"Some riders are good at the whole technology thing. They have websites, twitter pages, Facebook fan sites, and they actually update them (or persuade a nice PR lady to do it for them). Others are far too busy riding and competing to go near a computer, and wouldn't know a smart phone if it bit them!
But US event rider Doug Payne falls firmly in the former camp. We love this video he's made of his horse Running Order, who started life in Ireland as a racehorse trained by Enda Bolger, and ended up eventing at four-star level. Doug shows you the horse's transformation, from early first attempts at dressage and jumping, to advanced level eventing. It's a fascinating glimpse of how a professional produces a horse, showing you his career path in just 18mins.
The horse is now over here in the UK, being ridden by William Fox-Pitt.
They’re calling it the clash of the titans. William Fox-Pitt and Andrew Nicholson, two of the most successful event riders of all time, are both going for the $350,000 Rolex Grand Slam at this weekend’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. This bonus prize goes to any rider who can win the world’s top three-day events in succession, namely Badminton, Burghley and Kentucky.
Normally only one rider would be eligible, but following the cancellation of Badminton in 2012, William’s chance was put on hold until this year’s event. Then, in the 12 months since, New Zealander Andrew Nicholson has sauntered into contention with wins at Burghley 2012 and Kentucky last weekend, and a thrilling grudge match was on.
Both riders are hugely successful, often battling it out for top spot in the world rankings, and as long-term rivals you can guarantee they’ll both be doing their utmost to win. William Fox-Pitt rides Parklane Hawk (the horse who gave him his Rolex Grand Slam wins with wins at Burghley 2011 and Kentucky 2012) and Oslo, winner of the Pau four-star in 2011. Andrew Nicholson is equally well armoured, with Avebury (Burghley 2012 winner) and Nereo, who hasn’t finished out of the top five in his last 11 runs including his fourth place at the London 2012 Olympics.
The man set to throw the proverbial spanner in the works is Michael Jung, the reigning World, Olympic and European champion. The German rider is making his debut at this year’s Badminton Horse Trials, but he’s certainly not one to overlook and poses the biggest threat to Fox-Pitt and Nicholson’s Grand Slam plans.
All three come to Badminton with two rides – the event is always hugely oversubscribed and the horses are accepted on the basis of ranking points, so some riders with several high-ranking horses are able to compete twice (effectively giving them double the chance of winning, especially considering they’ll get to ride the cross-country course and showjumping course twice, allowing them to spot any potentially tricky fences before their second ride). Other riders to have two horses entered are Caroline Powell, Jonathan Paget, Mark Todd and Lucy Jackson (all New Zealanders), Australia’s Sam Griffiths, plus Brits Mary King, Kristina Cook and Francis Whittington. Both Mary and Tina have both got masses of team experience, and are definite contenders for the £65,000 first prize.
These double-handed riders are all worth looking out for, while others worthy of consideration are Italy’s Vittoria Pannizon and the cross-country machine Borough Pennyz, eventing royalty Zara Phillips and her London 2012 ride High Kingdom, plus Pippa Funnell, the only rider in history to have won the Rolex Grand Slam. But a total of 84 horses will attempt to conquer Badminton’s fearsomely big cross-country, while a strong dressage performance is almost essential, so don’t be too surprised if one of the long shots causes a serious upset come Monday’s showjumping conclusion.
In the run-up to his Rolex Grand Slam attempt at Badminton, William Fox-Pitt talks about what's been going on in his life over the past few months.
"The big excitement at the end of October last year was definitely the arrival of Chloe Rose into the family! Luckily she waited to appear before I got back from Pau, so her timing was perfect. She’s now six month’s old and it’s like she’s always been here – she gets on really well with her two older brothers, and parents for that matter – we’ve been very lucky, she’s a good girl.
The break I had between November and January was fairly baby focused. Normally at that time of year we would have a holiday, Alice and I, but this year that wasn’t really going to be possible. That said, I did go to Adelaide for the four-star event over there. I was originally going to take a horse to the show, but by the time that had become impossible to do due to horse quarantines, I was already committed to going, so I went to Australia for 10 days, which was highly enjoyable – there was very hot nice weather, and it was good to experience a different side of the world. Apart from that we’ve just been around the UK enjoying a quieter time over the winter. The horses had a holiday, grooms had a holiday, we had a holiday, and although we didn’t get away we were by no means working hard.
The feeling around the team is good. After the Olympics, I felt that this year may be a bit of an anti-climax for everyone as it was such a big focus throughout last season, but actually this year has got me really excited due to our horses’ prospects. I had a few that missed 2012 because of injury that have now come back into work, so for the season ahead I have lots of exceptional horses to concentrate on. I’ve got a new top horse called Running Order, who came from America, and I’m very excited about him. He’s produced by Doug Payne and is at four-star level, he rode in the Rolex Kentucky last year, and although it’s early days he’s a super horse. Cool Mountain is also back, having been injured last year, which was a shame as he missed out on the Olympics. I’m hoping he will be back up to top form very soon.
The spring season has started well, we did have quite a frustrating start with cancellations at two or three events thanks to the weather, but since then its dried up well and I’ve had some good competitions with the horses, including Burnham Market and Weston Park, where the horses have run well and felt good. Results aren't always my focus at the one-day events but they are always good training for the three-days.
I'm riding Seacookie and Chilli Morning at Kentucky, while for Badminton I’m taking Parklane Hawk and Oslo. It’s been very much business as usual for me in the lead up to Badminton, but there has been some perennial hype surrounding Badminton and this year the Rolex Grand Slam too. The build-up is always exciting, and this season has been fantastic with lots of media interest and various interviews. It’s important for me to realise though that winning at Badminton is a very long shot, as this year looks very competitive thanks largely to a high international contingent, including Michael Jung among others. Then again, if I do my bit, with the horses on good form, it’s by no means a foregone conclusion.
I don’t think whether Andrew is in contention for the Rolex Grand Slam or not makes much difference to me. I have to win Badminton either way if I am to claim the Grand Slam, which means beating him. However it would obviously make things highly exciting, and create another edge to the competition, which everyone would love, but I think it won’t make that much difference at the end of the day."
William is the current live contender for the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing prize. Follow our reports throughout Badminton at our special minisite
Hey guys. I hope you are all well, and I have to say things have all been ticking along quite nicely for me. Finally we may have found a new groom, so fingers crossed it all works out.
Don’t you find at this time of year you feel the need to have a spring clean and a good sort out? Well mine started with getting my car cleaned! Firstly I had to muck her out, which took a good 10 minutes, I then took her down to the local car valet and £30 later she came out looking like new! What’s going to get cleaned or thrown out next, I wonder?
So the boys have had an easy few weeks since Patchetts, so I popped them down to Hartpury for an outing. Jen Goodman’s Who Boy won the 1.25m and VIP was second in the 1.35m. This was the first time I had jumped them there, I also used this show as a pre Bluechip Championship run, which is held at Hartpury College. Boyce has qualified for the Winter B/C and 1.25m and VIP is jumping an Open class and the Winter Grand Prix on the 12/13 April.
A few days later I went off to Hand Premier show. The three boys jumped great, and I had some good results. Boyce was fourth in the Winter Grade C qualifier and won a 1.30 class by nearly 4sec - the class had 87 starters in it! VIP jumped really well in the 1.40m classes and finished the week off with a steady double clear in the Grand Prix to finish seventh. We are going for consistency at this level so not worrying too much about fast jump offs.
My very small team of horses is now looking even smaller as Athene H is to go back to his owner at the end of the month. Dutch has been going really well and we have built a good partnership but his owner is cutting back on costs, so he has to go back too. I now have a couple of spaces for some new rides...
As you may have noticed, the team from H&C have made some changes and I think the new look website is ‘looking good’. This does remind me that my website is long overdue a revamp, so watch this space. While I am on the subject of looking good, have you seen the new member of the H&C team - Dean Dibsdall? I cannot wait to see what he has to offer in the upcoming show 'Dean Dibsdall: Model Farrier', but I can tell you guys that I think my farrier is hotter!
"My how 2012 has flown! As I write my final blog of the year (she weeps!) for the fantastic H&C, I can hardly believe that another Olympia is nearly over, and another year gone. More terrifying still is the speed at which January turns into June and the 2012 Hickstead season will be upon us before I know it.
The best Olympia in years
It’s been a great week here in London, and one of the best Olympias that I can remember – not that the flurry of British wins has made me biased of course! Okay, well, to be honest, it has of course, but it’s hard not to get excited when Team GB performs so superbly, at such a high profile event, and when it really matters. There has been a lot of interesting debate in the press recently about the best way to proceed with the future of British showjumping. ‘PR’, ‘raising rider profiles’, ‘increased coverage’ and ‘commercial investment’ are phrases particularly hot on peoples’ tongues, and while I wholeheartedly agree I also understand just quite how difficult these things can be to come by. However, never has the task seemed easier, or so well supported when the riders fulfill their part of the deal so well, notching up a slew of wins jumping against the very best in the world: here at Olympia this week are no fewer than four previous World Champions and the current European Champion to name but a few.
The highlight of week had to be Ben Maher’s win in yesterday’s World Cup Qualifier, on Triple X III, usually his second horse, but one that has stepped up to the mark to replace his injured Robin Hood this year. An increasingly popular new feature at shows it to interview the riders on horseback, immediately before the presentation, and the crowd absolutely love it. It’s an excellent way of helping spectators engage further with the personalities of the sport (both human and equine: Ben said that Triple X was full of himself and knew how good looking he was, and when the very pretty interviewer asked Ben whether he knew that about himself I thought he was going to fall off sideways with embarrassment!)
Joking aside, showjumping press conferences are very rarely broadcast, something which is commonplace in more mainstream sports such as rugby and football, and it gives the public an excellent inside track in to the tactics riders use, their views on a particular course etc. Sitting here typing away in the press office, I have just heard three of our top riders being interviewed for a variety of print and broadcast media, and they all sounded like seasoned old media pro’s. The riders are playing the game, and it will only help our cause. Keep it up guys!
Some big news of the week has been the disappointment that John Whitaker’s star ride Peppermill is unlikely to be fit for next year’s Olympics, but for once all is not doom and gloom as a lot of riders, including John himself with Argento, are hopeful that they have more than one good Olympic prospect in their string. There’s something in the air, and it really does seem to be a very exciting time for British showjumping.
After such a great week, there is a real buzz around Team GB and a few nice shiny Olympic medals to add to this year’s bronze in the European Championships seems more achievable than ever.
Happy Christmas everyone, and rock on 2012. I can’t wait!"
"We Horse & Country girls were already big fans of top German rider Marcus Ehning - but we like him even more after last night.
Marcus had been placed in the Santa Stakes here at Olympia, but when he rode into the prizegiving his mount had changed somewhat... Marcus's horse Noltes Kuchengirl had been getting a little wound up during the presentation of the prizes, so Marcus rode out and came back in on a 'borrowed' horse - one that was about to appear in the Christmas finale!
We're having a brilliant time at Olympia, and have met a whole host of top riders and personalities. Keep visiting our Live Reports to follow the action."
The H&C team invaded the press tent at the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials on Sunday – even though there were just two of us!
Sparkly new blog
Blenheim marks the start of our new behind-the-scenes blog. Our users have been asking us what goes on at the competitions we cover while we’re busy Tweeting, interviewing and writing to keep you all up to date with the latest news and results so we thought we’d provide you with an insight to the media side of competing.
A minute to remember
As this is being written, the whole of Blenheim Palace descends into a minute’s silence to mark the ten year anniversary of 9/11. It’s eerily quiet in the media centre – a very rare occurrence – as everyone takes the time to reflect on the dreadful events a decade ago. But after 60 seconds it’s back to the usual hustle and bustle of clicking laptops and the H&C team making too much noise!
H&C Paparazzi Team
Today’s action included the CCI3* showjumping, the CIC3*8/9YO cross-country and the Tri-Zone BE100 Eventer Challenge. Our Tweeting fingers were kept busy and our photography skills sharp, all the while trying to dodge the intermittent downpours. Make sure you check out our gallery to see if we papped you in the Eventer Challenge.
We had the pleasure of talking to some of the competitors taking part in the Eventer Challenge who all said how exciting it was to be competing alongside their horsey heroes at such a prestigious event. We even managed to grab a couple of interviews with riders Charlotte Bacon and Zoe Taylor. Make sure you check out the videos below.
In life we often learn lessons the hard way. And we had a harsh reminder today that technology cannot always be relied upon while interviewing William Fox-Pitt. After a great interview about his first and third placings in the CIC3* we discovered when we got back to the media tent that the sound had not actually worked. Frustrating is an understatement!
All in all we had a great day at Blenheim Palace and send our congratulations to everyone competing.
Results of the BE100 Tri-Zone Eventer Challenge
1st - Ellen Goodwin riding PG Tips
2nd - Charlotte Bacon riding Ballyvaden Ivy - see interview below
3rd - Lynda Cockrill riding Amoreal
4th - Phoebe Cromer riding Its Gotta Be Dun II
5th - Zoe Taylor riding Lyndwey Tune - see interview below
Rimmer showing his delight at being in front of an audience
“I’m writing this blog quite stressed out! Annabel is clamouring to leave – we have to walk over to the farm and pick up the turkey with the sledge. There’s so much snow here still that that’s the easiest way. We’ll stick the turkey on the sledge and pull it back. Fun for the children, but frankly I’d rather be using the car!
Olympia seems like a long time ago now. The kur went well and Rimmer went out and enjoyed himself. I did miss the first two time change, but despite minor panic, I carried on and pretended I hadn’t wanted the first one and still managed to fit them in, luckily. We got the ones on the centre line which was great.
I must say, having a 9pm is not the easiest thing in the world with two kids, that was pretty testing. But Rimmer enjoyed it, and at his age that’s really important.
He was incredibly hot in the warm up though, I literally couldn't touch him with my right spur. He kept warning me ‘if you touch me, I’m off!’ so I had to decide whether to just sit quietly or to insist that he let me ride him.
Overall we had a great and extrememly hectic time. Annabell loved every second of it apart from the War Horse demo – she thought that was terrifying and she was screaming so much I had to take her out.
We all stayed down in London on the Wednesday night and kept an eye on the weather forecast. In the morning we drove the four hours home, arriving just in time for another colossal dump of snow.
Best laid plans
I had planned to hit the ground running and had entered My Hyde for competitions on the Saturday and the Sunday, but everything was cancelled due to the snow.
To add to my delight at the not being able to compete, the boiler conked out on Saturday so we had no heating or hot water, and overnight it was -10 outside! To add insult to injury we had a burst water main on the Sunday, so no water at all. Maybe we should have stayed in London.
It took two days to get the water back on, but thankfully we are all up and running (haha) now.
After this second bout of show, we’ve lost the arena again. Yesterday Annabel was out there riding round on Jessie her Shetland while I was digging and scraping round the edges. I’m sure most riders had better prep for Olympia than we did!
We’re so limited with the weather over Christmas here now. Simon’s parents were going to come up and stay with us, but they didn’t fancy getting stuck on the M1 (at at ninety-something who can blame them?).
So Christmas looks like it’s going to consist of desperately trying to get the horses working somehow – Clyde (My Hyde) is just being lunged at the moment and I walk Rimmer under saddle as it’s safer than letting him loose on the lunge. We do a lot of piaffe in hand. Sometimes on purpose, sometimes not. It must be five or six weeks of this stupid snow now, I’ve never known it this bad. Suppose it’s our own silly fault for living in the Peak District.
So these next few weeks will be quiet-ish. Simon will make the dinner on Christmas day, I’ll try and entertain the children and the horses will have the day off. Rimmer will go out in his paddock – he has to have a smaller area to stop him getting up a head of steam and hooliganing about like a fruitloop.
Mr Hyde is now out at Medium and I hope to qualify him for the advanced medium regionals in the new year when he will be rising six. His Medium regionals are in February which I’m sure will come around fast. Other than that, I’ll carry on doing the local pony club stuff, helping the kids with their ponies.
I’ve just looked out of the window and I can see that it’s started snowing again. Joy. It was very pretty but now I’d like it to go away. Must go and get the turkey before it’s too icy for even the sledge!
"Well getting here to Olympia has been a total nightmare! For nearly three weeks before the show our arena at home was under two feet of snow. I spent hours digging out a 'ditch' round the edge of the arena and a little pirouette circle by the gate so we could turn round. So in the weeks leading up to the show, Rimmer [Mr P] was only walked and trotted round the edge of the school - we hadn't cantered for the best part of a month!
A close shave
Last night Rimmer was rather wild in the warm up. I touched him with my right spur in a right pirouette - he took off and I nearly had a head on with Judy Harvey. So I decided that in test we wouldn't do spur in the pirouette, we'd just spin the front end round.
When we went in for the test, it was quite tight to get round the edges between the judges and the arena. Age 16 Rimmer decided he didn't like the look of the water bottles on the judges' trestle tables. Honestly, he really should know better by now.
Once we started the test he said 'right mum, lets go for it' and was rather over keen. In the walk I was sitting very still and thinking 'don't touch him!' I was a bit disappointed with the score we got as I felt there weren't any major mistakes, but maybe it looked ropey. We had to fight for every mark out there and I didn't even look at the sheet after the test as I didn't want to be reminded about my disappointing score.
With a lot of new judges coming through I don't think they feel confident to give us the higher marks - it is only the more 'old school' judges like Stephen Clarke who dare to give us 9s for the changes. Maybe I should just give up now!
Frozen lorry disaster
The trip up was a bit of a disaster. We decided to come a day early to remind Rimmer about canter in the arena here at Olympia. We packed the lorry and were just filling it up with water when we noticed water pouring out of the cooker vent. Never a good sign! Anyhow with all the cold weather, all the water taps and the pipes had broken and even the battery had frozen, so we had to take that out and defrost it before we could start the lorry!
To be honest though, the easiest part of this whole thing is riding the horse. Our day is so jam packed and Simon my groom/husband/nanny has to manage me, the horse and both the children. It's making all the pieces fit together in order to ride that's the hardest.
We are stabled next to Laura B's fantastic horse Mistral Hojris - Rimmer doesn't understand what the continual fuss nearby is all about, he's usually just neglected at home! Alf's groom sleeps in the stables with him and she has been really kind to us by feeding Rimmer first thing in the morning.
This morning we had allotted times to go into the main arena, we had be be in there between 9 and 10.45am. It wan't too busy as some riders don't work their horses twice in the day, but Rimmer was still wild. He feels like riding a naughty five year old at the moment rather than the mature grand prix horse he pretends to be. After riding we had a tack cleaning session then watched the Shetlands. "Jessie!" shouted Annabel every time a black one looked like it was winning - her Jessie at home is a black Shetland. Next year she plans on winning the Shettie grand national, at the grand old age of four.
So tonight at 6.30 I'll plait, bandage and get changed then we'll be all ready for our 9.15 (think it's 9.15, must check with groom/husband/nanny!) test. I'm using my Blues Brothers music because I tried to change it last year and everyone had a strop about it, so we've gone back to it. Fingers crossed for tonight and lets hope Rimmer is not too wild!"
Tankers Town (Jasper) has benefitted from dressage training
"Apologies for the lack of contact the last two weeks but my computer has officially died and my phone has been temperamental, so writing my blog has been rather challenging! As I now have nearly three weeks to write about, it maybe a little more condensed...
Anna adds marks
I've had more lessons with Anna [Ross Davies] again which is really helping the marks. We've been working on small flexions and bends to help prepare for the lateral movements and improve suppleness. I put this into practise at Oldencraig where I had a particularly good day winning the elementaries on Harry and Jasper, who was superb in his first trip out after Luhmuhlen, and a medium on Jasper. Ken also won the advanced medium, he tried incredibly hard as the test was complicated; he really is settling and improving.
My tests were also good at Highclere - the hard work is paying off! I ran Imp in the 100 as the XC course is so nice and he just needs easy runs. He did a 20 dressage and a lovely, relaxed double clear. His next run is a novice again. Amber has been slightly upset by the introduction of changes so her tests are slightly tense, she jumped clear SJ but I decided not to run her as she was at Breda the next week. Harry was his usual amazing self with a 28 dressage, one down and fast clear xc round to win his intermediate. I knew this would be the last chance I may have to win and qualify for Gatcombe intermediate championships next year. As he did so well in the novice, I plan to do the same next year!
Jasper aces the dressage but is withdrawn from WEG
Jasper was in the advanced, he did a beautiful test, a 25! I was in the lead but didn't run as he has a splint I'm looking after so we can get to Pau. I am now no longer on the reserve list for WEG as he won't be fit enough sadly. Was just not meant to be.
Kenny was a superstar also in the advanced. He performed a lovely test and got a much better mark, 32. He then jumped clear in the show jumping! We changed the bit to a curb gag which he seems to really like, he has fences down because he comes against the hand and with this bit in he seems not to so far... He was brilliant XC too and finished sixth, our best result so far... And great preparation for Blenheim!
A new addition
I have a new horse named Red or to give him his proper name, Chataigne Filice. He is a seven year old chestnut gelding Irish Sport Horse x Selle Francais. Very nice, just needs producing, has lots of talent and some very nice owners Vivian and Bob Jupp. I'm delighted he's come my way...
Firle cross country
I took Red, Brian, Bomber, Phoenix and Bertie to Firle for some XC schooling. I was seriously impressed with the changes they've made to the course and the ground was superb. They open the course for schooling after the event for three days so is all flagged etc. It was superb, they all went really well. I could take them around a smaller course then the next one up and so on.
Phoenix looking for a new home
We have decided to sell Phoenix though as although he is a fabulous horse he is perhaps a little on the large side, I must admit I prefer smaller horses now sadly. Please contact me if interested, he is stunning to look at, he will be a lovely horse in the future.
Breda beckons - carriages carnage
We left for Breda at 5am with Jasper, Amber and Harry. The aim was to get my qualifications and hopefully some prizes! Jasper was never really going to run unless he did a fabulous test again, but the carriages made sure that didn't happen! It was my first time there, fabulous place, great for experience for the younger horses. There were big arenas and flags everywhere. Also carriages, four horse, two horse and single. The world championships for the Paralympics were also on at the same time so the event was even bigger and better than usual. My horses were terrified of the carriages though and the drivers seemed unaware of the grief they caused us all! By day four they were beginning to calm down but sadly too late for Amber and Jaspers' tests!
Harry however performed a lovely test and didn’t get the mark I was expecting, a 56! It was fault free and got 5′s and 6′s. Never mind, I was still very pleased. The show jumping was in a very big arena full of atmosphere. The 2* was big but the 3* wasn’t which surprised me. It was a brilliant experience for them with the large crowds and still the carriages there were going past! Harry jumped clear; he was rather strong but jumped really well, as did Amber who also jumped clear. I didn’t jump Jasper as his splint is still slightly sore.
Harry moved up a massive amount from his clear round and Amber too, about 20 places! This had me in a good position with Harry for the XC, I had decided to take him at the pace he needed to give him a good, confident run and qualify as this was the aim. He jumped superbly as usual; the course was not technical but reasonably big. The ground was superb and very flat, something I’m not used to anymore. He jumped clear, we had just four time faults and finished ninth which was a good result. He is now qualified for a 2* so will either be Osberton or Le Lion D’Angers seven-year-olds. Amber also jumped clear, I took her around a couple of long routes to make sure she got her 3* qualification as this was also the reason we were here. I was full of praise for the courses and place - it's just the carriages need addressing, as they were too close too often. Breda itself was a beautiful town, I will return next year if Kenny isn’t at Burghley."