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2010 press releases

Posted: 20/08/10

Lucinda Green's guide to the fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials

Former World and European champion Lucinda Green MBE, one of the world’s most successful event riders, explains the challenge of the sport of eventing.

Eventing also called horse trials is the ultimate test of the overall ability of horse and rider, involving three phases of dressage, cross-country and show jumping in an equestrian version of the triathlon.

Event riders were once branded ‘jacks of all trades and masters of none’, however, now, the standard of international eventing requires the top riders to master all three phases.

The most important attributes for a top class event horse are soundness, temperament, ability and quality. If a horse is sound and has a good temperament they can learn and develop talent.

Equestrian sports are among the few in which men and women compete on equal terms. This is largely due to the importance of the partnership between horse and rider, which plays a much greater part than the size or strength of the rider. Not even the strongest man can force a horse to do something he doesn’t want to do and so success in eventing depends on the horse trusting his rider and enjoying his job.

Dressage

Dressage is the first phase of both competitions being held at the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials in which each horse and rider combination completes a series of pre-set movements using the horses’ different paces and agilities and demonstrating how well trained they are. Fit horses can become easily tense and excited and this phase can take many years’ application before it adequately pleases the panel of judges.

When watching a dressage test the judges don’t want to be on the edge of their seats but they don’t want to be in danger of nodding off either. The challenge for the riders is to keep the horse’s natural energy and enthusiasm under control and produce a performance that is relaxed but buoyant in which the horse is calm and obedient but shows off his paces.

At times the variation between the judges’ marks can create confusion among spectators - and even the riders. It has to be accepted that judges have different opinions as it is completely down to subjective view.

Cross-Country

The cross-country is the most exciting phase and one that attracts the most spectators. Competitors tackle a course of over 30 solid fences built across 4 miles of stunning Blenheim Palace grounds. Very few competitors complete this within the time allowed putting a premium on speed, endurance, courage and jumping ability.

I run regular cross-country riding clinics sponsored by Petplan Equine* and the main point that I try to tell all my pupils is that a horse that thinks for himself and in equal measure listens to his rider is going to be a safe cross country horse. It takes several years to train a horse up to the standard required to compete at Blenheim. During this time the horse needs to be given time to learn his job and gain trust and confidence in his own and his rider’s ability.

The feature of the cross-country course at Blenheim is the spectacular fences that are built around the lake through which the River Glyme runs. Horses have an instinctive fear of water and ditches that often requires a great deal of training to overcome. Obstacles that require a horse to jump into water are a test of the horse’s trust in its rider, while fences that have several jumping elements close together, test the rider’s control and the horse’s balance, athleticism and comprehension of the problem ahead..

While the riders will walk the cross country course as many as four times prior to riding, the horse has to rely on his rider to give him time to assess what is in front of him and understand in a split second what he has to do.

Show Jumping

The show jumping is the final phase in this top level competition, and presents an even greater challenge when it follows the four mile cross-country phase on the previous day. Show jumping requires a very different jumping technique to cross country - rather like a human athlete adapting from hurdles to high jump.

Unlike cross-country obstacles that are solid, show jumps can be knocked down and a rounder trajectory is required from the horse to clear them successfully. Very careful horses that excel in the show jumping are often not brave enough for the cross-country phase and some of the boldest and bravest horses across country fail to treat show jumps with sufficient respect. This can be a difficult phase for even the most talented horses.

The brilliant New Zealand horse Charisma, who won two Olympic gold medals with Mark Todd, was always nerve-wracking to watch in the show jumping phase and his great rider used to joke that his diminutive partner show jumped by ‘Braille’ - feeling his way over them.

Riders show-jump in reverse order of merit on the final day adding to the tension. One small mistake can make the difference between triumph and heartbreak.

Watch the British Team in action

Blenheim always attracts leading riders from around the world and among the top riders in action this year will be the six who will represent GB in the eventing competition at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in September.

They will also be performing a practice dressage test with their WEG team horses on the Friday afternoon and plan to show jump on Sunday morning. All this will take place in the main arena, providing a wonderful opportunity to see the British team as they prepare to take on the best in the world.

* Further information on the ‘Petplan Equine Lucinda Green Cross-Country the Safe Way Clinics’ can be found at petplanequine.co.uk/events.

* Further information on the 'Petplan Equine Lucinda Green Cross-Country the Safe Way Clinics' can be found at petplanequine.co.uk/events.

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For more information please contact the Petplan press office on:

Name Telephone Email
Tolu Akisanya 0208 580 8194 tolu.akisanya@allianz.co.uk
Carl Stephens 0208 707 8335 carl.stephens@allianz.co.uk

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