The French four-star eventing competition at Pau this weekend holds the odd distinction of being the last major competition of 2014, but also the first of the international equestrian federation’s Classics Series for 2014-2015.
And it’s that second part of Pau’s attraction that will disappoint New Zealander Andrew Nicholson – he has had to withdraw his eleven-year-old mare Qwanza as she was “just not quite fit enough” after a year-long lay-off following injury.
Nicholson’s other star eventers – Avebury and Nereo – are resting after another successful season in which he completed two hat-trick wins. With Avebury he won both Barbury and Burghley for the third year running. He won the Classics Series in 2013 with its $40,000 prize.
Lockeridge-based Nicholson told the New Zealand press: “There is not much point in going there if the horse is not 100 per cent. We'll miss this, write the year off and start afresh next year."
Sixteen of Pau’s 40 four-star international entries are British riders – headed by Pippa Funnell with two mounts and William Fox-Pitt with three mounts.
With Nicholson’s scratching, local interest resides with another New Zealander, Jonelle Price from Mildenhall with her nine-year-old mare Faerie Dianimo. This will be Jonelle’s first ride over Pau’s cross country course.
After a great season which included her fourth place at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, Jonelle is now ranked ninth in the world. The other New Zealand entry is Jock Paget who has two mounts in the competition.
Marcelo Tosi & Eleda All Black - trotting up for the judges [Photo copyright Nico Morgan Photography.)Imogen Hellawell (known to all as ‘Immy’) is based at Marcelo Tosi’s Woodland Farm stables in Marston, near Devizes, and is working for her Advanced Apprenticeship in Horse Care and Management with Haddon Training, who are based in Marlborough. Her Apprenticeship programme has been specifically tailored around a professional eventing yard.
“Throughout the programme Immy has been a dedicated learner who has shown a passion for working with horses. Immy demonstrates an extremely high level of quality in her work and a strong commitment to the care of Marcelo’s horses. Getting the opportunity to groom at WEG 2014 is incredible, knowing Immy Huggy would have been turned out beautifully.” Alex Plank, Haddon Training Assessor.
Marcelo Tosi is a Brazilian event rider. He was selected to represent Brazil at this summer’s World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Normandy. Imogen went to WEG as his groom with his horse Huggy - more formally known as Eleda All Black. [Photo of Tosi & Eleda All Black copyright Nico Morgan Photography - see more at his website.]
Imogen kept a diary of her time with Team Brazil for WEG 2014:
Packing, packing, packing
We started the trip to WEG on Saturday, August 23. We spent the day packing the truck not just for our horse, but for the other two team horses as well. By the time we were finished the truck was pretty full!
On French soil
We then set off at 7.00 am for the ferry in Portsmouth which was two hours away. When we were on the ferry, we did the final check on the horses (giving more hay and water) ready to leave them for the night. We arrived in Caen, France at 7.00 am. Once we left the docks we stopped to give the horses water and more hay. After a one hour drive from the docks we arrived at our base. We unloaded the horses and settled them into their stables.
The grooms' bunksFinding our feet
We spent the most of Sunday, August 24 unpacking and getting the stables organised, in the evening we took the horses out to stretch their legs. Myself and the other grooms went to discover the groom’s accommodation, which was small but very comfortable.
Hustle and bustle
Monday and Tuesday were mostly the same: the horses went for dressage training and then to graze. The venue was becoming very busy with the other teams arriving.
Let the games begin…Wednesday, August 27
Marcelo and Huggy had an arena familiarisation. This is where they could work in the warm up arena beside the main arena. In the afternoon we had the first vet inspection, so before that I spent the early part of the afternoon plaiting and making the horse look beautiful!
Thursday 28th August
In the morning we had our dressage test, so I had to plait the horse up and prepare him for the test. Our horse did a reasonable test which we were all pleased with. In the afternoon we had one other team rider doing their test, so I went to watch it with the rest of the Brazilian team.
Friday, August 29
Today was a day off so our horse just went for a short gallop and jump just to prepare him for the cross country the following day. The rest of the day we spent a lot of time grazing.
Our last team rider did an amazing test on Friday, putting him into the top 20 after the dressage.
Saturday, August 30
Cross country day arrived with very wet ground, we were lucky to be ninth out on course!! The horse was taken for a light hack to relax him and stretch his muscles in the morning. I spent this time preparing the kit so I was ready to meet them at the finish (water buckets/ sponges/scrapers/spare shoes/grease/rugs etc.)
Then it was time to go cross country, I was full of nerves as the first horses hadn't made it home. Our horse came home finishing strongly! It was time to get him washed off and cooled down - this was a real team effort getting water on and off him.
When Huggy was cool enough we took him back to the stables to be iced and to rest. For the rest of the day I helped the other Team Brazil grooms with their horses at the finish, as they had helped me. In between I kept walking and icing my horse.
In the evening it was crazy busy as we had to get all the equipment packed up, ready to leave early for the main stadium for the show jumping the following day.
Cross country day was a real team effort as everyone helped everyone! Our Chef d'Equip made sure us grooms had what we needed from food to information about the next day, and our vet gave the best care to get the horses ready for the next day.
The Brazilian riders rode all three horses home safely, so we had a team for the next day!
The showjumping arenaSunday, August 31
The alarm went off at 4.30am. We had to get the horses ready for an 8am trot up. My horse was a bit stiff so we took him for a long walk to loosen up. Then we did another lot of icing. I plaited him up and prepared him for the last vet inspection, we arrived half an hour early to give them a good walk. My horse trotted up very well and passed the vet inspection, as did the other two team horses!
After the trot up it was a mad rush to get the horses loaded and ready to leave for the hour drive to the main stadium. We settled the horses and organised the equipment we needed. At 12.45pm the riders had an arena familiarisation in the stadium, so that the horses could see everything before jumping with a full stadium of 22,000 spectators!!
Then it was my boy’s turn to jump his round. He had 3 poles down but we were very happy with him as he tried his heart out for us. There were only 13 clear rounds, so it was a course that caused a lot of problems.
Huggy in retirement When he finished it was a bit of an emotional moment as this will be his last eventing competition, as we are retiring him now. Everyone was very happy with the results as the team finished 8th out of 18 teams.
Monday, September 1
We arrived home Monday lunchtime, Huggy has now started his retirement in the field.
It was a successful WEG both for the team and Marcelo - and me.
Huggy has been an amazing horse for us, he has had an impressive career: winning team Bronze at the Pan AM Games 2011, competing at Burghley Horse Trials CCI 4* and Pau CCI 4*, the London 2012 Olympic Games and now a World Equestrian Games, he fully deserves his retirement!
No sooner was Immy back at the yard, than she was asked to accompany one of Tosi’s horses on its journey by air back to Brazil.
The Brazilian eventer Marcelo Tosi has been based in Britain since 2010. The 44-year-old has a degree in animal science and is a director of the Agromix Animal Feed company.
He was assistant trainer to the Brazilian team for the Athens Olympics in 2004. He then based himself in Belgium for six years. He rode for the Brazilians at the London Olympics.
In 2011 he won team bronze at the Pan Am Games in Mexico. He now trains with Nick Turner, Mark Todd and dressage rider Anna Ross-Davies.
Eleda All Black, owned by Bronwen Jones and Iain Greer, is a 17 year-old British bred gelding.
Spirit Son - in his hurdling daysThe French-bred racehorse Spirit Son was a successful 5-year-old when he suffered an unexplained collapse. The gelding, owned by Michael Buckley and trained by Nicky Henderson, had four wins from five starts and was fancied to win the Champion Hurdle at the 2011 Cheltenham Festival.
However, a tendon injury ruled him out of the race. He recovered and was sent away to recuperate and get him ready for a return to racing.
Then disaster struck. Spirit Son was found collapsed on the floor of his stable. Nicky Henderson rushed down from Scotland to see what could be done.
The horse could not get up – and people feared the worst. But he rallied and was soon able to stand while being supported.
About six weeks after his collapse, he was well enough to be taken to the O’Gorman Slater Main equine hospital in Newbury where a scan revealed he had a neck fracture. For a more precise diagnosis he was taken for a CT scan which revealed he had two fractures – one each side of his neck.
As Nicky Henderson wrote in the Racing Post: “There were two known surgeons who could perform an obviously extremely complicated and undoubtedly dangerous operation, one in the USA and one, John Walmsley, in Hampshire, who luckily was prepared to perform what was going to be a huge task with major risks involved. But it was the only option.”
An operation under general anaesthetic was tricky for a horse that was still recovering his balance and strength. But a most unusual surgical procedure was carried out using metal implants. And it was successful and Spirit Son recovered.
As Henderson wrote: “The prognosis for racing always has been and still is very low, but he deserved a chance to have a life, whether it’s on a racecourse or in another role.”
He was not to race again and Spirit Son arrived at the Greatwood charity for retired racehorse at Clench Common near Marlborough on November 6 last year. Announcing his death, Greatwood said that his condition had deteriorated during the summer months and he had to be put to sleep this morning – October 8.
Neil King There is now another King training racehorses on the Marlborough Downs. This is Neil King who held the first open day at his Ridgeway Racing yard on Sunday (September 14) at Upper Herdwick Farm just east of Barbury Castle.
From the top of Ridgeway Racing’s new all-weather gallop you can look over toward the other King’s yard and glimpse Alan King’s gallops and the Barbury Horse Trials grounds. The landscape of Neil King’s 300 acre training area is truly amazing – with views across it and beyond it to hold the eye whatever the weather.
The new gallopNeil and his wife Clare only arrived in Wiltshire from his previous Newmarket yard at the end of July. Already he and his staff – some moved with him from Newmarket and some are new, local hires – have transformed the yard and gallops, developing the yard he took over from its previous occupant, trainer Jim Old.
The covered training ring is now more spacious and has a floor of waxed sand recycled from Wolverhampton’s all-weather track. They have a new horse walker and have renovated the three staff bungalows.
At the open day, Neil King told the owners – including many from the yard’s ownership syndicate, the Racing for Fun Partnership – that he had already benefitted from the chalk downs’ ability to absorb rain. The rains of August, he said, would have kept him off his Newmarket grass for many days.
Trevor WhelanOpen days are mainly about horses. King brought a handful from Newmarket and has been busy assembling new owners and buying new horses. He trains for the National Hunt (NH) jump season, but has already had winners from Upper Herdwick farm in this summer’s NH flat races.
Helping the staff lead out the horses was Trevor Whelan – first jockey for the yard. King said Whelan had been “key to many of our successes this season.” He rode 17 out of the yard’s 25 winners – as well as another 12 winners for other trainers. This put him third in the conditional jockey’s title.
Thirty-five horses were paraded for the visitors – among them horses for sale and horses to watch this coming National Hunt season all with the added plus of their local interest. In the best tradition of taking a pin to select a horse from the race card, here are five of the horses currently at Neil King’s yard – just a sample:
|Looks Like Magic
||LOOKS LIKE MAGIC – is a five-year-old grey gelding owned by Mark and Tracy Harrod. Neil King bought him for them in November 2012. In summer 2013 he ran a creditable fourth at Stratford. Last June he had an unsuccessful outing at Fontwell. But he is now looking good for the autumn. He is a very attractive looking horse.
||MERCERS COURT – a six-year-old bay gelding. Since April he has twice come second at Fontwell. But at the third attempt, when set to win, he jinked to the side and unseated Trevor Whelan for a painful fall. Neil King reckons he has a future as “a nice chaser in due course.” Owned by David Nott, Ken Lawrence & Tim Messom.
||ZEROESHADESOFGREY – is a five-year-old grey gelding from Ireland. Last year, having been turned out for the summer, he came back, says King, “looking twice the horse he was.” He won two bumpers early this year and is “an exciting hurdler for the new season.” Owned by Mrs J.K.Buckle.
||TOWN MOUSE – is a four-year-old chestnut gelding. After four disappointing runs, he came good a year ago at Huntingdon at 50-1: “I think it was quite a good race he won there, and he has since confirmed this was no fluke, finishing second at Kempton and winning again at Huntingdon.” He won again at Huntingdon in November 2013. This year he has come home fourth in two of his five races. But you are not likely to find a bookie giving 50-1 on him now. Owned by Brian bell & John Smith.
||TENDER SURPRISE – a five-year-old bay filly. She has had her problems while in training, but is now, says King, “in the form of her life”. And to prove it in July she won two hurdle races at Uttoxeter meetings. She may run at Plumpton this coming Sunday (September 21) – one to watch. Owned by David Howes.