THE Land Rover Gatcombe Horse Trials was blessed with sunshine and perfect ground conditions in its 26th year of running, writes Rebecca Rhodes.

Riders from 21 nations, the largest number in the history of the event were represented with in excess of 500 entries.

The event is a key fixture for international riders as they begin the eventing season. The cross country course which is designed by HRH The Princess Royal and event organiser Patti Biden, proved to be inviting but challenging. The intermediate sections saw a number of horses adding penalties with run outs incurred at fence 7AB, the Land Rover Corners.

A number of horses who have been accepted for the Badminton Horse Trials in May were competing, including Ceylor LAN and Vendredi Biats ridden by Kitty King from Stanton St Quinton. King and Ceylor LAN won the Open Intermediate section M ahead of Oliver Townend and Ulises who are also entered for Badminton. King and Vendredi Biats took second place in the hotly contested Advanced Intermediate section, ahead of former Badminton Winner and 2019 entry Paulank Brockagh and Australian rider Sam Griffiths.

The winner of this section, British-born New Zealand rider Lucy Jackson and the 10 year old Superstition II finished 4th here in 2018 but a very fast cross country round proved unbeatable this year. Zara Tindall had a successful weekend with top twenty places for Class Affair and Watkins in the Advanced Intermediate section.

Amongst the Intermediate section winners were Jo Rimmer from Dorset with Shannondale Lilly. Jo is only riding the horse this spring whilst her owner Louisa Harman concentrates on her upcoming A Levels, but will sadly have to give the ride back once the exams are completed. Banbury based Izzy Taylor won section J with Fonbherna Lancer and was 2nd in section K with PSH Gazelle, narrowly beaten by Oliver Townend and Cillnabradden Evo who is entered for Badminton 2019.

The Novice classes, which ran on Saturday proved successful for local riders. Tom McEwen, who is based at Gatcombe won section C with Brookfield Benjamin Bounce and Open Novice section F with Lordships Graffalo.

West Littleton’s Harry Meade won Intermediate Novice section G with Brookfield Quality and was 2nd in section A with Brookfield Cavalier Cruise, just ahead of Zara Tindall, in 3rd place with retrained racehorse Gladstone. Becky Woolven, who is based at Westonbirt took 5th in section C with Bright Bramble and Kitty King was placed 2nd in section D with Fernhill Candy Royal.

Section D winner was Jason Ferguson and Barley Sugar Twist. Jason evented in his younger days before in his words “going to do a proper job” in London. He and wife Caroline then “escaped to the country” and now run a holiday let and glamping business at Woodcock Farm, Old Sodbury. Barley Sugar Twist is one of five foals they have bred from their mare Twister. Jason is once again enjoying the thrill of eventing and hopes to compete in the Novice Championship at the Festival of Eventing later this year.