Isleham is always a great venue for early eventing - running rain or shine. Although recent weather conditions have been quite testing Isleham still managed to run where others sadly abandoned, greatly assisted by the black peaty soil that holds up very well!
The venue is very well laid out with lorry park, dressage, showjumping and cross country start all quite close, which is nice for competitors, supporters and spectators alike, who in early March are al getting back into the swing of things.
John Jacks set interesting twisty showjumping courses across the two days, which much to the delight of the competitors saw fresh ground each day in both the competition arena and the warm up. Phillip and Guy Herbert, meanwhile, had laid out four brilliant cross country courses with questions being asked at multiple points around the course. The Celebration V's caused their usual amount of 20 penalties, with the water complex attracting trouble in the BE90 and BE100, all the way round to the final fence which certainly caused its own amount refusals.
The weather on Saturday was cloudy but dry, so good conditions for the BE90/100 classes, which were well supported. BE90 sec A was won by Claire Elbrow riding Rathcline Cori with a fantastic 22.3 dressage and double clear. Lisa Clarke-Spence took BE90 sec B with Eyebrook Cosmos, she also had a 3rd BE90 sec A riding Desert Fox III. Alice Shickell won BE90 sec C with Springwood Da Vinci.
Simon Grieve collected his 60th win under BE rules in BE90 sec D with Bonhunt Bertie, he also won BE100 sec F riding Wallstreet VB. The BE100 sec E winner was Joe Wise with Annsfort Quality, Mary Edmundson took the BE100 sec G riding Dinky III with a brilliant 22 dressage & double clear.
Sophie Hyde said "the 3.45am wake-up was worth it", picking up a 2nd with Shannondale OSO and a 9th for Whitewater Accolade, in their first run of the season.
Sundays weather was a tad trying, with fierce winds, persistent drizzle, brilliant sunshine and a torrential downpour with a little hail thrown in for good measure - just the sort of four seasons in one day we've come to expect from a trip to Isleham. This did result in a beautiful rainbow which looked stunning across the flat fen land!
Simon Grieve kept up his winning streak taking Novice section H with, Dr Polly Taylor's Mr Fahrenheit III - the embryo transfer offspring of the legendary Little Tiger.
Novice sec I was won by Holly Woodhead riding Finduss PRB, who had left her yard at 2.30am with 4 on board. Holly's first event with Parkfield Quinessential went well, as did another first event with RLE Barina, meanwhile Mr Sneezy picked up a 7th.
It was a winning start to the season for British Eventing Number 1 ranked rider, Oliver Townend who following some quick thinking and a bit of luck with the entries secretary, managed to divert a number of entries from the abandoned Aston-Le-Walls, to have several rides on both days. Oliver went on to win Open Nov section J with Arctic Mouse, as well as picking up a win with Lanfranco in the Open Intermediate, finishing on their 27.1 dressage score, more than 10 points clear of the rest of the field.
Holly Needham won BENov u18 sec K riding Strike a Pose, with Open Nov sec L won by Naomi Lawrence & So Quiet, the last section of event, BE Intermediate sec N was won by Izzy Taylor riding Direct Casino.
Francis Whittington thought "the Isleham ground was amazing" (he luckily managed to dodge the rain!), with local rider Caroline March describing the event organisers as "friendly and helpful". Boffie Brown of Pink and Blue Eventing who had her 1st run in exactly a year with Templar Tribute also praised the amazing ground!
From our reporter, Vera Porter, "Me, as a spectator thoroughly enjoyed the two days, because of the layout and great organisation which eases you gently back into eventing it is always one of my favourites! Thankyou Isleham!"