Matt Heath: Being flexible to preserve the ground *H&H subscribers*


  • The Osberton organisers did a really great job to keep the show on the road last week. They made the best decisions possible to preserve the ground — they didn’t let anyone onto the site until Wednesday, cancelling all the dressage on Wednesday and moving it to Thursday and Friday. And, when the weather forecast showed that Saturday night was going to be very wet, they changed Sunday’s timetable to allow the ground time to dry out. They also cancelled all arena familiarisation.

    All of these actions meant the ground didn’t get trashed. We are so fortunate in Britain to be able to compete at wonderful venues, and the fact that everything was done to avoid destroying the land should help keep the venue in the calendar.

    The going was unbelievably good, considering the weather, and I think the cross-country courses were the best I have seen from Stuart Buntine.

    They were very strong, and caused a lot of problems, but they were right for the level. All the questions were fair, including the troublesome rail-ditch-rail, which caught plenty of people out, including me on two of my rides.

    The problem lay not in the fence itself but in the fact that courses at national one-day events don’t consistently serve to prepare horses properly for these internationals. Burghley was the prime example, but it filters down through all the levels. I think there is a lack of variety in questions and a lack of tougher questions at “normal” events; riders are able to find soft qualifying routes which then leave them and their horses underprepared at the three-days.

    I know cost is probably a big factor, but there seems to be something of a “one fence fits all” theme at many one days. Giving riders a tough direct route and a longer, easier option would mean young horses can be jumped round without being intimidated, but those on the upgrade can gain experience and be tested.

    What a pair

    Piggy French and Ros Canter, winners of all four CCI classes between them, are a remarkable pair.

    Piggy is one of the best ambassadors for the sport we have. She and her husband Tom March are an amazing team — he plays a very significant role in her success behind the scenes. She has now beaten Michael Jung’s record of 13 international wins in a season.

    It’s incredible to see Ros come back with such a bang after having her baby — that’s three international classes she has won in two weeks. Ros is such a down-to-earth, hard-working woman who trains her horses so well and so correctly.

    Moving on up

    For my part, it has been a difficult year, but a move to a new, purpose-built yard near Rutland Water is very exciting. It should be a fantastic place from which to train horses and compete.

    The sport moves on every year, and the best get better. Horsepower plays a huge part in that. I have been lucky enough to get some new horses and owners as the season has gone on to add to the loyal support of the existing team. I will be working hard with them throughout the winter to be ready to be as competitive as possible next season, and to improve the depth of my string further.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 10 October 2019