Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials 2013

Fast past the Palace   

Riding in a  three day event is not for the faint hearted. Not only is it a supreme test of fitness for horse and rider but it’s also a similar challenge to the bank account. My friend Jackie Budd, whose horse Orto was competing at the CCI 3* (Concours Complet International – it’s a French thing) at Blenheim for the first time this year, described it thus –
‘It’s about taking a £150k horse lorry with a £100k horse, 100’s of miles to possibly win your entrance fee back.’
No one is in it for the cash, that’s for sure. You do get to go to a champagne reception with the Duke of Marlborough in the Palace though.. England is the Cross Country eventing capital of the world although the first eventing competition was recorded in France in 1902. It was orginally a military event, based on the requirements of an officer’s charger. These were steadiness, obedience and elegance whilst on parade, the ability to cross the countryside fast in battle and to be fit and tough enough to remain in service after a strenous day. Eventing remains the only Olympic sport where men and women compete on equal terms and there is no differentiation between amateurs and professionals. Things really got going here in Blighty with creation of the Badminton Horse Trials in the late 1940’s and today there are numerous similar events around the UK held in places which generally begin with a ‘B.’ Badminton, Barbury, Blenheim, Blair, Burghley and Bramham for starters. Not Brixton though. Or Blackpool.

 

Fingers crossed for Orto!
  The Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials are now firmly established in the eventing calendar. It has been running since 1990, attracting the world’s best riders and the thousands of spectators who come each year to watch the event. There were a lot of Brits competing here, but there were also riders from Australia, Germany, Italy, Canada, Brazil and even Japan. Warren Lamperd from Australia was giving the lovely grey Silvia a good gallop up the steep slope. He would have earned his pint of Fosters yesterday.
Galloping girl Silvia

The Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials is known as a ‘3-day event’, because the event is made up of three phases: Dressage, Cross Country and Show Jumping. The Cross Country section wound around the beautiful Capability Designed grounds of Blenhein Palace with a series of extremely difficult jumps through narrow gaps, water, ditches and bizarre constructions. Events like this one rely heavily on sponsors and so the fences often have interesting names and a themed  rather Heath Robinson appearance. There was the Cub Cadet Teddy Bears Picnic fence (sit on lawn mower company) The Saffrey Champness Tax Question fence (chartered Accountants) The Karcher Crossing fence (Hoover manufactuers) and of course the Biffa Bin Finale fence which speaks for itself!

 

It’s a rubbish fence!

The course designer Eric Winter said “I think 2013’s course is very demanding. It requires accuracy in lots of places and real jumping ability from the horses.” Stating the obvous perhaps, but nearly 1 in 4 of the horses retired or were eliminated from the competiton and only a handful got round in the time allowed without time penalties. Even William Fox-Pitt, hero of the hour multiple winner and Olympic team member fell off one horse and was disqualified in the show jumping because his horse was wearing the wrong boots! Maybe the heels were too high…

Retired Pitt-man

Mr Fox-Pitt’s sponsors were the lawn mower people and he is pictured in the event programme in the driver’s seat atop one, looking rather uncomfortable and very much like a person who would never mow his own lawn in a million years. Finally the scores were in. The marks are cumulative and elimination in any one test brings elimination from the whole competition. It all about having the lowest number of penalties rather than the highest score.

Orto got round all three aspects of the competition in one piece which is no mean feat for his first go at this level of competition against the best horses and riders in the world. He had a bit of a slip up at the Dew pond and a couple of fences down in the show jumping but still ended up in the top third of the field. To think his first owners had just wanted rid of him because of a shivery back leg and a bit of an attitude problem…He relaxed in the stables afterwards munching his hay displaying his usual winning personality..  He is a horse with a bright future in the sport but he does need a sponsor so if anyone’s interested in getting involved in this amazing sport just drop me a line…
Get off my HAY!

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