It is great to see plenty of new combinations lining up for Britain at the Europeans at Blair — there are a good number that could challenge for the medals.

It’s not a coincidence that the British Equestrian Federation bid to host the European Championships the year before the Olympic Games. Selectors understandably don’t like taking team rookies to the Olympics but since the host nation at the Europeans can field 12 combinations — rather than the usual six — Blair provides a chance for plenty of contenders to cut their teeth at a championship, providing greater options for next year.

As Britain gained Olympic qualification at last year’s World Equestrian Games, the main focus for the Europeans will be to win medals, with Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland in a similar position. This means that the French, who lost their Olympic qualification after a positive dope test, will be battling it out at Blair with the Swedes, Italians and Belgians, among others, in a bid to take the two remaining qualifying slots for Rio.

The US team’s win at last week’s Pan Am games secured their place. It was good to see Brazil putting up a strong challenge and taking the silver medal.

Fun times at Barbury

Barbury unfolded into an exciting event. It’s a fantastic shop window for the sport and there’s a fun atmosphere — it has to be one of the best eventing experiences for spectators.

The constant undulations of the course don’t suit every horse but clearly Avebury flourishes there. It was very special to see him win in style, for the fourth consecutive year. With Andrew Nicholson also finishing second on Nereo it will be interesting to see if the impasse between him and the New Zealand federation dissipates.

Andrew, Tina Cook, Mark Todd and I joined forces at Barbury to take on the jockeys’ team (AP McCoy, Richard Johnson, Sam Twiston-Davies and Wayne Hutchinson) in the JCB Challenge — a scurry relay on borrowed hunters in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund.

The competitive tone was set when someone with a bit of inside knowledge shouted to get on the grey horse, so in musical chairs style I overtook Wayne Hutchinson who was eyeing up the same horse and in a moment of over-eagerness vaulted on and disappeared straight over the other side! I jumped back on to claim the horse, who was worth fighting for. To much amusement, the event riders were faster, but the jockeys won as they left more fences up than us — a bit of irony on both fronts.

Careful what you wish for

Last week someone asked me to keep an eye open for a horse for them to buy and ride.

They said they were looking for a youngster to go up the grades but they didn’t want anything too easy; they liked the idea of a challenge.

We’ve all heard this before and it’s baffling. With horses there are enough challenges, so you don’t need to go looking for trouble. It’s like saying that you hope your future wife isn’t totally straightforward, but more of an argumentative hothead to keep things interesting!

Ref: Horse & Hound; 23 July 2015