Bill LevettI’ve had a productive and happily uneventful weekend at Withington. I’ve been going there since the event first started and it’s really developed in to an important date on our calendar. The organisers put in a huge amount of effort with the courses and ground and it’s a very popular event – my only complaint would be could they run another day/more sections!

Eric Winter builds a great cross country, with good ‘old fashioned’ fences; enough to challenge you but he’s not gone mad on the skinnies as some events now do. I really like to ride the courses at all levels as there is a lot of variety and interesting fences and it rides big and bold. The ground also always rides much better than it feels and whatever the weather they make a real effort to make the ground as good as possible whatever the weather conditions.

I also like that they run classes with three day event FEI dressage tests as that is always an added and interesting dimension – you can see I’m a fan of the event!

Anyway the horses went well; Figgy jumped a nice double clear in the novice, our partnership is developing and she’s growing in confidence. Harry also went well – he did the Houghton 1 star section of the novice and I was particularly pleased with his cross country. He has a great gallop stride and makes it all feel very effortless. Magnus is getting more established on the flat and did a better dressage; he wasn’t as settled as I would like in the show jumping and had a frustrating two rails as he’s a very good jumper – he then went really well cross country which I was really pleased with as he’s still learning his job at intermediate level.

I then had Bella in the Advanced and Coco in the 2 star OI section – Coco was pleased to be out and wouldn’t settle in the walk which was very frustrating, but despite this he still did a great test to lead the dressage. He then jumped a super show jump round but I didn’t run him cross country as he doesn’t need the mileage: he knows his job so I’m going to save him for Houghton Hall. Bella also jumped a lovely show jumping round, but given she’s also very good cross country and we weren’t up among the leaders after the dressage I decided to also save her for another day.

All horses only have so many miles of galloping and jumping in them so I’m firmly of the view that you have to be very disciplined about when to run and what the purpose is – to give a horse experience, gain a qualification, to win or do well if placed well and the ground is good etc.

Anyway I’ve now ridden my last cross country round before Badminton so that’s another stage post passed – the news from Kentucky this weekend is a sobering reminder of the ups and downs that eventing so often provides – thank goodness Oliver is in one piece and his horse is also OK. I heard he was travelling well and it was just ‘one of those things’ – interesting that three horses left a leg and that the frangible pin didn’t break (no one said they were foolproof) and also interesting that Oliver was wearing a point 2 air jacket which might have played a big part in minimising his injuries. Hats off to William on a good win – Cool Mountain has always looked a class horse since his novice days.

I’m now off to clip Tim this evening in advance of Badminton. Matt (Prior) has kindly come down for the night to give me a hand as Tim is none too impressed with the sound of clippers! An evening of clipping and an early start riding Hipp and Tim before Withington today almost before the sun came up – eventing is very much a full on lifestyle, you have to love it and luckily I do, even after all these years.



Posted 25th April

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