Mark Todd: A party to avoid if you don’t want a hangover *H&H VIP*

  • It’s the time of year when everyone is winding down and looking forward to having a break — especially when it’s been an Olympic year, which is always particularly full-on.

    It’s a time when people start thinking about their horse power for next year, and beyond that, for the World Equestrian Games in 2018 and the 2020 Olympics. The Event Rider Masters series seems to have had a positive effect — riders only need to look at the amount of money series leader Oliver Townend has won over the past few weeks to realise that it is worth having a good horse to aim at the series in the future.

    People with Tokyo 2020 aspirations will be looking at smart six-, seven- and eight-year-olds — but then, a horse like my Leonidas II will only be 16 then, which is the age of the individual gold medallist in Rio, Michael Jung’s La Biosthetique-Sam FBW.

    But no one seems to be spending lots of money yet — the strongest market seems to be for young horses. These days, because of having to jump through various qualification hoops, you can’t just buy a top horse and be ready to go.

    The change-round in who is coaching or managing which team is causing lots of speculation, but no announcements have been made yet. It is going to be interesting to see what happens in the next month. A few new teams seem to be emerging, too — Barbados have employed Joss Gray to help them, and the Japanese, of course, are looking to strengthen their firepower ahead of their home Games.

    Hospitable horse trials

    I’m off to Boekelo for my last international event of the year. Everyone loves going to Boekelo; it has to be the most hospitable horse trials in the calendar. The organiser, Frans van Meggelen, sets the benchmark and does everything he can for us riders, but the whole community gets behind it. And having the Grolsch factory in the back yard helps!

    Boekelo has an amazing network of sponsors, and it is all about hospitality and looking after sponsors, owners and riders. They are innovative and try to go that extra mile; Rodney Powell remembers a year when the ferries went on strike, and they organised special planes to get competitors there.

    The shopping area is undercover, which is handy in October, and there are bands playing in different places — people just don’t seem to want to go home. I think other events can learn a lot from Boekelo.

    The Tuesday night grooms’ party is one to avoid if you don’t want a hangover; these days I try to get there for Wednesday morning and smile at the sorry faces around me…

    Giving back

    I enjoyed my trip to South of England last weekend. It’s an event that has been around for a long time, and organiser Jenny Nolan and her team do a very good job. The cross-country still caused quite a bit of trouble, but it had been modified from previous years and I thought it was a bit friendlier; I was very happy to ride my first-time intermediate horse round it.

    It’s Dauntsey this weekend, and I’m looking forward to my “volunteering” stint — organiser Beanie Sturgis has press-ganged a lot of us riders into helping for several years now. My favourite job is being cross-country collecting ring steward. I get very bossy and won’t let anyone run out of order, no matter who they (think) they are. It’s good fun and nice to be able to give something back every now and then.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 29 September 2016