Held at Blackwater Farm in Norfolk this year was blessed with lovely weather, wall to wall sunshine for the duration. It is almost unheard of for the weather to be this nice for Witchingham in March. As always the event was well organised by David Sayer, ably assisted by son Robert.
The quite twisty show jumping track by Sue Peasley caught the odd combination off guard, but ultimately rode well. The cross country course designed and built by Robert and David Sayer and Michael Karayan has undergone quite a bit of work, with changes to the second water and improvements to Badgers Bottom (which always raises a titter or two in the commentary). It's a brilliant open course which allows for some good galloping stretches, with many of the riders praising the course and ground conditions.
Emily Young Jamieson said "the long drive from Wiltshire was worth while for the runs on perfect ground with great courses in beautiful sunshine", and went on to praise the friendly and helpful organisers and volunteers. The icing on the cake for Emily was certainly Gortmore Tommy T winning CIC* sec E and Shannondale Carlina picking up tenth.
Ben Westgate described the early Norfolk event as a "brilliantly run event with perfect ground and courses", following his 5th place in BE100 G with Call to Conquer.
Imogen Murray said of her early start from home that her ride Donatello S wasn't sure about getting up in the middle of the night! But he collected seventh in the Intermediate sec A, Tromgar Jess was third in Advanced Intermediate sec C and Ivor Gooden was second, adding Great Witchingham to Imogen's string of success so far this season and making her certainly one to watch, especially with that Badminton waitlist pending.
Tom Jackson had eight rides over two days and was thrilled to have Waltham Fiddlers Find and Dowaldo back from injury, coming fifteenth and twentieth respectfully. Courvosier came sixth in Intermediate sec A, Dusty II was fifth in Advanced Intermediate sec C, Newmarket Prospect eighth in Novice sec L. Then first places for Court Casper in Novice sec M and Fizz V in Open Intermediate sec N.
Novice sec D was won by Phoebe Buckley with Tigers Mail, whose half-brother Fahrenheit II ridden by Simon Grieve was fourth. The dam of these two was the legendary 14.2 Little Tiger, or Frostie to her friends, owned by Dr Polly Taylor, who back in her day was ridden by Phoebe and groomed by Simon!
Emily Baldwin and Uppercourt Cooley claimed the best dressage score (16.1) of the event and with a double clear won the Intermediate sec A.
At the end of the weekend Robert Sayer (who has been involved for a good many years) said he was pleased with how the event had run and very happy with the good weather, but was disappointed with the drop of roughly 100 entries in the top levels, many of whom had headed north to Burgham, which unfortunately ran at the same time as Gatcombe and Witchingham. He thinks that there aren't enough
top level competitors for three events so, someone loses out!
As it was it was those that headed north that lost out, as sadly Burgham were forced to abandon due to the wet conditions that remained following the significant rain they had had on the run up to the event.