Bramham Horse Trials –

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The Flying Ort!

From visitingĀ  Appleby Fair on Friday to Bramham International Horse Trials near Wetherby the next day – there were a number of interesting juxtapositions for me to contemplate. It was a journey from one end of the horsey spectrum to the other. In contrast to the coloured cobs of Appleby, horses at Bramham are predominantly large mono coloured thoroughbred athletes. They will not be having their manes washed in the river with squeezy liquid or left tied to a barrier in the high street.They are pampered and preened with special leg ware and tack and are ridden with great skill. In return they are expected to do complicated dressage movements to music, jump over unfeasibly large showjumping fences and last, but most definitely not least, take on a formidable cross country course with drops and ditches and water jumps and huge fences with fearless bravado. Not for the faint hearted. Top rider Harry Meade fell from his horse shattering both his elbows last year but still went on to come third at Badminton. Yes it’s a tough sport.
Bramham Horse Trials is one of the UK’s premier three day events, taking place every June on the Lane Fox’s Bramham Park Estate near LeedsĀ  in God’s own country – Yorkshire The event attracts an average of 45,000 spectators and the place was certainly packed when we were there.

The rain gets stuck in my wrinkles!

The other less satisfying, contrast with my Appleby trip was that, as lovely as the previous day had been, the weather 24 hours later, was absolutely shocking. It rained continuously for about eight hours turning the whole estate, showground and course into a complete quagmire. This did not dampen the spirits of the faithful eventing fans, but their dogs looked a bit sorry for themselves. Bramham Park was built in 1698 and its famous landscape laid out over the following 30 years by Robert Benson, 1st Lord Bingley. After 300 years of very mixed fortunes including the South Sea Bubble stock market crash, the untimely death of the heir, dissipation by illegitimate children, crippling gambling debts, a devastating fire, the ravages of two World Wars and death duties, the same family still lives at Bramham and cares for its heritage. A bit of rain was never going to get this lot down..

Where did you get that hot dog?

The cross country course is made up of all sorts of deadly looking obstacles. Many are named after their sponsors, the Horse and Hound Leap of Faith for example, is self explanatory. Others included the Harrington Dog Kennel, the Lobster, and my personal favourite the Suregrow Fertiliser Owl Hole – which was indeed an owl hole shaped hedge. My friend Jackie Budd’s horse Orto was competing, and is a bit of a rising star. Bought for a knock down price because his temperament was thought to be too ‘difficult’ Jackie took him on. With plenty of TLC he has come on leaps and bounds (quite appropriately)to prove himself to be an eventing horse to be reckoned with. He is ably ridden by Sara Squires herself a former special needs teacher who only started riding full time in 2009. Last year the pair won won the British Equestrian Trade Association CIC3* here at Bramham beating a host of top names in the process. They do seem to have a special bond, and Orto completed a clear round over the course. Conditions were very muddy and slippy and several riders had come to grief in some nasty falls but Orto sailed round surefooted and confident and made it all look rather easy.

Come on Orto!

It’s not always that easy to work out what’s going on at these type of events if you’re not ‘in the know’ and a couple of stewards on the course didn’t seem to know where the start and finish were never mind anything else. The score board is a great big white board affair where everyone can see how you are doing and if you have been ELIMINATED or not. Always sounds rather final that. A man in a bowler hat puts the scores up with his magic marker which makes it nice and official. We amused ourselves riding around on the speeding golf buggies from the stables to the showground and hob-knobbing with the horsey set in the members lounge who were watching the event in the dry, sitting on giant inflatable sofas.

Scores on the doors

I was very glad I came in my wellies as it was getting worse as the afternoon wore on. Everyone likes to bring their dogs out to these kind of events but they weren’t really enjoying it. It proved a particular trial for the dachshunds whose tiny legs weren’t coping well with the mud at all but none of the canine contingent were having much fun.

Where’s our umbrella?

Although some were better prepared than others..

It’s OK for us!

At the very very end of the day the sun decided to put in an appearance and the good news came that Orto was 10th over all (no one was ever going to catch William Fox Pitt on the cross country) which means he has qualified for the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in September which is about as prestigious an event as you can get. So perhaps we’ll see you there, but don’t forget your wellies..

Glorious mud