Mark Phillips: What motivates owners and riders? *H&H VIP*


  • I’ve managed to avoid “crossing the pond” to the US for most of June and July, which has allowed me to spend more time at home and on the domestic scene.

    I enjoyed Alec Lochore’s “rejigged” Barbury and the changes he made to the cross-country course after my 12-year tenure. The standard on every course was completely normal, so I was amazed at the amount of trouble it caused and even more surprised by the number of withdrawals. You won’t find better footing during high summer anywhere and he had added arena surface on the drop landings.

    I know Alec was a little sensitive on the subject after Houghton, where I’m told the footing needed to be better, but he can hold his head high over Barbury.

    I just hope the bottom line worked out for him, as it would be an absolute tragedy if Barbury was lost from the summer calendar. He was a brave man to take it on after a five-figure loss the year before, but now, with 2019 behind him, there will be places he can save money and areas he can develop more.

    It’s still cross-country

    Stuart Buntine is having a rough year, although the loss of Belton was no doubt sweetened when he was awarded its replacement in the calendar at Thoresby Park in Nottinghamshire.

    It is sad he has now had to cancel his “showcase event” at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight as only a total of 25 horses were entered for the two classes to fight for the £40,000 prize money. I did not go last year, but I’m told owners, sponsors and riders were all looked after in lavish fashion.

    Next week is the Magic Millions Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park. Entries are as expected in all the championship classes except the British open, which has a £10,000 first prize and the lowest entry ever. Maybe I don’t truly understand what owners and riders want, as it appears prize money is not the driving force.

    This year, we have a new route with no “roundabout” on Avening Bank. In recent years, we’ve had good footing and the courses are, if anything, getting easier. Hopefully, the sport is not going down the road of wanting flatter courses with less terrain, as the last time I checked we still call cross-country just that.

    Be fair to horses

    Aachen is one of the world’s best horse shows. This year was no exception. Ingrid Klimke just came out on top, with cross-country masterclasses from Michael Jung, Chris Burton, Tim and Jonelle Price, Piggy French and Andrew Hoy all close behind.

    Outside the world’s top 10, the picture was not so pretty, with no less than six people going the wrong side of both inside flags at corner fences. Let’s hope this is not a consequence of rider paranoia as they try not to drift to the outside and collect 15 penalties for being outside the flag.

    Given the 15-penalty rule looks to be staying, I believe designers have to give riders the chance to have at least two strides straight before a skinny to be fair to the horses and allow the good rider on the good horse to make it look easy.

    There were too many occasions in Aachen where this was not the case.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 25 July 2019