|Pippa Funnell & Redesigned Makes A Splash To Win Mulberry Insurance Advanced Section K|
This time last year Aston-le-Walls came to the rescue by running extra days when the UK eventing circuit was essentially rained off. Weather wise the tables are completely turned this year. Much of the ground was baked so dry it had cracked, yet all of the tracks had been well watered and the going was perfect – truly amazing!
|Tour De Force: Andrew Nicholson – Winner of Advanced Sections J & L|
Mid-season, with a fist full of Advanced sections including a special 8/9-y-old section, Aston-le-Walls entries were littered with 3 & 4 star horses continuing a comeback from injury or falls plus a healthy dose of those stepping up to this level for the first time. Not forgetting the ‘tour de force’ that is Andrew Nicholson. He won on Qwanza and had numerous other placings. I’d tell you more but he barely put a foot wrong, so there’s very little new to say.
|This Fence Rode Well, But Looked More Imposing On Approach|
I usually think of event venues as those that are run in parkland and then those that are run in farmland or equestrian centres (Horse Parks). If you’ve only ever had Aston-le-Walls described to you, you could be forgiven for thinking it is like any other ‘equestrian centre’ venue, but Aston is one of the best examples of this type of venue you’ll find in the UK with good grass cover, established trees, and plenty of natural hedges. All of the fences and permanent features are neat, tidy and well maintained. Capable of running anything from the lowest levels right up to advanced, this is one of the UK’s premier ‘everyday’ venues.
|This Fence Sent A Few Straight Back To The Lorry Park|
|Great Galloping Fences|
This weekend’s Advanced courses may not be the toughest you could find, but I thought many of the fences were cleverly designed and laid out with some imposing looking fences that were not necessarily difficult but made you think twice. There were problems all over the course with clever lines and quirky design tricks everywhere. One fence with a ‘fountain’ stopped a few in their tracks, causing early retirement.
For a compact site there are plenty of galloping lanes, and some great fences to jump in a galloping stride.
|Kevin McNab & Clifton Pinot|
I guess the slot in the calendar means you won’t normally see the big name horses here, but this does mean you get to see a whole host of other very good horses either on their way up or on their way back. Australian, Kevin McNab, rode Clifton Pinot, a horse and rider I don’t think I’ve ever managed to see before, and Piggy French had Woodwood Mariner out, who I’ve personally not seen in a while.
|Piggy French & Westwood Mariner|
|Jennifer Hart & Flora Lady|
Over the public address system I heard the commentator mention several horses that were having their first run at Advanced, including Jennifer Hart who I’d seen at Gatcombe in the CIC** ‘graciously’ dismount in the show jumping, so it was great to see her flying round the xc clear, and her personal photogragher Michael Rogers leaping over the stringed course moving from fence to fence in an effort to keep up.
Chris King was riding one of my favourite greys of the day, Billy Bounce. This is a really nice athletic type with a lovely jumping action, and some great form at intermediate, and stepping up to advanced for the first time fresh from a win at Barbury CIC**. I really hope this horse gives Chris another shot at the 3 & 4 stars.
|Chris King & Billy Bounce|
As far as ‘my horse to take home’ it would be a toss up between this horse of Chris’s and Izzy Taylor’s horse, Vanir Kamira who won section H.
The sponsor’s tent by the final water complex was full, with live music playing, all adding to the atmosphere. Every section was sponsored and I think I heard correctly that one of the sections had £1,000 first prize and and prizes down to 15th place, “which is better than the usual red rosette and a dandy brush” according to the commentator!
All in all I had a great day out at Aston, even though it was overcast all day (a blessing really). I think this event will feature regularly in my calendar from now on.
I’ll leave you with one final request, spare a thought for Paul Tapner who rode several horses round whilst sporting a socking great plaster on his chin covering the socking great cut and stitches he endured after a horse struck him when rearing up earlier in the week. It can’t have been very comfortable in this heat. But you can’t keep a good man down, and he slotted Indian Mill into 2nd place behind Izzy Taylor in one section and finished 6th with both Wickstead Digeridoo & Yogi Bear in 2 other sections.
Here a few more favourite photos from the day:
|Ben McClumpha & Willow Tipster|
|There was another great galloping stretch after this early fence.|
|Well Water Ground Meant Good Going & Plenty Opportunity To Open The Throttle|
|Jodie Amos & Wise Crack – 3rd in Section J|
|Lucy Jackson, A Little Bruised But Managing To Smile After A Tumble Early In The Day.|