Well we’re away — finally! The Great British weather just threw in a few curve balls along the way. Snow in spring time is usually quite rare, but clearly not in 2018. The Beast From The East put in a second appearance, wreaking more havoc and forcing more events to be abandoned early on. Stafford and Swalcliffe being the ones to suffer this time around. Oasby, Tweseldown, Poplar and Lincoln all managed to run a couple of days of play, but we’re forced to abandon on the final days. A huge amount of credit must go to the event organisers though, who have done their very best to try to keep the show on the road and give competitors a run, despite the treacherous conditions.

Fortunately for us, we had a couple of entries in on the first day of Oasby, which was able to go ahead. A first-time BE100 and a young novice horse. Cross-country schooling leading up to the event was literally impossible — the ground was waterlogged everywhere and all schooling places were shut. So Michelle Pritchard’s Fathers Compromise (Promise) and Rachel Barringer’s Primitive Dazzle II (Louis, pictured top who is also for sale) were chucked in at the deep end. Despite the bitterly cold wind and rain, both horses produced nice tests and were awarded low dressage marks for their efforts. They both had an unlucky pole down in the showjumping phase, which was frustratingly the same fence for both. I think for most riders that is a Room 101 moment — the same fence on duplicate horses in a jumping round. I was delighted however with them both across country, especially with neither of them having seen a cross-country fence since last year.

Only Louis was entered for Lincoln the following week, and I know the organisers did a fantastic job in even running the event at all. But on this occasion me and Lou didn’t fancy battling the elements so thought it best to withdraw. Torrential downpours is one thing, but snow blizzards, and we definitely weren’t convinced. So while the snow was on the ground for a second time we dropped the kids off with Victoria’s mum and had a night off watching The Dublin Legends with Angus Smales and his partner Harriet instead. It was great craic and our only issue for the night was finding the nearest Kebab shop, instead of worrying about getting snowed in in the lorry. Yes, I’m not going to lie, the diet went out of the window for the evening.

The slog was then on to prepare 10 horses for Great Witchingham Horse Trials, an event I have really been looking forward to. Mainly because it’s the first time that the big boys were coming out to play. I would know whether some of my purchases made at the end of last year were wise choices or moments of stupidity. With all schooling places still shut, I built a full jumping course at home and took most of them the following day to Speetley Equestrian Centre for a jump around the arena eventing course so that we both knew what to expect. Although it was a great help actually getting them out and giving them something else to look at, an 80cm course wasn’t quite the preparation I was looking for as an ideal warm up for an open intermediate.

I have to say though, all the horses that I took over the two days exceeded my expectations. OBOS Colombus (Obie) had a slightly unlucky run with a blip at a step on the cross-country but I wasn’t too bothered about that. The rest felt good and I think I need to try and establish a partnership with him first. Prince Mayo (Prince) and Wanskjaers Carlsson (Carl) put in super double clears with steady cross-country rounds and felt really classy, so I’m hoping that’s set them up nicely for their next runs at Belton. Their owners Sir John Peace and Charlotte Cole were equally as excited about them as I was.

DHI Paparazzi storming round for second place in the open intermediate at Great Witchingham

 

Little DHI Paparazzi (Pom) was awesome, putting in a lovely dressage and scoring a 26 in a hot open intermediate section and finishing second overall. I was especially pleased for his owners, Sir John again and Ian and Heidi Woodhead, who have been very patient and allowed me to give this horse plenty of time. I had a couple of novice horses, Peter Laidlaw’s River Warrior (Beau) and Louis again running for Rachel, who both finished in eighth place in their respective sections. Promise made owner Michelle extremely proud of her at only her second event by winning the BE100 section on her super dressage score of 26, also the best in the section again. So as you can imagine I was happy with how all the horses performed individually.

OBOS Colombus putting the new LeMieux cross-country boots to the test at Great Witchingham

Continued below…


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It was then onto Burnham Market with a few young horses making their BE100 debuts. I don’t usually ride with a neck strap, but I made an exception on this occasion. After eventually getting Amanda and Craig Morris’ Roko Rock (Boots) up to the dressage arenas (thanks to Pete Laidlaw rescuing me out of the middle of a ploughed field) he did a very sweet test. He jumped a classy double clear and I think he will be a very smart horse in the future, he’s just not for the faint-hearted!

Peter and Bernadette Harrison’s Cooley Outlaw (Ainsley) also had his first run and despite being as green as grass having had no cross-country school beforehand, he tried his heart out with a clear cross-country and only one pole showjumping. Charlotte Coles’s Dakotah VII has also come back in very good form this year. He worried himself a little bit last year after stepping up to intermediate as he’s such a careful jumper. but after the winter off his brain has had chance to catch up and he was class.

I really felt for the organisers and competitors on the final day of Burnham Market after the competition had to be abandoned again due to overnight downpours. I know how much some people will have been needing those CIC2* and CIC3* runs.

We have advanced horses to canter and prepare now for Belton in a couple of week’s time, and we’re keeping everything crossed for Norton Disney next weekend to hopefully get the young ones back out again. Neck straps will be needed again this week as the babies will be going out to some local training shows, however I think the only exception will be Bert and Francis Sheffield’s St Sheri, their dressage mare we have in to sell that is five going on 25 in her brain. Any dressage amateur or professional wanting a nice young horse to produce for the future should consider her, she really is lovely and very easy.

Let’s hope it stops raining soon!

Matt