Reporting for Horsemart.co.uk, I caught the final day of the competition. Below is my report, which you can also see on the Horsemart website here.
The Longines King George V Gold Cup; what a way to cap off the Royal International Horse Show for another year. This prestigious cup is arguably one of the most highly sought after prizes on Britain’s showjumping circuit, and is suitably lucrative with 200k Euro’s in prize money up for grabs.
The course looked technical and up to height, promising a stiff test for horse and rider, so thrills and excitement were sure to be seen. Much to everyone’s surprise, the competition started with not one, but two clear rounds courtesy of Belgium’s Pieter Devos and GBR’s own Joe Clayton.
Ellen Whitaker put an end to that though, when her grey mare Ximena took a dislike to the tricky white double of gates for the second time this meeting, planting before take-off. Probably not a week she’ll care to remember.
Ellen was one of a handful of riders who retired gracefully, saving the horse for another day. Geoff Billington was another, retiring with Uppercut II having knocked down both the first and second fence. Ever the showman, he theatrically waved a white hanky in surrender – much to the delight of the crowd!
John Whitaker had an uncharacteristic round when his ride Maximilian notched up 21 faults, and many of the other top Brit riders also fell by the wayside. Greenwich bound Olympic representative Peter Charles finished with 14 faults, whilst reserve rider Tina Fletcher was unlucky to pick up 4 faults with Ursula XII.
Fresh from success in the Sky Sports Speed Classic, Shane Breen was always a threat. Cos I can jumped immaculately in the first round, but with 4 faults in the jump-off it would not be another win for the Breens and Ireland.
French rider Marie Hecart gave a great account of herself to come 3rd with a double clear on Myself de Breve, the little horse temporarily taking the top spot, and almost making Marie the first female ever to win the competition.
Louise Pavitt and Joe Clayton were the only 2 clear rounds for GBR, and the former thrilled the crowd with a superb jump off effort which would be enough to secure 4th place. Louise finished down on the clock having chosen to go around the planks to the last fence rather than inside, costing her valuable seconds. Joe Clayton had recorded another competitive effort but 4 faults put him out of contention.
The worthy winner however, was 22 year old Hendrik-Jan Schuttert and the scopey grey Cerona H S for the Netherlands, making it the first victory for a Dutch rider in the history of the cup. A superb fast double clear would win him the top spot, but with Ludger Beerbaum the last to go, he was no doubt holding his breath until the last! The ever stylish Beerbaum was double clear, but couldn’t find an answer to Schuttert’s unbeatable time.
Having clocked up 16 faults in the first round of the Nations Cup, it would be a brave person who backed the young man, but a surprise was on the cards and Schuttert will now have his name recorded next to some of the greatest showjumpers of all time. Like many of the spectators, I would have loved to have seen a GBR win, particularly so close to the Olympics, but there’s something about watching the underdog take the spoils that is good for the soul. For all the photos, see the album here. Oh, and don't forget to go here to find out how you could win tickets for Blenheim Horse Trials!
On Thursday 19 July, I attended Hickstead to do some reporting on behalf of Horsemart.co.uk. Below is my write-up, or you can see the post on the Horsemart website here.
A jam packed schedule culminated with the famous Eventing Grand Prix, where showjumpers, eventers and even a jockey are pitted against each other. Horse and rider each tackle a course of showjumps in the main arena, before heading out onto the cross country course, and eventually coming back to finish off in the arena with a further course of showjumps. Needless to say it’s against the clock, and each knockdown results in time penalties, so quick and clean is the way to go.
This specialist event poses a challenge to competitors, who need to combine tidy jumping and collection in the arena, with boldness and speed on the cross country course. Some event horses tend not to be as careful jumping, whilst out and out showjumpers are taught to jump over water, rather than go through it, so it takes a certain kind of horse to excel.
The rivalry was healthy with £12k prize money up for grabs...and more importantly the pride of all those representing their respective disciplines. I had a quiet fancy for Pippa Funnell who competes regularly in both showjumping and cross country, and also Guy Williams, who had been extremely unlucky not to go clear with his horse Skip II Ramiro at the Hickstead Derby a few weeks ago; surely he’d be looking to make amends.
As the action got under way, it was obvious that it wouldn’t be easy; the ground was holding up well but was slightly tacky on the xc course. The horses were finishing leg weary and the course was testing, with a few falls, refusals and run-outs being recorded.
A surprise hero was newcomer 21 year old eventer and showjumper Zoe Adams, and I have to confess this was a personal highlight; she captured the hearts of the crowd with a superb round on Satonamillion to come 5th. Her horse was game throughout, despite losing a shoe and finishing tired, but Zoe displayed some phenomenal gravity defying skills to stay in the saddle when it looked impossible. Mr Stickability himself would have been proud of that one!
Showjumper turned eventer Georgie Spence had set the standard early on with a fast and tidy display on Bow House Mandalin, and the pair proved difficult to dislodge from the top spot. Laura Collett was always going to be competitive, and proved her worth with a solid effort on the delightful chestnut Noble Bestman which saw her finish 8th.
The roof was raised when Grand National winning jockey Robbie Power proved he could compete with the best of them. He managed to dislodge the long time leader Georgie Spence as his ride Doonaveeragh O One stormed round with just 5 penalties to add, with a time that would be tough to beat.
The eventual winner was Ireland’s Trevor Breen, who emulated brother Shane’s efforts of 2010 as the only rider to go sub 200 seconds with a near faultless round. He was in fact, the only rider of the day to finish with no penalties to add.
Andrew Nicholson was the last to go, and ensured it went right to the wire as his ride Quimbo looked at home throughout. The pair were second at Barbury only a few weeks prior to this, and continued in the same vein with only 5 penalties to add, knocking Robbie Power down to 3rd.
My tipping proved hit and miss; Pippa Funnell finished 7th with a competitive ride on Mirage D’elle, but unfortunately Guy Williams and Skip II Ramiro, or Skippy as he is known, were clear until the cross country phase where Skippy decided going through the water was not an option!
The sun shined, the ground held up well, and there were some fantastic displays of horsemanship to be seen. Hickstead on any day feels a special place to be, and I certainly felt privileged to be there this Thursday. If you’d like to see some photos from the day you can see the full album here
and in due course, the interviews will be uploaded to the Horsemart Youtube channel.
Lauren Shannon at Badminton 2011
Lauren Shannon at Badminton 2011
As a regular blogger for Horsemart, they were interested to hear my thoughts on the cancellation of Badminton, and the wider impact of that upon the industry. I did a bit of research and wrote the below.
The full article can be seen by visiting the Horsemart website, and by clicking the link below.: http://www.horsemart.co.uk/news/cancellation_of_badminton_horse_trials_2012_what_are_the_potential_impacts_/3163
Badminton Horse Trials – arguably the pinnacle of the British Eventing calendar, and one of only 6 CCI**** events in the world. For many spectators, it is the highlight of the equestrian year, and draws in crowds of around 200,000.
Preparation begins months and months ahead of time, course building, organising ticket sales, trade stands, publicity, entries etc, and this year no amount of preparation could cope with the wettest ‘drought’ known to man; prolonged torrential rain has led to waterlogging and flooding, and with yet more rain forecast, the organisers had no choice but to cancel the event.
So what does this mean in the wider context? Yesterday, all eyes were on William Fox-Pitt, after he and Parklane Hawk won at Kentucky, making him 2 out of 3 for the Rolex Grand Slam – a win at Badminton would have been game set and match, securing a cool £220k. So what happens now?
Not only that, but this year in particular BHT would have offered the perfect opportunity to help decide the final places for Olympic hopefuls, all keen to get a run at this level. Each rider will no doubt now be reviewing the situation, and looking for alternatives.
The horses and riders spend months preparing for the event, with carefully planned programmes to ensure peak fitness and readiness for the ultimate test that Badminton poses.
Wymeswold event rider Lauren Shannon is no exception. She says; “I am gutted that Badminton has been cancelled, my team, like everyone else's have been preparing for months for our trip there. This of course pales in comparison to the tireless work the organizing and ground teams have done. It is heartbreaking for everyone involved, and while us riders can re-route to other events, the teams at Badminton can only reflect on what could have been. I really feel for them right now.
“My horse will hopefully compete at Badminton next week, and his longer term goals will probably change now, but we will have a think for a day or two before planning too far ahead. Hopefully we wont get any more rain!”
It’s not only the riders affected though; traders come from far and wide to attend the spectacle, benefitting from a massive captive audience. Julia Andrews, spokesperson for Kate Negus Saddlery says; “It is a great shame for all involved. For me as a trader I would expect to take about 20% of my annual turnover in those 5 days. This money is hard to make up with online sales and other venues. The next biggest venue will probably be Burghley but I cannot get into that event. Unfortunately the lack of sales have the obvious knock on effect in the supply change as I will not be putting my usual big order in after Badminton.
“I really feel for all those people at Badminton who have worked so hard getting the event organised. A bit like running a marathon with the finish line in view and then be told that there was no race after all!!”
Likewise, Jo Self, General Manager for Feedmark is facing a similar situation, having been ordering in extra materials, packaging, signage etc to cope with the demand that Badminton throws up. She explains: “Obviously we are extremely disappointed about the cancellation of BHT, Feedmark have been trading at the event for longer than I can remember! However it is very important to remember that the horses welfare is paramount and the organisers have made the right decision in very difficult circumstances.
“To avoid any further disappointment to our customers we have decided to honour our show offer and we will discount supplement orders by 40% along with free UK delivery between Thursday 3rd – Monday 7th May. I feel for those smaller trade stands who have invested heavily and will not be able to recoup their costs. Of course it is also a blow for William Fox-Pitt our sponsored rider who had an amazing win at Kentucky yesterday with Parklane Hawk and was looking forward to the challenge of completing the Rolex Grand Slam this weekend.
“We have to put things in to perspective, people and horses have travelled from all over the world to this prestigious event, this will affect our sales but you have to be prepared for the Great British weather, let’s just hope things improve….. quickly!”
The overall feeling from those involved is one of disappointment, coupled with admiration and compassion for those who have worked so hard to achieve something which is no longer possible. It is with great sadness that Badminton Horse Trials falls foul of the weather, but the one thing beyond all control is mother nature. Nobody, surely, will berate the organisers for taking such a decision, knowing that it has been made with the welfare and safety of competitors at heart.