Our American four-star contingent got what they came for today at Luhmühlen.
Hannah Sue Burnett and RF Demeter kicked things off with their promising first outing at the three-star level together this morning, collecting just 4.8 time and looking dynamite all around. (Read our CIC3* report here.) Then all five of our CCI4* pairs went clear, with a combined total of 12 time penalties between the lot of them. Four of them were bouncing back from various incarnations of four-star cross country misfortune earlier this year, and the fifth, Marilyn Little with RF Scandalous, was looking to Luhmühlen for the mare’s four-star debut.
Hannah Sue is our top-placed American in the CCI4* with Harbour Pilot, heading into show jumping tomorrow on a score of 44.5. Not only did they put their bad day at Badminton in the rearview, they posted the fastest time in the four-star class.
“I’m so thrilled with team USA’s success today, and I couldn’t be happier with Ms. Jacqueline Mars’ RF Demeter and Harbour Pilot,” she says. “My horses were game and on point, and it feels great to be back on form with ‘William.'”
“I look forward to jumping good rounds tomorrow. Thanks to everyone for their support. Go USA!”
Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous, who were in third position after dressage, collected 6.8 time penalties, which bumped them to ninth on the crowded leaderboard. But it was the mare’s first four-star and, despite a mistaken flag penalty that momentarily rattled everyone’s nerves, they had a super go overall.
“I should have gone a little faster in the beginning but it’s her first four-star, and I knew I wanted to have some horse left at that last combination,” she said. “I couldn’t make it up coming home, but it wasn’t her fault and she was brilliant. I’m so excited for her.”
Any cross country go wherein the horse crosses the finish flags a more educated athlete than they left the startbox is a success, and Marilyn says “Kitty” was a student of Mike Etherington Smith’s course.
“She was trying to do everything I asked her to do,” Marilyn says. At the first water complex, for instance, Marilyn says the mare didn’t quite understand the rail jumping in — it looked like the gymnastics they jump at home. But she sorted it and jumped into the second water feeling like a made horse, ready to think things through and take care of business. After their round Marilyn picked apart her striding through the complex, but in the end a motivating boot and slipped reins was all it took for a picture-perfect jump at the skinny out — see photo above.
“She covered it and totally smiled for the camera. She was a great girl there,” Marilyn says.
Will Coleman and Obos O’Reilly sit 12th heading into show jumping tomorrow. After a bum cross country day at Rolex, due to a wind problem Oboe’s vets have since cleared up, the horse was due some redemption, and Will says he picked back up where he left off today.
“He hadn’t run since Kentucky so he had to come here a little cold turkey, but he’s a real fighter and I couldn’t be prouder of him,” Will says.
Oboe is a powerful horse, perhaps better suited to a big, galloping course than Luhmühlen’s tight, twisty track. Landing off the final combination, I heard Will gave the horse a word of encouragement in the tone you’d use to coax a running buddy through the homestretch of a race.
“I had to work a little bit for him,” Will says. “It took it out of him a bit, so I had to pick him up at the end and say, ‘Come on boy, let’s get to the finish.’ But he was really with me the whole way and I was just super pumped. He was great. I was thrilled.”
U.S. EN readers and talented photographers Ginny Nayden and Sydney Giddings have been at Luhmühlen this week, as in true horse-nut fashion they built a vacation around the event. They’ve been so generous as to share their beautiful photos with EN, including Ginny’s sequence of Will and Oboe coming through the first water:
Sharon White couldn’t have been prouder of her newly minted four-star horse, Cooley On Show, after a clear round with 2.8 time.
“He was super,” she says. “He just finds it all very easy. He does exactly what I tell him to do, so be careful what you tell him to do! He’s a fabulous horse.”
She gave armloads of credit to veteran German team rider Dirk Schrade, who has been helping the pair for the past couple weeks, “just giving him a kick in the butt and actually making him work a little bit.”
If Sharon was slightly too passive at Rolex, she made up for it here at Luhmühlen. They galloped out of the box with their pants on fire and never looked back. Who knows, perhaps we’ll see a five-star event for freak-of-nature event horses on the calendar at some point in the future?
“I’m just grateful to sit on this horse,” she says. “He’s just really fun to sit on and he loves it, he absolutely loves it.”
More from Ginny Nayden:
Though based in the UK, we’ll never not claim Katherine Coleman as our own, and she and Longwood made us proud with their first four-star completion today.
“He was jumping massive over everything,” Katherine says. Her partner is a classic Irish cross country machine, and he showed his get-to-the-other-side scrappiness in the tough Meßmer water complex today. “I felt like he lost his back hind leg up the step, and so that got very hairy, but bless him he’s just so honest he put his head through the flags and scrambled over it.”
The pair came home clear with 2.4 time. “I was ahead of my minute markers the whole way around and then I slowed way down, and I think I slowed down a little bit too much and couldn’t really catch the time back up because you’ve got that big hill at the end. But he was just on it, he was making it, he was really, really good.”
Germany’s Bettina Hoy and Designer 10 maintained their overnight lead, adding nothing to their impressive dressage score of 26.0. Bettina had a couple hairy, which-stride-should-we-go-for? moments, but righted the ship with her remembrance of former German team co-coach Chris Bartle’s “oh $h!t” position advice.
“Designer gave me a fantastic round,” says Bettina, who is also leading the CIC3* with Seigneur Medicott. “I guess I just forgot that I have to ride him differently to Mickey, who I rode this morning, but I soon remembered! Unfortunately my watch stopped working around the seven-minute mark, which left me a little unsure about the time, but I know he is a really fast horse, so I knew I would be able to just go for it. Hasi is simply cool!”
Another German, Julia Krajewski and Samourai du Thot, sit second on a 37.1. “Sam gave me a brilliant feeling all the way round the course,” Julia says. “He was fit and forward throughout. I could not be happier! It was our first four-star event after Rio, so I really wanted things to go well. But I knew he was in top form, so I was optimistic it would.
“The course rode as I had hoped and only once Sam added an extra stride going up hill, which made it that little bit harder, because he is only small. But he was amazing and whatever happens tomorrow, I am very proud of his performance.”
Britain’s Nicola Wilson and Bulana moved from fourth to third on a double-clear round. “I am delighted with this little mare,” she says. “She is feisty and strong in cross country and I have spent many hours practicing during the winter to bring her nose a little more forward. It was her first four-star competition and I could not be happier. She is a super mare.”
Mike Etherington Smith’s cross country course was plenty proper but also horse-legible, and 37 out of 47 CCI4* starters went clear or clear with time. There were five 20-faulters, three Rs, and two Es.
He remarked at day’s end, “It takes a couple of years to get to know a course, and I already have some good ideas for next year. But I am really happy to have seen so many positive rounds, motivated and confident horses and smiling riders. The weather was perfect and the footing could not have been better. Though David Evans, Carl Fletcher and their team prepared the footing for anything. They have done an amazing job! The work they have put into building this course is fantastic.”
Julia Otto, Luhmühlen’s event director, thanked her team and made the happy announcement that David Evans, Carl Fletcher and their team have been selected to be the Eventing Course Builder for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Job well done to all. Go eventing!