Bryony Skinner reports…

An unseasonably warm and dry September weekend saw over 550 combinations competing at Munstead Horse Trials, held at Heath Farm. The second fixture of the season on the BE calendar for Munstead held classes from BE80(T) to BE100, including a two BE90 regional final sections.

Despite an unexpected road diversion causing some delays for competitors on the Saturday, organiser Rebecca Harvie was pleased that the event ran well and competitors enjoyed the weekend: “The sun shone and everyone seemed to have a good day. Saturday was a little challenging, as Thames Water decided to close and dig up the road that leads to the event with absolutely no warning. This did cause chaos as the diversion that they put in was totally unsuitable for Horse Boxes. Top points to all the competitors for finding their way here and for keeping their sense of humour about it! Sadly we had a couple of holds on the XC course on Saturday, but the tea lady came into her own by feeding the stopped competitors tea and cake! (a photo taken by the event photographer Spidge, of competitor Jake Tarrant, having pulled up a chair to put his feet up on the Table Jump while he waited for the course to re-open can be seen on the Munstead Horse Trials facebook page). Our amazing start team and cross country steward managed to make up time after the hold and we finished the day on time.

Sunday was a lot less eventful fortunately and ran really smoothly. The downside to lovely weather here is that it gets very dusty, so we hope that everyone has managed to clean all the Heath Farm dust off everything!”

The BE90 section A was won by Katherine Stewart and her own gelding Delightful Mr Clover, who added 3.2tf for being under the optimum time x country, to their dressage score of 20.5. Katherine said, “Delightful Mr Clover AKA Jasper is a 6YO dun Connemara x ISH gelding. This is his first year eventing and he has been so brave and loved it. I got him from my trainer Sacha Hourigan as a 3YO and I keep him with her along with my other horse. The course rode beautifully but Jasper is so naturally quick that I came home with several time faults but still managed to hold onto the lead. I am going to finish his season off at Tweseldown next month at 90 to let him have fun. He will never be sold so I’m not looking to move up to 100’s with him until next year.”

Andrea Jansen took the win in the BE90 section B, with her own Carrick Diamond Lad. The pair are hoping for a qualification from a BE90RF but unfortunately did not enter that section at Munstead. The BE90 showjumping course did cause a fair few issues throughout the day, with many combinations eliminated and clocking up many penalties as mentioned by Andrea, “Carrick Warcraft is an 8yo ISH by Carrick Diamond Lad who I bought from his breeder Tom Jones in Ireland as a just backed 4yo. The SJ course caused a lot of trouble and needed forward riding. I’ve had some invaluable help from Kylie Roddy recently to overcome some issues in this phase! I thought the XC was fairly straight forward and it rode absolutely fine, and exactly as I had walked it. We’re off to Little Downham early October for the 90RF. In hindsight I should have used the RF qualification at Munstead! I might then finish the season at Tweseldown and hopefully move up to BE100 next year.”

The BE90RF Section E was won by Suzanne Ashwell and Rhomantic; completing on their dressage score of 26, just 0.5 penalties ahead of the second placed combination in a very competitive section. Suzanne commented:
“Mouse is a 15hh, 9 year old warmblood gelding in his first season of British Eventing. He’s mainly competed at BE80, but on our 90 debut at BCA in June we finished 3rd and bagged ourselves a place for a Regional Final. We chose Munstead as it’s relatively local to us (we’re based in Tonbridge, Kent so it’s a mere 1.5 hour drive). I didn’t feel much pressure as with this being Mouse’s first season it was all about giving him a good run and if Badminton qualification happened then that would be a bonus.

He warmed up well for dressage, in amongst a few very smart looking horses…..I was pleased with his test and as I thanked the steward on my way out she said it had looked very nice – I crossed my fingers for a good mark!

The show jumping course was set quite differently from the usual Munstead layout and seemed to be causing a fair few problems. I’d walked it when we arrived and thought it needed a forward approach, making sure I didn’t slow down when balancing the corners. I saw my trainer, Sam Jennings, who was there competing as well and she told me not to watch anymore, just to ride forward and balanced and I’d be fine. As I went into the ring for showjumping Mouse’s canter felt amazing. He soared over the first fence and never felt like touching a thing, even though he has to do some clever footwork to a couple when we got a bit close. It actually felt like we were enjoying it as we went round, clear, with no time faults.

Munstead has a reputation as a really nice XC course, it’s flatter than most and without the twists and turns of some events. To compensate for this kindness, the team had cleverly positioned a few fences which I thought could need clever riding – fences come up faster in a 90 than they do in an 80 and Mouse still doesn’t have the hang of reading combinations from a few strides out and assessing the whole thing. I had the skinny after then water, the angled cartridges and the drop to corner marked out as ones that could catch him out.

Ahead of the XC I registered that we’d moved up into second place, and felt relieved that I wasn’t in the lead as that took a bit of pressure off – what would be would be. Mouse felt really up for the first few, then clattered 4 quite hard earning a strong reminder about picking his feet up, I put it out of my mind and approached the angled palisades at 5 which he flew with ease. I came into the big ditch at 6 with Sam’s words “shoulders back” ringing in my ears (note: pro pics show me right up between his ears like a monkey up a stick, so goodness knows what I’d have looked like if I hadn’t been trying to keep my shoulders back)……Through the owl hole and I pressed him on to gallop towards home – then I remembered Munstead had changed their route and I was going the wrong way! We doubled back on a handbrake turn and found fence 10, I ignored the little voice that whispered “if you miss qualifying for Badminton on time penalties you’ve only got yourself to blame and told myself I had a lot more fences to go before I could think about the B word. The drop to corner made Mouse question me ever so quietly, but I caught him in time and reassured him the only way was down and up and over, so that’s what he did.

Next plans for Mouse are the BE80 Championships at Kelsall Hill at the end of the month, then BD Area Festival second rounds. After that there’ll be a winter of preparing for Badminton!”

Katie Norgate won the BE80T section H in what was the first affiliated event for herself and her ride, Mr Anderson. The pair added 4 sj penalties to a very good dressage score of 24.3. Katie said, “ We have owned Mr Anderson known as Neo at home for 5 years. He is a native traditional cob and is only 14.1! We bought him to do mainly showing with and have placed successfully in HOYS showing Q. We have also done BD and he is a super safe hack. Munstead was my first and his first affiliated event. We have previously competed in unaffiliated one day events including Tweseldown placing 5th and 11th. The course rode really well it was inviting but had 2 main questions out on the x country which was slightly technical. Neo is great x country as he doesn’t refuse so I just point and go with him! We will be competing at Tweseldown BE80 next month and hope to have qualified for the BE80 regional final (depending on the 2020 qualification period). My ultimate aim is to qualify to compete at the BE80 Championship, which will be at Burghley House 2020.”

Katy Lawrence won the BE100 section I on her own 16.2hh gelding, completing on their dressage score of 30. Katy, who had three rides at Munstead and also came 5th in the BE90 section M on Merlin Mix, said “Whitemoors First Flight- known as Flynn is a 6 year old Irish Sports Horse – by Sir Shutterfly. The course rode fantastic today- it had a few new questions and jump placements to make it interesting but all rode really well. We are aiming to finish the season with a couple more 100 runs and still hoping to qualify for Badminton Grassroots next year. After making a silly mistake xc last time we ran (at Borde Hill) – it was great to put it behind us and finish well again today.”

One of the busiest riders of the weekend, Will Furlong had 4 rides and came 10th in the BE100 section K and 1st in the BE100 section J. Will’s winning ride was the 8 year old gelding Billy Oak owned by Jade Forlani. Will commented:
“I’m only riding Billy Oak short term whilst his owner, Jade, is pregnant. He’s a very cool little horse but can be pretty cocky at times (he spent the first minute on the xc bucking after each fence). Both the Jumping phases were strong, the water was particularly challenging for a BE100 with a hanging log pretty much on the lip of the water – could have quite easily been a novice question if log was slightly bigger! We plan to run at South of England to finish off the season, as long as we get some rain! Jade will hopefully take over the reins around May / June 2020.”

The BE100 section K was won by Alana Sparrow and the very consistent 13 year old mare Angel Spirit; winner of the Mitsubishi Motors Cup 100 at Badminton this year. The pair added 4 showjumping penalties to a very impressive dressage score of 20 to comfortably win the section. Alana said, “Angels Spirit (goose) is owned by Rasshied Din. She won the MMCUP 100 and has been placed at every event she’s done this year so far ….. she’s a very special horse who I absolutely love riding! Both the sj and xc courses I felt were quite technical and challenging in places but she made it feel like a piece of cake. She will go to South of England and Tweseldown and then will be finished I think. There has been some talk of doing Bicton 3 day event but we shall see.”

Competing in her first BE100 event in the UK, having started working at Griffiths Eventing Team last year and competing at BE90 this season; Kirsty Koch won the BE100Open section L with Wight Link Bay, owned by Sam Griffiths. Kristy explained “Wight Link Bay (Henry) is a 21 year old gelding who has previously competed up to old 3***, back in 2009. He is the ultimate schoolmaster and is truly loving being back out competing again!
I felt the course rode really well, there were a couple of questions that caused quite a bit of trouble, but it was a well designed course with enough of a challenge for the more experienced but also encouraging for those doing their first 100.
My plans for Henry are to do Pontispool next week and Dauntsey a fortnight later at 100, and then if he’s feeling good, we’ll aim to step up for my first Novice at Bovington.”

Leading the BE90 section M from the dressage, Kizzy Smith took the win, completing on her dressage score of 23, riding Bristol de Breve. Kizzy commented: “Bristol is an 8yr old Selle Francais gelding owned by Mr Samuel Wisbey. It’s his first season eventing, he’s previously showjumped at Foxhunter level but very low mileage! His eventing career to date has been an interesting journey of development of confidence, especially convincing him to get his toes wet! I was really pleased with him in the dressage (23!) he has a lot of ability in this phase with the potential for some stonking tests in the future!! As you can imagine he’s pretty secure in the sj…. It was lovely to bring all three elements together at Munstead. The course definitely supported the development of the more inexperienced horse, I felt it gave us the opportunity to really allow Bristol’s confidence to grow asking achievable questions.
We have some more 90s planned just to cement our training and Bristol’s confidence with the wet stuff ready to step up to 100 and beyond for this special chap.
Thank you Munstead and all your volunteers for putting on an extremely well run day.”

The BE90 section O saw only two combinations achieve sub 30 scores, one being Jasmine Wilks and the 14.2hh gelding, Lough Derg Joe. The pair went on to complete on their dressage score of 25.8 and win the section, following wins this season at Borde Hill, Chilham Castle and Tweseldown. Jasmine said “I was really pleased with Lough Derg Joe’s performance. This is his first season eventing and his 4th win so I’m really chuffed at how well he’s done at the age of 6. The course rode well, it’s always a nice run for the less experienced as it’s very forgiving. We will finish his season at Tweseldown as it’s one of our favourites and he has done well there in the past.”

Other winners: BE90Open U18 section C – Daisy Lavelle, Odysseus; BE90RF section D – Isabelle Cook, Silken Crème; BE80(T) section F – Catherine Evans, Sparky’s Pure Effect; BE80(T) section G – Ella Winn, Mr Soots; BE90 section N – Nicola Benson, Hank Williams; BE90 Open section P – Abigail Ballard, Peggy’s Gold.