THE not-so-spring weather has played havoc with the start of the eventing season, with a number of top-level competitions, including Badminton and Chatsworth, cancelled as the rain made the ground unusable.
Heavy rain at the start of the week threatened to do the same at Floors Castle and the difficult decision was made to cancel all competition on Saturday.
This included the British Eventing (BE) 90 and BE 100 classes. The good news, however, was that the weather turned a little kinder over the weekend itself, allowing the Sunday novice and intermediate classes to go ahead. The decisions proved to be right as Sunday dawned fair and mild and the sun shone all day.
The going was almost perfect and the venue provided some exciting sport. There were some top names competing, with Oliver Townend, Ben Hobday, Nicola Wilson and Ruth Edge each entering a number of horse.
Jamie Innes designed and built a testing course with the help of Jimmy Glancy and Shaun Ferguson, and the beautiful setting of the Floors park and the fence decoration by P. J. Sykes and Linda Williamson made this one of the prettiest events of the year.
The horse trials are also part of the wider BHS Borders Festival of the Horse.
The competition started with the JSC Estates-sponsored novice section I. The bounce fence at 15 caused some early difficulties, with Andrew Bartlett and Little Cracker taking it a little fast resulting in a tumble. Both horse and rider were unhurt, but retired.
Ancrum’s Emily Galbraith and Culmore Edition came a very credible third, but Jessica McKie from Northumberland, won the class with Crazy Diamond on their dressage score of 36.4.
The Floors Plant-sponsored sections J and K came next and James Somerville picked up first place in both classes: section J on Clifton Bee Gee with a score of 32.5 and section K on Talent with a score of 33.0 from a very strong dressage score of 27.
Matthew Faulder, riding John Collier’s Redcotts Splash had a fall at fence 11 (the Trakehner). The frangible pins did their job, but unfortunately Matthew was taken to hospital and a broken femur is now being treated. Redcotts Splash was unhurt.
Roxburghshire rider Sarah Hislop and Elina gained an encouraging seventh place in the KBIS-sponsored novice under-18 Section L, where the winner was Rosie Williams and Jaffna on a score of 33.5. Rosie, from Perthshire, started on a dressage score of 29.5, but picked up four penalties in the show jumping.
The WH Malcolm intermediate novice section M was won by James Adams and his mount Kate McClaren. The Cleveland-based rider had a good dressage score of 25.0, but picked up 3.2 cross-country time penalties to finish with 28.2. Galbraith added to her day’s success by securing eighth place on Caugherty Red Adair.
Dodson & Horrell sponsored the novice section M1, which provided a very close result.
The winner was Cheshire rider Andrew Heffernan and Boleybawn Ace with a score of 25.0 with Oliver Townend and Tis A Beauty a very close second with 25.5. Ruth Edge picked up third place with Basco.
Galbraith added another rosette to her haul, with an eighth place and Emily Parker, who has been training with Ian Stark, came ninth with Mr Presley.
There was a short break while the course was changed from novice to intermediate, which gave everyone the chance to enjoy the sunshine and the wonderful views.
Competition soon started again with the Cazenove Capital Management-sponsored section N. There were some top names contending for this section, with rides from Matthew Wright, Townend, Hobday, Edge and Wilson. James Somerville and Angel Eyes picked up the laurels with a score of 30.5, adding a third win to his day’s achievements, while Floors regular Wright was second on Olympic Expression with a score of 30.9.
Kelso rider Kirsty Brewis rode a balanced round with Harbour Lights. She came a creditable sixth with a score of 37.6, and was delighted with the result saying she found the going super.
Brewis was the overall highest-placed local rider in the competition.
Section O was sponsored by Savills L & P Edinburgh was won by Hobday on Mulrys Error, with Townend and Black Tie II second.
The most hotly-contended class of the day was the W. H. Malcolm open section P, with the Murphy Himself Trophy at stake.
Local riders Charlottte Agnew, Emily Parker and Wills Oaken made a good showing with Wills and Merikano picking up sixth place.
The coveted trophy went to a delighted Louisa Milne Home and King Eider. Their dressage score was 29.6 and they collected 2.4 time penalties on the cross-country to score 32.0.
Louisa, who is based in Perth and Kinross, was due to go to Badminton, but was thrilled to get such a good run at Floors.
She told TheSouthern: “The fences rode really well and that the beautiful cross-country course was the best part of the day.”
She will now be looking to Bramham International in June. Townend was second on ODT Ghareeb with a score of 32.7, and Sarah Burdess on Carlingford Shiver was third with 33.4.
Once again, the support of the Duke of Roxburghe and the organisation of Mr Innes produced a spectacular day of sport, and the 20th Floors Castle Horse Trials was certainly one to be remembered.
A full list of results can be found at www.britisheventing.com