King of Barbury Reclaims His Crown
The Barbury International Horse Trials is one of the main horse trials held each year in the UK. on the 2000 acre Barbury Castle Estate near Marlborough in Wiltshire. Riders from nineteen different nations took part. Over the four day show, about 1000 horses were expected to run. Twenty four elite riders, those who have represented their country at European, World and/or Olympic level took their chances. The headline class the 4 star short horse trial which attracted 86 entries.
A further 200 horses were entered for the CCI 3* and just to keep the judges busy, there were another few Intermediate and Novice sections to be competed for as well.
The cross country course is set across the rolling hills of the Marlborough downs that some think is the best cross country viewing for spectators in the country. The course was built by the Willis Brothers from Wiltshire who also have built the Badminton Course for many years, and designed by Alec Lochore who was the course designer for the first time taking over from Captain Mark Phillips. It uses the contours of the hills surrounding a bowl in which the spectators can easily watch as well as housing the arenas for the dressage, showjumping and trade stands.
Unlike many of the top FEI horse trial formats, where the dressage happens first, followed by the cross country and finally the show jumping, in this event, the dressage was the first part as normal, but then the show jumping preceded the cross county. Hence the word ‘short’ appearing in the title FEO CCI3*.
Under new management this year, the event continued to attract thousands of visitors and maintain its friendly relaxed atmosphere.
The course was made up of 25 fences with 35 jumping efforts. The fence that is synonymous with Barbury is fence 17, the ‘woodhenge’. This is combination of 3 jumping efforts within a round structure resembling the famous Stonehenge, which is only a short distance away. All three jumps set in a line, but the third off set to the first two which caught out several of the riders. The second rather unique fence is a combine harvester, with the actual jumping effort being made over the cutting bar. This proved to be more of a rider frightener as the single jumping effort appeared to provide few problems, despite the horses obviously having to gallop along side and very close to the huge machine. The other fence worth a mention was the one of three water complexes, placed next to the main showjumping arena. The horses had to come up quite a steep incline before turning to face a hanging log into the water.
This too was offset and was designed having quite a gap between the edge of the water on one side and right up to the edge on the other. Not particularly intimidating for the riders, but with the gap, this fence appeared to be very difficult for the horses to evaluate where they should take off from. As a result there were several refusals and eliminations. To have rider frightener fences, is one thing but to have fences which can fool horses is another matter in my opinion. To ask a rider to have to work out the best way to ride a course is one thing but to purposefully offset fences to fool a horse I think is another matter, and I think this was rather the case with this water complex. I think it may have been better to have had the jump into the water more equal on both sides rather than a sort of triangular effect which potentially made it difficult for a horse to properly evaluate the problem in front of it. The ground conditions were good despite the dry ground as the organisers spent a considerable amount of time in aerating the course.
Eighteen combinations of the 86 withdrew before the cross country and a further twenty one were either eliminated or retired. Fourteen of those ending their competition rather abruptly, happened at the water complex. Thirty three combinations ended up clear cross country.
In the lead after the dressage was twenty one year old Lincolnshire based Mollie Summerland riding Charly Van Ter Heiden with 23.8 penalties. Pippa Funnell was second riding MGH Grafton Street on 27.1 and third was Liz Halliday-Sharp from the USA riding Deniro Z. with 27.5 penalties.
In the show jumping, Mollie Summerland collected another 4 penalties with the dropping of one pole and with only 7.2 time faults cross country, she ended the day in second overall position. Pippa Funnell had a pole down and collected .4 of a time fault in the showjumping and despite a difficult cross country she was clear but had 14 time faults. She ended up in 5th place with 45.5 penalties. Liz Halliday-Sharp was clear in the showjumping, but retired before the cross country faze.
Alexander Bragg riding Hester was overall third. With 29.4 penalties after the dressage, he had one pole down in the showjumping and went clear in the cross country with 10 time faults. He finished on a score of 43.4. In fourth place was Zara Tindall, who in fact held the lead for a long time, on a total of 45.5 points, the same as Pippa Funnell, but went ahead of Pippa as she had fewer time penalties on the cross country than Pippa. She was riding Watkins.
The winner was five times previous winner Andrew Nicholson riding for New Zealand on board Swallow Springs with a total of 33.8 penalties. Now six times winner, he collected 29.4 penalties in the dressage and another 4 time faults in the cross country, but otherwise was clear in both the cross country and showjumping fazes.
The newly crowned ‘king of Barbury’ said afterwards “Swallow Springs has always been a very good horse, but he likes to look about – you can be coming to a difficult fence and his mind is on the bar or getting an ice-cream. Now, though, he’s very focused “ Andrew Nicholson is based very near Barbury at Lockerige and he regards this event as his local show.