|Ruth Edge | 2nd After The Cross Country Phase|
We set off for Blenheim Horse Trials in full combat gear, prepared for anything the great British weather could throw at us, which proved completely unnecessary as by the time we’d walked from the carpark to the course, the sun came out, and barely took a break all day. The conditions could hardly have been more perfect for horse, rider, or spectator. Blenheim has the best going of any parkland venue you’ll find in the UK, and the only hard ground you came across today was on the well worn crossing points on course. I’ll bet the American riders were pleased they were here rather than at the AECs in Chattahochee Hills, which looked like a bit of a dust bowl, which is a shame as it looked like being a fab event, with bumper entries, albeit also host to what turned out to be a rather unorthodox US WEG Team Selection Trial in the Advanced Championship.
Dressage supremo, Ruth Edge, sadly picked up a few time faults on her way round the Blenheim cross country course, but I watched her through the water and I thought she looked every bit a winner. The 3.6 time faults does, however push William Fox-Pitt into the lead, by just under 2 points. Ruth has at least laid any cross country gremlins to rest and can sleep easy tonight. I hope she manages to end the ‘big stars’ season on a high with a win here.
|The Dew Pond | MES Legacy|
I’ll probably not be popular for saying this, but I really don’t like MES designed courses, I find they need riding constantly on the horses mouth generally, and whilst Eric Winter has taken over designing at Blenheim, there’s still plenty of Mike’s legacy here, like the Dew Pond, which I think is a bloody awful fence. Personal preference perhaps, but I prefer Mark Phillips’ or Hugh Thomas’ style of bigger open flowing courses. I didn’t see one ride through the Dew Pond that made it look smooth or without clouting the fences.
Blenheim as a venue, in my view, is head and shoulders above any of the 4* events, but I think to make this a really big affair like Badminton or Burghley it would need to utilise a bit more of the park and it’s backdrops. The trot up, for example, is held between the public carparks and lorry park, and the feature fences have very little in the way of backdrop, or are ‘photogenically’ hindered by railings or tents etc. Make no mistake, this is a truly stunning location for a horse trials, with no doubt the best footing you’ll find outside of any of our racehorse gallops.
As you might spot from my video and photos, there’s also plenty to do and see apart from watching the thrills and spills of cross country. I spotted bouncy castles, a flight simulator, not to mention more shops than you can shake a stick at. With a toddler & young baby in tow we were a little restricted in our movements or what we could do to stave of boredom, so I haven’t filmed or videoed many of the fences, just the more interesting ones. I find ice-cream, and a shady spot, usually provides a welcome break from the “horsey jump”, and I did manage to get measured for a new pair of boots, and find a nice new stable rug for the great white charger. There was an interesting sand sculpture of a horse rolling on it’s back, being created in the main tradestand area, and a rather bizzarre looking whicker doll stood by the dew pond pond (see my photos from the event).
|Tradestands Are Along Side The Course|
The drive in was so free from traffic queues, we were beginning to wander if there would be much of a crowd there, but the car parks were very full, and there was plenty of hustle and bustle with shuttle buggies going back and forth, scattering people in all directions, as we arrived. Despite all this I managed to bump into several people from the 4 corners of the world that I’d not see for a few years, the only down side being that we tended to be chatting to old friends when most of the run-outs or falls happened, so few captured on film. There are more crossing points on this course than I think I’ve ever seen anywhere else. The whole site is quite compact in places with some of the feature fences situated right along side the shopping, which does have a real impact on how quite a lot of the course rides, and I’m sure it’s daunting for some of the foreign based riders not used to this type of experience.
|Pippa Funnell At The Lake|
Whilst I didn’t walk the entire course, I know most of it like the back of my hand, and the big feature fences like the dew pond, the double of corner hedges and the lake tended to be where the problems lay. As for the list of horses I’d picked out for my self to watch, I was very pleased I managed to see them all, and all of them seemed to be doing well, only High Havoc got into trouble on his way home after the lake. The top two New Zealanders (Todd & Nicholson) rally are fascinating to watch, particularly on their ‘not so top’ horses, these two guys really can spin silk from pigs’ ears, when it comes to getting horses round cross country. Neither might have the grace and style of say William Fox-Pitt or Andrew Hoy, but they really are a class apart. Matt Ryan seemed to be going well when I saw him flash past in the usual coffee and cream checks on his way to the lake, unfortunately he didn’t get past fence 22.
In the last few years Blenheim has been running a CIC*** along side the CCI***, and whilst the vast majority of us have no problem understanding these two competitions are entirely different and seperate, I did overhear a few poor souls, being completely confused by the matter, so I wonder whether it is a good thing to be running these concurrently, rather than sequentially. I suppose if it raises the gate numbers on the Sunday it’s probably doing the job intended.
As I had thought, not only was Blenheim well worth the visit, but once again, in a championship year, it was all the more exciting. You can find a link to the fence analysis below, rather than me whittering on about “which fence proved most influential”, but needless to say there a few errors, and issues, at a few different fences, and why anyone brings a horse to Blenheim hoping a good whip is the answer to success on the cross country, is beyond me. It’s not exactly a good first time 3*. There were a few trigger happy riders there today, though. All in all a great day out, watching some great sport from some great riders, to be repeated often.
This is the last horse trials I’ll attend this season, apart from my own last run in a few weeks, unless I’m asked to assist a friend who’s running at Gatcombe next week. So that’s very nearly it for sunshine shots of gleaming beasts splashing through water and jumping large bits of wood for while. It’s does give me an opportunity to start my winter blogging project, which I’m hoping will give you all a little something to laugh at, and it does of course signal the focus for a very exciting 2011 season, starting with Badminton, as everyone swaps rides, and jostles for position in the run up to London 2012.
I leave you with one thought… Take a look at the photo (right), of this inflated Air Jacket, and notice how the number bib has been undone. I’m curious as to whether these bibs present a problem when put over the air jacket (i.e. does it inflate so much that it would cause back pressure on to the riders chest, causing restrictive breathing). Sounds like an darn good reason to get rid of these ridiculous bibs – my burn the bib crusade continues……