Report By Nicki Strong
On 11-12 April, Larkhill Horse Trials hosted two days of competition up on Salisbury Plain, on what can only be described as perfect ground. The lovely galloping cross country courses made great use of the undulating terrain as always, whilst the sloped showjumping arena and breezy conditions synonymous with Larkhill add an extra element for competitors.
Saturday kicked off with an early morning downpour which soon cleared away, leaving a fresh but sunny day for the slightly windswept competitors and stewards. The morning saw Novice competitors out first before the BE100 in the afternoon.
Jonty Evans had a cracking weekend, with two wins and a second place. He said; “I got off the lorry on Saturday morning and thought I had three horses on the lorry I’m really excited about here.”
He won Novice section A aboard Alamo on a dressage score of 30, saying of the horse; “Alamo had showjumped in Cornwall before we bought him last year and to begin with he found eventing all a bit confusing, didn’t quite grasp dressage boards and things like that, but he’s very smart on the flat, great showjumping and really good cross country. About 85% of the xc he was spot on Saturday, but when he’s 100% he’ll be really special, I really like him. He’ll go to the CIC one-star at Hambleden, and as long as he’s progressed sufficiently he’ll probably go to Tattersalls for the Young Horse class. The thing with him is not the technicality – that’s all well within his capabilities but it’s just getting his head around the whole day in general really.”
Vicky Tuffs picked up three second placings, one in this Novice section aboard the aptly named ‘Brilliant’ on 32.3, ahead of Annabel Henderson on Belamie DHI in third on 33.5.
Alicia Hawker’s ride Anthe made a pleasing return from injury running HC in section A after 18 months off. Alicia said; “She could have come back mid last season but we wanted to make sure she had more time than she needed just to make doubly sure. It was very exciting to have her back – her dressage was a little bit tense in the wind but she held it together, and then we cantered round the cross country. She’s so bold she finds it all very easy but I just wanted to keep her steady.
“We don’t really have any big aims for the season – maybe Osberton two-star at the end of the season, or maybe an Advanced, but we’ll just see how it goes and if the ground isn’t right we won’t run her. She was very happy to be back, and we were all very happy to be walking back to the lorry with her after the cross country – my mum was taking photos! It’s been a long 18 months.”
Alicia took the honours in Novice Section B with her own Lawa. She commented; “Lawa’s grown up so much. He’s quite a big horse so as a six year old he was still maturing into his frame. Over the winter he’s really grown up and filled out really nicely – he thinks he’s a big boy now! He’s such a chilled out horse, he’s so relaxed he’s horizontal.
“He did a really nice test and he’s always really easy and bold cross country so I just have to point and steer. He’s got a lot of Thoroughbred in him so he really covers the ground. I bought him when I was 18 – my first real project I went and bought for myself. I was supposed to sell him but I hope to keep him and just see how far he can go. He’s got lots of scope so the jumping is not limited; he should definitely go three-star, but it will be nice to see if he can go all the way.
“We’ll pop round another Novice, then Chatsworth one-star, Tattersalls for the 6/7 year olds one-star class, and then we’ll hopefully move up to Intermediate – possibly Somerley.”
Jonty Evans was a runner up in this section with Cuffesgrange Ars Royale. He said; “Unfortunately with the second placed horse I went wrong in the dressage and so got a minus 2! I’ve never had a hatrick before but we were pretty close this time – I think the winner was on 29 and I was on 29.3.
“I sold him to his owner Charlotte last year. I bought him from the Going for Gold sales originally and rode him in first event over here, but this was our first BE together. Unfortunately Charlotte has broken her ankle in three places so he’s back with me for a bit – I’m trying to figure out how to not give him back! She’s done a really good job with him though, he’s changed so much and he’s a really confident happy horse, a really nice one to ride.”
Sam Griffiths took third place riding Dushi Terma to a double clear.
Coral Keen bagged a brace of wins on the Saturday riding two home produced horses, including one homebred. She revealed she still gets a buzz from the win, explaining; “Absolutely! It’s more about the way horses perform than actually the win itself.”
Cascadelle has just upgraded to Novice at Somerley to finish tenth in difficult ground, and followed up with a win here in Novice section C. Coral reflected; “She is a huge character, but I’m really excited about her. She has all the attributes of being a really top horse, she doesn’t have a weak phase. She breezed round here and I really felt I could let her gallop, she felt really confident. I’ll aim for a one star later in the season but she’s not six till August so we’ll take our time with her. She’s just a real character – it has to be all about her, she’s a total diva and can be a real handful. At Larkhill she came off the lorry stood on her back legs boxing at you, but then she stops and gives you cuddles too!”
Vicky Tuffs came second in this section with Cooley Showtime who has started his eventing career nicely. They shared points with third placed William Fox-Pitt and Dynasty. All of the top three finished on their dressage marks.
Jonty Evans topped Novice Section D riding A Chance Affair, despite being ‘a bit naughty to start’ in the dressage. Jonty said; “He just has the most fantastic attitude, he’s like a big pony and moves really well – his Grand sire is Jumbo. We’re trying to find out the breeding of his Dam as he would be a great Le Lion candidate but without certification it would be unlikely. He’s a super horse, and one we have to hold back a bit – he loves jumping and just loves the job.”
Vicky Tuffs again came second with nothing to add to her 31.8 dressage riding First Romance, whilst David Doel’s sub-30 dressage secured third place with Bottoms Up III despite lowering a pole showjumping.
Coral Keen got her second win in BE100Section E aboard homebred mare Total Belief on her eventing debut. Coral said; “She’s really special. I didn’t expect the win at all, it was her first test, and her first ever test on grass. She’s just lovely and I thoroughly enjoy riding her every day – she was exactly the same at the competition as she is at home. We had a really nice ride cross country, I wasn’t chasing the clock but she covers the ground well and skipped round inside the time. She’ll run at 100s this season in blocks of three and then have a little break. She’s owned by me and my Dad, and I must admit before I didn’t really ‘get’ the breeding thing, but having had a few homebreds now it’s really special. Five years ago we were bottle feeding her and now she’s turned into this lovely big strong horse, and we’ve been through the whole journey with her.”
Their 23 dressage put them out in front from the start and they added nothing more, leaving Tim Price in second with Faerie Fifty Shades on 25.5, and Mark Ford’s Dali III in the third spot.
Zoe Wilkinson won BE100 section F with dressage diva Francoe PFB who was uncatchable on 22.3, comfortably clear of Roo Fox and Furioso De Foja, before Emily Young-Jamieson’s GRC Clover who picked up his second third placing in two outings.
Ffion Thomas set the standard in BE100 Section G to finish on 25. Tim Rogers and Blackthorne II went double clear for second place with 29.5, whilst Jonelle Price’s Miss Bouncealong had her first four showjumping faults to relegate them to third.
Overall, the courses flowed beautifully but provided enough of a challenge to ensure it wasn’t a dressage competition, with some accuracy and technical questions which caught enough out, whilst the showjumping tested balance and control. The Larkhill team were praised for their superb organisation, excellent experienced team, and providing a lovely friendly event.