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Quotable Quotes: Andrew Nicholson, Michael Jung & Tim Price Talk Badminton Finale

Michael Jung, Andrew Nicholson and Tim Price in the Sunday Badminton press conference. Photo by Jenni Autry.

What did Andrew Nicholson, Michael Jung and Tim Price have to say after finishing one-two-three at the 2017 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials? Read on!

ANDREW NICHOLSON

On whether he ever thought he’d win Badminton: “Of course I thought I’d have this day, I just didn’t know when it was going to come! I come here every year thinking I’ve got a chance. 25 years ago I came here thinking I had a chance and I absolutely had no chance of even getting round, but you’ve got to talk yourself up when you’re young, don’t you?!”

What it means to win Badminton after all this time: “The feeling is very different to when I’ve won Burghley — it’s unbelievable in itself and then to win it three times in a row with Avebury, it’s a very different feeling there. I think to have to wait so long for it, and a few times to be so near and not make it and slip back down again, it’s pretty hard and you’ve just got to get over it and move on and keep coming back. I’ve been lucky to be in that position to have that dream and have it put into place, and now it’s worked, it’s an unbelievable feeling.”

On Nereo: “I’ve had Nereo since he was 4 years old, he’s always been one of my favourites. He’s not a horse that wants to cuddle and pat him all the time. He very much knows that I hop on and ride him, and that’s what we do. He doesn’t want me to catch him in the field, he doesn’t want me to make a fuss of him, he knows that Johanna does all that with him and I drive him. He’s had to work very, very hard.

“It hasn’t been natural for him for dressage. Galloping cross country — he’s a lovely galloper but he’s got a big stride so with this undulating ground it’s hard work for him and yet he happily does it all, he tries to please, he gives you 100% every single time. I can bring him out year after year after year.

“When I was recovering from my neck injury, Nereo and Avebury were the two main reasons that I had a go at riding again. It’s important to have something to motivate you and it was those two. Once I started doing a bit of jumping I contacted Steven Smith who helps me in the show jumping now and he came down, and between him and Wiggy, and the children and the owners, we’re a great team and to have Nereo in that team is unbelievable.”

What does it mean for Nereo’s owner: Libby Sellar: “That was a bit of all right Andrew, thank you very much indeed!”

MICHAEL JUNG

On Sam’s prodigious talent and longevity: “Sam is really a brilliant horse, he’s very strong and healthy and absolutely nice to ride. Sure, I’m a bit unhappy about the mistake but it was for sure my mistake. In the end I think we had a really great week, I’m very happy about everything, how it works, how he feels in the cross country that was really unbelievable, how strong he is with 17 years, that was really nice riding him yesterday, and also today he jumped very well in the warm-up arena and in the end I’m very happy about this week here at Badminton.

On planning to continue to compete Sam: At the moment, yes, I think so, he’s very happy, and he likes really the cross country and I think he’s happy to do a bit more.

TIM PRICE

About Xavier Faer: “I’ve had him for Trisha Rickards who’s his owner for about the last two and a half years. She bred him, so that’s one hell of a feat before everything else — she bred him and managed him right through since the word go. 

“We brought him through the Advanced level and he’s been a bit spooky and he’s been a bit quirky all the way through; he hasn’t been one of these horses with wins all the way but I’ve always thought of him as a horse for something like Badminton. He came here and was quite unestablished in the dressage but he’s a fantastic jumper and galloper and that’s what was on display yesterday and today.”

Tim’s expectations for the weekend: “The majority of the time I’ve had him his quirks have got in the way of any kind of an attempt at a performance, but this year he’s come out three times in preparation for this and he’s actually been very good. I would have been disappointed if he hadn’t come and continued in the same vein so I was expecting him to go well across the competition but it’s always unexpected to be sitting here at the end of it.”

What Jonelle said afterwards: “She said, ‘Well done!’ Actually yesterday she hadn’t said anything until someone congratulated me for being one second inside the time, and she said, ‘I thought you were one second OVER? Oh! Well done!’”

On starting 2017 with a great result: “I’m very relieved. Last year I felt like there were quite a few instances where it could have gone either way, I was unlucky and a bit of this and bit of that, but this is a great start. I feel like there’s been a bit of a load that’s been lifted and it’s nice and early in the year so hopefully I’ll be able to continue and take that confidence through and enjoy what’s to come.”

#MMBHT Links: Website, Final Scores, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Twitter, EN’s Instagram

Lauren Kieffer and Veronica Finish 17th at Badminton

Lauren Kieffer and Veronica. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Lauren Kieffer and Team Rebecca’s Veronica have now completed the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, and she’s already looking forward to returning again. They added one rail and two time penalties in show jumping today to finish 17th on 73.2.

“It’s quite the experience to be at Badminton, it’s certainly what I expected it to be — big, bad and hard,” Lauren said. “It’s nice to have it under our belt and we just want to come back again.”

After smashing their personal best in the dressage phase with a score of 38, good enough for 5th overall, Lauren played it somewhat safe on the cross country Saturday, realising that the attrition on the course and a non-complete in Rio last summer meant it was important for her both professionally, and personally, to complete this weekend.

They finished the cross country with no jumping penalties and 29.2 time to lie 17th overnight. Sunday afternoon in the show jumping they had a slightly uncharacteristic rail down.

“She was actually quite fresh after cross country and the crowds certainly get them a little wound up, but she was really good. It’s hard not to be disappointed about the rail from a competitive side but at the same time I think it’s her first rail at a four-star since 2014 so I can’t be too upset. Badminton is absolutely one of those bucket list events so to have finished in the top 20 is great.”

Lauren is planning on spending the summer in England again this year with a group of her elite horses and will be based at Mike and Emma Winter’s yard in Gloucestershire.

“I’m so so lucky. I’ve got a great group of horses right now. Veronica’s the seasoned campaigner but I’ve got the four other younger horses that have stepped up to four- and three-star level so it’s really exciting. Luckily my owners are super supportive and support coming over here; it’s a good opportunity with this group to get a lot of competitive milage over here, especially looking towards the WEG.”

Congratulations to Lauren Kieffer and Veronica. We’ve got used to seeing you in front of that Mitsubishi wrapping, and we look forward to seeing it much more often.

#MMBHT Links: Website, Final Scores, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Twitter, EN’s Instagram

Top Quotes from Cross Country Day at Badminton

Lauren Kieffer and Veronica. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

What did Ingrid Klimke, Michael Jung and Andrew Nicholson have to say after piloting their horses into the top three at Badminton Horse Trials? Watch the press conference video below and scroll on to read more quotes from Lauren Kieffer and Lynn Symansky, the only two American riders to complete.

Ingrid Klimke: “First of all I would like to thank (Michael and Andrew) because I walked the course with Andrew, which was very interesting and he really helped me a lot. Second, I saw Michael’s really superb, wonderful round and then I finished watching, went to the lorry and said, ‘I will try to do it as good as these two guys are doing it’ so thanks a lot to them!

The course was really definitely tough and I felt that he had to work quite much. On the other hand I was really so pleased because Horseware Hale Bob did such a wonderful job. He was so bold and so full of himself, and he was so fresh in the end that he really was a pleasure to ride.

Michael Jung: “That was a  really tough course and you had to concentrate really from the beginning. The problem is there comes one really tough question after the next and if you had some bad little problem you had not an easy fence afterwards when you can bring the horse back in a positive feeling.

“It was very important to have every fence very correct, that you get a good rhythm and a positive feeling from there to the next fence. That was the most important thing and you have to feel the condition of the horse, that you’re not going too fast in the beginning that the horse has enough energy in the end to jump the big fences. It was a really tough course.

“I know him very well, and La Biosthetique Sam is a fantastic horse, he’s very clever and concentrates. He was a bit strong in the beginning and we are coming back after a few jumps in a very good rhythm and he trust me, I trust him. I think that the most important thing that you get a good partnership and you go a bit more brave and a bit more positive and that’s what you need in the cross country — that you know your horse, that works everything a bit easier.

Andrew Nicholson: “I thought walking it that it was quite a great course — the sort of course you had to sit on your back side and work. We’ve had quite a lot of courses at big events where the experienced horses and the experienced riders could glide around probably two-thirds of the course, whereas walking this one probably from the second fence onwards you had to work and be quite accurate with your distances.

“I think it’s a good thing when the riders are concentrating. I don’t know about the other two here but I felt like I had to concentrate on both my horses all the way round, and I felt like they were concentrating on each fence and not being a bit casual and just sort of lolling along. Maybe I’m just getting old but I did feel like I concentrated more.”

Lauren Kieffer: “We were a bit slow but at the same time it kind of seemed like a big deal to get a across the finish line today. She was super, she was really great. She kind of hung her leg in that pond, so I played safe and went the long route and that took a long time, but she was so super, she was great. … It’s something just to finish today. It’s hard not to be competitive but I guess it’s her first Badminton so we’ll go from there.

“(Landmark’s Monte Carlo) is a lot greener. He’s only 11-years-old, and he was actually super until he got a bit hung up in that pond and then he got the wind taken out of his sails. He began to find it a little harder than he expected. It was hard because there was nowhere to reward them; even where they were great they didn’t have the nicest jump so it was kind of hard for the greener horses to know they were doing it right. I’m still really proud of him, and it always helps to get a few jumps under your belt before going out on another.

“All the crowds screaming is pretty huge. It actually caught me by surprise on my first horse — leaving the start box they started screaming and I think he was like, ‘Whoa!’ It’s a huge atmosphere and the crowds are so thick all the way round. It’s pretty cool.”

Lynn Symansky: “He was quite frantic in the warm-up after the hold, so I went out a little subtle and he lost a shoe at fence 4. After that he just felt like he was sliding around. It wasn’t his smoothest round; he left a leg at the gate and I had to go around.

“At the water he kind of stalled in so I took a lot of options that I wasn’t necessarily planning on, but my goal at the end of the day was just about getting him home safe and having a sound horse to come back to. He’s a very fast horse but you can’t really make up the time because there aren’t a lot of long galloping stretches on this course.”

“The crowds were a factor with him too. Sometimes they hold him a little more and with everything right up against the ropes and off a turn I’d have to take an extra second and make sure he was focusing on the jump because he was quite distracted by the crowds even though he’s seen them several times.”

#MMBHT Links: Website, Schedule, Live Scores, EN’s Coverage, Watch Live, EN’s Twitter, EN’s Instagram

Must-Read Quotes from Badminton’s Friday Press Conference

Chris Burton, Ingrid Klimke and Jonty Evans in the Friday press conference. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Read what the top three had to say after the conclusion of dressage at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. Click here for the full report on the thrilling dressage finale.

CHRIS BURTON: On his dressage: “He’s done good tests before, and yes I knew it was in him but I didn’t think it would happen at Badminton!”

Looking ahead to cross country: “At four-star the time is always difficult. I think Eric Winter has done a great job; I really do. It’s the sort of course where you’re scared about every fence, but I think you can see a clear way through each fence which I think is really clever, and yet I’m sure there’ll be plenty of problems caused all round the course.”

INGRID KLIMKE finished second at Badminton two years ago. Does she think she go one better this year? “For sure, that’s why I’m here. That’s always the big dream and the big hope we riders have, but I’m not the only one who would love to win the trophy!

“I’m really happy because Bobby did a wonderful job, and he’s very fit and healthy and he has enough experience now being 13 years old and has done enough big courses and so I totally trust him and really look forward to tomorrow.”

Ingrid’s plans for cross country: “Plan A is to go straight everywhere and really try to ride inside the time for sure. Luckily I’m number 91 so I have enough time to watch all the other riders and make my plan and then you have an idea if maybe you have to change it, but normally I would really like to go straight.”

On being inspired by other riders: “Today I was really impressed by Jonty because he was right in front of me and the crowd was so full of cheering that my horse was quite nervous coming in and I waited quite long until he was nearly out and the clapping was over, and so I realised that it was a very good round, and now I had to really try to make Bobby quiet and make him feel his very best.

“Definitely this is not a dressage competition for sure, and the scores are so close all together. Chris Bartle would say throw the dressage sheet away, tomorrow is another day and then we will see who is in the lead!”

JONTY EVANS on his test on Cooley Rorkes Drift: “He was great and I’m delighted with him because he tried so hard and it’s really fabulous to do it in the right place.

“I looked up in the walk and I think it was 8, 8, 7 and I think if you see 4, 4, 5 at that point you maybe go, ‘Oh dear,’ so I saw that and thought, ‘well at least that’s reasonably good, if I can just keep my chin up and keep going.’ I’ve had some great help from Ian Woodhead and Gareth Hughes, and we’ve worked very, very hard on the horse through the winter since Rio and we know that he’ll turn up on the day.”

On Saturday’s cross country: “He generally loves the cross country; he gallops and he jumps. We’ve worked hard on that phase since Rio so I’m looking forward to it.”

MMBHT Links: Website, Entries, Ride Times, Schedule, Live Scores, Course Preview, EN’s Coverage, Watch Live, EN’s Twitter, EN’s Instagram

Must-Read Quotes from the Thursday Badminton Press Conference

Michael Jung, Bettina Hoy and Thibaut Vallette in today’s press conference. Photo by Jenni Autry.

What did the top three have to say after the first day of dressage at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials? Read on!

Michael Jung on riding in back to back four-stars: “It’s a lot to organise but it’s not difficult. It’s a new motivation and it’s nice that you have many, many nice horses and that you can compete in these big competitions.”

Michael on the cross country course: “I think it’s a very tough course and you have to be very concentrate from the beginning to the finish, and that your horse have enough energy to the end. They are very big fences, very upright, nearly every fence at the end and a lot of questions come directly with not a fence in between where you can give the horse a new motivation if you have some problems, you have to be very concentrate always.”

Michael’s preparations this year compared to years past: “It was nearly the same, we just missed one competition in Fontainebleu which was cancelled, so we had just one competition. But he has a lot of experience and he feels very good. He gives me a very good feeling the last couple of weeks and months so it changed not so much.”

Who rode La Biosthetique Sam while Michael was winning in Kentucky? “The same people like always when I’m in a competition. For example like, Isabel, or Pietro … different peoples who are working in my stables for riding the horses.”

Bettina Hoy’s thoughts on cross country: “I think Eric has built a very clever course, like as Michael said, I think you need to be extremely concentrated as a rider and I think you need to have an extremely good jumper underneath you because there’s basically just one big question after another and not many fences where they can get their breath back. Especially the last part, from the Dew Pond onwards it literally goes uphill so when you come to the two gates at the end you still want to have something left in the tanks so they can pick up and produce a nice jump.

“It’s tough with all this intensity in the middle and uphill at the end, I think the time will be tough. Eric has been very clever in building a lot of fences that you have to turn in to so that you have to actually slow down to get to the fence, which will make the time quite difficult to get. I’m quite sure Michi will be well up there and show us all how it’s done!”

Thibaut Vallette answered his questions via a translator.

On his first Badminton: “It’s my first Badminton and my first four star with this horse. I’m obviously very pleased to be here, it’s a dream come true for any eventer. I’m very happy with my dressage today  but of course this is only the beginning and there’s a lot left to do in the next few days.”

What Thibaut considers the highlights of his test today: “My horse has a very nice trot and it’s important for me to set off to a good start to make that apparent and score good marks for that. I was pleased with that. My horse is still a little difficult to collect and I wasn’t so pleased with the first flying change, but then everything went back into place and I was very happy with the finish.”

Thibaut on the cross country: “It’s his first four-star so my horse will have to go an extra minute longer than he’s used to so that will be an element, but not one that I’m particularly worried about. The horse is a very good all-rounder with great jumping capacities and he’s an enthusiastic cross country horse. There’s a lot to look out for and it will necessitate great concentration and it will mean listening out for all the signals from me to get it right. There are a few profiles that I’m not used to, that I don’t encounter so frequently in France so that will be a new experience for me.”

#MMBHT Links: Website, Entries, Ride Times, Schedule, Live Scores, Course Preview, EN’s Coverage, Watch Live, EN’s Twitter, EN’s Instagram

Lucinda Green Reviews Rolex Kentucky Cross Country

    Phillip Dutton and Mr Medicott. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

I was lucky enough to catch up with Lucinda Green after the final horse inspection and ask her about her thoughts on yesterday’s cross country at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. Lucinda, of course, is passionate about the sport, safety and training, and not afraid to speak her mind, so we’re grateful that she took the time to speak to us earlier.

“I thought it was a fantastic course. The individual fences weren’t particularly enormous, it felt like quite a lot of the fences were 3* dimensions but I thought the lines were very 4*, and the thing about 4* is the way they come up on you, and come up on you, and come up on you so you’ve never really got time to take a breath. You’ve got to have an enormously brave horse that keeps saying, ‘Yes, give me more!’.

“The ground was as good as I’ve ever seen it, and yet there were still a lot of tired horses, and tired early too. I don’t know why…it was humid? Going away from the water up the hill a lot of horses look tired here, and they certainly did this time; there were a few notable exceptions, regrettably for those of you with warmbloods, they were mostly Thoroughbreds who looked like they could have gone on and on.”

“I thought Mr Medicott was an absolute credit to all those around him — 18 and he was just absolutely spring-heeled around there! He did look a bit tired at the end but just about all of them did.”

Zara Tindall and High Kingdom. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

“The thing I think that disappointed me most was the riding. I think Zara Phillips, and it’s nothing to do with her being English, but she just shone a torch on what cross country riding is all about. It’s not about counting five strides here and four strides there, it’s about riding what you feel underneath you. The Americans aren’t the only ones, I find it throughout the world when I teach, riders are absolutely mesmerised by the stride pattern that they’ve counted when they walk.

“A particularly good example was the two brush fences out of the water which measured whatever it measured, and many a rider just hooked for the stride that they’d walked, when their horse just needed them to sit down, run up that hill and jump that fence, and they’d have saved a second as well as given their horse some fun.

“These horses are looking pretty bored, they’re dominated, and High Kingdom has shone a real torch and I hope a lot of the American riders start to realise that cross country is not all about counting strides and keeping the stride pattern that you’ve counted; it’s about getting in there and riding what you feel and making sure the horse sees the fence — quite a lot of horses didn’t even see their fences— and then takes you to it. It’s as simple as that: he’s got to see the fence and take you to it.

“But it was a great day, no bad, bad sights which is super.”

Erin Sylvester and Mettraise. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Walking back afterwards we happened to pass Erin Sylvester taking Mettraise out and I pointed her out to Lucinda, and mentioned that Erin had won the Land Rover Ride of the Day Saturday, and that Missy was a 10 year old TB mare at her first four star, but that Erin had a ton of experience in the racehorse world, and Lucinda admired both the horse, and wished that more riders could do the same.

“That’s what a few more of them need to do: ride racehorses. And ride Phase B actually. Learn that it is ok to gallop to a fence and sit up and hold; you don’t have to be picking for a stride. I think that’s what’s happened — the skinnies have come in which has made people ride like this, the dressage has got more difficult which has made people more dominating, and the steeplechase has gone so over a period of time they’ve lost that too.”

Many thanks again, and as always to Lucinda for her time and wisdom, both hugely appreciated. We’re looking forward to catching up with her next week at Badminton, and we’ll enjoy watching her watch her daughter Lissa compete there for the first time — I can’t quite imagine the emotions of having your daughter compete on the biggest stage, and also have that very stage be somewhere that holds such an enormous place in your heart; Badminton and Lucinda Green will always be synonymous to me, but I digress…! That’s all to come in next week’s Eventing Nation!

#RK3DE Links: Website, Schedule, Ride Times, Live Scores, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Ultimate Guide to Rolex, Live Stream, How to Watch Live, EN’s Twitter, EN’s Instagram

Post-Test Rider Reflections: Friday Afternoon

Holly Jacks Smither and More Inspiration. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Samantha Clark has been a busy bee all weekend, catching riders as they get off of their horses after each test. We’re lucky to have thoughts from most of the riders on their respective tests, so here are the interviews from this afternoon:

#RK3DE Links: Website, Schedule, Ride Times, Live Scores, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Ultimate Guide to Rolex, Live Stream, EN’s Twitter, EN’s Instagram

Savannah Fulton (66.2):

Matt Brown (47.8):

Jordan Linstedt (47.3):

Tim Price (46.9):

Doug Payne (48.6):

Boyd Martin (Steady Eddie – 46.3):

Will Faudree (47.9):

Holly Jacks Smither (57.7):

Will Coleman (Tight Lines – 54.4):

Phillip Dutton (Mr. Medicott – 44.8):



Jessica Phoenix (Bentley’s Best – 43.0):

Buck Davidson (Petite Flower – 48.1):

Post-Test Rider Reflections: Friday Morning

Fist pump! First out today and straight into the lead 💃🏻 #RK3DE

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They came, they dressaged, they conquered. The Friday morning Rolex dressage session was full of heavy hitters ready to give the leaderboard a good shake — and Samantha Clark was waiting for them on the other side.

Michael Jung and fischerRocana FST (37.1)

Tim Bourke and Luckaun Quality (57.2)

Zara Phillips and High Kingdom (46.6)

Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border (41.0)

Hannah Sue Burnett and Under Suspection (45.2)

#RK3DE Links: Website, Schedule, Ride Times, Live Scores, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Ultimate Guide to Rolex, Live Stream, EN’s Twitter, EN’s Instagram

Post-Test Rider Reflections: Thursday Afternoon

A big smile from Jenny Caras after scoring 46.3 in her 4* debut with Fernhill Fortitude #RK3DE #bestweekendallyear

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So … how’d it go in there? Samantha Clark has been catching riders on their way out of the Rolex main arena for exit interviews. Be sure to follow EN on Instagram (@goeventing) to watch the videos in real time as the competition unfolds!

#RK3DE Links: Website, Schedule, Ride Times, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Ultimate Guide to Rolex, Live Stream, EN’s Twitter, EN’s Instagram, Live Scores

Selena O’Hanlon (49.8)Erin Sylvester & Metraise (60.9)

Erin Sylvester is pleased with Mettraise’s first test in the #rk3de arena

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Maxine Livio & Qalao Des Mers (44.6)

Jolie Wentworth & Good Knight (59.0)

Jolie Wentworth is happy to be back in the #rk3de arena with Goodknight despite the wind!

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Daniela Moguel & Cecelia (59.1)

Daniela Moguel talks about her disappointment with today’s test on Cecilia

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Hawley Bennett-Awad & Jollybo (54.8)

Jenny Caras & Fernhill Fortitude (46.3)

Jenny Caras just completed her first #rk3de test on Fernhill Fortitude

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Caroline Martin & Spring Easy (51.5)

Caroline Martin has made it to #rk3de and we expect to see her here many more years to come #talent

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Kelly Prather & Truly Wiley (59.8)

Kelly Prather talks about Truly Wiley’s journey to #rk3de

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Jen McFall & High Times (55.7)

Jen McFall is back at #rk3de with High Times, a more mature & experienced horse since his first appearance

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Lauren Kieffer & Vermiculus (43.8)

Post-Test Rider Reflections: Thursday Morning

“Leave the arena at a free walk on a long rein at A, while your mind races with post-test thoughts and emotions.” OK, that last part isn’t in the test, but it might as well be!

Samantha Clark has been catching riders on their way out of the Rolex main arena for exit interviews. Be sure to follow EN on Instagram (@goeventing) to watch the videos in real time as the competition unfolds.

#RK3DE Links: Website, Schedule, Ride Times, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Ultimate Guide to Rolex, Live Stream, EN’s Twitter, EN’s Instagram, Live Scores

Katie Ruppel (46.0)

https://youtu.be/9dEmJSmJMaM

Will Coleman & Obos O’Reilly (48.8)

@willcolemanequestrian’s thoughts on his dressage test on Obos O Reilly

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Buck Davidson & Park Trader (53.6)

Lillian Heard & Share Option (51.6)

Courtney Cooper & Who’s A Star (50.0)

Courtney Cooper IS a star! She talks about her test on Who’s A Star and compares it to last year

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Sally Cousins & Tsunami (63.0)

Sally Cousins tells us she has got Tsunami as fit as she’s ever been this year

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Bunnie Sexton & Rise Against (68.3)

Go Bunnie! Rise up and Rise Against! What more can we say?!

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Selena O’Hanlon & Foxwood High (49.8)

Thursday morning leaderboard: 

An Inside Look at Valerie Ashker’s Incredible Journey

 Valerie and Peter with Primitivo and Solar stopping to pose for a picture outside the brand new Cincinnati Bengals Stadium. The stadium holds special memories for Valerie as she sang the National Anthem there the night it opened. Photo by Samantha Clark. Valerie and Peter with Primitivo and Solar stopping to pose for a picture outside the brand new Cincinnati Bengals Stadium. The stadium holds special memories for Valerie as she sang the National Anthem there the night it opened. Photo by Samantha Clark.

When Laine Ashker told me last year about her mother’s plan to ride across the United States on two off-track Thoroughbreds, 7-year-old Primitivo and 17-year-old Solar Express, I was equal parts skeptical and nervous, and half hoped it might never happen. Note to self: Never, ever underestimate those Ashker women again!

Since that December day, Valerie and her partner Peter have prepared painstakingly for this enormous undertaking, and as I write this, are inching closer and closer to their final destination, literally days away after some six months on the road, with 3,000 miles under their belts and less than 300 to go.

Their goal is to arrive at Laine Ashker’s barn in Virginia, which has been a more or less straight shot from California along Highway 50, about 3,500 miles in total.

2nd Makes Thru the Starting Gates Logo Photo by Samantha Clark

The logo on Valerie’s trailer. Photo by Samantha Clark.

It’s difficult to quantify exactly what is most impressive about the whole venture — Valerie’s stamina and refusal to quit, the sheer enormity of the challenge every day, the scale of the logistics, Valerie’s humility throughout it all, her strength, how amazing these horses look, especially after all the distance and the terrain they’ve travelled, the massive and increasing social media and public interest and awareness for the OTTB — it goes on and on.

Although the physical training and fitness work for both horses and riders was actually relatively minimal to what you might expect — Valerie admits she’s always been in shape and eats well, and Peter the same — the planning and preparation prior to leaving was thorough and intense. I asked Valerie if she’d ever done anything like this before, and she replied, “Not no, but HECK no!”

Valerie Ashker and Primitivo and Peter Friedman and Solar Express on the outskirts of Cincinnati.  Photo by Samantha Clark

Valerie Ashker and Primitivo and Peter Friedman and Solar Express on the outskirts of Cincinnati. Photo by Samantha Clark

Obviously there’s nothing you could teach Valerie about horsemanship or training ex-racehorses, but she and Peter enlisted the help of endurance expert Karen Chaton, whose horse Granite Chief is in the AERC Hall of Fame with more than 30,000 miles. Over the course of several hours they picked her brains about what to expect, what to pack and what to do, and have consulted with her many times while on the road and she has become their virtual coach.

Karen advised Valerie that the horses would condition themselves as they went. “You don’t want to put too many miles on those horses’ legs before you even start, adding fuel to any issues that might pop up along the way, so they did about five miles for trail rides three times a week before we left and that was about it, that was how I fitted them,” explained Valerie.

“We started out with 15 mile days, and then we moved it up to 20 and 25, and we actually got a couple of 30-mile days in, so I’m really excited about that. You don’t want to condition too much because you’re using your horse and you’re walking so you’re getting fitter and fitter as you go.”

Valerie found out about Dr. Cook’s Bitless Bridles after browsing in the western world and now she swears by them. “We’ve never had a bit in these horses ever. Karen told us our horses would lose weight and we need to encourage them to eat along the road as much as possible, grazing on the verges, swiping at long grasses, and if they have a conventional bridle on they don’t eat as well. It’s a nuisance; they can’t chew as easily, and the bit gets full of food and needs cleaning constantly.”

Unhappy with the neoprene equipment that a lot of the long distance riders use, she kept searching until she found Dr. Cook’s leather bridles and approached them, and they agreed to sponsor the ride.

“My horses are so well trained now they could do a First Level dressage test and they’d be on the bit and there’s no bit. I could take Tivo Training level and compete him in the bitless bridle. It’s a wonderful tool. I’m going to use it on all my babies from now on, and for people that are a bit handsy so the horses don’t have to suffer from their inadequacies. My horses love them.”

Valerie Ashker and Primitivo Cininnati Ohio Photo By Samantha Clark

Valerie Ashker and Primitivo in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo By Samantha Clark.

Dr. Cook’s Bitless Bridles are one of many sponsors who jumped on board to be a part of the 2nd Makes From The Starting Gates quest, and to help with products in kind. To mention just a few, Primitivo and Solar have been supported every step of the way by Nutrena, Thoroughbred Aftercare AllianceEasycare Boots, Toklat, Flair Equine Nasal Strips, Hoof Armor and Bucas Blankets.

As Valerie is keen to stress, she’s lucky to have a team of elite professionals on hand to call upon should she need to, especially Nutrena, who have been customising feed for both horses — no mean feat considering Solar is a 17-year-old ex-racehorse with Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM).

Solar and Primitivo are really what this ride is all about. Valerie has a fantastic record of picking ex-racehorses from the track and turning them into four-star gold, or finding wonderful second careers for them. Her daughter Laine has ridden three for her at Rolex so far, and so according to Valerie: “If I can help just one kid get an ex-racehorse because the pressure isn’t on for her coach to go to Europe to buy an expensive horse, then mission accomplished!

“Instead just go to your city’s racetrack and extract a horse. It’s already been there and done that and it will metamorphose into something spectacular, just like Laine’s horses, and that’s the whole point. If one horse, just one horse, gets extracted from the track because of this ride, because of the visibility and the knowledge, then mission accomplished.”

This is a sentiment Valerie repeated often during the day I spent with her and Peter; she’s so anxious to convey her love and admiration for the OTTB, and why they stand head and shoulders above any other breed in her opinion. “I think what separates the men from the boys with these OTTBs, Laine and I have had it exemplified in all our horses from Eight St James Place, which — my heart be still with that horse, that’s my number one love of my life horse — and with Frodo, with Al (Anthony Patch).

“She’ll get it with Comet (Calling All Comets). She’ll get it with Paddy (Call Me Paddy). It’s the heart. Not only are they incredible athletes, and great heads, great minds but they give you more than any other breed. When you need it, when Laine puts her leg on they’ll say ‘I’m tired but I’ve got a little bit more left in that engine and I’m going to give it to you,’ and my heart goes out for that. So if I can bring awareness to these horses and their second careers, then this is why these 3,333 some miles will count.”

And credit where credit’s due — Valerie’s horses look fabulous, and without boasting, she’d agree. “It’s been gruelling, it’s hard, it’s day in day out, that’s why I’m totally taken aback by how good my horses look for this kind of toll of what they’ve endured and what they’ve gone through. It amazes me.”

Primitivo - A picture of health since leaving California May 9th. Photo by Samantha Clark

Primitivo – A picture of health since leaving California on May 9. Photo by Samantha Clark.

It’s true. They boast sleek shiny coats, wonderful condition, bright eyes and pricked ears. Not only do they look fabulous, but they are incredibly well-behaved. I meet them in downtown Cincinnati, and they were barely phased by walking through a major city — railroads above and beside them, overhead highways, giant stadiums, pedestrian crossings, car parks. They handled it all with remarkable aplomb.

Passers-by stopped to ask questions, and this is where Valerie is in her element,and where it’s obvious how her following on social media caught fire. She’s a natural with everyone we met. Children, the elderly, policemen, car salesmen, the odd homeless person — she’s engaging, enthusiastic, animated — of course you want to hear more.

Did a single one of you watch just one of her live videos on Facebook and not tune in again? Absolutely not! It’s become part of a daily routine for hundreds of her followers who check in regularly to watch, comment and have become a part of the journey. Some have volunteered along the way, offering to help drive, bring food or suggest places to stay, and this has been the best thing about the whole ride for Valerie.

“I think what it comes down to for me, first and foremost, even more than the scenery, has been the people we’ve met, the camaraderie, of getting these horses through to the other side. What is my passion has now become a lot of other people’s also.

“They’ve embraced it, so now when we call out for help such as a driver for a couple of days, they do it for me but they really are here because of our commonality for these horses, these OTTBs. That has been a real eye-opener and it’s picked up the further east we go, probably because of the more populated areas. It’s really growing and it blows me away. It’s been the ride of a lifetime.”

Unbelievably Peter had barely ridden before he met Valerie, but now he handles Solar with an accustomed ease that comes with 3,000 miles in the saddle. He’d never done anything like this before, but for him this journey has always been something of a dream, only one that he never imagined might become a reality, and he insists it’s everything he’d hoped and more,

“It is as romantic as it might seem but it’s a lot of work,” Peter says. “Nothing’s really good without a lot of hard work and this has been the most gruelling, hardest thing we’ve ever done, but on the opposite end of it it’s also been the most rewarding. You can’t get the good without putting in the work.”

“My favourite part, besides meeting such nice people, is a new appreciation of this country’s scenery and just the wildlife and the openness out west. I liked Nevada. Nevada keeps coming back into my head because it’s the most desolate, unpopulated area but it was so full of life and peaceful, and we could talk and it was enjoyable.

“I have a new appreciation for each state really; instead of driving by at 70 miles per hour and not noticing anything you see everything down to the tiny anthills and the lizards and the little flowers, so many flowers in Nevada that you don’t even see when you’re going at 60 miles per hour. It’s been a real eye-opener just to make me appreciate the country a little better.”

Valerie Ashker and Peter Friedman with OTTBs Primitivo and Solar Express wend their way straight through Cincinnati Ohio Photo by Samantha Clark

Valerie Ashker and Peter Friedman with OTTBs Primitivo and Solar Express wend their way straight through Cincinnati Ohio Photo by Samantha Clark

Peter alternates riding Solar with driving the trailer, and worrying about Valerie. During the trip Valerie has had a fall and broken her clavicle and a few ribs, has had a cancer scare, has been kicked by her horse and also had to deal with road rage in Indiana. Living in close quarters in the trailer, spending every moment together, sharing this trip and pretty much everything besides, there must have been times when he wanted her to stop?

“After her fall I told her I didn’t want her to ride unless she could get back on the horse by herself but that didn’t last too long, about 10 days, and then she was bored and she was bossing me around. I was afraid for her getting hurt again but I knew she wasn’t going to quit, and that’s what I love about her,” Peter says.

“This is the hardest thing we’ve ever done and to plan on something like this you may as well just plan on you getting hurt twice and the horse getting hurt twice because we are a month behind now due to incidences we couldn’t have accounted for.”

As for Valerie, it never occurred to her not to finish. “The collarbone thing really did hurt. The ribs? They hurt, but you keep riding. I mean, heck, my daughter trains with Buck and Bruce Davidson, and they would both ride with their heads hanging off, and you get around people that are that stoic about that sort of thing, and they’re that determined, and their eye is on the prize, and you engulf yourself in that state of mind and that’s what I did.

“The clavicle really did hurt, I have to say, and the cancer scare — that was a bummer. It happens so often to people you know, to people close to you, and then when you think YOU have it, it puts a whole new light on life. For a couple of months I had to live with the fact that they were a little bit concerned about it because it was not going away. This whole ride is dedicated to OTTBs, but as much as it will hopefully benefit them it’s truly benefited us. You really become a little bit of a different person, and your priorities and your perspectives on life really do alter on a ride like this.”

Peter himself pulled his groin muscle about a week ago: “It’s not easy, it’s not just a joyride, it’s a long way to go without something bad happening. I take my hat off to those old guys back in the old days because it’s a rough journey going across this country, its a long way and it’s pretty gruelling.”

Valerie agrees, and adds that they’re both beginning to suffer from fatigue: “About three weeks ago I don’t think I’ve ever been in better shape. Now I think I’ve peaked and it’s working against me a little bit, now I’m getting worn out, mentally and physically. My joints feel it a little bit more, Peter and I get in each other’s way more, it’s just gruelling day in and day out. I think a ride like this, we have to be aware that these issues that we’re dealing with are normal.”

Valerie Ashker and Primitivo on their Incredible Journey Photo by Samantha Clark

Valerie Ashker and Primitivo on their incredible journey. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Peter and Valerie generally walk alongside Tivo and Solar for several miles a day for a variety of reasons. “Oh my God, my bum!” exclaimed Valerie, “I need to get off, you know, it’s 2,500 miles, my bum will never be the same! Mostly I like to give the horses a rest, and I can check them over — just as you’ve been listening to their footfalls, that’s how I can tell if they are having any issues at all, down to the point where you can hear it and you can almost tell which foot it is, or which hoof is not quite as heavy on the cement.

“It also gives you time to get your knees stretched out, I’m 60 so there’s arthritis to consider, it’s just nice for me. We ideally walk about four or five miles in the morning and end up walking about four miles into camp, so we’ve actually walked about a sixth of this whole ride and I think it’s been good, I’m in great shape.”

Surprisingly though, Valerie isn’t longing for it to be over, and talking about the finish is the only time she gets quiet and her voice cracks a tiny bit, and I detect the slightest doubt and uncertainty from her. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t know what I’m going to do to not go to my live video. I mean there are points in my ride that I was so down and out and there were so many people that really wanted me to do well and I don’t know what I’m going to to do, it’s going to be tough.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done but it’s been such a mission, and so many people behind it. For it to end is like being dropped out of the sky into nowhere-land. To have so much support has been incredible, and we’ve all been through so much together, and we’re here and we’re healthy and we’re ready to go on to the next 300 or so miles of the trip but then what? It will be tough saying goodbye to this. I might keep the Facebook page and use it as my general OTTB reporting page so people can still enjoy this, but in a slightly different magnitude and we can still correspond with the people who’ve embraced this.”

Following that, it’s all change as Valerie will drive back to California to pack up her house, which is under contract, and she’s re-locating to Virginia to be based there with her daughter, although she’ll still be making frequent trips back west to visit her parents, who have joined her on the trip for the last leg.

“I’m hoping that I can find a career, something to help with the OTTBs, maybe I can help people retrain them, I don’t know but I don’t want to just drop off the face off the earth after this ride, and then 10 years later look at the logo and have nothing to do with it. I want to have something to do with it for the rest of my life, whether it’s helping Laine, finding horses for her, or helping young kids get started with their new OTTB, or programs I feel that would work, if that would be my contribution I would love it.

“Until I die if someone wants me to pick a horse for them I will continually go to the track. I will go to the track and I will pick one, and there’s not a track that I can’t go to that I know I’ll find not just one, but probably three or four great prospects that in my opinion could be world class prospects, and I’ll take them back and put the necessary rest time and training on them and put them in a new direction, and I’m so confident of that, I’m my last breath confident that they’re out there, people just don’t give it merit.”

Nothing seems to perturb Primitivo - walking calmly through the outskirts of downtown Cincinnati with Valerie Ashker. Photo by Samantha Clark

Nothing seems to perturb Primitivo, walking calmly through the outskirts of downtown Cincinnati with Valerie Ashker. Photo by Samantha Clark

Solar has been with Valerie since coming 4 years old and owes her nothing, she says. He will be her responsibility until he takes his last breath on this earth; she is full of admiration and love for his strength and courage, still in front, still looking for the next mountain despite his age and some arthritic issues and PSSM.

As for Tivo: “I think Tivo would like to do long distance rides, I think that’s up his alley, this is great for him. I don’t think he wants to be an event horse and I still haven’t hung my eventing spurs, I’d like to do it for another year or two and then call it a day. So maybe I could lease him to someone who wanted to do this because he’s brilliant, I mean the live videos are testament to how awesome he is.”

The live videos are also of course testament to how awesome Valerie is too, and how amazing this journey is, and all that she has achieved thus far since setting off on May 9. She and Peter have been joined by her parents, George and Lillian ,who will accompany them all the way now through to the finish line in Virginia. They hope to reach Laine there by Nov. 9, and after that, as far as a Plan B goes, Valerie shrugs her shoulders: “If all else fails, hell, I might get on Tivo and ride him all the way back!”

Bettina Hoy Takes Blenheim Palace CCI3* Title, 3 U.S. Riders in Top 20

Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott. Photo by Samantha Clark. Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Bettina Hoy led the Blenheim Palace CCI3* from start to finish on Seigneur Medicott and there could hardly be a more popular winner. Adding only cross country time penalties to her dressage score, she’s a worthy winner of this year’s title. There were only 12 clears out of 55 rounds this afternoon over Di Boddy’s course, and although it looked more straightforward than yesterday’s CIC3* course, obviously the horses were jumping after their cross country exertions, and the slightly holding ground was also a factor.

Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott Photo by Samantha Clark

Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Our three remaining U.S. riders all ended up in the top 20 but it was obviously disappointing for both Hannah Sue Burnett to slip from 2nd to 5th with two rails down and Holly Payne Caravella to 13th from 7th with the same.

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot Photo By Samantha Clark

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot. Photo By Samantha Clark.

Hannah Sue told me Harbour Pilot wasn’t particularly tired but slightly affected by the atmosphere and jumping off grass. “He was a bit aggressive today. He gets nervous and he doesn’t always jump great off the grass. Obviously he worked really hard yesterday and you can tell today he wasn’t as careful as he has been. Silvio Mazzoni has been helping me a ton. I’m still really proud of him, he’s still the best horse in the world.”

Holly Payne Caravella and Santino Photo by Samantha Clark

Holly Payne Caravella and Santino. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Likewise, Holly said Santino tried his hardest and didn’t think yesterday’s exertions had too much bearing on today’s rails. “He felt pretty good. He can be a little tricky in the show-jumping. He’s not really a traditional show jumper and I’ve not jumped him on wet grass before. He felt full of energy, he just felt a little bit different off the ground than I’m used to having in the ring but I’m happy with him, he tried hard and he was good. It’s been a great two weeks over here, really awesome, but it will be good to be home.” Holly has not decided yet what her plan for Santino is next year.

Kurt Martin and Delux Z Photo by Samantha Clark

Kurt Martin and Delux Z. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Kurt Martin moved up to 17th place with a beautiful clear round on Delux Z. “I’m really happy with the horse, he really tried, it’s just been such a great experience. It really took a lot of people helping here and at home, and I’m happy that it turned out so well for all of us. It’s been so much fun, even going into the show jumping this afternoon was fun, watching everyone was fun. I mean the top 15 riders were all amazing, to be around all these people and watch has been such a wonderful experience.”

Andrew Nicholson capitalised on his fast cross country round yesterday and had just one rail down today to move up to take second place on his own and his father-in-law’s Teseo, and Lydia Hannon is the best British rider on her little mare My Royal Touch. Nicola Wilson added nothing but time to her dressage score on Bulana to finish fourth just ahead of Hannah Sue Burnett.

Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott Photo by Samantha Clark

Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott. Photo by Samantha Clark.

It’s been a crazy busy week here at The Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials with the CIC3* for 8 and 9 year olds, the CCI3* and this year also the finale of the ERM. Enormous and heartfelt thank you to all the riders, grooms, supporters, volunteers and organisers who make it all possible and who literally kept the show on the road.

Safe travels home to all our U.S. horses and riders who are on their way back this week and good luck to those who are moving on to Boekelo.

Thank you all for being a part of the Eventing Nation and don’t go away, we’re already getting ready for Plantation next weekend, and much more!

Blenheim Links: Website, Entries & Scoring, Live Stream, EN’s CoverageTwitter, Instagram

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Willa Newton Wins Blenheim CIC3* 8/9 Year Olds, Two U.S. Riders in Top 25

Kylie Lyman and Lup The Loop. Photo by Samantha Clark. Kylie Lyman and Lup The Loop. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Sunday couldn’t have been more different from yesterday’s conditions at Blenheim, and the footing this morning was practically perfect on David Evans’ CIC3* cross country course. Willa Newton was the eventual winner on the chestnut mare Caja 20 after a clear round cross country with just 2 time penalties. Laura Collett took second place on Mr. Bass, adding nothing to their dressage score, and Andrew Nicholson rounded out the top three with Swallow Springs, a rather eye-catching grey. The top three are all 8 year olds.

Kylie Lyman was practically foot perfect on Joan and Geoffrey Nichols’ very special 8-year-old Lup the Loop and came back clear with just 9.2 time faults to finish just inside the top 20 in 19th place. Apart from changing her plan at the corners coming out the the water, she told me she had a fantastic round.

“He was amazing! I think we both left the start box and then it was, ‘Oh my God, we’re at Blenheim!’ and we both got our act together after that and he did everything that I asked. I definitely had to work a little harder than I anticipated, but he’s such an honest horse and he’s so scopey. I don’t know what else to say, it’s still sinking in!”

“I knew that I was going to have to make a conscious effort to be deliberate in all the combinations because my natural inclination is to get a bit forward and ride a bit forward which isn’t always a bad thing, but he’s a big, scopey horse and his stride gets too long and I knew that I had to reel it a bit back in after Millstreet, so that all went to plan. The only place it didn’t was jumping out of the water–he has a little rub on one side of his mouth so he’s a bit sensitive with the steering, so I jumped the corner a little straighter than I had planned and realised jumping in there was no way I was putting a bend on it, so I stayed as direct as I possibly could, and he was honest and we got there. That was not the way I walked it but I didn’t want a 20!”

Kylie used her head, and this round has set her up perfectly for her upcoming competition at Boekelo. “I knew at the end of the course the dragons and the two houses at the top of the hill that I was going to have to be extremely patient, and I felt like he listened and I made myself wait, so I think it was definitely a good prep for Boekelo because I’ve never been there but I know I’m going to have to have a plan and not do the first thing that I want to and be a little bit more patient, and maybe wait for the next distance, so I felt in that way it was very educational.

“I know it’s not as busy as yesterday but it’s the most atmosphere we’ve had out on cross country and that was a good education for both of us and I’d say it probably affected me more than I’d anticipated, leaving the start box I thought I had my focus and my plan and I just got out there over the first couple of jumps and went, ‘Holy cow!’, and then got it back together!”

Kylie Lyman and Lup The Loop Photo by Samantha Clark

Kylie Lyman and Lup The Loop. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Kylie will go back to Ireland now and re-group. “This fills me with confidence, but it’s also a kick in the pants to keep working at it, to get a plan and stick to it, to be patient and let him do his job and make him accountable too and not just let him think he’s a good boy. Kick on and go, it’s a different level and I think I have to stay patient.

“He’s a pretty easy horse as far as fitness is concerned even thought he’s a pretty big horse and part warmblood, and I don’t jump him a lot–I do a little grid-work in between competitions. I’m getting some dressage help over there, and we’ll just keep on doing what we’re doing and not change too much and work on increasing his fitness a little more and keep our focus and do the best we can.”

Kylie was a working student with Bobby Costello for four years and now works for Lup the Loop’s owners, Joan and Geoffrey Nichols, and for her this trip has been invaluable, but also an exciting marker for the future.

“I still ride with Bobby whenever I can but I probably do a little too much on my own! I need to buckle down and work on our education on the dressage a little more! Bobby’s been stuck with us for a long time, but we know each other well and I feel like we always pick up where we left off. This was the first time I got to work with David so that’s been a new experience and a huge help. For me it’s almost tougher coming here and having someone in the warm-up, and having that extra pressure was a big thing, but it was also a great help and I feel like a have a lot to take home to work on. I definitely have homework to do and I’m very happy.

“I’m just so excited to be here. To have this opportunity is incredible, but for me the more exciting part is that he’s just 8 years old and it’s both of our first season at Advanced and I really couldn’t have asked for more, but I’m really excited for next year, to have a winter to put the time into improving the dressage for both of us, and him getting stronger and having this year’s experience.

“I’m really thankful to be here and have the grant to go to Boekelo, and I’m trying to be excited to be here and enjoy it and not let the pressure get to me too much. I don’t want to beat myself up too much but I want to be competitive, but I want to look back in a year, two years from now and remember how lucky I was to be here. There aren’t a lot of horses like him, nor people like Joan and Geoffrey. They are amazing.”

Tamie Smith and Dempsey II Photo by Samantha Clark

Tamie Smith and Dempsey II. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Tamie Smith went about half an hour later and must have been relieved to be riding in much more pleasant conditions, although she wasn’t taking any chances and borrowed some reins from Hannah Sue Burnett regardless. She needn’t have worried, Dempsey II jumped and galloped round like a pro, coming home clear taking all the direct routes and collecting only 7. 2 time faults to finish 23rd.

“He was super, everything was right out of stride and I felt like the course was very suited to him because it was lots of galloping and then quick turning, technical lines, he felt fantastic. I was very happy after a day like yesterday, it was good to have another horse to come out and get around. One of the corners I was planning on getting four but he added and got five but he was perfectly fine. He’s so quick on his feet and such an athlete. I’m lucky to have him, he’s a phenomenal horse.

“I’ve always had a ton of confidence in him and I haven’t had the struggle with him that I’ve had with Chloe (Twizted Syster). He’s not as strong as her, he’s opinionated like her but he’s not physically as strong as her and I’ve had him since the beginning. He’d never jumped until I got him and I think that helps when you put a foundation on them that you want and you make them your own. Chloe had already done a one-star when I got her and everybody has a different ride.”

Tamie had a pretty high-powered crew helping cool out Dempsey – Holly and Marilyn Payne were helping USEF Director of Eventing Joanie Morris carry buckets of water and wash him down and scrape him off…team work!

As the ERM finale is about to kick off, the CCI3* show-jumping is already underway. It’s non-stop here at Blenheim and we’ll be back with news of our top 30 U.S. riders Kurt, Holly and Hannah, and the final results as soon as possible. Go Blenheim, and Go Eventing!

Blenheim Links: Website, Entries & Scoring, Live Stream, EN’s CoverageTwitter, Instagram

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All 3 U.S. Combinations Move to Show Jumping at Blenheim Palace CCI3*

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot share a quiet moment. Photo by Samantha Clark. Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot share a quiet moment. Photo by Samantha Clark.

All three remaining U.S. combinations in the Blenheim Palace International CCI3* were accepted this morning at the Final Horse Inspection under thankfully sunny skies, and so will move forward to the show jumping phase this afternoon. Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot are of course in second place behind Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott, Holly Payne Caravella and Santino are in 7th place, and Kurt Martin and Delux Z are in 25th place.

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot Photo by Samantha Clark

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Harry Dzenis withdrew Above Board from the holding box. Two other combinations were sent to the holding box: Emily Prangnell and DHI Beaunesse, and Richard Jones and Alfies Clover, but they were both passed upon re-inspection.

Holly Payne and Santino Photo by Samantha Clark

Holly Payne and Santino. Photo by Samantha Clark.

The first group are due to jump at 12:15 and the top 30 placed competitors will show jump in the main arena from 3:45pm GB time. I’m headed back out to the cross country now to catch Kylie Lyman and Tamie Smith in the CIC3* and will be back with much more from Blenheim later. Don’t forget to watch the ERM live stream, it’s all GO GO GO Eventing!

Kurt Martin and Delux Z Photo by Samantha Clark

Kurt Martin and Delux Z Photo by Samantha Clark

Blenheim Links: Website, Entries & Scoring, Live Stream, EN’s CoverageTwitter, Instagram

A Chat With Blenheim and Badminton Cross Country Course Designer Eric Winter

Eric Winter Photo by Samantha Clark

Eric Winter. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Today was a particularly special cross country day at Blenheim. It was the tenth year that Eric Winter has designed the course here and also his last, as next year he’ll move on to Badminton and hand all three courses over to his builder and protege David Evans who is responsible for the ERM and CIC3* course this year. I was lucky enough to catch up with Eric after the CCI3* wrapped up and pick his brains about today’s action and what we might be able to expect at Badminton next Spring.

On the riders

“I thought the course worked really well today. We had lots of different routes and the riders used their brains–we had 50/50 split on a lot of fences, they went to a lower rail or a higher rail.”

On the weather

I think it played into how many we had inside the time but not too much. The footing was actually really good out there; when you walked it they were printing but they weren’t going deep. The ground always holds up really well here. I wasn’t overly worried about that but it always creates a bit more pressure, and I thought the track was quite big anyway. There was quite a lot to jump, but I thought the riders rode fantastically and the course really did what we wanted to, really.

On moving on

It’s always sad but I’ve been here for ten years but then I apprenticed under Mike Etherington-Smith for five years before that so I’ve been involved with it for about 15 years effectively. It’s been a real evolution of the event, we used to just have the Horse Trials and now they have entertainment rings and bits and bobs, and it was my idea to do the 8/9 year old competition. I thought it was a great class for here and it allowed us to do cross country on the Sunday which allowed us to have ticket people coming in on the Sunday. The event has changed its shape quite dramatically over those ten years which is good, and I hope it will go on and progress from strength to strength.

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot gallop and jump through the rain to move into 2nd after XC Blenheim Palace CCI3* 2016 Photo by Samantha Clark

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot gallop and jump through the rain to move into 2nd after cross country Blenheim Palace CCI3*. 2016 Photo by Samantha Clark.

Moving on to Badminton

Very frightening! I just need to do the same as I did this year (52% clear, none within the time) there which will be a whole lot harder because I know this place inside out, so you know which bits of ground and what works in different places whereas Badminton is a little bit of a different thing but hopefully we’ll develop together and get to the same sort of thing.

(Event Director Hugh Thomas) asked me on the Thursday of Badminton this year and you could have knocked me over with a feather to be quite honest! Over the course of that weekend I kept walking the course and bits of ground and came up with next year’s track. I walked it Friday, Saturday and Sunday and spent those days sort of playing around with it in my head and by the time I’d left there I was pretty sure what I wanted to do.

We live half an hour away and I first walked the course there when I was about 8 or 9 years old, and it’s something you think about all the time but you never really expect it, to work at that level.

What to expect next Spring

I don’t think you’ll see anything hugely different next year, I think Giuseppe did a great job. I want to stick with that real traditional thing, I don’t want to go too portable. We have a lot of portable fences. I want Badminton to be that traditional old Badminton with some real rider-frightener type fences and big, scary stuff but that the horses read well and jump well. Hugh said to me, ‘Don’t mess with my traffic plan. My car parks and my entrances and exits are absolutely sacrosanct’, but beyond that he said I can do what I want to really.

The centre, the deer park, you can’t do much with that, but we’ve re-shaped the ground around the water, we’ve re-shaped some other bits down at the old Stockholm fence and we’re playing around with some different things. We’re also going to go back to that old traditional swapping direction each year. That’s worked well here at Blenheim, it keeps the riders on their toes because they can be very similar courses but slightly different, your horses get tired in different places, the whole feel of riding round is slightly different so I think that’s quite a positive thing of the swap round every year.

Ideal statistics

I think at three-star level personally I would aim for 50/60% clear rounds, and probably at four-star too, but I think that certainly everybody aims for no horse falls and that was the greatest thing about today. I’ve never managed to achieve it before. I’ve come very close: I’ve had 40% clear here one year, one horse inside the time and one horse fall and that was so close to my perfect stat but never quite got there. This time with the 52% clear, no one inside the time and not putting any horses on the ground, that was my absolute goal and for that to happen in my last year made me really pleased. A certain amount of that is luck but it’s great when it happens.

Sir Mark Todd and Obos Columbus Blenheim Palace CCI3* XC Photo by Samantha Clark

Sir Mark Todd and Obos Columbus on Blenheim Palace CCI3* cross country. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Eric’s design philosophy

I design what I don’t want to ride! I think my weakness in my riding is that I was never quite brave enough and I was never very good on those forward, open distances. I design what my average horses couldn’t jump and what my good horses could jump, and what I found difficult and what Mr. Nicholson and the elite people find easy. I try and pitch stuff that good cross country riders ride forward and have a really good core balance and that good cross country horses travel across the ground and have range. I try and pick up the things that let those horses proffer and look fantastic and the horse that’s not quite good enough gets found out but without putting it on the ground or having anything too dramatic happen, and that’s always where I’ve come from. I want the best riders and the best horses to make it look easy.

It’s nice when you have a course like today–the good cross country horses had their day, they looked fantastic. On the Brash (Sam Griffiths) at the end was a great way to finish. He jumped round like it was a Pony Club track and that’s what I really want to do. Then some of the people who have got learning to do made it look harder, they made it look harder work; just like an examination that said you need to go home and work on this because this isn’t good enough, and I think that’s what good course design does. Hopefully they’ll come back next year better educated and better horses.

On Pierre Michelet’s Rio track

I thought the Rio course was great. I thought it asked loads of different questions and I thought they had to be really balanced and organised to jump it. There was nothing tricky and you watched some of the fences jump fantastically but they had to be on it all the time. If there was a moment when the horse lost concentration and threw his head up in the air then they would pass something and it was too late. That, for sure, to me is the heart of cross country riding: a little bit of unpredictability, a little bit of riders working and making a good job.

Many thanks to Eric for his time this afternoon, and congratulations on both a job very well done and a job to be undertaken; we look forward with excitement to Badminton next Spring.

Kylie Lyman & Tamie Smith Tackle Show Jumping at Blenheim CIC3*

Tamie Smith and Dempsey II Photo by Samatha Clark

Tamie Smith and Dempsey II. Photo by Samatha Clark.

We just wrapped up the CIC3* 8/9YO show jumping here at the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials and it’s just after 6pm. Kylie Lyman and Lup the Loop had the third fence down and one time penalty for 5 total, and Tamie Smith and Dempsey II had the first fence and the middle part of the treble down for 8 total.

Dressage leader and 2014/2015 winner Jonelle Price had three time faults on her grey mare Ascona M to drop behind Tom McEwen on Toledo De Kerser who’ll go into the cross country tomorrow in the lead.

Kylie Lyman is using the competition here as part of an extended European preparation for Boekelo. She’s been based in Ireland since July, and has competed at an Advanced/Intermediate level horse trial at Tattersalls, the CIC3* at Millstream and now this. She told me she was delighted with the way her horse jumped today and is looking forward to riding the cross country tomorrow.

“Historically he’s been a very good show jumper and it’s easy to go in and be as confident as you could be despite all the atmosphere. He tends to handle all that well but this is the most he’s ever seen, and we don’t get to jump off grass very often let alone this. I’ve never jumped him off this type of footing before so I didn’t know what to expect and I could not be happier with him.

“I take full responsibility for the rail we had, I needed to get him straighter out of the turn and I didn’t, and I think I could have helped him out more but he felt like he was careful and rideable and did everything I asked and didn’t get too distracted by anything or the footing, so I’m just so excited by him. He always go out and tries. and doesn’t get too phased by anything. I love him, he’s a great horse!”

Kylie Lyman and Lup the Loop Photo by Samantha Clark

Kylie Lyman and Lup the Loop. Photo by Samantha Clark.

The course caused its fair share of trouble today, probably in part due to the footing which was torn up in parts where the ERM arena had been earlier, and in part because it was a twisty course. “For us,” Kylie admitted, “walking it, it wouldn’t be a course that I would have thought would have suited the two of us, but he was super, he was great.”

Kylie liked David Evans’ cross country course for tomorrow much better. “I think it’s amazing. I’ve never been here before and didn’t know what to expect but every part of being here is just amazing. I think the cross country asks a lot of questions but there’s not any one thing in particular that I’m concerned about but rather the whole course and I know I need to stay patient. I want to be quick but not by letting it get too forward. The grounds are beautiful and I think the way the footing took all the rain today… I just couldn’t be more excited about it.”

Kylie is temporarily based at her Irish husband’s yard just outside Goresbridge where they have a couple of youngsters, and their 2-year-old daughter is getting to spend some time with that side of the family. “It’s been quite the trip already! It’s been a lot of fun but she’s not here this weekend as she’s not at a horse show friendly age; she’s a little too full of it. But she’ll be at Boekelo–I have no choice!”

Ashley Adams produced Lup the Loop to the one-star level and then Kylie took over the ride for Geoff and Joanie Nichols. “When I came back I did a couple of Preliminaries, and then we did our first Intermediates and two-stars and he’s been my first real Advanced horse. I did a couple before with Trading Aces (also sourced by Geoff and Joanie) but not a full season of anything, so my first CCI3* and all of that was with with him. He’s young but you couldn’t have a better brain or a better temperament for it all so he gives you a bit of time to enjoy it all too.”

Lup the Loop is an 8 year old Irish gelding. “He’s very trainable and rideable and athletic and has everything you’d look for in a horse. I’m excited about him.”

Kylie will start the cross country in 27th position, and Tamie will go forward in 41st position. CIC3* cross country starts at 9am tomorrow morning but before that we have the CCI3* Final Horse Inspection. We’ll also be bringing you the CCI3* show-jumping, and don’t forget to tune in and watch the ERM finale. It’s all going down at The Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials!

Blenheim Links: Website, Entries & Scoring, Live Stream, EN’s CoverageTwitter, Instagram

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Bettina Hoy Holds Leads in Blenheim CCI3*, Hannah Sue Burnett Jumps to 2nd

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot Photo by Samantha Clark

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Saturday at Blenheim brought the promised rain – on and off between steady, pouring and torrential. This made the CCI3* cross country course even tougher, and for the U.S. contingent especially it was a day of real highs and low lows.

We’re thrilled for Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot who blasted round clear and fast to move up to second place overnight behind dressage leaders Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott. Likewise we’re delighted for Holly Payne who moved up into the top ten after another super fast clear round in the wet, this time on Santino, and for Kurt Martin who piloted Delux Z round clear to creep into the top 25. However our hearts are aching for Tamie Smith who pulled up Twizted Syster after some braking and steering issues halfway round, and for Will Faudree who barely got started on Pfun before he retired.

Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott Photo by Samantha Clark

Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Bettina Hoy coaxed Seigneur Medicott round clear with a handful of time, 8.4, to retain her dressage lead going into the final phase tomorrow. Bettina shared that Micky, as she calls Seigneur Medicott, is a much different ride to her Burghley horse Designer 10.

“He’s very reliant on me. He has a trust in me and he will do it even if he’s insecure and a bit nervous whereas Designer is a completely  free spirit and I have to, in certain situations leave it to him and let him do his job. It’s sometimes a bit difficult for me because I really have to forget about last week and think about this week, and giving him a very different ride. Mickey does need the rider at the moment whereas Designer doesn’t. I think he’d do it on his own – he knows where the numbers are and that the red flags have to be on the right and white on the left. He’s so smart!

“I got both of them when they were five year olds and they had only show jumped prior to that which is what I like best. I like to get them early because I do believe at the end of the day we ask these horses to do such a lot for us, and the more they trust us and believe in us the more likely they are to do it in the end.”

Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott Photo by Samantha Clark

Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Bettina’s training paid off in spades and Seigneur Medicott did do it for her, beautifully. “He was good. It was hard work out there, I have to say. He is still very green at this level. He missed half a year when he was six and he missed half a year when he was eight so he’s more like an 8-year-old than a 10-year-old but he kept going. He kept jumping and he kept galloping and I’m really proud of him.”

“It certainly helped that I’d done Blair and Gatcombe already, he keeps his speed up whether you go uphill or downhill,whether the ground is good or not so good which is great and I guess that’s where all the blood he has comes through. I could feel the crowds and the weather adding to his insecurity a little bit today, but then about halfway around the course I think he realised it was alright and he just got on with it.”

Bettina never comes to Blenheim underestimating the track. “There are enough good questions out there and it’s a perfect stepping stone if you’re thinking of doing a four-star next year. The hills certainly play a big role and I do believe you have to have the horses a lot fitter than you obviously have to have on a flat course. I think Boekelo is a lot, lot easier as a three-star than this.”

Sadly, Seigneur Medicott’s owner has decided to put the horse on the market and so Bettina is actively searching for two additional owners to join a syndicate so she can keep the ride, “It would be a real shame to lose the ride now. I love him. He’s a very special horse. I’m actively trying to put a syndicate together.”

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot Photo by Samantha Clark

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot looked fantastic everywhere I saw them, and after she finished she told me he felt pretty wonderful the whole way round. “He started really strong and usually he gets stronger and stronger but this time, by the end, I think because it’s so twisty and turny and has so many downhills, when I said whoa he would start to slow down and listen which is really not like him and really nice! Usually he’ll just keep going but he learned as he went and really listened to me really, really well.

“I didn’t watch anyone go because I went pretty early and I didn’t want to watch anyone else. He’s so powerful through the combinations, he just covers the ground and I can just steer him and he jumps really well. Number 7ABC he covered the two-stride beautifully, no problem. The big water–the two corners I think I did four there but he’s so honest, even if he’s deep he just pats the ground and stays between the flags. The whole round kind of went like that; he was pulling me round and I was just kind of steering him! I think it definitely helps to have something that’s taking you around a course like this and especially on footing like this. He was really good.”

With 5.2 time faults Hannah’s round is one of the fastest of the day, and she said it felt like it. “I was pushing and pulling, it felt like Motocross out there, but I couldn’t be happier!” They are just 5.6 points behind Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott in second place overnight.

Lydia Hannon and My Royal Touch is the best placed British rider in third place after cross country. Lydia, in her twenties, has had the mare since finding her at Tattersalls after she’d done the 1* as a 6-year-old and says they’ve been learning together. “We’ve been at three-star together now for quite a long time and I’m just learning everything on her, and throughout the year we’re getting better and better and better. We didn’t have a happy run at Luhmühlen which is why we made the decision to come and have a really good run here and so far so good. The cross country was great, she gave me a really, really good ride.”

Lydia is fairly local to Blenheim; she only lives 45 minutes away and is excited to be doing so well here. “It’s been building, the mare doesn’t owe me anything. I don’t really know what to say. We came to get a Badminton qualification and anything else is a bonus.”

Holly Payne Caravella and Santino Photo By Samantha Clark

Holly Payne Caravella and Santino. Photo By Samantha Clark.

Holly Payne Caravella had some practice last week at waiting all day in the rain to ride, and it stood her in good stead today. She repeated her Burghley performance, giving Santino a fantastic ride and bringing him home with 9.2 time penalties to finish in 7th place heading into the show jumping.

“I think having ridden round Burghley last week definitely helped me get into the spirit of it. Here with the rain and the mud it didn’t walk terribly intimidating but you definitely had to ride strong and get it done and I think last week inspired me, it got me in that style of riding and was helpful for today.”

“He was really good, he was super. I was a little bit slow. I just lost it at the end. I was on my minutes at the water but that minute through all the water and the corners coming out gets a bit slow there and I couldn’t catch back up but he was super. He was really genuine the whole time. It actually rode really well. I was conservative in a couple of spots because Hannah and Kurt had said it had gotten quite slippery by the coffin and there’s quite a tight turn getting into that so I really took my time there and that was the only place he did slide a little bit, but I think the footing everywhere else held up pretty well.”

“We kept on galloping all the way to the end. I had to help him jumping wise at the end, I felt like that was the only place he got a little tired but he was still full of run, he wanted to keep on going. He’s got an amazing gallop but he’s one that is just a little slower with his footwork at the jumps. He actually wastes time jumping but he’s got a great gallop in between, but it was super. It rode really well. It was raining quite hard when I started off so I couldn’t see very well and I was just focusing on finding my jumps. I had no idea if there was a crowd out there at all!”

Holly tries not to let the fact that she’s in England impact her at all and thinks the events are actually pretty similar to those on the East Coast. “I think it’s pretty much the same. I kind of zone out. I try not to get affected by the crowds and just treat it like I’m just going out for a school!”

Kurt Martin and Delux Z Photo by Samantha Clark

Kurt Martin and Delux Z. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Kurt Martin is here on his first trip to England and rose to the occasion, giving Delux Z a strong, positive ride to bring him home clear with 15.6 time, good enough for 25th place at the end of the day.

A delighted Kurt described his round to me: “He was really good at the beginning, not too spooky about the people and that had been my concern. He jumped really well and we were up on our minutes until we crossed the first water and did three strides at the corners. He got a little flat at the top of the hill but he was very honest and he keeps jumping, he gave me such a great feel, he’s got such a great jump so it really gives me a lot of confidence. I think this was a great decision to come here and do a CCI3*, to get me out to see a lot and educate. He’s a great horse for that and I really love him for what he’s doing for me and I really had such a great ride.”

Kurt didn’t think the weather affected Delux Z but perhaps the speed did. “He’s not the fastest horse and I just have to keep at him all the way around. I was a little bit cautious around the turns but I don’t think the crowds affected him this time, and the jumps are never going to be too big for him so it’s awesome.”

Kurt, unlike a lot of event riders, is actually looking forward to tomorrow! “He’s a great show jumper and I enjoy that phase a lot. This was a great feeling and I even had fun out there, for once! As I was spurring and kicking, but I still had fun!”

Tamie Smith and Twizted Syster Photo by Samantha Clark

Tamie Smith and Twizted Syster. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Unfortunately Tamie Smith had no fun at all on Twizted Syster. Probably going out in this weather without gloves didn’t help but she pulled up about halfway after she lost her brakes and steering, and walked home bitterly disappointed. At this point she wasn’t sure what she’d do next, or quite what went wrong.

“I just couldn’t hang on to my reins. I don’t know. She was great, she was strong but I have to have my reins when she’s strong like that. I probably went a little bit further than I should have but I’m here so…I don’t know, I just have to figure out what reins to use in this weather. I guess it’s better when you have an equipment failure than when you have a horse that won’t jump. Maybe we’ll go to Gatcombe next weekend, I don’t know. I have a lot to think about right now. I’m not going to have her go home to California next week like I was going to because I’m here for a reason, to figure all this out, and to bring my riding to the next level, so I have to chalk this up to inexperience. It’s hard. I’m at Rodney’s (Powell) and he’ll help me, Mark Todd is up the street and he’ll help me. I’ll figure it out.”

“She jumped everything really well, I just couldn’t stop. She’s fit enough though – I wasn’t sure if she was, but I’m pretty sure she is! Maybe I’ll take her to Boekelo or maybe I’ll look at doing something else. She’s always been a difficult horse. It’s so hard because I believe in her, I know she has it, it’s just been hard to figure it all out. I worked with Phillip (Dutton) this spring and that was really helpful but he’s not here, I wish he was. It’s so hard when you come over here and you feel like you let everybody down, because I know she’s capable and I know I am.”

It speaks volumes about Tamie’s strength of character that she not only talked to me so honestly right after such a difficult round, but that she put a brave face on and was back in the finish box an hour later helping to cool out Holly’s horse, along with Kurt Martin, still in his breeches. This, I think, is what will put the USA back on top – real teamwork, and it must have taken real guts on Tamie’s part.

Will Faudree and Pfun Photo by Samantha Clark

Will Faudree and Pfun. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Equally, Will Faudree came back after retiring after two stops at the skinny at part B of fence 4 and was lost for words. “He started out really good and I went to make the turn to the fourth jump and there was a bunch of umbrellas in the crowd, and he’s never looked at stuff like that and he really spooked at those and jumped off my line. I got him into the combination; it was an oxer to a chevron and he jumped the oxer and was just looking off into the crowds and just stuck his head into the air and ran past it and never even really saw it.

“It’s really frustrating because he’s a good cross country horse and he’s never done anything like this. He was going great leading up to it, it’s just bad luck, but it’s frustrating The only good thing is it was early on so I can take him home and do something else with him this autumn, but it’s really disappointing as I think he’s a really top horse and it’s frustrating for this to happen here.”

US Team Coach David O’Connor summed up the day, “Three great rides: Kurt went out and was strong and aggressive and put a great round in. Hannah’s round was class as that horse and rider have shown before, so it’s great for her to be in that position. Both those horses jumped really well. I think Holly put in a really good round too, was pretty quick and for a younger horse I think that was great. Tamie just got in a bunch of trouble with reins and things, and I haven’t had a chance to look at Will’s round yet, he told me he was spooking at the crowds. It’s a tough track but it’s the first time some of these horses are maybe seeing crowds; I think it’s a good event for an experienced nine year old, I wouldn’t bring a horse here for it’s first three star. It’s a good event especially on a rainy day, and I think it’s a good event to bring our horses too for what we need to do.”

Nilson Moreira Da Silva and Muggle didn’t have much of a happier time here at Blenheim than they did at Burghley – they once again elected to retire after some trouble early on.

Andrew Nicholson and Teseo Photo by Samantha Clark

Andrew Nicholson and Teseo. Photo by Samantha Clark.

First out this morning, Andrew Nicholson was the fastest round of the day on Teseo, coming home with 0.4 time despite taking two long routes. There were 42 clear rounds (52%), 16 rounds with 20 penalties, 13 retired and 5 eliminated. There were no horse falls and no one was injured.

It’s been a long, wet day and we’re waiting now for the CIC3* show-jumping to start. An enormous thank you to the riders for chatting as always, and especially to all the volunteers who stood outside in foul weather and were bar none the most cheerful bunch I’ve ever encountered. Props again also to the organisers for the mammoth task of fitting in three enormous divisions, and a special personal thank you to Catherine Austen and Kate Green in the press tent who are making magic happen in the most testing of conditions.

Blenheim Links: Website, Entries & Scoring, Live Stream, EN’s CoverageTwitter, Instagram

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Bettina Hoy Keeps Lead, Hannah Sue Burnett Third After Blenheim CCI3* Dressage

Pippa Funnell and Billy Cuckoo. Photo by Samantha Clark. Pippa Funnell and Billy Cuckoo. Photo by Samantha Clark.

The top three from Thursday after dressage in the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials CCI3* remain unchanged as we head into the cross country on Saturday. Hannah Sue Burnett keeps her third place on Harbour Pilot, Holly Payne Caravella and Santino slipped down to 12th and Tamie Smith is just inside the top 20 on Twizted Syster. Will Faudree and Pfun, and Kurt Martin on Delux Z are further down the pack but less than a stop cross country separates them from the leaders.

We saw some great riding on Friday, but with the windy conditions and a lot of quite green horses to the level, it never looked like anyone was going to come close to Bettina Hoy’s score.

Ibby Macpherson moved into fourth place on her Burghley re-routed ride Ballingowan Diamond after an almost flawless test (it’s Friday afternoon, come on!) in the worst of the weather, “He was really good, I was really pleased with him, it was just as we were cantering around the arena that it started blowing a gale and raining and was pretty gross. I watched it on the video and my tails were up my back, banging him on the back, but he was just so good, he kept doing his thing, he was a real pro.”

This was a personal best for Ibby and her 12 year old Irish chestnut Ballingowan Diamond that she bought from Anne O’Grady in Ireland as a four year old. Anne is also responsible for Ballynoe Castle RM, and Ballingowan Pizazz and Ballingowan Ginger. Ibby was stable jockey to William Fox-Pitt for three years and still considers him a mentor.

Ibby is hoping for a better finish to this week than at Burghley last week when things didn’t go to plan on Saturday,

“He’s always pretty consistent on the flat and every dressage test we’ve done he’s got better. I was thrilled to bits with him last week because there’s obviously nothing that prepares you for that atmosphere at Burghley and he was such a good boy. He was jumping really well on cross country and then the hook on our stud guard that you attach the martingale to, got caught on the fence when he landed a bit steep going into the Anniversary Splash and basically pulled the saddle and the girth quite far back. So I ended up sitting where I wasn’t meant to be sitting, jumped the next few fences and when we got to Capability’s Cutting and had to go down the hill and up the other side he stopped because I was way too far back.”

The only upside might be that Ibby’s sitting in fourth now, and perhaps the jumps look a tiny bit smaller this weekend, “I think there’s still quite a lot here to jump. The course here is actually really long, it’s only 200m shorter than Burghley so I’m pretty pleased that hopefully I got him Burghley fit so we’ll just see. There’s enough to jump out there, I wouldn’t say it was big but there are quite a few questions that need you to be thinking and accuracy questions of jumping things on angles.”

I managed to catch up with Tamie Smith and she agrees with Ibby that the course is long, and is also looking forward to riding it tomorrow, “I think it’s great – lots of galloping and terrain, and long, it’s almost 11 minutes. The water going into the first crossing is pretty significant I think, and even coming out there, I think the corners will ride really tough, but everything else looks….if your horse can gallop and if it can turn then it will be good. But it’s big and I think it’s going to be a really good test and if you can get around here I think you’re ready for a four star.”

Tamie had walked the course three times already, “and I’m going to go and walk it again in an hour, just to go over my gallop lines and see where I can save some time and just really study it because I go pretty early on tomorrow. Thank God because it’s supposed to start raining at 2am and not stop. I’m not really worried, the harder the weather the harder it is for everybody else so it will make it more of a cross country test so I’m hopeful for it. I’ve had my fair share and I’ve ridden both of those horses in mud and they’re mudders so I’m not worried about the ground or anything like that. Plus Chloe (Twizted Syster) is twelfth to go so she’ll probably have perfect going as it’s actually a little bit firm right now but I think as soon as the rain comes it will be great. I’m excited!”

Pippa Funnell showed us how to manage a hot, spooky horse in the ring, conjuring a 49.8 out of Billy Cuckoo. This tidy little mare looked ready to bolt when the crowd cheered for the rider before her, but Pippa packaged her up and except for a break in the second serpentine, skilfully rode her through the test with some really nice moments, especially in the trot.

Pippa, who is currently 2nd after the dressage in the CIC3* 8/9 year old section, and has Mirage D’Elle in the ERM tomorrow, thought that was probably the best test Billy Cuckoo could have done for now.

“She is a little bit spooky, you can see that in there, but I think that’s a little bit of the carefulness of the Billy Congo in her,” Pippa said. “She needs to grow up now and see these sort of atmospheres, and people and flags and things. She wouldn’t be the easiest on the flat but she’s a nice mare. This would definitely be her biggest test to date here. It’s more of a fact-finding weekend with her for me really rather than necessarily being out to be very competitive.”

Nicola Wilson and Bulana Photo by Samantha Clark

Nicola Wilson and Bulana. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Equally Nicola Wilson, another experienced Team GB competitor, was a pleasure to watch and a demonstration of how to execute a test. Bulana, although only a 10 year old, has quite a lot of experience at this level already having won Boekelo last year and now campaigning at Advanced for her second year.

Nicola was happy with her effort. “I was really pleased with her, there were obviously a few little mistakes here, there and everywhere but on the whole I was very pleased with her. She’s a really exciting, lovely horse and she’s a pleasure to ride and a pleasure to work with and I think the world of her.” Nicola and Bulana scored 48.8.

Chris Bartle was on hand to help Nicola and Bulana warm up, and Nicola confirmed he’s been a presence in her career for a long time.

“On the flat I train with Ian Woodhead but Chris has been my mentor since we were paired in the Pro-Am contest at Bramham in 1997,” she said. “He obviously only lives half an hour away from me and has remained an important person in my career and support team since then. I’m very fortunate to have him as a pair of eyes on the ground when needed and to bounce ideas off and guidance, and it’s always good to chat these things through with someone as experienced as he is.”

Bulana contested the ERM classes at Gatcombe and Blair, which Nicola says “worked in quite nicely as a preparation for her three day event. I didn’t think she was quite ready to go four star yet this autumn and I think Blenheim is always a challenging course and it’s well-built and the hills have an influence so I thought it would be good for her experience and education.”

Nicola doesn’t give Bulana any special treatment on account of her being a mare, but instead as a special horse. “I think you just have to be sensitive to whatever horse you’re riding and treat them as individuals and that’s the only difference; treat them as individuals whether it’s a mare or a gelding.”

Aoife Clark and Wasting Light Photo by Samantha Clark

Aoife Clark and Wasting Light. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Spare a thought for Aoife Clark and Wasting Light who were stopped mid-test by Eric Lieby in the Ground Jury during what was turning out to be a super test. Aoife, who won this event a few years ago on Fenya’s Elegance told me afterwards it was just pure bad luck, the horse struck into himself and was momentarily unsound but recovered quickly to complete the test without any further incident,

“He was doing a lovely test and he must have just knocked himself behind as he came across in the right canter half pass. He obviously just picked his leg up for a few strides going ‘ow, ow, ow!’ and then he was absolutely fine, he’s totally sound, he trotted out the rest of the test beautifully, it’s just a bit annoying but never mind, these things happen.” It’s hard not to wonder if their score of 46.4 might have been better had that not happened.

Wasting Light is a very nice stamp of a horse, a 9 year old who finished 6th in the CIC3* here last year and so Aoife decided to contest the CCI3* with him this year.

“Although he’s still eligible for the 8/9 year old CIC3* this year I think this is a better step for him thinking about moving up to four star next year. He’s a really galloper and he loves to gallop and with the time usually being tight here that should suit him. He’s been going well so we’ll see. The course looks amazing, it’s always beautifully presented here — challenging, enough questions but fair. I’m really looking forward to riding it.”

Aoife, of course, is one of Ireland’s top riders, but comes to Blenheim as a local hero as she lives just down the road. “There’s great local support here even though I’m Irish! It’s one of my favourite events and it’s definitely always a main aim on the calendar.”

Caroline Powell and Sinatra Frank Baby Photo by Samantha Clark

Caroline Powell and Sinatra Frank Baby. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Caroline Powell has a nice ride in the big, rangy Irish grey Sinatra Frank Baby that she’s had for a couple of years and they went shortly before the lunch break scoring 48.9.

“He was good, he’s sort of new to this level, it’s only the second time I’ve tackled it in this type of atmosphere. He’s a lovely horse and we’ve come here looking for qualifications and a good result at the end of the weekend would be a real bonus. He’s been a really consistent horse and everything’s becoming a lot more solid on him and I think he’s going to be quite a nice horse for the future.”

Like so many of the riders here, Caroline has come straight from Burghley but she comes off the back of an 8th place finish and says that helps.

“Well the fences certainly look smaller!,” she said. “No, Burghley was amazing; just to get Onwards and Upwards there was a pretty good effort with the vets and farriers and everything. Over the last two or three years we haven’t had the easiest time with him but horses all develop at different stages so hopefully now he’s had his bit of time off and I’ve got him for a wee while!”

Don’t for a moment think Caroline will be complacent on the course tomorrow either. “It looks good, it’ s quite long and slightly twisty, a few unnecessary bends and twists here and there but on the whole I think it looks great and the ground feels really good underfoot so I’m looking forward to it.”

Cross country starts tomorrow at 9 a.m. GB time and props once again to the organisers who have to somehow fit in the riders who have horses in all three divisions (ERM dressage starts tomorrow at 8:30 a.m., and the CIC3* is also underway.

Many thanks as always to the riders for stopping to chat after their rides, and hoping for safe rides for everyone tomorrow. We have an exclusive interview with Lucinda Green to bring you later, reviewing Burghley and previewing the Blenheim course so don’t go too far away, but Go Eventing!

Blenheim CCI3* dressage top 20: 

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Will Faudree and Pfun Put in Solid Blenheim Palace CCI3* Dressage Performance

Will Faudree and Pfun. Photo by Samantha Clark. Will Faudree and Pfun. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Friday morning at Blenheim dawned much like Thursday afternoon — bright and very breezy which although it makes dressage somewhat more complicated with flapping flags and rattling marquees, is an improvement on the forecast rain we were supposed to have.

Will Faudree and the gorgeous grey Pfun are our only U.S. representative in the CCI3* today and they were fourth in the arena this morning. To look at this horse is to want to take him home with you — his earnest expression, pricked ears and willingness to try, and did I already mention he’s grey and gorgeous?

Only 9 years old Pfun went into the arena and did a very workmanlike test with no glaring errors except for dropping down to a trot in the second change. Afterwards Will reported that he was delighted with him, and that he’s just the same to ride as he looks.

“I was really happy with him; it’s the first time he’s been in an atmosphere like this and the atmosphere actually always helps this horse so I never do the ring familiarisation with him. I went in there and he did spook at the judge’s stand at first and then he was fine. As the test went on I could have used a bit more atmosphere even to help, I needed the crowd to start clapping to get him excited but for where he is it’s a big ask for him to put in a consistent, steady test. I’m happy with it. He’s just a really fun horse to be around, he’s very easy to be around, he’s a big teddy bear!”

Will Faudree and Pfun. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Will Faudree and Pfun. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Bobby Costello, who’s here watching, originally found the horse as a youngster, I think in Ireland, and competed him at the lower levels under the name Fernhill Teddy Two Two.

Will was glad to have had a practice run on grass a couple of weeks ago, but wondered if he’d chosen the wrong studs for this morning.

“We rode on grass at Chatt Hills two weeks ago which was actually a huge help,” he said. “I did go with a bit bigger studs in here today because typically this ring can be a bit slick which worked a little bit against me; in that second change when I was going to ask for it he just felt like he got stuck so I don’t think he was used to it, but he’s just a 9 year old horse and hopefully this isn’t his last time on grass.”

Will Faudree and Pfun Photo by Samantha Clark

Will Faudree and Pfun. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Will and Pfun scored 50.6 which places them about midway down the pack at this point, but with everything to play for on cross country day.

We still have a couple to look forward to this afternoon that might shake up the leaderboard. I’ll be watching Pippa Funnell and Aoife Clark carefully and bringing you a wrap up of the day later. In the meantime, enjoy your Friday and Go Eventing!

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Bettina Hoy Leads Day 1 at Blenheim, Holly Payne Caravella Joins Top 10

Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott take control of the CCI3* on the first day of dressage at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials Photo by Samantha Clark

Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott take control of the CCI3* on the first day of dressage at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials. Photo by Samantha Clark

As expected we were treated to a beautiful display of dressage this afternoon by Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott, and accordingly their score of 32.9 gives them a whopping overnight lead over Harry Meade in 2nd on 39.6 and then Hannah Sue Burnett on Harbour Pilot in 3rd on 41.7.

Seigneur Medicott was one of the few horses not to get a little rattled by the flapping flags and rattling in the grandstand — it’s very windy here this afternoon. Bettina said he noticed the distractions but she was proud of the way he handled them.

“It felt really good, he’s just an amazing horse, he’s so lovely to ride. I was very pleased with him, he’s only a young horse and a beautiful mover. I would say that test is pretty much in line with the other tests he’s done although obviously it’s easier to ride on sand like at Aachen. I could feel him every now and then losing his concentration a little bit but he tries so hard to then come back and concentrate on me so it was only for a split second. He’s a very sweet-natured horse and I think that makes it a lot easier in the test.”

Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott take control of the CCI3* on the first day of dressage at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials Photo by Samantha Clark

Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Bettina has had the horse since he was a five year old and all he’d done was show jump so she he has spent his entire eventing career thus far with her. Seigneur Medicott is not related to Mr or Mrs Medicott; it’s their original owner that is the connection.

Bettina walked the course for the first time yesterday. “It’s a beautiful course, it’s really nice,” she said. “The ground is great, even if we get a bit more rain (yes, rain on Saturday is in the forecast naturally!) I think the ground will be able to cope with it. It’s Blenheim: it’s up and down and they have to be very fit so I’m glad I’ve done Blair already with him so he’s a little bit used to some of the hills at least!”

Holly Payne Caravella and Santino move into the top after the first day of dressage at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials CCI3* Photo by Samantha Clark

Holly Payne Caravella and Santino move into the top 10 after the first day of CCI3* dressage at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Holly Payne Caravella and Santino were a couple of horses later and produced a level, mistake-free test. Santino’s changes were expressive but clean, and Holly looked like she kept him relatively calm despite all the distractions outside the arena; it was only when everyone clapped and cheered (we have a fantastic U.S. support crew here!) as she left the arena and he almost galloped away that it was clear just how close to the boil he was!

Nonetheless their score of 46.2 is good enough for 8th overnight. (Yes, we have two Americans in the top 10 after the first day of day of dressage here at Blenheim!)

“He was pretty good, I was pretty pleased with him. I’m always going to be critical and there were things I’m not going to be happy about it but it’s super windy and flowers were blowing over and the tents were flapping and he didn’t seem phased at all by that which made me really happy. I was really happy with him.”

Santino has spent the last week at Burghley keeping his stablemate Never Outfoxed company and perhaps this helped. “It probably helped him settle into the atmosphere, he was real quiet at Burghley,” Holly said. “I hacked him around Burghley and I think he’s definitely getting used to it, he’s not affected by the atmosphere here.”

Holly Payne Caravella and Santino leave the Blenheim Palace main arena after their test which has them in 8th place overnight. Photo by Samantha Clark

Holly Payne Caravella and Santino leave the Blenheim Palace main arena after their test which has them in 8th place overnight. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Holly has had a quick peek at the cross country. “I think it looks really good, it looks way more do-able than Burghley!,” she said. “I mean there are definitely questions out there but I thought it looked really inviting. When I was here in 2009 we ran the course backwards so you got to run through the water once before you had the big crossing so I think that will ride pretty hard going away. I think you have to know what you’re going to do and hold your line, but it’s good and galloping and inviting. I think it will be a good course for him.”

Likewise Hannah thinks the cross country will suit Harbour Pilot well also. “It looks really big actually, I was a bit surprised at how substantial it is, it looked kind of like a four star when I walked it the first time,” she said. “I like the way it builds — the first couple of minutes look really nice, it’s large but you can ride against it and the combinations are inviting. I think the middle bit is really, really serious especially if we get the rain we’re supposed to get. I think it’s going to ride really tough there in the middle of the course and then it’s a bit nicer on the way home. So … a lot to do!

“I like the in on the first water. It’s really, really big and that’s actually good for him because I’ll be able to ride against it a little bit because he can get strong down the hills, and then the out is really difficult (fence 15A and B) — it’s a very, very sharp angled three strides corner to corner. Everybody’s going to have to be on their toes, that’s for sure!”

David O’Connor is in agreement with both riders. “It’s a good course, it’s well-presented. Not going through the main arena is a fairly unusual thing for us here (due to ERM and timing). I think all the exercises are appropriate, I think the first water is strong, it’s probably the strongest combination in the whole thing. I think everything else seems to be kind of right — bulletproof and predictable — but the first water is quite strong.”

David seemed happy with the U.S. squad’s performance in the little white box today. “I think everybody’s ridden really well, everybody rode their horses very well. Hannah really went in there to compete and looked good. I think Tamie’s first horse did the same thing. I think everyone has ridden really well today so I’m excited about that.”

Tamie Smith and Dempey II in the CIC3* for 8 and 9 year olds at the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials Photo by Samantha Clark

Tamie Smith and Dempey II in the CIC3* for 8 and 9 year olds at the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Tamie Smith rode the 8-year-old Dempsey in the CIC3* for 8 and 9 year olds later this afternoon and but for a couple of bobbles they did a nice test. They scored 49.3 to sit in 20th place overnight.

There’s plenty more to come from this young horse and Tamie did well to contain him with the wind and the atmosphere. “He was pretty wound up — it’s really windy and the flags are flapping. This ring almost feels more electric than the CCI arena,” Tamie said. “I’m really proud of him, he tried really hard and he had some good moments. I’m really happy with his first time here and he’s come a long way.”

Dempsey is in the CIC3* because Tamie wasn’t sure if she’d get two horses in the CCI as this is such a popular and oversubscribed event; he heads over to Boekelo after this.

Tamie had not had a chance to walk the course yet — “I’ve been a bit busy!” she said — but with both her dressage tests behind her now she was excited to have a look at it and promised to let us know her thoughts tomorrow morning.

Kylie Lyman sits in 18th place in the CIC3* on Lup The Loop on a score of 47.7 with one error of course. Apologies for not catching her today, but I hope to track her down tomorrow.

The forecast is for rain tomorrow and Saturday but that might well change. The wind was a real factor this afternoon, and having to take the fact that the weather is probably going to be influential is what eventing is all about. We have some heavy hitters due to enter the CCI3* arena tomorrow, not least our own Will Faudree and Pfun at 9:22 a.m. GB time but also Pippa Funnell, Nicola Wilson, Sam Griffiths and former winner Aoife Clark on Wasting Light.

Well done to all the U.S. riders today, and thank you as always for taking the time to talk right after your rides — I certainly appreciate it and I’m pretty sure everyone sitting on tenterhooks back home does too. It’s great to see Lisa Barry, James Daniel Connor and Carol Anne Parker here amongst many others cheering and whistling for all the Americans. “We’re the morale officers, we’re here to boost morale,” said James last night, and they certainly are.

Go USA at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials and Go Eventing!

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Harry Meade leads Blenheim CCI3* Dressage at Thursday Lunch, USA’s Hannah Sue Burnett 2nd

Harry Meade and Orlando take an early lead at #BPIHT Photo by Samantha Clark

Harry Meade and Orlando take an early lead at Blenheim. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Harry Meade got the Blenheim Palace CCI3* dressage ball rolling early Thursday when he and Orlando entered the arena as one of the first combinations to go and set the benchmark that the rest to follow would need to try and match.

Orlando, previously an Izzy Taylor ride, is capable of doing a nice test, and didn’t disappoint here to Harry’s relief as he has only had the ride since July.

“It’s our first CCI together, he’s done some really smart tests and we had a good run together at Hartpury so it was nice to get into a big arena,” Harry said. “It’s always interesting because you’re a little bit still experimenting with different warm-ups when you’re a new partnership but I was really pleased with him. He has a lot of natural elevation and engagement and power in his work so I just worked on having the relaxation to go with that and I was happy, I don’t think he threw away any marks.”

Orlando is missing his left eye after bumping it in the stable a few years ago; he was starting to go blind in it and so the decision was made to remove the eye at the beginning of this season.

Harry doesn’t think it will impact him in his eventing career: “When I first started riding him I took him cross country schooling and progressively put him in a more and more difficult position around a tight, left bend to a fence that he didn’t know was there and I watched his ears to see that moment of realisation when he could see the fence — and amazingly he can still see with what I would call pretty normal vision. To me, it doesn’t affect him. The only time it does is if things like a marquee or something similar flaps on his blind side and he can’t see it he’ll be more worried than if he could.”

It’s hard not to gush about Harry’s wonderful commentating at Burghley recently, so I did, and he modestly replied, “I love eventing, I love cross country riding; my first love is being in the saddle and being the one doing it and if I can’t do that I get enthusiastic chatting about it so I’m quite happy either way!”

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot loving the #BPIHT arena Photo by Samantha Clark

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot loving the Blenheim arena. Photo by Samantha Clark.

The next break saw three of our U.S. riders and Hannah Sue Burnett brought the goods on her experienced partner Harbour Pilot. Their test was relaxed, forward and mistake free, and with a score of 41.7 they’re sitting behind Harry in second currently.

Hannah was pleased with Harbour Pilot who she said was happy to get up to the main arena with more people around and strut his stuff. “He was great! He felt really good. He was a little bit tense yesterday when I was riding him at the barns and a little bit this morning as well but then as soon as I got him up to this practice ring before the test he was really, really rideable and easy and fun — I could push on him and he felt like his normal self at home which was encouraging.

“I’m really, really excited. The last time we came to England was at Burghley and he was so wonderful there but we didn’t get to finish so I’m excited to have a repeat performance, hopefully better, and finish the event!”

This is Hannah’s first visit to Blenheim. “It’s beautiful, I love it! It’s got a great atmosphere and everyone’s excited to be here and friendly, it’s fun!”

Hannah has yet to walk the CCI3* cross country, explaining “If I go on Thursday I usually try to wait until after my dressage so I can focus.” But she has promised to tell us her thoughts on it later.

Tamie Smith and Twizted Syster rise to the occasion at #BPIHT Photo by Samantha Clark

Tamie Smith and Twizted Syster rise to the occasion at Blenheim. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Tamie Smith was the first of our U.S. riders to go into the ring and did America proud. She kept Twizted Syster focused and rideable and the overall impression was very nice. The changes were not quite clean but there were some lovely moments promising much more from this pair.

Tamie was happy with her test and how hard her mare tried for her. “She was great, she was really workmanlike,” she said. “Normally she can get a little hot and tense in the ring and she didn’t at all, she felt great. She’s been going really well, she thinks she likes England! I like the grass actually, it kind of keeps them slow! The atmosphere didn’t bother her, I feel like I’ve just had a really good horse since I got here so I’m really excited for Saturday.”

Tamie Smith and Jacky Green Photo by Samantha Clark

Tamie Smith and Jacky Green. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Tamie was off to walk the course so we’ll bug her for her thoughts on that later too, but she said she came away inspired from spectating at Burghley last weekend.

“Burghley was amazing. I can’t wait! I can’t wait to go out the start box there. I thought it would be more intimidating, I expected it because everyone says it’s the biggest and the hardest in the world but I felt like I have a horse to do that with so I’m really excited about getting there. I don’t know when I’m going to get there — maybe in a couple of years.”

Kurt Martin and Delux Z at #BPIHT Photo by Samantha Clark

Kurt Martin and Delux Z at Blenheim. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Kurt Martin rode a fairly tense Deluxe Z beautifully, managing the tension with tact and their test improved as they progressed and the horse relaxed a little.

Kurt was philosophical when he left the arena: “He was a little bit spooky and tense which he hasn’t been in the warm-up but I’m sort of accustomed to that. I thought it improved as he went around. I’m happy with him. It’s such a great opportunity to be here and I’m really thankful to be here on such a nice horse, it’s really a dream and I’m lucky to be here.”

Kurt hasn’t done a test on grass on Delux Z since he was at Intermediate level and was slightly surprised by the effect. “It felt tighter, the arena felt a little bit smaller and he’s a big horse,” he remarked.

Riding in front of Blenheim Palace, Kurt Martin and Delux Z in the CCI3*. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Riding in front of Blenheim Palace, Kurt Martin and Delux Z in the CCI3*. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Kurt has had a little look at some of the cross country but hasn’t managed to walk the entire course yet. “I think it looks good, a lot of galloping space and an opportunity to get rolling at the beginning which is really important for this horse.”

Delux Z came over from the USA with the Burghley horses and has been based at Jesse Campbell’s yard. Kurt also got to visit Burghley: “I got to walk around and support my friends there so that was really exciting, this is a growing opportunity for myself, it’s such an education to see the best in the world compete and ride and train.”

Luckily though, he assured me that riding against them here at such a prestigious event such as Blenheim doesn’t affect his own nerves. “I was walking up here and thinking about it: It’s just about this horse and I and the four years that have gone into our relationship. It’s about competing against ourselves and the course that has been set and I don’t worry about other people.”

Nilson Moreira Da Silva and Muggle taking each day as it comes Photo by Samantha Clark

Nilson Moreira Da Silva and Muggle taking each day as it comes. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Nilson Moreira Da Silva had a nice outline with Muggle and looked to be set for a nice test earlier but unfortunately he forgot his test a couple of times and lost his way.

He explained, “I was quite happy with the horse, but not happy with myself, I basically gave six points away but it’s another week and I’m looking forward to the cross country and seeing what I can do.”

Nilson of course has re-routed from Burghley where he got as far as fence 5 on the cross country, the second water crossing. “I think he got a little shy, and when he got into the water the first time he was looking around at everything more than actually focusing on the jump. It’s hard at a competition like that, the second jump into the water was so big and I didn’t have his attention. We’ll keep on working and every day is another day, that’s my goal.”

We have lots more to look forward to at Blenheim this afternoon: Holly Payne Caravella and Santino do their test, and we’re also expecting great things from Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott.

There is so much going on here at Blenheim and it’s so spread out that it’s impossible to cover it all — in fact I was sorry to miss Kylie Lyman and Lup The Loop who went in the CIC3* at about the same time as our U.S. CCI3* contingent. Tamie Smith goes in that division later this afternoon on Dempsey, very shortly after Holly’s test up here in the Marlborough arena so I’ll try and do better, Run Samantha Run! In the meantime it’s all systems go here at Blenheim Palace. Go Eventing!

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All U.S. Combinations Accepted at Blenheim First Horse Inspection

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot Photo by Samantha Clark

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot. Photo by Samantha Clark.

A giant division of 78 horses was presented before the ground jury of Eric Lieby, Joanne Jarden and Harry Payne for the CCI3* at the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials this afternoon. All the U.S. combinations were accepted without any incident, but we are sad not to see Sinead Halpin and Allie Knowles here representing us too as they are late withdrawals.

Tamie Smith and Twizted Syster photo by Samantha Clark

Tamie Smith and Twizted Syster. Photo by Samantha Clark.

There are a few horses here who’ve re-routed after early trouble at Burghley. Look for Vicky Brake and Cooley’s First, Angus Smales and Master Crisp, and Nilson Moreira aa Silva and Muggle. Nilson and Muggle were sent to the holding box but passed upon re-inspection. Roo Fox and Fleet Street, who had a heavy fall at the Rolex Combination at Burghley, were sent to the holding box and subsequently withdrew.

Nilson Moreira Da Silva and Muggle Photo by Samantha Clark

Nilson Moreira aa Silva and Muggle. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Pippa Funnell did not present Majas Hope, nor did Paul Tapner present Prince Mayo. Ludwig Svennerstal’s Win and Love has also been withdrawn.

Holly Payne Caravella and Santino

Holly Payne Caravella and Santino. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Two other combinations were sent to the holding box and then accepted upon re-presentation: Dani Evans and Smart Time and Sara Squires with Sula Blue.

A few other horses were asked to jog twice, and Gubby Leech jogged Zebedee for Tim Price. It has now been confirmed that Gubby Leech will ride the horse, not Tim.

Kurt Martin and Delux Z Photo by Samantha Clark

Kurt Martin and Delux Z. Photo by Samantha Clark.

I managed to catch up briefly with Will Faudree and get his opinion on the cross country, which you can preview here. “I think it looks like a lot of fun, no pun intended! There’s a lot to do as soon as you start out but it’s a good, galloping track.”

Last time Will competed here it ran the other way round with the long gallop through the water without jumps as the first crossing. This time they have to jump straight in which is more challenging he thinks, “but it’s got good hills, good gallops, it asks a lot of questions and it’s beautifully presented.”

Will Faudree and Pfun Photo by Samantha Clark

Will Faudree and Pfun. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Will flew over on Saturday to be reunited with Pfun, who was at Jesse Campbell’s yard, and they arrived at Blenheim yesterday: “I’m excited to be here, it’s good to be back.”

David O’Connor was hoping to get his first look at the cross country either this evening or tomorrow morning and promised me his thoughts on it then. I’ll be catching up with all the U.S. riders after their dressage in much more detail.

Dressage starts tomorrow at 9 a.m. BST, 4 a.m. EST after Nicky Roncoroni does the guinea pig test at 8:40 a.m. BST. There is a free live stream you can register to watch at this link.

It’s a miracle how the organisers are going to fit everything in with the enormous divisions already established at this popular event, and now the Event Rider Masters finale too. It will certainly be exciting, and props especially to Catherine Austen in the press tent who has everything running as smoothly as silk.

The weather so far is muggy, but looks like it might be changeable all weekend. Much more to come from the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials all weekend, don’t go away, go eventing!

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Blenheim Palace International CCI3* Cross Country Course Walk

Here’s your first look at Eric Winter’s CCI3* cross country course at the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials. Team USA has five in the CCI3*: Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot, Holly Payne Caravella and Santino, Will Faudree and Pfun, Kurt Martin and DeLux Z, and Tamie Smith and Twizted Syster. 

Nilson Moreira da Silva and Muggle have also re-routed to Blenheim after retiring early on course at Burghley. Unfortunately, Sinead Halpin has withdrawn Manoir de Carneville from the CCI3* after he sustained a minor injury at Millstreet in Ireland. Kylie Lyman and Lup the Loop are also competing in the 8/9-year-old CIC3*, as are Tamie Smith and Dempsey.

The first horse inspection is underway at 4 p.m. BST, 11 a.m. EST. Stay tuned for a full report plus comments on the cross country from the riders. Go Eventing!

Blenheim Links: WebsiteEntries & ScoringLive StreamEN’s CoverageTwitterInstagram