Winter's cool cross country at Blenheim

What a course! 10 eliminations, 12 retirements and just 33 clear rounds with only one rider making the optimum time. Refusals and run outs were scattered across the mammoth CCI*** course and the results delighted designer Eric Winter.

 “I was really pleased with the results, there were stops all over the place,” he said. “If there were holes in a rider’s training, it found them out.” With the course being longer than last year, Eric knew that time was going to be influential however some of the problems did surprise him. Gemma Tattersall was the only rider to make it home clear and under time.

Wendy Schaeffer may have picked up penalties at the Ariat Dew Pond but made 5AB look easy

The most influential jump on course was undoubtedly Five AB, the Fidelity Fund Finder, a double of brush like corners which caused 18 stops and many retirements. Eric explained that whilst this jump was particularly complex, because it was the first proper question early in the course, it tested which combinations were on the ball. Another combination towards the end of the course that caught many out (including our very own Wendy Schaeffer) was fence 21AB, the Ariat Dew Pond. The narrow arrow head that made up the second element of this fence caused problems for those horses that were tired and losing concentration in the final minutes of the course. 10 combinations were caught out and lost their line to the second element of this testing fence.

Aoife Clark told us at yesterday’s press conference that her mare was supremely talented and Fenya’s Elegance did not disappoint. Aoife flew around the course in one of the fastest rounds of the day, picking up just 4 time penalties.

“She was amazing, it’s her first time at this level, she’s a nine year old mare, I’ve just had the ride on her this year and she just tried her heart out,” the Irish star said “She did get a little tired but she just kept coming up with the goods, she’s a little fighter.” 

 Debbie Higgs talks to Aoife Clark



It’s all about the internationals at the top of the leader board in this CCI*** class. In second place heading into the final phase tomorrow is France’s Jean Teulere riding Matelot Du Grand Val. Jean had his foot down hard on the accelerator and he was one of the fastest rounds of the day. He sits on a score 45.5 penalties ahead of tomorrow’s show jumping. Jean is already looking ahead to next year’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games which will, of course, take place in France.

“The horse is tremendously qualified for 4*, he has come a long way in the dressage,” Jean said (with help of a translator). As for tomorrow’s show jumping? “Who knows, it could be an all clear, it could be one fault, it could be two,” he laughs. 

      It wasn't "the smoothest of rounds" but Clark Montgomery certainly got the job done today

“It definitely wasn’t the smoothest cross country round,” said Clark “But he responded when it got a little bit hairy.” Clark is all ready for the final phase tomorrow and Loughan Glen has pulled up well after cross country. “It is a little bit nerve racking but it’s always a little bit better to be sitting in my position than to be the one that has everything to lose, I have everything to gain really.”

The New Zealand riders have certainly been at top of their game recently and today was no exception. Jonelle Richards had a fantastic round on Faerie Dianimo and she moved up the leader board to sixth place. Jonelle’s husband and fellow Kiwi Tim Price also had a super round and he sits just behind her in seventh. There’s nothing like a bit of couple rivalry to spice things up!

Jonelle shared through her thoughts on today’s course, the recent results of Team New Zealand and the future of this little mare

 Rupert Bell talks to New Zealand's Jonelle Richards


Our Australian representatives in this CCI*** class certainly set off across the country with great enthusiasm and proficiency. Warren Lamperd and Wendy Schaeffer made the troublesome double of brush corners at fence five look positively easy. However they both encountered problems further on. Wendy was yet another victim of the apex at Fence 21, an unfortunate run out occurred when Koyuna Sun Dancer failed to lock onto the second element. The pair looked fantastic up till that point and were cruising around at a brilliant pace. However with so many problems across the class, Wendy is still sitting mid field.

      Wendy and Dancer through the main arena

Warren and Silvia were caught out at the B element of Fence 11, the Abingdon & Witney College Bar. Whilst refusals were scattered across the field, they were not the only combination to be pick up 20 penalties at this fence. Warren continued on course without any more problems and will go into tomorrow’s show jumping with nothing to lose. You can see how professionally Warren rode the dreaded double of brush corners below.


CIC 3* 8 and 9 Year Old class

      Sam and Favorit Z were sadly eliminated after jumping their round

The show jumping challenged the best of the best and proved to be quite influential in the 8/9 year old CIC***. Just 15 combinations achieved clear rounds in the large class and whilst quite a few riders left all of the poles in their cups, they were punished for being cautious with many racking up time faults. William Fox-Pitt had a mixed day but he still demonstrated why he is such a power house in the eventing world. He produced two faultless rounds on both his rides in the class (however he was unfortunately eliminated on Freddie Mac due to a contravention of a boot rule as was Sam Griffiths and Favorit Z but more on that below).

William currently sits in the lead on Fernhill Pimms, winner of the Intermediate class at the Festival of British Eventing just last month.


Chris Burton bounced into the arena aboard Graf Liberty who looked fresh and ready to go. Apart from one unlucky rail, the pair jumped around beautifully and will enter the final phase tomorrow in second place.

Emma Dougall and Belcam Bear had a very controlled round. Emma cleared every fence and apart from giving the fifth fence a good rattle, all poles stayed put. Unfortunately Emma racked up four time faults in pursuit of her lovely round but she still holds onto third place ahead of the cross country tomorrow.

Bill Levett and Improvise are also sitting in a good position after today’s show jumping. The pair had a fantastic clear round to stay on their dressage score of 42.5. Bill is already looking ahead to tomorrow’s job and predicts that the course could be tough. “There’s some big fences out there and the forecast for tomorrow is not great so that could be a big influence,” Bill said. “If he feels alright tomorrow and the brakes are good then I’ll try and be as competitive as I can.”


Debbie caught up with Bill after his show jumping round


Kevin McNab also made the influential show jumping course look relatively easy. There are many Fernhill horses out and about this weekend and Kevin certainly demonstrated why that is. The Aussie expat and Fernhill Quality Street jumped an impressive clear round and currently lie in ninth place on a penalty score of 45.6.

      Up In The Air is well named

Paul Tapner looked dashing in his bright red jacket. As one of the first to enter the ring in the morning on Up In The Air, Paul cantered around clear and under time, leaving them in 16th place. This perhaps gave those to come a false sense of security as the following rounds had rails dropping across the course. The red rocket was not quite as fortunate on his second ride Indian Mill, racking up eight penalties and dropping him back to tenth.

      Shane and Virgil jump clear

Shane Rose and Virgil II rounded off the success in the show jumping for the Aussies in this 8/9 year old CIC*** class. Shane left all poles in their place, leaving him on his dressage score and moving him up the field. If today’s CCI cross country is anything to go by then tomorrow is sure to be influential and Shane, like all combinations will be looking to add as little to their score as possible.

And, to boot ..............

Unfortunately Sam Griffiths and William Fox-Pitt were eliminated after completing their show jumping rounds because they both used a pair of boots that are not allowed for age classes. “There is a rule which I was aware of that you’re not allowed to have back boots on that would in any way effect how the horse may jump because it’s an age class, I put some boots on that I believed would be fine,” William said. “They do have a bit of elastic in the side when you put them on just to stop them from being too tight or too loose.” 

 William Fox-Pitt talks to Rupert Bell '"boots 'n all"


Click here to read Blenheim's official statement regarding Boots for Young Horse classes

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