The outcome of Barbury Castle Horse Trials’ flagship class, the CIC*** was perhaps as expected, with local Marlborough based rider, Andrew Nicholson taking the honours once again on Avebury. After Clark Montgomery’s withdrawal (sat in second place, and on route to Aachen in a few weeks), Nicholson was left with a little extra breathing space and consequently didn’t need to overly exert Avebury to get inside the time.
This charming little grey has continued to improve year on year and stay sound, and as Andrew has often mentioned publicly, Avebury needs to be ridden strongly to perform at his best. Having led from the start with an impressive dressage score of 34.8 they were deserving winners having only added a few cross country time penalties after a ‘cruisey’ round.
Another of my favourite greys on the circuit, Francis Whittington’s ride Easy Target produced a formidable performance this weekend with a solid dressage test, a classy show jumping round and an amazing cross country trip to finish in the runner up spot. Sadly my other favourite grey, Chris King’s Billy Bounce, lying in 5th after showjumping, had a ‘drive-by’ at the quarry fence, and Chris retired at that point. Billy Bounce is only 9 so I’m sure we’ll see a lot more from him as he matures over the next year or two. Chris is one Britain’s best riders, and a previous winner of Barbury, so Billy is in great hands.
I may be biased but Paul Tapner has got to take home ‘man of the match’ from this four day Barbury festival. Having ridden 9 horses, and won the popularist ROR class, he also came third in the CIC*** class on Yogi Bear, the family hunter, rising from 20th to take 3rd place and only one of two to finish cross country with a clean sheet (the other being Beanie Sturgis, who incidentally also rides in red cross country colours!). Plus Paul was the only rider to finish with 2 horses in the top 20.
A few people mentioned the course was perhaps not as strong as previous years but take a look at the results and you’ll see there was a sizeable chunk of the field that incurred jumping penalties or failed to finish, including many very experienced riders. There were a few holds on course during the afternoon, due to dramas, and fence repairs, but on the whole these were dealt with swiftly and disruption was kept to a minimum. Nici Wilson sat tight during a sticky moment at the corners which resulting in a borken frangible pin that was swiftly repaired by James Willis.
Personally I thought the course was pretty creative. Alongside the established favourites like stonehenge, the dinousar bones, there were some great new additions supporting some fresh sponsorship. I particularly liked the TH White Combine Harvester fence, where horses actually need to jump part of these enormous machines.
Barbury is a fabulous setting, amongst the gently rolling hills of Wiltshire sympathetically farmed with plenty of wildflower meadows and flowering crops like linseed, and new this year, poppies for morphine production. Alan King trains his thoroughbred string here, and just across the road is the famous Manton Estate which I was sad to hear confirmed yesterday by the owners is up for sale, I have many fond memories of Manton during the late ’90s. As I stood above the main water complex a thought struck me – this is probably one of the few places in England I’ve stood where you cannot see a rooftop or church spire in any direction.
I’ve been to Barbury most years since it’s inception with various friends, many of whom wouldn’t know one end of a horse from another, but who have all thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere the event provides, and I’d recommend it to anyone. Today my 6 year old son, had the unforeseen pleasure of accompanying me due to a little domestic drama at home, and I’m pleased to say he behaved pretty impeccably given he not as interested in the whole ‘eventing thing’ as I am. He even had a go at photography with my big lens (with somewhat mixed results)
Due to a little drama this am, I gained a junior photographer this afternoon. Which can be tricky to master aged 6! pic.twitter.com/xe51iIV09P
— monty (@monty_white) July 6, 2014
Sincere congratulations to all concerned in putting on the show at Barbury, and many many thanks for the hospitality afforded to me by the organisers and press team. This truly is one of the best events on the world stage.
I leave you with links and a few more photos: