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Friday Video from World Equestrian Brands: Derby Domination in Deutschland

The Friday video might as well be sponsored by Reitschule Jung, because the Terminator has been garnering some serious airtime recently. Last week, we delved into the secret to Michi’s success, and this week, we get to enjoy the results.

The Derby class at the Stuttgart German Masters is a spectator favourite and attracts top riders from across the continent. Michael Jung scooped his eighth win in the class riding seven-year-old Corazon, because of course he did, and he made it look spectacularly easy, too. If you reckon you’d get lost about a quarter of the way into this course, you’re absolutely not alone. Michi’s lightening-fast clear in 40.03 seconds propelled him into the lead ahead of Ireland’s Esib Power and Doonaveerah O One, and frankly, I’d just like to ask them both which D-ring is most practical for attaching a sat-nav to.

In true Michi fashion, he hasn’t gone to Stuttgart just to contest this class: He’s also competing in the showjumping classes and doing very well against a world class field. One day we’ll find something the man can’t do — I, for one, am hedging my bets that he’s a dreadful dancer.

As a practical aside: don’t watch this video just prior to going cross-country schooling. Your heart will tell you you can execute some gnarly rollbacks. Your horse will tell you otherwise.

Indoor Derby Stuttgart

Und dieses Jahr hat er es geschafft! Michael Jung gewinnt das Indoor Derby bei den Stuttgart German Masters vor Elizabeth Power aus Irland! Klasse Stimmung in Stuttgart – die gesamte Prüfung noch einmal bei uns im Archiv: http://watch.clipmyhorse.tv/StuttgartGermanMasters

Posted by ClipMyHorse.TV Deutschland on Thursday, November 16, 2017

Friday Video from World Equestrian Brands: The Emotional Omnibus

Shut up and feel the feels. Photo courtesy of Michael Jung’s Facebook page.

EN head honcho Jenni and I often find ourselves in deep WhatsApp chats about the training tactics and secret strategies of the world’s top eventers. What is it that makes them tick, we ask — what do they do that we mere mortals can harness and use to our own benefit?

The other day, we had a revelation. We were sure we’d found the thing that Michi Jung has used so successfully for so many years — his secret weapon, the item in his toolbox that makes him well nigh unbeatable. The best thing? It’s free, and it’s easy. Go ahead and pop your stirrups back on your saddle and put those gridwork charts away, because we’re about to shortcut you to eventing superstardom, no hard work required. You can thank us from the top of the podium.

Hard-hitting journalists.

Tactical, scheduled crying has three main benefits: it purges you of inconvenient and distracting emotions, which are only useful on the aforementioned podiums or for a good celebratory post-XC snog. It also makes you more aerodynamic, because everyone knows sadness weighs more than indifference (this is also a great tip if you’re trying to shed some pounds ahead of the Christmas party season. Cry it out, baby). Finally, it dries out your tear-ducts, allowing you to go faster without having to squint through watering eyes. In short, it makes you an absolute machine, all for the price of a rewatch of Atonement.

“Let us frolic by this ocean of tears, unaware of the great, gasping meaninglessness of joy.”

This time of year is perfect for introducing tactical crying into your training regime. Here in the UK, we have a time-honoured festive tradition, which begins around mid-November each year: basically, businesses compete to make us all as miserable as possible with their festive adverts. The charge is led by department store John Lewis, and when that ad premieres, people are SOBBING. On-the-floor, in-the-fetal-position, covered-in-their-own-snot sobbing. If they’re not, they take to the internet to complain, because #Britain. It’s just not the holiday season unless you’re having a REALLY BAD TIME.

Christmas in Britain: chocolate oranges, Liam Neeson in dodgy jumpers, and a little bit of this.

Perhaps I’m a bit late to the party here, but it seems that a few savvy marketing guru types in the States have picked up on the idea of an emotional holiday purge. Behold, this first-class weeper:

Wow! Feeling warmed up? Got those tear ducts ready for action? Great, because for my next trick, I’m going to make you cry with a bank advert. ISAs and sadness.

Ever loved a big chestnut (or a pretty blonde, I guess)? This one will get you:

If you thought for even a second you’d get through this without an appearance from those famous juggernauts of emotional turmoil, the Budweiser Clydesdales, then you clearly don’t appreciate the deceptively deep puddle of misery from which this post is being written. Prepare yourselves.

UGH. I can’t take any more. Go forth and ride superbly, unhindered by the weight of your pesky emotions. It’s what Michi would want.

 

Essential French for Eventing Diehards

Buckle up, babies. You’re about to get educated.

Look, if there’s one thing that’s quite plain to see, it’s that we’re on the cusp of a French takeover. With victories at Le Lion d’Angers and Pau, they’re only building in strength, power, and enviably effortless personal style. This is a time of unapologetic red wine-drinking, pastry-scoffing, and emphatically saying ‘bien SÛR’, because it’s the only thing you can say in French with any conviction or correct pronunciation. When French eventers take over the world, that might be the only stock phrase you’ve got.

Pictured: the original king of the cross country afterparty.

If it’s been a while since you scraped through high school French, you might need a bit of help if you want to do better than Facebook’s dodgy translation tool and a bit of good old-fashioned guessing while watching livestreams. And hey, let’s be honest – even if you passed high school French three months ago, all you learned how to say is ‘I like to play football with my brother on Thursday’ anyway.


But never fear, lads and lasses: Eventing Nation will always have your back, and this time, we’ve roped in some friends (or our soon-to-be overlords) to help us help you. Whether you’re watching from home, attending a French event yourself, or just in case you meet a Gallic stranger in the warm-up at your next event, our guide to the ins-and-outs of essential French will have you speaking like Cyrano de Bergerac. Or something.

Without further adieu: welcome to the French Revolution, revisited.

FRENCH: Vous avez une fond vraiment beau.

ENGLISH: You have a beautiful seat.

That classic compliment, to be shared with those whose elegance whilst mounted is something to be applauded. We’re all for goal-setting here at EN, so why not make it your 2018 mission to have this phrase directed at you while out competing?*

*It doesn’t count if you slip Mathieu Lemoine a fiver to say it to you. Ask me how I know.

FRENCH: Je pense qu’elle a besoin d’une sangle plus grande. 

ENGLISH: I think she needs a bigger girth.

One for the eagle-eyed saddlery aficionados out there, this can be used to communicate the need for a larger size of girth. Some mares just need that extra two inches, and if you can let a French rider know, he’ll be very grateful. Maybe.

FRENCH: Permettez-moi de vous aider avec votre position. 

ENGLISH: Allow me to help you with your position. 

In riding, as in life, every day is indeed a school day, and just because a rider might have won a couple of fancy medals, it doesn’t make him immune to improvement. Use this handy phrase to segue into a good pelvic realignment and watch those flying changes transform before your eyes.

FRENCH: J’avais l’habitude de monter sa mere. 

ENGLISH: I used to ride her mother.

Nothing is a better talking point than shared equine ancestry. If you spot a French eventer mounted on a familiar-looking filly, pass along any tips you learned from riding her relative. You’ll be laying the foundations of a great new friendship!

FRENCH: Tout le monde sait que l’élevage français est le meilleur du monde.

ENGLISH: Everyone knows that French breeding is the best in the world. 

Because there’s nothing like exploring the ins-and-outs of a good French pedigree.

So there you have it, folks — a handy primer for the new world order, or, at the very least, any French livestreams you may find yourself watching one day. Personally, I’m holding out for the former option…

Girlpower Gwendolen Scoops Pau CCI4* For Home Nation Win

Gwendolen Fer celebrates her win with Romantic Love. Photo by Libby Law.

For the third consecutive year, a French rider has lifted the trophy at the home CCI4*. Gwendolen Fer’s beautiful clear round aboard her experienced partner Romantic Love secured her the title – and made her the 13th female four-star winner since 2008. The pair scored a 4* personal best of 41.9 in the first phase, putting them in ninth place, and executed one of the fastest cross country rounds yesterday adding just 3.2 time penalties to move up to second going into the final phase. The Toulouse-based rider partnered the Selle Français gelding she has competed at the international level for six years, and their combined experience and relationship shone through to earn them the win.

Gwendolen Fer and Romantic Love. Photo by Libby Law.

“Perhaps I could have saved some time on the cross country,” said Gwendolen of her well-paced round yesterday. “The horse was quite fresh early on in the course, and I felt that as I went along I got more confident and could ride for the time a bit more.”

But it was enough. The pair had contested Badminton earlier this year, retiring on cross country, before going on to win the tough CIC3* at Jardy in July, which had also, notably, been designed by Pierre Michelet.

Gwendolen Fer and Romantic Love at the final water on yesterday’s cross country course. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Elsewhere throughout the standings, yesterday’s exertions took their toll over the poles.

Sarah Bullimore had the biggest job of the day – she had managed to get not one, but three “very different” horses around yesterday’s track and sat in the top ten with all three before the start of the showjumping. Jumping out of order, she was the first in the ring with Valentino V, with whom she knocked two rails. Halfway through the afternoon she had a second attempt, this time aboard the fiery chestnut Lilly Corinne and pulled three. Her firm grasp on the leaderboard was weakening. It was with her final horse – the “quirky” Reve du Rouet – that she finally delivered the coveted double clear, finishing on 45.2 and looking as though she might just inch her way to the win.

Sarah Bullimore gets the job done with Reve Du Rouet. Photo by Libby Law.

But it wasn’t to be. France’s leading lady of eventing, Gwendolen, cantered into the ring after her and never faltered, executing a smooth and classy clear round that didn’t for a moment belie the hard work the pair had put in yesterday, and moved ahead of Sarah by 0.1 points. With that, she secured herself no worse than second place and guaranteed a French win – but the title was still Astier Nicolas’ for the taking.

To win the home four-star – which he last won in 2015 with Piaf de B’Neville – would have been the just rewards of Astier’s fractured season, which saw him lose the summer months to a broken knee. A win in last week’s seven-year-old World Championship at Le Lion d’Angers proved to the world that he was back with a bang, but his ride this week – thirteen-year-old Molakai – has a chequered history on the final day of a CCI, and Astier was to have his work cut out for him if he wanted to secure the clear he needed to win.

The tests of yesterday’s track, with its relentless twists, turns, and tricky questions, had taken their toll, and Astier and Molokai pulled a rail early on course, guaranteeing Gwendolen the win and moving them into third, behind Sarah and Reve de Rouet. But then two more fell, and they slipped to sixth – a very credible placing, but a blow nonetheless for the rider who had redemption in his sight.

Falling rails saw the landscape of the top ten change, although perhaps less dramatically in years past. Historically, the final phase is the most influential at this event, and while it did have an effect – of the 39 starters, only 11 produced double clears – it didn’t change the standings as drastically as cross country. With two rails, Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo secured tenth place in Jonelle’s comeback four-star, as baby Otis and dad Tim cheered from the sidelines.

Also on the comeback trail was Sam Griffiths, who produced a double-clear bang on the optimum time with Paulank Brockagh to finish in eighth, just above fellow UK-based Australian Emma McNab and her four-star first-timer Fernhill Tabasco, who added just two time penalties.

Britain’s Ros Canter, who led after the first day of dressage, added four penalties with her homebred Zenshera to finish seventh. She, and fellow Brit Alex Bragg, who finished in fifth on Zagreb, will be looking ahead to next year’s World Equestrian Games with their exciting string of horses.

Cedric Lyard and Qatar du Puech Rouget manage the only FOD of the week. Photo by Libby Law.

Sammi Birch followed up on yesterday’s fast and confident cross country round with Hunter Valley II with a double-clear in the ring today, finishing fourth. Meanwhile, in third place, France’s Cedric Lyard and Qatar du Puech Rouget were the only combination to finish on their dressage score – a 47.9, which had them in 27th after the first phase. This is a remarkable achievement at any four-star, but especially one at which so much has changed throughout the week.

Buck Davidson and Copper Beach. Photo by Libby Law.

It was a great day for our two remaining American riders, who rode brilliantly aboard horses who looked at the very peak of health. They rode with an extra weight upon their shoulders, carrying the collective grief of the loss of Boyd Martin’s Crackerjack, but they never faltered, and represented their country and their team with poise, professionalism, and horsemanship. Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect added just four penalties to finish in 21st place on this, their maiden voyage abroad. Buck Davidson and Copper Beach delivered one of the early double clears of the day to finish in 27th place. For both horses to finish looking so well after such a testing week of competition is an exciting portent of things to come in the upcoming championship year, and the team eyes on the ground will have taken notice. We can’t wait to see what happens next for these two fantastic horses and their very capable jockeys.

Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect complete a successful first trip to Europe. Photo by Libby Law.

It’s been a week of incredible highs and crushing lows, and we wish Gwendolen Fer and her team the heartiest of congratulations – this will almost certainly go down as The Pau That Really Bloody Was.

The final top ten at Les 4 Etoiles de Pau 2017.

Les 4 Etoiles de Pau: Website and Live Stream, Schedule, Entries, Scoring, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Twitter, EN’s Instagram

Astier Nicolas Leads Pau Field after Influential Cross Country

Astier Nicolas and Molokai lead the Pau field after cross country. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It was enough to inspire flashbacks to the Rio Olympics. Like that fateful course, which toppled the hopes of so many, Pierre Michelet‘s Pau track laid waste to the leaderboard and conquered even the most experienced horse-and-rider combinations.

Only three of the top ten going into this influential second phase were to remain there – Ros Canter and ZensheraSammi Birch and Hunter Valley II, and Gwendolyn Fer and Romantic Love. Otherwise, leaders slipped away and pairs climbed from as low as 38th place to sit within the top placings. Of the 62 combinations that started on course today, 39 would go on to complete and 28 would come home clear. Just two of those would be inside the time.

Astier Nicolas crosses the finish line with Molokai. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It was to be a big day for the home nation, with French riders occupying three of the top ten places. Astier Nicolas proved that last week’s win in the seven-year-old World Championship in Le Lion d’Angers was no fluke, laying down one of the two double-clears of the day with Molokai. This was enough to catapult him from 14th place into the lead, and coming at the tail end of a day full of emotional ups-and-downs, the enthusiastic crowd was all too ready to welcome their hero home safe.

Shane Rose and CP Qualified early in the course. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Overnight leaders Shane Rose and CP Qualified set off well, conquering the tricky first water with style, but the angled hedges at 11ABC were to be their undoing. They suffered a horse fall at the B element, and although both were up quickly and in good nick, their hunt for the win was over.

Mark Todd and Kiltubrid Rhapsody over 11C. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The hunt for a new world number one ended too when both Andrew Nicholson and Mark Todd had problems on course. Andrew opted to retire on course with Qwanza after a refusal at 11B, and fell from Jet Set at fence 25. Mark, too, retired at 11B with NZB Campino, and added 20 penalties at 7B with Kiltubrid Rhapsody. This locks Michael Jung in as world number one for a third consecutive year.

Their problems weren’t unique: throughout the day, nine faulted at 7B, the corner, eleven had problems at the first water at 9ABC, and nine ran into trouble at 11ABC, the angled hedges.

Sarah Bullimore and Reve de Rouet sit in 3rd overnight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sarah Bullimore managed to avoid any of the issues plaguing her fellow riders, and while most in the field only had to worry about piloting one horse around, she had three – and a trio of remarkable clear rounds propelled her into the top ten on all three of them, including Lilly Corinne, who moved from 38th after dressage to 8th.

“I’ve had an amazing day,” she said. “The fences were causing trouble all the way around the course, rather than in any one place, so it’s a good course in that respect. It’s tricky because the terrain can be quite changeable – for example, the sand in the crossings is quite deep and suddenly the horses have to work a lot harder, and then the sand in the arena at the end is much harder. It just takes a little bit more out of them than when it’s consistent and you can maintain the rhythm.”

“All three of my horses are very different, which makes it a bit difficult to remember which one you’re on once you hop on! Reve de Rouet is a little quirky and has a genuine fear of crowds, but he’s an out-and-out galloper and jumper and a real cross country machine.”

Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo move into the top ten. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo were another of the big climbers of the day, moving from 25th place to ninth when they added just 9.2 time penalties to an otherwise fast, flawless round.

Ros Canter and Zenshera. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Clinging onto the chance of a top placing, Ros Canter and Zenshera executed a clear round, but 11.6 time penalties moved them down to sixth from second.

Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect look the picture of confidence around Pierre Michelet’s testing course. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect posted a masterful clear round, adding 27.6 time to sit in 24th place going into the final phase. This is their first trip abroad to compete, but it didn’t show: their round was careful, considered, and showed their years of experience in the States.

Buck Davidson and Copper Beach over 9C. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Buck Davidson and Copper Beach were confident and clear throughout the majority of the course, but a refusal at 29B knocked them down the placings. They added a further 22 time penalties and currently sit in 29th place.

Joe Meyer and Clip Clop. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

US-based Kiwi Joe Meyer fell from Clip Clop at fence 20, unfortunately expediting the end of what was an otherwise classy round.

Boyd Martin and Crackerjack at the last water complex on course at Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Refusals and eliminations are the low ebb of the rollercoaster ride of eventing, but they can be recovered from, learned from, and used to progress. The true heartbreaks of the sport are the moments you can’t recover from, when, despite the biggest of hearts and the best of preparation, the journey must end. Boyd Martin‘s experienced partner Crackerjack put in a beautiful, confident trip around the testing cross country course, but a fluke step at the end of the course caused multiple breaks in his pastern, and the difficult decision was made to euthanise him.

“I felt like it was one of our best ever trips together,” Boyd said in a statement. “We were jumping clear and took all the direct routes, and coming into the final stretch in the arena, he had plenty left in the tank. He felt fresh and his ears were pricked, and I was thrilled with the way he was going.

“Just as we went into the arena he took a horrible step, almost on false ground. I heard a crack and instantly knew something was wrong. I pulled up and leapt off within a couple of strides. I knew Crackers was in bad shape.”

For the full statement, click here. All of the Eventing Nation team send their deepest condolences to all those connected with this incredible horse. These are the stories we wish we never had to write.

The top ten after cross country at Pau.

Les 4 Etoiles de Pau: Website and Live Stream, Schedule, Entries, Scoring, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Twitter, EN’s Instagram

Les 4 Etoiles de Pau: This Ain’t Your Grandma’s Four-Star

Forget what you’ve heard: there’s nothing soft about Pau. Designed by Pierre Michelet — the man responsible for that Rio course, as well as last week’s courses at Le Lion d’Angers, France’s four-star makes the most of small swathe of land within a racing facility. As such, the buzzwords here are twisty and technical rather than big and bold, and whereas Badminton, Burghley, and Kentucky feel as though they’re inside their own expansive bubble, the Pau course abuts a main road, so if you’ve ever wondered what it would feel like to jump onto a commuter’s Citroen and pop to the Aldi down the road, this is the course for you.

Lads on tour: Pau edition.

To help me unravel the various questions asked by this testing track, I sought help from the best: indisputable eventing legend and course designer Ian Stark, who has been helping our American riders with their cross country tactics this year, the #ThunderFromDownUnder himself, Boyd Martin, the brilliant Buck Davidson, and European first-timer and expert OTTB pilot Allie Knowles.

What I saw frightened and thrilled me in equal measure.

One of my kindly sherpas. I like to think Ian has named his bike Murphy.

Fence 1: Centaure Events

Fence one.

It’s big and it’s beefy, but its easy-to-read profile and abundance of visual aids and groundlines mean that this should set our horses and riders up easily for a straightforward first effort. It’s placed right next to the entrance chute to the arena, and riders will have to gallop away down towards the lorry park and warm-up arenas, so the main focus between fences 1 and 2 will be getting the horses to focus on the task at hand and not nap for home.

Fence 2: Bac de Chataignier/Ville de Pau

Fence two.

Another big, square-profiled fence, this one appears on the back of a hairpin bend that will bring horse and rider away from the warm-up arena and lorry park. There’s a tree in the middle of the track so riders can cut inside and angle the fence or swing wide and get a straight approach, but this early in the course probably isn’t the time to try to utilise time-saving strategies.

Fence 3: Arbre Tordu/Service Espace Vert Ville de Pau

Fence three.

It’s a nice, straight shot down to fence three, a raised log with plenty of foliage to set the horse up. There are no real questions asked here, although the CIC2* fences are in close proximity so a greener horse may need a reminder to focus on the task at hand.

Fence 4: LoxExpo France Oxer

Fence four.

One more spread wide enough to have a nap on with a couple of your closest friends before the real questions start. From here, you can hear the rumble (or purr) of all those speedy little Citroens zooming by.

Fence 5AB: Le Chateau – Bouclier Bearnais

 

Fence 5, element A.

Fence five, element B.

There’s not a lot of terrain at Pau, so Pierre Michelet and his team have been very clever and created lumps, bumps, and mounds to ask some different questions of horses and riders. This first question features one such mound. Riders will canter up to the first element – a fairly big rolltop on the top of the mound – and depending on how they land, will have to make a decision about how they tackle the skinny at the bottom. It’s a bending line, and landing to the right will make it five strides, while cutting in left will make it six. It’s an accuracy question, but not a particularly tricky one: riders just have to think forward and on their feet, be prepared to ride accordingly if their horse props or trips on landing, and not let their focus drift onto the busy main road just ahead of them.

Fence 6: Mur Medicis/Freejumpsystem Table

Fence six.

Just your bog-standard big, hard, solid table, which looks from afar like it’s been painted with beautiful, intricate baroque detailing, but has actually just been attacked at random with some vomit-coloured paint. A forward fence, but going into the trees, so it’s always best to look up so you don’t end up in one, I guess.

This is a fence where riders might be tempted to jump on an angle to shave off a fraction of a second, but Ian Stark says a straight approach is better: “Over-angling is a little bit like over-setting-up: it just saps energy.”

Fence 7AB: Bergerie Point

Fence seven, element A.

Fence seven, element B.

The second combination on course is another rolltop to an accuracy question – in this case, a corner that, on its own, would be a two-star fence, but when installed in this line, takes a bit more riding. The red flag on the corner has been set quite far to the left, giving a narrower point of entry and a smaller margin for error, so riders will need to stick to their line and ride emphatically for it, heading straight for a stride after the rolltop and then turning onto the corner. Trying to angle the entire line will open the door for a run-out, but despite the respect the question needs, Ian cautions against trying to bottle the approach too much, saying, “it should be approached in a slightly stronger stride than a showjumping combination, and riders should set up lightly and then approach the first element in a balanced gallop.”

There’s a bit of a dip on the landing side of the first element, so a particularly exuberant first effort could make a horse stumble and fold slightly – riders will need to be prepared to help out as needed.

Fence 8: Vertical Attelage

Fence eight.

This is a fairly innocuous, airy upright with no solid groundline, but some sort of exciting bush shoved underneath to give a clue or two. It shouldn’t require too much setting up, but it’s been fitted with mim clips in case anyone really misreads it.

Fence 9ABC: Tronc Triple Brush

Fence nine, element A.

Fence nine, element B.

Look, course photography is hard and I was trying to keep up with a lanky Aussie. But here’s the line between 9B and C, sort of.

This is the first serious question on course, and the first time an option has been made available. The direct route is a hanging log topped with brush, over which our intrepid combinations will jump into the water and turn onto a holding four-stride line to a triple brush and then up and out on a longer two-stride line over a second triple-brush. They’ll have to really ride their line and not lose focus or concentration for a second, although Ian assures me that triple brushes are an easy fence for a horse to lock onto and so riders will be able to anchor them on and, even if they chip in or get a less-than-perfect stride, the horse should aim to get between the flags. Still, he says, there’ll be a few that glance off, and for those who are worried, there’s the long route – over the log, right-handed to a big up bank, and then a big loop back around over a skinny. A few inexperienced combinations may choose this route, but anyone with their eye on the clock will be likely to go direct here.

Fence 10: Oxer de Haies

Same, Boyd, same. Fence ten.

Because nothing makes you feel better after tackling a frankly unpleasant combination than galloping down to an enormous, solid oxer, right? I mean, yeah, sure, whatever.

Ideally, riders should jump this at about 3 minutes and 25 seconds, but the previous minute has been a slow one, and they’ll likely find themselves about 15 seconds down on the clock.

Fence 11ABC: Haie/Forestier Combination

Fence eleven, element A.

Fence eleven, element B AFRAID, B VERY AFRAID.

Fence eleven, element C U at the bar.

In case you need a height comparison. Or a Boyd breather. I’ve got your back.

JUST KIDDING. Take a look at the landing side of element A instead.

Oh man. You know the Vicarage Vee? You know how it’s just sort of not very nice? Okay, imagine two of them, sandwiched together on a sharp bending line. Oh, and you’re tackling them after flinging yourself over a huge brush fence on the top of a very steep mound. Control will be key here: it’s still early in the course, and hot event horses throwing themselves down hills is probably a recipe for disaster if left untempered. Riders will plan to ride straight over the first element and turn after a stride to B, which will prevent the horse from getting his eye on the fence too early and will allow it to ride more like an intermediate fence. Then there’s a fence on the landing side that riders should use as a bouncing-off point, riding all the way to it and then turning back to the C element.

Fence 12: Haie de Course

Fence 12. Girthy.

Now the course opens up into the centre of the race track, and with fewer hairpin bends to contend with, riders will be using this middle section to regain some lost seconds. This enormous brush monster is the first fence they’ll meet out here, but although it’s the size of a small Balkan country, it’s actually got a forgiving profile and can be jumped on an open, forward stride.

Fence 13AB: Bac a Laurier Corners

Fence 13, element A. I tried, but I am not, and will never be, as cool as Buck and Allie. I tried so hard that I forgot to take a picture of the B element, but it looks exactly the same, just on the other end of a bending line. #nailingit

These compact corners won’t be the easiest question for horses, who will expect to be moving on in this open space, and they require more respect than may be immediately obvious. Riders will want to square up to the angled rails and get their leg on into them, riding decisively through the dogleg turn before moving on after the B element.

Fence 14: Plateau de Course

Fence 14. I can realistically only fit one of those flowerpots in my house.

A table with more square footage than my apartment, so thanks for making me feel like a failure as an adult, Pierre. That’s really cool. I’m going to steal your flower pots when this event ends.

Fence 15AB: The Coffin

Fence 15A and B, for some idea of ample, heaving mounds.

Not a coffin in the classical sense, as there’s no distinct ditch element, this question actually consists of two skinny logs, each situated on an ample mound. Look, basically you gallop into the cleavage and then back over the other mound, there’s no nice or civilised way to say this. Ian reckons riders should slow down early and expect to land short, and I guess enjoy the curves along the way.

Fence 16: Haie de Laurier Brush

Fence 16.

White rails and an ample (I can’t stop saying ample!) helping of brush on top give easy focal points to both horse and rider, so despite the slightly narrower hole to jump through, which gives the impression almost of a modified owl-hole, this should be another effort where some valuable seconds can be snatched back.

Fence 17: Le Chariot

Fence 17 and Bonus Buck.

One more chunky table before Pierre does his best Mr Burns impression and builds you all another stinker of a combination. Enjoy!

Fence 18AB: Tronc Suspendu

Fence 18, element A.

Fence 18, element B.

Okay, so it’s not as bad as things can – and will – get, but it’s not all fun and games and galloping around anymore, either. Another hanging log curves around to a skinny with some serious spread on it, so the line has to be accurate to give the horse the best chance of clearing it. There’s an alternative route here with another hanging log.

Fence 19: Barriere Anglaise

Fence 19. I’d be offended by the stereotypes if I hadn’t mentioned wine and croissants in almost all of my Pau and Le Lion write-ups so far.

The fence of slightly questionable English stereotypes, including a post box, some merry looking guardsmen, and…lots of red brick? Are we very boring in England? It’s essentially a five-bar gate, so those who hunt through the winter (that is, all the Irish riders in the field) will be whooping with joy at the sight of this one.

Fence 20: Pointe Air France

There’s a lot going on here, but I promise it’s no easier to figure out in person.

BUCKLE UP, BABIES. There is quite literally no line that makes any sense to anyone here and frankly, you’ve not reached the part of the course with swimming rats yet, so I’d just hold my hand up here.

Kidding. Really. But this is a tricky question – possibly the toughest accuracy question on course – and will catch out riders who try to see a line through all three fences, which are separate obstacles, not a combination. Instead, it requires a bending line that uses the rocks in the water as a turning gauge from fence 20 to 21.

Fence 21: Haie Barree

Fence 21.

The middle element of this not-a-combination-but-kind-of-a-combination/maybe actually just the Devil’s own related distance is a straightforward, skinny brush fence. Totally fine on its own, a bit of a bugger when paired with everything else that’s going on here.

Fence 22: Pointe Air France

Fence 22.

Another corner, just like the first, but on the same funny, wonky line. Riders will have to ride every step of the way through these three fences and prepare to adjust their plan depending on their horse’s reactions if they want to make it through without any penalties.

Fence 23: Barriere Blanche

Fence 23. Small, but in need of some riding. Stop giggling, you at the back.

A left-handed turn from 22 brings you to 23, a surprisingly small white upright on the far side of a yawning ditch. This won’t give the nicest feel for horses and riders, who may well do better with something slightly more substantial or brush-topped, so they shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security here and should plan to ride it with respect.

Fence 24: Vertical de Bouleau

Fence 24.

A simple, albeit airy, white birch upright takes us back out of the racetrack and into the final section of the course, where things get seriously twisty again. Horses will be galloping back into crowds at close proximity, and will be tiring at this point, so riders will need to step up to the plate and help them out a bit more. Some horses may realise they’re on the home stretch here, as they come back onto the same part of the course they went off earlier, so they may benefit from a bit of a second wind.

Fence 25: Freejumpsystem Triple Brush

Fence 25. Not pictured: French woman swearing in the carrot patch.

Up a steep mound and away over a triple brush that gives the impression that you’re jumping into space (or at least, into the carrot patch of the nice, elderly French lady who rents the allotment below. Sorry, Antoinette.) Legs on, a forward stride, and a bit of a hold onto the fence, and they’ll be away – but carelessness here will see a few opt to run out the side door.

Fence 26AB: Dome Canard

Fence 26A.

Fence 26B. Have you ever seen a more smug duck?

The final water brings you to the part of the course with ACTUAL SWIMMING RATS, and frankly, they’re more horrifying than anything Michelet will chuck at anyone. Honestly – beaver-sized. Terrible. They eat Jack Russells for breakfast (and loose horses, too). If the riders can avoid them, they’ll be jumping this big rolltop into the water and riding a bending line over the duck in the middle.

The stuff of Orwellian nightmares. If the Jaws theme isn’t playing in your head, there’s something very much the matter with you.

Michael Jung demonstrates the most efficient diving style for outpacing carnivorous rat-beasts.

Fence 27: Table de Pique-Nique

“This is…fine.” Fence 27.

Just another great, big, smug table, which is probably used by the giant rats for their dinner parties with all their horrible friends in the off-season. Or mid-event, whenever they fancy it.

Fence 28: Palette de Peintre

Fence 28.

Despite being covered in colourful paint, this skinny palette in the shadows isn’t hugely obvious visually to horses, particularly those that are flagging a bit at this late stage of the course. Riders will have to sit up and put their legs on, and be prepared to help their horses see a stride.

Fence 29ABC: Maisons Bearnaises

Fence 29A curves down to the B and C elements. Aim to jump an Allie and head for a Michi Jung to nail this one.

Three enormous red houses curl around another typical Pau mound. One sits atop the mound, and the other two are at the bottom and around the bend. Riders will need to land from the first, turn, and set up their line to the second, which will take them at a bit of an angle over the B element and over the flowerpot at the corner of the C element. Probably a straightforward question if it was early on, but could be a test of horse and rider’s remaining resources when late in the course.

Fence 3o: Le Balcon

Fence 30.

“Did…did I leave my straighteners on?”

A big pull up a steep hill to a grey upright with some very stern statues standing guard. No time for your judgment calls today, statues. We’ve still got fences to jump.

Fence 31AB: Double de Haie

The final combination, with added lascivious glances from Ireland’s Aiden Keogh.

The final combination – and the penultimate fence – takes our horses and riders into the main arena and over two tall, angled hedges. It’s not an easy question, but it would be really embarrassing to fall off here, so that might keep a few bums glued to saddles.

Fence 32: Bullfinch

It’s a big’un, as the rather tall James O’Haire demonstrates.

Man, this is hefty, but it’s also THE END, and our tired nags and jockeys will be pleased to sail over it and into the arms of their waiting grooms. It comes off quite a short turn out of the corner, but doesn’t require any excessive thought, just a bit of balance, a straight line, and some leg. Easy, right?

The time is going to be influential on course, and although there are no statement piece fences a la the Cottesmore Leap or the Head of the Lake, there’s plenty for horses and riders to do and lots of places they can easily notch up 20 penalties if they’re not focused and committed throughout. Expect a shakeup of the leaderboard, and tune into the livestream from 12.45pm local time/6.45am EST. We’ll be bringing you all the action here and on our social media, too.

Courtesy of the CrossCountry App, take a look at this interactive course preview:

Les 4 Etoiles de Pau: Website and Live Stream, Schedule, Entries, Scoring, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Twitter, EN’s Instagram

Friday Video from World Equestrian Brands: Boyd Between the Boards

Hands up if you’re an unapologetic Boyd Martin fan! Okay, great, so now that I have, quite literally ALL of your attention, allow me to present you with a little gift from the man himself, who did his dressage with Crackerjack at the Pau CCI4* in France today. We’re all so excited to cheer on Boyd and Crackers as they tackle the formidable cross country course tomorrow – but in the meantime, let’s appreciate the beautiful work they did between the boards today.

Plus, you can play a really fun(?) game called Guess Which Bum is the Eventing Nation Bum. Prizes for the winning guess to include a cuddle with Boyd (sorry, Boyd, I should really have given you a say in this). Look, guys, all I can say is that being an equestrian journalist requires three things: a bit of inherent madness, caffeine instead of blood, and permanently sunburnt ankles.

We’ll be bringing you more of that inherent madness tomorrow as we cover The Fun Bit in France – go Crackers, go Boyd, go Americans in Pau, and go…to sleep if you’re riding a CCI4* cross country course tomorrow, honestly.

Pau Becomes Race for World Number One; Shane Rose Leads after Dressage

The shock withdrawal of Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW from Pau has opened the door for the possibility of a new number one in the FEI World Rankings, a title held by Jung for the past two years.

“I was riding Sam in the morning and I was really motivated – he felt very nice, very soft and relaxed, and then he was in the stables for two hours and I don’t know what happened – my groom was with him the whole time but when we took him out of the box he was really stiff,” explains Michael.

“So I got on and went walking with him, and he felt really not good, so for me it was a good moment to say, ‘I’m not going to try’, because there’s also the cross country. I really feel there’s some problem, but I don’t know what can happen in such a short time. Maybe it was too cold for him in the stable – we’ve never had this problem so at the moment I don’t know what’s happening.”

A team of veterinarians and physios have since been examining Sam to try to pinpoint the problem and get him back on track. We wish Sam a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing the dynamic duo out and about next season: with a big grin, Michael tells me we will see him at Badminton.

The withdrawal throws the door wide open for two outliers, each with two horses in the field, to overtake Michael in the world rankings. Now, the competitive fires at Pau aren’t just burning for a CCI4* victory: they’re burning for the chance to take the top spot on the FEI leaderboard, too.

Mark Todd and NZB Campino slot into 3rd place overnight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Mark Todd has picked up many accolades in his storied career, but he hasn’t been World Number One since coming out of retirement. Now, however, he stands a chance. Sitting in third on a score of 40.2 with NZB Campino and equal fifth on 40.4 with Kiltubrid Rhapsody, he’s given himself a seriously competitive starting point.

Andrew Nicholson and Jet Set. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Fellow Kiwi Andrew Nicholson earned himself the number one ranking in 2013, and although he sits a fair bit lower on the leaderboard after dressage – 11th and 42.1 with Qwanza and 31st and 49.4 with Jet Set – he’s a force to be reckoned with on cross country and will have his eyes on a serious climb after the second phase.

Between the two, it’s a true match race, and EquiRatings took an in-depth look at which scenarios can lead to Andrew or Mark taking over the World Number One position. Andrew can pass Michael by finishing fifth or better with one horse, but if Mark delivers on both of his horses, both have to notch points on both horses to be in contention for the title. Click here to read more on the race for World Number One.

Shane Rose and CP Qualified lead the field at Pau heading into cross country. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The lead was snatched early in the day by Australia’s Shane Rose and CP Qualified, who posted a 38.7 despite adding two penalties for going off course in the canter work. They sit a full point ahead of second-placed Ros Canter and Zenshera, but the margins are tight throughout the top ten: less than four points separate Shane from tenth-placed Sammi Birch, and third through eighth have just 0.4 points between them.

Maxime Livio and Opium de Verrieres lie in equal third overnight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Last year’s winner Maxime Livio put in a competitive effort, scoring 40.2 to sit equal third with Opium de Verrieres in a test which looked set to rival the lead, trending in the mid-30s for the first half.

Karin Donckers and Fletcha Van’t Verahof. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Belgium’s Karin Donckers and Fletcha Van’t Verahof slipped into seventh place on 40.5. The pair finished 14th here last year, adding 13.2 time penalties in the second phase, but their 2017 season has been up and down, with a win in the CCI3* at Strzegom and 17th in the European Championships, but retirement at Badminton and elimination in the Nations Cup at Aachen. If they can work in unison across the tricky, technical track they could move into the top placings tomorrow.

Jonty Evans and Cooley Rorkes Drift. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

On the comeback trail, Sam Griffiths laid down a nice test with the experienced Paulank Brockagh to score 42.8 and lie 12th overnight. Jonty Evans and Cooley Rorkes Drift looked ready to leave the start box already, performing an expressive, fluid test for 43.2 and 16th.

Boyd and Crackers post a 48. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Boyd Martin sits in 28th place overnight with Crackerjack. Their score of 48 is just 0.3 higher than their four star personal best, which was earned here last year. If they can repeat last year’s cross country performance, they could find themselves in a similarly competitive position at the end of the day tomorrow.

“He’s a funny horse – he can get quite excited, but you’ve also got to warm him up and leave enough in the tank, so it’s a very fine balance,” explains Boyd. “I’ve got to work out how much to warm him up and still have enough expression there. He’s seasoned, but we’ve still got a mission ahead of us. It’s a very tough course, but he’s a trier.”

Cross country kicks off tomorrow at 12.45 local time/6.45am EST, and can be followed along on the Pau livestream. We’ll be bringing you a full course preview later on this afternoon so you can get to grips with the technical, twisty course.

Times are as follows:

  • Buck Davidson and Copper Beach (21st place): 1.41pm local time/7.41am EST
  • Joe Meyer and Clip Clop (51st place): 1.48pm local time/7.48am EST
  • Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect (33rd place): 2.26pm local time/8.26am EST
  • Boyd Martin and Crackerjack (28th place): 3.12pm local time/9.12am EST

The top ten at the conclusion of dressage at Les 4 Etoiles de Pau.

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Ros Canter Strides to Early Pau Lead; Two Americans Sit in Top 20

Overnight leaders Ros Canter and Zenshera. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Several riders flirted with a sub-40 mark in today’s dressage, but only one managed it. British rider Ros Canter and her own Zenshera threw down the gauntlet with a 39.7, putting themselves in an enviable position going into the next phase. Remarkably, in 20 international runs, Ros and Zenshera have only had one problem in the cross country – Ros fell in the Nations Cup competition at The Plains in 2016. Their only other non-completion came in the form of a withdrawal before the final phase in the CIC3* at Bramham in 2014. This year, they’ve notched up several strong results, including ninth place at Luhmuhlen CCI4*. They usually pick up a smattering of time penalties, so on a course where the time will be tricky to make, this could be influential for them.

Mark Todd and Kiltubrid Rhapsody sit in joint second place on 40.4. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Mark Todd and four star first-timer Frankie Reid-Warrilow each came within a hair’s breadth of breaking the 40 barrier, both scoring 40.4 on Kiltubrid Rhapsody and Dolley Whisper, respectively, to sit in joint second.

Andrew Nicholson and Qwanza pick the right moment for a PB. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Andrew Nicholson and Qwanza took an early lead with their score of 42.1, a personal best in international competition for the horse, but dropped down to sixth as the day progressed. Andrew is aiming for a record 50th CCI4* completion this decade, and with two horse’s in this week’s competition, he seems unlikely to fail.

Buck Davidson and Copper Beach sit 11th after the first day of dressage. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Both Buck Davidson and Allie Knowles sit in the top 20 after the first half of dressage. Buck’s test aboard Copper Beach earned them a 46.1 and provisional 11th place.

“He’s very reliable, you know, he just goes in and does his thing,” says Buck. “He’s maybe not the fanciest, but he doesn’t make any big mistakes. I got a little bit nervous coming down here, as you have to ride by the cross country and I’m not sure they don’t think they’re heading out for cross country. I’m happy with him – it can always be better, but I think we’re in the hunt, at least.”

Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect sit in 17th place overnight at Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

His student Allie Knowles rode Sound Prospect in the final section of the day and produced a relaxed, flowing test for 49.8 and 17th place.

“I’m feeling great! He was as good as he’s ever been in the walk and the trot – usually he gets nervous in the trot, and I can rely on the canter,” she says. “We’ve really been working on our flying changes, and that sort of came through in my canter work – he was a little bit less predictable than he normally is in the canter, but he was way more reliable in the trot, so I’m feeling really happy with that! My goal is always to break the 50s and we’ve been knocking at that door, so to get a 49.8 – I will take it! That was the first test where I thought, ‘oh my gosh, I can make this so much better’ – and that’s really exciting. I’m really proud of him, and we’re ready to move forward to the fun phase now!”

Joe Meyer and Clip Clop sit 28th overnight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

US-based Kiwi Joe Meyer posted a  CCI4* personal best with Clip Clop, scoring 54.6 to sit in 28th place.

“I’m sad for a couple of little mistakes here and there, but he got all his changes today, which is great,” says Joe. “He’s not easy – he’s quite hot, and he’s really fit, but he just gets a bit better every time!”

He’s now looking ahead to the cross country, of which he laughs, “I’m scared sh*tless! No, I’m not really – it’s not tall and wide like I’m used to, but it’s very tricky. But he’s rideable and nippy and it’ll really suit him.”

Today’s leaders sit on enviable scores but tomorrow is another day, and the morning’s session sees several horse and rider combinations who could easily threaten them, including another ride each for Andrew Nicholson and Mark Todd, as well as last week’s Le Lion winner Astier Nicolas. According to the stats chaps at EquiRatings, Michael Jung holds the record for the most sub-40 scores at this event – he’s notched up four – and his horse, La Biosthetique Sam FBW is not only the undisputed champion of absolutely bloody everything, he’s also got the lowest dressage average in the field at 36.3.

Jonty Evans and Cooley Rorkes Drift working at Le Lion d’Angers last week. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ireland’s Jonty Evans and Cooley Rorkes Drift are able to produce a very competitive test, too, and come here off the back of a win in their final run at Oasby Horse Trials. They’ll be quietly determined to finish their year on a high after the rollercoaster ride of the summer, which saw Jonty miss a crucial chunk of the season, including the European Championships, while the horse’s ownership dispute was resolved. With a fit, well-prepared horse and a degree of separation from the summer, the duo cannot be discounted and will certainly be one of the favourites to score well.

Shane Rose and CP Qualified are also capable of sub-40 scores – they’ve tallied six in total across their CCI and CIC3* runs, and they’ve done it once at CCI4*, too, at Adelaide in 2013. If they can produce the test they’re capable of and then, crucially, maintain communication across the country, they stand a chance of a top placing.

Jonelle Price schooling Faerie Dianimo at Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Make sure to watch Jonelle Price in her first four-star since the birth of baby Otis, too – she and Faerie Dianimo have come to Pau twice before, scoring in the high 40s both times, but they’ve also thrown down a 32.8 FOD at Luhmuhlen CCI4*, and Jonelle won’t have come here to hack around. They rarely run into problems on the cross-country so if they can come within even a few points of a PB, they could steal the win in a comeback coup.

Sam Griffiths is another top competitor on the comeback trail: he brings the experienced Paulank Brockagh here for his first big competition since a broken neck put him on the sidelines through the summer. The pair won their two runs prior to travelling to France and have experience over Pierre Michelet’s tracks – they came fourth at the Rio Olympics.

Boyd Martin and Crackerjack contest Pau in 2016. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

And then there’s Boyd! Boyd Martin and Crackerjack are back to dispel their Pau demons after narrowly missing out on a top ten placing last year when they were spun at the final trot-up. They tend to score in the high 40s to low 50s, so a mid-40s PB would stand them in great stead to put in a competitive run around a course that Boyd has ridden several times. They do their test at 9.56am local time/3.56am EST, if you’re a night owl and love a good live stream!

For more stats and facts about the field here at Pau, check out EquiRatings’ blog post. Got your eye on a particular combination? Compare your predictions with those of the gang at The Eventing Podcast. We’ll be back tomorrow with all the juiciest news that eventing media can provide!

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All American Combinations Pass First Horse Inspection at Pau

Copper Beach gets his best morning face on for the first horse inspection at Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

63 horse and rider combinations trotted up as the sun rose over Pau this morning, and all 63 – including our three American combinations – passed and will go on to dressage, despite holds for Ben Hobday‘s Lawless Lil and Laurence Hunt‘s Wie Donna’s Niieuwmoed.

Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Both Buck Davidson and Copper Beach and Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect will do their dressage this afternoon, while Boyd Martin and Crackerjack will compete tomorrow morning. We’ll also be following US-based Kiwi Joe Meyer, who rides Clip Clop this afternoon.

Boyd Martin and Crackerjack. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Today’s times are as follows:

  • Buck Davidson and Copper Beach: 3.30pm local time/9.30am EST
  • Joe Meyer and Clip Clop: 3.59pm local time/9.59am EST
  • Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect: 5.31pm local time/11.31am EST

You can follow along on the Pau website or Facebook page, where all the action will be livestreamed, and be sure to keep an eye on EN, where we’ll be bringing you updates and news across the competition!

Les 4 Etoiles de Pau: Website and Live Stream, Schedule, Entries, Scoring, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Twitter, EN’s Instagram

Americans Abroad: Catching Up at Les Etoiles de Pau

Deep in the south of France, nestled into the Pyrenees mountains, 64 of the world’s best horse and rider combinations are gearing up to tackle the final northern hemisphere CCI4* of the year. This year, we have three Americans in the running — so we caught up with Boyd MartinBuck Davidson, and Allie Knowles to find out how their horses have settled in and what they think of the challenge to come.

Buck Davidson, Boyd Martin and Allie Knowles: our intrepid Americans at Pau! Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Allie Knowles has made her first competitive trip abroad following a season of ups, downs and a steady climb back to form. She suffered a rotational fall in March at Red Hills International CIC2*, suffering multiple breaks to the right-hand side of her body and crossing Kentucky off her spring to-do list. By June, through sheer determination, she left the start box at Plantation Field. Now, she brings her top horse, the Sound Prospect Syndicate’s 15-year-old OTTB Sound Prospect, to France to make up for their missed CCI4* this spring.

“This is both of our first trip to Europe, so I’m basically just following these two guys and learning from the best here,” she laughs. “I’m really looking forward to giving this a try, and just happy that I was able to fit it into my schedule and do something this year.”

The combination come to Pau on the back of a win in the Advanced division at Morven Park as well as a ninth-place finish in the CIC3* at Richland Park earlier in the season.

Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Buck Davidson and the 11-year-old Copper Beach are also seeking redemption after a Rolex that didn’t go to plan.

“He’s been very good this fall, but he had a bit of a rough spring,” he explains. “He went to Kentucky, but he just didn’t feel right to me — he was totally sound, he just pulled something in his back, so I chose not to run him.”

Just a few weeks prior, Carl Segal and Sherrie Martin’s rangy chestnut had won the CIC3* at Chattahoochee Hills and, despite the spring setback, they would go on to win the Advanced at the Richland Park Horse Trials and the Plantation Field CIC3*.

“He’s been going very well and he feels great,” he says. “We’ve won two CIC3* this year — so now we’re going to try to win a four-star!”

Buck Davidson and Copper Beach. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Boyd Martin‘s ride Crackerjack, owned by Lucy Boynton Lie, has clocked up plenty of frequent flyer miles, contesting Badminton Horse Trials, Luhmuhlen and Pau in the 2016 season.

“He’s done a bit — this is his seventh four-star,” says Boyd. After a tumble at Badminton’s notorious Vicarage Vee, the duo rerouted to Luhmuhlen last year, finishing 10th after a fast clear round across the country and a single rail on the final day. Then, they got on the long road to Pau, where they found themselves lying in sixth place after cross country. But it wasn’t to be: despite the best ministrations of the team, Crackers was spun at the final horse inspection, leaving Pau as a big ‘what if’ on the horse’s record.

Boyd’s familiarity with both horse and course should play in his favour this week, although he admits that the tight, twisty course “doesn’t really suit Crackers that well, because he’s a bit wild and hard to control, so I’m better off on a more straight, galloping, big fence course.”

But, he says, “I love riding here: I’ve ridden Remington here, and Crackers, and Welcome Shadow. It’s a different style of cross country riding — it’s like a go-kart track, and you need a brave, honest, quick-thinking horse. It probably doesn’t give you the best feel when you finish the course — you feel exhausted, and you’ve been pulling the horse around everywhere, but I’ve got to say, I think eventing’s going towards this. Narrows, corners, mounds, lumps and humps — we’d better get used to it.”

Boyd Martin and Crackerjack contest Pau in 2016. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

The American horses flew over together and spent a few days in Chantilly, near Paris, unwinding after their journey and preparing for the next leg.

Buck Davidson and Copper Beach schooling at Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“To be honest, the flying’s the easy part,” says Buck. “Pau is a difficult event for everyone to get to, whether they’re coming from the U.S., or the UK, or the continent. It took us 14 hours in the truck to get here from Chantilly, and so the biggest thing is getting them here early enough that they have time to acclimatise and feel fresh and ready to go.”

Keeping busy until the last minute, Boyd sent Crackers ahead with his groom while he competed at Waredaca over the weekend.

“Bucky gave mine a jump, and I sent a groom with him so he could have a gallop and a bit of flatwork,  but it’s unusual — usually, you’re riding your horse right up until a four-star, but by the time I got here on Monday I hadn’t seen my horse in seven days!”

We’ll be following along with the trio’s progress this week, as well as all the news and updates from Pau. The Pau Pro himself will be bringing us his insights into the cross country course, too, so if you’ve ever fancied walking a course with Boyd Martin (and look, I once opted not to bother walking the Novice course I was actually riding in favour of trailing around an Intermediate after him, so don’t even try to lie to me), you’ll get your chance this week. Let the mounds, lumps, humps, and Chinchillas commence.

In the meantime, Go Eventing, and Go Americans at Pau!

Les 4 Etoiles de Pau: Website, Schedule, Entries, Scoring

Comeback King Astier Nicolas Claims Seven-Year-Old Championship at Le Lion

Astier Nicolas makes good on his comeback from a broken knee, winning with seven-year-old class aboard Alertamalib’or. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We all put our own riders up on a pedestal in international competition, but nothing can rival the French and their unerring enthusiasm for the cavaliers who wear the tricolour. Le Lion d’Angers has been packed with spectators throughout the competition, but emotions reached a fever pitch during this afternoon’s showjumping finale for the seven-year-old World Championship.

The margins couldn’t have been any tighter at the top, with overnight leaders James Avery and Vitali unable to add a single time penalty if they wanted to maintain their position and just over a rail separating 1st place from 10th.

Sometimes the final day of an event plays out as you expect it to, sometimes the leaderboard gets turned upside down, given a jolly good shake, and set upright again. This was one of those days. No one could quite predict where, exactly, the problems were going to happen, but happen they did, with a rainy and tense game of pick-up sticks playing out through the afternoon.

Two riders had unfortunate falls on course: British rider Alice Pearson took a tumble from Jack the Ginger, despite very nearly pulling off a spectacular save, and French rider Jean Lou Bigot, who had been sitting in eighth place with Aktion de Belheme, was jumped out of the saddle – although he still left the arena to uproarious applause from his dedicated following (which seemed to be, if I’m honest, most of the country).

To put up a double clear proved both rare and incredibly valuable, with six of the day’s eight DCs propelling their horses and riders into the top ten. On the other hand, any mistake proved catastrophic, with major players tumbling out of contention. When Astier Nicolas and Alertamalib’or delivered a fast, clear round, the atmosphere began to reach fever pitch. He lay fourth going into the final phase, but as had been proven throughout the afternoon, all could – and would – change.

Mary King and her homebred King William fall victim to the tricky final phase, slipping from 2nd to 21st. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

In second place before the final phase, Mary King and King Robert saw the most dramatic reversal of fortunes, pulling all three elements of the treble and the final fence, and adding three time penalties to drop 19 places to 21st.

Chris Burton and Lawton Boy finish 11th. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Chris Burton and Lawtown Boy also slipped out of the running, with two poles and three time penalties moving them from third to 11th.

Not their day: leaders James Avery and Vitali give up their crown in the final phase. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kiwi James Avery and Vitali had led throughout the competition, but with a 25% showjumping clear rate this season, they would have to work hard to make it home clear over the testing track. It wasn’t to be: they pulled a rail, and the instant screams and cheers of the crowd threw the young horse’s concentration for a moment, adding another rail and a time penalty to their score and rocketing them down to sixth place.

Astier Nicolas proves that time off hasn’t made him rusty. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

For Astier Nicolas, winning at Le Lion this week is about more than an accolade on Alertamalib’or‘s record. Astier has been sidelined for most of the season after breaking his knee in a fall, and while some of his upper-level horses, like Vinci de la Vigne, have been campaigned by fellow countryman Tom Carlile, his younger horses have enjoyed easy summers before being brought back into work.

“They all seem to go better now that I haven’t been riding them – I wonder if I should take some more time off,” he grinned. He admits that he began riding again earlier than his surgeon recommended, saying, “the surgeon was really happy, because everything ended up being fixed very well, but I do have to do intense rehab to try to fix the effects of the injury. But this is exactly what I came back for – I wouldn’t come back for the long and boring winter, so I had to do some exciting things this autumn.”

Alertamalib’or: your seven-year-old World Champion, and a big fan of snogs. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

He now heads to Pau – because who wouldn’t want to tackle a CCI4* after only six weeks back in action? – with experienced campaigner Molokai, and today’s win will be a huge confidence boost as he tries to regain his 2015 title.

Unstoppable Izzy Taylor finishes second with Direct Cassino. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The remarkable influence asserted by the final phase allowed for other climbers – fresh off of her win in the six-year-old class, Izzy Taylor climbed from ninth to second with Direct Cassino, and frankly, if there’s any lorry I’d want to be hanging out in right now, it’s DEFINITELY hers.

Andrew Nicholson claims another top-ten finish, this time on Yacabo BK. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Andrew Nicholson also recorded another great result here, finishing third on Yacabo BK. The Spanish-bred horse comes from one of two breeders in the country, who Andrew sources almost all of his horses from.

“Yacabo was bred by Quimbo and Qwanza’s breeder, and [six-year-old entry] As Is was bred by Nereo’s breeder,” he explains. “I have a great relationship with both of those breeders – I trust them, and they trust me, and now I get nearly all of my horses from them.” Andrew, too, will now go on to Pau with two horses – one of whom, incidentally, is Qwanza. A good omen? I’d suggest it, but I don’t expect Mr Stickability needs omens to get top results.

“Yacabo’s for sale,” he goes on to tell me, although when I ask how much he wants he tells me it depends on if I want the saddle, too, so I am both nonplussed and also sort of tempted to set up a GoFundMe.

Ben Hobday climbs from 20th to finish 10th with Shadow Man. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

British eventing’s leadership change-around has produced spectacular results so far this year, and their domination of the final leaderboard will only serve to swell the metaphorical coffers of the Great British Rebuilding Project. Taking five places in the top ten, British horses and riders made their presence known, with Gemma Tattersall climbing from 18th with Chilli Knight to seventh and Ben Hobday rising from 20th to 10th with his British Novice champion Shadow ManKylie Roddy and Laura Collett rounded out the British offensive, taking eighth and fourth place, respectively.

Beyond the results themselves, this week has been an incredible litmus test for these talented young horses who could go on to greatness, and it’s been an interesting insight into what’s to come. This competition is also a celebration of sport horse breeding, and the Irish Sporthorse Studbook won the top prize for having several well-placed ISH representatives in the competition, including Jesse Campbell‘s I SpyeElizabeth Power‘s DSL The Entertainer and Jonty Evans‘ John the Bull.

Now we – and several of this week’s competitors – look ahead to the final CCI4* of the year (in the Northern hemisphere, at least – I see you, Adelaide), but watch this space, as I’ll be bringing you some Le Lion bonus features over the next few days. You didn’t really think a French international would go by without any weirdness, did you?

Don’t blame it on the sunshine. Don’t blame it on the moonlight. Don’t blame it on the good times. Blame it on the boogie, and definitely play it safe and blame it on the ponies. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

For now – congratulations to our North American representatives, our top-placed riders, and most of all, the very clever baby ponies who make this competition so special. Allez champagne drinking (but not for underage ponies, who may have a celebratory fizzy apple juice instead)!

At the end of all things: the top ten seven-year-olds in the world.

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No Monkeying Around as Izzy Taylor Scoops Six-Year-Old World Championship

A fitting finale: Izzy Taylor and Monkeying Around clinch the six-year-old World Championship at Le Lion d’Angers. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It’s been Izzy Taylor‘s week, and a fitting last hurrah to what has been her most successful season ever. Rounding off the morning’s showjumping session, she jumped an effortless double-clear to clinch the six-year-old World Championship with Monkeying Around, with whom she has led throughout.

“He’s just super,” said Izzy of the dressage-bred Hanoverian, who has now finished on his dressage score in both of his CCI* runs and makes it six wins out of 10 runs this season, never finishing out of the top ten in 2017. “He’s a very good jumper, so I went in thinking that I ought to jump clear, but it’s a massive atmosphere for a six-year-old and you never know how they’ll react. He’s got a great brain, though, and he showed that – everyone was cheering for Paul Tapner when I rode in and he just got on with it and jumped brilliantly. He’s a very exciting horse for the future.”

Izzy Taylor and Monkeying Around. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Owned by Izzy’s partner, Charlie Sands, Monkeying Around was originally bought as a sales prospect, but Izzy spotted his potential.

“I hunted him hard as a rising-five-year-old, and then hunted him hard again the following winter, and he’s come out as a six-year-old very consistent and with a great brain,” she said.

Big things to come: Monkeying Around enjoys a fuss after his winning showjumping round. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This morning’s showjumping proved considerably more influential than yesterday’s cross country, with 16 out of 39 starters jumping double-clears. The field had been slightly thinned by the withdrawal of Peter Flarup and Fascination before the final horse inspection, at which Sarah Ennis’ Cooley Cosmopolitan Diamond was also spun.

It was tight at the top with no margin for error, and as pole after pole came down in the early rounds the pressure was packed on for the final riders. Rebecca-Juana Gerken and Day of Glory 4 of Germany succumbed to green errors, pulling two rails and slipping from ninth to 16th place. France’s Mathieu Lemoine also dropped out of the top ten, adding four faults with Better Win and slipping from seventh to 11th place. This allowed Great Britain’s Hayden Robert Hankey and You’ve Got The Lux to move into 10th place from 14th, finishing on their dressage score of 46.7.

Ireland’s Elizabeth Power and DSL The Entertainer pull a rail to finish in fifth place. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ireland’s Elizabeth Power and DSL The Entertainer took some pressure off the leaders when they brought a pole down, putting them on a score of 45 and moving down to fifth place. Sarah Bullimore and Corouet suffered the same misfortune and dropped to sixth.

The door was opened for fifth-placed Tom Carlisle and Birmane and eighth-placed Jesse Campbell and I Spye to move up to third and fourth, respectively, giving the French rider his ninth consecutive finish without adding to his dressage score at this competition.

Paul Tapner and Bob Chaplin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Second-placed Paul Tapner‘s double-clear aboard Bob Chaplin was bittersweet, as he finished half a penalty point behind Izzy Taylor, despite having gone off-course in his dressage test.

“I’m exceptionally disappointed and very upset and in a lot of trouble with my team, because I made a mistake that cost me the lead,” he said.

Jonty Evans and John the Bull finish in 9th place. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

A very nearly foot-perfect showjumping round by Jonty Evans and John the Bull saw them cross the finish just a fraction of a second over the optimum time, adding a penalty and leaving them in ninth place, a placing above their overnight position but two places down from where a double-clear would have put them.

Tiana Coudray and G finish in 18th place, the highest-placed North American combination. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tiana Coudray and knocked just one rail to move from 21st to 18th place, finishing on a score of 52.5, and fellow British-based American Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver did the same to add four faults and finish in 36th.

Mike Winter and Center. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Mike Winter and Center pulled three rails and added a time penalty but stayed in 37th place.

We’ll be back soon with full coverage from the seven-year-old championships, and a gallery of the week’s action on our Facebook page. You can also catch the livestream on the Le Lion website, so pour yourself a glass of burgundy, grab a croissant, and ignore the members of your family who say that this is problematic behaviour first thing in the morning: you’ve got French eventing to watch, and it must be done properly.

The final top ten in the World Championship for Six-Year-Olds at Le Lion d’Angers.

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Leaders Unchanged at Le Lion; Changing of the Guard Within CCI** Top Ten

Izzy Taylor and Monkeying Around over one of the elaborately-designed fences on Pierre Michelet’s CCI* course. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Say what you like about the French: they know how to have a good time. The atmosphere at Le Lion today was electric from before the start of cross-country, with thick crowds at every fence and loud cheering for every rider. Even the galloping stretches along the back of the course drew crowds, who urged horses and riders along in a manner you’d expect at Burghley or Badminton, certainly, but not a CCI* or CCI**.

The excitement is REAL. The French definitely get it. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

After a long day of cross country, the overnight leaders in both classes proved untouchable on course. Both Izzy Taylor on Monkeying Around and James Avery on Vitali will remain in the top positions of their respective sections going into tomorrow’s final horse inspection and showjumping.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver clear the last. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The CCI* track caused few problems for the six-year-olds this morning, with just four of the 45 starters having problems with the track and only seven combinations of the 41 finishers not making the time. Early starter Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver received 11 penalties for breaking a frangible pin, which Liz plans to contest.

Elizabeth Power and DSL The Entertainer sit in third place going into the final phase. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It could be argued that a championship track should be far more influential, but when dealing with young horses, particularly those that will be aimed at the upper levels, confidence-building at this stage is as crucial as competitive results.

The nurturing track meant that the top ten remained unchanged at the end of the day, but for one minor change: Elizabeth Power and DSL The Entertainer managed to slip ahead of Sarah Bullimore and Corouet, with whom they were tied for third place after dressage, as Elizabeth finished closer to the optimum time.

Jonty Evans and John the Bull cruise around within the optimum time. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This puts two Irish combinations in the top ten going into the final phase – a great boon for a country that, despite producing some of the best horses in the world, doesn’t always get the results it ought to. Jonty Evans and John the Bull maintain 10th place overnight.

Tiana Coudray and G. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Mike Winter and Center proved able trailblazers, posting a fast, tidy clear round within the time to get the day off to a great start. This allowed them to move up from 46th to 37th place, and they’ll contest the showjumping on their dressage score of 60.1. Tiana Coudray and G also posted a double-clear, but because of a lack of movement through the leaderboard only climbed one place to 21st.

Paul Tapner and ‘perfect’ Bob Chaplin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Second place remains well within the grasp of Paul Tapner and the horse he referred to as “Perfect Bobbins, because he’s practically perfect in every way!” Paul, who is now an ‘elite amateur’ rather than a full-time professional eventer, praised the horse’s easy temperament and rideability, saying, “I do very little riding and a lot of office work, so it’s nice that I can ride him with very little concentration or give him a couple of days off and he’s still perfect.”

Laura Collett and Sir Papillon successfully negotiate 21C. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The CCI** proved more influential, with several combinations faulting at the final big question, the Devoucoux Cottage at 21ABC. The tricky line featured a sizeable drop onto a steep hill, an arrowhead and finally a skinny brush, all on a curving line, and for these young horses any lapse of concentration would throw them off the line.

It was this combination that caught out Stephanie Bohe and Classic Royetta, who had been in third place going into this phase, and Stephanie opted to retire. Five combinations were eliminated on course, including Madison Penfound and QEH Ocean Voyage and two chose to retire. Seven of the 48 finishers picked up jumping penalties, and there were 18 double-clears, allowing a reshuffle among the top contenders in the class.

James Avery and Vitali make the charge to the final fence. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Overnight leaders James Avery and Vitali didn’t produce one of those double clears – they added 1.6 time penalties, which doesn’t cost them the lead but narrows the margin to less than a penalty between them and second-placed Mary King and King Robert. This means that if Mary jumps a double-clear tomorrow, James can’t afford a single rail or a single second over the optimum time.

Andrew Nicholson and Yacabo BK move up into the top ten. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Outliers Andrew Nicholson and Yacabo BK climbed from 14th to 10th place after producing a clean, fast round, and second-placed Jean Lou Bigot and Aktion de Belheme slipped to eighth place after adding 2.4 time penalties.

One of the most surprising upsets of the day was that of Tom Carlile and Atos Barbotiere, who added 20 jumping and 10 time penalties to break Tom’s remarkable streak in which he’s finished on his dressage score in eight consecutive runs at this competition.

Jean Lou Bigot and Aktion de Belheme. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The top ten is tight going into the final phase: there isn’t a pole between the top nine and so any miscalculations or green errors will be seriously costly.

We’ll be back tomorrow with photos and updates from the final horse inspection, before the showjumping kicks off around midday. Ta-ta for now, chums!

The top ten in the CCI* going into tomorrow morning’s final horse inspection and showjumping.

The top ten after cross country in the CCI**.

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Cross Country At Le Lion: Your Comprehensive Guide

The Owl Hole has been repurposed as a fence decoration this year. Photo courtesy of Mondial du Lion. The Owl Hole has been repurposed as a fence decoration this year. Photo courtesy of Mondial du Lion.

Good morning from the Loire, where the sunshine is cascading over a sprawling course that’s already heaving with excited spectators. As it turns out, Le Lion is a BIG DEAL to the French, and everyone, horsey or otherwise, turns out to enjoy a day out here. Groups of schoolchildren were tottering around like little ducklings yesterday – picture the very straight lines of Madeline and you’re most of the way there. I definitely never got to go eventing with my school, so I’m feeling a bit ripped off at the moment.

There’s no time for sulking, though: there are horses to watch and cross country fences to manoeuvre and honestly, guys, this course is STUNNING, so it’s a real treat to walk around. Le Lion is famous for its creative decorations, and it’s clear that the builders have put real thought and love into making Pierre Michelet’s championship track as visually appealing as possible. Le Lion is based at a racetrack, and the space within the confines of the track and through the surrounding woods has been cleverly utilised.

The six-year-olds start the day’s proceedings at 10.30am local time/4.30am EST, and Canada’s Mike Winter will be the trailblazer with Centre. They’re sitting in 46th place at the moment on a 60.1, which knocks them out of contention for a top placing, but completing this competition is a valuable educational experience for a young horse who will be aimed at the upper levels, and championship courses, in the future.

At no other CCI* or CCI** will horses be faced with such a huge atmosphere, big crowds, and almost tangible buzz, so very often, actually winning it is of less importance than installing that crucial set of tools. With a course length of 4640m and an optimum time of 8 minutes and 56 seconds, this is likely the longest course these horses will ever have tackled.

“It’s a bold, inviting, attacking course, and should build their confidence as they go along,” says Ireland’s Elizabeth Power, currently sitting in equal third place with DSL The Entertainer.

Izzy Taylor agrees, adding: “it’s beautifully presented, too!”

Fence 22: the Exchequer of ATOLL. Photo courtesy of Mondial du Lion.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver head out early, too, leaving the start box at 10.36 am/4.36am EST. Tiana Coudray and G will start at 11.30am/5.30am EST. Overnight leader Izzy Taylor and Monkeying Around begin at 11.24am/5.24am EST.

Literally the stuff of nightmares. Photo by Paul Tapner.

The CCI** for seven-year-olds will begin at 1.30pm local time/7.30am EST, and current leader James Avery will pilot Vitali around at 3.11pm/9.11am EST. Canada’s Madison Penfound and QEH Ocean Voyage head out at 3.52pm/9.52am EST. The course is 5100m long with an optimum time of 9 minutes and 17 seconds.

Fence one. Photo by Paul Tapner.

To view the CCI* course, courtesy of second-placed Paul Tapner and the Cross Country App, click here. 

There will be a live stream of all of today’s cross country available on the Le Lion website – see below for link.

We’ll be bringing you all the news as it happens and a full round-up of the day’s action this afternoon, so stay tuned for more, and allez eventing!

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#FlashbackFriday Video from World Equestrian Brands: Michael Jung’s 4* Streak

#TGIF, am I right? Although at this time of year, Fridays become more and more bittersweet, as each one takes us closer to the end of the eventing season (in Northern Europe, at least!). Luckily, we’ve got Le Lion and Pau to enjoy before we put it all to bed, and this week’s Friday video looks ahead to next week at Pau, where we’ll see a certain modern legend have a crack at one of the few titles he’s never won.

To get you all in the mood, we’re looking back at his Grand Slam win last year — who’s your pick to win the French four-star next week?

Le Lion Roundup: Tight at the Top in the Seven-Year-Old Championship

James Avery in the post-dressage press conference. He holds the lead in the seven-year-old championship with Vitali. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The top spots were well-protected throughout the day at Le Lion, as James Avery followed Izzy Taylor’s example to hold his lead in the seven-year-old class with Vitali.

“He’s really starting to come into his own and get the hang of eventing – he’s really cool,” said James of the former Jock Paget ride. “He’s got a good brain, which is really helpful. He’s a great jumper and there’s plenty for him to do out there [on the cross country course] tomorrow, so hopefully he’s fit enough! It’ll be a new thing for him to see a lot of people but we’ll do our best. It’s all a learning curve with the young ones.

Chris Burton and Lawton Boy sit in fifth place going into cross country. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Second place was clinched for the home nation by Jean Lou Bigot and Aktion de Belheme, and Germany’s Stephanie Bohe and Classic Royetta moved into third, pushing Mary King and King Robert down to fourth overnight. Australia’s Chris Burton earned a 44.4 with Lawtown Boy to claim fifth place, putting him into a competitive position going into the phase at which he excels.

Tom Carlile and Atos Barbotiere. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tom Carlile put in another strong performance, scoring 44.6 with Atos Barbotiere (doesn’t that name give you lovely flashbacks?!) to sit in equal sixth, tied with teammate Astier Nicolas.

Izzy Taylor and Direct Cassini. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Not one to do things by halves, Izzy Taylor added another good test to the week’s tally, holding down the fort in ninth place with Direct Cassino on a score of 45.5. Her teammate Laura Collett sits in equal tenth place with Sir Papillon. In five international runs, the horse has never had a cross country jumping penalty and has added time penalties twice, so Laura will be aiming for another double clear over the long track.

Laura Collett and Sir Papillon. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

 

Madison Penfound and QEH Ocean Voyage. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Canada’s Madison Penfound sits in 53rd place with QEH Ocean Voyage on a score of 59.6.

The cross country starts tomorrow at 10.30am local time/3.30am EST, beginning with the six-year-olds. We’ll be bringing you all the action as it happens, plus some insight into the beautiful course. In the meantime, macaron consumption will be at an all-time high. Au revoir!

The top ten in the seven-year-old championship going into tomorrow’s cross country.

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Le Lion Lunchtime: Taylor Defends Her Throne from New Entries into Top 10

Izzy Taylor and Monkeying Around hold their lead going into Saturday’s cross country. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There have been some worthy efforts this morning at Le Lion d’Angers, but no one could catch the reigning queen of the six-year-olds. Izzy Taylor and Monkeying Around hold their lead going into tomorrow’s cross country, with Paul Tapner and Sarah Bullimore maintaining second and third place, respectively.

Elizabeth Power and DSL The Entertainer move into equal third in the six-year-old class. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

One combination that made an impression on the judge’s was Ireland’s Elizabeth Power and DSL The Entertainer. This is the horse’s debut at CCI* level, but he added just one pole to his dressage score of 37.3 to finish 2nd in the CIC* at Millstreet in Ireland, so they could be in the hunt at the end of the weekend. The clean and confident test the pair produced today hinted at a horse who’s perhaps more mature for his age than some of his competition, and was rewarded with a 41 to sit in equal third place with Sarah Bullimore and Corouet.

I’m told that Mathieu Lemoine did actually ride a horse at some point today. I guess I was distracted? Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The home nation saw another of its riders move into a competitive place on the leaderboard as Mathieu Lemoine and the aptly-named Better Win posted a 43 for seventh place. Mathieu has an enviable record of cross country success: in his 20 international completions this season, he’s only added 20 penalties once, added time penalties twice, and retired once. Otherwise, he’s finished on his dressage score in 10 of those 20 competitions, so expect to see him still in contention on Sunday morning.

Jesse Campbell and I Spye celebrate after a competitive test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kiwi talent Jesse Campbell also snuck into the top ten, posting a 43.4 with I Spye. The youngster has had an up-and-down season, with five top-ten finishes at Novice (Preliminary) level and 11th and 9th place finishes at his first two CIC* attempts, but two eliminations, one at Novice and one at CIC* level. He went to the British Young Horse Championships as a final prep run before Le Lion, scoring 47.6 and pulling a rail before being withdrawn prior to cross-country. It’s clear that this is a horse that can pull out a big result on his day, so Jesse will likely aim to give him a steady, confidence-building ride around the cross country course, rather than riding for the time.

Jonty Evans and John the Bull round out the top ten in the six-year-old class. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Another Irish rider rounded out the top ten, which currently spans six nations. Jonty Evans rode a quiet, tidy test aboard John the Bull to score a 45.6 and take tenth place. Cross country is this horse’s strong point: he hasn’t had a jumping penalty since April 2016 at his second-ever event, and, says Jonty, “he’s probably the best cross country horse I’ve ever sat on.” He came 6th, 6th and 8th in his three CIC* runs so Jonty will be looking to produce two fast, clear rounds in order to climb the leaderboard.

Tiana Coudray and go into cross country in 22nd place, while Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver sit in 36th. The sole Canadian representative in the class, Mike Winter with Centre, is in 46th place.

That’s it for the six-year-olds now, but we’ll be back this afternoon with all the latest news from the seven-year-old championship, so keep it locked onto EN!

The top ten in the six-year-old CCI* going into tomorrow’s cross country.

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Le Lion End of Day Report: James Avery and Vitali Lead Seven-Year-Olds

Keeping it in the family: Emily King takes on supergroom duties for mum Mary, who posted a 44.3 in the seven-year-old championship with King Robert II. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This afternoon’s competition at Le Lion d’Angers shone the spotlight on the seven-year-olds. In a true blast from the past, Mary King topped the leaderboard from the off with King Robert II, and held her lead throughout the afternoon. Mary’s last international win was in 2011, when she won Rolex with Kings Temptress — the dam of her ride today. His sire is equally impressive: William Fox-Pitt’s Badminton winner, Chilli Morning.

Also keeping it in the family: mum Marcelle grooms for Gemma Tattersall and Chilli Knight. Deja vu, perhaps? Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Another son of Chilli Morning who took to the main arena this afternoon was Gemma Tattersall‘s Chilli Knight, who suffered a few green moments to score 53.4 and sit in 15th overnight. Chilli Knight’s dam was Kings Gem, who was bred and produced by Mary before Gemma took the ride in 2008. There’s obviously something in the water in Devon (or Mary has a good eye for a horse — we’re willing to consider both options).

James Avery and Vitali take the lead on 42. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Mary couldn’t quite keep her lead overnight: the final rider of the day, New Zealand’s James Avery, managed to squeak ahead of her with a correct, expressive test aboard Vitali. James has taken over fellow countryman Jock Paget’s former UK base and several of his owners, affording him the opportunity to expand his business and begin to make a name for himself on the world stage. Vitali is one such former Jock ride, and since taking over last year, James has gone from strength to strength with the youngster, culminating in a win in the CIC2* at Gatcombe International last month.

Comeback king: Astier Nicolas sits in third with Alertamalib’or. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Astier Nicolas proved that missing half the season due to a broken knee hadn’t made him rusty — his competitive score of 44.6 puts him and Alertamalib’or into third place overnight.

Expect a seismic shift in the leaderboard tomorrow afternoon, when several hotly-tipped combinations will enter the ring. Our sole North American competitor tomorrow, Madison Penfound, will ride at 2.24 p.m. local time/8.24 a.m. EST.

As a parting gift to you: a tasty stat from EquiRatings, who tell us that no seven-year-old has finished on a sub-40 score at international 2* level in 2017. Could this change this week? Watch this space.

 

The cream of the crop after the first day of dressage in the seven-year-old championship at Le Lion.

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Your Le Lion Lunchtime Roundup: Izzy Taylor Leads, Tiana Coudray in 10th

You’d be forgiven for suspecting that 24 CCI* dressage tests in a row might be a bit boring — but at the World Championships for Perfect Baby Ponies, as it shall henceforth be called, it’s anything but. These are fit, well-bred six-year-olds at their first big party, and there’s a goblin living in the flowerpot at F, so the entertainment levels are high.

The talent-spotting’s not bad, either: As we discussed last week, previous years’ leaderboards read like a who’s-who of top-class talent on the world stage. Any of these horses could be the next Mr Bass or Toledo de Kerser, and part of the fun is trying to pick out which ones have that special something.

Paul Tapner and Bob Chaplin sit in second on 38.1. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Thursday morning is never a rider’s favourite time to head down the centreline, as good scores tend to be harder to get, and this morning was no exception. A streak of scores in the 50s and 60s was broken by Australia’s Paul Tapner, who posted a 38.1 aboard Bob Chaplin. This is the horse’s first CCI*, and the score bests their four CIC* tests. In Bob Chaplin’s two seasons he’s never had any cross-country jumping penalties, so this combination (or ‘couple’, as the commentator here insists on saying) will certainly be ones to watch this weekend.

Izzy Taylor and Monkeying Around leave nothing on the table to take the lead in the six-year-old championship. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Paul was able to hold the lead for most of the morning’s competition, but was pipped to the post at the eleventh hour by Great Britain’s Izzy Taylor with Monkeying Around. Izzy has had a remarkable season, with 32 wins — including eight international wins – and her partner in this class looks to be a strong competitor, too. In his nine runs this season, Monkeying Around has never been outside of the top 10, has won five times, and in his only run at CCI* at Ballindenisk he finished on his dressage score of 37.5, which was enough to get him second place.

Tiana Coudray and G round out the top 10 after the first day of dressage for the six-year-olds. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tiana Coudray and G sit in 10th place at the moment on 48.5. The Back Gammon gelding seemed to take the atmosphere in his (very long) stride, despite nearly kicking out one of the boards in the ring.

“He’s enormous,” she laughed. “When we got him as a three-year-old he was 16.1hh and just the cutest little three-year-old you’ve ever seen, and now he’s a beast! He went a bit baby in there, but he was a good boy, and he loves the admirers!”

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver lost some marks to the flowerpot gremlin to score 52.8, putting them in 19th overnight.

“I’ve always said that he’ll be amazing when he’s seven or eight — at the moment he’s all knees, and needs to learn how to use himself,” she said of the flashy grey, who was second in the CIC* at the South of England Horse Trials, his final run before Le Lion.

Mike Winter and Centre start the day’s proceedings. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Canada’s Mike Winter and Center also fell victim to the goblins, scoring 60.1 and sitting in 24th.

“He didn’t have the preparation he should have — he was supposed to do the [British Eventing National Young Horse Championships for] six-year-olds at Osberton, but he got balloted, so this is a big atmosphere for him. But my wife and I own him, and he was qualified, so we thought, ‘why not?'”

This is The Face. The six-year-old at a big party face. Beautifully demonstrated by Birmane, ridden by Tom Carlile. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

France’s Tom Carlile couldn’t be any more local — he’s based on-site at the Le Lion Equestrian Centre, and his record at this competition is impressive. He’s competed here eight times in the last four years, and has finished on his dressage score in every run. Today, he posted a competitive 42 with Birmane, which sees them in 4th place overnight – and he’ll be aiming to add to that incredible record this weekend.

The six-year-old class continues tomorrow morning with the rest of the dressage — meanwhile, this afternoon will see the seven-year-olds strut their stuff in the main arena. We’ll be bringing you updates across our social media channels and another report this afternoon, so stay tuned!

The six-year-old leaderboard at the halfway point at Le Lion d’Angers.

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All North American Horses Pass First Horse Inspection at Le Lion; French Horse Spun

Tiana Coudray (USA) and G. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The first horse inspection took place in a blaze of sunshine at the FEI World Breeding Championships at Le Lion d’Anger today. All four North American combinations passed — despite a hold for Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver — and although some of the youngsters’ interpretation of the word ‘trot’ left much to be desired, it was largely uneventful. One French horse, Absinthe du Loir, who was to contest the seven-year-old championship with Fabrice Saintemarie, was not accepted.

Liz Halliday-Sharp (USA) and Cooley Quicksilver. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Madison Penfound (CAN) and QEH Ocean Voyage. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The dressage will commence tomorrow at 8:40 a.m. local time/2:40 a.m. EST with the guinea pig test, ridden by Heloise le Guern. Mike Winter and Center will ride for Canada at 9 a.m. local time/3 a.m. EST, and Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver will hit the centreline at 9:14 a.m./3.14 a.m. EST. Tiana Coudray will be one of the last to contest the six-year-old class tomorrow, riding at 11.41 a.m./7.71 a.m. EST.

We’ll be bringing you all the action — and some behind-the-scenes glimpses — as it happens, so stay tuned for some #ENonTour madness!

Go Eventing — or should we say Allez Eventing?

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Hawley Bennett-Awad Withdraws Jollybo from Pau CCI4*

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jollybo at Rolex this spring. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

The entry list for Les Etoiles de Pau CCI4* went live last week, with four North American combinations set to contest. A withdrawal today brings that number down to three.

In a statement on her Facebook page this evening, Canada’s Hawley Bennett-Awad announced that she won’t be contesting the French CCI4* with Jollybo next week.

“On Saturday I learned from the airline that Jollybo would be the only horse on her pallet, and as a result I would have to pay for the whole pallet one way — an incredibly high cost,” she explained, pointing out that the trip to Pau would cost $12,000, not including the flight home, nor expenses incurred while in France.

“I am beyond disappointed, but at this time, there is no way I can justify spending that much one way,” she said. Her journey to Pau with the 13-year-old syndicate-owned mare, who was 12th at Kentucky and 3rd in the Rebecca Farm CIC3* this year, was to be realised with the help of various supporters and well-wishers through Hawley’s fundraising efforts this season.

“I am so thankful for everyone’s help and support,” said Hawley. “I am not sure what I am going to do with my sound, fit pony this fall. I need to make a decision to either run at Galway or be done and focus on Kentucky in the spring. Either way, ALL the money raised and donated for Jollybo has been put into her Jollybo bank account and will only be used towards getting to Kentucky and the World Equestrian Games in 2018! I hope everyone that bought t-shirts will come to Rolex and WEG and still support my perfect pony and me.”

To see the Pau CCI4* entry list, click here.

Freelance or Bust, Part Two: Perfect Preparation

So you’ve weighed up the pros and cons and made the big decision: you’re going freelance.

Great! But don’t think that it’s an instant transition — setting yourself up as a reputable, professional, and profit-making business takes some careful planning, before you leave your current job. If you put in the legwork to prepare yourself properly, you’ll be far less likely to be overwhelmed or taken by surprise when the time comes to hit the ground running.

Admittedly, I was still slightly taken by surprise when I started riding high-goal polo ponies having never watched a chukka in my life. Do as I say, not as I do. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

You may be going into freelancing cold — that is, from unemployment or from a job in a different industry — but unless you’ve amassed the necessary skills at some point in your working life, this isn’t a route I would recommend. For example: if you were a four-star eventing groom, travelled to lots of internationals, and built up an impressive resume, but have since worked in an office, you’ll probably find it fairly easy to pick up freelance grooming work, despite effectively going in cold. However, if you’ve never worked full-time as a groom you may find it harder to get references and work as a freelancer. This isn’t to say it can’t be done: you might be the best damn clipper the world has ever seen and a few photos of your work and some recommendations from friends you’ve clipped horses for could get your foot in the door enough to get further work in yards. It’s just more of a crapshoot.*

*this entire paragraph is just an excuse to use the word ‘crapshoot.’

Likewise, I initially tried to go into journalism as a freelancer, despite having never worked in the publishing industry. I got a few odd jobs writing one-off pieces but felt like I was always running into the same old brick wall of ignored emails and closed doors. I started to think I was probably just rubbish at what I was trying to do — and then I got a full-time job with a horse magazine, and suddenly, getting freelance work was no problem at all, because editors recognised, if not my own name, the publications and editors I was writing for, and took it as an indicator of not only quality, but reliability. And honestly, if there’s one thing people are looking for in freelancers, it’s reliability. And also run-on sentences. (One of those statements is a lie.)

Assuming you’re making the transition from a similar — but salaried — line of work, there are several boxes you should tick before handing in your notice and sashaying your way out of there. So without further adieu, here’s…

Your Big Fat Pre-lance (see what I did there?) To-Do List, Illustrated by America’s Best Worst Actor, Nicholas Cage, and a Bonus Beyonce

  • Itemise your strengths — and your weaknesses. Pour yourself a glass of wine, because you’re going to need to be honest with yourself here. Can you sew in perfect plaits in 30 minutes, even on a fidgety horse? Fantastic — that’s a marketable quality. Are you, however, a bit nervous about getting on naughty or young horses? That’s fine — but don’t be tempted to lie and say you’ll get on anything. At best, you’ll probably dread going to work at certain yards and at worst, you’ll be caught in the lie and your reputation will suffer a big knock. Look at your skills as though you’re looking at someone else’s — would you pay someone to do something at the quality level you do it? If the answer is yes, it can go on your USP (Ultimate Selling Point) list. If not, ask yourself: is this something I can improve on with a bit of effort or by asking for guidance? Or is it something I don’t feel comfortable doing within the auspices of my job? Remember: no one can do everything. Your strengths, and your marketability, are in what YOU can do well.

Don’t try to be someone you’re not, or do something you’re not able to do, for the sake of racking up jobs.

  • Be transparent in your motives. Hey, I get it: no one wants to sit down with their boss and have The Chat. But you’ll do yourself no favours if you try to sneak around and prepare for your career transition without them finding out, and actually, you could be doing yourself a huge disservice: many freelancers, and certainly freelance grooms and riders, end up booking their former employer in as their first freelance client. Even if you don’t, you should consider your professional life as a series of small islands — just one burned bridge can stop you from accessing an entire archipelago. Sit down with your employer and be candid about your long-term career plans, and ask them how you can make the eventual transition work for them, too — they’ll be grateful for your openness and may even offer some helpful advice or contacts.

Don’t feel like you have to come in like a wrecking ball, though.

  • Start saving. You’re going to be so well-prepared, and so savvy at marketing yourself, that you may never need this safety net — but do it anyway. Money panic is NOT a nice feeling, and it’s a feeling that can seep into the quality of your work, so mitigate it by putting some money aside from your regular paycheque while you’ve still got it. This gives you a buffer in case you have a slow month or if you need to buy anything for your work (clippers, camera lenses, a laptop that was made this decade — this list goes on, and it can get pricey. More on this soon.)

That feeling when you’re sitting on a saucy savings account.

  • Set realistic goals, but don’t be afraid to think big, too. Want to groom at a four-star? That’s a big goal, but it’s not an impossible one: you’ll want to plan to get some bigger-name riders on your client list, advertise competition grooming services, and get out and about on the competition circuit so people start to recognise you. You might not get there in your first six months, but if you start with the bigger picture and work backwards, you’ll start to see a clear route to get there. Want to write for Eventing Nation? (I mean, hello, of course you do!) Give your regional horse magazine or website a call and ask them if they’d like someone on the ground covering local competitions. I don’t care if you’re writing about seven-year-old kids jumping crossrails — you’re going to write about it like it’s going on the front page of EN. Then, you’ll have a body of work to show off your style and your ability. One of the problems that can plague freelancers is the feeling of being a bit lost in the big wide world, but having a grand plan and something tangible to work towards will not only give you a purpose, it’ll also help you to seek, find, and create positive opportunities for yourself.

Never be afraid to dream big.

  • Network, network, network. I cannot possibly stress enough how important it is just to know people and to be known as a freelancer. Word-of-mouth will get you a huge amount of work, no matter what type of work you do, so put yourself in a position where you can meet people who do the same sort of work and people who hire those people. Get out to events, invite yourself to social gatherings, and be open, and friendly, and genuinely kind to everyone you meet. Not just because it can open doors, mind — because it’s the right thing to do, too.

Networking chit-chat is a fine art, but it gets easier with practice. Just moderate the amount of unblinking eye contact you use.

  • Pay attention to the business climate. Try to get a feel for how in-demand your services will be in your area — and the going rate — by gauging your professional network. Chat to other freelancers in your area, and make use of regional Facebook groups to see whether more people are posting adverts seeking your skillset, or seeking work. Then, you can start to figure out the niche that your specific strengths will fit into.

Whatever those strengths may be.

  • Pick up some freelance work. Yep, that’s right — you need to dive in while you’re still working full-time. The inconvenient truth of a successful freelance transition is that it doesn’t come without work — you’ll need to give up some evenings, weekends, and holiday time to test the waters and book in some work while you still have the security of a full-time job. This also gives you the chance to build your skills and experience. I used to hide Beyonce references in my articles when I was full-time at a leading UK horse magazine, and now I gratuitously shove Beyonce GIFs into almost every article I write for EN. Skill-building, people.

#noragrets

Doing the legwork before you jump ship will help you to mitigate the fear of the unknown and the lack of control that can be part and parcel of freelancing, so plan to commit to the preparation as much as you’ll commit to your career itself. Think of it as show prep: getting the horse and the tack gleaming is half the battle, and gives you the edge — and the confidence — on the day. And that, gang, is your tenuous equestrian analogy of the day.

Next time? It’s tax time, snitches. Try to contain yourselves.

Part One: Weighing Your Options