The waiting is finally over as the British Eventing season officially got underway at Aston le Walls in Northamptonshire and Poplar Park in Suffolk over the weekend (5-6 March).
The team at Poplar Park have historically run in week 2 of the calendar but the switch to the opening weekend proved to be a popular decision, with many of the sports top names making the journey over to the Suffolk coast to benefit from the free draining light, sandy soil – in 37 years they have never abandoned – and warm welcome on offer.
Oliver Townend enjoyed a winning return to competition with his Tokyo Team Gold Medal partner, Ballaghmor Class. Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop and Val Ryan’s gelding added just a couple of time penalties to a dressage score of 18.9 to finish on a score of 21.30 in Open Intermediate Section G. Oliver took both the Open Intermediate Sections, also finishing top of Section H with Andrew Nicholson’s former ride, Diana and Paul Ridgeon’s Swallow Springs.
Two great greys – World Number 1, Oliver Townend gets the season started with wins in both Open Intermediate Sections at Poplar Park with Ballaghmor Class (top) and Swallow Springs (above). Images, Hannah Cole
Other well-known names making their season debut at Poplar Park included current World Champions, Ros Canter and Allstar B (8th in OI Section G) and European Championship Bronze medallists, Corouet and Sarah Bullimore (21st in OI Section H).
Aston le Walls was faced with a challenging start to the weekend, when the wet weather meant it wasn’t possible to run over the cross country course on Saturday. The team rallied round to offer the option of a schooling opportunity for the combinations that had been due to run, which many riders took advantage of.
An inspection on Saturday gave the news everyone had wanted to hear – thanks to the hard work of the team to re-route the cross country course, Sunday’s competition could go ahead as planned. A great day of BE80, BE90 and BE90 Open classes followed, with many more riders getting their 2022 campaigns off and running.