Penultimate competitor Matt Heath holds the leads in the CIC3* at the Blair Castle International Equi-Trek Horse Trials after scoring 43 on Hazel Livesey’s Cooley Lord Lux.
“That’s the test I know he’s capable of, but I got the warm-up wrong at Gatcombe and was on him a smidge too long, so he was flat in the arena,” said Matt.
“I worked really hard with Ian Woodhead yesterday making sure we got it right and it seems like we did.”
The 11-year-old is a new ride for Matt this year, having previously been campaigned by Laura Collett and Flora Harris.
“We’re still finding our way together, but we’ll be as competitive as possible tomorrow,” said Matt. “The course is quite tough this way round, but he’s a good cross-country horse.”
Bella Innes Ker holds second just 0.4 of a penalty — the equivalent of one second in cross-country time-penalties — in arrears. Her ride is her mother the Duchess of Roxburghe’s Carolyn.
The 22-year-old Brit and the elegant bay mare have a reputation for a strong performance in this phase and led the dressage at Boekelo last year. They did not disappoint today, scoring 43.4 for a light, consistent test.
“When she’s with me, she’s exceptional and that was a lot of fun to ride,” said Bella, who admitted Carolyn is “high maintenance”.
“She is a madam, but that’s what makes her special. She has her quirks and we have to be on top of them, but we’ve learnt a lot about her.”
The pair’s only mistake was when Carolyn struck off into canter coming out of the first halt, instead of trot.
“She decided to add an extra movement, which was annoying,” said Bella. “But I’m really pleased otherwise.”
Lost bridle drama
There was a drama in the CCI* dressage arena this afternoon when Alex Postolowsky’s ride Denver VIII managed to lose his bridle as he was leaving the arena after the final halt.
The bridle was left hanging from the nine-year-old’s nose and ground jury member Sue Stewart, who was sitting at B, leapt out of her car to replace it for Alex.
The pair scored 46.3 for their test, which left them 18th in this huge section of 106 starters.
The dressage lead in the CCI* is held jointly by the US’s Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp with her own seven-year-old Gorsehill Cooley and New Zealand’ Caroline Powell on Pat Meville-Evans’ Stracathro Solitary Mistral. They both scored 40.3.
There are just 12 pairs in the CCI3* and they all did their dressage yesterday. Kirsty Johnston sits at the top of the leaderboard with WTTL Opposition Sky Law.
This 11-year-old mare, by Mill Law, belongs to Kirsty, her father John, plus Denny Russell and John Flood. They scored 46.2 to head Alice Dunsdon and her home-bred Sambo III in second (48.4).
“Opposition Sky Law has been very relaxed so far this week and she got her flying changes spot on, so I’m really pleased with her today,” said Kirsty, who travels from her home in Southampton up to Yorkshire to train with Chris Bartle.
“I love it at Blair and always try and come. One of Opposition Sky Law’s owners lives up the road so it’s good for her to see the mare compete locally, and we make a fun week of it.”
More eventing news:
Another up-and-coming British rider heads the CCI2* in Sam Ecroyd, who rode Jane Del Missier’s Cooley Currency, who has previously been campaigned by his girlfriend Emily King. They scored 44.4.
“I’ve only had the ride for a week,” said Sam. “Cooley Currency is a big, strong horse, and sadly for sale. He really doesn’t have a weak phase, and Emily has produced him beautifully on the flat — I pretty much just had to steer him in there, and not get anything wrong.”
The fifth Blair section, the Event Rider Masters CIC3*, starts tomorrow with the dressage phase.
Full report from Blair in H&H next week (issue dated 31 October).