I love Blenheim, not because it is my closest stately home event (well, maybe a little) but because it always has that *end of term* feel to it. Riders are usually in jolly spirits, the Saturday night knees up is legendary, and new teams of grooms, trainers, horses and riders have had a season to get used to each other and should be firing on all cylinders. Add to the mix one of the most beautiful settings possible, wonderfully constructed fences and an undulating course and you have a perfect cocktail.
But Blenheim isn’t only about the 3* riders. The much anticipated British Riding Club (Thursday), Pony Club (Friday) and Tri-zone BE 100 (Sunday) Eventer challenges take place within the grounds, and not in a hidden corner, but on the main entryway to the shopping village and the main arenas. This ensures a constant stream of spectators for the sometimes novice partnerships, and horses without miles on the clock are easily found out.
So the RC challenge was where I found myself first thing this morning, snuggling into my coat as grey clouds threatened to burst above us. It became apparent, very quickly, that the time was tight and the course demanded respect. The optimum time of 120 seconds was seemingly impossible to attain as rider after rider slipped and hooked and kicked and cajoled their horses around the course. Riding Club competitions at Blenheim are a real eye opener and exposer of varying riding prowess, and I say that with knowledge, as I represented my RC when it was a show jumping competition on a catch ride that I had sat on once for 10 minutes before the actual 3ft6 – 3ft9 competition. This event is not for the faint hearted spectator and many a voice can be heard extolling the virtues of very honest horses being ridden around by smiling bounce-along riders. It is sometimes hard to watch, but then again where else is one able to compete in such a full on atmosphere, and those without ring miles are bound to find the venue rather intimidating. It also proves that if you are brave enough to have a go you will probably succeed…less talking, more doing!
Anyway, back to the arena, and I had to feel sorry for the morning riders when, as the hours rolled on, the sun came out and the ground dried out. What looked like an unassailable time in the morning became evidently more assailable in the afternoon as studs did their job and very few horses were losing their back ends around the corners. The more experienced riders cut corners, maintained an open and forward rhythm and left the jumps standing and at the end of the day two teams managed to finish on 0 penalties, with Wey Valley being awarded the title – well done to them all, no mean feat to finish on 0!