Larkhill

Whilst many events have had no choice but to abandon in our never ending winter Larkhill was never in doubt due to its location on the chalky Salisbury Plain. Having said that the footing in the showjumping and the lower truck park was pretty testing and whilst the galloping stretches on the course were good the take off points got pretty dug up in front of the combination fences.

It was weird weather as well…normally Larkhill has a baltic wind that sweeps across the plains and is freezing.  Saturday saw ferocious winds that were from the south so not so cold but the combination of grey gloom and a wind that required putting a saddle pad on a two person job was quite challenging.  The top truck park was reserved for the big trucks and the ground was better up there but the wind was definitely worse.  Supergroom Kerryn Edmans stepped off a plane from WA, Australia about 48 hours ago and didn’t know if she was jet lagged or just baffled by the weather and the fact that she had returned to Larkhill International as her debut event.  Meanwhile Supergroom Rosie Thomas has been ably holding the fort since November but was decidedly relieved to see her back!

Jonelle came back from her course walk and declared it “Larkhill-mini-Badminton out there” and said she was most certainly taking the option at the triple brush out of the coffin which Tim said was a bit negative.  Bearing in mind that the four novice horses, Faerie Usain (Maude) for Tim,  Faerie Good Golly (Golly), J’Orange (Daisy) and Illico de l’Esques (Nico) for Jonelle, had missed their planned 100 at Portman on Tuesday when it cancelled it was actually quite a big ask for their first start since last September and whilst Jonelle had taken hers cross country schooling it had been on the all weather at Pontispool which is a bit different to tacky ground in April!

Maude impressed her judge for a 28 with Tim and was jumping a super round in the showjumping until she got stuck in the mud in the treble for 2 rails.  Larkhill is always a challenging arena with it being on a slope and they hadn’t made any concessions to the ground with an up to height technical track and sadly someone forgot to order the sandbags so the fences blew down at the most inopportune of moments.  Jonelle was warming up her first ride in the showjumping and was watching Tim going cross country on Maude at the same time and in an unusual display of unsporting triumph let out a yelp of delight and shouted “he just ran off the triple brush at the coffin!” which perplexed the woman standing next to me who ventured to say “But isn’t that her husband?” then went off shaking her head in shock.  I’m not sure some people get the ultra competitiveness that exists between Tim and Jonelle!

Meanwhile Tim was regretting not cross country schooling Maude as he zig zagged the first few fences of the course and he said as he headed into the coffin he thought to himself “You are an idiot, you have a coffin at home in the xc field and perhaps you really should have jumped it” as he went for the forward three strides out to the skinny brush and Maude said, “Um, I don’t think so!”.  Maude came home and was barely sweating and looked magnificently pleased with herself as she should be.  Tim was delighted his next two rides were 100’s and Jonelle retuned to the job in hand.

Golly had made lots and lots of little errors in her test which added up to a 36 but she worked out the mud in the collecting ring and bust a gut for one of the few clears of the day in the arena. Nico, usually a laid back chap and having been on the Tour this spring, had some competition experience, decided today was the day to surprise Jonelle whilst hacking back from the dressage and dropped his head for a buck before bolting down the track.  He then came to the showjumping with his  ‘oh yah, I got this, I’ve jumped 1m 25 in Spain’ face on and was perplexed by the sticky tacky deep footing and had to work hard in the arena to just have 4 faults.  Daisy also went on the Tour and she really did struggle with the footing having come off the perfect rings in Spain and she decided that she would use her power and scope to deal with it.  She jumped so big over the middle part of the treble that she found herself literally at the base of the third element and copped that good and proper before doing a handstand over the next downhill fence to compensate. 8 faults for her and another big learning curve as what will stand her in great stead as the fences get bigger is part of her education now.

Jonelle wasn’t looking too enthusiastic as she zipped up a her back protector to head out for the cross country and it was Golly who got first dibs.  They made it over the first few unscathed and took the planned alternative out of the coffin but were heading into trouble at the first right handed combination as when Golly is nervous for some reason she tends to jump right and of course it was a right handed combination!  Ditto the shoulder brushes but she is a fighter like her mother and Golly dug deep and came home clear with some 28 time faults.  It was at this point that Jonelle sort of abandoned her usually positive outlook and proclaimed it was just a case of trying to complete.  Nico started off green, went very green for a couple of 20’s and then manned up to make it through the finish flags.  Daisy, by this point not even sure if she was excited to be back out eventing, headed down to the start which was a good 10 minute hack from the top lorry park and whilst she too picked up a couple of 20’s also came home and happily cantered back up the hill and a tick in the box for her first start. Jonelle proclaimed herself delighted to be done and changed into jeans as fast as she could!

Tim was having his first start with Indy du Loir and he is a tall good looking horse who thinks he is pretty cool for sure. Tim describes him as a bit of a renegade and one of his owners was heard to comment that he is like a teenage boy who would prefer to be in his room on his playstation rather than doing circles in a dressage area which is pretty accurate!  He scored a 35 and was all eyes on stalks at the showjumping warm up which was busy by late Saturday afternoon as there had been so many delays and as a first timer did well to just catch a couple of poles.  He thought the coffin was particularly scary and stopped twice before getting through on his third attempt which Tim was happy with as it was only fence 12 and he really wanted Indy to get the benefit of the exercise and not earn to walk home!  He did learn allot around the rest of the track and will definitely sleep well on the way home.

Gloire de Marchenval ( Louis) has a fancy name and a 100% strike rate in his eventing career to date.  If you are surprised to hear this then this is because his one and only start last year was at Calmsden in similar conditions!  He then picked up an injury which was further complicated as he managed, as only a truly good horse can, to go over backwards in his stable and break his withers (on the rubber matted floor covered with nice soft bedding).  He has shrunk a bit but it hasn’t dented his ego at all and whilst Nico spent most of the day digging a pit to Australia by the truck Louis waited patiently for his afternoon start and then won the dressage in his section with a stunning 24.  Owners Rachel and James Good are nothing if not competitive and Rachel mentioned once or ten times that she would really love to keep the record up but poles were falling left right and centre in the arena by 5pm when Louis hacked down.  Cool as a cucumber he popped around the track like a pro, not a lad on his second ever start and left all the poles in their cups.  I’m not sure who was more happy, Rachel or the ground crew at the arena who looked delighted at the prospect of not moving after a round.

Tim and Louis then zipped around the track finding it all to their liking and ended a very long day at Larkhill with no time and a win!  So Louis keeps his 100% strike rate and it seems that his specially made Sederholm jump saddle to accommodate his new shape was well worth the investment. (Lead photo credit Rachel Good)  He now has a dressage one en route and luckily he moves up to novice at Solihull so that ends the 100 challenge for 2024 to retain the perfect record!

As Tim commentated, it was a typical young horse day for team Price where they don’t worry about faults but use the day to give the horses as much experience as possible.  It may not look the best day on paper but you cant even begin to quantify the amount that went into the bank of education today.  Excepting Louis of course who apparently has been named Perfect Peter by his owners!


Thorseby SJ and XC Saturday.

The rain held off overnight so it was a sunny start to the day at Thorseby which was very welcome.  The 4S horses jumped in the main arena which, even at 9am in the morning, had a buzzy crowd in place keen for an Easter Day out. Happy Boy and Tim rolled a vertical for 4 faults before Jonelle and Grappa Nera (Grape) jumped a very enthusiastic clear round.  Grape doesn’t always make things easy for Jonelle but she really does love her jumping!

Vitali was sporting a new fluffy noseband…or a shadow roll if you are a Kiwi….and jumped a super clear round with Tim.  Senor Crocodillo (Diego) also jumped a lovely clear but picked up 2 time which is usually pretty tight at the 4 star level.

Jarillo was in the second  4* S section and he jumped his usual immaculate clear round to sit in second place after the first two phases behind stable mate Copper Beach (Sean) who led the section with Cosby Green.

Chilli’s Midnight Star (Ollie) jumped in his advanced section and picked up 4 faults and a couple of time faults for his first big track of the year.

Ollie was the first to head out cross country with Jonelle as the advanced preceded the 4S sections.  They continued to build the partnership that really came together at Blenheim last year with a really positive round which saw Ollie relishing using his scope when asked to.

Happy and Tim have a good reputation in the mud despite Happy not being the biggest of horses.  They skipped around the track with none of the cheeky 20’s he has started the season with and looked really classy for just 12 time and eventual 10th place in a very  strong section.

Jonelle and Grape needed a 4S completion here in order to tick the box to go 5 star at Badminton as she has had some time out.  Grape set out with her usual verve and all was going well until the new bank combination which consisted of a false bank ( ie man made ) with a 5′ drop off and four forward strides down the hill to a skinny brush. Grape leapt onto the bank, bounced off and stumbled on landing and went right down on her knees on the steep slope and quite how both she and Jonelle stayed upright is testament to the steely determination they both possess. There was no chance of jumping the skinny (although Jonelle did aim for it) with just one stride ahead of  it with all four hooves on the ground so they picked up a 20 before running confidently around the rest as though nothing had happened.  Which was perfect as if Grape had gone down or Jonelle had fallen off they would have had to have headed to Burnham Market for the next 4S and that was definitely not part of Jonelle’s plan!

No such drama for Diego and Jonelle as they tackled the course in their customary stylish fashion.  Diego jumped with confidence and gusto and they crossed the finish with some 17 time and a great prep run for Saumur under their belts.

Tim had said that he was keen to give Vitali a ‘proper’ work out cross country if he could as his Burghley prep last year was a good run short when Gatcombe abandoned.  They set out looking the cool duo that they are and then had a pretty long hold just before the 3 corners when Pippa Funnell and Billy Walk On dropped the pin at the second of them.  They picked up a great rhythm again and with just 10 time ended up in 4th spot.

Milo had the worst ground of the day in many ways….when ground that wet starts to dry in the sun it gets tackier by the hour and the take off points for the fences get deeper no matter how much sand is chucked on it.  But Milo is a quick learner and having been suspicious of the mud at Lincoln a couple of weeks ago today he just jumped higher when he thought it was a bit sticky! Tim gave him a peach of a ride for 19 time and a very educational round.  And lo and behold as the ground and track took its toll on the class of more inexperienced horses than the Grantham Cup class (just 25 cross country finishers out of a start list for dressage of 50) it turned out that Tim and Milo took their first international win for 2024.  Quite the weekend with a win, a 4th and a 10th and Tim is certainly hitting the ground running in 2024.

The ground crew at Thorseby worked tirelessly all day to shovel sand and gravel onto the soft spots and there was no doubt that the tacky ground was more to some horses taste than others but it was “box ticked” for the Badminton and Saumur  bound horses for Team Price which should make the long trek home a little easier.  Congratulations to the whole crew and Happy Easter to all!

Photo credit James Good.  Milo embraces the mud!

Photo credit: James Good.  Tim was dressed for the home bound trip not the prize giving!


Thorseby Dressage Friday.

The crew left Chedington on Thursday afternoon and made the long haul up to Thorseby in Nottinghamshire and former hang out of Robin Hood who famously robbed the rich to pay the poor.  Well, to be fair, Robin Hood hung out in the forest, not the mansion, along with Friar Tuck and the rest of his gang but in modern terms the vibe has been rather reversed.  Thorseby entries and stabling do not come cheap!

Fair play to the team at Thorseby though, led by the indefatigable Stuart Buntine who does not quit when the going gets tough.  As South of England abandoned with 10 days to go, Oxtails abandoned day 1 and most of the UK battered by the remnants of Storm Nelson hunkered down Thorseby remained positive and implemented back up plans to get everyone in.  It was quite staggering that they remained so positive and very welcome in a hugely disrupted spring schedule for the second year in a row.

Jonelle declared the truck park ” not too bad” at 8pm last night but added that they hadn’t ventured very far.  This morning saw sunshine for the first time in weeks and that meant tacky drying ground in the dressage warm up and sticky spots at X, the corners and the centre lines  in the arena but it wasn’t raining which was a huge bonus.

Grappa Nera (Grape) was in just after 9am in the star studded Grantham Cup 4S section and Jonelle was happy with her score of 37 which we think is a career best in March for Grape!  Senor Crocodillo (Diego) did some really smart work but he jogged in the walk and was naughty in the strike off which was expensive to drop him to a 32.1.  Chilli’s Morning Star (Ollie) was nearly very very good in his advanced test until he missed the last change and decided bolting was the better part of valour!  He sits on a 34.

Tim was early in with Happy Boy in the Grantham Cup and Happy was most obliging for a score of 27.8.  You would think that Happy would hate the footing and put his ears back and be surly but that’s Happy for you….always the surprise!  Some time later Tim and Vitali pranced around the arena for a 27.2  with a solid display of partnership and meanwhile, in the ” Up and Coming” other 4*S section, Jarillo (Milo) had posted a very smart 30.8 to lie in 4th at the end of the class.

It’s a bit academic really as Tim and Jonelle are rarely competitive at the early season 4 shorts as they use them as a foundation for the building blocks of 3 day event preparation, especially with Grape and Vitali heading for Badminton. But a shout out to Cosby Green who is also Badminton bound with the evergreen Copper Beach (Sean) who pipped Milo into 3rd place by the narrowest of margins!  Cosby describes Sean as ” maturing like a fine wine” and it sure seems like Sean has loved returning to his native Europe from the USA.

Early starts tomorrow for the showjumping, the Grantham Cup is on H & C TV for the SJ ( start UK 08.30)  and the XC:

https://horseandcountry.tv

And live scoring as always on:

https://www.eventingscores.co.uk


Badminton Entries, Equiratings stats.

The Badminton entries for 2024 have been released and despite everyone predicting they would be light this year in view of it being an Olympic year, it is a star studded field of horses and riders with 3 on the waitlist.

Tim and Vitali are the headline photos for the entry release on the Badminton website and both Vitali and Grappa Nera (Grape) feature on the Equiratings statistics breakdown.  It’s a fun read….but remember, when I asked Diarm at lunchtime in 2018 what the chances were of Molly and Jonelle holding their lead he shook his head and told me they hadn’t jumped clear at an FEI event since Hartpury 3 star in 2014.  Dreams do come true!

https://www.badminton-horse.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/Badminton-2024-Stats-Stories-4.pdf


Kronenberg Show Jumping

Well the weather stayed consistent in Holland as today dawned grey and cold with drizzly rain.  Both Falco and Coup de Coeur Dudevin (Joker) jogged up this morning and then had to wait for the 2 and 3 Long classes to showjump before them.

Tim jumped out of order on Joker and just had the in of the treble down for 4 faults. Tim said it was “my rail not Joker’s” as he just ran him a little deep and that “he jumped super today, I was so happy with him”.  Out of the 15 left to jump there were just 4 clears in the end and of course one of them was Falco!  That put a bit of pressure on Astier Nicholas and Babylon de Gamma and he used up his luck with the last fence down but with a fence in hand he retained the top spot.  To be fair to Astier he won it yesterday with just 7.6 time faults on the cross country, the next fastest being 15.2 and Tim 5th fastest on Falco with 18.8.  Tim was never going to gallop flat tack round a 4L in March so to finish up 2nd and 7th with Falco and Joker is amazing, especially since Joker is coming back after a year out and Falco coming back from surgery.

Boxes all ticked for the Long format MER for Paris, just a couple of 4*Shorts left for these two boys and the end of a cold, wet but well worthwhile jaunt out to Kronenberg for sure. And one “relieved” Tim Price en route home tonight!


Tweseldown Saturday

As Tim was finishing his second cross country at around 8am UK time Jonelle was en route  to Tweseldown in her car  with her 5 horses in the Didi and the Mini ( the 4 horse and the 2 horse) due to meet her there.  No ‘living’ in either of these trucks so Jonelle had gone back to pony club and had dressed in her breeches, walked the track in said breeches and just changed tops throughout the course of the day for the phases via cover of the car door!  Meanwhile, swanning around in the pop out living in Holland was TP who was all done for the day by 9am Dutch time!

Full Monty de Lacense (FM) ploughed through the tacky ground in his arena for a 33 which would have been a bit better had Jonelle not practised flying changes yesterday! She told his owners that she had considered it, then decided that she should just crack on and then FM put in a beautiful but not required flying change in his test so he definitely wants to move up to advanced!  He  then really quite struggled in the showjumping warm up to get his feet out of the ground.  Tweseldown had stepped in at 5 days notice to replace the waterlogged Cirencester Park and they had moved the SJ to a new area from 2 weeks ago but since the day was a mixture of sunshine and huge downpours the ground cut up fairly quickly.  It was impressive then that FM went into the arena and jumped a great clear round as he certainly wasn’t loving it outside.

Chilli’s Midnight Star ( Ollie) is  just a pro these days and a 29.3 test was followed up by an unfortunate pole down three from home when he had jumped a great round up to that point.

Fernhill Kankan is a wiły black mare and she had conned Jonelle into riding her in a snaffle on the flat at Lincoln last week instead of the double.  Today she was back in the double and a good mark of 29.8 was the result.  Kankan was one of the early ones to showjump but she didn’t mind the tacky ground at all and jumped a super round and looked very happy with herself.

Senor Crocodillo (Diego) is another to tick the pro box and with a 29.6 under his belt he too jumped a super clear even though he was probably the one that had the trickiest warm up as by that point, in search of good ground, some bright spark had placed both the oxers in the warm up side by side on a slope so with grooms trying to put the fences up and down with riders aiming for the fences it was a tad dangerous until Jonelle started yelling “Yellow” or “Blue” on the approach which definitely cleared things up a bit!  He jumped a copybook clear in the arena and exited looking very happy with himself.

L E B Lias Jewel had the first fence down behind and then the out of the treble in front before finding her mud feet and finishing well.  It was a far more accommodating team at the showjumping gate than a couple of weeks ago and we got Jonelle’s 5 through in around an hour which was pretty good but days when it is nearly all multiple riders are always the smoothest.

All 5 horses ran cross country clear with the Tweseldown crew having worked their socks off to run a different track to the one two weeks ago.  The low sunshine was exceptionally bright into the water and by the time Jonelle ran her last horse 9 AB had been taken out as there had been a couple  of incidents but she was happy to be driving out with some 30 combinations yet to go! Jonelle clocked up between 7.6 and 12.8 time on all five and ticked all the boxes for a weekend that was originally meant to be in Kronenberg, then re routed to Cirencester and eventually wound up at Tweseldown!

A huge thank you to Rachel and her team and Jump1 for putting on the show at such short notice.  Much appreciated!


Kronenberg Cross Country

Cross country day in Kronenberg dawned like all the other cross country days so far this year; wet, windy, cold and stormy.  It is not often you see Tim in full cross country gear before 8am but the 4L was running as the first class of the day which was a good thing as there was standing water on the track in places and it was going to cut up fast for sure.

Tim had Coup de Coeur Dudevin (Joker) out first but Astier Nicholas was the pathfinder and Tim was quite happy to follow his hoof prints as with 2,3 and 4 star short and long tracks in a fairly tight area there were multiple options to go wrong.  When the tracks disappeared after Astier pulled up at fence 11 Tim said he really had to concentrate and double check his course and fence numbers.  “Today was not the day to miss a fence or go down the wrong track!” he said afterwards.  Joker was sublime, he looked pure class and he and Tim gave a masterclass of cross country riding even if they were splashing through puddles and running in the rain.  They finished full of running with 23.6 time so ticked all the boxes that they needed to.

Some 14 horses later when Tim set out on Falco the sat nav was fully up and running with the prints of the horses running the track like a motorway.  A storm that blew in whilst Tim was warming up was on its way out and Falco simply bounded around the track and looked every inch the World Championship medallist that he is.  Tim was able to knock some 5 time off his first ride and Falco crossed the line in great form.  Both horses made the big leap into the last water over a huge hanging log with a 90 degree turn to a skinny on the bank look like a schooling exercise whilst allot of the 4 star horses, in both the short and long, found the turn not possible and had to add a circle.

Tim was quick to thank the whole team behind Falco’s comeback from his colic operation in late October last year.  It is a testament to the whole crew, plus Sue Benson’s literally hours and hours of hand grazing during his recuperation, that he should be able to canter round a 4L in March.

And you can throw my predictions after dressage in the bin as Tim now lies 2nd on Falco and 6th on Joker!


Kronenberg Dressage

Tim has been out in Holland since Tuesday morning so has had plenty of time with Falco and Coup de Coeur Dudevin (Joker) to get into three day mode. Yesterday they jogged up and the relatively small class of 4L horses did dressage this morning (Friday). There are just 19 starters in the 4L compared to 66 in the 4S but you have to be pretty on song with your horse to do a 4L this early in the season!

A fruitful morning though as by lunchtime Tim was in the lead on Falco on a very smart 23.6 and lying 5th on Joker on 29.6. Impressive form from both horses as Joker hasn’t been in a proper international arena since he won Fairhill in 2022. Falco hasn’t been in one since Aachen in July last year either so they both pulled out all the stops with just a couple of OI’s under their (muddy) belts at Tweseldown and Lincoln in the last couple of weeks.

The judges all agreed that Falco was their winner but the Spanish judge at E was some way behind the other 2 with Joker which dragged his score down a little but impossible not to be happy going into cross country with 2 in the top 4!.

Qualification is the name of the game this weekend though so I am pretty sure the boys may slip down the order a little tomorrow. Both horses are very much in strong contention for Paris and no will remember who won Kronenberg in 6 months time.

Live results and start times on Rechenstelle: https://rechenstelle.de/en/agenda/2024/kronenberg/

And Cross country will be live on ClipMy Horse: https://www.clipmyhorse.tv/en_GB/


Lincoln

I think even Noah would be slightly worried about his Ark at this stage in March as the rain continues, the sun stays away and the dreary grey days run into one another. Lincoln was always going to be a logistical challenge with some 12 horses travelling up to Lincoln on Saturday afternoon (leaving in the rain of course) and Tim due to depart for Kronenberg on Monday after competing on Sunday.

Jonelle masterminded an elaborate plan which involved professional horse transport, a helpful team at Lincoln with regard to the onsite stabling, their own horsebox, a large car and allot of paperwork with Pedens. Key to this plan was Lincoln running on Sunday and a route to Kronenberg in Holland from Hull on the NE coast to Hook in Holland instead of the usual Dover Calais route.

You know that it’s not a ‘normal’ OI weekend when Tim and Jonelle have 10 horses running and they all finish in the top 12 across three sections! To say that Lincoln was soggy and muddy is possibly the understatement of the year but fair play to the organising team who allowed the event to continue.

Jonelle said she had to give herself a ‘good talking to’ in the middle of her dressage rides. Anyone who knows Jonelle is aware that cold, rain and mud are three of her least favourite things and she said she was ‘losing the will to live’ but squared up and got through the morning! Tim said his were all coping surprisingly well and doing good tests but it wasn’t much fun!

If they thought the dressage was bad they were to discover that the show jumping arena was worse as described by both variously as “horrific” and “disgusting”. The Lincoln team had tried their best and had built what Jonelle said was a “tiny little track” about 1m 05 to compensate for the fact that the horses were ”jumping out of about a foot of mud!”. Fernhill Kankan impressed Jonelle no end with the way that she coped in the arena as her first in and she managed a clear despite it being so tough. Jonelle described the feeling that as the horses went to leave the ground they simply didn’t get any height which was a “horrible feeling” and it was a proper test of a partnership for sure. Grappa Nera (Grape) had improved massively on her Tweseldown dressage score with a nearly respectable 36.8 but she added 8 in the jumping and that was probably due to the fact that she really did get the very worst of conditions. After her round the course was held whilst they rolled the track and Jonelle said that did make a difference so McClaren (Mac), L E B Lias Jewel and Senor Crocodillo (Diego) all benefitted slightly and all jumped clear rounds.

Tim found that Coup de Coeur Dudevin (Joker), Vitali and Falco all dug deep for him and jumped clear. Happy Boy is pretty careful but he ploughed through similar conditions to win Le Lion d’Angers 7 year old World Champs for young horses and he pulled out the stops again for a clear. Jarillo (Milo) is super careful and Tim said he wasn’t at all sure about jumping in these conditions and had a look on his face not unlike a peacock finding himself in a bunch of Emus. He was good and brave to just pick up 4 faults though and hacked back to the truck looking mightily proud of himself.

Allot of withdrawals before dressage, allot of no shows to the show jumping and a decimated cross country start area. Much discussion about the need to go cross country and both Tim and Jonelle set out with the feeling that the ground should ride better out on the track. Kankan was Jonelle’s trailblazer and gave her a good ride apart from finding out that the route that they had planned walking between 13 and 14 didn’t quite work but that the ground definitely felt safe for the horses.

Grape bounded around, Jewel put her Irish roots to good use and wound up in runner up slot, Diego is turning into the ultimate pro with another second place and Jonelle’s “star of the day” went to little Mac who isn’t a fan of mud in any shape or form and who had as good a proper coffin on course to contend with as you would ever see at an intermediate one day and he absolutely nailed it! That really impressed Jonelle and she said at the end of the day it was a good track with some decent lines, a strong water and she was glad and relieved that she had run!

Joker and Falco head out to Kronenberg on Monday so they both hacked around for 30 plus time faults and a great prep for next week. Vitali was as good as ever cross county and Milo really earnt his big boy award with another clear. Happy popped sweetly through the coffin that was the issue at Tweseldown last week and then surprised Tim with a cheeky 20 at the water! Tim was quick to put it down to Happy’s quirky sense of humour and said it was an indication of how well he is feeling. Happy tends to pull it out of the bag at the big ones (Le Lion, Le Pin au Haras, Boekelo) but is smart enough to have worked out that with a peppering of 20’s at the one days means he has a home for life!

Jonelle called from somewhere around Birmingham around 7.30 last night on her way home in the car with Cosby and three staff, Jess was on the Parker transporter with 10 horses and Tim called around 6 from his position “sitting on a bucket with Rosie having a beer” in the stables at Lincoln with just Falco and Joker. He said that the truck was full of mud, the gear was covered in it and he and Rosie planned to spend much of Monday in cleaning mode! They travel overnight to Holland and it’s under 3 hours to Kronenberg when they dock.

It has been a challenging weekend on many fronts but with Jonelle’s organising, a great team at the event and at home and supportive owners it seems to have somehow all come together. Many thanks to Lincoln for keeping going, it was much appreciated!


Tweseldown

Nine horses at Tweseldown on a Saturday where, for once in this long wet winter, it actually didn’t rain. The team on site had done a great job to try and locate the best ground available which meant that the showjumping collecting ring backed onto the cross country which meant for some exciting moments for some!

Back to back dressage tests all morning saw Tim and Falco head the line up with a 19.4. Vitali and Coup de Coeur Dudevin (Joker) hit the mid 20’s and Happy Boy and Jarillo (Milo) both bright enough for a 30.5 and a 30.

Jonelle meanwhile had the prize for the other end of the spectrum with a wild Grappa Nera (Grape) taking on Faerie Dianimo’s mantle with aplomb for a 43. The general consensus seemed to be “at least she stayed in the arena” so fair to say expectations were not high! Senor Crocodillo (Diego) and Chilli’s Midnight Star (Ollie) were on 30 and 32 and good old reliable McClaren (Mac) scored a 28 in his section.

The team headed over to the showjumping which was running 20 minutes behind as the track had to be rebuilt after the AI class had finished so it was a bit of a scrum with most of the UK’s top riders in the south trying varying ways to gain favour with the start team. There isn’t much conformity amongst showjumping stewards and this crew decided on a “stick to the given order” approach which never works when you have pro riders with multiple rides as they can run through 5 horses easily in under an hour with a team of grooms. Leaving a space for multiples every 5 horses works best but when the team switch between taking numbers and then returning to the original system is confusing for everyone. Tim and Jonelle jumped 9 horses for 8 clears with Happy Boy just grazing the in of the last downhill double for 4 faults. The horses that had been on the Sunshine Tour looked super confident and Jonelle survived a heart stopping moment when Mac, who didn’t go on the Tour, added in the treble after stalling over the oxer in. Fair play to the little chap as he really dug deep to add a stride and climb out clear and great riding from Jonelle to stay so composed! Vitali also didn’t go to Spain but he jumped a super clear with Tim who kept him on his toes with some changes of pace and since it was Falco who was first in with a huge audience of riders waiting to go he really didn’t disappoint anyone with his trademark above the wings style of showjumping. Joker was super with Tim, Ollie looked classy with Jonelle and Grape redeemed herself with a bouncy clear that ticked all the boxes. Diego jumped well but coughed a couple of times so, with ‘horse first and foremost’ as always, Jonelle withdrew him from the cross country in order to get him checked out on Monday. Tim was left in the warmup with Milo and 11 horses to wait til his turn which was a nightmare for both of them as Milo being so horse shy is always exaggerated at the start of the season and it was nearly impossible for him to find a rhythm in the warm up as fences were being jumped both uphill and downhill which is Milo’s nemesis. Milo visibly relaxed when he went into the arena with space to himself and jumped a beautiful round.

Inevitably the cross country was running late by now and the crew worked hard to get the horses down to the start for Tim and Jonelle which is quite a hike from the top of the lorry park. There was some confusion with Tim having 5 rides to get through before the light failed and everyone was somewhat stunned when the scoreboard showed Vitali had picked up 60 jumping at the coffin at fence 6. For a horse who has never had a cross country fault that is quite the fall from grace! It turns out that Happy and Vitali had swopped back numbers so whilst Vitali breezed through the coffin the jump judge thought he was Happy and marked him accordingly. It wouldn’t have really mattered if naughty Happy had not baulked at the ditch twice in a row to pick up 60 jumping which was then attributed to Vitali! I’m not sure Happy has ever started the season without his annual gawp at a ditch and it is perfectly normal for him….he is the most brazenly insolent of horses and simply loves to have his say. Hopefully BE will rectify that on Monday so their records reflect their performance. Joker, Falco and Milo all gave Tim super rides and they all had steady clears.

Whilst Grape and Ollie breezed around Mac decided to remind Jonelle that he also isn’t a fan of open ditches and he too put in an opportunistic peek over the edge of the ditch for a 20. Considering he went cross country schooling on Thursday it was definitely on the ‘pushing the boundaries’ line but hey ho, he is a little star and it is all about getting out there and back into it.

Tim did end up close to the wire with the fading light on his last 2 but did a sterling job as always. It was a busy couple of days with 13 horses at Oasby and Tweseldown and the heady delight of spending Sunday at home with Otis and Abel tomorrow.