|Badminton 2011 Winner NZB Land Vision Back To Winning Ways After A Two Year Absence|
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.
I'd made the trip especially to watch this horse, and spent 40 minutes watching Mark warm up for the dressage. I'm not exaggerating when I say this horse made everything else in the warm up field seem double ordinary, and I was amazed that more people weren't watching. Dan Jocelyn quipped and lamented that he would have to follow the Badminton Champion into the ring, after Mark was already 'impressing the judges' with single step changes in the warm up.
In the warm up NZB Land Vision's flying changes were pretty perfect, his lateral work is so polished, and his frame and balance make trot extensions look extravagant yet elegant. Watching Mark in the saddle on this horse is an education, the horse barely needs any re-enforcement of the aids allowing Mark to sit still and comfortably while maintaining a decent contact and allowing the horse to step through. "He looks magnificent" I told Mark as he passed by, "He feels magnificent" came back the reply.
|Happy & Relaxed|
The test itself was just as magnificent, if I'm honest I thought his trot extensions in the warm up were more impressive, but what do I know - they scored an astounding 17.7 to lead section G. Just look at how long and elegant that stride is (below).
|Near Perfect Dressage On His First Attempt Back - Score: 17.7|
Sir Mark Todd's return to the very top back in 2011 when winning the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials came by way of the super cool grey horse, and even before that win Mark was bullish stating this horse was the best he had sat on, and probably the best in the world. Soon after that win, Land Vision sustained a tendon injury and was sidelined for the rest of the 2011 season. In early 2012 Mark brought the horse back in with hopes for the London Olympics but things weren't quite right so the horse was turned away again until March this year and brought slowly back into work, all that preparation culminating in today's successful return.
After a pit stop at Charlie's coffee wagon, I made sure I was around for the showjumping. I'd say NZB Land Vision was a little strong over the first two fences and just clipped the second rail with his hind toe, but the rest of the round was settled, balanced and with plenty of clearance, so only the 4 faults.
Cross country time was always going to be tough to beat, and I'm sure Mark had no intention of chasing the win, but the grey sailed round popping everything in sight. The top picture I think says it all. Just look at the expression on the horse's face and how he's found the next fence without Mark having to pull hard on the left rein - He's on the hunt for the flags!
This truly is a horse in a class of his own, and I'm genuinely pleased I got the opportunity to watch him and the legendary Sir Mark Todd go round one of my favourite events. I spoke to Mark briefly after cross country and he mentioned he plans to run NZB Land Vision once or twice more this year and hopefully look at a 3 or 4 star next spring, as Mark put it "he's definitely got another big win in him" (a spring 4 star may mean having to go to Rolex, as Badminton may not be possible due to lack of points). I'll gloss over the fact that I did briefly attempt to compare NZB Land Vision to Mr Cruise Control, who I also think has a lot of presence, which didn't go down too well, and to be honest Land Vision is a few notches above all others.
Is Sir Mark Todd looking forward to next year? You bet, he has 4 decent horses to pitch for a place at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy. I read genuine excitement in his face as he tells about his horses, (Leonidas, Campino, NZB Land Vision and Oloa) plus a wry smile in agreement as I suggest it's perhaps his turn again after Andrew & Jock's recent run of big wins.
Other Gatcombe News:Whilst NZB Land Vision's return to competition was my main reason for venturing out today, this Gatcombe September meeting is amongst my top 5 UK horse trials, and is a great event for watching some of the best horses currently running intermediate and novice, plus those heading to Pau CCI**** next month. Quite often it's also bathed in late summer sunshine, and today was no exception. Here's a quite run down of other things a noticed & photographed while waiting for the great grey.
|Andrew Nicholson & Quimbo - Winners OI Section F|
On my way back to the car I spotted Chris Burton almost bring Tempranillo to a halt after fence three, which took me by surprise. He told me afterwards she tends to get a bit wound up and strong so just needed to settle her as he's planning to take her to Pau next month.
|Mary King & Cavalier Venture - 5th OI Section F|
|Paul Tapner & Pioneer Milly - 3rd After Dressage - CIC** Section B|
|Dan Jocelyn & Haokonn - 5th OI Section G|
|Andrew Nicholson - Using Time In The Air To Turn!|
I'll try and post a few more photos that I took over the weekend, but now I must prepare for an entirely different sporting event , 5-year-olds Saturday morning soccer, which is bit like watching a swarm of bees round a honey pot!