Astier Nicolas and Piaf de b’Neville faced a nail-biting start to the 2017 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials yesterday when the horse was sent to the holding box at the first horse inspection, but the Rio Olympic individual silver medalists brushed off the mishap to score 41.5 and lead at the Thursday lunch break.
That score of 41.5 missed Astier and Piaf de b’Neville’s personal best at the level of 38.5 from Pau in 2015, and they likely would have come very close to challenging that mark had it not been for a costly mistake at the very end of the test when the horse broke to canter on the opposite leg following the downward transition to trot.
Like we saw last week at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, horses and riders at Badminton are performing FEI CCI4* Dressage Test A. This is the first time most of these combinations have performed this particular test, aside from the four riders that also competed at Rolex last week: Lauren Kieffer, Hannah Sue Burnett, Michael Jung and Tim Price.
Mark Todd and Leonidas II came so close to beating their personal best of 41.7 from Burghley in 2015, but halting at G instead of I for the final salute ultimately gave them an error and bumped their score up to 42.9 for second place currently. Alexander Bragg and Zagreb scored 44.6 to round out the top three.
Two of our seven North American combinations went in the morning session, with Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot sitting in fourth place on 44.9. They were chasing their personal best of 43.2 at Rolex last year, and they had a very similar mistake to Astier Nicolas and Piaf de b’Neville at the end of the test, when the horse broke to canter on the opposite leg after the downward transition to trot.
Hannah said “William,” a 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned and bred by Jacqueline Mars, was a bit tense in warm-up but then relaxed well in the ring. “There was a couple of little mistakes I wish I could have improved on, but I can’t be too hard on him for his first time here. He scored 44.9, which is a little bit higher than he’s been getting but it’s alright … I heard the cross country is really hard, and I’m on a cross country horse.”
Indeed, Eric Winter’s new cross country course is certainly causing quite a stir. It’s BIG with with a mix of technical questions and massive jumping efforts. Click here to take a virtual tour of the course.
Hannah hasn’t walked the course yet, as she has certain superstitions she always follows, like never walking her course on a Wednesday. Now that she’s done her test, she will go out and walk in the very near future. (She also eats one banana before cross country after suffering from muscle cramps at Rolex one year. In 2016 she ate two bananas before her cross country round at Rolex and broke a frangible pin, so now she sticks firmly to just one banana.)
She said William is definitely enjoying being at Badminton, one of the largest attended sporting events in Great Britain. “If there’s a crowd of people and somebody he knows will yell his name, he’ll look right at them,” Hannah said. “He loves atmosphere and he loves being at a party; he’s a social kind of a guy.” Welcome to the party, William!
The fabulous Samantha Clark caught up with Hannah in the mixed zone after her test, so be sure to listen to watch her full interview here:
Lauren Kieffer and Landmark’s Monte Carlo did the honors as our first down the center line in their Badminton debut. There was a scoring mix-up when her score was first announced as 50.6, then changed to 57.3, then changed back to 50.6 more than three hours later to put them in 13th place.
“Patrick,” an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Jacqueline Mars, had a bobble when he cantered in the half-pass, combined with the very tough task of being first out, kept them from matching that score, but Lauren said she was thrilled with the horse.
“He was steady and he was accurate and I couldn’t be happier with him,” Lauren said. “So far my experience at Badminton is amazing — although it’s a little cold, especially coming from Kentucky. It’s fantastic, and there’s certainly quite the atmosphere.”
Lauren has walked part of the course so far and said it’s big, bold and just what you would expect at Badminton. As to how she feels about being the pathfinder on course with Patrick as the first out of the startbox: “There’s not much I can do except kick on and ride what I know!”
Watch Lauren’s full interview with Samantha Clark below:
We’ll see Lauren return to the dressage ring tomorrow aboard Team Rebecca’s Veronica, who is set to go at 3:54 p.m. BST/10:54 a.m. EST. I would say you can watch via the live stream, but we have received numerous reports that the feed has been sporadic. It is working currently here, but no guarantees!
Looking ahead to today’s afternoon session of dressage, we have three heavy hitters all going in the next group, and according to EquiRatings they are expecting all of them to hit the 30s: Bettina Hoy and Designer 10, Thibaut Vallette and Qing du Biote ENE HN, and reigning winners Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW. (For your sake I really hope the live stream works so you can watch!)
When it comes to scores in the 30s, that threshold is all-important when you consider that four of the past five winners of Badminton all scored in the 30s, with the exception being Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh in 2014 due to very wet conditions. As for the best score ever recorded at Badminton, Andrew Hoy and Darien Powers scored 30.8 in 2000.
Katherine Coleman and Longwood go at the very end of the third session at 3:02 p.m. BST/10 a.m. EST. Lynn Symansky and Donner are our last North American combination to go toward the very end of the day at 4:34 p.m. BST/11:34 a.m. EST.
Click here to catch up on all of EN’s coverage of #MMBHT17 so far keep checking Instagram for more photos. Samantha and I are your boots on the ground at Badminton, and we’re also teaming up with EquiRatings to bring you exclusive stats. Be sure to check out @equiratings to follow along with their live analysis.