Opinion

Tattersalls seems to grow every year, and this time the event hosted 354 horses across eight international classes. The event organisation treats it as a real labour of love and creates a positive, welcoming feeling.

I’ve been a rider representative there for several years and on each visit every previous suggestion has been carried out and more.

The event was the brainchild of the late George Mernagh, the popular managing director of Tattersalls Ireland — the bloodstock auction house that hosts the event. He was a highly gifted horseman — a capable National Hunt jockey who evented at three-star and was a top showing judge. He sadly died of cancer aged 56 but how proud he would be that the event he started is now among the best in Europe.

The bloodstock company has no need to host the event, and no doubt it would be easier for them not to, but it is in the organisation’s ethos to support the wider equestrian world. They also open their gilded gates to host a horse show, a point to-point, a hunter trials and the Irish Pony Club eventing championships.

For the grooms it’s a joy to work out of the first-class permanent facilities, which are used for the bloodstock sales.

A courtyard of stables separates each American barn; the whole site is immaculate with a permanent canteen, showers and loos.

The comfortable bar is great for owners, and there’s livestreaming for those who can’t make it. For us, being half term, it’s a fun event to bring the children to, as there are plenty of friends and a lifesaving funfair zone.

Educational tracks

Tattersalls’ organisers make a point of inviting experienced ground juries for all the classes.

The biggest reason to go, though, is the educational cross-country courses. By fence eight on the CCI2* you had jumped two decent ditches, a bank and a water complex and it carries on like that.

Ian Stark’s tracks follow the classic Frank Weldon concept — the legendary Badminton designer said the fences should frighten riders but be fair to horses. The Tattersalls courses are imposing to walk, but they have good flow, cause fewer problems than you’d expect and are enjoyable to ride.

Ditches, banks and water are far more educational for horses than angles and portables which create faults but don’t broaden a horse’s experience in the same way.

Cross-country design is continuously in a state of flux and we are now seeing a repetitive theme of steep angles, particularly in Continental Europe. A few such questions work, but we shouldn’t deviate too far from the original challenge of crossing the country, testing horses’ and riders’ ability to jump bravely and accurately, overcoming the equine instinct to shrink from those natural elements.

Horses had a similar educational experience at Tweseldown the week before Tattersalls, with the intermediate course containing a good variety of natural obstacles.

The only anomaly at Tattersalls was the first water, which was reasonably straightforward in the one- and two-star, but horses really backed off. Too many good horses and experienced riders came to grief to put it down to poor riding, but nor was it a bad fence. In this situation, there is evidently something that isn’t clear to the horses, even though it may not be visible to the human eye.

Finally, the eventing community is thinking of Jonty Evans, who suffered a bad fall at Tattersalls. We wish him a full recovery and hope for some good news soon.

Ref Horse & Hound; 7 June 2018