepping up to this level for the first time. Not forgetting the 'tour de force' that is Andrew Nicholson. He won on Qwanza and had numerous other placings. I'd tell you more but he barely put a foot wrong, so there's very little new to say.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Badminton 2013: In The Shadows Of The 3 Kings Of Cool

$350,000 Rolex Grand Slam Contenders Andrew Nicholson & William Fox-Pitt
The sport of eventing is made up of three 'tests' covering three very different disciplines, and requires a horse and rider to perform in perfect harmony in order to win at this level, and as we all know where horses are concerned there are no guarantees, so can we really dismiss 90% of the field going forward for the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials Trophy?

Michael Jung - Grand Slam Spoiler?
There is no doubt the "three kings" (Andrew Nicholson, William Fox-Pitt & Michael Jung) are in the very best form of their careers. They've all won medals at the last World & Olympic Games, They've all won 4 star events in the last 2 years. All three are the coolest characters under pressure and nothing short of Murhpy's Law could possibly predict an alternative outcome other than one of these three lifting the trophy in a week's time. But we've seen major upset and the unexpected at championships & 4 star level before - The Germans at WEG 2010, The Brits at the Europeans, and Andrew Nicholson has had 32 attempts at Badminton without luck before. Pippa Funnell, currently, the only winner of the Rolex Grand Slam seemed invincible and then saw her hopes dashed of a follow up win at Badminton one year, falling from both her entries. So anything that can happen, could happen.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Windy Withington

Bill Levett Had The Right Idea Wearing Trademark Goggles For Cross Country
Withington sits high in the Cotswolds and is run across several hills and ridges. The showjumping takes place on the highest point, and it was so windy today the showjumps were blown over a few times. This was my first visit to here, and I can see why it is a popular event. The going was perfect without the need for any real attention, and whilst a decent Advanced track I wouldn't say its super tough, but there are some nice big fences to attack as you can see from the photos below. The event is only marred slightly by the ugly electricity pilons that feature in almost every photo backdrop.

Jaroslav Hatla
The main problems on the course seemed to be at the double of corners, where from the riders I watched go through only Bill Levett, Paul Tapner and Pippa Funnell made it look easy, plenty of others ran out at one or other of the corners. The Water fence did have a tricky stride and a tricky exit over one of the London 2012 legacy fences, which few made look effortless.

Jaroslav Hatla won Advance Section L on Westwinds Diego with a super fast time of 6m 9s picking up just 6.4 time penalties and come the second to last fence was hot on the heels of Sir Mark Todd, who wasout on course ahead of him. Kitty King picked up second place on Persimmon, whilst winning the other section on Zidante.

Hambleden - Bluebell-less (Almost)

Hambleden | A Great Start To Spring Albeit Without The Bluebells

Hambleden has been one of my favourite events to ride at for many years, made special by the carpet of bluebells that usually cover the woodland setting across much of the event. With a prolonged cold and dry early spring, these have been late to flower. Paul Tapner managed to find the solitary volunteer bluebell that had braved the cold and emerged in time for the show.

Intermediate day was not without it's problems on cross country for many and as far as I can remember seemed to have had an extra loop added this year, just after the second water complex. This included a deceptive drop fence - not that it caused significant problems but I think the downhill run off on landing caught a few people by surprise.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Badminton 2013: Can You Afford To Miss It?

The Official Mitsubishi Vehicles Lined Up For Press Day At Badminton

Michael Jung: Olympic, European & World Champion
One year on and the course may not have changed much from last year's ill-fated event, but there are a few changes, albeit perhaps not as many as Hugh Thomas would have liked. The competitive landscape of entries has changed enormously though. "Eventmeister", Michael Jung is set to run his best two horses at his first ever Badminton, to realise a boyhood dream of competing on the hallowed turf in a bid to seal his name amongst the legends of the sport by winning the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials trophy.

William Fox-Pitt is likely to have two shots at winning the elusive Rolex Grand Slam from his current line up of 5 entries, in order to complete his scrap book of wins outside of the championships. There is every possibility, however slim, that he could be joined by Andrew Nicholson as a challenger for the Grand Slam if Andrew were to win at Rolex Kentucky in a few weeks time.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Who Stole Spring? Who cares - Rise Up Singing!

Michael Jung
This time of year more than any other is a complete pain in rear for so many reasons! The constant flux in the weather plays havoc with all manner of plans, as spring tries to kick start itself out of winter.

This time last year my children were enjoying time on the beach in 20c heat, and this year it's snowing! March is my traditional 'serious build up' to Badminton. As entries close, the cross country course is finally set in stone (almost) following a TD visit, and the press preview day looms closer.

All sorts of information needs crunching in preparation for updates to the website, mobile apps etc. etc. It's intense, and intensely exciting!

If you've been following the news around the entry list for the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, you'll know there's quite a lot to get excited about, apart from the fact we've all missed having the event in 2012, not least of which are:

  • Michael Jung, (reining World, European & Olympic Champion) is making his Badminton debut, and both of the horses he has entered have just made an impressive start to the season coming 1st & 3rd in a 3 star event in France. This has to be the man to beat. 
  • The man above is probably the biggest single threat to William Fox-Pitt's tilt at the Rolex Grand Slam, and the Rolex Grand Slam is not something you can plan for, it's like waiting for the stars to align. 

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Momentos, Memorabilia & "Souvenir Hunting"

The Unused Winner's Rug From 2012
I Love Stickers!
I must confess, when it comes to momentos of life's little experiences, I'm a sucker! Like many of us who event, I will always go home from an event with a photo or two to remind me of the day, even if it was a bad day. My rosettes (or at least the ones I haven't lost in transit or a house move) hang proudly tucked away somewhere in the house, and I've kept every wrist band from every three day I've ever been to. I even still have my Olympics pass. I've collected stickers for my laptop from all the places I've visited. The laptop I'm using right now has stickers from across the US, and my bland looking suitcase has a sticker from the 2011 European Eventing Championships which helps avoid others walking off with it at the baggage reclaim. Stickers are a great marketing give away especially for events.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Tweseldown - The Start, The Stars & The Silver Lining

Tweseldown Racecourse - Eventing Continues Whilst Point-To-Point Racing Is No More
Tweseldown's sad demise as a Point-To-Point course last year due to financial pressures did have a silver lining in the form of an improved course for the Open Intermediate classes. With no racing, much more of the turf course has been made available for eventing, including a new start, which I for one think is a godsend. The old start box was a messy affair stuck in the middle of site with sandy tracks leading off in all directions.

Noble Bestman Gets The OI Classes Started In The Mist
It's never been a favourite course of mine personally, but it does usually provide an assured first run in the south for those heading to Badminton, and whilst I can't identify any of them, quite a few of the entries we have for Badminton were out in the OI classes today. Laura Collett has already mentioned on twitter that she has entered both Noble Bestman and Rayef for Badminton so I won't be spoiling anything by mentioning she had both her Badminton bound horses here at Tweseldown, although she only ran Noble Bestman cross country as the ground was very deep and sticky in places thanks to a good dump of rain early in the morning and it stayed grey all day.

Monday, 18 February 2013

The Great Awakening - Although My Leg Still Feels Asleep

Boomerang XC Schooling Field - A Hive Of Activity Today
This weekend has been uncommonly warm and sunny in the UK, although probably not quite as warm or sunny as Rocking Horse Horse Trials in Florida, which has headlined the US eventing season over the last few days. Over at Boomerang Stables, which has one of the few truly great cross country schooling facilities, the eventing community had woken from hibernation and there was plenty of pre-season activity. It has been one of the busiest days I've ever seen at Boomerang, and there was an incredible buzz around lorry park which was six deep in horses and ponies of all shapes and sizes with riders excited about getting out onto a real course in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

International Eventing Forum 2013 - My Highlights

No This Isn't An Event Horse, But It Perfectly Illustrated Some Basic Fundamentals & Floated When It Entered The Arena
February would be almost bereft of anything vaguely eventing were it not for the International Eventing Forum, and I'm very pleased I made it back home for the occasion. As you'd expect the day
 was split into three sessions one for each of the phases.

A Quick & Amusing Lesson On Presentation
Sadly I arrived late and was distracted by "hello's" & "how are you's" so missed a fair bit of the first session on Dressage and flat work led by Ian Woodhead, which included an amusing little slot on presentation and an exaggerated example of how not to present yourself and your horse for the dressage phase. It was all about look smart - think smart. If you put effort into your presentation, you'll be more prepared to enter the arena was the simple message.

The dressage horse pictured above did grab my attention when it entered the arena though. Please excuse my forgetfulness though as I can't remember the rider's name, but as you can probably see he rode beautifully and had switched from eventing to pure dressage.  One of the key purposes of this section was all about the relationship between flatwork and the other phases something both Mark & David reenforced later in the day (more on that in a minute). As such we were treated to watching this very expressive horse almost gallop round the arena and be brought back down to a balanced forward canter as if "galloping down hill and then preparing to jump an upright rail". The desired result: a horse underneath and in front of you.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Sometimes You're Thrown A Curve Ball

A Lovely Hack In The Sunshine, Although I Did Unintentionally Find All Of The Gears This Horse Has - Lively To Say The Least!
Two days ago we had 7 inches of snow at home, and the driveway was as slippery and steep as a luge run, but two nights of rain, raised temperatures and it is all gone. The yard where I have been riding these last few weeks has managed to keep it's arena open during the snowy period, although turnout has been abandoned due to very soggy paddocks.

Yesterday, I rode in the arena on the flat trying to work on my balance, and the horse's acceptance.  This went reasonably well, but as I'm quickly coming to realise, I still have some way to go to get my core stability back. As I noted before I've been totally spoilt by the very balanced and accepting horse I've recently retired, which means I have to work even harder with this temporary loan horse that is a very nice mover, but a little less forgiving of me, and perhaps needs a little schooling on the flat.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Second Lifers - OTTB Advice From An Expert Panel

The Retraining Of Racehorses Class Winner At Barbury Castle Horse Trials 2010

ROR Expert Panel
I'm not seriously considering taking on an ex-racehorse as my next event horse, but the ROR (Retraining Of Racehorses) seminar I attended this evening on that very subject was very interesting nevertheless.

ROR is British Horseracing's very serious and credible charitable initiative aimed at providing viable second careers for "Off The Track Thoroughbreds" and has been running a range of activities to this end for a little over 12 years now. Tonight's talk was all about the things you need to consider when taking on a an ex-racehorse for a second career.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

New Year, New Horse (sort of), New Resolutions - A Plan At Last

Horses - More Rewarding Than Gym Membership
Gym memberships are all the rage at New Year, but quite frankly the thought of running on a treadmill, or 'benching weights' just ain't my bag. The retirement of my beautiful white charger and extended overseas travel last year saw me gain weight, although thankfully I've managed to keep the same notch on my belt, but it was time to get back riding before I lost the will to live.

Like many equestrian folk, once it's in your blood, it's in your blood, so top of my New Year's resolutions agenda was to get back in the saddle and around horses ASAP. I needed to buy a new horse, but I needed to get back in the saddle before I went looking for something to buy. Almost a year out of the saddle and trying new horses, would be tempting fate! I'm am looking for a new horse, but gone are the days when I would merrily take anyone's cast off because it was cheap and offered to me on a plate. That can be a whole heap of pain and hard work, and I need to work to keep a horse so I need  to be in control of the dismount (not leave this to the horse). I'm a lot fussier these days and not getting any younger.