Thursday, 9 October 2014

"The Book What I Wrote..."

Hints & Tips For Photographing Horse Sports
No, it's not the memoirs of a life with Morecombe and Wise, or an autobiography, although this blog post is in danger of becoming one! This is a booklet with hints and tips for photographing horses in sport, something I've grown very fond of doing over the last few years along with hundreds of others, judging by the number of cameras you see out at horse shows these days. Before I ramble on, if you're just interested to know more about the book skip to the bottom of the page to find out.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Blenheim 2014: Francis Whittington's Big Day Out - All The Pretty White Horses

Francis Whittington Rides Easy Target To A Career Highlight Winning Blenheim CCI***
There wasn't really much room for error in the final Show Jumping phase of the CCI*** class, but Francis Whittington produced one of only a handful of clear rounds in the top 20, and most importantly William Fox-Pitt didn't therefore giving Francis the win. Francis also picks up prizemoney for 5th placed Fernhill Highlight.
Jodie Amos & Wise Crack - 3rd Place & Definitely Going Places
Although the top 10 dropped 7 rails between them, the horses were jumping very well and giving a number of the fences plenty of clearance, which I think says a lot of good things about this competition - horses were fit, going was good, etc.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Blenheim 2014: CCI*** Cross Country - The Rockers, Rollers, Lovers & Sinners

Francis Whittington & Easy Target Moved Up Into 2nd Place During Cross Country Day
Cross Country day at Blenheim kept everyone on their toes. Few of the early combinations out on course made it round without error, and William Fox-Pitt who had 3 horses primed in the top 10 retired two of them after problems. I also saw him spend a good deal of time watching horses go through the ditch combination up in the woods, where Mille Dumas suffered at the hands of a loose dog.

Blenheim 2014: Friday - Dressage Day Two

Andrew Hoy & Cheeky Calimbo - Leaders After Dressage In The CCI***
The deck was was reshuffled throughout the second day of dressage, and Andrew Hoy came out on top with Cheeky Calimbo, a whisker ahead of Emily King. With 3 horses in the Top 10 including 3rd placed Fernhill Pimms, William Fox-Pitt could well pick up a good slice of the prize money.
Kitty King & Persimmon 6th on 38.2
I did manage to watch a few tests including two that made it into the top ten - Kitty King on Persimmon and Tim Price on Ringwood Sky Boy, both very polished.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Blenheim 2014 : Dressage Day 1 - Emily King On Form & In Front

Emily King & Brookleigh Lead The Dressage CCI*** After Day One
Last to go today in the CCI*** 18-year-old Emily King took a clear lead this afternoon with a score of 35.4, which considering this is her first run at this level is even more impressive. Whilst Emily was pleasantly surprised with her test today (a personal best), she is no stranger to success holding championship medals.  Listen to Emily's vox pop interview after her test.
Jodie Amos & Wise Crack Scores 42.8 for 4th 

The remainder of the top ten is predominantly British at this point, with just Phillip Dutton (USA) & Andrew Hoy (AUS) sharing 10th place. There are several good horses to come tomorrow, but it will take an exceptional test to take the lead from Emily.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Blenheim 2014: Trot-up Day - Sleek Lines & Smooth Operators

The First Horse Inspection - CCI*** ("The Trot-up")
September is my favourite month of the year for all sorts of reasons - great light for photography, the autumn colours are just coming through, warm sunshine, birthdays, and not least because it's time for Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, the last big three-day-event of the UK calendar, and one of the best to visit. As I'm free from the shackles of work for the rest of the month I'm planning to be at Blenheim every day.

New To Blenheim - Aston Martin 
Whilst officials and exhibitors were busy putting the final touches to the main site, down by the stables the sport's fashion parade, the first horse inspection, got the competition underway this afternoon. In beautifully bright sunshine all competitors dressed up in their Sunday best, polished their horses and presented themselves to the Ground Jury & Veterinary Delegation by way of the 'trot-up'. All passed although a few made a visit to the holding box for closer inspection.

King Of Cool - Ben Hobday

Monday, 8 September 2014

Goring Heath Horse Trials 2014: Road Test

Goring Heath
For one reason or another I didn't make it to Burghley this year, but with a day to myself and a new camera (the Nikon D810) I was itching to try out, I had to head out. With a big cycling event in Oxford & Goring Heath Horse Trials both within reach I flipped a coin and Goring Heath won.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Barbury CIC*** 2014: Nicholson & Avebury Win Again

Andrew Nicholson & Avebury - CIC*** Winners Once Again
The outcome of Barbury's flagship class, the CIC*** was perhaps as expected, with local Marlborough based rider, Andrew Nicholson taking the honours once again on Avebury. After Clark Montgomery's withdrawal (sat in second place, and on route to Aachen in a few weeks), Nicholson was left with a little extra breathing space and consequently didn't need to overly exert Avebury to get inside the time.

This charming little grey has continued to improve year on year and stay sound, and as Andrew has often mentioned publicly, Avebury needs to be ridden strongly to perform at his best. Having led from the start with an impressive dressage score of 34.8 they were deserving winners having only added a few cross country time penalties after a 'cruisey' round.

Francis Whittington & Easy Target - 2nd Place
Billy Bounce - Retired On Course
Another of my favourite greys on the circuit, Francis Whittington's ride Easy Target produced a formidable performance this weekend with a solid dressage test, a classy show jumping round and an amazing cross country trip to finish in the runner up spot. Sadly my other favourite grey, Chris King's Billy Bounce, lying in 5th after showjumping, had a 'drive-by' at the quarry fence, and Chris retired at that point. Billy Bounce is only 9 so I'm sure we'll see a lot more from him as he matures over the next year or two.  Chris is one Britain's best riders, and a previous winner of Barbury, so Billy is in great hands.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Barbury 2014: Nicholson Maintains Lead Going Into Cross Country.

Billy Bounce & Chris King 5th After Show Jumping
A decent crowd gathered for today's CIC** & CIC*** action in spite of a few early rain showers this morning. CIC*** show jumping concluded without significant upset in the leaderboard and Andrew Nicholson & Clark Montgomery jumped clear to maintain their top 2 spots without further penalty.

Three gorgeous greys feature in the top ten - the leader Avebury, Francis Whittington's ride Easy Target, and the beautiful rising star Billy Bounce ridden by local rider, Chris King who rose 8 places after jumping clear.

Less than 13 points separate the top ten and a few riders in the top 20 paid dearly for 2 or more rails down today seeing them drop 20 or more places.
Alex Liddle Riding Romeo Z - 3rd In CIC** Sec. D
Three sections of CIC** class provide the main action on the cross country course today with David Doel, William Fox-Pitt & Christopher Burton winning a section each. This morning's rain eased the fast ground a little and few made it inside the time today with roughly 12pts. separating the top 10 in each of the sections.

Barbury 2014: Nicholson Primed For 3rd Win

Clark Montgomery & Loughan Glen - 2nd After The Dressage
Once again Andrew Nicholson took command of the flagship CIC*** class at Barbury, one of the largest and most competitive fields for this level you'll find anywhere, leading the dressage on a score of 34.8. Little more than a rail away American Clark Montgomery lies in second on Loughan Glen.

Rain overnight and this morning shouldn't dramatically change the going here at Barbury which was fast yesterday with plenty of good grass cover. A warm drying breeze across these chalk hills will keep conditions under foot good.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Barbury: Your Weekend Starts Here

Novice Cross Country Underway At Barbury
Things have really gotten underway at Barbury today with Cross Country for the novice classes having started and every corner of the show ground is now buzzing with activity. The campsite is a sea of tents, the lorry park is like a London street during rush hour, and the trade stands are a hive of shoppers. 
Clark Montgomery Checking The Video Evidence Of His Test Straight After Leaving The Arena
Dressage continues for the mammoth CIC*** sections and the top ten is now changing constantly as we progress. As of lunchtime, 2 of Britain’s rising stars, Dani Evans & Emily King have jumped straight into the top 5. There’s still a whole afternoon of dressage which includes amongst others, last year’s winner Avebury, plus of course here more than anywhere the jumping phases are influential on the final outcome. 


Barbury Castle Horse Trials 2014

Barbury Castle Horse Trials
July is a great month to be in and around Marlborough, Wiltshire with The Marlborough Jazz Festival & Barbury Castle Horse Trials both happening this month. So if you're looking for something to do this weekend head out of Marlborough on the Rockley Road past the rugby pitches and enjoy a day or two of top class horse sport.

Now in it's 10th year Barbury has continued to grow from it's 'experimental' beginnings. The event now runs over 4 days with Dressage today and the novice cross country tomorrow. The main international classes provide the cross country action over the weekend and this is generously supplemented with all manner of entertainment and action throughout the event, not forgetting the ever expanding shopping opportunities (not just bits and bridles!).

Zara Phillips & Tony McCoy Go Head-To-Head On Saturday (photo courtesy of Barbury Castle Horse Trials)
Former world eventing champion Zara Phillips and 19 times champion jump jockey AP McCoy OBE, team captains in the JCB Champions Challenge, a unique 'horserace' between the country’s top riders. It’ll be held at the St James's Place Wealth Management Barbury International Horse Trials on Saturday 5 July in support of the Injured Jockey's Fund.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Chatsworth - Breath-Taking In Every Way

Chatsworth - Breath-Taking Backdrops For The Horse Trials
Chatsworth being so close to Badminton in the calendar, makes it near impossible for me to visit or compete at. The ill-fated event in 2012, that was cancelled due rain-saoked ground like many that spring, is the closest I've come to going, until this year.

Despite being one of the most popular country estates I've never visited Chatsworth for any reason, but it really is breath-taking, and just as big and ostentatious as Blenheim.

The Dodson & Horrell Chatsworth International Horse Trials, run Novice & Advanced classes with courses designed by Ian Stark, which combined with the terrain, makes these courses tough to ride [and walk] - get fit or go home!
The Moat Around "Queen Mary's Bower" Forms Part Of The Course

Like many of these grand stately homes, the parklands are scattered with all manner of even grander 'follies', and at Chatsworth, "Queen Mary's Bower", a raised garden that looks like a mini castle with a moat, is used as part of the course. This provides for some fabulous photographs, especially as it's early in the course.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Badminton 2014 - Serious & Seriously Good Fun

The Moment They Arrive It All Starts To Get Very Serious 
Talk to anyone who has ever competed at Badminton and they'll tell you it has an atmosphere unlike any other event. Years ago I remember talking to Andrew Nicholson about Badminton and him saying "everyone gets a little more serious when they walk through those arches, it's the one they all want to win." Having just listened to an interview with Jodie Amos from this year's event, it's clear they all feel the same.

Every year in April I wonder why I do what I do at Badminton, and but come the event I realise why. Every year the website and social media gets busier and busier. It's a full on adrenaline rush - it's hellishly busy, intense and a real buzz.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Grassroots Championships 2014 Cross Country Course

Who Wouldn't Want To Gallop Up Here?!
Having just walked the Mitsubishi Motors Grassroots Championships 2014 Cross Country Course for the first time (ever) today, and posted the full course up on the Grassroots website, here's a few quick thoughts of my own:

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Hambleden 2014 - Intermediate Day

Jessica Ayre Riding The Lovely & Expressive Gaudy Night
Another great day at the Symm International Horse Trials at Hambleden today, albeit in more misty, overcast, and beset with heavy rain at the end of the day. Sunday is Intermediate Day and thankfully there were a few greys competing to make photography worthwhile.
Olivia Craddock & Coco De Cara - Winners of Intermediate Section P

Hambleden 2014 - The Bluebell Event

Harry Meade
Laura Collett
Hambleden Horse Trials is renowned for the carpet of bluebells in the woods that provide the setting for a good proportion of the event. It's also one of my favourite events. Here's a few of my photos from the event.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Badminton 2014 Cross Country - Italian Style

A New Position For Mitsubishi's L200
The spring season is in full flow, and that means Badminton is just round the corner! As we head into Easter weekend and one of my favourite events (Hambleden), the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials is knocking on the door, and my free time becomes an ever increasing tug of war between family time, Badminton commitments and 'me' time.

The traditional Press Preview Day was bathed in crisp, warm spring sunshine, and had a little extra buzz, and seasonal vigour with the promise of a whole new cross country course with a little Italian style courtesy of Badminton's new course designer, Giuseppe Della Chiesa!

Giuseppe Della Chiesa
Guiseppe has been involved at Badminton for many years as Technical Delegate or assistant TD, and even in some of Hugh Thomas's previous courses you can see the occasional Italian influence. I received the course description written by Giuseppe for the programme the other day, and even this has a distinct Italian flavour to it, which is amusing and refreshing. (you can also read it in the official Badminton App or the Badminton website)

I've been itching to write about the changes for months now having spent a few days with Guiseppe on the course during his visits. I won't provide a detailed blow by blow, fence by fence account of the course, as you are best off reading what Giuseppe has to say, or the plethora of press related course walks being published with senior riders' views, however here a few of my highlights:.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Aldon - Somerset The Sunshine State

Aldon Horse Trials  - Set In A Picturesque 'Park Bowl'
This past week has seen the longest spell of good weather we have had this year, and drying ground proved perfect at Aldon in Somerset, which I'm told often suffers from inclement conditions. With the cancellation of Tweseldown, (my usual seasonal opener to watch those aiming for the spring 4 stars), I decided to head down to Somerset for the first time.

A Truly International Field
I had never been to Aldon before, as I'd always envisioned it to be too far west, or awkward to get to. I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was a little over an hour away down the dreaded A303, that was thankfully clear of traffic early on Sunday morning. The A303 winds it's way through some of the most stunning, rolling countryside England has to offer, passing the World Heritage site of Stonehenge, and the racecourse towns of Salisbury & Wincanton, and so on a bright Sunday morning you have time to take in the scenery and play 'I spy the Norman church spires' that are dotted along the route.
Dani Evans Warms Up For the Advanced Intermediate Dressage - On A Rugby Pitch!
Aldon Horse Trials itself is a cross between Gatcombe with it's 'park bowl' and Barbury where spectators can watch most of the action from a single vantage point as the track winds it's way back and forth across the main valley bowl that plays host to the cross country course. Added to this is the quirk of running the dressage across the lane at the Rugby Club - very apt given the conclusion of the 6 Nations.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Point-to-Point: The Other Side Of Barbury Castle

The Vine & Craven Point-to-Point At Barbury Castle
Today's break in the horrendous weather we've suffered so far this year felt like a mini victory! The promise of blue skies and warm sunshine all day was too good an opportunity to miss being outside to enjoy some sport (plus the bonus of a rare child free weekend), so I decided to head out for the day to practice with the camera at Barbury Castle for the Vine & Craven Point-to-Point.

Having spent a leisurely morning watching the women's snowboard cross from the Sochi Olympics, and having past rugby, football, and golf matches on my way to Barbury this was turning into an epic sporting day - the sunshine had brought everyone out to celebrate.  I didn't stay all day at Barbury as I still had storm repairs to fix at home, but from the moment I arrived to the moment I left there was a decent crowd out on the rolling hills of the Marlborough downs.
Bright Blue Skies At Barbury All Day
Barbury Castle has a rich racing history, stretching much farther back than the horse trials we've all come to know and love. Point-to-Point is "the amateur division of National Hunt racing" and as I was finding it much tougher to photograph than the cross country action of a horse trials. Everything happens so fast and intensely you really have to be on the ball - good practice for me!