A Thoroughly English Experience

Palm Sunday – rain and the forecast of more.  And do we stay at home, comfortably curled up with a blanket and a good book?  Of course not.  There are things to be done and places to be seen while I am here in England.

Heather has been riding ever since she had her first job, videoing practices for the local professional football team. She rode in Canada, Dubai and Aberdeen.  This year she has to pursue other sports, as one of her horses is retired, and the other sidelined due to injury. But her love of riding, and especially eventing, is a strong as ever.

And there just happened to be a competition at Henley-on-Thames, home of the famous regatta. And what is a little rain when you can watch horses run and jump?

The rain was fairly heavy when we set out,  P1080628


but was fairly light by the time we arrived.

These competitions are called trials, and are to establish the right to compete in various competitions throughout the season.  There are three separate events – dressage, show jumping, and cross-country.  The latter is  the equivalent of riding with the hounds – only without the hounds, and nary a fox in sight.

We bought some lunch and settled down at a picnic table near a series of jumps…  P1080635




After a while, Heather suggested that we walk the course backwards, beginning at the end. This is all very new to me, but apparently, it is quite normal.  So, off we went.

If you don’t like horses, or photos of them, then you may as well go have a cup of tea…. because this is pretty well what this is from here……… with the exception of a huge dog, a couple cute kids, and a rainy picnic with friends.

I have never been on a cross-country course before, so I didn’t realize that they would have a marked walking path beside the course, so you didn’t usually have to worry about a horse and rider suddenly coming upon you.  And it was very enlightening to walk along, and see what crazy obstacles they had to negotiate.  while constructed, they really did resemble the kind of things one would find while galloping across fields and through woods in hot pursuit of a fox.

Just after the last fence, which was really a jump followed by a coffin-shaped pit to jump over, and then another fence, we saw these children, patiently awaiting the next competitor.



Farther along the path, there was this lovely open hill, where a loop in the course almost met. At the bottom, you can see a series of jumps with a long water run between.P1080644






One of the fences – they are done up very nicely. This one has a high and low side.  They are using the low one as this is the Junior level competition.P1080641




Some of the jumps are way lower on the landing side… and like this one, may have another step up or down in quick order……. or a very sharp turn to negotiate.

Imagine going through the bluebell woodsP1080658



to thisP1080653


Another jump – this horse is refusing it – but look at the lovely Great Dane –P1080649


And what about this canine spectator!P1080655



After we got back to the picnic tables, our friends were there – and so was the rain.  Smoked salmon and Cornish ice cream under umbrellas.P1080662


Oh – and for you Royal watchers – while we ate, Zara Phillips, daughter of Princess Anne, rode over the same set of fences that I showed at the very beginning.  This is three months after she gave birth to her daughter. We could tell it was someone important by the pack of photographers under the trees.

Couldn’t mistake this day for anywhere but England.

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One Response to A Thoroughly English Experience

  1. Sartenada says:

    Great post and I loved especially riding photos.

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