It’s mind-boggling that there were three full sections of CIC2* horses at Barbury last weekend, and about 100 in the CIC3* — plus all the novices, Burghley young event horses and so on. It’s a mammoth event and one of the world’s most spectator-friendly horse trials. Nigel Bunter and his team do a fabulous job and it appears to run very smoothly.
The cross-country courses were on the friendly side, although all caused problems.
I would like Mark Phillips to shoot the wooden “alligator” in the first water, though. It always causes a few horses to leave legs and tip up — and the second water tends to cause some falls as well, so maybe that needs looking at too.
They were lucky to get some rain, but I ran novices and CIC2* horses before the rain came on Sunday, and they never felt like they were feeling the ground and pulled up well.
I went cross-country at 4pm on Sunday, and by then the going was ideal — the heavy showers during the afternoon put the final touches on the hard work done by the Barbury team.
The one blip was the warm-up area for one section of the CIC2* dressage was on the side of a hill and on very firm going.
I don’t know why so many three-star horses were withdrawn. Some will cite the ground, but riders are unlikely to get better at this time of year in a dry spell. And I guess, in such a big section, that you knew after dressage whether you were going to be chasing any prize-money or not.
It was a tremendous feat by Andrew Nicholson and the connections of Avebury to win this prestigious class four years running — and so comfortably. He will be aiming for a fourth Burghley now — but we will all be aiming to stop him!
A thoroughbred fan
I was particularly pleased to win the Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) class at Barbury (pictured); it’s a great innovation. Thoroughbreds have gone a little out of vogue in eventing, but a good one is brilliant to work with and can be competitive at the top level.
Thinking of thoroughbreds brings me on to the charity race I rode in at Newbury recently. I’ve always been a racing fan and wanted to be a jockey before I grew too big, so this was always going to be great fun. The charity Key4Life does some amazing work rehabilitating young offenders.
Charlie Hills and Qatar Racing kindly lent me a horse — a three-year-old colt called Ledbury. With three furlongs to run, I was able to move off the rail, and I thought we had a chance. But it was a bit like driving the lorry — you hit the limiter and can’t go any faster.
It’s one of my bucket-list things to do — win a race — and I’d love another go.
It was great to meet Victoria Pendleton — what a charming, gutsy girl she is. For someone who had been riding for only 18 weeks she did a very good job and I have no doubt that she will achieve her aim of riding in the Foxhunter at Cheltenham.
Where does the time go?
As I write, I’m on my way to the Pan Am Games, where the Brazilian team I look after are hoping for a strong performance. Then it’s back for Gatcombe, Aachen, Burghley and the autumn three-days. Then it’s Olympic year — it doesn’t seem like four years since we started preparing for London.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 16 July 2015