Two Americans are well in the hunt for a top placing after the cross country phase of the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials CCI***.
Kim Severson may not have contested the track for sixteen years but she rode it like she’d written course plan, posting one of the eight valuable double-clears with Cooley Cross Border.
“He did nine minutes at Kentucky this year and wasn’t fit enough,” explained Kim. “Then, when I brought him over to do Tattersalls [CCI*** in Ireland] he was totally overwhelmed, so I pulled him up. He then spent the summer here at Richard Sheane’s at Cooley Farm, where I got him from, and so his fitness now is something I have to thank them for. They took care of him and got him fit and I would fly in – I did six trips to Ireland this summer so I could compete him a lot, which was really good for him. He went out there today and I thought, ‘is he tired?’ And then he spooked at the water, by the duck sculpture and I was like, ‘okay – it’s on!’ He was really good, and he’s finally starting to step up for me when I’m not quite right.”
Kim and Cross sit in 3rd place going into tomorrow’s showjumping phase, with 4.4 points separating them from leaders Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH, and 2.1 between them and second-placed Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street.
Hannah Sue Burnett and RF Demeter proved that their relatively new partnership is well and truly cemented by adding just 2.8 time penalties and staying in sixth place overnight.
“She was amazing – I had a blast on her,” enthused Hannah after her round. “There were a couple of hairy moments and I was like, ‘just stay between the flags!’ and she just went for it. She just loves it. We all thought the coffin at 19 would be difficult, but it was even more difficult than we expected, but she was really clever through there.”
Photo by eventing superdad Richard Payne
Doug Payne and Vandiver stormed around the cross country to add just 5.2 time penalties and move up to 12th place, with the horse still looking fit and full of running at the end of the course.
“I couldn’t ask for a better horse to head out on – he’s about as genuine as they come and honestly, he made it easy,” said Doug. “I was probably a little conservative speed-wise early on, so I had to try to catch up, but he’s an incredible horse – that’s all there is to it. I’m lucky to have him. I have to thank, too, the USET Foundation and Jacqueline Mars, who have allowed us to come here.”
Lauren Kieffer and Landmarks Monte Carlo just missed out on a double clear, adding just 1.6 time penalties to move up from 41st place to 13th.
“He was really good,” she said. “After Badminton we decided to do a three-star with him, just to get his confidence back up, and he was great – he just skipped around out there.”
Liz Halliday-Sharp and Carpe Diem IV added 13.2 time penalties to move up to 20th.
“I’m absolutely thrilled with him – he’s only done two Advanced and he’s not done a CCI since he was seven,” said a beaming Liz. “He’s so honest. He got a bit tired in the last minute and that’s where the time penalties came from, as I had to take the odd conservative route. The dragons [at 7ABC] rode tougher than I thought they would – he went a bit wild and feral there! But I’m so pleased with him – hopefully I’ve got a great 4* horse for the future.”
Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 added just 8 time penalties to move up an incredible 50 places from 81st to 31st.
Time proved to be a hugely influential factor on David Evans’ course, which also saw him use distances, rather than fence height, to challenge horses and riders. Riders couldn’t rely on obvious strides in the combinations, but rather, were encouraged to think on the job, lengthening or shortening the stride depending on their initial jump in order to make it through cleanly. Only eight riders delivered double-clears and for Padraig McCarthy and Mr Chunky, and Lydia Hannon and My Royal Touch, this offered a valuable window to move up. Respectively, they moved up 20 and 30 places to sit in the top ten at the end of the day’s competition.
Fence 19ABC, the Shires Equestrian Wooded Hollow, caused the most trouble on course, with 23 riders faulting there. A meaty coffin complex with a skinny triple brush on an angled line, it had very little margin for error and a slight misjudgment or a big jump over the ditch opened the door for horses to slip out to the right without ever seeing a take-off point.
It was this fence that caught out Tiana Coudray and Under the Clocks, as well as crowd favourites Jonty Evans and Cooley Rorkes Drift and fourth-placed Kitty King and Vendredi Biats.
“He jumped the ditch too big and couldn’t quite get the line, which is a shame as he was brilliant everywhere else,” said Kitty. “He doesn’t deserve that 20 penalties. His steering has been an issue in the past but it wasn’t a problem today – it wasn’t even in the back of my mind on course.”
Laura Collett and Mr Bass finished bang on the optimum time to move up from 9th to 4th place.
“This year we’ve had a few steering issues and we’ve had to slightly go back to the drawing board,” explained Laura. “He’s come out thinking he’s the absolute dog’s danglies, and that he doesn’t need me, so I sometimes have to remind him!”
Pippa Funnell’s double-clear allowed her to hold onto second place aboard MGH Grafton Street, who is owned by long-time supporters Jonathan and Jane Clarke.
“William will probably be cross that I got such a buzz [on cross country] – he wants me to stop!” laughed Pippa. “MGH Grafton is a horse that can be a little bit on his head in his balance – I’ve never tried to go for the time on him, so that was quite brave for me!”
The star of the day was once again Germany’s Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH, who performed a nearly foot-perfect round to go double-clear.
“I didn’t sit so well over the ditch at 19 and I thought, ‘oh sh*t! Please do it!’,” said Julia. “He pricked his ears and he did it. I thought about going long, but I’m in a very competitive position and I wanted to make the time – it’s risky, but it has to be done. I’m so proud of him, and I’m so glad he got the result he deserved. He was very genuine until the last.”
The showjumping will commence tomorrow at 9.30am BST/4.30am EST, but first, there’s the final horse inspection to get through – keep an eye on EN’s Twitter and Instagram feeds for live updates on our fantastic American riders and the leaders of the pack.
Until then, go celebratory champagne, and Go Eventing!