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Gatcombe Festival of British Eventing

Gatcombe is a real highlight for the middle part of the season. It was great to have two horses qualified for the Intermediate Championships following their 2* successes.  It's always a hotly contested competition, run at advanced level, and the field is full of next year's stars.


Charlotte Opperman's Away Cruising, who qualified after finishing 2nd in the CCI** at Tattersalls, and Anne Chapman's Vrolijk, who was 4th in the CCI** at Osberton, are always much of a muchness in the dressage. Once again were virtually level pegging on good dressage scores of 29 and 29.5.  I was delighted with their show jumping rounds as the course at Gatcombe is always well up to height and the undulations of the main arena make it more challenging. Away Cruising, who has improved hugely in this phase, jumped a lovely clear round, whilst Vrolijk jumped beautifully, despite having a rare rail down. Both horses coped very well with the fairly busy main arena. The crowds at Gatcombe are very close and for horses 'on the up' it is different to what they are used to and a bit of an eye opener, but good preparation for crowds at 'the big Bs' (Bramham, Blenheim, Badminton, Burghley, etc.). Both Vrolijk and Away Cruising are very level headed and (having ridden plenty of hot horses over the years at Gatcombe) it's nice to ride a pair who are not phased even if it was a new experience for them.


Having walked the course Vrolijk's owner, Anne, and I didn't feel that the number of drop fences was worth the risk so he was be saved for another day. I felt that Away Cruising would benefit from the outing, particularly since he hadn't run for a month, and he gave a me a great ride. He is a big rangey horse so Gatcombe is far from the ideal type of course for him with its changing undulations and tight turns, but I felt he really benefitted from the different type of challange. I was keen for him to be exposed to all types of questions to give him a complete education on his way through the grades.


He will now be aimed at Blenheim in the Autumn, which I think will really suit him. He's very scopey so Blenheim's big fences and open galloping course will hopefully play to his strengths. Having found him as a 4 year old, and produced him through the levels, it's always very rewarding to step up to the higher levels and all our team are able to take pride when a youngster develops into a competitive advanced horse.


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