We head to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games next Monday (25 August). Having been to Haras du Pin several times for the normal CIC3* event, I’m really looking forward to seeing what they’ve done with the whole set-up. We’ve been told the cross-country course is hilly, difficult and long — it’ll be exciting to see it.
The Germans are of course very strong and Michael Jung will be one of the favourites to win individually. But his whole team will be very competitive, and especially Sandra Auffarth, who won individual bronze at London 2012. She could beat him in the dressage — and could stay ahead of him.
I think New Zealand has got a great chance, though, both as a team and individually. We are capable of the same level of dressage as the Germans — which is an essential starting point — and so are William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning. We’ll be a lot wiser in 2½ weeks’ time!
I’m very pleased with my ride, Leonidas II. He’s had a fairly light campaign since a tough Badminton: the advanced intermediate at Salperton, the CIC3* at Barbury and the open intermediate at Wilton, plus the advanced dressage and showjumping at Gatcombe — just to keep him sweet, really.
He came to me from Nina Lantermann through agent Phillip Kolossa in Germany about four years ago and hadn’t done much at all. The plan was to bring him over, produce him and sell him. At first he was quite difficult and I didn’t like him much.
But he knuckled down and improved, and Diane Brunsden and Peter Cattell bought him for me. He’s very capable in all three phases and is the most lovely horse in the stable — but when you’re on board he’s a real feisty one. He loves working, but is very quick, sensitive and sharp. I don’t wear spurs on him to do dressage and he’s almost over-keen to please.
He’s still only 10 and I think he will be even better in two years’ time, but he would have as much talent as any horse I’ve had in the past.
Where events can improve
I wanted to do the dressage and showjumping with Leonidas II at Hartpury, but I don’t like the fact that they put the three-star dressage in the indoor arena. We don’t do dressage indoors anywhere else and I didn’t want to upset him on his last run — the roof creaks, it’s noisy and echo-y and a lot of horses really don’t like it in there. The pure dressage people say the same thing.
I do admit, though, we were very grateful to be indoors for the showjumping during the torrential storms on the Sunday of the event!
Hartpury has some of the best facilities anywhere in the country, and they have done wonders with the going on the cross-country — it was pretty much perfect.
The one thing that lets the event down is the organisation — sometimes one hand doesn’t seem to know what the other is doing. For example, I withdrew a horse a couple of weeks beforehand, and they were still calling me to come and do dressage!
There are never any start sheets or times available at the stables, and the scoreboard is a long way away — I don’t think I ever found it. It could be a sensational event, but it needs a bit of sharpening up on some fronts.
I went to Somerford last weekend and, like Hartpury, it has great facilities and arenas. It makes such a difference to do dressage and showjumping on an artificial surface.
I know I’ve said this before, but I do think our top events, particularly Badminton and Burghley, should invest in one. Whether there is a level playing field for all competitors is often completely dependent on the weather, and that element of chance is not right at a four-star. The Global Champions Tour show in London put down a temporary surface, so surely it could be done?
Also, the warm-up arenas for the showjumping at Somerford and Hartpury are far better than at many top events in this country.
Pau, Luhmühlen and Kentucky have much more advanced facilities than Badminton and Burghley — wouldn’t it be great if they could match them?
First published in Horse & Hound magazine on 31 July 2014