Pau Cross Country Proves Influential

William Fox-Pitt & Seacookie, sitting in 1st overnight (photo by Kate Samuels)

The cross country today here at Pau could not have been nicer, with warm temperatures and a light breeze, the crowds from all over the world packed in to see the horses and riders navigate Pierre Michelet’s CCI4* course. While the riders agreed this morning that it was smaller than some other four-star courses, it certainly caused it’s fair share of problems, and reaffirmed that eventing is not, after all, a dressage competition. Check out my video below for footage of various combinations throughout the course.

William Fox-Pitt did the unimaginable and brought all three of his horses home clear and under the time. In our press conference, William spoke to the fact that riding three horses across five hours is quite hard for the rider’s adrenaline levels, and keeping your mental focus on three very different horses is a challenge to say the least. He said it was very nice to ride three horses that are experienced, know their jobs and want to do them well. As of right now, he lies first, second and third on Seacookie TSF, Cool Mountain and Neuf Des Coeurs, respectively. All three of them are separated by only 1.7, and Phillip lies 1.4 points behind that. Show jumping will be very exciting tomorrow!

Phillip & Mr. Medicott into the last water (photo by Kate Samuels)

Speaking of Phillip, he and Mr. Medicott cruised around the course in good style and seem to have worked out a partnership after only a few months together. Cave is incredibly experienced, having completed several CCI4* competitions with both Frank Ostholt and Karen O’Connor, so Phillip is his third lifetime CCI4* rider. Talk about an impressive horse! Phillip spoke to the fact that Cave can get very aggressive about the cross country, especially in the beginning, so it’s a matter of getting him to settle before the big combinations, and he seems to have achieved that well today. This pair finished just one second over the time to add 0.4 time penalties to their dressage score and go into show jumping in fourth place behind William and his three mounts.

Maxime Livio & Cathar de Gamel (photo by Kate Samuels)

The highest placed French rider is currently in fifth place, CCI4* newcomer Maxime Livio riding Cathar de Gamel. They had a brilliant dressage ride, which I mentioned in my day one wrap up, and followed that performance with a foot perfect ride today. This horse is quite small and nippy, and went around the cross country with a really gritty demeanor. Twenty-six-year-old Maxime says that the horse has won three times this year at the three-star level, and although it is their first CCI4* together, he trusts the horse enormously and they have been together for five years. He admits that show jumping may be their weakest link, but to be placed this high after two phases and sit next to William and Phillip in the press conference was an honor in itself.

Clark Montgomery & Universe, sitting 9th place overnight (photo by Kate Samuels)

Clark was the first rider out on the course for Team USA today, and after his frustration on dressage day, he positively zoomed around on Universe, making it look like a piece of cake. I saw them in the infield of the racetrack, and they looked super all the way around. Buzz was the perfect type of horse for this course, as he is quick on his feet and nippy with his front end, always giving the jumps plenty of air. He made the sharp turns that caught so many combinations out look simple. They came home clear and under the time to start out a great day for the U.S. riders. Clark and Buzz moved all the way up from 31st place after dressage into ninth place going into show jumping tomorrow on the merit of their clear round.

Lynn Symansky & Donner, sitting 12th overnight (photo by Kate Samuels)

Lynn Symansky and Donner were the next U.S. pair that I saw on the cross country, and they looked incredible. I was asked about Lynn’s cross-country style by another photographer before she came through the water jump, and I replied that she was gritty and determined. She certainly lived up to that reputation today, as she jumped through the very difficult 11ab and 12 at the overturned boat houses in the infield with all the technical skill in the world. Donner is such a super jumper and so quick off the ground, and he trusts Lynn completely. They made mincemeat of their second CCI4* course, finishing with the fastest time of the day with 15 seconds to spare as they crossed the finish line, moving up from 38th place after dressage into 12th place going into the show jumping.

Marilyn Little & RF Demeter,sitting 11th place overnight (photo by Kate Samuels)

Marilyn Little and RF Demeter were the last U.S. riders out on course today, and despite a bobble dropping into the first water at 6abc, they looked strong everywhere else and finished the day with only 1.6 time penalties to move up from 27th place after dressage into 11th place for Sunday. Demi looks in great health, and I think that she and Marilyn are gaining great experience with one another competing in Europe all summer in Holland. This mare is a really lovely jumper, and having jumped clear around Luhmuhlen earlier this year, they’ve got the cross country figured out. Marilyn has been working hard on Demi’s show jumping, so here’s to a clear round tomorrow.

Michael Pollard & Mensa G into the last water (photo by Kate Samuels)

Michael Pollard and Mensa seemed to be having a great round until they unfortunately had a runout at 20b, which was a combination of two very narrow skinny jumps later in the course coming out of the race track infield. Amongst many others, Andrew Nicholson and Quimbo had the exact same problem, and the jump was one of the most difficult questions on the course. After that, Michael seemed to take his foot off the pedal a little, and brought Mensa home quietly to finish with 24.8 time penalties, and goes into show jumping in 47th place.

Hawley Bennett and Gin & Juice, 23rd after cross country (photo by Kate Samuels)

If I had to choose a phrase to describe Ginny, I would definitely choose “jumpin’ fool”. I saw Ginny early in the course at 6abc when she bounced through the troublesome combination and took off for the infield, and then again at the end of the course at 24, 25abc and 26. At this point, a lot of horses were looking a little less enthusiastic, and some even fatigued. Not Ginny! This little mare had one of her best dressage tests yesterday and then ate this cross country course as a snack. Unfortunately, I think that Ginny’s exuberence cost Hawley some valuable time, and they finished with 13.2 time penalties and sit in 23rd place going into the show jumping tomorrow.

Shandiss McDonald & Rockfield Grant Juan (photo by Kate Samuels)

Shandiss McDonald and the lovely Rockfield Grant Juan also completed the course today for Team Canada, and where I saw them they looked very solid. Juan is so huge that he positively lopes around the course, and despite his large body he found the sharp turns on Pierre Michelet’s course quite easy. Shandiss has moved her operation to England as of this summer, and has been enjoying the extra competitive atmosphere. Unfortunately, Juan seemed a little fatigued on course and finished with 42 time penalties to sit in 46th place overnight, right before Michael Pollard.

We just had a press conference with William Fox-Pitt, Phillip Dutton and Maxime Livio, and they all spoke for quite some time on their rides today, so we will be uploading that and bringing you more reports shortly, so stay tuned.

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