British weather and the eventing alphabet

      Your friendly vet is always by your side - at Barbury with Louise Harwood


Mother Nature can be at times a cruel mistress. I should currently be on duty at the picturesque Cholmondeley Castle (pronounced “Chumley”) Horse Trails, but sadly I’m not. Instead of sitting by the water jump I’m back at home sitting at my desk because, early this morning, Cholmondeley was abandoned due to heavy persistent rain.

For those of you who know British Eventing, it’s not surprising to hear of an event being cancelled due to rain. But the tragic irony of this abandonment is that no less than 48 hours prior the UK had been in the grips of a record-breaking heatwave. Trains brought to a standstill due to the tracks buckling in the heat, shops closed due to power failures as the result of over worked fridges, grooms passing out with heat exhaustion and riders all over the country having panic attacks about how hard the ground has gotten.

And then, boom, Mother Nature at her passive aggressive best fights back.



I just would like to point out to all Australian readers that this British “Heatwave” was actually just 4 days in a row of temperatures above 35°C. The maximum in the whole country was only 38.1°C …


All the B’s

I don’t know what it is about British Eventing but they are absolutely obsessed with events that start with the letter B. It almost seems a prerequisite.

Badminton, Burghley, Belton, Burnham, Bicton, Barbury, Burgham, Blair, Blenheim – the list goes on and on.



My long-format eventing diary for 2019 kicked off at Badminton. Even though I’ve been fortunate enough to have vetted at Badminton several times now, it’s still a very special place to work. The history and prestige are unmatched. But this year it was extra special, my first 5* event! Walking through that stone archway into the stables courtyard I pinch myself every time just to make sure it’s real. 

Like previous years I was at Badminton working as a private treating vet helping my clients and their horses complete one of the biggest and boldest challenges on the international eventing circuit. This year’s cross country track certainly showed why Badminton is a 5*. And again, like years previous, most of our clients are young developing riders very much in the early stages of their 5* careers. It’s fantastically rewarding helping these riders and their horses achieve their lifelong goals. We had top 10 finishes, and bottom 10 finishes. But in my mind, when it comes to Badminton, completing all three phases with a sound horse is a win to me.



Fortunately, my veterinary skills weren’t needed too much. The weather was kind and all horses recovered post cross country very well. It’s in the cool down area post cross country that I spend most of my time at Badminton, it’s a hive of activity and a wonderfully fun place to be. Covered head to toe in waterproofs, I love being in the thick of it cooling down horses. In between looking after my own clients, I offered my help to as many of the Aussie riders as I could. Working under our Team Vet “KP” its great hearing the excited/relieved Aussie accents of grooms, riders and owners when their horses return home safely.


        Isabel English and Feldale Mouse at Aachen


Being a proud Queenslander, it was brilliant seeing Isabel English and Feldale Mouse in the cool down area. “Mouse” has to be the Peter Pan of eventing horses, he just never seems to age. I will forever remember the surprise on Tony Mancas’ face when he saw me with bucket and sponge cooling down Mouse.

“What the bloody hell are you doing here?!”

I laughed and smiled

“Just helping a Queenslander. It’s good to see you mate”

No matter where I am, and no matter who it is – if there’s a horse and rider wearing Green & Gold, I will always be there to help.


My traditional Scoreboard picture – I have taken this same picture every time I’ve been at Badminton since 2009 (I have definitely aged a lot…)


Bramham was my next long-format. Bramham is a great venue; beautiful stately home with a challenging cross country course and a spectacular amphitheater of a main arena. I think of it as “Badminton of the North”.

We didn’t have too many riders at Bramham this year but the few that were there had fantastic results in both the Senior 4* and Under25 4*. In both classes it was very rewarding to see horses that we as a clinic have been actively involved in their development step up on the big stage.

Bramham was also great fun as one of our younger vets Emily came to experience her first long format event as a vet. The world of eventing vets is a small one and often difficult to crack into and I have spoken in previous blogs about the enjoyment I get from helping young equine vets progress their career within the FEI. The only way for young vets to learn is to be given the chance to go out there and experience things firsthand.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and senior vets like myself need to remember where we came from, and ensure we provide opportunities for young vets just like the opportunities that were provided to us.  Emily worked hard all weekend and her eyes were certainly opened to the sometimes strange and surreal world of vetting at a long format. She seemed to enjoy herself and thankfully the Bramham polo shirt I bought her as a memento fitted nicely.


#InSafeHands at Barbury with Lambourn Equine Vets (above) and Zara Tindall flies by me on course (below)


Only a 30 minute drive from home, Barbury is my clinic’s local event. With the cross country inside a valley it makes for excellent spectating and is a great fun event to work at. Although it’s a short format the cross country course always is a solid challenge and often keeps our vets busy; thankfully this year we had no serious injuries and all horses that we treated should make a full recovery.



A is for Aachen

If anyone ever creates an equestrian dictionary, or a specific equestrian phonetic alphabet, surely it must start with “A is for Aachen”

Aachen is by far the most magically wonderful amazing equestrian venue I have ever been to. For those of you who haven’t been to Aachen you must. It’s an absolutely must – drop what you are doing, get on the internet and book your tickets now. No, seriously, go do it!



CHIO Aachen World Equestrian Festival as it’s officially known (CHIO = Concours Hippique International Officiel = FEI nomenclature for a multi-discipline festival) is a 10-day long equestrian festival held in the beautiful and historic German town of Aachen. Elite level Eventing, Showjumping, Dressage, Driving and Vaulting are all held together at a permanent sole purpose specifically built equestrian venue.

It’s like a super fancy mini WEG held each and every year with German class and efficiency. I’ve been lucky enough to have travelled the world and work at amazing equestrian venues, but Aachen is the next level. The main arena stadium has 40,000 seats and is sold out every night of the showjumping. The dressage arena sits a mere 8,000 and is sold out almost a year in advance.




Although I was sent to Aachen by the FEI for the Showjumping, I still managed to get away from the jumpers just enough to watch most of the Cross Country. Because I was an official vet for the jumping I wasn’t allowed to work at the eventing, but it was actually quite a nice blessing in disguise as I was able to go out on course and simply be a spectator to cheer on the Aussies. But the lure of the cool down was too strong, so I ended up hanging out in the finish area watching the big screen whilst filling up water buckets for the Aussie Grooms.    

The cross country course at Aachen is built along side the marathon course for Driving which makes for some spectacular jump and obstacle complexes. It’s a tight and challenging course but very accessible from a spectator’s point of view. Wandering around the course I saw lots of Aussie flags and it was great bumping into a few people I knew from home.

Well that’s about it as an update from mid-way thru the northern hemisphere eventing season.

Stay tuned for tales from Burghley, Blair and Blenheim as well as my adventures to the Pony European Championships (yes, that’s actually a thing).

As always,

Keep safe out there

Please bring you and your horse home safe and sound