Set in the stunning Somerset countryside, Aldon International Horse Trials is a jewel in the crown of South West eventing. Under the expert organisation of the delightful Tessa Mackenzie-Green the event is always a delight to attend for both riders, owners, spectators, sponsors and volunteers.
Laid out across three distinct areas the lorry park is centred between the show jumping and dressage arenas, providing a quiet area for the more easily excited event horses to knuckle down to some 'stressage'.
Allan Dunning's show jumping track, although twisty, flowed well, rarely causing more than the four faults.
Aldon always has that big event feel with the catering and shopping stands bordering the arena, encouraging spectators to stop and watch the action unfold.
Adrian Ditcham's cross country course certainly contained some interesting and tricky obstacles that asked a few questions of the Aldon competitors across all levels. Set in the grounds of Aldon House, the natural bowl acts as its own amphitheatre providing great viewing for eventing supports from the top of the hill.
The weekend saw 22 sections of national and international competition with a mix of young riders shooting up the ranks to take top honours, and the well experienced campaigners adding yet another win and trophy to their collection.
It was eventing's darling Emily King that took top honours in the premier section, the Advanced Intermediate, GBR's young rider keeping two Irish Olympian's in the form of Austin O'Connor and Jonty Evans, at bay in 2nd and 3rd.
Aldon proved a successful venue for the O'Connor's, who'd travelled down to Somerset from their base at Attington Stud, nr Thame in Oxfordshire. Austin O'Connor finished 2nd to Emily Kind in the Advanced Intermediate with Badminton bound Kilpatrick Knight, just adding 3.2 time penalties to their 28.3 dressage. The run of good results continues with Billy Black Cat in the OI who finished 4th with a double clear, and Colorado Blue 9th after they added time in both the show jumping and the cross country. There was also an 8th place for Gonzalo in the Novice, whilst wife Amy O'Connor finished 5th with 5 year old Solsboro Sweatpea in their first BE100, finishing on their 28.8 dressage.
Georgie Strang produces an impressive win in BE100 section L with Capels Hollow Drift finishing on their 20 dressage score, in a section where a 30+ dressage was rarer than a sub 30.
The stunning dressage continued throughout the BE100 sections, with Camilla Read producing a 22 with Cloonberry Flare to win the under 18 section some 7 points clear of Jess Rimmer in 2nd place.
The legendary Andrew Nicholson made a winning return to Aldon with a Novice win with As Is finishing on their 30 dressage, and an Intermediate with Zacarias adding just 6.8 time to their 27.1 dressage. Good form didn't stop their for Mr Stickability with a 2nd in the BE100 with Argentino BK finishing on their dressage score of 26.5 and another 2nd for Byrnesgrove First Diamond in the Open Intermediate. Berganza produced a 19 dressage in BE100 section B, however added 4 faults from the show jumping to drop them to 6th overall.
Not to be outdone by daughter Emily, Mary King produced a 1,2 finish in the Open Novice with King Robert II and King Bill finishing their 29 and 30.8 dressage scores respectively.
It was also a 1, 2 finish in the Pony Trial, this time for Tom Bird who held the lead from start to finish with Night Fury on 29.3, just coming home 1 second over time with Brockington Jessie Hall to complete on 31.4 for 2nd place.
Overall another great event from the Aldon team - here's looking forward to a return trip in October.