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Friday Video and UK Notes from World Equestrian Brands: Eventers Take Bolesworth

Where has this year gone? It feels like just yesterday that we were moaning endlessly about the million-and-one event cancellations that effectively precluded any early-season runs, and now we find ourselves smack in the middle of the third four-star of the year, and what we Brits unanimously refer to as ‘Pimms weather.’ If you don’t know what that is — Americans, I’m looking at you — I suggest you find a specialist booze distributor and find out. Your life — and your approach to going eventing — will never be the same.

We’ve got an enormously busy weekend ahead of us here in the UK, with six events taking place around the country — fortunately, if there’s one thing eventers are great at, it’s multitasking, so the Luhmuehlen live stream will be getting a jolly good workout despite some pesky fences getting in the way.

UK Weekend Preview:

Nunney International [Website] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Rackham [Ride Times]

Catton Park [Ride Times]

Stratford Hills [Ride Times]

Warwick Hall (2) [Website] [Ride Times]

Burgie [Ride Times]

Events Opening This Weekend:

15th: Aston-le-Walls (3) – N-A – [EnterNorthamptonshire (July 20-22)

15th: Launceston – BE80-BE100 – [Enter] Cornwall (July 22)

15th: Warwick Hall (3) – BE80-N – [EnterCumbria (July 21-22)

16th: Little Downham (2) – BE90-N – [EnterCambridgeshire (July 21-22)

Events Balloting This Weekend:

15th: Kirriemuir (2) – BE80-N, with 4/5yo classes – [EnterAngus, Scotland (July 8)

15th: Buckminster Park (2) – BE100-N, plus 5yo – [EnterLincolnshire (July 7-8)

16th: Tweseldown (3) – BE80-IN, with 4/5yo classes – [EnterHampshire (July 7-9)

Friday video: Eventers steal the limelight at Bolesworth

Luhmuehlen isn’t the only high-profile competition taking place this weekend — in the (contentious) north of England, the Equerry Bolesworth International Horse Show is in full swing. Known for its top-notch showjumping and dressage, sideline extreme motor sports entertainment, and, um, ‘Club Boles’, the exceptionally cheeky on-site party, it’s one of the UK’s best, and most luxurious, horsey getaways. This year, they’ve invited the eventing fraternity along for the party too, with the Eventers Grand Prix relay challenge. Top eventers paired up with the best in the showjumping business to lay down some lightning fast rounds in and out of the international arena — check out how it played out!

We are live from The Equerry Bolesworth International Horse Show with CMH.TV Great Britain!Watch the Cazenove Capital Eventing Grand Prix here or the rest of the show at https://bolesworthinternational.com/live-streamorwatch.clipmyhorse.tv/bolesworthTickets are still available on the gate!#BIHS2018 #Bolesworth #Dressage #Showjumping #Family #Cheshire #eventing

Posted by The Equerry Bolesworth International Horse Show on Thursday, June 14, 2018

Pillar-to-Post Leads Scoop Bramham for Julia Krajewski and Emily King

Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH leave nothing to chance. Photo by Tilly Berendt. Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH leave nothing to chance. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Find yourself someone who looks at you the way Julia Krajewski looks at Chipmunk FRH. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Witnessing a flawless wire-to-wire victory always feels like a special privilege: a highly competitive dressage test, and impeccable communication across the jumping phases exemplifies what the upper echelons of our sport should be made off. With that said, we’ve even exceptionally lucky this weekend to enjoy two such victories, in both of the CCI3* sections at the Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials.

THIRD TIME’S A CHARM FOR JULIA KRAJEWSKI

Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH enjoy their lap of honour. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“It’s a really long way for us to come to Bramham — we wouldn’t come just to ride,” smiles Julia Krajewski, who won the CCI3* at Bramham International Horse Trials today after two failed attempts to start the competition in years prior.

Her winning week began on Thursday, when she and ten-year-old Chipmunk FRH delivered an exceptionally good first phase score of 19.4 to take a significant lead going into the highly influential cross country. Here, they needed no margin for error, executing a swift and clear round with nary a hiccup over Ian Stark‘s bold, attacking course. This gave her a pole and a time penalty in hand going into the showjumping – and as the day went on, and the leaderboard changed dramatically under the ministrations of Di Boddy’s difficult course, it looked as though she would need it.

Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH leave nothing to chance. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“When I was walking to the showjumping I thought, it would be really nice if he jumps clear – he doesn’t always,” she explains. “What I didn’t realise was that I actually had two rails in hand. I knew I had one, but I thought one and a time penalty wouldn’t be good either, so I had to try to go clear. Jumping has always been his question mark but he jumped very well today.”

Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH clear the final fence. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Go clear she did, despite the fact that only 15 of the 47 starters managed to do so, with plenty clocking up over 20 faults over the coloured poles. It was France’s Karim Laghouag and Entebbe de Hus who had afforded her the buffer, pulling a rail to drop from second to fifth.

Julia was delighted to top the final leaderboard, leaving her dressage score immaculate and producing what may be the lowest finishing score Bramham’s history.

Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“Bramham is such a nice competition from start to finish,” she enthuses. “I like to go to England – it’s so friendly here – and so I try to pick one or two competitions over here each year.”

Julia’s win sees her in the enviable position of having two exceptionally well-proven horses in contention for WEG selection later this year – Chipmunk’s stablemate Samourai du Thot won Luhmuehlen CCI4* last year.

Andrew Nicholson and Swallow Springs finish second in a strong CCI3*. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Second place went to Andrew Nicholson, who climbed from fourth place with a faultless showjumping round aboard the talented grey Swallow Springs. His second ride of the day was mercifully uneventful, after his first round aboard Yacabo BK,  was disrupted by a loose dog chasing them along the course. His eight faults in the final treble were then rescinded by the ground jury, as the dog overtook horse and rider and broke their rhythm from the landing side.

Andrew was pleased with the ten-year-old Irish Sport Horse’s performance throughout the week, and will now aim him at Burghley for his four-star debut.

“He did a very nice dressage, and then on the cross country, he felt superb,” he says. “He had time faults, but that was my fault – he’s a very fast horse, and I was happy dobbing along and enjoying myself. He’s come a long way since last year, when I fell on cross country; he can jump well, and he felt much more grown-up and secure today than he has in the past.”

Bill Levett and Burghley-bound Lassban Diamond Lift. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Australia’s Bill Levett climbed from tenth after dressage to finish third in the competition aboard Lassban Diamond Lift, a horse whose talent he credits his wife, Jenny, for spotting early on.

“Jenny has been his biggest fan since he was a five-year-old – she always thought he was a big-time horse,” he says. “It’s great to produce them to this level from that age, because if you’re lucky, you get to feel them change with experience. This horse keeps getting better and better.”

Lassban Diamond Lift came to Bramham after a third place finish in the CIC3* at Tattersalls last week, and 15th in the CIC3* at Chatsworth earlier in May.

“He looked after me pretty well for running this weekend, as well – I was ten seconds up [on the clock on cross country] pretty early on, and then I just sat there, mostly. I had to slow him down in the end! Today was the most pleasing, though, because he can have an easy rail at a one-day event where he’s a bit keen. Today he was much more settled, and showed what he can do.”

Lassban Diamond Lift will also be aimed at Burghley this autumn, as, says Bill; “I’m not really thinking about the WEG.”

Kitty King and Vendredi Biats. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kitty King finished best of the British aboard Vendredi Biats, while further down the lineup, Gemma Tattersall made an impressive climb aboard comeback queen Santiago Bay. They climbed from 38th place after dressage to finish in eighth after adding nothing throughout the jumping phases.

The final top ten in the Equi-Trek Bramham CCI3*.

EMILY KING LANDS NATIONAL UNDER-25 TITLE

Emily King gets cozy with the Bramham under-25 CCI3* trophy. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Bramham’s CCIu253* has long been considered a jumping-off point for successful careers at the senior level, with previous winners including Zara Tindall (nee Phillips), Tina CookWill ColemanPiggy FrenchTom McEwen and Astier Nicolas. Following the same track as the main CCI3*, it’s no easy feat to claim the win, and with it, the title of Under-25 National Champion. This year, our winner lead from pillar to post, never missing a beat in any of the three phases to finish on her dressage score of 25.5.

Emily King celebrates winning the under-25 title. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Emily King may have spent the early years of her career better known for being the daughter of eventing legend Mary King, but the last few seasons have seen her slowly build and develop her own brand and business, posting some impressive results along the way, including 4th place in her four-star debut at Pau about Brookleigh in 2015.

Emily King and Dargun slay their jumping demons for a foot-perfect victory at Bramham. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This week, her victory came atop the striking chestnut 10-year-old Dargun, with whom she completed a season at the three-star level last year. Although the jumping-bred horse’s record at the three-star level is somewhat patchy – he has completed twelve of his sixteen starts, but has gone clear across the country in just three of those – he showed an impressive maturity in his work across all three phases.

“He felt amazing when I got on in the warm-up,” says Emily. “He was actually really fresh, and bucking and squealing, which is really good for his spring and attention if he’s a little bit jolly. It worked to his advantage. He’s a horse that, I think, if there’s a big atmosphere and crowd it helps him, rather than distracts him. The fences here are very spooky, which helps him to focus, too.”

I’m over the moon with him – he just jumped his heart out. I can’t describe what it means to win this class; it’s such an amazing feeling. I’ve been here since I was a kid with mum, helping her and watching her, and I’ve always dreamt of riding here myself. Three or four years ago I rode here for the first time, but this is the first time it’s gone to plan and come together, so that’s an amazing feeling.”

Time to start afresh: Emily’s win comes as she departs from mother Mary’s Devon base. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Emily’s win comes as she relocates her business from her family yard in Sidmouth, Devon, to boyfriend Sam Ecroyd‘s Chester base.

“For anyone to have a big win as a rider, it just boosts your confidence so much, and your belief in everything, so it’s fantastic. It really helped the horse, too, because he competed at Houghton and then went back to Sam’s rather than travelling all the way down to Devon, so he arrived here much fresher and much happier.”

Thibault Fournier and Siniani de Lathus finish second in their first CCI3*. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

France’s Thibault Fournier scooped second place aboard Siniani de Lathus, fitting the prestigious competition into a hectic period of university revision.

“I have an exam in two days, so I’m a bit busy,” he laughs. “It’s been a really good challenge for me to do both university and riding.”

“I think you should have stayed at home this week!” quipped third-placed Sam Ecroyd to the first-year Physiotherapy student, who fits his string of six horses in around this, his second degree. This is Thibault’s second attempt at this class with the twelve-year-old Selle Francais; in their first, last year, they were eliminated when Thibault fell across the country. Together, they also finished 15th at Boekelo’s CCI3* at the end of last season, but haven’t contested an international competition since.

France’s Thibault Fournier and Siniani de Lathus. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“He’s a really good jumper, but I don’t know him very well after a long cross-country. Sometimes they can be a bit tired, but he jumped very well for me today.”

Sam Ecroyd, for his part, was second on Cooley Currency and fifth on Master Douglas going into the final phase, but a clear round pushed his lower-placed horse into third place. The tension was palpable as the jumped the penultimate round aboard Cooley Currency, but two poles down at the very end of the course moved him down into sixth.

Sam Ecroyd and Master Douglas finish third. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I was really happy with them both. Master Douglas has always been a fabulously talented jumper, and he’s always had a real rocky road of soundness and getting fit at the right time – he’s had one run prior to this, at which I fell off!”

“Great preparation,” injects Emily wryly.

“Yes – one-and-a-half runs in two years, so to come here and do this, well, he’s a really special horse,” says Sam. “With the Currency horse, I never would have thought we’d come here and go inside the time across the country, as he’s so green at this level still, and it was quite a push to get him to this. He jumped really well, I thought, and for a big horse like him to go in ten-and-a-half minutes yesterday, and then jump a course of twelve fences today, [knocking fences] can happen.”

Sam regards the 17.1hh gelding as one with enough talent to take him all the way.

“Once he gets a bit stronger he’ll be able to put it all together,” he says. “He’s a very, very talented jumper, but to be that tall and to have to do tight courses like that can be quite difficult. He’s got no problem with anything, he’s brave as a lion, and he’s a great jumper, but he’s a sensitive horse, so it’s just about putting all the pieces together. He’s got huge ability.”

Caroline Martin and The Apprentice. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The lone remaining US competitor, Caroline Martin, was the first to tackle the course aboard The Apprentice, but an early rail seemed to cause a domino effect in their round and they added 29 penalties to finish 16th. Danger Mouse lowered three rails and finished in 13th place. Caroline hopes to now aim both horses at Pau this October, alongside fellow Karen Stives Grant winner Hallie Coon.

Caroline Martin and Danger Mouse. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The showjumping proved influential, as designer Di Boddy‘s tracks tend to here at atmospheric, spooky Bramham. Only five of the sixteen starts produced fault-free rounds, and Emily King and Dargun were the only pair to finish on their dressage score.

The final top ten in the CCIu253* at Bramham.

CIC3* WIN COMES DOWN TO THE WIRE

Be Touchable and Izzy Taylor add another win to their record in Bramham’s CIC3*. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The field in the CIC3* competition was a tale of two halves: one of them full of inexperienced horses and riders at the level, and the other well-stocked with experienced upper-level contenders. It was the latter horses who came to the fore in the jumping phases of the competition, which saw a seriously influential showjumping track completely rearrange the leaderboard, with only 15 clear rounds out of 57 starters.

Ros Canter furthers No Excuse’s education. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ros Canter and No Excuse, who had led after the dressage, toppled a rail to drop to third, and as predicted by Ros, couldn’t quite make the time across the country. His 8.4 time penalties provided a useful education, but not a top five finish – he was ultimately ninth on the overall leaderboard.

This opened the door for experienced, fast horses to fight for the win, and when Nicola Wilson withdrew Luhmuehlen-bound Bulana, sitting in first place after showjumping, the race was on.

Izzy Taylor and her Blenheim CIC3* winner Be Touchable were third from last to leave the start box, and though there were two riders ahead of her who could beat her, Izzy produced a trademark clear inside the time. Then, all she could do was wait.

As Ros’ round quietly accumulated its handful of time penalties, France’s Gwendolen Fer set out aboard her 2017 Pau winner, Romantic Love. They were the only pair who could beat Izzy – but their 0.4 time penalties, for coming in a second over the optimum time, put them on an equal score with her. The tiebreak went to the British rider, for her fault-free round.

“Be Touchable hasn’t been out since Blenheim, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from him mentally,” admits Izzy. “But he was very professional – he did a good enough test, probably a bit quieter than I would expect from him, and I maybe rode him a bit safely. It was annoying to have the first part of the treble down in the showjumping – though I was annoyed at myself for that – but he just felt class on cross country and never deviated from his line. It’s good to have him back – he’s a fragile horse, and very exuberant, so he takes a bit of looking after.”

Gwendolen plans to aim Romantic Love at Aachen next, formulating a plan for the rest of the season thereafter.

“My horse is super today. He jumped very well this morning and proved himself again cross country,” she says. “He’s quite fast normally and it’s the first time I’ve ever lost a win for a second over!”

Japan’s Toshiyuki Tanaka and Talma D Allou produce a classy FOD. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Japan’s Toshiyuki Tanaka and Talma D Allou produced the only FOD of the section to move up to third place from an initial fourteenth, while Ben Hobday, in fourth aboard his 2017 Le Lion d’Angers contender Shadow Man II, climbed up from 15th at the start of the competition. His other mount, Ciletto H, rounded out the top ten, having added just 4 time penalties to his dressage score of 35.3 to climb an impressive 28 places through the week.

Eleven of the 68 starters didn’t complete the cross-country, while 20 of the 57 finishers added jumping penalties. While the water complex once again exerted its influence, it was fence 11 – the coffin – which was most influential, claiming 10 competitors.

The top ten in the BETA CIC3*.

That’s it for us from this year’s Bramham International Horse Trials – it’s been a wild and woolly week up here in the north, and we hope you’ve enjoyed following along with our coverage (alongside that of the rather less wild and woolly Bromont). It might not have been quite the week we hoped for for our brilliant American representatives, but we’re so excited to see what both of these exceptionally talented ladies do next, and we were, as always, delighted to see how easy they can make difficult situations and tricky questions look. All of us at EN wish them both smooth sailing (and/or flying) as Hallie Coon and Celien make their way to Ireland to prepare for Millstreet and Pau, and as Caroline Martin heads home to the US with The Apprentice and Danger Mouse.

Until next time – see you on the other side (of the motorway), readers!

Bramham Links: Website, Start Times & Results, EN’s Coverage

American Horse Spun at Bramham Final Horse Inspection

CCI3* leaders Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH pass the final horse inspection. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The final horse inspection on Sunday morning at a three-day always has a slightly different vibe than the initial one on Wednesday evening. The crowds are bigger, more hushed; the equine hijinks are – mostly – curtailed, and the riders and grooms have the pinched, puffy-eyed look of people who have ushered in the sun from an endless rotation of ice boots and hand-walking circuits. When the horses pass, the cheers are bigger, the relief almost palpable, and the sense of girding one’s loins for the next big hurdle momentous. When they’re held, so, too, is the collective breath of the crowd.

This morning’s CCI3* and CCIu253* trot-ups saw three holds in the senior section – Rebecca Nicholson‘s Uno IITheo van de Vendel‘s Zindane, and Kate Rocher-Smith‘s HHS Dassett Appeal. All three horses were passed upon reinspection.

William Fox-Pitt and Oratorio II at the final horse inspection. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

In the under-25 class, France’s Stephane Landois withdrew his Uh La Up De CrazyHallie Coon‘s Celien was held and subsequently spun, due to a minor abscess in the bulb of her hoof. Hallie assures us that the mare is completely sound and the team will regroup and reroute to France’s Pau at the end of the season. While no one likes to see their week end on Sunday morning, it’s all about the long game, and Hallie and her trademark good humour were to be spotted in the showjumping collecting ring later on in the morning supporting teammate Caroline Martin.

The day commences in earnest with the CCIU253* and CCI3* showjumping. Stay tuned, and Go Eventing!

Bramham Links: Website, Start Times & Results, EN’s Coverage, Livestream

Fortune Favours the Brave at Bramham: CCI3* Cross Country Report

Hallie Coon and Celien post a clear round in the under-25 CCI3*. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

When eventing phenom Ian Stark flexes his course-designing muscles, the eventing world sits up and takes notice, and never more so than at Bramham. Set in the heart of North Yorkshire, the Bramham Park estate boasts sweeping undulations, natural dips and mounds, and ample space for the sort of long, old-fashioned, galloping course that the event is known for.

But it’s not all running and jumping — to stand a chance of taking the top spot here, you’ve got to be prepared to tackle serious slopes and dips within combinations, to jump from light to dark and back again, and your stamina — and that of your horse — must be at its absolute peak.

At 10:24, and covering a distance of 5927m, today’s CCI3* and CCIu253* course certainly offered nothing for free.

KRAJEWSKI LEADS CCI3* CHARGE

Germany’s Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH had given themselves a margin of nearly six points going into the cross country, with their dressage score of 19.4 moving them well ahead of their competition. But, as it turned out, they didn’t need to use any of that buffer, producing a fast, clear round inside the time to make the influential track look almost beneath their abilities.

“I really had the feeling that he was enjoying it to the last — his ears were pricked, and it was a very cool feeling,” says Julia of her impressive ten-year-old. “We were concerned that, perhaps, the ground would be too hard, but it really was perfect — the team did a great job.”

Karim Laghouag and Entebbe de Hus: proving a point to themselves and their team. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Hot on their heels was France’s Karim Laghouag, who, with Entebbe de Hus, sat third on a score of 26.3 after the first phase. They, too, went clear, finishing just one second over the optimum time to sit second on 26.3 heading into showjumping.

“Entebbe de Hus went really well today, but he started the season a bit under his normal ability,” says Karim. “I came with many things to prove — to the French selectors, the supporters, and to the rider, too! So it was nice that every stride went as I planned them to.”

William Fox-Pitt moved up to third place from sixth after producing a clear round inside the time with the young and exciting Oratorio II. The nine-year-old gelding is sired by William’s recently-retired top level mount Oslo, with whom he won Pau in 2011, and out of a point-to-point mare that he and wife Alice had previously trained, so, says William, “he’s a very sentimental horse.”

“He was offered to us as a three-year-old, and I thought, no — he’s far too young, I won’t still be going by the time he’s ready to compete! So we thought about it a bit, and advised the owners to send him to Laura Collett instead. She competed him up to CIC2*, but he was rather too big and rude. Then he came to me and grew three inches from the age of seven until nine. He’s not a girl’s ride — he’s not really my ride, for that matter, but we’re learning!”

William Fox-Pitt’s Oratorio shows his class in the CCI3*. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

That learning curve has resulted in some moments of miscommunication in the past, in which even 6’5 William has struggled to keep the horse straight and correct, but today, he felt that an enormous step was taken in the right direction.

“He was a good boy — he’s still quite a green horse, but his real asset is his class,” explains William. “He has endless stamina, and probably could have gone around that course twice today, and while he’s quite argumentative and strong ordinarily, today, he was great. It wasn’t a perfect round, nor the most pretty, but he was really up for it and taking me to the flags. He’s really a project for me; I hope he’ll go four-star once he learns to look for the flags.”

Swallow Springs and Andrew Nicholson climb one spot to fourth. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Antipodean contingent ensured representation in the top ten, with Andrew Nicholson and Swallow Springs moving up one place from fifth to fourth after adding just 1.6 time penalties, and Australia’s Bill Levett posting a double-clear with Lassban Diamond Lift to climb five places to fifth.

Kitty King and Vendredi Biats tackle the final section of the course. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

2.4 time penalties was fast enough to allow Kitty King and Vendredi Biats to climb a spot to sixth place, while elsewhere, 6.4 time penalties plummeted France’s Matthieu Vanlandeghem and Trouble Fete ENE HN from second after dressage to eighth. Seventh, ninth, and tenth places were taken by riders whose fast clears allowed them to climb substantially — Gwendolen Fer and Traumprinz from 28th to 7th, Olivia Wilmot and Zebedee de Foja from 26th to 9th, and Richard Jones and Alfies Clover, rerouting from Badminton, from 29th to 10th.

EXAMINING THE INFLUENCE

The final water combination at 21ABCDE, the Womble Bond Dickinson Pond, proved the most influential question on course, with five faulters in this section. Late in the course, the combination was made up of a large rolltop, followed by a descent into the water, in which the competitors had to negotiate a curving line of two skinny arrowheads. Then, they had to canter up and out of the water, over a skinny swan, and left-handed through a 90-degree turn to a wide, galloping trakehner. When competitors stayed true to their line, and rode forward into their stride, it was made to look very easy — but when the line wavered, or the horse sucked back behind the leg, it became a much more difficult question.

It was responsible for perhaps the most impressive ‘nearly’ of the day, when Nicola Wilson and One Two Many, 11th after dressage, misjudged their stride over the first of the skinnies. Miraculously, both cleared the fence and remained upright, but Nicola, who ended up being One Two Many’s saddle, sensibly put her hand up and opted to retire after the hairy effort.

Olivia Wilmot and Zebedee de Foja provided one of the many gasp-inducing moments in the final water, but made it through to climb to the top ten. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

William Fox-Pitt, too, offered up a tense moment when Luxury FH dropped behind his leg and opted to trot and lurch his way through the combination. They ultimately retired two fences later: “the horse just tired, but fortunately he thinks he did very well! He’s had rather sketchy prep as most of his Advanced runs were cancelled this spring.”

As always, the demanding cross country course proved hugely influential but not insensible, with just over a quarter of the 66 starters retiring or facing elimination on course. A further six riders incurred jumping penalties but completed, and ten combinations added neither jumping nor time penalties to their dressage scores. The ground, and the questions asked, were widely praised by riders, who acknowledged the enormous amount of effort put in by the management team to continuously water and aerovate the swiftly baking footing.

The top ten going into the final phase of the Bramham CCI3*.

KING REIGNS SUPREME ON CROSS COUNTRY DAY

Emily King and Dargun add nothing to their dressage score to hold the CCIU253* lead going into the final phase. Photo by Pat Cunningham.

Dressage leaders Emily King and Dargun defied previous form and proved that their hard work had come good, laying down a fast clear to hold their position for another night in the under-25 CCI3*. They have just a time penalty in hand going into tomorrow’s showjumping.

“He was very good — he’s very careful normally, and today he was bold, straight, and galloped well from the start,” says Emily. “He got in a good rhythm right away, and the first combinations went very smoothly. I found him very easy to ride forward and turn, and so when we got a big jump in at the second water and I only just managed to get him back, it was down to being able to turn him.”

Emily experienced the first ever hold on course of her career while tackling the track, when the rider ahead of her fell at the final trakehner.

“I’ve never been held, so I was like, ‘oh, that’s what this is like!’,” she laughs. “It went on for four or five minutes, so both of us really had the chance to catch breath and start over again very fresh. We went on and did the final water and then I could feel confident that the very hard ones were behind us. I had been keeping a close eye on the time up until the hold, but after that I didn’t have it very sussed out so I just tried to get back into the rhythm I had before.”

Sam Ecroyd and Cooley Currency sit in second place going into showjumping. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Second place overnight is held by her boyfriend Sam Ecroyd and her former ride Cooley Currency, who added nothing to their dressage score of 28.1 to climb from 4th. He also sits fifth going into showjumping with his first ride, Master Douglas.

“I had two very good rides today,” he says. “I came here two years ago and thought that it was the nicest cross country course I’d ever ridden, so I knew it would suit my two. It’s bold, it’s attacking, and Ian Stark deserves huge praise for the way he build it — nowadays so many are like dog agility courses, so it’s nice to have one like this. It was brilliantly done.”

“I was lucky to be sat on two very brave horses who went really well. Cooley Currency is a very big, very scopey, very strong horse – of all Emily’s great qualities, her physical strength wouldn’t be one of them,” he laughs. “So I took over the ride, because I’m taller, and have longer legs and arms.”

Sam, too, was held on course, just before the final water.

“Unfortunately, the hold was too late on course to be much help — he just thought he was finished, as this is the longest course he’s ever done!”

Thibault Fournier and Siniani de Lathus round out the top three. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Slipping into third was France’s Thibault Fornier and Siniani de Lathus, who added just one second to the optimum time.

“I would like to thank the organisers for an amazing cross country,” he enthuses, echoing the sentiments of his fellow competitors. “I was so happy about my horse. He was very clean up to the end, and jumped very well at all the fences. It’s my first CCI3* with him — I don’t know him very well but the way he makes the cross country feel shows me that he can make a nice horse for bigger courses.”

Hallie Coon and Celien at the final water complex. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Hallie Coon and Celien posted a classy clear round, despite some stickiness at the final water, to add 14.4 time penalties to their dressage score. They sit 13th going into tomorrow’s showjumping on a score of 46.3.

Caroline Martin and The Apprentice over 21E. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The cross country proved similarly influential in this class, with nine of the 27 starters not completing the course. A further four picked up jumping penalties, with two of those occurring at the final water complex. Those went to Caroline Martin, who picked up 20 penalties on her first mount, Danger Mouse, after the horse veered left at the first skinny and wasn’t able to get back on the line to the second. On her second horse, The Apprentice, she was awarded 50 penalties for missing a flag on the same fence, despite evidence that suggested the contrary being presented by members of the media. She sits 16th (Danger Mouse) and 18th (The Apprentice) heading into the final phase.

Caroline Martin and Danger Mouse. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Chuffy Clarke‘s mount Second Supreme, who collapsed near the end of the course and died, apparently of natural causes. You can read the full statement, as well as enjoy a gallery of beautiful photos of the dynamic duo’s wonderful partnership, here. Our deepest condolences go to Chuffy and all of Ed’s team.

We’ll be coming at you bright and early tomorrow from the final horse inspection, as well as bringing you a report on the CIC3* competition’s thrilling finale, and all the action from both CCI3* section’s showjumping. Hold onto your hats, kids — it’s going to be exciting.

The top ten in the under-25 CCI3* after cross country.

Bramham Links: Website, Start Times & Results, EN’s Coverage, Livestream

Friday Video from World Equestrian Brands: Beefy, Bold Bramham

Caroline Martin and Pebbly Maximus at Bramham in 2017. Photo by Adam Fanthorpe.

Happy Friday, denizens of the eventing community! As I’m currently milling around somewhere in North Yorkshire, crying about oxers wide enough to live under, I’m afraid your Friday video this week is a lonely one, not held warm and tight by ballot and entry dates. They’ll be back with a bang next week!

Tiana Coudray and Under the Clocks. Photo by Adam Fanthorpe.

This week’s TGIF viewing takes a look back at 2015’s under-25 CCI3* here at Bramham, which Caroline Martin and Hallie Coon will be tackling with aplomb tomorrow. Get yourself psyched up and amply prepared for some breakfast livestreaming with this insight into the type of challenge they’ll be up against.

Heels down, eyes up, glass of wine held firmly aloft, amiright?

 

 

That’s a Wrap on the Flat: Your Bramham Dressage Roundup

End dressage, get snacks. Lather, rinse, repeat. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Another day packed to the rafters with dressage tests dawned on Bramham today, with yesterday’s high standards proving a worthy challenge to Friday’s competitors.

Nobody came close to catching CCI3* leaders Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH, who maintain their nearly six-point margin going into tomorrow’s cross country phase. France’s Matthieu Vanlandeghem and Trouble Fete ENE HN remain their nearest competitors on a score of 25.2, closely followed by fellow Frenchman Karim Laghouag and Entebbe de Hus.

Despite the continental stronghold, British riders made promising moves on the top ten, with Pippa Funnell producing a quality test aboard Billy Walk On for a score of 26 and fourth place and holding eighth with MGH Grafton Street, while William Fox-Pitt and Oratorio sit in sixth place with a 26.7, just behind Kiwi Andrew Nicholson and Swallow Springs in fifth place.

Sometimes naughty, but always nice to look at: Vendredi Biats scores a top-ten spot. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kitty King and Vendredi Biats worked through some moments of spookiness to score 27 and sit in seventh place: “I think I’m just going to have to work him near more cameras,” she laughed.

Julia Krajewski maintains her hold on the senior CCI3* section at Bramham.

KING TAKES THE THRONE IN CCIU253*

Focus. By the incredibly talented @williamcareyphotography .

A post shared by E M KĮNG (@emilykingofficial) on

In the under-25 CCI3* section, Caroline Martin and Danger Mouse‘s lead was narrowly usurped by Britain’s Emily King, who rode her stalwart chestnut Dargun to a score of 25.5. Owned by Jane del Missier, ‘Dre’, as he’s known at home, has been produced from the 2* level by Emily. The pair have completed seven three-stars together, with their highest placing coming at Belton CIC3* in April, where they finished 18th. Dre’s score today is a personal best at the level for the horse, and the culmination of three seasons spent training the naturally relaxed horse to engage and perform at his best. The ten-year-old gelding is still relatively green at the level, with just two fault-free cross country rounds in his seven completions, but Emily, who finished fourth in her CCI4* debut with Brookleigh in 2015 with Brookleigh, is looking forward to tackling tomorrow’s cross-country course, wherein we may well see the ongoing education of Dre pay off further.

As it turns out, Dr Dre holds a commanding place in the inspirational GIF market.

Caroline Martin holds onto second place with Danger Mouse (26), while her second mount, The Apprentice, posted a 28.2 to slot into fifth place. This sits them within a tightly-packed selection of scores in the top ten – just one second on tomorrow’s cross country separates fourth and seventh place, promising a tremendous reshuffle on a course which will demand exceptional stamina from both horse and rider.

Caroline Martin and The Apprentice round out the top five. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“Overall, the horse really performed, and he really handled the atmosphere – he was in front of my leg and he listened every step of the way,” says Caroline. “I was a little disappointed with the trot work; I felt that he got a little bit stuck. When I went to do my medium trot he was a bit spooky, so I figured I’d hold onto him a bit and get through the test, and then he relaxed.”

Caroline took over the ride on The Apprentice from Buck Davidson at the beginning of last season, and her test in this class last year earned the pair a 32.6 in only their fifth international together.

“The test today was way better, because last year I really didn’t know the horse, and it was our first time in a really big atmosphere. I’ve been getting to know him better, and I’m putting my buttons on him now. Buck and I are very different riders and I think that last year, Dirk got confused, which is why we ended up having our only run-out – I didn’t realise then how strong he can get.”

Caroline Martin adds another horse to the top five with The Apprentice. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I felt that the course really suited him last year, but actually, the reason that I brought him here was because I broke my foot and so didn’t run him at Kentucky. He’s the sort of horse who needs you to be 110% on your game, and so Leslie Law and I decided to reroute him here. It works really well in the schedule for me, and it’s really a good three-and-a-half star.”

Despite having prior experience with The Apprentice here, Caroline is happy with the drawn order, which makes her the under-25 pathfinder with Danger Mouse.

“When people say it’s important to produce your horses to the upper levels, it really is true – I know Danger Mouse so well. I feel honoured riding The Apprentice, but producing them from scratch helps a lot.”

Sam Ecroyd moves into fourth place aboard Cooley Currency, formerly piloted by his girlfriend, Emily King. Photo by Charles Cunningham.

Caroline and Hallie will go cross-country tomorrow at the following times:

Caroline Martin and Danger Mouse: 12.38pm BST/7.38am EST

Hallie Coon and Celien: 12.59pm BST/7.59am EST

Caroline Martin and The Apprentice: 1.56pm BST/8.56am EST

The top ten at the conclusion of dressage in the under-25 CCI3* section at Bramham.

TOP TRIO MAINTAIN CIC3* HOLD

The British contingent hold a strong majority in the CIC3*, with the top three unchanged today. The relatively inexperienced No Excuse (24.4) remains atop the leaderboard with Ros Canter, although, Ros explains, “realistically, the time might be a bit too tight for him on the cross-country this year – but he’s an exciting horse for the future.”

Ros Canter and No Excuse top the CIC3* after dressage. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The infamously swift Izzy Taylor holds second place on 24.5 aboard last year’s Blenheim ERM CIC3* winner Be Touchable, who was produced through to the Intermediate level by his owner, Sophie Dodds, before her university studies prompted a change of rider in 2015. The twelve-year-old Dutch-bred gelding has demonstrated an incredibly consistent streak, finishing first or second in each of his five international runs – each at the CIC3* level – since mid-2016. Unlike No Excuse, Be Touchable is quantifiably experienced at this level, with three years of mileage, with three FODs and an average of only 2.4 time penalties from five three-star completions.

Nicola Wilson and Bulana. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Local favourite Nicola Wilson and her European bronze medallist Bulana remain in third place on 25 going forward into tomorrow’s competition. Now twelve, the striking mare missed out on the win in her CCI4* debut at Luhmuehlen last year by just over half a penalty point, before finishing best of the British, and part of the gold medal-winning team at Strzegom later in the season. Bramham will serve as the final prep for another attempt at the Luhmuehlen title later this month.

Fellow Brit Selina Milnes and Iron IV slipped into fourth place with a score of 25.6, edging yesterday’s early leaders William Fox-Pitt and Fernhill Pimms into fifth (26.9).

Far from being an afterthought to the CCI3*, the CIC3* is well-stocked with top names and top horses, including four-star winners and longtime contenders. Fernhill Pimms, rerouting from Badminton, is one such horse, and further down in the top ten, the French contingent bring forward 2017 Pau winners Gwendolen Fer and Romantic Love (7th) and Thibaut Vallette and Qing du Briot ENE HN (9th). The section will move forward to showjumping tomorrow, before tackling Ian Stark‘s testing track on Sunday.

The top ten after dressage in Bramham’s CIC3* section.

Bramham is roundly named the toughest three-star in the world, with its unforgiving undulations and difficult questions testing competitors from the beginning through to the very end of the long course. To take a closer look at the CCI3* track, check out the preview here. Now, imagine coming across them on the steep inclines and declines of the Yorkshire hills and dales, with maximum dimensions as far as the eye can see, and course designer Ian Stark‘s devilishly clever eye for light-to-dark-to-light-again questions, and you’ll be getting close to seeing what life is like at Bramham. It’s not playtime here, kids – Bramham really does mean business, and the 5927m, 10:24 minute CCI3* course will test every skill our riders and horses have. You can follow along at home, too – BETV will be livestreaming the entirety of tomorrow’s cross-country action.

We’ll be bringing you a full report from all three sections tomorrow, but in the meantime, we’ll be dusting off our hiking boots and planning a trek to the top of the highest hill, EN flag held aloft. See you on the other side, intrepid explorers.

#hills4dayz

Bramham Links: Website, Start Times & Results, EN’s Coverage, Livestream

Ladies Top Bramham Scoreboards; Caroline Martin Leads U25s

Danger Mouse receives a post-test debrief from Rodney Powell. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It’s Ladies’ Day again at the EquiTrek Bramham International Horse Trials, with the fairer sex leading all three sections. Don’t worry, we’re happy to wait for a moment while you press play on this:

JULIA KRAJEWSKI TAKES NO PRISONERS

Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH take a decisive lead in the CCI3*. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The CCI3* class was led throughout the morning by Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street, who posted a 27.9 early in the day. But all eyes were on Germany’s Julia Krajewski, winner of last year’s Luhmuehlen CCI4*, as she took to the arena with Chipmunk FRH.

As predicted, they took the lead – on an incredible 19.4. Even more incredible is that this isn’t the horse’s career personal best – that was posted at Kreuth’s CIC2* in 2016, where he scored an 18.5 – nor is it the venue record, set by Izzy Taylor and Orlando in 2014. What it is is an exceptionally good score for an exceptionally correct test, which affords the pair a margin of 5.8 penalties over second-placed Matthieu Vanlandeghem at the halfway point.

“It’s very special to get everything right on an occasion like this,” says Julia. “This is my third try at Bramham; the first time, my horse wasn’t quite right before we left, and the second time, I made it to the dressage, but the horse slipped in the medium canter and knocked himself.”

Ten-year-old Chipmunk is something of an up-and-comer when compared to Julia’s stable star, Samourai du Thot, but his results speak for themselves: he hasn’t finished outside of the top ten in his last fourteen international competitions, and he won the CIC3* at Marbach last month in preparation for this competition.

Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“Competing at Bramham is something I’ve wanted to do for a years,” says Julia. “I thought about taking him to Luhmuehlen for his first four-star, but decided to come here instead. Chipmunk is quite a tall horse, with long legs, and it’s taken him a long time to grow into his body, but he gave me such a good feeling through the test today. He doesn’t have many weaknesses; he’s maybe not the biggest mover, but he’s very correct and pretty and the judges liked him.”

A special treat for a seriously special horse. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Julia, who works as the German junior and young rider coach, always strives to build upon and improve her performances, even when she finds herself in the lead: “Normally I call home and complain that things could have been better, but today I had no complaints. Although my boyfriend didn’t believe me when I told him my score,” she laughs.

After two aborted attempts, Julia admits that finding herself in this position on Sunday afternoon would mean an enormous amount to her, “but it’s only the first day,” she says, pragmatic as always.

The CCI3* top ten after the first day of dressage.

A YEAR OF PREP PROPELS CAROLINE MARTIN

Caroline Martin and Danger Mouse produce the best test of their career at the pivotal moment. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I’ve been preparing this horse for this class since I came here last year – it’s always been my goal,” says an elated Caroline Martin, who leads the under-25 CCI3* aboard her first ride, Danger Mouse, on a score of 26. Her test was the first in the section, setting an early high standard that her competitors would have to try to catch throughout the day. Though Katie Bleloch and Bulano came close, with their mark of 26.9, Caroline was to be untouchable by the halfway point.

Caroline Martin and Danger Mouse. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“Everything we’ve been working on, he’s totally taken in,” says Caroline. “He wasn’t stressed by the atmosphere, which is the first really big atmosphere he’s been in. He was so good, and he’s a real class horse. At Houghton, it was quite a lot for him, because he’d run Jersey Fresh and then had to get off the plane and get going, so [US under-25 coach] Leslie Law and I have worked really hard to get him ready for this.”

Pure joy: Caroline Martin and Danger Mouse. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Their preparation for the test included plenty of stretching work, and ensuring a relaxed atmosphere for the horse to flourish in: “it was all about getting his mind right, because he’s got all the movement, so it’s about keeping him happy.”

Caroline and Danger Mouse’s score of 26 represents an impressive personal best of three marks across all levels, and the ten-year-old gelding still has plenty more to offer, Caroline tells us.

“There’s way more there – I feel like we could shave off another six points. He’s a very exciting young horse for me.”

The dream team: Leslie Law and Charlie Milligan meet Caroline at the in-gate after her leading test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Caroline credits the inimitable and indispensable coaching of Leslie, as well as the help of groom Charlie Milligan, who stepped in at the last minute to help her this weekend, with getting her and Danger Mouse off to a flying start in this week’s competition.

Hallie Coon and Celien. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Hallie Coon and Celien posted a score of 31.9 to sit in equal ninth place overnight with France’s Stephane Landois and Uh La Up De Crazy. Despite losing a couple of marks for small errors in the first halt and flying change, they produced a flowing, elegant test – and one that Hallie assures us is ‘miles better’ than her test at Houghton Hall two weeks ago.

“There’s no comparison between them at all, really,” she says. “I was able to really ride her today, when she still gets a bit unrideable sometimes. We missed the first change, which actually used to be her easy one – somewhere along the way, she’s swapped them around! But I’m really happy with the quality of her work – it’s all coming together.”

Hallie Coon and Celien sit in the top ten after the first day of dressage in Bramham’s under-25 CCI3*. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The quality is undeniable, particularly in Celien’s trot work, which sees her nearly float across the ground. This, says Hallie, is entirely at odds with the five-year-old she initially bought out of a jumping yard: “she had no trot at all – there was a walk, a canter, the changes were there, but she just couldn’t trot,” she laughs.

Both riders are based with Rodney Powell in Wiltshire for the duration of their tenure here, which has been funded by the Karen Stives Eventing Endowment Fund Grant. The grant, bequeathed by the late Mrs Stives, affords talented up-and-coming US riders a fund of $25,000 to compete and train in Europe, furthering the depth and breadth of their experience and bolstering the success of the US team in the longer term.

Hallie Coon and Celien – a first trip abroad, courtesy of Karen Stives. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I wouldn’t be able to do anything like this without the help and support of the grant – I’m so grateful to be able to come here and have these opportunities,” says Caroline, who, having received the funding for three consecutive years, is a clear example of the quantifiable positive effect that it has on its recipients’ performances.

The second half of the under-25 section will perform their dressage tests tomorrow afternoon, with Caroline riding her second horse, The Apprentice, at 5.10pm BST/12.10pm EST. Caroline and The Apprentice were eighth here last year, and produced a personal best of 28 in the dressage at Houghton Hall two weeks ago.

The under-25 CCI3* top ten at the half-way point.

ROS CANTERS INTO CIC3* LEAD

Ros Canter and No Excuse top the CIC3* after the first day of dressage. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Britain’s Ros Canter, the newly-minted World #3, claimed the top spot in the CIC3* aboard the relatively inexperienced No Excuse. Ros has produced the nine-year-old Nekton gelding through the grades, having bought him as a rising five-year-old and contesting the age classes. Now, Michele Saul owns the horse, who finished ninth in his first full CIC3* at Chatsworth last month.

“I still think of him as a young horse, but he’s nine now,” says Ros. “He’s taken a long time to mature because he’s a big horse, but in the last six weeks, he’s suddenly learned how to carry himself. I think, in that way, he’s going to be very like [Europeans mount] Allstar B, who’s really just hitting his peak now, at the age of twelve.”

The pair scored a 24.4, putting them a tenth of a point ahead of second-placed Izzy Taylor and her 2017 Blenheim CIC3* winner Be Touchable.

Izzy Taylor and ERM winner Be Touchable squeeze into second place. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“It’s so exciting to know that he can go and produce a 24.4, when I can still feel that there’s another 40% of his ability left to come,” Ros tells us. This final 40%, she says, will come when the 17hh gelding matures further and overcomes what she terms a bout of ‘mental tiredness’.

“He can still get tired and feel like a young, green horse at times – he’s laid-back but he has a spooky side, too. He’s so laid-back that sometimes he really could use just a bit of a chivvy up – but then sometimes that really does work in our favour, too,” says Ros. The ability to switch on and off from the job is a useful one when tackling the big atmosphere at competitions like this, but it comes in handy during the odd moments when things go wrong, too – as Ros discovered when No Excuse’s bridle came off as she finished her test. His response? To put his head down and sample the Bramham grass, of course. #priorities.

The top ten in Bramham’s CIC3* after the first day of dressage.

We’ll be back tomorrow with the latter half of the dressage in all three sections, as well as a look ahead at the testing cross-country course to be tackled at the weekend. Until then – go eventing!

Bramham Links: Website, Start Times & Results, EN’s Coverage

Bramham CCI3* Trot-Up: All Pass, Three American Horses to Start

Hallie Coon’s Celien is walked in front of Bramham’s colossal centrepiece. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This week, EN’s whistlestop tour of the other side of the pond takes us to the beautiful Bramham Park, tucked beside the historic city of York in the north of England. The Equitrek Bramham International Horse Trials hosts three classes – a CCI3*, an under-25 CCI3*, and a CIC3*, and always boasts a full roster of top names, each on the hunt for victory at this prestigious event. This week is no different – despite following on the heels of Tattersalls, and preceding the CCI4* at Luhmuehlen, we’re graced with likes of William Fox-PittAndrew NicholsonGemma TattersallJulia Krajewski, and – well, as usual, the list goes on and on. With its Ian Stark-designed course and its big, bold, celebratory feel, we’re in for an incredibly exciting week.

2017 Luhmuehlen winner Julia Krajewski trots up Chipmunk FRH. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Even more exciting? We’ve got two of our second-placed Houghton Nations Cup team on the grounds, both contesting the Under-25 CCI3*. A win in this class has historically been a harbinger of huge careers to come, and Caroline Martin, riding Danger Mouse and The Apprentice, as well as Hallie Coon, riding Celien, will be chasing the title this week. Caroline finished 5th in the class last year, riding Pebbly Maximus, and 8th aboard The Apprentice. This year, she hopes to go even better.

Caroline Martin presents The Apprentice. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This afternoon saw the competition commence, with the first horse inspection for both CCI sections. All horses presented passed, despite several being sent to the hold box – including Hallie’s Celien. Is there anything more stressful than a long wait for a re-presentation? No. No, there is not. (Although we might argue that watching poor Caroline Martin – who suffered a serious lameness of her own earlier this season – trot up is nearly equal.)

Hallie Coon and Celien will contest the CCIU253* at England’s Equitrek Bramham International Horse Trials. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Dressage for both CCI3* sections and the CIC3* commences tomorrow morning, with both Caroline and Hallie riding in the afternoon. Their times will be as follows:

Caroline Martin and Danger Mouse: 3.10pm BST/10.10am EST

Hallie Coon and Celien: 4:06pm BST/11.06am EST

Caroline Martin and Danger Mouse. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Livestreaming for the event will be available through BETV on Saturday only – we’ll share the link once it’s been finalised. As always, keep it locked onto EN for all the latest updates, news, views, and interviews with all the riders you need to know.

Go Caroline and Hallie, and Go Eventing!

Bramham Links: Website, Start Times & Results, EN’s Coverage

Friday Video and UK Notes from World Equestrian Brands: The Concept of Contact

The UK is a quiet place to be this weekend. Everyone has hopped aboard the party boat to Tattersalls, leaving nothing behind but a couple of tumbleweeds and a few crates of empty prosecco bottles. Those of us left behind wait at the windows like army wives, desperate for signs of life on the horizon.

JOKES. The Tatts FOMO might be a real affliction, with symptoms to include obsessive live streaming, score refreshing, and social media prowling-and-scowling, but there’s still plenty for eventing junkies to sink their teeth into on this side of the sea, with four events underway, including the National Pony Championships at Brand Hall. (Hi, my name is Tilly, and I am an almost-reformed pony addict. My struggle has been long and arduous, but I am grateful to be able to share my recovery with you.)

We’ve also got plenty of opportunities for alcohol-fuelled entry sprees, including the seriously exciting new Osborne Horse Trials, set to take place at the end of July in the grounds of Queen Victoria’s stately Isle of Wight former residence. Designed to create a spectator-friendly competition, Osborne will hold four classes, each at the Intermediate level, and each offering different eligibility requirements, so inexperienced horses or riders at the level will compete against their equals. With a shortened dressage test, choose-your-own-adventure showjumping, and a one-seat-sees-all cross country course, it promises to be a great weekend whether you’re on a horse or on the terrace. Oh, and there’s also a cheeky little prize pool of £60,000 on offer. NBD.

UK Weekend Preview:

Little Downham [Website] [Ride Times]

Belsay [Website] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Ascott Under Wychwood (2) [Ride Times]

Brand Hall [Website] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Events Opening This Weekend:

1st: Buckminster Park – BE100-N, plus 5yo – [EnterLincolnshire (July 7-8)

1st: Osborne House – OI showcase – [EnterIsle of Wight (July 25-26)

1st: Kirriemuir (2) – BE80-N, with 4/5yo classes – [EnterAngus, Scotland (July 8)

2nd: Tweseldown (3) – BE80-IN, with 4/5yo classes – [EnterHampshire (July 7-9)

Events Balloting This Weekend:

1st: Alnwick Ford – BE80-IN – [EnterNorthumberland (June 23-24)

2nd: Keysoe (2) – BE80-N – [EnterBedfordshire (June 23-24)

2nd: Skipton – BE80-N – [EnterNorth Yorkshire (June 23-24)

Friday video: the concept of contact

Want a little bit of education with your Friday feelings? Lainey Ashker is delivering this week, with a short but sweet video explaining how the way you hold your hands might be affecting the quality of your horse’s contact. We love a simple fix we can incorporate into our schooling sessions, and that’s just what this is – a positional adjustment requiring no massive overhauls of your training ethos, no risk, no fuss, and best of all, no tack changes or gadgetry required. Give it a go this weekend, and let us know how you get on!

#LÆ training tip: Narrow Hands ➡️ the concept behind the contact

Posted by Lainey Ashker on Friday, June 1, 2018

Want to make some more small, easy changes that could have huge positive effects at the barn this weekend? Check out World Equestrian Brandseducation section on their website, which explains the science behind many of their products. Having a spring clean and replacing moth-eaten, mud-mangled bits of kit? This could help you find the product that works for you and your horse.

Go eventing!

Houghton CICO3*: Germany Victorious, US Second in Nations Cup

The Nations Cup podium at Houghton International: Germany take the win, USA finish in second place, and Ireland scoop third. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Just how bored, exactly, are you of the phrase ‘it’s all to play for’? Very? Terribly, awfully bored? Well, yes, same – but this is the nature of this topsy-turvy rollercoaster of a sport, and we saw that in action today in the Nations Cup at Houghton International. There were reversals of fortune across the board – for the worse, in the case of the home team, and for the better, in the case of our trio of intrepid US riders, who clawed their way up the leaderboard to finish on the podium. The word ‘plucky’ certainly comes to mind. We also rather like ‘gumption’.

Carismo 22 stretches over the Saracen Horse Feeds Feed Cart at 15, en route to partnering Hanna Knueppel to the best individual finish for the Germans. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

GERMANY VICTORIOUS

What had started as a leading weekend for the home team turned into a disappointing finish, as two of the team lodged non-completions across the country. Holly Woodhead had sat in third place after showjumping with Parkfield Quintessential, but three refusals at 8B put paid to their bid for a top placing. All the pressure was then shifted onto the remaining three riders, but when Katie Bleloch fell from Bulano at the 17th, the team was forced to use one of the resultant 1000 point scores. An unfortunate 20 penalties for Matthew Heath and One of a Kind II meant that senior squad debutante Chuffy Clarke posted the only clear round for the home team, adding just 1.2 time penalties with the experienced Second Supreme to finish 28th. The team’s finishing score of 1098.1 pushed them to the bottom of the line-up.

Fully focused: Ben Leuwer and BGS Urlanmore Prince gallop down the avenue towards the final questions on course. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This opened the door for Germany to take the win, their fourth in a row at this leg of the Nations Cup. All four team members posted clear rounds across the country, allowing them to finish on an impressive combined score of 99.8. Hanna Knueppel and Carismo 22 were the frontrunners of the pristine team effort, adding 2.4 time to finish in fourth place. Peter Thomsen certainly earned his keep, stepping in as acting chef d’equipe and also finishing in tenth place aboard Sir BogglesBen Leuwer and BGS Urlanmore Prince (27th) posted a clear round inside the time to finish on a score of 37.3, while the discard score belonged to Dirk Schrade, who added 13.6 time penalties and finished 42nd. Earlier in the day, he also picked up a win in the CCI1*, riding Dajara 4.

A team effort: Hallie Coon, Katherine Coleman, and Caroline Martin scoop second place in the Nations Cup, helmed by chef d’equipe Leslie Law. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

THE PODIUM SEES STARS (AND STRIPES) 

They may have occupied the lowest rung of the leaderboard after the dressage, but the US team’s intrepid trio of ladies wasn’t to be cowed in the face of a challenge. After posting three super clear rounds in yesterday’s showjumping, they came into today’s competition under an enormous amount of pressure. With only three members, they didn’t have the luxury of a discard score – so each rider had to produce a fast clear, while still riding with a view to producing their horses for the CCI3* at Bramham in ten days’ time.

A star for the future: Katherine Coleman and Monte Classico produce a fast clear to finish 33rd. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

But who needs a margin for error, anyway? Not our girls. Katherine Coleman set out as pathfinder aboard Monte Classico, and the nine-year-old gelding stepped up to the plate with aplomb. This is the horse’s first three-star run – even more remarkably, he has only competed at Advanced once, when he made his debut at the level in April at The Fork – but he made it look easy, and added just 1.6 time penalties to finish on a score of 39.4. This was enough to catapult the pair up the leaderboard, from 66th after dressage to 33rd upon completion.

“It’s amazing, really exciting,” says Katherine of the team’s climb to second place. “I was really pleased with Monte Classico; this is his first three-star, so I wasn’t sure how quick he’d be, but he was brilliant and answered all the questions. I’ve had him since he was six, and I think that makes all the difference, because I have such a great partnership with him.”

Monte Classico will head to Bramham next, where he’s entered in the CCI3*, though Katherine is undecided whether to run him in this class or the CIC3*, with an eye on the future for this talented young horse. Katherine’s second ride, Billy Bandit, was retired on course after an awkward jump through the water at 10ABC.

“He was giving me a really great ride and felt really good, so it’s a shame to have that on his record, as it’s not like him,” she says. “He had a big jump into the water and then scrambled over the cascade, and I think he just stepped on himself at some point.”

Caroline Martin and Danger Mouse record a double clear to climb from 44th place to 17th. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Caroline Martin posted clear rounds on both of her horses, adding 5.6 time penalties with The Apprentice to finish 32nd and galloping home inside the time on Danger Mouse to finish 17th. This is the 23-year-old’s third Nations Cup appearance, and her second at this leg, at which the team finished second last year.

“I’m very happy with my horses, and really happy for the team,” she says. “It’s been great being on a team with these girls; they work really hard, they have great horses, and they ride well, so hopefully we’ll be on more senior teams together in the future.”

She may be young, but Caroline’s approach to competing at the top level, and to representing her country, shows a wisdom beyond her years. Her creed for producing quick clears comes down to a forward-thinking attitude and trusting in the training.

“I didn’t make the time on my second horse, because he wasn’t part of the team so there was slightly less importance, but when you’re riding for the time you sometimes have to just go for it. You’ve got to cut some turns and slice some of the galloping fences. It pretty much rode as it walked, and there weren’t any huge surprises – we just had to go for it. If you don’t have a perfect jump, you have to put it behind you and keep going.”

It takes a village – or, at the very least, some incredibly supportive parents. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Next up for Caroline is another crack at the U25 CCI3* at Bramham, followed by, she hopes, more team appearances and more learning opportunities.

“I’ve had a really good season so far, with Spring Easy clear at Kentucky and Jump Jet finishing second in the CCI3* at Jersey Fresh two weeks ago. I’ve applied for WEG, but we’ll see – my goal is to be a team player at the senior level, and that’s why I do this. My personal goal is to go to Pau CCI4* at the end of the year with one or two horses. I want to get more four-star miles, and more Nations Cups, too – I think it’s so important to be in a team atmosphere. This is my third Nations Cup, and I feel way more relaxed. I’m used to it now. The Nations Cup is a great series, and a great opportunity, especially with the Karen Stives Grant – I keep getting more experience, and I hope that everyone at home sees it paying off.”

Hallie Coon and Celien finish best of the Americans, moving up 39 places through the week to finish 15th. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Hallie Coon and Celien impressed throughout the weekend, displaying a calm, cool professionalism that belied the fact that this is their first trip abroad. They were the final combination to tackle the cross country course today, and with no small sense of foreboding: as they entered the start box, the bright sunshine swiftly turned to heavy rainclouds and tremendous thundercracks. Despite this, they added nothing to their dressage score of 34.7, and finished 15th – an incredible climb of 39 places.

“It was sort of a dramatic afternoon, being the last rider, and then having the thunder and lightning as I was heading to the box,” laughs Hallie. “But the mare handled it fantastically – she totally exceeded my expectations. This is the first time we’ve finished on our dressage score at the level – a good time to do it! – although I’ve felt in the past that she could do it, I’ve always wanted to save her legs, and this is what that was for. It wasn’t my prettiest round; for some of it, I couldn’t see because of the rain, but she was brilliant and jumped them where I put her, which probably wasn’t ideal – but it worked! I was going balls-to-the-wall because I had to – it’s a new gear for her and she’s learning how to deal with it and maintain it. It’s nice to have had that here, because now I know she can go on and do that in a CCI.”

Hallie and Celien, too, will head to the U25 CCI3* at Bramham next month.

Chef d’equipe Leslie Law takes pride of place with his charges. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Each of the team members praised chef d’equipe Leslie Law for his ability to manage the phenomenal pressure exacerbated by virtue of being a three-person team.

“He’s great at encouraging us to do our best without increasing the pressure. He wanted us all to try to finish on our dressage scores, and we all came pretty close,” says Caroline. “We have a great team atmosphere, and that’s super important.”

Leslie says that managing a competition like this is all about breaking down the bigger picture to focus on getting the results, phase by phase.

“You’ve got to focus on the dressage first – and theirs was solid, nothing too exciting, but they put up good tests,” says Leslie. “Then it’s onto the showjumping, and when they all go and jump clear, as the girls did, you start to get excited. Come today, we just had to go out and try to score three great clear rounds, and it came off. For me, it’s exciting because I do the Emerging Athletes under-25 programme, and that’s why we brought Caroline and Hallie over – we try to bring two programme members over each year to do this and the U25 class at Bramham. It’s really exciting that it’s gone this well so far, and we’re looking forward to Bramham now.”

Third place on the podium was occupied by Ireland, headed up by Aidan Keogh and Pride of Tredstep, who finished 22nd on a score of 36.5. New Zealand slipped into fourth place, and Sweden finished fifth.

NATIONS CUP FINAL STANDINGS

Germany: 99.8

USA: 109.1

Ireland: 118.1

New Zealand: 119.8

Sweden: 183.2

Great Britain: 1098.1

NATIONS CUP SERIES LEADERBOARD

The Nations Cup travels to Strzegom, Poland for its next leg, taking place from 29 June – 1 July. Here’s how the standings are looking at the moment:

Sweden: 150

Germany: 100

France: 100

USA: 90

Ireland: 80

Italy: 80

New Zealand: 70

Switzerland: 70

Great Britain: 55

Laura Collett and Mr Bass make their final prep run for Luhmuehlen a winning one. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

GOOD LUCK CHUCK

It was a case of so near, and yet so far at Chatsworth for Laura Collett and Mr Bass, but the victory today was decisively theirs in the CICO3*. The ten-year-old Holsteiner gelding is known for his consistency in finishing on his dressage score, and he did so again today – his twelfth FOD in 23 internationals. Laura had entered ‘Chuck’ for Badminton earlier this month, but the spate of spring cancellations meant that the pair had insufficient preparation, and she opted to withdraw. Instead, they will contest Luhmuehlen next month for the horse’s first four-star. Houghton serves as the horse’s final prep run, and Laura allowed the horse to cover the ground to make the time.

“He’s not a horse I can ever run slowly, so it was always a case of either he runs, or he doesn’t run,” says Laura. “When I arrived, I walked the course and wasn’t particularly happy with how hard the ground was, but then we had a downpour on Thursday night and it was great after that.

“He’s so nice to ride – he’s like a Ferrari, and we couldn’t have had a better prep run than that.”

Laura heads to Tattersalls next week with a string of horses, so Chris King, husband of yard manager Zanie King, will maintain Chuck’s fitness work in her absence. “Then we’ve just got to keep him ticking over and keep him sweet,” she says.

Frankie Reid-Warrilow (3rd), Laura Collett (1st), and Jesse Campbell (2nd). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It proved a successful week across the board for Laura, who also finished in the top ten with Dacapo (6th) and comeback kid Billy Bounce (7th), who had previously been written off due to injury. She picked up 5th in the CCI2*, too, riding Sir Papillon.

Jesse Campbell and Amsterdam II. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Second place was scooped by New Zealand’s Jesse Campbell, on his team horse Amsterdam II. The pair added just 0.8 time penalties to their dressage score of 26.8, which had them in eighth place after the first phase. Third went to British rider Frankie Reid-Warrilow, riding Luhmuehlen-bound Dolley Whisper. Also heading for Luhmuehlen are showjumping leaders Pippa Funnell and Billy Beware, who added six time penalties to drop to sixth.

Emily Lochore and Hexmaleys Heyday pop over 10B, the cascade, which proved influential through the day. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

ANALYSING THE INFLUENCE

Alec Lochore’s 3955m CICO3* track featured 34 jumping efforts over 23 fences, and the optimum time of 6:57 required an average travelling pace of 570mpm. Fence 10ABC, the water, and fence 8AB, the Newmarket Open Corners, proved influential, despite the corners forming an easier question than they did last year in their former location by the water tower.

We saw 66% of the field come home clear, and 15% clear inside the time, while 12% retired or were eliminated. Four MIM clips were activated throughout the day, with the cascade element of 10AB the top culprit.

“A genius over fences”: Upsilon makes easy work of the CCI2* with Tom Carlile. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

A WINNING PREPARATION FOR UPSILON

Luhmuehlen-bound horses and riders were out in force throughout the week, with France’s Tom Carlile posting an easy win aboard his 2017 European Championships mount Upsilon in the CCI2*. The ten-year-old Anglo Arab stallion impressed throughout the 2016 and 2017 seasons, winning Barbury’s ERM CIC3* last summer and setting the series record with a finishing score of 22.1, but his team debut wasn’t quite so fortuitous. The pair were eliminated for accumulated refusals – hugely uncharacteristic for a horse who has finished in the top five in a remarkable 13 of 15 international runs.

“Obviously Poland didn’t go to plan, and afterwards we realised that he’d hurt himself due to the firmness of the ground there,” explains Tom. “He’s an exuberant jumper and as a result, he kept landing too firmly. As he went along the course he went sour and took a real dislike to it.”

It was discovered later that Upsilon had bruised a bone in his fetlock: “It’s taken all winter for him to recover, and because he had stud duties too, he didn’t start back until February.”

Tom Carlile and Upsilon. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Houghton was to be the first international run for the horse since Strzegom, in preparation for his four-star debut next month at Luhmuehlen. Tom decided to run him in the CCI2*, rather than the CICO3*, to give him the benefit of a long-format run before he steps up. His first-phase score of 29.2 put him just a tenth of a point ahead of his nearest competitor, but in classic Upsilon style, the stallion added nothing in the jumping phases and took the win.

“He felt as good as he ever has,” says Tom. “He fires on two extra cylinders than any other horse I ride. I didn’t try to make it easy for him; I gave him tight lines and angles to think about. It’s a pleasure to be back out competing with him; he’s a genius over fences.”

Of Opium de Boisy, who sustained a ruptured tendon on landing from the first fence in yesterday’s CICO3* showjumping, he says, “it’s a serious injury, and he’s been a good old boy, so he’ll have a comfortable, happy retirement.”

The week was rounded out by a win in the CCI1* for Germany’s Dirk Schrade and Dajara 4, and a victory for British young rider Yasmin Ingham and Rehy DJ in the CCIYR2*.

That’s all for us from Houghton – we’ll be back with more news and views from the UK next week, when we head to Bramham. Until then, you know the drill – Go Eventing!

The top ten in the CICO3*.

Houghton: [Website] [Results][EN’s Coverage][Live Scores]

 

 

Houghton CICO3* Showjumping: Chutes and Ladders on the Leaderboard

Pippa Funnell holds the lead – but shuffles her horses – going into cross country. Here, she pilots Billy Beware to a steady clear. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The scores across the leaderboard were seriously tightly bunched at the conclusion of dressage, leaving doors wide open for outliers to besiege and claim the top spots in today’s showjumping. And besiege and claim they most certainly did – we saw minor errors cause plummeting falls in the placings, while double-clears thrust first-phase ‘also-rans’ into contention.

Pippa Funnell led with MGH Grafton Street after dressage, but pulled a rail – a common issue for the ten-year-old gelding – to slip into sixth on an overnight score of 27.7. It was her runner-up after dressage, Billy Beware, who was to deliver the goods around Sue Peasley’s sweeping course. He added two time penalties, but his dressage score of 24 gave him a safe enough buffer to hold the lead. Tomorrow, however, he will have no buffers – he sits less than a time penalty ahead of second-placed Laura Collett, who rides Mr Bass (26.3) in his prep run before his CCI4* debut at Luhmuehlen next month. Just behind her, on a 26.6, is fellow Brit Holly Woodhead, riding Parkfield Quintessential.

Holly Woodhead and Parkfield Quintessential sit in third place – and best of the Nations Cup representatives – after showjumping. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

New Zealand team member Jesse Campbell, riding Amsterdam, moved up into fourth place, followed by Germany’s Hanna Knueppel and Carismo 22. Sweden’s Therese Viklund previously had just one horse in the top ten – team ride Diabolique, who moved from third to tenth after pulling a rail – but added a second in Viscera, who climbed from 13th to seventh.

Jesse Campbell and Amsterdam. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Both Izzy Taylor and Frankie Reid-Warrilow moved from the lower half of the top twenty into the top ten after delivering the goods in the ring, making our top ten a – you guessed it – girlpower leaderboard. (Sorry, Jesse. Consider yourself the Jay-Z to this sprawling, slightly grubby Destiny’s Child.)

Caroline Martin and Danger Mouse, who takes his game face incredibly seriously. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

SO FRESH AND SO CLEAN, CLEAN

Though each of their horses are reasonably likely to pull a pole at this level, the three members of the US team produced classy clear rounds to move them up the Nations Cup standings. They currently sit in fifth place, above New Zealand.

Monte Classico impresses over the coloured poles in his three-star – and Team USA – debut with Katherine Coleman. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Both Caroline Martin and Danger Mouse and Katherine Coleman on Monte Classico added two time penalties around the track, which saw Caroline drop two places into 43rd place and Katherine climb five to 61st.

Hallie Coon and Celien impress in the second phase. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It was Hallie Coon and Celien who produced the standout round of the day for the US contingent – they’ve only had two clear showjumping rounds in their international career, but made it a hat trick today as they made light work of the course. Celien, who is KWPN and was sourced in Belgium, may not be a blood horse, but the light, classically-built mare suits adjustability tests and looked fluid throughout. The pair moved up fifteen places from 54th to 39th.

Caroline Martin and The Apprentice – 28th after an expensive five penalties. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

INTERPRETING THE INFLUENCE

53% of combinations recorded penalties over the poles today. Finland’s Pauliina Swindells and Ferro S dropped the furthest down the leaderboard, totting up 15 penalties to fall from 11th place to 81st. But riders didn’t have to add much to drop – Nicola Wilson and Bulana fell 34 places from 7th to 41st after knocking two rails, and Jesse Campbell and Cleveland did the same to drop from 5th to 37th. Just one pole and a single time penalty was enough to push Caroline Martin and The Apprentice from 10th place to 28th. The opposite happened to Katherine Coleman on her second horse, Billy Bandit – they climbed eleven places, from 100th to 88th, despite an unfortunate rail.

Katherine Coleman and Billy Bandit. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It wasn’t all bad news – in many cases, quick clears saw combinations rise exponentially, and only seven of the pairs currently sitting in the top twenty were there after the dressage.

The afternoon’s competition didn’t quite get off to a flying start. France’s Tom Carlile and Opium de Boisy were one of the early combinations in the ring, but as the horse landed from the first fence, Tom felt that something was wrong and pulled him up. The horse ambulance arrived swiftly to relocate Opium de Boisy for a full checkover, and Tom has confirmed to EN that the horse sustained “quite a serious tendon injury – but he is full of attitude, and I am sure he will recover well.” All of us at EN wish Opium de Boisy a quick and straightforward recuperation.

Hallie Coon and Celien. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Alex Lochore’s cross-country track has been described by a few riders as trappy, but rather than trying to catch combinations out, it will instead test commitment and a studied approach. There are a few notable examples of this: the combination at 13AB and 14 features an A element on top of a mound, dropping down over some variable terrain, over a left-handed skinny brush, and then onto the separately numbered right-handed skinny brush at 14. With its ups, downs, and flat areas, striding will be variable throughout, and a good shot at A will be crucial. The inviting, wide boxy profile is bisected by a line, luring riders into jumping it straight on, but a slight left-to-right angle, ducking slightly to squeeze into the low-hanging branches, will not only avoid much of the variable terrain on the approach, but will get horses and riders locked onto the line in the air.

The upright rails and brushes at 16ABC ask a similar question, though one less heavily influenced by terrain. The A element encourages riders to turn in too early, presenting a seriously straightforward shot if they do, but on landing, they’ll struggle even to find B and C. Instead, if they hold their nerve and canter a stride or two past the obvious turning point, they’ll be able to line up all three and punch their way through. Again, not trappy – just a question of accurate and educated coursewalking, and trusting in the plan you’ve made.

18 and 19AB has been modified slightly since last year, when very few rode it correctly and several had falls. The enormous table in front of the water tower remains, followed by a sharp left-hand turn to 19AB, but this year, they’re inviting brush arrowheads, rather than the open timber corners of 2017. This will likely still be influential, but in the form of glance-offs, rather than falls.

The final combination on course is at 21ABC, and features three logs on a gently curving line. The catch: they’re situated in different parts of a seriously, seriously steep quarry. Horses will land on a sharp downhill trajectory over the first element and either pick or bound their way down to the B element on the bottom, before having to ensure a big, active, punchy canter up the hill to C. The hills themselves are outfitted with stone to avoid slippery, muddy tracks, but the bottom of the quarry is au natural, which creates another question in and of itself.

The optimum time is 6:57, requiring a speed of 570mpm over a distance of 3955m. You can view pictures of the course here. 

Ireland’s Michelle Kenny pilots team horse RLE Aspe to a clear round. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

NATIONS’ CUP TEAM STANDINGS

Great Britain: 88

Germany: 89.2

Ireland: 102.3

Sweden: 103.6

USA: 107.5

New Zealand: 111.8

We’ll be back tomorrow with everything you need to know from the final day of competition – stay tuned!

The top ten at Houghton heading into tomorrow’s cross country.

Houghton: [Website] [Entries][EN’s Coverage][Live Scores]

Houghton CICO3* Dressage: Great Britain Leads, Caroline Martin 10th

Hallie Coon and Celien perform their CICO3* dressage test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The final nineteen riders in the CICO3* at the Saracen Horse Feeds Houghton International Horse Trials performed their dressage tests this morning, with the final gaggle of team riders taking to the centreline in the last section. The combinations will go forward to the showjumping phase in about an hours’ time, but before then, let’s take a closer look at how the Nations Cup competition is playing out.

Chuffy Clarke and Second Supreme. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

THE HOME ADVANTAGE

As predicted, Great Britain leads after the first phase. The discard score will be decided upon completion of the three phases – assuming all four of the team riders complete – but at this early stage, it would be today’s representatives, Chuffy Clarke and Second Supreme, whose score would be dropped. They posted a 36.7 and currently sit in 71st place.

Katie Bleloch and Bulano, currently on 30.4, have never pulled a rail in their four CIC3* runs together, while Holly Woodhead‘s Parkfield Quintessential (26.6) is slightly less consistent – he pulled two rails in last summer’s Nations Cup leg at Haras du Pin, but often jumps clear, most notably in Blenheim’s 8/9yo CIC3* last autumn. Matt Heath and One of a Kind II (31) tend to take two or nothing – if they do the former, they’ll likely shift into the discard spot, because Chuffy and Second Supreme are reliable over the poles: they’ve only pulled one rail in the their seven international runs together, in their first CCI3* at Blenheim last year.

Germany’s Ben Leuwer and BGS Urlanmore Prince. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The pressure will be on for the home team, because Germany is just a hair’s width behind them on a score of 89.2.

Only one of the teams here has put any points on the Nations Cup series leaderboard so far – Sweden sits in second, with 90 points collected at the first leg at Vairano. Here, they occupy third place. If they can hold this place – or better it – they’ll take a commanding lead in the series over France. They field a three-person team this week, so there’s no margin for error in their quest.

Hallie Coon and Celien. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

THE US OFFENSIVE

It’s always a huge help to have the buffer of a drop score, but our intrepid ladies are sallying forth without. The final team rider, Hallie Coon, was the last in the ring this morning with Celien, and their score of 34.7 puts her into equal 53rd place after the first phase. This puts the team onto a score of 103.5, which sees them slip just behind Ireland into the bottom spot at the moment – but much can, and will, change as the jumping phases commence.

“She got a bit uppity in the arena – we’ve been working a new outline with her, and it’s still a work in progress,” says Hallie of Celien’s performance. Hallie and Celien are enjoying their first trip abroad, courtesy of the Karen Stives Endowment Fund Grant. They’re based with fellow recipient Caroline Martin at Rodney Powell’s Wiltshire base.

Celien: as settled as though she’d always been here. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“It’s been amazingly easy, and Rod has been so welcoming. It really feels like we’re at home, and Celien was so settled by the first night. It’s great for us to come here before Bramham, because it’s so different to our last run at Tryon. Celien has always been a bit insecure when doing dressage on grass, because she’s a big mover.”

Hallie will contest the U25 CCI3* at Bramham in two weeks, and after that, she’ll be keeping her options open.

“Being here is such an amazing part of our education – how often do you get this sort of opportunity?” she muses.

Each of the team US combinations averages roughly a rail, give or take a fraction of a penalty, per international performance, so we’ll be looking ahead to tomorrow’s cross country phase to see the ladies really try to climb the leaderboard.

Caroline Martin’s second ride, The Apprentice, produced a personal best at the three-star level, posting a 28 this morning to move into tenth place at the conclusion of the dressage. This bests their score of last year by 6.2 points, and their Bramham score by 7 points – and without team obligations this weekend, Caroline will likely use this run as a way to build the horse’s confidence in advance of the main-goal CCI3*. The Apprentice’s last international cross country run was at Carolina International in March, where he pulled two rails and added 10 time penalties across the country, so a tactical run tomorrow could see the pair back to their fastest in two weeks’ time.

THE STANDINGS

  • Great Britain: 88 best/124.7 total
  • Germany: 89.2 best/122.5 total
  • Sweden: 95.6
  • New Zealand: 95.8
  • Ireland: 102.3 best/139 total
  • USA: 103.5

We’ll be back after the showjumping with a full report and a look ahead at tomorrow’s cross country test.

Go USA, and Go Eventing!

The top ten at the conclusion of the dressage.

Houghton: [Website] [Entries][EN’s Coverage][Live Scores]

Friday Video and UK Notes from World Equestrian Brands: A Save in a Sundress

It’s Friday, the sun has been (mostly) shining, and your UK notes and video this week come to you directly from a dodgy AirBNB in a very questionable little town in Norfolk. I’ve been advised to lock the door, for my own protection. This can only mean one thing: it’s an eventing weekend! I’ll be bringing you all the news you need from the Nations Cup competition at Houghton Hall (if I survive Thetford, that is) — tune in and give our Team USA gals a virtual cheer!

There’s lots going on this weekend all around the UK (and apparently in Poland, too) — we’re certainly making up for lost time after losing much of the early part of the season to unprecedented levels of rainfall. Now it already feels like there’s hardly anything left. Please remind me that I said that when October rolls around and I’m dragging myself around the British Young Horse Championships, asking who I am, what I am, and where I am. I will give you a filthy glare through my droopy eyelids, but you’ll be doing me a favour, really.

UK Weekend Preview:

Saracen Horse Feeds Houghton Hall International Horse Trials [Website] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Bishop Burton (1) [Website] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Scotsburn [Ride Times]

Borde Hill (1) [Ride Times]

Pontispool (1) [Website] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Shelford Manor (1) [Website] [Ride Times]

Events Opening This Weekend:

26th: Brightling Park International – BE90-CIC2* – [EnterEast Sussex

26th: Eland Lodge (2) – BE80-N, plus 4y/o class – [EnterDerbyshire

26th: Offchurch Bury – BE80-BE105 – [EnterWarwickshire

26th: Hopetoun – BE80-N – [EnterWest Lothian, Scotland

Events Balloting This Weekend:

26th: Catton Park – 5yo/BE100-I – [EnterDerbyshire

26th: Rackham – BE90-BE100, plus 5y/o class – [EnterWest Sussex

27th: Burgie – BE80-N – [EnterMoray, Scotland

27th: Farley Hall – BE100-AI – [EnterBerkshire

Friday video: the save of the century

Okay, okay, so it’s not strictly speaking eventing-related — but we all love a good Thoroughbred, and we all REALLY love a good bit of madness and heroism. At the Races presenter Hayley Moore served up some Calamity Jane realness when racehorse Give Em A Clump (yes, really) played a great game of Dodgems at Chepstow Racecourse earlier this week. Don’t try this at home, kids.

Need a pair of breeches that will hide the evidence when you’re ignoring our advice and executing similar catching tactics? We love the Equetech denim grip full-seat breeches, available from World Equestrian Brands — they’re rugged, they’ll hide the telltale grass stains, AND they’ll make your bum look great. Win, win, win.

Friday at Houghton: Home Team Leads Nations Cup

Overheard at Houghton today: “Blimey, that’s a really big…”

Do you ever stop and think about what eventing must look like to an outsider? I do — rather regularly, actually. Never more so than when covering an event at a stately countryside manor, the sort that remains open for tapestry admiring and marble-bust-coveting even when the eventing fraternity and their many unwashed dogs move into the grounds. How delightful, and how utterly baffling, for these groups of civilians to find themselves on the front lawn, watching a fit and well-muscled horse dance (however interpretively) across the grass.

It’s all a bit different this weekend at the Saracen Horse Feeds Houghton International Horse Trials, though. The horses aren’t the only novel surprise to biddies triumphantly waving their Historic Houses Association membership cards — zenith of modern art (and/or zenith of controversy) Damien Hirst has moved some of his most serene and subtle pieces of artwork onto the grounds.

Nope, those aren’t small and well-manicured hedges. Those are tall trees. That is how appallingly big this thing is. Welcome to eventing in the UK, where everything is weird, just because.

Anyway, for the group of approximately 40 schoolchildren visiting Houghton Hall with their long-suffering teachers today, the horses barely warranted a second glance. It was all about the junk in the trunk, and they made sure everyone knew it.

Some of us are grown-ups, though, and actually watched the dressage. (Not me. I’m not a grown-up. From here on out is just guesswork.) Here’s your run-down of what happened between the boards.

Ireland’s Michelle Kenny and RLE Aspe. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

The CICO3* section is comprised of the Nations Cup competition as well as an ordinary CIC3*, so we’ve got a jam-packed field to keep an eye on this week. After full days of dressage today and yesterday, we just have 19 remaining tests to slot into the first-phase leaderboard tomorrow before we move onto the showjumping.

Despite boasting a big entry list (um, among other things), the competition is lacking in many of the major names we’d usually see here — with Saumur in France and Baborówko in Poland also taking place this weekend, as well as Tattersalls in Ireland next weekend, we’re missing some of the ‘obvious’ choices for a win. There’s still plenty of serious competition, but we’re enjoying the chance to focus on some up-and-coming talent, as well as fledgling team riders in the Nations Cup competition.

Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street lead overnight after the second day of dressage. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

LEADING THE WAY

As is becoming her habit this spring, Pippa Funnell currently occupies the top two spots on the leaderboard, with MGH Grafton Street sitting on top on a score of 23.7, and dressage supremo Billy Beware in second on a 24. Billy Beware reroutes here after an early refusal and subsequent retirement put paid to his Badminton campaign earlier in the month. We’re yet to see him come good on his return to the top level — his first planned outing at Burnham Market was abandoned, though he led the dressage easily, and at his pre-Badminton prep run in Belton’s CIC3* he once again proved his consistency in the first phase, only to notch up a run-out and a considerable helping of time penalties across the country. MGH Grafton Street, on the other hand, finished 5th in the CIC3* at Chatsworth, so confidence will be on his side as we look towards the jumping phases.

Laura Collett and Mr Bass — ever-improving in the first phase. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

She’s not the only experienced British rider in the top 10 — Laura Collett and Mr Bass sit in 4th place on a score of 26.3, and European bronze medalists Nicola Wilson and Bulana slot into equal 7th with Kiwi Jesse Campbell, on their score of 26.8. But neither of these riders, nor Pippa, is on the home team for the Nations Cup — instead, we have a team of young guns, ably aimed at their targets by coaches Dicky Waygood and Chris Bartle. Pippa’s student, and daughter of longtime owners Jane and Jonathan ClarkeChuffy Clarke makes her senior squad debut after moving up to this level last year. She rides Second Supreme, a former ride of Pippa’s, with whom she has been diligently expanding upon her education. They perform their dressage test tomorrow morning.

Team GB’s Katie Bleloch partners Bulano (no, not Bulana, but yes, she also competed – just to confuse us all!) Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Where are any of us without our best friends? Chuffy is lucky enough to make her team debut alongside hers — and Holly Woodhead has set a high standard, posting a 26.6 aboard Parkfield Quintessential to sit in 6th place currently. Fellow teammates Katie Bleloch (Bulano) and Matthew Heath (One of a Kind II) sit in 21st and 25th place, respectively.

It’s not just UK representatives in the top 10, though — Sweden’s Therese Viklund currently sits in 3rd place with Diabolique, on a score of 25.4, and New Zealand’s Jesse Campbell has two in the upper echelons, with Cleveland sitting 5th on a 26.5 and team horse Amsterdam in 7th on a 26.8. Germany’s Hanna Knueppel and Carismo 22 are currently 9th on a score of 27.5, and 10th place is occupied by British fan favourite Ben Hobday and Shadow Man II (28.6). There isn’t even a rail to spare between 3rd and 10th place, so tomorrow afternoon will shake things up quite dramatically.

Caroline Martin and Danger Mouse post a 33 in the CICO3*. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

TWO OUT OF THREE FOR TEAM USA

Competing countries can field a team of three to four riders for a Nations Cup bid, with the worst score acting as a discard — but only if you have a fourth rider. The US team brings forward just three riders, which means that each of our all-female team will have to deliver the goods across all three phases in order to be competitive.

Two members of the team have completed their dressage tests already: Katherine Coleman and Monte Classico sit in equal 54th place on a score of 35.8, and Caroline Martin and Danger Mouse are in 33rd on a 33.

“This is Monte Classico’s first three-star, and only his second Advanced, so he’s really green at the level, and it showed in his test,” says Katherine. “He had nice movements, but he’s still green in the changes. It’s all a process. He does a really nice two-star test, and now I just need to establish that at this level.”

It’s no small ask to debut a horse at this level while also representing your country, but Katherine is pragmatic: “He’s pretty straight and pretty honest, so I won’t rag him around for the time, but I’ll aim to give him that experience for the future,” she explains. The nine-year-old gelding will be aimed at the prestigious 8/9yo CIC3* class at Blenheim this autumn.

“Hopefully, he’ll peak then,” grins Katherine.

Caroline Martin and Danger Mouse. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Caroline Martin opted to ride Danger Mouse for the team, rather than her experienced campaigner The Apprentice, and cites a lack of match practice as her reasoning.

“Because I broke my foot earlier in the season, The Apprentice lost some of his planned runs, and he actually hasn’t run at this level since Carolina,” she explains. “Danger Mouse has done a bit more this season and so we decided he’d be more prepared.”

Coached by Leslie Law, Caroline and her 10-year-old gelding produced a good test that saw them lose marks in places because of tension.

“He got a bit nervous going into the canter, and then he touched the boards and got even more nervous. He’s come a long way in this phase, but he’s always been nervous in the dressage because he’s a big mover.”

Both Danger Mouse and The Apprentice will contest Bramham next month, and Caroline is enjoying revisiting her old haunts at Rodney Powell‘s Wiltshire yard. Both she and teammate Hallie Coon are based there while they compete in England.

“It’s so nice to know the routine there and get straight back into it,” says Caroline.

Katherine Coleman and Billy Bandit perform their CIC3* dressage test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Both riders bring forward two horses to this week’s CIC3* competition. Today, Katherine rode her second horse, Billy Bandit, who, after a slightly argumentative test, posted a score of 42.8, which puts him in provisional 81st place. The former Flora Harris ride will be using this week’s competition run as preparation for Bramham CCI3* in a fortnight. Caroline will ride The Apprentice tomorrow morning.

Germany’s Peter Thomsen and Sir Boggles. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

HOW THE NUMBERS ARE PLAYING OUT

There are six teams in the Nations Cup competition, and three of them — GermanyIreland, and Great Britain — have four riders. This means that three of their riders have already completed the first phase, and so we know what their highest possible score will be. Assuming each of these teams’ final riders posts a discard score tomorrow, we’re looking at a maximum post-dressage team score of:

  • Ireland: 107.3
  • Germany: 89.2
  • Great Britain: 88

Of course, these can go lower — Ireland’s worst score currently is 36.7, Germany’s is 31.4, and Great Britain’s is 31, so if the final riders better those scores, the discard will change and the collective mark will drop even further. It’s looking unlikely that anyone will catch the home team in this phase — but there’s plenty left to come in the competition.

So where do the three-rider teams stand?

  • United States: 68.8
  • New Zealand: 60
  • Sweden: 59.8

This means that if any of these three teams wants to be in a podium placing after the first phase, they’ll want to get as close to sub-30 as they can. A sub-100 collective mark is valuable currency in a Nations Cup.

SATURDAY RIDE TIMES

8.52am GMT/3.52am EST: Caroline Martin and The Apprentice

10.22am GMT/5.22am EST: Chuffy Clarke and Second Supreme (Team GB)

10.30am GMT/5.30am EST: Aidan Keogh and Pride of Tredstep (Team IRE)

10.37am GMT/5.37am EST: Caroline Powell and Sinatra Frank Baby (Team NZ)

10.45am GMT/5.45am EST: Ben Leuwer and BGS Urlanmore Prince (Team GER)

10.52am GMT/5.52am EST: Pontus Hugosson and Cut the Cuteness (Team SWE)

11.00am GMT/6.00am EST: Hallie Coon and Celien (Team USA)

The CICO3* showjumping will commence after the lunch break, so we’ll be back with an updated look at the scores and what, exactly, our competitors will have to do to earn those valuable series points then. In the meantime, pour yourself a drink and indulge in a little coursewalk: it’s Friday. You made it through another week. The Nations Cup for Surviving Adulthood goes to YOU, my friend.

Go eventing!

The top ten after day two of dressage at Houghton Hall.

Houghton: [Website] [Entries][EN’s Coverage][Live Scores]

Friday Video and UK Notes from World Equestrian Brands: When Eventers Swap Sides

Welcome to the UK, where just a couple of short weeks has the power to transform the state of eventing social media from “I’m day-drinking because my event has been rained off — AGAIN” to “is the ground hard enough that I should withdraw?” Anyway, at least we’re now into the bit of the season when competitions come up thick and fast, so from this week onwards your Friday videos will come with a steaming side portion of entry reminders and start lists, for your entering, organising, and/or stalking pleasure. We live to serve.

UK Weekend Preview:

Fairfax & Favor Rockingham International Horse Trials [Website] [Ride Times]

Poplar Park Horse Trials [Website] [Ride Times]

Tweseldown (2) [Website] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Warwick Hall [Website] [Ride Times]

Somerford Park [Website] [Ride Times]

Events Opening This Weekend:

18th: Alnwick Ford – BE80-IN [EnterNorthumberland

18th: Treborough Hill – BE80-Novice [EnterSomerset

19th: Keysoe – BE80-Novice [Website] [EnterBedfordshire

19th: Skipton – BE80-Novice [Website] [EnterNorth Yorkshire

Events Balloting This Weekend:

19th: Berriewood – BE80-BE100 [Website] [EnterShropshire

19th: Speetley – BE80-BE100 [EnterDerbyshire

20th: Kirkley Hall – BE80-BE100 [Website] [EnterNorthumberland

20th: West Wilts (1) – BE90-Novice [Website] [EnterWiltshire

Friday video: You can catch me switching lanes, lanes (or disciplines, if you’re a German wunderkind)

What is in the water in Germany, and why are they all SO good at everything? Their pretzels are life-giving, their beer is legendary, they can offer up a sausage that’ll make you weak at the knees, and their riders can merrily skip between the arenas as though top-level sport is, like, easy, or something.

There was many a ‘good feeling’ to be had for Sandra Auffarth and her homebred Nupafeed’s La Vista last week when they finished third in the Hamburg Derby, with Sandra also taking the judge’s prize for best riding. Check out their brilliant round below – no judgment here if your envy over that impeccable position drives you to the beer and pretzels. We understand.

Sandra Auffarths Derby-Nullrunde mit La Vista von Lordanos

Sandra Auffarths Derby-Nullrunde mit Nupafeed's La Vista von Lordanos ????Sandra Auffarth riding La Vista by Lordanos clear through the Hamburg Derby ????????????Beim 89. Hamburger Derby konnten Nupafeed's La Vista von Lordanos und Sandra Auffarth mit einer hervorragenden Nullrunde den dritten Platz erreiten. Zudem wurde der tolle Ritt mit dem Stilpreis ausgezeichnet.La Vista wurde von Sandras Vater Karl-Heinz Auffarth gezogen. 2015 wurde der Vollbruder Lord Pleasure von uns in Verden vorgestellt und gekört. Wir gratulieren zu diesen tollen Erfolgen!????At the 89th Hamburg Derby, Nupafeed's La Vista by Lordanos and Sandra Auffarth placed third with an outstanding clear round. Furthermore, the great round was awarded with a price for the best riding. La Vista was bred by Sandra's father Karl-Heinz Auffarth. In 2015, the full-brother Lord Pleasure was shown by us at Verden and became licensed. Congratulations to the whole team around Sandra and La Vista! Lordanos.sosath.comVideo: Clipmyhorse.tv

Posted by Hof Sosath on Monday, May 14, 2018

Even if you’re not hurling yourself down derby banks, half the fun of competing is digging out your glad rags and getting yourself and your horse looking your absolute best. Which is why we’ve been LOVING digging through the Outlet at World Equestrian Brands, so we can stock up our competition kit without breaking the bank. Bag yourself a Friday bargain – you deserve it!

Go eventing!

Chatsworth ERM: Piggy French Tops All-Female Podium

Piggy French tops the speed queen podium at Chatsworth’s leg of the Event Rider Masters. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sometimes, as a journalist, you really push for a slightly questionable hashtag to stick. Sometimes, you push it over and over again, before the pivotal moment arrives when it can emerge from its chrysalis of social media shame to shine bright amongst all other, inferior hashtags.

This, folks, is that moment. Because Piggy French has just topped the Event Rider Masters podium after three superb performances with Quarrycrest Echo, and now, #gettingpiggywithit can reign supreme. We, for our part, are thrilled.

Piggy French and Quarrycrest Echo deliver a foot-perfect showjumping round to move up to the top spot going into cross country. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Piggy, for hers, is thrilled too – this is her first ERM podium appearance, and a high-profile win to slot in as the cherry atop a layer cake made of very-nearly runner-up places. After the birth of her son, Max, Piggy has been climbing and climbing – and this could be the year of the French.

Not the French in the traditional sense, of course – despite making up a whopping 20% of the field, those who flew the tricolore set out to put themselves firmly in the radar of their team selectors ahead of this year’s World Equestrian Games but couldn’t quite invade the final podium.

Astier Nicolas was the first atop it for his performance with reigning seven-year-old World Champion Alertamalib’or, in the horse’s first three-star and only his fifth international, but he couldn’t hold it – his 9.2 seconds proved one of the faster rounds of the day, and propelled him from 15th to finish 10th overall.

As predicted, we saw time play the most major influence this afternoon – course designer Ian Stark delivered a course which rode and walked well, making the questions clear for the horses but making use of Chatsworth’s extreme undulations. This gave the riders a slew of time-saving options, using inside lines and angles, but also meant that they had to prove their ability to change gears and rebalance quickly, as combinations came up after galloping, downhill stretches. Only one would make the time – the final rider of the day, and our winner, Piggy French. She and ‘Red’ become the sixth combination to make the time here in over 1300 runners.

An uncharacteristic rail proves costly for Laura Collett and Mr Bass, who drop from 1st to 3rd in this influential phase. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Before the cross-country even commenced, we saw a huge reshuffling of the leaderboard in the showjumping. As the first three pairs in the ring clocked up clear rounds inside the time, it was easy to assume that Di Boddy‘s course was, perhaps, too easy – but then the poles started coming down. We saw highly-placed combinations plummet – most notably Thibault Vallette and Qing du Briot ENE HN, who dropped from 3rd to 27th – and lower-placed combinations climb stratospherically, like Wills Oakden, who moved from 24th to 7th. Overnight leaders Laura Collett and Mr Bass had a costly rail, moving into third place. 2017 Pau winners Gwendolen Fer and Romantic Love squeezed ahead of her, notching into place just behind Piggy.

Tim Price and Xavier Faer set a good pace as the afternoon’s pathfinders – but it’s not fast enough to hit the top ten. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And then it was all systems go, as combination after combination left the start box to try to chase the tight optimum time of 6:05. The first twenty combinations – the lower half of the pack – ran in order of their FEI ranking, which saw Tim Price and Xavier Faer as the pathfinders. They added just 5.2 time penalties, coming home full of running and moving themselves from 34th place to 13th. Their time would be one of the fastest of the day, and as more and more riders came home with considerably slower rounds, we started to doubt whether the time was even achievable.

The course, for its part, presented few dramas, although in eventing, one or two are inescapable. French hopes Maxime Livio and his four-star winner Qalao des Mers parted company on course, while Brazil’s Carlos Parro and Maesmawr Fox retired after a disagreement. Sweden’s Ludwig Svennerstal had, perhaps, the most climactic moment on course, when his rein snapped as he jumped into the tricky water complex, Queen Mary’s Bower. He subsequently retired, and we returned to musing about the double-figure time penalties accumulating across the board.

Sarah Ennis and Horseware Stellor Rebound. Photo by Anna Franklin/Event Rider Masters.

That is, until Ireland’s Sarah Ennis left the box, atop Horseware Stellor Rebound. Aptly monikered ‘Rocket’ set a blistering pace around the course, creating high drama for the crowds at two fences but getting the job done, despite nearly losing their line at the final combination. They finished with just two time penalties.

“It was a bit erratic, and a bit dodgy,” laughed Sarah, who names Chatsworth as one of her favourite events. “We really had a few moments out there; he just got strong, and then I had absolutely no control. We got two strides at the water, which I had said would be dangerous, but he did it.”

Izzy Taylor and Call Me Maggie May. Photo courtesy of Event Rider Masters.

Speed-queen Izzy Taylor was a hot favourite to usurp Sarah’s place on the podium, but her round with Call Me Maggie May couldn’t quite top the Irish stalwart’s, and she added 4.8 time penalties to finish in third place.

“I’m delighted with the horse and so happy for her owners,” said Izzy. Call Me Maggie May was produced to Intermediate by her owner, Tom Strong, who still rides the horse regularly and keeps her at his base. “It just wasn’t quite fast enough – she’s not the fastest horse in the world but she went as fast as she could. She’s very good, and very honest, and I’m so happy with her.”

Piggy French and Quarrycrest Echo. Photo courtesy of Event Rider Masters.

As Piggy left the start box, the pressure, the atmosphere, and the eyes were all on her. But Quarrycrest Echo never looked for a moment like he wouldn’t rise to the challenge and, says Piggy, “the course was well within his capabilities; I didn’t think there was anything that he wouldn’t be able to do. I put the pressure on myself – I really wanted this, and sometimes you’ve got everything to lose. I wanted it for the horse, I wanted it for the owner, and for the team, and something like this makes it all worth it.”

Piggy and Red’s double-clear earned the horse his first ever international win, and for Piggy, who runs a small string of horses, this is an enormous hope for the future.

“He’s really well-suited to the ERM classes, and it would be interesting to try to chase them,” she says. But Red is entered for Luhmuehlen as his first four-star – a decision that Piggy acknowledges would put them out of contention for much of the ERM season.

Piggy French kicks for the finish. Photo courtesy of Event Rider Masters.

“I just want to do right by the horse, and whether the World Games is on the horizon for him, I don’t know – but he had a hard year last year, and he had to really step up and become a man, and he’s done that. I have two horses at the top level, and I always want to do the best thing for them, and I’d like him to be at the top level for many years to come.”

Piggy took the ride on Red in 2013, campaigning him first at one-star as she transitioned him from his former career as a showjumper. He holds a special place in her heart as her favourite on the yard to ride – although, she laughs, “he’s a miserable old sod at home, and just wants to be left to it – he’s a man who likes a job!”

She had initially worried that the Irish Sport Horse gelding wouldn’t have enough blood to be competitive at the upper levels, but as she produced him and he became stronger in his body, she found it easier to put his long, athletic stride to work.

“I really look after him, and I don’t gallop him around like a lunatic. He goes out every day, and we just work on strengthening him all the time. He’s an incredible jumper – technically the best that I’ve got – but I can often find one down on him out competing. Nine times out of ten, he does a perfect job at every fence, but I certainly expected to have a pole down today.”

Drinks on Piggy (quite literally). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

As Piggy collected her winner’s cheque for £16,000, an enormous grin spread across her face.

“What a fantastic win, what a fantastic horse,” she said.

We’re not really up on our Chinese zodiac, but if we can name this the year of the Pig, we’d like to hedge our bets there now.

And so concludes the first leg of the 2018 Event Rider Masters series, with our three queens of the fast lane comfortably atop their podium. The series moves to Wiesbaden, Germany for the next leg, which kicks off on Friday – you can tune in on eventridermasters.tv, where you can also watch all of this weekend’s action back. Want more behind-the-scenes action? We’ve got a jam-packed image gallery coming your way soon.

Until next time – Go ERM, Go Piggy, and GO EVENTING!

#gettingpiggywithit

Event Rider Masters @ Chatsworth: WebsiteStart TimesResultsLive Stream

The top ten at the conclusion of the Chatsworth ERM.

 

Chatsworth ERM Dressage: All About That (Mr) Bass

Laura Collett and Mr Bass deliver their best performance yet, to the rather apt “All About That Bass.” We approve. Photo by Ben Clark/Event Rider Masters.

We might not have had the pleasure of seeing him at Badminton, from which he was withdrawn due to a lack of prep runs, but Mr Bass, piloted by Laura Collett, wasted no time in putting himself firmly back in the spotlight in the first international after the fact. First in the ring after the lunch break, the pair posted a 25.3 – their best-ever score as a combination – and staked a claim on the lead that proved unshiftable.

“He’s a lovely character – we have a real relationship, and he knows how to wind me up, but when he performs like that it’s worth it,” she said of the 10-year-old Carrico gelding, owned by the How and Scott families with Laura.

“He was really with me, and trying really hard, so I’m glad the judges rewarded that – but he’s still not done, and there’s much more to come, which is very exciting.”

Laura Collett and Mr Bass show what they’re made of in the ERM. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The decision to withdraw from Badminton may have been hard for Laura at the time, but on reflection, she says that it was absolutely the right decision for ‘Chuck’, who will head to Luhmühlen in June for his first four-star instead.

“When I saw so many horses coming home from the cross-country tired, I knew I’d done the right thing,” she says.

This is Mr Bass’ first trip to Chatsworth, and so he’s untested over the tricky speed test of the cross country course. But this is a horse who makes a habit of finishing on his dressage score: in 11 out of his 21 internationals, he’s done exactly that, and in the 10 in which he hasn’t, three of those have been because he’s been withdrawn before the cross-country and three have been by the slimmest smattering of seconds.

The dressage multiplier is gone, Chatsworth historically precludes fast cross-country rounds, and we’re looking at one of the strongest ERM fields we’ve ever seen going into the jumping phases tomorrow. What does that mean?

It means you won’t want to take your eyes off of this combination for a moment, lest they run away with the entire competition.

Sporting hot takes delivered straight to your inbox (or, um, newsfeed). xoxo, Eventing Gossip Girl.

Second place going into the jumping phases was scooped by former Chatsworth winners Pippa Funnell and Sandman 7. They won the CIC3* in 2015, despite adding a reasonably significant 18 time penalties across the country – and their score there of 25.6 was bettered by their 25.4 today.

Pippa Funnell and Sandman 7 slip into second place. Photo by Libby Law Photography/Chatsworth Horse Trials.

“It’s always one of my favourite venues, Chatsworth – I hate to say it, but I came here competing 32 years ago,” laughs Pippa. “It’s where I qualified for my first Badminton, so it’s special. He feels well, and I feel well – the last couple of times I’ve been here, I’ve been recovering from setbacks – and although the spring has been hampered by cancellations, he’s had a couple of jolly runs.”

The Cadre Noir’s Thibault Vallette and Qing du Briot ENE HN lead the French offensive at Chatsworth. Photo by Anna Franklin/Event Rider Masters.

The final rider in the ring was projected to post a massive score, and though he didn’t take the lead as expected, he did manage third. Thibault Vallette and Qing du Briot ENE HN are part of a serious French offensive at Chatsworth this weekend, which sees the tricolore make up 20% of the field. They posted a 26.6 – somewhat below their usual form at the level – to the dulcet tones of Muse, who were a popular musical choice for French riders today. Thibault and Qing du Briot’s cross country record over the past year has been somewhat patchy – they picked up 20s in two of their three international runs, but managed a fast clear at the European Championships for 10th – so we would be amiss to discount them completely at this early stage.

Thibault was joined in the top ten by two of his fellow countrymen, both riding horses with whom they made headlines in the latter half of the 2017 season. Reigning 7-year-old World Champion Alertamalib’or was ridden by Astier Nicolas in the horse’s first three-star test, posting a 28.5 for ninth place overnight. Gwendolen Fer and Romantic Love, who finished their season by winning the CCI4* at Pau, slotted into tenth place today on 28.7.

“I hope I don’t go for a swim tomorrow – I went for one last week!” laughed Piggy French after her smart test with Quarrycrest Echo. They sit in fourth place overnight on a score of 27.3.

Piggy’s Badminton attempt might have ended early with that fateful swim, but she has high hopes for ‘Red’ this weekend.

“I was very pleased with him, actually. He’s come on a lot in this phase and is getting really consistent,” she says. The pair’s early season efforts were largely uninterrupted by difficult weather conditions this spring: “so he’s running really well, and he’s ready for this,” she says.

Fresh off her Badminton win, New Zealand’s Jonelle Price brings forward Faerie Dianimo for the ERM. Some off-script flamboyance precluded an early attempt at the leaderboard. Photo by Ben Clark/Event Rider Masters.

Just half a penalty point separates fifth and eighth place. These places are held overnight by Italy’s Vittoria Panizzon and Chequers Play the Game (5th, 27.7), Francis Whittington and Hasty Imp (6th and early leaders, 27.9), Ros Canter and Zenshera (7th, 28.1), and Australia’s Sammi Birch and Hunter Valley II (8th, 28.2). Having seen the effect of dressage without the multiplier at Kentucky and Badminton, it’ll be interesting to see it in action in a fast-paced, tightly bunched CIC3* – particularly one in which the top of the leaderboard boasts such experienced horse and rider combinations.

Tomorrow sees the showjumping commence at 1.00pm BST/8.00am EST, followed by the cross country at 3.30pm BST/10.30am EST. Follow along with the #ERMeventing hashtag on Twitter, and don’t forget that you can livestream the whole competition for free, regardless of your location, at eventridermasters.tv.

Fancy a preview of tomorrow’s cross-country course? Check it out in full by clicking here.

Go eventing!

Event Rider Masters @ Chatsworth: WebsiteStart TimesResultsLive Stream

Welcome to Chatsworth: Getting to Grips with the Event Rider Masters

Francis Whittington and Hasty Imp. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

While the home front team is busy with all the action at Jersey Fresh, EN’s UK division has jetted up to the North (or the Midlands, depending on who you ask) for the Dodson & Horrell Chatsworth International Horse Trials. One of the premier events in the United Kingdom, Chatsworth is set in the rolling Derbyshire dales at the seat of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. It hosts several CIC3* sections, including our primary focus here this weekend: the first leg of the 2018 Event Rider Masters series. So what do you need to know?

Why is it important?

Winners of Chatsworth’s CIC3* divisions have historically gone on to seriously impressive careers at the upper echelons of the sport. In fact, if you look back at the list of winners, there isn’t really a single one who could be considered an ‘also-ran’ in the annals of the sport – we’re looking at huge names like Seigneur Medicott, ridden by Bettina Hoy (winner of section C last year), Astier Nicolas and Piaf de B’Neville (ERM, 2016), Padraig McCarthy and Mr Chunky (section B, 2016), who were so impressive in their first Badminton last week, the legendary Mr Cruise Control, ridden by Andrew Nicholson (2013), Mary King‘s Call Again Cavalier (2007), Primmore’s Pride (2004), with whom Pippa Funnell scooped the first Grand Slam – the list really does go on and one. We can safely assume that a horse who’s capable of winning a CIC3* section here is onto something big.

What’s the test?

It’s all about speed at Chatsworth – according to EquiRatings, only five combinations have made the time here out of the last 1000 starters. This, combined with the loss of the multiplier, means that we’ll see a seriously exciting leaderboard shift as the competition reaches its climax in the cross-country phase.

How is the ERM different?

Run in the same format as a traditional CIC3* – dressage, showjumping, and finally cross-country over two days, the Event Rider Masters series aims to spice up the one-day international format and make it seriously exciting for both competitors and spectators. With a £50,000 prize pot per leg, it’s the richest competition at this level, with the added incentive of a hefty bonus at the end of the series, when a final podium is decided based on points accumulated through the legs.

Competitors are able to choose two songs to perform their dressage test to – more on this later – which jazzes up CIC3* Test B to no end, and the competition is restricted to the top 40 entrants based on FEI points. These entrants are then seeded, based on combined points with their horses – so, for example, the highest-placed rider on the FEI rankings is Tim Price, but he’s in Group C, rather than Group A, because his mount, Xavier Faer, has relatively few points. Group A sees our top-ranked horses and riders, while Group D is, in theory, the less-experienced group – although dark horse performances can always come through in these lower groups.

Once the competition gets to its final phase, the cross-country, things start to get really wild and wonderful. Combinations ride in reverse order of merit, with the podium revolving and changing as riders usurp one another for the top spot on the throne.

How can you tune in?

This is, perhaps, the best bit of the ERM, especially if you’ve ever battled an errant livestream or had to live without commentary through hours of dressage tests. The entirety of the competition can be livestreamed for free on eventridermasters.tv or on the Event Rider Masters Facebook page, with colour commentary provided by Nicole Brown, EquiRatings’ Diarm Byrne, and a constantly-changing cast of riders, trainers, and industry professionals. You’ll hear from the riders, too, after every round, with on-the-nose interviews, and you can get a glimpse into what it takes to get a horse to this level with behind-the-scenes shots of the action and, of course, the stunning setting.

But you needn’t just watch – you can get involved, too, by using the #ERMeventing hashtag to join the conversation, the #supergroom hashtag to vote for the groom who you think has done the best job with their charge, and the innovative SAP judging app to mark the tests as they’re performed and see how your scores compare to the judges’. Sound a bit of an odd pastime? We promise you, it’s seriously addictive. You’ll be scoring your own rides in your head for days afterwards.

So what’s next?

We’ll be bringing you full reports, as well as live Twitter updates, throughout the competition – which at lunchtime was led by Britain’s Francis Whittington and Hasty Imp on a score of 27.9. He was caught up by Laura Collett and Mr Bass putting in a 25.3 and they hold the overnight lead. Stay tuned for more.

Event Rider Masters @ Chatsworth: WebsiteStart TimesResultsLive Stream

Friday Video From World Equestrian Brands: Back to the Future with ERM 2018

Podium celebrations at Event Rider Masters. Photo courtesy of eventridermasters.tv/Ben Clarke.

It’s that time of year again and we are giddy with glee. Back-to-back events, top-level action happening on both sides of the pond at once: this is the sort of eventing madness we live for.

Astier Nicolas on board Piaf de b’Neville en-route to winning Leg 1 of the 2016 Event Rider Masters at the 2016 Dodson & Horrell Chatsworth International Horse Trials. Photo via Eventridermasters.tv

While Jersey Fresh dominates Stateside eventing this weekend, our focus in the UK turns to the first leg of the 2018 Event Rider Masters series, held at the sublimely beautiful Chatsworth House in the rolling Derbyshire Dales. A sprawling stately home, an abundance of inordinately brave lambs, and some of Europe’s most impressive horse and rider combinations all combine to form two days of serious sport. We’ll be bringing you the action as it happens, but to whet your appetite, here’s a cheeky little season opener from the ERM. You’ll be able to watch all the action live on eventridermasters.tv — don’t miss it!

Go eventing — around the world!

2018 ERM Season Preview on ClassHorseTV TONIGHT 9pm CET ????????http://www.classhorse.tv/classhorsetv_live_stream

Posted by Event Rider Masters on Friday, May 11, 2018

A Love Letter to Badminton: Journo Notes and Behind-the-Scenes Photos

Jonelle Price and Classic Moet check out their new piece of silverware. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Another Badminton in the books, and what a week it was. From the tension and excitement of a Grand Slam attempt through to the incredible conclusion, in which we saw Jonelle Price and Classic Moet finally join the “elite club” of four-star winners, it was a non-stop, action-packed week which required everyone involved to fire on all cylinders from Tuesday until the sun set over Gloucestershire on Sunday night.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends: Lauren Kieffer and Veronica head into the prizegiving after finishing in ninth place — a fantastic finish for the Americans. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

For all our best efforts, there’s only so much that we as journalists take in throughout a major competition that simply can’t make it into the write-ups — there’s space to think about, and relevance, and the swiftly diminishing braincells we find ourselves wielding as we write up the reports at the end of another 12-hour-plus day.

When dreams become reality: Foxwood High looks back at the main arena moments after completing his test and setting the ball rolling on a week that would bring owner John Rumble’s long-held aims to life. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

But it all gets under our skin — the magic of the place, the stories we hear, and the people and horses we meet through the week. EN Lead Writer Jenni Autry pioneered the idea of the reporter’s notebook a couple of months ago, and today I’d like to respectfully borrow the idea to share a little bit of my Badminton with you, and take you into the places you don’t get to see on the livestream.

Will Coleman celebrates a brilliant test with OBOS O’Reilly, before being whisked into the mixed zone for interviews. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The collecting ring is one of those places. From our second home in the mixed zone, where we interview riders after they dismount, we can see the whole spectrum of human emotion unfold, from the conquering of fear on the way to the start box, to the joy and relief after a successful cross country round.

Ireland’s Padraig McCarthy — the highest-placed first-timer in eighth — demonstrates the difference between heading to the start box…

…with game faces firmly in place…

… and the joy and relief of coming home from a fast clear around your first Badminton. Photos by Tilly Berendt.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and if so, it must take a minor metropolis to produce a horse to the four-star level and have it finish one of the toughest tests of its life healthy, happy, sound and satisfied. We see just a small fraction of this when we watch a horse canter down the centreline, or clear the final fence — for every horse and rider combination, there’s an enormous and varied support team scarcely breathing as they watch their charges tackle each phase of the competition.

All hands on deck as Classic Moet finishes her lightning-fast cross country round, coming in just one second over the optimum time despite taking the long route at the Lake. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lesson learned: you’re only as good as the team around you, whether you’re riding around Badminton’s formidable course or clocking up the hours in front of your laptop in the media centre. A glimpse into the collecting ring saw many things: laughter, tears, enormous hugs — the proper ones, of course, the ones which leave both parties with aching ribs and silly grins — and always, without fail, an F1-calibre support crew, ready to aggressively cool horses, remove boots, offer water, and give endless praise and kisses. Grooms are often the unsung heroes of the sport, but they really are the cogs that the machine requires to function.

Freelance groom David Burton takes his charge for the week — Kirsty Short’s Cossan Lad — for a leg-stretch. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

On my end, too, a great team was key. I was lucky enough to be supported once again by top tog Nico Morgan, who snapped all the incredible photographs which accompanied my reports throughout the week and who always provides the sort of good-natured, merciless bullying that is absolutely required in a CCI4* week. I was also stabled (or tabled) with team EquiRatings, helmed by lead Numbers Nerd Diarm Byrne and ably assisted by the glamorous Nicole Brown and Georgia Patrick. We were joined by rookie event reporter Rachel Dyke of Horse&Rider magazine, who, poor soul, was thrown well into the deep end with us and kept on swimming.

Note to self: don’t save the team selfie for Sunday evening.

We laughed ourselves stupid, spent hours perfecting(?) our rider impersonations — I do a mean Michi Jung — and availed ourselves merrily of the media centre’s open bar as evening set in. As Jenni mused about the boys in one of our many overexcited WhatsApp conversations through the week: “It’s one of those things where you know you’d be SO much more productive without those goons, but you can’t imagine doing it without them.”

I’d say I miss them already, but they’d never let me live it down.

Emerging from the beautiful old buildings that house Badminton’s meticulous stableyard. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

One of the (many, many) pinch-me moments I had last week was granted to me by Badminton’s media director, Julian Seaman. Under FEI rules, access to the stables is restricted to grooms, riders, and their immediate team of owners and family, but because of Julian’s generosity in helping me to get the stories I was chasing, I was able to visit not just once, but twice — the second time, spending a blissful half an hour getting to know Michael Jung and his wonder horse, La Biosthetique Sam FBW. I’m so excited to bring you the full story later on this week.

A good time for a snooze — Tom Jackson’s Waltham Fiddler’s Find takes it easy as the finishing touches are put in for the first horse inspection. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The stables are a special kind of magical — helmed from old, golden stone, set up in two long aisleways and a number of nooks and crannies around a vast, meticulously swept courtyard, there’s a palpable frisson of excitement in the air. You get the feeling that no one is immune to that flutter of butterflies in their tummy as they walk through the clocktower archway — but for all this, and for the fact that the narrow aisles are constantly filled with the hustle and bustle of support and horsemanship, each stable houses a supremely relaxed, dozing athlete.

Good luck cards, addressed to both horses and riders, are delivered to the stable managers office and pinned to a notice board, ready for collection. Here, first-timers Kate Honey and Fernhill Now or Never display some of their spoils. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

As it turns out, the magic never quite wears off: “It’s so special,” Michael Jung assures me when I ask him about it. “Almost a second home, but so special.” Bittersweet, too, because this was to be the last time we’d get the joy of seeing King Sam at the competition he won in 2016 — Michael announced several months ago that 2018 would be the horse’s final season at the top level.

“I’ll be having that, then” — Michi Jung’s dog does what we’ve all thought about doing, and gives stealing Sam a jolly good attempt. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I can’t believe this is the last time we’ll see him here,” I say to him, as we watch modern eventing’s most-medalled horse graze in front of the house.

“Maybe,” he replies, a wide grin spreading across his face. “Maybe.”

Ireland’s James O’Haire performs perhaps the most important role in the trot-up prep routine — offering up bribes to encourage his mare, China Doll, to stand still. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Many of the grooms are housed in small chambres des bonne, and Selena O’Hanlon‘s head girl Anne-Marie Duarte tells me that, although they may be basic, the novelty of staying in what is essentially an annexe of Badminton House doesn’t pass her by. “Although the last time I was here, there was no hot water,” she muses. “I hope they’ve fixed that!”

The number one mode of transportation around the sprawling Badminton estate. Just watch out for British team coach Chris Bartle, who has replaced his exceptionally squeaky bike of last season, and is now a liability on wheels. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Riders, grooms, owners and supporters zoom in and out of the stables on pushbikes, followed by a bevy of stable dogs, and there’s a cavernous canteen for them all to dine in, too, lined with hundreds of antlers of indeterminate age.

A family affair: baby Charlie and dad Will Coleman supervise as OBOS O’Reilly is plaited for the first horse inspection. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It all feels like a grown-up version of summer camp — laughter everywhere, as old friends catch up, selfies with equine charges in front of the house — until the first horse inspection gets underway. Then there’s the feeling of passing through a threshold — quite literally — into something rather bigger than oneself.

Once you’ve stepped through this archway, your Badminton begins. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

From then on out, it’s all systems go. The stables are a constant hive of activity, a walk around Little Badminton village drums up endless encounters with horses and riders stretching their legs, and the Media Centre — the best, in my opinion, of any event — absolutely thrums with adrenaline and high-speed content production. Well, it thrums until the WiFi buckles under the pressure — then it’s filled with a cacophony of noise, mostly from me, and mostly unfit to print.

When the media cracks: four-star eventer Ben Way makes himself useful for Radio Badminton. Some of his interviews, like this one with Ivar Gooden, are … less eloquent than the rest. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Throughout a long week of reporting, you learn to adopt every available resource as a means of recording a story. It all starts out in a very civilised manner — a dictaphone shoved in a back pocket, a reasonably organised notebook, a few different coloured pens (an idea pinched from Horse&Hound editor Pippa Roome — because you can never stop learning, nor adapting your craft) to try to keep the riders and phases separate. A few days in, it all starts to fall apart at the seams, and you find yourself scrawling notes in an almost indecipherable shorthand on just about anything that stands still for long enough to be written on. Inevitably, you find something like this a few days later, having completely forgotten that you took notes on your phone, too:

The stuff that (mostly) logical event reports are made of. The glam life of an eventing journo.

Keeping a camera to hand is always helpful, too — until you’ve tried four times to get the shot, only to realise you never took the lens cap off. Whoops. Sometimes you actually get there in time, and think you’ve snapped something really elegant and special, only to purge your memory cards and find something else entirely.

Black Beauty: Lydia Hannon’s My Royal Touch at the final horse inspection, apparently feeling the effects of one too many drinks at the Outside Chance the night before. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The number-one cure for end-of-day eventing insanity? Zooming in on the riders’ faces in jumping photos, of course.

Ireland’s Jonty Evans gets a pep-talk from BBC presenter Clare Balding on the way to the start box. His sleeve reads ‘#artsamazingfamily’ — an homage to the 6,800 donors who helped him to secure his horse of a lifetime last season. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Eventing, of course, isn’t always the easiest sport to report on — it has more ups and downs than a sunken road complex, and the heartbreaks are felt as strongly as the victories. It’s a mad, nomadic lifestyle that we all — grooms, riders, owners, and journalists — embark upon, and we form friendships that cross all of those divides. At the end of the day, we do what we do because we love the sport and, most intrinsically of all, we love the horses.

Team work really does make the dream work: Mark Todd congratulates Selena O’Hanlon on a great round. Selena and Woody have been based at Mark’s Badgerstown yard while in the UK. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There are two rules to journalism: you must never comment on the weather (something I fail rather spectacularly at!) and you must strip your own emotion and opinion from your work and report only the facts. Sometimes, this isn’t easy. Sometimes, it feels nearly impossible. Often, we have to take ourselves out of the situation for a moment, find somewhere quiet, and deal with our own emotions when we see a friend fall on course, a controversy unfold, or, the very worst, an irreparable injury.

Cheers, pal: Imogen Murray and Ivar Gooden performed one of the best rounds of the day on Saturday, finishing in 11th place overall in the competition. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

But then, the magic of the sport puts us all back together again. It’s seeing Jonelle Price‘s enormous grin as she tells you that dreams do come true, while her young son Otis tries his best to cram the chinstrap of her helmet into his mouth. It’s seeing young, up-and-coming riders stunned into silence by the magnitude of their gratitude to their horses, who have showed them that they’re capable of everything they ever imagined. It’s watching the children watching their favourite riders, their wide eyes and small faces pressed against the fence of the mixed zone, hoping that they might get to meet real life, actual Mark Todd. It’s the incomparable sportsmanship of the collecting ring, as riders, friends, grooms, everyone in the vicinity is swept up in a whirlwind of well-wishes and teary hugs.

The Kiwi takeover: Andy Daines, on Spring Panorama, and Ginny Thompson, on Star Nouveau, get the obligatory house photo in the bank. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It’s the stories, too, that don’t make the headlines — that of New Zealand’s Ginny Thompson, for example, who sold her entire yard so that she and Star Nouveau could come to the UK for two years to base themselves with Blyth Tait and chase their dreams. It’s her fellow countryman, Andy Daines, who quickly became every interviewer’s favourite rider with his easy charm and token one-liners: “I was riding around in the warm-up ring with Michael Jung, and I was just like, ‘Can I touch you?!’ No, that’s weird!” and “I’ll stay here until my visa runs out — and then I need to find myself a rich husband!” King of the one-liners, too, is Ireland’s James O’Haire — to which I need only offer you this:

Michael Jung, he's coming to get you!!

James O'Haire – the one liner of Badminton today!!! ????????

Posted by Irish Eventing Times on Friday, May 4, 2018

Full support: eventing fans wait at the perimeter of the mixed zone in the hopes of catching up with their favourite riders. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Above all things, it’s the horses. It’s almost too obvious to say that we’d be nowhere without them, because, well, of course — but their strength, their intelligence, their fortitude, and their loyalty never ceases to inspire a profound sort of awe in me. I hope that I never reach the point in my career when being in proximity to them loses its sparkle. I hope I always maintain a childlike glee in heaping cuddles on Classic Moet, or giving Nereo’s nose a final stroke, or having La Biosthetique Sam merrily blow his nose down my arm.

A shared victory — the Prices’ head girl, Lucy Miles, celebrates her charge’s win. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

After talking to my fellow media louts — many of whom have been in the game for far longer than I have, and whose work I admire and learn from constantly — I don’t believe I ever will. Inside all of us — those in the saddle, and those on the ground — are still the horse-crazy children who dreamed these lofty dreams in the first place.

It really is real — Jonelle Price and Trisha Rickards, owner of Classic Moet, tick the four-star box together. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It’s easy to fall victim to the post-Badminton blues — a combination of exhaustion, perhaps a bit too much sun, a feeling of distinct anticlimax in the absence of those vibrant characters who have made the prior week so special. But the sun is shining, my own horse is waiting, and it’s back on the road on Friday for the first leg of the 2018 Event Rider Masters series at Chatsworth. Thank you for turning to EN for all your eventing news and reports — it’s a special and indescribable privilege to be able to bring you these stories. Here’s to you; the eventing fans who keep this mad world turning.

Until next time — go eventing.

Tx

The real deal. Jonelle Price and Classic Moet finish their winning showjumping — a first international clear in four years — to a tumult of celebration. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Farewell to a Champion: Looking Back at Nereo’s Career

A legend retires. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

In something of a surprise twist, the crowds were witness to a poignant moment before the final session of showjumping at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials yesterday.

Last year’s winner Nereo had been sitting in 12th place overnight going into the final phase with rider Andrew Nicholson, but was held upon presentation at the final horse inspection. Andrew duly withdrew him from the competition, but he had a plan. As many thousands of people crowded into the stands, man and horse walked into the main arena together one final time to say goodbye to those who had had the joy of cheering them around the biggest tracks in the world through their storied career together. They were greeted by a standing ovation.

Nereo and Andrew Nicholson recorded an early fast round, adding 7.2 time penalties to sit 12th. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

“In my mind, I was always retiring him this weekend,” said Andrew. “I knew that if I didn’t win, I’d have to wait until after the showjumping to do it, and by that point, everyone would be leaving. With what happened at the trot-up, they asked me if I wanted to take him in after the stallion parade, and that seemed perfect.”

Nereo at Barbury. Photo by Ben Clark/Event Rider Masters

The eighteen-year-old gelding, owned by Deborah Sellar, had lost a shoe during the prior day’s cross country, but still clocked up one of the fastest times of the day, adding 7.2 time penalties to climb from 33rd to 12th place.

“He lost a shoe, he’s getting old, and his feet aren’t as tough as they used to be,” explained Andrew. “The vet in the holding box wanted me to re-present him, as he looked good on the grass, but on the hard he wasn’t sound. Things didn’t quite work out how I wanted them to, but the show he put on yesterday was superb, and hopefully that’s what people will remember him for. He’s an amazing horse.”

Nereo and Andrew Nicholson finally claim the Badminton title in 2017. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors

Andrew cites his win here last year – on his 37th attempt – as the highest point in his career with the stalwart campaigner: “We’ve had plenty of lows, too – including losing here when we were winning. But other than him and La Biosthetique Sam, there aren’t many horses you see coming out year after year and not just making up the numbers, but being competitive.”

Andrew began riding the horse when he was a four-year-old, but he had first spotted the horse two years prior at breeder Ramon Beca‘s Spanish base, where he was viewing the then-three-year-old Armada. The Becas’ operation has produced a number of Andrew’s top horses, and he continues to source his string from their stable, but Nereo (FinesBerganza) wasn’t an obvious champion as a young horse. In fact, says Andrew, he was nine years old before he began to look the part.

Those who had thought him an ugly duckling were quickly proven wrong. The pair went on to individual bronze at the 2010 WEG, a second-place finish at Burghley the following year, as well as winning the CIC3* British Open Championship at Gatcombe the month prior. They were team bronze medallists, and fourth individually, at the 2012 London Olympics, and then travelled south to Pau to win the CCI4* there that autumn. In 2013, they finished third at Badminton and again occupied the runner-up spot at Burghley, and made it a hat-trick with second place at Burghley 2016. They also won the Barbury ERM leg that summer. In 2017, they finally scooped the long-coveted Badminton trophy, finishing the year by notching up an eighth-place finish at Burghley. Nereo retires with an astonishing 3098 British Eventing points.

The rangy chestnut will be missed by fans of the sport, to whom he has given so much joy and excitement over the years, never more so than when tapping his way around Badminton’s showjumping course, toying with our emotions but doing just what he needed to do to claim the win.

Andrew and Nereo take Badminton in 2017. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

He has been ridden by Andrew’s 13-year-old daughter, Lily, at home: “she’s got a great feel for the horses, and can make them go beautifully even when the grooms can’t!” Lily, who has learned this feel from Andrew’s former champions, including the great Avebury, will take over as Nereo’s jockey at home. We can only imagine the incredible lessons the old boy will teach her.

Andrew Nicholson e Nereo (18 anos)desfilaram hoje pela ultima vez na pista principal de Badminton onde cavaleiro e proprietária aposentaram um dos melhores e maiores cavalo de CCE da história , os dois tiveram grandes conquistas e um currículo invejável na modalidade . #happyretirement #badminton #champion #andrewnicholson #nereo @bhorsetrials #mmbht. In that time, he has clocked up wins at Bramham CCI3* in 2009, Aachen CIC3* in 2010, Pau CCI4* in 2012, Barbury CIC3* in 2016 and Badminton 2017. He also finished second at Burghley three times, in 2016, 2013 and 2011, and helped New Zealand to team bronze at the London 2012 Olympics , individual Bronze medal World Championship Kentucky 2010 Probably the best cross country horse we will ever see. In his life he has had 105 cross country starts and jumped clear in 100 of them, 15 of these were 4 stars, he hasn’t had a cross country fault since 2014 and has won a massive 3098 points. It’s been an honour to watch him over the years. Thank you Nereo.

A post shared by Brazil Eventing Team-CCE ???????? (@brazil_eventing_team_cce) on

All of us here at Team EN wish Nereo a long, happy, and fulfilling retirement. May the Polos be plentiful and the sunshine in the field keep shining. Thanks for the memories, old boy.

A Classic Badminton: Jonelle Price Wins One for the Girls, Kieffer 9th

…okay, maybe not quite that long. But it has been eleven. Whole. Sodding. Years. Since we last saw a female winner at Badminton. But the #girlpower side smashed it today, when New Zealand’s Jonelle Price and her “super meah” [sic] Classic Moet finally, finally won their first four-star.

Jonelle Price finishes her round and realises that she and Classic Moet have scooped Badminton. Priceless. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

It’s been a long time coming for Jonelle, whose storied career has seen her at the top level at the sport for well over a decade. Her relationship with the fifteen-year-old (ClassicBehemond) has become almost legendary for its consistency in speed, and they were hotly tipped as one of the favourites to challenge the time on yesterday’s fiendishly slow course. They nearly did it, too – they came in just one second over the optimum time on a day in which the average time penalties totalled a whopping 25.3, which propelled them into the lead from 22nd after dressage. Their sterling performance put them on equal footing with Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class in terms of penalties, and the pressure from the Grand Slam contender was well and truly on.

And what does pressure do? Quite often, it makes statistically probable combinations falter where they ordinarily wouldn’t. Today, defying every odd there is, we saw the exact opposite play out. Moet, who hasn’t had a clear showjumping round at an international since the latter half of 2014, stuck two fingers (or hooves) up at the detractors and jumped a clear round, giving almost every fence a hefty rattle but looking totally in control the whole way around.

Jonelle Price and Classic Moet. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

“It’s almost like an elite club, the four-star winners, and it’s a club that’s eluded me for a number of years,” said Jonelle. “I’ve had some nice success, but there’s nothing quite like winning, and to do it at Badminton is very special. I thought it was never going to happen! I’m just so pleased with the mare – we never jump clear on the last day, and she tapped her way around by braille – but some dreams do come true.”

Jonelle Price and Classic Moet – speedy until the end. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

The Price family’s annual exodus to the winter showjumping Sunshine Tour contributed to the victory, sharpening up not only the pair’s performance over poles, but providing a necessary fitness boost after taking nearly all of 2017’s season off during Jonelle’s pregnancy.

“Given the lack of spring season it was instrumental,” she explained. “It went a long way in her conditioning, and in getting us ready for the season.”

“Jonelle has deserved this for a long time, and now she’s done – it’s incredible,” said husband Tim Price, who finished 12th with Ringwood Sky Boy. “I can’t say how much she works for this, especially coming back from having a baby. In the light of a competition like this, it’s an amazing achievement, but in the cold light of day, it’s a lot of work behind the scenes. The glamorous life of an eventer,” he quipped, as baby Otis gamely inserted Jonelle’s chin strap into his mouth.

Classic Moet, Jonelle Price, and owner Trisha Rickards celebrate their win. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

The win is a dream come true, too, for owner Trisha Rickards, who has owned top-level event horses for three decades, and had yet to enjoy the thrill of winning a four-star. So, too, is it a win for the girls.

“These boys have been pushing us for years,” said Jonelle, before running off to, presumably, smash the patriarchy and close the gender wage gap. “This one’s for you, Sam Watson!” she shouted as she climbed aboard her dragon.*

*it may have happened slightly differently, we’re a bit punchy still.

First-timer Cooley SRS proves his quality to finish second with Oliver Townend. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Oliver Townend might have missed out on the Rolex Grand Slam, but he produced a particularly classy showjumping round on four-star first-timer Cooley SRS (33.1) to finish in second place. This makes it three four-stars in a row in which he’s finished first or second with first-timers at the level, and his Burghley winner, Ballaghmor Class (36), dropped two rails to finish in fifth place. This gave Jonelle the breathing room to have a pole and a time penalty – but she used neither.

“I hope the public understands what that horse is,” said Oliver of Jonelle’s winning mare. “I don’t think we’ll see another cross country galloper like it in our lifetime. I couldn’t keep up with it in the prize giving – it was about ten strides ahead of me, I looked down for a moment, and when I looked back up it was on the other side of the arena! I’d give anything for a foal out of it.”

No regrets: Oliver Townend and Cooley SRS. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Did Oliver have any regrets about so narrowly losing out on the biggest prize of them all? “I just wish I’d paid Jonelle!” he joked. “No, not at all, to tell you. I absolutely loved Kentucky, but I found this week hard work. I had to fight harder than I wanted to fight, and it didn’t look how I wanted it to look, but I’m so happy with how the horses came out of it. Especially Cooley SRS – he’s never jumped like that in his life, so god knows what that means!

“I’ve been fortunate enough to sit in Jonelle’s seat, and I know how that feels, so there’s no complaints from my end,” he went on. “I’m the biggest dreaming, most hopeful plonker you’ve ever met – I’m dreaming about taking the horses to Aston-le-Walls [one day event this week] already!”

Ros Canter and Allstar B finish third at Badminton. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Third-placed Ros Canter occupied a place in the press conference on each day of the competition, and although her showjumping record with Allstar B shows an enviable consistency – the pair haven’t had a showjumping penalty in an international since the beginning of 2016 – they pulled a pole to finish on 34.3.

“He was fantastic today,” she said. “I have to say, I was a little bit nervous. I think it hasn’t sunk in yet – I can be quite a doubter and quite nervous and so all week, I’ve tried to treat it like every day. As I came out of the prizegiving I realised what we can achieve and what we might be able to do. I came away thinking that I could have shaved more lines and corners; I’m still learning to keep up with him and maybe one day we can go one step higher and one step further. WEG or not, we’ll aim for another big one at the end of the year.”

Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul record a clear round to finish fourth. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Gemma Tattersall and her incredibly consistent Arctic Soul climbed and climbed throughout the week, starting out in equal 35th place after the dressage and finishing in fourth. The pair recorded one of the rare double-clear rounds today, but Gemma admits that she wasn’t expecting to.

“That is one seriously tough showjumping course,” she said after jumping around Paul Connor‘s testing track, on which she cited “turn backs, S-bends, and the downhill plank” as some of toughest questions in the cleverly-designed course, which tested horses and riders by using maximum dimension square oxers followed by short distances.

“He’s a hard-pulling horse and I think he tired himself out yesterday, which made him easier to ride today. Only the really serious showjumping horses seemed to be jumping clear, so I’m so proud of him – I didn’t expect a clear. To go double clear three years in a row – wow, he’s a serious horse.”

Mark Todd and Kiltubrid Rhapsody finish sixth. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Mark Todd began the day with two horses in the top ten, but after pulling three rails with Leonidas II (14th) he finished with one – Kiltubrid Rhapsody, in sixth place.

“When we walked the course, we said it’s big, up-to-height, and with a funny distance from the oxer to the water tray,” said Mark. “The ground’s still a little bit holding and the horses can’t quite spring off it. I’m a little bit disappointed with Leo’s round, but Kiltubrid Rhapsody jumped his socks off. Overall, I’m really happy.”

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser make a strong bid for WEG selection. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Would it be fair to keep calling Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser up-and-comers? We suspect not, after their string of brilliant results over the past year, including fourth at Burghley and now seventh at Badminton. They finished on a score of 37.7, climbing from 13th after dressage and looking wise beyond their years across all three phases.

“He’s just phenomenal – he’s not bred with much blood, but he just jumps and jumps,” he enthused. “I get him into the rhythm and he just goes – I’m phenomenally lucky. He’s taken a long time to produce but there’s still so much to come, and I’m so excited for the future with him.”

Padraig McCarthy and Mr Chunky impress at their first Badminton. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Ireland’s Padraig McCarthy and Mr Chunky were best first-timers, finishing in eighth place on a score 38.3 after a clear showjumping round with 3 time penalties.

“He jumped unbelievably,” said Padraig, who showjumped internationally before swapping over to eventing in 2013 on his wife, Lucy Weigersma‘s, suggestion. “I didn’t feel like I could have ridden a lot faster – he’s a big-striding horse, but he has one gear, so I tried to be efficient with my lines. I’m lucky enough to have done quite a bit of showjumping so I’ve jumped in rings like that, but we did have to knuckle down. We never had a nervous moment, but I’ve been envisaging this all year – we have an amazing horse, and the dream was to finish on our dressage score if we could. I’m overwhelmed – it’s been an amazing week.”

Lauren Kieffer and Veronica add another top 20 placing at Badminton to their resume. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Lauren Kieffer and Veronica were our highest-placed North American combination, finishing in ninth place on a score of 38.6 with just one rail down.

“She’s one really tough mare, and felt like she could have kept jumping for another few minutes yesterday,” she said. “Nothing really bothers her. Jumping on grass wouldn’t be her favourite, or something we do a lot of at home, so I was really pleased with her. Now we’ll go home, she’ll have a holiday, and then we’ll look ahead to the fall.”

Swansong: Michael Jung jumps his final Badminton round on La Biosthetique Sam FBW. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Former champions Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW pulled two rails to finish tenth in their final Badminton together. The eighteen-year-old horse, who was won everything there is to win (besides, perhaps, the lottery) is set to step back from top-level competition, and Michi has said that this will be his final season. It’s been a rare kind of treat to witness them in action all of these years, and a joy to see them in action – and on top form – this final time. We wish Sam a very happy retirement.

Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High see a dream come true. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Canadian duo Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High finished in 24th place after adding 21 penalties in the final phase, ticking Badminton off their own, and owner John Rumble‘s, bucket list.

“It’s so great – I got further this week than I did in 2011 with Colombo,” said Selena. “I thought I’d saved enough horse for the showjumping, but it’s never been a strong point of ours. The ground’s a bit dead in there – he started to jump better towards the end, so I was sorry to see the last pole go down.”

Farewell to a champion. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

A surprise announcement set a poignant tone going into the final showjumping session. After withdrawing from the final horse inspection this morning, Andrew Nicholson decided to retire Nereo, walking him into the main arena one last time so he could say goodbye to his many fans.

“It was in the back of my mind to do it all along,” he said. “He’s an incredible horse – apart from Sam, there aren’t many others that go year after year and stay competitive like he has.”

We’ll be bringing you the full story – and a look back at Nereo’s amazing career – shortly. In the meantime, we say a fond goodbye to the rangy chestnut who has given eventing – and the team around him – so much joy and excitement.

That’s it for us from Badminton – stay tuned for lots of bonus content over the next few days as we slowly piece our lives and our sanity back together. In the meantime, we’ll leave you with this – the description of Classic Moet, pulled directly from Jonelle and Tim’s website:

“Molly would, if she were a person, come from Swindon (or West Auckland for our NZ followers), be a couple of stone overweight, have several tattoos, wear a too-tight leather jacket over skintight leopardskin pants, have a boyfriend with an IQ of 10 who is a club bouncer, and four children by four different fathers.”

Solid. Gold.

Over and out, folks. Play some Beyonce this evening and don your sassiest knickers. You deserve it.

Go Jonelle, go Molly, and GO EVENTING!

The 2018 Badminton top ten. It’s been a wild ride, folks.

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Badminton Showjumping: Looking at the Odds with EquiRatings

If this morning’s showjumping session proved anything, it’s that the riders to come won’t have an easy final day. It’s easy to make the assumption that once the gruelling cross-country test is behind them, the leaders have the competition in the bag – but tired horses, tricky courses, and tight time allowances have historically made the final phase influential. Looking ahead to our top twenty, who take to the ring shortly, we’ll see this play a massive role.

We’ve teamed up with the stats chaps at EquiRatings, who have crunched the numbers to give us all an idea of how, exactly, this might play out. This morning saw 33 horse and rider combinations post final phase rounds, and here’s what we learned:

One clear round out of 33, folks. If your heart rate isn’t increasing, we’re concerned about you.

So what does that mean in real world terms – i.e., in terms of the top ten contenders, those horses and riders who stand the most chance of lifting the trophy at the end of the day? Let’s take a closer look. This is how the jumping historically plays out at Badminton:

And how does that compare to the field of horses? Well, here are the top-rated showjumpers in the field. We’ve seen two of them this morning – Alex Bragg‘s Zagreb and Gemma Tattersall‘s Pamero 4 – and they notched up 4 and 8 penalties, respectively, indicated that we could see further issues for lower-rated showjumpers.

So let’s take a closer look at the top ten. Here’s where it gets seriously interesting, with only three of those top-rated showjumpers in this group.

In tenth place going into showjumping: Mark Todd and Leonidas II.

Padraig McCarthy and Mr Chunky – defying their first-timer status.

Speedy Arctic Soul and Gemma Tattersall – can they make it a hat trick?

The highest-placed North American combination of Lauren Kieffer and Veronica – can they defy the odds?

Another ride for Toddy, but one who has shown promise.

Cooley SRS – the first horse Oliver Townend rides in his bid for the Grand Slam.

Legendary La Biosthetique Sam FBW and Michael Jung – where will they end up on their final Badminton campaign?

Ros Canter and Allstar B – queen and king of consistency in this phase.

Neck and neck with Classic Moet and Jonelle Price, Oliver Townend needs a big result today to win the Grand Slam.

Our cross country leaders – can they make it a #girlpower win?

Make sure you give the EquiRatings Facebook page a like for more of these hard-hitting statistics – they’re churning out quantifiable predictions across the board. We’ll be back with the full lowdown from this afternoon’s action-packed final phase. Go eventing!

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