Belton – Perfectly Pitched

Laura Collett | Getting Some Intermediate Cross Country Practice In For Tomorrow’s CIC*** Which She Leads

It’s very easy to see why almost all the UK based entries for Badminton are here at Belton. It has everything you want want from an early season competitive run at Advanced in preparation for the spring four stars. I haven’t walked the full extent of the cross country course yet, which doesn’t look as strong as some that you’ll find later in the season, but that’s exactly what you’d hope for.

Probably the most important ingredient for 4 star prep is ‘big ring familiarisation’ and Belton is a big show in it’s own right with more tradestands than you’ll find at Barbury, or any other event in it’s class. Both the CIC & Advanced dressage was held in amongst the shopping lanes. Two advanced sections were being held side by side with noisy shoppers, flags waving, and intermediate show jumping and cross country going on all around you. Perfect, as when some of these horses get to Badminton, the atmosphere is going to be even more intense.

Stuart Buntine’s organising team have gone to great effort to prepare all the surfaces, and cross country course was spiked and take of landings were sanded, and as I left the dressage arenas were being dismantled as a tractor drove round with a tine harrow softening up the surface ready for tomorrow’s showjumping. Scoreboards are conveniently located in the beer tent overlooking the arena, so with today’s bitter chill you could easily have been forgiven for camping in there.

Mary King & Chilli Morning Leading The Adv Dressage

Talking of Chilli Mornings, today was the first time I’d seen Mary King on her new ride by that name. This is the stallion Mary took over from Nick Guantlett, and you really wouldn’t have known he was a stallion, perfectly behaved and calm in the dressage to give the pair a decent lead on a score of 27.1 in their advanced section. The only person to have bettered that score today was Andrew Nicholson with 25.9 who leads the other Advanced section by an even bigger margin with Badminton bound Avebury.

Like every good spaniel, I find it hard sometimes to concentrate on what’s important, and was easily distracted by the lure of cross country action going on as I arrived. At first I was thinking this doesn’t look like a particularly tough advanced course, and it wasn’t until I came across Paul Tapner walking the course with his owners who told me he only had Dressage today, that the penny dropped and I realised I was watching Intermediate cross country. That could have been an epic fail as I was half thinking about missing tomorrow! Anyway, pictures of two of the three leaders from the big classes is not too bad a result, and there really is so much going on at Belton from cross country, show jumping, dressage right through to dog agility, like a spaniel it’s easy to get distracted. I blame too much business travel!

Tina Cook All Smiles After CIC*** Dressage On Miners Frolic

That leaves just the CIC*** Dressage, and I did manage to watch some of this, most importantly two horses I had come to see. Everyone by now knows of the near death experience Miners Frolic had last year and I have loved this horse ever since I saw him at his first Badminton, he’s the archetypal event horse. How well this horse has bounced back after that illness is astounding, and today he looked almost back to his best. Tina was understandably all smiles and they sit in the top ten going into tomorrow’s cross country.    Laura Collett has the most wonderful rapport with Rayef, and trotted powerfully around the outside of the arena as she waited for the call from the judges. Her test really was very hard to mark down. It was well balanced, unrushed and expressive on an obedient and athletic Rayef, she now leads the CIC*** on a score of 39.0. I would be very surprised if this pair were not in the top 3 after dressage at Badminton in a few weeks and will be very hard to beat here come tomorrow.

Big day tomorrow!  Go watch #EventingLive

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One Two Many NJ & Bill Levett | Another Lovely Horse Back In The Game
Amateur event rider, aspiring photographer. Technologist by day.


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