For eventers Jonelle and Tim Price this is the busiest part of the year – and it is being a successful year for the New Zealand couple who are based at Mildenhall.
As they leave for Normandy to be part of the New Zealand eventing team at the World Equestrian Games (WEG), they are both flying high with their very experienced and consistent horses. WEG is a large-scale competition with 70 nations represented in eight official disciplines – attracting the cream of the world’s horses and riders.
In Germany in June Tim and 11-year-old Wesko won the four star event (that’s the highest level of eventing) at Luhmuhlen. This is the best win of his career to date and secured his team place – and, incidentally, won him the cover photo of eventing’s own monthly magazine (below.)
Then, last month Tim came second (on Wesko) and Jonelle third (on Classic Moet) in the three star competition at the Hartpury International in Gloucestershire. Earlier this year Tim finished ninth at Badminton and took Wesko to win the three star at Tattersals in May.
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After competing last week with younger, less experienced horses at Sapey (Herefordshire) and Wellington (Hampshire), they cross on Monday (August 25) to Caen and their WEG eventing schedule runs from Thursday to Sunday (August 28-31.)
After WEG they come back to Mildenhall on the Monday – go to the prestige Burleigh competition on Tuesday – home on Sunday and then to Blenheim.
There is hardly time to wash the saddle cloths or, as Jonelle put it to Marlborough News Online: “It’s just all-consuming.”
Jonelle has one of the two individual places in the New Zealand team for WEG – it’s the first time a husband and wife have been in the team. The other individual place in the team goes to Lucy Jackson who is based near Oxford.
The national team is all-male: Sir Mark Todd (based at Badgerstown on the edge of the Marlborough Downs), Andrew Nicholson (Lockeridge), Time Price (Minal) and Jonathan Paget (Surrey.) It will be Tim’s first time at WEG, but it will be the sixth time for Nicholson.
At WEG Jonelle will be riding the mare Classic Moet. Jonelle took her on as a ten-year old in May 2013: “I didn’t really have a lot of hope for her to be honest.”
But she proved a very fast learner and by August last year Jonelle was confident enough in her to take her round a three star competition in Normandy – and finished well. And this year she rode Classic Moet (owned by Trisha Rickards) into twelfth place at the Luhmuhlen four star event.
Tim and Jonelle have 120 acres at Mere Farm outside Mildenhall. They are concentrating on their careers at the moment, but Jonelle does some teaching: “I like teaching – and will do more in time.”
The eventing season ends with a flurry of competitions in France and Holland – including Boekelo which was won last year by Lizzie Brown, another locally based New Zealander. By the end of October, all eyes will be turning to 2015’s competitions and beyond that to the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Jonelle says it usually takes nine years to bring a horse to eventing’s four star standard and they reach their prime when they are between 12 and 16 years-old.
She has great hopes for Faerie Dianimo (known in the yard as Maggie May.) A 9-year-old dappled grey mare, she entered her first three star event at Barbury last year – taking a very encouraging eleventh place.
Last month Jonelle guided Maggie May into a confident sixteenth place in the Aachen three star competition.
But before Rio gets too dominant in her mind, Jonelle wants to start next season with a trip to the Rolex Kentucky three-day event. Last year William Fox-Pitt won the $80,000 prize for the third time – and picked up his third Rolex watch.
It’s a very expensive trip costing about £20,000 per horse with the plane ticket featuring high on the bill. But Jonelle says it is a great way to start the new season and comes just before the all-important Badminton competition.
The stakes in eventing are very high and, as the front cover of August’s Eventing magazine reminds us, they are not just high in terms of the sport’s financial costs.