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EN Blogger Contest Finalist Charlotte Salmon: President of Eventing 4Ever

The 2022 EN Blogger Contest finalists were asked to write about what they would do if they were appointed President of Eventing 4Ever as one option for their final, Round 3 submissions. The following piece is published unedited. Your feedback will help us select our final winner! Use the rating poll below to give this post a thumbs up. Votes will be factored into our final decision.

About Charlotte:

Charlotte Salmon, 16, is an aspiring author who has grown up with horses. She hopes to spread inclusivity into the eventing world. Her biggest achievements include breaking her nose whilst trying a pony, buying said pony, and producing him. While not hugely successful in the eventing world her latest endeavour includes 4-year-old ex-racehorse, Tiger, who she hopes to event in years to come.

[Click here to read Charlotte’s Round 2 entry]
[Share your feedback on Charlotte’s entries]

Picture the scene: you strut out onto stage at your inauguration as “President of Eventing (4Ever)” clutching a microphone in one hand, and a bottle of bubbly in the other, with Chinch gracing your right shoulder. Your eyes are bright and you’re bushy-tailed with anticipation, but whatever for? Eventing does inaugural speeches a little differently, of course, so what is all this fuss for? Well, the audience is on the edge of their sheets for your first proclamation. What will be the first rule you’re instituting- effective immediately?

Well, EN readers, this is the dilemma I found myself with. What would my first rule be? Wasting such an honour would be treacherous. Banning .5 marks in dressage tests would help my non-existent maths ability greatly, perhaps asking the pros to do dressage one-handed, or maybe even banning start times before 11am. Beneficial to some, but we can do better than that.

So, after much deliberation, I, Charlotte Salmon (President of Eventing (4Ever)) declare that: all circles within eventing are to be banned. With immediate effect.

*mic drop*

Okay, so every leader must be controversial occasionally. Presidents of eventing are no exception. Just imagine dressage tests without 20m circles, showjumping courses that flow like ripples across ponds, and crossing your tracks becoming borderline impossible.

Not convinced?

Imagine not having to cope with the strain of convincing wobbly babies or flexibly challenged racehorses that circles do not, in fact, deny every one of Newton’s laws. Not receiving the comment of “you’re not using enough outside leg” when said leg is cramping unimaginably sounds lush, right?
Still sceptical?

What about no longer worrying about the “perfect” circle? (I practically heard that eyebrow raise.) Reading one score sheet only to see your circles were too small, making them larger, and then receiving the opposite criticism will become a thing of the past. Completely abolished, in fact.

Even the pros agree:

No-Ser Cal, Olympic course designer, shared that, “The crossing of tracks becomes increasingly harder for riders and stewards to understand and judge, thus blurring the lines for the inclusivity we strive for. It is important that we allow for everyone to participate within our sport without the little cloud of doubt hanging over their heads.”

Furthermore, dressage judge Sentar Lyne revealed that, “Circles can cause many judges and competitors unnecessary stress. As well as this, it can be almost impossible to keep tests varied and engaging through the over-use of circles.”

Despite being met with some reservations, the rules surrounding refusals and run outs have been completed with extreme clarity: if a horse and rider have a stop or refusal at a fence, they are allowed to complete any of the following shapes. These are as follows: an egg, oblong, square, rectangle or blob, so long as none exhibit circular lines of any sort. Refusal to complete such shapes will result in a 4 to 8 fault penalty, upon judge’s discretion.

Overall, it is hoped that this new rule brings further inclusivity to the sport as it allows for riders to incorporate new movements into tests and courses, while letting our wobblier counterparts to still enjoy eventing without the pressure of these spherical sins.

EN Blogger Contest Finalist Sydney Steverson: What Eventing Needs to Thrive

The 2022 EN Blogger Contest finalists were asked to write or share a piece on what eventing needs in order to grow and thrive as one option for their final, Round 3 submissions. The following piece is published unedited. Your feedback will help us select our final winner! Use the rating poll below to give this post a thumbs up. Votes will be factored into our final decision.

About Sydney:

Born in 1993 Sydney’s parents had dreams of her becoming a doctor. Or the president. However, much to their chagrin, she fell in love with horses and has made it everyone’s problem since then. Re-entering the competitive scene in 2019 to extremely mixed results she still makes it her goal in her dream journal to become a professional. Some would say Sydney Steverson is “a bit off…mentally and emotionally” but those people are doctors and not horse people so they don’t actually know anything. Currently the proud owner of two OTTBs, both of whom can be described as “so so so very weird” and one Swedish Warmblood who is best known as “a literal angel from heaven who has done nothing wrong in her entire life.” Sydney will be great one day! Even if it kills her!

[Click here to read Sydney’s Round 2 entry]
[Share your feedback on Sydney’s entries]

Can’t see the YouTube video above? Click here to watch Sydney’s entry.

EN Blogger Contest Finalist Poppy von Maltzahn: Eventing’s Face Lift

The 2022 EN Blogger Contest finalists were asked to write a piece telling the story of a local event as one option for their Round 2 submissions. The following piece is published unedited. Your feedback will help us select our final winner! Use the rating poll below to give this post a thumbs up. Votes will be factored into our final decision.

About Poppy:

My name is Poppy von Maltzahn and I’m a 19 year old who is unequivocally obsessed with all things eventing. I ride at CCI** with (fairly unrealistic) ambitions of competing on the world stage. I am a self-diagnosed eventing nerd, and am the type who will recite eventing facts at any given moment (from Michael Jung’s impressive 12 championship appearances to Sam Watson’s uncanny ability to impersonate the Prime Minister in Love Actually, to such an extent that Hugh Grant might be out of a job). From working with Canadian Eventer Selena O’Hanlon for 12 months to traveling to the UK to spend a few weeks with Lucinda Fredericks, I’ve had the opportunity to see many sides to the international eventing scene, stalk a good number of top 5* riders, and see a great deal of Rockingham Horse Trials while being towed by a stallion at the end of my leadrope- I held on for dear life. Eventing is my life, though my parents would argue that going into second year university should be my life. I would love to promote eventing and all things horses on such a fun platform. At university I study literature, history, and law, so I am well-versed in putting pen to paper (but more in a boring, write-2,000-words-on-Plato way, rather than a far more exciting which-eventer-has-the-best-hair-a-five-person-poll kind of way). Merging these two interests is something I am so passionate about. I would bring an abundance of enthusiasm to this team, and despite my obsession with many top riders I vow I can maintain decorum.

[Read Poppy’s Round 2 entry here]
[Share your feedback on Poppy’s entries]

Sport, by nature, seeks to improve. It wishes to better itself, to compete with the present for a stronger future. In short, sport is just as competitive as its competitors. But what truly makes a competitive sport? What makes eventing? And what does eventing so desperately need in order to stay relevant in the modern-day world?

These, along with many others, are the questions I ponder in my chats with Sam Watson (which definitely aren’t only in my head). He, a co-founder of one of the only eventing-based statistics companies, and I, a rider who has yet to not fall off at the CCI2* level. Clearly we each have something to bring to the table. Ideas have been discussed: adding a betting component at big events, the Z-line, and several other boring, unintelligible, number-based schemes for making this sport relevant and accessible. I sit, zoning out, and listen to him spout number after number, knowing that the real solution has yet to be spoken of. The real solution, so simple yet so brilliant, would undoubtedly be the change that could bring eventing to the next level, making it popular and accessible to all. What we need is for Kim Kardashian to start eventing.

Think of a Kardashians episode (trademarked to Disney+) centering on Kim’s first event. The highs, the lows, the celebratory or commiseratory lunch from the food van (though, let’s face it, she’d probably get Nobu delivered). Now, we are already aware there are some high-profile celebrities who event (I’ll refrain from naming names as I am moderately worried of the legal drawbacks of such a claim), but what eventing lacks is a social media icon who leaves no second of her private life unaccounted for on her Instagram platform. All 322 million of her followers, exposed to the crazy world of eventing. If the average Jo picks up a stop at the ditch at 6b, nobody takes much notice. But if it were Kim Kardashian? That would be the top story in Hello the very next day. Instant publicity, immediately everyone rushes to discover what this newfangled sport called eventing really is. Where do they come to? Eventing Nation: the place for all of your eventing-related queries. No need for Hello, get the inside scoop right here.

And why stop at Kim K? Why not bring a European dimension into this too? We’ve already had international dressage rider Gemma Owens on the last season of Love Island (which I definitely don’t watch religiously), so let’s just keep the ball rolling. Will Rawlin, reconsider Love Island’s request to have you on. Do it for the good of the sport! Sam Ecroyd, fancy another season on Take Me Out? It’s time to branch out. It’s time to go mainstream. It’s time for eventing to take over the world.

EN Blogger Contest Finalist Diana Gilbertson: Risk Takers are History Makers

The 2022 EN Blogger Contest finalists were asked to write a piece telling the story of a local event as one option for their Round 2 submissions. The following piece is published unedited. Your feedback will help us select our final winner! Use the rating poll below to give this post a thumbs up. Votes will be factored into our final decision.

About Diana:

A 30 something English Literature graduate perpetually coated in horse poo and mud, Diana has a penchant for spicy food and an (un)healthy obsession with all things equine. Based in a particularly wild and remote part of England (imagine Outlander but with fewer kilts/flame haired Scotchmen), she spends most of her time trying to keep herself and various other four legged friends alive. The rest of her time is spent dreaming of riding for her country (sorry Team GB; standards might have to slip a tad before that happens), although a crack at a 5* on her beloved steed Zara will do …after all, what is life without dreams? Never one to shy away from adventure, Diana has driven the length and breadth of New Zealand, hiked through the Annapurna mountain range, and is currently considering a cycling tour of the Italian Lakes. Now she just needs to master riding a bike…

[Read Diana’s Round 2 entry here]
[Share your feedback on Diana’s entries]

Photo by Peter Gilbertson

As a child, if I were to think of what it was to ‘go eventing,’ it would be to watch the big names of the sport – think Pippa Funnell, William Fox Pitt et al – jump impossibly big fences, whilst stuffing my face with some sort of sickly-sweet crepe, not considering for one second that I might want to join them out on course one day. No thank you; I was quite happy to chase autographs and brush my pony, but the thought of jumping frighteningly huge obstacles never really crossed my simple little mind.

Well, until I was given a horse that ignited a fire inside my belly that changed my entire perspective on the sport, and what it is to ‘go eventing.’ I was no longer happy on the side lines watching, I wanted to take part, and thus I began to chase the dream.

For to go eventing is to follow a dream so big that it scares you. A dream that you believe in so much that you will risk everything you have to make it happen. One that will take you places – both good and bad – that you never thought possible before.

Let’s look at Jonelle Price for example. Back in 2003, she spent her entire life savings on a plane ticket, so that she and Mazetto – her top horse at the time – could fly to the other side of the world and contest their first Burghley together. It was a gamble that did not pay off; Mazetto got so travel sick that they couldn’t compete and they left with nothing – not even a photograph over the Cottesmore Leap. She did not let that put her off, however. Instead, she kept at it, moving to the UK permanently in 2005 alongside husband Tim, and continuing to believe in her dreams until the gamble did pay off – and there is no denying that it finally has. She and Tim were crowned the official King and Queen of eventing in the FEI world rankings earlier this month and on hearing the news, Jonelle perfectly articulated what had driven them to such success, and why, even why she continued to keep at it, even when things didn’t go to plan. She -and Tim – were following their dreams. ‘Once upon a time, two small town kids dreamt that they could take on the world. And they did. The end.’

Similar dreams undoubtedly inspired our current World Champion, Yasmin Ingham to make the move from her native Isle of Man (a minuscule island, just off the coast of the UK, for all you readers whose geography is as bad as mine) and base herself with Sue and Ed (RIP) Davies and Janette Chinn at their yard in Cheshire, England. Leaving her friends and family behind her whilst still in her teens, Yaz – like the Prices before her – believed unwaveringly that the sacrifices would eventually pay off, and that her dreams would come true. Let’s face it -to be World Champion at 25 – and at your first ever World Championship at that – is the very stuff that dreams are made of!

Yas and the Prices are not the only ones who dared to dream – one of the most wonderful things about what it means to ‘go eventing,’ is that it unites so many of us in the same vision, the same belief in our dreams coming true. This is perhaps best articulated by Eventing Nation’s very own Tilly Berendt, as she reflects on the spine tingling finale that saw Yasmin clinch the gold medal : ‘Yaz’s history-making victory doesn’t just fulfil her own wildest dreams — it’s also emblematic of a World Championships cycle that has seen young up-and-comers come to the fore. And for kids with ponies on the brain and posters on their walls? It’s a sure sign that no matter how lofty your ambitions, there’s a pathway to get there.’

Indeed, as Tilly also notes, to ‘go eventing’ is not just something done by the chosen few – it is for anyone who has hopes and aspirations to drive them, whether that is to ride around a 5* or to compete in your local unaffiliated/unrecognised event (delete as appropriate UK/US based readers)

In fact, I can personally empathise with Jonelle, for I too, spent my entire life savings on a horse, with the belief that we could take on the world and compete alongside the best of the best (testament to the talent of the horse, rather than my own abilities I might add). Unfortunately though, my dreams are currently in tatters, just like those of our Kiwi Queen were back in the early days. My beloved Zara is currently waiting to have an operation to remove a bone chip from her fetlock and her return to eventing is hanging in the balance. But have I given up on my dream for us to go eventing once more? Absolutely not, despite it seeming more impossible than ever. You see, Tim, Jonelle, Yaz et al. are not just chasing their own ambitions when they go eventing, they are living proof that no matter what happens, if you keep the faith, you will get there, someway, somehow. As such, their own stories, and the obstacles they have overcome inspire those of us at the other end of the sport to keep going when the chips (pun not intended) are down, to keep looking for rainbows despite the rain.

You don’t have to search very hard to find several other examples of the adversity that top riders have had to overcome to get to where they are. Laura Collett, winner of Olympic Gold and the reigning Badminton champion, suffered a life changing rotational fall back in 2013 that saw her in an induced coma for 2 weeks and has left her permanently blind in one eye. Yet she was back in the saddle on the very same day that she was discharged from hospital. As she said at the time ‘it’s part of our sport. As riders we are probably better at carrying on as normal, whereas other people not associated with it might find it a bit strange that you can get back on as though nothing has happened. You just have to take the good with the bad,’ To give up this crazy life of eventing never even crossed her mind – and aren’t we glad it didn’t? Laura’s experience serves as further testament to the power of dreams, something that she reaffirmed following her Olympic success last year: ‘Just to be here [was] more than a dream come true, and to be stood here, with a gold medal, I look back where I was eight years ago – I knew I was lucky to be alive, yet alone do the job I love.’ Laura points out another key factor in what it means to ‘go eventing;’ it is not just about following your dreams, but about falling in love with something to such an extent that it becomes your entire life and keeps you going when everything else seems to be going wrong – personally, professionally, or both.

Another Olympic gold medallist, Julia Krajewski is the perfect exemplar of this. Had she not continued to go eventing when times were tough, she may never have won that historical gold, becoming the first woman ever to do so in the process. But that’s not to say that the thought of giving up never crossed her mind. ‘A few times I thought about giving up because it was hard feeling the backlash – the positive medication or the Olympics – but when times were difficult, riding was something I chose to do to calm down and concentrate on something else. Being around horses is just what I love to do.’ She is of course referring to her disastrous Olympic debut in Rio aboard Samourai Du Thot (Sam), where three refusals saw her become the German discord score, and the mysterious incident involving the same horse a year later at the Europeans, where they were disqualified following a positive drugs test, despite Julia having no knowledge of the horse having been given the illegal substance. Even after bouncing back from such an annus horribilis, there was still more to come. 2021 began with the death of her father, and then, just months later, Julia was forced to retire Sam from the sport after an eye infection turned nasty and the vets had to remove his eye altogether. Having started the year as almost a dead cert for the Olympics, the rider was forced to question her chosen career once more. Yet if anything, the setbacks – and her love of her horses and the sport she enjoyed – just made her even more determined to keep going. Of course, that determination paid off, and once again we have proof of what it is to go eventing – to believe in the magic of happy endings, and to have that belief vindicated. For as Julia said of her win, ‘It’s the stuff that movies are made of… This is very much a fairy tale finish for me.’

Photo by Action Replay Photography

However, if you think that fairy tales are just for girls, then think again. We need look no further than the 2017 Badminton champ, Andrew Nicholson for evidence of this. Not only was this his 37th attempt at the title (reminiscent of my own attempts to pass my driving test), but it came just two years after breaking his neck in a fall at the 2015 Festival of British Eventing. Arguably it was his own belief in the dream that pervades the sport that meant he was not one of the 98% of cases that would have been left permanently paralysed from such an injury: ‘I knew I would win Badminton one day, I just didn’t know when!’

Andrew has since retired from top level competing, yet still he continues to go eventing, this time as cross-country coach to the Swiss eventing team, again inspiring others to go eventing. It’s not just the younger generation that he’s helping to achieve their wildest dreams either. Earlier this year, at the Pratoni test event, Beat Sax joined the Swiss team for the first time, after forty odd years in the sport, helping his team to victory aged a sprightly 62. Again, it is Tilly Berendt who observed at the time that ‘I don’t think I saw anyone happier to realise a dream this week than Beat.’ It might have taken him decades to get there, but Beat – like the other ladies and gentlemen highlighted throughout this article – had an unwavering belief in himself and his dreams, and he continued to chase them to fruition. He is also testament to the fact that age also doesn’t matter when you go eventing. Yasmin Ingham is a mere child at 25, making Beat almost old enough to be her grandfather, but still the two compete side by side, in pursuit of the same thing.

The great Sir Mark Todd is another who proves that age is but a number when it comes to eventing. He also adds provides further interpretation of the phrase ‘to go eventing’ when reflecting on his illustrious career in the sport – after his second (and final? Only time will tell!) retirement – ‘apart from the personal successes, just being involved in the sport, and the people, is what’s kept me there…the eventing world is one big family.’

His is a very valid point and one that perfectly encapsulates the final and perhaps most important thing about what it means to go eventing. Whether it be as a competitor, a spectator or an owner, to go eventing is to join a community that spans continents and time zones, unites young and old, male and female. Top riders continue to compete amongst us mere mortals at the lower levels and not only do their stories and successes drive and inspire our own hopes and aspirations, but they also remain humble enough to help us to achieve them. None of them are too grandiose to offer support when asked, or to stop and chat to starstruck fans even when in the middle of a competition. I remember seeing William Fox-Pitt at Burgham earlier this year (another remote UK location – sorry US contingent!), desperately trying to get a coffee whilst taking selfie after selfie after selfie with a group of giddy women (not a teenager amongst them I might add – contain yourself girls!). His smile never wavered – and neither did that of Tim and Jonelle when I stopped to gush at them at Burghley in September. In fact, if I remember rightly, they even invited me to their yard – though that was of course before they rose to the lofty ranks of World Number 1 and Number 2, so I doubt that still stands! These guys understand what it is to go eventing, and how important it is to those who do – because they have been on that journey all their lives, too.

So, to go eventing is to become part of a family, one in which all the members are united by the same insanity, the same belief in impossible dreams, and the same determination to overcome the worst of times so that they can one day bask in the best of times. You don’t need to want to compete to join the family either – I have seen myself crying with joy countless times on the final day of various 5* and championships as yet another rider beats the odds and captures their dreams, felt the same goosebumps whilst celebrating their own success as I do when jumping a double clear on my own horse. Even as spectators we share in the passion, the drive, the dreams.

To go eventing then, is to believe in a fairy tale, one in which there are no villains (dressage judges aside), and where anything is possible, as long as you keep the faith. and never give up.

As Oscar Wilde once said ‘Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,’ and in eventing, those stars are the riders that inspired us to go eventing in the first place, the members of a family you didn’t know you had, until you made that leap of faith to Go Eventing!

EN Blogger Contest Finalist Cheg Darlington: On Enticing People to Go (Armchair) Eventing

The 2022 EN Blogger Contest finalists were asked to write a piece telling the story of an epic Chinch adventure as one option for their Round 2 submissions. The following piece is published unedited. Your feedback will help us select our final winner! Use the rating poll below to give this post a thumbs up. Votes will be factored into our final decision.

About Cheg:

I’m Cheg, 41, an armchair eventer living in the wilds of North Wales with five cats, a small flock of rescue hens, two ducks and my husband. All around me – outside my garden fence – are rolling hills and green pastures which give me serious field envy. There’s no road to our house, just a hairy dirt track described by the Realtor as ‘Not for the faint-hearted’. I saw it and immediately wanted to live here!

[Click here to read Cheg’s Round 2 entry]
[Share your feedback on Cheg’s entries]

Flagography, anyone?

If there were points for armchair eventing, I’d be World No. 1. I did have a go at the real deal when I was a teenager; I was living in Kenya and the proud partner of a pony called Barnaby. Although we were best buddies, we weren’t exactly on the same rein when it came to which direction we were going in, how fast we were going, or whether I stayed aboard. He truly believed he was sired by a rodeo bronc. We bucked our way round dressage tests and invariably parted ways by the third fence on the cross country course I’d spent hours walking, visualizing and mapping out with marker pens on a big sheet of paper. My love for eventing was undoubtedly unrequited.

I remember the first time I ever watched cross country. My riding teacher showed me a VHS tape of Burghley in preparation for my first Pony Club one-day event. Was she trying to terrify me? As it happened, the exercise was moot as I never made it through the dressage on that occasion.
I left Kenya – and Barnaby (insert broken-heart emoji) – to return to the UK, hung up my well-worn body protector and allowed my bruises to heal. That’s when I got serious about armchair eventing.

I settle in with the appropriate snack (sausages with Strzegom, a croissant for Pau, beer with Boekelo and high tea for Badminton), make sure my score sheets are to hand (yes, I print them out and fill them in), center myself in my armchair and vicariously ride every horse that leaves the start box, each taking me on another epic journey.

However, it’s not just pertinent snacking and the safety of a cushioned seat that motivates my quest to tempt more people to armchair eventing. Public support is important in order for a sport to grow and thrive, particularly when the opinion of a sport is as emotionally charged as it is concerning equestrianism.

Each year, as I sit to watch Kentucky with a family bucket of chicken, I have the horrendous thought that potentially, at some point in the future, I will spend an Olympics reminiscing nostalgically about the time I became nocturnal to watch the eventing from Tokyo (in the UK, the time difference is 8 hours).

Looking at other sports, it’s clear you don’t need to be a participator to be an avid spectator – not every football fan has donned a helmet. There’s no denying that eventing isn’t the most accessible of sports (a rocking horse would struggle for the scope required to clear the Cottesmore Leap), however, I am proof that an armchair audience for eventing is a valid prospect.

I’ve come up with some ideas for how we can entice more people to sit their butts down and ‘Go (Armchair) Eventing’.

We’ll kick off with a social media campaign to pique some interest…


Whilst we wait for the judges to get situated, here’s a little flagography to help burn off some of those snacks. Grab some flags (or, to prove super-fandom status, perhaps consider having some tattooed on your palms – red on the right, you know how it goes) and follow along.

Indeed…

Onto the dressage, admittedly not the most likely spectator sport, although I find there are zen vibes galore. A bell rings and a horse enters the arena. A bell rings and a horse enters the arena. A bell rings… Saddle-shaped meditation cushions would only add to the comfort of an armchair. Let’s chant together, “Go-m Eventing!”.

For those who aren’t thus inclined, illustrating the judges’ scores on-screen with emoji may add a little somethin’ somethin’. How about the monkey covering its eyes for an oopsie moment? The dancing woman/man is surely perfect for a 10. Sub-20? Obviously the rock star with pink hair.

Time for a tour of the trade stands, starting with the vendor of hay-scented moisturizer, specially developed to care for armchair eventers’ rear ends (available to buy online so the home crowd can indulge whilst firmly planted in their seats). Next, the food outlets; let’s give viewers who’ve munched through their nibbles by the end of the dressage some tasty inspiration.

Ah, Saturday. We all agree cross country day is THE BEST day. Just add snacks.

Finally, call me a five-year-old, but I always giggle when a horse performs a series of farts whilst primly pretending no one’s noticed. Look at my shiny tail and how high I can jump! Imagine if a fart noise was played as the horses clear each fence in the show jumping… It would certainly provide some light relief to the tension of the final day.

In all seriousness, as well as great sport, eventing presents valuable life lessons that deserve to be shown off on a large – enormous – gigantic – epic – all the armchairs in the world – scale. With the emphasis on healthy competition; the supportive approach between competitors of all ages, genders and nationalities; the humbling ups and downs and the patience and commitment it takes to develop a relationship with a horse, there’s no denying that eventing is a sport that’s made with love. We need to share it. Go (Armchair) Eventing!

Blogger Contest Finalist Cassidy Oeltjen: What Go Eventing Means to Me

The 2022 EN Blogger Contest finalists were asked to write about what “Go Eventing” means to them as one option for their final, Round 3 submissions. The following piece is published unedited. Your feedback will help us select our final winner! Use the rating poll below to give this post a thumbs up. Votes will be factored into our final decision.

About Cassidy:

I’ve managed to do a lot of things in my 38 years, unfortunately none of which have led me to world domination. My equestrian competition record includes results at the semi-upper levels of eventing, dressage and hunters, with a random barrel race thrown in. My off-time is spent traveling, experimenting with home improvement projects, obsessing over my horse’s supplements, and making Amazon orders. I make my living as an eventing professional, but also organize recognized dressage shows, put random ink spots on things, write some words, and own a horse who desperately wants to win us some money in the hunter ring (nature is scary). My current life goals revolve around keeping my new little human alive and finding a deodorant that works during summer in North Carolina.

[Read Cassidy’s Round 2 entry]
[Share your feedback on Cassidy’s entries]

There’s a saying that goes something along the lines of “Michael Jordan plays basketball and I play basketball.” And that’s how I feel about the divide… the great divide. Upper levels vs. lower levels. High performance riders vs. everyone else. Those who will get on come hell or high water vs. those who chose to keep their saddles dry.

We all ride the same sport. Three disciplines over a varying number of days covering the grace of dressage, bravery of cross country, and precision of show jumping. We all love the sport, value the horse first, and put on our breeches one leg at a time. We all crossed the start line for the first time, and we will all finish for the last.

When the high performance riders “go eventing” they are doing it for all of us. Sure, they may not discuss whether I should have made the difficult-to-obtain Novice time over a round of drinks at the Mexican Restaurant in Lexington (like we’ve done about them on the Saturday evening of Land Rover), but they event to represent the system our country is developing. They put their expertise on the line to ensure safety measures are implemented. They are human, brutally honest, and let us into their lives in a way that makes us talk about them using their first names like they are old friends.

For us who aren’t household names, we cheer them on just like cheerleaders encourage the home team. “Go(oooooo) eventing!” is like “goooOOOoooo bulls!”. Go, be safe, represent us, make us feel like we are a part of a bigger slice of this world, even if it’s only for the timespan of an 11 minute cross country course. Take us for the ride on an evolving sport with deep traditional roots.

New safety measures become regular rather than recommended. Go eventing.
Everyone comes home safe and healthy from an event. Go eventing.
New scoring calculations make things more fair, top hats are phased out in favor of safety, grassroots efforts keep dreams alive, and the underdog makes anything seem possible. Clapclaptoetouchsplits .. GgggoooOOoo eventing!

Even if you chose to keep your saddle dry when it rains, all of us also ‘go eventing’ in a less cheerleading and much more literal way.

Need your horse to gain confidence? Go eventing.
Need to find your brave? Go eventing.
Need to feel a part of a supportive community? Go eventing.
Need to feel eager, embarrassed, encouraged, and elated? Go eventing.

Michael Jordan and I both played vastly different games of basketball (just like Boyd and I ride vastly different courses), but I think he was channeling his inner eventer when he said “When I step onto the court, I don’t have to think about anything. If I have a problem off the court, I find that after I play, my mind is clearer and I can come up with a better solution. It’s like therapy. It relaxes me and allows me to solve problems”.

Go eventing and GggoooOOOOOO eventing!

EN Blogger Contest Finalist Ruth Jacobs: In or Out? Improving Fence Judge Decision-Making on Missed Flag Rule

The 2022 EN Blogger Contest finalists were asked to write about one rule they’d instate if they were made President of Eventing 4Ever as one option for their final, Round 3 submissions. The following piece is published unedited. Your feedback will help us select our final winner! Use the rating poll below to give this post a thumbs up. Votes will be factored into our final decision.

About Ruth:

Ruth Jacobs, 30 years old, has a PhD in experimental particle physics, but really, REALLY likes horses, actually. Born and raised in a small village in Germany, she caught the horse bug from her next-door neighbor who taught at the local riding school. Ruth works full-time as a postdoctoral researcher in Hamburg, Germany (an hour’s drive away from eventing hub Luhmühlen!) and owns 15-year-old Oldenburg gelding Soli, with whom she events up to German Novice level equivalent. Ruth’s most embarrassing eventing-related anecdote is accompanying a friend to a dinner with Piggy March, Ruth’s all-time heroine. Piggy and Tom March were lovely people, but probably too polite to ask who that star struck fan girl was, obviously too nervous to say anything sensible, let alone finish her baked potato. The pinnacle of awkwardness was reached by hugging Piggy for good-byes while mumbling something like “thank you for the privilege of meeting you”. Really sorry, Piggy, that was weird!

[Click here to read Ruth’s Round 2 entry]
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One of my horsey highlights of every year is volunteering as a fence judge on cross-country day of the CICO 4*-S at the CHIO Aachen in Germany. Getting up early to be on time for the morning briefing, and then spending the day watching the best of the eventing world fly by, clocking, observing, all the while freaking out about possibly having to stop someone out on course, is a thrill every time.

This year’s Aachen was a bit different than usual. This was because, even several hours after the final rider had crossed the finish line, all report card had been handed in, and I was already on the train home, it was not decided who had won the event.

At first, Michael Jung and Chipmunk FRH were announced the winners, but the press conference was called off and postponed. When it did happen two hours later, Sandra Auffahrt, riding Viamant du Matz, sat in the winner’s chair. The reason for this was an incident during Michael Jung’s ride at fence number 14, a brush corner after a long gallop phase, where the pair had an awkward jump which wasn’t clearly between the flags. Only after an hour-long review of the video footage taken by fence judges at this jump (luckily that wasn’t us), the ground jury decided that Michael Jung and Chipmunk incurred 15 penalty points for a missed flag, which cost them the win.

For clarification of missed flag versus run-out, here is what the FEI eventing rules, article 549.2, have to say about it:

“Run-Out: A Horse is considered to have run out (20 penalties) if, having been presented at an […] obstacle on the course, it avoids it in such a way that the body of the Horse (head, neck, shoulders and pelvis – legs are not included) fail to pass between the extremities of the […] obstacle as originally flagged. […]

Missing a flag: A Horse is considered to have missed a flag (15 penalties) if the Horse jumps the dimension of the obstacle and the majority of the Horse’s body (as defined above) passes through the flags. This means that some part of the body is not inside the flags (e.g. one shoulder, or one shoulder and part of one hip).“

Sounds difficult to decide? Now imagine deciding between an “awkward, but clear” and a “missed flag/run-out” on the basis of the few split seconds that you as a fence judge observe, or from the review of a video taken with a mobile phone. From experience I’d say that even from an optimal observer or filming position it can be very difficult to locate the relevant body parts of the horse (i.e. the points of the shoulders and the pelvis) and determining their position with respect to where the flag would have been.

The FEI Eventing Committee has published some additional points to be considered by the fence judge and jury when applying article 549.2:
“When reviewing a video, it must be easy to decide if the horse is inside the flags, if it is necessary to review several times, the decision should be made in favor of the rider.”

Now, can we make life easier here for the fence judge, and for the ground jury reviewing a video? I think the answer is: yes, we can, and it’s not so hard.

My proposal is simply to mark the relevant body parts of event horses, namely the two shoulder points, two palpable pelvic points (point of hip and buttock) with retroreflective adhesive stickers, such as are being used in motion-capture techniques for film-making. Retroreflective material reflects daylight impinging on it, without much diffusion, so the stickers clearly indicate the relevant body points of the horse regardless of its coat’s color. These markers would make it much easier to determine the relative positioning of those points with respect to the flag position, especially in video footage. In addition, having six well-defined positions to determine what is the “majority” of the horse’s body would allow the FEI to formulate a clearer definition of the missed-flag and run-out rule at narrow fences.

Left: Example of an unclear situation/possible missed-flag. With shoulder markers, from this perspective, it looks more like a clear. Right: Example of a clear run-out. (source: FEI, picture modified to add yellow indicators)

Applying the stickers before a pair leaves the start box would not be more difficult than attaching a Flair nose-strip and would not restrict the horses’ movements at all. Traditionalists may point out that it can spoil the looks, but the stickers need not be large to be effective and a more fair and efficient judging should be in everybody’s interest, in particular at high-profile international events or championships, where there is a lot at stake for riders, owners, organizers and sponsors.

EN Blogger Contest Finalist Allie Heninger: Let’s Start a Movement – East to West

The 2022 EN Blogger Contest finalists were asked to write about something eventing needs in order to grown and thrive as one option for their final, Round 3 submissions. The following piece is published unedited. Your feedback will help us select our final winner! Use the rating poll below to give this post a thumbs up. Votes will be factored into our final decision.

About Allie:

My name is Allie Heninger, or the Autoimmune Equestrian on most social media platforms. I’m 25 and currently resting in Utah with my husband, my fiery little NightMare, my Curly heart-pony, and the four cats that adopted us. I’ve been riding since I was 6 years old, and was a hunter/jumper kid transplant into the amazing world of eventing. I’m a teeny bit of an adult re-rider, as I took about 5 years off from dedicated or consistent riding while attending the last few years of high school into college, but am now back at it, competing with my lovely little NightMare. I have an autoimmune disease that runs my life a bit, and have recently worked to fully embrace it as the disability that it is, rather than continuing to try to fight against my body. Managing a competitive equestrian amateur lifestyle with a malfunctioning immune system and full-time job can be pretty rough, but my mare and I are learning together as we continue to grow!

[Click here to read Allie’s Round 2 entry]
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While eventing continues to thrive on the East Coast, those in western states are facing many challenges trying to keep the sport alive. There are more venues in USEA Area II alone than in all states west of the Mississippi combined, and many competition sites continue to combat venue closures and event cancellations. To prevent a future where our sport is segregated into one geographical region of the country, alienating many potential future riders and professionals, eventing in the United States desperately needs movement and support in smaller communities, especially in the West. What might a rider not have access to here in the West that they might have if they lived in Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, or New England? Unfortunately, the answers are plentiful.

Education and exposure are a few key components in the fight to continue expanding from the East Coast. Programs like 4-H and Pony Club are essential in these areas, providing junior riders with important skills, knowledge, and foundations to become the future generation of equine professionals; however, we lack educational opportunities for adults wishing to enter the horse world. Here in the West, riding schools that teach eventing and provide schoolhorses for riders who cannot afford their own are becoming a rare find, working student opportunities in local areas are often impossible, and we are very seldom blessed with the opportunity to attend clinics by top-level riders in our own state. Addressing these areas would provide a more welcoming atmosphere for those who never had the chance to learn as a child. For eventing to grow, we must first expand the pipelines of exposure that bring new riders into the sport.

Just as exposure is important for new riders, we must also provide opportunities for current riders of other disciplines to discover eventing. Growing up in Alaska, the forgotten corner of Area XII, I never had the opportunity to be exposed to eventing due to the lack of outreach at that time. Until I moved to Colorado where eventing was much more accessible, I didn’t have a chance to learn about the discipline during my hunter/jumper days. Living in Utah now, I often feel a similar atmosphere surrounding eventing, especially when explaining it to people who have ridden horses here their whole lives and have never heard of the sport. Interactions with communities and local areas can be a starting point for bringing this culture to new regions across the country and initiating support from riders of other disciplines. A barrel racer may seek out and enjoy their time spectating roping events at their county rodeo, but how often do we convince members of a local hunter/jumper program to come watch our regional horse trials? How do we make our events more enticing to the children of cowboys, young dressage hopefuls, or seasoned hunter riders? All it takes is one watch and they’d be hooked (I’ve seen it happen; we’re just plain addicting!), but can we make it more accessible for jumper or dressage riders to “dabble” in eventing?

First, I believe we must start at the source: our trainers and professionals that keep the sport alive. If an eventer in Arizona or Oklahoma or Montana reaches a successful point in their career, intending to achieve professional status, they must inevitably visit (if not entirely relocate to) the East Coast to further accelerate their progress. If you don’t live within a four-hour radius of Temecula, California, and the Tamie Smith aura of knowledge that dwells therein, your next best bet for growing in a professional riding career is to become a new resident of Areas I to III. We simply do not have the educational programs, the riding opportunities, the clientele, or the plethora of experienced trainers to facilitate growing a population of new professionals. Those in our regions lucky enough to have a highly-competitive trainer must lose them for weeks on end during the show season as they travel out of state to any events within reach.

I look forward to growth in our continued mentorship efforts between seasoned professional riders or trainers and those starting out in areas with less access, such as with USEA’s Emerging Athletes Program and the Rising U25 programs, where young riders hoping to become professionals can gain educational opportunities from top coaches in our sport and receive grants to travel to destination competitions. The Emerging Athletes Program has been consistent in offering clinics on both coasts and in central states, offering the possibility to potential candidates equally across the country. We very recently saw the first-ever West Coast location announced for the MARS Bromont Rising U25 Program, to take place in November at Galway Downs in Temecula, California. These positive steps toward bringing support to our West Coast riders will hopefully inspire many more progressive changes in the future.

Aside from professional riding, I hope to also witness new support programs and endeavors to close the East/West gap among the entire equestrian industry, from businesses and foundations to vendors and venues. The western states have the infrastructure to support the entire Western riding industry, a booming world of large cash prizes at countless stadiums and events throughout several geographical regions. If these disciplines can thrive here, why not us? The communities of events, working opportunities, mentorship opportunities, circulated media, associations, and businesses must expand to include interdisciplinary aspirations in all areas of the country.

Most importantly, I believe the key to success in efforts to grow the sport of eventing westward lies in our venues. Unfortunately, unlike nearly any other discipline, ours relies on the infrastructure of dedicated space for cross-country courses, not just arenas as most equestrian venues solely provide. Fortunately, while still a monumental task, this may be all that stands between us and a future with countless potential venues for horse trials across the nation: add the simplest of cross-country courses to any event center, and it instantly becomes accessible for eventers as well. This has already been successfully implemented for many of our current recognized venues in the West. Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more venues that are personally funded, small-business-owned, or even kept alive by volunteer efforts alone, which is beyond commendable, but concerningly unsustainable. Financial support in the form of grants and partnerships will likely be vital to promoting the conversion of new venue sites, assisting in the creation of cross-country courses at established stadiums, fairgrounds, and event centers, or helping current show sites that are struggling to stay afloat sustain their events. Even movements as simple as providing incentives to those building or opening new facilities to make them eventing-friendly (i.e. able to host horse trials) would be met with the opportunity for huge growth.

Financial support from foundations, programs, syndicates, associations, or private parties could also have the potential to bring our sport to par with other competitive disciplines in terms of prize money. Offering similar prize levels as other disciplines, such as showjumping, would increase growth and interest from riders of those disciplines, and potentially encourage interdisciplinary experimentation. Amateur rider interest and numbers would certainly rise, especially if supplemented by the venue accessibility previously mentioned. Even if a showjumper is intrigued by eventing, why would they switch and lose out on the potential prize money income they make in their current sport? Even if eventing may often be a labor of love, what eventer hasn’t been tempted by the daily Amateur classes at showjumping events with awards from $1000 2’9 Hunter classes to $5000 1.1m Jumpers swimming through the prize list? The $10,000+ weekend Hunter Derbies are another world entirely, and while I’m sure we all like to imagine a world where we could keep living our cross-country dreams on a limitless budget, the tantalizing purse sizes of showjumpers have stolen many an eventer in their time. Implementing higher monetary incentives would eliminate a huge disparity between the sustainability of our sport and those of our fellow riders.

I believe that here in the West, the demand for our sport is not the issue, but rather the accessibility. What are some reasons an up-and-coming professional might move to the East coast, and can we work to provide that here in the West? In this modern age, we have the resources available to reduce the geographical segregation of eventers, we simply need to prioritize the movement. Online programs could provide an unlimited potential to bring education, exposure, and training across the country for riders of all ages. There are significant programs providing grants and support to aspiring professionals, we just need to provide a similar level of support to those first entering the sport at a grassroots level and to those who are struggling to maintain the sport in their areas. Amateurs keep the sport alive for our professionals to survive, so we must continue to find areas where we can improve eventing’s national accessibility.

EN Blogger Contest Finalist Sydney Steverson: The Terror and Hope of Cross Country Day

The 2022 EN Blogger Contest finalists were asked to write a piece telling the story of a local event as one option for their Round 2 submissions. The following piece is published unedited. Your feedback will help us select our final winner! Use the rating poll below to give this post a thumbs up. Votes will be factored into our final decision.

About Sydney:

Born in 1993 Sydney’s parents had dreams of her becoming a doctor. Or the president. However, much to their chagrin, she fell in love with horses and has made it everyone’s problem since then. Re-entering the competitive scene in 2019 to extremely mixed results she still makes it her goal in her dream journal to become a professional. Some would say Sydney Steverson is “a bit off…mentally and emotionally” but those people are doctors and not horse people so they don’t actually know anything. Currently the proud owner of two OTTBs, both of whom can be described as “so so so very weird” and one Swedish Warmblood who is best known as “a literal angel from heaven who has done nothing wrong in her entire life.” Sydney will be great one day! Even if it kills her!

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The smell that comes from your local show’s port a potty on Cross Country day is not entirely describable in any human language. It’s fear poop mostly mixed with caffeine and whatever fried food the show venue thought was appropriate for seventy-five 8 to 78 year olds. Surviving the port a potty itself deserves a ribbon all its own. There’s only so much the port a potty man can do; he’s only human.

Day Two, Cross Country day, at Barrington is palpably different from the gaiety and laughs of the previous day. Patrons that had just joked that their new gelding spun a full 720 during dressage have now turned a shade of green typically reserved for mint ice cream. The horse that was a little sticky off the ground in Stadium is given a full and very stern lecture.

Keep in mind, Stadium at Barrington is on hilly grass. It’s a glorified derby course but something about the fact that the jumps could, and can, move makes it less terrifying.

The trailers, typically parked quite neatly, are thrown together like fallen jenga bricks. When one is fighting the urge to cry you cannot physically park a gooseneck. The parking volunteer shows mercy to all these woebegotten souls by quietly leaving and grabbing a muffin from the snack stand. They deserve a little treat.

I wander through the temporary stalls mostly looking for one face to reassure me that today will not be the day that I die and the best I get is the maniacal laughter of a 56 year old woman who can’t get a stud screwed in. Her husband, like all the other husbands, including my own, are hiding in the forests surrounding the riding center. Both nursing a hangover from the free beer handed out last night and praying they won’t be asked to handle a wrench. Mosquitoes be damned, it’s every man for himself.

The children, predictably, seem at ease. Perhaps it is because their parents are handling every aspect of their horse’s care, as every horse parent does. (A quick aside: I hear you complaining, they are 1000 lbs and the kid is 8 years old, let’s be fair here. Just because your mother let you put studs in your half-draft mutt when you were a kid doesn’t mean it was right. They also used to prescribe cocaine to treat migraines so let’s put down the rose-tinted glasses). Likely it is because they do not have a proper grasp of the concept of death. I try not to be envious of their laugher and calm demeanor but I do confess to wanting to shake an 11 year old on this day demanding to know her secret to being able to eat a big mac at 9 AM with such blase acceptance of the day ahead.

For the rest of us it is chaos. A sort of never ceasing panic that sets in around 4 o’clock in the morning. It is a sort of exquisite torture that only comes with waiting for the coming events.

Speaking of the coming events, it’s Cross Country day in Barrington, so it’s going to rain. This, like death and taxes, is an inevitability with Barrington. There hasn’t been rain in weeks but wouldn’t you know it. It looks like midnight out here and the first spittings of rain slap everyone with a violence typically not seen in millimeter sized raindrops. “The ground needs it!” We all say to each other, nodding a little too vigorously while reaching towards larger and larger studs as the skies continue to darken. We keep checking the radar. Comparing weather with one another. “Mine says it’ll be done by 11:30!” “Oh perfect I don’t run until 12!”

The volunteers, to their credit, are attempting the Lord’s work. They are navigating the dark skies while attempting to keep the mood light. They quickly hustle to their spots as jump judges while ring stewards hand out compliments like free tissues to anyone who will listen. “Oh he is so handsome isn’t he!” “Wow he’s filled out so much from last year!” “Is that a new saddle pad for her? Do you like that brand?”

But no one is really listening. Underneath every helmet is just the whooshing sound typically associated with the inside of a conch shell. There are no thoughts here. Only fear.

Allegedly, Cross Country is our favorite part of the sport. And it is. Around jump 7. But in the warm up it is actually the last thing anyone in the world wants to do, except the kids, of course.

This may seem like this ruins the competition. If everyone’s miserable isn’t this no longer fun?

No, it is the misery of sitting in the mud feeling the first drops of what is guaranteed to be a monsoon that binds everyone together as one team. It’s the crying as you can’t find your whip and eight people offer theirs to you because they also want to cry but helping makes them feel just a little less nauseous.

Day One at Barrington is cordial. It is polite. But it is also competitive. Polite claps follow a good Dressage round or a clean Stadium but no one’s back is really into it. It’s only fair. You want to win.

But the guttural screams of joy that follow the first person back from Cross Country? Those screams are genuine excitement! Genuine relief! Genuine camaraderie. If one person can make it back alive from the coop-ridden roller coaster we’ve all signed up for then maybe we all can survive. They are surrounded like an astronaut coming back from the moon. “How was the footing?” “The combination! How did it ride?” With a deftness usually only afforded to media trained athletes they manage this amateur press conference. “Footing is great!” “Combination pushes the horse to the right at the first element so just have your leg ready”
The first person back from Cross Country is our own personal Show God and we treat them as such.

The rain begins to pick up but luckily the Barrington Park District takes excellent care of the grass galloping paths so at this point, survival is still possible despite the rain.

Cross Country day isn’t about winning at these local events. It’s about surviving.

By 11 o’clock the upper divisions have finished but the rain sure hasn’t. “Well thankfully the prelim and training didn’t get soaked!” The volunteers begin to give each other sidelong glances when the first rumbles of thunder roll through the grounds. Then. The dreaded flash of lightning. I feel it physically hit us all in our anxious cores.

A hold is placed. Volunteers quickly rush to golf carts, splitting time between on trailer parking and stabling, keeping everyone as updated as possible. Everyone is as upset as is possible to be in polite company. At this point you’d think we all have majors in meteorology with the weather predictions we’re attempting to make. As a group we decide it will be done in thirty-nine minutes. There is no science behind this.

But wouldn’t you know it? Twenty-seven minutes later (we carried the one wrong, it’s fine) the downpour begins to let up. The thunder fades away. The hold is lifted. The volunteer that announces this to the group is treated like they discovered the cure for cancer.

Like little forest gnomes slowly the husbands return from their self imposed exile. Grumbling to each other and readying various recording devices. Instantly they are bombarded with demands. Where to stand. Where to film. When to film. How to film. With a level of tenderness that I personally haven’t witnessed since the end of Titanic they say goodbye to one another. “Wife wants me at jump 10.” “Ah, mine wants me at the water” “Cool, it’s, uh, been good seeing you man good luck to your lady!” “You too man see you next time.” There might be tears in their eyes as they shake hands. What a beautiful moment. What a weird sport.

After the seemingly endless delay, I finally enter the warm-up. I try to make it a point to compliment as many people as possible. Not out of any altruism if I’m being honest. I just want good karma. Every bit helps.

By the time Starter division is warming up everyone is exhausted. The volunteers want to go home. The trainers have forgotten what their home even looks like or what not having a sore throat feels like. But, and this is crucial, everyone is still so supportive. It’s basically midnight at this point, Starter runs so late, but everyone is still all smiles. Encouraging words. Helpful anecdotes. Perhaps at the higher level shows it’s the same but I guess I’d expect that from a bigger event. It warms my heart more though to see people so excited for a Starter warm-up. To hustle to their jump spots so that the first Starter (it’s me mercifully. If I wait any longer the acid in my stomach will burn through my flesh and ruin my saddle) can get on course.

There is no monetary or prestigious reason to be nice to starters. But everyone is because they’re good people. They care. Genuinely. That is worth any 4-star show. Every rider is a 4-star rider in their own right and they deserve for their time to be special. I’m glad the volunteers, trainers, vets and course designers remember that.

And within the hour after I set out it’s all done. It goes well. I think it goes well for all of us starters. I can’t be sure though I’m on a post Cross Country high.

If the US government knew about the sheer power of the post Cross Country high they would bottle it and put it in the water supply to pacify the masses. Everyone is on a different plane of existence. People actually look physically lighter after xc. Like they shed years and pounds. They float. Their horses float. It’s a feeling I’ve never experienced anywhere else. It’s the relief of crying and the ecstasy of a perfect moment. It’s everything. It’s what keeps us coming back.
Of course there is disappointment and tears but the reassurance that comes from all around, to me, makes the disappointment livable. Tight bear hugs. Tissues. Offers to untack horses. Offers to get food.

To me, this is what local shows are about. The camaraderie. The team work. Riding the highs and lows together. The uncertainty of a new horse and the relief that the same old packer is back out with his 17th Beginner Novice kid. Everyone is here because they really just love it. There’s no sponsors. Plenty of cameras but no media. No prestige on the line. Just love. It’s what makes a Subaru and it’s also what makes a local event so special. So remember that next time you’re having the bathroom adventure of a lifetime before your next Cross Country run. Remember that next time your local show needs some volunteers. It’s about love. It’s about teamwork.

EN Blogger Contest Finalist Ruth Jacobs: Lo(o)se Chinch on course!

Can’t believe nobody else spotted this. Original photo by Tilly Berendt.

The 2022 EN Blogger Contest finalists were asked to write a piece telling the story of an epic Chinch adventure as one option for their Round 2 submissions. The following piece is published unedited. Your feedback will help us select our final winner! Use the rating poll below to give this post a thumbs up. Votes will be factored into our final decision.

About Ruth:

Ruth Jacobs, 30 years old, has a PhD in experimental particle physics, but really, REALLY likes horses, actually. Born and raised in a small village in Germany, she caught the horse bug from her next-door neighbor who taught at the local riding school. Ruth works full-time as a postdoctoral researcher in Hamburg, Germany (an hour’s drive away from eventing hub Luhmühlen!) and owns 15-year-old Oldenburg gelding Soli, with whom she events up to German Novice level equivalent. Ruth’s most embarrassing eventing-related anecdote is accompanying a friend to a dinner with Piggy March, Ruth’s all-time heroine. Piggy and Tom March were lovely people, but probably too polite to ask who that star struck fan girl was, obviously too nervous to say anything sensible, let alone finish her baked potato. The pinnacle of awkwardness was reached by hugging Piggy for good-byes while mumbling something like “thank you for the privilege of meeting you”. Really sorry, Piggy, that was weird!

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Can’t believe nobody else spotted this. Original photo by Tilly Berendt.

Naturally, I experienced some butterflies being sent to cover the Luhmühlen four- and five-star event as my first reporting assignment for EN, but luckily, I wasn’t going to be without help. “Just stick with Chinch.”, Sally had said at the briefing, “We’ve sent you our most experienced employee to show you the ropes. Don’t worry.”

When I picked Chinch up from the airport he was slightly surly and his salt-and-pepper grey fur was a bit disheveled. He didn’t say much in the car, obviously feeling the strain of a transatlantic flight and jet lag, but when we arrived at the venue he brightened up a little.

“Just remember”, he said, “as Henry Grunwald put it: ‘Journalism must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air.’ Just be sure to capture those echoes of wonder and all the rest of it and you’ll be fine.”

“Erm ok, I’ll try”, I said shakily, feeling the pressure of my assignment starting to weigh heavier by the minute.

Watching Chinch at work was, to say the least, inspiring. Dressage day felt like a buzzing adventure with Chinch interviewing the riders as they came out of the arena. A spook at a flower pot near C, lost marks for a sticky rein-back, a flying change late behind – this guy knew how to tell the story of a dressage test such that even the most seasoned hunter got goosebumps. As the next pair, Felix Vogg and Colero from Switzerland, exited the arena, Chinch prodded me with his elbow. “Your turn!”, he hissed. I grabbed the recording device and stumbled forwards. “Uhh, hi”, I said to Felix, “I’m covering this event for EN. So,
erm, how’d it go in there, then?”

Afterwards, Chinch gave me a pitying look. “Seriously? ‘How’d it go’? You really have some work to do on your investigative skills, Newbie.”

In retrospect, the riders’ party on Friday night was all a bit of a blur. Chinch introduced me to all the eventing stars, clearly feeling at ease among them. He certainly was asked to dance a lot more often than I was, and eventually I lost sight of him in the crowd. When I turned in for the night, I wasn’t too worried. I had heard rumors that EN’s Chinch was one small rodent who liked to work as hard as he partied.

The worries started when Chinch didn’t show up at breakfast on Saturday morning. I asked around in the lorry park, the stables and the warmup, but none of the riders and officials knew anything about Chinch’s whereabouts. Even an announcement from the commentator yielded no further clues. Someone claimed to have seen something small, grey and furry, but it only turned out to be the ground jury president’s ill-humored poodle. I really hoped that Chinch was ok. How on earth was I supposed to cover an entire cross-country day by myself?

To my surprise, it didn’t go all that terribly, despite my missing mentor. Cross-country day has its own way of showering you with bucketloads of wonder, triumph and signs of horror, such that even the most inexperienced journalist must capture at least some of it. As the last few riders went out of the start box I got a slight sense of actually grasping this reporting business.

Finally, Felix Vogg and Colero went out onto the cross-country course. As they tackled the first water, suddenly I thought I saw something familiarly grey flashing on Felix’ shoulder. I rubbed my eyes. It couldn’t be, could it? The coffin complex brought certainty – Chinch was on board with Felix across the five-star course. Of course, Chinch being Chinch, he was wearing neither his three-point helmet nor his air jacket. When they encountered the huge drop fence followed by an open corner about half-way through the course, I held my breath. There had been quite a few problems, even falls, at this complex during the day. But Chinch sat tight, looking absolutely effortless going through there. Felix crossed the finish line clear and inside the time, completely unaware of his stowaway, taking the five-star lead.

After interviewing Felix in the cool-down area, there was a tap on my shoulder. “Not badly done, Newbie.” There Chinch was, slightly out of breath, but looking very pleased with himself. “What were you thinking”, I cried,” leaving me to fend for myself and hurling yourself around that cross country track like a lunatic?”
“Oh, come on, Newbie! I’ve had Willberry Wonder Pony going on at me all season, on how he has completed this many four-stars and that many five-stars and how he is the FEI’s top-ranked stuffed eventer. I just thought it was time to give him some healthy competition up there.”

EN Blogger Contest Finalist Poppy van Maltzahn: Ponies to Podium Riders Out in Force at Glen Oro H.T.

The 2022 EN Blogger Contest finalists were asked to write a piece telling the story of a local event as one option for their Round 2 submissions. The following piece is published unedited. Your feedback will help us select our final winner! Use the rating poll below to give this post a thumbs up. Votes will be factored into our final decision.

About Poppy:

My name is Poppy von Maltzahn and I’m a 19 year old who is unequivocally obsessed with all things eventing. I ride at CCI** with (fairly unrealistic) ambitions of competing on the world stage. I am a self-diagnosed eventing nerd, and am the type who will recite eventing facts at any given moment (from Michael Jung’s impressive 12 championship appearances to Sam Watson’s uncanny ability to impersonate the Prime Minister in Love Actually, to such an extent that Hugh Grant might be out of a job). From working with Canadian Eventer Selena O’Hanlon for 12 months to traveling to the UK to spend a few weeks with Lucinda Fredericks, I’ve had the opportunity to see many sides to the international eventing scene, stalk a good number of top 5* riders, and see a great deal of Rockingham Horse Trials while being towed by a stallion at the end of my leadrope- I held on for dear life. Eventing is my life, though my parents would argue that going into second year university should be my life. I would love to promote eventing and all things horses on such a fun platform. At university I study literature, history, and law, so I am well-versed in putting pen to paper (but more in a boring, write-2,000-words-on-Plato way, rather than a far more exciting which-eventer-has-the-best-hair-a-five-person-poll kind of way). Merging these two interests is something I am so passionate about. I would bring an abundance of enthusiasm to this team, and despite my obsession with many top riders I vow I can maintain decorum.

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Despite an unquenchable adoration for eventing on the international stage, local events and the people who support them are the lifeblood of eventing. I am delighted to include myself in their numbers. Glen Oro Horse Trials in Orillia provides a perfect example of a local event near and dear to many of us (it was my first horse trials back in the day- I fell off down a hill beause I had yet to learn the valuable eventing lesson of “shoulders back”) which provides a fabulous experience of a day out in the beautiful, sunny countryside. This event offers levels from starter to intermediate, giving young guns an opportunity to compete and learn their craft while simultaneously drawing in top riders. Glen Oro’s beautifully designed and built courses provide horse and rider with a challenging test with its beautiful rolling terrain; the competition is fierce and catching the time is always a challenge at the Preliminary and Intermediate levels.

Not only are national level events vital for us non-international competitors, but seeing professional riders schooling their green horses around novice level can often be even more thrilling than watching them compete their experienced 5* steeds. Equally, Glen Oro, among other high quality national events, is often used as a springboard for horses as they start their spring or fall campaigns. This is testament to the quality of the footing as well as the course design, and adds an extra element of stardom to these events as we see horses that will go on to compete at CCI***** and World Championships later in the season. I have to shake off being starstruck before I head into the dressage ring. Juggling these different levels of horses can be a struggle for professionals, especially because with a young horse in a new atmosphere, something as simple as cantering to the first jump can be as hair-raising as the Vicarage Vee at Badminton.

Glen Oro provided many young competitors the opportunity to further hone their eventing skills- small riders topped ponies with various arrays of different coloured saddle pads and ear bonnets to contest the starter level of the event. Smiles and giggles were abound while anxious parents watched on- catching glimpses through their fingers as they crossed fingers and toes for a good round.

Photographers placed themselves strategically to capture key moments on course, and remained unafraid of keeping the film going even when things did not go according to plan (pictures of you falling off are given sans watermark and free of charge).

The Novice and Beginner-Novice levels provide as competitive an atmosphere as their higher-level counterparts. No competitive drive quite meets that of a 13-year-old pony-mad kid who has yet to reach the ‘fear’ stage of puberty and really wants a ribbon. The warmups for these divisions mainly center around trainers screaming “half halt” with increasing levels of panic as children speed on small ponies to comparatively big jumps.

Many of the older riders, too, embody the same grit and fearlessness as their younger counterparts, though perhaps with a bit more exprience and wisdom. Those who work all week just to have a weekend out eventing are perhaps the most insane of the lot. Some would decide a nice summer weekend was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the weather and spend time at the cottage, crack a cold beer, go for a swim. But why do anything that sane and relaxing when you could be wracked with nervous energy all week just to wake up at 4:00 AM for a very un-relaxing day of intense competition? But, I won’t judge. If I did, my hypocrisy would be plain. Those who proudly put themselves in this category of insanity found it well worth it at Glen Oro Horse Trials with its community atmosphere- everyone was in hight spirits. After all, cracking open a beer after a clear cross country round surely feels better than doing the same after wasting away a day at the cottage (provided you’re twenty-one years or older, of course). We are so lucky to have such quality national events and I, like many of you I am sure, look forward to the next installment of Glen Oro Horse Trials this September.

EN Blogger Contest Finalist Diana Gilbertson: Dramatic Finale to Northern Eventing Calendar

Helena Tatham lays last year’s demons to claim Novice victory aboard Bonting Berry
(picture credit Diana Gilbertson, 2022)

The 2022 EN Blogger Contest finalists were asked to write a piece telling the story of a local event as one option for their Round 2 submissions. The following piece is published unedited. Your feedback will help us select our final winner! Use the rating poll below to give this post a thumbs up. Votes will be factored into our final decision.

About Diana:

A 30 something English Literature graduate perpetually coated in horse poo and mud, Diana has a penchant for spicy food and an (un)healthy obsession with all things equine. Based in a particularly wild and remote part of England (imagine Outlander but with fewer kilts/flame haired Scotchmen), she spends most of her time trying to keep herself and various other four legged friends alive. The rest of her time is spent dreaming of riding for her country (sorry Team GB; standards might have to slip a tad before that happens), although a crack at a 5* on her beloved steed Zara will do …after all, what is life without dreams? Never one to shy away from adventure, Diana has driven the length and breadth of New Zealand, hiked through the Annapurna mountain range, and is currently considering a cycling tour of the Italian Lakes. Now she just needs to master riding a bike…

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MIXED BAG FOR LOCAL RIDERS AT POPULAR EVENT: Dreams revived and worst nightmares realised as Helena Tatham takes top honours at the final fixture of the Northern eventing calendar.

Helena Tatham lays last year’s demons to claim Novice victory aboard Bonting Berry
(picture credit Diana Gilbertson, 2022)

It was a day of mixed fortunes for Northumberland’s infamous eventing dynasty, The Tatham family, at the annual Ratcheugh One Day Event. Eldest daughter Helena’s seemingly endless patience with her notoriously tricky horse, Boston Teabag, finally paid off, and she took the win in the Novice class. Sadly, the same cannot be said for her sister, Pinchie, who finally admitted defeat with her ‘talented but obnoxious’ homebred mare, Mystic Meg.

Meanwhile, the head of the family, Mary, competing in the BE100 class, was trying a new tactic with her undeniably talented but fizzy (borderline psychotic – in the riders’ own words!) young thoroughbred, Maharaja Sunrise. ‘I have been trying her on a new calming supplement, and although it meant her Dressage was much improved, I think I need to tweak the dose as the jumping phases suffered.’ We would tend to agree; the stag like chestnut mare is normally well within the time in the cross country, and rarely ever touches the coloured poles, but this was not the case this weekend.

Indeed, a relaxed dressage test may have scored the pair a PB (for both horse and rider) of 11.6, leaving them a long way ahead of the rest of the field at this stage, but the mare then trotted around the show jumping, smashing through the first and second fence as if they weren’t there, and amassing enough time penalties to bring her within 2.2 penalties of second placed Amelia Hetherington, on her debut at this level. Amelia was ecstatic to be back in the running for the much coveted Northumberland Cup, and the accompanying £20 voucher for local feed store Thorpe and Sons, and set off cross country like the devil was behind her and the Thomas family’s Reiver’s Lad.

Sadly, they came to grief at the penultimate brush fence; the Jumbo sired gelding seemed to ignore Amelia’s aids altogether, and even her enthusiastic shout of ‘HUP,’ did nothing to encourage the horse to take off. As the talented young rider sailed over the brush without him, ‘Dan,’ as he is known at home, wandered off to munch on the carrots in the nearby BE80 fence, ruining the artistic display of Janine Kendal, wife of course designer Tim.

Mary Tatham did manage to coax Maharaja Sunrise over all 25 jumping efforts on Tim’s course, but the mare’s energy finally ran out as they approached the finish line, and she walked the final few metres home, coming home 3 times over the 5.20 mins optimum time and eliminating them from the competition.

Instead, it was Michael Washington who took top honours, aboard Georgie Hadfield-Tilly’s coloured stallion, Rupert the Bear. This was the strikingly marked 6 year old’s third run at this level, and although a score of 47.5 left them trailing in 23rd place after dressage, a fast and clear run cross country saw them climb to the top of the leader board.

This was Tim’s final year of designing the course here at Ratcheugh, and he made sure that he left a lasting legacy, with no shortage of tricky lines and tough questions for riders in all three classes and indeed many riders returned ashen faced after walking the cross country courses.

Linda-May Cooper, eventual runner up in the Novice class, was not the only rider to be found throwing up into a wheely bin before her round, although her nerves proved unnecessary as she stormed home 3 seconds within the time allowed, aboard her own and husband Jack’s Diamant de Semilly mare, Crumpet III. This was only the horse’s second run at this level, and Linda-May, who runs a small schooling and breaking yard nearby, is full of hope for their future together. ‘I bought her as a three year old at the Gorsebridge sales, with the money my grandmother left me,’ the rider explained. ‘I really believe she could be the horse to take me back to 5*,’ she continued, with reference to her ride round the much hallowed turf of Badminton almost 15 years ago on her young rider horse, Yorkie. A bad fall and various personal circumstances have sent this gritty rider down a very different career path to that which she imagined, and eventing has, until recently, had to take a back seat. Perhaps this horse will allow the dreams of yesteryear to come to fruition for Linda-May, who admits she has never quite given up hope of riding at top level again.

Helena Tatham was certainly living the dream with her Novice victory. Boston Teabag has certainly tested the resolve of the full time music teacher – who events for fun during the summer holidays. ‘I have treated him as I would a challenging pupil at school, trying to understand the root of his issues and work with him rather than against him.’ This tactic has definitely paid off, and the horse showed no signs of stopping at any point on the 3000m course. Indeed, it took Helena 4 laps of the collecting ring at the end of their round before she finally managed to pull the striking dark bay gelding, of unknown breeding, up. Quite the turnaround for the horse who last year refused to leave the start box for a whole minute following the whistle, and even then only got so far as the third combination, a fairly innocuous rolltop to an inviting skinny under which apparently lay invisible demons which left the horse immobilised, and led to Helena raising her hand in defeat.

Following that particular disaster, she sent the horse to Pippa King for a winter, and she has also benefited from training with the Olympic legend, who lives a few miles down the road, and whose husband Andrew provided the commentary for the cross country. ‘Pippa really got under his skin, and I can’t believe we have gone from barely finishing a 90 to winning a Novice. I have no aspiration to go any further up the levels, which is just as well, as I do think that this is as far as I will be able to push ‘Berry,’ given how hard he has found it to overcome his issues thus far.’

Such is the draw of this popular Northern fixture which serves as the Badminton of the North for so many amateur riders in this area, and for whom completion here is the ultimate goal.

However, the event was not without a few dashed hopes, and the award for the most heart breaking story of the day certainly goes to Pinchie, Helena’s youngest sister, who dropped from Novice to BE100 earlier in the week, after elimination in the show jumping at Thornton Meadows three weeks earlier meant they failed to gain the necessary three MERs to progress up a level.

Putting this disappointment behind her, the plucky young rider proved her prowess in the dressage phase, posting an impressive 22.4 before wrestling her difficult chestnut mare around the show jumping with just the second part of the double down. Finally it seemed like her patience with Mystic Meg was going to pay off, and the pair made it two thirds of the way around the course without incident. A sticky moment at the Trakehner saw things beginning to unravel and after a run out at the Toyota Tiger Trap, their round came to a dramatic finish with ‘Misty’ refusing point blank to go over a straightforward Pheasant Feeder, leaving Pinchie on the floor after grinding to a halt when she represented to the fence for the third time before quickly dropping her shoulder in a deliberate and successful attempt to deposit her rider.

Speaking to Event Nation after the event, Pinchie said that ‘enough was enough. At 12 years old, she still has plenty of running left in her, and her ability is undeniable but given that she has yet to finish an event, I think I need to realise that eventing is not her cup of tea.’ Instead, the mare will be allowed to realise her dream of hunting through the winter months and pulling rude faces at passers-by whilst stuffing her face with grass throughout the summer.

Another rider heading home whose day did not go according to plan was Alex Huntingdon, who was making his affiliated debut at Ratcheugh this weekend in the BE100 class. Whipper-in for the local Border Hunt, Alex suffered an unlucky 20 penalties after braking issues saw him having to turn a circle on his Irish cob in front of the B element at fence 5. Still, the rider thoroughly enjoyed his day, praising the organisers for the smooth running of the event, and commenting on how friendly his fellow competitors were. Parked next to local legend Mark Ferguson, Alex had to ask to borrow a number bib, after realising he had left his own in his girlfriend’s car the day before. ‘Everyone has been so kind and helped me so much – I was so nervous coming here, but despite not finishing as well as we had hoped, I can’t wait to enter another BE event. I need to sort the bitting out – an Eggbut snaffle just isn’t enough once ‘Jackson’ gets going! He has never been so forward before: I usually have to kick him forwards, rather than hold him back!’ he laughed afterwards.

Another successful convert to our wonderful sport, Alex’s enthusiasm captures the addictive nature of eventing, and the reason why so many riders forgo the comparatively stressless life of the none equestrian community for a life of delight and despair with their equine counterparts. Even those riders who had a less than successful day have vowed to be back next year at the spring running of this event, starting another six months of mixed emotions and renewed ambition.

Indeed, shortly after rewilding Mystic Meg, Pinchie Tatham was seen boarding a flight to Ireland to find her next partner in crime, a horse that might finally see her rise to the lofty height of Novice Champion here at Ratcheugh, and have her name in lights on the front of the Northumberland Gazette, like her sister before her.

Watch this space.

EN Blogger Contest Finalist Cheg Darlington: The BIG NEWS at Burpamintucklulaland – The World’s First 35*

The 2022 EN Blogger Contest finalists were asked to write a piece telling the story of an epic Chinch adventure as one option for their Round 2 submissions. The following piece is published unedited. Your feedback will help us select our final winner! Use the rating poll below to give this post a thumbs up. Votes will be factored into our final decision.

About Cheg:

I’m Cheg, 41, an armchair eventer living in the wilds of North Wales with five cats, a small flock of rescue hens, two ducks and my husband. All around me – outside my garden fence – are rolling hills and green pastures which give me serious field envy. There’s no road to our house, just a hairy dirt track described by the Realtor as ‘Not for the faint-hearted’. I saw it and immediately wanted to live here!

I have watched all of the available eventing replays at least three times each. Language is no barrier – I’ve listened to so many hours (months, years…) of commentary that I can translate from French, German, Polish, Dutch etc. When I’m not vicariously galloping across the terrain of the world’s cross country tracks, I work as a freelance education writer.

Not only have I fallen off during a dressage test, but I’ve also eaten the dirt of a showing ring. And I’ve been catapulted to the ground by a rather nasty buck three strides before the first show jump. Despite a number of starts, I have no idea how it feels (in real life) to cross the finish line of a cross country course. I still loved that pony though.

My big win came at my Pony Club’s annual awards where I was presented with ‘Most Persevering Rider’; the reason: ‘Despite all his attempts to rid himself of you, you just keep patting him and calling him a good boy’.

I dream of one day having another pony companion who’s as naughty/cheeky/enthusiastic/fun as Barnaby was.

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What do you get if you take the best bits from each of the 5*s – brilliant Burghley, plucky Pau, breathtaking Badminton, kickass Kentucky, legendary Luhmuhlen, awesome Adelaide and marvelous Maryland – and mash them up into one spectacular event?

35 stars, that’s what!

Welcome to Burpamintucklulaland, a stratospheric event on a whole new level, literally.

Before you faint at the thought of 9.10 meter jumps and wonder whether horses have evolved to grow wings, let me illuminate you:

★ 35 super horse and rider combinations.
★ 35 dynamic dressage movements.
★ 35 formidable cross country fences.
★ 35 seconds of speedy show jumping.
★ Three and a half days of eventing insanity.

Count us in!

The event began with the rumble of trailers, happy “Howdies!” being called from rolled down windows and excited neighs ringing out every so often – all interspersed by the squeaky chatter of a small rodent. Stables became homes to superstars, the lorry park began to resemble a small city and outfits of all fashions were hung on saddle racks ready for the first horse inspection. The air crackled with excitement and static from the media tent.
I’m here to bring you all the news from the sparkling event:

✓ Who was held at the horse inspection and, most importantly, what were they wearing? ✓ Which horse decided to improve the B test with a ‘Jump for joy’ after the ‘Half-pass right’ between K and X?
✓ Who tore up the cross country course certifying themselves as dazzling human/horse/mythical being combinations?
✓ Who zipped round the show jumps with a stylish clear to finish on their dressage score and ultimately become victor of this star-studded event?

All this, and more, will follow shortly, but first I have other – according to Chinch – even BIGGER news…

It started off as speculation: a whisper making its way round the site. Grooms, mid-braid, shook their heads in disbelief. Riders stood at half-strides between combination fences. The Eventing Nation team was devastated. EquiRatings got their calculators out. The ground jury wondered if the show could go on.

The commentators put out an announcement. Had anyone seen Chinch? 10 inches tall, weighing around 2 – 2.5lbs (depending on his snack choices that day), with a soft white belly and a fluffy tail, known for schmoozing and having a penchant for riding double with the world’s eventing greats, number one mascot and all around super rodent.

New information came to light. Chinch wasn’t missing; he’d been kidnapped! A ransom note confirmed it:

EN’s Tilly took to the loudspeaker to tearfully ask anyone with information to come forward. She’d be based at the missing children/phones/pets/chinchillas tent. There would be a Golden Chinch Award for intel leading to the little guy’s safe return.

Chinch catches a ride. Photo by Abby Powell.

According to one source, Chinch had been spotted jogging along with Boyd Martin, tucked into his Stars and Stripes suit pocket.

Sit up, Chinch! Photo by Eventridermasters.tv/Ben Clarke.

Another witness had seen a flash of Chinch fly by, having the ride of his life pinned to Michael Jung’s back with his friend Willberry Wonder Pony.

Ingrid Klimke’s helmet cam had picked up someone small and furry enjoying the hospitality, gin and tonic in paw clinking “Cheers!” with Will Coleman and Chin Tonic.

Chin(ch)-chin(ch)! Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Tom Carlile had made an appointment with Chinch for some coaching on the jump from first time 5* to 35* and confirmed that tickling Chinch’s soft belly had helped to settle his nerves.

Super mascot and coach to the stars. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The judge at C was sure she’d seen a chinchilla matching his description cantering down the centerline with Ros Canter.

Chinch is in the arena. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Clayton Fredericks had spotted Chinch listening to ColdPlay (it’s not clear whether he meant the band or the horse).

“Look at the stars…” Photo by Abby Powell.

Someone in the warmup arena had heard an overly confident squeaky voice giving Oliver Townend advice on how to perfect his flying changes.

Really, Chinch? Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Team Price reported that their kiddos had made friends with a rodent whilst playing near the Head of the Huntsman’s Sunken Road Crossing Footbridge combination.

Seeing double. Photo via CrossCountryApp.

The Horse and Hounders had seen him in the media tent helping Sam Watson format a spreadsheet.

“First you turn it off…” Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Andrew Hoy came forward to say he’d invited Chinch over to his trailer earlier that day to try on his Olympic medals and that he seemed to be on winning form.

Suits you, Chinch! Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

EquiRatings ran the stats. There was a 62% chance that 10.5% of the witnesses may not have reported the data accurately. The probability that the kidnapper wasn’t British was high. The simulations showed Chinch was likely snatched sometime after the 15th round of show jumping but before the 28th. The ransom note was predicted to be the most significant indicator but, unusually, the team couldn’t pin down a clear lead.

Just when it seemed like Eventing Nation would be returning to their offices without their trusty sidekick, hope came in the form of Chinch’s favorite corn-based snack. William Fox-Pitt had caught his dogs following a trail of slightly chewed popcorn towards the stables. The prize giving was delayed as everyone gave chase.

In their stables, the horses were enjoying some downtime after their impressive efforts over the last few days. Hay was being munched; water was being sloshed; sawdust was being pawed. Classic Moet stuck her head out to see what was going on. An unusual flickering was coming from the box next to her. A corny love song drifted over the door, followed by some smoochy sounds.

Upon investigation all became clear. Romantic Love was chilling, Gwendolen Fer’s phone wedged in the hay rack playing a rom com. Tangled up in his tail was a familiar gray rodent.

We’re still not sure whether Chinch was truly being held against his will; he looked pretty cozy when we found him, full of popcorn and cheesy chat up lines. It’s questionable whether the ransom note may in fact have been Romantic Love getting carried away with the wide range of available fonts and the romance of 35 stars. Did we also get caught up in the pizazz of such a meteoric event? Undoubtedly. When asked for his side of the story, Chinch gets a dreamy look in his little eyes, twitches his whiskers and squeaks thirty-five times.

EN Blogger Contest Finalist Charlotte Salmon: An Eventful Guide to Olympic Eventing

The 2022 EN Blogger Contest finalists were asked to write a piece explaining Olympic eventing to a “mainstream” audience as one option for their Round 2 submissions. The following piece is published unedited. Your feedback will help us select our final winner! Use the rating poll below to give this post a thumbs up. Votes will be factored into our final decision.

About Charlotte:

Charlotte Salmon, 16, is an aspiring author who has grown up with horses. She hopes to spread inclusivity into the eventing world. Her biggest achievements include breaking her nose whilst trying a pony, buying said pony, and producing him. While not hugely successful in the eventing world her latest endeavour includes 4-year-old ex-racehorse, Tiger, who she hopes to event in years to come.

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Found yourself on a date with a budding equestrian? Are you in desperate need of office small talk with that one manager that is scented by ammonia? Well, look no further. The world of Olympic eventing is a vast and treacherous place for even the wisest of equestrians, but, with new goals of making eventing more inclusive for all, new faces are exactly the breath of fresh air needed. Feeling lost yet? Here’s a brief introduction to the complete athletic challenge of horse and rider:

Eventing is a discipline within the equestrian competitive world (think synchronised diving as a part of aquatic sport) and is composed of three different phases. These are completed one after the other with breaks in between just like football games are split into halves with footballers resting during half-time. These three phases are dressage, showjumping and cross country and run in the same order each competition, however at Olympic level the phases are run in three-day order (dressage, cross country and showjumping) and only one phase is completed each day. At the end of each event, the horse and rider with the lowest number of penalties wins and can take their rightful place on the Olympic podium. Seems straight forward, right?

Dressage

The word dressage translates to “training” in French, and “actual-living-hell-on-earth” in equestrian. This ballet on horseback sees the elite horse and rider combinations achieve the highest levels of synchronisation, balance, and harmony (if you have the decorum of a jellyfish on speed- dressage sadly isn’t for you.) Dressage consists of each horse and rider performing a previously learned routine, called a dressage test, of movements and change of pace in front of a judge. This is usually the most stressful of phases and is fondly referred to as stressage due to the heart palpitations that occur when one turns the wrong way in front of the judge’s box. Dressage can easily go wrong depending on where you go in a section or the impression you make on the judge (imagine football refs scoring each kick- chaos would ensue!)

Scoring

A bad impression on the judge can leave you with a higher percentage overall and this is a huge no-go zone if you’re looking for a win; dressage tests are scored with each movement achieving anywhere from 0-10 marks and you want to achieve the highest number of marks possible for the lowest percentage (confusing!) As well as this, being the first of three phases means it can either set you up for blazing success or leave you to crash and burn. While there are no physical obstacles within this phase, the mental ones can be exhausting and leave riders feeling as sore as any gym rat after a full weighted workout.
Still with me? Fabulous! We’ve got two more phases to complete…

Cross Country

Cross country is not for the faint hearted among us. Galloping into solid obstacles that vary from logs to ditches and everything in between, Olympic cross country is the ultimate test of horse and rider. With Olympic heights set at 120cms (that’s roughly the same as jumping a polar bear or an ice hockey goal whilst going around 30mph!) this phase requires the upmost concentration and precision to ensure completion of the course safely, and successfully. Horses and riders are expected to complete the course, that is roughly 26 fences long, over natural obstacles like undulating ground, through water and up and down steps (this takes mountain biking to new extremes) all while navigating trees, crowds and riding over skinny fences and turning on technical lines between jumps.

Scoring

Cross country is scored similarly to showjumping with faults for refusals or run outs, but these mistakes are more costly. The first refusal, run out, or circle at a fence incurs 20 penalties; the second incurs 40; and the third causes elimination, as does falling off at any point during the three phases, which will lead to the walk of shame to go and catch your horse or a visit from the medical team (neither option is ideal) as well as a big “E” on your score sheet and no shot at bagging that Olympic medal. If that wasn’t stressful enough, there’s even an optimum time that you must complete the course in, with 0.4 faults added to the scores of those too slow.

So, what’s next? Wrestle with a lion? Fight a bear? Go sky diving without a parachute? Well almost, but there’s just one small thing we’ve forgotten about…

Showjumping

This phase is a lot less technical than dressage (phew!) but is by no means less hair-raising than cross country. After completing your angelic test and storming round the cross country clear it’s time to tackle showjumping. Here you’ll find a course of brightly coloured poles and wings ready for you to fly over with ease.

Or so you thought…

Spooky fillers with optical illusions and cartoon animals wreak havoc for even the bravest of horses, and once you’ve faced that problem, you’ll soon realise the poles come down with even the lightest of taps, and at this level a pole is the difference between a gold medal and being so far away from the podium you question its existence. Here it’s all about agility, and precise planning as optimum times are tight and Olympic level athletes need Olympic level fences, and these ones are 130cms.

Scoring

Here it’s simple: keep the poles up. Each pole knocked incurs four faults added to your score, thereby increasing your percentage. If your horse really takes a disliking to a fence and stops or runs past it, any refusal or run-out will incur a 4-fault penalty (think of these as a baseball foul ball- hit outside the field of fair play.)

Survived cross country? Kudos to you. Gone clear? You’ve won the lottery. With a hattrick of phenomenal phases can you claim a placing, or even a gold? Now you’re ready to wrestle that lion (metaphorically) while waiting for your scores. This will be the longest, most nerve-wracking time of your life if you’ve gone double clear, and if you win? You can relish the title of Olympic Champion for years to come.

Hall of Fame

Olympic eventing champions are prized by the entire equestrian community, much like the Royal Family or David Attenborough. The podium placers of each eventing Olympics to come will follow in the footsteps of eventing royalty (Michael Jung, Julia Krajewski and Tom McEwen to name a few) and have a unique opportunity to showcase the sport at its finest hour, and perhaps capture the hearts of people watching from home. It may not be anything like other sports, but Olympic eventing is the perfect combination of dance, athletics, mountain biking and maybe just a little bit of magic too.

EN Blogger Contest Finalist Cassidy Oeltjen: Braving the War Horse Series

The 2022 EN Blogger Contest finalists were asked to write about their local event as one option for their Round 2 submissions. The following piece is published unedited. Your feedback will help us select our final winner! Use the rating poll below to give this post a thumbs up. Votes will be factored into our final decision.

About Cassidy:

I’ve managed to do a lot of things in my 38 years, unfortunately none of which have led me to world domination. My equestrian competition record includes results at the semi-upper levels of eventing, dressage and hunters, with a random barrel race thrown in. My off-time is spent traveling, experimenting with home improvement projects, obsessing over my horse’s supplements, and making Amazon orders. I make my living as an eventing professional, but also organize recognized dressage shows, put random ink spots on things, write some words, and own a horse who desperately wants to win us some money in the hunter ring (nature is scary). My current life goals revolve around keeping my new little human alive and finding a deodorant that works during summer in North Carolina.

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Scenes from warm-up flash through the trees and you dodge rough spots of the gravel entrance. You’ve just driven past miles of pine trees with an occasional surprise stop sign. Even your phone service has thrown in the towel, leaving you with the sound of the one staticy country music station and the company of your raging horse show nerves.

These glimpses provide the first sign that you have not, in fact, gotten dreadfully lost since your signal is spotty at best. They also provide great insight to how the energy of the show feels – spicy bucks fueled by crisp morning air or relaxed stretchy trots framed by a calm Carolina blue sky.

The Carolina Horse Park was clearly developed with the horse as a priority. Airy stalls, state-of-the-art footing, lots of space for grazing or warming up the horse who lacks social skills..

The War Horse Event Series utilizes all of these wonderful amenities to the max. Five dressage competition rings, 2 show jumping rings, and two separate cross country courses are all running at full tilt to accommodate the 300+ horses and riders who come for the weekend of schooling and competition.

And yes, this is a schooling show series. But the kind of schooling show where there are tons of vendors, food trucks, competitor parties and $1000’s of prize money and awards. While it may not be the kind of schooling show to introduce easily intimidated horses and riders to eventing, it definitely is the place to go for competitors of all levels to practice their skills on a big-feeling stage.

Surviving the dressage warm-up is its own sort of accomplishment. Five competition rings worth of riders, all careening around in various degrees of horse-show panic. Advanced level riders on their young Modified horses, green-tinged adult amateurs on schoolmasters, and Green-as-grass first timers, all requiring equal dodging as you try to remember which direction you track at C. After that warm-up, going down centerline feels like a breath of fresh air…. Unless you happen to draw the ring closest to the road where trailers are noisily failing at avoiding the potholes.

Once show jumping warm-up time rolls around, it seems most everyone’s horse show jitters have slightly subsided. Sometimes there has to be a quick reminder to an inexperienced competitor that red stays on the right. Occasionally a horse goes rogue, momentarily losing the ability to steer. And periodically there is the startling crashbangboom of a severely missed distance. But for the most part everyone keeps their nerves contained in their stomach and stays polite to the volunteers who desperately try to keep their rings running somewhat on time and in order.

Once your number is called to enter one of the two beautifully decorated show jump rings, you might as well hold your breath because in 90 seconds it’ll be all over. Just kidding. Don’t hold your breath, because then you might miss out on the excitement of your name being announced as if you were entering the Kentucky stadium, OR you might miss at the Stubben sponsored bogey jump – it loves to make even the most seasoned horses spook.

Once you complete show jumping, you can catch your breath as the crossing guards block traffic for your walk across the road to cross country. The courses run over 100’s of acres of rolling sandhills featuring several water complexes, bank and ditch questions, a large variety of beautifully constructed portable fences and one terrifying mound/ditch/water combo (that is thankfully above the paygrade of the War Horse routes) so that no course is identical from month to month.

Some people decide to jump a few more fences in warm-up and some are laser focused on getting out of the start box with a friendly “3, 2, 1, have a nice ride” echoing behind their horse’s hoofbeats.

The next 6 minutes of your ride vary slightly depending on which side of the cross country complex your course runs. On the forest side, you’ll find yourself alone with your thoughts as you wind through the pine trees, hoping you remember which path to follow and popping out into meadows to enjoy a skip through a water complex. On the track side, you’ll spend the majority of the time hurtling through the open field, hoping that you aren’t wasting precious seconds by letting your horse gallop a turn too wide.

Just like any event, crossing the finish line feels amazing. After spending the whole lonely drive wondering why you subject yourself to the torture of showing horses, and questioning all your sanity throughout the day, that finish line makes you long to do it all again… immediately. Which is why there’s another War Horse Event in a month! You go ahead and submit your next entry while waiting for the barn aisle to clear enough to pack your trailer to go home.

EN Blogger Contest Finalist Allie Heninger: Only at Freedom Fest

The 2022 EN Blogger Contest finalists were asked to write about their local event as one option for their Round 2 submissions. The following piece is published unedited. Your feedback will help us select our final winner! Use the rating poll below to give this post a thumbs up. Votes will be factored into our final decision.

About Allie:

My name is Allie Heninger, or the Autoimmune Equestrian on most social media platforms. I’m 25 and currently resting in Utah with my husband, my fiery little NightMare, my Curly heart-pony, and the four cats that adopted us. I’ve been riding since I was 6 years old, and was a hunter/jumper kid transplant into the amazing world of eventing. I’m a teeny bit of an adult re-rider, as I took about 5 years off from dedicated or consistent riding while attending the last few years of high school into college, but am now back at it, competing with my lovely little NightMare. I have an autoimmune disease that runs my life a bit, and have recently worked to fully embrace it as the disability that it is, rather than continuing to try to fight against my body. Managing a competitive equestrian amateur lifestyle with a malfunctioning immune system and full-time job can be pretty rough, but my mare and I are learning together as we continue to grow!

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Photo courtesy of Allie Heninger.

“We’re baaaaaaaaack!”, the Strider event page announces, excitement rippling through the Utah eventing community. Freedom Fest at the Skyline Eventing Park is one of the most-anticipated schooling events of our summer season. With both a Friday two-phase and a Saturday mini event, entries pour in from eventers young and old for this hot and windy weekend of fun. Prizes for the most patriotic outfit are a coveted affair, and with classes ranging from Grasshopper to Preliminary, everyone and their kids are taking part in the competition.

Amidst a sprinkling of two-phases, Utah only hosts three full recognized horse trials every year. Of the smaller schooling events, the June Skyline Freedom Fest is one of only three held at our two main competition venues, so here we see everything from leadline ponies to horses prepping for the American Eventing Championships. These two electric days are packed with amateurs testing out higher levels, crazy baby horses and ecstatic junior riders debuting at their first event, and bigger barn teams than many other shows see during the season. Most riders show during both days, with many experimenting in higher-level classes during the dressage and stadium jumping two-phase on Friday before taking on the professionally designed cross-country course in the Saturday mini event.

Being a relatively small community, Utah’s eventing riders are a fairly close-knit group. Our handful of trainers know each other well, and riders cheer each other on with enthusiasm, perhaps after seeing a fellow rider’s recent competitive struggles on our online Facebook group, hearing from a friend about a horse’s medical troubles, or simply knowing from previous event experiences that one rider’s mare has a particular habit of acting possessed (spoiler alert, this one is me). With this supportive encouragement pumping the air with adrenaline, competing alongside an adorable jumping mule and a miniature pony wearing a unicorn horn is enough to excite even the most nervous of young riders. Many trainers choose the Freedom Fest as a first event for many of their students or young horses, and for many others it serves as the perfect opportunity to move up to the next class level before continuing in the second half of our event season. This affordable, accessible, and fun midsummer event serves as a pillar in every conversation; anyone who’s anyone has at least one epic story that took place at Freedom Fest, and 2022 was no exception.

Utah County trainer Travis Atkinson will be competing at the Intermediate level in the American Eventing Championships in August, but at Freedom Fest, he donned an American-flag-bedazzled helmet and a t-shirt sporting a massive patriotic eagle as he trotted down centerline. Travis won the Friday two-phase with his Prelim-level mount Don Darco before coaching several of his riders to success the following day alongside his wife and training partner, Carly. Lani Homan-Taylor, with her caravan of no less than 16 competing horse and rider combinations, soared through the weekend like a supercoach with her GPH Equestrian students claiming victories across the scoreboard in every class level from Grasshopper to Novice. Trainer Sydni Peterson of Winter Farms traveled from the mountains of Park City to judge the dressage rounds, accompanied by her two tiny baby goats (appropriately named Piaffe and Passage) while sitting at C in her truck’s air conditioning during the blazing 95-degree heat. Sydni finished the long day of judging with an impromptu photo op that included both baby goats, Lani Homan-Taylor’s youngest daughter Holly, and tiny miniature pony Diamond, who sported a sparkly pink unicorn horn for their leadline test. Holly circled while friends took videos of Sydni holding up a baby goat on Diamond’s bedazzled rump, all while a chorus of teary laughter echoed across the arena declaring, “Only at Freedom Fest!”

As the crowds dispersed to their nearby accommodations Friday night in preparation for the following day of competition, a violent thunderstorm rolled into the open valley and scattered every stadium jump in the arena, breaking a dozen flags on the cross country course, battering the parked living-quarters trailers (and their soggy, sunburned occupants) with hail, and soaking half of the covered stalls in six inches of water. The venue is infamous for its relentless “Skyline Winds” as one can only expect living in a mountain desert, and this storm was no exception. After banding together a ragtag team of volunteers and staff, Lani Homan-Taylor and Carrie Matteson, owners and managers of the Skyline Eventing Park, were able to reset the venue to its previous state and run Saturday’s event without a delay. Both of these impressive businesswomen ride multiple horses in Skyline’s competitions and still manage to pull off their administrative event duties with flying colors.

Utah’s two recognized event venues, Skyline Eventing Park in Mount Pleasant and Golden Spike Event Center in Farr West, are the only venues in the state that host a full cross-country course, and have unfortunately held a precarious position for many years due to economic challenges and rapid residential growth. With this eventing community existing on a much smaller standard by comparison than those of states on the East and West Coasts, it has been a struggle driven by a labor of love and volunteer efforts to continue operating these full events on the western edge of USEA’s Area IX. Competitive riders must accept the necessity of driving a full day to the nearest recognized venues in Arizona, California, Colorado, or Washington. While the grassroot levels of competition will likely stay strong and succeed in holding their position with scattered two-phases and schooling shows, every full three-day event held in Utah is an oasis in our desert, a precious luxury that allows our few professional riders a chance to sustain their careers.

Freedom Fest’s post-storm Saturday event was truly a sight to behold. Between harrowing the small ponds out of the jumping arenas, replacing broken jump flags, and attempting to drain the now-flooded water complexes, a flurry of people and golf carts raced across the grounds as the competition began. Dodging excitable young horses fresh from the storm, anxious junior riders, and family members toting the most heavenly food truck corn dogs, riders trotted down centerline to the beat of “Drop It Like It’s Hot”, while grooms and students danced on the sidelines. Trainers sit on one of the many large boulders bordering the warmup ring, coaching multiple students at once while grazing the horses that they will soon be mounting for their own jumping phase. Riders tackle the cross-country course with a level of disregard for death usually reserved for those with much better life insurance policies, flying through the finish flags and joining their fellow cohorts to scattered applause and cheers. Superhero show moms offer water bottles and cold towels to anyone who rides by, taking pictures of teams sporting their ribbons and medals while dressed in their extravagant patriotic gear.

As the last pony clears the final jump of the day, everything from flatbeds pulling 8-horse trailers to two-door Fiats crammed with a single tack trunk drive around the grounds to load up and head home. ATVs and dirtbikes carry riders past the booth for the local tack retailer as its proprietors begin to pack away merchandise after a successful weekend of sales on matching sunshirts and saddle pads. Dressage test score sheets and large colorful ribbons cover tack trunks in the stabling aisles as students discuss their rounds over poultice and leg wraps, tossing tack into their trailer as they jog to the wash bay. It is loud, lively, and full of energy, and every single rider just can’t wait until they get to come back for the next event.

On Top of the World: Your Complete Guide to the 2022 FEI World Championships Competitors

In the immortal words of Almost Famous‘s glamorous groupie Penny Lane, “it’s all happening!” We’re finally here in sunny Pratoni del Vivaro, just south-east of Rome, for the 2022 FEI World Championships for Eventing — and we’ve got an incredibly exciting field of entries that’s jam-packed with 27 nations and some truly extraordinary talent and stories. Want to get to know them? Pour yourself an Aperol and dive on in, baby.

Andrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Andrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos 

13-year-old Anglo-Arab gelding (Jaguar Mail x Illusion Perdue, by Jalienny), owned by Paula and David Evans, groomed by Clémentine Girardeau

4*/5* dressage average: 29.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Tokyo individual bronze medallists (and team silver medallists!) Andrew and Vassily will be looking to improve upon their podium placing here, and they’ve certainly got form on their side. Produced to CCI4*-S by France’s Tom Carlile — arguably the world’s greatest producer of young event horses, and himself a competitor this week — Vassily has an eye-wateringly good record, with just one whoopsy ever in an international out of 30 FEI starts. That was back in 2017 at Sopot, where he made his CCI4*-L debut, and other than that, he’s finished in the top 10 in every event bar Fontainebleau CCI3*-S in 2016, where he was fifteenth in extraordinary company. He’s now had sixteen consecutive top-tens in a row, and even more impressively, he’s finished on his dressage score 20 times out of 30 FEI starts. Five of those non-FODs come from crossing the finish lines less than five seconds over the optimum time. In short? He’s the most consistent horse in this field, and while he won’t lead the pack in the first phase, he’s nearly guaranteed to make his starting score his finishing score.

Fun fact: Last year was 63-year-old Andrew’s eighth Olympics, making him the most seasoned Olympian in Australian sporting history. This will be his fifth World Championships — he and Vassily competed at Tryon in 2019, finishing a frustrating fourth individually. Totally unrelated? Vassily arrived at Andrew’s yard on May 13, 2017 –  the same day he got married to wife Stefi, who he describes as “my absolute rock.” And one of the secrets to his excellent feel for a horse? A spot of, um, kangaroo-flipping as a child. “We tried to ride alongside the kangaroo, grab it by the tail and flip it off its feet,” he says. “I think we did it in one out of a hundred kangaroos.” That, he explains, taught him to “go with the horse”.

Shenae Lowings and Bold Venture. Photo by Stephen Mowbray.

Shenae Lowings and Bold Venture 

12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Devaraja x Royal Zam, by Zamoff), owned by the rider, groomed by Olivia Barton

4*/5* dressage average: 28.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: 26-year-old Australian team debutante Shenae is one of two riders on this squad who’s actually based in Australia, where she’s been enjoying a seriously excellent last couple of seasons. She and her ex-racehorse Bold Venture won the Melbourne CCI4*-L back in June on a finishing score of 25.3, adding that to a roster of success that includes a win at Tamworth’s CCI4*-S in March. Their form can be a bit up and down: the gelding had a spate of teething problems while learning the ropes at three-star and then stepping up to four-star, but they’ve looked formidable in 2021 and 2022.

Fun fact: To minimise the stress of the journey to Italy, Shenae and Bold Venture travelled to the UK in July and have been basing themselves with fellow Australian Sammi Birch.

Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam 

14-year-old KWPN gelding (Quidam x Nairoby, by Amethist), owned by Scuderia 1918 and Emma McNab and groomed by Lucy Hartley

4*/5* dressage average: 30

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: British-based Kevin’s top horse is an animal that can seem quite ordinary on paper at short-format, largely because Kevin is very tactical in how he uses his runs and tends to cruise at a low travelling speed at CCI4*-S. But the gelding isn’t actually a slow horse, as you can see when he steps up to a long format: he was clear inside the time at Kentucky last year, and added just 2.8 time penalties at Tokyo. A 20 in a CCI3*-S at Millstreet just before Pratoni was a bit of a shock result, but hopefully it’ll serve to sharpen this very competitive pair up as they aim to replicate last year’s team silver medal.

Fun fact: “Don Quidam is cheeky in a nice way; he’s a bit of a pretty boy, a bit blonde in a nice way. Every day’s fun with him — he’s a horse you enjoy riding each time,” says Kevin, who runs a thriving yard south-west of London with wife Emma, who rode on the Australian team at the 2018 World Equestrian Games. The son of dairy farmers is a rider who’s really been waiting for his own big moment: he’s responsible for producing world-beating riders including Chris Burton and Jock Paget, and now his time has come to shine.

Shane Rose and Virgil. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Shane Rose and Virgil

17-year-old Warmblood gelding (Vivant x unknown dam), owned by Niki Rose and Michelle Hasibar, groomed by Jamie Atkinson

4*/5* dressage average: 30.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Isn’t it a treat to have Shane Rose back in the Northern Hemisphere? We got so used to seeing him around the UK and European circuit in 2017 that we didn’t quite accept that one day he’d leave us to head back to his base in Australia, where he trains eventers, racehorses, and fighting kangaroos [Ed. note: please check this]. While he was here, he and Virgil finished sixteenth at Burghley, seventh at Luhmühlen, and took the win in Blair’s CCI4*-S, and upon buggering off back from whence they came, they promptly won the CCI4*-S at Camden, finished second in the CCI4*-S at Werribee, and won CCI4*-S classes at Canberra and Camden once again. They popped over to Tryon in 2018 for the WEG, although it didn’t go quite to plan: they had a sub-30 dressage but picked up a 20 across the country. Since 2019, though, they’ve been on flying form: in 10 FEI starts, they’ve won six times, been top-ten nine times (including tenth place individually at Tokyo), and had just one little whoops — a rider fall across the country at Tamworth CCI4*-S. They’re a real banker pair with serious team experience.

Fun fact: At 17hh, Virgil is one of the biggest horses in the field. Don’t expect Shane to get vertigo up there, though – he’s extraordinarily tough, or perhaps just a bit mad. His business is split between eventing at the top level and producing racehorses, and along the way, he’s amassed enough injuries to make Boyd Martin look fresh out of the box: he’s broken both arms and legs a couple of times each, smashed both wrists, reconfigured his thumbs, done most of his ribs, punctured a lung, split his liver, contracted a brutal staph infection, and got himself a new face – with eight metal plates behind it – after a particularly hideous accident left him in a coma for a week. He’s also battled through thyroid cancer, back in 2001 when he was 28. Four years after that came the accident that rearranged his face, when he was using long reins to teach a horse to enter the starting gates and ended up being double-barrelled. His face was in such bad shape that the surgeons had to work from photographs to recreate it. “I took in photos of Brad Pitt, but it didn’t work,” jokes his wife, Niki.

Hazel Shannon and Willingapark Clifford. Photo by Julie Wilson.

Hazel Shannon and Willingapark Clifford 

17-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Passing Shot x unknown dam), owned by Terry Snow, groomed by Bronte Buttel

4*/5* dressage average: 31.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Hazel and her impressive Thoroughbred have won Adelaide CCI5* three times — more than any other combination. After setting the Southern Hemisphere alight, they ventured north, heading to Pau last year as their European debut, though they withdrew before cross-country. The blow of such a decision was softened by Hazel’s long-term plans: instead of going home for Australia’s summer, they headed to the UK and have been based with Kevin and Emma McNab ever since. Kevin is an exceptional trainer of riders, and he’s been helping Hazel to refine the marginal gains. This year, we’ve seen them run well, though steadily, at Burnham Market CCI4*-S and take thirteenth at Millstreet CCI4*-L, where they rerouted after a rider fall at Badminton. They earned their spot here at Haras du Pin CCI4*-S, where they pinned down a top twenty finish in a world-class field of over 110 entries.

Fun fact: Tasmanian Thoroughbred Clifford was so hopeless as a racing prospect that he didn’t even make it to starting gate training, but in 2011, when Hazel was just eighteen and had a year of eventing experience under her belt, they came together courtesy of Clifford’s then-owners, who lived next door to Australian superstar Heath Ryan, with whom Hazel was training. Their record since has been very exciting: over 44 FEI starts, they’ve picked up 28 top-ten finishes, including 11 wins.

Harald Ambros and Mountbatton 2. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Dr Harald Ambros and Mountbatton 2

12-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Mount Etna XX  x Weimar, by Wolkenstein II). Owned by the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 34.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: This will be a team debut for the relatively inexperienced Mountbatton, who has been a second string to Harald’s stalwart partner Lexikon. He’s got just one CCI4*-L under his belt so far: that was Baborowko in Poland, where he finished eleventh last spring. He travelled to Pratoni, alongside Lexikon, for the test event in May, which he completed with a 20 across the country, but he was relatively quick even with that mistake. He won’t come here to be competitive as an individual, but this World Championships is about building on the hard work that Austria has put in as a developing eventing nation, and coming home ready to tackle the final day will be the main thing.

Fun fact: You don’t see many event riders with a doctorate, but Harald Ambros is out here showing the world what a bit of multitasking can do: he’s a practicing dentist alongside being a regular member of the Austrian team line-up. Of course, he’s not the first dentist to make a splash at the top levels: the 2008 Olympic individual and team gold medallist, Dr Hinrich Romeike, was also regularly found rooting around in people’s molars.

Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati and Oklahoma 2. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati and Oklahoma 2

12-year-old Trakehner mare (Sixtus x Osterfreude V, by Donaumonarch). Owned by Nico Hauf and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 37.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: This will be a second Championship appearance for Oklahoma, who was part of the Austrian team at last September’s European Championships in Avenches. She was 38th there, and the Austrian team finished sixth, which would be a serious landmark moment for them if they can replicate it here, as it would allow them to take a qualifying berth at the Paris Olympics. That might be a bit of a stretch, but Austrian eventing is certainly on the up and up — and young Oklahoma, who stepped up to four-star in 2019 with a third-place finish at Strzegom on her debut, is an exciting horse for them to send out of the starting box. Her first and final phases aren’t particularly competitive yet, but she’s become a consistent, reliable cross-country performer and should secure an essential completion.

Fun fact: Katrin has historically chosen not to work with a trainer, but instead to self-educate and focus on the production of her horses without outside influence.

Lea Siegl and DSP Fighting Line. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Lea Siegl and DSP Fighting Line

15-year-old German Sport Horse gelding (Stalypso x Pia, by Laretto Diavolo). Owned by Marianne Mühlböck.

4*/5* dressage average: 32.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: 24-year-old Lea and her feisty chestnut gelding wowed on the world stage last year, finishing 15th at the Tokyo Olympics and giving the wider horse industry a reason to pay attention to Austrian eventing. That confidence boost has had a palpable ripple effect on her compatriots, with Austrians putting in a great show — particularly in the first phase — at last year’s European Championships. Lea herself rode another horse — Van Helsing P — there, finishing 16th and best of her nation, but it’s with this horse that she really shines. They’re very quick, and excellent across the country, and that’ll help them climb from their low-30s dressage when Saturday proves seriously tough.

Fun fact: At just 22, Lea was the youngest rider in the Tokyo field – but only by the tiniest of margins: Switzerland’s Robin Godel was born one day before her. She managed to qualify an impressive three horses for Tokyo, but opted for ‘Fighty’. She’s trained by her father, Harald, who rode for Austria at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and she and Katrin were just the second and third women ever to represent Austria in eventing at the Olympics.


Lara de Liedekerke-Meier and Hermione d’Arville

9-year-old Belgian Sport Horse mare (Birkhof’s Royaldik x Kyra du Relais Pachis, by Kashmir van Schuttershof). Owned by Five Star Eventers SPARL and Larga SPRL.

4*/5* dressage average: 31.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Lara has been a stalwart of the Belgian team since her teens, when she first represented the country at the Pony Europeans. In total, she’s ridden in eleven Europeans across the Pony, Junior, Young Rider, and senior levels, and made her World Championships debut in 2010 riding Nooney Blue, her Young Riders partner. Nooney is now a lynchpin of Lara’s extensive breeding programme, and some of her offspring are moving up to the top levels now. Hermione isn’t a daughter of Nooney, but she’s an integral part of the production line at Arville, the Belgian castle estate at which Lara and her husband, German eventer and Belgian chef d’equipe, base their operation and run an international horse trials, too. She’s one of the youngest horses in this field and much more inexperienced than some of Lara’s other rides, but on her day, she’s very good, and she’s getting quicker with each run, too. They won’t fight for an individual placing this week, but Lara’s experience and the mare’s talent will help the Belgian team on their path to trying to nab a Paris ticket.

Fun fact: Lara, who has a Master’s degree in Commerce, was raised by eventing parents: “For as long as I can remember, there have always been horses around me. I got my first pony when I was eight years old. It wasn’t a very easy journey from the start [of her competitive eventing career]. I was often eliminated. I was told that I lacked fighting spirit to get to the top level. There were a lot of pitfalls but I think it forged my character.”

Karin Donckers and Fletcha Van’t Verahof. Photo by William Carey.

Karin Donckers and Fletcha van’t Verahof

17-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Vigo d Arsquilles STX x Southern Queen, by Southern Gale). Owned by Joris de Brabandere, Carl Bouckaert, and the rider. 

4*/5* dressage average: 29.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Karin and Fletcha van’t Verahof are lynchpin partnership for Team Belgium. Karin is one of the most decorated riders in the field with over three decades of Senior Championship experience. She’s had six Olympic Games (1992, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016) and seven World Championship (1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018) appearances. Her best finish among those came in 2014 with Fletcha van’t Verahof where they were fifth individually. 

This pair have an impressively competitive cross country record with only two completions having jump penalties across an eleven year partnership. They finished the CCI4*-L at Pratoni last fall in fourth place individually, earning a 25.6 on the flat, one of the best dressage scores at the level in the last several years. That experience should give Karin valuable intel for team Belgium this weekend.

Fun fact: Karin’s direct reserve for this championship, Leipheimer van’t Verahof, is a full brother to Fletcha van’t Verahof. 

Senne Vervaecke and Google van Alsingen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Senne Vervaecke and Google van Alsingen

11-year-old KWPN mare (Watch Me x Pinot Brun VH Pannehof, by Forever). Owned by BVBA Alsingen.

4*/5* dressage average: 39.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: This is Senne’s Senior team debut, though he is no stranger to championship pressure as he has represented Belgium at six Junior and Young Rider European Championships in his young 25 years. He brings forward the eleven-year-old chestnut “Google” who Senne has brought up the levels. Aside from two blips at Advanced level, they are quite proficient in the cross country phase, and their show jumping usually adds nothing to their final tally, though they’ve only done one CCI4*-L where they had four down on the final day.  

Most recently at Le Pin au Haras, they had a personal best on the flat (35) and only time added across the jumping phases for a last boost of confidence before Pratoni. 

Fun fact: Belgian individual rider Maarten Boon was Senne’s babysitter growing up.

Jarno Verwimp and Mahalia. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jarno Verwimp and Mahalia

10-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Elvis ter Putte x Cohiba, by Condrieu). Owned by Marc Rigouts and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 32.3

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Jarno is the youngest rider in this year’s field at just 21 years old, and he’s riding one of the youngest horses, too, in ten-year-old Mahalia. This is his senior championship debut, but he’s no newcomer to the British team: he’s represented Belgium at Pony, Junior, and Young Rider European Championships, most recently last year with this mare. They suffered a horse fall there, so didn’t complete, but they’ve had some exciting results since, including third at Strzegom CCI4*-S and second at Baborowko CCI4*-L as part of a five-run stint of top-five finishes at FEI events. This is a big step up in their career but one they’re very capable of making in fine style.

Fun fact: We love a good international eventing friendship, and Jarno’s bestie is in this field representing another team: Nadja Minder of Switzerland is one of his nearest and dearest, and when he finished second to her at Baborowko, one of the highlights of the week was seeing them share a cuddle on the podium. They’ll no doubt be cheering one another on from the sidelines this week.

Maarten Boon and Gravin van Cantos. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Individual: Maarten Boon and Gravin van Cantos

11-year-old KWPN mare (breeding unknown). Owned by the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 31.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Pratoni will be Maarten’s first championship appearance. Gravin van Cantos is Maarten’s primary upper level horse, and he’s brought him up the levels to include an appearance at Le Lion as a six-year-old. The pair have not had a cross country jump penalty since 2019. They can be quite quick at the three-star level, but have a smattering of time at four-star level. Here at the test event, Maarten jumped clear with 12.8 time penalties.

Maarten owns the mare himself, and she’s been told to be gentle enough for his children to help look after her.

Fun fact: At 17, Maarten groomed for Kris Vervaecke in the 1998 World Championships in Rome. Now, 24 years later, he’s back riding as an individual alongside Kris’ son, Senne. “It was clearly written in the stars,” he says.

Carlos Parro and Goliath. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Carlos Parro and Goliath

11-year-old KWPN gelding (Chello III VDL x Octa, by Belisar). Owned by EMTEC Laboratories and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 35.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Eleven-year-old Goliath was one of the youngest horses in last year’s Olympic field, and arguably the least experienced. He’d done just two CCI4*-L competitions since stepping up to four-star at the tail end of 2020: on his CCI4*-L debut at Barroca d’Alva in December he retired after two problems on course, but then regrouped for a steady clear at Strzegom in April of last year. It all worked out well, though: Goliath delivered a steady clear, finishing 32nd. Since then, he’s come on in leaps and bounds, delivering faster, more attacking clears at short formats — including this spring’s test event, where he was 26th — and improving the other two phases, too. It’ll be exciting to see him consolidate that in this, his first long format since the Olympics. This should be a great educational building block for longer-term success if Carlos is able to ride him with that in mind.

Fun fact: Carlos first moved to the UK to train with Chris Bartle in 1997, and then set up shop permanently from 2002. These days, he gets help on the flat from none other than Britain’s most-medalled female Olympian of all time, dressage superstar Charlotte Dujardin. Last year was his third Olympics: he competed at Sydney and Rio, and rode at the WEG for the first time when he was nineteen.

Marcelo Tosi and Glenfly. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Marcelo Tosi and Glenfly

17-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Presenting x Dorans Glen, by Over the River). Owned by the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 33.3

XC speed rating:  ☆☆☆

Reliability rating:  ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 3

The need-to-knows: Tokyo was nearly a second Olympics for Glenfly: he did the Rio test event and was very much in consideration for the real deal, but Marcelo decided he was too inexperienced and opted to save him for the next Olympic cycle. By the time he made his Olympic debut, he did so with a WEG run and three five-stars under his belt: he jumped clear at Tryon in 2018 for eventual 53rd place, and he’s jumped clear around Kentucky in 2019 and Pau the same year, though Marcelo took a tumble in their Burghley attempt. Though they’ve amassed 15 top-six finishes in FEI competitions in Brazil, they tend to find themselves a bit further off the pace against top-class fields, and were out at the second horse inspection in Tokyo. They won’t trouble the obvious medal candidates, but Brazil would be savvy to send them out as the first of their competitors: Glenfly is experienced, and Marcelo has been a stalwart member of the Brazilian team, so they’ll be able to bring back crucial info — particularly on those hills. As a full Thoroughbred, Glenfly will give a solid indicator of how much staying power they require.

Fun fact: Glenfly was the only full Thoroughbred in last year’s Tokyo field – his sire is top National Hunt stallion Presenting, and his dam is by the same stallion who sired British Olympic silver medallist Over To You. Glenfly himself raced underwhelmingly over fences, despite his not inconsiderable purchase price of €44,000 as a yearling from Tattersalls Ireland. He retired from racing in mid-2012 after pulling up in his final run, and Marcelo bought him directly from his owners after a tip-off from a friend. By the end of the year, he’d run in several BE90 (US Novice) events. Marcelo’s partner is top British dressage rider Anna Ross.

Marcio Carvalho Jorge and Kilcoltrim Kit Kat

13-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Waldo van Dungen x Kilcoltrim Kitten, by Ghareeb). Owned by Alison and Helen Mordaunt and Alistair and Annabel Vere Nicoll.

4*/5* dressage average: 35.1

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: This is just the sixth FEI start for Marcio and Kit Kat as a pair — the mare joined his string just this year, and has been fast-tracked to a qualification to allow Brazil to field a team for this Championships. Because of that, the aim for Marcio won’t be to try to be competitive — it’ll be to complete safely, contributing to the team effort and helping them to fight for a placing that will yield them a spot in Paris. Previously produced by Great Britain’s Katie Prowse, Kit Kat stepped up to four-star last year, and has had two clears in five runs at the level so far, including in her one and only CCI4*-L.

Fun fact: Three-time Brazilian Eventer of the Year and two-tie Olympian Marcio is a tough cookie: in 2019, he broke his leg, underwent surgery, and was back in the saddle in just over a month. He’ll have managed the injury well, too: he worked as a doctor and anaesthesiologist in Brazil, riding after his shifts at the hospital. If that doesn’t sound like enough of a feat of time management, he also managed a rubber plantation.

Ruy Fonseca and Ballypatrick SRS. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Ruy Fonseca and Ballypatrick SRS

11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Pacino x Ballypatrick Romance, by Clover Hill). Owned by Renata Rabello Costa and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 32.1

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: British-based Ruy, whose farm is the training hub for the team, is a real stalwart of the Brazilian front, having competed at three Pan-American Games, two Olympics, and two World Championships. One of those Pan-Am appearances was with his Pratoni ride, Ballypatrick SRS, who recently made a blazingly fast, impressive go of the Eventers Challenge class at Hickstead. At in 2019, they were eliminated for a horse fall, but the gelding was very young and inexperienced then, and has come on in leaps and bounds in the seasons since. We’ve seen him place in a CCI4*-L at Sopot, a CCI4*-S at Strzegom, and a CCI3*-S at Montelibretti this year alone, and though he’s not quite ready to try to compete with the obvious frontrunners here, this pair should put in a solid performance as Brazil fights for a team completion and — if luck is on their side — a ticket to Paris.

Fun fact: Ruy’s wife, Renata, is an accomplished equestrian in her own right, and represents Brazil in dressage.

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jollybo. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jollybo

18-year-old British-bred Sport Horse mare (Jumbo x Polly Coldunnell, by Danzig Connection), owned by the Jollybo Syndicate LLC and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 33.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 3

The need-to-knows: Stalwart multi-Olympian Hawley Bennett-Awad and her little mare that could (but don’t you dare call Jollybo little!) certainly need little introduction, particularly to their North American fan base. Hawley’s been around more than a few World Championship tracks, both with Jollybo (Tryon 2018) as well as Gin & Juice (Normandy 2014, Lexington 2010) as well as two Olympic Games (2012, Gin & Juice; 2004, Livingstone). And at 18 years young, Jollybo will tackle her second World Championships touting an impressive resume of clear cross country runs.

Running a small operation out of Galway Downs in southern California, Hawley maintains a low number of personal horses and training clients, instead opting to travel the country teaching in-demand clinics. This allows her to focus solely on the careful finessing of the British-bred mare by Jumbo. Even though Jollybo would be considered one of the eldest horses in the field, her miles are relatively low as Hawley only selectively preps her for major events – and with a consistent performer like this mare, why waste the wear and tear?

So it’s a very fit Jollybo who arrived at Pratoni early this week after a short training camp alongside teammates Holly Jacks and Candy King. Show jumping will be this combination’s sore point, but Hawley works hard at home with coaches Susie Hutchinson and Buck Davidson, so you can be sure she’s coming into this week determined to deliver an anchor performance in what could be this little supermare’s final championship tour.

Fun Fact: Hawley’s close friend, Maralee Paul, travels to groom Jollybo at major events, and Hawley can always be found traveling with stuffed animal mementos/good luck charms that always adorn Jollybo’s stall.

Holly Jacks and Candy King at Kentucky. Photo by Kristin Strehlow Photography.

Holly Jacks-Smither and Candy King

12-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Grafenstolz x Eye Candy, by Moothyeb), owned by the Candy King Eventing Limited Partnership.

4*/5* dressage average: 32.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: When Holly Jacks learned that her longtime five-star partner, More Inspiration, had a heart murmur just before the start of competition at Kentucky last spring, she wasn’t sure what would come next. She had Candy King coming up the levels, but you don’t know if you have a five-star horse until you try – and worse, she was going through some life changes that appeared to necessitate the sale of her top horses. So she listed the British gelding by Grafenstolz on the open market, but before he could sell some of her supporters banded together to form what’s now known as the Candy King Syndicate to keep the horse with Holly.

It was a gesture Holly will never forget, and she’s done her best to make good on her commitment to make the most of her partnership with the gelding.

While this pair’s five-star debut at Maryland last year didn’t quite go to plan (Holly was attempting to ride with a broken ankle and wound up parting ways with Candy King midway around cross country), Holly kept the faith and was rewarded with a clear cross country and a top-15 finish in the tough Lexington 4*-S this spring. Following that with an eighth place finish at Tryon’s spring 4*-L all but stamped Holly’s ticket to Italy, and now she stands on the cusp of her second senior championship. She’s not a stranger to pressure, though: she’s represented Canada in Nations Cup competition and is a steely athlete through and through.

This will be a stiff challenge for the still relatively green Candy King, but through his career he’s proven to be a dependable cross country horse more than capable of delivering a solid team performance in his big-stage debut.

Fun Fact: Holly has also boxed competitively, so best not to get on her bad side. (Just kidding, Holly, you’re actually quite nice!)

Karl Slezak and Fernhill Wishes. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Karl Slezak and Fernhill Wishes

12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Chacoa x KEC Galway Bay, by Gildawn Diamond), owned by Kirk Hoppner and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 35.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Nickelback-loving Karl Slezak (yes, it’s likely no longer funny and no, we aren’t planning to stop) and Fernhill Wishes debuted at the five-star level at Kentucky last year, but it would be at Maryland in the fall that they’d get that first completion after an otherwise gorgeous Kentucky cross country was cut short by a fall. Karl’s long term goal for this horse has been these World Championships, and he’s spent the majority of 2022 in the UK, rerouting from Badminton to Luhmühlen where he and “Chocy” finished 15th.

Karl and Chocy have worn the team jackets before, riding for the Canadian team in the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, collecting a team bronze in the process. Their record carries a couple of blips, but experience has done well for this pair, who jumped clear around the Hartpury 4*-S in August in prep for this week. They’re certainly capable of scoring a competitive sub-30, but it will depend on just how fresh Chocy feels on dressage day.

Fun Fact: I don’t actually think Karl loves Nickelback THAT much. Were you just too nice to say no to that t-shirt? Blink twice if you need help.

Mike Winter and El Mundo. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Mike Winter and El Mundo

13-year-old KWPN gelding (Numero Uno x Calvaro’s Bria Z, by Calvaro F.C.), owned by Jonathan Nelson, Emma Winter and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 33.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Based in the UK out of his and his wife Emma Winter’s Wayfarer Eventing, Mike Winter will make his first appearance on a World Championships roster with the 13-year-old El Mundo. This combination has two five-star completions under their belt, one at Pau in 2021 and one at Badminton this year, and are another that are capable of delivering a strong team ride this week.

Mike is a two-time Olympian, having ridden for Canada in 2004 (Athens, Balista) and 2008 (Hong Kong, King Pin). He’s also a two-time Pan American Games medalist (2007, Kingpin; 2003, Balista), so this depth of experience will mix in well with the veteran and fresh-faced riders on Team Canada.

El Mundo, or “Roberto” as he’s affectionately named in the stable after a former friend and employee, was originally a sale horse in the Winter program, but then the gelding suffered a major leg injury that required long rest and nearly round-the-clock care. It was during this period that Roberto became a family horse, cared for and brought back to health by the Winters. By the time he’d healed and rehabilitated, the for sale sign was gone.

Because of these setbacks, fortuitous as they may have been in the long term, the gelding didn’t have his first full season of eventing until his eight-year-old year. But he took to the game quickly and naturally, stepping up to the 4* level in 2019. This combination has delivered low-30s scores in the past, but a mid-30s is closer to their average so they’ll be looking to climb following the first phase.

Fun Fact: Like many of us, Mike came from a non-horsey family and caught the horse bug and, later, the eventing bug after going away to a summer camp and riding for the first time. These days, he’s a vocal campaigner for opening the doors to riders from all backgrounds, and champions diversity movements within the sport. You’ll spot him riding with Black Lives Matter stirrup irons.

Dana Cooke and Mississippi. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Dana Cooke and Mississippi

12-year-old Württemburg mare (Cassini II x Liastra, by Legaat), owned by the FE Mississippi Syndicate LLC.

4*/5* dressage average: 31.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Dana Cooke gets her first World Championship nod as a call-up following the withdrawal of Colleen Loach and Vermont. She’ll bring forward her 2019 Pan American Games partner, Mississippi, who has really grown in the intervening seasons as she’s gained mileage. This spring, the pair delivered a very impressive fifth-place finish at the “five-star-short” Lexington 4*-S.

Typically based in Mooresville, NC out of Kingfisher Park Equestrian, Dana temporarily relocated to Ireland this year to get in some additional mileage and exposure on the international scene. They were top-5 at Burgham’s 3*-S in July and also jumped clear around Hartpury’s 4*-S last month.

While the team and individual riders have yet to be announced for the teams, Dana and Mississippi are ready to step into their role and will be looking to lay down the rides of their lives in their biggest challenge to date.

Fun Fact: You’ll be able to ID Mississippi, who is also known as “Miss Perfect” in the barn, by her very distinctive, faintly grey and white markings. She’s a gorgeous gal, that one!

Alex Hua Tian and Don Geniro. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Alex Hua Tian and Don Geniro

15-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Don Kennedy – Gina, by Giorgione), owned by Pip Higgins, Sarah Higgins, Pam Dews, and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 24.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: 32-year-old Alex returns to Championship level with his Rio and Tokyo partner The Don, with whom he was the lynchpin of the fledgling Chinese team last year. Don is spectacular on his day, and can easily put a 22 on the board in the first phase, but his marks do tend to fluctuate through the twenties if he’s struck by his inner ‘Psycho Don’. On cross-country, he’s generally reliable but does have the odd blip – including at Bramham CCI4*-S this year and Bicton CCI4*-S last year. Now 15, he’s less likely to demonstrate his sense of humour in the first phase, but the wind will need to blow in the right direction to get his best performances this week. If all goes to plan, he can easily aim for another top-ten finish – but there’ll be a few folks holding their breath until their round is over on Saturday.

Fun fact: Alex made history in 2008 when he became China’s first-ever Olympic equestrian and the youngest-ever Olympic eventer at just eighteen. Though it ended in heartbreak – he fell on cross-country – it spurred him on to improve and he returned to the Games at Rio in 2016 and finished in eighth place. He’s a testament to all the reasons why you shouldn’t write off the developing nations, nor the riders you may not know quite as well yet, because he proves that every step along the way is a crucial brick in the foundation being built. He’s also a forward-thinker within the equestrian world, not just for his work with the Chinese equestrian federation on building the sport, but as an ambassador for the Red Cross, the founder of a charity to help low-income kids get in the saddle, and an outspoken supporter of inclusivity and diversity in the sport. We have no choice but to stan, as the youth say.

The Czech Republic’s Miloslav Prihoda Jr and Ferreolus Lat. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Miloslav Prihoda Jr and Ferreolus Lat

12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Jaguar Mail – Veonille II, by Royal Dance), owned by Vladimir Malak and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 34.3

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: This pair were quite successful in the horse’s first couple of seasons competing internationally, with several top-ten placings to their credit, and they still occasionally sneak onto the leaderboard at the upper levels now: they were third in a CCI4*-L at Sopot, sixth in the CCI4*-L Olympic qualifier at Baborowko, where Poland booked their team ticket, 10th in a CCI4*-S at Sopot, and seventh in a CCI3*-S at Kreuth, all in 2019. In 2020 they gave solid but uncompetitive performances, which continued into 2021 – most notably at the Olympic Games, where he finished 33rd with a pin penalty, and the European Championships, where he was 29th and clear. They won’t be fighting for a top finish here, but they could prove to be a delightful surprise this week with three exciting performances that will win them plenty of admirers.

Fun fact: 31-year-old Miloslav underwent hip surgery when he was just twelve years old, and the aftereffects of the operation affected him for several years thereafter. He’s from a particularly horsey family: his mother show jumped, his father evented, and both his younger sisters have evented at FEI level. He’s competed at seven European Championships, representing the Czech Republic at Pony, Junior, Young Rider, and Senior level, and finished thirteenth twice at the Young Riders level. He’s had Ferreolus Lat since the horse was a four-year-old, and there are four paternal half-brothers in this field: Vassily de Lassos, Joystick, Box Leo, and Colorado Blue are also by Jaguar Mail.

Miroslav Trunda and Shutterflyke. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Miroslav Trunda and Shutterflyke

11-year-old Dutch Riding Horse mare (Sir Shutterfly – Zaramba, by BMC Kigali), owned by Svobodova Adela

4*/5* dressage average: 40.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Miroslav tends to produce his own horses through the levels, rather than buying established competitors, and this is a prime example: Shutterflyke first hit the international scene in 2017, and that year, she finished eighth in the Six-Year-Old World Championship, beating fellow Tokyo competitors Goliath, MP Imagine If, Chicuelo, and Fascination, as well as notable horses such as Cooley Quicksilver (Liz Halliday-Sharp), Senza Fine (Tim Price), and John the Bull (Susie Berry). Across her 30 FEI runs, she’s finished in the top ten 16 times, and while she tends to compete in Central to Eastern Europe where the entry lists are somewhat smaller, she’s still beaten significant opponents at four-star, including Julia Krajewski’s Amande de b’Neville, Michael Jung’s Highlighter, and Louise Romeike’s Cato 60. She’s a fast, efficient horse on cross-country with the right kind of fighting spirit that’ll serve her well this week. Her showjumping is improving significantly, and while her high-30s score will keep her out of the upper echelons of the leaderboard, she’s another under-the-radar horse who you might find yourself falling in love with this week.

Fun fact: Prague-based Miroslav is a full-time vet. “Given that I treat and service horses for leading domestic and foreign riders, both in home stables and in races, I consider it a great advantage and experience,” he explains. “Obviously it is manageable, but of course there are times when I feel more mental and physical pressure during the season. However, since these are two different issues, I feel more like working with horses. In general I perceive competing and horse training as my hobbies. My primary goal is not to collect winning ribbons, no one is pushing me anywhere, and I consider this a huge advantage. I just do what I enjoy.”

 

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Mia Hastrup and Shjabrina

4*/5* dressage average: 35.1

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 3

The need-to-knows: Mia’s dream of horses came alive when she stumbled upon a video tape of an event at Brovst in 1990 and she was hooked. She took to her first competition in 1998 and since has grown her own career and a bustling teaching facility.

Mia has ridden for Denmark on four European Championship teams, but this is her first World Championship appearance.She brings to Italy with her Shajabrina, a sixteen-year-old mare who is the self-proclaimed queen of Mia’s farm. The two have a lengthy partnership, which they will rely on as they challenge themselves this weekend to achieve a strong result for their developing eventing nation.

Their first phase score won’t be the envy of the group, but the mare is quick around the cross country. They’ve only done one long format in the last three seasons, so their form will be hard to predict, but a solid outing for Denmark is top priority for this pair.

Fun fact: Based in Tureby, Denmark, Mia runs a busy yard where she hosts several students. She leans heavily on her bachelor’s degree in Sports from the University of Copenhagen alongside her personal riding experience to train people mentally and physically.

Hanne Wind Ramsgaard and Amequ Torino

4*/5* dressage average: 42.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: The ten-year-old “Lillefisen” is a homebred for Hanne, and that’s demonstrated in their synced partnership. With her previous horse Vestervangs Arami, Hanne has had two team experiences at European Championships, and this will be her World Championship debut.

Their dressage will likely not wow the judges, but the chestnut’s keen appreciation for the jumping phases should keep them in competitive form. One rail is likely to come down on Sunday, but along with Mia, Hanne’s main goal here will be a finish as competitive as she can achieve for her home country.

Fun fact: Without funding support from the Danish Equestrian Federation, both Hanne and Mia partnered up to fundraise their journey. They’ve shared insights on themselves and their horses along with behind the scenes content on their joint instagram page, which you can find here.

 

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Nicolas Wettstein and Meyer’s Happy

15-year-old Holsteiner gelding (My Happy Guest XX x Nottfelderin, by Caletto I). Owned by Monique Deyme, Frank Wettstein, and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 36

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆

Predicted poles: 3

The need-to-knows: It’s a second World Championships appearance this week for Happy, who finished 67th with 20 penalties with Nico at Tryon in 2018. Beyond that, Nico himself has plenty of championship experience: he’s ridden at two Pan-American Games and two Olympics for his adopted nation, Ecuador, and a Young European Championships for France.

This pair won’t be here to be competitive, but instead to focus on gaining another completion for their nation. Happy, who was initially produced by Claas Romeike of Germany, went through a long stint of being a very good cross-country partner, but since the 2018 World Championships, he’s been rather less reliable: in his 20 four-stars since Tryon, he’s gone clear six times. Nicolas will be ready to rally and find his way home on Giuseppe’s cross-country course, but he’ll also be aware that the prize he’ll win is valuable mileage that he can carry over to his next championship mount.

Fun fact: Based in Switzerland, Nicolas is the son of a Swiss father (who himself evented internationally) and a French mother. Nicolas was named as a reserve for the Swiss team at Athens in 2004 and rode for France as a Junior, but swapped nationalities to Ecuador when he became eligible via marriage in 2011. He competed for the country at Rio in 2016 and was the first Ecuadorian representative to ride at Badminton. He also has a degree in hotel management, which seems like a pretty great case for never using one’s higher education, since he now runs a pharmaceutical company.

Tom Carlile and Darmagnac de Beliard. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tom Carlile and Darmagnac de Béliard

9-year-old Selle Français gelding (Canturo x Palme de Moyon, by Barbarian). Owned by S.C.E.A. de Beliard and Jean-Jacques Montagne, and groomed by Camille Coton.

4*/5* dressage average: 28

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: At just nine years old, Darmagnac de Beliard is the joint-youngest horse in this year’s field, but also one of the most interesting. Though he’s only got one CCI4*-L under his belt — he made his level debut at Bramham in June, finishing fourth — Darmagnac is a serious contender for the exciting French team. This will be his squad debut, though it’s not a debut for Tom, who is one of the world’s most exciting producers of young horses. Tom has ridden at two European Championships, and was the reserve rider for last year’s Olympics with the excellent mare Birmane. Though this will be just the tenth FEI start for Darmagnac, there’s every chance he could be a dark horse entry onto the individual podium: in nine runs so far, he’s been out of the top ten just once, and had eight clears. He’s preternaturally quick and looks for the flags from strides out, and Tom’s unique, compassionate understanding of his horses’ complexities should mean we see a masterclass in production over the week.

Fun fact: Tom is responsible for the early education of a number of excellent horses — including Australian superstar Vassily de Lassos, ridden this week by Andrew Hoy.

Cyrielle Lefevre and Armanjo Serosah. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Cyrielle Lefèvre and Armanjo Serosah

12-year-old Selle Français gelding (Romando de l’Abbaye x Jolyjo Serosah, by Sassanian). Owned by Charline Guerin, and groomed by Soizic Lefèvre.

4*/5* dressage average: 34.8

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: A top twenty debut at five-star level put Cyrielle on the French selector’s radar last fall at Pau, and she followed that up with a confident Badminton completion this spring. She and Armanjo Serosah are as reliable as they come on cross country, the only blip on their record being a frangible pin three seasons ago.

Armanjo Serosah found his way to Cyrielle’s farm as a four-year-old and she’s very molded him with Championships in mind. The partnership has rails more often than not, but she’ll likely still be in the hunt for a competitive finish for France.

Fun fact: Cyrielle’s love for horses is very much a family affair. She rides and trains alongside her sister Soizic out of their grandparent’s farm in Perthes, France, while mom, Christelle, heads up the management of the operation.

Gaspard Maksud and Zaragoza seal the deal with an impressive performance at Haras du Pin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Gaspard Maksud and Zaragoza

9-year-old British-bred Sport Horse mare (Cevin Z x unrecorded dam). Owned by Martin Thurlow and Jane Young, and groomed by Lucy-Anna Westaway.

4*/5* dressage average: 31.3

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Gaspard makes his championship debut just months after his first appearance on the French team, which came at CHIO Aachen with this excellent mare. They were very competitive in the dressage and looked great for 95% of the cross-country, but an exuberant leap into the water in sight of the finish line saw them end their weekend early. They learned a lot from that and came back strong at Haras du Pin, finishing fourth in a seriously hot field of over 110 entries, many of whom are in this line-up. This might be one of the youngest horses in the field, but she’s formidable: in 11 FEI runs, she’s only had one whoopsy — that fall at Aachen — and has made the time in every completion bar one, where she had 5.2 time penalties. This is a serious horse and rider partnership for France, and one that shouldn’t be overlooked. Their dressage scores this year have been beating their average, too — at Aachen and Haras du Pin alike, they went sub-30.

Fun fact: Gaspard has been based in the UK for a decade, and first came over to work for Andrew Nicholson before going on to Sam Griffiths’s place. Now, he has his own spot in Surrey, near Pippa Funnell, but eventing wasn’t his first sporting dream — he was initially keen on playing rugby, but “I didn’t really have the size and when the other players started to think I was the ball, it was time for me to change sports!”

Astier Nicolas and Alertamalib’Or. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Astier Nicolas and Alertamalib’or

12-year-old Anglo-Arab gelding (Summer Song x Dambine, by Prince Ig’Or). Owned by Aliette Forien, Nicholas Paul, and the rider, and groomed by Laura Schmitt.

4*/5* dressage average: 27.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Alertamalib’or was the talk of the town in 2017, when he became the Seven-Year-Old World Champion — but a spate of niggling injuries meant that he disappeared from the circuit for all of 2019 and most of 2020. Now, though, he’s back and looking better than ever, as evidenced by a strong performance at Haras du Pin, where was 13th. They also won Saumur CCI4*-L this spring, but have had some iffy moments, too, with a horse fall at Blair CCI4*-S last summer and a retirement on course at Barbury’s CCI3*-S this year. He’s undeniably talented but not necessarily a sure thing — fans of the sport would likely have expected to see Babylon de Gamma this week, but the great grey has had some time out with injury and only returned to international competition this summer.

Astier has a wealth of team experience to bring to the table this week: beyond his many European Championships, from Pony through to senior level, he was an individual silver and team gold medallist at the Rio Olympics with his excellent former ride Piaf de b’Neville, and finished seventh in the World Championships in Tryon with Vinci de la Vigne, who competes here this week with Kazuma Tomoto.

Fun fact: Astier is the only French rider to compete on Pony, Junior, Young Rider, and Senior teams — and he’s a great success story for the concept of the Equine Science degree path. He got a BSc in the subject at England’s Hartpury University.

Nicolas Touzaint and Absolut Gold HDC. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Nicolas Touzaint and Absolut Gold*HDC

12-year-old Selle Français gelding (Birkhof’s Grafenstolz x Belle Meralaise, by Verglas). Owned by Haras des Coudrettes, and groomed by Aure Coulange.

4*/5* dressage average: 30.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: The only members of last year’s bronze medal-winning Olympic team to return for this year’s Championship are Nicolas and Absolut Gold, who doesn’t necessarily look like an obvious champion but is enormously consistent across the phases. Nicolas took the ride on in 2018 from fellow French rider Elodie Patenotte, who produced him up to CCI3*-S, and since then, he’s been an impressive competitor for the French contingent. Tokyo is a fifth Olympics for the rider, who was part of the gold medal-winning team at Athens in 2004. With Absolut Gold, he’s logged two championship runs: they finished tenth at the 2019 Europeans at Luhmühlen, adding nothing through the week to their 31.6 dressage, and finished sixth at Tokyo. They’ve finished on their dressage score or a fraction of a penalty over in their last five FEI runs and haven’t finished lower than 12th since 2018. They won’t lead the first phase – instead, look for a mark around 30 – but they’re odds-on to finish on it, which will allow for major movement on the leaderboard.

Fun fact: Nicolas, whose uncle Thierry is the team chef d’equipe, was something of a child prodigy: he was just 20 when he competed at his first Olympics in 2000, and he became the youngest-ever European Champion when he was 22. He’s also the only Frenchman ever to win Badminton, which he took in 2008 with Hidalgo de l’Ile.

Sandra Auffarth and Viamant du Matz. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sandra Auffarth and Viamant du Matz

13-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Diamant de Semilly – Heralina, by Voltigeur le Malin), owned by Prinz Nikolaus von Croy

4*/5* dressage average: 28.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: The former reigning World Champion is back and she’s got her eye on the top of the podium in Pratoni. The question will be — does history repeat itself? In 2014, Sandra won at Aachen before achieving individual gold with Opgun Louvo, and this year she’s already squared away her Aachen win with Viamant du Matz.

Tension will keep this pair from the very best dressage scores we’ll see this week, but the horse’s form on the cross country is nearly impeccable, aside from the devastatingly uncharacteristic 20 penalties they picked up at the Tokyo Olympics last year. That aside, Sandra believes “Mat” to have come into his own in recent seasons and he’ll be one to hunt the flags all the way around.

Fortunately for the final day nerves, show jumping is one of the pairs strongest phases, and they’ve not seen a pole fall in the last phase of a long format in the last three seasons.

Fun fact: Former World Champion and Olympic individual bronze medalist Sandra also trains India’s Fouaad Mirza, who makes his World Championship debut this week. The daughter of farmers, her first-ever four-star was the 2011 European Championships, where she won individual silver and team gold.

Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH

14-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Contendro – Havanna, by Heraldik xx), owned by Deutsches Olympiade-Komitee für Reiterei e.V., Hilmer Meyer-Kulenkampff, Klaus Fischer, Sabine Fischer

4*/5* dressage average: 21.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: The 2010 World champion returns as hot favourite for another gold medal, this time with the former Julia Krajewski ride Chipmunk. She produced him to the top level and competed at the 2018 WEG with him, scoring an extraordinary 19.9 in the first phase but unfortunately picking up a 20 on course. That winter, the German Federation bought the horse for Michael, and though they’ve had to take a fair amount of time to gel in the showjumping, they’ve already won seven four-stars, including the final selection trial at Luhmühlen before Tokyo last year, become reserve European Champions, won team European gold, won Kentucky five-star, and finished eighth at the Tokyo Olympics after a contentious pin knock gave them an 11, and the same placing at Aachen this year after a flag penalty knocked them out after they’d been awarded the win.

They’ll be fighting hard for the top spot in the first phase and will likely add nothing on cross-country day – and the question mark over the poles is well nigh gone, too. They haven’t knocked one in their last eight FEI runs. It’s hard to bet against a horse who finished on 20.1 at Kentucky, or against the man who has won gold at two Olympics, has been World Champion, and won the Senior Europeans three times.

Fun fact: Michi’s married well: his wife, Faye, is an event rider herself but more importantly, she’s an equine physio — which means that all of the horses at the Jung yard always feel tip-top. That’s no small contribution to success of his magnitude.

Julia Krajewski and Amande de B’Neville. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Julia Krajewski and Amande de b’Neville

12-year-old Selle Francais mare (Oscar des Fontaines – Perle be B’Néville, by Elan de la Cour), owned by rider and Bernd Heicke

4*/5* dressage average: 26.9

XC speed rating:  ☆☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating:  ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: You wouldn’t want to bet against the reigning Olympic gold medallists, even if that gold medal victory did rather come as a surprise. That’s not because this pair aren’t incredibly good – they are – but rather, because ‘Mandy’ was young and very inexperienced when she went to Tokyo, and really grew up in the spotlight there. This year, she’s come out looking and feeling stronger and more mature, which means Julia can ride her even quicker – and, funnily enough, she’s encountered her first taste of factors such as crowds, which she’d never seen before the 2022 season.

Julia was part of the German line-up at the World Equestrian Games back in 2018, though that time, we saw her riding Chipmunk, who she produced through to the top level before Michael Jung took on the ride. They posted an exceptional 19.9 in the first phase on that occasion, and while Mandy probably won’t catch that score, she could well start her week in the mid-20s and make her presence very well known indeed. A win at Wiesbaden CCI4*-S, ninth at Aachen, and fourth in the huge, Pratoni-lite field at Haras du Pin, will have them feeling confident and ready to fight for both team and individual podium places.

Fun fact: Prior to joining Julia’s string as a six-year-old, Mandy had only show jumped. She was spotted by Myriam Meylemans, who had sourced Samourai du Thot originally.

Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S

Thirteen-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Clearway x Kajenna, by Galant Vert). Owned by the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 28.2

XC speed rating:  ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating:  ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Christoph has been quietly making a name for himself as one of Team Germany’s next string of superstars, winning the Nations Cup team and individual competition at Houghton International with this horse in 2019, and following this up with a super top-twenty performance at the European Championships. Their 2020 was very exciting, too: they’ve notched up three top-ten finishes at Luhmühlen, Strzegom, and Arville, and although their trip to the German National Championships was thwarted by an uncharacteristic drive-by at a tough and influential line, there was plenty to be excited about. Their 22.4 was a personal best at the level and their showjumping round was typically classy, as was the rest of their cross-country round. They enjoyed a seventh place finish at last autumn’s European Championships, where they once again competed as individuals, and this time, they’ll step into the team proper.

We last saw them at Badminton, which was technically a third five-star for them: they made their debut at Pau in 2020, putting an excellent 25.6 on the board before Christoph decided to withdraw the horse, who he felt wasn’t quite right, before cross-country. Though no doubt an achingly tough call to make, it paid off when, after months of getting the horse fitter than he’d ever had him, he returned to the level to take a close second place at Luhmühlen last year. At Badminton, they finished 22nd, putting a 32.5 on the board, coming home across the country with just 3.6 time penalties, and then tipping three rails – an out of character final phase that was largely down to the horse having lost a chunk of hoof. That first phase performance felt less surprising: now that he’s at peak fitness, Carjatan settles into his work and really delivers the tests in the second half of the season.

Fun fact: Christoph wears many hats in the horse world. He took over ownership of his family’s business, Klosterhof Medingen, during the pandemic, and so he’s now responsible for running a sprawling, fairytale-beautiful yard near Luhmühlen, breeding some of the world’s best Trakehners, and running elite dressage horse and foal auctions, as well as producing top dressage horses. His small string of eventers has to be treated almost as a hobby, and he rides them outside of his work hours on the yard.

Alina Dibowski and Barbados 26. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

INDIVIDUAL: Alina Dibowski and Barbados 26

13-year-old Polish Sport Horse gelding (Moravia x Babilonia xx, by Jape xx). Owned by Susanna Dibowski

4*/5* dressage average: 29.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: 21-year-old Alina, who’s the daughter of German team stalwart Andreas Dibowski, makes her senior championship debut before she’s even aged out of the Young Rider rankings. She’s making major waves in the sport, even as she multitasks her way through university in Hamburg, where she’s training to become a biology and English teacher. Her top partner, and her ride here, is Barbados 26, with whom she’s competed at two Junior and two Young Rider European Championships. Since stepping up to four-star and senior competition, they’ve been extraordinarily impressive: most recently, we saw them finish third in the final selection trial at Haras du Pin out of over 110 world class competitors, and they were sixth in the hot CCI4*-S at Luhmühlen back in June. That’s just the tip of the iceberg where top-tens are concerned – out of ten four-star starts together, they’ve got five top fives, and the others weren’t far behind. They’re still learning together, but every time out, they get more and more formidable and exciting.

Fun fact: Alina’s partnership with ‘Baba’ was a bit of a happy accident – when she was twelve, her pony sustained an injury and she didn’t have anything to ride. Her parents pulled a couple of options out of the stables – one was FRH Corrida, who has since been a top horse for Andreas, and the other was four-year-old Barbados. The two gelled quickly, climbed through the junior and young rider ranks together, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo 

10-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Grafenstolz x Cornish Queen, by Rock King), owned by Michele Saul. Groom: Sarah Charnley

4*/5* dressage average: 26.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: ‘Walter’ would probably have been a direct reserve for this team, but for the tragic passing of Ros’s World Champion, Allstar B. But the reigning titleholder still comes into this week’s competition with a strong hand: the ten-year-old was exceptional on his five-star debut at Badminton this spring, finishing second after a tough week of sport, and he’s had a number of four-star wins and placings to his name, too, including victories at Blair Castle CCI4*-S and Aston-le-Walls CCI4*-S. His second place finish in last year’s extraordinarily tough CCI4*-L at Bicton proved that he’s a stayer over tough terrain and long distances, so Pratoni’s unique hills and slightly shorter ten-minute track shouldn’t prove an issue for him at all. In fifteen FEI starts, he’s never finished lower than fifteenth — and he’s not picked up a single cross-country jumping penalty, either.

“He’s an amazing horse — he’s just fun, and he has the ability to gallop really fast, balance very quickly, and gallop downhill like he’s on flat ground. And he’s careful,” Ros told us when he won Blair last year.

Fun fact: Ros and her team will just be hoping that Walter likes his new digs in Pratoni’s stable yard – he can be a bit tempestuous to manage on the ground at shows, and has been known to have a tantrum if he’s not keen on his view. Once Ros is on board, though, she always finds he focuses and behaves brilliantly. That’s showbiz, baby?

Laura Collett and London 52. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Laura Collett and London 52 

13-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Landos x Vernante, by Quinar Z), owned by Keith Scott, Karen Bartlett, and the rider. Groom: Tilly Hughes

4*/5* dressage average: 22.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: One of the most exciting match races of the week will be seeing which horse can lead the dressage: Laura’s Badminton winner, Tamie Smith’s Mai Baum, or Michael Jung’s exceptional fischerChipmunk FRH. It’ll be closely fought, anyway: all three horses are very capable of going sub-20, and they’re all hugely consistent in this phase in particular. Certainly, this pairing are among the frontrunners for the individual gold, though their success — which includes a win at Pau CCI5* in 2020 and team gold at Tokyo last year — has been hard-won after an up-and-down first couple of seasons at four-star for the prodigal gelding, who only began evening six years ago. He was a bit of a child prodigy, stepping up to the top level within two years of beginning his eventing career at the age of seven and winning the prestigious Blenheim eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S just three years into the job. He followed that up with second at Boekelo on his CCI4*-L debut, second in CCI4*-S classes at Belton and Burnham Market, and then a win at Chatsworth in 2019. But every horse, no matter how preternaturally talented, must go through a learning curve at some point, and his came in the second half of 2019 when he was well and truly in the spotlight. He picked up a green 20 at Bramham, an unfortunate late run-out while leading at Aachen, and Laura fell at the end of the course at the European Championships that year. By the end of the season, though, they regrouped to win Boekelo CCI4*-L, and the horse has been extraordinarily consistent ever since. He’ll lead or come very close to it in the first phase, where he scored a 21.3 at Pau and a 21 at Badminton, and he’s among the quickest cross-country horses in the field. He’s ordinarily super over the poles, too, and will be a real threat throughout the week.

Fun fact: London 52 was sourced in Germany at the yard of former Olympian and soon-to-be German chef d’equipe Peter Thomsen. Like all her horses, he’s named after a Gossip Girlcharacter – at home, he’s known as Dan, to go with Chuck (Mr Bass), Rufus (Camouflage, now with Alex Bragg), and Nate (Lyjador – now campaigned by a young rider). Laura is also passionate about racing, and has a sideline in schooling top-level National Hunt horses over fences.

Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir 

11-year-old Selle Français gelding (Nouma d’Auzay x Gerboise du Cochet, by Livarot), owned by Jeanette Chin and Sue Davies. Groom: Alison Bell

4*/5* dressage average: 27

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 

The need-to-knows: 25-year-old Yaz is one of Britain’s brightest talents, and not even in a ‘maybe in a decade she’ll be able to take over from the likes of Oliver and Piggy’ sort of way. Her results are so strong that if she represented any other country, you’d almost certainly have seen her at a major championship last year, and this selection comes after a strong second place finish at Kentucky CCI5* made her impossible to overlook. She’s won every national age title all the way through from her days on ponies (and she was Pony European Champion, too!), and with the exceptional French gelding Banzai, she’s also nabbed the national CCI4*-S title for eight- and nine-year-olds, following it up with a win at Blenheim CCI4*-L last season. In fact, in their last seven international runs, they haven’t finished outside the top five — and that includes a run in the achingly tough, very-nearly-five-star CCI4*-L at Bicton last year and fourth in the 100+ strong CCI4*-S at Thoresby this spring before heading to Kentucky.

She comes forward with a very good chance of running away with the title – a result that would be a real fairytale for the young rider from the Isle of Man, who has been so generously supported by owners Jeanette and Sue over the years. Banzai is excellent on the flat and a consistent 25-27 scorer with good changes, so expect him to be well in the hunt from the first phase. Across the country he’s a real natural and finds it easy enough to go quickly, though Yaz is pragmatic and sympathetic and will give him a long route if he needs it. He was bought with a specific goal in mind — Paris in 2024 — and so this is all part of his education along the way. On Sunday, though, assuming all goes well they’ll pose a serious threat: they’re excellent over the poles and have had just one rail at four-star. A top five finish is not at all unreasonable to expect, and few would be surprised if she went for it and took the win.

Fun fact: Yas is part of an Isle of Man sporting power couple — her boyfriend, Jamie McCanney, is something of a motocross superstar in the making.

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser 

15-year-old Selle Français gelding (Diamant de Semilly x Ariane du Prieure II, by Papillon Rouge), owned by Fred and Penny Barker, Jane Inns, and Ali McEwen. Groom: Francesca Gorni

4*/5* dressage average: 25.3

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Olympic team gold and individual silver medallists, 2019 Pau CCI5* winners, and top-level stalwarts Tom and Toledo return for their second World Championships after helping the British team to gold at Tryon in 2018. They’re among the most consistent and competitive pairs in the field — and can be forgiven for a freak fall late on course at Badminton, which is hugely uncharacteristic and which they put behind them with an excellent run at CHIO Aachen. They’ll be aiming for a podium place, and nobody would be too surprised if we saw them take the title of World Champions this week.

Fun fact: Toledo is less than 50% blood, though that hasn’t affected his stamina or gallop: he’s been at his best over some of the toughest tracks in the world, such as Bramham and Burghley. He’s an extraordinarily quirky horse, too, and can’t be jumped at home – or caught, much of the time.

“You can’t jump him at home – if you try he’ll bolt blind, or refuse to come in a second time or he’ll be like a crouching tiger and press himself to the floor, then go flat out,” Tom told Horse&Hound. “He’s never done a grid or polework. Rather than make an issue of it, we’ve just never made an issue of it.”

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class

15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Courage II x Kilderry Place, breeding unknown), owned by Karyn Schuter, Angela Hislop, and Val Ryan. Groom: Charlotte Holifield. 

4*/5* dressage average: 24.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: It’s almost impossible to overlook this pair, who might well be the most consistent five-star competitors in the world: they’ve completed seven so far, winning two of them and never coming lower than fifth place. One of those wins was Burghley on the horse’s debut as a ten-year-old; the other was Kentucky last spring. ‘Thomas’ also gave Oliver his long-awaited Olympic call-up, where they won team gold and finished fifth individually.

It all bodes rather well for the tough-as-nails Yorkshireman and the rangy Irish gelding, who shares a sire with similarly quirky superstars Ringwood Sky Boy, the Duke of Cavan, and Cooley Rorkes Drift. A couple of outlier scores earlier in the horse’s career drive up his first-phase average, but you can realistically expect a 25 or lower – he’s scored a 20.8 and 21.1 at Badminton before, and will fight hard for the dressage lead. He’s not been on quite as fiery of form as usual this season, and posted a 28.9 at Thoresby, but a 25.9 at Badminton saw him head back down towards the business end of the marks, and he’s been great since.

He’s fast and as accurate as they come across the country, but it’s showjumping that can be the heartbreaker for this pair: they’ve only ever jumped clear on the final day in three long-format events, though one of those was a very convincing round at Kentucky when winning it last spring. A rail at Tokyo cost them individual gold, and they missed out on the win at Badminton in 2019 because they added a stride — and lost a couple of valuable seconds — in a line and handed the win to Piggy by less than the value of a single second.

Fun fact: Though he’s one of the world’s best horses – and has certainly contributed to making Oliver the World Number One – Ballaghmor Class wasn’t always an easy ride. “He’s always been very sharp and he’s had us all on the floor at home,” said Oliver after that first Burghley win. “He had a girl off going up the gallops just two weeks ago and he’s gone through arena mirrors and out of the school through the fence in the past. But I’ve always liked him and we’ve probably got a stronger relationship as a result.”

Balasz Kaizinger and Clover. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Balázs Kaizinger and Clover 15

9-year-old Oldenburger Springpferd gelding (Carrico x Lara, by LandCapitol), owned by the Hungarian Equestrian Association

4*/5* dressage average: 34.1

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Balázs, who is based in Warendorf, Germany, has brought the nine-year-old Clover up the levels himself. The clever chestnut had his first major challenge at the FEI World Breeding Eventing Championships at Le Lion as a six-year-old where he finished with a a double clear cross country inside the time for 27th place.

Sensing the talent form this pair, the Hungarian team elected to purchase the horse outright in 2020 — a fortuitous decision for them as the two have never had a cross country penalty in International competition. They haven’t yet cracked sub-30 on the flat at four-star, but have been close with marks in the low 30s, and have at least a pole down in the final phase of a three-day more often than not, so we may expect to see four penalties added to their score, but how fast they can be around the cross country will be the determining factor in their competitiveness.

Fun fact: No caption needed for this one, folks…

Photo courtesy of Balázs Kaisinger.

Fouaad Mirza and Seigneur Medicott. Photo by Sports View India.

Fouaad Mirza and Seigneur Medicott

16-year-old Westfalian gelding (Seigneur d’Alleray xx – Gina XIII, by Finley-M), owned by M/S Embassy Property Development PVT Ltd

4*/5* dressage average: 28.8

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: German-based Fouaad, who trains with Sandra Auffarth, burst into the global spotlight at last year’s Olympics, where he and the former Bettina Hoy ride Seigneur Medicott smashed out an impressive 28 in the first phase. The pair are very reliable across the country, and in 14 FEI runs together, they’ve never picked up a cross-country jumping penalty — but they’ve not often been fast enough to keep themselves at the business end of the leaderboard, and the gelding is prone to a couple of poles, too. Still, they should look impressive this week, and their participation in top-level competitions has a positive ripple effect well beyond their own results and goals — Fouaad is bringing eventing to an Indian audience and inspiring legions of young Indian riders to take to the saddle.

Fun fact: In Tokyo, Fouaad became the first Indian equestrian at the Olympics since Imtiaz Anees rode at Sydney in 2000, and just the third-ever Indian Olympic equestrian. His Asian Games success boosted public interest in the sport, which he hopes to build on: “The 2018 medals really boosted people’s confidence to pursue the sport back at home. We’re still at the grassroots and I think people still need to know more about the sport before they can really support me like they support their cricket team.”

Susie Berry and Monbeg by Design (IRE). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Susie Berry and Monbeg by Design
Ten-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Pacino x Eskerhills Lexis, by Puissance). Owned by Helen Caton, groomed by Crisy Salmon.

4*/5* dressage average: 35.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: The youngest member of Team Ireland for Pratoni will be Susie Berry, who will partner the 10-year-old Monbeg By Design for her first senior squad appearance. This will hardly be Susie’s first high-pressure situation, however – she’s got six championships as a Jr/YR under her belt and will be riding for a small bit of redemption after finding her Burghley trip cut heartbreakingly short by an unlucky fall on cross country from Ringwood LB. Prior to that, Susie made a smashing 5* debut with John The Bull, finishing in the top 20 at Badminton earlier this year.

Monbeg By Design will see his biggest challenge to date at Pratoni, which is just his 13th FEI start, but he’s certainly proven he’s got the chops to go quickly across the country and jump a clear round on the final day. This combination won’t be a threat to the leaders after dressage with a mid-30s score most likely, but they’re poised to make a big splash for the Irish if they can string together some strong jumping performances.

Fun Fact: Susie was one of the first riders to receive support from the Windrush Equestrian Foundation Young Eventer Programme (now known as the Wesko Equestrian Foundation) in 2019 and has also worked extensively with newly-crowned Burghley winner Piggy March throughout her career.

Padraig McCarthy and Fallulah. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Padraig McCarthy and Fallulah

Thirteen-year-old Westfalian mare (Fidertanz 2 x Devona, by Di Versace). Owned by Amanda and Nicholas Boyle, Di Brunsden, Peter Cattel and the rider, and groomed by Jess Elliott.

4*/5* dressage average: 29.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 3

The need-to-knows: The 13-year-old Fallulah, who was top-20 in her five-star debut at Pau (though Padraig likely doesn’t want to talk about that weekend – four rails down on Sunday meant he lost out on a potential win and at least a podium finish), is tapped to be defending world silver medalist Padraig McCarthy’s partner this week. While show jumping remains the “weak” point for this mare, her ability to score well on the flat and quick turn of foot across the country made her a decent choice for this championship.

For his part, Padraig’s an exceptional cross country rider and is fresh off a brilliant finish at Burghley, where he put in one of the more textbook rounds of the day aboard the all-class HHS Noble Call. It’s also safe to say he’s got an eye for a decent horse: together with his wife, Lucy, he runs the well-respected MGH Sporthorses, which has sourced horses such as MGH Grafton Street, Cilnabradden Evo, and Vendredi Biats.

Fun Fact: Padraig’s a bit of an academic soul in addition to his riding background, earning a first class honors degree in Economics and Finance with German in 2008 before going on to complete a PhD study of business insolvency laws in Ireland. He’s also a published author, having written book chapters and academic journals throughout his education. Fancy a tour as an EN reporter, Padraig?

Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue

Thirteen-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Jaguar Mail x Rock Me Baby, by Rock King). Owned by the Salty Syndicate and the rider, and groomed by Francesca Denning.

4*/5* dressage average: 32.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Austin O’Connor returns to the senior squad with the sneakily impressive Colorado Blue, who was subbed in at the Tokyo Olympics just after the first horse inspection after Cathal Daniels and Rioghan Rua withdrew. The choice proved to be a fortuitous one as the then-12-year-old “Salty” (who, sadly, doesn’t have a cool story behind his barn name except for the fact “he came with it”, as Austin succinctly describes) trounced around a tough Derek di Grazia track and collected a coveted double clear cross country. They’d go on to finish 13th individually in Austin’s third Olympic appearance.

This year sees Austin named to his first World Championship squad, and we already know he’s more than suitably mounted for the task at hand. He’s also got a wealth of experience to bring to the table, having repped Ireland in five European Championships and three Olympics dating back to the 2000 Games in Sydney.

Fun Fact: Austin’s parents ran a riding school and also broke young horses, which meant he was on a horse from the word go. This experience paid off early, as at age 13 he became the youngest rider ever to compete in the then-2* event at Punchestown.

Sam Watson and SAP Talisman at Aachen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sam Watson and SAP Talisman

Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Puissance x Ali Row, by All Royal). Owned by Hannah and Julia Watson, and groomed by Hannah Watson.

4*/5* dressage average: 34.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: We really enjoyed watching this horse grow into himself last year at the European Championships under Equiratings co-founder/number guy/professional sleeper Sam Watson. This was a last-minute call-up for the then-10-year-old who had, at that point, only done one other 4*-L previously. Never mind, though, as Sam rode a class, tactful round to add just a few seconds of time for the Irish.

So it’s that much more exciting to now see SAP Talisman (who formerly campaigned as Ballybolger Talisman) now get another call up, this time to the World Championship squad. They were 12th at Saumur’s 4*-L earlier this year and look to be a solid team combination for the Irish, who will look to defend their team silver medal. Sam is one of two members from the 2018 squad returning to this championship cycle; Padraig McCarthy is the other member from Tryon.

Fun Fact: Sam can typically be counted on to chuck a helmet cam on his head and then tell us how his ride went later on with cool SAP Analytics to complement. Take a look at his run ‘round Avenches with SAP Talisman here.

Felicity Ward and Regal Bounty. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Felicity Ward and Regal Bounty

Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Orestus VDL – Edge of Reason x Senang Hati), owned by James O’Callaghan

4*/5* dressage average: 37.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Felicity Ward was a late sub in for Joseph Murphy, whose Calmaro had a training setback and was withdrawn from the original squad. After an impressive run at Haras du Pin, which many European and UK federations used as their final Pratoni selection trial, Felicity now gets her first senior squad call with the 11-year-old Regal Bounty.

This combination has had some great results thus far in 2022, finishing 15th in their five-star debut at Luhmühlen with time and one rail on Sunday added to their dressage mark. They’ve also jumped clear around some serious four-stars, including Boekelo’s Nations Cup Long format and Millstreet’s 4*-L. A mid-30s mark on day one will sit them a bit lower in the pack, but once again this is a pair that’s perfectly capable of climbing on their day.

Fun Fact: Felicity isn’t just a talented event rider — she’s also an exceptional artist. You can check out her work here.

Evelina Bertoli and Fidjy des Melezes. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Evelina Bertoli and Fidjy des Melezes 

Eleven-year-old Belgian Sport Horse mare (Aga Khan x Louna de Sainte-Ode, by Bayarde d’Elle), owned by Az. Agricola di Campello Argenta

4*/5* dressage average: 34.8

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Evelina Bertoli certainly isn’t short on championship experience: as a junior, she represented Italy five times in Young Rider and Junior Championship competition and also has a World Equestrian Games and a European Championship appearance under her belt. This will be her third senior squad appearance, and this time she brings forward the 11-year-old mare Fidjy des Melezes.

Together, this pair won’t have the scroll of experience some of their squadmates boast, but they have competed – and won – at Pratoni in the past. They did suffer a parting of ways at the Nations Cup/Pratoni Test Event leg at this venue in May, and Fidjy des Melezes has yet to complete a 4*-L event so this week will be a step up for the Belgian mare but previous experience at this venue is not to be discounted.

Fun fact: You’ll spot several of the Italian riders in uniform — but not necessarily the same one. It’s common for Italians to join the armed forces as riders in order to get funding and support, and Evelina, for her part, is a member of the Penitentiary Police Corps.

Susanna Bordonne and Imperial Van De Holtakkers. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Susanna Bordone and Imperial van de Holtakkers 

Fourteen-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Quidam de Revel x Ava van de Holtakkers, by Argentinus), owned by Maria Giovanna Mazzocchi

4*/5* dressage average: 34

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Despite the fact their partnership only began in 2019, Susanna Bordone and Imperial van de Holtakkers already have one Olympic appearance under their belt in Tokyo last year, where they were the highest-placed Italians in 15th individually. This is also a combination who have recently competed at this venue – they were 15th (consistent, eh?) at the Nations Cup/Test Event leg in May, collecting just two seconds of time on the 4*-S cross country track and taking the Italian national title.

Without a “true” five-star under their belts together, what stands to be a tough challenge on cross country this weekend remains a bit of a question mark – or does it? Imperial van de Holtakkers did jump clear around Tryon’s WEG track in 2014 and has plenty of clear runs at tough 4* tracks to boast on his CV, so this could well be his time to really show what he’s made of.

Fun fact: Imperial van de Holtakkers previously competed at the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon with former rider, Belgian Joris Vanspringel.

Marco Cappai and Uter. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Marco Cappai and Uter 

Thirteen-year-old Italian Sport Horse gelding (Caster de Villa Francesca x Elle d’Aulix, by Lubumbashi), owned by Cascianese Country Club

4*/5* dressage average: 35.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Marco last competed in a World Championships in 2010 when WEG came to Kentucky, though he withdrew before show jumping after a clear cross country. He’s also an Olympic veteran, having gotten his first team nod at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Uter began his FEI career with Marco and has historically finished strong at Pratoni, albeit at the 3* level. This is another combination without any “true five-star” experience on their resume, but they can generally be counted on to deliver a clear cross country and, importantly, a clear show jumping on the final day — they haven’t had a rail since 2017. They looked on excellent form at Luhmühlen this year, when they finished fourth in an exceptional field in the hugely competitive CCI4*-S.

Fun fact: Marco rides in the colours and uniform of the Italian State Police, for which he rides on the ‘Fiamme Oro’, or sporting division.

Arianna Schivo and Quefira de L’Ormeau. Photo by FEI/Massimo Argenziano.

Arianna Schivo and Quefira de L’Ormeu

Eighteen-year-old Selle Français mare (Iolisco de Quinhon*HN x Isabelle du Brulot, by Beausejour IV), owned by Thomas Bouquet and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 34.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: The 18-year-old Quefira de L’Ormeu will be one of the elder horses in the World Championships field this week, but don’t let that steer you off track: this scrappy mare brings a whole slew of major experience with longtime rider Arianna Schivo in the saddle.

Together, this partnership has spanned two Olympic Games, one World Championships, and three European Championships, but interestingly enough has never competed at Pratoni. Arianna and “La Madame” were top-25 at Badminton earlier this season – the picture of consistency as they equaled their 2019 placing and shaved a few marks off their finishing score. With a low-to-mid-30s starting point most likely for this pair, look for them to be on the march to catch the leaders with a clear cross country. Time should prove to be significantly influential at World Championships, but this partnership has the capability to at least get near the optimum to stay in contention for a strong placing and, hopefully, a Paris qualification.

Fun fact:  Quefira de L’Ormeu originally came from French rider Nicolas Touizant and shares a sire with fellow Frenchman Maxime Livio’s 5* winner, Qualao des Mers.

 


Giovanni Ugolotti and Duke of Champions

Eleven-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Duke of Hearts x Nebraska 22, by Noble Champion), owned by Phillip Hunt, Jo Preston-Hunt, and Joyce Snook

4*/5* dressage average: 32.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Duke of Champions will be the horse tapped for Giovanni Ugolotti, who finished just outside of the final top 20 at the 2014 WEG in Normandy. This will be Giovanni’s first senior championship since the Europeans in 2019 and will be a step up for the 11-year-old Duke of Champions. Duke of Champions was formerly ridden by Kiwi rider Dan Jocelyn before coming into Giovanni’s care last year. The pair were fourth in their first 4*-L together at Ballendenisk and should be well-positioned to have an emergence at Pratoni if they can put three consistent phases together.

Fun fact:  Together with British-born Canadian rider Kathryn Robinson, Giovanni runs Cranford Stud Eventing out of a beautiful base in Farmington, Gloucestershire, producing event horses up the levels and seeking opportunities to ride for Canada and Italy along the way.

 

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Ryuzo Kitajima and Cekatinka JRA

15-year-old KWPN mare (King Kolibri x Katinka, by Julio Marnier). Owned by Japan Equestrian Federation

4*/5* dressage average: 31.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: A sixth-place finish at the Asian Games in 2014 catapulted Ryuzo onto the eventing scene. From here, he relocated to Angela Tucker’s Tetbury base. Since then, he’s honed his skills and become a mainstay of the British Eventing results. 

Ryuzo withdrew from the competition at the Rio Olympics and was reserve for the Tokyo Olympics, but he did complete the 2018 WEG with Queen Mary. The horse, meanwhile, is no stranger to the World Championships, finishing 8th with Tim Price at Tryon four years ago. 

Ryuzo and Cekatinka are a suitable pair, sharing a record that has zero cross country jump penalties in their three-year partnership. Their dressage average of 31.6 is just that, an average, because they’ve seen a mark as low as 25.5 and alternatively as high as 39.5. They’re also fairly dependable over the show jumping, so if the stars align it could be a strong weekend for Ryuzo.

Yoshiaki Oiwa and Calle 44. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Yoshiaki Oiwa and Calle 44

Fifteen-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Cristo 5 – Sara IV, by Quebec), owned by the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 29.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Yoshi, who is based in Germany with Dirk Schrade, first leapt into the spotlight when he led the dressage at the London 2012 Olympics, his second Games. It ended in heartbreak for him when he fell on cross-country day, but it was a landmark moment and ensured that the world was sitting up and paying attention to Japan’s eventers. Though the emotional anguish of the experience nearly made him give up riding, he decided to stick at it when, in 2013, Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Olympics. Since then, he’s finished 20th at Rio, 20th at the 2018 WEG on this horse, and won the Asian Games, as well becoming the first-ever Japanese rider to win a European four-star when he took Bramham with Calle 44 in 2017. After that, the pair won Strzegom CCI4*-S twice and have been victorious at Baborowko CCI4*-S, too. The 2022 season hasn’t been an easy one for them, though: in seven FEI runs, they’ve gone clear three times, and all of those have been at three-star. They’ve also had two 20s and a rider fall at the level and in their only four-star start of the year, they picked up 60 penalties.

Fun fact: Yoshi comes from a dynasty of exceptional athletes: his aunt competed at the World Championships for figure skating in the 1960s, his uncle won a silver medal in swimming at the 1960 Olympics, and his wife represented Japan in showjumping at the Rio Olympics. Yoshi rode as a child and teenager and began eventing at university, but briefly quit after graduating and worked at a cockroach extermination company for a spell before moving to England in 2001 to pursue it properly.

Kazuma Tomoto and Vinci de la Vigne. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Kazuma Tomoto and Vinci de la Vigne JRA

Thirteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Esterel des Bois – Korrigane de Vigne, by Duc du Hutrel), owned by the Japan Equestrian Federation

4*/5* dressage average: 28.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: This duo finished in fourth place individually at the Tokyo Olympics — arguably the most frustrating place to finish in, especially when riding on home soil — and are absolutely capable of making the step onto the podium this week. Kazu and the former Astier Nicolas ride, who the Frenchman piloted around the 2018 World Championships for seventh place, have had a fairly quiet year, but that’s par for the course for empathetic Kazu, who doesn’t tend to overrun his horses. They clocked up a top ten finish in the CCI4*-S at Bramham earlier this summer, but then had an uncharacteristic horse fall on cross-country at Hartpury. They seldom finish outside the top ten, so hopefully that mistake will simply sharpen their resolve, rather than dent their confidence.

Fun fact: Kazu isn’t just the nicest man in eventing (although he really, truly is that), he’s also quite a remarkable athlete: he originally showjumped for Japan at World Cup events, but the Japanese Federation felt that they had enough jumping candidates on the trail to Tokyo and so asked him to consider swapping to eventing in 2015. In 2017 he relocated to England to base himself with William Fox-Pitt, and that autumn, he finished second in the prestigious eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S at Blenheim, missing the win by a fraction of a second. He’d been eventing less than two years at that point and had done his first FEI event just a year prior. Since then, he’s been part of the family on the UK and European circuit, and has been kicking ass and taking names wherever he goes, including leading the dressage at Luhmühlen CCI5* in 2019, winning CCI4*-S classes at Ballindenisk and Chatsworth and a CCI4*-L at Camphire on different horses, and finishing top ten at a number of events, including Blenheim CCI4*-L, Boekelo CCIO4*-L, Little Downham CCI4*-S (on two different horses in the same event), and Tattersalls CCI4*-S. He also got four horses qualified for Tokyo. In short, he’s bossing it.

Toshiyuki Tanaka and Swiper JRA. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Toshiyuki Tanaka and Swiper JRA

13-year-old Warmblood gelding (Contenda x Amber Pacific, breeding unknown). Owned by Japan Equestrian Federation

4*/5* dressage average: 30.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 3

The need-to-knows: Toshi has two Olympic completions (London 2012, Tokyo 2021) in his arsenal as he takes on his second World Championships this weekend with Swiper JPA – at his first in Tryon he was the top-placed Japanese rider in 15th. Swiper was one among many that the Japan Equestrian Federation bought up in an effort to bolster the Japanese eventing dream.

Toshi would be thrilled with a high-20s mark to start the competition, and it might just be achievable in the laid-back atmosphere at Pratoni. Together they’ve been at the Advanced level since 2019, and have a mid-tier reliability ranking from us due to a few errant 20s dotting their record. In the final phase too we’re likely to see one or two rails come down.

Fun fact: Swiper is a transcontinental lad, having been brought up the levels by Shane Rose in Australia before relocating to Toshi’s UK base.

Aistis Vitkauskas and Commander VG. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Aistis Vitkauskas and Commander VG

11-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Viegaard’s Come Back II x Nione Fortuna, by Abantos NRA STB 83 4). Owned by M. and B. Kloeve-Mogensen.

4*/5* dressage average: 40.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 3

The need-to-knows: Lithuania’s leading horseman — who’s actually based in Denmark — brings forward a really exciting horse in Commander VG, who has proven to be an exceptionally reliable cross-country horse in his short career at the upper levels so far. He’s got three five-stars under his belt so far, and in each, he’s been excellent in this phase: he was clear with 2.8 time on his debut at Pau in 2020, clear with 5.2 time for 11th place at Luhmühlen last year, and clear inside the time for 13th at Luhmühlen this year. He also went to the European Championships last year, adding just 4.8 time and finishing 25th. He won’t be competitive in the first phase, and the final phase is a work in progress, too, but he’s one to keep an eye on on Saturday, and should give Aistis a great ride around their World Championships debut.

Fun fact: Aistis is a real family man, and Commander is a family horse — so much so that when he made his five-star debut at Pau, as a nine-year-old, he could be spotted doing pony rides around the schooling rings for Aistis’s very young daughter, who whooped and cheered from his saddle while clad in her oversized pink helmet. We’ve been huge fans ever since.

Daniela Moguela and Cecelia. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Daniela Moguel and Cecelia

Nineteen-year-old Thoroughbred mare (Connecticut – Penny Stock, by Spend A Buck)

4*/5* dressage average: 36.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 3

The need-to-knows: It was a poster of Karen O’Connor jumping into the famous Head of the Lake at what was then known as Rolex Kentucky that first caught the eye of Daniela Moguel. She attended the Kentucky Three-Day for the first time in 2001, and — I’m sure many of us can relate to this — caught “the bug” officially. 

Little by little, Daniela chipped away at a budding riding career in both the States and Mexico, but it wasn’t until she found Cecelia (on EN’s sister classifieds site, Sport Horse Nation, no less! #shamelessplug) that things really began to take off — literally.

Splitting time between Mexico, where she ran a training business out of Aurelio and Maribel Alonso Quinzano’ Rancho El Mirador, and the U.S. Daniela worked hard with Karen O’Connor to improve her skills. Her goal? To become the first-ever Mexican rider to compete at the five-star level. And in 2016, she did just that. 

“She was the horse I always wanted,” Daniela describes. Now, they’re on the cusp of their second World Championships appearance, having first done so in 2018 at the Tryon World Equestrian Games. 

Daniela is an advocate for diversity and visibility, in particular for riders of Latina/Latino descent. “As you go up the levels [of eventing in Mexico], there are fewer and fewer girls and women competing,” Daniela notes in a recent interview with Ema Klugman.  “She cites the military influence as creating a gender stereotype”, Ema wrote, “and also the fact that many women go into show jumping instead of eventing because there are more opportunities in that sport.”

At 19, this could be somewhat of a swan song for Cecelia, who has become the horse of dreams for Daniela. 

Fun Fact: When Daniela first met her husband, Zully Martinez, he was admittedly afraid of horses. But in his efforts to win her over, he overcame his fear — to the point where he now rides himself and helps run Dazull Eventing alongside Daniela. 

Sanne de Jong and Enjoy. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sanne de Jong and Enjoy

13-year-old KWPN mare (Cartano x Next Joey, by Haarlem), owned by Jantien van Zon and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 33.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Enjoy burst onto the scene as a young horse, taking fourth place at the Six-Year-Old World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers and finishing nineteenth as a seven-year-old. In 2017, at the age of eight, she moved up to four-star, and has been going from strength to strength since. They were sixth last year in the CCI4*-L at Strzegom and won Montelibretti’s CCI4*-S in March of this year. They make their World Championships debut after going to the European Championships last year, where they were technically eliminated, and they look on solid form. Dressage has always been the mare’s weakness, but her scores have been trending downward and even went sub-30 at Montelibretti, so Sanne and Enjoy should deliver a respectable result as part of the Dutch rebuilding project here.

Fun fact: x-year-old Sanne is the daughter of an eventer mother, who’s now heavily involved with equestrian media, and a course designer father — and to continue the theme of family legacies, she’s riding one of her homebreds this week in Enjoy, who she’s produced through the levels.

Jordy Wilken and Burry Spirit. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jordy Wilken and Burry Spirit

16-year-old KWPN gelding (Casco 4 x Retina H.H., by Indoctro), owned by the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 36.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Jordy and the sixteen-year-old “Burry” made their Championship debut as a pair last year at the European Championships, which unfortunately came to a premature end when they withdrew before the final trot up.

This pair share a lengthly partnership that includes nine years of International competition. They claimed the Dutch Reserve National Championship title in 2019, and made their five-star debut together the following year at Luhmühlen where they finished 15th.

The first phase may prove as the toughest for the lanky grey, but if anyone can eek out better marks from Burry, it’s Jordy. The duo are historically very good in the cross country phase, aside from 20 penalties picked up at both Luhmühlen and the Euros in 2021. Luckily, the two rerouted for the CCI4*-L here last fall at Pratoni where they were successful in a clear round with time. Now, Jordy is in the advantageous spot of knowing first-hand what to expect from this venue.

Fun fact: Jordy, who doesn’t come from a horsey background, has had to find his own ways to fund his riding — and the hard-working, affable rider has been creative in these endeavours. He runs the By Jordy Academy, a coaching programme for young riders, and is also a bit of a YouTube superstar in the Netherlands. He’ll no doubt be documenting his Pratoni experience in his jolly, fun style, so give him a follow to see the competition from the perspective of a debutant.

Tim Price and Falco. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tim Price and Falco 

13-year-old Hanoverian (Cardenio 2 x Witta, by Weinberg), owned by Sue Benson and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 27.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 0

Need to Know: World No. 3 Tim Price brings forward his Pau CCI5*-L winner Falco, and while they won’t lead after the dressage but they’ll be nipping at the heels of those first phase world beaters with a result in the mid- to upper-20s.

Tim and Falco went clear inside the time for their five-star victory last autumn at Pau, on a track that is known to come up hard and fast, a feat which can only be beneficial at WEG, where the cross country presents like a supercharged four-and-a-half-star, though here they will have much more terrain to attend to. Their sparkling show jumping record will give Team New Zealand loads of confidence on the final day, too.

Of course, Tim also brings forward the intangible asset of Championship experience: since his Senior Championship debut at Normany in 2014, he hasn’t missed a team since.

Fun Fact: Falco, who thrives in the madcap Price yard full of free-range pigs, sheep, and children, is part-owned by Sue Benson. You may remember her as the course designer for the London 2012 Olympics.

Jonelle Price and McClaren. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jonelle Price and McClaren

15-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Clarimo x Toni 1, by Landjunge). Owned by David and Katherine Thomson

4*/5* dressage average: 30.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

Need to Know: Jonelle is likely who many would describe as the toughest rider in the sport, and she’s partnered this week with the former Mark Todd mount McClaren. McClaren was also on the Kiwi team at the last World Championships in Tryon with Toddy.

McClaren’s record has been a bit of a mixed back for Jonelle. At Pau last fall, the pair made it around the notoriously intense, yet flat, track free and clear, but this spring at Kentucky, they picked up a 20. If Jonelle can keep it all through the flags she’ll have a competitive time, as she’s arguably the fastest event rider in the pack (even with the 20 at Kentucky, she still had only 13.2 time penalties). Their show jump record also offers a benefit to their final result, strengthened by time spent on the Sunshine Tour early in the season.

Fun Fact: When McClaren was in Toddy’s string, he was the firm favourite of Mark’s former head girl, Jess Wilson. Although she’s now busy with vet school — and jetting off to Egypt pretty regularly to volunteer in veterinary clinics there — she almost always joins the Price team to look after him at major competitions.

 

Clarke Johnstone and Menlo Park 

12-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Berlin x Faerie Queen, by Rock King). Owned by Jean and Rob Johnstone and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 30.8

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 0

Need to Know: Clarke’s last team championship appearance was in Rio and he’s chopping at the bit at another chance to support his home nation. His partner Menlo Park is a relatively new ride for the kiwi as the two made their International debut together just last November. Clarke is normally based around the other side of the world, but he relocated to the lovely Aston Farm in Gloucestershire for the 2022 season. From here, he took advantage of the UK eventing scene with several horses, included Menlo Park, with whom he picked up a strong fourth place finish in the four long at Millstreet.

Clarke will have his fingers crossed for a sub-30 dressage park, which he did produce in their final outing at Alnwick, and another quick trip like he had a Millstreet to end in the competitive mid-30s range.

Fun Fact: Menlo Park has shared such riders as Kevin McNab and Oliver Townend who evented the horse in his first FEI competitions.

 

 

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Monica Spencer and Artist

11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (breeding unknown). Owned by Andrew Spencer and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 27.3

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The Need-to-Knows: Monica hails from Taupo in the North Island of New Zealand and she’s traveled over 18,000 kilometers for her Team NZL debut. She’s made her long journey with “Max,” who she bought as a four-year-old. The Thoroughbred was bred for racing, but never made his way to the track, and Monica, who for more of her career has focused on buying and selling of sport horses, recognized his talent straight away.

The pair have had several wins together back in New Zealand, including most notable the CCI4*-L at Puhinui where they finished on their dressage score of 25.5. This event will be the pair’s first in the Northern Hemisphere, so they certainly have situated themselves as a dark horse entry if they can match previous performances. Additionally, Monica does this all while missing her darling nine-month-old son, Gus, who will be watching from home.

Fun Fact: To prepare for this Championship, Monica used her next-door neighbor’s cow paddock to work on Artist’s fitness. Talk about an eye for a cow pie.

Amanda Pottinger and Just Kidding. Photo by Julie Wilson Photography.

Amanda Pottinger and Just Kidding

16-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Fusaichi Pegasus x Gypsy Princess, by Sadler’s Wells). Owned by the Pottinger family.

4*/5* dressage average: 27.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The Need-to-Knows: Amanda hails from eventing royalty. Her mother, Tinks, won team bronze for New Zealand in 1988, and is still one of her biggest supporters. Amanda relocated to the UK in 2021 to prepare for this season with high hopes of this World Championship.

Their best finish has was in the four short at Bitcon last season where they were 13th. Amanda and the small statured Thoroughbred completed their first Badminton this spring with a smashing cross country run, but a disappointing four down in the show jumping. We should see two solid first phases from this pair, but the last is their most dodgy, espcially considering Pratoni show jumping will be held on grass similarly to Badminton.

Fun Fact: Just Kidding is by Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, who also became known as the worlds most expensive horse after selling at auction for $70 million in 2000.

Jan Kaminski and Jard. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jan Kaminski and Jard

12-year-old PZHK (Czuwaj x Juczia, by Chef Supreme), owned by Marcin Kaminski

4*/5* dressage average: 34.1

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Jan and Jard have represented Poland on Senior Championship teams several times, but this will be their World Championship debut. Their journey to a first Olympic appearance last summer was nothing short of dramatic. They were first tapped to become traveling reserves shortly before the team traveled to Tokyo, then, faithfully stepped into a competition role after the first horse inspection when teammates Pawel Spisak and Banderas were spun. They completed for 29th individually.

This pair have the ability to put themselves right into the meat of the competition this week with a mid 30s dressage mark, and they are consistent through the cross country phase. Show jumping may be their biggest challenge, especially considering the toll we can expect terrain to play on the horses this week. Jan does have the inside scoop on this, though, having completed the test event here earlier this spring with Jard.

 

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Malgorzata Korycka and Canvalencia

11-year-old Oldenburg (Verdi TN x Canberra, by Contender), owned by Beata Korycka.

4*/5* dressage average: 35.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Gosia came up through the ranks representing Poland on young rider teams and represented Poland at the Euros in 2021, but this will also be their first World Championships. The last year has been particularly sweet for this pair. In 2021, Gosia became the first Polish rider to win the CCI4*-L at Strzegom with Canvalencia, which was also her first career FEI win. This partnership also helped Poland win their first Nations Cup title earlier this summer where they individually were 10th.

Gosia and Canvalencia are a consistent cross country pair, and if they can keep the pedal down they may see themselves improve upon their mid 30s dressage score after the second phase. They’ve been seen to have a pole down on the final day in the past, but if they can imitate their Strzegom win from last summer they’ll be looking for a solid performance as individuals for Poland.

Fun fact: Poland has not fielded a team this year, but the two individuals sent forward are something of a power couple. In their personal lives Jan and Gosia are engaged to be married, but professionally the two have ridden together at a number of big competitions, including the Euros and the gold medal winner Nations Cup team in June.

Gonzalo Blasco Botin and Sij Veux d’Autize. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Gonzalo Blasco Botin and Sie Veux d’Autize

16-year-old Selle Français gelding (Urbain du Monnai x Novia d’Autize, by Pamphile). Owned by Marta Botin Naveda

4*/5* dressage average: 33.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: This will be a third championships for this duo, who competed at the last World Championships in 2018, though withdrew after dressage, and then contested last year’s European Championships, finishing 21st. They’ve had a tricky season in the lead-up to this event, and haven’t logged a clear across the country in their four FEI runs, but their previous form shows that they can deliver the goods when it counts. The goal will be a completion, and preferably a clear one: it would be a very big deal indeed if Spain could finish high enough in the team standings to earn a qualification for Paris.

Fun fact: Gonzalo is a seriously clever cookie: he has a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering, and another in international business, and works as an investment analyst at Madrid’s Bankiter Capital Riesgo.

Esteban Benitez Valle and Milana 23 (ESP). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Esteban Benitez Valle and Milana 23

18-year-old British-bred Sport Horse mare (Medoc x Morka, by Flemmingh). Owned by José Cañedo Angoso and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 39

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Milana 23 has been competing at International levels for the last decade, and he brings that wealth of experience forward with Esteban Benitez Valle. Based in Horsnmühlen, Germany, Esteban first rode for Spain in the junior and young rider ranks before his senior team debut in 2017 – he’s been on every Europeans team since.

What the mare lacks in size, she makes up for in personality, and she certainly lets everyone know it in the dressage. Esteban will be looking to put that behind them quickly, because it’s the cross country where they shine brightest. More likely than not, the pair will have one down in the show jumping, but should still enjoy a strong finish in their first WEG.

Fun fact: Esteban got plenty of mileage as part of the Student Riders programme, which has fielded graduates such as Kiwi five-star rider Lauren Innes, Ireland’s Brian Morrison, and Horse&Hound journalist Lucy Elder among its esteemed ranks. Esteban served as president of the Spanish University Riders Association and was a selector for their national team, too.

Antonio Cejudo Caro and Duque HSM. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Antonio Cejudo Caro and Duque HSM

11-year-old Spanish Sport Horse gelding (River Dance x La Mona 2, by Limbus). Owned by Hannoveraner San Miguel S.L.

4*/5* dressage average: 34.1

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Antonio makes his World Championships debut with Duque HSM, the horse who he partnered to his first team call-up at the European Championships last year. They didn’t complete on that occasion, but Antonio has been hard at work educating the inexperienced horse, who jumped a classy, steady clear here at the test event in May. He’s had a couple of confidence-building CCI3*-S runs since, and will have his eyes on a valuable completion and another educational building block for the horse’s — and his own — future.

Carlos Diaz Fernandez and Taraje CP 21.10. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Carlos Diaz Fernandez and Taraje CP 21.10 

9-year-old Spanish Anglo-Arab gelding (Eole des Orcets x Gazelle de Gats, by Count Ivor). Owned by Campeagro Sat.

4*/5* dressage average: 33

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: This will be a third World Championship appearance for Carlos Diaz Fernandez. He did not complete in 2014, and in 2018 he was 24th individually as the top-placed Spanish rider.

His partner this weekend is the Taraje CP 21.10, who is owned by his breeder. At just nine, the gelding is among the youngest in the lineup. He moved up to the Advanced level last year and has taken to the top level with much enthusiasm – he’s only got one error on his cross country record (which he picked up at his first International). At the three-star level he can be quite fast, but hasn’t yet beat the time at four-star.

Carlos elected for a unique prep ahead of this World Championships, taking Taraje to the CCI2*-L just a month ago at Le Pin au Haras. We’ll see how that plays out for the Spaniard.

 

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Frida Andersen and Box Leo 

12-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Jaguar Mail x Box Qutie, by Quite Easy). Owned by Therese Örup.

4*/5* dressage average: 33.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Frida and the former Ludwig Svennerstal ride Box Leo, who she teamed up with in early 2021, have picked up some exciting results across their ten FEI starts together, including seven top-eight finishes at events such as Saumur CCI4*-L, Strzegom CCI4*-S, and Sopot CCI3*-L, which they won in the latter part of last season. They looked on excellent form at Haras du Pin CCIO4*-S, where they finished 24th out of over 110, but did pick up a 20 in their international run prior to that at Jardy CCI4*-S. That’s been their one blip so far — and it doesn’t look to have negatively impacted them.

Fun fact: 32-year-old Frida made her Olympic debut in 2016 with the homebred mare Herta — a partnership that was largely down to a bit of luck. Her family had downsized their horses when the mare was two, but couldn’t decide which to put on the market. A literal roll of the dice decided that Herta would be the one to stay.

Aminda Ingulfsson and Joystick. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Aminda Ingulfson and Joystick 

Fourteen-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Jaguar Mail x For Joy SN, by Cardento 933). Owned by Helena Gunnarsson and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 33

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Both Aminda and her sweet, ebullient former showjumper Joystick, who only ran in his first FEI event at the end of 2019, are making their Championship debut this week after an exciting year that’s seen them win a CCI4*-S at Strzegom this spring, take eleventh in the Pratoni test event, and nab tenth place in a very hot field at Luhmühlen CCI4*-S in June. Their last run, in the selection trial at Haras du Pin, saw them pick up an uncharacteristic 20 penalties, and because we’ve not seen them since, we have to hope that it’s served to sharpen them up rather than dent their confidence.

Malin Josefsson and Golden Midnight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Malin Josefsson and Golden Midnight 

Fourteen-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Goldmine x Duva, by Maraton). Owned by Karin Berglund.

4*/5* dressage average: 37.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Swedish team stalwarts Malin and Golden Midnight return for their third Championship as a partnership after finishing 25th at the European Championships in 2019 and 20th last year. Their first phase is their weakest — although they all have a tendency to get held at the horse inspections, so you could really argue that the horse’s natural way of going is his weakness — but they’re excellent, as well as quick and reliable, over the poles and across the country, although they, like Aminda and Joystick, had an uncharacteristic 20 at Haras du Pin. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them put in the highly-pressurised pathfinder position, because they’ll get the job done and bring back some seriously good intel to their teammates. At the Pratoni test event, they were the first pair to catch the time, which is a great confidence boost for them and the team.

Fun fact: Malin, who’s half Japanese, balances riding with a ‘proper’ job as a small animal vet in Sweden alongside her parents. They also breed German Shepherds.

Sofia Sjoborg and Bryjamolga van het Marienshof Z .Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sofia Sjoborg and Bryjamolga van het Marienshof Z

Eleven-year-old Zangersheide mare (Bamako de Muze x Cryloga M, by Lord Z). Owned by Juliet and Mattias Sjoborg and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 36.3

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: 24-year-old Sofia makes her World Championships debut aboard the mare with whom she went to last year’s European Championships as an individual. There, they finished 13th, despite being just 23 and 10, respectively, at the time. That was just the mare’s third CCI4*-L; the first two were good runs in small fields at Portugal’s Barroca d’Alva, which probably wouldn’t have tipped anyone off about what was to come. They’ve done a number of CCI4*-S competitions since, and though the mare’s tricky first phase has gotten in the way of any truly tremendous results, they should get the job done in fine style over the Pratoni hills that they saw at this spring’s test event.

Fun fact: British-based Sofia, who trains with the Prices and dressage star Laura Tomlinson, with whom she’s based, did a stint at Michael Jung’s yard alongside best friend and competitor Ailsa Wates. They competed against one another at Junior and Young Rider championships and both stepped up to five-star at Pau last year.

Niklas Lindback and Focus Filiocus. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

INDIVIDUAL: Niklas Lindback and Focus Filiocus 

Fifteen-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Feliciano 823 x Blue Bells, by Be My Chief). Owned by Tun Albertson.

4*/5* dressage average: 34.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: It’s a fourth championship and second World Championship for experienced pair Niklas and Focus Filiocus, who finished 35th in Tryon in 2018, 14th at the 2017 Europeans, and 30th at the 2019 Europeans. Nevertheless, they find themselves in the individual slot after a relatively dormant period from the end of 2019 through 2021, though they’ve been back with a bang in 2022 with five FEI runs under their belt this season. That’s included a win in the CCI4*-S at Sopot in May and a conservative run for 16th place at Luhmühlen CCI5* in June.

Fun fact: Many will remember Niklas for his partnership with the great Mister Pooh, with whom he was successful at the 2010 World equestrian Games, the 2012 Olympics, and the 2009 and 2013 European Championships. When the pair won the Six-Year-Old World Championships in 2006, they became the first-ever Swedish champions at Le Lion d’Angers.

Robin Godel and Grandeur de Lully CH. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Robin Godel and Grandeur de Lully CH

Fourteen-year-old Swiss Sport Horse gelding (Greco de Lully CH x Miola, by Apartos), owned by Jean-Jacques Fünfschilling

4*/5* dressage average: 29.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: 24-year-old Robin is rather the darling of the Swiss team, and with good reason: he rides with a natural feel across the country that’s not dissimilar to that of Andrew Nicholson, who has been the team’s cross-country coach since 2019. With Nicholson’s guidance, he and his teammates have stopped playing it slow and safe, waiting for another team to make mistakes, and have begun to take calculated risks instead — and that’s shone through in his results this year. He won the Pratoni test event aboard this horse and was part of the victorious Swiss team, too, and since then, the pair have also won the Nations Cup leg at Avenches and gone well at the selection trial at Haras du Pin. Robin also took victory in the CCI4*-L at Strzegom, riding Global DHI. They’ll be aiming for a sub-30, a quick clear across the country and, if they can keep the poles up on the final day, a look-in at the top ten. This could be a momentous week for Switzerland, and Robin, who’s already got a World Championship under his belt with this horse, will be at the helm of it.

Fun fact: Reigning Swiss Champion Robin has won that title an impressive five times, and previously represented Switzerland at European Championships at the Junior and Young Rider level.

Mélody Johner and Toubleu du Rueire. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Mélody Johner and Toubleu de Rueire

Fifteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Mr Blue x La Guna de Rueire, by Bayard d’Elle), owned by Peter Thuerler and Heinz-Günter Wickenhäuser

4*/5* dressage average: 35.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: It’s a second senior championship for this pair, who debuted at last year’s Olympics, finishing seventeenth individually. In Toubleu de Rueire’s fourteen runs with Mélody, he’s been top ten 11 times. They’ve not picked up any cross-country jumping penalties, and have become a really solid banker pair for the Swiss front, which is on enormously good form this year. This is Mélody’s third championship – she also rode at the 2017 Europeans, though was eliminated – and her focus will be on doing what she does best: coming home fast and clear and helping to aim for a top-seven placing for the team.

Fun fact: Toubleu de Rueire doesn’t just look like a unicorn — he’s adopted that role for Swiss riders throughout his career. He’s been a superb partner for Mélody, who started her career as a showjumper, and was Swiss junior jumping champion in 2003. She picked up eventing in 2013 after her husband, Benoit, issued her a challenge. She got the ride on the gelding in 2020, and he was previously piloted by Tiziana Realini, and before that, Sandra Leonhardt-Raith, both of whom are Swiss riders who rode him in Europeans teams.

Nadja Minder and Toblerone. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Nadja Minder and Toblerone 

Fifteen-year-old Swiss Warmblood gelding (Yarlands Summer Song x Medelyne, breeding unknown), owned by Nicole Basieux

4*/5* dressage average: 33.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: 22-year-old Nadja was enormously impressive at this spring’s test event, where she rode two horses and lodged two of the just seven clears inside the time of the week. Toblerone also went sub-30 there, which was a first at an FEI event, and both horse and rider performed with a maturity well beyond their combined experience level. We can expect to see them carry that into this week, where they’ll help fight for the chance to qualify Switzerland for the Paris Olympics. That’ll be the championship where we’ll see Nadja hit her zenith and start fighting for placings.

Fun fact: This is Nadja’s senior championship debut, but far from the first time she’s represented Switzerland on the world stage. She’s ridden at two Junior and two Young Rider European Championships, most recently finishing 11th at last year’s Young Riders with her World Championships mount. She’s one of several riders in this field to come forward with her Young Riders horse — Germany’s Alina Dibowski is another example.

Felix Vogg and Cartania. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Felix Vogg and Cartania II 

Eleven-year-old Holsteiner mare (Cartani 4 x Z-Schatzi, by Clinton), owned by Phoenix Eventing S.à.r.l. and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 31.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Felix had the rare luxury of being able to choose for this championship: he was named with both the young Cartania, with whom he finished eighth at last year’s European Championships, and with Colero, who he rode to a top twenty place at Tokyo and with whom he won Luhmühlen CCI5* this summer, making him the first Swiss five-star winner since the ’50s. Even then, though, he was sold on the idea of riding this mare in what will be his third World Championships, and it’s easy enough to see why: she’s still gaining in experience, and isn’t quite the speediest horse in the mix yet, but she’s getting closer and closer to being the kind of horse that’ll finish on her dressage score at a long-format. A freak tumble in the final minute at Aachen this summer looked bad, but shouldn’t actually detract from her form at all, particularly as she performed well in the CCI4*-S at Haras du Pin’s selection trial last month.

Fun fact: Felix might be Swiss, but he’s also pretty German — he was born and raised there, and he’s spent much of his life training there, too. His major mentor is Michael Jung, with whom he’s based himself for much of his career, but he also works closely with Bettina Hoy to sharpen up the first phase, and he spent a year based in the States with Phillip Dutton, too. His five-star win came on his 32nd birthday, which is a pretty sweet present, we reckon.

Patrick Rüegg and Fifty Fifty. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

INDIVIDUAL: Patrick Rüegg and Fifty Fifty

Fourteen-year-old Hanoverian mare (Fidertanz 2 x Meerfuerstin, by Friedensfuerst 1), owned by Angela Häberli

4*/5* dressage average: 36.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: The Swiss individual competitors come forward after making their championship debut together at last year’s European Championships, which were held on home soil at Avenches. Though they didn’t complete this May’s test event at Pratoni after Patrick took a tumble, they do have course form here: they were ninth in the CCI4*-L back in 2020, adding nothing to their dressage score of 38.1. Patrick has been riding the mare since she was a four-year-old, which is the sort of partnership that will really benefit them in a tough competition such as this one.

Fun fact: Fifty Fifty has a half-sibling in the field in Ireland’s Fallulah, ridden by Padraig McCarthy. Both are sired by the dressage stallion Fidertanz 2.

 

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Korntawat Samran and Uster de Chanay

Fourteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Negus de b’Neville x Ironne de Chanay, by Clyde de la Combe), owned by Harald Link and Nunthinee Tanner.

4*/5* dressage average: 33.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Korntawat was part of the first-ever Thai eventing team to compete in the Olympics last year, and this week, we see him on a different horse — the smart French-bred Uster de Chanay, who was piloted by Camille Lejeune until mid-2019. In their nine FEI starts together, Nut and Uster have never had a cross-country jumping penalty, and they’ve enjoyed placings at Strzegom CCI4*-L and Montelibretti CCI4*-L.

Nut has been based in France himself since 2014, and trains with Maxime Livio, who is a key part of the Thai efforts. A completion is a solid aim this week, and a crucial stepping stone en route to Thailand’s continued development as an eventing nation.

Fun fact: ‘Nut’, as he’s known to his friends, won the 2019 Princess’s Cup at the Equestrian Rising Star Awards Night in Thailand. He has a degree in Sports Science from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg

Fifteen-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall II – Thabana, by Buddenbrock), owned by Christine Turner, Thomas Turner, and Tommie Turner

Groom: Stephanie Simpson

4*/5* dressage average: 26.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: “We must never underestimate a horse’s desire! It is very hard to measure at first sight.” That’s one thing Boyd told Abby Powell a few years back when he first was getting to know “Thomas”. An unassuming, smaller-statured Trakehner gelding bred by Dr. Tim and Cheryl Holekamp, Tsetserleg wouldn’t necessarily scream “I’M AN OLYMPIC HORSE” at you if you saw him at home. But once you get him to the big stage, all bets are off and he “rides like he’s more 17.2 hands,” Boyd describes.

Indeed, Thomas (why haven’t we begun calling him Thomas the Tank Engine?) has stepped up to the plate in every imaginable way since he came to Boyd’s program in 2016. Before that, he’d been campaigned by Michael Pollard. He and Boyd finished 11th in their five-star debut at Kentucky in 2018 and would go on to rep the U.S. for the first time at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon that year. While an unfortunate runout at the water question would keep them from being competitive, the experience was invaluable – and this combination has been nearly picture-perfect ever since.

Boyd and Tsetserleg now add their fourth U.S. team appearance to their roster, most recently finishing 20th individually in Tokyo. To hear Boyd describe Thomas is to hear him talk about the gelding’s try and the partnership they’ve built and solidified in the past six years.

“I think this particular competition really suits him,” Boyd told us after the U.S. team was announced. “Every WEG I’ve gone to, my gut feeling is that they call it a four-star, but it’s always a five-and-a-half star and Thomas’ strength is when it’s long and tough and big and demanding physically. He’s such a trier and a pure athlete, so I think it’s a perfect competition for him.”

Boyd and Tsetserleg will be the most experienced pair on the squad in Pratoni, and we know Boyd’s a staunch competitor who won’t let much stand in the way of delivering when it’s needed the most.

Fun Fact: To our knowledge, Boyd did not pack his U.S. suit for this trip, and we’re not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum. Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum

Sixteen-year-old German Sport Horse gelding (Loredano 2- Ramira, by Rike), owned by Alexandra Ahearn, Ellen Ahearn, and Eric Markell
Groom: Alyssa Dobrotin

4*/5* dressage average: 23.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: What can you say about Mai Baum other than: what a horse. It’s been a long time coming for southern California-based Tamie Smith, who will get her first starting position on a major championship team for the U.S. (she was a part of the gold medal-winning team at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima). Tamie was the traveling reserve for the Tokyo Olympics last year, and while the experience was heartbreakingly tough, it also left Tamie with a simmering determination. She left Japan with vital experience gained and enough motivation to drive herself right into a spot on this year’s World Championships team.

But first, a quick stop at Badminton, where Tamie and the striking German gelding originally sourced by Michelle Pestl finished ninth after delivering two clear jumping rounds. This result all but sealed the deal for a pair who has long been tapped by fans and experts alike as potential world beaters were they ever given the chance. An ill-fated downed frangible pin at Kentucky in 2021 kept them from what would likely have been a five-star win – but honestly? Tamie doesn’t dwell on stories like that. She’s not here to wax poetic about what could have been – she’s come to Italy to show us why she and “Lexus” are meant to be here.

One question that looms as the competition approaches is the fact that show jumping at Pratoni will be held on grass. While there are venues in the U.S. that hold this phase on grass, it’s still far less common here versus in the UK and Europe. But Tamie and Mai Baum have one more feather in their cap ahead of this week: they jumped a double clear around a tough Badminton track on Sunday – on grass.

Fun Fact: Mai Baum was previously campaigned by his owner, Alex Ahearn. Alex rode Mai Baum as a junior through the now-three-star level before opting to hand the reins over to Tamie. Alex and her family are in Italy to cheer their team on, naturally.

Will Coleman and Off the Record. Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

Will Coleman and Off The Record

Thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Arkansas – Drumagoland Bay, by Ard Ohio), owned by the Off the Record SyndicateGroom: Hailey Burlock

4*/5* dressage average: 27.3

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: 2021 proved to be a fruitful year for the camp at Will Coleman Equestrian. Will became the first American winner of the prestigious CHIO Aachen CCIO4*-S with the horse who now becomes his World Championships teammate, Off the Record. This will be the second Worlds appearance for Will and his third time on a senior championship team.

“Timmy” came to Will via Cooley Farm’s Richard Sheane as a four-year-old (his “given” name had been Cooley Stateside – it was destiny). “Humble beginnings” is how WIll describes the horse’s young days, describing the gelding as gangly and Irish as he matured. And mature he did – and continues to do each year. He finished second in the end of year Fair Hill then-CCI2* in 2017 and in 2019 came third in his “return home” to the Tattersalls 4*-L in Ireland. En route to his Aachen victory, Off the Record collected a 15th place finish in his debut at the five-star level.

This year, Will and Timmy returned to Aachen, this time coming a respectable sixth – though Will would have loved to defend his title, no doubt. Although Will can often be heard describing Al, affectionately, as “a refrigerator” to ride on cross country, the Irish gelding is not without try, and that gumption has earned him this top berth in a very competitive Coleman string.

Fun fact: Many of Will’s horses are named after songs from his favorite bands. Off the Record and stablemate Dondante share a namesake in the rock band My Morning Jacket.

 

Lauren Nicholson and Vermiculus. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lauren Nicholson and Vermiculus

Fifteen-year-old Anglo-Arabian gelding (Sazeram – Wake Me Gently), owned by Ms. Jacqueline B. Mars
Groom: Sally Robertson

4*/5* dressage average: 29.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: This will be the fourth team appearance for Lauren Nicholson and her second World Championships trip with Vermiculus. This pair’s 2018 run at Tryon ended in abbreviated fashion after they parted ways on cross country, but they’ve amassed a slew of consistently competitive results in the time since. Lauren and “Bug” were ninth at both Kentucky and Burghley in 2019 and most recently were fourth at Luhmühlen this past June.

Lauren will tell you herself that she’s a huge supporter and advocate of Anglo-Arabians as sport horses. After all, her first five-star horse, Snooze Alarm, was also an Anglo-Arab and is – fun fact – Vermiculus’ full brother. And it’s that Arabian blood that could come into play on Saturday. The test that lies ahead is one that will require endurance as well as rideability and speed. Time faults are the main thing that one could point to as a factor in competitiveness for Lauren and Bug – but to be quite honest, clear rounds may well count for more than fast ones on Saturday, and that track might just be perfectly suited for a quirky horse like Vermiculus.

Another Fun Fact: Lauren has worked with eventing legends David and Karen O’Connor since she was a teenager. The first time they connected? During a week at the O’Connor Event Camp, which Lauren received as a high school graduation gift.

Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan

Thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Master Imp – Ardragh Bash, by Cavalier Royale), owned by Annie Eldridge
Groom: Meredith Ferraris

4*/5* dressage average: 32.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Southern Pines, NC-based Ariel Grald gets her first nod to a senior championship squad this year with the Irish gelding Leamore Master Plan. Owned by longtime supporter Annie Eldridge, “Simon” is another one of those consistent cross country horses you’d want on any team these days. Imported as a “rogue five-year-old” by Ariel for Annie, Simon quickly earned his spot on the roster and would eventually go on to be Ariel’s first five-star horse.

Described as a “puppy dog” on the ground but quite exuberant to handle and ride (hint: sometimes the vet assistants won’t jog Simon during routine exams – that’s a privilege left to Ariel!), Simon is an affable guy who simply loves to run cross country. And he’s got results to prove it: in four five-star completions, Simon has not accrued any cross country penalties and can often be quick across the ground when push comes to shove.

Ariel knows she’s got more in the tank after a higher-than-desired dressage mark at Badminton earlier this year left her lower in the initial standings than she’d like. This pair has snuck into the high-20s in the past, so look for Ariel to be pushing for every mark she can get on the day one. But no matter what, this will be a pair to watch out on Giuseppe Della Chiesa’s cross country come Saturday.

Fun Fact: Simon’s owner, Annie Eldridge, owns and operates Setters’ Run Farm in North Carolina, where she specializes in U.S.-bred sporthorses who are started correctly. She’s also stepped up as the new title sponsor of the Carolina International CCI4*-S – three cheers to you, Annie, a gracious supporter of our sport.

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The EN Team Makes Their Picks for the Inaugural Maryland 5 Star

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We’re on the homestretch to the inaugural Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill, and what makes it all the more exciting is that this thing is truly anybody’s game. Having said that, the EN team is ready to unveil our picks in six categories: Big Winner, Top American, Top Canadian, Spoiler Alert, Top Thoroughbred and Best Mare.

Let us know your own picks in the comments. You can see all entries and the draw order at this link as well as live scores here, and be sure to keep it locked on EN as we bring you live coverage of the inaugural running of North America’s newest five-star event.

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Tilly Berendt:

Astier Nicolas and Babylon de Gamma. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Big Winner: Though you’ll think I’m mad for this when he puts a 30 on the board in the first phase, Astier Nicolas‘s Babylon de Gamma is the real deal: he won his CCI4*-S debut as an eight-year-old over the super-tough track at Scotland’s Blair Castle, and he’s been on super form ever since. They really ought to have gone to Tokyo, but a minor injury sidelined them, and Astier has had Maryland in mind for the petite gelding since the summer. His dressage will put him in a good climbing position and then we’ll be looking at him to excel himself in both jumping phases to climb and climb. It’s not often a CCI5* debutant takes the win, but I’ve loved this horse for years and if anyone can manage it, it’s him.
Top American: Time and time again in this job, I’ve seen the ripple effect that confidence has: after a great result, they tend to keep on coming. So with that in mind, my money’s on Will Coleman on either of his horses to take the title of best Yank here, because I know the fairy dust of that Aachen win hasn’t worn off quite yet. Go get ’em, champ.
Top Canadian: After a rough spring, which saw top horse More Inspiration retired upon arrival at Kentucky due to a heart murmur, I’m so excited to see Holly Jacks-Smither back on top with her debutant Candy King. Holly is hungry for results and always puts her horses first, and while she’ll certainly be thinking about producing the gelding for the future this week, I think we could see three exciting, solid performances and a super result for the duo.
Spoiler Alert: It was a toss-up for me whether I’d put these guys up as my winners or my spoilers — but in any case, I’m looking forward to another incredible showing by Harry Meade and Superstition, who delivered one of the only clears inside the time at Kentucky this spring and ultimately finished fifth. That was coming off the back of a serious injury for Harry, and he’d spent much of the end of 2020 grounded. As 2021 dawned, he had to deal with the remaining effects, sudden onset fatigue and difficulties with his balance among them, and with Kentucky in mind, he scaled back how much riding he was doing at home to be able to manage it. Now, back in fine fettle and safe in the knowledge that he has a true-blue five-star horse underneath him, I think we’ll see him chase down an even better placing. And yes, I’ll cry.
Top Thoroughbred: I suspect I won’t be the only EN team member to stand firmly in camp Tight Lines here. He and Will Coleman have nabbed this accolade a couple of times previously, and my money’s on them doing the same again — from a place in the top ten this year.
Best Mare: I’d never be foolish enough to bet against Jonelle Price‘s Classic Moet, who makes her second trip to the US this year in the swan song of her career. Ian Stark designs seriously tough cross-country courses, and that’s where this mare really shines: she’s as fast as they come and as reliable as clockwork. Her first and final phases can be the heartbreakers, but I have a good feeling for this week.

Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Maggie Deatrick:

Big Winner: Oliver Townend doesn’t bring his horses over the pond for anything less than a pole position and if he only brings one horse, you better believe he’s got it primed and ready for a top performance. Cooley Master Class has twice topped the Kentucky field and would have been third this year upon completion of a third consecutive clear round in the Rolex Stadium if he had jogged up properly. He’ll be the one to beat this weekend, and if the time is attainable, the competition is his to lose.
Top American: The usual suspects for the leaderboard at an American 5* have all had long campaigns in this Olympic year and are getting a well-deserved rest. That being said, our reigning U.S. 5* champion, On Cue is still hanging around doing things like winning the American Eventing Championships, putting in a fourth consecutive sub-thirty test, and chipping away at a cleaner stadium record. Boyd Martin has another sleeper in this mare who has been relegated to the back of everyone’s mind for too long.
Top Canadian: Karl Slezak will not be fooling around this weekend after being left off the plane for Tokyo with Fernhill Wishes, who owns the most consistent form of any of the Canadian Advanced horses right now. A green error kept this pair from finishing their first five-star at Kentucky but with the advent of a fall five-star, they no longer have to bide their time for a full year to have another crack at it.
Spoiler Alert: Tim Price was knocking on the door at Kentucky with Xavier Faer in April, putting the pressure on Ballaghmor Class to jump his first (and so far only) clear stadium at the 5* level to stay ahead at the end. Look for a repeat of the pressure cooker from this pair.
Top Thoroughbred: Tight Lines has had some of the absolute worst luck at this level that has kept him from the top placings. Can the horse put in a score approaching 30 at this level? Yes. Can he finish fast and clear on cross country? Yes. Can he jump a clear round on the third day? Yes. Has he done all three in one weekend in any of his six 5* runs? Not yet, but with Will Coleman coming off a massive victory at Aachen, this might be his weekend for all the pieces to finally come together.
Best Mare: Aside from On Cue, who I currently am picking to lead the American contingent, Stella Artois is due for a round of better luck in her hunt for her first 5* completion. Jennie Brannigan had a tough time of it this spring in the mare’s 5* debut at Kentucky when the mare misjudged the landing jumping into the water and giving them both a bath. A second try in Luhmuhlen didn’t end up much better for the pair, but they are back no worse for wear and ready to contend for a top five placing.

Tim Price and Xavier Faer. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Abby Powell:

Big Winner: This is always a tough one, especially with some seriously heavy hitters contesting this event but also this year because the course is such an unknown. Think about it: every single competitor here is a Maryland 5 Star rookie! That said, from what I’ve heard about the cross country course so far it may play to the strengths of a combination like Xavier Faer and Tim Price. They finished second at Kentucky this year and third in 2019 so he clearly likes American soil. Follow the trend, and he should end up on top this time! (Kidding! Sort of, but not really.) They made the time at Kentucky on both occasions — if they can do so here over what will likely be a tough track, then they should be in a pretty good position to take the title.

Top American: You can’t argue that Boyd Martin and On Cue have been on an absolute roll this year. Can they add another notch to their belt and make it a practically perfect year? I think perhaps they can.

Top Canadian: I think we’re going to be seeing Karl Slezak and Fernhill Wishes around for a while and it’s just a mater of time before we see them representing Canada on the world stage. Their initial attempt at the five-star level this spring didn’t quite go to plan, but with the form they’ve been in I have no doubt that they’re capable.

Spoiler Alert: You know who’s also on a roll right now? Will Coleman is on a roll right now. For me, it’s a toss up between his tried and true partner Tight Lines and his stunning up-and-comer DonDante, but I think either could sneak up to the top and steal the title.

Top Thoroughbred: See above re: Tight Lines, but if I could pick a spoiler Thoroughbred, then I’d say Palm Crescent with Meghan O’Donoghue — I love their partnership.

Best Mare: Another pair that I think will absolutely eat up this cross country course is Jonelle Price with the spicy Classic Moet. I’d say it’s a battle between “Molly” and On Cue to take this title.

Harry Meade and Superstition. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Kate Samuels:

Big Winner: I hate the pressure of choosing the winner, although I guess it pales in comparison to you know, something like show jumping last on Sunday. However, I’ll cave and pick Harry Meade & Superstition. They absolutely romped around this spring in Kentucky and finished 5th, so they’ll have a taste of victory calling their name. He might not be the obvious pick, but I know he’s capable of creating the best comeback story of all time this weekend.
Top American: You may think, Kate, the smart thing to do is pick On Cue, her form has done nothing but improve all year and she’s clearly the most competitive. However, I’m going with who I WANT to be the top American instead, and choosing Mama’s Magic Way. I just loved this ten-year-old’s performance this spring at Kentucky, and while he’s new to the level, I think he’s seriously cool, and would love for him to top the charts.
Top Canadian: I’ll throw this one to another relative new-comer to the five-star stage, with Fernhill Wishes and Karl Slezak. While their debut at the 5* level at Kentucky this spring ended with Karl tasting some local bluegrass, I was seriously impressed with them up until that point. Despite his relative inexperience at the level, he has one of the most consistent records of all Canadian horses competing at Advanced, and Karl will be hungry for that post-five-star Nickleback t-shirt photoshoot.
Spoiler Alert: I always think it’s unwise to bet against Lynn Symansky, and I think RF Cool Play might throw down a seriously competitive debut. Lynn has all the experience you could ask for, ice running through her veins, and a horse with an almost blemish-free cross country record under her. Do the safe thing and don’t wager against her.
Top Thoroughbred: Will Coleman, this is your time to finally prove that your chain-smoking Frenchman can produce the job we all know he can. He can throw down a competitive dressage score, and he can finish on it. Now, has he ever done all three phases in one weekend with all the screws attached in his brain? Not yet. But if anybody can do it, you can Will. Tight Lines always has my vote, and my undying optimism.
Best Mare: How can anybody NOT vote for Classic Moet?? At 18-years-young, and just like, so bored with this 5* level stuff at this point, she could probably do this cross country course in her sleep and still make time. C’mon Molly, just jump by light braille on Sunday and we’re good!

Sally Spickard:

Jonelle Price and Classic Moet. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Big Winner: Jonelle Price and Classic Moet

I just feel like “Molly”, who despite being 18 this year seems to feel about 8, will really enjoy a nice, big, beefy track to devour come Saturday. We know this scrappy pair who knows each other like a pair of well-worn gloves is more than capable of beating the world’s best, especially with a tough track, so my money’s on this girl-power combo to steal the day from some more obvious favorites.

Top American: Will Coleman and Tight Lines

It was a bit of a toss-up between the two Will Coleman rides, but I gave my nod to the newly-crowned Aachen winner, who will bring forward the more experienced and quirky Tight Lines as well as former Young Event Horse competitor DonDante. This will only be DonDante’s second CCI5*, so I’m going with the experience of Tight Lines for this pick.

Top Canadian: Karl Slezak and Fernhill Wishes

I was so impressed with Karl’s ride at Kentucky with Fernhill Wishes, and we were all devastated to see their weekend end early after a tumble. But he’s rebounded nicely and I think they’re more than up to the task this weekend and will take home a strong challenge and a bid for the Canadian WEG team in 2022.

Spoiler Alert: Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois

Jennie and Stella Artois have a few blips on their record, but when they’re on they can really, truly be on and I think that if all the cards fall correctly this weekend we just might see them up challenging closer to the top of the board. Jennie’s also got the benefit of momentum, which we all know is an important if not always obvious factor, after a stellar weekend at Boekelo with FE Lifestyle.

Top Thoroughbred: Meghan O’Donoghue and Palm Crescent

This was a really cool pair to watch at Kentucky earlier this spring, and Meghan is a definitive “OTTB-whisperer” in her own right. She’s done an excellent job producing “Palmer” to the utmost of his ability, and a big galloping track like what’s on tap this weekend might be right up his alley.

Best Mare: Boyd Martin and On Cue

I sort of eliminated this choice by default, seeing how I’ve picked other mares to this point. So I’ll spice it up a bit and include On Cue on this list. Don’t forget, this mare was the best of Boyd’s bunch at Kentucky (much to even his surprise, I think!) and wound up as the USEF CCI5* National Champion, so it’s well within their scope of capability to pull out a top finish this weekend.

Will Coleman and Tight Lines (“Phish”). Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Leslie Wylie:

I’m ferociously superstitious and ever since, as the caboose of this crazy train, I began conscientiously objecting from Kentucky picks and simply wishing every horse and rider a safe, happy event, everyone has stayed — if not entirely happy — at least relatively safe. So like hell I’m going to deviate from that now.

Although, OK. I’m just going to throw this out there. Upfront, I don’t have much bandwidth left after my editorial masterpieces “The Bromance of Will Coleman and ‘Phish’: A WEG Tribute” and “A 5* Battle of the Bands at Kentucky,” so I’m dialing it in this time and just offering a cold, hard better-than-cash prize:

If Will Coleman wins on either of his two jam band name inspired horses (Don Dante/rep. My Morning Jacket, OR Tight Lines/rep. Phish), we’ll send him a (chinch)autographed vinyl of his favorite album from either one. Just when you thought the ante couldn’t get upped further, Will, here we are. Keep that Aachen victory lap rolling.

But most importantly, y’all: safe and happy. On behalf of the whole EN team, we’re cheering every last one of this week’s competitors on. Wow us. Surprise us. Show us what you’re made of. Prove us wrong, or right. Give us a reason to believe in you. Go for it. Go Eventing.

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What’s the Big Deal About CHIO Aachen?

Photo courtesy of CHIO Aachen/Andreas Steindl.

CHIO Aachen is a little bit of an odd duck on the international eventing calendar. The eventing competition is a 4*-S — not even a 4*-L — and a team competition but not part of the FEI Nations Cup. Yet it commands a great amount of attention and importance.

Nestled near the juncture where Germany meets the Netherlands and Belgium, Aachen first held a horse show in 1924 and has hosted a show nearly every year since. After hosting the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games, Aachen continued holding vibrant team competitions annually in eventing, show jumping, dressage, combined driving and vaulting. Known appropriately as the World Equestrian Festival, Aachen attracts more than 350,000 spectators across 10 thrilling days of competition.

For pure show jumping and dressage, Aachen is considered the most prestigious horse show in Europe. For eventing, the CCIO4*-S at Aachen is considered to be the closest event to a true championship outside of the Olympics and WEG. Show jumping is held in the colossal Hauptstadion, which seats 40,000 people and is about twice the size of the main stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park. The cross country course ends in the main stadium in front of packed stands and an exuberant crowd.

While technically a CCI4*-S track, Rüdiger Schwarz’s twisting, technical cross country course would better be described as more of a 7-minute championship course. The top teams in the world send their best horses to Aachen for a reason: It takes an extremely strong performance across all three phases to be competitive at this venue.

Case in point: Take a look at the last six winners of the event, all German and all eventual five-star winners and/or European or world champions.

2014 – Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Louvo
2015 – Ingrid Klimke and SAP Escada FRH
2016 – Michael Jung and fischerTakinou
2017 – Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD
2018 – Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH
2019 – Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD

Ingrid Klimke and SAP Escada FRH, winners of Aachen 2015. Photo by Jenni Autry.

While the vast majority of powerhouse eventing nations have sent teams annually to Aachen since the venue first started hosting a CICO3* in 2007, the U.S. did not send a team until 2013. David O’Connor, who coached the U.S. team at the time, corrected this oversight, as he rightly realized Aachen’s value as the closest simulation to a true championship the U.S. can experience apart from the Olympics and WEG.

Tiana Coudray and Ringwood Magister at Aachen 2013. It absolutely poured during cross country day that year. Photo by Jenni Autry.

The U.S. team’s relationship with Aachen had a rather inauspicious start. The first team sent in 2013 — made up of Tiana Coudray and Ringwood MagisterClark Montgomery and UniverseMarilyn Little and RF Smoke on the Water, and Will Faudree and Pawlow — was the only team not to complete that year. Tiana and Ringwood Magister finished 10th as the highest placed U.S. pair, with Clark and Universe finishing 35th as the only other pair on the team to complete.

The U.S. did not send a team to Aachen in 2014 due to resources being allocated to WEG that year. Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen competed as individuals but were eliminated on cross country.

The following year in 2015 saw a full U.S. team return to Aachen with a much more positive result. While Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights were eliminated on cross country, three of the four team members completed. Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Cubalawn led the way for the team in 12th place, with Lauren Kieffer finishing 15th aboard Veronica.

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Cubalawn at Aachen 2015. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Lynn Symansky and Donner picked up 20 jumping penalties on cross country, but still delivered what proved to be an important counting score for the team. When Britain’s Holly Woodhead and DHI Lupison were ultimately eliminated due to missing a flag, the British team lost their spot on the podium, with the U.S. team boosted up to finish in third place.

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot at Aachen 2016. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

In 2016 the U.S. returned with a team hoping to once again top the podium, but things did not go to plan. Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot and Phillip Dutton and Indian Mill both delivered clear cross country rounds for the team to finish 11th and 17th, respectively. But Lauren Kieffer and Landmark’s Monte Carlo and Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF both added 20 jumping penalties, which resulted in the team finishing sixth. This is the only year in which all four U.S. team riders completed.

In 2017, the U.S. did not send a full team. Hannah Sue Burnett and RF Demeter represented the U.S. as individuals and delivered the best American result at Aachen to date, finishing in seventh individually. Lauren Kieffer and Veronica also represented the U.S. as individuals but were eliminated on cross country.

Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border at Aachen 2018. Photo by Jenni Autry.

In 2018, Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border and Buck Davidson and Carlevo jumped clear cross country rounds, albeit with double-digit time penalties, to finish 21st and 23rd, respectively. Lauren Kieffer and Landmark’s Monte Carlo were close to their minute markers when they picked up 20 jumping penalties at the second water complex. Will Coleman and OBOS O’Reilly were eliminated on refusals.

Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack in 2019. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

In 2019, a slip on the flat at the end of the course brought Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z‘s day to an early finish; Phillip Dutton and suffered a dramatic parting of company while tackling the corner in the water; and Caroline Martin, making her Aachen debut with Islandwood Captain Jack, finished 21st.

The event was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, and was postponed from July to September this year.

The U.S. has now sent teams to Aachen on five different occasions. Three of those five teams completed and delivered a third-place podium finish in 2015, sixth-place finish in 2016 and fourth-place finish in 2018. A U.S. team has yet to deliver three counting scores without cross country jumping penalties at Aachen.

Can they turn it around in 2021?

The U.S. team:

  • Will Coleman and Off The Record, a 2009 Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by the Off the Record Syndicate
  • Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire,  a 2010 Oldenburg gelding owned by Carol Stephens
  • Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan, a 2009 Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Annie Eldridge
  • Tamie Smith and Mai Baum, a 2006 German Sport Horse gelding owned by Alexandra Ahearn, Ellen Ahearn, and Eric Markell

Lauren Nicholson and Vermiculus are competing as individuals.

As U.S. Chef d’Equipe Erik Duvander explained to EN in 2018, “Aachen is important to me because it’s the only time you can practice a real team championship feeling. It’s quite unique. If we want to be competitive, we need to have our team well planned ahead, and we need to target certain combinations for the right reasons.”

The caliber of the competition provides the U.S. an opportunity to not just play for a participation ribbon, but play to win.

“We also need to have more self belief so that our riders ride forward distances on the cross country and don’t play it a little bit too safe by adding a stride. It is a trick to get around this course if you want to win, which I also think is very possible for us, but you have to really understand what you are dealing with,” Erik said.

“The cross country is very specific here. It rides faster than anywhere else. It’s turning and very technical at a four-star level — not size-wise, but when you put speed on it, even the best riders make mistakes. Our riders need to understand how to prepare for a course like this.”

This year’s team has all the pieces in place to put Team USA on the podium in Aachen. Best of luck to all!

CHIO Aachen CCIO4*-S: [Website] [Schedule and Scoring] [Entries] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

Nonprofit Spotlight: Renew Therapeutic Riding Center

Eventing Nation was pleased to support two equestrian nonprofits with proceeds from the sale of our Ultimate Form Guide to the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. Thanks to the nominations of some of EN’s readers, we were able to make a donation to both Renew Therapeutic Riding Center in Michigan as well as to Freedom Reigns Ranch in Tennessee. Each program will also receive complementary advertising on Eventing Nation through the month of July. We’re proud to support the efforts of programs such as these to bring horses to underserved and underprivileged communities.

Renew Therapeutic Riding Center, nestled on a 20 acre horse farm in southwestern Michigan, seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals in our community through the physical, cognitive, and emotional benefits of therapeutic horsemanship. At Renew, each rider has the opportunity to go beyond their disability, inability, fear, or reality. We encourage and support dreams by offering equine assisted services to fulfill our mission, striving to help riders develop their maximum potential in a caring and fun environment that empowers the rider in ways different from traditional therapy. Our equine partners and tremendous volunteers are essential to the life-transforming work taking place for the nearly 100 students that come to Renew on a weekly basis.

Take a look at some of the work Renew Therapeutic Riding Center is doing:

Want to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others? We are seeking volunteers to work directly with our…

Posted by Renew Therapeutic Riding Center on Thursday, June 10, 2021

To learn more and to get involved with Renew Therapeutic Riding Center, click here or visit them on Facebook.

Nonprofit Spotlight: Freedom Reigns Ranch

Eventing Nation was pleased to support two equestrian nonprofits with proceeds from the sale of our Ultimate Form Guide to the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. Thanks to the nominations of some of EN’s readers, we were able to make a donation to both Renew Therapeutic Riding Center in Michigan as well as to Freedom Reigns Ranch in Tennessee. Each program will also receive complementary advertising on Eventing Nation through the month of July. We’re proud to support the efforts of programs such as these to bring horses to underserved and underprivileged communities.

It’s not hard to feel welcomed when you walk up to the gate at Freedom Reigns Ranch, as horses whinny in your direction and people greet you like they’ve known you your whole life. In fact, it may be a little unsettling to be SO welcomed, seen, and loved – this type of true and genuine hospitality without motive is rare to find in today’s society. You’d never know that both the horses, and many of the individuals greeting you have seen some of the worst humanity has to offer.

How It All Started

For Freedom Reigns Ranch there are two primary avenues of redemption: the first, and at the heart, is the mentorship aspect of their organization. One child, one horse, one leader… 100% of the time. The Ranch’s one-on-one session program is where it all started.

That being said, the initial “Ranch” didn’t look like much of a program. It was simply troubled youth, coming and spending time with the founder’s only horse, and a friend or two that were considered “volunteers”.

“The first ‘session’”, founder Carissa Ramsdell says while making air quotes with her hands, “was simply a neighborhood girl coming across the street.” She had access to horses at her godparent’s house but was drawn to Boston, Ramsdell’s only horse, who she was competing in local eventing shows at the time. Boston is an Arabian-Thoroughbred cross, a breed of horse known for being highly spirited, opinionated, intelligent and certainly not the kind that you’d suspect could be trusted with children!

“She had seen some very challenging things in her home life and was spending the summer with her godparents. At four years old, extremely shy, without words she’d ask to ride Boston by sheepishly pointing up while keeping her expression to the ground. I was hesitant, knowing Boston’s tendencies to be a hot and sensitive horse, but it soon became obvious that he was an entirely different horse around this little girl. The moment I knew God was up to something special was when she was spending time with him in the cross ties and went up to kiss his nose with her hands on each side of his nostrils!” Ramsdell recalls with an excited tone. “Boston was an expert at snapping halters and breaking free, especially if he felt crowded around his face. Instead of recoiling, he reached down and allowed her to fully embrace him. Something he would have NEVER done with me. I was admittedly a bit jealous,” she says with a laugh. “That was the moment I knew God’s plan was to do something more with Boston and with my life.”

How It Grew

Like a stampede gaining momentum as it goes on, this idea of using horses to help bring healing to people accelerated at an incredible rate. The first donated pony came in while recovering from a severe injury and was followed by the first rescued horse. More friends wanting to help that turned into the first Volunteers, more requests started coming in from friends, from churches, and then from organizations who found out about how God was helping heal hearts through His incredible creation and the gentleness of a horse. And all at once the stampede began involving the community and took off. There was a huge need for a program. In 2016 Freedom Reigns Ranch was designated as a 501c3 organization.

How It’s Going

Freedom Reigns Ranch has always been and will always be completely free-of-charge to anyone who comes. In this, the opportunity for anyone to come, regardless of financial means, is always open. Being free-of-charge gives access to anyone to benefit from the ways a relationship with a horse enhances our lives.

In it’s early days, Freedom Reigns Ranch only had the capacity with horses and volunteers to offer the one-on-one model. Though it was very successful, Ramsdell knew from her own experience that the greatest healing for those who have been wounded by people happen in community… when people learn to feel safe around others again. Through that knowledge, Junior Ranchers was born.

Junior Ranchers further builds on the healing attained in the one-on-one Session Program and adds to the participant’s peer community. The program is designed for ages 9-21 with groups broken up by gender, age, and life experience. Each Junior Rancher commits to one full season together. Activities focus on basic natural horsemanship education, developing riding skills and learning basic hands-on veterinary care, communication development, leadership equipping, and Ranch stewardship. The program goal is to grow confident and servant-hearted young leaders.

Image courtesy of Freedom Reigns Ranch.

Equine Rescue

The second avenue of redemption is assisting rescues by being a foster home for horses as they are in rehabilitation. “We’re fortunately, or unfortunately, really good at rehabilitating the emaciated horses or working with the challenging horses,” says Carissa. Freedom Reigns Ranch is currently small in scale on the rescue and rehab front, assisting in about a half-a-dozen cases each year. It’s hard work when you are feeding every two hours around the clock for starvation rescues, keeping custody care logs and documentation for law enforcement cases, treating wounds and injuries, and still maintaining the regular work.

But that work doesn’t just fall on volunteers; the Program Participants have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in rehabilitating fosters which is a valuable component to their own healing. “It’s important for people, especially those working through their own past hurts and trauma, to realize that they always have something to give… in a way only God does, I believe He takes one broken life and another broken life and in the process of helping each other they both become whole. That’s redemption.”

As of January 2021, Freedom Reigns Ranch has provided over 6,400 hours of mentorship completely free-of-charge and is slated to provide approximately 3,000 hours in 2021. They currently lease an 8 acre farm with 8 full time session horses and 1 foster horse in Thompsons Station, Tennessee (40 minutes south of Nashville) with the hopes to raise the funds necessary to purchase an identified 38 acre equestrian facility near the center of town later this year.

To learn more about Freedom Reigns Ranch, to volunteer, to give, or to apply for the session programs visit their website: www.freedomreignsranch.com

On Social Media (Instagram, Facebook): @FreedomReignsRanch

Sneak Peek: Look Inside Jim Wofford’s Forthcoming Autobiography, ‘Still Horse Crazy After All These Years’

In this sneak peek excerpt from his autobiography “Still Horse Crazy After All These Years”, three-time Olympian Jim Wofford talks about that time he came back from retirement to win Kentucky. “Still Horse Crazy After All These Years” is coming in May and is available for pre-order now.

Jim Wofford competing with The Optimist at Kentucky in 1986.

Me, the Optimist

I got a call from Diana and Bert Firestone in the fall of 1985. Karen O’Connor (née Lende) was named to the 1986 World Championship team that would compete in Australia. Because the seasons below the equator are reversed, the Championship would take place in the spring, which meant Karen could not ride their horse, The Optimist, at Kentucky. Would I like the ride? With a recent Bill Steinkraus comment about getting better after retirement in the back of my mind, I didn’t give it much thought before I said, “Yes”.

Purchased by the Firestones as a ride for their son, Matthew, The Optimist (“Bill”) had turned out to be spectacularly unsuitable in that role. Matt was quite strong, but fairly short, and Bill was an enormous bull of a horse. I had been watching him go for a year or so and had always secretly liked him, even as I watched him run away with a succession of riders. I have a soft spot in my heart for 16.3-hand mealy-nosed brown geldings from Ireland, but at first glance it was hard to have a soft spot for Bill. He was unattractive: plain bay with no markings, slightly lop-eared, Roman-nosed, and pig-eyed, with a dull expression. He had a thick neck, massive shoulders, and powerful hindquarters. At first glance, in other words, he was the epitome of a thug.

The Firestones had several additional horses in training with Karen at Fox Covert, and I was fortunate that Bill’s groom, Janice Hilton, came with him. Janice was extremely knowledgeable, having worked for Lorna Sutherland Clarke in England before emigrating. She told me that if we got to Kentucky, it would be the one-hundredth Classic event she had worked at. (She didn’t tell me until much later that in all that time, she had never groomed a winner.)

Much to my surprise, within a couple of weeks of starting to ride Bill in January, I was thoroughly demoralized. No matter what I tried, we were not on the same wavelength, and I could tell we would not be successful if this trend continued. He resisted my efforts to get him on the bit and charged every obstacle in his path with a frighteningly powerful rush. After I had ridden him early one Saturday morning, once again with a signal lack of progress, I handed him over to Janice and went to teach some lessons in my indoor arena.

Bill, I See You!

Bill’s stall was next to the arena, and I had already noticed that he would hang over his stall webbing and watch my lessons. He focused his attention on the activity, and if I raised my voice, he lifted his head and pricked his outsized ears until the arena settled down. On this day, Janice returned him to his stall, and he audited the rest of my lesson until I finished. Then he turned his attention to his hay.

I didn’t realize it at that moment, but when I stepped from the arena into the barn aisle that day, I was stepping into the shadow of the rainbow once again. Bill heard my footstep outside his stall, and when he raised his head and looked at me, he looked directly into my eyes. His ears were up, his visage was attentive, and his eyes glowed with recognition and intelligence. Startled, I looked back at him—but suddenly it was as if his face were melting. In a flash his eyes were dull, his ears at half-mast, and he had assumed his normal lack of expression.

Laughing, I pointed at him and said, “Too late, Bill, I saw you!”

I suddenly realized that I had completely misunderstood Bill. He didn’t misbehave because he was stupid; he misbehaved because he was smart. (I did tell you he was Irish, didn’t I?) Bill did not need his rider to tell him what to do, or even worse, to try to make him do it. Bill knew his job; he wanted his rider to remember the test or the course—and leave the rest to Bill. If the rider tried to make Bill do something, he was just as happy fighting with the rider as fighting with the course. After all, as strong and athletic as Bill was, the jumping was not a challenge—and anyway, he didn’t care about dressage one way or another. But if a rider challenged Bill by leaving it up to him, Bill would respond.

Armed with new insight, I changed my approach, and Bill changed his way of going. I don’t mean that things were perfect after that, but we showed regular improvement. However, Bill wasn’t done teaching me new things. I’d already had my nose rubbed into the mistake of judging a horse by appearance. Now Bill taught me not to get tunnel vision when training event horses.

You can imagine that my morale improved after we won our first competition together, a nice Intermediate warm-up event in North Carolina. I had always done as little competing as possible when training Classic horses. Our cross-country and show jumping were nowhere near as technical then as in events today. I used my Classic preparatory events as a general fitness checkup and made sure my technical work was showing improvement. With only one more horse trials left before Kentucky, at Ship’s Quarters in Maryland, I felt pretty good about our chances. Our dressage work needed continual improvement, but that was no surprise. However, at our initial outing, it was apparent that our show jumping needed work. I had been lucky to leave the fences up. Even though the course had been slightly small and relatively easy, Bill had towed me around at a high rate of speed. This would not suit a big-time event.

While my conditioning plan was working, and my dressage improvement was slight but steady, I changed my show-jumping approach. I did a lot of jump-and-walk, jump-and-stop exercises, and worked on combinations with tight distances. Because I set these new problems and left them for Bill to solve, I thought I was happy with things by the time we got to our last “prep” events; it just goes to show you how wrong a fellow can be.

At Ship’s Quarters, traditionally the last event before Kentucky, everything was maximum but straightforward, not technical. It was just the right type of challenge to set horses and riders up for a Classic. I was already patting myself on the back halfway through my show-jumping course, thinking about how much better Bill was going. Then I turned into the triple combination. Set at maximum heights and spreads, it was a vertical, one stride to a maximum oxer, then two strides to another maximum oxer. I cantered quietly to the first element, Bill jumped it off a nice stride, and when I landed, what do you think I said to myself?

“Uh oh.”

I suddenly realized that I had practiced shortening Bill’s stride, but to the exclusion of increasing his stride. Long story short, I couldn’t get there from here. The only thing good to come from that particular in-and-out is that I learned not to have tunnel vision when training horses. Putting in two strides in a one-stride, three strides in a two-stride, and crashing through two maximum oxers will get a trainer’s attention. Bill’s courage and strength got me out of that scrape, but only just. Unlike my first outing with Bill, where I had won easily, I drove home in a bad mood with a lot on my mind.

My training from then until Kentucky emphasized flexibility, not just long or short. It must have worked, as I wound up winning Kentucky for the second time. Bill was not too far out of the lead after dressage, jumped clean and fast cross-country, and was in second place, less than a rail out of first, going into the show jumping. This was nerve-racking, as Bill was notorious for his casual attitude toward painted rails. However, I persuaded him to leave all the rails up, and once the rider ahead of me knocked down a rail they could not afford, I wound up a winner at my final Classic. After the disappointing finish to my Olympic aspirations two years earlier, this time I could retire on top. When I walked out of the arena following the victory gallop, I felt as if the eventing gods had reached down, patted me on the head, and said, “There, there. You were hugely disappointed not to go to Los Angeles. Now we gave you a big win, but it’s time you retired again, this time for good. Don’t push your luck.”

That was good advice, and I took it.

This excerpt from “Still Horse Crazy After All These Years” by Jim Wofford is reprinted with permission from Trafalgar Square Books (www.HorseandRiderBooks.com). Pre-order your copy here.

Letter from the Editors: February 2021

As co-editors Leslie Wylie and Sally Spickard discussed Eventing Nation’s goals for the upcoming year, we wanted to make a conscious effort to connect more with the readers who take time to read our content each day. To that end, we’re pleased to offer our reflections on the year behind and ahead of us. Do you have an editorial you’d like to share with EN? You can send your Letter to EN to [email protected].

Sally Spickard

It’s a weird year to be closely involved with a sport that works like a large clock around the ticking cycle of the Olympics and World Equestrian Games. With the pandemic disrupting last year’s Olympics – and, potentially, this year’s – it leaves a lot of us with questions on the future of the sport.

“The future” is hardly a new conversation; as with anything, we deal with the constant of change and the evolution of our sport as the society around it shifts on a daily basis. But the very real threat of losing five-star events and even the Olympic Games poses a lot of questions.

This has prompted me to turn to look at the rest of the sport even more closely than I did before. After all, the amateur rider makes up the vast majority of all equestrian endeavors. As the sport at its highest levels sorts out its future, how can we also expand this majority market to be larger, more financially sustainable, and a better foundation of support for the riders at the top?

There are two focuses in terms of the function of the sport’s foundation. On one hand, you have the high performance program, the tip of the pyramid if you will. These are the riders on the Wheaties boxes, the faces of our sport. Their success is crucial for the survival of the sport; their names and likenesses bring in sponsor support and general recognition. The function of the foundational support, for this purpose, is to source and produce new generations of talent to keep the team on a competitive level. The functionality of the Eventing Pathway Program and its evolution under USEF Managing Director of Eventing Jenni Autry is proof that the net being cast is becoming wider.

But then there is another function of the foundation, and this function really has little or nothing to do with the tip of the pyramid, save perhaps from a financial support standpoint. It’s the foundation made up of riders who don’t aspire to reach the Olympics or the Advanced level – or even an “upper level”, period. It’s the riders who love to compete a handful of times each year, as their budget and work schedule allows, those who circle the American Eventing Championships as their career goal. And it’s my opinion that it’s often these riders who are the most forgotten, the most infrequently seen, and the least supported.

So how do we marry these functions? How can we bolster the ranks of the amateurs not only for the benefit and support of the top levels (which are fully necessary and highly valuable) but also to offer them the best possible system? How can we welcome more riders into our sport to discover their passion for partnership with a horse? Not only does this increase the pool of talent for the top, it also creates a stronger foundational base of dedicated amateurs. How do we evolve to become more efficient in our business model as a sport so as to ensure its lasting viability? How do we keep from pricing out those who would join us if it weren’t for financial limitations? How do we protect the most vulnerable among us? And how to we ensure that every rider has a seat at the table, and a voice to be heard?

These are topics that are very near and dear to me, and I plan to dive into them in more depth this year. I certainly don’t know the answers, but I’m willing to learn and I know our sport is worth it. Watching the likes of Gina Miles, Karen O’Connor, Ingrid Klimke gallop effortlessly around the most difficult courses in the world sucked me in; jumping my first cross country fence without fear years later solidified my love for the sport. It is my hope that we can continue to work toward a more sustainable, more accessible world that benefits all riders and builds a future for the sport we all love so much.

Thanks for riding along with us.

Sally

Leslie Wylie

February 2021 feels a different planet than February 2020, doesn’t it? This month last year I was jetting off to Wellyworld for the eventing showcase, cheering with the crowd as horses raced around beneath the sunshine and palm trees, hugging folks with abandon, blissfully unaware that just a month later our season would come to a screeching halt. We adapted, though, and while lots of things are still up in the air at least it feels like there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I took my mother-in-law and grandmother in for their vaccinations last week. Until then I hadn’t realized how much constant anxiety I’d been carrying around with me, worrying about them getting sick, until I was finally able to take a breath and let a little bit go.

In this weird year we’ve had a bit of extra time to tend to gardens that need to be tending to, and one of EN’s weediest flowerbeds is its classifieds site Sport Horse Nation. It looks exactly the same now as it did when a pimply-face baby CEO named John designed it in his mom’s basement 11 years ago. Yet it’s still somehow THE place to buy and sell event horses (testimonial, I found my midlife crisis sportspony Princess on SHN). These nice fancy horses deserve better than some crappy WordPress blog, so we’re giving them a brand new completely redesigned website –coming soon! Thanks to our Patreons who shared feedback for the redesign; I was able to integrate a bunch of it. Honestly, the equine marketplace is in dire need of reform, and our goal is to create a radically transparent space for buyers and sellers alike. All Patreons will receive a coupon code for a free ad ($75 value) AND they’ll be the first to get the gate code, so all the more reason to join the club!

Other than that … the snowbirds are already flapping their wings down in Aiken and Ocala. The first two Advanced horse trials of the year, Rocking Horse II (Feb. 18-21) and Pine Top Winter II (Feb. 26-28), and Twin Rivers Winter (Feb. 25-28) are this season’s upper-level appetizers — loaded potato skins, truly, is how I like to imagine them. Maybe fried mozzarella sticks.

Honestly I’m just glad to have 2020 behind us, and I’m really excited about our new Patreon (one day left to score a sign-up before Feb. 14 at ANY tier and receive an EN Yeti mug or wine tumbler!) I’m already loving the lively conversations taking place in our invite-only Facebook group and the breadth of experiences you guys are bringing to the table. Now more than ever, it’s a relief to have a friendly, safe space where you can kick it with friends, even if we’re separated by computer screens. Community is what sets eventing apart, and I’m so honored to be a part of it with you.

Now more than ever, go eventing!
Leslie