Gatcombe, The Festival of British Eventing 2010 – Saturday

Saturday started early at Gatcombe, with advanced show-jumping under a light drizzle. The course, in the main arena, was quite tricky, it’s Gatcombe so it’s not completely flat, and had a few switchbacks, a double to a related distance oxer slightly downhill across the diagonal, and the dreaded planks, which were re-positioned as the last fence in the Novice Championship later in the day, and quickly became the bogey fence.

Particularly good rounds in the advanced included dressage leader William Fox-Pitt on Seacookie, and Cool Mountain, both clear but only Seacookie went on to run x-country as Cool Mountain is being saved for the WEG. Seacookie also went clear x-country, and held the lead in Advanced Section A almost until the end of the day, when Dan Jocelyn stormed round on the experienced Special Advocate to pip him into second place.

Izzy Taylor, brought up hunting with the Bicester and only four weeks after having her second baby, rode a beautiful clear on Briarlands Matilda. Also impressive were Polly Williamson on Stanly, Harry Meade on Wild Lone, Jo Chipperfield on On your Marks, and of course Mark Todd on Major Milestone.

Andrew Nicholson
Andrew Nicholson must surely win the prize for riding most horses, and the long hack from the arena to the lorry park/temporary stabling must have caused timing problems, because at least once, he swapped horses with his groom, having met her half way along the path.
Once cross-country started at 10:30, so did the rain in earnest. There didn’t seem to be a particular bogey fence, but the steps up at 8 needed seriously forward riding with many riders turning the corner, setting up and then practically galloping at it.
Both waters were fairly straightforward with a single jump in, but both required bold riding.
Mark Todd

Of course it was an absolute treat to watch Mark Todd cruise around the park on Major Milestone, making it look like a pre-novice, meeting every fence on a perfect stride, and never breaking his rhythm. The antipodean presence was keenly felt; Andrew Nicholson is easily recognisable on any horse, from almost any distance because of his economical style and relentless pace but never looks rushed. Paul Tapner rode all three phases on a number of horses confidently, accurately and effectively, but I especially liked W Didgeridoo, the stallion who finished in 13th place. Sam Griffiths had a nice round on Danann Prince, but saves my favourite Happy Times for tomorrow in the Open.

Dan Jocelyn – Advanced Winner

Bill Levett rode sympathetically on Sea Oro and got the job done to finish in 14th place. I kept seeing Clayton Fredericks warming up one nice horse after another in the dressage, but he has yet to jump.

As nice as it was to watch the “old pro’s” going round – Ruth Edge, William F-P etc, it was encouraging to see some of the younger riders confirming their promise, and putting in some beautiful rides on new horses. I was especially impressed by Harry Meade on Wild Lone, Angus Smales on all three of his advanced rides, and Izzy Taylor. It was nice to see Aaron Miller back out on Stormstay going well, and Louise Skelton on her old campaigner Bit of a Barney, going like the blazes to take Advanced Section B. I also never realised how tiny Louise is until today, she is definitely diminutive but they ate up the cross country and looked larger than life storming round.
Although there were heavy downpours throughout the day, the going held up quite well, with some horses slipping a bit on the turns, and a little cutting up on take-offs and landings.
Andrew Nicholson

The quality of the horses in the Novice Championship was amazing. Cool Mountain won this in 2007 as a 7 year old, and while watching them warm up for the show-jumping, I thought there surely can’t be many places where you’ll see such a collection of really classy, scopey, well-produced event prospects. This is where the Americans should come shopping, along with the BYEH classes yesterday which also blew me away. Oliver Townend looks to be producing another nice grey to add to his string in Jeepers Creepers, a ride he’s had since last year, who ended up winning the class. William F-P had two nice young bays, Sharon Hunt was second, and Angus Smales fourth.

The Intermediate and Open Championship dressage continued all day saturday. I was unlucky to miss Mary King’s first two tests on Imperial Cavalier and King’s Temptress who moved into 1st and 2nd places respectively in the Open, but caught up with her briefly afterwards. Mary fully intends to run cross country on all three of her rides in the Open (Apache Sauce currently sits in 11th place) and was thrilled with both of her first two rides, especially her homebred mare who she said felt faultless today and tried her heart out. Mary is one of the most gracious and generous riders on the circuit, and is looking forward to representing Britain at the WEG next month, and is such a terrific ambassador for the sport.
During one of the heavier downpours we all huddled under a tent for shelter where we were lucky enough to chance upon the volunteer expert commentary of Sue Stewart, who gave us all her opinion on each test, talking us through the tests in layman’s terms, and everyone there enjoyed it tremendously. Sue has been doing this for going on seven years now and has become a stalwart of the British Open dressage.
Daisy Berkeley

Paul Tapner coaxed a lovely test out of Stormhill Micheal despite the torrential rain he was unlucky enough to ride in, and sits in 6th place on him, and in 4th place on his Badminton winner Inonothing. Separating his two rides are his compatriot Sam Griffiths on Happy Times, who I look forward to watching cross country tomorrow. Oli Townend is well positioned in 3rd place on Ashdale Cruise Master, and Andrew Nicholson will be dangerous, lying 7th with Armada.

 How nice to see another solid test from the extraordinary Opposition Buzz to leave them in 10th, Nicola’s hard work is obviously paying off. Paul Tapner’s 9th place on Kilfinnie means he has 3 horses in the top ten heading into the jumping phases sunday. Daisy Berkeley has her consistent Spring Along sitting in 8th and would love to do well here to prove a point to the selectors.

For full result of all the sections, please visit the Gatcombe homepage.

Once again, sunday will mean an early start with the intermediate championship show-jumping getting under way at 8:45am, but before I sign off, a HUGE thank you to all the volunteers, every day, but especially today when they had to cope with all sorts of weather. Without them, the show would not go, so Thank-You. Looking forward to lots more action tomorrow,

Amateur event rider, aspiring photographer. Technologist by day.


  1. Thanks Samantha.<br /><br />Another great report. It&#39;s good to see some of the riders who haven&#39;t been selected for WEG2010 doing so well, and surprising to see some of the WEG selections out at Gatcombe.<br /><br />Let&#39;s hope the weather holds up for Sunday&#39;s finale. Looking forward to that update…..

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