The season’s finally close enough to feel it

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The 2023 Eventing season looks a little different this year, but with her first competition in March, Toots Bartlett has been enjoying the work

Toots and Cor Y Taran working in some rare spring sunshine.
Images: Courtenay Hitchcock

The final countdown is on. Eventing season is about to begin – the first event is at Cirencester Park at the end of March! All my horses are back into full fitness work now – galloping, trotting up the hills and, most excitingly, we’re back jumping! As I write, we are working towards getting them out on the grass for their first cross-country school of the year.
We have often had to start the season having only prepared in the school, so it is a real bonus this year to be able to prepare properly. I’m aware we (my horses and me!) always get over-excited for our first cross-country so I’m hoping that our disciplined schooling over the winter has prepared us. I’ve worked hard on my partnership with each horse to fine-tune any issues we noted last year.
The weather’s been kind and the ground is in great shape, highly unusually for February we have even been able to do some canter work on the grass. I am definitely not being complacent, however. The Great British Weather can be relied on to throw us a curve ball!

Toots saddling up in the barn

Events lost, found and changed
There has been a huge change in the British Eventing calendar this year, and we wave goodbye to many great events, including Houghton Hall International near Kings Lynn and Barbury Castle International, both of which ran classes up to CCI4S. Osberton International (in Lincolnshire) has given its Young Horse Championship to Cornbury in Oxfordshire. This does mean, however, that these events have been replaced by other venues – I’m not sorry to be heading to Bicton Arena in Devon instead of making the six hour trip to Houghton Hall, as I have done for the past five years. Bicton also offers the horses an all-weather surface for the show-jumping phase which in these changing summers and harder ground is a welcome addition. The King’s coronation will also alter the running order of the UK’s biggest CCI5 event of the year, traditionally held at Badminton House on the first weekend of May.
Due to the large number of Eventing supporters who wish to watch the coronation, in addition to the battling media coverage, Badminton has made the smart decision to run the cross-country on the Sunday instead of the Saturday, and have therefore moved the show-jumping to the Monday. It will be an interesting experiment to see if an extra day between the dressage and the cross-country is beneficial, and what effect it has on the overall cross-country statistics. Either way, it is always a truly amazing weekend of top quality sport and one not to be missed!

Hopefully it won’t be long before I’m a Badminton competitor myself – but horses who have the skill, athleticism, trainable brain, stamina, brave heart and sheer ability required to take on one of the toughest and most demanding tracks in the world are very few and far between. If you happen to have one please do get in touch!

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