Biblical conditions for the first of the autumn events and with lashing rain accompanied by gusts of wind it was a soggy affair from the start that just got wetter as the day wore on.
Beanie Sturgess and her team always run a cracking event and it was sad for them that conditions deteriorated and all their hard work in setting up the track and the venue became squelchy to say the least. Dress codes went out of the window as the day progressed and riders were clearly putting on anything dry they could find in the truck as Andrew Nicholson appeared at the showjumping in a hoodie whilst Ludwig Svennerstal donned a high vis raincoat that certainly stood out!
Jonelle was first up with Elixir (Cedric) and having scored a 32 on the flat had already decided before she show jumped that there was no way she was going cross country! Cedric has been a little brat all year and as she said, what was the point in setting herself up for the walk of shame which was more than possible given the conditions and Cedric’s questionable work ethic! Cedric jumped a lovely clear round and hacked back to the truck with a smug look on his face, no doubt anticipating his next move only to find himself withdrawn.
Next up was Diamante (Monte) having her second intermediate start. Jonelle turned into a proper Princess and withdrew her after the dressage stating that her next two events are in Europe, on surfaces and nothing would be achieved by jumping her in slippery mud. Her point is totally valid and absolutely the right decision for the horse but Tim did look a little envious as she changed into jeans and wellies and donned a bright red umbrella to walk around with which didn’t endear her to most of the remaining horses and riders. She did come down to the showjumping to support Tim with his three advanced horses though which was pretty impressive.
Tim had three rides in the OI class which, as always at Dauntsey, carried a £1000 first prize. The dressage turned into a bunfight between Tim and Christopher Burton who also had three advanced horses lined up. Falco won the test with a 22, Spartaco (Sparty) was hot on his heels for a 23 and Wesko (Dash) was a bit surprised to be overtaken by the young guns with a 25. All three of them show jumped clear which left Tim with a bit of a dilemma as technically only Dash could go quick as both Falco and Sparty are departing for Lignieres on Monday night.
Sparty cantered round effortlessly clear and looked very confident with a long route at Beanie’s brand new rider puzzler that few were prepared to risk adding 12 faults for eventual 7th. Sparty did his first event as a gangly 4 year old at Dauntsey and he has matured into a really classy advanced horse off to contest his second 4L.
Next up was Dash who zipped around the track as expected of a 5 star horse until he came up from the river crossing to the brush arrowhead close to the finish. And in a total surprise act he said no, quite determinedly, not once but three times! Not since 2013 has Dash been so naughty but perversely Tim was quite happy saying that when Dash gets cheeky it is when he is in the form of his life so he was quite happy to head off to Pau with his 17 year old feeling like he did 7 years ago.
By now the ground was starting to ride pretty heavy, the intermediates were retiring left right and centre, Burto had pretty much sealed the win with Graf Liberty ( although it was his Quality Purdey who eventually won) and Tim decided on discretion being the better part of valour with Falco. It was beginning to be a bit of a lottery out on course and Falco has had his issues along his path to advance. Also, having blitzed around Cornbury a couple of weeks ago, it was felt it was a risk too far with Lignieres running this week. Hell, if Dash takes a dislike to a brush arrowhead it wouldn’t be the most fun to ride to with Falco!
So as the muddy Horseboxes trundled out of the lorry park and the girls at Mere Farm had probably just finished plaiting the novices for Saturday it was announced that all competition on Saturday was abandoned. Sunday’s decision is pending but I have to say its unlikely as it still hasn’t stopped raining!