Michelle Williamson runs the White Horse Livery - & really enjoyed her first three star eventing at Barbury
It is not only the headliners and international star riders who get a unique buzz from competing at the Barbury International Horse Trials. For local rider Michelle Williamson this month's Barbury was her first ever three star competition. Did she enjoy it? You bet she did.
She was riding My Man Mickie - a twelve year-old grey gelding standing 16 hands: "Very brave - quite feisty - a little bit quirky."
He is owned by Mrs Sarah Francis, who runs a small private livery yard at Lockeridge - just west of Marlborough. Mickie was going to be sold, but his owner - and Michelle - thought he had some more eventing in him.
The three star at Barbury was tough: "Mickie gets quite tense in the dressage - he's not the easiest at that phase." At the end of the dressage Michelle found herself in last place - 61st. After nine faults in the show-jumping they moved up three places.
"At every level we've competed he's answered all the questions. But he loves the cross country." And with a clear round and 30.4 time penalties, Michelle and Mickie catapulted themselves up into thirty-eighth place: "I was really pleased. I took the cross country steadily as it was his and my first at that level."
With only forty-five combinations completing the competition, that was a great first time result. Michelle is passionate about eventing, but it was soon back to the day job: she runs White Horse Liveries Ltd in Alton Barnes - leasing the substantial yard from farmer Tim Carson.
At present they have 28 horses - most of them on full livery. Michelle employs a core staff of five - with Louise Holden as the yard manager. And has three or four part time staff. That core staff includes an apprentice - and Michelle is looking for another one.
After her A-levels she spent a year as a 'working pupil' with Angela and Mike Tucker in Gloucestershire. Angela was an experienced eventer - she completed Badminton seven times and came in as high as seventh place. She now trains, produces young horses and judges at all levels of the sport: "I learnt so much from her."
She loves the work and says they are especially lucky to be able to hack over some of the areas most stunning agricultural landscapes - setting off from the yard which is within sight of the Alton Barnes white horse.
She has followed the path of the British Horse Society's professional coaching qualifications. She is at BHSI level and Louise is BHSAI. They run two three-day 'training camps' during the summer.
Michelle has also qualified as an Equine Sport Massage Therapist training with the world renowned Mary Bromily. She travels to give massage sessions to between five and eight horses a week.
Michelle will be looking for sponsorship for future eventing. She does write an occasional blog for Saracen Horse Feeds - under the auspicious title of 'Beyond the Muck Heap'!
Barbury has been a real high point for her: "Just being there is great - it's so close to home and so many come to support you. Its natural amphitheatre makes it so good for spectators - and riders. It would be a real shame to lose it."
Mickie and Michelle missed qualifying for the Blenheim horse trials - due to that dressage score at Barbury. Their next stop will be the Hartpury three star competition - August 10-13: "That should finish us for the year."
And when her Barbury first three star is a memory, there is always plenty of work to do in the White Horse Liveries yard.