Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Plantation Field Wrap-Up

I had the pleasure of being at The Plantation Field CIC*** and Horse Trials this past weekend and believe me it was a pleasure as the weather couldn't have been any better! Plantation is located in Unionville, PA which is home to Bruce Davidson and Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds, so real horse country. There are rolling hills as far as the eye can see and anyone who lives in the area is certainly lucky!

The event is first class all the way and the organizing staff has worked very hard to make it a destination event. The vendor tents were ideally located next to the warm up areas and overlooked the cross country course. The VIP tent and dressage and show jumping rings were all nearby as well which provided a steady stream of traffic all weekend. The organizers also do a great job of recognizing all the sponsors and vendors which has not been the case at some of the venues I've been at this year.

Doug and Running Order
Anyway, onto the good stuff. Doug Payne was there on Running Order in the three star, Crown Talisman in the one star and his new horse Simon Slick running his first preliminary. Kristin Schmolze had Cavaldi and Castle Jordan in the three star and Ballylaffin Bracken in the two star. Lastly, Kate Samuels was making her third outing at the Advanced Level on Nyls du Terrior. All three riders had an impressive weekend!

Kristin and Cavaldi

Doug was second in the one star on Crown Talisman. This pair has had a very successful season with a win in the one star at The Stuart Horse Trials and a win at the recent American Eventing Championships in the most competitive field and finishing on a score of 24.2! He was ninth with Running Order in the three star. "RO" had a couple of green moments on cross country but finished the course strong and had one rail in show jumping. The exciting news is that with the consistent results this pair has had this year, Doug has received a grant from the USEF to compete at the Boekelo three star in Holland in October!

Kristin had her three horses including her veteran partner Cavaldi. Cavaldi has been there and done that, having competed at Burghley a few years back as well as Rolex three times. While he can get hot in the dressage he is a machine on cross country and the bigger the jumps, the happier he is! He has a zest for jumping and is my favorite to watch. The pair wound up in fourth in the Three Star. She also had a very good run on Castle Jordan but an unusual stop in show jumping knocked them down to eighth. On Ballylaffin Bracken she finished up in tenth with a careful cross country round and one rail in show jumping. The really neat thing is Kristin won the Best Conditioned Award with not one but TWO horses, Ballylaffin Bracken and Cavaldi! This is very impressive and as Pete Blauner the FEI Vet told me, "Kristin knows how to get her horses fit and keep them in one piece." To win this award with two horses is testament to Kristin and her team for their expert care and riding.

This is what "Best Conditioned" looks like!

Kate and Nyls are a new and promising pair at the Advanced Level and they had their best finish to date! While their dressage is a work in progress, Nyls is a bold and scopey jumper on both cross country and in show jumping. They easily cruised around cross country and put in one of the few clear show jumping rounds to finish in fourth place!

Kate and Nyls

It wouldn't be Planation Field without the bareback puissance and this year, well let's just say it was more like bare chested puissance courtesy of Doug Payne! Doug was knocked out early in the competition (beat by the girls no less!) and after begging to get back into the competition he was told what he needed to do. Being the competitor that he is he happily obliged to the roar of the crowd! Thank God it didn't get past that!

So all in all a very fun and entertaining weekend. Our new bridle styles were well received and it was a good weekend for Five Star! On to Fair Hill in October which will be the last event of the season.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I had the good fortune to be able to attend the Burghley Horse Trials this past weekend and it was truly an incredible experience! The British know how to do things just right and always with class. With my two boys in tow we had a bit of an adventure getting to Burghley what with finding a car to rent and figuring out how to work the Nav which circled us back to the rental place the first time! Oh, and did I mention driving a stick on the "wrong" side of the road? I figured I had got it once I was able to drink my latte and steer and shift at the same time! I only crossed into the wrong lane once and popped the clutch once so all in all did alright.

Back to Burghley. To get to the estate you travel through a quintessential old English village and I couldn't help but think I was in Sherwood Forest. The road was narrow and twisty and the shifting got a bit challenging. Upon entering the grounds we saw a large pasture full of the most beautiful deer. Small but with big antlers they have lived on the castle grounds for centuries and are rounded up for the event. The drive up was lined with massive trees with trunks about six feet in diameter. Again, I couldn't help but think of Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest as these trees were certainly around back then!

This was the first four star I had gone to so I can't compare it to anything else, but Burghley is legendary. It has the toughest terrain of any of the four stars and as Mark Todd said, "You need a horse that is a fighter". The backdrop is spectacular with Burghley Castle sitting prominently on the grounds, Union Jack waving proudly.

It took a bit to get our bearings since the signage was not the best and the crowds were huge, about 150,000 to be exact, but we found the Member's tent and got some much needed lunch. It was the perfect setting. People had "parked" their dogs outside the members area. There was a 1920's style band playing (tuba, banjo, those white hats, you get the picture) and in front of that there was a grassy area for people to hang out and watch the cross country from one of several jumbo-trons located throughout the grounds. There was no shortage of food and drink (alcohol). You could buy everything from wood fired pizza to caviar to Pimm's and champagne. There were bars set up around the grounds and I think some people just came to drink and watch the festivities!

It was a very festive atmosphere and it was great for people watching. Everything from jeans to British tweeds with a lot of Dubarry boots. The cross country course was beautifully constructed and without so much of the artificiality you see on some of today's courses. The turf was in pristine condition as it is only used for the event and it was a joy to see the expert riding and bravery of the horses over some very big jumps. Land Rover is the title sponsor and so there was a Range Rover parked next to every jump for the fence judges to sit by and the officials (of what type I don't know) all wore black suits with black bowler hats. Oh, so British. No wonder I love England so much!

While we didn't hear of any great difficulties on course while we were there, there was one lengthy hold on course when Nicola Malcolm fell from her horse and had to be airlifted out. Fortunately she was released from the hospital the next day and her horse was uninjured. Too bad because they appeared to be doing quite well on course. Well, what to do when there is no action? Did I mention SHOPPING? There was a dizzying array of shops, 500 to be exact and one would need at least a day to see all of them. From feed to luxury home goods there was something for everyone. I thought to myself a few times "what recession?" as it seemed as though everyone held a bag containing some treasure they had purchased. I was actually glad in a way that I had the boys with me as it limited the number of shops I could go to. My AMEX was burning a hole in my pocket and I could have done some serious damage to it! I did score a pair of beautiful pig suede jodphur boots - the only pair left and they fit. It was meant to be! In my giddiness from being in shoe heaven I lost my son Declan. Woops, but not like he hasn't done it before. He knew to go to one of the cafes and ask for help and we quickly found him. Yep, a bit embarrassing but a trip to the toy store cured that (I told you they had every kind of store there)! There was so much to see, you almost forgot there were horses going cross country!

It was time to go and of course I couldn't remember what the rental car looked like! Fortunately my other son Liam, whose brain replaces mine on many an occasion, came to the rescue and we were soon on our way back to London, already looking forward to next time. Congratulations to Caroline Powell for winning the 50,000 pound first prize!

Stay tuned for my next post which is a wrap up of my first visit to the Spoga Trade Show in Cologne, Germany!