THERE was one notable absentee from this year’s Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials.
The eventing world then really started to worry when Oliver Townend also missed his Luhmuhlen engagement.
But, 10 weeks on, normal service has been resumed – the Huddersfield rider back at the top of his game after some “ups and downs” of 2013.
Townend is back on cloud nine after three second-placed finishes at last weekend’s British Festival Of Eventing at Gatcombe Park.
And the jubilation felt by the world No 7 is a far cry from the frustrating emotions the Yorkshireman experienced in June.
Townend was due to compete both Outside Chance and Douglas at this year’s Bramham Horse Trials – but neither made it to West Yorkshire.
Four days later came the prestigious CCI four-star event in Luhmuhlen – where both Imperial Master and ODT Sonas Rovatio were entered – but neither they nor Townend made the flight to Germany. Instead, the Yorkshireman’s next outing actually came at Aske some three-and-a-half weeks later.
But there was never any panic from Townend – only frustration – with the 30-year-old revealing that Outside Chance, Douglas and Imperial Master all had minor setbacks as part of a turbulent June. It was also the month in which his Luhmuhlen entry ODT Sonas Rovatio was sold – ruling out his chances.
Townend openly admits it would have been physically possible to get Outside Chance and Douglas to Bramham. The Shropshire-based ace feels one have them might have even won.
Yet the talented rider’s sole goal is on a successful long-term future with Bramham given a miss with his horses not in peak condition. Outside Chance, Douglas and Imperial Master all remain in his care and ready to fight another day.
Expect them to be out soon and a period of lows in the Townend yard to be followed by some late summer highs.
“We’ve had ups and downs,” Townend told the Yorkshire Post, reflecting on the year so far. “We had a couple of minor injuries and things certainly weren’t going too good at one stage in a major way, not long term but just niggly things that were very annoying.
“It was disappointing to miss Bramham, but at the same time the horses are still there and they are very, very well.
“They’ve had a lot of mileage and it’s just keeping them 100 per cent right and there’s no point carrying on when you know things aren’t going in the right direction.
“They could have without doubt got to Bramham if that was their last event and they probably would have gone and won, but sometimes it’s about backing off with them and taking no risks.”
As a result of that approach, Townend has three equine stars in Outside Chance, Douglas and Imperial Master that are all fresh ahead of the second half of the 2013 eventing campaign.”
The Yorkshireman also sees the sale of ODT Sonas Rovatio as an undoubted positive.
“Selling Sonas Rovatio was a good move for the business,” said Townend. “He’d been sixth in Kentucky and seventh or eighth in Luhmuhlen but I don’t think he was ever going to win a four-star and I don’t think he was ever going to go on the British team which is obviously the aim.”
Keep performing like last weekend and that’s where Townend will likely find himself – even if he jokes that last weekend’s British Festival Of Eventing could actually have gone a bit better. Armada, in the CCI 3-star British Open, plus ODT Ghareeb (Advanced) and Cooley Master Class (Intermediate) were all second and Townend quipped: “I was delighted. But it’s not as good as three firsts is it!”