‘He tried his heart out’: CCI4*-L win makes long journey from Dorset to Blair Castle worthwhile

  • Rosie Fry punched the air in delight as she took the honours in the Land Rover Blair Castle International Horse Trials CCI4*-L.

    Rosie and the 10-year-old gelding True Blue Too II, bred and owned by Rosie’s aunt Di White-Hamilton, soared round clear in the showjumping on the final day of competition in front of delighted crowds. While the pair could afford to have a pole, the gelding showed he still had plenty to give as they made light work of the track, which included two combination fences and a red wall.

    Overnight second Tom McEwen picked up 12 faults, taking down the first part of both combinations as well as the final fence, dropping him into sixth. Alice Casburn and Topspin II produced a clear for second, and Lauren Innes and Global Fision M finished third.

    A very emotional Rosie told H&H she was “speechless”.

    “Showjumping can be our weakest phase, but we’ve had so much help from Emma Fisher. We’ve worked really hard on his showjumping and he’s just tried his heart out,” she said, adding she was feeling the pressure going into the ring.

    “Nine years ago I was in the lead and had four down on a homebred; and this is also a homebred so it’s so special. People kept telling me ‘jump like you’re at home’. He jumped clear in the two-star [then CCI*] here in 2018 so I knew he liked the arena, and he likes jumping on grass.”

    Dorset-based Rosie now has her eyes set on Badminton after picking up her qualification.

    “He’s tried so hard for me all week. We were coming here aiming to qualify but didn’t really think it was going to happen, and to win is a bonus. It will make the drive back to Dorset a lot shorter,” she said.

    It could be said Alice Casburn had a reason to feel confident going into the showjumping phase riding former puissance winner Topspin II. The homebred gelding, who showjumped prior to turning to eventing three years ago, thrived in the pair’s second four-star long competition.

    “I couldn’t be more pleased,” the 19-year-old told H&H. “He loves an atmosphere, he completely lights up. I was hoping he would do that today and he completely did! The bigger the jump, the more excited he gets, which was a very nice feeling going into today.

    “I was in the warm-up and I didn’t really know what I was riding. I gave him a pat as I went in, he saw the people and he was like ‘This is exactly what I’m here for’. I’m a very lucky girl to be sat on a horse as nice as him.”

    Alice, who did her first junior eventing Europeans on the gelding in 2019, said to begin with he didn’t really enjoy his new career.

    “It’s all sort of just clicked with him – he’s started coming out of the start box saying ‘Where is the first jump?’. Yesterday I went in the start box and I didn’t have a choice if I was going – he saw the first fence and said, ‘There it is, mum!’ It’s a really nice feeling,” she said.

    “He’s quite insecure, but it comes across as naughtiness. In the dressage arena he’ll decide he really hates a corner, and every instinct says ‘give him a kick to get in the corner’. But actually, I’ve just got to give him a pat. I’m quite vocal on the cross-country – it’s quite embarrassing, but he listens to my voice more than anything.”

    Full-time accountant Lauren Innes enjoyed her Blair Castle debut with Global Fision M. The pair were second after dressage, and jumped clear across-country, picking up 10.4 time-penalties to sit in fourth overnight going into the showjumping.

    “I’m over the moon,” she told H&H. “He was rideable in there – sometimes he can get a bit excited, but he let me turn on the turnbacks. I was worried if he didn’t, I’d get time-faults but he let me ride him and he jumped clear.

    “I was looking for a four-star long qualification and having already done Blenheim, I wanted a different four-star long before hopefully aiming him at Badminton next year.

    “I absolutely love Blair. My mum is Scottish, but we’ve never been to a Scottish event before. My highlight was my amazing cross-country ride, he just ate it up and felt so confident. He loved every minute of it. If I could do that again I would. He’ll have a month out in the field now and I’ll get back to dressage practise over the winter and showjumping in spring in preparation for Badminton.”

    Blair Castle Horse Trials results: Ros Canter wins CCI3*-L

    Ros Canter and Alex Moody’s eight-year-old gelding Izilot DHI rode a faultless clear round to finish on their 27.1 dressage score. The pair had been sitting in second after cross-country, behind Ros’s leading ride Shannondale Nadia, but the mare was withdrawn from the remainder of the competition last night (28 August) after suffering a minor injury.

    Hayden Hankey and Fools In Love took second, while Edie Campbell and Fireball F climbed to third. All of the top three completed without adding to their first phase score.

    Ros had her mind on the clock with a tight time allowance causing many to pick up time-penalties in the final phase.

    “I knew the time was tight and I’m a bit prone to a time-fault, but you can turn on a sixpence with this horse and jump across an angle,” she told H&H.

    “I didn’t walk my course half as tight as I rode it. I was much quicker between one and two, and angled across the second last more than I thought I would. I knew Hayden had gone clear so there wasn’t much margin for error.”

    Ros described the gelding, who she has had since a rising five-year-old, as a “phenomenal jumper”.

    “I haven’t sat on another like him before. I swear he would be scopey enough to be a 1.60m showjumping horse. You feel like you can take those risks with him, he just wants to clear the jump,” she said.

    “He’s an absolute dream to ride, I’ve never felt a half pass like it. I was a bit disappointed with his mark here as he’s a really strong dressage horse.”

    Ros said she was “delighted” with the gelding this week, having had some difficulties at Le Lion last year.

    “At Le Lion he went quite spooky with me and it all got a bit much for him. We had a few fly-bys on the cross-country, not because he wanted to run out, but because he was distracted by so many different things,” she said. “To come to this event with so many people and perform in every phase is what I’m really delighted about with him.

    “The plan is to keep progressing with him. He’s quite a sharp horse and he takes a bit of managing. He doesn’t tend to show his best until the weather warms up around May. The winter and the spring is about trying to get his behaviour in check and we can really show him off after that. We’ll probably run him again this year because it helps going into the winter if he’s worked a bit hard.”

    Ros added Shannondale Nadia is doing well following her minor injury.

    “She got a little bit of a knock on the cross-country – she’s a bit sore, but nothing serious. We hope she’s a horse for the future so it wasn’t worth risking it today so it was a mutual decision between the owner and I to withdraw,” she said.

    Hayden said he used the first of his rides in the three-star, Cartown Galaxy, to help with preparations for Fools In Love, known at home as “Joker”.

    “It was great having the other horse as a bit of a pathfinder. I had two time-faults on the first horse so I knew I had to get a jivvy on,” he told H&H.

    “With Joker I had a few lucky rubs. Alan Fazakerley, who helps me with my showjumping, tells me ‘Don’t get put off when you have a little rub. Think of it as good luck because when they have a rub, they’ll go and try harder.’ I was lucky, I had the rubs but at the end of the day you’ve got to be lucky.

    “Alan is a great mentor and has helped me out a lot with my approach and how I look to ride the horses.When I had the rub the next time I put him in I put a bit more leg on, clicked at him and he just went and went again. I’m delighted with both horses this week.

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