We have a run of 3-stars at the moment. It’s slightly strange that they all come at one time, but I can’t complain as I’ve been fortunate enough to win 3 CIC3*s this spring on 3 different horses.

Chatsworth had a pretty decent cross-country track, made more difficult by hilly terrain and undulating ground — and became tougher again because rain in the build-up made the going patchy in the dips in the ground. I am technical adviser to the Brazilian eventers, some of whom are based with me, and several of them were doing their first three-star there. 2 of them had unfortunate technical refusals at water fences, but three jumped clear, which was a good effort.

At Houghton the next weekend I didn’t think the course was nearly so difficult. It shows you need to be a bit selective about where you go; Chatsworth wasn’t an ideal first 3-star, whereas Houghton probably was, although both caused problems.

I had a fall on Oloa at Houghton — the sort that hurts — which was likely down to the fact that he hadn’t run since Weston Park and flew all the way to Kentucky and back just to do a dressage test, as I withdrew him after it as he wasn’t in a competitive position. I hadn’t cross-country schooled him in between Weston and Houghton and he was a bit too full of himself and enthusiastic about it all.

I won the CIC3* at Houghton on NZB Campino, and was surprised when I opened the envelope to see that the first prize was just £600. After entry fees, stabling and diesel, I had actually made a loss on winning a 3-star! Luckily, I checked the schedule and it was meant to be £1,100, which isn’t a lot, but covered my costs for that horse, at least. A quick call to the organisers sent the remainder winging its way to me…

I loved both events, though, and it’s a pleasure to compete in such stunning settings. It’s on to Bramham next, where I hope I might be able to translate my 1-day form into 3-day success! I’ve never won Bramham — although I have won the showjumping grand prix with Double Take, the horse I showjumped at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

I’ve always enjoyed Bramham and it will be interesting to see what Ian Stark has in store for us. I’m sure it will be a proper 3-star — or even a 3½-star — and not for the faint-hearted. Ian’s got a great flair for course-design. He was a bit of a dare-devil as a rider and that comes across in his courses, which is great.

I’m taking NZB Campino and Amacuzzi, and we’ve got Marcio Jorge, Gabriel Cury, Tom McEwen and Holly Woodhead from my Badgerstown yard going as well. Gabriel, who’s a young Brazilian rider who has only just taken up eventing, has formed a good relationship with Grass Valley — who I rode at 4-star level a couple of years ago — and if he goes well they might get to the World Equestrian Games (WEG) this year.

Then Oloa is off to Luhmühlen, after which the New Zealand selectors will produce a WEG short-list. This spring has made all selectors’ jobs difficult — Badminton probably didn’t give them the answers they wanted, and there has been a lot of re-routing since.

This week all eyes will be on Jock Paget’s FEI tribunal. I have always believed that nothing was done intentionally, and I hope for a good outcome.

Too much brush?

Something I’ve been thinking about since Badminton is the trend for course-designers to put brush on top of so many fences. The brush they normally use is so stiff that horses don’t actually brush through it and it just serves to put an extra 20cm on top of a fence, so that in some cases they are jumping 1.40m or 1.45m. Leonidas II came back with a decent cut on his hind fetlock that must have been caused by it, probably at the corners in Huntsman’s Close when he was tiring.

I certainly don’t remember nearly so much being used before 2000, and on some courses now it is so omnipresent that it’s ridiculous. Are course-designers using it to safeguard horses, or themselves? H&H