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  • Writer's pictureAngie Rickard

UK postcard: Put your hat back on, says Princess Anne

This week rounds up our Postcards from the UK by Australian equine photographer at large ANGIE RICKARD. And what a way to finish her holiday with the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park.
ABOVE: The steep slopes of the cross country course were testing. Picture: ANGIE RICKARD

AFTER three horse shows in a row, a weekend of eventing appealed to me.

The logistics of getting there started as an issue though, so with no hire car available, it came down to taxi.

Gatcombe Park is a 15 minute-drive from the town of Stroud, Gloucestershire, so a taxi wasn’t going to be cheap. And after Covid lockdowns did some damage to local businesses there were very few available making it even harder to book one for a weekend. But all worked out well. This tired Aussie tracked down a driver who was willing to pick me up at 9am, so I could take hitch hiking off the list of ways to get there.

With a press pass we were allowed to enter the grounds just 100m from the main arena and it was a downhill walk from there, but the sloping grounds were an eye opener.

The main arena where the show jumping is held was not flat like we are used to, and the cross country course was uphill/downhill with very few flat sections.

I walked the first half of the cross country course like an unbalanced mountain goat because not only was the ground downhill, it was also on an angle. Carrying a heavy backpack with camera and water bottles made it worse. But I wasn’t the only one – there were others looking very wobbly as well.

ABOVE: Even (some) dogs find the cross country course hard work. Picture: ANGIE RICKARD

The course had two water jumps, one with jumps in the actual water, and the other main one that had jumps into and out of the water and lots of jumping downhill before and after. It was certainly a hard slog on a steep course.

Crowds were huge sitting on the hill overlooking the Gatcombe Park mansion and the water jump.

I was sitting there thinking about the hard slog back up the hill to the taxi and a woman came walking through the long grass towards me. I couldn’t move as it was a balancing act to keep my chair upright on the sloping ground, so she had to stop and edge past me.

That’s how I met Princess Anne.

A few words about the lovely property and the sunshine, and I was told to put my hat back on, and she continued on her way.

The poor photographer about 20 feet away was almost wetting himself with excitement but she went straight past him much to his dismay.

ABOVE: Gatcombe Park is the home of Princess Anne. Picture: ANGIE RICKARD

The property is beautiful with its hills (and more hills), lovely old trees, old stone building and original stone fences that are incorporated into the jumping course.

One thing I did notice was the markers on the jumps. We have different colors for different levels that stand out clearly, they have smaller ones that were hard to identify.

I also got to see the safety vests that are now standard for cross country riders in action after witnessing a number of falls.

I have never been close enough to hear them fire but was within 20 metres of a couple and yep, they certainly go off with a bang.

I captured one shot where the bungee cord was at the point of inflating the safety vest, and both horse and rider were ok, but the bang from the gas canisters was sharp. All riders I saw come off bounced on impact.

I had many conversations with different people there, and of all things, the axing of Neighbours was the main topic. It’s hard to believe how a local television show streamed in a far away country has such an effect on lives, with many very upset that it is no more.

Overall, it was a lovely weekend out in the sun, on a lovely property, a great workout for the legs and butt, watching top riders and horses on a tough course.

And yet another event that should be added to any horse lover’s travel list.


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