The Whatley Manor International Horse Trials [or “Gatcombe (2)” as it is often referred to] often signals the last of the good weather events in the UK. By mid September it really is a case of “if it’s not raining, wait 5 minutes” [it will], so you might as well flip a coin before deciding what to wear and setting off for this event, and I did spot a few horses that had already been clipped, so the great British autumn really has arrived……brrr!
Autumn colours were breaking through everywhere, and the varying terrain of Gatcombe provided some great opportunities for practicing my photographic skills in a variety of settings. I’ve still a way to go on the photography front, and I will have to go on a few photography courses this winter to get more of a handle on my camera, but I think I came away from Gatcombe with at least a couple of nice photos.
Thankfully Unfortunately I missed most of the dressage, arriving Saturday lunchtime, a better day weather wise, and just in time for novice showjumping and cross country, which is just as interesting as the bigger classes, particularly here as you get to see some of the better young horses of the year going through a great ‘up hill, through the woods, and down dale’ course.
Showjumping for the novice classes caused more problems than the cross country, which was a nice flowing straightforward course made up of logs, walls and hedges with the occasional wooden box structure thrown in for good measure. A new second pond had appeared next the original one, used this year for the CIC** class, and you could see plenty of opportunity to vary the routes through the water, over the coming years as the landscape settles in.
I spotted far too many nice novice horses, but two that stood for me for very different reasons were, Pippa Funnel’s Billy Black Jack, a text book, ‘black type’ event horse – fast and sleek! The other was a lovely looking Palamino ridden by Vicky Brake, called Banoffee Pie. He’s built more like a show jumper, but just had so much presence, and whilst I think he’s probably got little chance of being competitive above novice, I recon you could have a lot of fun with a horse like this, and I could easily find room in my stable for such a stunning animal. Oh, and Billy Black Jack won his section, and Pippa Funnel really is the most exciting rider to watch on the cross country!
The CIC** provided plenty to watch on the Sunday, with a full deck of New Zealander riders, including Clarke Johnstone, or as one horse watcher put it to me “a future star” as they nodded in Clarke’s direction. The class was led, and eventually won by Paul Tapner on the grey Kilronan.
Quite a few riders had problems at the double corners which were tricky to represent at, but overall there were no dramas, apart from the deluge of rain for ten minutes in the closing stages of the class. Thankfully the ground was perfect throughout the weekend out on course, and quite a stretch of it runs through the woods, so it didn’t ruin the results. A few horses in this class that proved interesting to watch were Jonelle Richards’ Mere Oak, who finished 6th, and was ridden last year by Laura Collet, Zidante for Kitty King (2nd), who I think has an interesting string of horses at the moment, and of course, I’m sure there were plenty of eyes on Julian Stiller who was giving her new ride Charlie Weld their first ‘international’ outing, since she bought the Bramham winner from Germany.
All credit to HRH Princess Anne (who was everywhere!), and her team for putting together such a great course and event. Gatcombe was another fabulous fond farewell to the British summer, and possibly my last visit to a UK horse trials for a while, given my work & travel plans over the coming few months. Still, there’s one or two I might visit in other, hopefully warmer, parts of the world before the year is out.
I wish I’d gone to Gatcombe (2) with an empty horsebox, so I had a new string of good looking, sleek and speedy horses for next season! Dream on……..