International event rider Michael Owen, proved to be the one to beat in the Advanced Intermediate (AI) class at Kelsall Hill Horse Trials – an event kindly sponsored by Istanbul BBQ Chester.
With a total prize pot of £3,000 up for grabs a record number of entries were received from riders wanting to challenge the reign of two-times champion Paul Sims, who returned to defend his title with his 2015 winner, Last Secret.
An impressive performance from Michael and The Highland Prince saw them claim the £1,000 winner’s cheque by finishing just 0.4 penalties ahead of the reigning champion. Third place went to Louise Harwood and the Badminton-bound Whitson after penalties incurred in the show jumping phase proved to be costly.
Michael, who is based at Kelsall Hill Equestrian Centre, has a long-standing partnership with The Highland Prince and, at 17-years-old, this remarkable event horse is showing no signs of slowing down.
Michael commented: “’Darcy’ did his first event at Kelsall Hill 11-years ago and he still feels as good as ever. He’s so conditioned in his body that we just keep him ticking over these days, he goes around the farm ride at home and schools in the arena once a week to help with suppleness.”
Darcy will next be aimed at the CIC3* at Tattersalls International Horse Trials in the hope of team selection for the Nations Cup.
“In my opinion, Kelsall Hill is one of the best events around. There’s not many venues where you can view the show jumping and 80% of the cross country track from where you’re stood which makes it perfect for owners and spectators.” AI Runner up, Paul Sims.
Louise Harwood has had a less than perfect start to the season. Her schedule was disrupted following a fall at Belton Horse Trials and then bad luck plagued her journey to Kelsall Hill when her lorry broke down.
Louise explained: “The organisers were just brilliant about things, I couldn’t have asked for more and everyone was so helpful. The ground at Kelsall Hill is perfect so it was great to give Whitson a good gallop in preparation for Badminton, it was frustrating to pick up a few time penalties, but I’m happy with his run.”
| Three cheers for Archie
Alexandra Farrar-Fry and Cruisings Slainte Mhath claimed the Cazenove Capital Management Open Intermediate section, despite suffering with a case of ‘mental block’ in the dressage phase.
Alexandra explained: “‘Archie’ is not the easiest horse in the world and he took umbrage at a straw bale outside of the dressage arena. We held it together for the first few movements but then my mind went totally blank. It just proves that you don’t have to be perfect to win at this game!”
The duo moved up to BE Intermediate level last year and they have secured qualification for the Open Championships at the British Festival of Eventing 2017.
Ireland’s Mark Kyle enjoyed a good day at the office when he claimed the OI runner’s up prize aboard Maria Doel’s Gortfadda Diamond, while his Badminton entry Jesmond Justice finished in third-place.
What’s behind the name? Alexandra Farrar-Fry’s winning ride Cruisings Slainte Mhath, is named after an Irish greeting meaning ‘good health’ or ‘cheers’.
| Pistol Pete hits the target
Sarah Stretton and the diminutive Danger Mouse VI were unstoppable in the Cazenove Capital Management Intermediate, leaving AI rivals Paul Sims and Michael Owen with another battle on their hands for the remaining medal positions.
Sims gained the advantage on this occasion with Sharon Bayston’s Contiki Too when Michael and Jim’s Pal rolled a pole in the show jumping arena, dropping them into third place.
Rugby-based Sarah Stretton, part-owns her winning ride Danger Mouse VI with Heather Foster. Known at home as ‘Pistol Pete’, Sarah took over the ride on this 15.2h, chestnut stallion four seasons ago.
Sarah commented: “Pete is just mega and I’m really chuffed with him! Kelsall Hill is one of my favourite places as the courses are varied with plenty of questions which is perfect for training horses. This is a ‘must-have’ fixture in my diary.”
The ground at Kelsall Hill is just perfect and the educational cross country courses encourage positive, forwards riding. It’s wonderful that the AI class has a good prize pot on offer, I think that it’s great for the sport.” International Event Rider, Louise Harwood.
| A world-class field
The outstanding cross country courses designed by Captain Mark Phillips, attracted some of the best riders in the business across three busy days of competition including Nicola Wilson, Piggy French and China’s Alex Hua Tian.
Visitors enjoyed trade stands, food concessions and free face painting for children, while other highlights included an arena eventing competition and a side saddle show.
In the money: Kelsall Hill was a happy hunting ground for Paul Sims with no less than 7 of his rides scoring top-ten placings across the BE90, BE100, Novice and Intermediate sections!
Kelsall Hill’s next British Eventing fixture will run from 22-24 September 2017.