Tag Archive: Blenheim horse trials

  1. Clark Montgomery heads from Blenheim to Rio

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    What a great weekend of sport at the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials; two great competitions providing two extraordinary results with both posting pillar-to-post winners.

    American Clark Montgomery fulfilled his dream of a big win, taking the CCI3* with the Irish-bred Loughan Glen. It was a big win in both senses of the word: in status and in the result.

    The combination finished where they started, with the commanding lead of 8.2 penalties, built up after cross country still intact. The pair had no need for the safety net of two fences in-hand as they jumped clear to finish the event perfectly on their dressage score.

    Montgomery now has hopes for the Olympic Games in Rio next year.

    “It’s the biggest win of my career and it feels fantastic and I couldn’t have done a better job to get selected, but you never know,” said Montgomery, who has been based in the UK for the past three years. “The reason I’m here is that it’s so much more competitive.”

    Montgomery becomes the third American to win at Blenheim following Bruce Davidson in 1994 and Kim Severson in 2001. It was in fact a great event for the Americans – four, including the winner finished in the top 11 – and sixth-placed Lauren Kieffer (Veronica) won the prize for the ‘best first timer’.

    Australian Christopher Burton added another success to his continually growing CV with second place on the German-bred Nobilis who, although contesting his first CCI3* and having only previously competed in one CIC3* (which he won), looks to be another that could be added to his string of hopefuls for the Australian Olympic squad.

    As last week at the European Championships at Blair Castle, where she was the best of the silver-medal team, Kitty King was again the highest placed British rider. This week she was aboard Ceylor LAN, another to finish on his dressage score, who has proved a prolific winner from the start; he won both four and five-year-old Burghley Young Event Horse finals as well as the BE five, six and seven-year-old young horse championships.

    “It’s been a dream season,” said King, who lives near Chippenham, Wiltshire. “This was a big test for this horse because he’s not full thoroughbred and is only eight, but he galloped all the way to the end and he show jumped beautifully.”

    A clear round promoted Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V to fourth while Somerset based Dani Evans, ninth on Raphael ll, won £500 and a rug from the Horse Trials Support Group as the ‘best British rider 25 and under’.

    Jonelle Price it two in a row

    New Zealander Jonelle Price became the first rider to score back-to-back victories in the CIC3* for eight-and nine-year-old horses this year with the syndicate-owned Cloud Dancer ll.

    The pair had such a formidable lead going into the final cross country phase that they had more than 10 time penalties in hand – a situation which suited Price as she knew the Dutch-bred eight-year-old was not the fastest. She cleverly used up 8.8 of them to remain unbeaten.

    “He’s a very different type to Faerie Dianamo (her 2014 winner) but it’s horses for courses,” said Price. “He’s got so much quality in the dressage and jumping and he’s genuine and brave so I think he’s got a future in the sport.”

    The flying Frenchman Astier Nicolas was one of the nine riders to achieve the optimum time and moved up from fourth place to second on Helen and Paul Fearn’s Spes Addit Or, while Cotswold based Irishman Jonty Evans was thrilled to finish third on the Irish-bred Cooley Rorkes Drift, even though they dropped a place with two time penalties.

    “This horse is so good that I’ve had to raise my game. We’re not a big yard, so to have one like him means a lot,” Evans said. “I think he’s going to be competitive. I want to go to Rio!”

    On face value, the outcome might look like it was a dressage competition yet a closer look at the results sheet proves otherwise. While the winners both took commanding leads from day one, proving the advantage of being able to ride quality dressage tests on well trained horses – it is probably no coincidence that they have benefitted from training with pure high-profile dressage riders – they then also both jumped immaculately in both following phases.

    In the CCI, of the 78 that completed from 101 starters, just seven combinations (7%) finished on their dressage score – and five of them subsequently finished in the top ten: Kevin McNab (AUS) and Dustman came up from 33rd to 10th while American Will Coleman jumped OBOS O’Reilly from 35th to 11th and British rider Flora Harris was back on form after their elimination and disappointment at Aachen, jumping a double clear (albeit with 2.4 time penalties) to move up from 19th to a final 8th place.

    In the CIC3*, of 68 starters, 54 completed and just three (4%) finished on their dressage score; double clears moved Ian Wills up from 21st to fourth place to be the highest British rider with the British-bred Hartpury Sky is the Limit while local rider Michael Jackson came from 32nd to seventh with Treloar another British-bred horse.

    There were plenty who went the other way, too. Yes, few actually faulted on the cross-country course but the time was a factor and made a difference to final placings and there are always those who fall back down after showjumping – even William Fox-Pitt and Cool Mountain caught a snake here, sliding back down from fourth to a final 12th place.

    Clark Montgomery with the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough by Adam Fanthorpe, courtesy of Blenheim Horse Trials

  2. Clark Montgomery keeps the top spot at Blenheim Horse Trials

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    Overnight leader Clark Montgomery remained in pole position at the end of the cross country at the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials.

    The British-based American and Loughan Glen posted a classy clear, one of the 13 clear rounds inside the time and, with second-placed Sandra Auffarth and Ipso adding time penalties, he now has an even greater advantage going in to tomorrow’s final showjumping.

    Australian Christopher Burton, fifth rider out in the early foggy start to the day, was the first home inside the time (by 10 seconds), and sat at the head of affairs for the most part of the day until overtaken by Montgomery. The German-bred Nobilis 18, acquired from German ace Michael Jung in 2013, is competing in his first three-star, three-day event, having won three of his four international starts with Christopher.

    “He is a very good horse and making the step up to the level well,” said Burton. “If he gets to go to Rio all well and good, but if not he will make a good Burghley/Badminton horse.”

    A fast clear also moved New Zealander Tim Price into the top three. The British-based Antipodean, who was second at Burghley two weeks ago, took the ride on Court Jester, another produced by Nick Gauntlett, at the beginning of the year and the pair won the CCI* at Barbury in July.

    William Fox-Pitt and Cool Mountain was another of the class rounds of the day and the pair, contesting their first three-day since Luhmühlen last June, cruised round the course to move up into fourth place — the highest British-based combination.

    “He is an experienced campaigner and a luxury to have him at this level,” said Fox-Pitt. “The jumps were never going to be an issue but I was anxious about the terrain, which is demanding here and, as he doesn’t have a top gear, I knew that, if I got behind the time, I would never make it up — but, as it was, he came home easily inside the time.”

    But all eyes at Blenheim Horse Trials were on Montgomery, who was number 85 of the 101 starters, but the American and his Irish-bred Loughan Glen, another by the good sire Limmerick, never faulted and cruised their way round Eric Winters 28-fence course. They now sit with a comfortable lead of 8.2 penalties, meaning they have the luxury of two fences in hand in the showjumping.

    “I couldn’t be more pleased, right from the start he was on the button and pretty spot on all the way,” said Montgomery, who has been based in the UK for three years and is now at Mark Phillips’ Aston Farm, outside Tetbury, with the aim of competing in Rio next year.

    “We have had a successful year so far and yes if we pull it off this would be our biggest win, although having a fence or two in hand does take the pressure and make it easier.”

    Course designer Eric Winter was impressed with the finals result at the end of the day.
    “I did purposely lengthen the course by 30 seconds on the easiest part of the course to get more inside the time but there were also a lot of classy horses and it was a high quality field.”

    Others to move up the board included Kitty King and Ceylor LAN 6th, Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V 7th, American Lauren Kieffer, who produced the save of the day, having been catapulted out of the saddle after the third element of the arena fence and then left hanging round Veronica’s neck for several strides, is now in eighth place, while Kristina Cook moved up from 22nd to 10th with a classy clear on Calvino.

    Pippa Funnell was perhaps the biggest casualty of the day, choosing to retire when ninth-placed Billy The Biz glanced off the hedge coming out of the water after the return through the lake at fence 14.

    Image: Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen by Adam Fanthorpe, courtesy of Blenheim Horse Trials

  3. Clark Montgomery storm ahead at Blenheim Horse Trials

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    American Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen displayed their dressage class to take an overnight lead in the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials.

    Germany’s reigning world champion, Sandra Auffarth, fresh from winning team-gold and individual silver at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships in Scotland last weekend, saw her advantage after Thursday’s dressage action wiped out.

    Auffarth and Ispo had posted an outstanding score of 37.2 penalties, but Montgomery stormed ahead on 33.8.

    “He has put these scores in before, and this is what we were aiming for, but you never know on the day,” Montgomery said. “The atmosphere seems to help him.”

    Loughan Glen was third at Blenheim Horse Trials in 2013, and Montgomery added: “Each time he has been here the cross-country course has been in the direction it is this time, so we know he likes it. I think the double of corners (fence 12ab) will be influential.”

    Pippa Funnell, meanwhile, moved into third spot with Billy The Biz on 39.3, just five days after helping Britain claim European team gold at Blair Castle alongside Kitty King, Nicola Wilson and William Fox-Pitt.

    “He’s one who showjumped through his younger career,” Funnell said.

    “He’s come through the (eventing) grades pretty quickly as he has the mileage with the jumping, but I’ve had a couple of little blips where has been eager and over-jumped into water and we’ve had a dunking, so I am going to have to sit back and tight tomorrow.”

    Last year’s winner of the CIC three-star for eight-and-nine-year-old horses, New Zealand’s Jonelle Price, leads that class again after dressage. This time around, she is riding The Marley and Me Syndicate’s Cloud Dancer II.

    “He’s smart,” Price said. “He moves very well, especially for an event horse, so I feel a bit of a responsibility to produce something a bit special.

    “He’s no Ferrari across country, but he gives it his best. A few seconds in hand would be handy!”

    France’s Nicolas Astier lies second aboard Spes Addit Or, more than six penalties behind Price’s score of 33.2, while China’s Alex Hua Tian is third with Don Geniro.

    Image: Blenheim Palace by Jonathan, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

  4. Sandra Auffarth leads overnight at Blenheim Horse Trials

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    For the third week running, German riding skills have come to the fore. At the end of the first day of dressage, it is the reigning German World Champion, Sandra Auffarth, that heads the leaderboard in the CCI3* at the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials.

    Hot from the European championships, where she was part of the gold-medal winning team and the individual silver medallist, Auffarth is making her first appearance at Blenheim Horse Trials. She goes into a strong lead on Ipso (37.2), the former ride of the late Ben Winter, who lost his life at Luhmühlen last year. Sandra took over the ride in memory of her friend.

    While not the best-moving horse in the field, nor the biggest, as he makes Sandra look tall, Ipso was correctly presented throughout an immaculately ridden test that displayed submission, regularity, correctness of movements, including flying changes and smooth forward transitions where they were meant to be. In essence, a proper dressage test that, German riders apart, are seemingly so few and far between in eventing.

    Auffarth too was pleased with the test. “It was the best test we have done together,” she said, admitting that taking the ride was not an easy decision. “It was hard and emotional but I am really pleased that Ben’s mother (who owns the horse) is here to watch this weekend.”

    It was German team trainer Chris Bartle that suggested Auffarth should stay in the UK to contest Blenheim. Ipso has taken a circuitous route via Blair with his best friend Opgun Louvo, Sandra’s team horse, for company.

    “Chris thought it would be a good idea and I think he is right, it is such a beautiful park and beautifully built course,” said Sandra. “I am looking forward to the cross country. I think we will have fun together.”

    Somerset-based Dani Evans, who had to withdraw from the British squad for the European Championships, has so far made up for the disappointment by taking second place with Raphael (40.2) with whom she placed third in the under 25 championship at Bramham this year.

    Franky Reid-Warrilow and Dolley Whisper (40.6), gold medallists at the CIC2* championships for Rural Riders in The Netherlands last month, are marginally behind and take third place.

    Jonelle Price flies into the lead

    While there is still a long way to go, British-based New Zealander Jonelle Price has set herself up nicely for a second consecutive win in the CIC3*, taking a strong lead with Cloud Dancer II, (33.2) an eight-year-old gelding owned by the Marley and Me Syndicate. At the end of the first day, the pair have a 7penalty lead over Chinese rider Alex Hua Tian and Don Geniro (40.6).

    Not the thoroughbred type we are used to seeing Price ride, Cloud Dancer is of German bloodlines, being by San Remo out of a Sandro Hit mare, although he was bred in the Netherlands where his sire San Remo stands. Perhaps, therefore, dressage might have been his intended career, although his sire is descended from the great German eventing stallion Volturno, who contested two Olympic Games (1976 & 1980) and 27 international horse trials.

    He was originally bought by Price and Jackie Green from a dealer’s yard although Price had doubts about his suitability for eventing.

    “We saw him trot two steps and Jackie made it clear we had to buy him and I just said ‘that’s not an event horse,” said Price. “Anyway, we bought him and as yet he has answered every question — maybe his great grandfather is coming to the fore — although we take one step at a time.

    “He is an amazing mover for an event horse and it’s quite a responsibility to produce the test he is capable of. Admittedly, he is no Ferrari cross country, however, and a few seconds in hand would be ideal.”

    Don Geniro is also of dressage bloodlines, being by Don Kennedy out of a mare by Giorgione, who was owned and ridden by Dr Wilfried Bechtolsheimer and Carl Hester in British dressage teams, and indeed did start life as a dressage horse, being placed in British young horse classes with Sarah Higgins, who is Hua Tian’s girlfriend. Hua Tian gained the ride when he was sent to him to be sold. His career then took a sharp right turn and the pair won their first one-star. The eight-year-old is now owned by Higgins’ mother and his breeder Pamela Dewers.

    “We are really excited about his future,” said Hua Tian. “He oozes scope, on a good day is unbeatable in dressage and as he gets older will get stronger and faster and he is definitely one of the best potential horses I have had.”

    Jonty Evans and Cooleys Rorke Drift are currently third, albeit a massive 10penalties behind the leader, suggesting there is plenty of room for change tomorrow.

    Image: Sandra Auffarth at the FEI European Eventing Championships, by Jon Stroud, courtesy of the FEI

  5. Who’s going to win Blenheim Horse Trials?

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    The breeches will barely have had time to dry before packing commences for yet another horse trial at yet another stately home beginning with B. This week the eventing fraternity have another quick turnaround after consecutive weeks at Burghley and Blair and are now heading to Oxfordshire for the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials (September 17-20).

    The beautiful eponymous palace and its equally magnificent park provide the backdrop for the event which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary. It also hosts the final British three-star three-day (CCI) of the year and, since 2009, the popular CIC three-star (one-day format but confusingly held over three days) for eight and nine-year-old horses.

    There are 110 CCI3* entries; a mix of seasoned four-star horses, more experienced three-star campaigners and those new to the level.

    Cool Mountain and former three-time Blenheim winner, William Fox-Pitt, have to be the most experienced combination on the start list; it is, extraordinarily, a first Blenheim for former team horse Cool Mountain, winner of individual silver and team gold medal at the 2010 World Equestrian Games, and will also be his biggest challenge this year after a light competition season.

    Pippa Funnell, who has previously won here four-times, brings her more experienced ride Mirage D’Elle, as well as the exciting homebred prospect Billy the Biz, competing in his first CCI3*.

    Other British riders to follow will be Piggy French, the winner in 2011, who has two on-form rides, OBOS Cooley and Seapatrick Dark Cruise, and young rider Dani Evans aboard Raphael, a combination with good three-star form, and Franky Reid-Warrilow, this year’s individual gold medallist at the European Rural Riders Championships, who has entered her gold-medal partner Dolley Whisper.

    Gemma Tattersall could well be competitive with the mare Quickstar V while no start list is complete without Oliver Townend, who has two rides Dunbeau and Sandiman II.

    There is a competitive overseas entry, including American Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen, third in 2013, who return for another crack, while fellow American Lauren Kieffer and her mare Veronica, second at Lexington and seventh at Bramham this year, will be hoping for another good result to attract the eyes of the selectors for next year’s Rio Olympic Games.

    Ispo, the ride of the late Benjamin Winter, could well be competitive under German World Champion and recent European silver medallist Sandra Auffarth. The pair has accrued good CIC3* form since Auffarth took the ride in memory of her friend, who suffered a fatal fall at Luhmühlen last year.

    Irish rider Aoife Clark the winner in 2013 with Fenyas Elegance, this year has the equally talented Fernhill Adventure while young Frenchman Astier Nicolas brings Molakai.

    My money however has to be on Australian Christopher Burton and Nobilis; while it might be a first CCI3* for the well-bred Nobilis 18, the 10-year-old has not been lower than second in his last five outings, including a CIC3* win, while Burton, always a tidy rider in all three phases, comes here on the back of an inspirational performance at Burghley.

    Young talent

    The popular class CIC3*, initiated in 2009, has proved a reliable indicator of horses that go on to compete at four-star; incredibly, three of the as yet six winners — Oslo (William Fox-Pitt), Quimbo (Andrew Nicholson) and NZB Land Vision (Mark Todd) — have all won four-star events, while two others, Fernhill Pimms and Faerie Dianimo, have been highly placed at the level.

    Exciting young horse entries this year include Xavier Faer (Tim Price) a half-brother to 2015 winner Faerie Dianimo, Hartpury Sky is the Limit (Ian Wills), winner of the 8/9-year-old class at Aston le Walls, young stallions Philanderer II (Tim Cheffings), a son of Jumbo, and Tresor Mail (Sidney Dufresne), a son of Jaguar Mail, plus Mo Cuiske (Kitty King), Away Cruising (Harry Meade) and KBIS Starburst (Izzy Taylor), winner of the 8/9 year old class at Wellington recently.

    On Thursday and Friday, Blenheim hosts the popular Riding Clubs and Pony Clubs Team Eventers Challenge, The British Eventing Arena Eventing Championship and this year, for the first time, Amateur Eventer Dressage Championships and for more experienced riders the High Jump challenge. On Friday, at the end of dressage and for the second year, Brightwells will be holding their Elite Event Horse auction, a catalogue of 22 horses selected as having eventing potential.

    As always there will be a huge selection of trade stands to browse and buy from — a great opportunity to get prepared for winter — as well as a plethora of displays and master classes to watch and learn from including: side-saddle, racehorses to riding horses, Parelli, dressage to music, dogs, bare-back, Shetland ponies and cooking! You name it, Blenheim Horse Trials has it.

    Read the DHP interview with the Duchess of Marlborough on what’s like to host a horse trials.

    Image: Blenheim Palace by  Gailf548CC BY 2.0

  6. The Duchess of Marlborough on horse trials, riding and a pony called Treacle

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    As preparations for Blenheim Horse Trials reach a fevered pitch, one spectator is getting a sneak preview of the proceedings. Edla, Duchess of Marlborough (pictured above with her husband, the Duke), is watching the course being built on the grounds of Blenheim Palace.

    “It’s great to see it being put together,” she reveals. “It takes much longer to build up than you’d think and it’s really interesting to watch.”

    The 2015 Blenheim Horse Trials are a first for the Duchess, whose husband, James, the 12th Duke of Marlborough, inherited Blenheim after the death of his father, the 11th Duke, last November.

    “Living at Blenheim is still a learning curve but we have a fantastic team of people who are really supportive,” the Duchess explains. “If you have a question, there’s always someone to go to—it’s really a privilege.”

    Hosting the horse trials, which are organised by Mandy Hervieu, Shelley Bacon and the BPIHT Steering Group, is proving a particularly enjoyable experience for her. “I feel very proud that we have it here at Blenheim. It’s a good family event. My children love to watch it, and lots of my friends really like it. It’s a really nice set of country people that come here to see it.”

    She too is captivated by the skill of the eventing riders that battle it out at Blenheim. “I really enjoy watching horse trials, especially dressage: I’m fascinated by the mastery of movement these skilled riders have—which I never accomplished. And the cross-country fences…they are absolutely enormous and I’m always surprised that people manage to get over them in one piece. It’s thrilling and really gets your adrenaline going, but I’d never have the courage to do it myself!”

    The Duchess rides but she is happiest hacking peacefully in the countryside. “Horses are beautiful creatures,” she says. “I just love being around them and enjoy low-key riding. There’s nothing like the pleasure of being out in the countryside—you realise how lucky we are in this country.”

    Although her parents weren’t horsey, she learned to ride as a child. “I rode on our farm and at the Pony Club,” she recalls. “My friends and I loved to ride between our houses and would only come back when we were hungry. It was very safe were we grew up and very quiet. Everyone knew everyone—I’m not sure I’d be happy to let my daughter do that now.”

    At the time, she had a pony that was something of a handful. “Treacle was a little Welsh pony, a bay. He was very naughty, but full of character. He was a bit of a bucker but I held on!”

    Today, her ride is an altogether more sedate Connemara named Walter, who was bred by Henrietta Knight of Lockinge. “He’s lovely, a really good boy.”

    Her children are into riding too, especially her daughter, and the Duchess rather likes hacking out together with her. “Both my children have ponies and both went to Pony Club camp in the summer, which they really loved. My daughter, who is eight, is very keen while my son, who is six, is getting a taste for it,” she says. “And my stepson, George Blandford, who will also be with us to watch the horse trials, is a keen horseman: he is a two-goal polo player and an ambassador for La Martina riding wear.”

    “My daughter and I often ride into the park,” continues the Duchess. “We go early in the morning or, in the summer, early in the evening and it’s beautiful. It’s lovely to be out there, especially going into the oak forest, where some trees date from the times of the Domesday Book, and imagining who rode there before you. I’m still exploring the park—and I still get lost!”

    Image: The Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, by Nick Harvey/Rex Shutterstock