The Show Must Go On despite the Weather!
It was a very difficult week for the Equerry International Bolesworth Horse Show near Chester in the UK as constant rain meant that the show directors decided that it was not suitable for the general public to attend. On the first day, Wednesday, an announcement from the show declared that the public would not be allowed to attend the show, and this would be for the whole week. However, it appeared that this was not necessarily the case as the organisers were going to play things on a day to day basis, despite general media comment that the whole show was closed to the public. While nobody wants a show to be cancelled or part cancelled, the competitors, trade stands and public needed a definitive decision; not some sort of holding position which frankly is useless for anyone. It is fully understandable for Nina Barbour and her team, to try to keep the whole show going in such difficult conditions, also keeping in mind the safety issues for all concerned. This is the first show of such stature I know of in the UK where the competition has continued but behind closed doors. Whether it was the right way to proceed, time will tell, but the Bolesworth team are known for thinking outside the box of which this is just one example, and they should certainly be congratulated for that.
The First and Second Days
These were mainly devoted to dressage. Both big and small tours. In the rainy damp conditions, The PSG part of the small tour, was won by Carl Hester riding Brioso, a Hanoverian mare.
There were 16 starters. Again in the big tour Grand Prix, there were also 16 starters with Charlotte Dujardin bringing out Emma and Jill Blundell’s Mount St John. This was the first time the dark brown Hanoverian mare was seen since WEG in 2018. The combination won the class with a really good 80.348%, so clearly there was no ‘ring rust’. Second was Garreth Hughes riding Classic Briolinca and third was Charlotte on her second ride Erlentanz, both obtaining scores of 75% plus. Fourteen combinations started for the small tour Inter 1 and again Carl Hester on Brioso won with a score of 78.520%. Second was Luis Principe from Portugal riding the bay gelding R.S. Rapheal with 75.800%
Day two seemed to be a re-run of day one. The weather didn’t let up and the same combinations won the day’s classes. Charlotte Dujardin took the Grand Prix Special with Mount St John with the best score the pair had ever received with 82.979%. Carl Hester and Gareth Hughes took second and third places. In the freestyle, Charlotte again won, but this time on her other ride Erlentanz with a score of 84.100%. The runners up in this class changed though with Richard Davison riding Bubblingh and Denmark’s Ulrik Moelgaard riding Michigan.
Day two also saw the Eventers Challenge. This is a competition with cross country type jumps and proper show jumping jumps in the arena – so not unlike a showjumping class. Gemma Tattersall won with ease and there were 19 starters.
With the dressage finishing, it was the turn of the showjumpers to start their competitions. The main competition over the jumps was the FEI Bloomfield’s Horseboxes 1.45M two phase class which featured 46 riders. It was won by local rider Keith Shore riding Iron Lady Van T Meulenhof in 44 seconds for the first phase and 26.51 for the second. American rider Laura Kraut was second with Kenneth Graham from Ireland taking third spot.
Finally, during day two the organisers decided that the event would not open to the public at all due to the past and current inclement weather and ground conditions. While the arenas were well drained with their riding surfaces, the ground conditions everywhere else were atrocious.
Nevertheless, the competition continued as arranged. There were five international classes, the most prestigious being the Puissance sponsored by Equitop GLME. This, rather like the weather ended up being a bit of a damp squib with only 8 starters The title went to a three way split between. Holly Smith riding Quality Old Joker, Alfie Bradstock riding H d’Or and Ireland’s Michael Pender riding Hearton du Bois Halleux. All three completed five rounds with the final height getting to 7 foot 2 inches. This was the fifth time that Holly Smith won a puissance in the last 12 months. Quite an achievement!
Today there were three international classes, the best being the Grand Prix CSI 2* in which 54 combinations took part. This class was sponsored by Voltaire Design. Kayleigh Watts, the winner acknowledged that this was probably the biggest win of her career. She was riding an eleven year old mare Ninkie de Vy Z beating fellow British rider Richard Barton riding Donata by just under a second in the jump off. There was only one other double clear, and that was with Steven Franks riding Brutus III who occupied the third spot. Afterwards Kayliegh said “It is probably the biggest class I’ve won. I have been riding the horse since before Christmas, and did the Sunshine Tour. She (Ninkie de Vy Z is incredible. I have never had a horse like that in the arena. All she wants to do is jump clear.”
The CSI FEI 4 star class today was the John Oates Horseboxes Speed Class. This was won by veteran rider John Whitaker in a time of 59.03 seconds with a clear round riding Argento. Behind him in second was fellow British rider Keith Shore, again with a clear round but just over a second behind the winner. Third was Irishman Michael Pender who continued his good show, another 2 seconds behind, but again clear. There were a total of 9 clear rounds from 44 starters.
The culmination of this difficult show for Nina Barbour and her excellent team regarding the weather ends with the main show Grand Prix sponsored by the title sponsor of the event, Equerry Horsefeeds.This was the main and most prestigious class of the week worth 33,000 euros to the winner. Again it has to be said what a shame it had to be run without the public participation who always bring such atmosphere to such classes. There were 39 runners from six different nations to tackle the Kelvin Bywater designed course. In a close contest, Belgium’s Rik Hemeryck riding the 11 year old stallion Ulyss Morinda won with two clears and 38.33 seconds on the clock. In second, America’s Laura Kraut riding 10 year old Vvaramog de Breve just half a second behind the winner. In third place, it was great to see Ellen Whitaker, who has been out of the main drag for
some time come to the fore. She was riding her own and Brenda Morelli’s black stallion Arena UK Winston. She also had two clears and against the clock took 39.31 seconds to complete. There were five clear rounds in the first round which went on to the jump off.
In conclusion, once again the show organisers put on a spectacular show with a plethora of different and interesting classes to suit all talents. The effort to entertain those at the show after each day’s competition was again very imaginative. The only blight was the weather and Nina Barbour and her team certainly didn’t deserve that.