Monday 22nd of November 2021
Claire Benfield

Claire Benfield, Part 4

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

Pinks at Bramham - the most adorable horse ever!

Pinks at Bramham – the most adorable horse ever!

Elliot, Debbie and Dara D 'working hard' at Bramham

Elliot, Debbie and Dara D ‘working hard’ at Bramham

Archie at Tatts

Archie at Tatts

Archie seeing the funny side of life!

Archie seeing the funny side of life!

As standard when working in eventing, you go through the ups and downs of the sport and the horses; and unfortunately, here at Team Clark we have had our fair share of the highs and the lows this season.

Since the last blog we had our final Olympic trial at Tattersalls, Ireland, but sadly ended up only taking Archie across the sea. As I mentioned last time Biscuit’s bloods weren’t right at Chatsworth and annoyingly we couldn’t get them back to normal in time for Tatts meaning that he consequently had to be left at home and therefore miss out on the final trial. Biscuit still isn’t quite back to his normal self yet so we are just giving him the time that he needs to recover and find his sparkle again (he is however still loving all the TLC he is getting!).

Being the only horse that I had to look after all week, Archie was loving having my undivided attention and was obviously being extremely spoilt and going out for plenty of grass after Aoife had worked him. He did a nice dressage test with a couple of green mistakes, but we were pleased with how he went. On the Saturday we had a long wait until his XC time in the afternoon. I hate the waiting around part so kept myself busy organising (and checking -lots!) my wheelbarrow of equipment to take down to the XC finish and catching up with both of Archie’s owners – Cressida Legge and John Forde. I hadn’t seen them for a while so it was lovely that they could come and watch him. After jumping into the first water amazingly well, he unfortunately didn’t read the next fence properly and picked up 20 faults. Aoife made the sensible decision to retire him and save him for another day. The ground was also quite hard and as he is only 9, we decided it wasn’t worth running on that ground. Ultimately this meant that both horses hadn’t met the criteria for the Irish team and that our Road to Rio was over. We were all gutted not to be going but we have to look forwards, so onwards and upwards; our Olympic dream isn’t over, it has merely been postponed to us winning gold at Tokyo 2020 instead!

Big Congratulations to the team that got selected and I wish them, and my fellow grooms, masses of luck. 

During Tatts the wonderful Hannah Francis and Willberry Wonder Pony came and rode in the 1 star and 2 star Guinea pig tests. Despite being in so much pain, she rode both tests so beautifully. She really is an absolute inspiration and what she has achieved is completely remarkable. One thing she said was that she didn’t want to be forgotten and I can certainly say that she won’t be. 

As we left Tatts a day earlier than expected, it meant we had an extra day at home before we repacked and headed up to Yorkshire for Bramham International Horse Trials. As Archie had only ran for 3 minutes at Tatts we managed to re-route him there where he joined Kings Advocate (Hugo) and new ride Pink Gin (Pinks) for the journey. (Aoife had only ridden him for the first time on the Monday before going – so a very new ride!) Pinks has to be one of the most adorable and popular horses I have met! Bramham also delivered us a mixed week of performances. Archie was doing the CCI*** and did a better test than at Tatts, scoring a good 45.9. He was then doing a class XC round until he ran out of steam towards the end of the course and picked up 20 penalties. He did redeem himself by jumping it well on the second attempt before finishing the course. Looking back, Aoife thought he wasn’t firing on all cylinders and we think he must have had a slight virus aswell as it was very unlike him. He did then trot up well on the Sunday morning, before showjumping. The show jumping was a big, challenging course (Andrew Nicholson even thought it was big!). Archie jumped well over the technical course and had 2 unlucky poles down. He jumped well so we weren’t disappointed with him.

Hugo was contesting in his first CIC*** and it was Pinks and Aoife’s first competition together-also in the CIC. They both did good dressage tests, scoring 51 and 57 respectively. Both had mixed performances in the cross country and showjumping but both finished happy and well. Not the best of weeks but some positives to take away for next time and a lovely opportunity to catch up with a few friends who were grooming there that I haven’t seen for a while. They all provided plenty of entertainment and it’s always handy to pick their experienced brains if I needed help. 

After saying previously that we have been lucky not to have any of our events being cancelled due to the wet weather, I have now had to eat my words! We originally had 3 entered at Catton Park but after a hard decision from the organisers, they decided to cancel the Saturday. Luckily we managed to get the 2 youngsters in to Keysoe instead and they didn’t disappoint. Jensen, being the little superstar that he is, did a superb double clear and won another novice! Monbeg Senna was competing in his first novice and was a star! He showed his class and he also did a double clear to finish 2nd in his section. Definitely one to watch for the future! 

Until next time…

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