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.