Oats, Hay and Rest

 

 

2x6_bookmark

Bookmark design by Jonathan Temples. Photo by Nick Perry.

 

I’m back home at Writing Wings for this final hitching post on ‘The Spiral of Hooves Blog Tour’. After a journey that has taken me to France, the USA, England, and Canada, the mare that I borrowed from Carly Tanner is ready for her oats and hay, while I bring this celebration of my novel’s August launch to a fitting close.

First, I must thank my fellow writers and bloggers who did so much to help me – Ailsa Abraham, Donna Galanti, Jane Bwye, Kristina Stanley and Cryssa Bazos – you are all amazing, as are those people that have given their support in other ways from sharing their knowledge at events to sharing their reactions to my novel.

There are still chances to win one of the signed copies of Spiral of Hooves that I am offering prospective readers. Giveaways are running at the following blog hitching posts where more is revealed about the book and about me. There is nothing to stop you entering at each site:

https://ailsaabraham.com/2017/08/05/the-spiral-of-hooves-tour/  (until August 15th)

http://www.elementtrilogy.com/the-spiral-of-hooves-blog-tour-signed-book-giveaway/  (CLOSED – Winner: Laura Thomas)

https://jbwye.com/2017/08/08/the-hitching-post/  (until August 18th)

https://kristinastanley.com/2017/08/08/new-release-spiral-of-hooves-by-roland-clarke/  (until August 18th)

https://cryssabazos.com/2017/08/11/from-ostler-to-eventer-guest-post-by-roland-clarke-giveaway/  (until August 21st)

The last ‘hitching post’ is this one, so make a comment below, and you will be entered in the Writing Wings draw for Spiral of Hooves. This giveaway runs until August 31st to give you all more time.

But as they say in those TV promo ads – ‘that’s not all’. There is also a giveaway on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35838755-spiral-of-hooves and that runs until September 7th.

There is a bonus as every signed book has a bookmark in it. Do you think I should give away a signed bookmark to all you ‘hitching post’ responders? Let me know while I’m feeling generous.

Just in case you are new to this blog, here are the refined details about Spiral of Hooves, without the legal small print – there isn’t any that I recall.

BLURB:

In Canada, researcher Armand Sabatier witnesses what could be the murder of groom Odette Fedon, but traumatic images from his past smother his memory, and a snowstorm buries the evidence. Harassed by nightmares but fighting through them, Armand remembers the crime a few months later. By then he is in England, where he is dragged into a plot involving international sport horse breeding.

Suspecting everyone around him, Armand is forced to brave the past that he has kept buried. But what made Armand leave France? Where did he learn to survive and fight for justice? Why is the English rider Carly Tanner treading the same path as the first victim, Odette?

Can he save Carly before he has more blood on his hands?

What is Spiral of Hooves in brief?

An enthralling mystery full of twists, turns, and suspense, Spiral of Hooves is set against the competitive equestrian world of eventing. Characters are thrown together from different countries by their ambitions, ideals and desires, and by their passion for horses. Relationships are tested, and challenges surmounted as the mystery builds.

A thriller set in the high-stress, competitive environment of the horse riding life. Clarke mixes the excitement of the equestrian community with murder, romance, and friendships that are not what they seem. Clarke’s prose evokes vivid imagery, and the plot keeps you guessing. A thoroughly enjoyable read.” Kristina Stanley, Best-selling Author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series

Spiral of Hooves is available from Amazon on Kindle and for the first time in paperback https://bookgoodies.com/a/B073W3CLDV

Although nobody in the novel resembles anyone in my working career, I have interviewed five of the characters here at Writing Wings if you want to meet them at https://rolandclarke.com/spiral-of-hooves/. I suspect that my devious mind wanted to challenge you when I chatted with them

Don’t forget to please make a comment below if you would like to be entered in the Giveaway for a signed copy of the Second Edition of Spiral of Hooves.

Let me know what you think about signed bookmarks.  

Are my characters as devious as me?

2x6_bookmark

Bookmark design by Jonathan Temples. Photo by Nick Perry.

A great line-up

219_1971

On Monday, August 7th I will be surfing the internet to launch ‘Spiral of Hooves’ – the second and improved edition, now available for the first time in paperback.

I will drop by Goodreads throughout the day but be partying over on Facebook where I have gathered a great line-up of talented authors to discuss everything from eventing to highwaymen, from Africa to England, and from inspiration and research to writing tools and marketing.

There will be drinks, cake, biscuits (or cookies) and everyone is welcome from readers, riders, writers, to horses and pets. Please feel free to invite your friends. And have fun. There will be prizes including a signed copy of ‘Spiral of Hooves’.

The novel is available as a paperback and on Kindle at Amazon.

Roland_PBookV1

The Launch Party starts at 0900 MDT (0800 PDT – 1100 EDT – 1600 BST – 1700 CEST) on Facebook and the schedule opens with my welcome to the ‘Spiral of Hooves’ launch and then I will chat about my writing life and horses.

BreathOfAfrica

1000 MDT (1700 BST) – Jane Bwye, has a lifetime of amazing adventures, in Kenya and other countries, and as a dressage judge, horsewoman, and author of ‘Breath of Africa’, ‘Grass Shoots’, and ‘I Lift Up My Eyes’. Visit her at https://jbwye.com/ and learn much more. Jane knows the world behind ‘Spiral of Hooves’, including many of the horse events described, and at the launch party, she will have some fascinating tales to share.

144_4470

1100 MDT – Roland Clarke is back to discuss settings and reality, and to introduce his next guest and friend.

Shaman's Drum

1130 MDT (1930 CEST) – Ailsa Abraham is a lady of many talents and careers, including shaman and author of many books including ‘Shaman’s Drum’, ‘Alchemy, and ‘Attention to Death.’ Visit her at https://ailsaabraham.com/ and delve deeper into her writing and her adventurous life in France and at the Bingerbread Cottage. At the launch party, Ailsa will lead you into her world of mystery and beyond, lifting the veil to other worlds.

60e20e62d97062453d34936a266c3e5f

1200 MDT – Roland Clarke will return to the party and to the mysterious appearances driving our imaginations.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00067]

1400 MDT (1600 EDT) – Donna Beckley Galanti is an author and writing coach. She is the author of the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series. Visit her at www.elementtrilogy.com and www.donnagalanti.com and then check out her 4 Proven Steps to Connect with Readers Right Now (Before Your Book Even Comes Out!) www.createyourawesomecommunity.com. At the launch party, Donna will chat about her wealth of experiences from writing to inspiring other writers and readers.

2a1b43a6358cbace50a470473b87ac6f

1500 MDT – Roland Clarke will be back – if he has left – and he will discuss how he sculpts his ideas into readable draft novels, what is in his scribbling pipeline and the crafting tools he uses.

Blaze_27218007

1600 MDT (1500 PDT) – Kristina Stanley is the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery series based on her experience at Panorama Mountain Village, B.C. as the director of human resources, security and guest services. The series comprises Descent, Blaze and Avalanche. Her latest novel, Look the Other Way, is a suspense thriller based on her experience sailing in the Caribbean.  Visit her at https://kristinastanley.com/ and at https://fictionary.co/ an indispensable writer’s tool. At the launch party, Kristina will discuss research and real life inspiration.

34dc602d00000578-3622523-after_a_treacherous_journey_across_the_north_atlantic_ocean_the_-a-64_1464895479448

1700 MDT – Roland Clarke will move from this world to an alternate timeline, before introducing his last guest, whose historical novel is his current engrossing read. Yes, Roland reads historical fiction and enjoys escaping to other ages.

Traitor's Knot1800 MDT (2000 EDT) – Cryssa Bazos is published by Endeavour Press, and her debut novel ‘Traitor’s Knot’, is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War. A member of the Romantic Novelist Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Battle of Worcester Society, her articles and short stories have appeared in Canada and the UK. She is a co-editor and contributor of the English Historical Fiction Authors site and blogs at https://cryssabazos.com/.  At the launch party, she will talk about combining two of her fascinations: the 17th century and highwaymen.

P1010138

Highwaymen must mean horses. So that sets Roland Clarke up for the final fences at 1900 MDT until 2100 MDT – a chance for you to discuss any burning topics and attempt to win a final prize.

Don’t miss the ‘Spiral of Hooves Online Re-launch’ Party on Monday, August 7th.

121_2131

End of an Era: Closing a Chapter in My Life

Image

With my mother Nidia Clarke at Borde Hill Horse Trials – by Tony Warr

As I prepare to embark on a life in the US, I realise that 2015 is witnessing the closing pages of some chapters in my life: my involvement with the sport of eventing.

On April 4th, I lost my close friend and organiser-mentor Bill Allen, and I attempted to say in my tribute what Bill meant to me and to the sport.  Not long afterwards, on April 29th, The Hon. Daphne Lakin, organiser of Iping Horse Trials, died and with her more memories of a special person. At the beginning of June, Bill’s co-organiser at Purston Manor Horse Trials, Dr Peter Lamont, and another guiding light, sadly passed on. Despite the courage of Bill and Peter’s widows, Ann and Jill, there were not enough entries to stop the final running of Purston being cancelled.

HG2N1592

Bill Allen at Borde Hill Horse Trials- by Tony Warr

I felt these sad departures heralded the end of an era, but they are underscored by another departure. On May 22nd the final issue of Eventing magazine was published, the June 2015 edition. I wrote on Facebook, “As others have said, Eventing got many of us started in journalism – or in my case re-started after a false start. Made so many friends this way from journalists like Jane Perry, Julie Harding, Ellie Crosbie, photographers like Nick Perry, Stephen Sparkes, David Miller, and riders, owners, organisers, grooms. So many memories and a sad end of an era.”

Although Kate Green was the editor that gave me my first reporting job for them in 1993, her assistant and successor, Julie Harding kept me writing. To my post Julie replied, “Agree Roland. So many wonderful people met along the way and friends made. Delighted to have helped some launch their careers too. Eventing was so many things to so many people – hence why there is much sadness surrounding its demise.”

In her own post she said, “Sadly the end of Eventing after 30 years… Janet and Brian Hill, its founders, could never have believed when they started it that it would go on to have such a long and illustrious history. A lot of people will miss you Eventing.”

That was reflected in both the comments about Eventing Magazine’s departure, and in the tragic loss of three great organisers.  They will all be missed, and the sport is poorer for them leaving us.

P1010138

The Seahorse Achievement Award

Although I didn’t start writing about the sport regularly until 1993, and didn’t co-found the South East Eventers League until 1995, my own involvement with eventing actually preceded the magazine’s launch by over twenty years.

In 1973, when I was twenty, my journalism career started as a sub-editor for The Field. Then one day the assistant editor, Derek Bingham, took me with him to Tidworth Three-Day-Event, which was the British Junior team trial. Once they saw my amateurish photos, those Juniors even persuaded me to take photos at their final trial. So began a sporadic flirtation that took me all over the UK taking photos, briefly to Toronto, and to events on the continent – Netherlands and Germany. Basically I was hooked.

I experienced some high-points, although the pinnacle came from carriage driving – as a passenger in the ‘suicide seat’ of a marathon carriage. But I remember cheering friends to victory at three-day-events, which is echoed in my novel “Spiral of Hooves”.

219_1971

Penny Sangster on Greenbank Harlequin by Roland Clarke

And there were terrible low points, mainly when riders were killed, or horses. I’ll never forget standing by the main arena at Badminton in 1976 when Lucinda Prior-Palmer (now Green) won on Miss V Phillips’ Wide Awake, but then he died of a heart attack on his victory lap.

I regret losing a photo I took of Mr C Cyzer’s Killaire in his stable, a photo that looked like a painting. It was taken a few years before Lucinda won Badminton on Killaire in 1979.

When it launched in 1985 The Guardian described Eventing as “a tough workhorse aimed at the serious trials riders and budding Lucinda Greens.” But that workhorse has now retired, and so has this one.

But we’re not going to retire gracefully, are we? NO WAY.

I’ll keep writing about horses, even if they are fictional. Okay, “Tortuous Terrain”, the sequel to “Spiral of Hooves”, is based in Idaho, and the sport is more western – endurance riding and barrel racing. But easier to research, I hope.

And then comes “Suicide Seat”.

dick_lane02

Dick Lane and his team of Lipizzaners – by Roland Clarke

Bill Allen: A Great Heart and A Generous Man

HG2N1592

Bill Allen at Borde Hill Horse Trials ~ Photo by Tony Warr

On Saturday April 4th the sport of eventing lost one of its great supporters and personalities, Bill Allen. My first thought was for his wife Ann, and his family as I know how close they all are.

I couldn’t help it but I cried. For me Bill was special, as a friend and a colleague. Without Bill, I would never have got Borde Hill Horse Trials back onto the calendar. As my co-organiser, Bill taught me everything I know about running a horse trials, and helped assemble a first class team to put on the event. For many Bill was a first-class starter, and the joint-organiser of the successful Purston Horse Trials, but he could turn his hand to almost everything. But most important thing I learnt was that the organiser was responsible for chucking out the rubbish bags.

Bill Allen at Borde Hill Horse Trials with BE Steward Nicky Salmon (centre), Johnny Hill and Roland Clarke (right). Photo by Tony Warr.

Bill Allen at Borde Hill Horse Trials with BE Steward Nicky Salmon (centre), Johnny Hill and Roland Clarke (right). Photo by Tony Warr.

There have been so many tributes to him, and they all say, “how helpful and supportive of many events and people he was”. That he was “such a hard working lovely man, always with a joke and a smile and will be SO missed”. We “will miss his cheerful banter and big smile!”

Of course for me Borde Hill Horse Trials wasn’t the beginning as I already knew Bill. He was one of the linchpins at so many events that I attended, initially as a journalist, and then as co-ordinator of the South East Eventers League. In fact the SEEL organisers made sure to honour Bill & Ann for their crucial work ‘behind the scenes’, by presenting them with the Seahorse Achievement Award in 1998. And, of course, Ann was an integral part of the partnership – and of any event she scored or helped at.

P1010138

The Seahorse Achievement Award

Bill continued to support me as life got harder because of my multiple sclerosis, making sure that provision was always made for my disability. He ensured, with the two main sponsors Johnny Hill and Bill Kear, that I had a mobility scooter to continue going to events. However, MS eventually took its toll and I had to give up as co-organiser at Borde Hill, but although he too stood down, Bill Allen still helped the new team.

As my MS got worse, I went to fewer events, but tried to go to at least one Borde Hill event each year. And one of the first people to greet me was Bill Allen, even if he was busy doing things to keep the event running smoothly. Sadly, 2013 was the last time I went to the Horse Trials at Borde Hill, as we moved to Wales in 2014. So that was the last time that I saw Bill & Ann Allen.

So I wasn’t aware that he had cancer, or that during Tweseldown Horse Trials in March, Ann was visiting him in hospital ever evening, after working at the event.

Eventing has lost a great supporter and friend. I just feel devastated. My love and condolences to Ann and to all his family.

R.I.P Bill Allen, a great heart and a generous man.

Photo by Tony Warr

Photo by Tony Warr

.

R.I.P Bill Allen, a great heart and a modest man.

Sam Griffiths: Interview with the 2014 Badminton Winner

Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials 2014

Sam Griffiths & Paulank Brockagh winning Badminton ~ Photo by Kit Houghton

I am very pleased and immensely honoured to be interviewing Australian Sam Griffiths who on May 11th 2014 won the prestigious Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials on Dinah Posford & Juliet Carter’s 11-year-old mare Paulank Brockagh (Brocks). This was Sam’s first four-star eventing title, landing £80,000 pounds (US $134,000), and the Mitsubishi Motors Trophy.

Watching one of the most demanding Badmintons, I was elated when Sam and Brocks jumped from twenty-fifth after the dressage phase, to first after surviving the attrition of a tough cross-country and having just one fence down in the final show jumping phase. This was not only because Sam’s such a great guy but also because he was riding a mare. As readers of my novel “Spiral of Hooves” will know, mares hold a special place in my eventing world.

When Sam became the sixth Australian winner in Badminton’s 65-year history, he said, “This is the ultimate dream. When I was a little boy we used to wait for the video to come out to watch the highlights of Badminton. To win it is the completion of that dream.”

 

So Sam, where did you grow up, and what was your first encounter with a horse?

Originally from Melbourne, I am the middle sibling of of a family of three boys, I grew up on a farm on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula and has been involved with horses all my life showing my parent’s homebred Welsh ponies and being very much part of the Pearcedale Pony Club, which to this day still holds its rallies on my parent’s farm. Along with both my brothers I started taking eventing very seriously in my teenage years and had quite a bit of success with young rider competitions including finishing 2nd at the notoriously tough Gawler CCI*** in Australia at 18 years old. I continued to event whilst studying at Monash University, gaining a BA Hons degree in Geography.

 

You moved to the UK in 1995, the same year I started the South East Eventers League, and also when I first interviewed you. What made you move to the UK?

Well, I slightly fell into it really! I had been travelling with a friend and had run out of money so needed to find some work – quick! I had heard of a job as a groom with Blyth Tait so thought that could be an option for a month or two to get together enough money to continue my travels…I never did continue my travels! I realised that my passion lay in eventing and it was obvious that the UK was the place to be to make this my career.

 

Where were you based, and what made you choose to move to Dorset with one of our best eventing photographers?

So I started off grooming for Blyth , which was an amazing experience as his attention to detail and professionalism is second to none but really I wanted to be a rider not a groom and after a while I moved to Matt Ryan’s yard to be his ‘stable jockey’. It was here that I began to build up a little business and got one or two rides of my own which was enough to ‘go it alone’ so when I heard of the opportunity to base myself in David Hamilton’s yard I grabbed it as it would enable me to have more competition rides and grow my business further – although at this stage I only had one saddle to my name! Nevertheless, one thing led to another and some fantastic horses came my way, including Private Colin with whom I came 6th at Badminton and was reserve for the Athens Olympics. As my business grew I found myself with too many horses and not enough stables so I made the big move to Hoplands Equestrian Centre – an amazing facility with everything every event rider could ever wish for – indoor, outdoor, gallops, cross-country schooling course, accommodation etc! It cost me an arm and a leg to be there but it was worth it! Shortly before moving here I had met my now wife Lucy – we still joke that she only liked me for the facilities at Hoplands (She was still competing from her family home on the Isle of Wight! So when she saw Hoplands she moved in pretty quickly!! ) . However, as much as Hoplands was the most fantastic training facility, the rent was beginning to cripple us and we realised we could put that rent money towards a mortgage so after 5 years at Hoplands, we started looking for our own place…we originally looked in the central south area but the prices were huge so we ended up looking further west where we could get more value for money and that’s when we found our perfect Symphony Farm on the Dorset/Somerset border.

DSC_8786

Sam Griffiths & Paulank Brockagh at Symphony Farm

The Posford family have been great supporters throughout your career. How long have you been riding for Dinah Posford and her daughter Juliet Carter? How long have you been riding Brocks for them? Did you ride her in her first events?

Dinah Posford was my first EVER owner – her daughter, Jules, had been having lessons with Matt Ryan but had not wanted to carry on eventing. Dinah, however, had become hooked on the sport and wanted to see the horse she had brought for Jules progress and so I got asked to ride it as Matt was too busy! So that was around 1995/96.  Brocks came to me as a 7 year old, having competed at novice level in Ireland with Heidi Hamilton. She progressed well and that year, having only been with me a few months, finished 8th at Le Lion D’Angers CCI** World Young Horse Championships – Dinah Posford had seen her out competing with me and liked her so much that she brought her just before we went to Le Lion.

 

You have clearly built up a great rapport with Brocks saying, “She is one tough nut with a massive heart. She tries and tries and tries. I cannot speak highly enough of her”. What else is special about her?

She is incredibly powerful and scopey – I have never, yet, felt her reach her limit in her jumping – she really would jump anything I pointed her out and just wants to go between the flags. She is incredibly brave and bold – so much so that I often have to really ‘anchor’ her on course! She just has a real ‘no fuss’ attitude to life and takes everything in her stride and funnily enough so goes even better when she’s in season!

 

I believe Brocks is only the third mare to win Badminton, which in many ways is because the greater proportion of event horses are geldings. That may be because too many riders deem that mares are temperamental and difficult. Yet from talking to those riders that have a special rapport with mares – from Open European Champion Lucy Thompson with Welton Romance, to 2007 Badminton winner Lucinda Fredericks with Headley Britannia – they can be exceptional. What can a mare bring to a partnership?

If you click with a mare, keep them confident and gain their trust – I do believe that they try harder for you than many geldings. Yes, you have to have a ‘way’ with mares – you can’t dominate them, you have to negotiate but if you understand that and the mare wants to work with you then they can be exceptional.

 

One major advantage of successfully competing on a mare has to be her breeding potential, a huge drawback with geldings. Do the Posford Family have any breeding plans for Paulank Brockagh as a proven mare? Are they considering embryo transplant (ET) so Brocks can stay in competition work or is ET a problem? Of course there is the more expensive even controversial cloning route, which even geldings can go down. [For readers’ information, “the ET process involves breeding a donor mare to a stallion and then transferring the resulting embryo into a recipient mare which carries the foal to term and nurses it until weaning.”]

Brocks has actually got two embryo transfers opportunities now  – one from Burghley and another offer has come since Badminton however the Posfords do not want to rush into anything – her focus at the moment needs to be on competing – she’s at her prime and there is plenty of time to go down the breeding route. Even though ET has proved very successful, each mare takes it differently and the last thing we would want to do would be to change anything about her. All the pros and cons would have to be very carefully looked into before any decisions were made. Having said that, if she goes to WEG this year, then there is a long gap until the start of the 2015 season so who knows…maybe that would be a good time…

 

I’ve been implying that the win is down to you & Brocks, but a successful eventing challenge requires a great deal of support in all weathers, from grooms to owners. Tell us about the unsung heroines (& heroes) of Team Griffiths that were crucial to the Badminton win, and will be central to your World Equestrian Games campaign. How will the Team prepare? [Sam & Brocks are one of the six horse and rider combinations selected to comprise Australia’s World Equestrian Games (WEG) Eventing Team.]

Well this really is a team sport and I simply could not compete successfully without my back up team – so crucial to my success is my headgirl, Imogen Mercer, who not only runs the yard on a daily basis but also comes to all the major competitions with me. She knows each horse inside out and knows me very well now too! She is incredibly calm, capable and organised, which allows me to concentrate on my riding – not worrying about whether I’ve placed a recent feed order or whether I have the right tack packed for the next event. She is exceptional at her job and we are very lucky to have her. Then I have the main core of the home team which consists of 6 or 7 grooms/working pupils during the season and I have a very good stable jockey too – a young French rider called Gireg Le Coz who helps school the horses at home when I am out competing. Each and every one of the home team are fundamental to my success and keeping the show on the road month after month. Then there is my wife Lucy – having previously ridden at three star level before having our son, Ollie, she too helps school the horses at home whilst I am away but also does the bulk of the admin work – entries, invoicing, booking in training sessions, liaising with sponsors, owners, press and supporting the staff here on site  – more often than not she is the one dealing with any issues or problems that crop up as I am on the road so much (I’m also not great at answering my phone as I’m usually on a horse so everyone calls Lucy!). So what with that, looking after Ollie and somewhere in there doing her photography work, life is pretty full on for Lucy too! As well as all these people that keep things going for me I do of course have some wonderful owners who have supported me through thick and thin and were all so thrilled with the Badminton result as many of them have supported me right from the early days and I am so grateful to them for sticking by me through all these years. Finally, I have two exceptional trainers – Gareth Hughes for dressage and Ros Morgan (nee Bevan) for jumping – both of these people are a huge support to me as they both really understand me and, more importantly, they understand what makes Brocks perform at her best and they have always believed she is a star – luckily both Ros and Gareth could be there on the Sunday of Badminton and we could share that special (and very surreal!) moment with them.  It is such a great feeling to have really ‘brought home the goods’ for all of my team.

 

I am presuming that WEG will be the focus of your summer, and we wish you lots of good fortune. I follow you and the Team on Twitter and on Facebook, but are there other ways that people can follow the exploits of you and Team Griffiths? Websites? Other Social media?

Yes, I have a website www.samgriffithseventing.co.uk  and on there you will find links to my Facebook and Twitter pages as well as a link to my monthly newsletter where you can just click on the link to subscribe to the newsletter and get a copy of it emailed to you every month.

 

Thank you very much, Sam. It’s been a great pleasure to interview you. And thanks to Lucy for arranging this. Best of luck to you, Brocks and Team Griffiths for WEG.      

Anytime!

Finally, my apologies that my Badminton preview failed to mention the real winner, just the far too obvious contenders. Although, prompted by my fiction, I did say, “…but also watch out for the outsiders and the hidden agendas. There might be a mystery there.”

DSC_8897

Sam Griffiths and the Mitsubishi Motors Trophy

 

Other Sam Griffiths articles & interviews well worth checking out:

At home with the Badminton Champion

Badminton win a dream for Australian rider

Announcement of the six horse and rider combinations selected to comprise Australia’s World Equestrian Games (WEG) Eventing Team. http://www.equestrian.org.au/?ID=35710

For Lucy Griffiths’ amazing photos of Horses, Landscapes and Gardens & Plants, visit http://www.lucygriffithsphotography.co.uk/

 

Winning formula for Badminton Horse Trials

champagne_toast

On Sunday 11th May the winner of the 2014 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials will be decided after four days of intense CCI**** competition. Central to the winner’s success in this three phase competition will probably be the cross-country course designed by Giuseppe Della Chiesa, Badminton’s new designer – the first in 25 years.

But who are the prime contenders for the Badminton title? It takes years of training, dedication and great skill to succeed at the world’s most prestigious four star three-day. Sothere will be the “usual suspects”, including William Fox-Pitt on top form as winner of the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event at Lexington last weekend. This was William’s third Kentucky win, each one on a different horse. His 2012 winning ride, Catherine Witt’s Parklane Hawk is one of his rides at Badminton this year, and won Burghley in 2011. With two rides at Badminton, William will have to be a favourite.

William Fox-Pitt in Eventing Grand Prix at Hickstead on Lyn How's Diamond Manati ~ by Roland Clarke

William Fox-Pitt in Eventing Grand Prix at Hickstead on Lyn How’s Diamond Manati ~ by Roland Clarke

However, the field of 85 rides includes some notable previous winners, including equestrian legend and four times Badminton winner Mark Todd, GB Team stalwart Mary King, and Pippa Funnell – the only winner of the Rolex Grand Slam (for consecutive wins at Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley). There are also others in the field whose build-up may have given them and their rides a chance at the title. Of course injuries could also see some contenders fail to start – that is a risk with horses.

But not all of the riders and horses are likely winners, nor are they just making up the numbers. There are many other reasons for running. Some are aiming for a spot on their country’s team at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy from August 23 – September 7, 2014 – the eventing is Thursday 28th-Sunday 31st August. For others this seems like a natural step in a horse’s career and could be the rider’s own Badminton debut. Many pony club riders dream of riding at Badminton and that dream may never die, even when it is fulfilled.

Many of the riders entered I know from my days as an equestrian journalist and photographer. A few I can remember competing at pony club trials, like Sophie Jenman, who is making her Badminton debut having done Burghley CCI**** in 2013. I used to write about her mother for local papers as she was a leading contender in the South East Eventers League, as were over a dozen of the riders.

Cover credit: Danielle Sands

Cover credit: Danielle Sands

It’s a long road to Badminton and far from smooth. Portraying that struggle in realistic terms is difficult, and I hope in my novel “Spiral of Hooves” that I succeeded. Writing a Badminton winner was never my intention, but I wanted to set some scenes there. So over to my Badminton runners – why did you compete there?

Carly Tanner: When first asked about Badminton, I told a reporter that my mare Silver Torc is, “…fantastic and owes me nothing. If it wasn’t for her injury, we might have gone. Without a top horse, Badminton’s just a dream.” However, Gilles persuaded me that I was capable of riding there and realising my pony club ambition. I had to relent saying, “Okay. Torc and I have done a few three stars, so we need a challenge.” At that point I was unaware of where it would all lead.

Gilles Boissard: It should have been my dream but instead my competing at Badminton was driven by my father’s ambition of having bred a Canadian team horse. However, Carly told me when we walked the course, “That’s not you talking, that’s Roman’s pride. He doesn’t care about the means or the cost, just the result.” At that stage Carly was unaware of what pride and ambition would unleash.

So when the first horses do their dressage on Thursday 8th May 2014, keep your eyes on both the names like William Fox-Pitt, but also watch out for the outsiders and the hidden agendas. There might be a mystery there.