Nearly 500 people packed the sold out stands at Hartpury college on Monday 2nd February for the annual International Eventing Forum.

Kicking off the day, international dressage judge Christoph Hess stressed the importance of ‘horse-friendly’ training, with a continual emphasis on the need for riders and trainers to work with the horse. Two magnificent demo riders in Sam Griffiths and Nicky Roncoroni and their horses made the theme of ‘the not so good dressage horse’ a little hard to attain, but with both horses having distinct areas where improvements could be made, Christoph demonstrated how an attention to the basics and the fundamental scales of training should underpin our daily training and distinct and impressive improvements were made in the way of going of both horses.

A very insightful session with Irish team vet Hugh Suffern and leading racehorse trainer Charlie Longsdon followed which gave a wealth of practical insights into fittening horses for eventing and how the fitness needs of horses change as horses progress through the grades. But when the Andrew Nicholson trotted into the arena there was not a seat to be found and an intense silence descended as attendees sought to absorb every nugget of information available from a man that has achieved pretty much everything that there is to achieve in the sport of eventing. Andrews’ unique demonstration saw him ride 4 different horses, ranging from a 3-month broken 5yo to an experienced, yet tricky 3* campaigner. Although facing his horses with nothing ‘difficult’ Andrew presented a range of exercises to make horses learn to think, to learn to adjust and to learn to balance themselves. And he clearly demonstrated why he is one of the very best cross country riders in the world.

This year’s forum was a sell out and for the first time no tickets were available for sale on the door on the day. While the legendary Andrew Nicholson was obviously a huge draw, the quality of speakers at the forum is such that riders of all abilities and ambitions come away with a mind (and often a notebook or two) full of training insights and exercises and usually a new perspective, new ideas and renewed motivation. With Olympic, World and European gold medallist Ingrid Klimke already announced as key speaker at next year’s forum, people are advised to book early to avoid disappointment…