The crowds and time are proving to be two of the main talking points from riders at the mid-way stage of Blenheim Horse Trials CCI4*-S cross-country.
Plenty of combinations have made the time, but the leaderboard is so close that any seconds over the optimum of 10 minutes 28 seconds are expensive. Jumping faults have been fairly well spread across the 25 fences, with the open corner at 15b and the double of skinny fences before the lake catching out several riders.
Heidi Coy and Halenza were originally awarded 15 penalties under the “flag” rule at 15b, plus 11 for breaking a frangible pin, but the flag penalties were later removed. Other riders to pick up 11 penalties so far for breaking frangible pins include Saffron Cresswell (Up Mulberry Street) and Jodie Amos (Wise Crack).
Blenheim Horse Trials cross-country: the fan factor
Around 20,000 spectators have poured through the gates to watch the action – and riders have spoken of the lift fans’ excitement brings.
Izzy Taylor, who added four cross-country time penalties to her 27.9 dressage with Springpower, said it is a “massive buzz” to be riding in front of crowds again.
“We came out the start box and Springpower thought he was Red Rum,” she said. “So we had to go a bit steady at the beginning because we don’t want to hit one of those solid square fences and then once he settled down, then we were away and into our rhythm.
“It did wheel very tight. With the massive expanse of water we have here, you obviously can’t gallop as fast through the water as you would on ground. So I knew it was going to be tight and yeah I picked up a few time faults, but he was clear and that is the main thing.
“It’s 100% a proper test, there was plenty to do. It was technical, the ground here at Blenheim is undulating, you’ve got a hill, the water, we’ve got a crowd, we go through a main arena – it’s a proper question all round and a tight time.”
Ros Canter added she is “over the moon” with Rehy Royal Diamond, who loved having fans back to watch him. The pair jumped clear and added 5.6 cross-country time faults to their dressage of 28.7.
“He was having a good nosey round over the first few fences,” she explained. “He was jumping the jumps and then looking left and looking right – he’s quite a showman and he was quite enjoying the crowd, so I just had to tell him to get a move on, but once we got into it, he was great.”
Leader Yasmin Ingham said the crowd gave Banzai Du Loir a real lift.
“There was lots of clapping and cheering and I thought that was so lovely going round,” she said. “It was a bit of encouragement for me just to dig deeper and him to dig a bit deeper.”
Emily King, who stopped the clock one second inside the optimum time with Valmy Biats, said the crowds inspire her to do her best.
“It was lovely having people again, [with crowds down by] the water and up in the main ring,” she said.
“They’re all cheering and it gives you a good little sort of boost to do your best for everyone.”
In an emotional interview after her cross-country round, Ireland’s Susie Berry explained how her result today in front of live crowds made the moment particularly special.
“Everyone was clapping, we haven’t had that for the last two years and it makes it extra special. The horses definitely grow with the atmosphere,” she said.
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