Last weekend saw eventings elite drawn to the final running of the XL Catlin Mattingley Horse trials. Three full days of competition from pre-intro to Inter-Novice with some significant prize pots available. The Inter-Novice, with the FEI Inter1*A test followed by 1.15m show jumping and 1.1m cross country with Catlin’s generous sponsorship providing the prize fund of £750 with £500 to the top spot. It’s not hard to believe that this is unaffiliated. BE rule book suggests higher prize money at this level of just £307. Depending on sponsorship, events may top this up of course. The Inter-Novice attracted a strong field of over 30 starters. Sam Penn would have been saddened that Sharon was on such good form as Sam took both second and third. In fact, it was a very close section with only 5 penalties between the top 7.
Sharon Hunt, a member of Team GBR and an Olympic bronze medallist, winner of the Int-Novice this weekend commented on the final running at Mattingley.
“Very disappointed! It has always been such an imaginative event, xc course anyway. Fantastic to show how marketing can really work in our sport too, not only did we have several top riders with their eye on the prizes but also the event was very well sponsored. There was a lovely atmosphere as the sponsors thoroughly enjoyed themselves, I don’t think they really minded if they saw a horse at all they were having such a good time! We really need more input like this, would make it far more lucrative for all of us competing “
Sharon, who is focusing on show jumping through the summer months will hopefully return to eventing later with Loughnatousa Fabio (Superman) who is currently recovering from surgery. Understandably, many eventers like Sharon are drawn to show jumping as it is far more lucrative.
From first timers to old timers, Mattingley is genuinely loved and I couldn’t find anyone with a negative world about the event. Every volunteer I encountered was cheerful and helpful, the secretary, Alison Flack and scorers, Anne Allen and her team, professional but human and approachable. The event was end to end joy.
Claire Miller, placed in a grassroots section had previously worked at Blue House and had been a member of the start team alongside the recently deceased Bill Allen, commented, ‘I did feel rather emotional as I finished the xc yesterday as it would be the last time I galloped round the fields -only in the past I would often be riding one of Alice’s show ponies and rounding up the sheep! To be placed really was the icing on the cake for me and a fitting end to an era’.
Chris Kirby, this years starter, was welcoming each of the competitors into his start box with a lovely welcome. Chris was in his element putting each and every one of them at there easy before setting them off. Chris later provided this reflection of the weekend.
It was pretty dam good to have quality professional and international riders such as Sharon Hunt, Kevin McNab, Sam Penn, Ludvig Svennerstal, Dan Jocelyn and Lauren Yallop pass through the Mattingley Horsetrials start box. But, bizarrely, and call me weird if you must, I got much more pleasure sharing both the starting and scoring of the Pre-Intro sections.
The variety in the partnerships that present for counting down is infinite. Riders from the young and, er, not so young; small and, frankly, not so small; wealthy to shoestring; talented to, shall we say, optimistic; nervous newbies to experienced seniors and every combination in between.
Then there are the equines of all colours; Skew and piebald, grey, chestnut, bay, both dark and light; duns roan and appaloosa (? no expert am I). There were fabulous 17hh sports horses; gorgeous cobs complete with feathers, rein tangling natural manes and tails down to the grass. There were ponies with legs that seem to move faster than Road Runner’s; those lucky retrained ex-racer thoroughbreds; round, grass fed ponies and horses straight off the field; Some riders were enjoying their home-bred that they had broken and brought on, whilst others proudly sat astride their bought-in and ready made steed. Performance and fitness of both horse and rider was variable and many took the walk of sadness, yet far more achieved better than they anticipated with much whooping and neck slapping as they came through the finish flags. For the course controllers the pre-intro was all just a bit random to manage and run. If I was totally honest, all of that is why I, and I suspect many others, do what we do.
Mattingley will be a sad loss to the eventing calendar and I just hope for all those who have not been lucky enough to sample eventing here, that the decision to end in 2015 can be reversed.
Ironically, the last person to run cross country Eve Trainor, riding I’m an Ace, appears to have been having their first run….
Photographs courtesy of Dave Murray