Jonelle Price: The horse calibre is unbelievable *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Blenheim is undoubtedly one of our premier events and huge credit to the organisers for improving the prize money once SsangYong joined as sponsor. First prize has more than doubled for the CIC class, but you won’t see a finer field of eight- and nine-year-olds anywhere and I still think at £5,000 (plus use of a SsangYong Tivoli for a year) it is less than it should be.

    David Evans’ first cross-country course as CCI designer didn’t offer anything outrageously different. I questioned whether some of the distances were pushing it — the striding between the table and two angled brushes at 12 and 13 seemed massive — but in fairness, it rode very well. As the years have gone on I have felt that Blenheim’s become smaller, but perhaps you just get accustomed to the fences.

    We have to remember that the standard now is just so good — that the top three after the CCI dressage didn’t change after cross-country was less a reflection of the course than of the standard of the competitors. But to have nine make the time in the CCI is a few too many.

    Bigger and better with ERM

    This year’s Event Rider Masters (ERM) has been another huge success. The crew behind it are really creative and want to do things bigger and better the whole time. They are also efficient and thorough; within minutes of my husband Tim ending up on the Blenheim podium, they had double-checked the owners’ names, found out who was attending and invited them up there too. It’s very precise — and that’s important.

    The ERM has also put pressure on other events to up their game in terms of prize money and coverage. Burghley livestreamed for the first time this year, and Badminton and Burghley both put their prize money up. If you can compete a horse every two to three weeks for a £16,000 first prize, it does make people question where to run them. We have been able to use the Masters series for smart horses who are on their way up — but it’s also a nice fallback for horses who might not have the blood to go four-star. It means you can have a range of horses on your yard and they all have a job.

    A Gatcombe horse may not be a Blenheim horse or a Wiesbaden one though, so it helps to have a good string for this class — which makes Sarah Cohen’s achievement in coming second in the series on one very versatile horse remarkable.

    I’m blown away by the calibre of the horses contesting the Masters now. The showjumping track at Blenheim had a jump-off flavour about it with only two related lines and a difficult early option to help you save time — it was intimidating to see that track and impressive how many jumped it clear.

    Back from a baby

    My Blenheim ride was primarily to see if I was mad to be back riding at this level less than four weeks after having a baby! I took it one phase at a time and was happy with them all. Blenheim was perhaps a little premature for me, but I wanted some match practice ahead of Pau next month with Faerie Dianimo — if I can do one top event, my eventing season won’t feel like a complete write-off.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 21 September 2017