NZL-Tim Price rides Xavier Faer during the First Day of Dressage. Interim-6th. 2017 GBR-Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. Thursday 31 August. Copyright: Libby Law Photography

We have had everything thrown at us weather wise over the years at Belton… snow, gale force winds, driving rain, the whole gamut of spring and winter  weather in one weekend.

This year came up dry, sunny and mostly  warm which was a pleasant surprise.  The footing, after a dry winter as well, was good to firm but still had enough spring off the old turf to encourage riders to move up a gear if they were in with a chance.

Superman Tim sauntered out of The Ridgeway after keyhole surgery on some pesky  knee cartilage on Tuesday and rocked up at Belton with 5 rides which all went to plan. Even if that plan was changed quite a bit en route!

Which meant that Kentuckty bound Xavier Faer ( Hugo) found himself in a CI3*S section instead of his designated OI.  Hugo manned up, got over the embarrassment of being in a 3 star ( old school 2 star) and dis his best test at that level to score a 29.  He then jumped his socks off in the showjumping for a clear and a smoothly fast ( without going crazy ) xc to pick up 10 time left him in the top 20 in a huge section.  Kentucky is the aim so it was a great judgement call from Tim to ride fast enough for fitness but with the bigger picture in mind.

Displaced from that class was new ride Senza Fine who missed out on her first run with Tim so she swapped into the OI. Fresh from her last start at Le Lion d”Angers ( 2018) with her previous rider this mare, (that was talent spotted by Jonelle), posted  a 28 dressage and a lovely clear SJ  which bodes well for joint owners Terry Miller and Jo Preston-Hunt.  An onward bound clear cross country followed as Tim applied his tried and trusty method of running all new horses cross country in a nice fat snaffle.  Senza took the view that the fat snaffle was akin to awakening her Italian roots and in a parody of The Italian Job took over and delivered a cracking cross country round with Tim saying he felt like being more of a passenger at the end than the controller.. although it never looked like that! I think we may see a slightly stronger form of brakes cross country on the next appearance but overall TP was delighted with her.

Moving on to the Badminton bound tried and trusted duo of Bango ( Uno) and Ringwood Sky Boy              ( Ozzie) . They were both having their first runs of the season but being the pro’s that they are it was an uneventful start!  Ozzie led the dressage with a 25, picked up a single time fault in a tricky showjumping ( always run out the back at Belton on the undulating ground with a small warm up and much going on in the background!) and simply cruised cross country for 23 time and a super first run.  Uno was pretty similar with a 28 and a double clear with 20 time for a nice easy start to his Badminton campaign and Tim’s horsemanship was again to the fore with his hacking and effortless cross country rounds looking at the bigger picture all of the time.  You simply can’t win all the one days in pursuit of the 4 and 5 stars… it just doesn’t work like that.  I watched some of Tim’s rounds on the  BEDE live fed on the cross country and as always, its a masterclass to watch.

Falco had had an early skip round the open novice at Tweseldown at the start of March which proved to be a perfect warm up as he found himself in the CCI3*S which is quite early in the season for an International run for Falco.  Unsurprisingly he led the dressage on a 25 in a hotly contested section and then put in his usual megastar showjumping round.  The CI3 star had an early combination of angled rails and a tough brush arrowhead which Falco simplt skipped over and he looked like a total cross country machine throughout the round.  He ate up the ground, listened to Tim and was bold and brave.  Tim went fast enough to “test out the reactions at speed” but not flat to the boards to secure the win and picked up 4 time faults. Tim was, again, very practical about his 3rd place having been overtaken by two riders who were determined to make time.  He said the win would have been nice but it wasn’t the ultimate aim and he was delighted with Falco as I am sure owner Sue Benson was as well!

Talking of masterclasses we were lucky to catch Jonelle on the livestream with a stunning cross country round on The Grape Syndicate’s Grappa Nera.  Grape gets a bit hot in the test but is ever improving and her 37 in the CI3*S is testament to that.. there were some truly promising bits! Jonelle has always described Grape as an out and out athlete and a super double clear today confirmed that with just 6.4 added to her dressage for an MER to add to her record.

Ascona M ( Ava) can dance the moves when she feels like it… Blondie’s ” Atomic” always springs to mind as her feature music for me as she is beautiful, talented, feisty and properly opinionated but she kept the lid on with a 27 and a double clear for her 2019 debut.  She is without doubt the whole package and if she can stay on side and not go out West in the flat will be unbeatable again in 2019. Tim was super happy with her attitude… long may it last!

Jonelle also had one of my all time favorites, Cooley Showtime ( Eddy) in the OI.  Eddie is simply the coolest horse in the world and his physical limitations are a mystery to the man himself.  He wowed the judges with a 22 to lead, tipped an unlucky back rail and was run cross country conservatively for an easy clear.  He is on the market as a Junior /Young Rider horse as it is predicted the rigours of 5 star may prove too much but not only is this a medal package across the board he is one of the funniest, cutest and lovable characters  you could ever hope to meet.


So that wraps up Belton with no advanced runs this year as Tim and Jonelle head off tonight for a few days skiing to celebrate Tim’s 40th Birthday on Wednesday with a close group of friends.  They will be back for Larkhill and Weston next weekend…

Maybe I should have kept the 40th quiet. Oh well, its out there now!

Happy Birthday TP.