|Dressage in the ‘stately’ surroundings of Wilton House|
With a rare free weekend, and nothing better planned than cutting the lawns, I decided to go and take a look at Wilton Horse Trials, particularly as it’s only a 30 minutes or so from home. So armed with digi camera & camcorder off I went.
This event is pretty new to the circuit held in the parkland and grounds of Wilton House near Salisbury. They run Novice and Intermediate over two days, and in many ways it’s very similar to Highclere, extensive parkland, with plenty of ancient trees, undulating ground and home to cattle most of the year. Wilton probably uses a few more steep slopes than Highclere in their courses, which can mean the need for plenty of control. It also means they have slightly tougher challenges when it comes to preparing the ground sufficiently in dry weather.
|Steep slope on the Int. Track|
The intermediate course runs down a very steep slope at one point and it was interesting to see most of the more experienced riders pick there way down this very carefully, whilst others threw their reins at it. I came across Rodney Powell walking the course at this point and he was paying particular attention to the going which had been spread with sand to fill in the cattle poached ground.
Overall this is a really nice event, with perfectly flat and level ground for the Dressage & Showjumping in something of an amphitheatre. There are 2 very small water fences here, small ponds really, and I’m sure in a year or two these will get expanded. The novice course was a little softer than I was expecting, but I liked that. You could quite easily use this as a decent ‘educating’ run for fit and established pre-novice horse without fear of over facing them.
The intermediate on the other hand really needs a horse with some experience, and in my view you need to ‘box clever’ through some parts of the course to avoid errors or ‘excessive use of the whip’. I was astonished at how many people I saw happily thwacking their horses over some of these intermediate fences. If you need to use a whip over every other fence, you need to spend more time in the saddle at home. Watch William Fox-Pitt tackle the drop fence in my video and you’ll see what I mean about ‘boxing clever’.
It’s not very often I get to go, or want to go, to a horse trials without a horse, but I did really enjoy today, especially as I saw a number of lovely horses, including one that looks the spitting image of my own great white charger, plus a really lovely coloured horse. I have my wife to thank for agreeing to look after our toddler and baby on her own.
I managed to watch (and record) one of William’s dressage tests from this event, and it’s amazing how effortless he makes the whole thing look. Every horse I’ve ever seen him compete at Novice and above always looks so impeccably behaved, well balanced, and running as smooth as a Rolls Royce. He must spend forever getting these horses just so. An incredible horseman, far too tall though!
|Clayton Fredericks entertaining owners|
Clayton Fredericks is another serious jockey who was there today, also a great horseman, and very Aussie workman like in his attitude and riding, very likeable too. Take a look (in my video) at the way these two tackle the toughest fence on today’s intermediate track, very different styles, albeit with two very different horses.
It’s funny how almost all these top rider’s spend some time in the ‘4 star wilderness’. 4 star horses eventually retire, requiring a rider to have a steady flow of new horse power flowing through their yards. William Fox-Pitt is probably the only one I can think of who doesn’t seem to have these lean periods. Over the last 10 or more years he’s had a steady stream of horses to ride at the top level. There is an awful lot of smoozing and entertaining to do to keep that flow of horses going..
Andrew Hoy, who was also there today, is just starting his next purple patch, it’s still a little blue, but he’s managed to get results at 2* this season and I’m sure it won’t take another 3 years before we see him in the top ten of the big ticket events.
Wilton is part of the stately homes challenge series sponsored by Mitsubishi Motors whom, we all know, spends what must be a small fortune each year in eventing sponsorship. I know they put a fair amount into Badminton each year, but you do see them pop-up everywhere else – more than Land Rover and every other 4×4 maker. I just hope that all continues and we’re not over egging our pudding.
To conclude, I really liked this event. The ground wasn’t as good as I, or a few others I spoke to, would have hoped, but for me the novice track looks to be a very rideable course, and I will definitely be putting this one in my calendar for next season, as a fun event.
I won’t bore you with the detail of results and who did a lovely test, etc., so to find out who won, lost, fell, stopped, run out and all the rest visit www.britisheventing.com
Before I forget; As I left the house this morning to go to Wilton, I was stopped by a man looking for a Crop Circle he’d heard about on the Internet. “I didn’t have a clue” I said. But on the way out of the village I spotted it. As annoying as these are for any farmer, you have to marvel at the art & precision of this ‘phenomenon’!