Reflections on a magnificent Millstreet
What does it take for Eventing to take place? What does it take for an event to be ‘magnificent’?
Clare Chamberlayne reports …
There is little doubting that Event riders are a unique species, brave, perhaps verging on stupid at times, passionate about their horses, and that they could be considered the all round horsemen. However little is ever said about the organisers and owners of an event, yet without such people no events would happen. Save those who’ve been living under a rock, it won’t have escaped your notice that it’s been quite wet in North West England recently, well turns out it’s been even wetter in the west of Ireland. Millstreet has long been synonymous with Showjumping, but the Duggan family kindly agreed a few years ago to hosting Horse Trials at their iconic venue, in addition to everything else they already hosted there. So with no less than 1580 horses stabled at Millstreet the week immediately prior to the horse Trials, for rather a significant Showjumping competition, and the rain pouring down, even the most seasoned of organisers could be forgiven for questioning the possibility of the horse trials going ahead. That is unless your surname is Duggan, in which case cancelling, fortunately for us event riders, was never considered an option. This now sadly old fashioned refusal to quit in the face of adverse weather, does however mean that you have to have a strong, robust team of extremely hard working individuals, and thankfully that is the case with Millstreet. Becky Elvin Press Officer for Millstreet, who has a lifetimes experience of running Press and PR for events was quick to credit the Duggan Family for their indomitable spirit and their determination not to cancel. ‘For the first time ever we had to say to competitors that they couldn’t enter the site until 4pm Tuesday. We’ve never had to do this before, but in the wet we simply couldn’t get the site turned round in time. The Duggans are determined to transform Millstreet into a world class eventing venue as well as Showjumping, and no expense or effort is spared. They are generous to a fault and wonderful work for, so everyone was happy to pitch in and ensure that the event went ahead. We have applied to host the eventing part of the World Games in 2022, so we didn’t want to succumb to the Irish summer weather.’ Riding the around the site amidst more pouring rain on the Wednesday it was clear to see how much rain the site had already absorbed and just how much work had already happened in the preceding two days. Parts of the large warm up arenas were belching with water, everyone was crammed into the lorry park like sardines into a can, in order to ensure hard standing parking, and cross country fences hopped around grassland at Drishane Castle in search of dry spots, like monkeys in a zoo. Course Designer Mike Etherington-Smith was forced to reroute to the third of successive back up plans for the cross country which sadly saw the removal of the iconic Irish bank and third water complex, and resulted in a highly influential time in all classes. At 461 it was the largest entry ever in an Irish event, and as such broke all Irish records, with the largest numbers participating in the CCIS2* competitions.
There are many stories that make up an event of this calibration, but by far the most emotional and popular story of the whole event was that of Lucy Jackson; who found herself the perhaps surprise winner of this ERM leg. Despite having been around on the international circuit for over 20 years, having graduated through the Pony, junior and young rider ranks as a British rider at this point, this popular hard working rider has never in fact actually won an international event. Lucy confessed to being somewhat surprised to find herself at the head of the podium. ‘He’s always been a good horse, but at ten years old he’s still young and learning his job. It was his best ever Dressage test to date, and do receive a Dressage PB score was the icing on the cake. It’s especially emotional to win on this horse as he’s a family favourite. He came to Sophie (her sister) at three to be backed and has stayed with our family ever since.’ Lucy also admitted to being thrilled to be part of the incredible series that is the ERM. ‘I’m not ranked in the worlds top 100, so it’s wonderful to be able to participate in competitions like this, and actually win some money. Dad is unwell at home, so it’s brilliant that he can watch it all on the livestream as he’s been such a figure in my eventing career.’
With the cross country running in reverse order of merit and two Irish riders in the top three at the start of cross country, there was much for the Irish fans to get excited about. Especially as this is the first time an ERM leg has ever been held in Ireland. First of the two Irish riders to go Sam Watson have the home fans much go cheer with a masterful copybook round on Imperial Sky, building on very strong performances in their first two phases. Frustratingly just 0.3 of a penalty kept him off the top spot. Sarah Ennis and Horseware Stellar Rebound, who let going into the cross country after the withdrawal of Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class, produced their usual copybook stylish cross country round, but a lack of opportunity to run cross country recently, with the cancellation of Somerford and other events, which meant they haven’t in fact done an event since Tryon last year, just showed when a mere measly four seconds over the optimum time dropped them off the top spot and into eventual fourth place, allowing Alex Bragg and Zagreb into third. Alex who admitted to having endured one of the toughest weeks of his professional eventing career, confessed himself delighted with how it had finished, when his CCI3*S Horse King of the Mill also produced a PB performance.
For both the ERM and the CCIS4* which ran over the same cross country courses the coffin was by far the most influential fence. A decent rail in to a big curving ditch followed by a significantly angled brush at c on one stride saw many combinations faulting here. Most including ERM contender Tom McEwen and Figaro Van Het Broekxhof ran past the brush at the end. Tragically for Flora Harris who missed out a whole loop of fences on Bayano, she then suffered the catastrophe of loosing Amazing when the horse suffered an irreparable injury out on course. In contrast in the CCIL4* it was the double of corners that caused the most problems with no less than 5 riders having refusals here. As they were sited on a particularly wet patch of ground many who faulted here chose to call it a day.
The CCIL4* sponsored by Noel C. Duggan Engineering saw Christopher Burton publicly cementing his new partnership with the attractive mare Lawton Chloe. This mare, former ride of German produced Anna Siemer, was imported at the beginning of this year, and together they have already posted some very good results, with a second in the ERM at Wiesbaden and a 5th in the British Open at Gatcombe. It was a start to finish whitewash win for Christopher Burton after he led the dressage and Sue Lawson and Carolyn Townsend’s mare on a score of 28.8 and then resoundingly finished on it. In second and also riding Cekatinka also a mare, and former mount of both Ros Canter and Tim Price, was Japanese rider Ryuzo Kitajima. Together these two have already posted encouraging results as a partnership, and whilst they were delighted to come second, they appeared more relieved to have actually now gained their complete Tokyo 2020 qualification, when they too finished on their dressage score a mere 1.9 penalties adrift of Christopher. Caroline Martin put in a superb jumping round on the final day to move up from 5th place after the cross country to third with her handsome grey ISH Islandwood Captain Jack. Oliver Townend went into the show jumping in third place with the stunning huge black Tregilder but sadly just tapping out both parts of the double of uprights at 6 saw long term owners the Hazeldines horse drop back to 5th place.
Having taken over the ride on the big attractive ray Fonbherna Lancer part way through 2018 Izzy Taylor, something of a Millstreet connoisseur having won here previously on several occasions, cemented her partnership with this huge attractive Dutch bred grey mare, with a closely fought win in the Connollys Red Mills CCIS4*. This was by far the mares best result to date, and the partnership now head to the 8/9yo class at Blenheim in a months time. Climbing up and up the leaderboard into eventual second place was Oliver Townend on another large grey Dreamliner, who finished a mere 1.4 penalties behind in second. Similarly this partnership too now head to the 8/9yo class at Blenheim. Yours truly has to confess to bias at this point. Homebred by my parents by Jumbo out of full TB mare, with his full brother Globemaster and your truly also coming 9th in the CCL3* this was something of a fairytale weekend for our family as long term racing and competition horse breeders. It’s only taken forty years to get this far!
More fairytales abounded when Georgia Bartlett began her gap year with some aplomb winning the CCIL3* after a nail biting Showjumping round. Georgia Bartlett and her stalwart junior Europeans partner Spano De Nazco had the unenviable luck to roll the planks at the recent Junior Europeans in Marsbargen and finish in 4th place. This time the planks were the very last fence and whilst the partnership again breathed on them, they stayed in place. Georgia entered the show jumping ring in 5th place after the cross country but their clear jumping round saw them climb the leaderboard to eventual 1st place. This partnership who plan to do their first advanced at Little Downham are mainly focused though on a Young Rider team place in 2020. You could have been forgiven thinking it would be Harry Meade in top podium spot for this class. With three horses entered and lying 1st, 2nd and 5th after the dressage Harry looked like he had it nailed. Then Monbeg Medlar stopped, like many others at the first water, but typically was the only one to show jump clear, whilst overnight leader Red Kite whacked out two showjumps including the dreaded planks and the last.
The CCIS3* saw an easy win for Kevin McNab on Fernhill Tabasco who his wife Emma usually rides. This 11 year old who competed at WEG with Emma last year is being ridden by Kevin whilst Emm returns to the saddle having recently given birth to their first child. This win saw Kevin for the second consecutive year in a row net the Horse Sport Ireland €10,000 bonus for aggregate points gained in Irish International competitions. Although there is still Ballindenisk to go, with Kevin sitting on 300 points following previous CCIS3* wins at Mallow and Camphire earlier this season, he has successfully netted the prize pot as no one can beat him at this stage.
Young British Junior Izzy Hall has at 15 a day to dream about for a long time yet, when she found herself at the head off affairs in a huge CCIS2* section sponsored y Gallivan Murphy Hooper Dolan. Climbing from 8th after the dressage when she finished on her dressage score of 31.4 she was somewhat surprised to find herself at the head of affairs especially since her watch stopped on the cross country. With Daisy Procter in second on Carsonstown Athena only 0.6 penalties behind. It was also good to see the next generation shining with young Ellie Fredericks producing two solid performances in the two CCIS2* sections, for a 10th with Joubert and a 7th with Mandrior respectively. In the Equine Warehouse CCIS2* for Ponies pony Europeans reserve rider resoundingly trounced her rivals for an unforgettable 1st and 2nd placings on Knockmullen Flyer and Independent Johnny respectively. All in all the British youth squads were left with a lot to celebrate.
Ludwig Svennerstal celebrated his birthday weekend in fine style with all four of his rides excelling themselves, and most significantly the 8yo Penny Grans winning the Donagh Hickey Motors CCIL2*. Ludwig also attained a 5th in the CCIS4* and was 8th and 14th in the CCIS3*. Ludwig spoke for all of us when he was quick to praise the event, not only for simply taking place, but for having fabulous facilities, and an extremely helpful and friendly organising team. ‘All week everything has been possible and nothing has been too much trouble. The cross country courses were artistic, big beautiful, but extremely fair. I will he back!’