Tag Archives: cross country

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EMILY KING

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EMILY KING

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Horse Scout advocate Emily King must be on cloud nine at the moment. The 22 year old is on winning form after claiming the Under 25 title at Bramham, has an exciting string of horses, a hot boyfriend who she is just about to move in with. And with 56,200 followers on Instagram, you could say she is pretty popular. Popular enough for her supporters to put their money where their mouth is too. After setting up a crowd-funding campaign to keep the ride on a promising young horse, some 556 people donated to reach the £40,000 required to buy him from his owner.

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This month, Emily beat off strong opposition to win the British Horse Feeds Under 25 CCI3* at Equi-Trek Bramham Horse Trials, making her the National Champion at this level. Outstandinglym, she finished on her dressage score of 25.5 with Dargun, a horse by Valiant she has produced from a youngster for owner Jane Del Missier. The pressure was on when she went into the showjumping as after second-placed Thibault Fournier from France had jumped clear, Emily and the 10 year old Dargun could not afford a pole. The crowd gasped when the pair rattled the first fence but it stayed in place and they kept their cool to complete a fabulous clear and the only rider to finish on their dressage score. Her boyfriend Sam Ecroyd joined her on the podium with a third place on Master Douglas.

 

Speaking after her round Emily about her horse “He felt amazing today! When I got on him in the warm-up, he was bucking and squealing- it helps him with his spring and attention if he’s a bit jolly. The crowd helps him rather than distracting him and the fences were quite spooky, which helps too.”

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Emily has been living at home in Sidmouth, Devon with her family all her life. She has always shared a yard with her mother, Mary King- one of the greatest event riders of all time. But this summer she will be making “the big leap” to move to Cheshire to share a yard with her boyfriend, who also events internationally and already runs an equestrian business up there.

 

Her relocation was one of the reasons the previous owner of Langford Take the Biscuit had to sell the six year old gelding, which prompted Emily’s crowdfunding campaign. All those who donated will be invited to watch “Hobby” compete, to yard-visits and also to join her on course walks. So it’s a great initiative for people who would love to be involved in a horse but do not have the money to own one. Furthermore, Emily has pledged to donate all of the horse’s future prize money to charity, the chosen one being World Horse Welfare.

Written by Ellie Kelly

Images by William Carey and Tim Wilkinson

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BADMINTON- The year of the legends

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BADMINTON- the year of the legends

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The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials never fails to make a big splash in terms of gripping action and great moments. There’s a good reason it is one of the top five most attended sporting events in the UK and it is one of just a handful of equestrian events which is broadcast on national television these days. But what played out this year was nothing short of epic. It is fair to say that the tales thrown up at the 69th edition of Badminton, should probably go down in the history books.

 

It was a great year for the girls. Jonelle Price became the first female winner in 11 years with the evergreen mare Classic Moet, a talented and long-term coupling who have been knocking on the four star door for several years. The last female winner was in 2007 and another much loved female partnership of Lucinda Frederick and Headley Britannia had their day.

 

Jonelle’s win really emphasised the significance of a strong relationship between horse and rider. Speaking after her cross-country round she said: “I felt the pressure on the cross-country that she could go near the time but you just have to get out there and do your job and I know her so well. It’s a real partnership,” she explained. After scoring one of the few clear show-jumping rounds to secure her win, Jonelle summed up her emotions: “Being a CCI4* winner is an elite club to join and it’s been something that has eluded me for a while now, so to now join it – especially here at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials – is very, very special.”

 

The fact that Jonelle won one of the most hard-fought Badminton’s we have seen, just eight months after giving birth to her son, was not only an incredible feat but particularly inspiring for all women, girls and working mums, whether their biological ticks or not. When she was asked whether motherhood had made any difference to her mentality or the way she rode, Jonelle responded: “No, the only difference is that when I went to get on for cross-country, I had “Incey Wincey Spider” stuck in my head, so that was certainly a first.”

 

Classic Moet- a pure thoroughbred also became a mum last year (theoretically), in the shape of two embryo transfer fillies by the stallion, Upsilon.

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In addition, there were four female riders in the top ten this year and a female dominance we haven’t witnessed at the British four-stars for some time. Britain’s Ros Canter and Gemma Tattersall took 3rd and 4th spot respectively, two ladies who should surely be heading to Tryon for the FEI World Equestrian Games in September this year.

 

With an all-star cast on the entries list, there was inevitably going to be drama, masterful riding and great action. Eric Winter made his stamp on Badminton last year, with a big bold course, which caught more than half the field out that time. This year, the general consensus from riders was that the jumps were marginally kinder but still imposing and a true four star but with the added challenge of seriously holding ground conditions and the fact that many British based riders were lacking match practice after so many early season events were cancelled.

The wet winter and further rainfall on the preceding days had taken it’s toll. When the sun shone on the first two days, it worsened conditions further making the ground tacky and together with a warmer climate it was even more energy-sapping. The result was that no rider made it around the 4.2 mile course inside the time. Yet the 74 % completions and only one serious horse injury to report, made for a fairly happy Course Designer.

Photo from hopedeamer1-12

We had three Horse Scout advocates competing: Giovanni Ugolotti, Joseph Murphy and Oliver Townend. All finished in the top 27 with a clear cross-country. Oliver was still on a high from his win at Kentucky and was hungry for the Rolex Grand Slam. He was named the new World Number One for the first time in his life. Despite some impressive performances with his two horses, he had to settle for runner up to Jonelle with Cooley SRS and fifth with Ballaghmor Class.

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Last year’s winner, Andrew Nicholson was never going to rest on his laurels and had saved Armada for the big occasion. Certainly fitting that he chose to retire his legendary and most noble steed at Badminton, in front of a teary eyed crowd. It was a poignant moment when he was led out of the arena, after a formidable 13 year career which included finishing in the top 12 at 10 four star events. As well as winning Pau four-star in 2012 and Badminton in 2017, with Andrew, Nereo was a mainstay of the New Zealand team for some time, winning team bronze and individual fourth at the London Olympics and individual and team bronze at the 2010 World Equestrian Games.

 

Emotions were raw by the time it came to Ben Hobday’s announcement that he was retiring crowd favourite Mulrys Error. The unorthodox eventer, who jumped a number of clears at four-star level and became affectionately known as “super cob” will now have a less demanding job of educating Ben’s stable jockeys. He may also be seen at some Eventing Grand Prix in the future.

 

Another “end to an era” looked like it was going to take place at Badminton, as Michael Jung was muttering something about retiring La Biothetique- Sam FBW (aka Sam) this year. The 18 year old has been quite simply the most successful eventer of all time, having won the World Championships, the European Championships, two Olympic gold medals and four out of his seven four star events, mostly finishing on his dressage score.

 

However, this year Badminton was not to be for the dynamic duo. One suspects Michi brought Sam to Badminton to win it and with an uncharacteristic two rails in the showjumping, he is unlikely to bow out with him just yet. Sam still looked like a five year old and was as spring-heeled as ever in difficult conditions, so it would be wonderful to see him at Burghley. Michi gave us an education in cross-country riding and Sam gave us one heart-stopping moment at the first corner jump into The Mound, when he left a leg, otherwise it was poetry in motion to watch.

 

We also said a final farewell to Mike Tucker, he stepped down from his BBC role last year but sadly succumbed to a heart-attack just months into his retirement. The “Voice of Equestrian” will be sorely missed. His communicated our equestrian sport with charm and wit. Mike often said the wrong thing but in this crazy age of political correctness, we loved him for his slight defiance.

 

I was there in my role as Assistant Producer for the BBC, which means I get to help make the Highlights Show, which goes out on the Sunday afternoon. I advise them on what should be covered in first place in our mini-documentary and do a number of off-cam interviews with riders. It means I really am in the thick of it and ensconced in the stables or riders lorry park for much of the week. Most of the BBC crew have never ridden a horse in their lives, which I think helps give another perspective, as we also have to educate and entertain the horse-ignorant as well as the avid enthusiast. This year, we all agreed was the best yet in terms of twists and turns, stories and fairy tale endings. Interviews with William Fox-Pitt, returning to Badminton for the first time since his serious brain injury in 2015 plus Andrew Nicholson, Piggy French and the blacksmith who had been the resident farrier at Badminton since 1953, left us all a bit emotional.

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Written by Ellie Kelly

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“It’s unjumpable!”: Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Course Preview

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“It’s unjumpable!”: Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Course Preview

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“I want to challenge the relationship between horse and rider, it is about knowing your horse and having that trust” says Badminton Course Designer Eric Winter. We happen to be stood on the landing side of the jump into Badminton’s iconic fence “The Lake” which is a drop of well over six foot.

 

Then as soon as riders have plummeted down from the sizable log, praying they don’t take a ducking in front of millions of ringside and TV viewers, they must take a sharp right pull to jump a box brush in the water and several strides later, tug right again to ascend a sharp bank to another box brush, this one on a dirty great angle. “It walks three but will probably ride four strides out of the water” says Eric “So it has the same unpredictability about it as last year.” Many riders and spectators were critical of Eric’s “unpredictability” in terms of uneven stride distance jumping out of The Lake last year, which claimed a significant number of jumping faults. Yet he argues “those who sat still were fine.”


Badminton Horse Trials has reclaimed much of it’s former status as the biggest cross-country in the world and this year’s course exemplifies that. Eric Winter is in his second year of designing. Despite a difficult start to the season in terms of horse preparation with so many events cancelled, Eric has not taken a soft approach to his course design.

 

In our Horse Scout interview, Eric picks out the fences he believes will cause the most challenges on our drive around the course:

 

This year, the course is anti-clockwise so Huntsman’s Close comes early at 6abc. It’s the second combination on course (first being The HorseQuest Quarry at 4ab) and involves jumping a big log which should be approached on a sharp angle, before quickly setting up for two extremely angled narrow logs, which give the word “skinny” a new meaning. The line and point of take off is made more confusing and cluttered by surrounding trees and the roots of the logs. That combined with hundreds of spectators and a few BBC cameras could leave a few of the greener combinations a bit “rabbit in the headlights”.

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“Huntsman’s Close is the first real challenge and a technical one. It’s about control and a real Showjumping question. Rider need an organised canter and to make their horses sit back and stay focused. This will suit the handy, pony type horses and whilst there is a long route, you should be taking the straight routes this early on to prepare your horse for later questions”.

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The Lake comes early at fence 9abc and if you’re going, this will be the best place to watch according to Eric. Not just because it is always full of drama but the viewing is excellent and there is the potential to see six fences from one grandstand. He admits that he last year’s design was a “learning curve” with a rail in as horses launched over the rail and struggled to make the turn out. This year’s log looks just as imposing, it should be more user-friendly as horse’s can “roll over it”.

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“The Lake is a control exercise but a different one to Huntsman’s for example. It is a more open distance, encouraging you to ride forwards to the distance.”

 

The Hildon New Pond is a real test of the senses with waterfalls incorporated into jumps, a big log pile followed by a sharp slope to a hanging log, with water running off it- the noise of the water is certainly audible. Then a sharp left turn up a steep bank to the angled brush oxer.”

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“The Pond is a real hunting question and how it rides depends a bit what you are sat on. Riders need to pop rather than launch in then find the energy through the sharp turn to the jump out. It’s another fence which really gets to the heart of the relationship between horse and rider, where you really have to know your horse and trust each other. It is energy sapping fence at fence 20, you still have a way to go.”

Written by Ellie Kelly

 

Queen at Windsor

A right Royal affair

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A right Royal affair

Queen at Windsor

Royal Windsor Horse Show, 9-13th May 2018

With Prince Harry getting married and Zara Tindall and Kate Middleton expecting, the Royal family are giving us plenty to celebrate and feel patriotic about.

 

Another Royal occasion of note is the 75th edition of the Royal Windsor Horse Show, held in the private grounds of Windsor Castle from the 9th-13th of May this year. It is an event which Her Majesty, The Queen has attended every year since its creation, in 1943.

 

Today it has become a 5* show and holds the distinguished CHI status, making it one of the most important events in the equestrian calendar. Royal Windsor Horse Show is the only show in the UK to host international competitions in Show Jumping, Dressage, Driving and Endurance. In addition, there are 120 showing classes held over five days.

 

The riders love it too. Even Kent Farrington, current World No 1 Show Jumper said, “This is one of my favourite shows. There’s a combination of an amazing setting, an unbelievable crowd, top course designing and great footing It’s on par with the best in the world.”

 

Royal Windsor was started as a fund raising event during World War II as part of “Wings for Victory Week”, to raise money for Spitfire fighter planes. Over the 75 years the Show has maintained its objective to raise funds for charity. ABF, The Soldiers Charity is supported every year and an equestrian charity is chosen to support by the Committee annually. This year the equestrian charity is the Free Spirit Horse Memorial.

 

The original Show, which required competitors to hack to the Showground as there was no petrol to spare, was held on just one day. Since 1944 the Show has expanded dramatically in terms of length, spectator attendance and competitors. One of the first competitors was HM The Queen who successfully competed in the Single Private Driving Class driving Hans, a Norwegian Pony, to victory in 1944. Other members of the Royal family have also competed including HRH The Prince of Wales, HRH The Princess Royal, Zara Phillips, and most notably, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. It was the Duke who introduced international carriage driving to the Show in 1972, in which he also competed. He went on to win the Horse Teams class in 1982 with HM The Queen’s team of Bays.

 

Such was its popularity with equestrians and the public alike, that Royal Windsor evolved into a major international event. Last year there were 3,300 entries, including many of the world’s best riders, compared to 884 entries in 1950.

 

There will be some serious show jumping action up to CSI 5* level. This together with a large prize fund, is likely to entice the crème de la crème of the show jumping world. Held in the Castle Arena from Friday 11th – Sunday 13th of May, including a Saturday evening performance with the climax of it all- The Rolex Grand Prix will be taking place on the final day. World No.1 and last year’s Grand Prix champion Kent Farrington, is hoping to return to defend his title.

 

The International Dressage is expected to attract some of the world’s leading horse and rider combinations. The CDI4* Al Shira’aa Dressage Grand Prix and Freestyle to Music will take place on the evenings of Thursday 10th and Friday 11th of May respectively. Riders will have the unique opportunity to be judged by Susan Hoevenaars, one of the judges at the upcoming FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018, an unmissable chance for hopefuls heading to the Games this September.

 

The CAIO4* Land Rover International Driving Grand Prix, a FEI World Cup qualifier and one of the most important Driving events in the UK adds to the roster of top international competition at the Show. 2017 saw Boyd Exell score an impressive eighth victory at the Show, and the Australian is certain to be looking to retain his title as part of his FEI World Equestrian Games™ build-up.

 

The visually stunning Windsor Great Park will be the site of the international Endurance on Friday 11 May. A CEI2* event, supported by The Kingdom of Bahrain will negotiate 120km of the countryside of Windsor and Ascot.

 

A huge variety of Showing classes will also share the schedule with the FEI classes, with many of HM The Queen’s horses regularly featuring in the starting line-ups, Royal Windsor Horse Show represents the height of the National Showing calendar. Competitors will be striving to follow in the footsteps of HM The Queen’s Barbers Shop to be crowned Royal Windsor Supreme Showing Champion on the final day of the Show.

 

Spectators can also be entertained by an action-packed schedule of arena displays and other events. Beyond sport, there are 220 high-end shops in the shopping village offering fashion, equestrian and lifestyle goods. Plus a host of food options and watering holes, from artisan food and champagne bars to burgers and beer.

 

Or to book tickets visit www.rwhs.co.uk. Tickets can also be purchased by calling the box office on 0844 581 4960 from the UK and +44 (0)121 7966290 internationally

Written by Ellie Kelly

International Eventing Forum 2018

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International Eventing Forum 2018

Ellie Kelly


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A healthy turnout of eventing supporters turned out for the 2018 edition of the International Eventing Forum. An event which has been held in the UK since 2004

 

The theme for this year was “What’s the limit?”. The sport of eventing has evolved considerably in the last 20 years. Dressage technicality has taken on a new meaning and the quality of work and horsemanship required in this phase has increased radically. When Cross-country switched from long to short format, it reduced the influence of stamina but brought more emphasis on technicality and mental as well as physical agility in horse and rider. In turn, show jumping has become more demanding, requiring a greater level of training and precision than was previously the case.

 

Through a variety of topics and between four highly regarded professionals, the  big question posed at this insightful day was “how far can we actually push the boundaries in our sport to keep up with obvious performance improvements of both horse and rider”. But in a sport where amateurs compete alongside professionals, how can  we raise our game without becoming elitist and alienating the enthusiastic amateur?

 

Former International Dressage rider Sandy Phillips, is a familiar face in the judges box at many of the world’s FEI events. In eventing she judges at Three and Four star and she endeavoured to unveil what the judge is looking to see, in order to gain the higher marks.

 

With two competent demo riders in Tom Mc Ewen and Jonty Evans, Sandy put them through their paces and gave a critical commentary. Overall, her focus was on “riding the jump” with your seat and creating as big a step as your horse’s balance can cope with. “To impress the judge, Event riders need to be more confident in riding forwards in the dressage arena and use those corners as much as possible” she said.

 

Eric Winter followed with some useful tips both for riders and coaches. He worked with three young riders, all riding young and green horses. He set up a number of simple jumping exercises to emphasise what the basics of good jump training were. “Circles are the foundation for all riding. Not just in dressage but in jumping in the way that course designers put jumps on turns or curving lines. So you need to be able to ride a circle perfectly. As a rider you should have three questions when approaching the fence

1) Is your horse genuinely taking you or are you pushing it?

2) How straight are you on the line to the fence

3) Is the rhythm regular?

The rider should be focusing on this but it is up to the horse to find it’s feet at the pole if it has been correctly presented” he explained. “Repetition of an exercise produces an understanding on the horse of what is happening. Be patient with exercises to allow the horse to buy into the process and in doing so, gain confidence. Teach a horse to look for fences around corner. It is when they are surprised that they make bad decisions.”

 

After lunch, Performance Psychologist Charlie Unwin delivered his philosophy on mind management and how the mind can limit the body when under pressure. The Horse Scout advocate talked about the importance of only allowing yourself to focus on positive psychology. And how he helps rider to achieve what is known as “flow state” a level of 100% focus and concentration whilst delivering a performance. “Your thoughts have a way of sinking into your hands, your legs, your seat and the whole of your body so a lack of self- belief can be the biggest barrier to improvement and success.”

 

Charlie also discussed “Identity” to the audience. “This is the story you tell yourself about yourself. We ask ourselves “Who am I?” But you should be saying “Who do I want to be?”. The warm up arena is the biggest example of this, a place where riders often become shells of themselves. Instead riders should embody the mind beliefs and body of a World Class Rider. It is common for riders not to even consider themselves as an athlete but instead as simply an instrument to get the best out of the horse. In order to become an athlete you need to think like one as well as training and preparing like one” he said.

 

The final session was led by Frederik Bergendorff, a former international event rider and Gold medallist at the 1993 Europeans, Frederik now holds the role of Team Sweden’s Eventing Manager.

 

He worked with four star riders Imogen Murray and Ludwig Svennerstal and highlight what the basics of good jump riding really were for all levels of rider. He reinforced the importance of the warm up and quality preparation. “Your horse must be totally through from behind before you start jumping.”

 

His focus was on doing the basics better in training and he laid his principles out clearly for spectators. “Don’t go up a level or do something new in a schooling exercise unless you have mastered that one. To approach a fence you should have pace, energy and a good frame in the horse before the turn so that as you approach you can just concentrate on keeping the balance and rhythm. Being in balance means the rider should be sitting in the middle of the horse and you train balance with your seat. If you approach is correct then there should be no need to look for strides, the fence will find you. On landing from a jump, you should press the horse forward to the hand from the leg. Not only will this save seconds in the ring but it will stop him falling on the forehand.”

 

The International Eventing Forum will return to Hartpury  on the 4th of February 2019 and the speaker will be announced on http://www.internationaleventingforum.com/ soon.

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