Tag Archives: Olympics

Liverpool International Horse Show - Dressage - Charlotte Dujardin

Wowed by Liverpool

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Our roving reporter, Ellie Kelly heads down to the TheraPlate UK Liverpool International Horse Show  to check out the action.

 

It was my first visit to Liverpool-  both the city and the show and I have not been disappointed. Despite the 600 mile round trip, within hours of being there, I decided to make it a regular fixture. Nina Barbour has delivered a first-class event to this vibrant city. In a part of the world which is rich in horse enthusiasts and professional riders but surprisingly short of major equestrian events. Testament to the quality and production of the show, leading riders from the worlds of showjumping and dressage were competing, even at a time when many professional yards wind down over Christmas. Still a relatively new show, Liverpool International is gathering momentum but with leading riders some great entertainment, I wasn’t surprised to see the Echo Arena with very few empty seats.

 

On the first day, Charlotte Dujardin reminded she is no one-hit wonder when claiming the Equitop Myoplast Freestyle Dressage. The multi-medaled Olympian scored 81.938% on her flashy eight-year-old mare, Florentina VI in the Intermediate 1 class. Earlier in the evening, she paraded Valegro to an excited crowd at the Echo arena.

 

Also on Friday, teen showjumper Jack Whitaker won the Liverpool International Under 25 Grand Prix, sponsored by Equerry Horse Feeds. The son of Michael Whitaker has had another great year, including winning a silver medal at the Youth Olympics in Argentina.

 

It was a great day for the girls on the second day. Pony rider Claudia Moore repeated her great Liverpool victory of 2017 in the 148cm Championships, sponsored by Carden Arms. Claudia was a member of Great-Britain’s Pony European Championships this summer, where she claimed individual bronze. In the evening, Harriet Nuttall who scored the fastest jump-off time to win the four-star Voltaire sponsored jumping class, somewhat fittingly as the Somerset rider is sponsored by Voltaire.

 

On Day three Harry Charles underlined his status as one of world showjumping’s most exciting prospects by claiming a brilliant victory at the TheraPlateUK Liverpool International Horse Show.

 

The 19-year-old, from Alton in Hampshire, won the 1.45m international speed class, sponsored by Hope Valley Saddlery, with bay mare Doulita.

 

It proved to be a thrilling competition, with Harry’s time of 57.28 seconds proving just enough to edge out Graham Babes. They were both members of Great Britain’s gold medal-winning European Young Riders team earlier this year.

 

“It was an amazing win,” Harry said, after collecting a £7,300 victor’s purse. “I own the horse, which makes it extra special. I’ve had her a year, and every day I have put work into her to get her to this level.

 

Harry, son of London 2012 Great Britain team showjumping gold medallist Peter Charles, added: “It has been an absolutely fantastic year for me. Liverpool last year was my first real big show, and since then my whole career has taken off. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I want to win every time, it is the best feeling in the world, and I chase that every day in training. I want to make sure I do my best.

 

It was England and Ireland who shared top honours in the Puissance on Sunday evening. Yorkshireman Matt Sampson and Irish challenger Michael shared the top prize after they both jumped 2.20 metres (7ft 3in) to clear the famous red wall in a class sponsored by Equitop GLME.

 

And for Matt, it was a remarkable result, given that he only knew about his ride – Top Dollar VI – barely 30 minutes before the start after its regular rider Laura Renwick rang and offered him the ride.

 

“I’ve only ever done one Puissance before but he filled me with confidence and it got easier as I figured him out a bit more,” said Matt.

 

There will be more hot off the press action from the final day of the TheraPlate UK Liverpool International Horse Show.

 

 

Ben Maher & Triple X III

BEN MAHER

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The Horse Scout team catches up with Ben Maher at the Longines Global Champions Playoffs in Prague this weekend. 

 

Ben Maher has had a cracking season in the Longines Global Champions Series. After winning three Grand Prix, he was crowned as the overall winner of the LGCT after winning Rome in September. His horse, Explosion W is just nine years old. The seemingly unstoppable pair went on to Doha, the final leg of the Series to win both the Grand Prix and captain his team- the London Knights to another victory in the Longines Global Champions League.

 

The Global Champions League has really taken off. As team Manager of the London Knight’s, what has been the strategy behind your success for most of the season?

A lot of thought and planning goes into it. We will have a meeting in January to find out what horses everyone has available and work out where to aim those horses and what everyone’s commitments are. So it’s a 90% plan for the first half of the season. There’s a text group and most of the time it stays serious but the guys sometimes fool around a bit. We have a very strong team spirit.

This year I’ve been lucky, there has been a very strong team bond and they have all taken it very seriously and that’s why we’ve managed to be so successful.

 

What is the significance of the Global Champions Series to the sport and how has it changed it? 

It has been great for the sport. We ride every weekend for 100,000 euros to the winner. It was only five years ago that we were riding for 20,000 and thought that was a big weekend. It’s pushed the level of prize money monumentally. I never thought I would see prize money come to our sport this fast.

 

With that, the horse values have increased. It’s brought more sponsors in and hopefully, there will be TV right from big broadcasters. Maybe, in the end, we can get it back on mainstream TV because it is a great sport. There are lots of kids who have ponies or dream of having ponies. They have a connection with what we do. Like people who play tennis at the weekend, love watching Andy Murray. I Hope that within my career it can come back to what it was because I really believe it’s a great sport to watch.

 

The GCT and the GCL are continually trying to improve and grow the sport. It’s brought some colour to the sport. We’ve been very lucky to ride in these unique venues and now fans can actually follow a team and we have team colours to make it stand out. Slowly it’s building momentum and I really think that in ten years time, it will be huge.

 

Does the attractive prize fund detract you from competing at other significant competitions and making team appearance?

Obviously, the prize money is increasingly growing in the GCT but it’s not growing comparatively at other competitions. I’m still committed to my country and supportive of the Nations Cup Series and the Championships. My decision not to be available for Championships was based on the fact I have a younger team of horses and Championships are a lot harder on a horse than one Grand Prix on a Global Champions Tour so it was in the best interests for my horses’ welfare.

 

We still have not qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, so you think there is a chance we may not get there? 

We have two chances next year at Rotterdam in the European Championships and then Barcelona for the Nations Cup Final and I will do my best to make that happen.

 

I will never forget riding for my life in Aachen to qualify for the Rio Olympics. It was harder getting to Rio than it was in Rio and I never want to get to that point again. It’s a sport where we are always moving, some people who may not have helped to qualify still make it on to an Olympic team because they have the right horse at the right time and you have to have that in consideration. I also have owners that own my horses and it’s not always my decision.

 

How do you think it will grow the sport?

The GCT and GCL, runs at a slightly higher pace so that keeps the interest. Rather than 40 horses with riders all dressed the same, I agree it can be like watching paint dry- like Formula 1. Where the sport is interesting is looking at the tactics, the training and what goes on behind the scenes before those 60 seconds we spend in the ring. I think this is how we can really draw the audience into what we do and then they can bond with the horses as we do ourselves.

 

It looks like an incredible life from the outside but what is the reality?

I’m incredibly lucky to do the sport that I love and enjoy. But I’ve been on the road 50 weeks this year. I barely know what home is. I’ve also had the best season of my career and I wouldn’t change it for the world. We lose more often than we win and I just try to enjoy it as much as I can.

 

Whilst you are now winning big, the overheads must be enormous? 

The expenses are huge. It’s travel for both horse and rider and we are living in hotels most of the time. There are 40 horses within our team with 20 members of staff, planes, trucks. The reality is that the prize money a horse can win now and the value of the horses, it’s now in keeping with what it costs to run a horse.

 

With these horses, there is no expense spared. They are treated like high-level athletes. They are better looked after than I am. They live in the Four Seasons hotel lifestyle every single day. They have physios, specialist care and in many cases have one groom per horse. They are the athlete and that is how we take care of them. Thankfully the sport has now developed enough to help make it financially viable for investors and owners to be part of the sport

 

Highlight of your career

Competing at the Olympic Games in London where we won team gold. It’s a moment that won’t be repeated in my lifetime at a home game. I would like to go to another Olympics and the dream is to win both a team and an individual gold medal. A double gold would be the ultimate!

 

Do you think we could win a medal at the next Olympics? 

I think anything is possible. This year I didn’t think it would be possible to win the Global Champions Tour Final on two young horses.

 

What do you think of the state of British showjumping at the moment? 

We have a lot of good young riders in the UK but I don’t think it’s a sport where riding is just enough anymore. I think you have to be a very rounded person and you have to be able to communicate with sponsors, owners. I think it’s looking bright, I believe We are just a few years off being very strong. Myself and Scott have had a very good year and I hope we can be a part of that and lead the way for young riders like Emily Moffit, Jack Whitaker, and Harry Charles but we don’t have a lot of time before the next Olympics so we need to accelerate and get things moving quickly.

 

https://www.gcglobalchampions.com

 

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Richard Davison: Welfare in top level Equestrian Sport

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Part 1: What do our horses really want? 

 

When the words “Equine Welfare” are used, associated with animal cruelty, to me it conjures up images of emaciated, lice-infested horses and ponies. Yet at the recent World Horse Welfare Annual Conference, a number of other “modern” welfare issues were highlighted. Olympic Dressage Rider Richard Davison has been at the top of the sport for many years, having contested four Olympics. He was a founder of the Burghley Young Event Horse series and his yard is made up of dressage horses and his son’s international showjumpers. Therefore he is highly regarded both as a great horseman and spokesperson on Equestrian matters, who is not frightened of sticking his neck out.  At the Conference last week, Richard spoke candidly on the welfare issues seen even at the highest level of Equestrian Sport.

 

In our first blog, Richard raises his concerns over the modern fashion of “humanising” our horses, relaying one example he saw at a show recently.

 

“For those of you have visited international competitions, you will know that horses are confined in relatively small stables for four to five days. I was in Denmark last week and I watched a groom perform surgery on a teddy bear (used as a stable toy) who had lost a limb. The process of sewing up the teddy took half an hour or more. I wondered whether this half an hour would have been better spent, taking the horse out of the stable and giving it a walk in the sunlight or finding some grass for a graze and a stretch. For me, this “humanising” behaviour displayed by owners can skewer the priorities.

 

In my world (Dressage), they’ve all got the bling browbands, the matchy-matchy stuff, and the belly-deep shavings beds but actually what does a horse really want? What is really important, is to get out in the field, not to be kept in a stable, never mind how beautifully decorated it is with toys or anything else. They really want to be outside, stretching their back, being with their mates, sniffing each other’s bottoms and rolling in the mud. Thankfully is not generally something that us humans do, any longer. So I put this to riders and grooms- ditch the teddy bear and take the horse out of the stable and give them fresh air. That is what they really want- to be horses.

 

We are all stakeholders in this. We all feed off equestrian sport, either professionally or just gaining an awful lot of enjoyment from it. We all need to get behind education and spend more time, learning how horses really function. In these days in horse sport, where horses command huge sums of money we must never forget that their natural habits and herd instinct are really essential for both mental and physical welfare.”

 

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BEHIND THE SCENES: GRIT, GLAMOUR AND GREAT SPORT AT THE LONGINES FEI NATIONS CUP FINAL BARCELONA 2018

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I was lucky enough to be reporting at the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final In Barcelona last week. Not only was there great sporting action, a masterful display of horsemanship and a tantalising finish. Beyond this, there were some high profile individuals and interesting back-stories that really highlighted what a special sport this is.

 

Having breakfast in the hotel one morning I was sat next to Jessica Springsteen. The drop-dead gorgeous daughter of Bruce was looking very much in love with boyfriend, Italian heartthrob Lorenzo de Luca, as she ate her boiled egg.  Lorenzo was later caught buying his girl a present in the shopping village.

 

Across the room was World No 1, Harrie with the rest of the Dutch team and World No 2 Mclain Ward, fresh from winning team gold at WEG. Mclain was over to train 19-year-old showjumping sensation; Lucy Deslauriers who was making her first big team appearance for the USA. Extraordinarily Lucy’s father Mario was also competing but for his homeland of Canada. Now 53 years of age, Mario was the youngest ever winner of a World Cup Final at the age of 19 and he and his daughter could make headlines if they both achieve their dreams of being selected for the Tokyo Olympics, for their respective Nations.

 

Also competing at the show were the UAE team who are rising stars. After a fascinating interview, I discovered every one of them has a full-time job and compete just a handful of horses alongside this. Jobs included a policeman, an office administrator and a camel trainer.  “Football is the only professional sport but we are trying to change that” I was told.

 

“Never give up” was the take away message from this year’s prestigious competition. Held in the popular Real Club de Polo in Barcelona for the sixth year in a row, it was the Belgians who won the oldest jumping competition in the world and lifted the Nations Cup trophy. But it was by no means decisive and Peter Weinberg, Chef d’Equipe of the team summed up the result and in that, the very nature of equestrian sport. “We call ourselves the “Never Give Up Team” because in the middle we had two with 12 faults already but still we were fighting to the last rider, so this victory means a lot to us!”

 

With one of the most challenging tracks this final has seen, of the eight nations who went through to the final, just three riders jumped clear. It is hardly surprising that Course Designer Santiago Varela has been selected as course designer for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The track was imposing and technical and questioned control, balance, judgement and skill, all the way around. As Varela pointed out it wasn’t about the number of faults the riders collected. “A score of 8 or 12 didn’t mean they had a bad round, horses jumped unbelievably, but the course was difficult, tough and big…and everything was connected”, he explained.

 

As was the case with most of the teams, the Belgians had mixed fortunes, Niels Bruynseels gave the team confidence with a superb clear from Gancia de Muze but both Pieter Devos (Claire Z) and Jos Verlooy (Caracas) each leaving three fences on the floor. However, it was the dashing Nicola Philippaerts, who saved the day with a sublime clear round on H&M Harley v. Bisschop and that sealed the deal.

 

Nicola said his teammates told him “everything is still possible” when he was last to go. “I just tried to ride my own class and it worked out well – today it was me that could make the clear round that would make a difference, and another time it will be one of the others”. And he had even more reason to be pleased when sharing the €100,000 bonus for double-clear performances with team-mate Bruynseels, Sweden’s Peder Fredricson and Italy’s new star, Riccardo Pisani.

 

This was Belgium’s second win of the Longines FEI Nations Cup in Barcelona; their last came in 2015. As Chef d’Equipe Weinberg said: “it was an interesting day, first ups and then in between downs, but in the end, we won anyway so it was really great sport!”

 

 

 

 

FEI World Equestrian Gamesª Tryon USA

12 interesting (and slightly feminist and Nationalistic) facts about the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon.

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  1. In the Olympic sports of Dressage, Showjumping and Eventing, all three gold medals were won by female riders: Germany’s Isabel Werth (49) and Simone Blum (29) plus British rider Rosalind Canter (32)
  2. In Para Dressage the individual titles in all six grades, were won by women.
  3. Simone Blum became the first female individual gold medallist in the 28 year history of the FEI World Equestrian Games and only the second female rider in the 65 year history of the World Championships.
  4. Gold medalist eventer Rosalind Canter is 5ft2 whilst her horse Allstar B towers at 17.1hh. Whilst Best British showjumper, Amanda Derbyshire is also 5ft 2’’ but her ride stands at barely 16 hands.
  5. Of the top twenty placed horses in the individual showjumping, half were mares.
  6. Of the top five placed dressage horses, three were mares.
  7. Chestnut mares took top honours in both dressage and showjumping. Isabell Werth’s Bella Rose in the dressage and Simone Blum’s DSP Alice
  8. Showjumper Amanda Derbyshire, who finished best of the Brits has been based in the US for the last seven years but started her career as a work rider for Nick Skelton. Nick and his partner, US rider Laura Kraut still train Derbyshire.
  9. Derbyshire’s diminutive mare “Luibanta BH”, was bred in Ireland and produced by Ellen Whitaker. She was bought by current owner’s as a junior horse for their teenage daughter to ride but by far exceeded expectations.
  10. Of the 25 horses in the individual final of the showjumping at WEG, seven were produced in Britain and three were British bred. In eventing, Mr Chunky the silver medalist was bred and produced in the UK and Charlotte Dujardin’s Dressage bronze medalist, Mount St John Freestyle was produced from a foal by Emma and Jill Blundell at the Mount St John Stud Thirsk, Scotland. The Mount St John Stud also produced and still owns Para Dressage individual gold and team silver medalist Mount St John Diva Dannebrog, ridden by Britain’s Natasha Baker
  11. The British Para-Dressage team missed out on a major international gold for the first time in the history of the World Equestrian Games, having won every European, World and Paralympic team gold since the Sydney Paralympics in 2000.  Team GB were beaten by the Dutch into silver by just 0.64% in their total score in Tryon.
  12. A strong British performance at WEG resulted in Team GB finishing third in the medal rankings and receiving 2020 Olympic qualification for Eventing, Dressage and Para-Dressage.
Laura Renwick

Laura Renwick

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Laura Renwick

Laura Renwick

Laura Renwick has retained her position of leading British female rider for a number of years. She is certainly one of the busiest riders on the circuit and admits to sometimes competing more than 10 horses in a day. Perhaps surprisingly, Laura only started competing seriously at 26.  We caught up with the 44 year old at the Equerry Bolesworth International Horse Show, to hear her story and find out what the season holds.

 

“I’ve got two top horses. Top Dollar VI has more ability than he has ever going to need but the rideability is always going to be a bit iffy so I have ruled myself out of selection for the World Equestrian Games this year but I am looking more towards the Olympics” she explains.

“I’m a bit short on top Grand Prix horsepower but we started breeding from some of my competition mares a few years ago and they are just starting to come through. So I’ve got some really promising young ones and hopefully this time next year, some of them will have reached fruition.”

Laura is married to former elite show jumper John Renwick, who gave up the sport in 2002 to focus on supporting his wife. She juggles competing all over the world with running the equestrian business and being a mother to son, Jack.

Amazingly it wasn’t until after the birth of her son that she started to make a name for herself as a rider. For many women, having children can force competitive sport to the back seat. Quite the opposite has happened for Laura, whose sporting career really started to take off after childbirth.

Introduced to horses by her mother, who owned a riding school, Laura was successful in show jumping from the age of 11. Prophetically, she bought her first jumping pony from John, her future husband.

At the age of 18, she questioned whether she wanted to make a career out of it and gave up competing for several years. “I was lucky that my parents supported me up to 18 but then but then I had to go it alone. This sport is tough, especially for anyone starting out and trying to support themselves. At the time I thought I should try something else.

Her sabbatical included being a flight attendant for BA and living in Spain. “If I had my time again I would have stuck at show jumping because it really is in my blood. That’s why I came back to it all these years later.”

Laura returned to the sport at the age of 25. She bought a young horse, which meant starting again from the beginning. Soon after, she met her husband on the competition circuit. To begin with it was purely a business partnership but it later evolved into marriage and parenthood.

“We bought some young horses together and in the early days whilst John was still riding at the top international competitions, I was producing the young horses. These are the horses that I am still riding now so it’s all been a working progress, we’ve learnt together. I think that’s why I have such a strong bond with our horses; we know each other inside out.”

As well as her training skills and empathy with horses, Laura is renowned for her fearless, competitive spirit. On a good horse, she would be hard to beat against the clock and has won a number of Puissance competitions. She won the prestigious Olympia Puissance last year, clearing 7ft on Top Dollar VI

A combination of skill, poise and style has garnered her sponsorship and she even took part in a risqué photography shoot to promote British show jumping. “It was a laugh and done to raise the sport’s profile, but I probably wouldn’t do anything like it again.”

This year Laura was asked to be show jumping ambassador for The Brooke charity’s “Every Horse Remembered” Campaign. I’m delighted to start my official support for Brooke as an Every Horse Remembered Ambassador. I’m looking forward to representing the campaign for Brooke in the British Show jumping scene” she said. “Horses have worked side by side with people for centuries, not least in the First world War. It’s vital that we remember the sacrifice they gave.

 

In order to stay in the game at this level, she and her husband have to be commercially minded. “We breed horses, train them and sell them, even some we would like to keep. John handles most of the business side of things now. He had a lot of injuries which is why I had to up my game and focus on competing.”

“We still have to make a living from it. Prize money in showjumping has gone through the roof, compared to what it used to be but you still have to have the horsepower to be at those shows with that prize money. You need to have a pool of Grand Prix horses to compete regularly at that level and the top riders have that luxury. So until you’re in that sort of league, you do still have to make your money where you can, so our horses are always for sale.”

Laura does not seem fussed that son Jack is more interested in football. “He can ride but has no interest in competing” she says. “I enjoy taking him to football training and have told him to work hard at it so he can look after us in our old age.”

The future looks bright for Laura and she hopes to consolidate her performance next season and “just keep enjoying it” she adds. Does she dare dream of future medals and team selection? “My top horse Top Dollar is more than capable. It’s just about hitting the form at the right time” she says.

 

Written by Ellie Kelly

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Andrew Hoy: Fatherhood has given me a new lease of life On flying form at The Equerry Bolesworth International Horse Show

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“I’ve had a new lease of life since becoming a father” said Andrew Hoy after winning the Eventing Grand Prix at Bolesworth  International Horse Show. This fiercely competitive pairs competition, sponsored by Cazenove Capital involves showjumpers and eventers joining forces in a thrilling dual sport competition. Andrew’s showjumping partner was Beth Vernon, who left all the rails up in in one of the fastest time, before Andrew completed a short course of arena cross-country fences on to three show jumps to finish. The competition attracted a number of prolific showjumpers and eventers including Chris Burton, Tom McEwen, Alex Hua Tian, Matthew Sampson, Joe Clayton and Harriet Nuttall.

 

Andrew a seven time Olympian, belied his 59 years by storming around the challenging course in the fastest clean round, on Cheeky Calimbo, the horse he has ridden at four star level. “He’s cheeky by name and cheeky by nature” he said after his round, with his 10 month old daughter Philippa sitting on his lap. “I picked him for this class as he is a great jumper and I know him so well. It was a really exciting competition but it was really difficult having to show jump at the end after you have galloped across-country.”

 

Having won four Olympic medal- three gold and one silver, Andrew is one of the most successful event riders of all time. Yet we have not seen as much of the Australian rider at top level in recent years. He explained that he has been quietly working away in the background, producing some new horses. “I have a maximum of 15 horses now and a new generation of horses coming through.”

 

There is one in particular that he is excited about. A nine year old called Vassily de Lassos, who he bought from French International rider, Thomas Carlisle. “I’ve only had him 12 months and when Tom told me about him, he explained that he needed a pony (for company) and was a weaver, so I wasn’t particularly keen.” When Andrew sat on him, he still wasn’t particularly impressed. “But I kept looking at his record which was exceptional. Since 2013, he has only had one showjumping rail in FEI events.”

 

Andrew views him as a horse for the World Equestrian Games later this year and is hoping to run him at Aachen this summer to impress selectors. The impressive French bred horse is by the prolific stallion Jaguar Mail and finished 8th at Blenheim CIC 3* for 8 and 9 year olds. “I couldn’t be more excited for the future with this truly once in a lifetime horse” he said.

 

So no sign of hanging up his legendary boots any time soon then.  “I might be getting older but I am enjoying eventing even more” he smiled.

 

Written by Ellie Kelly

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Galloping in Style towards the Cheltenham Festival

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Galloping in Style towards the Cheltenham Festival

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“For me the boys winning at Cheltenham was as big a highlight as winning in Rio” Nick Skelton announced after “Superb Story” gave his sons Dan and Harry, their first Cheltenham Festival win.

“It’s the Olympics of the horseracing world” claims leading trainer Dan Skelton

The Cheltenham Festival is so world-famous, it has become known as simply “The Festival”. This year it runs from Tuesday 13th to Friday 18th March and it should be etched in your social calendar. Tickets start at £40 but because we regard our members so highly, Horse Scout will be giving away two pairs of tickets this year. Stay tuned to our Facebook page  and our Twitter for more information.

This four-day spectacular attracts the finest horses, jockeys and trainers in the world of Jump racing and remains one of Europe’s most prestigious sporting events. In fact it is fourth best attended event in the country and the £4.5 million of prize money makes it one of the biggest prize funds in UK sport.

The racing scene is always a cultural melting pot but The Festival epitomises that more than most, attracting the real racing enthusiasts from all walks of life. When you put 260,000 people together with common ground- a passion for horses, the countryside and great sporting action, it can only result in one thing- a fabulous sense of occasion.

The festival commences with Champions Day on Tuesday 13th. It includes a packed seven-race card including the most important 2 mile hurdle race of the entire jumping season, the Unibet Champion Hurdle.

Wednesday 14th March is Ladies Day and this year the competition is for ladies only and is all about bringing colour and style to The Festival. There is the chance to win a brand new MINI ONE CAR from W.O. Lewis and Sytner Solihull, as well as other splendid prizes. Whether you want to flash your finest fur, parade your best hat or give a nod to your favourite horse’s colours, get ready to #ColourMeMarch.

St Patrick’s Day on Thursday 15th March draws the luck of the Irish to Cheltenham. The whole of The Festival has a strong Irish flavour to it but on Thursday, it is loud and proud and you can enjoy Irish music around the course throughout the day. As well as the ambience, the racing is top class with the JLT Novices’ Chase, the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle and the Ryanair Steeple Chase to enjoy.

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The climax of the entire jump racing season is Friday’sTimico Cheltenham Gold Cup. This really is the golden crown of jump racing and never fails to  be the greatest spectacle.  The Timico Gold Cup is a race associated with the elite of the sport and nothing can rival the Cheltenham roar as the horses charge up the famous hill.

The Festival really does offer something for all (erm adult) interests. As a Cheltenham die-hard for a decade or so, I aim to indulge in the whole social landscape. Perhaps what I love best, is weighing up horse flesh in the paddock. Usually I swap notes with one of the many Irish folk, who seem to know more about the nags than their own flesh and blood. We will talk breeding, handicaps and ground conditions, then I’ll head down to the course to throw some bad money after good at the bookmakers. Although rarely the Tote, as a like supporting the little guys who are stationed near the track. There is something quite antiquated and ironically pure about swapping cash for a betting slip with a man in a tweed cap and a cockney accent.

I’ll often try to latch on to someone, to get an invite into to Owners and Trainers for spot of people watching and a great afternoon tea. If I am lucky enough, I’ll be invited to a box for more champagne and the best the views of the course and the race.

You can expect food and drink for every taste. There is a generous scattering of champagne bars and about every ten paces- another Guinness watering hole. So be aware of wobbly drinkers if you’re wearing your best cashmere. That sticky brew could ruin your day as well as your wardrobe.

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The selection of cuisine options, is nothing short of a sensory odyssey. New for this year is The Theatre @Festival, a Pan Asian Theatre restaurant experience situated on the third floor of the course facing suites, giving guests unrivalled views over the final fences of the racecourse and offering a unique culinary and visual feast.  Designed to offer a premium but casual environment, relaxation and attention to detail are the order of the day along with simply exquisite dining influenced from the continents of Asia to the foothills of Cleeve Hill.

Michelin star chef, Albert Roux is back in his popular Chez Roux Restaurant. And there are eleven other top quality restaurants on offer, over The Festival with a range of different packages available to suit all requirements and most budgets.

No sporting event would be the same without the inevitable burgers, pies and chips. Do not knock it when you know it really is the only way to help stave off tomorrow’s hangover.

For many seasoned racegoers, a picnic in the car park is a big part of the day. Cars start to arrive as soon as the gates open at 10.30 and the pop of champagne corks can be heard within minutes. The downside is that you might pull the short straw to become designated driver and the traffic coming into Cheltenham is historically horrendous.

The Cheltenham experience would not be complete without losing your senses- and your savings, in the Shopping Village. There are 70 stands with a unique boutique feel, mainly involving fashion, art and gifts. This is the place to discover exceptional pieces you won’t find on the high street.

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To book tickets visit www.cheltenham.co.uk or call 0344 579 3003.

 

By Ellie Kelly

Badminton build-up Giovanni and Kathryn

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Badminton build-up Giovanni and Kathryn

“I would rather win Badminton than any other event in the world” reveals international eventer Giovanni Ugolotti. “There is a feeling that no other event has, even the World Championships or Olympics and for Kathryn and me, it is what we have been dreaming of from childhood.”

With team appearances at the Olympics, World Games, European Championships, the Pan-Am Games and a number of CCI4* events between them, you could say that Kathryn Robinson and Giovanni Ugolotti are eventing’s “power couple”. Together they run Cranford Stud, an eventing and training yard in Gloucestershire and are both planning to compete at Badminton 2018. Horse Scout are giving away a prize for two people to walk the Badminton course with Kathryn and Giovanni and discover their trade secrets.

Giovanni started eventing in his native Italy and finished 4th in the Italian Junior Championships in 1999. He rode for the Italian Army Equestrian team from 2002 until 2007 before arriving in England in May 2008 to work for Andrew Nicholson. This was followed by a stint riding young horses for Tristram Owers. He quickly made his mark on the British scene taking 1st and 2nd at Hartpury CCI1* in 2008. In 2010 he finished 12th at Pau CCI4* and has competed at Badminton on three occasions.

Kathryn was born in Canada to a British father and Canadian mother but has been based in the UK for most of her life. The daughter of unhorsey parents, she began riding at her local riding school and was an active member of the Woodland Pytchley Pony Club. Kathryn didn’t take up eventing properly until she was 19, whilst working for international eventer Sam Albert.

Kathryn admits her career would not have been the same without her ride of seven years, Let It Bee. A horse she bought from Germany simply as an amateur horse but with whom she has scaled the highest level. The pair have competed at Badminton, Pau, The Pan Am Games and the Rio Olympics. Kathryn is hopeful for a good placing at this year’s Badminton, having jumped a double clear at her first attempt here in 2016.

So what do you need to excel at Badminton? “You need a partnership with your horse” explains Giovanni. “And your horse needs to be at the top of his form that weekend. You can have very good horses, capable of winning but if they are having an off day or are not at their peak for those four days then you are not going to win. You need a bit of luck” he says.

Kathryn and Giovanni will walk the Badminton course about four times. “The first impression doesn’t usually change too much and it is certainly a course that doesn’t get any smaller each time you walk. In fact, with Badminton I find that the more you think about it, the bigger it seems” he smiles.

Giovanni and Kathryn have a healthy working relationship rather than a competitive one. “We try to help each other” says Giovanni. “Kathryn helps me a lot in the dressage and I try to help her in the jumping. Sometimes we bump into arguments like every couple does. Luckily we like completely different kinds of horses, so it works out quite well.”

During the winter Kathryn likes to keep her eye in by riding out racehorses for trainers such as Ben Pauling and Alan King. Whilst Giovanni prefers to capitalise on the downtime, returning to Italy to see family. He is an ardent football fan and supporter of AC Milan.

Life on the yard is pretty busy so during the season, there is little time for other hobbies. “There is a lot of paperwork involved with running an equestrian business” explains Kathryn “Although we sometimes go to the gym after we have finished riding the horses”.

For 2018 they have some exciting young horses coming through, but good result at Badminton is vital for both riders as it will help their chances of team selection for the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon in September 2018.   

Written By Ellie Kelly

Horse Scout invests in star show jumpers

Horse Scout invests in star show jumpers

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Horse Scout, which has secured global investment to further develop its innovative equestrian social network platform and help riders boost their professional careers, is to sponsor the next round of young show jumpers on the British Showjumping and Haddon Training Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence (AASE) programme in its mission to nurture future Olympic stars.

Applications for the 2016/17 AASE programme open at the end of July and those accepted will have the opportunity to be coached and trained by some of the top sporting coaches and experts in the UK including Heike Holstein (flatwork) and Andrew Saywell (jumping).

The programme also gives participants (age 16-19) access to experts that focus on them as an athlete: a physiotherapist to help reduce imbalances and weaknesses, a dietitian to advise on nutrition, and a media trainer who can help develop communication skills.

Aimed at developing and preparing talented young upcoming athletes at the top of their game, the AASE programme provides training and education for those who have a real chance of excelling in their sport and competing at European and Olympic level.

The AASE programme also develops the riders into young professionals within the sport with many progressing to start and run their own businesses.

Haddon Training has delivered AASE for British Showjumping since 2013 with 100 young riders completing the 12-15-month programme which culminates in a Level 3 nationally recognised qualification — equivalent to two A-Levels and 85 UCAS points.

Corinne Bracken, AASE Programme Manager, says: “The programme covers all the core components including technical, tactical, mental and physical skills delivered by industry experts, plus those that are essential to attracting owners and sponsors to the sport. It’s great that global organisations such as Horse Scout recognise the importance of supporting future stars.”

How to apply:Any young rider seeking details on the AASE application process should contact staci.cox@haddontraining.co.uk