Monday 26th of August 2019
Claire Benfield

Claire Benfield, Part 3

Claire Benfield, Head Girl to Ireland’s Aoife Clark shares her Road to Rio hopes throughout the season with news from Aoife’s yard and beyond.

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As the number of days to Rio is getting smaller, all of us here at Team ACE are carrying on as normal. All the horses are finally enjoying the sunshine now that it has made an appearance! And about time too!

We have been extremely lucky to get all our runs in so far especially as the weather hasn’t been very kind and many events having to cancel. Massive thanks to the teams making all these events happen as its not an easy task anyway let alone when it tries to snow/rain/hail at once (as it did at Belton!)

At the beginning of April we had Kings Advocate (Hugo) heading to Weston Park. On the first day of the competition, they had torrential rain and unfortunately had to cancel midway through the last class of the day.

The amazing organisers pulled out all the stops to run the second day and thank god they did! Hugo made nothing of the mud and did a super double clear to win his intermediate section. He looked like he had been hunting before he had even done his dressage and I was very glad he is not grey!!

We then had Biscuit and Archie competing at Belton as it was our first Olympic trial. As we drove closer to the event the weather had deteriorated and started snowing-in April!?

Aoife and I looked at each other both thinking it was going to be cancelled but thankfully it ran. We experienced all four seasons in the one day but the sun made an appearance by lunchtime.

Both boys ran fantastically well and I couldn’t have been prouder. Archie tried really and although he got a bit stuck in the mud in the showjumping, he loved the cross country and came home the second fastest horse of the day, just 2 second over the optimum time.

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I lost count with how many packs of polos he consumed over the weekend. Biscuit was phenomenal all weekend and produced a personal best dressage of 36.2 and was 2nd over night going into the jumping. He then produced a fantastic double clear and finished 5th in very good company! What a horse!!

We took the decision to withdraw Archie from the Big B as we felt that at 9 years old, he was a little too young and green to tackle a beefed up course. He was the youngest entered by 2 years so we felt he needed a bit more time. Besides, who was going to beat Michael Jung anyway?? That man is on fire!!

There is an exciting new competition in the world of eventing called the Event Rider Masters (ERM) and we where selected as one of the top 40 riders to take part in the first of 6 legs. This took place at Chatsworth House. This is a massive deal to all involved as not only is it good coverage of our sport, it also has one of the biggest prize money the sport has to offer.

We took Biscuit to this as he is our top horse and it was also an Olympic Trail. Once again his dressage was class and achieved a fab score to be near the top of the leaderboard going into the jumping. Go Biscuit!!

He looked especially pleased with himself coming out of the arena. He then had a pole in the showjumping which knocked us down to 7th. When he was ready to go cross country,  I headed up to the start box with Aoife to give her a hand. I usually don’t get to watch much of the cross country as I normally head back to lorry to get the next horse and the washing off stuff ready.

I normally get nervous watching as not only do I want them to do well but most importantly I want them both to come home safe. This time I had to stay up there in case they did well and Aoife had to wait on the podium until someone went in front of her. Setting off Biscuit didn’t look like his normal perky self and unfortunately a few fences from home he had a 20 at one of the final fences. He didn’t make the turn to one of the last combination fences and looked very flat. His first ever cross country fault with Aoife. Oh no! This dropped us out of contention but, thankfully, both came home in one piece.

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To be on the safe side, when we returned home we decided to get his bloods done. The results came back wrong so him looking flat now made sense. Needless to say, he is enjoying all the extra fuss- as if I wasn’t giving him enough attention as it is!

Next week we are heading across the pond to Tattersalls International in Ireland. The lorry is all squeaky clean and packed with the best Taylor Made Forage, Gain Horse Feed and Mervue Ireland supplements. The horses diet is better than mine!

Right, I’m off to finish packing for our next trip so until next time.

Claire.

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