Cornbury House eventing report: Spence keeps her cool *H&H Plus*

  • Jumping phases play into the hands of Georgie Spence at this “stunning” event

    Cornbury House, Oxfordshire, 11–13 September

    Jumping came to the fore in the CCI3*-S at the inaugural Cornbury House, with winners Georgie Spence and Uppercourt Cooley being one of only five combinations from 97 starters to finish on their dressage score.

    “Finishing in the top three was my ultimate aim, but when EquiRatings made us a combination to watch for the event, I thought that we might be cursed,” joked Georgie, who completed on her 31.4 dressage, which placed them eighth after the first phase.

    “We’ve been doing in-house dressage competitions at home during lockdown, with my mum judging, and all of my horses have come out of it better. Plus I’ve been training with Laura Tomlinson for the past three years, working mostly on my confidence, which I’ve historically lacked in this phase, and I feel like she’s finally starting to crack me!”

    “Bueno”, who is owned by Molly Fisher, Lucy Fleming, Nicky Cooper and Samantha Wilson, came to Georgie a year ago after he had been produced to four-star level by Emily Baldwin.

    “Even if he is giving 50%, he is still 100% better than most horses,” enthused Georgie of the 12-year-old, who now heads to the CCI3*-L at Osberton at Thoresby. “He didn’t understand my way of riding last year, which is very much to let them run and jump, but he was really cool and straight this weekend. I feel like our partnership is coming together.”

    Four faults in the showjumping relegated Piggy March and I Diablo Joe from first into eventual second, just 0.4 of a penalty behind Georgie, but Piggy was delighted nonetheless.

    “I rang his owners at the beginning of the week to say not to get excited about us achieving a result as he is still lacking confidence in the showjumping, so I was very pleasantly surprised to finish where we did,” she explained of the seven-year-old owned and bred by Geoffrey Burton.

    “He was produced by Sam Hobbs and came to me at the beginning of this year, so we’re still forming our partnership. I’ve had to try to convince him that he’s not scared of heights! He’s come of age this weekend; we now head to the world seven-year-old championships at Le Lion D’Angers.”

    Fox-Pitt takes off the handbrake

    William Fox-Pitt said that he was “daring to dream a little” after topping the CCI2*-S on Robert and Pep Glenn’s Centurian Bay, so named down to a combination of Robert buying the horse last year as a golden wedding anniversary present to his wife and William turning 50.

    “I’ve been producing him steadily and he doesn’t have a lot of mileage for a seven-year-old,” said William, who finished on his 23 dressage. “He’s still green but I thought it was a good opportunity for him to learn a bit on the undulations and it’s the first time I’ve let the handbrake off – he’s an old-fashioned blood horse – he’s keeping me going!”

    Gemma Tattersall was runner-up in the CCI2*-S aboard the Linda Allan-owned Johan-Some, completing on their 23.9 dressage.

    “It’s taken me a minute to get him thinking with me,” said Gemma. “He’s super-intelligent and incredibly handsome and he knows it, so he likes cantering around looking at how many people are watching him – I just have to make sure he’s with me. But I’m pleased with his focus today. He’s still never had a fence down, so he’s definitely one for the future.”

    Georgia Bartlett claimed the NAF-sponsored under-21 CCI3*-S by almost three penalties aboard Spano De Nazca, a horse who has taken her to four-star level and two junior European Championships.

    “We’ve been working hard on our dressage with Ian Woodhead and Caroline Moore, improving ‘Nono’s’ way of going,” said 19-year-old Georgia, who finished on her 28.2 first-phase score. “He’s 14, but was fresh in the jumping phases. We’ll now head to the four-star at Little Downham.”

    Molly Faulkner was second with her mother Amanda’s Call Me Cooley. “He can blow up in the dressage, so I tried a new tactic of working him a couple of times in the day before our test and it seemed to work,” said 18-year-old Molly. “He jumped so well and was so game across country – he’s very special and I hope to aim him for the young rider Europeans and a CCI4*-L in 2021.”

    Archie Smith-Maxwell triumphed in the NAF-sponsored under-21 CCI2*-S with Judy Bradwell’s 15-year-old mare Akolien, with Daisy Proctor snapping at his heels, just 0.6 of a penalty adrift aboard the super-experienced former Lizzie Baugh four-star ride, Quarry Man, in what was only their fourth event together.

    Discipline stars

    The open intermediate sections read like a Who’s Who of eventing. Tom McEwen and his 2019 Pau CCI5* winner, Toledo De Kerser led section I from start to finish, while Kitty King’s recent winning streak continued with her topping section F with the super-smart eight-year-old Cristal Fontaine.

    Tim Price and his 2018 Burghley winner, Ringwood Sky Boy, won section G, another pair to lead from start to finish. In the intermediate sections, Tim’s wife, Jonelle took section H with Killbunny Andy.

    Louisa Lockwood and Crumlinpark Genie claimed section D – the nine-year-old’s first-ever win – while UK-based Dutch rider Andrew Heffernan topped section E with another nine-year-old, Rafiki.

    Competitors waxed lyrical about this addition to the British Eventing calendar, which has been described as a phoenix rising from the ashes in a very tough year. It was darkened however on the final day when Direct Cassino, ridden by Japan’s Ryuzo Kitajima, was fatally injured at the final fence in the CCI3*-S.

    Rehabilitation and patience

    The success of Akolien in the NAF-sponsored under-21 CCI2*-S was largely down to the rehabilitation and patience of her rider, Archie Smith-Maxwell.

    “She suffered a leg injury and required time off,” explained 17-year-old Archie, who was due to sit mock exams the day after this event. “Her owner, Judy Bradwell, made a deal with us that if I could get Akolien sound, I could take over the ride on her. I spent a year walking her on the roads, getting her leg strong and we’ve now done five events together. We’ve done a lot of gridwork to help improve her showjumping, as she’s built quite long and can have a pole down, but she’s so honest and genuine.”

    Ref Horse & Hound; 17 September 2020