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BADMINTON CROSS COUNTRY… REVISITING THE PAST

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Welcome to the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials 

Wed 1st- Sun 5th May 2019

 

This week Horse Scout got a sneak peek at the cross-country course for the 70thedition of Badminton Horse Trials. “It feels like something we might have seen 25 years ago” was how Hugh Thomas described it. Big open ditches, making full use of the lips, dips, mounds, general topography and natural features of this beautiful park. This is a course that retains that “ride on your wits” cross-country feel which it has once again become famed for in recent years.

 

Eric Winter is now in his third year as course designer of Badminton and his philosophy in course design has remained the same throughout. “My aim is to put to the test, the relationship between horse and rider and the training of the horse.”

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The course runs clockwise around the park this year. As always, riders will start in the main arena before heading out to the Staircase fence- a sizeable log parallel down the two stone steps and a tight left turn to another log parallel. “It is an open start to the course to allow riders to get into a rhythm. Unlike last year where there were some early challenges, I didn’t want to break the rhythm early.”

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Things start to get pretty serious by fence 10- The Shogun Sport Hollow. After a long gallop which could be influential before a particularly technical fence, there is a funneling pagoda to direct riders to a narrow coffin ditch which is eerily, even the shape of a coffin, and a left or right choice of chunky, narrow tree trunks out. This is where the new FEI red flag rule could come into play. Where riders will be penalized 15 penalties if the whole horse does not pass between red and white flags- so that is shoulders as well as hindquarters. A rule which has not been well received by leading riders, course designers and officials… who shall remain nameless!

 

Fence 11 and 12 is the massive KBIS Bridge over the infamous Vicarage Ditch. The double numbering allows for a two jump escape route. The next fence has been used in some form at Badminton since 1949 and this year involves the notorious bank followed by a narrow brush roll top.

 

The Rolex Grand Slam Trakehner follows. Whilst impressive to the spectator, it’s big log over gaping ditch should not cause too many problems at this level. Then on to the Hildon Water Pond at 15ab which is perhaps a little softer than previous years with a big drop in before turning to a log trough in the water. Eric describes this as a run and jump fence and a bit of a let up before another tricky part of the course. Possibly an opportunity to make up time, although Eric pointed out that in the last two years of running, not one combination of horse and rider had finished on their dressage score.

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The Vicarage Ditch to the Mirage Water at 17abc and 18 is possibly one of the greatest challenges on course. An enormous right-angled corner is proceeded by an open ditch situated on a dip in the bank which will definitely unsettle some horses. Then a level four strides to another fearsome corner fence. “This is the sort of fence you would see 40 years ago- we could see all sorts of jumps over the ditch which adds to the unpredictability of the course,” Eric says.

 

There is no let up just yet and 19ab, the Nyetimber Heights involves a steep slope to an airy brush on top of a mound. Before plummeting down into the dip and up for a choice of four narrow scrubbing brush skinnies.

 

Finally, there is a course let-up fence at 20 before rider head on to three asymmetric corners in a row at the YoungMinds Brushes. YoungMinds- who help young people with mental illness and struggles is the chosen charity at this year’s event.

 

Fence 24 is an impressive affair to give riders their first taste of the infamous Badminton Lake. The jump is basically a large parallel but the design, with a pump station extending over the Lake to create a waterfall effect, which might unsettle some horses. Especially when added to the considerable crowd that always flock to the Lake. The brush fence in has been pulled back so riders land on grass before entering the Lake, then a step up and the iconic Mitsubishi pick-ups which this year have a trailer attached with dome-shaped spruce which is the part jumped by riders and horses.

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The Lakeside spectators get value for money as riders double back to the Wadworth Lower Lake at 26, a triple bar approached through the water.  After an inviting hedge comes the Voltaire Design Huntsmans Close which involves a birch parallel to a birch spread corner on a right turn.

 

To avoid a flat out gallop Eric has the Eclipse Cross Chicane (29 ab), two open ditch brushes on a U bend out and in of the deer park before the HorseQuest Quarry (30 ab) looms. This is less complicated than in recent years. In over the stone wall to a drop then up and out over a second wall.

 

Even though we are nearly home, Badminton is no place for complacency and we have seen many a rider tip up in the final few fences. The Hayracks at 31ab a roll top spread to a roll top skinny, then fence 32 the Rolex Trunk which is a sculpted log.

 

Back into the arena is the Mitsubishi Final Mount at 33, a fence designed by a member of the public for a competition a few years ago, where riders jump a pair of sculpted wooden saddles.

 

As ever a good completion will be an exhilarating experience for both the old pros and especially for those whose first experience of Badminton this will be.

 

 

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Eventers put the Great into Britain at FEI World Equestrian Games

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  1. Great Britain wins team Gold
  2. Ros Canter and Allstar B wins Individual Gold
  3. Great Britain scores the lowest team score in world championship history
  4. Great Britain qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
  5. Four British athletes finish in the top 20

 

“Our primary objective coming here was qualifying for Tokyo and our next objective was to win as many medals as possible and we have achieved both” said Performance Manager for the British Eventing team, Richard Waygood. “It’s been an amazing day in the office. They all went in there for the team and stuck to the system.”

 

The final day of the eventing competition at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tyron was one of high dramas. The showjumping phase was postponed from Sunday to Monday after heavy rainfall. Yet despite an extra day of recovery, the showjumping caused problems throughout the field and a big shake-up in the order.

 

Ros Canter must have felt enormous pressure as the final rider for Team GBR, with Britain in the gold medal position. She had no margin for error if she was to win an individual medal and only one fence in hand to take the team title. A text-book clear round from the Lincolnshire rider not only secured Great Britain as World Champions, but also confirmed an individual medal for Ros, and team Olympic qualification for Great Britain at Tokyo 2020.

 

The overnight leader for the individual medals, Ingrid Klimke, also had no room for error on SAP Hale Bob OLD. As they approached the final fence after a promising round, it looked almost certain that the individual gold was going to Germany, but the crowds’ cheers turned to gasps as a pole on the final fence fell and the individual title went to Ros.

 

Speaking after her round, a slightly shell-shocked looking Ros said; “I don’t think it’s sunk in. I can’t believe it; Allstar B was absolutely amazing, he was an absolute hero, I had an amazing experience in there. I kept saying [to myself] just let him do his job, and I’m so proud. There were quite a few tears when I found out which isn’t normal for me.”

 

Ros paid huge credit to her support team. “The team around us is just phenomenal. They make the dream come true really.”

 

In the team competition, Great Britain headed into today’s showjumping with an 8.2 penalty advantage – or just two fences – over Ireland, and, after two clear rounds from Ireland’s team riders, the pressure mounted on the final three GBR combinations. After their incredible pathfinding cross country on Saturday, West Sussex’s Gemma Tattersall got Britain underway in the showjumping phase, picking up 12 faults on The Soul Syndicate’s Arctic Soul.

 

Tom McEwen, who is based at Gatcombe Park in Gloucestershire, was next in for the team and took an unlucky four faults from an otherwise impressive round on his own, Jane Inns and Alison McEwen’s Toledo de Kerser. Their completion score of 32.4 penalties meant that the gap between the team gold and silver had closed to just four faults with two team riders left to show jump.

 

The penultimate rider for GB, Northamptonshire’s Piggy French, also picked up four faults on Jayne McGivern’s Quarrycrest Echo in the final showjumping combination on course, which reduced GBR’s advantage to just 0.2 of a penalty. Ireland’s final team rider, Sarah Ennis, headed into the final phase in individual bronze but an early fence down on Horseware Stellor Rebound dropped them out of the individual medals and also increased the penalty gap between team silver and gold back to four. After Ros’ brilliant clear round the team gold was secured for Great Britain with a score of 88.8, Ireland took team silver on 93 and France bronze with a score of 99.8.

 

Tina Cook who was going as an individual on Elizabeth Murdoch and Keith Tyson’s, Billy the Red, rounded off their championships with a clear round. This pulled them up to finish in ninth place individually and second best of the British riders behind Ros on a score of 31.5 penalties.

 

Roll on Tokyo!

 

Written by Ellie Kelly

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WEG FOCUS: ARCTIC SOUL

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10 things you may not know about Gemma Tattersall’s  eventer, Arctic Soul aka “Spike”

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  1. Born in Ireland he was bred by Michael Whitty.
  2. He started life as a racehorse but he didn’t win a thing. “He was rubbish” says Gemma.
  3. He was rescued off the meat truck in Ireland by Marti Rudd, a Performance horse dealer who bought him for 500 euros. Nicki Roncoroni purchased him for Philip Kerr who rode him for a number of years.  Nikki produced him to 1* level and then Gemma was given the ride in 2012 when he was eight years old.
  4. His first event with Gemma was a novice at Tweseldown in 2012 which he won.  He went from novice to 3* in a year.
  5. His favourite things are going cross-country and rolling. He absolutely loves water and will paw the ground to make a splash. He loves puddles and will find the muddiest wet puddle to roll in.
  6. He eats Gain horse feeds: freedom mix and freedom nuts, hay and haylage, plenty of grass.
  7. The last person who fell off him was Sarah (one of Team Tatts grooms) when he bucked her off.
  8. What he wished he knew at six years old- eg bucking in the dressage warm up is a waste of energy.
  9. His favourite event is Burghley according to Gemma.
  10. What he could not live without: Gemma, his best friend and his field mate Pamero 4

 

Gemma Tattersall and “Spike” are Ambassadors of Equine Charity,  The Brooke and support their “EVERY HORSE REMEMBERED” campaign. www.thebrooke.org

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HORSE SCOUT REAL: MARK TODD

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Undoubtedly one of the most prolific riders of all time, Horse Scout advocate Mark Todd has been competing at the top of the sport for nearly forty years. As well as winning Badminton four times and Burghley five times, Mark (aka “Toddy”) has competed at seven Olympic Games winning medals at five of those, including individual gold in Los Angeles (1984) and Seoul (1988). In 1978 he was part of New Zealand’s first three-day eventing team to contest a World Equestrian Games.

 

Toddy has competed at a number World Championships since, winning team golds in Stockholm (1990) and Rome (1998) and an individual silver in Rome. Despite this unprecedented and sustained success at the top of the sport, one prize has eluded the 62 year old. “I have never won an individual World Championship” he says. “If I retired tomorrow I could say I have had a very fortunate career and I have done way more than I ever imagined I could. But I am still competitive enough that I still strive to win the big ones- Burghley, Badminton and the World Equestrian Games.”

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With three horses qualified for the FEI World Equestrian Games, we will almost definitely see Toddy in the line up. But before the Games which take place next month (11-23rd September), he has a demanding schedule ahead.

 

“From now on it gets really busy. Although I have a smaller team of horses, it is pretty much every weekend. Burghley is the first major coming later this month.” He feels there is unfinished business here this year. “Having had what I thought was being in a good winning position last year, until near the end of the cross-country. I’d love to go and have another crack again” he says referring to his fall from Leonidas just a few fences from home.

 

“Then a few days after Burghley, we leave for WEG. At this stage I am not sure which horse I will be taking but I have Leonidas, Kilturbrid Rhapsody and McClaren qualified.”

 

Toddy will be one of the oldest riders at the Games but also the one with the most experience. He does not feel his age has affected him physically. “I don’t feel it’s any physically more demanding- except when you come off” he smiles. “I have been riding so long that I have that muscle memory. I keep myself fit and healthy.” However, he implies that his competitive drive is perhaps not what it used to be. “I still enjoy the competition but I don’t enjoy all the work involved quite like I used to.”

 

Beyond this year Toddy is undecided on what the future holds. “I would love to take McClaren to Badminton next year but I will see how I feel at the end of this year.  I have young horses coming on and I certainly haven’t made up my mind but if I won a medal at WEG, I might decide to leave it there.”

 

Horse Scout’s Ellie Kelly was talking to Mark whilst test-driving the full range of Land Rovers and Range Rovers in an off-road experience day at Rockingham Castle. Mark Todd is a Land Rover ambassador. Land Rover has been at the heart of equestrian sport for over 30 years. For more information visit  www.landrover.co.uk

To view Mark Todd’s profile click here.

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Ellie Kelly Horse Scout Media

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Trainers in Focus: Eventing Nick Gauntlett

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Nick Gauntlett - Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2010

In the first part of our “Trainers in Focus” Series, we catch up with popular trainer Nick Gauntlett. Nick is “a fellow of the British Horse Society” which means he holds the highest level of BHS coaching qualification and is also is one of a small and illustrious group to hold the title of “British Eventing Master Coach”. On top of that, he has competed at the highest level for a number of years and was the rider responsible for producing the great stallion, Chilli Morning to four star level.

 

What are the key things you focus on when teaching jumping?

 

Rhythm and energy. The consistency of these two things is far more important than getting to the right spot at the fence. Even over big fences, if you have great rhythm and energy, you can get away with being a bit off the right spot for take-off. Whereas, you can hit the perfect spot but if you don’t have the rest of it, the jump can feel awkward.

 

How do you teach riders to find a rhythm and see a stride?

I have a few methods, one is to get them to count in a regular rhythm whilst they approach fences. I also get riders to approach a show jump with their eyes closed or looking away. It works unbelievably well in proving to riders that they don’t need to look at a fence to find a stride.”

 

How do you know if you have enough energy approaching a fence?

“In terms of energy levels, you have to keep checking that the horse is truly in front of the leg. Imagine if you are driving a Ferrari and you hit the accelerator, you would feel a surge of power. Where as if you are driving an old Land Rover in the wrong gear, it is all going to feel a huge effort. Andrew Nicholson once said “if it feels nice, you’re not going fast enough”. I have changed this to “if it feels nice, you’re not good enough”. So you need to feel you are a bit out of your comfort zone and then there will probably be enough power.”

 

What are common rider faults which you often see?

The position of the leg and upper body position is often at fault and one that is likely to effect the safety and security of the rider. I tell people to imagine their horse has disappeared from underneath them and ask themselves whether their feet would still support them, whether they are jumping a cross-country fence or down a huge drop. When a rider is ahead of the movement, with their full weight resting on the horse on take-off, the horse’s jump will inevitably be compromised and from a safety point of view, this is a big concern.”

 

How do you develop a more secure seat?

If you are relaxed and soft in the knee and thigh, you will have a more secure lower leg. Whereas if your knee and thigh is tight, it will become a pivot, which will send the lower leg backwards and the body forwards.

 

Why is a light seat and soft knee so important?

It is amazing how relaxed you can make a sensitive horse feel by being soft through your knee and thigh and having a light seat. I often see riders, see a stride and then start driving with their seat, three strides out. This frequently ends up with them missing the stride and you send the front of the horses forwards and the back end, backwards. I tell riders to imagine having drawing pins in the seat and knee areas of their saddle, to encourage them to be light

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What’s your advice for shaving seconds off your cross-country time?

Many people think it’s just about riding faster but actually, you can save more time by just kicking away from each fence. So think of it as saving a second per fence by just landing and kicking as it gets you back into your rhythm as quickly as possible.

 

What should I think about when planning the perfect cross-country round?

When deciding your approach to a fence, remember that you have walked the course and understand the problem ahead, whilst it is completely new to the horse.

I put fences into three groups:

  1. Fence with a sloping profile e.g. steeplechase
  2. Fence with an upright profile e.g. five bar gate
  3. Combination fence- rail, ditch rail

 

Jumping a fence with a sloping profile, a rider should feel confident to let the horse jump out of their stride without changing the rhythm.

 

Jumping an upright fence- we call these “new old fashioned fences” as we see an awful lot more these days. Course Designers at top level talk about designing to encourage “rider responsibility” and this will trickle down to designing at lower levels. As a rider we need to learn from the outset, to get into that defensive position. Keep the energy but allow the horse to see and assess the fence when approaching an upright.  

 

For a combination fence, you should be thinking about which gear to be in and this depends not just on the type of fence but also the experience of the horse. For example, if you are approaching a rail-ditch-rail, all the horse sees as they approach, is the rail. You need to convey to the horse that there is something a bit different about this. It’s like dropping from fifth to third gear- the car slows down but the revs go wild. You mustn’t take the energy away but you have controlled the speed, allowing the horse to understand what is ahead.

The more experienced the horse, the quicker they understand and react to the problem and yours and your horse’s experience should dictate what gear you choose. If you’re just moving up a level, you probably need to give your horse more time so will need a lower gear.

 

I always tell riders to be careful watching other riders jump through fences and basing their decision on that. It doesn’t necessarily mean that is right for your horse’s level of experience. Intermediate can be the worse for that as you have horses just moving up from Novice level. Then you also come across a four star horse having a spin and they make it look effortless. 

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Written by Ellie Kelly

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B is for Bigger, Better, Barbury

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Chris BurtonImage by Benjamin Clarke Photography

If you want to see eventing at it’s finest and fancy a cheeky preview of many of the horse and rider combinations likely to be heading to the World Equestrian Games in North Carolina this September, then head to the St James’s Place Barbury Horse Trials ( 5-8th July).

 

Barbury has undoubtedly become one of the premier international events of the equestrian calendar. It attracts the leading professional riders as well as the amateurs at the top of their game, so has never been short of thrilling action. With around 1000 horses to see this year, from one of the best spectator-viewing spots around, you certainly won’t be bored.

 

The four day event runs more international horses than any other UK event. Who come from all over the UK and even the world, to contest the ultimate cross-country challenge set by Captain Mark Phillips. He also designs Burghley, Gatcombe and Lexington. This year offers a CIC3* class as well as the fourth leg of the Event Rider Masters Series (ERM) plus sections of CIC2*, a final Pony Trial for the European Championships and seven Novice sections. Even the Novice sections include the best of the best at that level and with the Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse classes staged on Thursday; this really is a chance to see the stars of tomorrow as well as today.

 

Don’t quote us on this but Barbury has often been used as an “unofficial trial” for major Championships like WEG and the Olympics and this year is expected to be the same. It’s not just the British riders under the spotlight either. With a significant number of foreign eventers based over here, don’t be surprised you are in the midst of team selectors from several nations.

 

The entries list has an eye-popping number of medal and 4* winning riders and the World number one and two- Horse Scout Advocate Oliver Townend and Gemma Tattersall. Then there is Andrew Nicholson, certainly the most successful Barbury rider of all time, having won the CIC3* consecutively, five times from 2012 to 2016. Other gifted Antipodeans in the line-up include Badminton babe Jonelle Price and her husband Tim plus Sir Mark Todd, last year’s Burghley winner, Chris Burton and Blyth Tait- who has also designed this year’s Novice course. The Brits include European Champion Nicola Wilson on her gold medal-winning mare Bulana, Tina Cook, William Fox-Pitt and Horse Scout advocate Emily King. Plus our very own CEO, Lucienne Elms is taking a rare day off to compete her 3* horse, Mistralou who she is aiming to take 4* next year.

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The Barbury nightlife is as good as any at an event. With parties on Friday and Saturday, you may find it hard to leave, especially after you have seen your eventing heroes pulling their moves on the dance floor. From personal experience, I can reassure you that in most cases- their talents lie elsewhere.

 

This year, changes have been made to the event layout, to give a better experience both for the riders and spectators. The final decision on this was made after the Organisers sought feedback from the riders on to improve the event. Which is very positive news, given that the Barbury Estate was sold to new owners last year and some were in doubt that the event would continue to run. The event is now “owned” by ERM, so we can be confident that Barbury Horse Trials, is here to stay.

 

Arena attractions include The JCB Champions’ Challenge on Saturday, all in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund. This is where top National Hunt Jockeys, including Champion Jockey, Richard Johnson and Sam Twiston-Davies, take on eventers Mark Todd, Jonelle and Tim Price and Lissa Green, in a relay show jumping competition.

 

Furthermore, there will be no need to feel guilty about dragging the family along. There is a “Kidzone” with a mini-zoo and real life meerkats; a dog show and dog agility masterclass with a World Champion agility competitor. Of course there is also tonnes of shopping and some great British nosh. So bring deep pockets and empty stomachs.

… But In the words of Baz Lurhmann, don’t forget to wear Sunscreen.

 

To buy tickets and for more information, visit www.barburyhorsetrials.co.uk

Written by Ellie Kelly

Cover Image by Adam Dale

 

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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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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.

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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