Our new eventing blogger brings us up to speed with how the horses have gone during his first few outings of the season
As I drove into Isleham Horse Trials on the first day of the 2015 season and saw the swell of talent, both human and equine, in the field of a Cambridgeshire carrot farm I remembered why I love this sport.
For me, and I think most others in that field it is about the pounding of hooves on turf, the adrenalin pumping through our veins, and that intrinsic desire to improve, striving to be on a par with the best in the world. It’s asking the questions of our horses, confident in the knowledge that due to our preparation the answers will be yes. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in!
We were certainly surrounded by the best in the world at Isleham. Zara Phillips, Piggy French, Gemma Tattersall, Izzy Taylor and numerous others were there in force, enjoying fantastic ground for this time of year and a very well run competition.
I had six rides over the weekend with one pole down between them and all being super, if steady across country. For me, it was a weekend for getting the ball rolling gently.
A damsel in distress
Returning home on the Saturday night I passed Nini French who, along with three horses, was stranded on the roadside with a broken lorry. The eventing circle is close knit, almost like family and I for one would hate to leave her stranded. It’s one of the things I love about our sport, that community spirit. So we trundled home with some extra friends.
Four days later we were off again. Oasby puts on a super event and it is relatively local for me. All four intermediate horses jumped really well and I picked up a placing or two which was fantastic, particularly for Chatty (The Loudest Whisper). Owned by Merna Merrett, she finished third after being somewhat tricky in her early years. It was a pleasure to ride round a lovely course in the sunshine, which was helped by riding some super horses — lucky me.
An impressive transformation
The following day we made the long journey to Poplar Park. Like Isleham, this event is a vivid memory from my childhood when, as a family, we would make the yearly pilgrimage to watch top event riders begin their season. In the last few years Poplar had lost the sparkle of its hey day and its entries reflected that, but….
…WOW! What a transformation. This year was Poplar at its best! With some super courses and brilliant changes, the eight-hour round trip was certainly worth it. My four entries went well and Otis (Master Ricardo) completed his first ever event with a double clear and a placing.
Mr Fahrenheit III (Freddie to his friends), who is the first son (by embryo transfer) of Little Tiger, jumped a super double clear. He clearly takes after his mother, with a brilliant attitude across the country although his extravagance jumping rather excitedly off a drop fence caused my air jacket to go off. Thankfully it deflated sufficiently quickly that I could continue without stopping, while Freddie remained apparently oblivious to his jockey momentarily turning into the Michelin man! I sincerely hope the entries for Poplar take an upturn next year following their amazing efforts.
A surreal moment
Unbelievably the sun shone again when we made the trip to Lincoln Horse Trials. Lincoln is a brilliant event and a lot of the top guns come out to play here. I had the pleasure of watching some of my eventing heroes going round when walking the course, and Jeanette Brakewell in particular stood out with such amazing rhythm and balance. Hugo (Woodland Rock) jumped a super double clear picking up ninth and I took Chatty steadily after our speedy outing at Oasby and had a really fun ride.
As I warmed up for the cross country with Chatty, I had a rather surreal moment when I spotted a rather glamorous face that I recognised instantly. The eventing legend, Ginny Elliot, was training a pupil. Ginny was such an inspiration to me as a mini-Grievesy — just saying hello to her gave me a boost and a reminder of why I do what I do.
So the season is well and truly underway. With the Norfolk fortnight of Great Witchingham and Burnham Market ahead, there’s lots to look forward to. I’ll keep you posted!