Nicholson & Avebury at the Owl HoleLockeridge-based Andrew Nicholson and the 'little' grey' Avebury won the CCI*** title - the feature competition at the St James's Place International Barbury Horse Trials on Sunday (July 12) - for an astounding fourth year running.
No horse in the history of eventing has ever won a class of this stature four times in succession. Last to go after a long afternoon’s tense wait, Rosemary and Mark Barlow’s wonderful 15-year-old grey was flawless across country, finishing 12 seconds inside the optimum time and easily holding his lead.
What was more Andrew Nicholson - a New Zealand Olympic medal winner - and the 15-year-old chestnut gelding Nereo took second place. After the dressage, show jumping and cross country phases Nereo was a mere 4.4 penalty points behind his stable mate.
Members of the New Zealand elite squad took third (Sir Mark Todd and Leonidas II from Badgerstown) and fifth place (Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy from Mildenhall.) There were two British entries in the top ten places: Nicola Wilson and Beltane Queen were fourth and Laura Collett and Grand Manoeuvre were sixth.
A sign of the form as the European Championships approach was the placing of two French entries in the top ten - and a third French pair at eleventh.
The Barlows (who own Avebury) holding trophies - either side of David Bellamy (of St James's Place Wealth Management) with Penny Bunter and Nicholson on the rightA celebratory family group: Andrew with his wife Wiggy and children Lily and ZachThe Championships will be held at Blair castle in Scotland in September - and it is very likely that Nicola Wilson and Laura Collette will have earned their place in the twelve strong British team.
It rained - sometimes very hard - up on the Marlborough Downs during the final cross-country section - and everyone got pretty wet. But there were very few falls on the 3,910 metre course designed by Sir Mark Phillips. And not many riders overran the 6 minutes and 52 seconds optimum time for the course.
It was noted by the experts that the top five riders had no penalties against them in both the show jumping and cross country - and finished with just their dressage penalties. A remarkable achievement - especially for those who went round the course later in the somewhat more slippery conditions.
In the final, cross country phase of the competition the riders that top the leader board from the first two phases go last and the crowds certainly stayed to watch the last few riders and see whether Avebury would make history.
It was a very exciting finish. Not only was there a very tight margin between Nicholson's two horses, but Sir Mark Todd was just one tenth of a penalty point behind Nicholson and Nereo.
Sir Mark & Front StreetEarlier in the day, Sir Mark Todd won the eighth running at Barbury of the Retrained Racehorse Eventing Championship title - a competition for racehorses that have not lasted long on the racetrack and are being retrained in another discipline - in this case as eventers.
Sir Mark was riding Front Street. After his victory, Todd said: "I love thoroughbreds they have brilliant minds to work with. I used to train racehorses in New Zealand and now we've just won a big Retraining of Racehorses class here at Barbury proving their versatility. Front Street is such a genuine fellow and tries his heart out, which is typical of his breed."
Front Street, 11 years old, ran a total of eight times. In his most successful outing he took third place in a steeplechase at Plumpton. The competition is sponsored by the Retraining of Racehorses charity and the National Trainers Federation- the racehorse trainers' association.
[Click on photos to enlarge them.]
She is a familiar figure on the British eventing circuit - she wears dark clothes embroidered with her name and the name of her sponsors. She is about the same height as her two very long lenses - if you stacked one on top of the other. And you can tell she works outside in the sun.
Libby Law is a New Zealander and since 2011 she has worked in Britain for about six summer months each year. At the end of October, when her business visa runs out, she returns home for the New Zealand eventing and showjumping season.
This year she came back to Britain via Kentucky for the Rolex CIC**** three day event - the first four star competition of the northern hemisphere season. And she had to watch her fellow New Zealander, friend and client, Tim Price and Wesko take down one rail in the showjumping to lose out on the $100,000 first prize to Germany's Michael Jung and Fischerrocano FST.
She is, she told Marlborough News Online with one of her cheeky grins, the only photographer to cover all six of the world's four star eventing competitions: "I love being part of the media for these occasions - I get a real adrenalin surge when I send good photos out to people who are really keen to use them."
She did not grow up with media connections, indeed she came to professional photography quite late in life. She was brought up on a farm and rode horses. But at nineteen and after her second scary three day event, she sold her horse and went off travelling.
She worked in Australia - in hotels, in marketing, the travel business and in radio. Shed went to Canada and fell in love: "Beautiful country, beautiful people." Seven good years, but the love did not last. And in 2010 she returned to New Zealand: "I was a little baffled with the world - but excited to be home."
Aged 34, she used her marketing experience to set up a cleaning company - paying good wages and with contracts to clean offices: "Never clean for private homes! It's not worth the bother they give you."
Then along came another idea: photography. She had had a camera from the age of eight and loved her photography and in Australia she had done some amateur courses. So she set out on a new way of life: "I thought to myself, get a camera and allow yourself to follow your feet."
Having bought a good camera and set-up a website, her feet took her to meet some of New Zealand's young eventing stars - Lizzie Brown, Jock Paget and Jesse Campbell before they (and many other New Zealand eventers) moved to Britain. They told her about eventing in Britain.
The Little TurtleHRH Ninja - by HondaWith a 'you can only ask' attitude she applied to Badminton for accreditation - and got it. She was amazed by the Badminton eventing scene - and then succeeded in getting accreditation to Burghley too. That was in 2011.
"I know horses and am quite a confident person - I didn't worry about what people thought of me." As good as her word, in 2012 she invested £40,000 in her first full season in Britain. Some of that investment was a mobile home - her 'Little Turtle' - which makes travelling round Britain and Europe so much easier and cheaper. In winter it is kept at the Prices' Mere Farm.
Libby Law covering a polo tournamentIt is a full-on life: most of her regular clients are in New Zealand and she will start to get emails from them at about eleven o'clock at night - and is often still sending off photos at three in the morning.
She has a contract with Equestrian New Zealand's High Performance Squad, with the major Australian website An Eventful Life - which in fact covers most of the world's eventing and horse trials, and with the popular magazine New Zealand Horse and Pony. She has other contracts and is, as she insists, a freelance: "I have the freedom to do what I want."
At home she is now sponsored by Honda New Zealand and is the proud owner of 'HRH Ninja' - "My fab Honda CRV-Limited."
Has Libby Law Photography, I ask gingerly, now become known and valued internationally? She mouths a 'yes'. Recently she was invited to cover an important competition in Qatar, which is preparing an eventing team for the Rio Olympics: "It was a fantastic occasion - and the light was just great for photographs."
In Britain she has the whole flock of New Zealand eventers around her - many of them in the Marlborough area: "Everything revolves around the New Zealand eventers. I love the closeness of the community - it's very comfortable." But the more there are over in Britain the harder she has to work - in May there were 26 New Zealand horses taking part in Tattersall's International Horse Trials three day event in Ireland - and running between the rings and the events and catching all the competitors at the right moment is quite a skill - and she covers quite a few miles each day.
Libby Law's classic photo of New Zealander Jesse Campbell & Amsterdam II"Mark Todd is my hero - and I love the New Zealand eventers." But she tells a story against herself about her first commissioned article shoot with Sir Mark: "I even left the lens cap on. Mark just smiled - a little."
Libby Law is an enthusiast for her photography and her specialty: "Each year I love what I am doing a bit more. I adore my work." Now she is in the least bothered by the world. She just smiles at life - and she smiles a lot!
[All marked photos are the copyright of Libby Law Photography.]
Andrew Nicholson and NereoAfter the first day of the CIC** dressage competition at the St James's Place Barbury International Horse Trials, New Zealand's Andrew Nicholson tops the leader board on Nereo (with 38.3 penalties.)
Second is Britain's Louise Harwood on Whitson (39.6) and in third place is France's Mathieu Lemoine on Bart L (40.7.) British rider Nana Dalton and Abbeylara Prince are in fourth position - having led up to the lunch break (43.5.)
Nicholson and Nereo came sixth at this year's Badminton, won the CIC**** at Pau in 2012 and came fourth at the London Olympics. Nicholson has seven rides at the various competition levels. Nicholson and Avebury (who have won the Barbury CIC*** for last three years) will be in dressage ring just after three o'clock on Friday afternoon.
Nicholson, who is based in Lockeridge, is lying second equal in the CIC** - behind fellow New Zealander Sir Mark Todd on Brownsville Bertie (38.6). Nicholson and Loughnatousa Joey are in joint second place with Britain's Harry Meade on Vrolijk (38.7.)
Yogi Breisner & Nana Dalton and her assistantYogi Breisner, Louise Harwood & assistantThe dressage performances by both Louise Harwood and Nana Dalton caught the eye of Yogi Breisner - the British Eventing National Coach and World Class Performance Manager. And he took details of both riders and their assistants. Though as someone watching the dressage noted: "It is not quite a ticket to Rio, but it is certainly going in the right direction."
On Friday the novice competitors are first to take on the cross-country course. And it looks as though the weather will hold through Saturday - though the ground might get a soaking for the CIC*** cross-country on Sunday afternoon.
The competitions are being live streamed through the Barbury website.The Willis Brothers team 'greening' the cross-country's ReadySupp Owl Hole
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Jonelle Price With the Barbury International Horse Trials starting later this week, there is special interest in the International Equestrian Federation's new set of worldwide rankings for eventing riders. This list covers the twelve months up to June 30 - and Mildenhall's New Zealand rider Jonelle Price is back as number three in the world.
She had been at three last year, but dropped to fifth in the FEI's previous list. In June she came a tantalising second in the Luhmuhlen four star on Fairie Dianimo
Jonelle's husband Tim has dipped in the rankings from nine to sixteenth place - and that despite his brilliant performance coming a close second on Wesko at this spring's prestigious Rolex Kentucky competition.
The Prices are great fans of the Barbury International Horse Trials - not least because they are based so close by. And they have put their names to Barbury's fundraising for the Prospect Hospice.
The top two places in the new rankings see Germany's Michael Jung and Britain's William Fox-Pitt change places with Jung now top of the list.
Lockeridge-based New Zealander Andrew Nicholson is at five - down one rung. And another locally-based New Zealander, Sir Mark Todd is back in the top twenty at 17 - up from 42nd position.
There are now five British eventers in the FEI's top twenty - with two of them joining William Fox-Pitt in the top ten. Oliver Townend is at eighth - from seventh. Nicola Wilson stays at tenth place - with a good performance at Kentucky behind her.
Pippa Funnell has come back into the top twenty with a startling jump to fifteenth position from 31st. And Gemma Tattersall is at 19 - up from 21.
Many of these big eventing names will be competing at this week's Barbury International Horse Trials.