London 2012 Olympic prices

It’s almost as if the organisers of the London 2012 Olympics are incapable of learning anything from anyone.

Earlier this month, the gaze of the equestrian world was focussed on the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Kentucky USA.

The WEG is the World Cup of all equestrian disciplines. Like other World Cup competitions, the WEG is held every four years; the venue changes on a ‘bid’ basis, this is also like other World Cup competitions.

In terms of competition ‘difficulty’, the WEG is a CCI**** (four star) competition, this is the highest degree of difficulty in the equestrian world.

The only other four star competitions in the normal *annual* Eventing calendar are:

Lexington (US), April
Badminton (GB), March
Luhmuhlen (DE), June
Burghley (GB), Sep
Pau (FR), November
Adelaide (AUS), November

To this list we have to add the two four star events that occur on a periodic basis:

WEG (US), October 2010
Olympics (GB), July 2012

Let’s add, to the list of *annual* four star events some additional information:

Lexington (US), April US$50 (incl car parking) – £31
Badminton (GB), March £101 (incl car parking) – £101
Luhmuhlen (DE), June €80 (incl car parking)  – £70
Burghley (GB), Sep £70 (incl car parking) – £70
Pau (FR), November €51 (for VIP pass incl car parking) – £45
Adelaide (AUS), November A$80 (incl car parking) – £50

This tells us that, for those of us in Europe, amongst the annual four star competitions, Badminton Horse Trials is exceptionally poor value.

Elsewhere in Europe, Pau, Luhmuhlen and Burghley all seem to be more or less in the same financial ballpark.

So we have a market.

Let’s add to the marketplace, the prices for this year’s WEG in Ketucky: £200 (incl car parking).

Fucking… ouch!! That’s painful.

OK, so now let’s add the final ingredient, the prices for the London 2012 Eventing competition: £275 (*not* incl car parking).

Fucking, fucking, fucking OUCH!!!

A point of clarification: the prices for four star Eventing competitions are not set by the local/national discipline. Oh no.

The prices for four star Events are set by the sport’s international governing body, the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI).

Unfortunately, the organisers of this year’s WEG have taken a financial hammering. According to today’s Sunday Telegraph, the FEI managed to sell just 52% of their tickets.

I can’t help wondering how many of the £275 tickets the FEI reckon they’re going to sell.

I’m seriously pissed off with the FEI, they seem to be guilty of what the Americans call ‘price gouging’.

The prices the FEI charged for the CIC*** (three star) competition at this year’s Gatcombe Horse Trials were absolutely criminal.

What is it with sport governing bodies that seems the make them see the punters as nothing more than cash cows?

Stream of unconsciousness

We are watching the final phase of the Three Day Eventing competition at the World Equestrian Games, in Kentucky.

Show-jumping.

I am also reading Twitter.

And writing a blog post.

And chatting to Daughter on Skype; as well as rattling on to me, she’s chatting to various friends on various websites.

As well as doing these things, I am also watching a totally hilarious preview for a new film that looks as though it could totally rock suck:

It is obviously a time for multi-tasking.

I haven’t ridden this weekend, instead I find myself looking after two equines who, between them, have seven sound legs.

I have called Vin ‘a big orange twat’ so many times in the last 48 hours, I think he believes it’s his new name, he whickers at me whenever I use it now.

Meanwhile.

The search for a new contract continues. If things don’t improve soon I’m going to put the horses out on to the street.

But I don’t think Vin would earn much, three-legged thoroughbred horses are probably not in major demand.

I hope that Vin will be sound again by the end of the week, he’s tweaked his near-fore by twatting about in the field like the 3 13-year old he is.

But the big effort continues; a new contract or even a permanent role within a commutable distance.

Soph’s going to be home all week, she starts her new job next week. That’s nice.

And yet…

Using my prophetic skills I can see that there will be mass cleaning.

And tidying.

And rearranging.

Meanwhile, in other news.

The show on UKHDRadio is being moved from Tuesday evenings to Saturday afternoons.

That’s nice too.

I’ve been doing a huge amount of thinking on the nature of social media – and whether or not we use it correctly. I have a partially-formed article on the subject; I might blog it, I might go for publication.

It’s a hell of a topic.

When you sit down and examine the technology in detail, look at the labels and scrutinise the tools, it is a massive area which most of us pick up and use in a cavalier fashion – and in a manner which the tools weren’t originally designed to facilitate.

Half-formed, as I said; I hope to finish it this week.

Daughter has just gone off-line after saying she was going to find something to eat.

An excellent suggestion which I’m going to follow.

Wherever you are, whatever you’re going to do with it, I hope this week treats you well.

It’s easy from the ground

Eventing is one of those sports that just looks easy. But not only is there more to it than one might think, there is a kind of social camaraderie to the sport. I toddled down the A34 to Highclere Castle today to watch Owen compete Hayley’s horse Twiglet, and Sam compete on Mobile (pron: Mo-billy). And to do other things as well that may have included food. *cough*

But I remembered my cameras this time. And, what’s more, I also remembered to use them!

So here’s my day at Highclere Horse Trials in pictures. But first, the most important meal of the entire morning…

Start the day the right way

At Highclere I quickly found the crew:

Mobile and his helper, Kath

Barbara. Whose name isn't really Barbara. It's a long story

Sam, Mobile's owner/rider

Owen, Twiglet and his owner, Hayley

Hayley seems to be scratching her bum here

While the equestrians toddled up to the dressage, I went to explore the main arena which, at Highclere, includes a number of strange and wonderful attractions not previously seen at a Horse Trials, including…

Never seen these at a Horse Trials before!

They look like fun!

Can't help wondering how the horses are supposed to climb that

Would love to see a horse on this, too!

A little light refreshment, part-way around

Perhaps a cold drink?

And something hot to eat?

More choices?

An old mate, last seen 15 years ago!

Charlie the Coffee Man, making my cheese & tomato toasties

A proud mum

Ups, downs, lefts, rights and straight-aheads

Edited: Saturday times in

This Saturday Tom and I are competing again. If you’re in the Ascott-under-Wychwood/Burford/Charlbury area, the British Eventing One-Day-Event is free to spectators. There’ll be the usual on-site catering and the organisers are putting on a range of activities/things to see for children.

But the best things to watch will be the action in the show-jumping arena and out on the cross-country course.

Our times are:

Dressage

16.00
Show-jumping

17.48

Cross-country

18.40

We jumped brilliantly today; if we can keep everything as smooth in the show-jumping arena on Saturday as it was today, we’ll jump a careful but perfect double-clear. Here’s hoping!

Of course, it will be a different kettle of fish on the cross-country, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. 🙂

In other news…

I have been impressed beyond belief with the way my Googlephone (Nexus One if you prefer) seamlessly plugs in to the full range of Google’s services. But yesterday, on my way to Cambridge, I accidentally discovered that it has SatNav built in to it.

I was in a motorway services, having a coffee and using Google Maps on the phone to double-check the location I was aiming for. And then I noticed a ‘Navigate’ button. I pressed it. After 2-3 seconds of looking at a ‘Fetching directions’ message, a disembodied female voice said ‘Turn left, then travel forward for half a mile then turn left and join the motorway’. And the screen displayed the typical GPS ‘directional’ display that has become so familiar to us all.

So I put the phone on the passenger seat and followed the instructions. And arrived, not too much later, at the front-door of my destination.

I’ve been playing with the SatNav feature in Google Maps today too. It really is simple to use.

I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking that this Old Welsh Fart(tm) has changed his mind and is going to get all hypocritical and be in favour of SatNav – a product he has raved and ranted against on more than one occasion.

You’re be wrong.

Using SatNav has made me realise just how dangerous it is.

  1. SatNav has a screen with a moving display and it is a design intention that the vehicle driver looks at the screen. This means the driver taking his/her eyes off the road.
  2. SatNav has a commentary, but when the commentary dries up – even if it is only because the commentary has nothing to tell you at the moment – the driver inevitably takes his/her eyes off the road to make sure the device is still working.
  3. SatNav has the ability, I can clearly see, to stop the driver for thinking for him/herself. I am now completely unsurprised that so many ‘middle lane hoggers’ are SatNav users. They can only be sitting in the middle lane of the motorway because the SatNav has not told them to pull in to lane 1.
  4. SatNav creates a dangerous situation whereby the driver stops giving 100% concentration to his/her driving, and instead, transfers a significant proportion of his/her concentration to SatNav, and that leads to situations like this.

There is a more trivial point for not liking SatNav: it doesn’t like my short-cuts through farmyards.

But it’s a thumbs-down for SatNav as we know it.

Horses, illnesses, bikes, writing, music

… and the bitter taste of something… bitter-tasting…

Horses:
So, that scoundrel Tom.

Tsk.

Tom is nothing but a worry to his ‘dad’. He spends all day sleeping and eating and some of the time he’s more lovely than a lovely thing. But unfortunately, some of the time he’s less than lovely.

He’s not, to hastily clarify a point, nasty.

Oh no, I don’t believe for one instant that Tom has a nasty bone anywhere in his 17.1hh body – and that’s a big pile of finely-muscled body!

But he is… inconsistent.

And in a way, Tom’s inconsistency is his consistency.

On Sunday we competed at a British Eventing One Day Event in Berkshire.

The dressage test, unlike our dressage test the previous weekend, felt brilliant. Tom was alert, keen but listening. His attention was on me and him and not once did I feel his physical or mental gaze wander outside the dressage arena.

The judge’s sheet shows we were awarded lots of 6s, a large helping of 7s plus an 8 and a 9. These are good marks. Actually, given that Tom and I have been a working partnership for about eight months, these are very good marks.

During the working-in for the show-jumping Tom changed mental gear. He upped his speed, upped his game and upped the amount of riding I had to do. The working-in was, frankly, fast and furious.

But our actual show-jumping round was more controlled, better balanced and more finely-tuned than I could have hoped for. Yes, Tom had a pole down, but that was just carelessness on his part. And yes we had a run-out because I got the pace of approach and angle wrong in to one fence. But that was it. And at no time did anything feel ‘wrong’. Slightly too quick, yes, but not wrong. And Tom’s jumping speed can be reduced even further, without threatening his ability.

So far, so positive.

Unfortunately the cross-country was a disaster, I had to retire us at fence 3 for reasons of safety. And yes, I was bitterly, bitterly disappointed. It was a lovely cross-country course and, with the exception of fence 5 which was a nasty – and very technical – ‘corner’, every fence on the track was well within our capability; we would have flown round.

Grump.

So here’s the plan.

Throttle back on the competing for the next couple of months.

I’m going to use the time to continue the improving trend in our dressage and show-jumping and, hopefully, find a way to reduce Tom’s speed in the approach to our cross-country fences.

This, I am declaring, is Our Way Forward.

Illnesses:
Thanks for the concern. The 24-hour tummy bug lasted 12 hours. How’s that for a service improvement? But unfortunately my hand is still sore from car door closure incident.

Bikes:
I passed a ‘motorised bicycle’ today. No, really! It was a normal pushbike that had been fitted with an electric engine.

So I’m just wondering.

Would it have road tax and insurance? Or could it be ridden on the pavement/cycle-path?

Writing:
You know the sitcom? It’s nearly finished. I’m at the stage where the palms of my hands are itching and I want to get the thing in front of the TV companies.

Music:
I need to be doing the playlist for this weekend’s podcast! I can’t hang around here all evening nattering with you – gorgeous though you are!

Saturday’s One Day Event

By the time Tom and I got to do our stuff the photographer had all but given up and gone home.

Well, we were the last to go in all phases.

But here’s a thumbnail of us on the cross-country course, coming out of the woods, heading for home.

I have stolen the thumbnail and enhanced the image slightly and scaled the size up.

And if anyone wants to know why I’ve stolen the thumbnail and not bought the full-sized image, if they hadn’t cut my head off, I would have!

Leading from the rear

We were working in for the dressage phase of the Ascott-under-Wychwood Horse Trials when I heard Tom’s near-hind shoe flapping.

Fortunately the farrier on call wasn’t difficult to find, and within 20 minutes the problem shoe had been removed, the hoof tidied up, the shoe refitted and we were back on track.

Unfortunately the time that the emergency farriery had taken had used up most of the time we had for our working-in.

So we went in to our dressage test less than fully prepared.

And, as a result, our dressage marks were nowhere near as good as they had been at Allenshill last weekend.

We were, in fact, trailing in last place by a handsome margin, after the dressage phase.

A couple of hours later the show-jumping phase was a big improvement on recent exploits: Tom had three fences down and put in a very naughty run-out.

That gave us a very expensive 23 penalties (20 jumping and 3 time) to add to our very expensive dressage score.

The cross-country phase started very well.

Fence 1 was a sculptured log that was, frankly, much smaller than the 3′ our fences were supposed to be.

Fence 2, however, was a disproportionately large, very deep ‘table’ that was well up to height and depth regulations.

Tom recognised the challenge, he changed gear and we barrelled in to it at a substantially quicker pace than I’d planned.

And as a result, somewhere between landing after fence 2 and preparing for fence 3, Tom decided to ignore any and all slow down/stop signals.

We had no brakes.

This is a very interesting position to be in.

I managed to convince Tom to perform a large circle before fence 3, which was a stone wall with a large drop on the far side. I didn’t want to be flying over the wall and landing halfway in to the next county.

On the represent we flew over the wall, turned up the hill and jumped fences 4a, 4b, then galloped further uphill to fence 5, galloped further uphill to fence 6 and then galloped through the woods, and out the other side, up another hill and over fence 7, which was another very large, up to height, up to width ‘table’ fence (the same as fence 2) which we flew over.

We still had no brakes.

Fences 8a and 8b came far too quickly but Tom wasn’t showing too much any interest in slowing down, so I sat tight and let him get on with it.

Fence 9a was a bounce up a bank then three strides to fence 9b which was a large hanging log on top of the bank.

The trouble is, you’re supposed to massively reduce speed from cross-country jumping pace to slow-and-bouncy show-jumping pace to negotiate the ‘a’ part safely.

I had about 120 yards to try and achieve this reduction of pace and I was still asking for some kind of slowing down when we arrived at the foot of 9a.

Again, I sat tight and let Tom get on with it.

And 9b.

Fence 10 was a straightforwardly-large galloping fence.

Fence 11a (the first part of the water complex) was not to Tom’s liking. He ducked sideways and, if I’m honest, he got away with it because I wasn’t sufficiently prepared for him to muck about when he caught sight of the water.

Fence 11a was a straightforward table, but it was placed so that in the last three strides prior to jumping, he would catch sight of the water – and that’s what threw him off his stride.

I made a simple represent, we jumped it, cantered down in to and through the water (fence 11b) and jumped a very angled exit out of the water complex, over a large ‘chest’/table fence (fence 11c).

We galloped down through the other wooded track, over a large stone wall (fence 12), made the 90-degree right-handed turn up the bank and out over another stone wall (fence 13) and then turned left and headed down the hill towards ‘home’.

Fence 14, another full-up-to-height-and-width table,  caused us no issues but by now Tom had realised he was heading for home so he changed gear, again.

No brakes.

Again.

We were hideously scarily fast on to fence 15 and as it had a significantly large and deep drop on the far side I managed to wrestle him in to a circle well before the fence.

Two laps, that’s what it took to knock sufficient speed off for me to feel safe.

We flew over it, galloped on down the hill, turned right and we were so quick over the last fence that Tom made it feel much smaller than it really was.

Unfortunately, by now, I was having breathing difficulties because my compulsory body protector, which is normally very ‘snug’, was so tight that I couldn’t open my lungs properly.

So I fumbled the zip down and began gulping huge lungfuls of air.

Tom and I hacked back to the lorry park, I returned to a normal colour and he stopped puffing.

I’m a bit cross about the rubbish dressage score, but at the end of the day it was one of those things that was a direct result of having to get the shoe fixed, but a poor dressage score has a major bearing on the rest of the competition’s results.

I’m very cross about the run-out in the show-jumping; but I feel that the three fences he brushed down were just one (three) of those things. He jumped a similar show-jumping track clear twice on Wednesday, we just need to keep working on his balance, because that’s the key.

As far as the cross-country goes, I’m pleased at the jumping efforts on the course, but to spend a good 2/3rds of the track galloping onwards with, it has to be admitted, pretty accurate steering but no brakes at all, is less than good.

The organisers are going to leave the cross-country course up for schooling for a few days. I think we shall revisit it on Tuesday to see if I can introduce a slower pace!

We finished, unsurprisingly, in last place after that many penalties.

I could have wished for last Sunday’s brilliant dressage score and last Wednesday’s brilliant jumping, but if wishes were horses…

I am, nevertheless, ridiculously proud of my little boy.

We get to do it all over again next Sunday. We shall be trying for greater control and improved jumping.

🙂

Testing times

Tom’s times for the Ascott-under-Wychwood British Eventing Horse Trials are:

15.16: Dressage
17.43: Show-jumping
18.31: Cross-country

If he Show-jumps like he did on Sunday, we’ll have lots of issues and a swift elimination.

If he Show-jumps like he did on Wednesday, we’ll have a nice, relaxed double-clear and then we’ll get to play games on the cross-country course.

I wonder on which side the coin will fall in the morning.

A hot, horse-centred weekend

The Brize Norton/Witney forecast for this weekend is 23c and sunny on Saturday and 20c and sunny on Sunday, which is good and not good.

It’s not good for me, because on Saturday Tom and I are competing at the Ascott-under-Wychwood British Eventing Horse Trials, in Ascott-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire.

But the weather would be great for spectators!

The Badgers, the farming landowners who run this competition on behalf of British Eventing, have taken an extraordinary amount of care in preparing the venue.

They have put up the spectator lines, they have built the dressage arenas, they have built the show-jumping arena and, down on the cross-country course, they have designed and built new fences, they have mown, aerated and watered the ground – and the ground will continue to be watered every day until the Event starts on Saturday.

There are 750 horse-and-rider partnerships taking part over Saturday and Sunday, which makes it a busy weekend with, if you are in the Oxfordshire area and at a loose end, lots to see.

What could be better than sitting on the grass on a hot, sunny day, while slurping ice-cream and watching the exciting but technical show-jumping, or the thrilling sight of the cross-country?

Nellie the elephant

It’s been a while since I did an equine update so…

Vin’s headshaking continues to improve; the treatment seems to be capable of mitigating about 90% of his most serious symptom, which is a massive win.

I’m so happy with the way he’s responding that I’m now devoting quite a lot of time and effort to finding him a convalescent home; a place where he can spend a year resting, and allowing his back ligaments to repair.

Yay Vin!

Tom’s getting quite a lot of work thrown at him and while this seems to be suiting his attitude and temperament, it means he’s now incredibly well-muscled and fighting fit.

I schooled him in flatwork on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday we schooled over the cross-country course and had a great time!

On Saturday Tom and I went to a local show-jumping competition at an agricultural college.

Disaster.

He worked in brilliantly, we jumped well and he needed just a very light-touch over the 1.10m warming-up fences.

Unfortunately, it was a different story in the arena where Tom napped badly back towards the collecting-ring, and we were eliminated.

The following day – yesterday – Tom and I went to a combined training (dressage and show-jumping) competition at Stow-on-the-Wold.

Not disaster!

I was a bit hazy on the dressage test, and the judge didn’t ‘get’ my pick ‘n’ mix approach to the sport, so we had a couple of ‘errors of course’ but, apart from them, we came away with some very respectable marking right down the sheet.

The show-jumping was a nice big arena, but it consisted of the scariest, spookiest, shiniest set of BSJA/JAS-style fences I’ve ever seen.

And we bombed round.

I was a little more assertive than the previous day, and we tanked round. The final fence was an absolute galloping monster of a five-bar gate with a rail on top; it came at us so quickly I didn’t really have time to fiddle our speed down so I went forward and encouraged and Tom answered with a beautifully basculed shape over it, even if we were slightly above the national speed limit.

Big smiles and many pats!

The rest of the week looks like this: gridwork tomorrow, flatwork on Wednesday and cross-country schooling on Thursday.

On Friday Tom’s off to NN14 3JA to do a Pre-Nervous with Sammi. I might let her do a Novice with him later in the season, but the plan is that Tom and I crack on and just have fun.

There’s another combined training competiton the following weekend, and the weekend after that is our ‘home’ One-Day Event

Good times!

p.s. the title springs from a rhythm exercise; the perfect show-jumping canter is supposed to be the same beat as a correctly-paced chorus of the song ‘Nellie the elephant’, or so I was told in Pony Club. Maybe it was just a cruel joke to get that tune embedded in to my head!