I think the weekend could most certainly be classed as challenging! The logistics of getting 15 horses to and from the event, the event being far from local, torrential rain and blazing sunshine and the pressure of running potential and chosen Olympic team horses in front of selectors all add up to more pressure on the whole team.
As always Tim and Jonelle stepped up to the plate with some great results and some typically grounding eventing issues. Tim ran the whole gamut of dressage marks with a 40.3 from Tenz in the 100 and an 18.2 from Falco in the OI which just goes to show the difference in experience he was riding across the board this weekend.
Saturday saw Tim’s best result of the weekend when Gurtera Jimmy Clover (Jimmy) ran 2nd in the Open Novice, picked up £78 and looks to be a solid new member to the team. They added just 1.2 time to their 25.8 dressage and seem to have gelled very quickly. Tenz was so green in the dressage that he trotted when he should have been cantering and cantered when he should have been trotting and when a car came by he stopped and stared at it! The 100 horses have not been helped this season by being balloted so often and the fancy showjumping arena caught Tenz out as he looked at everything except the three fences he had down. He was good cross country though for a clear with 6 time.
Jonelle’s three young horses all went through their tests without any massive drama and Full Monty de Lacense (FM), Cooley Seeing Magic (Guthrie) and Fernhill Kankan (Kankan) all had 4 ‘faultitis’ in the showjumping but gained valuable experience in their first properly grown up arena. Keysoe has undergone a huge revamp in the last couple of years and with hospitality lining two sides of the all weather, lots of flags and bunting, music paying with a beat, the tennis and Formula 1 on screens in the marquees it is quite a big deal. The cross country is built by Jump 1 and Jonelle described the courses as all spot on, educational and a good experience across the board. She had great rides on all three who all went clear and she did remark on how much improvement the really green Kankan and FM have made in the last month!
Tim didn’t have quite so much fun on Nuances de Jarsay (Frenchie) after the dressage phase was done. Frenchie did allot of growing up in the showjumping but caught three poles whilst doing so and then added a 20 to his cross country tally. On the plus side he did very nice tests on his two 3*Short horses with Chio 20 on a 27.7 and Viscount Viktor on a 30. Jonelle had Tomochichi in the 3*S as well and she was reasonably happy with a 33 and described him as being much nicer to ride than at Tweseldown in the mud! Curly Girl is a new ride for Tim but having been beautifully produced by Jonelle they had a cracking start with a 27 and a double clear for 5th place in the open Novice.
Sunday started off muggy and warm and Tim got told off for rocking up to a phase minus his jacket. He quietly pointed out that the jacket rule was changed last year from compulsory unless the event relaxed the rule to riders choice. He then said of course, out of respect, he could go and get a jacket which the official said was not necessary before declaring loudly ‘Oh, you are a lovely man” which was pretty funny. By the time Jonelle rocked up to the dressage warm up on Grappa Nera (Grape) she too was in shirtsleeves but within a couple of minutes the skies had darkened and a tremendous rainstorm literally dumped what felt like inches of rain on Keysoe and its competitors. Grape was quite excused her 40 dressage! She then backed that up with a very grown up double clear and looks on flying form.
Tim’s 3 star rides went gradually downhill throughout the day as Chio jumped a lovely clear before Viktor just clipped a rail. Then Viktor picked up a 20 cross country as his inexperience at this level left him a bit unsure of a question before Chio rather scrambled through the water before deciding enough was enough for one day at the next fence and walked home. Meanwhile Chichi and Jonelle picked up 8 in the showjumping before a good clear cross country to tick their qualification box.
Tim’s day started to improve considerably on his advanced horses with Falco being the highlight with his score of 18, Happy Boy banging out a 27 fresh off the truck and a long journey and Vitali a 21. Falco jumped yet another blinding show jumping round before oozing quality around the cross country on ground that was considerably more giving than the day before. Happy jumped an assured showjumping and dealt with all the distractions in a very grown up way. Being a 7 year old World Young Horse Champion does leave Happy with quite a sense of the big occasion and he looked very at home. There was a serious coffin out on the OI track which I flagged up as potentially being the coffin of doom but Terry Miller, being one half of Happy’s ownership quickly jumped to the positive side and named it the Coffin of Redemption. I think in the end it was the Coffin of Positive Riding as the ditch was jumped but Tim dropped his whip in the process! Luckily there was no need for it for the rest of the track as Happy found everything else very much to his liking. Vitali, like the others, warmed up in the quiet indoor arena and then found himself in the blazing sun and cantering into a very busy arena which was enough to distract him enough to pick up 12 jumping and a time fault. He was class across country but it was a timely reminder that plenty of jump practice will be in place for his Olympic debut.
Jonelle was having a fun time with her planned Olympic partner Grovine de Reve in the dressage and was really pleased with his test but was a little less pleased with her score of 31. Rev then jumped his socks off in the showjumping and blitzed his way around the OI track. Killbunny Andy was a bit like Vitali, warmed up well and got a bit of shock in the jumping to pull three rails but was good cross country apart from a gawp at a ditch when he picked up a 20. Jonelle described it as him having a ‘bit of a shock” as opposed to anything serious.
Due to the cross country running late Jonelle ended up being late for the OI showjumping on Classic Moet (Molly) and Grape. Luckily Jackie Olivier who is part of the Grape Syndicate spotted the arena party starting to change the course and she found an official just in time to hold it for Jonelle. As Jonelle warmed up first Molly then Grape there was a posse of unhappy looking 100 riders but she couldn’t have gone any quicker! This is what happens when events follow ‘number order’ with no exceptions…they are far better to run a whiteboard and get the pros through as fast as possible, believe me, the pros main aim is to get done as fast as possible!
Oblivious to the unfriendly eyes on her Molly warmed up looking a bit bored with the indoor then bounced into the main arena with a look of pure joy on her face. She jumped a super round, judging one or two by the millimetre but in a great shape and having so much fun. Grape indured more unfriendly stares as she spends more time warming up on the flat than jumping fences but she too then jumped a solid clear. Molly was basically purring round the cross country and was on cloud 9 back at the truck afterward and Grape also made light of the track so the day ended on a really positive note.
Big thanks to the team at Keysoe, it was a terrific event and showcased what really can be done. The owners and supporters were thrilled to be able to sip champagne ( if they desired) ringside and it felt as near to normal as anything we have done for the last 18 months in the UK.