Blue skies and sunshine at Burnham Market which made a nice change even if it was still freezing! Tim was busy with 5 rides that spanned a real mixture of experience and traditionally Burnham is the first really grown up event of the year and sees the Badminton horses out in force.
No Badminton sadly this year but Burnham gave nothing away and it was a tough showjumping and a really tough cross country. The advanced was full of class horses and yet more than a 3rd had jumping faults cross country which is genuinely quite unusual at this level. The track, the short season last year, the loss of so many of the ‘big’ venues have probably all contributed but on the positive side, all hats off to Falco who led from start to finish and was only one of two horses to make time, the other being Tom McEwen’s TB Dream Big. Falco has earnt this win the hard way on a winding road as his style of jumping is so extravagant he has had some issues along the way and both he and Tim have had to adapt and try different things. A super test followed by his text book clear showjumping and he “came out of the start box like a skinned rabbit’ said Tim who added he was “delighted for Sue Benson” as she is certainly an owner who lives and breathes the sport with her horse.
Another star of the day for Tim was Vitali who he describes as “an absolute pleasure to ride in all three phases” and his good test and double clear are testament to an exciting future in their first advanced together. Tim describes him as “super exceptional” and himself “lucky to ride him”.
Happy Boy was tackling his first advanced and after producing a good test he then lost concentration for a nano second in the showjumping to take out the in of the treble which was certainly the bogey fence of the track. Cross country he was “eyes on stalks” and it was a combination that ran through a hollow up to a big skinny sited on the rising ground that he misread and didn’t really understand the question. Tim noted that hindsight is a wonderful thing and maybe a start at Aston le Walls advanced would have been a bit easier on him! Happy is the real deal and he leant allot about the big step up from intermediate to advanced and Tim is super confidant that he will be ready for the next challenge.
Senza Fine and Ascona M (Ava) were in the OI and Tim was really pleased with a much more settled test from Senza and a super clear round over the coloured poles. The second water was riding tough with a very difficult turn and Senza was one of several victims of this to pick up a 20 here. No reflection on her way of going as she is a brave and bold mare and Tim described it as ‘annoying!”.
Ava started off Tim’s day by being a ‘handful’ which is pretty normal for her! I don’t think Jonelle regrets handing her over to Tim for a second but she is super brilliant as well..a smart test after plenty of work, a very good round showjumping and then her usual enthusiastic run cross country. Ava has had a few moments at Burnham before, its the first really galloping track of the season and it just goes to her head! Tim decided he had a couple of nice horses waiting for him in Kentucky and he didn’t fancy being splattered over a cross country fence as Ava lengthened down the hill towards a planned super jump so he added a couple of circles in along the way to settle her down and school her a bit before she heads out to Strzegom in a couple of weeks. Ava had 40 on the scoreboard but it will set them up perfectly for the next run and unconventional horses need to be prepped in unconventional ways!
Jonelle wasn’t having the most straightforward of days either. McClaren (Mac) was on great form on the flat and Jonelle was very happy with him in his advanced test but then he too just caught the first of the treble in the showjumping for a most unusual 4 faults. They had a great spin cross country including going straight at the tricky first water with the only moment coming when the careful little fella took a good look at the big ditch out the back but dealt with it admirably as always. Killbunny Andy was tackling his first advanced and he found it quite the step up like Happy. He tried hard on the flat, just picked up 4 faults and a bit of time in the showjumping and then got as far as the combination at 8 cross country where he went a bit green and tried to run out at the last second but ran out of room so whacked his hind leg on the fence. Jonelle had no option but to retire as he thought it a mortal wound but it transpired that he is, in fact, fine and will also have learnt allot at Burnham.
Two mares for the intermediate and they are both plenty green enough at this level. They are two quite different mares with differing approaches to problems. Curly Girl tends to go high when she is a bit worried, Diamante (Monte) doesn’t really alter her technique but can get quick on the approach especially in the showjumping. They both tried hard on the flat and Curly put in a great clear round in the jumping. Monte picked up a rail and a couple of time before stepping up really well to go clear cross country and her toughest track to date.
Curly was coping well too until the second water came up with its difficult approach and she decided enough was enough and downed tools for the day. Water jumps are one of the things that Curly does sometime jump a bit unconventionally and she did very well to stand up at Lignieres when it looked like she was going headfirst into it after a stumble so maybe she decided that wasn’t an option she would like to repeat!
As Jonelle said it was a valuable day to know exactly where each horse is in its learning curve and as we know, horses learn from experience. They would never acknowledge it but I think we are all glad that they can head to Kentucky tomorrow with all the boxes ticked and no injuries!