‘He opened his mouth and the bit fell out’: rider jumps half Gatcombe’s course with broken cheekpiece

  • Andrew Downes conjured a masterful display to ride half the course at Gatcombe Horse Trials with a broken bridle at the Magic Millions Festival of British Eventing.

    He was competing across country on his first horse in the Dodson & Horrell British novice championship, Cooley Foxtrot, when the horse’s cheekpiece snapped at fence three. He continued right up to the four-part Biowave water combination at 12, where the bit dropped out of his mouth and Andrew pulled up.

    “I felt it pop after fence three – the cheekpiece just broke,” said Andrew. “I thought I should pull up immediately but it actually felt all right. So I thought I’d do one jump and once I’d cleared fence four and five, it was fine, so I decided I may as well carry on. It was like he was holding on to it!”

    “It didn’t feel perfectly normal – a bit wobbly – but the horse is very straight, so it wasn’t terrifying and he jumped absolutely fine,” Andrew added. “To be honest I forgot all about it for the next few fences until the bit dropped out of his mouth at the water, and then I did have to pull up. He must have opened his mouth and it fell out.”

    It’s surprising the bit didn’t fall out earlier given how much ground the horse covered without opening his mouth.

    “It’s a sort of hackamore combination, so there was nothing really keeping it in place, he just kept his mouth shut!” said Andrew after his Gatcombe Horse Trials broken bridle experience.

    The eight-year-old Cooley Foxtrot, owned by his rider and Jane Moss, had been jumping beautifully until the round unravelled in the water, but Andrew had better luck with his second ride, Ringfort Reve Du Moulin, also owned by Jane. The seven-year-old jumped clear with 15.2 time-faults to complete.

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