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Samantha L Clark

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Bonnes Nouvelles: Astier Nicolas Plans to Stay in England

Astier & Ben at Bramham 2012 on the verge of winning the U25 CCI3*.

Young French eventing superstar Astier Nicolas found it hard to articulate in English exactly why he wanted to come back to the UK to train and ride, but where there’s a will there’s a way. “To start with, I couldn’t really explain why, but I really wanted to find an excuse to ride in Britain again, and so I managed to get a scholarship to go to Hartpury and combined riding with finishing my studies there.  Since 2009 when I first came to England, I’ve always wanted to come back because I love the sport here and really enjoy being here.”

Astier has good reason to be inclined to return. He’s racked up some pretty impressive results so far: a win at Bramham in the U25 CCI3* in 2012 on Piaf De B’Neville (Ben), a third place in the same division this year on Quickly Du Buguet (Quicky) and a fourth in the Chatsworth CIC3* World Cup class on Jhakti Du Janlie (Jack) in 2011. Campaigning from Hartpury, he completed Luhmulen CCI4* on Jhakti Du Janlie to be the best French rider there and finished his year by coming sixth at Pau CCI4* on him too,  just to pick a few. As Nick Gauntlett —  at whose yard Astier has been based since March — pointed out, “It’s easy to forget how young he is. He’s a very good rider, and there’s still so much more to come.”

Upon getting his degree at Hartpury, the French selectors had seen enough to ask Astier to base himself and his horses at home to prepare for the London 2012 Olympics, and so it wasn’t until the spring of this year and by lucky accident that he found himself at Nick’s, on Badminton’s doorstep, when the yard he was supposed to move into in France in January was not ready. Although he originally arrived in Wiltshire with the intention of staying only to prep for his first Badminton attempt with Piaf De B’Neville (Ben) Astier succumbed to England’s charms, “Once again I fell in love with the eventing here, and so now I’ve decided to stay”

Astier and Ben finished in ninth place at Badminton and by all accounts enjoyed every minute. “I went to see the ground a few weeks before the event because we are so close, and I’d only ever been once before on foot. It was even better than I expected. I thought it was perfect. I think up until now my favorite event has been Bramham. It’s very friendly, it’s well organized and it’s a beautiful place. I don’t think it’s just because of the myth and the enormity, but I really think Badminton might be my favorite now. I felt amazing all week long. The organization was very good, and we were well taken care of. I felt home somehow. I had a wonderful week and forgot everything else. I just enjoyed doing my sport 150 percent.”

Piaf De B’Neville is a 10-year-old 100% Selle Francais gelding, “He shouldn’t be doing this, but he does!” Astier talent spotted him in his Pony Club and bought him off a little kid. He is positive that they have both improved on the flat since Badminton in May and would like to go back again next spring to better his ninth place. “Personally, I am not able to ride under 40 (in the dressage) easily, and that’s what you need nowadays. I’ve done it once at Pau last year, but I had a brilliant dressage horse, and Ben is quite stiff and long, so it’s not his best phase either.  He’s such a hard worker though, and so trainable that you can be optimistic that he’ll soon be much better. You couldn’t have a much easier horse than Ben. He’s very good to work with, and he always tries hard for you , he’s very laid back for the most part – — he’s a completely different ride to my little mare! ”

Astier gives Quickly a jump at home

Whether they end up at Badminton or not next year depends on the whim of the selectors, as Ben would be Astier’s top pick for the WEG in Normandy. “At the moment, I just keep him in very light work three or four times a week, and he spends every day in the field. It will depend on the French selectors because historically they are not fans of going to CCI4*s because they want to protect their horses.  Now, though, of course we don’t have the roads and tracks or steeplechase anymore, and Badminton has such good ground because they work on it so professionally.  It’s nearly always amazing, and I don’t think it will hurt him. It’s 10 minutes on good ground; it’s not too hilly. Rather than doing a bunch of  CIC3*s where you can sometimes get average ground and a lot of twists and turns, I don’t think Badminton would be more than this.”

Astier’s grandparents live about 20 minutes from the WEG venue in Normandy, and far from having the Championships on home ground adding pressure, Astier thinks it will be to his advantage. “It will be a help, I prefer that, I think I ride better at competitions than at home. Too much pressure is always hard to handle, especially on the last day if you’re in the first few, but a bit of competition pressure is good for me because it makes me better.”

The French team, too, he thinks, is on the upswing. “The French team has always been up and down, but now I think we’ve touched the very bottom. The period we’ve been through recently is one of the worst we’ve had, and I don’t think we can go much lower, so now we can work our way out of it because we have quite a bit of pride.”

After his top-10 finish at Badminton, Astier took “the little mare”, a 9-year-old Anglo Arabian called Quickly Du Buguet, to Bramham to contest the Under 25 CCI3*, where they placed third. They then went to Burghley more recently this fall, where Astier blames himself for taking the wrong line at the Rolex Combination at fence 18, although he relishes his ride until then, Quickly foot perfect and making nothing of the massive track.

Astier rides Ronaldo, his Brazilian superstar.

Astier and Quickly looked none worse for the wear in a jump school the afternoon I visited. Aptly named, Quickly is “a hot little thing!” Nimble and fiery, she takes on each fence as if she’s in a jump off, ears flattened against her head. “She never smiles, but she doesn’t want to touch a rail”. Dressage will probably always be  the biggest hurdle with her as relaxation is such a challenge while the jumping comes so easily to her that Astier  will pick and choose his competitions with her carefully to maximise her strengths, ” There are special events that are exceptions,  for example, look at Burghley this year.  If I’d finished on my dressage score of 50, I would have come fourth against some of the best in the world. But if you go to Badminton or the Europeans where you have more of a championship field, then you’re far, far away on a 50.”

In the beginning when Quickly was a 5-year-old, the jumping wasn’t straightforward either. “I didn’t want her! I tried her at my farrier’s, who is both her breeder and a friend, and on the approach to a jump –  maybe on the turn, maybe 50 meters away – she would stop and spin around. She just has to want it; now that she wants it she enjoys it. She goes where she wants, so I have to make her want it. I can’t tell her to do something she doesn’t want to do.”

The third horse in Astier’s sting of seven at the moment — and perhaps the most exciting — is another Anglo Arab, a 7-year-old striking dark bay by Yarland’s Summer Song. Spes Addit Or belongs to Marie-Christine Duroy, who famously competed his sire, and Astier first sat on him by chance in September 2011 when he spent a few weeks at Marie-Christine’s yard. “I loved him from the very first time I rode him; I just hacked him, but even at a walk I knew I was sitting on a superstar. The following April, Marie-Christine sent him to Astier to ride. “I call him Ronaldo because when I sat on him I thought he’d be one for Rio, he’s my Brazilian superstar, Ronaldo!”

Ronaldo just won an intermediate division at the South of England Horse Trials and next heads to Le Lion D’Angers. Not only will Marie-Christine and her husband enjoy seeing their horse compete on home soil, but from there Astier will go to Pau and then spend most of the winter at home with four horses, which will make his whole family very happy. Both his parents came to watch him at Badminton, and Astier, the youngest of five, admits they miss him but he will spend a large portion of the winter at home.

 

Astier is eagerly awaiting the imminent delivery of his new Sergio Grasso boots!

Astier’s mother is responsible for encouraging all her children to ride as youngsters, but Astier is the only one of them who has kept at it. “My mother loves horses, and she’s ridden as an amateur for a long time.  She made all five of us ride as children, and with me it stuck. I liked it enough to keep going. Occasionally, when the others come home now they will come and hack out sometimes and try to stay on Jack, who now that he’s retired is a bucking mule!”

There are stables converted from garden sheds at his parents’ home near Pau, and not only will Astier enjoy the shorter winter there, but economically it makes sense not to pay for stalls at Nick’s while his horses are not doing much. Like so many young riders, finances are a constant struggle. During this season, he lived in a room in Nick’s parents’ house. “So far, I’m above zero; I can eat, so I’d rather keep going like this and not be too greedy.  I don’t need to have masses of money. I’m young and don’t have a family — no children or wife —  so I can live with very little money for a while and wait for it to come. I probably need to sell a very good horse for a lot of money, but I’d prefer to have more horses and owners.”

Astier is supplied with beautiful kit from his main sponsor Hermes. “They are really, really good to me,” Astier said. “They work hard on tacking up my horses in the perfect way.” He is also supported by GPA helmets, Top Spec feeds and Sergio Grasso boots. He would love to put a syndicate together and secure the ride on Ronaldo, and he hopes to go horse shopping in France over the winter for some sale prospects, but is looking forward already to returning to Nick’s next spring.

“Here, it’s a profession. Every weekend you can do something that corresponds to your horse — step up a level, move down a level. You can adjust your program to every single horse in a nearly perfect way, and that’s what I love. The British Eventing organization is brilliant; it allows you to ride six a day for example, which I don’t have yet but hopefully it will come and that’s just not something you can do in France. That’s why I’ve decided to stay here; you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but my plan is to stay.”

The set up with Nick and Tiana Coudray, who’s also based there, works well. “We all work on our own but we speak, and I often ask Nick or Tiana to have a look  if I feel like I need a pair of fresh eyes.  Tiana is brilliant on the flat, so she’s helped me with Ben but especially with Quickly because being a girl she understands her better! She rode her before Burghley while I was at the Europeans and got on with her very well, and Nick helped me with Ben before the Europeans which was a great help. I’d rather jump alone, but for the flat it’s really good to have three pros in the same place. It helps if you’re a bit lost or if you need an idea; you have someone to ask.”

As for the nuts and bolts of training, Astier doesn’t see a huge difference between the two countries. “I would miss the uphill gallops in France, but the training would be similar.  You just need a school, a gallop, a walker and some fields; I would maybe have more help in France because I would have access to all the team training and staff.” In the short term, he’s looking forward to going out for a day’s hunting with the VWH Foxhounds at the beginning of November and has already enjoyed racing at Ascot this summer. “I’m getting fully into the British life!” and he admits to already being a big fan of the English pubs. It seems he might be here to stay! Vive la France, and Go Eventing in England!

Aoife Clark wins Fidelity Blenheim Palace CCI*** on Fenya’s Elegance

Aoife Clark jumped a clear round in the final phase to clinch the win of the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International CCI***. [Results]

 

 

Unsportingly, I watched with a sinking heart as Jean Teulere’s Matelot Du Grand Val never looked like touching a rail and also jumped clear to maintain his second place, despite finishing on the same score as Clark Montgomery and the lovely Loughan Glen.

Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen have put up stunning performances in each phase this weekend

http://youtu.be/4VMLCCdLyxk

Pavarotti jumped beautifully for one rail down and moved up to 10th

Although Meghan O’Donoghue looked disappointed leaving the arena with three down, she has had a great weekend and we most certainly have not seen the last of her, and she and Pirate finished 11th.

Ben looked a bit sticky this afternoon and had a surprising five rails down with Phillip Dutton, dropping them to 33rd place.

Cindy Rawson’s Mocharabuiee jumped beautifully this morning for an unlucky rail and finished in 46th place

Much more to come later from Blenheim, but congratulations to all! Go Eventing!

Much more to come later, but congratulations to all.

Meghan’s XC Recap

 

If there were even the tiniest doubts about why Meghan O’Donoghue and Pirate deserved the Mrs Jacqueline Mars travel grant that enabled them to travel over to England to compete in the Fidelity Blenheim Palace CCI*** this weekend, then surely her performance, both on and off her horse has firmly dispelled them all. Squeezing out every mark possible by riding coolly and accurately in the dressage, and then breezing around the cross country Saturday with flair Meghan has marked herself out a real American talent to be reckoned with in the future. We caught up briefly on Sunday morning to chat about her great ride yesterday before she got ready for that all-important final phase.

 

 

Many thanks to Meghan for chatting, and wishing her and all the North Americans of course, the very best of luck in the show-jumping later this afternoon. On a side note, it’s absolutely freezing and we’re expecting driving wind and rain to come, hopefully right after the final phase has finished! It’s sad to see all the US kit being packed up ready to get shipped back home, and for the squad to once again go their separate ways as soon as the competition is over. It’s been such a fun week and the morale in the US/Canada aisle has been terrific. Props to all the grooms, families and supporters who have done such a great job as always all week, and thank you for reading. Go Team North America at Blenheim!

Catching up with Team North America after XC at Blenheim

Team Rebecca’s Ben jumped beautifully around Eric Winter’s testing CCI*** track at Blenheim Palace Saturday, despite losing a shoe early on course. I caught up with his rider Phillip Dutton, and Phillip’s wife Evie, to chat about the day, the event in general, and about which event in the US might soon be taking on a royal profile!

Many thanks to Phillip and Evie for chatting, and a big shout-out to Kaitlin Spurlock too who has been looking after Ben with such TLC and attention to detail all the while handling her own nerves too!

One of the big bonuses of this weekend for me has been getting to know UK based American riders Cindy Rawson and Liz Halliday a little better. Cindy has called England her home for a while now, and we talked about the differences between eventing here and in the US, and she also told me a little more about her lovely horse George, and the origin of the unpronounceable show name!

 

 

Cindy campaigns four horses, from novice up to advanced level, teaches, and manages to combine all this with a second job as violinist in a busy string quartet. I look forward to hopefully spending some more time with Cindy and meeting her other horses too.

 

Meanwhile it’s all smiles in Camp Canada too – I know, unbelievable! I was lucky enough to catch up with Jessie Phoenix and Amanda,  and Don and Francine Good who own Pavarotti, and the Canadian secret weapon (all will be revealed!) before they left for dinner on Saturday.

 

Thanks you so much to everyone for stopping to chat, and congratulations to all. I’m delighted to be able to report that all the North American combinations breezed through the Final Horse Inspection, looking none the worse for wear at all after Saturday’s exertions and beautifully turned out (photos to follow shortly) . More to come from the show-jumping of course, and we’ll catch up Meghan O’Donoghue and hopefully Liz Halliday after her cross country. Thanks for visiting Eventing Nation and Go the Fidelity Blenheim International Horse Trials!

North American horses pass Blenheim Final Horse Inspection

What a great way to start the Sunday morning with a report of the all the North American horses breezing through the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials CCI*** Final Horse Inspection, and looking very stylish to boot.  Although it was freezing we were all happy to see the sun, but inevitably it was to be short-lived as by 10:30 the forecast rain and wind descended on Blenheim. The first group has show-jumped already as I write this, and Cindy Rawson rode a classy round on Mocharabuiee for an unlucky rail, but what an exciting horse for the future.

Cindy Rawson was first to trot up for the USA

Jules Stiller and Sintra BK who looked remarkably fresh!

Team Rebecca’s Ben practically floated down the jog strip

Pavarotti and Jessie Phoenix looked super

Pirate and Megan O’Donoghue, so impressive yesterday and looking great this morning

Lying in third place on the same score as 2nd placed Jean Teulere and 1.5 penalties off the leading score, Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen, immaculate as always.  I’m off to find Megan for a quick recap of yesterday’s action, and we’ll be back later with much more from the show-jumping this afternoon. Thanks for reading and Go Team USA at Blenheim Palace!

Jonelle Richards’ Blenheim CCI*** Recap

Jonelle Richards flew round the 3* course Saturday on the pretty, eye-catching and  very feminine Faerie Dianimo who skipped across the top of the ground and made it look quite simple. After her round Jonelle talked to Rupert Bell about her round on this lovely, young mare, “I’m not one to set out without the clock in my mind but I did have to remind myself this time round that she is just an eight year old and a good trip was the priority, and I’m not too disappointed with the time faults. I thought the course walked quite nice, but watching the first lot go there were some very good horses and riders that were caught out and I think it was widespread. You had to be on your guard the entire way round, we’ve seen a few  make a mistake three from home and I think Eric was quite clever in finding a way to slow the horses down on the way home, which is never ideal!  She’s a cracking little jumper hence why we were confident bringing her here this week despite her age and I think she’ll come out Sunday and give the show-jumping her best shot.” Jonelle also told Rupert that her illustrious team mates, Andrew, Mark, Jock set the bar pretty high and it’s inspiring for her to strive to command a position alongside them and be worthy of that. On her grey mare here this weekend she shared, “She’s only a tiny little thing, she’s very petite and she thinks she’s a bit more of a princess than anyone else but that sort of attitude and determination has got her a long way, and it’s certainly helped her today.”

Blenheim CCI*** XC Continued

With Eric Winter’s CCI*** course really sorting out the men from the boys it was up to Irish Olympican Aoife Clark to storm round on the lovely chestnut mare Fenya’s Elegance, adding just 4 time penalties to her 2nd placed dressage score and taking the overnight lead.   Surprisingly this is the first time Aoife has led a three star after cross country: “With no-one making the time today, I’m not disappointed at all with four time faults, that was nothing really for her, it’s the first big stamina test she’s done. She just kept picking up for me, and gained in confidence as she went round.  She has been brilliant cross country, she’s a super jumper, very powerful and I really believe in her.”

Aoife decided to enter her in this CCI*** division instead of the CIC*** for young horses after an 8th place finish at the Gatcombe British Open Championships and says being in the lead going into the final phase hopefully won’t affect her tomorrow, “I’m not going to think about it! I’ve just got to ride her as I always do, and I usually find the nerves go away as soon as I get on.  She looks great now and you’ve just got to hope that she comes out well in the morning and does her best.”

After an annoying abscess kept her London horse, the much-coveted Master Crusoe out of the European Championships a couple of weeks ago, Aoife admitted that should it happen, the win here at Blenheim would be a welcome consolation prize. “It’s a lovely position to be in, she’s a fantastic mare and I love how she’s come on this year and it would be great to finish with that sort of a result but either way, whatever she does tomorrow I’m just delighted with her, she’s only nine and she tried her heart out out there and was just brilliant for me.  (Check the leaderboard here).

This is Aoife’s first season riding Fenya’s Elegance and she didn’t think going late in the day was an advantage at all, “I was aware that some fences were causing trouble but generally I rode it as I walked it.  It did ride tough, it was a testing track and the bit of rain certainly made it a little bit holding and it was tiring the horses out.”

There was only one clear within the time all day and  and it moved Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul all the way from 22nd after the dressage to fourth place currently.  There were 33 clear rounds (roughly a third of the field) , while about 25 combinations were either eliminated or retired. Jean Teulere was clear, and heartbreakingly 1 second faster than Clark Montgomery on Loughan Glen, so although they finish on the same score, Jean takes 2nd place and Clark will lie 3rd going into the show-jumping.

Jean Teulere, in his best English (with that French accent!) agreed that he thought the course was tough, and added that although his horse Matelot Du Grand Val went well through all the direct routes he was quite surprised by how steep the drop was after the influential brush corners at 5.  The calendar and circumstances meant that Jean was dropping Matelot du Grand Val down a level, nothing to do with the horse; he was thinking about taking him to Burghley but he’d ridden at Haras Du Pins so elected to bring him here instead. Jean hopes that this horse will be a strong contender for the WEG in Normandy next year because he’s four star qualified and has made such huge progress in his dressage.

Clark talked about his round afterwards, “I was told to go out there and go quick in the beginning as it was quite hard to make up the time in the end, and so that’s how I approached the ride. It definitely wasn’t the smoothest round I’ve ever had, you definitely had to fight for it all the way round, but the horse has a ton of heart and really tried the whole way.  There were several ‘Oh Crap’ moments but he responded when it got a little hairy so that’s all you can ask.

I think the main thing about being over here in the UK since January is that you’re competing against these guys all the time and you know what to expect from them. It’s nerve-wracking going into the show-jumping at a big three day but it’s always better to be sitting in my position where I have everything to gain than the one that has everything to lose.  He is a good show-jumper –  he can have a rail like any horse,  he looks good after cross country but you never know how they’re going to wake up in the morning.  If he were to win here it would be icing on the cake after the question marks we’ve had about his staying power since the wind problems, but for me, just from the way he went round today it’s already been a massively successful year.”

Megan O’Donoghue and Pirate totally rocked it around the course, getting the job done with style. I haven’t managed to catch up with her yet but will be going to find her as soon as I’ve typed this up.

Jessie Phoenix also looked wonderful on Pavarotti, and explained to Rupert Bell that her 17 time penalties were just her riding to orders, and that her horse is definitely one to look out for in the future, “This was only his first CCI*** and he’s only done three Advanced leading up to this and I could not have been happier with the maturity he showed out on that course.  He was super-rideable, he jumped everything so well, he was amazing.  This track is riding hard, no-one has made the time (yet!), there’s been a ton of cross-country faults and Clayton told us just before we left the box to get a clear round over time; it’s the most rideable he’s ever felt cross country, he felt amazing.

“Always when you cross the finish line you’re thinking of places you should have gone faster but it’s his first 3* and there’s a lot of terrain here and I’m really happy with how he finished, he looks great. He’s an incredible show-jumper, and I can’t say enough good things about this horse – he’s so careful and he truly is a competitor, he knows the difference between all three days and I definitely have a lot of confidence sitting on Pavarotti going into the show-jumping. Leading up the WEG next year I’m really happy with the maturity he’s shown today.”

Dressage leaders Sarah Bullimore and Lily Corinne used up a life at the double of tables at 4, another one in the arena, above, and finally ran out of luck at the Dew Pond, picking up 20 penalties at the skinny brush coming out.

Neither was it a good day for Jules Stiller, above on Sintra BK, who ended up retiring on her second ride Pandora X. Similarly William Fox-Pitt retired his second ride Running Order after he stopped twice at the B element of 12, the big brush drop into the second lake crossing, and William had been going great guns on his first ride Before Time until they fell at the houses three from home, “The course rode well until I fell off! It was a real shame because he was giving me a good ride, he was coping well, the footing was good. I was aware that it wasn’t ideal for him; I knew that would be a very short distance for the horses, I tried to warn him that it was short but he ignored it and clobbered it! I didn’t get away with it which was disappointing.”

William is currently leading the CIC*** for 8 and 9 year olds with Fernhill Pimms, but his third placed horse in that division Freddie Mac was eliminated after the show-jumping because of some elastic in the straps of his hind boots, which of course in no way gave him any advantage but technically are illegal. Sam Griffiths also fell foul of the same rule, but after he and William had gone, the ground jury started to check boots before rounds,  preventing further eliminations.

Nicola Wilson and Beltane Queen had a lovely round to finish clear with some time. The Final Horse Inspection  is at an ungodly 7:30am Sunday morning, but before I rush off to talk to the US riders for you it’s important to mention how fantastic the organisation has been here at Blenheim these last few days. Not just in the press tent where we’ve been treated like royalty – food, drinks, help with anything we need, fast results, fantastic internet (and thank you for turning a blind eye to Leo!) but also every volunteer has been friendly and helpful, everything has run on time, it’s an absolute pleasure and a privilege to be here reporting for you. Thank you as always for stopping by Eventing Nation and thank you to the incomparable Fidelity Blenheim International Horse Trials – Go  Eventing!

Quick Blenheim CCI*** Update

Phillip Dutton and Ben posted a solid clear round with 27.2 time faults. Phillip spoke to Rupert Bell on completing and you can listen to his interview here. Despite losing a shoe early on, Phillip said Ben jumped well and never stopped trying the entire trip, and is delighted with the way he coped with the big track. “The ground is great, it’s good and safe, the take-offs for all the jumps are good but obviously it’s a little bit holding when you’re galloping in between the fences.  This horse is coming off an injury last year and I was a little unsure how much I’d have left at about the 8 minute mark so in hindsight I probably set off a little bit too quiet but he got home safe and healthy, and he’ll be  better for it the next time.  It’s a good track, you’ve got to work the whole way round and there isn’t a single place where you can just relax and take it easy.”

When asked about US team strategy here at Blenheim, Phillip replied wryly, “The team process is we need to get better! Obviously England is the heart of eventing and I think we need to get over here as often as we can and strive to improve and be more competitive, and Blenheim’s a great place to do that.”  On Ben, “He’s a full warmblood so he’s not the fastest horse I’ve ever ridden but he’s very good on the flat and a he’s good jumper so we’ll see.  He came into the sport quite late, this is only his third three day so we’re still trying to get that fitness base and getting him to understand the game.”

 

Problems have been spread out all over the course but the two brush corners at 5A and B have definitely been influential. First to go for the USA, Jules Stiller was having a great go on Sintra BK but picked up a 20 two fences from home.  Jessie Phoenix looked to be having a super ride on Pavarotti everywhere we saw them, and came home clear with about 17 time penalties.

Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen looked fabulous everywhere we saw them, and Jess told me Glen pulled up super. They moved into a brief lead with the fastest time of the day at that point, but sadly it was short-lived; Jean Teulere rode Matelot Du Grand Val a few horses later and although they both finish the day on the same score Jean Teulere was 0.4 faster and therefore closer to the optimum time and thus move into first place overnight so far. Much more from Clark later, and of course the other American riders, but rushing off to catch Megan who goes shortly. Best of luck to Team USA at the Fidelity Blenheim International Horse Trials – Go Eventing!

 

Catching up with Meghan O’Donoghue at Blenheim Palace CCI3*

Meghan O’Donogue has completed her dressage test at the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials CCI***on Pirate, the OTTB she’s brought on herself since a youngster, and now looks forward to the cross country on Saturday. I caught up with her walking the course to chat about her thoughts on the course, and what it feels like to ride on a US squad internationally.

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Wishing Meghan and Pirate a safe and speedy trip on Saturday, and looking forward to watching them eat up the course! Go Megan and Pirate at the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials!

Friday morning dressage scores shake up the Blenheim CCI3* leaderboard

Congratulations to Meghan O’Donoghue who rode an accurate test on Pirate with no mistakes for a respectable score of 52.3. Meghan kept him going forwards, used her corners really well and didn’t give any marks away, and should be very proud of their performance. I spoke to her very briefly on her way back to the barn and will catch up with her properly later, but she told me she was pleased with Pirate, that he had really tried hard and it’s improving all the time. The grass arena, she said, takes a bit away from him and it’s taken some getting used to after riding on footing for so long. Meghan also shared that compared to Rolex Kentucky in the Spring, she actually felt a bit more nervous here at Blenheim as there is so much more expectation, wanting to represent her country well and to make sure that the grant that enabled her to come here has been a good investment. Plus, she added, Rolex feels like home to her whereas this is a big stage on which to make her international debut.

Meghan smiled and said she was relieved that it was over, and now she starts preparing for the next phase. Best of luck to both of them of course, and congratulations on a job well done so far. We’ll have a longer chat with Meghan later.

The leaderboard has seen quite a few changes this morning. Sarah Bullimore’s very fancy chestnut mare Lilly Corinne was eye-catching in the warm-up and obviously delivered on that promise ( I only saw glimpses unfortunately) as they moved into the lead with the only score in the 30s so far, 38.9

William Fox-Pitt and Running Order moved into fourth place at the morning break with a smooth, polished test for a score of 44. Running Order had his ears pricked the entire time and looked very relaxed and they executed each movement with deadly accuracy and precision.

Nick Gauntlett seems to have a very nice horse in Grand Manoeuvre, and they move into 6th place currently on a score of 45.8. Running back out in the rain which has started again to catch Cindy Rawson for the USA. Go the Fidelity Blenheim International Horse Trials!

Clark and Glen Lead Blenheim CCI3* Day 1 Dressage

Clark Montgomery laid down the gauntlet Thursday at Blenheim Palace with a beautiful, accurate and flowing test to take the Day 1 dressage lead. Ever the perfectionist, he said afterwards that there were a couple of things that could have been improved, but that he hopes it will be good enough to keep the lead throughout tomorrow, and if not he hopes it will be close enough. We sat down shortly after his test to chat.

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Although he admitted that next year is a long time away when you’re discussing horses, the tentative plan would be for Glen to prove himself at CCI4* level to the U.S. team and that they’d be aiming to do that in the spring with an eye, naturally, on the WEG in Normandy.

I was sorry not to see Jean Teulere’s test on Matelot Du Grand Val, but it moved him up into second place; if I remember rightly, I think this horse did Badminton a couple of years ago. It’s a tall, rangy bay and I remember liking it then, and they also finished 16th at Burghley last year.

EN guest blogger Charlotte Agnew warming up Out of Africa under Yogi Breisner's watchful eye.

EN guest blogger Charlotte Agnew is sitting in third place after the first day of dressage at the Fidelity Blenheim Palace CCI3*, which seems like a splendid way to celebrate a birthday! Many Happy Returns, Charlotte! We chatted briefly at the end of the day to talk about the test and future plans for “Zulu.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6reV0_f7T0

For everybody who’s been enjoying Charlotte’s blog (and who doesn’t?!), I’m delighted to be able to report that she does have plans to visit the U.S. in the not too distant future to teach clinics — watch this space! Charlotte added that it made her day this year when Hawley Bennett sent her a good luck tweet before Badminton — adorable!

Jessie Phoenix, as reported already, rode a fabulous test on Pavarotti and I caught up with her later to ask her about it in a bit more detail.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlf5aevTi3s

Just before Jessie and I spoke, I caught Amanda face-timing with one of the girls back home, and she was showing live pictures of A Little Romance, aka Blue Eyes, Pavarotti’s girlfriend, to him on her phone. Jessie flies back to Canada on Monday, and Amanda and “Rotti” fly back next Friday. The U.S.-based American horses meanwhile drive back to Lieges on Tuesday and then fly back direct to Newark on Wednesday. It’s been a great day for the North Americans at Blenheim; not only did they all perform super tests but the camaraderie and team spirit is also high. David did a course walk at lunchtime with the majority of the U.S. riders, and we’re all quietly optimistic about the next few days. Again, I’m sorry that I can’t see everything as I feel as if I’m missing out on a lot, but a quick shout out to Liz Halliday who did a lovely test on her eye-catching young grey horse HHS Cooley to lie 12th in the  CIC3* for 8- and 9-year-olds.

Liz Halliday-Sharp on HHS Cooley

Tomorrow we look forward to tests from Meghan O’Donoghue and Cindy Rawson for the U.S., as well as Jules Stiller on her second horse, Pandora X. Also to look out for — Andrew Nicholson, William Fox-Pitt on Running Order, Mark Todd, Nicola Wilson, Pippa Funnell, Oliver Townend; the list goes on and on. Thanks as always for visiting Eventing Nation, and we’ll be back with lots more tomorrow. Until then, Go North Americans at the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials!

Jessie Phoenix and Pavarotti off to a great start at Blenheim

Jessie Phoenix rode Don Good’s Pavarotti perfectly to keep him just under the boil, and produce a test good enough to score 48.1 which currently has her sitting in 4th place. Thanks to Rupert Bell of Lloyd-Bell productions for talking to her immediately after, you can listen to the interview here, but Jessie said that she was rightfully thrilled with Rotti, “I was really happy with him, I think he handled the atmosphere really well, he was really good in the test; other than his first extended trot where he got a little unbalanced I couldn’t be happier with his performance today.” He slightly broke at the end of his first extended trot, and dove at the changes a bit, but apart from that he looked very impressive, although Jessie handled him just right.

Possibly even more impressive in the warm-up, Pavarotti is an exciting star for the future. Jessie talked to Rupert about competing at the Test Event recently on A Little Romance, “Normandy is beautiful, it’s picturesque, it has beautiful scenery and rolling hills. I thought they did a really good job with the footing in all three phases, the people were really happy and they couldn’t do enough for us, and I’m really glad that I got to go and experience that leading up to the World Equestrian Games next year.”

Clayton and Amanda watch nervously before Jessie went into the arena. Afterwards Jessie told Rupert what she thinks about the course, and the plan for Saturday, “The cross country course looks beautiful, it’s extremely well-designed, beautifully presented and I can’t wait to get Pavarotti out there on Saturday. We’d love to finish on our dressage score, Pavarotti is a very, very good jumping horse, we’ve had a lot of good practices leading up to this event and I’m really looking forward to getting out there and try to make time on Saturday.” No surprises there then! I’m rushing off to catch Clark, but hope to bring you lots more from the North American riders later, and of course your dressage wrap-up. Go the Fidelity Blenheim International Horse Trials.

Team Rebecca’s Ben and Phillip Dutton bring their best to Blenheim

Phillip Dutton’s vast experience showed this morning when he got the absolute best out of Team Rebecca’s stunning mover Ben to score 48.3, good enough for third place at the morning coffee break, behind Kai Ruder on Gryffindor and Rodney Powell on Happy Go Lucky who are currently tied for the lead on 46.9.  (Catch up on live scores here) Ben has such a lovely way of going, very active but with a super, consistent rhythm and apart from slipping on one hind leg when he went to push off from the rein back there were really no mistakes. The changes were spot on, the canter work on the whole was great and his trot work was lovely to watch also. He looked soft and fairly relaxed throughout, and the exciting thing is there’s probably still some improvement to come.

Jules Stiller has a lovely horse in Sintra BK, and rode her tactfully to score 64.2. There were moments of tension in the trot, and some anticipation of the changes in the canter which Jules handled well – this looks to be an exciting addition to her string.

William Fox-Pitt was the first to go in the CCI*** division this morning and Before Time never really looked settled; the trot work was better than the canter where he looked to struggle with the changes, and then switched  leads in the second counter canter. William will ride Running Order on Friday morning.  Lucy Wiegesma was the guinea pig for the CCI*** division on her Rolex Kentucky 2012 ride Grannvetka Prince, and it was lovely to see Laura Collett perform the CIC*** test ride on her gorgeous mare Allora. Much more from Blenheim to come, including of course Jessie Phoenix and Clark Montgomery’s dressage this afternoon.  Go the USA and Canada at the Fidelity Blenheim International Horse Trials!

 

Blenheim CCI*** First Horse Inspection

Raincoats were de rigeur at the First Horse Inspection at the Fidelity Blenheim International Horse Trials CCI*** Wednesday afternoon, as a persistent drizzle set in around lunchtime.  It didn’t deter the North American contingent however, who all passed although Cindy Rawson had a nervous moment when Mocharabuiee was sent to the holding box, and then passed upon re-inspection.  Two others were sent to the holding box too – Polly Jackson’s Papillon who was accepted upon re-inspection, and Jane Emma Riley’s Mystic Promise who was accepted without having to trot again.  Coral Keen’s Wellshead Fare Opposition had to trot twice before passing, and Tom Rowland (Hennessy Cormac) and Rodney Powell (Happy Go Lucky) both had to wait anxiously while the Ground Jury deliberated before accepting them. When all was said and done every horse presented goes forward to the Dressage Phase which begins tomorrow at 9:30am British time with William Fox-Pitt and before time. Jules Stiller will be the first of the US riders to enter the arena at 9:52 on her first horse Sintra BK, and Phillip Dutton rides Team Rebecca’s Ben at 10:30am.

Phillip Dutton and Team Rebecca’s Ben representing TPF and the USA

Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen

Cindy Rawson and Mocharabuiee

Meghan O’Donoghue and Pirate trot up – my personal pick for best dressed, although Uptown Eventing are doing the official honours! Help choose the winner from ten finalists on the Blenheim facebook page.

Jules Stiller and Sintra BK

Alex Peternell’s AP Uprising was causing an uproar in the warm-up field, rearing, snorting and bucking, but behaved beautifully in front of the Ground Jury.

Your Blenheim CCI*** Ground Jury from right to left – Mr Eric Lieby (President), Mr Nick Burton and Ms Lindsay Jenkins

I’m so pleased I’ll get to see Barry’s Best (19 years young and the veteran of so many clears around Badminton xc) in person again this weekend with Rosie Thomas

Veterinary delegate Bob Baskerville

and for Japan!

Running Order looks super with William Fox-Pitt, and I chatted to his groom later at ring familiarisation who told me he’s been going really well at home too.

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Your Blenheim CCI*** XC Course Photos

Eric Winter’s Fidelity Blenheim International CCI*** course, beautifully built by David Evans and his team, is a real test – big with lots of accuracy questions and a couple of steep hills amongst the rolling terrain the riders that jump clear round here on Saturday can rest assured that they’re sitting on some pretty special horses for the future.  US Team Coach David O’Connor has yet to walk the course but agreed that the cross country here has a well-eaned reputation for being very strong, “They’ve upped the game from the Blenheim that we had here five or six years ago and that’s why we’ve really brought more experienced horses than first-timers”

Clark Montgomery working Loughan Glen, 5th here in 2011

Speaking of which, the North American horses and riders are all looking super – they all passed the First Horse Inspection, albeit not without a nervous moment when Cindy Rawson’s Mocharabuiee was sent to the holding box, but was accepted on re-inspection. Photos and full report to come later.

It’s hard to tell from this picture, but the ground line is on the lip of a ditch which gradually gets wider and wider the further along to the right that you go. Eric Winter seems to be fond of these offset ground lines, another little quirk to test accuracy.

This is a massive brush corner, off a right-handed turn and heading down the steep hill to the first long water crossing

After galloping through the lake, then up a hill, the course winds through woodland, and on coming back out of the trees, this coffin at 6 also comes off a turn.

The C element also features Eric’s trademark offset ground line

Fences 8 and 9 seen on approach

Fence 8 close up

Both elements of 9 are on their own little mounds; left hand corner to right hand corner

The jumps are absolute works of art

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The North Americans have arrived at Blenheim

Meghan O’Donoghue takes Pirate out for a light school around the stunning grounds of Blenheim Palace.

Pirate (with Max Corcoran) and Team Rebecca’s Ben (with Kaitlin Spurlock) flew to Lieges and arrived in England on Saturday.  Meghan and Phillip Dutton flew out a day later, and David O’Connor joined them straight from Burghley on Sunday night to give them a school Monday and Tuesday before they left for Woodstock, Oxfordshire.  By all accounts they are both going extremely well, and they certainly look it.  David was working with Liz Halliday today, and will be on site tomorrow.  On the back of Burghley it’s so easy to take these amazing venues in England for granted, but Blenheim really is quite special, and the horse trials team have been working tirelessly to make it even more fabulous. They have a very cool website and active facebook page, definitely worth bookmarking for the week. The cross country is constantly being watered, there is ample signage, wonderful decorations and from what I can see of the course it looks incredibly impressive – both from the presentation point of view, and from scale of difficulty.

Also arriving this afternoon was Jessie Phoenix and her groom Amanda with Pavarotti from Maizey Manor; Jessie told me she thinks Blenheim might be her favourite event of all, and Amanda reminisced that when she came here in 2009 with Exponential and Exploring it was the first time she’d groomed at an FEI event, and the first time she’d ever been on a plane! How times have changed, she can add Burghley and the Olympics to countless other trips since!  Clark and Jess Montgomery came slightly later having stopped to gallop at Maizey en route; Loughan Glen looks absolutely fantastic and walked in to the stables as if he owned the entire estate, and I’m looking forward to seeing their Badminton horse Universe (Buzz) working here this week as he continues to prep for Pau CCI**** and takes advantage of David’s presence all week.  As I was leaving later this evening I did see Cindy Rawson’s lorry, but as yet no sign of Jules Stiller.

The briefing is at 1pm tomorrow and the First Horse Inspection at 4pm.  There is a great atmosphere in the North American barn aisle, and thanks to Max’s experience and organisation it was set up quickly and efficiently, and I presume thanks to Land Rover the entire squad, grooms included, have been kitted out in very nice USA/USEF Ariat coats (just as well as it’s decidedly chilly!).  The entire operation is running like a well-oiled machine so far, and the horses that just shipped over seem to be loving England – long may it last! I’ll be back with lots more from Camp Camerica (as Jessie suggested we name it!)  Thanks for visiting EN, and Go the Fidelity Blenheim International Horse Trials.

 

Kaitlin Spurlock and Team Rebecca’s Ben on arrival at the Fidelity Blenheim International Horse Trials

 

Michael Pollard at Richland

Michael Pollard rode two supremely classy cross country rounds today in the CIC*** at Richland to finish in second and sixth places with Mensa and Ballingowan Pizazz, respectively. We caught up afterwards at the barns to talk about his rides and what the plans are next, plus I discovered his secret weapon; Max Corcoran is helping him out this weekend — I knew it!  All joking aside — congratulations to the entire team on a fantastic weekend so far, and we’re looking forward to an exciting fall with all his horses.

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Many thanks to Michael for chatting and apologies to Nathalie for keeping her waiting. Yes, Michael is pulled in a hundred different directions at any one time! Go Pollard Eventing Team, and Go Eventing!

Jon Holling at Richland CIC3*

Jon Holling brought two horses new to the level this year to contest the Richland Park CIC*** and must surely be thrilled with their performances. Both Meghan Richey and Chuck McGrath’s Proper Timing and Team Rebecca’s Zatopek B (pictured above) jumped clear around Ian Stark’s demanding track and will now be headed to the AECs in Texas to try and take home a portion of the $40,000 purse on offer. I caught up with him after the competition had wrapped up to ask him about his rides, the summers in Florida and where they’re headed this Fall.

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Many thanks to Jon for chatting, and I’m wishing the Holling Eventing Team safe travels as they begin the journey home and then prepare again for a few more long hauls. Best of luck at the AECs, and Go Eventing!

Two Champions + One Prize = Plantation Field Bareback Puissance Smackdown!

Caroline Martin and Quantum Solace cleared the massive wall at Plantation Field last year to win the 2012 Bareback Puissance title, and earlier this summer they added North American Young Rider Champions to their impressive list of achievements. I caught up with both Caroline and the winner of the previous year’s Bareback Puissance at Plantation, Jennie Brannigan, to find out their plans for the event this year, and of course to hear about their other horses and any eventing they might be thinking of fitting in too!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8KCHDNWR5U

Buck Davidson and No More Rocks in the Richland CIC3*. Caroline's ride in a few weeks time?

Meanwhile, just a few miles down the road from Buck’s place in Pennsylvania, Jennie Brannigan has hatched a cunning plan to bring the Plantation Field Bareback Puissance Trophy back home to True Prospect Farm by merging her worlds of Olympic eventing, show jumping and Thoroughbred racing. I caught up with her after walking the Richland cross country to explain more.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuTbRcKv5zo

Willie McCarthy recently rode I Bella for the first time, and Jennie shared this video with us:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1eel8CrLp4

Who’s your money on, EN? The BJD team, TPF, or will an outsider swoop in and upset the odds? Dom Schramm gave Caroline a good run for her money last year — perhaps he has something up his sleeve? All tips gladly welcomed, and we look forward to a very exciting and entertaining competition. Go Richland, Plantation and sharing the love across all the disciplines! Go Eventing!

Notes from the Richland CIC*** Show Jumping

Boyd Martin and Trading Aces jump into the lead of the CIC3* at Richland.

As Jenni reported earlier, Marc Donovan’s show jumping track claimed its fair share of scalps Friday afternoon at Richland, but although Marc conceded that the slightly undulating grass ring might account for some of the trouble, he told me that he was happy with how it was riding overall and that his course is on par with the whole event. “The faults have been scattered throughout the course,” Marc said. “I think it’s been fair. Richland is considered a destination event, and it has a strong field. In my opinion the cross country course is very challenging and fair, and the show jumping has to match that.”

Some horses this afternoon were obviously very fresh, perhaps not used to jumping before the cross country, and I wondered if Marc took this into account while he was designing the track. “Not really,” Marc said. “I think that the course should always meet the standard and be the correct height, so that doesn’t really factor into my plan. I always try to build something that will be challenging but fair; some horses are better jumping before cross country and some are actually better after, so on any day some people are going to have an advantage.”

I asked Marc if there was a particular type of horse or rider that was suited to his course. “I think the riders that have the most success have a really good sense of pace and are going forward without speeding up,” Marc said. “Michael Pollard’s trip on Ballingowan Pizazz (pictured above, and click here to see the video) was just excellent because the horse was always in front of his leg but never rushed, and it was consistent. He would come through the turn forward, not fast, and that’s the key.”

Above, Diana Burnett and Shigatzi clear fence 3, which was responsible for quite a lot of trouble this afternoon, as Marc explained. “It’s just an oxer off the turn, but it is a complete turn,” he said. “It’s more than 90 degrees, so I think that makes it more difficult, but there’s plenty of room there.”

Jolie Wentworth and GoodKnight posted the first clear round of the day.

Michael Pollard rode two beautiful rounds to add nothing to his dressage scores, above on Pau-bound Mensa.

Phillip Dutton and Ben, leaders after the dressage, slipped a place to 2nd overnight with one rail down.

Will Faudree and Andromaque move up a spot into 5th place with just one time penalty.

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Catching Up with Ryan Wood at Richland

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Thank you so much to Ryan Wood for stopping to chat at the end of a long, busy day, and on the eve of cross country day at Richland. Ryan is back in the saddle since breaking his collarbone just before Bromont, and has brought his string of lovely, young horses up to Michigan as part of his fall campaign heading to Fair Hill. Since leaving Australia, Ryan told me he visited Paul Tapner in England, but ultimately decided to base himself in America, in no small part due to Phillip Dutton’s support and Boyd Martin’s encouragement. It would seem that it was a sensible choice, as so far so good horse wise, business wise, definitely girlfriend-wise, and we’d like to extend him a huge EN congratulations on buying a house last week! Go Woodstock Eventing and Go Ryan Wood!

Catching up with Jimmie Schramm at Richland

Jimmie Schramm is contesting her first CIC*** this weekend at Richland and has had a good start so far, absolutely nailing the tricky show jumping course and posting a fabulous clear within the time on her horse Bellamy. We caught up early Friday morning to chat about moving up the levels and completing their first series of Evention.

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Wishing Jimmie and, of course, her husband Dom terrific rounds on cross country, and thanks so much for chatting. Go Schramm Equestrian and Go Eventing!

The British Open at Gatcombe Park – The Festival of British Eventing

Jock Paget and Clifton Lush are your 2013 British Open Champions. Owned by Clifton Eventing founder Frances Stead and Lucy Allison, this NZ chestnut OTTB added just four  cross country time penalties to his winning dressage score to seal the deal. (All scores available here)  The top 20 going xc in reverse order of merit always makes for a nail-biting afternoon for the spectators, and definitely amps up the excitment to the very last second, but until Jock explained the way his ride played out I’d never really thought about how strategic the competitors have to be as well, “When I left the start box I knew that I had eight seconds to (second placed) Andrew (Nicholson) and about fifteen to (third placed) Oliver (Townend), and because I only had eight to Andrew I planned to go inside the time because I thought it was too close to try and be clever. I had my minutes and at that point I was going to try and go inside the time. I was on the time at the second and third minute and then by the time I got to the fourth minute still on time I heard that Andrew was walking home.  I knew now that I had fifteen seconds so I just stopped taking risks; I’d planned to take one less stride at the roll top to the skinny, and I’d planned to really knife those two fences before the water but once I knew I had fifteen seconds I just rode them safely and cruised home.”

Frances saw Clifton Lush’s potential as a very green five year old and bought him after seeing him on video, “He was doing some flatwork in a totally muddy paddock but I liked his paces and then they popped him over a few jumps and I thought he looked athletic, and I liked the type. I thought there was enough there naturally to work with and I thought he’d be really nice.” Fast forward nine years to this weekend where he emphatically stepped out of his stablemate, Badminton winner Clifton Promise’s shadow, an important win for both him and his rider, Jock, “To me it actually means a lot because I really wanted this horse to win something big. When I first came over here (my coach) Erik Duvander said that this is one you want to win, this is a big one.  When I saw the draw for Lush this weekend I got excited because I know he’s capable, but between him and Promise I tend to put Promise first and of course he’s exceptional but I think Lush has been right there next to him and deserves a bit more credit, he’s been knocking on the door for a long time and he deserved a big win, he’s got such a big heart and never stops trying.” During those nine years Lush has also overcome a freak accident in the paddock which left him with broken withers, and a long and trying convalescence, as Frances explained, “He was out in the paddock and there was a storm that night, but normally he’s very good in the paddock. The next morning they found him standing there with a very dirty rug and they didn’t know what had happened to him; the vet said he must have spooked, fallen right over and probably hit it on something. It was easy to diagnose because he was two inches shorter! He’s now 16hh, not 16.2! If you see him without tack or a rug on his shoulder blades are in the right place because they weren’t hurt but there’s nothing coming up in between; with a saddle on you don’t notice it. He was such a good boy because he had to do three months in the cross ties – he was either being led to hand-graze or he was tied up to prevent him from lying down. After that he did three months of box rest and hand-walking, and then a further four months of gradually upgrading to a larger paddock.”

 

Here’s a picture Jenni Autry took of Clifton Lush with Jock at Badminton (he was 14th there this Spring), and you can see what Frances is talking about.

Clifton Lush and Clifton Promise (and Kevin McNab on Clifton Pinot) are headed to Burghley next, and then Jock plans to take Shady Grey to Pau. Also headed to Burghley is the new National Champion, second placed Oliver Townend (he may get used to reading that this week after filling the reserve spot in the Advanced, the Intermediate Championship, and now the Open) with the former Andrew Nicholson ride Armada.

Oliver and Armada were one of only four combinations in the class to finish on their dressage score, and of those inside the time Oliver’s round was the fastest, “He came out the water and my watch beeped so I looked at it and I was a minute faster there than I’ve ever been on any horse any year ever! Unbelievable, but as I said if Andrew Nicholson says he’s never sat on anything with that kind of stride or power like it, it’s doubtful that I ever will again. He’s a very, very freak-like horse – for sure you could do four and three strides in a six stride distance at a full gallop, he’s just a very, very different horse to ride. As long as you’re brave enough when you can’t see distances, because normally he runs you off the distance you think you’re on anyway, and you somehow end up alright!” Suffering all weekend after a fall at home last Thursday, Oliver admitted he will finally see a doctor on Monday as he is pretty sure he’s broken something.

Sam Griffiths and Happy Times moved up from 8th after the dressage to a final 3rd place, even with a rail down in the show-jumping. Sam had gone so early in the division, and although he knew he’d had a good round and was thrilled with how Happy went, he admitted he had no expectation of being placed at all, of even being in the top ten, so he was feeding baby Ollie and listening to the cricket in his lorry, completely oblivious to his rising up the ranks! This combination also now heads to Burghley, “This was part of the lead up to Burghley, as well as there being a major title to win, so I wanted to do well here, and because he ran well here now it’s not like he needs any more runs.”  Happy Times will work hard at home until then, and being close to William Fox-Pitt who kindly lets Sam use his”lovely uphill gallop”  can’t hurt his fitness either.  A new father this year Sam shared that Ollie has had a great time at Gatcombe , “He came to the prize giving today and I think it’s the first one he’s been to and he actually thought everyone was clapping for him, he quite enjoyed himself!” Sam also finished 12th on the bay mare Paulank Brockagh.

Fellow Australians Andrew Hoy and Cheeky Calimbo added only time penalties to their dressage score to finish fourth

25 year old Royal Agriculture College student (3rd year, business management) Will Goodhew brought Trefilan Quicksilver home within the time to bag fifth place and a host of other prizes including a saddle from the Worshipful Company of Saddler (leading rider under 25) and a one thousand pound training bursary presented by the Horse Trials Support Group. Will told us he’ll spend the latter on lessons with his regular trainer Angela Tucker. The twelve year old grey gelding Trefilan Quicksilver belongs to Will’s mother Pella and they’ve had him since he  was a six year old, bringing him up through the grades after Matt Ryan did a few noices with him.  Although this was their first time in the British Open class at Gatcombe, they did contest the Advanced division here two years ago. With eight horses at home but only two in competing at the moment, Will is hoping to make a career out of eventing and receives help from his mother who has a showing background, “She does a lot of judging, so she’s incredibly useful to take along to buy horses because she’s so meticulous” and lately his father, a wind farmer, too, “Dad’s getting into it, he’s doing well and helping out but he’s not originally horsey at all!”

Avebury may be the one bright spot in a bit of a gloomy weekend for Andrew Nicholson. Rosemary and Mark Barlow’s horse finished sixth after adding some time cross country, but was the only one of Andrew’s three rides in this division to complete. Viscount George ground to a halt at the very top of the hill in the Park Bowl, stopping twice at the Mushrooms (Fence 18) before Andrew retired, and Nereo, lying second and looking fantastic put in an uncharacteristic stop at the water and was then also retired.  If you look at Nereo’s record you have to go back as far as an Elimination at Burghley in 2009, and before that a 20 at Boekelo the previous year to find the rare blots on his cross country jumping copybook.

Neither was Avebury’s cross country today without incident. Taking the most economical lines, and with his trademark relentless rhythm he cut the turn from the log into the water to the offset boat very tight, and in angling it caught his left arm, or ankle, or both, it’s hard to tell, on the white flag which very nearly pulled him off – they don’t call him Mr Stickability for nothing.

Right before it happened….

Beanie Sturgis, a regular with the local Beaufort hunt went like a bat out of hell on Lebowski to complete on her dressage score, and moved up to seventh place, but her round was not without it’s heart-stopping moments!

Aoife Clark has a lovely young horse in Fenyas Elegance, and as well as finishing 8th they took home the Worshipful Company of Loriners Trophy for the highest placed horse in the top 10 (she’s nine) and Aoife’s groom Hollie Bradshaw won the prize for the best turned out horse.

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