Frog and Field visit Gatcombe Horse Trials
Gatcombe Horse Trials
By kind permission of HRH, The Princess Royal
Where to stay?
Gatcombe Horse Trials, would I be going there I got asked. Well I’ll go where you need me to go was my answer. I’d never really been to an ODE (One Day Event) having spent most of my summers with my show jumper friend who later transitioned to showing. I had attended Blenheim horse trials once but that was many years ag. So I was little unsure of what to expect.
Husband and I did some research and found somewhere to stay, we thought a trip to the Cotswolds would be rather nice. How right we were! Unfortunately, our B&B wasn’t that great and it was actually a good 20-minute drive from Gatcombe park. It doesn’t sound like much but it’s an extra hour a day. Anyone looking to stay up there should have a look at the Ragged Cot for a nearby place to stay. It also had a fabulous pub area and lovely garden, great for a cool cider after spending the day on your feet.
Gatcombe Horse Trials: The Event
A bit about the event. So it is held in Gatcombe Park, a vast area of rolling woodland and clearings. Undulating with a wonderful untouched feel. It truly feels like the cross country course just belongs there. The morning kicked off with the dressage, varying levels of difficulty but as the first day was mainly novice classes it was a fairly simple test. Probably not that thrilling to watch in all honestly.
Once the riders have completed their dressage test they then get changed into their jumping tack and depending on their given time will start warming up. I personally love the warmup arenas. So interesting watching people’s techniques but also taking in the chat and banter that goes around. Gatcombe is especially friendly and you watch top names like Andrew Nicholson, William Fox-Pitt and Harry Meade just casually having a chat. Don’t forget as well less well known people can compete here so there is a wonderful mix of all ages and levels.
It’s then into the show jumping arena. The course this weekend was quite technical, with both a triple and a double with some challenging uprights that caught a few people out. Consider all of this is on grass, including the dressage. No fenced in arenas here-cue a few poles and strings being demolished at times. There was a scattering of clear rounds but the majority of riders had a couple of poles down.
Gatcombe Horse Trials: Cross Country
Once show jumping is completed its down to the start of the cross country. I think this is by far the best bit of the day. Something amazing about these multitalented horses making light work of some impressive fences. It helped that we were in glorious sunshine all weekend and it was truly a pleasure being there. Galloping across open parkland with the Cotswold walls and fields behind them it made for some stunning pictures. Its worth noting that in a 3 day event the SJ and Cross-country are switch around. I would whole heartedly recommend a trip to local ODE event. Take a picnic, take the dog and you never know who you may see. Fixtures can be found on the British Eventing Website
You may think some of the riders look a bit bulky. This is due to inflatable safety jackets some of them wear. Cross country can be very dangerous and all riders will take care, including wearing body protectors.
Gatcombe Horse Trials: Dogs welcome
A word of caution though I witnessed some appalling lack of respect from the crowds out on the cross country course. Walking inside the allocated track for the riders. Allowing dogs to swim in the water complex and simply not getting out of the way of the jumps. The designated areas are there for a reason and I was getting increasingly nervous about there being an accident. Equally all dogs should be on a lead, end of. The amount of lose dogs reported that weekend was ridiculous and all that will happen is they will be banned. Which would be really sad as I do think its a wonderful day out for all the family.