Gallery: Best of British on Show at Season Opener

Everyone is glad to be back, but perhaps none more so than Caroline Harris’ Falko TH. Everyone say cheese! Photo by Tilly Berendt.

FINALLY. The weird, out-of-character British snow has subsided, the stud holes have been drilled, and the eventing season has kicked off with a bang on our merry little isle. Okay, more of a dribble than a bang — a sudden deluge put paid to the final two days of both Oasby, in Lincolnshire, and Tweseldown, in Hampshire. But before the unfortunate early finish, both hosted plenty of sections, filled to the brim with amateur riders and the creme-de-la-creme alike.

If you’ve never experienced a British eventing season, its advent in March looks a bit like this:

  • Mud.
  • An endless queue of lorries clogging up the M5 as they attempt to leave Gloucestershire en masse at 5am.
  • More mud.
  • “I didn’t recognise you under all those coats!” Repeated, ad infinitum.
  • Hairy, grubby Thermatexes become the number one sartorial choice — for people, mind, not horses.
  • Tractors lurking around the edge of the lorry park, ready to pull said lorries out of the mud.
  • Andrew Nicholson nearly sending you flying on a particularly fresh Novice.
  • I mean, just Andrew Nicholson full-stop, as he’ll be riding approximately 38 on any given day.
  • Neck straps. Two of them on one horse, memorably, in a Novice section.
  • An endless queue at the coffee trailer, in which three phrases are uttered: “Go on, add the whipped cream, I’ll shiver the calories off anyway!” “Eventing in March, eh — why do we do it?!” and/or, “Bit brisk, isn’t it?” Anyone daring to deviate from the script will be punished (ie., they won’t have mini M&M’s sprinkled on top of the whipped cream on their hot chocolate. Look, I really do believe in the calorie-reducing powers of shivering.)
  • A bit more mud.
  • Studs the size of kitchen knives, to ensure that showjumping doesn’t become a sloppy game of pick-up sticks.
  • New puppies, acquired through the off-season, wiggling merrily through the morning and passed out, soggy and satisfied, in the driver’s seat of every lorry by noon.
  • Enormous smiles, chattering teeth, and joyous reunions, every which way. “It’s SO great to see you!” echoes around the lorry park, the secretary’s tent, and the warm-ups, all day, every day. It’s lovely.
  • Also probably more mud.

I could wax lyrical all day long about just how marvellous it is to be back in action for another jam-packed season, but if anyone knows the sheer joy of the first event of the season, it’s the fine readers of Eventing Nation. Instead, I’m going to let the pictures tell the story — welcome to a wet, blustery, bloody brilliant day at Tweseldown Horse Trials.

Let’s begin with this brilliant video, courtesy of Harveywetdog: Andrew Nicholson and his 2017 Badminton winner (and then some) Nereo, second in the AI, looking as well as ever. Will they maintain their title this year?

Legends on tour: Blyth Tait and Havanna Vant Castanaehof (22nd in OI F) and Dan Jocelyn and Dassett Cool Touch (9th in OI D). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Izzy Taylor and Perfect Stranger, 12th in OI section F. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lydia Hannon’s Tierro posts an impressive early season result, with second place in OI section F. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The stars – they’re just like us. Mary King gets stuck in with the Hannon family’s new puppy, Lily: “Lydia was either going to be Lydia or Lily, so we’ve put the name to use on the dog,” says Mummy Hannon. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Australia’s Kevin McNab and Brookfield Quality warm up for Intermediate section G. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Not a bad groom to have on side — mum Mary King puts herself to work before daughter Emily goes cross country. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Mary and Emily King’s distinctive lorry (with a slightly concerning Learner plate?!), parked next to Pippa Funnell’s. Just your normal, average, casual lorry park in England. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Chris Burton on Quality Purdey and Andrew Nicholson on Zacarias discuss the intricacies of the OI showjumping course. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I’ll judge your round!” offers Andrew Nicholson from the collecting ring, as Chris Burton waits to be able to commence. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Australia’s Chris Burton rides Quality Purdey, who won the CIC3* at Le Pin au Haras, to 9th place in OI section E. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Andrew Nicholson’s Zacarias won two Intermediates in 2017 and finished in eleventh place in his first CIC** – bred by Ramon Beca, who bred superstars Nereo and Armada, could this young horse be one of Nicholson’s stars of the future? Watch this space, people. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jonty Evans and Ringwood LB taking this whole dressage thing very seriously indeed. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

All smiles from Harry Meade aboard Away Cruising, top 20 at both Luhmuehlen and Burghley in 2017 – who needs to be able to feel their toes when there’s eventing to get on with?! Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It’s all too much for some – Jonty Evans’ Gambesie (also known as, um…Kevin) enjoys a quick snooze before heading down to the showjumping. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Harry Dzenis rides Xam, with whom he has clocked up five four-star completions, in the AI. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Young talent Tom Jackson works in one of his Novice horses. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Padraig McCarthy gives Ludwig Svennerstal the eye. Anyone fancy guessing the subject of the story Ludwig was so merrily telling? Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The jumps are lava: Lissa Green’s Corraggio Z, known as Snoop, takes no chances in the Novice showjumping. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Emily Baldwin and Uppercourt Cooley finish 12th in the Open Novice. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Andrew Nicholson and his final ride of nine, Argentino BK, clear the final Novice fence. Every single one of Andrew’s horses finished in the top 20 in their sections, and he managed the one-two in the AI, winning on Swallow Springs and clinching second on Nereo. What. A. Champ. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Diachello II and Kiwi Jesse Campbell look equally happy to have notched up their first cross country completion of the season. The pair finished fourth in Novice section N. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Mary King and homebred King Bill might be a bit soggy, but it doesn’t dim their shine – they finish fourth in their section. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Focus, finesse, and nearly flattened photographers – the Andrew Nicholson story. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Go Eventing — whichever side of the pond you may be on!