Virtual Eventing

This week I would normally have been spending many happy hours watching Badminton Horse Trails.  Of course, that wasn’t possible this year and although it had to be that way, it was still rather sad and I  knew I would miss it.  However, I was saved by the genius of the NAF 5* Virtual Eventing who have been working hard to raise money for medical charities around the world.

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The trot up outfits on Wednesday were so much fun – I especially loved Ginny Howe’s teddy bear audience and Tom Rowland’s roller blades.  I also really appreciated having the opportunity to get a glimpse of some of the riders’ yards – it is so interesting to see them!

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Watching in style

The dressage days were more serious but it was great to get to watch some 5* eventing dressage and again those glimpses of the riders’ set ups at home.  Spencer Sturmey’s test was particularly good and I was sorry to find he was eliminated – I was very much looking forward to his cross country round!

The cross country was a brilliant obstacle course with dogs and utterly hilarious – I haven’t laughed so much for ages.  Similarly, the show jumping today (with bicycles!) was great fun to watch – although it seemed to be hard work!  The cross country looked as much fun to do as it was to watch but I think I would have struggled more with the show jumping.

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The whole week has been wonderfully entertaining and I so much appreciated all the work done by the organisers, riders and grooms to put this on for us.  If you didn’t see it I would highly recommend heading over to the Virtual Eventing website or YouTube channel where you can still watch the live streams.

Riding Club Outing

A couple of weeks ago my riding club got to visit a local event rider’s yard for a demo.  I jumped at the chance to go as I love watching how other people ride.  You can learn so much from them – one of the most interesting parts of the Wilton Horse Trials was watching all of those very famous riders in the warm-up ring and seeing what they were doing.

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It was a fascinating evening.  We had a little course walk and were given some tips about working in the warm-up ring at competitions.  We also watched two horses being ridden – one much greener than the other – and it was very interesting to see the way they each developed.

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As you can see, the light was not great for photographs!

It was a freezing cold evening so I was very grateful for the hot cup of tea in a warm room halfway through!  I was also encouraged when things went wrong – not the fact that they had gone wrong but the way any errors were explained.  For example, when a pole was knocked down we were told that it was because the horse hadn’t been presented quite straight at the fence.  I always appreciate riders who don’t blame the horse for any errors and of course it is always good to know that mistakes can happen to anyone.

It was a great evening and I do hope we will have more like it.

Beautiful Burghley

Last week I went up to Burghley Horse Trials.  I have only been once before but I absolutely loved it and I was so excited to go again.  It just has such a great atmosphere and of course the competition is exciting too.

We made sure to get there in time for the first trot-up on Wednesday and were back bright and early for the dressage next day.  We even had time to stop off at our favourite place for breakfast – the Country Living vintage tea room.  It was just a shame that they have had to stop using teapots as so many of them got stolen.

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The two days of dressage were excellent – it was great to see first timer Eliza Stoddart take the early lead, although all the changes on Friday afternoon made it very exciting.  I loved the cross country course which was a proper five star test and I had a great day walking round the course on Saturday.  We finished at the leaf pit and once the final few riders had been past us we listened with bated breath to the loudspeakers as they made their way round the rest of the course.

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Of course, the Sunday show jumping could not have been closer – at least for the final three riders.  I was actually trembling as I watched Oliver Townend, Piggy French and Pippa Funnell go round.  It did not help me at all that they each had a pole down!  I would have been happy if any of them had won but I was so, so pleased to see Pippa come out on top.  She has long been a hero of mine.

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I am also clearly a lucky charm for British riders.  When I went two years ago there was a British 1-2-3-4 and it was the same again this year.

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Naturally I did a little shopping while I was there too.  Burghley seems to be a place for me to buy slogans – last time I got my ‘Living the dream’ gilet.  This time, I found this excellent polo shirt on the BHS stand.

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I also treated myself to these riding tights.  I have never had any before but I have enjoyed wearing them this week.  Plus, my phone actually fits in the pocket properly!  I also loved looking at all of the horse feed stands.  When I was little I used to wish I had a pony and could get samples to take home for it.  Now I can and it felt so good.

Once again I had the best time at Burghley.  I will definitely be back in the future.

A Horseless Horsey Day

Today has been extremely busy for me.  I went to help my riding club team at the horse trials qualifier and it was a long but very fun day.

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I got to walk the cross country course with the team, then it was all hands on deck to tack up and get the first riders down to the dressage warm up.

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Once the first rider was finished with dressage I helped adjust their tack for jumping, then I became our team’s chief pole putter-upper in the warm up ring.  I spent several hours adjusting poles and getting rather sandy in the process.

I also got drenched – when I left the lorry it was blazing sunshine and I was worried about sunburn but before too long there was an almighty crack of tbunder and the heavens opened.  I was in the middle of the warm up at the time and had no chance to get my coat.

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By the time our last team member was finished show jumping most of the others had finished completely so once I’d helped her get ready for her cross country round it was time to start removing studs and getting the horses booted up and ready for the journey home.

I had a great day helping out and hopefully learned a lot too.  I managed not to fall asleep on the way home but I was definitely not the world’s greatest conversationalist!

Badminton From the Sofa

We used to go to Badminton every year but haven’t managed it for the past few.  However, Badminton weekend is still very special for us and we always make sure to watch as much of it as we can.

I so much appreciate the live stream on the Badminton website – I got to watch the first trot up after work on Wednesday and my breaks on Thursday and Friday were spent cooped up in the staff room with the dressage.  It never gets shown on television so it was wonderful to be able to watch it.  Oliver Townend’s record score made it extra exciting too!

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I rode both my own ponies on Saturday morning (listening to Radio Badminton as I did so!) before making my way inside to settle down for the cross country.  This is obviously the big draw of eventing and is always very exciting but this year I knew it would be even more so – the new dressage scoring meant that the scores were tight and time penalties were going to be very influential.

I thought Eric Winter’s cross country course was brilliant.  There were lots of difficult questions which caused problems for the riders without too many falls.  It was wonderful to watch and the riders seemed to like it as well – they were all commenting on how great the course was and that the going was perfect.  I was particularly taken with the Nyetimber Heights, Shogun Sports Hollow and Outlander PHEV Bank combinations which at first glance looked impossible but mostly rode very well.  It was a fantastic day of sport and I was glued to the television.

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This morning I was up bright and early to see to the ponies before the final trot up.  We always make ourselves the same picnic breakfast we would have had if we were actually at the event and it was a lovely, leisurely way to start our Sunday.  My sister came round to ride and, feeling inspired, we did some jumping of our own.  It wasn’t quite up to Badminton standard but we had fun!

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Today’s show jumping was nail biting, especially when we got to the final few riders.  I couldn’t decide who I wanted to win – I am a huge fan of both Piggy French and Oliver Townend.  I really wanted Piggy to win her first five star but for Oliver to claim the second leg of the Rolex Grand Slam would also be great.  Either way, I was thrilled with Piggy’s clear round – it meant we had a British winner.

Oliver Townend had one fence down but he could afford that as well as a couple of seconds over the time.  Even as he cleared the last fence we thought he had won – I think everyone did – but the clock ticked over just enough to drop him behind Piggy French.  I was so disappointed for him but absolutely delighted for Piggy.  She definitely deserved a win.

It has been a wonderful, if somewhat lazy, weekend.  It’s a shame it has to end!

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Excursions

Once again I have been off gallivanting without Galahad to compete for the riding club.  This time I was taking part in an eventer’s challenge – a round of show jumps immediately followed by a round of cross country fences.

I have only done a few cross country courses over the past couple of years and those were on Galahad so the jumps were very little.  I probably haven’t jumped a big round of cross country fences for about ten years so I was more than a little apprehensive.

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The horse felt quite tight and wound up underneath me and we had a couple of argumentative moments in the warm up ring which did not help my confidence.  However, I am nothing if not determined and we made our way into the ring.

Of course, we had to have a very good look at all of the scary tents and vans along the edge but once we were past those I asked for a canter and he shot off at top speed.  I felt like I had no brakes at all but we had gone through the start so I could hardly turn away from the first fence to settle him before we began.  I just had to commit to the jump and hope for the best.

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Look at his tail fly!

Thankfully once we were over the fence he started listening to me and we finished the show jumps at a much more respectable speed.  In fact, it would have been better if we had gone a bit faster but I was just grateful I wasn’t being carted away!

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Show jumping immediately followed by cross country means cross country colours all the time – no show jackets!

We finished the show jumping with no penalties and moved on to the cross country fences.  Suddenly we found our rhythm and the scary, solid fences flowed beautifully.  We had an unfortunate stop at one of them – the team had noticed that several people were having trouble with horses ducking out to the left at that particular fence and I think I overcompensated and sent him the other way – but he jumped beautifully and I found myself enjoying it more than the show jumping.

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Professional photographs are from Dorset Photo Event

We even managed to clear the tricky joker at the end of the course – a show jumping gate 10cm higher than the rest of the fences.  I had the most wonderful day and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  It is so good to be part of the team again!

Enjoying the World Equestrian Games

Yesterday I was fully intending to ride after work.  The trouble was that the World Equestrian Games cross country was running and I really wanted to watch that…

The ponies did not get ridden because, well, they would be around today and the cross country would not.

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The cross country was fantastic.  The course was really interesting and I especially loved the water jumps featuring fountains and actual waterfalls.  I think it’s safe to say that Galahad would not have liked them at all!

Of course, it was also great to see the British team doing so well – five clears, four within the time, is very impressive and it will make the show jumping phase extra exciting to watch tomorrow.  I will certainly be doing my utmost to be at home to watch it.

It has been wonderful being able to watch the dressage too and two bronze medals is a great achievement.  It is just a shame that Florence has forced the cancellation of the freestyle – always my favourite part.  I am looking forward to the rest of the games though, especially the driving marathon which I love.

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As there was no eventing or dressage today due to the hurricane I did get out for a hack with Galahad this evening.  We had a lovely time riding through a fine drizzle which was very refreshing.  A wonderful way to end the day.

Wilton Horse Trials

I am just back from a great weekend at Wilton Horse Trials.

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Wilton ’18 was written incarrots and bananas!

We had a small setback to start with as we were staying in Wilton very near to the main entrance to the house but hadn’t realised that the only way in to the horse trials was two miles away round the other side of the park.  We knew that was the main gate but not that it was the only one.  It was a shame but we’ll be better prepared another time.

I don’t get to go to many of the smaller events but I do love them – you can be so much closer to the action.  I spent Saturday morning basically sat in the warm up area watching the dressage and showjumping.  It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many horses.

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Once the cross country started we obviously had to walk the course and apart from being a little wary of approaching horses (there are less string fences than at the bigger events so we had to be very aware of where the horses would go) it was fantastic exploring the course and being able to get a good look at the fences.

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Saturday morning was novice cross country but I had a look at all the jumps we passed and I was particularly interested in a double on the BE100 course.  I could see several different ways to approach it and I was curious to see how it rode.

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Once the BE100 class started I went to have a look and the first two riders took one route but both had a run out at the second element.  The third rider took a different route and made it look easy so I thought that settled the question.

It’s never as simple as that though – over the two days I saw all possible routes taken and all of them cleanly so my first look must have just been bad timing!

Saturday had been mostly sunny – although very windy – but rain was was forecast for Sunday.  We knew that but the long dry spell has made us a bit complacent and although we had brought waterproof jackets we hadn’t really considered how cold we might get and we had actively decided not to take waterproof trousers.  It rained all day so we learnt our lesson!

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Even the horses were hiding from the rain!

We arrived on Sunday to find that the majority of the trade stands had packed up which was a real shame.  We hadn’t had time to look round them the day before and had planned to do so on Sunday morning.  The few remaining food stands were doing a roaring trade though!

First up on Sunday were the intermediate classes and it was great to be able to get a good look at the riders warming up.  I hope that I managed to learn something.

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We didn’t walk the whole of the cross country course this time – partly because we now knew it pretty well and partly because it was pouring with rain and blowing pretty well too.  I had dreadful trouble with my hat and ended up looking like Paddington.

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The hat will never be the same again.

We picked out a few of our favourite jumps and went to watch those.  The furthest field from the main showground had a fantastic group of trees where we could sit in comfort and watch six fences (eight or nine jumping efforts depending on the class).

I really think we had the best seats on the course, although a coffee van would have been nice!  We were also sat right by the double I had been interested in the day before so I not only got a good view of it being jumped, I also got to watch many different people walking it and it was fascinating to see all the different approaches.

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Despite the weather we had a great weekend and I’m already looking forward to the next event.

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Beautiful Bank Holiday

The weather this bank holiday weekend has been glorious.  Blue skies all day with just a bit of mist in the mornings.  We went out for a lovely ride early yesterday morning and then spent most of the rest of the day in front of the television.  It is Badminton weekend after all!

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I always try to keep this weekend free because even if I can’t actually get there I love to watch.  I even watch snatches of dressage in my breaks at work.  On Friday I had an almost perfectly timed break and managed to watch Jonty Evans’ test.

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I was one of the many people who chipped in to pay for a tail hair of Cooley Rorkes Drift last year so I was very pleased with that.

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Badminton.  So far I am a fan of the new scoring system without the dressage coefficient – recently eventing has felt a bit like a dressage competition!

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It has been a great weekend and we are now just out for what will hopefully be another lovely hack – an evening one this time.

Horsey Watching

Yesterday I was planning to ride after work but the USEF Network was for the first time streaming the Land Rover Kentucky Horse Trials worldwide and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to watch the cross country!

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Unfortunately we had internet issues and we ended up having to watch most of it on my phone.  It was still great though.

By the time it finished is was getting dark and riding was out.

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Today being Sunday I finished work earlier and, as the showjumping started later than the cross country, I had time for a quick hack with Galahad.

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We had a lovely time and I did get back in time for most of the showjumping.  I didn’t just sit and watch it though – Galahad had almost torn one ear off of his fly mask so I was busy mending that.

The showjumping was so exciting – the scores of the top riders were incredibly close – and it was fantastic to watch.  Obviously it helped a lot that Britain had Oliver Townend in very strong contention and eventually winning.  He now has two legs of the Rolex Grand Slam and Badminton will be very exciting next weekend.