I always look forward to the Festival of British Eventing — the national championships is a big target for many riders and owners. The event provides a real international atmosphere for the horses and the reverse-order cross-country in the Open adds a bit of pressure and excitement.
There were significant changes to the course and some good new questions. The problems were spread out throughout the whole track, which was positive.
As a boy I loved watching the British Open on the BBC. Since the event is no longer televised is it great to regain many of the benefits through internet streaming and the cross-country made fantastic viewing.
Camera coverage obviously plays a part in the changes to the route. For designers it is always a hard balancing act between creating a course for horses and planning for the media and public.
Disappointingly, a third of the field in the British Open withdrew before the final phase. The team at Gatcombe had worked hard on the going, but for some the steep descents, the camber and the drop fences were a factor, plus some horses were aimed elsewhere.
There are always withdrawals here, but they were made more noticeable by the change in classes. Previously some who were in two minds as to whether to run would have entered the less high-profile national advanced classes, which did not take place this year, so withdrawals were less obvious than when horses are pulled out of the Open.
Oliver Townend was in his element with wins in the Novice and Intermediate finals — he’s had a lot of success at Gatcombe and the course really suits his style of riding.
It takes a specialist horse to win the Open, one that is light and fast on its feet. The title went to Christopher Burton and the nippy thoroughbred TS Jamaimo. Runner-up Jonelle Price’s efficient style was a great display of cross-country riding.
Beating the clock at Wilton
I had a real time challenge the previous weekend at Wilton, with four horses to compete by 1pm before a friend’s wedding. Rosemary Cann, Wilton’s entries secretary, was very accommodating and gave me tightly packed together times. My head groom Jess managed to prevent me from stopping to chat to anyone all morning! I got to the wedding with minutes to spare, averting the need to overtake the bride down the aisle.
Wilton is a well-established event and has all the ingredients to be a popular one, but it could benefit from some updating of the course and attention to the ground. There is certainly the appetite from riders and owners for this event, and a good field would lead to a strong crowd from nearby Salisbury.
As we head into the busy autumn season there is plenty to look forward to. This week Nations Cup teams head to Germany for Aachen. It is unlike any other event, with the most amazing facilities and hospitality. The Nations Cup has become a major focus for many, especially those countries which do not have a major team finale in a European Championships year.
After that we have Burghley and the excitement of a championship on home soil. Scotland hasn’t been short of rain during the summer and with the Europeans scheduled for two weeks later than Blair’s usual slot, the conditions could well be a key factor in determining the medals.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 13 August 2015