Horse trials held in the beautiful grounds of Gatcombe Park, in the heart of the Cotswolds, have long been a favourite for both fan and rider. The mix of rolling hills, twists, turns, long gallops and clusters of trees making HRH The Princess Royal's course a true cross country course with traditional roots.
In its 23rd year of running. the Spring horse trials uses a different area of the vast Gatcombe parklands, creating a different feel and atmosphere to that of the Festival in August.
In a change to the usual forecast the sun shone brightly at Gatcombe, bathing the Park in the warmth of the Spring sunshine, making happy volunteers, spectators, supporters, owners and riders.
Gatcombe entries always read as a who's who of eventing with this Spring being no different.
Louise Harwood finished the weekend with a hat-trick of wins, with a double clear and just 3.2 time penalties leaving her with a win in the Open Intermediate with Jenga II on 35.9. Whitson took the Advanced Intermediate on a score of 35, after they rolled a pole in the show jumping and finished just 1 second over the optimum time. Brechfa Medrod proved to be Louise's best finishing score of the weekend, finishing on their 26.3 dressage to win Novice section D.
Jack Pinkney, based at Attington Stud with Austin O'Connor, looks to be having a great start to the 2017, with a 3rd 3rd place in the Intermediate with Raphael IV, after producing a season's best dressage of 27.3. Certainly one to watch this season.
Another rider to watch this season - Danielle Dunn. The young rider based near Swindon will be making her 4* debut at this year's Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. Danni produced a spectacular win with Polar Fox to win Novice B on their 30 dressage, pushing Olympians Zara Tindall, Jonty Evans and Andrew Nicholson into 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively. We spoke to Danni following her Gatcombe victory:
"I was absolutely delighted with Polar Fox's performance at Gatcombe. He has matured so much since last year and he feels like he really knows his job now. I'm really excited to be moving him up a level next week at Belton."
The legend that is Andrew Nicholson was on flying form this weekend with his lowest placing being 12th! However it was a back to back win for As Is who went 1 penalty better than their Aldon win to take Novice C on a three phase score of 29.
Another rider that seems to be featuring quite frequently in our event reports this season - Kylie Roddy. It was a pair of wins at Swalcliffe, then on to Gatcombe for a pair of 3rd and a win in the Open Novice. Dowdstown Play Boy finished 3rd in Novice A with 31.1 and SRS Kan Do 3rd in the Intermediate Novice with a 36.9. However it was Euro Power who was the star of the yard with a spectacular 24.3 dressage in the Open Novice, followed up with a double clear and just 1.2 time, taking the win on 25.5, just over a penalty clear of Giovanni Ugolotti in 2nd place.
We look forward to returning to Gatcombe in August for The Festival of British Eventing and the Event Rider Masters.
All photographs courtesy of Hannah Ray