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!