It is with a heavy heart I speak of a successful visit to Somerford Park Horse Trials last weekend.
I took Crunchie (Kilcannon Watlings Crunch) and Purdey (Quality Purdey) for the CIC2*, as well as Holly (Riffala Du Buisson) for a run around the novice track. Holly did a lovely double clear to finish in 8th place on Friday, and both Crunchie and Purdey did lovely dressage tests to score 48 and 45 respectively.
I was over the moon with all the horses, but especially Purdey, as it was her first ever international test, and it’s still not even been a year since she came to me with no eventing experience! Crunchie also improved her dressage score by 10 points from her last time out, which shows we must be doing something right.
We headed back on Sunday with the girls to showjump and go cross-country. Both mares jumped well, but each had a very silly single fence down.
I was quite nervous heading in to the cross-country, not because I thought there was anything horrible on the course, but there were plenty of places to have a silly runout if you weren’t spot on. I was beyond impressed with how well dressed and presented the courses were and the ground was as close to perfect as we could ever wish for.
Crunchie went cross-country first and she flew around the whole course! She didn’t put a foot wrong and felt years beyond her 7. I didn’t rush her round, as she is still young and developing so isn’t the strongest yet, but she was still rewarded with a sequence of pictures in this week’s Horse & Hound through the tough 6/7AB combination!
Even after a smashing time with Crunchie, I was nervous about taking Purdey around. Her showjumping round wasn’t perfect, as I didn’t really have enough in the way of brakes, so I borrowed a new bit off of Ben Hobday, who was parked next door to us, for the cross-country. This isn’t really ideal around a horse’s first CIC2*, but hey-ho, off we went!
I needn’t have worried. Purdey absolutely flew round and felt like she’d been going around this level all her life! It is lovely to test a horse’s ability and prowess and have them give you 100% the whole time. It was so exciting, that once we were through that first tough combination, I started smiling like a kid and didn’t stop the whole way round!
As we left Somerford that afternoon, we heard the terrible news that someone had suffered a rotational fall in the CIC1*. The next morning, Tom Gadsby was named as the rider who sadly lost his life that afternoon.
I didn’t know Tom personally, but he is described as a kind, humble horseman who had a true gift with horses. I know we all take to riding knowing that there are risks associated with our sport, but it stops all of us in our tracks when one of our own is taken from us.
I personally take comfort from the fact that the equestrian community were respectful in not conjecturing online as to the circumstances of the fall, or Tom’s identity before his nearest could be informed. At the same time, it is lovely to see how our sport comes together and supports each other through such a tragedy.
It sounds cliché to say we can take comfort knowing Tom was doing what he loved, but I truly believe we can. Maybe the best way to remember Tom after his untimely passing is to enjoy every single moment we have on horseback. From what I have learned of him, it’s what he would have done.
My love goes out to Tom’s family and all his connections at home and here in the UK. Rest in peace, Tom X