Eventing profile: after a year in the Marlborough area & a good season, Georgie Strang looks to next year's challenges
And it's been a good year for her: "I'm really pleased with our progress - it's been educational for myself and the horses. My younger horses have stepped up and I have some new young horses too. And Cooley Earl and I completed Badminton."It has been a year of change for eventer Georgie Strang - her first year in the Marlborough area.
She was delighted to have qualified for Badminton - taking Cooley Earl into fiftieth place among the combinations that completed. Twenty-five did not complete. She had a very good show jumping round and was one of many with an expensive cross-country phase.
She moved from her home in Kent to Sir Mark Todd's facilities at Foxhill on the north side of the Marlborough Downs - and she is more than happy with the move.
"I'm now involved in all the planning, communications and logistics. Just finding my feet, I guess. I've been to a lot of new events this year - that's purely the geography. And I've avoided the M25!"Was it an adventurous step - leaving her home territory?
Another plus of the move is that she can call Barbury International Horse Trials her home event: "Rather than a four hour drive, it was amazing to just pop down the road."
She rode eleven year-old Cooley Earl in the fourth leg of the Event Rider Masters (ERM) competition there - completing the three phases and taking twelfth place: "It was really, really good. It worked out in my favour - Earl suits show-jumping - and there were few clear rounds."
In fact just seven went clear in the show-jumping, leaving her in tenth place. With no jumping penalties from a cross country in tricky conditions, her 17.2 time penalties were costly. Without those she could have finished in third place.
That twelfth place was ten higher than the combination's 22 place in the ERM contest at Blenheim Palace in September 2017.
Two other advantages have sealed her move: she is nearer to her partner, New Zealand eventer Jesse Campbell, who is based near Ramsbury. And, when she needs advice, that master of eventing, Sir Mark Todd, is pleased to help.
Georgie Strang, who is thirty years-old, has fourteen horses at various levels of experience and training. One of the delights of eventing is producing horse that come as just broken four year-olds from Ireland - and taking them through the levels from BE100 (where 100 cms is the height of the obstacles), to Novice, Intermediate - and through the starred levels to four star.
And next season? She has not decided whether to try for Badminton or the Luhmuhlen CCI **** and CIC***. Aims for the younger horses are different: "We'll be building up their levels." And 2019 is the year of the European Championships.
Georgie qualified Global Quest for the Burghley Young Event Horse competition for five-year-olds. They compete with dressage and show jumping - no cross-country - and have some very technical marking of the entries' 'conformation', suitability and potential: "It was very good for Global Quest to experience the atmosphere of Burghley."
With that number of horses, she needs a big team behind her: "Moving meant establishing a new system - finding people who suit my approach" - these include Lissa White (dressage training) and Ros Morgan (show-jump training) and a new vet and farrier.
I feel privileged to now be in the position to represent them both on and off the horses. They have shown huge support to the sport over the last two decades and I very much look forward to working with them.” She is also sponsored by PM Equestrian (agent for Antares saddles) and Balanced Horse Feeds.She has recently become one of KBIS British equestrian Insurance's sponsored riders: “I already insured the yard through KBIS as I find the team friendly and helpful.
Just as racing is making great efforts to acknowledge the essential role of stable staff, we can name Georgie's team at her new base: head girl Jess Harper and Cam Christie.
As the season winds down, she had a good Open Intermediate competition with Cooley Earl at the South of England International at Ardingly last Saturday (September 22) - as she tweeted:"An amazing end to the season for this brilliant horse in the South of England OI. Earl finished on his dressage score of 27 after an easy double clear. Huge thank you to Diana Morrish for another incredible season."
It will not be too long before it's the New Year and horses come back in from their break for some hacking. Then it'll be everyday dressage and jumping lessons: "They all have weaknesses to be worked on."
At which point we can pause and acknowledge that owners of eventing horses are now beginning to get their proper recognition as a vital part of the sport. This is happening in part thanks to the ERM organisation which was founded by owners. Racehorse owners have long had their names in print - names eventing owners have been harder to locate.
So here is the list of her current owners: Seymour Bourne, Barbara Cooper, Karen Coumbe, Warren Marshall, Pippa Woodall, Meriel Rowson, Diana Morrish, Gilly Kinloch, Jenny Newton, Anne Stratton and Deborah & Ian Strang.
Georgie Strang: "I'm so grateful to them. They are trusting me with their horses - and to do the best with them that I can. It's the journey from the beginning - that's what they love - and I love too."