Samantha Clark, host of the 2010 Radio show, and EN favorite traveled home to the UK this weekend for the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe. Like Millbrook, quite a few WEG horses were at Gatcombe this weekend and Samantha tells us all about it in her report. Thanks for writing this Samantha and thank you for reading.
Gatcombe was a busy weekend for everyone: The Festival of British Eventing is aptly named, with a 4 and 5 year old Burghley Young Event Horse Qualifier with about 30 horses in each (Miner’s Frolic won the Final when he was a five year old), the British Novice Championship with about 70 entries, (Cool Mountain won this three years ago as a 7 year old), the British Intermediate Championships with almost 90 entries, two full advanced sections of about 35 horses each, and of course the British Open Championship with about 35 combinations.
There were lots of WEG runners and riders, most of them playing safe and withdrawing before cross country – Nicola Wilson & Opposition Buzz after a good dressage & clear sj, the same for Paul Tapner & Inonothing, Sam Griffiths & Happy Times, William F-P whilst in the lead on Cool Mountain in a regular advanced section, and interestingly Oli Townend on Ashdale Cruise Master whilst in the lead in the British Open. Oli looks to be back on cracking form, after winning the Novice Championship on friday riding Jeepers Creepers, another nice grey to add to his string, finishing 4th in the Intermediate Championships, and then riding the two most beautiful show-jumping rounds all day in the British Open on Ashdale C.M, and Imperial Master. Also doing lovely show-jumping rounds in the slightly undulating, grass main arena over a twisty and tricky course were Paul Tapner on his Badminton winner Inonothing, Daisy Berkeley on Sprinalong, Nicola Wilson on O. Buzz, Joe Meyer on Sanskrit and Clea Phillipps on Lead the Way.
New Zealand had a very good weekend, the Australians a mixed bag, and I must say I was very proud of the Brits. Daisy Berkeley, the eventual Open winner on the wonderful Springalong, zoomed round the cross country, pinging over everything and were a sheer joy to watch. The same has to be said for Caroline Powell and Lenamore, also 17 years old, and surprisingly small when you stand up beside him, but really compact and athletic, not surprisingly! Joe Meyer’s Sanskrit who finished 2nd, was stunning in the dressage warm-up, then had to contend with a torrential downpour half way through his test and was a bit tense and short, but what a lovely, lovely horse.
Also, Clea Phillipps’ Lead the Way was one of the most strikingly beautiful horses competing now and is excellent in all three phases.
Mary King rode Imperial Cavalier somewhat conservatively cross country after a disappointing 2 rails down, but still managed to have 3 horses finish in the top 15 of the Open Champs. As always she rode all three immaculately. She sits so quietly and yet has such strength and security in her seat, I don’t think there’s anyone who could get any better out of a horse than Mary King.
Andrew Nicolson must have won the busiest rider award; it’s quite a long hack from the lorry park down to the main arena, and I saw him trotting up to change horses, meet his groom halfway, and just jump on the next one on the path and turn straight back around.
Dan Jocelyn, also NZ, won a regular advanced class on his experienced campaigner Special Advocate, and also won 2 advanced classes a couple of weeks ago at Aston le Walls, but I still like Savoir Faere best of all his rides.
The cross country for the Open is always run in reverse order of merit after the show-jumping and this year was particularly exciting as only 8 penalties separated the top 10, and the time at Gatcombe is notoriously hard to get.
Probably the most influential course on the Open cross country were the narrow mushrooms on the lip on the top of a very steep climg, and the two steps up to a narrow house, the striding in between the steps is tricky, some horses bounced it, some put in a stride, some just shuffled or skipped their way up and a few really fumbled it. The steps aren’t big big, but the hill is steep. Gatcombe is set in the hills of the Cotswold, it’s stunning countryside, but there’s hardly a flat piece of land, so the horses are always either galloping up or down, or across the camber. The Land Rover arches rode better than expected, two angled houses, under the Land Rover arch and then a very narrow corner on the edge of the down hill, and the red flag got taken out quite a few times by riders just making it, only to replaced by a long-suffering jump judge!
Caroline Powell set the pace for the top 10 when she went inside the time, and Oli T looked to be going to make it also but Imperial Master got to the top of the hill with mushroom in front of him, and just didn’t make the effort to jump it. Kitty King (nee Boggis) used to ride this horse, and although he’s incredibly talented he was very “quirky” , and Oli had to give him a few good reminders down the shoulder after the very first fence. Oli then crouched low and rode fast and furious, but it was not be for him that afternoon. American Lauren Shannon who’s based with Ireland’s Mark and Tanya Kyle had a great ride on both her horses, but an unfortunate 20 penalties on each kept her out of the placings. Clayton Fredericks seemed to be busy all weekend on a number of rides, but I liked Be My Guest in the Open best.
The footing was quite firm, but had been watered and aerovated and we had a lot of rain saturday which helped a bit, and then the track was worked on again saturday night.
I was taken aback again, as I am each time I come home to England, at the sheer depth of quality and talent, both in horses and riders. I urge anyone looking for a horse to get on the next flight over; from the BYEH horses, to the Championship classes there were very few horses I wouldn’t have wanted to jump on and have a go on! On the whole too, they learn early to be fairly accomodating too, standing tied to the lorry all day with/without company, doing dressage in grass arenas, frequently right next door to another arena, and sometimes right beside the jumping, doing three phases in a day, sometimes in a couple of hours, hacking about in traffic, etc.
The intermediate championship was won by Ruth Edge on Applejack, of course a beautiful horse who led from start to finish, and is just one in a string of nice horses Ruth has right now. I also especially liked Matt Ryan’s Bonza Kingscanyon. In the advanced sections I really liked Bill Levett on Sea Oro, Mark Todd on Major Milestone and Harry Meade on Wild Lone. Amazingly Izzy Taylor rode beautifully in all three phases on Briarlands Matilda to take seventh place in Section B, just four weeks after having her second child.
Speaking of which, on winning the Open, Daisy Berkeley announced her pregnancy and subsequent withdrawal from the British Team for WEG reserve list, saving the selectors a headache, as since coming 3rd at Badminton this spring, she’s also won the Barbury Castle CIC 3*, and now the British Open in convincing style. The Brits being considered for the WEG will run at Hartpury, then do a combined test at Blenheim. Those at Gatcombe this weekend are looking good, as are the Australians, and New Zealand team. It’s going to be an exciting event in Lexington in September that’s for sure, and if I was a betting woman, which I sometimes am, I wouldn’t know who to put my money on at this point!