Situated on top of a hill with icy cold winds a blowing, Swalcliffe was always going to struggle to be a warm event. However a warm welcome from volunteers and organisers was what awaited competitors at Swalcliffe Park Equestrian, Grange Farm, on the Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border.
Numerous riders were quick to praise the Swalcliffe team on yet another superb event. International venter Kylie Roddy told The Bit UK's team:
"Full credit must go to the owners, organisers and the team at swalcliffe for putting on a great event and attracting good sponsors and giving out great prizes. Full marks to them and i'll be back next year."
Kylie had every reason to be over joyed with the event with a double BE100 win with a rather stunning pair of gingers. Madelaine Woodford's Ringwood Gold Dust won section I, finishing on his 28.3 dressage with Shearwater Bonaparte, owned by Shearwater Insurance and Jeremy Lawton, winning section J, with another double clear to finish on 23.3.
"Ringwood Gold Dust was classy throughout all three phases although he is severn he only evented a handful of times last year. The winter has really helped his strength and is more confident in me. He started life as a suspicious horse and has now started to let go and allow me to ride him. He was really good in all three phases! It lovely when that happens. Jeremy Lawton and I bought Shearwater Bonaparte last august through a recommendation from Frank Bourney. I really love how much he tries for his rider. In his dressage he has great rhythm and the judges do seem to like him. He really has taken to the cross country phase and seems to enjoy galloping and jumping."
Local rider Sarah Gairdner was also keen to praise the "great going, lovely event and course, for an early season run" following her 8th place finish in BE100 section J with Tina Ure's Premier Prestige, who finished on their 28.8 dressage score.
"It was an educational course for an inexperienced 100 horse" added Sarah, "our first 100 this season having completed 1 last year. She was very classy and grew in confidence as she went round the course."
The Bit team's favourite story of the weekend comes from Samantha Halket who has suffered from CFS/ME for 10 years. An extremely difficult illness to live with, resulting in Samantha unable to get out of bed and unable to walk for periods of time. For suffers just waking up can be a difficult task. Samantha also has two children, a house and horses to look after. It is her love for horses and eventing that get her through the day and helps her get up and out of bed. This weekend Samantha's story brought a tear to our eye as she finished 4th!
"My love of horses and determination allowed me to fulfill my dream and event. Yesterday my horse Riley and I competed at Stafford for our first event of the season. What an amazing day it was coming home with 4th place!! I managed 4 events last season and I am hoping to do a full season this year. The point of me writing this is to all those people out there that are struggling to overcome illness and feeling that your day to go out and compete or even ride again is so far away Don’t Give Up!! Use your dreams to help you determine your way forward. I had many times of trying to only end up going backwards but although I thought about it at times I didn’t give up. Good luck and I wish you all the luck to achieve your goals"
Win of the weekend has to go to the one and only 'red thunder from down under' Paul Tapner who produced the dressage test of the competition to finish on a score of 17.3! With Paul's expert guidance and show jumping and cross country skills, the pair finished on their dressage mark to 5.7 penalties clear of 2nd, 3rd and 4th, with Owen Cooper, Tiana Coudray and Kate Greenhalgh all finishing on 23.0.