Supporters of Jonty Evans and his crowdfunded stable star Cooley Rorkes Drift were out in force to cheer on the pair in their first UK event since the history-making campaign.
Jonty and “Art” are competing in the CCI3* at the SsangYong Blenheim International Horse Trials this week (13-17 September).
Art looked fresh and the combination pulled off a fluid test and head into the jumping phases in eighth place on a score of 40 penalties.
While Jonty rewarded Art with big pats after the final halt, a huge cheer could be heard from the grandstands.
“He was a good boy,” Jonty told H&H.
“He hasn’t been out since Millstreet and before that Badminton, so it was good – I’m not quite sure it was quite as good as the Badminton test, but he never does anything very wrong and he is getting stronger and stronger all the time, so I’m pleased with him.
“Riding in there is quite emotional because there are lots of people in the crowd who have helped me keep him – it is very special to be able to ride him.”
The combination’s major international successes include individual ninth at the Rio 2016 Olympics and 20th at Badminton 2017.
This summer Jonty secured Art in an extraordinarily successful crowdfunding campaign, raising £500,000 in a matter of weeks through individual donations and an online auction.
The Irishman added Art is feeling “absolutely brilliant”.
“I think he is getting stronger, I think he is fitter – they say Irish horses mature late and he is still improving, which is so exciting,” said Jonty.
“A couple of people have asked me whether I find it pressurising, but I actually don’t find it pressurising at all. It is so lovely that people appreciate him as much as we do, so it is great to have their support.”
A party for Jonty and Art is taking place in the learning arena at Blenheim today (Friday, 15 September) at 4.15pm.
Don’t miss next week’s issue of Horse & Hound – out Thursday, 21 September – for a full report from Blenheim