Coral Keen’s eventing blog: my dream team and why I disagree with a rule change

  • The past couple of weeks have seen a mammoth Team Keen effort to keep the show on the road both at home and at Aston-le-Walls, where I had six horses competing at varying levels over two days.

    One thing is for absolutely sure, I could not have done this without a hugely supportive and dedicated group behind me. Working in eventing is a hard industry and what makes individuals stand out, are the ones who love the sport and more importantly the horses in it. Groom’s pay is never going to be the main draw, neither is the illusion that is a glamourous industry. I think people can fall foul of coming out of college with a totally unrealistic vision of what it is all about and then cannot handle the amount of work.

    One of my grooms, Maddie, helping me at Aston. Credit: William Carey

    It is great when there are highlight days — such as the team who were working with Jonelle to take the Badminton win. However, even at the top, soon after Badminton these guys were turning the truck around to then get up at the crack of dawn to go team training with Jonelle and eight horses. The following day they were at Aston where the Prices had 15 horses competing over the two days, then it was off to Chatsworth. It is totally full on and like I said, it is beyond paramount that your team love the game and the horses as much as you do.

    With all that we expect from our vital team members, I think it is incredibly important that us riders remember to give them incentive to keep motivated. I always try and help my grooms/pupils with their goals, whether this be training at home or coaching them at competitions, so I can put a bit back into them after all the work they do for me.

    Total Belief at Aston. Credit: William Carey

    It has taken me a bit of time to build my current support team, but I feel incredibly lucky with the set up I now have; my head girl Sarah Trenchard, working pupils Maddie Longstaff and Leah Bentley, and Imogen Todd who is vital cover for when we are away and when the rest of team are having days off.

    What is really important for me, is that when I am away competing I am able leave to yard and have 100% confidence in the team at home. This is especially important when you leave horses that are competing at the end of the week. My girls have incredible attention to detail and I am very lucky to be able to go away and not have any worries about what is going on at home. Then there is the crucial pair of hands you need at the competition. At Aston the girls were incredible at turning out the horses to the highest standard, keeping everything organised and me on schedule!

    Derby showjumping at Aston. Credit: William Carey

    The group of horses I took to Aston where all on great form, with double clears from Total Belief and Total Darkness (who was also ninth), and a good second event for five-year-old Quintessential III. The Giessler family’s Troja Queen just missed out on a top 10 (12th) and then Clare White’s lovely six-year-old Midnight Chill (pictured top) had a fab run in his first novice class to finish sixth. He is turning out to be a really exciting horse and the season focus for him will be Osberton six-year-old championships in the autumn. Oh and I can’t forget my top boy Derby (Wellshead Fare Opposition) who led the dressage in the open intermediate, pinged clear around the showjumping and was then saved for another day. I am so happy to have him back out this year.

    I know that since having the team I have around me, my results have improved. They take a lot of the stress away for me, which then allows me to focus purely on the horses — I am ever grateful to them all.

    Total Darkness at Aston. Credit: William Carey

    Continued below…

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    Finally, I feel I ought to touch on the new scoring system we saw at Badminton and has been rolled out across all FEI eventing competitions. I am very keen to stress that this is only my opinion, but I do not think it is a good move. My overall impression is that it will just push people to ride really really fast cross-country and I question whether this is how we encourage the best riding and also whether it is best for horse welfare. We seem to have gone to the opposite end of the spectrum now, where the system almost totally disregards the dressage. It is such a difficult balance, but making people chase the clock to hold their position and win prize money, for me turns eventing into an even riskier sport.


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     This week’s edition (17 May) features a full report from Royal Windsor Horse Show, including all the showing, showjumping and dressage action. We go behind the scenes with the Household Cavalry as they prepare for the royal wedding, plus check out our interview with Irish eventer Padraig McCarthy.

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