I would imagine that this time last week Cornbury Park must have looked as brown and dry as the rest of the South but since we have had what seems like a whole summers rain in the last week (most of it, I might add, on Thursday afternoon!) it now resembles a rugby pitch after a particularly hard fought All Blacks/England match.
Horseboxes were being towed in on Friday which is a level of typical English Eventing not seen all season. When we rocked up on Saturday the parking was drying mud as were the dressage and main showjumping arena. Well, it is a main arena but since it is also the only showjumping arena the signs of wear and tear were starting to show through after some 5 sections of 2 and 3*S had done due diligence on it. Fair play to Cornbury Park, they gritted their teeth and watched us destroy the previously beautiful ground!
Dressage is a proper hike at Cornbury which suits some but not all. Tim’s five rides were all within 28 to 32.3 which is pretty consistent with Happy Boy being the best and Viscount Viktor the drop score. Jarillo (Milo) sat on 29.8, Coup de Coeur Dudevin (Joker) on 29.9 and Gurtera Jimmy Clover on 32.1. Joker has been in Team Camp as Tim’s direct reserve for Pratoni del Vivaro so found the OI test a little simplified after a week of practising 5*B.
Jonelle’s crew had a wider range of scores…30.2 from 7 year old Full Monty de Lacense (FM) and up to 37.3 from naughty Faerie Magnifico (George) who loves to be a wild child on the route up to the dressage which he knows quite well now and takes full advantage of. Killbunny Andy was much improved with a 30.7, Fernhill Kankan got a bit stuck in the mud for a 32.7 and Hiarado (Jools) didn’t get stuck in the mud at all but produced a 36.4 and was hugely happy about that on the trip back down to the lorry park.
Having seemingly been stuck up at the dressage for hours Tim and Jonelle finally reappeared back at the truck and got changed for showjumping. It’s a real treat when events run the horses through all the phases together and makes life much easier for the troops which today were led by Megan Hodder and included working student Sean Duffy who was also trying to fit in his own 2*S dressage as well as the 10 Price horses. A not inconsiderable effort to say the least.
The showjumping arena has a buzz around it with busy trade stands and the warm up on a slope beside it. It’s a tricky ring to jump clear in, it’s quite tight with a technical, bright and up to height track. The footing was definitely on the tacky side and quite a few of the younger horses struggled to find the right balance and power after a long summer on the firm but it is certainly educational.
Cornbury had also decided to dress the ring crew in High Viz which did ensure none of them got knocked over by mistake as they did not fade into the background but when they sat together in a line behind fence 2 it was quite a visual distraction and maybe the reason a few napped and allot had it down. Tim and Joker were one of them but apparently that was nothing to do with the High Viz and everything to do with Tim’s sloppy ride to it according to his former jockey. Joker also caught the middle of the treble but, as Tim said, he has had a hell of a week with his baptism of fire in Team Camp where he has done tough tests, jumped some tricky showjumping lines and galloped fast down Barbury Castle slopes leaping arrowheads and corners en route. Joker got to hang his jumping boots up at the truck and not go cross-country……nothing at Cornbury could have matched the track that Tim, Sam Griffiths and Jock Paget built at Barbury!
Jonelle’s first ride was George who somehow seems to have transformed himself into a proper jumper during his mini break. Gone is the spook, the skim, the loss of rhythm and he jumped a lovely clear round. It was so nice that I didn’t recognise him much to Jonelle’s amusement! I thought he was Kankan who was so furious that I mistook her for a boy that she went in and jumped her socks off for a clear to prove that she was indeed a very good 7 year old.
Viktor has at times struggled with his balance in a ring like this but he warmed up like an absolute pro and looked to have conquered his demons with a beautiful round. His power is a bonus when the going gets sticky but he listens to Tim now and it was one of the best rounds he has jumped. Jimmy seemed to be piloted by Lewis Hamilton in the warm up as Tim practised his steeplechase speed and Jimmy came up with all the right answers before he executed another brilliant clear in the ring with the pace back to ‘positive’ as opposed to ‘breakneck’.
FM was a bit green to pick up 2 rails but they were genuine errors and he is a game little chap as he keeps on trying and he improved throughout the round. Killbunny Andy was bred for days like this and he is another with plenty of power and scope and he finds a track like this pretty easy. He jumped a lovely clear and looks on great form.
Happy and Tim warmed up well and had an unusual rail but jumped an otherwise assured round as is to be expected. He and Milo are lovely athletic jumpers and after a really spectacular round from Milo Tim exited the arena and commented that ” I could do with 6 of these” which was sweet but a little unrealistic.
Jools, the original Miss Sassy, was bounding around the warm up, throwing great jumps with her trademark ears flat back. She’s not cross, I think she just does it for the aerodynamics but when she copped fence 2 good and proper in the ring she wasn’t cross, she was absolutely furious! Jonelle said she just knuckled over slightly on take off and after that she was above the wings over the entire track and came out scowling at her 4 faults. I dont think she liked us laughing at her either as she had gone so high she picked up 2 time as well!
Back at the truck it was all action for the cross country as Tim and Jonelle prepared to ride 9 horses and jump some 200 cross country fences between them. Just another normal day except that Cornbury is a big, tough track and their World Championship horses had finally escaped the bureaucracy of Calais and were halfway across France as they mounted. Were they bothered? Nah!
They all jumped clear apart from Viktor who, with his new found confidence and possibly a degree of arrogance jumped a really smooth cross country round up until the last combination which was a skinny on five quite forward strides to the corner. Not a question that was tough for Viktor but he decided to see what would happen if he ducked out of the corner. He got his answer very quickly when Tim whacked him one and as he really hated that answer he popped it nicely and put that trick quickly back in its box. As Tim said, not a bad thing to try out before he heads out to Lignieres for his step up a level and most of the cool dudes try it out once in their careers!
And it was nice to see that the star of the day was Andy who picked up 3rd place and a nice rosette for his efforts. Jonelle’s two seven year olds added more to their little pool of experience, the advanced horses loved both the run and the going and it was a happy camp that finally packed up and headed for home.
Now it really is the road to Pratoni with no diversions. As I write (on Sunday morning) the girls sent this photo of themselves just about to enter the Mont Blonc tunnel and drive through to Italy. The crew: L to R: Charlotte Penny, Kerryn Edmans, Marcus Beanie, Kelli Frewin and Jade Roberts will arrive at the stables on Monday morning after stabling in Milan tonight. And hopefully, out of camera sight, there is a massive arctic rig driven by Gigi and a grey hire car that never thought it would leave Swindon in its life. And lets hope Enterprise don’t see this post! Credit Jade Roberts.