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Friday Video from World Equestrian Brands: Behind the Scenes at IEF

Imo Mercer shows off Sam Griffiths’ team bronze medal from Rio 2016. Credit Griffiths Eventing Team

In the bleak midwinter, we look forward to the small glimmers of hope offered to us (at least here in the U.K., where we don’t have nice things like Aiken and Ocala). One of those gems is the International Eventing Forum, held each February at Hartpury College in Gloucestershire, at which professionals at the heart of the industry gather to discuss and demonstrate training methods, philosophies, and viewpoints to the sport. As the 2018 Forum looms just ahead of us, your Friday video this week is an educational look into life behind the scenes as an eventing #supergroom.

Imo Mercer, Alex Van Tuyll, and Zanie King have travelled around the world with their charges and amassed an incredible amount of knowledge. Oh, and there’s a bonus Burto. And Badminton course designer Eric Winter! The Forum is a gift that just keeps. On. Giving.

Friday Video from World Equestrian Brands: The Ups, Downs and Soggy Breeches of the ERM

Work hard, play hard! Photo courtesy of Event Rider Masters.

High-stakes cross-country, the chance to make judgment calls about your favourite rider’s taste in music, and a jolly good soaking with a few bottles of Pol Roger: it’s what eventing’s all about, really, right?

The team behind the Event Rider Masters series is gearing up for its third year of cutting-edge technology and bonkers, brilliant broadcasts. To whet your appetite, they’ve released this montage of some of the best thrills and spills (and a champagne-soaked Tom Carlile) from the 2017 season — somehow, they’ve managed to make eating dirt look quite cool, which fills me with hope for my own competition season. It’s amazing what a good soundtrack can do.

Thomas Carlile and Upsilon at the Barbury leg of the 2017 ERM. Photo courtesy of eventridermasters.tv/Ben Clarke.

If three and a half minutes isn’t quite enough to fill the coffers, clear your diary and click through to the ERM YouTube channel, where you can find all the original live broadcasts in their glory. Just don’t expect to get any work done for a very long time. You. Are. Welcome.

 

 

Friday Video from World Equestrian Brands: A Trip to Welly World

Boyd Martin and Trading Aces at the $15,000 Wellington Eventing Showcase. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Wellington is one of those places that doesn’t really require any further description in order for equestrians to be able to pinpoint it on a map. It’s like Cher, but with states instead of surnames, and speed classes instead of power ballads. Sometimes, when I’m doing fitness work in 15 inches of mud and sideways ice rain I ponder how different life could be if I just sacked it all in and went to Welly World to play in the sunshine. But then I remember that the last time I went near the hunter-jumper crowd, monogrammed lavender collars were still in fashion, and that’s just wrong on so many levels (mostly because it was 12 years ago and I still have no intention of getting with the times).

Jennie Brannigan at the Wellington Eventing Showcase. Photo by Jenni Autry.

But the brilliant thing is that the Big W offered us mad and muddy types a generous hand of friendship, which we let Boyd Martin shake for three years in a row. That hand of friendship was the Wellington Eventers Showcase, a fast, furious, and well-heeled ode to the sport, packaged up in a golf-buggy friendly version for the Vineyard Vines and Napa Valley Riesling crowd. And it was GREAT, not least because it involved jumping into a marquee full of people who had possibly never seen mud in real life before.

It wouldn’t be eventing in Wellington without a selfie! Photo courtesy of Laine Ashker.

Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflict with the Winter Equestrian Festival’s showjumping calendar, the Showcase won’t be running this year. We look forward to cheering on our hardy brethren in the sunshine next year, but, in the meantime, here’s an in-depth look back at 2017’s competition, courtesy of Elisa Wallace.

Go eventing, and go sunshine! (No, I don’t mean that, please come back, sunshine, I beg of you…!)

The Saves of Seventeen

There’s not much to eventing, really, is there? You just aim for the space between the flags, kick, and pray…right?

Eventing 101.

Erm, perhaps not so much. As we all know, there are plenty of variables involved, and sometimes, it’s all any of us can do to actually keep all four feet in the dressage arena, let alone tackle a formidable cross-country course.

Eventing 102.

But eventers are a tough bunch, and they don’t give up easily. When the going gets tough, the tough apply more leg – even if, occasionally, they have to display some impressive gymnastics to do so.

Without further ado, here are some of the most impressive saves from across the eventing nation and beyond in 2017. Which one made you hold your breath? Have we missed one of your favourite displays of eventing acrobatics, or did you perform a similar feat of your own this year? Share your pictures and videos with us in the comments!

Woodge “Hardcore Spider Monkey” Fulton plays hard-to-get with the ground

Woodge Fulton and Captain Jack. Photos by Kate Samuels.

Man, this girl is a tough cookie. After Captain Jack caught a leg on fence six at the Wellington Eventing Showcase back in February, it looked like game over for Woodge. But giving up isn’t in her nature, and somehow, defying all normal physics, she propelled herself back into the saddle and the pair went on to post a clear round. Just check out that enormous grin – classic Woodge! To see the full story – and video evidence! – click here. 

Cornelia Dorr practices some yoga in the water at Jersey Fresh

2017 has been a big year for mindfulness. ‘Hygge’ remains wildly popular but stilly wholly unpronounceable. Meditation has somehow become trendy. Countless apps are peddled to us on Facebook, heavily implying that 15 seconds of ‘doing nothing’ could fix our addled brains. To this I say, look, mate, do you want to know how many studs I could screw in in 15 seconds? That’s valuable time, and I don’t want to spend it staring at the underused portions of my brain.

Cornelia Dorr, on the other hand, decided to embrace 2017’s hottest trend, employing a novel form of horseback yoga while tackling the water in the CCI2* at Jersey Fresh with Sir Patico MH. Her moment of oneness with nature, her inner spirit, and very, very nearly the essential element of dirty fence water obviously served her well, as she went on to finish with two horses in the top ten after the cross country, and won with her other horse, Louis M. #whateverworks

Ludwig Svennerstal’s showjumping striptease

Ludwig Svennerstal almost loses a Bridle

Ludwig Svennerstal almost loses a bridle! What supurb horsemanship to keep his cool and recover. So, so close to a fall! Watch all the action as it happens LIVE -http://bit.ly/erml6sj

Posted by Event Rider Masters on Sunday, August 27, 2017

Okay, okay, that might be a bit misleading. Sorry, ladies. Still – this was one of the most memorable (and unprecedented!) saves of the year, and well worth revisiting. While contesting the second phase of the Event Rider Masters leg at Blair Castle in Scotland, Sweden’s finest export had a bit of a bobble with El Kazir SP. Somehow, he sits it out – only to lose an essential piece of tack in the process. Check out the video to see how he recovered and managed to complete his round. It is actual sorcery (and still makes me nearly cry laughing, no matter how many times I watch it!)

Maya Simmons-Studenmund demonstrates the importance of No-Stirrup November

Maya Simmons (stirrup-less!) and Archie Rocks. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

File this one under Things I Have Recurring Nightmares About. Maya Simmons-Studemund was enjoying a trip around the Advanced at Carolina International in March – her return to the level after the birth of her twins – when her OTTB Archie Rocks pecked on landing at the first water at 7AB. Maya managed to sit the uncomfortable landing, but the force of it pulled both of her stirrups off her saddle. They clung on for a while – even as the pair tackled the second part of the combination – but slipped out of the keepers just as Maya pulled up to reattach them. Was she deterred? Of course not – she went on to tackle most of the rest of the formidable course, before ultimately slipping off at 19ABC, the coffin. Skip to 5:04 in the above video to witness the absolute marvel of Maya jumping out of the water in perfect style. My leg has never looked that solid WITH stirrups.

Louise Harwood schedules a snooze at Pau

Louise Harwood and Mr Potts tackle the final water at Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt

Photo by Tilly Berendt

Photo by Tilly Berendt

Photo by Tilly Berendt

Diminutive Louise Harwood has made a name for herself piloting some rather large homebreds around the world’s toughest events. The thing is, when you’re small, sometimes you have to just lie back and think of England, as it were. At the final water, Louise had one such moment, when Mr Potts took a huge leap in, propelling his rider to the back of the saddle. It’s cool though, she styled it out – but unfortunately, the pair would pick up a late 20 penalties on course a few fences later.

The Kieffertron channels her inner mermaid at Rolex

Lauren Kieffer and Vermiculus.

What do you do when your horse decides in mid-air that he’s actually a seahorse and legs are totally overrated? Well, if you’re Lauren Kieffer, you never ever stray from your seahorse’s centre of balance and you let him work it all out underneath you. That’s exactly what she did at Rolex (as it still was, then!) when Vermiculus had a bit of a disagreement with the ground at the Lake. After sticking the landing, the pair clocked up 20 penalties and, unfortunately, withdrew before the final horse inspection, but they still made their mark on a great competition with this spectacular save.

Will Furlong tests out gravity at Houghton Hall; finds it lacking

There’s a lot of pressure that comes with your first senior team call-up, especially when you’re just 22-years-old and riding a horse you’ve only had for a matter of months. But Team GB’s Will Furlong didn’t look for a minute like the pressure was getting to him, as he and Collien P2 sailed around the Nations Cup at Houghton Hall in May. Look how cool, calm, and collected he is in this series of photos by Laura Butcher, even as he takes this seriously creative (and possibly inadvisable) route over the open corners. Somehow, Mr Sticky Breeches stayed on, and went on to finish fourth. Not too shabby, Furlong. Not too shabby at all.

William Fox-Pitt shows off his best dance moves

MyLuckyDay

For Boxing Day 2017 we are republishing the top ten Harveywetdog Facebook videos of 2017. At number Two we go right back to my first day of the 2017 season at Tweseldown with William Fox-Pitt and a recalcitrant My Lucky Day.My Lucky Day and William Fox-Pitt take a few minutes to get started at Tweseldown in the Open Intermediate. I like the way the oblivious announcer is bigging William up as the horse is going sidewards out of the start box.

Posted by Harveywetdog on Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Sometimes, you don’t even need to go near a fence to show off a spectacular save. William Fox-Pitt had planned an educational outing for My Lucky Day in the Open Intermediate at Tweseldown earlier in the spring, but the horse had other ideas. Check out this incredible video, courtesy of Harveywetdog, in which My Lucky Day casually spins his way to the first fence with all the grace of a ballerina with ‘roid rage. The duo went on to complete a clear cross country round (with, erm, 58.4 time penalties). Absolute #lads.

Elle Choate experiments with a seriously forward seat

Young talent Elle Choate was cruising around the Junior Training showjumping with Paddrick at the Richland Park Horse Trials in August when everything went a bit pear-shaped. A cluck for encouragement did its job rather too well, and the ISH gelding surged forward on landing, bucked, and launched his head down. Somehow – and I’m still not quite sure how – Elle managed to get Paddrick’s head back up and get herself back in the plate, adding just 11 time penalties and one rail to finish 11th in the division. Barbara Martin caught the Kodak moment on camera, giving us all a good giggle (and a reason to practice stirrup-less jumping, stat).

For every spectacular save, however, there’s always a heaping helping of people who eat dirt for dinner. Sometimes they don’t even need to go near a horse to do so. Check out the action stage left as Zara Phillips tackles the water at Rolex. Nearly…nearly…nope, she’s in.

#FlashbackFriday Video from World Equestrian Brands: Storming Into 2018 Like…

Pictured: the case for not skipping that gym sesh this weekend.

Here we are, at the end of all things – or, at least, at the final Friday video of 2017. As the end of year looms, I like to spend some time reflection on the lessons learned throughout the previous 365 days – the things that went right, the things that went spectacularly wrong, what I can learn from and improve upon ready for a new year and a new start.

Sometimes, though, all that introspection gets a little bit boring (or a little bit frightening, frankly), and I find myself in need of a bit of a kick up the backside to get myself fired up to dive into 2018 with all guns blazing. In these times of need, I turn to one man: the O.G. of eventing, Sir Mark “This Wasn’t Hard Enough” Todd.

In honour of all the bad-assery I know you’re all going to exhibit in 2018, here’s my favourite flashback of them all: our hero, the lanky Kiwi knight (shining armour optional), taking on the baddest of Badders with one stirrup. Actually. Insane.

Catch you on the flip side, EN, with a glass of champagne in each fist and a party hat on your disappointed horse. May 2018 be the year you get the perfect stride to your own personal Vicarage Vee and always kick on to the last, no matter how many seemingly essential bits of tack are taken away from you along the way. You’ve got this, gang.

Friday Video from World Equestrian Brands: Christmas at Badminton

Itching for a snowy canter? Us, too.

Is there anything more magical than the Badminton Estate? From its seat in the heart of Gloucestershire, the Duke of Beaufort’s sprawling acreage and stately home spin a special kind of magic as we look ahead to the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.

But in the off-season, too, this incredible place has a certain je ne sais quois. Take, for example, this week’s video: a seriously captivating compilation of drone shots of Badminton, sequestered under a pristine layer of snow. If you’ve been struggling to get that festive feeling this year, make yourself a boozy hot chocolate, curl up on the sofa, and just imagine waking up to this. Frosty-whiskered horses, a long hack through the snow, and cozy calm all around as the world dozes around you. Badminton will be back before we know it, alive with the thundering of hooves and the throngs of people, but, for now, this is as perfect as it gets.

 

 

Best of 2017 Video Countdown #10: Bada$$ Badminton

Each day between now and the New Year we’re counting down the most popular videos shared on EN in 2017. The #10 spot goes to “Bada$$ Badminton,” which garnered 3,563 views when it was posted on October 13, 2017. Enjoy, again! 

Fifty years ago, people were made of tough stuff. Like, actually cobbled together with steel panels and rusty nails and more than a dash of insanity sort of tough stuff. Case in point? This vintage Badminton video from 1968, which is part of the extensive British Pathé film archives. It’s a glorious time capsule of weighted saddlepads, frolicking royals, massive timber, and skull caps that actually look like they offer about as much protection as a beanie made of cheese. Also, no body protectors. Health and safety, schmealth and safety.

Almost makes this year’s Badminton course look jumpable, right?

…right?

Botnik Goes to Badminton

ChinchBot is about to school us all. Credit to DeviantArt user IzaPug.

Over the last couple of days, an incredibly clever AI system called Botnik has been garnering considerable media attention for its absolutely barmy addition to the Harry Potter oeuvre. After having all seven novels in the series inputted into its system, it wrote its own chapter of a new Harry Potter book, which it named Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash. Catchy.

The predictive keyboard is a few steps ahead of the sort of text-guessing you find on an iPhone, although it works in a similar way – by inputting chunks of text, the system can analyse how the author would ordinarily put a sentence together and attempt to replicate grammar, word choice, and subject matter. It can then be used to craft stories with lines that range from almost plausible to the completely and utterly bonkers. Case in point, from Botnik’s foray into the wizarding world:

“I’m Harry Potter,” Harry began yelling. “The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!”

You’d be forgiven for thinking that perhaps this absolute GEM of a tool is only available for its creators to play with. You’d also be wrong. As it transpires, you can create a Botnik to replicate almost any author – all you need is a bit of patience, a .txt file, and several hours that you’re willing to sacrifice to our future AI overlords.

Our AI overlords will have exceptionally clean changes.

So what did I, as a very, very serious journalist (and insatiable socialite, obviously) spend my Friday night doing?

I spent it creating ChinchBot, of course, who did some spectacular fortune-telling and wrote up this phenomenal report of cross country day at Badminton 2018. I…I just don’t really know how to prepare you for this. Hold onto your knickers, eventing fans.

The Best Phase: Your Dirty Great Showcase of Eventing at Badminton Horse Trials

The excitement of cross country machine (and actual unicorn) Upsilon hinted at a party for the world at his CCI4 * debut. He sits in the lead after the penultimate stage.

“He’s a horse,” said Julia Krajewski, in contention with Monkeying Around, who is also a horse.

The celebration was massive, and a fitting preview of practically everyone’s glory. Now, a rather shellshocked Tom Carlile attacks fans, but is generally a good boy.

“I think I have to ride tomorrow,” he said.

The rainy morning with redemption on the table was enough to inspire flashbacks of dressage at Luhmuhlen, where Alex Hua Tian fell off and Boyd Martin became Irish.

The riders were remarkably fit, with several of them socially acceptable in the collecting ring. Some of them were more unfortunate.

“I may not ride well, but I have a great salute,” winked Tim Price as he did his stretches. Scooby was witness. He rode Grafton Street. Usually motivated by the atmosphere, today they were like little disappointments, faulting at the first water and the last fence.

“That was really hard,” he said. “I want to get into a fight.”

The course caused multiple problems, especially fence 19abc – a double gremlin with a skinny brush in the arena. Izzy Taylor fell here and sold her bad horse to James Avery.

“Honestly, the horse is really delirious,” she said.

“It wasn’t going to be like motherhood, was it,” said Kitty King of the course, which was “hell, if I’m a bit abrupt.”

32 remained after cross country. In third place, Sam Griffiths initially had a fright from the Macaron Team, but he said: “Chris Burton was really happy, and I was basically not scared sh*tless any more.” He could ride around with Andrew Nicholson, who upsets the French community.

Hannah Sue Burnett and RF Demeter proved that their best moves were much better, thanks to a former pesky leadership.

“Regardless of her changes, today we didn’t understand wearing heels, and so we got the job done.”

The showjumping will commence tomorrow morning, with the rest of the best in the ring, because sometimes dreams slip ahead of them. Michael Jung holds the last burning faith in this phase: will it be a coffin for the leaders? EquiRatings is nonplussed, and says that they’ve obviously benefited from help and royal biceps, but there isn’t a very genuine fear of crowds in this competition. It’s all to play for.

Until the jumping, Go Eventing and GoFundMe!

Welcome to THE FUTURE. #buzzing

Friday Video from World Equestrian Brands: The Olympic Spirit of Gillian Rolton

Michael Jung accepts his ribbon from Gillian Rolton at Luhmühlen. Photo by Jenni Autry.

The year was 1996, and the setting, the Atlanta Olympics. Australia’s eventing team, comprised of Andrew Hoy, Wendy Schaeffer, Phillip Dutton, and Gillian Rolton, was within touching distance of a gold medal, but it was to take a herculean effort from them all to secure it.

Gill Rolton and Peppermint Grove, the ‘ugly big grey horse’ with whom she notched up so many successes – including team gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics – weren’t to have a fairytale trip around the cross country. ‘Fred’ slipped and fell, injuring Gill’s arm and forcing her to ride one-handed. Despite this, she remounted and continued on. She fell at the next obstacle, the water jump, but, knowing her team needed her to complete, she once again climbed back on and completed the remaining three kilometres – and fifteen fences – to finish. It was later discovered that Gill had broken several ribs and her collarbone – but the team would go on to win.

Gill’s tenacity and determination made her an idol and an inspiration to so many riders, both in her native Australia and beyond. She served as Event Director at Adelaide for 10 years, and has worn almost every hat there is to wear in the sport, from competitor, to selector, to coach, official, and ground jury member.

The courage she showed in her riding, and the gumption she exhibited throughout her career kept her fighting through an endometrial cancer diagnosis two years ago. Not to be cowed, she continued her work, even when bed-bound, to a volley of support from her global network of admirers, supporters, and friends. She died, aged 61, on cross country day of this year’s Adelaide CCI4*.

To see her indomitable spirit for yourself, check out this #FlashbackFriday video, shared by the Olympic Facebook page. This weekend, channel Gill: swallow your fear, give back to the sport, and enjoy the ride. She certainly did, throughout her remarkable life.

Click to play the video on Facebook

If you have trouble watching, click here to play the video directly on Facebook.

Things Eventers Argue About Online: Winter Edition

The internet: a veritable smorgasbord of wine-influenced purchases, blurry photos of nearly-naked eventers, and unsolicited advice and opinions. You know what they say about opinions, right? They’re like, um … feral barn cats. Everyone’s got one, they spawn bloodthirsty offspring on a worryingly regular basis and no, nobody’s going to pay a fiver for one of them. Where was this analogy going? Who knows.

All up in the forums like…

With the empty expanse of the off-season yawning around us, eventers have to find creative ways to keep busy in the winter months. For some, that means cross-training their horses. For others, it’s Netflix-binging season. For a worrying majority, it’s the perfect time to get online and start telling strangers that they’re wrong.

Wrong about what, you ask? Well, for starters…

Clipping

 

I wouldn’t clip any of mine, writes Barbara, it completely stops them from thermoregulating and rugs don’t do the job properly. Cruel really, just leave them alone.

As a result, Cedric, her ¾ Irish Draught, has grown a coat long enough to lose a small child in. If he was able to trot more than three strides without keeling over from heatstroke, he’d make an incredibly effective getaway vehicle in a diamond heist. Fortunately, his tufts make fantastic grab-handles when three tonnes of snow slides off the roof of the indoor. Who needs a neck strap? Not Babs.

Your horses aren’t wild, just clip the poor things if you’re going to ride them!!!! Bet you don’t believe in shoes either. I’m on clip #6. Itchy!

Annie’s horse is clipped every three weeks on the dot, starting on the first of September, and she doesn’t take any prisoners. Poor Angus has to bear the shame of being parked in front of his friends’ stables and getting liberally heckled while Annie wrestles his tail out of the way to get to some errant cheek hairs. She’s even patch-tested some Veet, but after dodging a swift kick to the head, decided that her husband’s Gillette was a better option for those close shaves. Every time Angus dozes off, the mocking faces of the other horses swim into his vision. “Oi, bald arse,” they snicker, “how’s the breeze back there?” Angus hasn’t slept in weeks.

Rugging

 

It’s inevitable: the temperature drops by a couple degrees and the Facebook groups and forums explode in a rugging frenzy.

Sheila from Surrey has an unfortunate eye-twitch that kicks in whenever a lone snowflake appears, and she’s taking no chances with Princess Van Der Hoefslag’s comfort.

Brr! Going to be a cold one, she types from the corner office of her recruitment firm in the City. Princess is snug as a bug in a you-know-what with three rugs AND a duvet today. Necks up, obvs!

What Sheila doesn’t realise is that the long-suffering stable manager has painted a bullseye on Princess’ side and is hiring her out for target practice for the local shooting club. She doesn’t even stop grazing while they’re at it, and the stable manager has more than doubled her Christmas funds in the process.

Meanwhile, across the pond, Marnie in Maine has a conundrum. She’s fully clipped her OTTB, Milo, but on closer inspection – and in daylight – she’s realised that she’s actually turned him into a sad, corduroy zebra. She’s managed to score a spot in a clinic with William Fox-Pitt in two days, and she knows that once he’s journeyed to the tundra, he’ll never return again, so something has to be done.

Keeping mine naked – they’re designed to cope with these changes in temperature better than we are, she replies, feeling a bit guilty as she glances out her window at the stripy, shivering thing sulking outside. She closes her blinds and prays for a good 24-hour regrowth.

Turnout

In the UK, we have enough mud to drown a hippo in. In the US — or at least, its wilder and woolier regions, you have to contend with an actual Antarctic expedition to get your horses to and from the field. Still, we all know the benefits of regular turnout, and we committed to this lifestyle, despite our mothers trying to push us towards more sensible hobbies, like hamster breeding or base-jumping.

Or whatever this is.

Gina limits turnout to an hour a day in the sand school, because she fears her horse will develop a nasty, untreatable case of mud fever if left to wallow in his field. Georgie, on the other hand, staunchly refuses to give her horses less than eight hours of turnout a day, despite 16 straight days of ice storms and almost hurricane-level winds.

Their discussion on this matter has become a six-hour long slagging match, and they’ve both been banned from the forum indefinitely for overuse of some VERY bad words.

Time off

Tina has ridden in three 2’6″ clear round jumping classes, one starter horse trials, and two dressage competitions, where she finished 3rd (out of three). She recently picked up a copy of Mary Thomson’s Eventing Year and is convinced that by following Mary’s routines exactly, she’ll be able to replicate King William’s successful 1992 season with her own Welsh Cob cross, Minty. As such, she chucked him straight in the field at the beginning of November and hasn’t actually seen him since.

Giving mine a proper winter holiday to recover from the season and digest what he’s learned, she writes. It’s really the only way to manage an eventer — I’ll bring him in in January and start his walk work.

If she can find him, that is…

Fliss, on the other hand, has never knowingly given her horse a day off in his life. She finished the season at a three-day and then sent her horse straight to Bootcamp With Bartle, reasoning that nobody ever improved by sitting at home eating Hobnobs. She’s squandered her family’s Christmas money on a spontaneous trip to Germany so that she and Flash can be shouted at in another language, for a bit of novelty value. Her children, she tells herself, are perfectly happy with a pine tree air freshener instead of an actual Christmas tree.

She feels very smug as she stops at a service station on the Autobahn at 3 a.m. to reply, No rest for the wicked here! Off to train with the very best and I think our results will show it next season. If you don’t hear from me again, I’ve moved to Ingrid’s yard!

Shoeing

“Tungsten carbide, you say? I’LL SHOW YOU TUNGSTEN CARBIDE!”

Kitty grew up in Southern California and has recently moved with her new husband to upstate New York. At first, the prospect of a white Christmas was a real treat, but now, faced with the real thing, both she and her New Zealand Thoroughbred, Fritz, are thinking long and hard about divorce.

Back home, the worst she was faced with was a nasty case of quarter cracks. Now, everyone around her is giving her different, baffling advice on how to deal with snow and ice.

Borium is the only way forward, says one internet expert.

Mounds or nails though? Two different kettles of fish, responds another.

Don’t be ridiculous — think of the tendon strain. Shoeing can stay the same year round, argues a third.

If she’s going to work the horse on the roads, she definitely needs ice studs, someone counters.

JUST GO BAREFOOT!!! chime in three people.

What about snow pads? Can’t be without them! suggests a well-meaning contributor.

Have you ever heard of Vaseline?! someone snaps.

Can’t believe you all ride in winter. When there’s actual ICE on the actual ROADS. SO selfish! This is what’s wrong with modern horse owners. Trying to eke every last drop out of your animals. In the old days, we used to bring our horses into the house and get them to do sit-ups for fitness. Come spring, we had NO ROTATIONAL FALLS!!!1!

Kitty closes her laptop, takes a deep breath, and promptly opens it again.

Horse for sale, she writes, due to owner giving up and going into hamster breeding.

The internet is a great thing … just be nice to one another online, okay?

Friday Video from World Equestrian Brands: Every Day’s a School Day

You’ll never graduate from the University of Eventing … but you can get past your Freshman year with a bit of dedication. #inspirational

Everyone with any sense knows there’s only one good thing about winter, and that’s layers. Why? Because layers allow you to eat, constantly and unashamedly, and then blame your sudden, worrying expansion on the amount of clothing you’re wearing. No one’s any the wiser, and life is glorious.

Until the new season looms and your wobbly bits jeer at you from the mirror. “Get those white breeches on, I dare you,” they seem to say.

“I would actually rather give up riding,” you think.

So this year, I’m trying something different. I’m putting all (er, some) of my mince-pie eating energy into finding as many new exercises, grids and schooling tips as I can to incorporate into my winter riding, so that rather than plodding along in the cold, my horse and I can actually attempt to improve during hibernation season.

During the season, one of my favourite resources for free training inspiration is the collecting ring at events, but at this time of year, I start digging through that endless treasure trove of visual media: YouTube. There’s an absolute wealth of schooling advice on there, and I love finding a new jumping exercise and giving it a jolly good bash. My favourites? Anything that helps me to improve my cross country riding when I can’t get out on course properly. Here are a couple of the most useful ones I’ve found — give them a go this weekend and make the most of the off-season!

(Bonus points if you can spot a certain EN editor’s horse in one of these videos!)

Friday Thrills and Spills from World Equestrian Brands: The History of the Water Complex

There are many ways to tackle a water complex. Louise Harwood and Mr Potts demonstrate one of the more unusual choices. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The humble water jump: omnipresent on cross country courses around the world, it lies in wait, ready to scare the living daylights out of those who tackle it.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BZTmJf5DExY/?tagged=waterjumpfail

There are two distinct types of Water Jump Fear. Type one is the classic “my horse is absolutely not going to go in this and if there’s a drop into it then I’m going to be the solo spoon in the cereal bowl” fear. Type two is a slightly rarer, but no less valid fear, held by those lucky owners of one of a select group of horses known as ‘waterbabies’. The puddle-jumping types have dolphin somewhere within five generations on their pedigree, and for their riders, the niggling terror is that the bloody thing won’t LEAVE the water jump. Worst-case scenario? The gleeful stop, drop, and roll. Why do we do this sport, again?

Silly question. We do it because of the madness, not in spite of it. Those who paved the way for us to enjoy it in its modern iterations did it for precisely the same reason, and often with many more bumps, bruises, and great pub anecdotes to show for it.

Your Friday video this week looks at the evolution of the water complex, from its horse-swallowing beginnings to today’s much more sympathetic designing. Fortunately, our collective knowledge and expertise has grown throughout the decades to create a much more rewarding experience for both horse and rider, as these seriously tolerant waterbabies demonstrate. No points to the rider who decides to just let his horse be the feral swamp crocodile he obviously aspires to be.

#hairymermaidsforthewin

 

 

 

Friday Video from World Equestrian Brands: In Celebration of Big Phil

Phillip Dutton and Z. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Last week’s Ocala Jockey Club International was special for a whole variety of reasons: it was a showcase of girlpower at its finest, it offered generous prize money – always an enormous boost in a sport too often plagued by poor winnings, and hey, it was sunny! (Look, I’m British, every conversation comes back to the weather eventually. Fight me.)

But there was one thing that was extra-special about Ocala: it saw the return of Phillip Dutton. Now, I lived and evented in the States for long enough to know that if there are thirty horses in any given division at any given event, P. Dutty will be riding approximately 28 of them, so his absence is felt keenly when he’s not around – which isn’t often, because I’m not sure the man knows what a holiday is and, for the most part, he’s pretty indestructible.

True to form, he well and truly Dutton-ed Ocala, entering what appeared to be every single horse in his barn, and doing rather well on them, too. So to that, let’s raise a glass: to the continuing domination of Phillip Dutton. What. A. Legend.

Dutton verb To claim dominance over something through sheer force of will and hard work. Alternately, to enter a competition so many times that, statistically, you’re destined to do quite well. (If said statistics also take into account superhuman talent.)

In honour of the man of the hour, here’s a little throwback to the lead-up to Rio, featuring some wise words and behind-the-scenes glimpses into what, exactly, makes a champion.

 

Freelance or Bust: War and Peace (And Also Taxes)

“Am I going to have to pay ludicrous taxes on my competition winnings?” — Gemma Tattersall, probably. Life advice: Just drink the champagne and pretend it’s not happening.

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

He was a cheery chap, Benjamin Franklin, and while I would argue that there are other certainties in life — your horse will always manage to painstakingly remove a shoe the night before a major competition, for example, and you will only ever fall off at a competition at EXACTLY the moment Karen O’Connor turns to watch — he’s not wrong that taxes are an inescapable misery. Inescapable misery is one of those unfortunate side effects of adulthood, so rather than feeling sorry for ourselves, I recommend slaying this beast, with the help of frivolous stationery purchases and more colour-coding than you can shake a custom jockey whip at. I’m even going to show you how to expense that custom jockey whip, you lucky duck, you.*

*But only if you work in the right field. Sorry, media types, I’ve been trying to figure out how to expense my new tall boots for weeks, and I still haven’t managed it. We still get stationery, though. #consolationprizeoftheday

One of the biggest hurdles that puts aspiring freelancers off making the leap into self-employment is the prospect of navigating taxes. A cursory Googling session will likely make you feel even more confused and overwhelmed, and the idea of forking out for an accountant is pretty repellant when you’re trying to be money-savvy. Look, I’m not going to lie to you and say there’s a simple trick for making the whole thing sort itself out, but I will tell you this: It doesn’t have to be an enormous undertaking, and it doesn’t have to be a minefield. If you know how the system works from the get-go, and you get into the habit of keeping, filing, and reviewing your own financial records, you can make the whole thing miles easier.

You might question the sudden and contextless appearance of this fruit bat and his banana. Don’t question it. You’ll need sudden and contextless fruit bats to get through this.

An important note: the following advice pertains to individuals who are going freelance — that is, setting up a sole proprietorship. If you’re planning to set up your own business as a Limited Liability Company (LLC), you should speak to a business accountant, who can help you navigate the process of both laying the groundwork and maintaining correct business practice. 

Repeat after me: Accounting. Is. Fun.

Calculating your taxes works slightly differently depending on whether you’re in the UK or the US, so I’ll go through each situation with you. First, though: You’re going shopping for the universally necessary bits of kit. And, much as you’d never go to the tack shop and JUST buy sheath cleaner when you could throw a bag of horse treats, a new leather headcollar, and a book of gymnastic exercises in your basket to sweeten the deal, you’re going to make this an enjoyable process for yourself.

Death and Taxes: The Brief but Necessary Shopping List

 

Because nothing says ‘I am an adult’ like poo emojis and unicorns. Get it here.

  • A three-ring binder with dividers, or a couple of individual binders. These will be dedicated to housing your tax-deductible expenses and your proof of income, which is going to be in chronological order, because we’re adults now, and that’s how adults file things. Optional: a pack of plastic sleeves in which to file these important bits of paper; usually helpful if you think you may be at risk of crying on them.

Included in the purchase price: the urge to highlight all information, no matter how useless. Buy these bad boys here.

  • A pack of highlighters. Go on, splurge on the pastel ones, it’s fine.

Harness the power of Excel for everything (except trying to pin Nelly down for a date).

  • A copy of Microsoft Office. Excel is about to become your new best friend. (It does SO MANY TRICKS and I promise, you can fool yourself into thinking it’s fun.)

“If I can ride around a four-star with a broken leg, you can hit a deadline for once in your life, you complete and utter disappointment.” Motivational Michi might not treat me right, but he certainly gets the job done.

  • Literally whatever useless trinkets you find in the shop that offer you any fleeting happiness. There’s no proof that my collection of scented candles that smell vaguely like attractive men help my productivity levels in any way, but there’s also no proof that they don’t, so my attitude to preparing my desk for accounting day is a very #treatyoself one. May I recommend a special work mug? Or the vaguely terrifying spectre of Michael Jung?

Keeping track of tax deductions 

When you’re self-employed, you don’t actually pay tax on the entirety of your income: instead, you pay tax on your profits. This means that you have to deduct your business expenses from the amount you’ve earned in order to work out what you owe. You’re going to do that by keeping proof — ie., receipts or invoices — of all of these expenses, filling them chronologically in your Expenses binder, and highlighting on each the date (in one colour, consistent throughout) and the amount (in another colour, again, keeping it consistent.) Make sure the amount you highlight is the amount including sales tax or VAT.

Breakfast in bed: not tax-deductible. Sorry.

The list of expenses you can claim as deductions is expansive, and includes the following:

  • Utility bills and office rental costs. If you rent a dedicated office space or desk-share, this is easy: just keep track of your monthly rent and any utility bills you pay. If, however, you work from home, it becomes a bit more of a calculator job. You’ll have to work out what percentage of your rent and bills should be dedicated to your working hours. For example, if you have a house with four rooms — kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living area — and you work at a desk set up in the living area, you’ll need to calculate how much of your outgoings go towards sustaining that working area. Let’s say that your rent and utility bills come to $400 a month, for the sake of easy math and maintaining unrealistic fantasies about adulthood. If your living area/office space takes up about a quarter of the square-footage of your house, you can pretty safely assume that it’s worth a quarter of your monthly outgoings or, in this case, $100. Now, because your desk is set up in a living area, you probably don’t use that room solely for working. Say you spend 50% of your time in this room working, and 50% of your time hanging out, watching TV, or entertaining friends — your deductible outgoings will be $50. Easy enough, right? Well, okay, maybe not — in the US, your home office has to be a separate room, and not one that’s used for personal activities. At a push, you can partition off the ‘office’ section of the room, which is usually sufficient. If you’re really stumped, keep a log of the time spent at your desk in the first month to work out how much time — and thus, rent and electricity — you’re devoting to desk-bound activities.
  • Travel expenses. Whether you have to hop on a train for a meeting in the city, book a hotel through Badminton, or if you just use your car to get from job to job, your business-related travel costs are all deductible expenses. Keep track of fuel and ticket receipts, and keep a log of any repairs you make on your car, too — if its primary use is as a work vehicle, this is totally above board. Or, in the UK, you can opt to use simplified expenses, in which you log your business mileage and claim a flat rate per mile, which, in theory, incorporates all your associated vehicle costs. This is 45p per mile for the first 10,000 miles and 25p per mile thereafter. While you’re at it? Ring your car insurance provider and make sure you’re insured for business use, not just the standard social and commuting use. Speaking of which…
  • Insurance payments can often be claimed as business expenses. Health insurance — particularly in the US, where it’s a necessary expense — and any professional liability insurance can all be added into your expenses. Likewise, your memberships with any governing bodies — for example, the British Grooms Association or USEA — that are essential to performing your job and effectively advertising can all be expensed.
  • Courses. If you sign up for a course that supplements your work — for example, a BHS training course if you’re a riding instructor, or a photography class if you make your money behind a camera, these costs can be deducted. No such luck if you’re taking a night class in underwater basket-weaving, though, sorry.
  • Advertising costs, including websites. It’s a good idea to set yourself up with an online presence — more on this next time — and an absolute necessity to get yourself set up with some business cards. You may opt to purchase banner advertising on a website or take out a space in a horse magazine, too. Keep track of all these costs, as they’re all deductible.
  • Incidentals. These might be the little things — printer ink cartridges, a pair of winter work gloves — or they might be bigger investments, like high-end cameras or even a trailer or horse box, if equine transportation falls within the remit of your services. Basically, any time you make a purchase, ask yourself: Will I use this primarily for work? If so, then log that bad boy.

Logging your earnings

By now, you’re handy with a highlighter and a filing system, which is great, because you’re going to do much the same with your payment receipts. You should have an invoice template that you tweak for each client or job, and every time you send an invoice, print a copy for yourself and put it in the folder. Then, when the client pays, write this on the invoice and log the date of payment, too. Each month, print out a copy of your bank statement and highlight these incoming payments, making notes as needed of which payment is which.

Don’t be tempted to try to minimise your earnings or seek out loopholes, like not logging payments made in cash — it’s easy to get caught out and the hassle and penalty payments that come with it just aren’t worth it.

Make a date with your bad self (and those binders)

I’d love to tell you that this step should be done once a week, with a glass of wine and all the accompanying zen of a real-life grown-up who has perfected the art of adulting, but a) ain’t nobody got time for that and b) you should never trust anyone who has any sort of accompanying zen, in case it has been acquired illegally.

What you’re going to do, AT LEAST ONCE A MONTH (and I mean this — do not skip this step if you want to avoid an Annual Sadness), is calculate your overall earnings and your overall business expenses for that month and make note of them. Then, you’re going to pop all those expenses and paid invoices into your handy, colour-coded, magical self-calculating Excel spreadsheets for the current tax year, so that when a kindly accountant/terrifying IRS man/your concerned mum asks whether you’ve balanced your books, you can hit them with those and feel endlessly smug.

Eventing Nation recommends always wearing an approved riding helmet while celebrating your accounting success aboard your unicorn.

Get your diary out

Make sure you know exactly when the tax year begins and ends and what the various deadlines are for filing and paying your taxes.

  • The tax year. This is the 12-month period for which you’ll be totting up your taxes. In the US, this is pretty straightforward and tends to follow the calendar year (that is, January 1 – December 31). In the UK, we like to make our decisions by throwing darts at the calendar, so the tax year began on the 6th of April and will end on the 5th of April, 2018.
  • Due dates: online returns. If you’re filing your tax return online, you’ll need to do it by January 31st following the conclusion of the tax year if you’re in the UK. If you’re in the States, you’ll need to file Schedule SE/Form 1040 (your income tax return and self-employment tax), and Schedule C (profit or loss from business) by April 15th following the end of the tax year. This date is the same, regardless of whether you file electronically or by mail.
  • Due dates: paper returns. If you like to kick it old-school and file paper returns, which you presumably send in by carrier pigeon or Pony Express, the deadline is October 31st following the conclusion of the tax year if you’re in the UK.
  • Quarterly payments. If you’re in the US and paying tax in quarterly instalments — that is, using Form 1040-ES rather than 1040, your payment dates are April 15, June 15, September 15, and the following January 15.
  • Biannual payments. If you’re in the UK, you’ll make two tax payments: one on the 31st of January in the relevant tax year, and one by the 31st of July following the conclusion of the tax year for which the payment is owed.

What you’ll need to pay: US edition

There are two primary taxes you need to focus on: self-employment tax, which covers your Social Security and Medicare taxes, and income tax. If your annual profits are more than $400, you’ll need to file a return. If your annual turnover is less than $400, I suggest revisiting your business plan and perhaps rethinking your rates.

You’ll pay tax on your net profit, which you’ll work out by subtracting your business expenses from your income. So if you earned $20,000 over the course of the tax year, but you claimed $50 a month in home office deductions, spent $1,000 on a new camera lens for your photography business, and chalked up $150 a month for six months of show-circuit travel and hotels, your total expenses will be $2,500 and your net profit will be $17,500.

Your self-employment tax is set at a rate of 15.3%, and can be calculated exactly by using Schedule SE. If you were an employee, this would be paid in part from your own wages, and in part by a contribution from your employer, so to bridge that gap, you won’t pay self-employment tax on 100% of your net profit, but rather, 92.35% of it, or, in the case of the example, $16,161.25. This would make your self-employment tax for the year $2,473, but you can claim half of that, or $1,236, as a tax-free deduction when you complete your tax return. I know, I know.

You’ll have to complete both Form 1040-ES, which estimates your income and thus your tax, and sets you up on a quarterly payment plan, and Form 1040, which is completed at the end of the tax year and deals in exact numbers (and helps you work out if you’re entitled to a refund, which is always nice.) You’ll also have to complete Schedule C, which details your loss and profits — an easy form if you’ve been meticulous in your record-keeping through the year.

Whether you have to register as self-employed or not depends on your state’s regulations, so it’s definitely worth seeking professional advice to make sure you avoid any penalty charges.

Hey, the great news is, you don’t have to pay tax on your Olympic medals and any payouts you get from the US Olympic Committee, so if you’re reading this, P.Dutty, please feel a bit smug about that for a moment.

What you’ll need to pay: UK edition

First of all, you’ll need to register as self-employed with HM Revenue and Customs. You’ll need to pay income tax and National Insurance Class 2 and 4 contributions. Your income tax is subject to a personal allowance, much the same as if you’re in ordinary employment, so for this tax year, you won’t be taxed for the first £11,500 of your earnings. After that, you’ll ordinarily pay basic rate tax at 20%.

Once you’re earning over £6,025 in profits a year, you’ll start paying Class 2 NI contributions, and once you reach £8,164 in profits, you’ll add Class 4 contributions to that. Class 2 contributions are set at a flat rate of £2.85 a week, and Class 4 contributions are set at 9% of your profits.

So, say you earn £20,000 in the 2017-2018 tax year. First, take out your personal allowance of £11,500: your taxable income is now £8,500. Your income tax is based on profits, not intake, however, so before you work out that 20%, subtract your deductible expenses. Let’s say you claim £50 per month for your home office, £50 per month for transportation and travel costs, and £500 through the year in other deductible expenses. That works out to £1,700 that you can subtract from your taxable income, leaving you with £6,800 in taxable profits. 20% of £6,800 is £1,360: your income tax for the year.

Your Class 4 National Insurance contributions are only payable on profits over £8,164, so subtract your deductibles – £1,700 – from your income – £20,000 – to get your total profits: £18,300. Then, subtract £8,164 from that – the amount you’ll make Class 4 payments on is £10,136. At 9%, your annual Class 4 contribution will be £912.24, which can be paid by direct debit and spread throughout the year.

Your Class 2 contributions are a set rate, so you know they’ll be £148.20 for the year. This means your total tax and NI contribution for the year will be £2,420.44, so you should aim to put about £202 in a dedicated savings account each month.

The rates you have to pay, and the personal allowance you’re entitled to, changes once you start earning more, so if you’re making £45,001 per year or more, your income tax will jump to 40%. At £150,000, it maxes out at 45%. Once you hit £45,000, your Class 4 contributions drop to 2% of your profits. If you earn over £85,000, you’ll also need to talk to an accountant about registering for VAT, but by that point, I expect you won’t be reading my tax advice anyway, so you do you, boo.

Adulthood: Just a string of worrying moments that make you wonder when, exactly, you turned into Bridget Jones.

Pour yourself a drink, duckling, because you’ve made it this far, and that is an admirable feat. You should now have a basic idea of how the tax system works, but I recommend sitting down with an accountant to make sure you’ve ticked all the right boxes when filing your first return, especially if you have a working spouse or any dependants, claim any benefits, or have any other mitigating circumstances that may affect what you owe and what you can claim. This guide isn’t intended to be exhaustive, just introductory — the bottom line is that filing taxes needn’t be so difficult that you decide not to make the leap into freelancing because of it. You’ve got this.

Part One: Weighing Your Options

Part Two: Perfect Preparation

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.

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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.

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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:

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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!

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