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Barbury Horse Trials 15th July 2015

It’s always a pleasure attending Barbury.  It showcases the cross country in an amphitheatre fashion, and always produces a fantastic atmosphere.

The cross country is always testing, with big, bold fences requiring confident jumping horses.  The terrain adds an extra dimension as you travel back and forth across a bowl shaped field, where you are asked to jump many fences on undulating ground.  It always makes for an exciting ride, and if the horses hit a good rhythm, they tend to really enjoy themselves.

I started the day with The Night Traveller (Hugo), who was competing in the Novice class.  The Novice dressage arenas are situated away from the main showground where it is nice and quiet.  It is difficult for them to find flat ground here amongst the rolling countryside but they always do their best.  The arenas are placed in a long strip in a valley between two crop fields, and are snuggly fitted between an avenue of trees.  This in itself can be a new experience for the novice horses having features so close to them while they are performing their tests, so this event can be very educating for the future.

Hugo, as always produced an accurate test.  He is a real pro in this phase and always stays very rideable, allowing me to create a consistent balanced picture throughout.

The show jumping went well.  He jumped very smoothly, just being caught out by the last element of the treble combination.  The distances were on the longer side, and Hugo produced a lovely round and careful jump over the oxer as the second element which left him a bit far off the last upright.  This was very unfortunate as the rest of the round was faultless.

We set off for the cross country, and although Hugo was jumping well, he didn’t seem to want to gallop and stretch as he usually does.  We’d had him treated by our physio the week before where he had pulled a muscle through his back, but we thought it was mended.  I didn’t feel he was comfortable, and with this in back of my mind, I thought it better to pull him up.  Barbury is not a course to be tackling with a horse that’s not 100%.  We had Hugo seen again just following the event, and he was sore along his back again.  It was a good decision to save him for another day, a bit of rest and he’ll be back to full strength.


Midnight Ash was contesting the retraining of racehorse Intermediate Novice class.  This is open to any grade thoroughbred that has race history, so there were some pretty experienced horses that Ash had to compete against.

He tried his very best in the dressage, with this being his first test at this level.  Having the trees so close to arena slightly unnerved him, especially when a branch stroked his quarters as we were doing shoulder in.  We ended up with a score of 38, which wasn’t going to trouble the leaders, but left us in a respectable position.

Ash gave me a nice ride around the show jumping.  We had the planks down which were jumped down hill after a turn back.  I needed to ride the canter a little stronger through the turn to give him more power, he jumped a bit flat and pushed the plank off.  A little rider error, oops.

This would definitely have been the toughest cross country test that Ash had encountered in his short eventing career so far, but I thought that the forward thinking track would suit his way of going.  Ash, as with most thoroughbreds has a huge, easy gallop, and a flowing course like Barbury’s should make for an enjoyable ride.

We set of, and immediately we settled into a super rhythm.  Ash was eating up the ground, and made mince meat of the fences.  The main water jump was silver birch rails, one stride to a decent drop into the water, then six strides up a slope out of the water to a skinny triple brush.  Ash popped through this as if we were schooling, and with every question that came up along the course he jumped with true confidence and maturity.  This was by far the best feel I’ve had from him, and shows me that the bigger more open events will be just what he needs in the future.

I was very proud of him, and he was rewarded with a top ten placing!

Barbury was the return of one of my top horses.  Redpath Ransom (Reeko) was having his first run this season following some annoying little injuries.  I was very excited to have him back out, and I was getting the feeling when I sat on him, SO WAS HE!

His dressage test was going really well, until we had to canter back to the track to perform some counter canter.  This was Reeko’s opportunity to show off all of our recent training on perfecting his flying changes.  However beautiful they were, we definitely didn’t require them today!  He seemed to thoroughly enjoy his dressage test, even if it didn’t quite resemble the same test everyone else was doing.  I was really pleased with his trot and walk work, and it was nice to sit on him feeling back to his powerful self.

At Intermediate Novice, the jumping phases should be a formality, and Reeko wasn’t going to let it be anything other.  He showed his class in the show jumping, effortlessly popping around the track as we were at home warming up for a faultless clear.

With this being Reeko’s first run for some time, I set off in a steady rhythm.  He set himself into cruise control and it was as if he hadn’t had a break at all.  We did have a very exuberant jump into the main water, but with his experience and strength, he recovered instantly and popped out over the skinny brush as if meant to do it that way.  It was enjoyable from the moment we left the start box to the moment we crossed the finish.

I’ve missed riding him, and feel privileged to be back competing him.  Bring on the Autumn Internationals, we are back!