It was a special day today at Barbury Horse Trials where Andrew Nicholson picked up his 5th win at Barbury in the CIC3* winning the Event Rider Masters Barbury section. This time Andrew was riding the veteran campaigner Nereo and his round looked typically smooth all the way round the course. Andrew thanked his team for the win and said he felt the support from the crowd all the way round. He claimed that on a horse like Nereo who knows his job so well, then it’s easy! The addition of the ERM class this year saw Andrew take home £16,000 in prize money which is a substantial boost in prize money from the regular St James Place sponsored CIC3* which sees the winner take home £5000.
This year the course designed by Captain Mark Phillips has had a few changes in direction and many of the riders felt it improved the flow of the course round what is a twisty seven minute track. On the whole there were very few problems in the ERM section with the most notable scalp claimed being that of Oliver Townend on Cillnabradden Evo who ended up in the ditch of the ditch and brush and Oliver flying over the hedge after being well up with the leaders after the first two phases. Today was also not Mark Todd’s day on Leonidas with a surprising 31 faults in the Sjing followed by a 20 penalties at fence 7. Considering the calibre of entrant in the ERM section the Sjing proved to be very influential with clear rounds rare.
The runner up in the ERM class was Paul Tapner who had overall a good day at Barbury. Paul took away both a 2nd, 4th and 5th in CIC3* classes this weekend. Paul alternates Yogi Bear and Kilronan in the ERM series and today it was Yogi Bear who had a classy round to finish in 2nd just 2 seconds under the optimum time. It was Kilronan who picked up the 4th place in the CIC3* and the mare Vanir Kamira who came 5th. The long term plan is for Kilronan to carry on campaigning in ERM classes and CIC3* while Vanir Kamira heads to Burghley. Paul feels Burghley will really suit this mare.
3rd place went to Gemma Tattersall on Santiago Bay. Santiago Bay is an 8yo mare by Ars Vivendi and she belied her
inexperience to power round the course 7 seconds inside the time. Gemma Tattersall is on fire at the moment. Sadly for the crowd today Gemma withdrew Quicklook who is her reserve horse for Rio before cross country in the St James Place CIC3*despite leading the dressage and jumping clear.
The St James Place CIC3* saw several withdrawals from horses who are reserves or heading to Rio and the withdrawal of leader Gemma Tattersall left the competition open.
The winner was Chris Burton on Polystar I finishing on a score of 42.2 with nothing to add to their dressage score. Polystar only arrived with Chris in January after Chris was rung by his Swedish owner Michaela Sandberg to see if he would take on the horse to sell him. Today was the horse’s first attempt at a CIC3*. Chris described him as having a lot of TB and being an exciting horse. Chris was impressed with his stride today and how he coped with the twisty course. It will be interesting to see what happens with the future of this horse and whether the ride remains with Chris Burton. Watching Chris Burton go cross country, you are watching a master at work. He never looks hurried and instead his lines are tight and the horses are trained to react and listen quickly making his aids almost invisible before a fence. Chris Burton probably ranks alongside Michael Jung for riding cross country at the moment.
In 2nd place was Nicola Wilson on Bulana. Nicola has been struggling with her brakes on Bulana who is described as a very fiery mare and incredibly switched on when you are riding her. At Bramham difficulties with brakes led to an annoying 20 penalties but this issues had been resolved with the addition of a Kineton noseband to the Cheltenham gag which was used at Bramham. The plan from the offset was to settle into a nice rhythm and to have a good run but the new brakes were so successful the horse felt really settled from the off and they came home with just 2.4 time which was good enough for them to pick up 2nd place. Nicola said the change in direction of Barbury this year really suited her mare who settled well galloping up the hills on a loose rein. it is clear that Nicola adores this mare and she is being aimed at Blenheim 3*. Nicola was asked about her plans with One Too Many and at the moment the plan is for him to go to Aachen, do the ERM class at Blenheim and then head to the 4* at Pau.
The 3rd place spot in the St James Place CIC3* went to Sarah Cohen and Preci Spark’s Treason. Sarah had received a pep talk from 4* rider and cross country speed queen Beanie Sturgis before she set out on today’s cross country about going for it. It seems this pep talk worked because Sarah came home 3 seconds inside the time. Treason is now the only horse which Sarah rides due to putting her family above eventing and because he is such a fabulous horse she did not want to give up on him and their 10 year partnership. With Treason being her only horse, Sarah said that this season the partnership had mixed results and that she was slightly disappointed with them but today’s result confirmed everything she felt about this horse. Sarah now has to do a lot of additional fitness to compete at this level with one horse and in particular it was keeping up her core strength which was the hardest thing. There was a mention of the Insanity DVD as being helpful to sort this! Sarah claimed it was her fault that they had the 4 faults in the show jumping and that she had came in hoping for a good result but had not expected it. The likely plan for this pair was to be Gatcombe followed by Burghley.
Barbury was lucky with the weather holding off until the very last person was on course – Andrew Nicholson – before it
started to rain. As usual Barbury is a fabulous event and today’s event marked 10 years of sponsorship with St James Place. It is long term sponsors like this who help events grow and develop and Barbury really has become a jewel in the eventing season.
My final thought I had while watching Barbury today is thank goodness long format no longer exists. Happy Times looked absolutely amazing at 17 years of age galloping round the ERM CIC3* today and finished 6th with just 2.4 time to add. Several other older horses including Nereo, Kilronan and Cool Mountain looked fantastic and are still in their prime for performance which is good for the sport. Nothing is better than seeing popular horses still enjoying their jobs.