My season is now over, as I am about to have further treatment for my neck, but it has been a gripping few weeks in which I have been glued to my laptop following the non-stop action.
First, David and I paid our first visit to Millstreet in Ireland to watch Emily compete Brookleigh successfully in the Event Rider Masters.
We were bowled over by all the arenas and the expansive cross-country course with its natural features — the organisers were unlucky that bad weather precluded the use of some interesting fences on low-lying ground — as well as the typical Irish welcome in which they couldn’t do enough for you, and the wild scenery on our drive from Cork airport.
I wish the Duggan family well with their bid to hold the eventing World Championships there in 2022 — it would certainly be a natural home for it.
Then it was the Europeans in Luhmühlen, where Ingrid Klimke and Michael Jung were in a class of their own. Ingrid is so at one with “Bobby” that it’s a delight — every time I see them, they seem to have improved and be more secure — and we should all sit up and listen when Michi says FischerChipmunk FRH is the most naturally talented horse he’s ever had.
However, when they face the rest of the world in Tokyo, the pair may need more back-up if they’re to win team gold.
I was also impressed by the individual bronze medallist, Ireland’s Cathal Daniels, who has not only proved himself to be a great cross-country rider, but who now seems to have gone up a gear in the other phases, and I was pleased for British individual Kitty King, who at last had the chance to shine.
Pippa Funnell is riding on a high; she is making it happen, the results are following and it’s heartwarming to see. Her Burghley win was the stuff of fairytales, but her performance on Billy Walk On at Blenheim was really special — this is a potentially outstanding partnership.
Pippa has had interesting things to say about current attitudes to cross-country riding and I have written before that not enough people are tackling the challenging courses, such as Gatcombe. This showed at Burghley when there were several first-timers who were simply not prepared to a high enough standard.
Learning to ride by the seat of your pants and developing natural reactions will only come from experience, but it is surely not right to qualify for the major events by dodging the more testing courses; for quite a while now, it’s been possible to qualify for five-star by not doing anything too difficult and, sadly, that showed at Burghley.
At Blenheim, David Evans had designed some good “rider” fences. Everything was on an open, forward distance and, for those who tried to add strides, it didn’t come off. I got it wrong at the coffin, which was frustrating as until then I felt King Robert and I were benefiting from the help we’ve had from Chris Burton, whose cross-country riding I greatly admire.
It’s made me realise that, although I’ve also been glued to another sport — the progress of “my” boat in the round-the-world Clipper race, which I will be joining in South Africa in November — it still has nothing on the adrenalin rush of a cross-country morning.
Ref Horse & Hound; 26 September 2019