Mary King reflects on Houghton and the ups and downs of this season
THE King family result at Houghton was definitely one-nil to my daughter Emily. Her CCI2*-L win on the Kerr-Dineen family’s Imposant was especially pleasing, because it was bad luck when they came down on the flat at Thoresby last season, and also because it’s been a rough few weeks with her boyfriend, Sam Ecroyd, sustaining multiple facial injuries in a horrible rotational fall.
Emily had a broken hand, so I went up to north Wales to help out with driving, so she could visit Sam in hospital, but he has made an incredible recovery, thank goodness. He was able to come to Houghton to watch and looks as if nothing has happened – and he still has his teeth!
At Houghton, I ended up on the floor – or, rather, underwater – which was so annoying as King Cyrus had done a nice dressage, but he made a babyish mistake, landing unbalanced and stumbling. I was properly submerged and got a mouthful of dirty water. However, I have learnt something new, as the doctor told me I should straight away go and drink a can of full-fat coke to kill any bacteria.
Overall, though, it was a great family weekend and the ground at Houghton was the best it’s ever been.
JUST as you think and hope that horse trials are returning to some sort of normality, there is more bad news.
First the cancellation of Burghley, which will have serious ramifications for British Eventing’s finances unless a meaningful replacement at a prestigious venue can somehow be scrambled together, then the red tape and inconvenient quarantine rules faced by British-based riders getting to Luhmühlen.
This could result in a severely dented CCI5*-L, as the top German horses tend to run in the CCI4*-S.
Fortunately, most top British horses, as well as those ridden by Australian and New Zealand riders, are double entered at Bicton. I believe, at the time of writing, a couple of riders were trying to circumvent the problem by travelling from Millstreet in Ireland this weekend, where the entry is predominantly Irish, but this is a fiendishly complicated option.
The announcement of the Olympic long-list presented some sort of normality, although how normal the Games will be is anyone’s guess. Long gone are the days when a championship team of four would be a mix of strengths and weaknesses; now, everyone has to be thoroughly proficient in all three phases to win medals, even with the new substitution rules.
This long-list certainly demonstrated the strength in depth in Britain if combinations of the calibre of Houghton winners William Fox-Pitt and Little Fire, Tina Cook with Billy The Red and Pippa Funnell’s 2019 Burghley winner MGH Grafton Street can be left off.
ON TO BICTON
BY the time you read this, I will have marked a significant birthday. My treats include leading the annual Dartmoor Derby – fortunately a spoiling night in a five-star hotel is included – and Bicton this weekend, where Emily has her last chance to win the under-25s again.
I am looking forward to seeing what organiser Helen West has done to upgrade the event, with the help of Mark Phillips; I am sure they will have done an amazing job.
I was delighted to hear about Helen’s recent appointment as British Eventing CEO; she’s very much in touch with all aspects of the sport through her competing and course-designing, as well as running Bicton Arena, and is a lovely, straightforward person.
She’s got a daunting challenge on her hands, but let’s hope she can move the sport on out of this current difficult patch.
This exclusive column is also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 10 June 2021
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