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A Statement from the Team at EN

A beautiful sunset in Area VII. Photo by Erin Tomson.

As we look ahead to a week in which, once again, we are left to our thoughts in the wake of the loss of one of our own eventing compatriots, we’ve struggled with how to move forward.

Eventing Nation is a news site, and the news cycle, cruel as ever, continues to march on. While we know there are events, announcements, and other news pieces happening, we’d be lying if we said we felt we could dive right back in to “business as usual”.

This sport is our home. Losing one of our community hits hard. We want to honor the legacy of Georgie, and of every other individual we’ve lost over the years.

So, we’ve decided to cease our operations on social media for the next week. We don’t want to perpetuate the quick-moving news cycle and leave her memory in its wake. We want to give our community time to process what happened, and to find the resources they need to look forward.

We have some obligations to publish timely pieces, and those will continue to be posted on EventingNation.com, but we respectfully ask for your patience as we will not be promoting these articles on our social media. You can keep up with the latest news stories on our website.

In the meantime, please stick together. Reach out for help. Do something kind for your family and friends. Hug your horses. Tilly Berendt has kindly collected several resources that can be useful for assistance here.

We will be back. But we wanted to respect Georgie and her family, and we don’t want to forget what happened by burying it in news.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Statement from Bicton International Horse Trials

The following is a statement released by Bicton International Horse Trials.

“It is with deepest regret that we announce that Georgie Campbell (GBR) suffered a fatal accident whilst competing at the Bicton International Horse Trials in Devon, England on Sunday 26 May 2024. Medical professionals attended immediately following her fall at fence 5b however, unfortunately, she could not be saved.

The horse, Global Quest, was assessed by the on-site vets and walked back to the stable and is uninjured.

To respect the family’s privacy at this extremely difficult and sad time, no further details will be shared.”

What’s Happening? Your Guide to Horse Shows, Schooling, Clinics & More on STRIDER [Updated 5/5]

Tamie Smith and Elliot V. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“What’s Happening?,” presented in partnership with Strider, is your guide to horse shows, schooling opportunities, clinics and other riding and educational opportunities.

Need a way to accept digital entries and payment for your venue’s next equestrian activity? Join Strider, a mobile friendly, user-controlled services platform that connects organizers with riders. It’s easy and fast to use — click here to get started.

Here is what’s happening in your USEA Area!

Location Quick Links: Area I | Area II | Area III | Area IV | Area V | Area VI | Area VII | Area VIII | Area IX | Area X

Area I

Area II

Area III

Area IV

Area V

Area VI

Area VII

Area VIII

Area IX

Area X

Go Eventing.

“I Was Amazing”: Goodbye to British Eventer Caroline March


TW: this story contains references to assisted suicide.

It’s with heavy hearts that we share the news of Caroline March’s passing yesterday, March 23rd, just over a month after her 31st birthday.

Caroline was well-known and loved throughout the British eventing community for her big personality and fiery streak, and a zest for the things that she loved that saw her accomplish much in her three decades. She was a professional event rider, competing through four-star, and after a career-ending injury at Burnham Market in 2022, she fought to find new ways to chase joy and purpose. Caroline oversaw the production of young horses from her yard when she could no longer produce them herself and, in the typical spirit of someone who throws themselves into anything they pick up, she began photographing eventers, too, swiftly developing her skills to a professional level.

But no matter how many talents a person has, they are  much more than what they do, and Caroline’s passing — a dignified end to her life that she was able to choose for herself — will be mourned by a wide array people who were fortunate to count themselves among her friends and family.

Caroline penned a farewell letter, which has been embedded below and which tells her story far better than any news piece could. Fair warning that there are — obviously — some tough topics touched upon, and some colourful language. We mean that descriptor in the best possible way. Here’s to you, Caroline — you stayed wholly true to yourself until the end. We’ll always raise a glass to that.

All of us at Team EN send our most heartfelt condolences to Caroline’s family and friends.

While Caroline’s decision represents a freedom of choice that we believe all people should have, we do understand and appreciate that this story may be triggering for some readers in vulnerable positions. If you’re in need of help and support, please reach out to Samaritans or Riders Minds for round-the-clock care and a listening ear.

A Week in the Life: Jennifer Clapp’s C Square Scholarship Adventure in Aiken

At the tail end of 2023, we shared the exciting news that Courtney Cooper of C Square Farm and Excel Sport Horses was launching a scholarship opportunity for two amateur riders to immerse themselves in the whirlwind of life on a professional yard for a week that would be jam-packed with education and opportunities. Now, we’re delighted to share the diary of the first of those scholarship winners, Jennifer Clapp, who ventured down to Aiken with her Connemara, Muggsy, to put her out-of-office time to great use. Take, it away, Jennifer! 

Jennifer and Muggsy dive into Aiken life – and the water complex at Vista.

Wow! What a week! It was a total immersion into the Aiken horse life. As a public high school teacher, my time off is very prescribed. Luckily, I was able to take my February vacation week to head down to C Square Farm South to do nothing but spend time with horses.

Before I get to the day by day play by play, I just wanted to say that Courtney, her working student Nathan, her college intern Beth, barn manager Emily, and fellow amateurs Kathleen, Kelly, and Seth all went out of their way to make sure I had a fun and rewarding week. 

Day 1:

After a very long day shipping down (17 hours plus a snow storm), we settled in well — Muggsy was super happy to run around on the nice sandy ground and have a really good roll. We spent the morning at Stable View, where Courtney and some of her students were competing. In the afternoon, I watched a couple of training sets and had a dressage lesson, where we got Muggsy to really loosen up his back and soften his poll, especially when he got a little looky. He finished very relaxed and soft in his body, which was great after the long ride.

Day 2:

A beautiful Aiken day on the farm! It was a busy one. I watched Courtney ride a young horse for the second day in a row and it was impressive to see how much he relaxed and got much more confident in his work. Courtney had two Zoom lessons with Peter Gray on her two upper level horses, which were fascinating to watch. I was so caught up in the second lesson I almost didn’t have time to get ready for my own jump set!

Our jump set focused on balance and rhythm; we started with trotting poles, first on a straight line, then bending through the corner, helping the horses to develop and maintain a consistent rhythm. Once they were confident there, we incorporated two sets of raised cavaletti as well as the original poles. The initial responses to the raised cavaletti varied; some over-achievers tried to bounce them or walked; luckily, Muggsy is a pro at figuring out the easiest way to get something done and he trotted neatly through them. The next step was trotting a course of small fences, including one with placement poles; the exercise encouraged the horses to maintain their own rhythm and be responsible for their own balance. By the time we moved to cantering a course, all of the horses were well prepared to jump, land, and turn in balance.

A chilly morning at Bruce’s Field.

Day 3:

We started off bright and early with a trip over to Bruce’s Field for their Tuesday jumper show. Muggsy and I had fresh tracks in the ring, with him blowing little puffs of smoke since it was still so chilly. I definitely was a little unprepared for Aiken’s cold mornings! We did two trips and had significant improvement between the two. Muggsy is on the smaller end, so we’ve been working to get the adjustability we need to be able to make it down the lines well and Courtney helped me find the right canter and approach (gotta come forward through the corners!) to make it happen.

Our afternoon was spent at cross country schooling; Courtney had four horses from training to advanced to school with Erin Sylvester and then taught two upper level students, Kathleen and Kelly. Watching them school some tough questions was both educational and inspiring.

Day 4:

Another bright and early morning in the ring. Kathleen and I reset the jump course, practicing our accuracy in setting a couple of gymnastics and some single fences. Then we two and Courtney took three of the horses who had schooled cross country the day before for a hack on one of Aiken’s classic red roads, successfully navigating goats, chickens, and backyard decorations. Then it was off to the Vista! Muggsy started out being company for one of Courtney’s home breds who was going out for his first xc school. Despite being normally very chill, he totally failed at this job, spooking a shadow on the ground and what I can only assume was a bear (or maybe a dragon?) in the other field. Fortunately, Ghost, our buddy, was calm beyond his years!  He took everything in stride and it was really fun to watch him confidently trot all the elementary fences, the ditch, the bank, and the water with ever increasing joy. His face said, “look what I can do!” 

It took Muggsy a minute to get back into cross-country mode(I could almost hear him saying, “But it’s February!”), but he soon settled in and we had a great ride, with highlights being his bold jump over a coop with brush into the water and a super straight and forward approach to a corner.

Once we got home, I flatted Kathleen’s lovely young horse Curley and then set jumps as Courtney jumped three; the gymnastics we set that morning systematically prepared the horses as we built them up. Courtney was dragging the ring in the dark as we finished up!

Cross-country schooling with Muggsy at Vista.

Day 5: 

We started the morning off watching Courtney jump Kathleen’s lovely preliminary horse Excel Star Harry, whom she bought from Courtney as a four year old and has brought through her first two-star. Then I got to jump Curley, a six-year-old former steeplechaser who has just a fantastic rhythm and jump. He used a whole different set of muscles than my muffin of a Connemara!  Then it was back to the Vista, for cross-country schooling for Courtney’s student Seth and jumping in the derby field for her student Kelly and some of the horses who were heading to Pine Top that weekend. I finished the day in the most Aiken way possible: a long slow road hack for Muggsy and drinks at the Wilcox!  Kathleen and I headed in to meet some of my Area 1 friends (the best!); Seth and Kelly joined us later. It was one of those great moments in the eventing community, where a group of folks from all over (Areas 1, 2, and 8 represented!) with all kinds of different backgrounds can come together and have a great time based on the common denominator of eventing and our love of horses.

Day 6:

Pine Top!  It was exciting to visit this beautiful venue. We had the pleasure of watching Courtney ride her homebred River in his first Advanced dressage and show jumping, followed by her mare Maeve in the Intermediate. After spending some time watching all the big guns in the show jumping, we set out to walk the cross-country. It’s been a while since I’ve been up close to an Advanced course — Area 1 only has one left — and this one was BIG and, in some places, SKINNY! Looking at the tables, I could only think that Muggsy’s primary response, if I pointed him at one, would be to bank them. There was certainly plenty of room to do so!  The course was across a beautiful piece of land and the footing was perfect. After our course walk, we headed back to the farm to flat and go for a golden hour hack through the woods. It truly was a picture perfect ending to a wonderful week.

As I rolled out of bed at 2:15 the next morning to make the drive home (18+ hours this time!  I’d almost take snow over NYC traffic…), it felt like I had been in another world for a month, not a week. Every day was jam-packed with horses and educational opportunities; I never walked less than 30,000 steps in a day (admittedly, some of that was on horseback). It was the kind of immersion in the sport that I can almost never take the time to do. I came away with many tools for everything, from starting a nervous young horse to schooling one getting ready for its first Advanced (in the unlikely event that I’ll ever need that!), a bunch of new friends, and a renewed respect for the hard work and dedication it takes to be a professional in our sport. I’ve given you the highlights, but behind that was all the care that our animals need, the preparation and tacking up, the clipping, the packing and unpacking, and the sisyphean tack cleaning! I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity and hope my journey inspires other professionals to offer similar scholarships and other amateurs to load up their horses and take a risk in the service of their learning.

The Weekend Update: Pine Top, Rocking Horse Prep Riders for Season Ahead

Welcome to The Weekend Update, a new offering here on EN that will recap important prep events each Monday. While we can’t be at every event in person, we want to recognize the efforts of those out there competing each weekend around the world. This column will focus on key prep events and divisions that feature 4* and 5* horses and riders en route to major spring destinations. Keep an eye out also for our weekly Weekend Winners column, which celebrates each recognized event running in the U.S.!

Gillian Warner and Veronica Green-Gott contributed to this edition of The Weekend Update.

Pine Top Serves as Popular Season Pipe-Opener

Pine Top’s Intermediate Horse Trial ran this past weekend, and served as the first run for many horse and rider duos as the 2024 season begins. From Starter to Advanced/Intermediate, many partnerships enjoyed the forward and open courses designed by cross country course designer Jeff Kibbie as an opportunity to start the season on a positive note.

Posting some fun stories today while our course designer, Jeff Kibbie, and team finalize the cross country courses!

Posted by Pine Top Eventing on Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Boyd Martin, team USA Eventing Olympic Rider, took a moment during a busy competition schedule to snap a photo with Pine…

Posted by Pine Top Eventing on Saturday, February 10, 2024

“I’m a big fan of Pine Top,” Boyd Martin commented. With 11 rides there this past weekend, we saw Boyd putting mileage on young horses, and preparing horses for their spring and mid-year goals. The Annie Goodwin Syndicate’s Fedarman B (Clooney – Paulien B, by Fedor), Yankee Creek Ranch LLC’s Commando 3 (Connor 48 – R-Adelgunde, by Amigo xx), Bonnie Stedt’s Miss LuLu Herself (Stolzenfels – Noisette, by Nobre XX), and Christine, Thomas IV, and Tommie Turner’s Tsetserleg (Windfall – Thabana by Buddenbrock) were a few of the horses he brought out for their first runs this year. “I use the first run as a bit of a cross country school. Jeff Kibbie creates a nice, flowing track that gives you a bearing of the homework that you need to do, as every question is available at Pine Top – from the water complexes to angles and spreads.”

Allison Springer also recognized the importance of the first run of the season. “As always with the first run of the year, it becomes obvious the things you need to work more at, and I’m looking forward to doing just that… I’m really pleased with my horses, they were all great.” Allison had an impressive weekend in the Advanced/Intermediate, coming in first (with Nancy Winter’s No May Moon (Catherston Dazzler – Ebony Moon, by Mystic Replica) and second place (with The RICO Syndicate’s Vandyke (Vancouver – Shannondale Willow, by Touchdown).

Pine Top served as an opportunity to prepare for the rest of the spring season, as Allison noted: “I plan to move No May Moon up to the Advanced level at Carolina International, so this was her first time doing the Advanced dressage test – I thought she did a lot really well, but there is quite a bit that we can improve on… The cross country courses were excellent… I thought they were a great set up for the rest of the season.”

Andrew McConnon also had a strong weekend, with Jeanne Shigo’s Ferrie’s Cello (Chello III – Karelza, by Wolfgang) winning the Open Intermediate A, and his own Wakita 54 (Plot Blue – Werusa, by Padinus) finishing in 4th in the Open Intermediate B and FVF Top Gun (C. Quito – Vignette, by Virgil) 4th in the Open Preliminary B. “I choose Pine Top as the event to start our season because of their fantastic open galloping cross country courses that are always u to standard while being inviting and fair. It sets us on a good trajectory for the rest of the year! Each horse has their own spring three-days planned with Plan Bs. I was fortunate enough to receive the Rebecca Broussard International Developing Rider Grant this year, so I’m looking to take a horse or two to Europe.”

Coming off of her 4*L win at Terranova this fall, Jenny Caras, who saw wins this weekend at Pine Top with Elyse Eisenberg’s Trendy Fernhill (Ars Vivendi – Cruseings Girl, by Cruising) in the Open Intermediate B and hers and Jerry Hollis’ Sommersby (Sergeant Pepper – D’mademoiselle, by D’olympic) in the Open Preliminary B, also has plans to make it over to Europe for the Developing Tour. “Their last run was Terranova, so the goal was just to come out and knock the rust off, but they ended up doing two really good tests, and I thought they both jumped really well… They both finished [the cross country] full of running, and were really on their game, so I think it set us up well for the rest of the season.”

Final results for all divisions can be found here. As the season continues, Pine Top turns to preparations for their Advanced Horse Trials will be running in just a few weeks, from Friday, February 23, 2024 – Sunday, February 25, 2024. Find more information on the event on Pine Top Farm’s website. You can also get a glimpse of cross country designer Jeff Kibbie’s plans for the Advanced track in the video embedded below:

Cross Country course designer, Jeff Kibbie, discusses plans for the Advanced Horse Trials Feb. 23-25th, 2024

Posted by Pine Top Eventing on Monday, February 12, 2024

Pine Top Intermediate: [Final Results]

The Florida Season is Rocking (Horse)

It was a sunny 70-degree day for our riders who tackled one of the season’s first events, Rocking Horse Winter II (Altoona, FL). As an early event in the season, Rocking Horse is the perfect opportunity to check out how the horses are going. Many riders decided to take the opportunity to move their horses up a level or stretch the legs on their new rides.

The cross country course at Rocking Horse was described by the riders as flowing with good galloping stretches and a few technical elements, including a sunken road. “I thought Morgan [Rowsell] did a good job. Down in this area, there’s not much terrain and I thought he did a good job of trying to vary the course a little bit and ask different questions,” said Phillip Dutton, who came in third in the Advanced B with the Jewelent Group’s Jewelent (Valent x Bellany Jewel, Roselier).

Most riders describe Rocking Horse as horse-friendly with a quieter atmosphere than other events, being that it’s on a Thursday and most of the other competitors are professionals. “I really like Rocking Horse in the spring/winter,” Woods Baughman said. “I think it’s a great way to get [the horses] out, especially for their first Advanced, or even their first one back. It’s normally a really fair course, there’s nothing that makes you go, ‘Whoa, what’s wrong with this course designer?’ So it’s a great step to getting them confident for the rest of the season.”

The Advanced division was split into two classes, Advanced Test A and Advanced Test B. In total, it was a pretty competitive weekend for the Advanced level, with 33 total riders entered. In the Advanced Test A division, Lisa Barry and Woods Baughman had to duke it out for that coveted blue ribbon; the two were tied through the first two phases and, in the end, only 5.2 time penalties on cross country dropped Lisa into second place, giving Woods the win with Hopak de Greenbay Z. It was also Woods’ birthday over the weekend -— what better present could you ask for than a blue ribbon?

Rocking Horse marked Woods and Hopak de Greenbay Z’s (Herald 3 x Cado de Greenbay, Cassini I) first time back at the Advanced level since the New Jersey Horse Trials in July 2022, when the horse and rider pair came in 13th place. After spending the fall 2023 season at the CCI3* level, it’s clear that “Pako”, owned by Manderly LLC, knows how to make an entrance when returning to the level.

“This was his first time back at the level since 2022, and he’s as strong as ever. I’m really happy with him. We’ve been working on his footwork and getting him stronger. He’s such a big horse and his hind feet are so far from his head, that sometimes it takes a minute for his thoughts to get back there,” Woods said, laughing. “He’s a good jumper and he’s such a smart horse. And he really knows the job and wants to do a good job. So I’ve just been working really hard on trying to make it easier for him to do it.”

Lisa Barry was thrilled to take the second place slot with Rosie’s Aventura (Formula One x Rajacon’s Rose, Consul), aka “Possum.” Owned by the Lisa herself, this is only Possum’s second crack at the Advanced level. It’s been a long road for Lisa as she focused on producing the big 17-hand homebred before returning to the level. Clearly, the wait paid off.

“I have been focusing on our show jumping phase, as she just finds it difficult to be careful in that phase. She’s a big horse and she’s actually two inches high behind, so articulating that long downhill body is really hard for her even on normal distances,” Lisa said. “But she was excellent. On cross country, she was on her game right out of the start box. She’s so honest and straightforward that as long as I have breaks and I can turn, she’s such a great cross country horse.”

Michael Nolan was the only rider representing the Irish flag at Rocking Horse over the weekend, with four horses entered across the Advanced, Preliminary, Modified, and Training divisions. He and Carrabeg Hulla Balou (Balou du Rouet x Vella Flavour, Ballinvella), owned by Alyssa Cairo, successfully tackled the Advanced level, earning a third place win. At just 9 years old, it looks like Carrabeg Hulla Balou has an exciting upper-level career ahead of him.

“That was Louie’s first Advanced event obviously so we’re super happy with him. He was a bit green at the start of the cross country course, but he improved as he kept going and finished really well,” Michael said. “We’ve had him since he was a three-year-old and produced him up the levels, so it’s really nice to see he’s taken to the Advanced level so well.”

Hopak de Greenbay Z wasn’t the only one coming back to the Advanced level this past weekend. Rocking Horse II marked Leslie Law’s Lady Chatterley’s successful return to the level, with a fourth place finish. The 2022 Bates USEA Mare of the Year, Lady Chatterley (Connor 48 x Juicy, Mytens XX), owned by Jackie and Steve Brown, was sidelined by a minor soft tissue injury in 2022.

“She felt great, very strong, very enthusiastic. Hopefully, fingers crossed, touch wood, everything looks good. She has her opinions, so you have to work with her, but she’s all class,” Leslie said. “The course was spot on, quite honestly. It’s the first Advanced of the season, so it’s tough to pitch the difficulty and the technicality. I thought Morgan [Rowsell] did a great job for horses in the beginning of the year, doing their first Advanced.”

In the Advanced Test B division, Elisa Wallace took first place by a wide margin with 2022 Maryland CCI3*L winner Renkum Corsair (Renkum Chapot x Renkum Colitas, Renkum Valentino), owned by the Corsair Syndicate. Elisa got the ride on “Cazzie” relatively recently, in 2022, after the Anglo European gelding was campaigned up through 3* by Great Britain’s Saffron Creswell. Elisa and Caz stepped up to the 4* level in 2023. This weekend, they tallied up just 4.8 cross country time faults to add to their dressage score, going double clear in the show jumping phase.

“I cried when I went through the finish flags, just because it was the first time that I felt like we were together and that we were there,” Elisa said. “He’s a genuine horse and he wants to try super hard and he doesn’t want to make a mistake, but he’s also really big and powerful and so when you’re going around cross country, it’s tough to still have an influence. So, this winter, I’ve just really focused on the basics, you know, our flat work, really getting that solid and consistent.”

Canadian rider Katie Malensek’s STX Mex (Billy Mexico x Xucra de Foja) shot up from tenth place to finish in second with a final score of 48.8. This weekend was the geldings first attempt at the Advanced level and the “pocket rocket” put in a great effort. Katie purchased the gelding from eventer Tom Crisp just last year and this was only their fifth cross country outing together.

“He’s 10 this year and he’s just really game. He’s one of those funny horses where you look at him and go, ‘Really, this is him?’” Katie said. “He’s just a little bit unorthodox looking. And then all of a sudden he starts jumping and he really is pretty spectacular. He’s very careful and very catlike and he’s just a neat little horse. So we’re super thrilled to have him in the barn.”

Phillip Dutton had a busy weekend with three horses in the Advanced division, Quasi Cool, Possante, and Jewelent. It was the Jewelent Group’s Jewelent (Valent x Bellany Jewel, Roselier) who came out at the top of the Dutton herd. The gray Irish Sport Horse took third place with a score of 53.4, which is especially impressive considering Phillip has only been working with Jewelent since late 2023, when he took over the ride on the horse from Ireland’s Clare Abbott. The gelding already has a wealth of experience at the 4* level, having competed with Abbott at Millstreet, Thoresby Park, and Boekelo.

“We’re just trying to get to know each other, and certainly there’s parts that need improving, but so far, so good. He’s a really classy horse who just cares about his business and his day to day work. He has a really nice, professional way about him,” said Phillip. “I just wanted to get an Advanced on him and see where we’re at. Up next, we’ll aim for a CCI4*-S at Chattahoochee.”

Phillip’s daughter, Olivia Dutton, was also competing this weekend. She came in sixth place in her Advanced debut with the Sea of Clouds Partnership’s OTTB and former ride of her dad’s Sea of Clouds (Malibu Moon x Winner’s Ticket, Jolie’s Halo). “I was particularly proud of my daughter this weekend,” said Phillip. “She competed in her very first Advanced, which is always a big step up in the eventing world.”

Julie Wolfert and her big Irish Sport Horse gelding SSH Playboy (Cit Cat x Stomeyford Black Pearl) took fourth place in the Advanced Test B division. Owned by the rider, Sheri Gurske, and Renee Senter, the gelding is a fairly experienced Advanced competitor with three 4* wins under his belt, including a first place at Tryon International in 2022. Julie hails from Kansas City, MO in Area IV, making the trek from the Midwest to Florida to jump start her season that likely includes some exciting plans as she and “Jaego” continue to impress.

“This weekend at Rocking Horse actually went smoother than I anticipated. Last year I had two huge falls off of Jaego, one required ankle surgery right at the beginning of the year. Then right when I recovered from that I broke my sacrum and nose leading up to Morven Park, so we could never really get the experience I was hoping for last year,” said Julie. “Coming off of the long break, I wasn’t sure how he’d handle his first show back. Minus his normal “Playboy” antics getting into the start box, he felt like a complete veteran out there and went right to work. It’s a great feeling leading into the season knowing we don’t have too many cobwebs to dust off.”

Rocking Horse Winter II: [Final Results]

The Debrief: Olivia Miller on Trusting Your Training

Welcome to The Debrief, where we’ll recap the experience of a rider following a big result or otherwise memorable competition/season. Click here to read more editions of The Debrief. This week, we catch up with rising professional Olivia Miller, who hails from the West coast and is now a part of Sharon White’s team in Summit Point, WV. This edition of The Debrief is brought to you in collaboration with Athletux’s Young Professionals program.

Olivia Miller and Cooley Starstruck. Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

What was your number one goal for your season?

My ultimate goal for Cooley Starstruck (Aiden) and I this season was to compete in a 3*L, but we fell just short of that. We had made the move up to Intermediate this spring and had a handful of runs at the level before contesting our first 3*S at the beginning of summer, where we finished in the top 5. As the season progressed, we had some ups and downs and came to the decision that it would be in our better interest to aim for a 3*L in the spring of 2024!

What did you practice the most in the weeks leading up to the season?

So as a working student I have the privilege of riding a large variety of horses, which is great because it gives me the opportunity to work on my own self all of the time and is not just limited to the time I spend riding Aiden. I can then spend my time with Aiden more focused on his strength development and training.

Leading up to any event I just try to go back to the basics and keep things super simple and confidence boosting. There really is no point in putting all this added pressure and stress on myself or my horse because nothing super useful comes of it. The more confident I am is how confident my horse can become, which is exactly what I want my horse to be going into a competition.

Describe your feelings after finishing cross country in three words:

Relief, grateful, proud

Olivia Miller and Cooley Starstruck. Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

What do you do after a big event? Do you spend a lot of time rewatching your rides? Do you go back and watch any of the live stream? We’re interested in any process you may have to “debrief” yourself after your rides.

After any event really I absolutely watch videos of my rides and a lot of times, especially with dressage test. I will compare the ride to previous tests to see if I like any of the changes that I have made and reflect on what additional changes need to be made. Now, that’s a little bit harder to do with jumping because obviously the show jump and cross country courses aren’t the same but I do love to watch those videos over and see what worked and maybe what didn’t work and then formulate a better plan for next time.

What is the number one thing you learned about yourself this season? What about what you learned about your horse?

My biggest takeaway this season as a whole is to trust your training.

The hardest thing to recognize some of the time is how much your hard work and training has actually worked. A lot of times I catch myself riding the horse I used to have instead of the horse that’s under me that day. So then oftentimes the pendulum swings too far the other way and before you know it you have the opposite extreme of whatever issues you have been working on.

As far as Aiden goes, I think the number one thing I learned about him this year is just how genuine of a horse he really is. He is great in the sense that he won’t hold anything against me. I could mess something up seven ways to Sunday and it’s almost as if he were to say “well that wasn’t it but let’s try again.”

Olivia Miller and Cooley Starstruck. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Describe your history with your horse.

Aiden and I’s story starts back in December 2020 when I purchased him from Tamie Smith, who I was working for at the time. I was actually able to compete him prior to buying him as he was sort of a sales horse/lesson horse that everyone got to ride and compete, so that was a great opportunity to really see all sides of him.

At the time he had been professionally produced up through the Preliminary level. It did take me a little bit to get him figured out as he was a completely different ride from my previous horse. I went from a pretty small, compact little horse, who didn’t have the biggest stride or the most scope and had to make do with what he had, to Aiden who has an absolutely massive stride and scope to spare.

So, learning how to steer and use Aiden’s abilities to my advantage has been my biggest challenge. It almost feels at times that he’s too powerful for his own good. We then moved out from California to the East coast where we are now based in West Virginia with Sharon White. Just this year we made the move up to Intermediate and completed what was both his and I’s first 3*S.

What is a piece of advice you would give to yourself, 5 years ago, now?

If I could give my self a piece of advice to my self from 5 years ago I would say to just always give it your best shot. It wont always be easy — in fact, it hardly ever is — but if you just keep working hard towards your goals it will all be worth it in the end.

How do you plan to spend your off season? What do you like to do when you’re not riding and competing all the time?

So as a working student my “off” seasons probably look a bit different than others. I primarily utilize the off seasons to spend time either breaking and starting the young horses or just giving the greener, less experienced horses the time and training that they maybe didn’t get when all of the other upper-level horses were in work. So, there isn’t really any period of time when I’m not riding, just maybe not competing as much.

The Debrief: Taylor McFall Recaps Her 2023 Season

Welcome to The Debrief, where we’ll recap the experience of a rider following a big result or otherwise memorable competition/season. Click here to read more editions of The Debrief. This week, we catch up with young rider Taylor McFall, who hails from northern California out of her family’s Dragonfire Farm. This edition of The Debrief is brought to you in collaboration with Athletux’s Young Professionals program.

Photo by Sherry Stewart.

What was your number one goal for this event/season?

My main goal in 2023 was to make the Area VI eventing team.

What did you practice the most in the weeks leading up to the event/season?

I worked most on my dressage and show jumping, with a big focus on my posture. I’ve had to work specifically on how I carry my shoulders as I had an old habit of rounding my back and being too giving in my reins.

I was lucky to have the chance to compete on my mother’s horse, Hallelujah DF, who taught me alot about riding on the flat since she has a beautiful range of movement. She gave a different feel that really allowed me to push for better movements, where the other Thoroughbreds I ride would become more tense. Being more bold in my flat at home really helped me work up to more confident dressage performances at the shows.

Photo by Richard Bogach.

Describe your feelings after finishing cross country in three words:

Out of breath.

What do you do after a big event? Do you spend a lot of time rewatching your rides? Do you go back and watch any of the live stream?

My favorite thing to do after a particularly difficult show is to reset the courses or parts of the courses to practice at home. After most shows last season my parents and I would re-set the show jump courses jump for jump or recreate a difficult cross country line in our cross country field. It helps me process my ride to feel how I could have ridden things better or differently.

While I do like looking back at my footage from every event, I personally don’t like to re-watch old rides too much since I like to look ahead and focus on what I’m doing next.

What is the number one thing you learned about yourself this season? What about what you learned about your horse?

I learned that I’m too passive of a rider, leaving things up to the horse when I should (and do) know better. I’ve learned that all my horses at the moment are really quite tough and brave — so one of us needs to be the brains of the operation and reel things in a bit…

What would you say has been the biggest thing you’ve overcome en route to having the season you did?

I’d say the biggest thing I’ve overcome was learning to ride a new mount after the injury of my main horse Stoneman. My original plan was to ride him on the Area VI CCI3* team at Galway in November, but after a trailering injury midway through the year I was left without a horse. I could still then have a shot at the CCI2* team if I could learn to ride Hallelujah DF who is nearly a polar opposite of Stoney. She required a lot stronger, more confident ride, being both a warmblood and a young horse.

I’d say this has been one of the biggest learning curves in my riding career. In the end, I went from being so outside my comfort zone to having a partner I knew I could perform well with at NAYC.

Taylor McFall and Stoneman. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

What is a piece of advice you would give to yourself, 5 years ago, now?

5 years ago was when I started my career as an FEI rider and my advice to that Taylor would just be to stay brave and stay hungry. Keep having big goals and keep fighting to reach them. Just because you don’t win a show doesn’t diminish any personal victory you may have achieved, and just because you win a show doesn’t mean you’re perfect and have nothing left to learn.

How do you plan to spend your off season? What do you like to do when you’re not riding and competing all the time?

When I’m not riding or showing I’m often catching up on my college school work or creating art. I like to draw and paint both traditionally and digitally. Throughout the year I work on painting requests for personal portraits I receive and make cartoons or animate on my ipad to help me fall asleep. Since it’s the off season I should be able to get a lot more personal stuff done and hope to keep improving my art.

Describe your history with your horse:

I started riding my horse Stoneman in 2021 just before the West Coast NAYC and was lucky to have such an awesome partnership with this horse. We were super confident together 2* and then continued to have great rides at Intermediate and 3*. He was an off the track Thoroughbred my mom bought at 4 years old from a friend and then re-trained for eventing.

My 2* horse, Hallelujah DF, is a 8-year-old homebred mare that I’ve known since birth. Produced out of my family farm at Dragonfire, we are all so proud of her and what she’s done so far. While I only started riding her half way through the 2023 season, she has taught me so much and I feel lucky to have both my amazing mounts.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I’m looking forward to 2024 with Halle, Stoney, and several more exciting young prospects. I hope to apply what I’ve learned this season and help my horses be the best they can be.

A Party in the Pyrenees: Your 2023 Pau CCI5* Form Guide

And so we arrive at the end of all things — or, at least, the end of the 2023 line-up of five-stars. Our final hurrah at Les Etoiles de Pau sees us in the not-quite-so-sunny south of France, where 55 horses and riders from ten nations will tackle this most technical of Pierre Michelet tracks in the shadow of the Pyrenees — and to help ease you into this week’s competition, which begins tomorrow with the first horse inspection, we’ve got all the intel you need on each and every single one of them, thanks to our British trio of writers.

So, without further adieu, let’s get down to business and meet the partnerships who’ll be vying for a great result to cap their year off. Allons-y!

Les 5 Etoiles de Pau links: Website | Entries | Live Scores | Live Stream | EN’s Coverage

AUSTRIA

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

Lea Siegl and DSP Fighting Line

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

Lea Siegl may be young, but she sure is mighty. With an Olympics, World Championships and two CCI5* starts under her belt — and a string of seven horses competing internationally — it would be naive to underestimate her chances here this week. She comes to Pau with DSP Fighting Line, her Tokyo and Pratoni ride, for a second crack at 5* with the gelding. They’re rerouting from Luhmuhlen, where they retired out on cross country; they hadn’t picked up any penalties but Lea knows the horse best — truly, she’s brought him right through the levels — and decided to save him for another day. So here they are at Pau. 

We cannot have a form guide about this rider without mentioning Tokyo. She went there as the youngest competitor in the field at just 22, and although that garnered a lot of attention, Lea told Horse and Hound at the time that it didn’t phase her in the least. Despite her young age, she wasn’t there to make up the numbers; she finished 15th individually with ‘Fighty’, adding just 2.4 cross country time and a pole in the show jumping to her dressage of 32.6. What a feeling it must have been to compete at the Olympics with her Junior and Young Rider horse, and to do so in such fine style. They were called up to represent Austria again when the World Championships in Pratoni came around, where they finished 25th. 

Although this is Lea’s third official 5* start, she’s still looking for a completion, after retiring at Luhmuhlen this year with Fighty and withdrawing Cupido P at the second horse inspection there last year on her debut at the level. She comes here with Fighty in great form though, with a win in the 4*-S Nations Cup at Montelibretti this season – where they very nearly finished on their PB dressage score of 24.5, adding just 0.4 cross country time – and a third place finish in the 4*-S Nations Cup at Arville in August, again almost finishing on their dressage, but not quite – they added just 0.8 time penalties to their first-phase of 28.9 there. They can clearly put down sub-30 results in the dressage at 4*, but at their only 5* run it was a 39.9 for them. But eventing isn’t a dressage competition and Lea says herself, the horse is very fast and a good jumper. She’s not wrong. There are no cross country penalties on Fighty’s record since 2020, and you have to go back another two seasons to find any others. They’re speedy, too. Any time penalties the do have are generally single figures, and often just a decimal place. They carry their cross country jumping accuracy into the show jumping, almost. It’s probably about a 50/50 between one pole or none, but they’ve been clear in their two international runs this season, so let’s hope for more of the same as they aim to put not only a 5* completion on their record, but a competitive one. 

BELGIUM

Julien Despontin and Honeyblue

Ten-year-old Belgian Sport Horse gelding (Rosenprinz D x Annie, by Dutch Capitol). Owned and bred by Didier Hergot. 

This is a first five-star for sweet Honeyblue, but not for Julian, who last rode at the level in 2016, when he piloted Waldano 36 to nineteenth place at Luhmühlen. He’s also been to Pau before, with the same horse, finishing 14th in 2014, and so he’ll be delighted to return to have another crack at the whole shebang with this exciting young horse.

This is a relatively new partnership: Julien took the reins in early 2021, after the horse had been produced to CCI2*-S by fellow Belgian competitor Julia Schmitz. He’s taken his time to really get the measure of the gelding, and that’s been paying dividends this year; their first-phase scores are dropping from the high-30s to the low-30s, they’re getting more reliable and quicker across the country, though they’ve not yet made the time at four-star, and their showjumping… well, that bit’s still a work in progress, but they’ve had some smart clears.

Pau will be Honeyblue’s first long-format event since 2021, when he finished fifth in his CCI4*-L debut at Strzegom, and so this’ll be largely an educational and fact-finding mission for Julien, who’s here to give his horse experience and exposure as Belgium heads into a very exciting 2024. They’d be outliers for a shot at the team in Paris next year, but if they can deliver the goods this week and record a smart finish, they could rocket themselves into contention.

FRANCE

Luc Chateau and Troubadour Camphoux. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Luc Chateau and Troubadour Camphoux

Sixteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Idem de B’Neville x Gold In Blue, by Veganum). Owned by E.A.R.L. Haras des Chateaux and Laure Sudreau.

France’s Luc Chateau comes forward with Troubadour Camphoux for a second go at their home-soil CCI5*. The gelding was originally produced by Spain’s Alexis Gomez before being brought up the levels by fellow French rider Didier Dhennin, with Luc taking the reins in early 2018. He made his top-level debut at Pau in 2020, and came away with a top-20 finish; the following season he placed fourth at Luhmuhlen, where he finished on his dressage of 39.8. 

It’s not likely that we’ll see this combination at the business-end of proceedings after the dressage – at 4* they’re generally mid- to high-30s; at 5* it’s securely at the higher end of the scale. But at Le Pin au Haras in 2021, ‘Troubadour’ showed that he’s got it in him to be closer to the 30-mark, putting down a career best of 32.5 in the 4*-S there. Whilst he may seem average in the dressage ring, he’s far from it out on the cross country. In 25 FEI runs, he’s had cross country jumping penalties on just three occasions, and a missed flag once. He’s pretty speedy too, generally adding just a few time penalties, if any. This is certainly a combination that should be a leaderboard climber on Saturday. And the climb probably won’t stop there as his careful jumping style continues over the colored poles – their clear round rate is truly enviable; in seventeen FEI runs as a combination they have rolled just a single pole. So it’ll be ‘allez’ all the way for this home crowd pair as they race their way – hopefully – to another excellent 5* finish.

Based in Cour-Cheverny, Luc and his wife Caroline run Haras des Chateaux, a riding club and school from which they also run their breeding program. The stallion at the center of the enterprise, Propriano de l’Ebat, who Luc competed until 2018, has done them proud this year with a foal out of Michael Jung’s famous Kentucky-winning mare, fischerRocana.

Florian Ganneval and Blue Bird de Beaufour. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Florian Ganneval and Blue Bird de Beaufour

Twelve-year-old Selle Français gelding (Diamant de Semilly x Macy Van Leut, by Elanville). Owned by the rider. Bred by Eric Levallois.

There’s a few heroes in this field for the amateur rider, and full-time farrier Florian — say that three times fast — is one of them. This is his fourth five-star start with Blue Bird de Beaufor and his third Pau; they finished just outside the top ten on their debut in 2021, having picked up 11 penalties for activating a safety device, and were eliminated last year after being pulled up on course when the horse began to tire. They completed Luhmühlen this year with a steady clear, and did the same in the CCI4*-S at Lignieres that they used for prep last month.

Florian, who spent part of 2022 in the UK, refers to Blue Bird de Beaufour as a “good student” who aims to please in his work. On the flat, he works to keep the horse engaged and in front of the leg, naming him as a bit on a lazy side in this phase. While this pair has squeaked into the 20s in the past, at the 3* level, they’re more likely to earn a low-to-mid-30s mark at this level to start off their competition. Luhmühlen proved to them that they can deliver the goods on Saturday, so a steady clear will be their aim. Showjumping is something of a bogey phase for them; they’ve never had a clear round in an FEI competition, and Pau’s showjumping is notoriously tough, so if they can repeat the one-rail round they had in 2021, they’ll be delighted.

Camille Lejeune and Dame Decoeur Tardonne. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Camille Lejeune and Dame Decoeur Tardonne

Ten-year-old Selle Français mare (Lando x Soade Tardonne, by Contender). Owned by Sarah Gospodnetic and the rider. Bred by Gilbert Galliot. 

We last saw charismatic Frenchman Camille at a five-star in 2019, when he brought his seasoned former top-level horse Tahina des Isles to Badminton, though they retired on course after some issues, despite having previously jumped classy clears there, at Burghley, and at Pau. Now, his post-pandemic return to the top sees him partnered with a much less experienced partner — but one who’s been seriously impressive since we first saw her at Le Lion d’Angers as a seven-year-old, when she finished fifth in the world.

That was in 2020, and in 2021 and early 2022, she got an education at four-star, which saw some blips added to her record — the same thing we saw when she first stepped up to three-star, and so she’s evidently a horse who learns a lot from mistakes, which isn’t a bad thing to have at all. Since establishing herself at four-star, she’s been on a serious streak of great results, first picking up two consecutive top-ten finishes when moving, briefly, back down to three-star to consolidate, then immediately nabbing herself three consecutive top tens at four-star when stepping back up. One of those, a second-place finish in the Nations Cup at Jardy in July, saw her add just 0.4 time to her first-phase score, proving that she’s got all the makings of a very, very good competitor. She had a slightly steadier run — though still a clear one — in last month’s CCI4*-S at Lignieres, and now, she’ll make a step up to the top that could be very exciting indeed — or, it could be another foundational learning experience that helps her come out in 2024 as a seriously smart five-star horse.

Expect, in any case, to see her start the week in the 30s — low-to-mid, rather than high — and end it, quite probably, on a clear, though she did have two uncharacteristic rails at Lignieres. She’s naturally very speedy, and Camille will need to decide whether it’ll do her more favours to run her at her naturally high cruising speed or intentionally slow her down to give her more thinking time, and that decision-making process is, to us, anyway, as interesting as anything else.

Maxime Livio and Carouzo Bois Marotin at Kentucky. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Maxime Livio and Carouzo Bois Marotin

Eleven-year-old Selle Français gelding (Kannan GFE – Orchidee de Mai, by Flipper d’Elle). Bred by Ophelie Mouflet. Owned by S.C. Soixante Seize Et Compagnie, Gilles Saiagh, and Celine Fronteau. Groom: Mathilde Montginoux.

This will be a third CCI5* for the supremely talented and gusty Carouzo Bois Marotin, who stepped up to the level last fall at Pau, finishing seventh after rocketing up the leaderboard nearly 30 places following cross country. They then crossed the pond to Kentucky this spring and finished sixth, this time adding nothing to their dressage score.

Dressage would be the phase the French Olympian is hoping to crack with this excellent two-phase performer, and he remarked at that Pau debut that he knew the gelding was well-capable of a sub-30 score at this level – but so far, he’s been on a 35-point-something at both appearances. On cross country, you wouldn’t want to bet against Maxime on the clock — and having the experience at Pau and Kentucky, where he felt the gelding still pulling on the bridle as he came through the finish, he’ll know he can really test the mettle and go for a competitive finish again. This is another chance to prove the horse’s worth before Paris, and if they can whittle away at that dressage score, they should be well worthy of consideration — so expect to see them working towards a top-five finish this week.

Cedric Lyard and Unum De’Or. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Cedric Lyard and Unum De’or

Fifteen-year-old Anglo-Arabian gelding (Yarlands Summer Song – Fee du Logis, by Prince Ig’Or). Owned and bred by Marie-Christine Duroy-de Lauriere and the rider.

Still owned by breeder Marie-Christine Duroy-de Lauriere, Unum de’Or is a veritable member of the Lyard family, having been produced for the majority of his eventing career by the French Olympian.

This Anglo-Arab gelding made the step up to the 5* level in 2021, with Cedric opting for Pau as the horse’s debut. It was a successful first trip – the pair finished ninth overall. While an early 2022 trip to Badminton would eventually end up in retirement on cross country, the pair rebounded nicely to contest Burghley later in the year. Unum de’Or made good on that bet, finishing inside the top 20. He would have finished higher, would it not have been for a couple of unfortunate poles down on the final day of competition.

This summer, they added another new 5* venue to their CV with a start in Germany at Luhmühlen. They began the week with a 35 – basically their average at the level — and then ran clear and quick-ish, adding just 7.2 time penalties on Saturday. Sunday’s showjumping saw them knock two rails, as they had at Burghley, but this time, it was with good reason: as they picked up the canter in the ring, a spectator opened an umbrella (no, it wasn’t raining…) just feet from the horse’s nose as he was cantering towards the rail, and he was so panicked that he spent tens of long seconds rearing and spinning on the spot while Cedric struggled to calm him. He then regrouped to jump around the tough course, but was visibly unsettled and lacking in focus. This week’s course will be no less tough, but hopefully, the crowd at the ringside will be a bit more conscious of horses’ flight reactions.

Gaspard Maksud and Kan-Do 2. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Gaspard Maksud and Kan-Do 2

Nine-year-old British-bred gelding (breeding unrecorded). Owned by the rider. 

Just to make everything really confusing this week, there are two horses in this field called ‘Kan-Do’ – though quite helpfully, this one, a five-star debutant piloted by British-based Frenchman Gaspard, has helpfully been dubbed the sequel. This is an exciting, though green, horse, and this week’s trip will be more about garnering valuable experience over a bigger, tougher course — both for the gelding and for Gaspard himself, who was sixth at last year’s World Championships but hasn’t yet contested a five-star.

Kan-Do ran in the CCI4*-L at Blenheim last month, which was his four-long debut, and he picked up 20 penalties on course, so will be looking to consolidate the experience he gained there and finish the season on a positive, educational note. He’s a high-30s horse, not super-fast, yet, and is prone to a couple of rails, but this week isn’t about being competitive — it’s about laying foundations for the future.

Gaspard Maskud and Zaragoza. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Gaspard Maksud and Zaragoza

Ten-year-old British-Bred mare (Cevin Z x Saracen’s Pride, by Saracen Hill). Owned by Martin Thurlow and Jane Young. Bred by Jane Young. 

Debutant Zaragoza, or Zoe, might be tackling her first five-star this week, but she’s nevertheless one of the most exciting horses in this field, having finished best of the French at last year’s World Championships in a final sixth place. That championship debut for both horse and rider came just months after Gaspard’s 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, before heading to Pratoni and showing everyone what they’re made of. This year, they’ve had three FEI runs: in incredibly tough conditions in Chatsworth’s Nations Cup, they finished fifth; in Aston le Walls CCI4*, they were second, and then, at the European Championships a couple of months ago, they finished eighth individually and team bronze medallists, once again in seriously tough conditions. This week might be a bit damp at Pau, but the sandy going means that no matter what, there’ll be great ground to run on — not that Zoe needs it, evidently. Look for them to start the week in the high-20s — though they did move into the 30s at the Europeans — and impress across the country on their level debut. Showjumping will likely see them tip a pole, but this should be a great debut and another strong effort in the books ahead of a bid for a spot at Paris next year.

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!”

Arthur Marx and Church’Ile. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Arthur Marx and Church’ile

Eleven-year-old Selle Français gelding (Grafenstolz – Ile d’Ohe, by Apache d’Adriers). Owned by Philippe Marx. Bred by Phillippe Marx.

It’ll be a third five-star for both Church’ile and 30-year-old Arthur, who’ll have lots of trot up photos taken of him this week for EN’s social media, if you pick up what we’re putting down. They completed their debut at Pau last year in 23rd place despite an educational 20 penalties across the country, and this spring, they headed to Badminton, though had a rider fall in those extraordinarily tough conditions. That 20 here last year was actually their first whoopsy in an international since 2019, but it kicked off a bit of a string of them, with the Badminton fall followed up by a 20 and a missed flag at Aachen. Now, though, they’re back on better form, with a clear inside the time at Arville’s CCIO4*-S in August.  They won’t lead the first phase, with their typical mid-to-high 30s dressage, but if the third time can be the charm where the clear is concerned at five-star, they’re generally achingly good at staying on that come cross-country day: in 22 FEI runs, they’ve made the time thirteen times. Allez, allez! Showjumping can be a bit of a bugbear for them, though, and their two rails down at Pau was a good day in the office for them — we’ve seen them take as many as six before, although they’re usually averaging more like three.

Church’ile is actually a Marx family homebred: Philippe, Arthur’s father, rode both his dam and grand-dam. He’s also one of a number of Grafenstolz offspring in this field, which makes him a half brother to the likes of Ros Canter’s Lordships Graffalo, among others. Not a shabby family reunion, this.

GREAT BRITAIN

Helen Bates and Carpe Diem

13 year old Hanoverian gelding (Contendro – Elfi by Escudo I) Owned by Christine and Helen Bates. Groomed by Lydia Swan.

Helen Bates will be living her dream this weekend at Pau when she and Carpe Diem make their 5* debut. “It means the world to even be here, we’ve been dreaming about it for so long,” she said in the days before the event, referring to Carpe Diem – ‘Diego’ – as her “horse of a lifetime.” Helen and Diego are accompanied on their French adventure by Holly Woodhead’s former groom, Lydia Swan, who has taken a holiday from her ‘normal’ non-horsey job to make the trip. Helen has had Diego since he was a 4 year old, though they had a less than rosy start to their relationship. He tried to dump her not once, but twice, when she first sat on him, but she still found something she liked and bought him anyway — a decision that’s paid dividends since.

They soon put their differences aside, as a scroll through their results demonstrates. He has finished in the top 25 in all but 2 of his starts this season, pulling off a double jumping clear every time. Last season, he had just one rail down – hist first since 2017 – and made the step up to CCI4*-L in fine style, finishing in the top 20 at Millstreet off the back of yet another double clear. His step up to CCI3*-L was even more impressive back in 2021 when he finished 2nd in Lignières with a double clear. So the jumping phases this weekend should be a piece of cake to Diego, though the dressage may be a different story– “he loves the jumping phases, but he finds flying changes tricky,” Lydia admits.

Still, his recent marks have shown an improvement from last season, and are now averaging at the lower end of the 30s. Indeed, he even broke that much coveted barrier into the 20s on his last outing at Oasby — though that was at Intermediate, where there aren’t any changes required — proving that he’s got a lot the right stuff for the first phase. That combined with his usual prowess in the jumping phases should mean that not only will Helen be realising her dream of starting at a 5*, but also finishing it, and in fine style too. We love a fairy-tale ending, so here’s hoping that Helen and Diego get theirs this week!

Alex Bragg and Ardeo Premier. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Alex Bragg and Ardeo Premier

Ten year old Irish Sports Horse gelding (Hold Up Premier – Playgirl by Cruising) Owned by Debbie and Neil Nuttall. Groomed by Sarah Whatley.

Alex has had the ride on Ardeo Premier – or Eddie, as he’s known at home – since he was a fresh faced four-year-old. However, their competition career didn’t get off to the best start – Alex fell off between fence 3 and 4 in his first event as a five-year-old, after a child jumped out of tree next to the track. Still, they soon put this early blip behind them and have a roster of solid results together, right the way through the levels. As Alex says, “he’s an unassuming character, who doesn’t really stand out, but he has always quietly ticked along and kept performing, pulling in some consistent result.” This includes a top 10 placing in his first CCI2*-L, 4th in the Seven-Year-Old World Championships in Lion d’Angers with a double clear inside the time, and a top 20 placing in the 8/9 year old CCI4*-S at Blenheim.

He stepped up to CCI4*L  last year in similar style, pulling off yet another top 20 result at Millstreet with another double clear. Consistent is Eddie’s middle name, it would seem, and he’s fast too, rarely picking up more than a few time faults — and his show jumping record is equally impressive. Rarely does he have more than one down, something which will certainly stand him in good stead on the final day at Pau. This will be the first 5* for Eddie, but given his previous form, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem for this impressive young horse. Still only 10, he was named as direct reserve for the Nations Cup team in Jardy last year and came home in 12th place.

Owned by long term supporters of Team Bragg, Debbie and Neil Nuttall, he is as fond of a nap as he is of cross country: “He can often be found snoozing after his lunchtime feed, head buried in the banks of his bed, fast asleep,” Alex says. Hopefully dreaming of his future successes! He won’t be at the top of the leader board after dressage – his scores tend to average mid to high 30s, though they are ever improving and indeed, he has broken the 20 barrier on the odd occasion, too. Given his speedy turn of foot and propensity for a double clear, we could see him climb the leaderboard after the jumping phases to add yet another solid result to his record. Perhaps this unassuming chap could be the next big thing — Eddie just doesn’t know it yet. 

Phil Brown and Harry Robinson. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Phil Brown and Harry Robinson

Fifteen-year-old British Sport Horse gelding (Laytender x Jodie, by Ontario). Bred by W.E. Robinson. Owned by Orbit Electrical Services Ltd.

This is a reroute from a sophomore Burghley for Phil and Harry, who have recently relocated home to Yorkshire after spending years based so close to Burghley that Phil could see the house from his arena. Talk about motivation on those tough days! They made their debut there last year, delivering a steady clear for 27th place and enjoying the week perhaps more than anyone else, but this year, they retired after picking up 40 penalties on course — perhaps a knock-on effect from a tough final prep run at Hartpury CCI4*-S, where they picked up 20 penalties. Now, they’ll both make their Pau debut instead, which is about as different a track to Burghley as you could possibly find.

Phil very nearly made his five-star debut years prior to 2022 with another horse, but an injury put paid to those plans. He’d never have guessed that his biggest career moves would have come with the splashy-faced and charmingly-named Harry Robinson, a horse who was sold earlier in his career but ultimately found his way back to Phil because he wasn’t very easy to get on with. In hindsight, it looks a bit like fate that the pair found each other again, and lovely Phil’s army of supporters are certainly backing that bit of kismet all the way to the finish line. He now rides Harry for family friends Nigel and Susie Bushby, and you’ll no doubt hear their voices among the cheers of the enthusiastic French crowd.

They won’t be fighting for the win here – they’ll start in the high-30s, though delivered a high-40s score in their final FEI run at Hartpury CCI4*-S this month and a 41.1 at Burghley. But a steady clear run is totally within their wheelhouse, and Phil, who’s an admirably horse-first rider, will only be worrying about cutting down on the clock if he feels his ‘not very blood’ horse is capable of doing so comfortably.

Ros Canter and Izilot DHI. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ros Canter and Izilot DHI

Ten-year-old KWPN gelding (Zavall VDL x Un, by Cavalier). Owned by Alex Moody and the rider.

Talented Isaac, who makes his five-star debut this week, is an odd soul — he’s incredibly spooky, and so Badminton winner Ros has taken a horse-first, analytical approach to keeping him happy and on-side.

“It’s certainly not about drilling him with hours and hours of work,” she told us at Blenheim last month, where Isaac won the CCI4*-L. “It’s just gradually getting him in the right place. Some days I just get off him and he goes back in the field, and when he comes back in we do another 15 minutes. He came in on Tuesday, and the weather was bad and it was much colder, and his eye was much sharper. When we were tacking up, he was on edge. When I rode him, he was on edge. And so I decided I’d come here on Wednesday via cross-country schooling, because out in a field, he tends to be more settled and I can just give him a pop and play with him. You maybe wouldn’t do that with most horses on the day the competition starts, but it wasn’t a cross-country school to train him, it was a cross-country school just to let him relax, to jump, to settle his mind so he stops spooking at silly things. So it’s just all about understanding him, and everybody on the floor, as well, has quite a job to do with him. If he’s in a bit of a sharp, feral mood, there’s no point getting frustrated. You’ve just got to give him all the time in the world. And if it takes two hours, it takes two hours. It can’t be, ‘we’ve only got 20 minutes, so that’s all we’ve got’ with him.”

That win came after she made an effort to school him near the spooky zebra wings in the warm-up — but Isaac being Isaac, he still pretended he’d never seen them in his life when he spotted them in the showjumping arena, but Ros ably rode him through his lookiness. It was a big step forward for the horse, who’d led Bramham’s CCI4*-L after the dressage earlier in the summer, but then had a run-out just three fences into the course when he took offence to a jump that looked like a colourful line of ice-cream cones. Ros reckons those moments will still come —  “this time of year is much easier for me, once he’s run a bit, the sun’s been on his back, and he’s been out in the field all the time — things like that. I think the spring will be difficult again next year, when he could easily go out to his first Open Intermediate and run out of something because there’s a wooden duck or something in the wrong place. That’s Isaac for you, and I’m not sure that’s going to change anytime soon. But I’m starting to get the hang of how to build him up for a big one where I really need his brain in the right place. I don’t think that’s something that I can have every week of his life.”

Pau is a pretty looky, spooky, atmospheric track, which might not seem, at first glance, like it would suit a horse like Isaac — but we reckon that’s exactly why Ros has chosen it. She knows he’s at his most rideable later in the year; she knows, too, that his confidence will have been boosted by Blenheim. Now, she’ll want to give him more exposure to scenes outside his comfort zone, as she did at spooky Boekelo in late 2022, where he ultimately finished sixth. This tactic is so interesting to watch unfold, and the time and diligence she’s put into unpacking this oddball horse is well worth it, because on his day, he’s one of the great talents in the sport right now: he’s already got eight wins out of fourteen FEI starts, he’s a low-20s scorer that has gone as low as 18 at four-star, and he’s only ever had one rail in an FEI event, and that was his very first international. He should lead the dressage, and he could well win this whole thing — he just needs to not bat an eyelid at ten million screaming French people, the occasional water rat sighting, or the random brightly-coloured fences that can pop up here and there on the Pau course. Simples.

Ros Canter and Pencos Crown Jewel. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ros Canter and Pencos Crown Jewel

Fourteen-year-old British-bred mare (Jumbo x Cornish Queen, by Rock King). Bred by Pennie Wallace. Owned by Kate James and Annie Makin. 

Another exciting horse from Ros Canter’s yard, Pencos Crown Jewel – better known as “Jasmine” – is actually a half-sister to Ros’ other mount, Lordship’s Graffalo. The two horses share a dam, Cornish Queen, who is a daughter of CCI5* mare Cornish Faer. Top-level talent certainly runs in this family of horses.

This year’s Badminton will be Jasmine’s third start at the 5* level, and her first go at this venue. She finished fifth at Bicton in 2021 in her first start at the level, and eleventh at Burghley last fall after an uncharacteristic three rails dropped her down the leaderboard in the last phase. They were ninth at Badminton this year in tough conditions — and with two down on Sunday — but reroute here after a shock elimination late on course at Burghley, where Ros got popped out of the tack at the Dairy Mound while running on a 26.9 dressage score. If they can begin their week on that kind of score again, they’ll put themselves in a very, very good position for the mare’s first Pau, which is much more technical course than some of the bold, galloping ones she’s excelled over.

Heading into the second phase, we know that Jasmine is a tenacious mare with an efficient gallop – just the type to potentially make a big move up the leaderboard after cross country. She did just that at Bramham last year, which pushed her up to an eventual second place finish in the world’s toughest CCI4*-L. This is a very, very good horse who often remains in the shadows of her big-winning stablemates, but it’s easy to imagine her lining up for her own major victory before too long.

Kirsty Chabert and Classic VI. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kirsty Chabert and Classic VI

Fourteen-year-old Anglo European Sport Horse mare (Calvaro F.C – Indian Summer). Bred by Peter Charles/Pembers Hill. Owned by Carole Somers, John Johnston, and Kate Ward. Groomed by Sarah Jane Tetlow.

Last season didn’t get off to a particularly good start for these two; their Badminton debut ended agonizingly close to the cross country finish, with an elimination after accumulative run outs at the double of corners, three quarters of the way round. This was frustratingly reminiscent of Aachen 2021, where they led after dressage only to drop out of the placings after a late run out.

Determined as ever, Kirsty sought help from Dickie Waygood and Christopher Bartle, spending an intensive three days cross country schooling with the latter at his base in North Yorkshire. It paid off: the pair notched up a win in the CCI-4*S at Millstreet just a month later. They then headed to Luhmühlen 5* just a few weeks later, notching up an impressive second place and earning them a spot on the World Championships long list for Great Britain.

Kirsty, who hails from strong equestrian stock – her father rode around Badminton and her mother competed in Grand Prix dressage – has made no secret of the fact that “Betty” is one quirky mare. Bred by Peter Charles, she rarely does any work with her in the arena. Instead, she spends her time hacking around the New Forest, with as little pressure as possible, in order to keep her happy and sane.

They started off their 2023 season with similarly good form, finishing 4th in the CCI4*-S at Thoresby in March, before heading to Kentucky, no doubt hoping for a repeat performance of their 5* run at Luhmühlen last season. Alas, this wasn’t the case, and after a promising start, they picked up 20 jumping penalties on cross country day. They still finished in a credible position – 21st place – largely thanks to a clear on the final day, as is typical of Betty. They soon put their disappointment of Kentucky behind them too, coming  2nd in the CCI4*-S at Millstreet, before winning the CCI4*-S at Lisgarven, finishing on their dressage score of 26.

As that result demonstrates, Kirsty has worked hard to bring that first phase score down even further this season, and this, combined with Betty’s usual attacking form in the jumping phases means that there is no reason why they can’t end their season back on top form. Admittedly, they did pick up 15 penalties in their last run before their trip to France – in the CCI4*-L at Blenheim last month – but as they have shown in the past, they are more than capable of putting such hiccups firmly behind them, so there is no reason why we shouldn’t see them pull off a similarly impressive result to Luhmühlen last year, finishing their season in the same fine style with which it began.

Kirsty Chabert and Opposition Heraldik Girl. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kirsty Chabert and Opposition Heraldik Girl

Ten year old mare (Fleetwater Opposition – Heraldik Girl W by Heraldik XX) Owned by Caroline Caines, John Johnston and Kate Montserrate. Groomed by Sarah Jane Tetlow.

The second of Kirsty’s rides here in Pau, Opposition Heraldik Girl, or ‘Rocket’’  has yet to tackle a 5* – unlike her stablemate and travel buddy – Classic IV. At just ten years old, she will be one of the youngest horses in the field this week, too, but she has already notched up several impressive results, so it’s no surprise that Kirsty thinks she is ready to make the step up. Carefully produced by Kirsty throughout the levels, it’s hard to believe that Rocket is just 15.2hh, having jumped clear around several huge, tough tracks thus far, including Blair Castle in 2021, where she was 7th in the CCI2*-L.

She has excelled in the jumping phases since her early days in the sport, jumping double clear throughout her first season, and to this day, it is rare that she has more than one down on the final day, so Kirsty will no doubt be hoping that this is a trend that continues in her 5* career, too. Her cross country record is not impeccable, but any faults are still few and far between, and such is Kirsty’s talent that she is usually able to smooth out any problems quickly, before asking Rocket to move up another level.

The tiny Fleetwater Opposition mare made the step up to 4* just last year, but did so in fine style, with 7th in the CCI4*-S at Mallow. Unusually for her, though, the wheels came off shortly afterwards and her following two runs at Ballendensik and Boekelo were not as successful, with an elimination at the former and a further 20 penalties at the latter. Still, as is typical of Kirsty with all her horses, she has spent the off season righting any wrongs, and this season has been a different story altogether: they have finished in the top 20 in all of their starts thus far. This includes Bramham in the CCI4*-S, and again at Mallow in the CCI4*-L, where they finished 5th.

Their dressage score has shown remarkable improvement too, even since the start of the season, when it had been hovering around the high 30s. Now though, it tends more and more to the lower end of the 30’s, and Kirsty will be hoping to maintain that this weekend. If Rocket can propel herself around the jumping phases in her usual style (and leave the blips of last season firmly in the past), then this weekend in France could see Kirsty add another strong 5* campaigner to her team – another string to the bow of one of the sport’s most hardworking and talented individuals, and one who is certainly deserving of a very good run on both of her horses this week in Pau.

Pippa Funnell and Billy Walk On. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Pippa Funnell and Billy Walk On

Fourteen-year-old AES gelding. Owned by Barbara and Nicholas Walkinshaw. Groomed by Emily Gibson and Lily Wilson.

Pippa Funnell MBE – multiple Olympic, European and World medalist, first (and only in the long format) winner of the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, Wesko Equestrian Foundation mentor, patron for World Horse Welfare, children’s author, and video game star – comes to Pau double-handed. The first of her rides, leggy and elegant Billy Walk On, is a product of Pippa and her husband’s Billy Stud. He’s got a bit of a mixed bag of CCI5* results behind him as he comes forward for his seventh top-level start, with three Badminton non-completions on his record. But don’t let that fool you – he came eighth at Burghley last season, where he added just cross country time to his excellent first phase score of 26.2, and he was runner-up at the pop-up 5* at Bicton in 2021, adding just 4.3 time penalties on the Saturday to his very impressive 23.9 dressage. In 40 FEI starts, the pair have had 24 top-10 results; for the first two seasons of his international career he never finished outside the top ten, including coming second in the 2016 Seven-Year-Old World Championships. 

This is for sure a horse who shines between the white boards, with 5* scores in the mid-20s and nary a hoof in the 30s since stepping up to 3* in 2018; he could well be in the mix as he sets out on cross country. Barring Badmintons, across his career the gelding has only had cross country jumping penalties on five occasions; in his last 14 FEI starts, there are only Badminton faults on his record, except a 20 at Blenheim a last month, which he followed up with a second place in the 4*-S at Little Downham a fortnight later, where he added just four cross country time penalties and a show jump to his first phase score of 26.7. That pole on the final day was the first time he’d added penalties in the show jumping ring since 2021; he’s very much more often clear than not. It’s the cross country time which has been most inconsistent for the horse, but his run at Bicton proved that he can keep the 5* time faults to a minimum on his day. 

This will be Billy Walk On’s first trip to France since his superb result in the Young Horse Championships at Le Lion d’Angers. Pippa credits the horse with having a very good memory when she reflects on his aversion to the water at Badminton – will that memory stand him in good stead as he takes on France’s 5*? Only time will tell!

Pippa Funnell and MCS Maverick. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Pippa Funnell and MCS Maverick (GBR)

Ten-year-old British Sport Horse gelding. Owned by Sarah Ross. Groomed by Emily Gibson and Lily Wilson.

From experienced CCI5* mount Billy Walk On, to top-level first-timer MCS Maverick, Pippa’s second ride at Pau is a relatively new partnership for her, having been produced through the levels by British eventer and Billy Stud stable jockey Helen Wilson with Pippa taking over the reins at the beginning of this season. They showed their mettle at 4*-L when they won at Bramham in June – a class Pippa’s won four times across four decades – adding just 1.2 cross country time to their dressage score of 29.3, and followed up that success in their latest run in the 4*-S at Little Downham, where they finished fourth on a three-phase score of 39.7.

We’re likely looking at a dressage score in the low- to mid-30s for the gelding’s first time at 5*, but he hasn’t had a a cross country jumping penalty with Pippa, and has rolled just a single pole on the final day in their five FEI outings together this season. They’re yet to make the time on cross country day, but they showed they can get mighty close in the long-format at Bramham and have kept the penalties to single figures in their last two runs at 4*-S. 

This is for sure an interesting one to watch as ‘Eric’ tackles his first 5*. Pippa describes the gelding as “very, very hot” and spends a considerable amount of time settling him at events. Will he be a hot prospect at Pau (in the best possible way)? We can’t wait to find out!

Bella Innes Ker and Highway

Eleven-year-old KWPN gelding (Baltic VDL x Voltara x Voltaire Pref) Owned by Milly Soames, Benjamin Chan and Roxburghe Eventing. Groomed by Izzy McKeeman

Pau will mark a 5* debut for both horse and rider, although it seems hard to believe that Bella has yet to tick that box, such has been her consistency within the sport. At just 29, she has already achieved an incredible amount, including becoming the youngest ever winner of Blenheim CCI4*-L in 2018 with Carolyn, the fantastic little mare with whom she also achieved many Junior and Young Rider successes, too, including European team gold in 2012 as a Junior, and 2015 as a Young Rider.

Originally from deepest, darkest Scotland – ‘home’ is the beautiful Floors Castle in the Scottish Borders – Bella relocated to William Fox-Pitt’s yard in Dorset in 2018 to hone her skills, before setting up on her own in 2022. Since then, she has collected an enviable string of horses, including her partner in France, eleven-year-old Highway. Bella has ridden him from the very beginning of his eventing career, and together they have built up a solid record across all the levels, including several decent 4* completions and a Nations Cup team appearance. This came at the end of last season at Boekelo, and although they picked up a green 20 on the cross country, they seem to have come out all the better for it this season. Although Bella has only had him out four times this year– no thanks to the spate of cancellations that marred the beginning of the British Eventing season – he has jumped clear cross country on each occasion, and added a top 20 finish in the CCI4*-S at Little Downham last month in his final run before the big one at Pau.

Indeed, Highway’s record shows more clear cross country rounds than anything else, proving he has the courage to tackle a 5*, and Bella’s own experience – which extends much further than most riders her age – means that together they are more than ready to make the step up to the top level. They may not hit the big time on their first attempt – Highway is unfortunately prone to tapping a pole or two in the final phase – but Pau should see them pull off a solid result and set them up well for big things next season. A pair worth watching, even just to admire the strength of their partnership and their unwavering belief in one another.

Tom Jackson and Farndon. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tom Jackson and Farndon

Thirteen-year-old KWPN gelding (Hemmingway x Silvanda, by Marlon). Owned by Anne and Lain Slater. Bred by S and N Burton.

Farndon made his five-star debut at Luhmühlen this year, after two solid seasons at the Advanced and 4* level under his belt that included top ten finishes at Bicton CCI4*-S this year, and Burgham CCI4*-S last year. Previously campaigned by Marcus Roberts and Francis Whittington, Tom first took the reins and began competing this son of Hemmingway in 2021, stepping right into competition at the 4* level. Tom has been notably pleased with the gelding’s work on the flat as he’s come on this season; the pair has begun to achieve mid- or high-20s marks more consistently, compared to scoring more steadily in the low- or mid-30s in previous seasons, and though they did still earn a 34.9 at Luhmühlen, they added nothing to it through the weekend and finished sixth. Since then, we’ve seen him win his Pau prep at Little Downham CCI4*-S — his first international victory, and one in which he added just 1.6 time penalties to his very good first-phase score of 25.4. Little Downham’s course is intentionally set to act as a prep for twisty, technical Pau, and Tom, who’s been in the spotlight lately for his string of excellent five-star results with Capels Hollow Drift, is an exceptionally talented, gritty competitor. We should see this pair fighting for another placing this week – and if they can pull a mid-20s score out of the bag? Well, they could be a not-so-dark horse contender to walk away with the whole thing.

Piggy March and Coolparks Sarco. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Piggy March and Coolparks Sarco

Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Shannondale Sarco St Ghyvan x Coolpark Lady Diamond, by Coolcorron Cool Diamond). Bred by Michael Burke. Owned by Jo and James Lambert. 

The former Nicola Wilson ride Coolparks Sarco, or Jeremy, makes his five-star debut this week with Nicola’s great friend, Badminton and Burghley winner Piggy, who took the reins after Nicola’s fall at Badminton last year. Their first major competition together was Bramham CCI4*-L, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when they threw down an excellent 23.3 in the first phase. They did end up picking up a 20 on cross-country, which was symptomatic more of a new partnership and relative inexperience on the horse’s part than anything more sinister, and since then, they’ve really learned about one another. Their next FEI event was the CCI4*-L at Millstreet a year later; they won that handily, and then won their next outing, the CCI4*-S at Burgham. They ran a steady clear around Hartpury’s CCI4*-S in August, then were much faster to finish third in the Little Downham CCI4*-S a few weeks ago, which traditionally serves as a Pau feeder. Now, they’ll be an exciting combination to watch as they make the next step in the talented gelding’s career, in which we should see them put a respectable mid-to-high 20s score on the board, a swift, confident round across the country — notwithstanding any of the green mistakes that can pop up in a move-up run — and then, they look pretty likely to jump clear on Sunday. There’s plenty of question marks to keep in mind when a horse tackles its first five-star, but on paper, it’s not hard to see these two being contenders for a top ten finish.

Tom McEwen and JL Dublin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tom McEwen and JL Dublin

Twelve-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Diarado x Zarinna, by Cantano). Bred by Volker Göttsche-Götze. Owned by Mr. and Mrs. J. Lambert and Mrs. D. Johnston. Groomed by Adam Short.

If you had to put your money somewhere safe this week, we’d say you’d be wisest to go with this pair, who come forward for their second five-star start as a partnership after finishing second at Kentucky this spring.

This is the gelding’s third 5* start – his first was at Badminton last year with the wonderful Nicola Wilson, which sadly ended in disaster after Dubs had an uncharacteristic fall, leaving Nicola with life-changing injuries and ultimately resulting in her retirement from the sport. Together, Nicola and “Dubs” had amassed an incredible roster of results, not least of which a fifth place in the Seven-Year-Old World Championships in Le Lion D’Angers in 2018, a win in the notoriously tough Bicton CCI4*-L in 2021 (on only his second start at the level), a victory at Hartpury’s CCI4*-S, and most impressively of all, becoming European Champion later that same year in Avenches – as a ten year old.

Now, in the interest of being totally fair in our analysis, we do have to talk about the topsy turvy season that Tom, who won here in 2019, is having as a rider. This is all part of the sport — who can forget, after all, Tim Price’s 2016 — but this year has definitely been a downer for Tom, who heads straight off to his stag do after Pau finishes, and so will be supported on site this week by a raucous group of his bachelor party buddies, lord help us all. Yes, Tom’s year began spectacularly with that Kentucky result; yes, it’ll end spectacularly with, like, probably a keg stand and a face tattoo, but what of the in-between bits? After a very good top-five finish at Badminton with Toledo de Kerser, there was an Aachen trip with JL Dublin in which he was vying for the lead by the time he left the start box, but picked up a shock 20 penalties late in the course — something that happens to many Aachen leaders, actually, but an enormous surprise with this hugely reliable horse, nonetheless. They rallied from that and were still chosen for the European Championships, though as individuals, not as team members, and then came to grief there with a rider fall at the influential final water, which is also where Michi Jung and fischerChipmunk ended their day. They’ve since had a good, regrouping round in the CCI4*-S at Little Downham, and now they’ll return with renewed vigour, especially because Tom himself had such a rubbish time at Burghley that he’ll be hot in pursuit of redemption and a happy final chapter for the year.

Their dressage scores tend towards the bottom end of the 20s, their showjumping record is nearly pristine, and we know that they’re exceptional across the country, even if this year has been a downer. Don’t take your eyes off them this week.

(Fun fact: The JL prefix to his name stands for the first initials of his owners’ – Jo and Jamie Lambert and Deirdre Johnston – surnames. You learn something new every day.)

Harry Meade and Red Kite. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Harry Meade and Red Kite

Twelve-year-old Westphalian gelding. Owned by Giles Fallan, Kate Fallan, Harry Meade and Alexandra Robinson. Groomed by Jessica Errington and Molly Parkin.

Harry comes to Pau with CCI5* first-timer Red Kite after the lovely chestnut gelding didn’t make the cut when Harry had to choose just three to start from his four Burghley entries. The horse, and Harry, proved they’re game for any going when they took second in the 4*-S at a particularly wet edition of Thoresby Park in the spring, but Harry’s a believer in taking his event horses hunting and point-to-pointing as part of their education, so they get a feel for different conditions and ground. There were only two rounds quicker than Red Kite’s at Thoresby on the day, where they added just 11.2 cross country time penalties to their solid sub-30 dressage score of 27.3. 

In the first phase, Red Kite is proving to be a high-20s to low-30s kind of guy; as Harry says, “He’s got loads of ability, but he’s quite spunky – if he was a pupil in a class, you’d say that if he stopped mucking about, he could be a scholar! He’s got lots of capability.” Will he see the dressage ring at Pau as a place to show off or knuckle down? Only time will tell! 

Although Harry acknowledges that the gelding isn’t naturally predisposed to cross country, Harry’s traditional style of producing horses has stood Red Kite in good stead as he’s progressed through the FEI levels. In his 19 runs, he’s completed on all but two occasions, and, apart from those two falls (one horse, one rider), he’s had cross country jumping penalties only once, back in 2018, and a frangible pin in the 4*-L at Millstreet in 2021. He does tend to add time, although he was double clear ‘round the tough Bramham track in the 4*-L in June. Show jumping is the most patchy of the three phases for Red Kite – he can certainly jump clear over the colored poles, as he’s proven twice this season, but in his other 2023 run he rolled two; his final run of the season last year saw him have four down. There’s no denying that this is an exciting prospect in Harry’s string, but it’s a case of waiting for everything to fall into sync. We’ve seen it come together twice this season, will he show up for his first 5* as the scholar Harry knows he can be? 

Selina Milnes and Gelmer. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Selina Milnes and Gelmer

Twelve-year-old KWPN gelding (Carosso VDL – Rhytm by Ahorn). Owned by Mr and Mrs William Rucker. Groomed by Sarah Towler.

Based in North Somerset, Selina Milnes is no stranger to 5*, and she already has some excellent form here in Pau; she was 8th in 2021 with Iron IV, the horse she has had many of her recent top results on. This’ll be the first run at the level for Gelmer – Tommy to his friends — and despite his relative inexperience, his previous results are impressive enough, so there’s no reason why Selina shouldn’t have another successful run here this week.

Ridden by Selina throughout his entire eventing career, Tommy certainly excels in the jumping phase: he has yet to have any cross country jumping faults at internationals, and he rarely has more than two poles on the final day either. Selina, who trains with Ian Woodhead and Dickie Waygood, has been chipping away at his dressage too, and if recent scores are anything to go by, we can expect to see a mark in the mid to low 30s heading into cross country.

Tommy finished 8th in his first CCI4*-S at Millstreet with a double clear and showed similar form at Blenheim last year in his first run at CCI4*-L, rolling a couple of poles on the final day to finish comfortably within the top 25. Such understated excellence is typical of this horse, he just keeps on pulling it out of the bag at every level, and this season has been no different. He finished in the top 25 at Hartpury in August with another double clear and added a 10th place in the OI at Oasby last month, his last run before Pau. Such consistency is necessary in a top-level campaigner, so this could well be the start of a very successful 5* career, and although he and Selina seem to have flown under the radar a little thus far, his knack for jumping clear around most of the tracks he is presented with may well see their name up in lights very soon. As is the case with many of this week’s 5* first timers, his dressage may see them a little off the pace but it will all still be to play for ahead of the cross country, so a skip up the leader board — despite his inexperience — wouldn’t be all that surprising.

Wills Oakden and A Class Cooley. Photo by Athalens.

Wills Oakden and A Class Cooley

Eleven year old Irish Sports Horse gelding, (Heritage Fortunus x New Years Clover). Owned by Bridget Mazdon and Frances Hay Smith. Groomed by Sarah Murray.

Wills Oakden has had quite a spectacular year; he finished in the top 20 at Badminton with Oughterard Cooley and went on to finish with two in the top 10 at Burghley in September. Add to that a win in the CCI4*-L at Blair with A Class Cooley, the horse he brings forward this weekend, and it’s safe to say that his form has never been better.  The latest FEI World Rankings prove just that – he sits in 8th place, behind several legends of the sport, including Ros Canter, Oliver Townend, Boyd Martin and Tim Price. Such success is long overdue for this incredibly talented rider, who cut his teeth at the legendary Ian Stark’s yard, before setting up on his own in Perthshire, where he has remained ever since. His quiet horsemanship has seen him impress on various occasions over his eventing career; he won team gold as a Young Rider, before riding as an individual on the Senior team at Blair in 2015. Since then, he has had numerous Nations Cup appearances and is slowly but surely building an incredible team of horses.

Pau marks the first run at 5* for ‘Felix,’ and as is typical of Wills’ thoughtful and considered approach to the development of all of his horses, he’s not necessarily coming here to be competitive. Rather, he’s setting out on a fact-finding mission ahead of next year, so the main aim of this weekend is to pull off a solid first run at the level, before hopefully heading to Badminton in the spring. Recent form shows that Felix is more than ready to make this step up: along with his win at Blair, he also took second in the CCI4*-L at Ballindenisk – only his second run in a 4*L. His has an incredible cross country jumping record – other than 20 penalties in his first  CCI4*-L at Blenheim last year, you would have to go back to 2020 to find his last cross country jumping penalties.

His show jumping is only slightly less reliable – he never has more than two poles, if that, but he will want to keep those to a minimum this week, as rails fall easily here and are expensive, too. Though Wills won’t be setting out to break any records this weekend, his prowess as a cross country rider coupled with Felix’s natural ability will no doubt see them finish well, and hopefully set them up well for the challenges of next year. Not to mention adding yet another 5* horse to Wills’ ever increasing string!

Kate Rocher-Smith and HHS Dassett Class. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kate Rocher-Smith and HHS Dassett Class

Eleven-year-old Irish Sports Horse gelding (Can Ya Makan x HHS Riverdance). Owned by Lesley Rocher and Dassett Eventing. Groomed by Sue Tomlinson. 

Kate Rocher-Smith and her team at Dassett Eventing have sourced and produced some of the best horses in the sport – both past and present. However, Kate has also enjoyed various successes herself, and was long listed for the Junior teams,  before setting up Dassett Eventing in 2005. Remarkably though, Pau will mark her first start at 5*. HHS Dassett Class will be making his debut, too, so Kate and her team will no doubt be thrilled to even be at Pau in the first instance, before they even make their long awaited start.

HHS Dassett Class – or “Matt” as he is charmingly referred to at home =- came to Kate’s yard from Ireland, having been bred and produced as a show jumper by Marion Hughes. He’s got quite exceptional jumping breeding; his sire, Can Ya Makan, won the Hickstead Derby with Shane Breen last year. Matt was originally intended for the same career, but made the change to eventing as a fresh faced six-year-old and has never looked back, moving up to CCI2* in his second season with Kate, and taking a top 20 spot in the British Young Horse Championships at Osberton that same year. He would go on to finish in the top 30 in the 8/9 year CCI4*S at Blenheim two years later in 2021, shortly after making his 4* debut at Blair where he pulled off a top twenty finish. Quite a mean feat for his first run at the level, and over a challenging course at that. Still, Matt enjoys an atmosphere – the more the better – and Kate describes him as a confident jumper, perhaps a throwback to his youth as a showjumper.

He made a successful return to Blair last year, bettering his previous result to finish 15th,  and repeated that result again this year, proving his consistency and aptitude for the sport. Usually a “relaxed dude,” Matt is not altogether without flaw, and has been known to deposit Kate at various events when out for a hack – hopefully he won’t leave her lost in France this weekend and will earn himself a banana or two (his favourite treat).

Kate, who trains with Robert Snaddon and Lisa White, credits the whole team at Dassett Eventing with getting Matt to this level, and while it is Sue Tomlinson who accompanies her this week in France, Hayley Wright has also played an integral part in his fitness prior to the event. With a dressage averaging mid to low 30’s and having shown excellent form over some of the toughest tracks in the sport to this point, there is no reason why all of the hard work at Team Dassett – not least that of Kate herself – shouldn’t be rewarded this weekend, giving Kate a 5* debut to remember for all of the right reasons, and earning Matt his beloved bananas.

Kylie Roddy and SRS Kan Do. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kylie Roddy and SRS Kan Do

Thirteene-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (VDL Arkansas x La Vie En Rose, by Touchdown). Bred by Michael Dooner. Owned by the Fox Family. 

One of Kylie’s first jobs as a teenager was making tea and coffee for clients in her mom’s hair salon, but it was manes and tails rather than bobs and mullets that Kylie dreamed of. She began working with horses when she left school aged 16, shortly afterwards making the move to work with Olympic gold medalist, Britain’s Leslie Law. Whilst working for Leslie she produced her first horse to 3*, which she made the difficult decision to sell in order to continue with her eventing dream. Kyrenejenellas Boy went on to compete at Badminton and the Athens Olympics with Czech Republic rider Jaroslav Hatla.

It’s great to see SRS Kan Do, or George, back at this level: he was sixth at Luhmühlen last year, and then, after one further run, was out until August of this year. That Luhmühlen run was a reroute from Badminton, where they’d looked excellent across the country (and had started the week on a 29.4), but lost shoes on course, which meant that Kylie put her hand up when she felt the horse couldn’t quite get the purchase he needed on the ground.

She describes George, with whom she finished 20th at Blenheim CCI4*-L in 2021, as the most talented jumper she’s ever ridden, and that confidence was proven well-founded when they headed to Pau that October for their five-star debut. They ultimately finished eleventh there in good company, adding just 5.6 time penalties across the country and 1.6 on the final phase to their impressive 29.1. Their scores have been trending upwards a bit recently, with tests more consistently in the low-to-mid-30s, but they should be well capable of a great result this week — they’re quick, consistent, and a one-or-none pair on the final day, and they suit this technical course well.

Starch your collar and make sure your silverware is polished, because this horse is owned by Michael C. Fox, an actor best known for his portrayal of footman Andy in the Downton Abbey series and films, and his family. George was actually Michael’s own competition horse originally, and the pair competed to BE100 together before Michael’s burgeoning career meant that he had far less time to ride, and his insurance prevented him from partaking in risky sports. So he handed the reins to local pro Kylie, who had been successful as a Young Rider, competing at two European Championships, and has since built up a business producing event horses and retraining racehorses.

Izzy Taylor and Happy Days. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Izzy Taylor and Happy Days

Eleven-year-old British-bred gelding (Cevin Z x Vale Brook, by Tudorville). Bred by Emma Humphrey. Owned by Alex Colquhoun, Lavinia Taylor, and Caroline Wilson.

Izzy comes to Pau fresh off the back of a big win with another smart grey: her youngster, Barrington Alice, won last week’s Six-Year-Old World Championship at Le Lion d’Angers. Her ride this week, Happy Days, made his CCI5* debut at Pau last season, finishing 21st after a reasonably slow clear across the country and a three-rail final round. Since then, we’ve seen him out at a very wet Thoresby — where Izzy withdrew her whole string after dressage — and a rather dryer Burnham Market, where he finally got a run in and finished fourth in the 4*-S, his best four-star result yet, before heading to a pretty grotty Badminton, where they began their week on a 29.6, but then suffered a technical elimination on cross country for jumping two B elements at the KBIS Brush Boxes.

Now, after a frustrating 20 at his Bramham reroute and a smart clear at his CCI4*-S prep at Little Downham, Happy Days returns for a crack at moving into the top twenty. He’s become a pretty consistent 20s scorer, including a very good 25.9 at Burgham CCI4*-S in 2022. Though he won’t be a big winner this week, it could be a big milestone in his career – this is just his third full season eventing, and it’ll be great fun to see the prodigious young gelding tackle such a big challenge.

Tom Rowland and KND Steel Pulse

Twelve year old Irish gelding (Tinarana’s Inspector – Lady Lux by Olympic Lux) Owned by Michael Wilmshurst and Alison Sharpe). Groomed by Georgie Dobbin.

This will not be Tom Rowland’s first trip to Pau; he first made the trip here back in 2015. That was his first time at a 5*, so it seems particularly appropriate that he is bringing not one, but two horses here for their first crack at the level, too. The younger of these two horses, KND Steel Pulse, or Dermot, has been with Tom from the very beginning of his eventing career, way back in 2016. Despite an inauspicious start, with 40 penalties on his first run cross country, it would be another three years before he faulted on the cross country again, and to this day, they remain a rarity.

The same cannot be said for his show jumping though: despite a commendable number of clear rounds, he is also prone to knocking a pole, or two, or three, or even four, as he did a few times back in 2021. Still, recently he has proved more consistent – he has  lowered a maximum of two rails at a time this season, testament to the dedication of his rider in constantly working to improve every phase, and eke the most he can out of his horses.

Tom initially trained with Angela Tucker, who he went to work for straight after leaving school, before going on to spend time at the yards of both Pippa Funnell and Nigel Taylor, so he’s certainly learnt from the best in all disciplines. Dermot’s ever improving dressage scores also reflect this – bar the odd blip here and there, his first phase score is usually at the lower end of the 30’s and has even broken into the 20’s in the last couple of years.

Dermot has jumped clear around both Blenheim CCI4*-L and Blair Castle CCI4*-S, and indeed, finished comfortably within the top 20 at the latter, so he has certainly proven himself ready and willing to tackle the kind of questions demanded at 5* level. So while these two won’t be troubling those at the very top of the leader board on this occasion, they are more than capable of a safe and steady completion in their first 5* at least, and perhaps if Dermot produces his usual clear cross country round, a top 30 placing to boot.

Tom Rowland and MGH Maybe A Mission

Fourteen-year-old Irish Sports Horse (Jack of Diamonds – Merry Kate by Able Albert) Owned by Robin Patrick. Groomed by Georgie Dobbin.

Tom is perhaps best known for his partnership with another ‘Mission’ horse – Possible Mission – with whom he has completed both of the big B’s (Burghley and Badminton, of course) multiple times. His other ride at Pau though, is MGH Maybe a Mission, also an Irish Sport Horse, like Possible Mission, and also owned by Robin Patrick. Similarly, Tom has had the ride on him from the word go, which was way back in 2015, so it’s safe to say they know each other inside out. This shows in their ever-improving form at the top level.

Although ‘Mark’ was ultimately spun at the second horse inspection, he did jump clear around the cross country at his first CCI4*-L at Blenheim in 2021, after posting an impressive 29 dressage score. Since then, these two have gone on to show an ever-increasing consistency right across the board, jumping clear cross country on all but one occasion and holding their own in the first phase, too, rarely straying above the low 30’s, and breaking into the 20’s on the odd occasion, too. Mark has jumped around the  CCI4*-S at Chatsworth twice now, finishing in a notable 6th place on the latter occasion, and also jumped clear around another CCI4*-L at Millstreet in June, to finish in the top 15. So he’s more than ready to make the step up to 5*, and in pretty good style too. A top 20 wouldn’t be out of the question for these two, and we wish him and Tom the very best of luck for making it two out of two ‘Missions Completed.’ We’re here all week, folks.

Libby Seed and Heartbreaker Star Quality. Photo by Leszek Wójcik.

Libby Seed and Heartbreaker Star Quality

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Boswell Mr Heartbreaker x Killard Quality, by OBOS Quality 004). Bred by Cora Horan. Owned by Jonathan Seed and the rider.

Amateur rider Libby and her beloved mare return to the top level after making their debut at Badminton last year, where they finished in the top 30 after jumping clear around the biggest track they’d ever faced. They jumped clear on Sunday, too, making it a very happy week indeed for the dynamic duo.

Libby works full-time as a medical sales executive, continuing on an impressive balancing act that she honed while juggling eventing and a degree in Medical Sciences at Exeter.

Libby has a sparkling career as a young rider behind her: she rode on the British team at the Pony European Championships in 2013, where the team took gold, and in 2017, she rode as an individual at the Young Rider Europeans, earning herself a top twenty result. That’s certainly not to say that she’s stepped it down a notch as a senior competitor, though: she took her first international win in 2021 in the CCI4*-L in Strzegom with Heartbreaker Star Quality, adding just 2.4 time penalties across the country and 0.8 in showjumping to their first-phase score of 34.7.

This year, they’ve notched up three FEI runs — and three FEI top tens. Those came in the CCI3*-S at Burgham, which was a return to international competition after a year out, and then at Blair and Little Downham’s CCI4*-S classes.

They’ve only got ever faulted across the country at one FEI event, and that was the very tough CCI4*-L at Bicton in 2021, which they followed up with that Strzegom win. They’re a pretty quick pair, and their dressage is constantly getting better, so they’ll be aiming to hit the very low 30s — their Badminton test earned them a 33.4, and they’ve improved on the flat since then. On Sunday, they’ll really be laughing: Pau’s showjumping is notoriously tough, but they haven’t had a rail in two years. Expect another exciting week.

Oliver Townend and Tregilder. Photo by Peter Nixon.

Oliver Townend and Tregilder 

Thirteen-year-old British Sport Horse gelding (Royale Concorde x Trewins, by Hand In Glove). Bred by Preci Spark Ltd. Owned by the Hazeldines & Mitchell Fox Group. Groomed by Francesca Gorni.

Hot off the plane from Maryland, Olympic team gold medalist, 2023 Badminton runner-up and Burghley winner, and current World No. 1, Oliver Townend touches down in Pau with Tregilder for the gelding’s fourth CCI5* start. It would be fair to say that the gelding’s 5* form doesn’t do him justice; he (almost inexplicably) fell at the penultimate fence at Burghley last year on his top-level debut after a truly superb round up to that point, then at this year’s Burghley edition, he emerged from the woods at a walk, broken rein swinging and 5* disappointment once more. He did have a good run ‘round Luhmuhlen in June however, adding just 1.2 cross country time to his dressage of 29.9, before uncharacteristically rolling two poles on the final day – it was still good enough for ninth place though. 

At 18hh, ‘Gizmo’ is pretty enormous and has, according to Oliver, “taken a long, long time to mature.” He showed he’d grown into himself when he won at Burgham in July, finishing on his dressage of 27.1. In the first phase, this is a horse that consistently scores sub-30, there’s a toe into the 30s occasionally, but these are perhaps times when dressage scores have been on the high side across the board. When bad luck forsakes him, he’s a speedy clear across the country kind of guy, one you can see totally relishes his job as he eats up the track. The final phase is his least consistent, but this is a horse who does not have a weak phase. Sometimes he rolls a pole, often he jumps clear. Very occasionally he’ll lower two. 

Here’s hoping that ‘Gizmo’ gets the trip he deserves and adds a second 5* completion to his record this week, potentially even a top placing. Oliver’s team will need to keep one eye on the weather forecast in case of rain, and make sure they remember that daylight saving time ends in the UK this weekend, we don’t want ‘Gizmo’ inadvertently being fed after midnight. And a shout out to photographers at the event – no flash photography, please!

India Wishart and Diamond Sundance

Seventeen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Sunny Boy x KEC Costello Diamond, by Glidawn Diamond). Owned by Cindy Onslow. Groomed by Shelley Allen.

It’s a second trip to Pau for Diamond Sundance, this time piloted by five-star debutant India Wishart. He made his debut at the top-level in 2020 with Rosa Onslow in the irons, who took on the ride in 2017, competing at the Young Rider European Championships in 2019 with the gelding, where they finished 12th, before going on to a second place in the CCI4*-L at Blair Castle the following month.

‘Sunny’ has partnered a few riders as he’s moved up through the levels, originally being produced by owner Cindy Onslow, before Emily Orpwood took over the reins; he had a brief stint with China’s Alex Hua Tian in 2016, before Cindy’s daughter, Rosa, continued his progress up to 5*. Riding for Australia after switching to her father’s nationality, Lissa Green (daughter of British eventing legend Lucinda Green) had the ride for the 2021 season, with India taking over in 2022. 

His recent form at 4* with India suggests a mid- to high-30s score in the dressage – they put down a 37 in the 4*-L at Blenheim last month and a 34.4 at Millstreet this season; the last time he competed on French soil, at Pau with Rosa, he scored 32.2 in the first phase. This horse is for sure a cross country horse, with 21 consecutive clear rounds – including at Pau in 2020 – at international competitions under his girth. Will he add to his impressive record this week? It would be very cool if he did. He will add time, but a steady clear round for India’s first time at the level would be a job well done. He lowered two poles on the final day last time out, and had one at each of his two runs before that, but he jumped clear in the 4*-S at Blair Castle last season on the way to finishing in 12th place; it was twelve faults in the final phase when he went to Pau with Rosa. Realistically, we will be looking at him adding penalties in the show jumping ring on Sunday, India will be hoping to keep it to a minimum though and to come away with a solid top-level completion.

India’s had some influential support as she’s made her way into her eventing career, after gaining a degree in Geography before switching to eventing full-time. She was based with with fellow Pau competitor Pippa Funnell at The Billy Stud in 2020 and was part of the Wesko Equestrian Foundation program in 2020/21. With everything she’ll have gained from such top-class mentorship, as well as  being sat on a seventeen-year-old cross country machine, she should be coming into her first 5* full of confidence, which must be a very nice feeling indeed.

IRELAND

Daragh Byrne and Kilcannon Ramiro

Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Ramiro B x Flick Princess, by Kildalton King). Bred by Mary Bolger. Owned by James Byrne and Daragh Byrne. Groomed by James Byrne.

Ireland’s Daragh Byrne and Kilcannon Ramiro are coming forward for their first attempt at CCI5* this week. The gelding’s been brought along slowly through the levels, partly because he’s pretty enormous and so needed the extra time as he matured. He’s stepped up a level each year and is now here for his first 5*.

‘Kilcannon’ is owned by Daragh and his dad, James Byrne. They bought the gelding as an unbroken three-year-old from the Goresbridge sales. A steadfast supporter of both his son and his “pride and joy”, James has never missed a competition, in fact, he’ll be right in the thick of things at Pau as he’ll be grooming for Kilcannon at the event. 

He’s for sure a horse to get excited about. He won on his first attempt at the 4*-L level at Ballindenisk last season, and comes to Pau off the back of a fourth place finish in the same competition this year. He’s generally mid- to high-30s in the first phase, but he’s pulled out a couple of low-30s results, namely a 32 on his way to winning at Ballindenisk last year. He’s certainly no slouch across the country; in 19 FEI starts, he’s had jumping penalties only once, back in 2021. He had an unfortunate fall on the flat in the 4*-S Nations Cup at Millstreet earlier this season, but aside from those two blips, his record is impressively clean. He’s reasonably speedy too, generally keeping time faults to single figures. Based on form, it would be fair to say that show jumping is something he’s still working on, with faults in each of their runs bar a 1* in 2018. More often than not, it’s one or two poles, but sometimes they tip one or two more. The rolled four last time out in the 4*-L at Ballindenisk, but a solid first-phase score and speedy cross country round meant they still finished fourth. Daragh – and his dad – will no doubt be delighted with a 5* completion on their debut at the level, however it plays out. 

Ian Cassells and Master Point

Ten-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Pointilliste x Chikari, by Kings Master). Bred and owned by Bridget McGing. 

It’s a five-star debut for 29-year-old Ian, who has been quietly proving himself to be something of a master (see what I did there? Sorry) of producing top-class young horses over the last few years. His is a last-minute entry, and comes with the exciting Master Point, who he rides for owner and breeder Bridget McGing, who’s a busy vet at Troytown Greyabbey equine vets in Ireland, and a member of the Eventing Ireland board, too. Master Point made his CCI4*-L debut this summer at Millstreet, where he finished sixteenth after a 34.8 dressage, a reasonably steady clear cross-country, and two rails down; he then contested the Blenheim CCI4*-L last month, where he was a top thirty finisher with another, slightly swifter, clear across the country, this time with a 30.2 dressage and just one rail down.

Master Point has previously won at both CCI2*-L and CCI3*-L, both times at Ballindenisk, and while Ian won’t be coming here to push for a win, he’s very aware that he’s sitting on a horse who has all the right stuff for the future. Master Point can be very quick, he’s super reliable with just a frangible activation on his FEI cross-country record, and those dressage scores are constantly improving — it’s the showjumping that needs the most work, with a tendency to two or three down (or more, at Burgham this year), but all of that will come in leaps and bounds from the educational experience he’ll have at Pau. It’ll be really exciting to see Ian on the world stage, too — he’s a beautiful rider to watch.

Sarah Ennis and Grantstown Jackson. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sarah Ennis and Grantstown Jackson

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Clover Brigade x Winning Lass xx, by Right Win xx). Bred by Caroline Widger. Owned by Peter Cole and Susanna Francke.

After missing the 2021 European Championships, three-time European Championships competitor and Tokyo Olympian Sarah Ennis returned to the major stage at this summer’s European Championships, riding the relatively inexperienced Grantstown Jackson, for whom it was just a second CCI4*-L start, after taking second place in the CCI4*-S at Ballindenisk. The pair ended up taking the pathfinder role for the week — and boy, did they smash it. In incredibly tough conditions, they delivered the second-fastest round of the day, zipping home clear and with just 2.4 time penalties. They ultimately finished fourteenth.

Now, we get the joy of seeing the twelve-year-old step up to the topmost echelon of the sport, and if he delivers as he did in his last French adventure, he’ll certainly establish himself as a serious contender for the Irish team at next year’s Olympics. He’s still green for his age, and there’s some fine-tuning to do — he’ll score in the high-30s, or perhaps even the low-40s, for one, and his showjumping can be a bit of a wild card, but he’s an exceptional little cross-country machine and should be great fun to watch on Saturday as he whizzes around Pau’s tight turns.

Joseph Murphy and Barrichello

14-year-old British-bred gelding (Balou de Rouet x Madon’s Even Wiser, by Matinee du Madon VII). Bred by James Dyer. Owned by Sarah Hughes.

This isn’t a first five-star for Barrichello, who has previously contested Badminton last year with Ireland’s Cathal Daniels, but had an unlucky fall late on course — but it’s his first with Joseph Murphy, who took the reins this season and becomes the fifth rider to partner Sarah Hughes’s gelding internationally. He began his FEI career with Britain’s Caroline March, who is Piggy’s sister in law; then, he briefly moved to William Fox-Pitt before doing a year with Alex Bragg. After that, he had 2019 out, and then he went to Cathal, who kept the ride from 2020 to 2022, though the horse didn’t compete in FEI events at all in 2021. Now, he’s with Joseph, who rode him to a sixth-place finish in Kilguilkey’s CCI4*-L this summer and a top twenty finish in the inaugural CCI4*-S at Lisgarvan in August. They did a test and showjumped at Ballindenisk CCI4*-S last month, but withdrew before cross-country. He’s a talented horse, and should do a low-30s dressage, a quick cross-country, and, realistically, will have one or two rails on Sunday, but the pair are still very much getting to know one another and Barrichello is once again having to adapt to a new rider, so this is something of a fact-finding mission this week.

Joseph brings a huge amount of experience to the table, though, to help him through: he’s ridden at countless five-stars and been part of the Irish team at the London Olympics, the 2014 World Equestrian Games, and four European Championships, plus has ridden as an individual at a fifth. His best result here was fifth in 2014 with Sportsfield Othello; he’s also had great results with the former Laura Collett ride Calmaro, with whom he was ninth at Kentucky in 2022 and 14th here in 2021. This pair won’t be vying for the win this week but they should be able to deliver a great result, as long as they’re on the same page at this early stage of their partnership.

Felicity Ward and Regal Bounty. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Felicity Ward and Regal Bounty

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (VDL Orestus x Edge of Reason, by Senang Hati xx). Owned by James O’Callagham. Bred by Miriam de Feu.

Felicity Ward and Regal Bounty, barn name “Cuba,” have hit the ground running this season. After one run around the E110 level at Lisgarvan House, they quickly jumped up to the FEI level and have so far completed the Ballindenisk CCI3*-S, the Marbach 4*-S, and the CCIO4*-NC-S at Millstreet International Horse Trials. The 2023 season also marks their highest placing in international competition, which occurred at the Ballindenisk 3*-S where the pair came in second place, with a score of 33.9, adding just 0.8 time faults to their dressage score. Over the summer, the pair contested the CCI5* at Luhmühlen for the second time, once again finishing fifteenth. They then headed to the European Championships, though their weekend ended early when they suffered their first ever horse fall. This’ll be their third five-star, and it’ll be exciting to see them over a track that’s quite different to Luhmühlen’s.

Felicity took the ride on the 16.2-hand black gelding from Andrew Kavanaugh before the 2017 competition season. Since then, she has produced Cuba from the EI110s to the five-star level. They’re seriously solid across the country, generally: their only two non-completions in FEI competitions come at this year’s Europeans and at last year’s World Championships, where they retired on course. Besides that, Felicity and Regal Bounty have completed every single cross country course they’ve ever taken on, with only a reasonably slim number of time penalties being the norm. Dressage scores for the duo typically land in the mid-thirties. Show jumping is their bogey phase, which means they’ll need to be really on the ball at Pau, with its notoriously tough final phase — but they did tip just one rail at Luhmühlen last year, which bodes well.

LITHUANIA

Aistis Vitkauskas and Commander VG. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Aistis Vitauskus and Commander VG

Twelve-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Viegaard’s Come Back II x Nione Fortuna, by Abantos NRA STB 83 4). Bred and owned by Mogens and Birgitte Kloeve-Mogensen. Groomed by Helene Stenshoj Vitkauskas.

With seven previous CCI5* starts under their belts, Aistis and Commander VG are certainly not new to the level. This was the site of the horse’s level debut back in 2020, when he was a nine-year-old, and he returns this year having finished eighteenth last year — and having already run at Badminton, Luhmühlen, and Burghley this season, though he retired after a 20 at the German event and suffered a non-injurious horse fall at the Dairy Mound at the latter. His best finish thus far at five-star was just outside the top 10 at the 2021 edition of Luhmuhlen. To add even more depth to their resume, they’ve also competed at the 2022 World Championships and in 2021 finished 25th in the European Championships in Avanches.

While it’s unlikely that you’ll find this pair near the top of the leaderboard after dressage – their scores tend to hover in the high 30s to mid 40s, because Commander, who was bought as a five-year-old from a dressage farm, had suffered some early mental trauma in the ring, and as Aistis explains it, if the horse makes a mistake in the ring, his immediate response is defensive anger – they have a whole lot of clear XC rounds on their record. They’ve had a couple pins here and there at the four-star and five-star level, but are certainly more than capable of a clear round to wrap up a bit of an up-and-down year. This is one of those horses who is SO fun to watch across the country: he’s game, straight, and genuine, and tends to top our list of ‘Five-Star Horses We Reckon We Might Actually Have Fun Riding’. He’s had a big change to his fitness regime over the last year or so, and now swims a lot, which Aistis says has really changed his strength and build.

When he’s not running around some of the biggest tracks in the world, Aistis also competes in FEI showjumping, and his wife Helene (who usually grooms for him, accompanied by their sweet little girl) is a competitive dressage rider. Aistis’ operation is based out of Denmark, which is the home country of Commander VG, who is still owned by his breeders Mogens and Birgitte Kloeve Mogensen of the Volstrpgaard Stud. When he’s not busy producing horses, you can find him building cross-country fences, which he then sells around Europe, or at his ‘church’ — waist high in the local river, that is, going fishing.

NEW ZEALAND

James Avery and MBF Connection

Ten year old Irish Sports Horse gelding (Luidam – Traditionally Aloof) Owned by Hazel Livesey. Groomed by Tori Morris.

James describes MBF Connection – or Louis, as he is known at home – as ‘a laidback character, who is passionate about good food and wine.’ Thus, it seems very appropriate that he should head to France for his first 5*, where the finest of both will no doubt be in abundance.

This has been a year of firsts for Louis: he also tackled his first CCI4*-L  at Bramham in June. Unfortunately, he picked up 20 penalties cross country, but went on to show jump clear on the final day. 20 penalties aside, that run at Bramham will serve as excellent preparation for Pau, renowned as it is for being one of the toughest 4*L tracks on the circuit. Since then, he has pulled off a top ten finish in the Nations Cup in Arville, adding just a smattering of time faults to his dressage score, and showed similar form in the Intermediate at Oasby earlier this month, where a steady double clear saw them finish 8th.

That 20 penalties that Louis picked up at Bramham marks his first cross country jumping penalties since 2021, although his show jumping record is less reliable – he is prone to tipping a pole or two. However, as his recent form shows, he is capable of a double clear, so let’s hope he pulls one out of the bag this weekend, too.

Louis was previously campaigned by Matthew Heath and then Harry Horgan, and James (who is based with his fiancée Holly Woodhead at Honington Grange Wellness and Rehabilitation Centre in Lincolnshire) took over the reins in 2021, recording a win on his very first outing with Hazel Livesey’s chestnut gelding. Another good result here will no doubt put James and Louis on the radar for Paris next year, and will cement James’ place as a rising star within Team New Zealand’s ever-growing arsenal.

Jesse Campbell and Cooley Lafitte. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jesse Campbell and Cooley Lafitte

Eleven-year-old Irish Sports Horse gelding (Je T’aime Flamenco – Graf Shenanigans x Scirocco Delle). Owned by Jay Jaffar. Groomed by Frankie Dunn.

Jesse Campbell is one of a few riders bringing forward multiple horses this week in Pau, and also one of many using this competition to step a horse up to the level for the first time. Cooley Lafitte – or Henry as he is known at home – is certainly ready for the challenge, jumping double clear at both Bramham and Blenheim last year – the latter his first run in a CCI4*-L – and he pulled another double clear out of the bag at Bramham again this summer to finish in the top 20 in the CCI4*-L. His early days were not quite so illustrious though; he was almost sent back to Ireland, such was his lack of appetite for the sport.

However, his owners recognised some promise in him, sending him to Jesse as a last resort – a plan of action that has paid off. It’s unsurprising really, that Jesse was able to turn the horse around. Arriving here as part of the New Zealand Eventing High Performance Squad at the tender age of 21 (the youngest of the 9 riders selected to train here that year), he spent 18 months working for the legend that is Andrew Nicholson, before setting up on his own in 2012. Since then, he’s become renowned for his natural talent and ability, something that’s reflected in his extensive list of achievements, including several Nations Cup appearances, and a trip to the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 as part of Team New Zealand. Even his  5* debut at Luhmuhlen in 2015 was impressive – he was awarded the cross country prize for finishing bang on the optimum time – so who better than to take a tricky horse like Henry and turn him around?

Jesse and Cooley Lafitte represented New Zealand on the Nations Cup team at both Houghton and Haras du Pin last year. In their final prep run for Pau at Little Downham last month they finished comfortably within the top 20, with yet another double clear in the CCI4*-S. While Henry’s dressage is yet to become consistent – his scores range from high to mid to low 30’s – his jumping record is almost immaculate, save for a smattering of poles here and there on the final day. His last cross country jumping faults were way back in 2020, proving he has the bravery to step up to the top level. This, coupled with the experience of his rider, means that Henry’s first time at 5* will surely be a positive one, and add yet another solid result to his record. Not bad for a horse who wasn’t wholly convinced he even liked eventing to start with!

Jesse Campbell and Diachello. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Jesse Campbell and Diachello

Thirteen year old Holsteiner gelding (Diarado – Visser Cholin x Chello I) Owned by Kent Gardner and Jesse Campbell. Groomed by Frankie Dunn.

Pau will be the second 5* start for Jesse and his Olympic partner Diachello, or Danny, who he has taken right through from BE100 level. Their first run at this level was at Kentucky in 2021, where they finished a credible 11th, adding just a smidgeon of jumping time faults to their first phase score of 29.1. Little wonder then, that they were selected as part of the New Zealand Olympic team later that same year.

They finished 22nd out in Tokyo, pulling off a respectable score of 30.1, to which they again added just time faults – indeed the last time Danny incurred any cross country jumping penalties was back in 2019, on his CCI4*-L debut at Millstreet. He made up for it the following year, with a 3rd place in the CCI4*-L at a Lignières and has never looked back since. His first phase score is similarly consistent – it is not often that these two score higher than 30, and are usually comfortably within the top 20 heading into cross country. His show jumping record is a little bit more erratic – last season he had at least a pole on all but one of his 6 starts, although he has managed to leave them all standing on both of his starts this season.

Yes, you read that right: Pau will be only Danny’s third start this year, but given his extensive – and impressive – experience thus far in his career, it’s not as though he needs the prep in international runs. 6th in the CCI4*-S at Little Downham in his last run before Pau, his second crack at 5* should be another successful one, especially if he can make it three out of three double clears this season. With Jesse in the saddle he has every chance of pulling off a top ten finish, something that his rider is more than deserving of. Jesse is as hard working as he is talented, and it’s about time that he added a top 5* result to his already impressive list of accolades.

Samantha Lissington and Ricker Ridge Sooty GNZ. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Samantha Lissington and Ricker Ridge Sooty GNZ

Twelve year old gelding (Caretino – Quantum Flash by Tristaking). Owned by Samantha Lissington and Pip McCarroll. Groomed by Fran Dakin.

Another rising star for Team New Zealand, Samantha will have had a busy few weeks by the time she and Sooty get to Pau. She and long term groom Fran loaded the truck up with not one, but two horses, when they left home a few weeks ago, stopping off at Le Lion d’Angers to compete in the Seven Year Old World Horse Championships with rising star Quantas, first.

Quite a whirlwind, then, but Sam is more than used to such adventures – she arrived here (along with Sooty, and a few other horses) from New Zealand back in 2020, with no real fixed accommodation, no car, no lorry…nothing. Since then – in between pulling off several great results –  she and husband Brayden have managed to find a permanent base, Sam has built up a very good string of horses, and this year they finally made the decision to stay in the UK long term. Lucky for us! Oh, and yes, they did buy a car.

This will be Sooty’s first 5*, though his form since his arrival in the UK has been very promising so far. He and Sam pulled off a top 30 in the 8/9 year old class at Blenheim in their first season over here, and their form has continued to show further promise since then – they were 7th in the same class at Burnham Market the following year,  and finished in the top 25 in their first CCI4*-L at Millstreet last year, before taking the top spot in the CCI4*-L  at Mallow just a month later. This season they have come out fighting again, adding just cross country time faults to their first phase score to win the Advanced at Chatsworth in May. Since then, they finished in the top 30 at Aachen, before another podium finish – 3rd, this time, – in the CCI4*-L at Mallow.

They should find themselves in good stead after dressage: their first phase score often breaks into the 20s (their win at Mallow came after posting a 29 in the first phase, a score they bettered there by almost two marks this year), and they should confirm this position after cross country. Other than 20 penalties at Millstreet this year and last, Sooty is generally very consistent in this phase. His  show jumping form is less reliable – he has had a rail or two as often as he has jumped clear this season. Still, he has proven himself more than capable in this phase on several occasions, not least at Mallow last year, and again this spring in the infamous quagmire that became the show jumping at Chatsworth in May. Here’s hoping he pulls off another double clear in Pau; he and Samantha seem to have flown slightly under the radar in recent years, but it is more than time that their reliable and consistent form is recognised.

Muzi Pottinger and Just Kidding. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Muzi Pottinger and Just Kidding

Seventeen-year-old Australian Thoroughbred gelding (Fusaichi Pegasus – Gypsy Princess, by Sadler’s Wells). Owned by The Pottinger Family. Groomed by Amy Bliss Bennett.

Muzi and the  diminutive ‘Ferg’ – 15.2hh on his tippy toes – flew around their first Badminton last year, although four down on the final day dropped them down the placings. Previous CCI5* form includes a fourth at Adelaide back in 2018, and second just a year later – maybe they could have topped the podium in 2020, had the dreaded C word not hit.

It’s a great string of results for a horse who’s among those elite ex-racehorses leading the charge for his brethren: Muzi – herself the daughter of Olympic bronze medallist Tinks Pottinger – bought the son of Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus off the track as a five-year-old, and he has picked up plenty of notable results in his second career, including thirteenth in the notoriously tough CCI4*-S at Bicton in 2021. They are capable of a very good first phase score – they posted a 25.9 at Badminton last year, though it was admittedly not as polished this year, where they scored 31.3. But then Badminton this year was not their finest hour – they were eliminated cross country, albeit in particularly heinous conditions. However, they quickly re-routed to Luhmuhlen where Ferg showed a return to top form, bettering his Badminton dressage score by a mark and shooting round the cross country with just 0.4 time faults to sit within the top 10 ahead of show jumping. Sadly five poles on the final day saw them drop back down the leader board, but they still pulled off a top 20 placing, proving that Badminton was naught but a blip for this little pocket rocket.

Historically, it’s the show jumping that has proved to be the Achilles’ heel of this partnership – they had four apiece at both Badminton and the World Championships last year. But the reliability that this special little Thoroughbred shows in the first two phases will no doubt leave him in an enviable position heading into the last day, so there’s certainly a shout that he could deliver the top ten finish that both he and Muzi deserve. If nothing else, give this brave little dude’s cross country performance a watch – he jumps with such enthusiasm, throwing himself over jumps that are almost twice his size with much more gusto than many of his taller counterparts. It’s a joy to behold, and a reminder of why so many of us fell in love with eventing in the first place.

Muzi Pottinger and Good Timing

Twelve year old NZ Thoroughbred (Nom Du Jeu x Baloushe) Owned by Muzi Pottinger. Groomed by Amy Bliss Bennett.

Four of the six Kiwi riders entered here at Pau are bringing two horses across the pond for the final 5* of the season, and Muzi Pottinger is one of them. Alongside her seasoned 5* campaigner, Just Kidding, she will also be riding Good Timing, another Thoroughbred, and a debutant at the level. Johnny or ‘The Shark’ as he is, ahem, affectionately known at home, is ‘a groom’s nightmare’, according to Muzi. As she tells it, it’s just as well he’s good at his job, and his form this season backs that up. He’s finished within the top 20 in both of his international competitions this year.

Muzi brought the twelve-year-old gelding over to the UK in 2022, having previously campaigned him to 3* level in their native New Zealand. Before leaving their homeland, they recorded several top results, not least a second place in the CCI3*-L at Puhinui. They burst onto the European scene at Pratoni last spring as part of the New Zealand Nations Cup team, finishing within the top 20 and confirming their place on the world stage. They rounded off that first season on the European circuit with a double clear at the Nations Cup in Boekelo last October, once again part of Team New Zealand, and once again finishing in the top 20.

Although Johnny didn’t make it on the track, his natural speed has proved an asset thus far in his career – he finished with just 0.8 time penalties in Millstreet earlier this year, earning him third place on the podium, and displayed similar turn of foot in Arville, too, where he added 1.6 time to his first phase score. His jumping record is, quite simply, impeccable – he has had just four poles since his arrival from New Zealand which, when combined with his enviable speed, makes him a very exciting prospect indeed. His dressage shows promise too, though it has yet to become  consistent, and can range from low to high 30’s. Still, as we’ve seen this season, the first phase score isn’t always that important come cross country day, and the leaderboard can be shaken up right up until the last show jump — so a top 20 finish on their 5* debut is certainly not out of the question and no matter the result this weekend, ‘The Shark’ is a serious horse for the future – even if he is a tad aggressive at times. The best ones are all ‘quirky,’ right?!

Jonelle Price and Hiarado

Eleven-year-old KWPN mare (Diarado – Ubiloa, by Ekstein). Owned by David and Katherine Thomson. Groomed by Kerryn Edmans, Kiera and Rosie  

Fun fact for all you breeding nerds out there: Hiarado, the less experienced of the two rides that the formidable Mrs Price — she of that famous eventing power couple, who together topped the FEI World Rankings at the end of last season – has out in France, is by the same sire as fellow Kiwi rider Jesse Campbell’s Olympic mount, Diachello, who can also be seen here this week. That is where the obvious similarities end though, for while Diachello has several high profile events under his belt, Hiarado, or Jools, is relatively new to the upper levels of the sport, and Pau will, in fact, be her first run at 5* level.

She is also pretty new to Jonelle’s string; she joined Team Price just last year, having previously been campaigned by British-based US rider Grace Taylor. With her former rider, Jools jumped clear around several four-star shorts, notching up some impressive results along the way, including 14th place in the 8/9 year old showcase class at Blenheim in 2021. She has continued to show similar promise and aptitude for the sport since Jonelle took the reins: they were third on their first competitive outing together, and this classy mare has jumped double clear on all but two of her outings since then.

They finished in second place in the CCI4*-L at Mallow in the summer, adding just a fraction of cross country time to their first phase score – a result made even more impressive when considering that it was only the mare’s second run at the level. Since then, Jonelle has run her just three times, taking it steady on each occasion, but still managing to finish within the top 10 on two of those three outings. In fact, on their final run before Pau, they took 3rd place in the Open Intermediate at Oasby, despite 12.8 cross country time faults, thanks to their immaculate first-phase performance which earned a 25.9.

It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Jonelle and Jools (their names even go well together!) towards the top of the leader board on day one. Though Jonelle is famed as one of — if not THE – fastest cross country riders in the world, she will be mindful that this is Jools’ first run at the level, and will likely want to have a steady but clear run on this occasion. Nonetheless, they have had just one pole down in their time together, so even with time faults, they could well climb back up the leader board on the final day. Watch this space: the genius of Jonelle could see them finish within the top 10, even with the mare’s inexperience.

Jonelle Price and McClaren. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jonelle Price and McClaren

Sixteen year old Holsteiner gelding (Clarimo – Toni I by Landjunge). Owned by Katherine and David Thomson. Groomed by Kerryn Edmans, Kiera and Rosie.

Jonelle’s other ride at Pau is the tiny McClaren, former ride of the great Sir Mark Todd, with whom he went to the Tryon World Equestrian Games in 2018. His owners gave Jonelle the ride when Toddy retired at the end of 2018, though it would be 2020 before they made their first appearance together. They hit it off immediately, and rounded off that first season together with 3rd place in the CCI4*-L at Strzegom. They hit the ground running again in 2021, where they were 2nd in the CCI4*-S at Millstreet, and 6th in the CCI3*-S at Barbury Castle before making their first trip to Aachen for the CCI4*-S. The wheels came off ever so slightly on that occasion, and Mac picked up 20 penalties on the cross country, but redeemed himself just a few months later when he finished 3rd in his first run at 5* level, right here at Pau. On that occasion he added just a smidge of both show jumping and cross country time faults to his smart first phase score of 24.4, demonstrating that what he may lack in stature, he more than makes up for in guts and ability.

Add to that Jonelle’s widely renowned prowess as a cross country rider, and it’s easy to see why these two have proven themselves quite a force to be reckoned with on more than one occasion, despite Mac’s occasional propensity for naughtiness. Part of the bronze medal winning Team New Zealand at last year’s World Championships in Pratoni last year,  they also finished 10th individually, adding just 6 time faults to another smart dressage score of 26.1. However, as talented as this little guy undoubtedly is, he can have a little bit of an attitude problem at times, picking up 20 penalties when it takes his fancy – as was seen on his second appearance at the 5* level in Kentucky last spring. There, he took a dislike to a ditch, and although he still finished within the top 20, he could easily have been far higher in the placings had he just done as he was told. Still, he chose the wrong rider to mess with, and Jonelle made sure to nip any problem he may or may not have had with ditches right in the bud, by taking a makeshift ditch jump everywhere they went afterwards. Including Pratoni, hence their excellent result there.

The decision to return to Pau with Mac was almost certainly made with the intention to repeat, if not better their previous result here, and he is more than capable of doing that – especially with Jonelle in charge. This season he has jumped double clear on all but one occasion – back at Aachen, though this time it wasn’t an issue that came as a result of any cheekiness – and finished 7th in both the CCI4*-S at Millstreet in the summer, and in the Open Intermediate at Oasby last month, his final run before his trip to France. With a flair for dressage as well as ample jumping ability, and one of the world’s best — and fastest — cross country riders in the saddle, Mac could easily pull off the win here this weekend, though he’d be a bit of dark horse to do so. In doing so, reigning Pau champion Jonelle would add yet another 5* title to her ever growing tally, which currently sits at 3 – just two behind husband Tim, but a gap she will nevertheless be keen to close.

Tim Price and Happy Boy, 2022’s Boekelo winners. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tim Price and Happy Boy

Eleven year old KWPN gelding. (Indoctro – W.Amelusina 17 by Odermus). Owned by Susan Lamb and Terry Miller. Groomed by Kerryn Edmans, Kiera and Rosie 

Team Price are out in force for the last 5* of the season, bringing two rides apiece to Pau. Happy Boy, arguably the better-known ride of Tim – former holder of the FEI World Number One spot — has had just one international start since winning the CCI4*-L at Boekelo last October. On that occasion, he added nothing to his 25.6 dressage score, which meant he finished on the same score as Tom McEwen and JL Dublin — but because he was closer to the optimum time on cross-country day, he took the win. Tim ran him a lot slower on his next outing at 4* at Millstreet this year, but ‘Happy’ still earned himself another tidy dressage mark, before putting in two clear jumping rounds, as is customary for him. Described by Tim as ‘the consummate all-rounder for eventing,’ he has had just one pole down so far this season, and finished up 2022 having had just two down.

Winner of the Seven-Year-Old World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers back in 2019, it’s hard to believe that this will be Happy’s first tilt at a 5*. He was due to make the step up at Luhmühlen earlier this year, but Tim made the decision to withdraw him at the last minute — not something he will have done without good reason. Since then, he has run him in several national classes, delivering steady double clears on each occasion, and shown ever-increasing consistency in the first phase too, with marks straying no higher than 32.1.  Second and fourth on his last two outings, Happy Boy lines up with a fairly good chance of taking a podium place here this weekend, not least because of the skilled horseman who will be riding him.

As Tim says, “he’s really nifty and comes out and does his best in each phase,”a helpful habit which earned him a top ten finish in all of his FEI runs last year, before topping that podium in Boekelo. Happy certainly has all the credentials to make a very good impression at his first 5*. His dressage score may not be quite good enough to disrupt the very top of the leaderboard (although on his day, it certainly is), but he should still be well within contention heading into the jumping phases — and given his penchant for a double clear, another top ten placing here in Pau would not be out of the question.

Tim Price and Viscount Viktor

Nine-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Viscount – Nova EH) Owned by Barbara Cooper, Ginny Rusher and Glynn Norcutt. Groomed by Kerryn Edmans, Kiera and Rosie 

The other ride of Tim Price out in Pau will be Viscount Viktor, who has only been eventing since 2020, and at just nine years old, will be one of the youngest starters this week. Tim describes him as his ‘next big star,’ and for him to be stepping up for his first 5* after just three years in the sport, it would certainly seem that this is the case. He’s has rocketed up the levels right from the word go, making his first international start in his second season in the sport, in the CCI3*-S at Keysoe. It wasn’t necessarily the most remarkable entry onto the international scene – he had both jumping and time faults to add to a smart enough dressage score of 30.4. However, he then jumped clear across country in all of his international starts since the following year including in his first CCI4*-L at Lignieres, where he also show jumped clear to pull off a top 20 finish.

 Hence the promise that double World bronze medal holder Tim sees in him – he showed his talent once again in the CCI4*-L at Mallow earlier this season, where he finished in 4th place with a speedy double clear, his best international result to date. He repeated his jumping clears in both of his following two runs, though he blotted his copy book again at Blenheim last month in the 8/9 year old CCI4*-S with another 20 penalties  after a glance off in the second water and a pole down in the show jumping, too. Still, Tim described it as a ‘half naughty but half green’ run out, a necessary part of his ongoing education.

With this in mind, Tim won’t necessarily be bringing Viktor to Pau for an especially competitive run. Rather, he’ll be keeping the future of this talented young horse in mind, and instead just aiming for a steady and safe run across country, and hopefully a clear round on the final day. The latter is something that Viktor is more than capable of; he’s not always the tidiest of jumpers, but he has jumped clear more often than not this season, so it’s certainly possible for him to put in a stellar performance on the final day. Add to that a dressage score that is unlikely to be much higher than mid 30s and he should pull off a reasonably smart 5* debut and prove himself as yet another bright young star in the Price stable – and for Team New Zealand too, for that matter. An LA Olympic hopeful, maybe? You heard it here first…

SPAIN

Eduardo via Dufresne and Maribera Pomes 15.6. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Eduardo Via-Dufresne and Maribera Pomes 15.6

Ten-year-old Spanish-bred Anglo Arab mare (Bonaparte 81 x Ibera Pomes, by Fuerst Nymphenburg). Bred by Santiago Forn. Owned by the rider. 

This five-star debutant mare might be a bit of a ‘whodat?’ to anyone who doesn’t follow European eventing with an eagle eye, but I, Tilly Berendt, holder of opinions, am here to tell you that I have spent the last three years thinking, every time I see her, that I need to make a bid on her. Not for myself — I have no notions that suggest I’d stand a chance riding one side of this little fireball — but firmly with my agent hat on my head. She is, in short, very, very cool: she’s bold, and brave, and clever with her footwork, and genuine as all get-out, and while her performances can often look a little rough around the edges, I think there’s a real diamond in there — and no fence too big for her to find her way to the other side of, even though she’s quite a petite stamp.

This’ll be an experience-gaining outing rather than a competitive one; her dressage scores aren’t going to put her in a position to fight for a top spot, as they fluctuate through the 30s and sometimes into the 40s, and even though there’s a huge amount of potential for her to become a seriously fast cross-country horse, she does tend to have a fair amount of time on the clock, probably because she can be strong and she and her rider don’t always totally agree on the approach to a fence.  That carries through to showjumping, too, and while she’s very capable of going clear, she also sometimes scatters the poles when they don’t seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet. But daddy, I love her — and I think you will too. It’s also very exciting for Spain to have a horse and rider both stepping up to this topmost level.

SWITZERLAND

Nadja Minder and Toblerone. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Nadja Minder and Toblerone

Fifteen-year-old Swiss Warmblood gelding (Yarlands Summer Song x Medelyne). Bred by Eric Attiger. Owned by Nicole Basieux.

Nadja might be one of the youngest riders here at just 23, but she rides like a much more seasoned pro – and despite a truly uncharacteristic tumble from Toblerone at last year’s World Championships, she can be relied upon to keep forging on ahead and fighting for her goals. She has a palpably close bond with all her horses, but Toblerone, particularly, is special: they’ve come up from Young Rider Europeans to the big leagues together since 2020, and together, they earned Nadja’s first four-star win, taking the CCI4*-L at Baborowko last spring. Nadja was also enormously impressive at last spring’s Pratoni test event, where she rode two horses and lodged two of the just seven clears inside the time of the week. This year, they’ve represented Switzerland at the European Championships, finishing just outside the top twenty with two solid clear rounds.

This will be a first five-star for both horse and rider, and one they’re well primed to make. They’ve been eking their dressage scores down from the mid-to-high 30s to the consistently very low 30s this year, though in a five-star test we may well see that mark sneak back up again, but then you can count on them to deliver the goods over the weekend. They’re very reliable and tend to be quick, and their final phase has gotten really solid, too, so they should do themselves proud this week — and Switzerland, too, which doesn’t often have many competitors at five-star.

Oh, and if you tend to pick your favourite horse of the week based on personality alone, look no further: Toblerone might have a sweet (and very Swiss!) name, but he’s actually a very cheeky chappy – he’s the resident joker of Nadja’s yard, with a real sense of humour and a tendency to keep things rather interesting for everyone on a daily basis.

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Phillip Dutton and Z. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Phillip Dutton and Z

15-year-old Zangersheide gelding. Owned by Z Partnership: Evie Dutton, Ann Jones, Suzanne Lacy, Caroline Moran, Thomas Tierney, David Vos and Patricia Vos. Groomed by Joe Bowersox and Grace Harris.

Multiple-time World Championship rider, seven-time Olympian and Pan-Ams medal winner Phillip Dutton comes to Pau with his Tokyo Olympics partner and 2019 USEA Horse of the Year, Z.

Born in Australia, Phillip made the trip to the States in 1991, changing nationality to ride for the US in 2006, not before he won two team gold medals for his native country at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. He added to his collection with an individual bronze for the USA at Rio in 2016. 

Z started out in Portugal with Francisco Seabra before Duarte Seabra continued the gelding’s education up to CCI2*. Phillip took over the ride in 2015, bringing him through the levels to the very top of his sport. On the lead up to the World Championships in Tryon in 2018, they won the test event, finishing on 28 after adding just 0.4 cross country time to his first phase score. They followed their victory up by finishing best of the Americans at the Championships, in 13th. At Tokyo in 2021, they just outside the top-20. The gelding has finished in the top-10 in four of his five CCI5* starts, and top 5 in two of them, with a fifth place finish at this season’s Kentucky where he added just 0.4 cross country time to his first-phase score of 31.9, and coming in fourth at Maryland last year, finishing on his dressage score of 30.5. He comes to Pau in great form, having won last time out in the 4*-S at Stable View, where he proved he can be sub-30 on the first day with a 28.1. He’s already had a trip to Europe this year, with a sixth place finish at Aachen. 

A 5* he tends to have a toe in the 30s in the first phase, but we really are talking just a smidge. At the 4* level he’s for sure a sub-30 guy, and it would be nice to see him pull that off at the top level this time around. Follow up his solid dressage form with the fact that the gelding has jumped clear across the country in his last sixteen runs – in his 41 FEI completions he has just one jumping penalty (a 15 in the 4*-L at Maryland in the fall of 2019) on his entire record – and we just know that Z will be looking for the flags the whole way round the course, and is sure to be climbing the leaderboard come cross country day. He sometimes adds a breath of time, but not always. Naturally a bit of a perfectionist, he’s a careful show jumper on the whole, with more clears on his score sheet than penalties; he’s jumped clear in all but one of his runs this season. All in all, based on his form, experience and recent excellent performance at Kentucky, Z is for sure one to watch at Pau. 

Cosby Green and Copper Beach. Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

Cosby Green and Copper Beach

Seventeen-year-old Irish Sports Horse gelding (Radolin – Cloverballen). Owned by Cosby Green. Groomed by Ryan Warden. 

When 23-year-old Cosby came to the UK earlier this year to base with Tim and Jonelle Price at their base at Chedington, she was achieving a life-long dream, for the pair had long been her idols. When she starts at Pau this week, she will be achieving another: to compete at 5* with her long term partner, Copper Beach. This will be his second trip to the South of France, though – he first came here in 2017 with his previous rider, Buck Davidson. He finished in the top 30 on that occasion, so Cosby will surely be hoping to repeat, if not better, that form this week. She has had the ride on ‘Sean’ for the last three years, and they have enjoyed several successful runs at 4* level, both in the States and since coming to the UK.

Amongst these are top 10 place in the CCI4*- L at Tryon in 2022, as well as a win in the CCI4*-S at Morven Park earlier that same year. They came out all guns blazing on their frst international start on European soil, claiming a top 15 spot in the CCI4*-S at Mallow before taking 8th place in the CCI4*-S at Little Downham in September, adding a few time faults to their first phase score. A nice boost to their confidence ahead of their trip to Pau, no doubt.

They have jumped clear across country on all their starts thus far this season, with a maximum of one pole on the final day. Indeed, they have jumped double clear as often as they have not this year, so fingers crossed Pau sees them pull this off again. With a dressage score hovering around the lower 30’s, it wouldn’t be surprising to see these two finish well within the top half of the field, ending Cosby’s season here on the same high with which it began, and adding to a list of accolades this season that includes earning the best-placed rookie prize at Boekelo earlier this month with another ride.

Sean actually started his eventing career on UK soil, way back in 2011 with Gemma Stevens, and even then, he showed promise, finishing in the top 10 on all but one of his starts in that first season, before stepping up to Novice at the end of that first year. When he was sold to the US, he continued to rack up the results, and has jumped around several high profile US events with Buck, including  Kentucky. 23-year-old Cosby has an experience beyond her years, too, so together they are more than ready to tackle the challenge at Pau this weekend. Still, it must be comforting for Cosby to know that her old mate has already had one successful trip around here – hopefully he remembers the way, and gives her a positive spin around her first 5*, too. Who knows what they have planned for next season, be it Kentucky or another European 5*, but one thing that is almost certain is that Cosby’s is a name you should remember, and this weekend could well be the start of a long – and successful — 5* career for this talented young rider, not least as a result of her time with Mr and Mrs Price.

Allie Knowles and Morswood. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Allie Knowles and Morswood

Fifteen-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding (Ricardo Z – Princess in Arms, by Present Arms xx). Bred by John Doherty. Owned by Katherine O’Brien. Groomed by Katie Hagerty.

This weekend will be Morswood’s fifth CCI5* with Lexington-based Allie Knowles. Morswood was originally produced through the 2* level by Great Britain’s Piggy March before the reins were handed to Piggy’s then-stable jockey, Ireland’s Susie Berry. With Susie, the gelding contested the Young Rider European Championships in 2017, proving there how quick and competitive he could be across the country.

Since pairing up with Allie, who’s also known for tackling the biggest courses in the world with her OTTB Sound Prospect, Morswood has picked up some exciting results. They went to Maryland in 2021 for Morswood’s first 5* after some of his best performances at CCI4*-S in Unionville and the CCI4*-L at Jersey, ultimately finishing eleventh in that debut at the top level.

The duo then threw their hat in the ring for Kentucky in 2022, cutting their trip short after an unfortunate fall for Allie at the Mighty Moguls. However, the team bounced back for an eighth place finish in the Maryland 5* in 2022. They didn’t complete Kentucky this year, and this autumn, rather than tackling another Maryland, they decided to try their hand — or hoof — at a new venue for the horse, though not the rider. Allie finished 21st here in 2017 on ‘Sounder’.

As if riding at the 5* level wasn’t impressive enough, Allie doesn’t just produce horses and compete – she’s also a USEA ECP trainer, helping her students achieve their own goals, and a young mom. Typical multitasking that we see in a Pony Clubber – she’s an A graduate of Sierra Gold Pony Club.

We’ll look to Morswood to start his week with a low-to-mid-30s score, though he has gone sub-30 at five-star previously. Then, they’ll aim for a clear — and a reasonably quick one, as is their tendency — and they’ll hope to repeat that clear final phase that they delivered on their Maryland debut.

Boyd Martin and Fedarman B. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Boyd Martin and Fedarman B

Thirteen-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Clooney – Paulien B, by Fedor). Owned by the Annie Goodwin Syndicate. Bred by G and G.F. Brinkman.

Boyd rides in honor of the late Annie Goodwin, who was ‘Bruno’s’ previous rider. Annie’s family asked Boyd to take over the ride after her death in 2021 in what he describes as “a massive honor to continue Annie’s work with Bruno.” Boyd describes Bruno as a ‘one-person horse’, and the pair had to take time to grow roots in the partnership, but it has certainly blossomed in the time since. Their top finishes include winning the Tryon CCI4*-L in May of 2022 as well as their 4*-S earlier this year. They also were seventh at Boekelo last year in addition to winning the Grand-Prix Eventing Showcase at Bruce’s Field at the start of 2022, and when Bruno made his five-star debut at Luhmühlen this summer, he thoroughly impressed with an eighth-place finish — a hugely poignant moment for his family of supporters.

Now, we’ll look to them to repeat or even improve upon that finish, and aiming for a win really isn’t beyond the realm of possibility, either. Bruno’s not going to lead the dressage; he’s a high-20s to low-30s scorer, which will put him in a position to hunt his way to the top throughout the weekend. He’s very reliable and naturally swift across the country, and he’s only had one rail since 2020. Boyd ran both his FEI starts since Luhmühlen as combined tests, but there’ll be good reason for that approach — not least that Bruno has been beautifully produced for cross-country, and doesn’t need to put miles on the clock to confirm what he already knows. In any case, they’ve never been out of the top ten in their seven FEI starts in which they have left the start box. Watch them closely this week.

ZIMBABWE

Julia Norman and Ardeo Berlin

Fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (breeding unknown). Owned by Keith Norman, Bruce Fraser, and Julia Norman. Groomed by Cara Bexton and Sophia Covey.

With most of the horses at Team Norman now on their winter holidays, it will be all eyes on Ardeo Berlin (Bertie) this week – Julia is accompanied by not only her competition groom Cara, but head girl too Sophia too. This will suit Bertie just fine, though; he’s a big fan of VIP treatment and thrives with the one on one treatment that he receives at these top events!

Pau will be a chance for redemption after he and Julia were sadly pulled up achingly close to home at Burghley in September when officials spotted a speck of blood from a tiny bite on his lip. They had looked full of running until that point, so hopefully they will be able to replicate that performance in France this weekend. This will be the third 5* start for Julia and Bertie – “our little pocket rocket” – and Julia’s 5th. Based at the Windmill Stud where she also breeds event horses, Julia actually qualified as a Quantity Surveyor before ultimately choosing to pursue a career with horses.

She has partnered Bertie throughout his entire eventing career, taking him right up through the levels. Together they were 4th at Ballindenisk earlier this year, despite having a grand total of zero prep runs before hand, and were 34th here at Pau this year, despite 20 penalties on cross country day. Bertie, who Julia admits is “not the easiest on the flat” (we can expect to see a mark in the high 30’s or low 40’s in the first phase) lives for the cross country. This was clear for all to see at Burghley: the tiny Irish gelding attacked Derek di Grazia’s track with an enthusiasm and determination that belied his tiny stature. He jumped clear in all but one of his cross country starts last season, and before that his last cross country jumping faults were back in 2019.

This season, Julia – who transferred her nationality to Zimbabwean over the winter – has only run Bertie four times – largely due to the cancellations of many of the spring events she had entered. Still, after a successful spin around the CCI4*-L at Ballindenisk, an almost-completion at Burghley and a jaunt around the OI at both Aston-le-Walls earlier in the summer, and then at Oasby last month, Bertie will certainly be raring to go, and hopefully improve on his 34th place here last year. Fingers crossed for Julia and her pocket rocket; they certainly deserve to make it to the final day, and Bertie will no doubt give this week’s tough course his all as he did at Burghley.

Pau begins tomorrow at 10.00 a.m. CET/9.00 a.m. BST/4.00 a.m. EST with the first horse inspection, while dressage will begin at 2.30 p.m. CET/1.30 p.m. BST/8.30 a.m. EST. You can catch all the action via Horse&Country TV — and keep it locked on EN for all the news, views and updates from each and every day. Go Eventing!

Les 5 Etoiles de Pau links: Website | Entries | Live Scores | Live Stream | EN’s Coverage

The Belles of the Burghley: Team EN Picks The Winners (and More!)

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

TILLY BERENDT

Winner: For me, it’s Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser, through and through, and I am so sorry for jinxing them if it doesn’t pan out this weekend. This pair just deserve a British five-star victory on their record so much; Toledo is one of the greatest event horses of the modern era, in my humble opinion, and he’s already won at Pau and been a silver and gold medallist at Tokyo, among his enormous roster of accolades. There are few horses who can succeed at both Pau — on the tight, twisty, technical far end of the 5* spectrum — and Burghley — the huge, bold, terrain-heavy other end of that spectrum, but Toledo adapts himself to any course so admirably. He was fourth here on his last appearance back in 2017 as a ten-year-old, and I can’t wait to see what he makes of his return this week.

Best Foreign Entry: It’s a bit of a ‘cheat’ for me to say Ireland’s Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue, because they’re British based, but still, it counts — and who’d want to bet against this extraordinary little horse, who delivered by far the fastest round of the day in incredibly tough conditions at Badminton this year? He finished looking like he could have done another minute, ultimately finishing third, and this week, the conditions are far more favourable, so even with the tougher terrain, I think he’s going to be one of the most noteworthy rounds to watch come Saturday. This is his first Burghley, but I have faith we’ll get more of the ‘Salty’ magic this week.

Best Mare: Well, Liberty and Glory, naturally — more on this below — but also, Ros Canter’s excellent Pencos Crown Jewel. She’s been incredibly successful in her own right, finishing top ten at Badminton this year, Bicton 5* on her debut in 2021, and eleventh here last year, but she’s always rather overshadowed by her maternal half-brother, Lordships Graffalo. This is her week to prove that she’s every inch as good as Walter, and I think she’ll be a right in her wheelhouse doing so.

Dark Horse: Surely they don’t count as dark horses anymore, but speaking of competitors who seem to get overshadowed in the wider conversation, I have to give the nod to David Doel — the kindest man in eventing — and Galileo Nieuwmoed. This is such a cheat pick for me, because they’ve been in the top ten in their last three five stars (Badminton, Pau, and Kentucky), AND they led Pau after cross-country, but I still feel like they’re often being missed out in the chit-chat because of the major names in this line-up. I’ll be looking at them to finish in the business end again and for everyone to finally realise that they’re a truly world-class combination.

You Don’t Know Them Know, But You Will: I’ve liked the look of Matt Heath’s Askari ever since he was an Intermediate being taken around by British team head honcho Dickie Waygood — he’s got the sweetest splashy face and a tonne of talent. He’s impressed me on both his runs around terrain-heavy Bramham CCI4*-L — he’s bold, and game, and clever with his feet, and Matt is one hell of a cross-country jockey. I think a lot of people will find a new favourite here as the gelding takes on his first five-star.

Highest Climber After Cross Country: It’s a tough one for me to call between 21-year-old Alice Casburn and her homebred Topspin, who climbed from 30th to eighth after cross-country last year, ultimately moving up to fifth on the final day, and flying firefighter Tom Crisp and his own homebred, Liberty and Glory, who climbed from 39th to fifteenth on cross-country and then moved up to ninth in the showjumping. But after that unlucky dunking at Badminton this spring in the lake, at which point Tom and ‘Lori’ had been giving one of the performances of the day — Tom’s unseating came when she twisted a bit in the air, and as he was due an operation on a hernia, he was slightly short on his usual core strength — I want to give this one to Tom. Everyone will be rooting for him as, even in the throes of heartbreak, he put on a show, ‘swimming’ in the lake before taking a bow, and there are few horses more fun to watch than the tiny, feisty mare he’s mounted on. I’m gunning for another top ten for them this week, and even though the first phase isn’t Lori’s forte, the pair are so capable and quick that it’s totally within their wheelhouse to put themselves at the business end again when it counts.

David Doel and Galileo Nieuwmoed. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

CHEG DARLINGTON

Winner: 
There’s going to, rightly, be a lot of talk about Toledo, but Swallow Springs is totally on my radar – and EquiRatings’ too, who have him down as favorite to win. So, I’m going to play the numbers game. Oliver has ridden at Burghley every year since 2006 (except, of course, the Covid years) – he won it the third time of trying (and the first time he completed, in 2009), and has since won again, as well as coming second, third and fourth – he’s going for his third win this weekend. Swallow Springs comes forward for his third go at Burghley – he was third on his first attempt, with Andrew Nicholson in the irons, when he finished on his dressage. He’s certainly shown he can be there or thereabouts after the first phase, and was sitting in third after dressage at Badminton in the spring. According to EquiRatings, Swallow Springs is the third fastest horse in the field and there’s no denying his cross country jumping ability. He may have a pole on the final day, but so could a lot of the other horses, and if all three phases show up for him, I think he could be onto a winner. All these threes are talking to me and whispering that maybe it’ll be third time lucky for this lovely horse.

Best Foreign Entry:
I’ll kick on with my head choice – and stick with my three theme – and put Tim Price and Vitali in here. They were third at Burghley last year and have had top 10 finishes in all three of their top-level outings together – in fact, their last three runs have been 5*s. We all know that Burghley’s not a dressage competition, but last year they put down a 21.3 in the first phase – the fourth best Burghley dressage score of all time, and, according to EquiRatings, Vitali is the second best dressage horse in the field this year, based on their 6RA stats, (OK, so my threes theory runs out of gas here). You have to go right back to his first FEI outing (with former rider James Avery) to find cross country jumping penalties on his record, and he’s shown he can be close to the time at the level, although he hasn’t quite been inside it, yet. Vitali’s show jumping can drop him down the order – although Tim has the most Burghley show jumping clears in the field – but the twelve he added on the final day in the Burghley Main Arena last year only saw him drop one place. If they’re to be up there at the end of proceedings, this will be a real team effort – starting out like they mean business, Tim putting his foot down on the cross country, and Vitali holding it together in the show jumping – just as eventing should be.

In case you’re wondering, my heart choice is Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF. I could run the stats and come up with a very similar argument to the one above, but sometimes it’s nice to just follow your heart, and Thomas is a horse that I get heart-eyed-emoji about. I’d love to see him have a great Burghley, and I think he just might.

Best Mare:
Boyd’s back in my picks, with On Cue – a mare that I am very much looking forward to seeing on her first trip overseas. She comes forward for her third 5*, having placed third in her debut at the level at Kentucky, and then winning on her second attempt – at Maryland, where she posted a 25 in the dressage and then finished on that score. She probably won’t win the dressage in present company, but for sure she’ll be in the hunt as we go into the cross country, and she’s amongst the most reliable cross country horses in the field, with no jumping penalties on her record since a 2* in 2018. She’s not always the fastest, but she can be if Boyd decides to go for it, so we’ll just have to wait and see how she’s feeling on the day. She’s an exciting talent, that’s for sure.

Dark Horse:
I’m actually backing David Doel and Galileo Nieuwmoed for the win, but as I needed a combination for the dark horse category, and Galileo is literally a dark horse, I’m putting him in here. As an eight-year-old he tackled his first 4* at Le Pin au Haras in 2019, adding nothing to his dressage of 33.3 for second. At his first 5* – Pau in 2021 – he was 15th, with a double clear cross country but a couple of poles on the final day. Last year, the pair burst onto the Badminton leaderboard, finishing 6th with David the highest-placed Badminton first-timer. It was jumping clear all the way, adding just 1.2 cross country time to their dressage of 32.4. He returned to Pau last season to finish 4th, jumping clear inside the time on cross country day – one of only four to make the time and coming in 9 seconds under – and missing out on the win by just one show jumping pole. He followed that up with eighth place at Kentucky this spring, finishing on his dressage with a score of 35.6. This is a bold, scopey horse who’s as fun to watch as he is talented, and I won’t be at all surprised if he’s right up at the top once all’s said and done.

You Don’t Know Them Know, But You Will:
When you hear Kristina Hall-Jackson talk about CMS Google, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the excitement she has for their partnership. They’ve completed at all but one of their 26 FEI starts together (withdrawing at the only one they didn’t complete), and their cross country round at Badminton in the spring was, for me, one of the rides of the day. Yes, they had a couple of green refusals, but it was only their second time at the level – Google is still gaining mileage – and, if your horse tells you she’s having the time of her life, it’s totally commendable to kick on and finish the thing, gaining enormous experience and building your partnership along the way. They finished 29th and were the highest-placed British Badminton first-timers. This is for sure a combination that is up-and-coming, and, whilst I don’t think they’re going to win Burghley this time around, if you love seeing a horse digging deep and a partnership that’s truly a team, then this exciting prospect is one to watch. Also, best Christmas present ever! That’s right, Kristina got Google for Christmas, excuse me while I get all dreamy-eyed for a second.

Highest Climber After Cross Country:
Aistis Vitkauskas and Commander VG is my sensible choice for this category, but I just have to add Francis Whittington’s DHI Purple Rain in here. It’s a bit of a game of two halves based on his stats – on recent form, he’s likely to be at the bottom end of the hunt after the first phase – but that’s very much down to mood and atmosphere rather than talent for the test. More often than not, he’s in the low-30s in the first phase, and therefore in the mix, but he can get hot, hot, hot – as he did at Badminton in the spring – and when that happens, despite Francis being brilliant under the pressure, those scores just slip away. But it’s the cross country that’s really important for this category. I was incredibly taken by how this horse took on all that the Badminton track threw up this year. One thing you’ll notice about this guy is his extravagant and flamboyant action – he really is a sight to see. You’d have thought he was totally unsuited to the sticky, difficult going, but no – he ate that course up and looked like he relished every single second. He was quick that day – he isn’t always, but Francis has been spending time patiently producing this lovely horse and so doesn’t always have his foot down. After his gutsy performance at Badminton though, perhaps he’ll feel that ‘Prince’ is ready to run – we’ll have to wait and see. In terms of highest climber, it’s more likely to be Commander VG if you look at form alone (he’s one of the fastest horses in the field for a start), but based on circumstantial evidence and my own observations, there’s a real possibly it’ll be DHI Purple Rain.

Tim Price and Vitali. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

DIANA GILBERTSON

Winner:
Well, I always find this hard, and this time is no different. I honestly haven’t a clue – I could jump on about ten different horses (figuratively speaking that is – I doubt any of the top jockeys would let me get on their finely tuned partners in crime), including 5* stalwart Ballaghmor Class, his stablemate Swallow Springs, the recently crowned European Champion Ros and Pencos Crown Jewel, (who also happens to be half sister to Ros’ European ride, and Badminton champ, Lordships Graffalo),  Tokyo Olympic Gold and Silver Medallist Tom McEwan….the list goes on. But I am going to go with my heart here, and say FEI World No. 1, Tim Price with Vitali, who was third here last year. We all know Vitali, who can easily dance his way to the top of the leader board on dressage day and follow it up with a speedy clear across country has a major Achilles heel in the show jumping. Three down here last year dropped him down from second, while another three at Badminton this spring dropped him from fourth to seventh, but STILL! This is eventing, the sport where anything can – and does – happen, and I would love to see Vitali and Tim have their day. If I was to have a back up, I’d say Tom McEwan and Toledo. In fact, in all honesty, they’re a more likely candidate, as they are pretty infallible in all three phases, but no. I shall go with my heart, and stick on Tim. An utter genius in the saddle and an all round super human in general, it would make me very, very happy to have him add another Burghley title to his ever growing list of major wins, and with such a lovely horse, too. GO TIM! And Vitali, pick your bloody feet up!

Best Foreign Entry:
Is it cheating to say Tim again? Ok, yes…he may be a Kiwi but let’s face it, he’s part of the fixtures and fittings over here now. So instead, I’ll venture to America, and pick Boyd Martin, with On Cue. She has had just 20  cross country penalties across her six year FEI career, and is the definition of girl power. This is her first trip to Burghley, but with a cross country record like that, the tough track that lies ahead on Saturday shouldn’t cause her too much trouble, and her consistency in the dressage should stand her in good stead, too. Unfortunately, her show jumping record isn’t as squeaky clean; she has tipped rails in almost all of her starts this season, and as such she may struggle to make the podium. Having said that, if she can pull her usual sub 20 dressage mark out of the bag as well as another magical cross country performance, she may earn herself enough leeway to drop a few poles and still stay in the mix. Either way, she will no doubt make Boyd’s trip across the pond more than worthwhile, even if it is just to show us all how it is done over one of the toughest tracks in the world.

Best Mare:
I could be really lazy and simply say, see above (On Cue), but then I’d feel guilty…I really, really wanted to say Luna Mist, only so I could talk about the incredible upside down half moon on her forehead. She’s so pretty! But I don’t think that would pass as a good enough reason to back her as the best mare. So instead let’s talk about Jasmine – Pencos Crown Jewel. Piloted by this season’s golden girl, Ros Canter, and half sibling to the Badminton and European Champ Lordships Graffalo, all eyes will be on her this weekend. Rightly so, it must be said. She may not have quite as long a list of accolades to her name as her (half) bro, but she is still a mare worthy of much celebration. Second in the CCI-4*L at Bramham last June, she then made her Burghley debut and came in eleventh, and bettered that with ninth at Badminton this Spring. She isn’t quite as careful as Walter on the final day – she had 3 down here last year, and 2 at Badminton – which may keep her off that coveted top spot, but that’s not to say she can’t pull a clear out of the bag. In fact, she did just that at Bramham last year, despite a whole jump blowing over beside her mid-round. So it won’t be surprising to see her finish top 10 – nay, top 5, nay, top THREE! – this weekend, especially considering she is partnered by Ros, Queen of Absolutely Everything (in my world, anyway).

Dark Horse:
Um, this is awkward, but I am going for a literal dark horse here. David Doel and Galileo Nieuwmoed. Admittedly, they were eliminated at their first 5* at Bicton in 2021, but they have put that far behind them and not only completed, but smashed every 5* start since. Sixth at their first Badminton in 2022 with a double clear, fourth at Pau later that year with one show jump, eight at their first Kentucky this Spring with another double clear, this is not a horse that will be under the radar for very much longer. Nor does it seem fair that he is still an eligible contender for this category – or that he hasn’t yet made it on to a Championship team. But that, lads, is a conversation for another day. Today we are here to talk about Burghley, a tough cross country test that requires a brave, fast horse, and guess what, we have one right here. Add to that a pretty snazzy show jumping record – not a single pole all season thus far – and an ever improving first phase score, and you have a dark horse about to put his best foot forward into the light.

You Don’t Know Them Know, But You Will:

Burghley 2023 sees one of the most competitive line ups since well, a long time. Up against several major players from overseas — including Boyd Martin from the US with not one, but two rides (one of which is already a 5* winner) —  are a veritable feast of UK based superstars. We’re talking Olympic, European and World Medallists, the FEI World Number , and of course, this year’s Badminton Winner. However, as exciting as it is to see all of these legends in action, there is also a multitude of lesser known faces making their 5* debut this weekend. One such debutant is  nine year old Shanbeg Cooley, ridden by Northumberland-based Harry Mutch who is, in his own right, a rider to keep your eye on. This will be Harry’s fourth 5* start but the very first for ‘Jager.’ Some might say that Burghley is quite the challenge for such a young and relatively inexperienced horse, but Harry has a lot of faith in him, especially after a successful romp around the equally trying CCI-L4* at Bramham in June, to  finish inside the top 20. Harry calls him a ‘freak,’ who could easily have been a pure showjumper – this will certainly stand him in good stead on the final day, as will his preference to run fast across country. His dressage is a work in progress, but with 3 double clears from 5 international starts this season, this is a horse that could well fly up the leader board after the jumping phases, putting himself firmly in the spotlight, and proving himself as one to watch for the future.

Highest Climber After Cross Country:
Austin O Connor and Colorado Blue. I do not need to say much to justify this, the stats speak for themselves. Although he is usually well down after dressage, he is just as likely to be back in the top 10 – or 5 – after cross country. Need evidence? 34th to 3rd at Badminton this Spring, and similar scenes the year before, climbing way up to finish eighth at only their second 5*. They were best of the Irish in Tokyo in 13, thanks again to a game of leader board leap frog after cross country and I won’t be alone in predicting the same happens here. Hopefully Salty can maintain his position on the final day, as his tendency to knock a few poles has seen him go back down a few spots too – he would have been second at Badminton had it not been for two rails on the final day – but it is still oh so fun to see him skip so far up the leader board after cross country! I feel a new bet for all the gamblers out there….how many places can Austin go up this time?

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

ALLIE HENINGER 

Winner: 
The odds are against anyone who isn’t Oliver Townend this weekend, who will enter the ring three separate times on very competitive horses. Swallow Springs currently has the highest probability scoring from our friends at Equiratings, and his record shows a typical expert-level challenge to the rest of our field of competitors. After taking a silver at Badminton thanks to his ridiculously low dressage score – with over 7 points between him and the third-place finisher – another similar test could give them a nice comfortable cushion should time be lost on cross country.

Ballaghmor Class, however, may be the more suited horse for this particular competition, with a much higher tendency to produce the kind of confident cross country ride that will be needed this week. This gelding hasn’t been out of the top five in any of his eight five-stars – with just a pole or two in show jumping keeping him from shining success, though he does have two wins at the level to his name. I am never very successful in my attempts at predictions (so don’t quote me on any of these!), but I definitely look forward to seeing how these two – as well as Oliver’s third competitive entry Tregilder – duke it out for the finish.

Best Foreign Entry:
Our Kiwi friends Tim Price and Vitali took Burghley by storm last year post-dressage on the lowest score in the field at 21.3 – one that managed to secure them in third place despite three show jumping rails and 5.2 time faults on cross country. They took a seventh place finish at Badminton this year with nearly the exact same story – a 27.1 dressage score that was added to with three rails and an understandable amount of time on cross country, crossing the finish as the fourth fastest even given the field conditions. Experience will prove itself in challenging competition, and I don’t think this weekend will be an exception for this well-seasoned pair.

Best Mare:
Always my favorite will be the beautiful queen that is On Cue – winner of this year’s Bromont CCI4*-S and also of my heart. Cue’s only two 5*s thus far have seen a win and a fourth place finish, with very few deviations outside the top ten – or top five, for that matter. While certainly not the fastest horse in the field, her first Burghley outing will call for technique and bravery, which she certainly has in hand with only one cross country refusal in her entire history. If she can keep the rails up in the final phase, she’s sure to give a very competitive score.

Dark Horse:
While not exactly a typical dark horse, one pair that I feel may be overlooked is the Irish duo Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue. The two have been slowly decreasing their average dressage score over the years, and have seen top ten finishes at the only two 5* completions they have under their belt. Most importantly, however, is “Salty’s” tendencies for a fast and clear cross country – the gelding put in the fastest time on this year’s very wet and difficult Badminton course, earning them a spot on the podium. They also added only one dropped pole in the Tokyo Olympics for a 13th place finish, so a competitive dressage score could mean a huge advantage for this pair.

You Don’t Know Them Know, But You Will:
Julia Norman sent me on a research journey this week when I learned that she had recently switched nationalities to her late mother’s homeland of Zimbabwe. This previously-British competitor’s entry brings a first for Burghley’s records, and while Julia has a Burghley run under her belt, this will be Ardeo Berlin’s only second run at the CCI5* level. “Bert” is not to be discounted, however, after taking a quick fourth place finish at Ballindenisk this spring. His dressage scores aren’t typically star-studded, but this rider’s story will surely be the talk of the town this week.

Highest Climber After Cross Country:
The ever-talented Shanbeg Cooley always catches my eye, and while he’s known for not always being able to put down the best scores in the sandbox, he is known for being an absolute freak on cross country. Earning double-clears more often than not, this fast and strong stallion seems made for Burghley. This will be his 5* debut piloted by the young but experienced Harry Mutch, who has mentioned quite a bit about the difficult young horse’s work to make it to this field. If the hot-headed “Jaeger” truly is fitter than he’s ever been, we are certainly sure to see quite the show from this pair come Saturday.

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Ready, Steady, Go: Your Guide to the Horses and Riders of the 2023 FEI European Eventing Championships

In just a few hours we’ll be officially underway with competition at the 2023 FEI Eventing European Championships for Seniors, held this year at Haras du Pin in France. It’s an important trial on all accounts, and we can’t wait to see how things shake out by the end.

As is tradition here at EN, we’ve compiled everything we know about each combination competing this weekend into one comprehensive Form Guide. You can also learn more about this weekend’s competition in our Ultimate Guide and our Team primer. Use the link list below for more information on #Euros2023.

#Euros2023 : Website | Live Stream | Entries | Startlists & Scoring | EN’s Ultimate Guide | EN’s Form Guide | EN’s Coverage

Want to jump straight to a specific nation? Click the links below to jump directly to their section. They nations are listed in drawn order in the list below:

1. Ireland
2. Belgium
3. Germany
4. Netherlands
5. Italy
6. Switzerland
7. Sweden
8. Poland
9. Denmark
10. France
11. Great Britain
12. Austria
13. Denmark
14. Finland

Daniel Dunst and Chevalier 97TEAM

Thirteen-year-old Westfalian gelding (Cürten – Laola, by Falkenhof’s Lancer). Owned by O. St. Auto-Pichler Autovermietungs u. Handels GmbH.

4* dressage average: 38.3

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows:  It’s been since 2015 that Austrian individual representative Daniel Dunst competed at the European Championships, and for this cycle he’s paired up with the 13-year-old Chevalier 97. Daniel acquired the full-time ride on Chevalier 97 from fellow Austrian Peter Pichler ahead of the 2021 season. To that point, the horse competed in pure show jumping — save one 2*-S event in 2019 with Daniel — through the CSI2* level. Showing talent for the versatility test that is eventing, Chevalier 97 easily stepped up to the 4* level last spring, and this year Daniel’s come out with the intention of now asking for more competitive performances. They’ve turned in two clear and inside the time cross country rounds this year so far.

It’s a must-succeed weekend in many ways for the Austrians, who have not yet achieved qualification for the Olympics. The pathway through the Europeans is likely the most realistic option they have to qualify a team. The Austrians finished sixth in the 2021 Europeans, and doing this or better this weekend could keep them in play for Paris.

Fun Fact: Chevalier 97 is the third horse with which Daniel has been selected to compete at the European Championships.

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

Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati and Oklahoma 2TEAM

Thirteen-year-old Trakehner mare (Sixtus – Osterfreude V, by Donaumonarch). Bred by Herald Riedl. Owned by Nico Hauf and the rider.

4* dressage average: 37.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: This will be a third Championship appearance for seasoned Oklahoma, who was part of the Austrian team at 2021’s European Championships in Avenches and then went to Pratoni last season. She was 38th at the Euros in 2021, and the Austrian team finished sixth – but the World Championships proved a touch trickier, and she and Katrin were eliminated on course. They began this year with another disappointing run at Montelibretti, but Katrin has since put the wheels back on the bus, and seasoned Oklahoma — who has 17 four-star runs to her name — has had three good, steady clears at the level since. She’s not here to fight for a medal — her first phase isn’t quite in the mix — but she can deliver a solid round and help the Austrian line-up aim for a completion. With just three combinations on the team this year, that’s exactly what they need.

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.

Austria’s Lea Siegl and Van Helsing P. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lea Siegl and Van Helsing PTEAM

Thirteen-year-old German Sporthorse gelding (Van Gogh – Carisma P, by Carismo). Bred by Pfitzmann Gbr. Owned by Harald Siegl. 

4* dressage average: 32

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: At the 2021 Europeans, Lea and Van Helsing P finished best of the Austrian contingent, taking individual 16th place after delivering a 28.7 on the flat, cruising around for eight time penalties across the country, and jumping clear on the final day. They’ve got course form at Haras du Pin, too; they came here, as most of Europe did, for last year’s CCIO4*-S, which had over 100 entries and was the final prep run for Pratoni for the majority of the entered horses. They jumped clear, adding 7.6 time penalties — but in that seriously high-calibre field, that was only enough to put them in 44th. Still, don’t underestimate them: they’ve won at CCI4*-S and CCI4*-L this year (Strzegom Nations Cup and Montelibretti, respectively), their dressage scores have improved considerably over the last few seasons, and Lea is a gutsy, fierce rider who crosses the country with a maturity beyond her years. They come here having not been out of the top ten in any international in a year, and she’ll be looking to carry that trend on. If she can do it, that’ll be an enormous moment for Austria – but in this field, she’ll have to hope for a good, strong course to exert plenty of influence.

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 top horse DSP Fighting Line. 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.

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Lara de Liedekerke-Meier and Hermione d’Arville. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lara de Liedekerke-Meier and Hermione d’ArvilleTEAM

Ten-year-old Belgian Sporthorse mare (Royaldik – Kyra du Relais Pachis, by Kashmir van Schuttershof). Bred by Larga sprl. Owned by Five Star Eventer sprl and Larga sprl.

4* dressage average: 31.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

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 Kai Steffen Meier, base their operation and run an international horse trials, too. She’s also on excellent form this year, as is Lara, who comes to Haras du Pin off the back of a top ten placing at Aachen with Ducati d’Arville, top ten placings in Luhmühlen’s ultra-competitive CCI4*-S with Hermione and Hooney, and a fourth place finish in the CCIO4*-S at Jardy last month with Hermione. Belgium leads the way comfortably in the Nations Cup series, but is hoping to clinch their Paris qualification here, and the tangible confidence within the ranks will help them. They’re ready to put a tough few years – which culminated in a first-fence freak fall at Pratoni for Lara and Hermione — behind them, and so we should too.

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 VerahofTEAM

Eighteen-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Vigo D’Arsouilles – Southern Queen xx, by South Gale xx). Bred by Peter Van Dame-De Smedt. Owned by Joris De Brabanderer, Carl Bouckaert, and the rider.

4* dressage average: 27.1

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: There’s no horse and rider combo in this field that’s amassed the breadth and depth of experience that Karin and her stalwart partner Fletcha have. This will be their eighth championship together; they’ve previously competed at the 2015, 2017, and 2019 Europeans, the 2014, 2018, and 2022 World Championships, and the 2016 Olympics. The 2014 World Championships is, perhaps, the most interesting one to look at here: it was also held at Haras du Pin, in a horrendously wet year, and Karin and Fletcha gritted their teeth and finished fifth individually. Now, in what is probably the horse’s last hurrah as a team mount (though he’s so tough that we can’t really rule out a Paris bid, if this week’s efforts to qualify as a nation go to plan), he brings 35 four-star runs and three five-star runs’ worth of experience to the table, and is ready to be a banker combination that can seal the deal if the going gets tough. Expect to see them in one of the most highly-pressurised roles, working as pathfinder or anchor — and expect them to make it happen, too, as they haven’t had an FEI cross-country jumping penalty since 2018.

Fun fact: It’s not in any way fun, but Karin, who made her Olympic debut back in 1992 after a successful Young Rider career, is one hell of a tough cookie: in 2000, her barn burned down, and while most of the horses were saved, three — including the Olympic-selected Better Times — were killed on a nearby motorway. Through the tremendous heartbreak of the loss, Karin regrouped, qualified another horse for the Games — and then broke her back on the steeplechase. By 2003, though, she was back on the Belgian team, and together, they won a medal at the European Championships that year, and has since been a lynchpin for her country and regularly found in the top ten at the Championship level.

Cyril Gavrilovic and Elmundo de Gasco. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Cyril Gavrilovic and Elmundo de GascoTEAM

Nine-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Dollar de la Pierre – Waldbluete, by Baloubet du Rouet). Bred by Johan Nicolas. Owned by the rider.

4* dressage average: 33.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: This will be a first Senior Championship for Cyril, who has ridden for Belgium at two Junior and two Young Rider European Championships previously. Over the last year or so, young Elmundo has stepped up to the plate as a four-star horse: he had an educational, rather than competitive, run at the Blenheim eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S in 2022, but has since finished in the top ten in three CCI4*-S runs and in a CCI4*-L, too. He made his four-star debut here last year in a huge field of over 100 competitors, many of whom were in their final prep run for Pratoni, and finished fiftieth after adding romping home clear and just one second over the optimum time. That’s particularly exciting – and the two rails and 36.7 dressage score are both limiting factors that have been improved upon substantially since that debut run. This is still an early career moment for the nine-year-old, but one that’ll be very exciting to watch as we consider the upward trajectory of the Belgian eventing front.

Fun fact: The 31-year-old, who’s currently ranked 100th in the world, set up his training base in Saint Aubin de Medoc, France, two years ago; previously, he studied at the Cadre Noir in Saumur and then did a stint working for William Fox-Pitt before managing a much larger riding school. He’s got his sites firmly set on the next two Olympics, and has successfully utilised crowdfunding to help him achieve some of his goals along the way.

Tine Magnus and Champagne Pia Z. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tine Magnus and Champagne Pia ZINDIVIDUAL

Fifteen-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Chablis I – Qurieuze-Pia Z, by Quinar). Bred by Lenaerts Wilfried. Owned by Maessen – Geurts.

4* dressage average: 31.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Current Belgian National Champion Tine makes her Senior Championship debut after having represented Belgium at the Junior and Young Rider levels in 2009 and 2012, respectively, and her partner for the week is the horse with whom she won that CCI4*-S national title — a horse who himself has appeared at Junior and Young Rider European Championships for Belgium with former pilot Laurine Thijs. Tine and Pia have been together since mid-2020; a year later, they moved up to four-star, and have had some promising results beyond that Arville win. Their final prep run, a seventh-place finish in the CCIO4*-S at Strzegom, will give them confidence in what is just their third CCI4*-L start — their first, at Boekelo last year, ended with an uncharacteristic elimination, but they began the year by putting that to bed with a smart, steady clear at the level at Montelibretti. This will be their first introduction to the pressures of a Senior call-up, but sunny Tine has always been good at maintaining a healthy dose of perspective and keeping her eyes on the prize.

Fun fact: Tine balances her eventing career with working for her family’s farm, which is one of two farms in Belgium that grows mini chicory — or endives — to supply to supermarkets. Tine’s roles on the farm are varied; she’s part of the administrative team, can be found driving tractors and getting stuck into the physical labour of the job, often transports goods, and works in processing, too.

Senne Vervaecke and Google Van Alsingen. Photo ©FEI/Massimo Argenziano

Senne Vervaecke and Google Van AlsingenINDIVIDUAL

Twelve-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Watch Me – Pinot Brun van het Pannehof, by Forever). Bred by T. Magnus. Owned by BVBA Alsingen.

4* dressage average: 39.1

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: This is Senne’s Senior team sophomore appearance: he made his debut riding longtime partner Google at Pratoni last year, finishing 36th individually after a mid-30s dressage, a clear cross-country with 10.8 time penalties, and a frustrating three rails down on that achingly tough showjumping course. Senne’s no stranger to championship pressure — he’s represented Belgium at six Junior and Young Rider European Championships, and at just 26 years, he’s a great prospect for the future of Belgian eventing.

Fun fact: Senne is so deeply entrenched in Belgian eventing that it would be fair to say the whole community is basically family: his father, Kris, is also a team competitor, and Belgian rider Maarten Boon, who has been on recent teams, used to babysit a young Senne. Now, it’s gone full circle, and Senne is Maarten’s child’s riding coach.

Jarno Verwimp and Mahalia. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jarno Verwimp and MahaliaTEAM

Eleven-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Elvis ter Putte – Cohiba, by Condrieu xx). Bred by Luc de Busser. Owned by the rider.

4* dressage average: 31.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: When Jarno made his Senior championship debut last year at Pratoni, he did so as the youngest rider in the field at just 21 – and Mahalia was one of the youngest horses, too, at just ten. But you’d never have guessed their relative inexperience from their performance, which saw them put a competitive 30 on the board in the first phase, come home clear with 8.4 time penalties, and then — frustratingly — take two poles in the tough final phase for an overall top 30 placing. It becomes even more impressive when you consider the journey that the pair has been on together; he’s produced the smart mare throughout her international career, taking her to an eleventh-place finish in the 2019 Seven-Year-Old World Championships and then partnering her at the Young Rider European Championships two years later. Since Pratoni, they’ve had third and second place finishes in the CCI3*-S and CCIO4*-S Nations Cup at Montelibretti, respectively, helping the Belgian team to the win in the latter, and they were tenth in the Nations Cup at Chatsworth, too, where conditions were seriously tough and few people made it around. Keep an eye on them this week – for one thing, they’re well capable of scoring significantly lower than their dressage average suggests, and we’ve seen them go down to the mid-20s at four-star.

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 last year, 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, as they did at Pratoni.

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Hanne Wind Ramsgaard and Amequ Torino. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Hanne Wind Ramsgaard and Amequ TorinoINDIVIDUAL

Eleven-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Toulouse – Flying Colors, by Cosmeo). Bred and owned by rider.

4* dressage average: 42.3

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: When Hanne made her Senior Championship debut at Pratoni last year as one of two individual competitors, she did so off the back of a significant personal effort – she and fellow competitor Mia Hastrup did all the fundraising themselves at both the corporate and grassroots level, as no federation funding was available to them. And the pride in what she’d done was palpable: even though she confesses that dressage isn’t homebred Amequ Torino’s favourite phase, and they scored a 45.1 in the ring there, she never stopped beaming. That’s the easiest way to spot her on cross-country, too – just look for the person having the most fun, and that’s probably Hanne. They nailed down an all-important clear round at the World Championships, and though they sadly didn’t proceed to the final phase, they certainly made progress on their big mission: promoting the sport across Denmark. “Eventing is not the biggest sport in Denmark, but it’s growing,” she said to EN. “And if we want the sport to grow… we’re not coming here to win the medals. We need to show that this is actually possible. If you can dream it, you can do it.”

Fun fact: Hanne is an amateur rider – though a high-flying one, having previously competed to five-star with her former top ride, Vestervangs Arami. Her day job? Maintenance of kindergartens. She trained as a carpenter originally, and there’s not much she can’t mend or build. Perhaps a stint dabbling in course design and building could be in her future…

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Veera Manninen and Sir Greg

Thirteen-year-old Oldenburg mare (Sir Gregory – Raffinesse, by Royal Diamond). Bred by Regina Wriggers. Owned by Equisport Tolmu Team & Nuuttila Pia & Tolmunen Petri.

4* dressage average: 34.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: 23-year-old Veera makes her Senior Championship debut with her 2021 Young Rider Europeans mount, with whom she finished seventh on that occasion. They might feel like a bit of a ‘whodat?’ entrant, but don’t make the mistake of underestimating them – they’ve picked up some serious results in their career together, including fourth place at both Strzegom CCIO4*-S and Sopot CCI4*-L (where they finished inside the time, too) this year alone. They’ve also had another seventh in a CCI4*-S at Strzegom, and an eleventh, so Poland is a particularly happy hunting ground for them. They’ve had a couple of wobbles, too, mind you — they began their year with a very uncharacteristic 20 in a CCI3*-S at Kronenburg, and their last FEI run saw them fall at Jardy last month, which is the only time that’s ever happened to them. With any luck, the experience will have sharpened them up, just as that 20 did at the start of the season, and they can go back to their usual form, which has seen them finish in the top ten in 18 of their 26 FEI starts.

Fun fact: Veera’s parents run a riding school, Teitillä Stables, and it was there that Veera fell in love with horses – and with eventing, in which her mother also competed. The family remains a huge part of Veera’s mission to get to Olympics next year.

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Karim Laghouag and Triton Fontaine. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Karim Laghouag and Triton FontaineTEAM

Sixteen-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Gentleman IV – Grenouil Fontaine, by Nightko). Bred by Sophie Pellisier. Owned by Phillippe Lemoine, Guy Bessat, S.A.R.L. Ecurie Karim Laghouag, and Camille Laffitte.

4* dressage average: 32

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows:  It’s difficult not to wish you were besties with the effervescent Karim Laghouag, whose zest for the sport and, well, for life in general, is always palpable even in high-stakes competition. He’s been tapped with his tried-and-true partner, Triton Fontaine, for this year’s home turf Championships and are a solid pick for a leaderboard-climbing pair.

At 16 this year, Triton Fontaine is contesting his first European Championships, having finished on the team podium and in individual 12th with Karim in Tokyo as his sole championship to date (2021). But as I said, he’s a tried-and-true partner, very nearly taking the win at Pau last fall and competing in numerous Nations Cup and 4*-L competitions throughout his international career.
This will be Karim’s fourth time heading to Europeans, and he brings forward what looks to be his best horse thus far with a strong shot at helping France to a banner weekend to set them up well for a home Olympics in just under a year’s time.

Fun Fact: Karim kept it in the family early on, training with his uncle Pierre Defrance for 15 years.

Stephane Landois and Chaman Dumontceau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Stéphane Landois and Ride For Thaïs Chaman DumontceauTEAM

Eleven-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Top Berlin du Temple – Cocagne des Pins, by Narcos II). Bred by E.a.r.l. Ecurie du Montceau. Owned by S.C.E.A. Ecurie du Cerisier Bleu.

4* dressage average: 28

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows:  Stéphane Landois gets his first senior squad call up this year but brings forward championship experience, having competing in Junior Europeans in 2009, 2013, 2014, and 2015. He’s also got a slew of strong results on his more recent record with this week’s partner, Ride for Thais Chaman Dumontceau. This pair delivered a resounding win in Nations Cup competition at Chatsworth this spring, besting a handful of 5* winners while he was at it.

Stéphane and Chaman Dumontceau have amassed multiple wins at the 4* level, in fact, and will have relished their time in training camp ahead of this week to put the finishing touches on. Earmark this one as a potential to make their mark, and with excellent timing as we’ll certainly be seeing multiple pairs that will also be in contention for the Olympic squad. Stéphane has done his part thus far, earning a spot on the French long list. A competitive finish here would necessitate consideration for a first Olympics appearance next summer.

Fun Fact: Stéphane previously trained out of Saumur and then trained with fellow Frenchman Thomas Carlisle. Less of a fun fact, but crucially important to the Chaman story, is the tragic passing of his former pilot, Thaïs Meheust, who passed away following a fall on cross-country in the national young horse championships with Chaman at Haras du Pin in 2019. Her big dream was to ride at the Paris Olympics, and now, her friend Stéphane is helping her live her dream in spirit – and her family are very much still involved, having set up the Ride for Thaïs Foundation to raise money for safety devices in eventing. Their Senior Championship debut is as much Thaïs’s debut as it is their own.

Gireg le Coz and Aisprit de la Loge. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Gireg Le Coz and Aisprit De La LogeINDIVIDUAL

Thirteen-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Quppydam des Horts – Image de la Loge, by Dollar du Murier). Bred by S.C.E.A. Elevage de la Loge. Owned by Augustin and Frederique Grand.

4* dressage average: 29.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows:  Gireg le Coz and Aisprit De La Loge burst onto the top level scene last year with an impressive debut at Badminton, finishing in the top 20 at this first effort (Gireg’s first completion at the level). They followed that up with a 13th place finish this year, all but stamping their ticket to Haras du Pin as a result.

This pair’s record at the 4* level is slightly mottled with a few blips, and they’ll be ruing an early ending to their competition at Aachen last month — a missed fence on cross country would be the culprit of their elimination. But despite this, the pair have shown multiple times that they can equally be competitive when it matters, and that’s the side of the coin they’ll be aiming for this week. Their run in the CCIO4*-S here last year was impressive – but for a missed flag penalty, they were nearly immaculate in all three phases.

Fun Fact: Aisprit de la Loge came to pair with Gireg after his owners, Augustin and Frederique Grand, watched the eventing competition at WEG in 2014, held in Caen, France. They purchased the horse as a four-year-old for Gireg to compete, and he’s been his partner ever since.

Gaspard Maskud and Zaragoza. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Gaspard Maksud and ZaragozaTEAM

Ten-year-old Anglo European Sporthorse mare (Cevin Z – Saracen’s Pride, by Saracen Hill xx). Bred by Jane Young. Owned by Les Haras Nationaux.

4* dressage average: 30.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows:  Another very impressive pair of rising stars is Gaspard Masked and Zaragoza, who were perhaps one of the most popular pairs at last year’s World Championships at Pratoni del Vivaro. Pulling off a surprising sixth place individual finish in Italy — the first championship aside from Young Horse Championships at Le Lion in Gaspard’s career — proved that guts, determination, talent, and willingness to dive in headfirst can sometimes work out exactly as you hoped.

For her part, Zaragoza beat out the best of the best in the polling for the 2022 EquiRatings Horse of the Year, earning 50,000 votes from 50 different countries, firmly cementing her in eventing lore. Another notable on her record: she’s proven she can be competitive at Haras du Pin, which could certainly work in her favor for another impressive finish this week.

Fun Fact: Gaspard may be short on senior championship experience, but don’t count him out: he won the French Junior championship at just 16. He eventually opted to move to the UK, basing with Andrew Nicholson as well as Sam Griffiths to further his eventing education.

Benjamin Massie and Edition Fonroy. Photo by Alex Jeffery.

Benjamin Massié and Édition FonroyINDIVIDUAL

Nine-year-old Selle Français mare (L’Arc de Triomphe – Starlette Fonroy, by Quick Star). Bred by Jean-Luc and Florence van Hoencker. Owned by Jean-Luc van Hoencker.

4* dressage average: 34.8

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Reserve pair Benjamin and Fonroy are an eleventh-hour addition to the French line-up after Héloïse Le Guern and Canakine du Sudre withdrew just after the horse’s final gallop at training camp, due to some sensitivity in a foreleg. But what a solid replacement this duo is: at just nine years old, catty, clever Fonroy has a number of very good results to her name so far. Most recently? A super run amongst the finest of company at CHIO Aachen’s CCIO4*-S, in which the pair finished 13th; they were also eleventh in her sole CCI4*-L run at Boekelo last year and sixth on her CCI4*-S debut last June. That’s all she’s got as far as four-star experience goes, but in ten FEI runs, she’s been clear nine times, just retiring on course in her debut CCI3*-S two years ago. She’s quick, she’s game, and she really jumps – so as long as that overrules her inexperience, she could really make a name for herself this week with championship debutant — but nevertheless very experienced — Benjamin aboard.

Fun fact: Benjamin, who began eventing at eighteen after spending his teens showjumping, has been quietly amassing some considerable five-star experience, beginning with his impressive debut back in 2010. At the age of 24, he made his first five-star start at Badminton, riding Haston d’Elpegère, a horse he’d competed just a handful of times. Together, they delivered one of just four clear rounds inside the time across the country. He’s a serious jockey in this phase, and that’ll go a long way to helping Fonroy find her feet in her own Senior championship debut.

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

Nicolas Touzaint and Absolut Gold HDCTEAM

Thirteen-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Grafenstolz – Belle Meralaise xx, by Verglas xx). Bred by Philippe Patenotte. Owned by Haras des Coudrettes.

4* dressage average: 31.1

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Nicolas Touzaint and Absolute Gold HDC are another Olympic-seasoned pair on the French roster, again demonstrative of the impressive depth the French are exhibiting in this Games build-up. This pair were a pair of the bronze medal-winning squad in Tokyo, finishing sixth individually to earn Nicolas’ highest Olympic placing in five starts. This will be a jaw-dropping tenth European Championship appearance for Nicolas, who’s twice been crowned the individual winner (2003, 2007) and finished inside the top 12 three times.

This pair had an unfortunate early ending to their time in Pratoni, parting ways at the 17th fence on cross country. It was a rather shocking ending to the weekend, as the pair had never so much as had a cross country penalty in their international career together to that point. But you live and learn and you’re thankful you get to try again, and that’s exactly what they’ll be out to do this week.

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.

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Nicolai Aldinger and Timmo. Photo by Mariusz Chmieliński.

Nicolai Aldinger and Timmo INDIVIDUAL

Thirteen-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Timolino xx – Windgold, by Carlos D Z). Bred by Ole Lehmann. Owned by Jutta and Michael Spethmann.

4* dressage average: 33.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows:  Nicolai gets his first Europeans call-up this week with the 13-year-old Timmo, who’s been tactfully produced as he’s come up the levels. The proof is in the pudding as the pair have collected increasingly competitive results in recent months. They were set to move up to the 5* level at Luhmühlen in June of this year, but a badly-timed knock ahead of the first inspection put paid to that plan. They rebounded with a clear cross country at the notoriously tricky and twisty CHIO Aachen, and they’ll have since been fine-tuning to ensure they can put in their strongest performance this week. They’re seriously reliable across the country, and haven’t had a cross-country jumping penalty since the gelding’s second four-star back in 2020.

Timmo is in fighting fit for his big debut this week, and while it’s likely that he and Nicolai are tapped to compete as individuals, it’ll be an ideal experience-building event for a pair that’s got big moves yet to come.

Fun Fact: Nicolai previously trained under Olympic rider Andreas Dibowski.

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

Sandra Auffarth and Viamant du MatzTEAM

Fourteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Diamant de Semilly – Heralina X, by Voltigeur le Malin X). Bred by Roger Sevette. Owned by Nikolaus Prinz von Croy.

4* dressage average: 31.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Sandra Auffarth probably didn’t pack her cowgirl hat for France (honestly, I’d say that’s a mistake), but she’ll certainly be recognizable with her Olympic, World Championships, and most recently Kentucky partner Viamant du Matz. They’re one of a strong German squad this week, which features two former World Champions as well as a healthy influx of younger horses and riders, and though they had a 20 at the Tokyo Olympics, they’re one of Germany’s banker pairs across the country.  Viamant du Matz is 14 this year and Sandra has repeatedly remarked at how well he’s felt as he’s gotten on. Dressage has been the biggest point of improvement, she’s said, though they also get in a fair bit of practice in the show jumping ring as well — as does Sandra separately, jumping her string of pure show jumpers in classes such as the Hamburg Derby. With Mat, she finished fourth at Kentucky this year, adding nothing to their first-phase score of 30.4.

When this pair is at their most competitive, they deliver a sub-30 dressage mark as a starting point. If they can squeeze into the 27 or even into the 23 range displayed in 2020, they’ll be well-placed in the early going — but even if they start on a 30, they’re consistent, quick performers in both jumping phases and would be equally counted upon to climb steadily up the standings.

Fun Fact: Here’s that cowgirl hat, in case you missed it.

Malin Hansen-Hotopp and Carlitos Quidditch K. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Malin Hansen-Hotopp and Carlitos Quidditch KTEAM

Eleven-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Quiwi Dream – Amsterdam, by Cassini I). Bred by Miriam Kuhl. Owned by Bodil Ipsen.

4* dressage average: 31.3

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows:  Malin Hansen-Hotopp makes her senior squad championship debut this week with Carlitos Quidditch K, coming off a top-12 finish at CHIO Aachen last month. This pair has been together since the outset of “Schimmi’s” eventing career, having partnered up when the gelding was five. They eventually stepped into Nations Cup competition and collecting several impressive finishes as they moved to the 4* level. They won the 4*-L at Blenheim last fall and have also finished just outside the top 10 at this venue, Haras du Pin, previously. This is a pair whose partnership and friendship is keenly evident when they leave the start box, and this first European Championship will certainly set them up well for future team appearances.

Fun fact: Malin has been inspired by coach Anne-Kathrin Pohlmeier’s approach to riding dressage tests, as she explained to Horse & Hound: “In the spring, she showed me a video of when she rode a six-year-old at the World Championships for young horses and it was so impressive as she was riding every single [move] for a 10,” she said. “It impressed me so much that I’m riding every test so differently to last year – I’m coming in and saying, ‘ok, let’s go!’”

Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH TEAM

Fifteen-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Contendro I – Havanna, by Heraldik xx). Bred by ZG Meyer-Kulenkampff. Owned by Deutsches Olympiade-Komitee für Reiterei e.V., Klaus Fischer, Sabine Fischer, and Hilmer Meyer-Kulenkampff.

4* dressage average: 23.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Ze Terminator certainly needs little introduction, as does his partner this weekend fischerChipmunk FRH. Originally nominated to the long list with both Chipmunk and the lesser experienced Kilcandra Ocean Power, the 2022 Kentucky winner eventually got the final nod to head to France this week.

Michael and Chip have collected two 4*-S wins this far in 2023, though the campaign has been relatively light as Michael has opted to prioritize Paris for his top partner. Chip, at 15 this year, is experienced enough to not need a heavy amount of prep runs for a major championship, and the light schedule will have the gelding feeling fresh and fit for the competition ahead. This seasons runs, while impressive on paper, haven’t been quite at Chip’s usual standards, though: they had a mind-boggling 20 at Strzegom in March, and since then have looked good, but haven’t managed to catch the time yet this year. It’s a small margin they’ve been missing it by, but when you’re analysing previous near-perfection, it still feels notable.

We won’t be surprised to see this pair take a lead this weekend, though they will have competition even in the first phase with several other pairs capable of a low-20s mark. If Michael manages a sub-20, he could find himself in sole possession of the lead to defend at the start of cross country.

Michael went on a European Championships tear in the 2010s, earning three consecutive individual titles on three different horses (2011, 2013, 2015), also contributing to team gold medals in each turn.

Fun Fact: Michael Jung shares the same birthday as Harry Potter, which is inarguably the only fun fact you need to know about him.

Jerome Robiné and Black Ice. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jérôme Robiné and Black IceINDIVIDUAL

Thirteen-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding (Vechta – Brookhall Lady, by Touchdown). Bred by Judith McClelland. Owned by Dorothea von Zedtwitz.

4* dressage average: 31.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows:  Jérôme Robiné and Black Ice stepped up to 5* level competition this year at Luhmühlen, finishing in an eye-catching tenth place – and likely would have been higher save for two unfortunate rails down on Sunday. Nonetheless, that performance stamped this pair’s ticket to France, and though they may find themselves tapped to compete as individuals this weekend they’ll be collecting invaluable intel as they continue to make a bid for the Paris team next year.

Jérôme is a product of the military-based Warendorf school system, which instills riding skill and horsemanship in each young rider that passes through its ranks. Julia Krajewski is one product of and current coach of this program, to name just one.

Black Ice underwent a few changes of rider in the earlier stages of his career, but since he came into Jerome’s stable he’s notched increasingly competitive results. This is a potential dark horse pair who could impress in their Championship debut.

Fun Fact: Jérôme earned great success in his junior career, competing in five Junior Europeans, earning individual bronze in his first attempt in 2014 and also winning three team medals in the process.

Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Christoph Wahler and Carjatan STEAM

Fourteen-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Clearway – Kajenna, by Galant Vert xx). Bred by Carl-Friedrich Soehrmann. Owned by Lena Thoenies and the rider.

4* dressage average: 29.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows:  This week marks the third European Championships appearance for Christoph Mahler and the 14-year-old Carjatan S. They first represented Germany at the Championships at Luhmühlen in 2019, where they finished in 20th individually. They followed that performance up with a seventh place individual finish in the 2021 Championships at Avenches, in which Team Germany also finished in silver position (Christoph competed as an individual). This pair also stepped up to their first World Championship together at Pratoni last fall, finishing very nearly on their dressage mark in 22nd individually and helping the team to gold.

That depth of experience should earn them a team berth this weekend, and they’re hot off a fourth place finish at Aachen to help seal the deal. This is a pair who’s collected a healthy sum of wins in international competition, and they can generally be trusted to deliver a clear and quick cross country when it counts. They’re also quite adept show jumpers, so it’s a good bet that they’ll be a solid finishing score for the Germans’ bid for the podium this weekend. The first phase can be the most frustrating, not because it’s ever bad, but because we know it can be SO good – but since Christoph has perfected the horse’s fitness regime, he can sometimes bubble over and slip up into the 30s, when he’s achingly capable of a mid-20s mark.

Fun Fact: Christoph manages the famous Klosterhof Medingen, originally run by his grandfather Eugen, and its robust breeding operation.

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Ros Canter’s Lordships Graffalo Photo by Shelby Allen.

Ros Canter and Lordships GraffaloTEAM

Eleven-year-old British Sporthorse gelding (Grafenstolz – Cornish Queen, by Rock King). Bred by Lordships Stud. Owned by Michael Saul.

4* dressage average: 26.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows:  We’re lucky to have the 2023 Badminton winners in our presence this week, and they’re a serious contender to take home the full individual honors as well. 2018 World Champion Ros Canter brings forward the incredibly talented Lordships Graffalo for his second (!!) senior championship appearance. Though he’s just 11 years old, “Walter” boasts more experience and successes than some of his counterparts this weekend, with a fourth place individual finish at Pratoni added on to his Badminton win (in addition to a second place finish in his debut at the 5* level in 2022 – no big deal).

We’re familiar with Ros as one of the grittiest riders on the scene, and that grit serves her well in these tough team competitions. She’ll be an excellent leader for the truly deep Team GB, which poses perhaps the most serious threat to win the team gold in France this weekend.

Fun Fact: Lordships Graffalo is a half-sibling to another Ros Canter ride, Pencos Crown Jewel, who also has several top 5* finishes under her belt at the age of 14.

Laura Collett and London 52. Photo by Alex Jeffery.

Laura Collett and London 52 – TEAM

Fourteen-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Landos I – Vernante, by Quinar). Bred by Ocke Riewerts. Owned by Mr Keith Scott, Miss Karen Bartlett and the rider.

4* dressage average: 25.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows:  Laura Collett and London 52 are household names at this point in their career, yet they just keep adding more and more accomplishments to their already-impressive CV. After having to withdraw from Badminton earlier this year due to an ill-timed minor injury, Laura rerouted her Tokyo partner to Luhmühlen, where she took home her third 5* victory (she first won Pau in 2020, and then Badminton in 2022 – and all three wins came from the front). The victory in Germany proved to all, once and for all, just how versatile “Dan” is as a true-blue event horse. He can attack the biggest fences and the grueling distance at Badminton, he could manage his energy to come home full of it in the high heat on a completely new style of track in Tokyo, and he could still make the notoriously tricky time on the winding road that is Luhmühlen.

That’s a whole lot of growth in the intervening years between this pair’s first Euros appearance in 2019, where they encountered elimination at the hugely influential bird in the water at Luhmühlen, and this second one. This is another pair that’s a serious contender for the individual honors, though the team’s finish will take priority for these riders this weekend.

Fun Fact: Laura is something of a racehorse whisperer, often taking in Thoroughbreds who need to learn the skills of jumping for their careers in the eventing offseason.

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

Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du LoirTEAM

Twelve-year-old Selle Français gelding (Nouma D’Auzay – Gervoise du Chochet, by Livarot). Bred by Pierre Gouye. Owned by The Sue Davis Fund.

4* dressage average: 26.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows:  It’s pretty crazy to think about winning a World Championships title before contesting your first European Championship, but that’s exactly what Yasmin Ingham has done. After taking individual gold in Pratoni last year – becoming the first ever non-team rider to do so – and with a handy win at CHIO Aachen in her pocket, the Isle of Man native is now poised to go after another coveted title at Haras du Pin.

Yasmin’s earned herself a reputation for having ice in her veins, and that mental grit earned her two medals in Junior European Championship competition before she entered the senior ranks. It also allowed her the space and skill to leave a disappointing cross country penalty incurred at Kentucky behind to rebound at Aachen this summer. Now, Yas gets her shot to bring the coveted trophy home for the Brits, and could also make a strong bid to collect an individual medal to boot.

Fun fact:  Yasmin’s home, the Isle of Man, is a tiny island in the Irish sea that’s just 13 miles wide and 33 miles long.

Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift. Photo by Libby Law.

Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow DriftINDIVIDUAL

Twelve-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding (Shannondale Sarco st Ghyvan – Lucky Crest, by Lucky Gift xx). Bred by Jeanette Glynn. Owned by Patricia Davenport, Milly Simmie, and Sarah Webb.

4* dressage average: 31.3

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows:  Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift finished in a convincing fifth place at Badminton this year despite conditions that necessitated taking a length of time on cross country. This combined with their second place finish at Burghley last fall and a top-20 finish in their very first attempt at the level at Badminton in 2022 makes them a serious “one to watch” pair this weekend and looking ahead to Paris.

This will be Tom’s first time at the European Championships — he was previously selected for the 2015 Euros at Blair Castle, but had to withdraw his horse prior to competition. But worry not – he’s not short on team or championship experience, having earned medals in the Junior Europeans previously.

Purchased as a foal by owners Sarah Webb, Patricia Davenport and Milly Simmie, Capels Hollow Drift has shown prowess for the sport since his young horse years, earning the silver spot on the podium in the FEI WBFSH Young Horse Breeding World Championships in Le Lion d’Angers in 2018. He’s been with Tom ever since his seven-year-old year and now stands poised to be a consistent presence on Team GB for seasons to come.

Fun Fact: Tom is a student of Pippa Funnell’s, and he hails from a horsey family, as his mother was a dressage rider and his father a farrier. His two sisters also participate in eventing.

Kitty King and Vendredi Biats. Photo by William Carey.

Kitty King and Vendredi BiatsTEAM

Fourteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Winningmood – Liane Normande, by Camelia de Ruelles). Bred by Philippe Brivois. Owned by Diana Brown, Sally Lloyd Baker, Sally Eyre, and Samantha Wilson.

4* dressage average: 27.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 4

The need-to-knows:  It’s been a year of very nearlys for the ultra-talented Kitty King and the Selle Francais gelding Vendredi Biats. Since finishing in the top 10 individually at the last European Championships, they’ve amassed a collection of equally competitive results. They’ve come tantalizingly close to capturing coveted 4* wins and even were within a breath of winning Luhmühlen, finishing second to Laura Collett and London 52. An early lead at Badminton would slip away after the pair parted ways on cross country in a total unexpected mishap.

All of these “almosts” are fuel to Kitty’s already-intense fire, and she’ll be wanting to finish stronger than she did at Avenches in 2021 (and also perhaps improving on her best Euros finish, seventh individually with Vendredi Biats in 2019), with a full season and a half in between to hone her craft.

Together since “Froggy” was five years old and sourced from Lucy and Padraig McCarthy’s bustling sourcing yard, the partnership Kitty has with her horse is one that’s been cultivated carefully. Look for this pair to put their hard work on display this week, flashing a low-20s score that could even threaten for the first-phase lead.

Fun Fact: Froggy might look a gleaming white unicorn in the ring, thanks to groom Chloe Fry’s incredible efforts, but if you were to see him in his element? “He’s a dirty little Frenchman and he loves the mud,” says Kitty.

Tom McEwen and JL Dublin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tom McEwen and JL DublinINDIVIDUAL

Twelve-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Diarado – Zarinna, by Canto). Bred by Volker Gottsche-Gotze. Owned by Mr & Mrs J Lambert and Deirdre Johnston.

4* dressage average: 24.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows:  The reigning European Champion horse formerly partnered with Nicola Wilson returns to have another crack at the title this year with Tom McEwen as the rider. Despite their relatively young partnership, Tom and “Dubs” have already found success together: they finished second in JL Dublin’s first 5* attempt at Kentucky this spring and were also second in their first 4*-L together at Boekelo last fall. Though they did have a miscommunication at Aachen, it’s quite easy to forgive that mistake and believe that this pair will be in top form to help the Brits secure a medal in France. It’s certainly a bit odd to see Tom paired up with a horse other than his Tokyo and Pratoni partner Toledo de Kerser, but JL Dublin poses an equally strong threat and once again, this is a pair you can add to your list of potential gold medalists — and if he’s been tapped as Britain’s individual, that’s just a testament to the depth this big eventing power currently boasts.

Fun fact:  Apparently Tom McEwen is your name if you’ve got a general need for speed: a quick Google search in the U.S. reveals a drag racer with the same name who was a big winner with the National Hot Rod Association. Big shoes to fill, Tom. Big shoes.

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Susie Berry and Clever Trick. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Susie Berry and Clever TrickTEAM

Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Financial Reward xx – Bonnie Dolly, by Bonnie Prince xx). Bred by Vincent Cousins. Owned by Jayne McGivern.

4* dressage average: 36.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows:  After competing in six Junior European Championships, finishing as strong as eighth individually in 2013 with Bolero de Ste. Hermelle, Susie Berry gets her first start on the Senior Europeans squad. Of course, she’s already represented Ireland on a World Championships team, making her a full-fledged competitor ready for the next challenge. This time, she’ll team up with the 11-year-old Irish mare Clever Trick, who would be the lesser experienced between horse and rider.

Susie and Clever Trick have a newer partnership, having only struck up last year after Susie took over the ride from Alex Donohoe for owner Jayne McGivern. Save one compulsory retirement at Chatsworth’s 4*-S this spring, though, the pair have delivered consistent results that show promise to continue improving ahead of Paris.

A dressage mark in the 30s won’t be a threat for an early competing position, but if this pair can deliver two clear jumping phases, they’ll have done their role for the Irish, who are at least safe in Olympic qualification with their fifth place finish at Pratoni last fall.

Fun Fact: Susie is a product of the Windrush Equestrian Foundation Young Eventer Program, which offers mentoring and guidance from top professionals for aspiring eventing stars. She’s also spent time training under Piggy March.

Ian Cassells and Woodendfarm Jack O DINDIVIDUAL

Ten-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Jack of Diamonds – Woodend Ard Hill, by Ardcroney Lad VII). Bred by Noel and Nuala Prendergast. Owned by Nuala Predergast.

4* dressage average: 34.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows:  This will be the first Senior Europeans appearance for Ian Cassells, who last competing in championship competition as a junior in 2012. Ian brings forward the 10-year-old Irish gelding Woodendfarm Jack O D, who’s proven himself to be a consistent campaigner as he’s progressed up the levels under Ian’s tutelage. They’ve just two blips on their FEI record but have been competitive enough to collect a second place finish in their first 4*-L as well as the 4*-S in Mallow, Ireland earlier this summer.

While this pair’s dressage work won’t earn enough favor from the judges to grab a top spot on the board, they’ve got a nearly-faultless cross country record to lean on Saturday. They are known to have a pole down on the final day, which may keep them from competing as individuals. But should they be tapped as a team combination, a strong completion may be strong enough to climb if the going gets tough.

Fun Fact: Ian has an Honors Degree in Agricultural Science and also captained his university’s equestrian club during his time in school.

Sarah Ennis and Grantstown Jackson. Photo by Alex Jeffery.

Sarah Ennis and Grantstown JacksonTEAM

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Clover Brigade – Winning Lass xx, by Right Win xx). Bred by Caroline Widger. Owned by Peter Cole and Susanna Francke.

4* dressage average: 38.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows:  After missing the 2021 European Championships, three-time European Championships competitor and Tokyo Olympian Sarah Ennis takes another shot at the major stage this week in France. She’s been selected with a younger horse on her string, the 12-year-old Grantstown Jackson. The Irish gelding had a solid season at the 4* level last year, earning a second place finish in the 4*-S at Ballendenisk this spring. He also finished in the top 25 at Boekelo, his sole 4*-L to date, last fall.

Ireland is safe on Olympic qualification but will still be competing for a strong finish at European Championships. They’re also showing some promising depth in younger horses ahead of the Paris Olympics in just under a year’s time, and this weekend gives the squad a chance to test some of those new talents in a high-pressure situation. We’ll get to see some of the stuff horses like Grantstown Jackson are made of, and if things go to Sarah’s plan, we’ll see him come out of this week with much more experience and maturity gained.

Fun Fact: Sarah also has a long-held interest in and talent for sailing, thanks to her growing up near water. She’s also a qualified Divemaster diver.

Jennifer Kuehnle and Polly Blue EyesINDIVIDUAL

Fifteen-year-old German Warmblood mare (Concinales xx – Pollyanna’s, by Strohmann xx). Bred by Dagmar Hayessen. Owned by Hans Kuehnle.

4* dressage average: 38.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows:  22-year-old Jennifer Kuehnle gets her first Senior Europeans call up this time around, having already one individual gold medal to her name in Junior European competition (2015). She’s represented Ireland five times in Junior Championships, two of which with her current partner, Polly Blue Eyes.

Jennifer and Polly Blue Eyes have been partners since 2018, contesting their first Junior European Championship together the following year and finishing in the top 15. They followed that up in 2021 with a sixth place finish in the 3*-L division of Juniors. They’ve been truly consistent across the country, with just a couple of blips on their record. They’ve only got about a year of competition at the 4* level under their belts, but they’ll certainly be contenders to finish strong for the team and build up that senior experience needed for future apperances.

We’ll be looking at a mid- to high-30s mark for their starting point. They’ll be more than prepared to do some climbing with two clear jumping rounds.

Fun Fact: When the schedules align, you’ll see frequently see Jennifer and partner Cathal Daniels helping each other out with grooming and other horsey partner duties.

Joseph Murphy and Calmaro. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Joseph Murphy and CalmaroTEAM

Twelve-year-old German Sport Horse gelding (Carpalano – Elster W, by Elsurimo xx). Bred by Hartmut Schack. Owned by Richard Ames, Tanya Ames, Claire Mayne, Charlie Mayne, and Annette O’Callaghan.

4* dressage average: 33.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Former Laura Collett ride Calmaro would be among the more experienced horses on the Irish squad, with two top-15 5* finishes to his name (he was most recently 9th at Kentucky this spring). With Olympian Joseph Murphy in the irons, he’s poised to be a strong contender to be the top placed of the bunch if he can replicate some of his strongest performances.

Calmaro gives big time old-school event horse, and his rangy nature is well-suited to a long, endurance testing track. While he has shown capability of producing a low-20s mark at lower levels, Calmaro is more likely to hit the board in the low- to mid-30s early on. His excellent cross country record will allow this pair to climb the leaderboard steadily, and if he can collect a clear round on Sunday he’ll have set himself up well to potentially be Joseph’s next Olympic mount.

Fun Fact: Joseph at one point had his jockey’s license, even winning a few times in point-to-point racing.

Felicity Ward and Regal Bounty. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Felicity Ward and Regal BountyTEAM

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (VDL Orestus – Edge of Reason, by Senang Hati xx). Bred by Miriam de Feu. Owned by James O’Callaghan.

4* dressage average: 37

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows:  Felicity Ward teams up with her World Championships partner, Regal Bounty, for her first Europeans appearance this week. This pair had an excellent spring, capping off with a 15th place finish at Luhmühlen in June.

Despite some uncharacteristic trouble on cross country at Pratoni (an event for which they had been called up from the reserves), this pair is quite dependable to deliver a clear cross country round — and at a championship like this, those are more valuable than gold by the end of Saturday. This will be a challenge this pair will relish, and though show jumping has proven to be their undoing at times, they could firmly place themselves on the radar for Paris with a showing of what they can accomplish this week.

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

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

Evelina Bertoli and Fidjy Des MelezesTEAM

Twelve-year-old Belgian Sport Horse mare (Aga Khan – Louna de Sainte-Ode, by Bayard D’Elle). Bred by Hilaire Toussaint. Owned by Az. Agricola di Campello Argenta and Evelina Bertoli.

4* dressage average: 33.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 1

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 two World Chamoionships and a European Championship appearance under her belt. This will be her fourth senior squad appearance, and this time she brings forward the 12-year-old mare Fidjy des Melezes, with whom she finished 43rd with a steady clear. They’ve had some exciting results recently; an eleventh place finish in the very competitive CCI4*-S at Luhmühlen is the highlight, and a third place at Baborowko CCI4*-L is also promising, but a CCI3*-S win at Avenches just before coming here will have put some confidence-building pep in their step too.

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 Bordone and Imperial van de Holtakkers. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Susanna Bordone and Imperial Van De HoltakkersTEAM

Fifteen-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Quidam de Revel – Eva van de Holtakkers, by Argentinus). Bred by Onno Holtrtust. Owned by Maria Giovanna Mazzocchi.

4* dressage average: 33.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

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, where they were the highest-placed Italians in 15th individually. They also headed to Pratoni last year, though they ran into problems on cross-country and were ultimately eliminated. Another elimination followed at Montelibretti’s CCI4*-L in November, but they had two clear CCI4*-L cross-country runs this spring before another E — though this time for a fall on the flat — at Luhmühlen in the CCI4*-S. Their last run earned them sixth at Avenches CCIO4*-S, which will help them to put the wheels back on the bus, but their goal this week will be an all-important completion as the Italians try to book their Paris ticket.

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

Fosco Girardi (ITA) and Euphorie. Photo ©FEI/Massimo Argenziano

Fosco Girardi and EuphorieTEAM

Eleven-year-old Holsteiner mare (Cilian – Unica IX, by Castellini). Bred by Ralf Boettcher. Owned by the rider.

4* dressage average: 35.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: This will be a Senior Championship debut for 26-year-old Fosco, who nevertheless has plenty of team experience — he’s ridden on a Pony European team, plus another appearance as an individual, two Junior European teams, and three Young Rider European teams. His partner this week is the former Lorenzo Monachesi ride Euphorie, with whom he finished second at last year’s end-of-season CCI4*-L at Montelibretti. They’ve logged classy clears at four-star at venues including Strzegom, Avenches, and Marbach, and although they began their year with a retirement in a three-star at Montelibretti and had a 20 two runs ago at Strzegom CCIO4*-S, they’ve gone well since and that will hopefully serve to sharpen them up for this big career step.

Fun fact: Eventing’s a family affair for Fosco — his father, Francesco Girardi, evented for Italy at the Olympic Games in 1988 and 1992.

Emiliano Portale and Scuderia 1918 Future. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Emiliano Portale and Scuderia 1918 Future INDIVIDUAL

Fifteen-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Fetcher N – Grace Keg, by Le Mistral). Bred by P-Agro AB/fam. Per Håkansson. Owned by Scuderia 1918 Capital Srl.

4* dressage average: 31.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: This will be just a fifth FEI run for this new partnership, who teamed up at the start of the year; previously, Future was ridden by fellow Italian Pietro Grandis. Their most recent run, in the CCIO4*-S at Strzegom, wouldn’t be an ideal final outing – they retired on course after a 20. But prior to that, they were sixth in Baborowko’s CCI4*-L, third in Arezzo’s CCI3*-S, and sixth in Ravenna’s CCI2*-S. Emiliano has some team experience himself, having ridden in two Senior Europeans and three Young Rider Europeans. The gelding is very capable, as is the rider, but they’ll have to rely on their individual experience to create a positive shared experience this week, because this is still a getting-to-know-you mission.

Fun fact: Emiliano has worked as a selector for Italy’s pony teams, and told the Italian Federation, “as a coach I’m not that demanding. I like to do things well, respecting the individuality and identity of everyone. I get into the group. If I need to play with them, I’ll play; run with them, I’ll run; train with them, I’ll train. I’m always beside them.”

Federico Sacchetti and GRC Shiraz. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Federico Sacchetti and Grc ShirazINDIVIDUAL

Ten-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Arkansas VDL – Loughnavatta Pearl, by Flagmount King). Bred by Rory Costigan. Owned by Rusticoni Antonio.

4* dressage average: 42.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: 24-year-old Federico is making his first ever Championship appearance this week, and does so mounted on one of the youngest horses in the field. The pair have been together throughout the ten-year-old’s career, and while their first-phase tends to leave them out of the hunt, they’re very capable of delivering a smart, reasonably swift round. They’ve not competed here before, but they do have form over terrain-heavy courses — such as Pratoni CCIO4*-S, where they whizzed around with 1.2 time penalties last year.

Giovanni Ugolotti and Swirly Temptress. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Giovanni Ugolotti and Swirly TemptressTEAM

Eleven-year-old Anglo European Sporthorse mare (For Ladies Only – Betty Barclay, by Brentano II). Bred by Kristina Rausing. Owned by Krin and Kristina Rausing.

4* dressage average: 29.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows:  Swirly Temptress probably has the best name in the field, which is an important distinction on the EN scale. The 11-year-old Anglo-European mare is the fourth horse with which Italian WEG rider Giovanni Ugolotti has competed at the European Championships.

Swirly Temptress has been produced by Giovanni since her young horse days — the pair competed in 7-year-old Young Horse Championships at Le Lion as well as in the 8- and 9-year-old championship at Blenheim. They stepped up to the 4* division when competitions resumed late in 2020 and most notably won the 4*-L at Ballindenisk in 2022.

On their day, they can earn a mid-20s mark from the judges, setting them up well to put their mostly-clear cross country record to good use. If they can replicate one of these successful performances this weekend, they’ll be competitive here and have a strong shot at Paris if all roads stay the same.

Fun Fact: Swirly Temptress is still owned by her breeders, Karin and Kristina Rausing. She was originally bred for dressage and was sent to Giovanni to start. She never left.

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Merel Blom-Hulsman and Vesuve D’AveyronTEAM

Fourteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Jaguar Mail – Modene X, by Ryon D’Anzex X). Bred by Fabien Lasbouygues. Owned by Radstake Horses.

4*/5* dressage average: x

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows:  Merel Blom-Hulsman steps up for an impressive sixth consecutive trip to the Europeans as a member of the Senior team and ninth trip to a European Championship, period (she competed in 2005, 2006, and 2007 as a Junior). With two Olympic Games and two World Equestrian Games also on her CV, it’s safe to say this woman is a competitive warrior.

She’ll team up with the 14-year-old Vesuve D’Aveyron, who is a new ride for her. After taking the reins from former rider Bjinse Venderbosch ahead of the 2022 season, Merel set about forming a partnership with her new partner. They’ve had a couple blips on their short record together, but nothing you wouldn’t chalk to growing pains on paper, and this season they seem to have come out clicking on more cylinders. They won the Strzegom 4*-L in decisive fashion on their dressage score and followed that up with a second place finish in their next 4*-L at the same venue.

Their dressage marks will keep this pair from beating the leaders early on, but they’ll be a good threat to make some leaps up the board come Saturday.

Fun Fact: Merel isn’t only horse-smart — she also holds a degree in law and finance from Rotterdam University.

The Netherlands’ Janneke Boonzaaijer and ACSI Champ de Tailleur. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Janneke Boonzaaijer and ACSI Champ De TailleurTEAM

Sixteen-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Quidam de Revel – Vera, by Oberon du Moulin). Bred by A.C. Hoogendoorn. Owned by H J C Roozendaal and Lieke van der Werf.

4*/5* dressage average: x

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows:  Returning to their second European Championships together and looking for another shot after encountering elimination in 2021 are Janneke Boonzaaijer and ASCI Champ De Tailleur. Since then, this pair have collected several clear cross country rounds in FEI competition, also capturing their first win at the 4* level in the Polish Baborowko 4*-L in May.

The Dutch are under some pressure to try to get their Olympic qualification here or by winning the Nations Cup competition, and while they have this shot at Europeans they’ll do all they can to claim it. Clear cross country rounds, even if they aren’t the swiftest, will be valuable to finish a team — a large portion of the battle when it comes to earning a qualification spot.

Janneke and ASCI Champ De Tailleur have scored as low as a 27.1 in 4* competition, and the lower they can sneak that starting mark, the greater shot they’ll have at finishing strong after the jumping phases.

Fun Fact: Janneke’s father, Gert, rode in the military.

Andrew Heffernan and Gideon. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Andrew Heffernan and GideonTEAM

Twelve-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Lucky Boy – Cinderella, by Induc). Bred by Bemelmans. Owned by Gill Shea, Yvonne Watson, and the rider.

4* dressage average: 30.8

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Don’t skim past that dressage average and think you won’t be impressed in the first phase by the relatively inexperienced Gideon, because he’s been on a serious upward trajectory in the dressage over the last year, and it’s been over 12 months since he was out of the 20s in an FEI competition. In his last international, last month’s Aston CCI4*-S, he went down to 25.4, which was good enough for tenth even with a flag penaly; the time before that, it was a 27.9 and sixth at Millstreet CCIO4*-S. It’s no wonder, really, that the powers-that-be decided that perhaps Andy should forsake his usual chef d’equipe duties this week and put in a shift on a horse instead, because Gideon has quietly become something very cool indeed. He seems to have learned the job at this level now, and hasn’t had a cross-country jumping penalty since 2021, and while he’s not usually the best showjumper, his last two runs have seen him go clear, so let’s see if he make it a hat trick. Don’t expect him to be the fastest horse on course on Saturday, but we reckon he should deliver the goods for the Dutch – and could probably be relied upon to take on a high-pressure role like the anchor position.

Fun fact: Seriously seasoned team stalwart Andy isn’t just an experienced competitor and coach – the British-based Dutchman is also a course designer, and recently took on Hampshire’s Tweseldown Horse Trials from Badminton designer Eric Winter.

Sanne de Jong and Enjoy. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sanne de Jong and EnjoyTEAM

Fourteen-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Cartano – Next Joey, by Haarlem). Bred by JJ Koldewijn, J van Zon, and M. de Jong. Owned by Jantien van Zon and the rider.

4* dressage average: 32.1

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: This will be Sanne’s third Senior championship – and both of her previous have been with her longtime partner Enjoy. They went to the Avenches Europeans in 2021, though were technically eliminated for missing a fence, and then completed Pratoni last year, though with a 20. This season, they’ve come out firing on all cylinders, looking classy in all four of their FEI runs – which include a second-place finish in the CCI4*-S at Montelibretti, an eleventh-place finish in the CCI4*-L there, a fourteenth-place finish in the CCI4*-S at Baborowko, and a fifth place finish in the CCIO4*-S at Strzegom, where they also went sub-30 in the first phase. They’re working their way towards becoming banker types for the Dutch, and they’ll be hoping to seal the deal by finally getting the happy ending – and the clear round – they deserve at a Championship.

Fun fact: 28-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.

Janneke Boonzaiijer and ACSI Champ de Tailleur. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Elaine Pen and DivaliINDIVIDUAL

Fifteen-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Cardento – Bernadette, by Nimmerdor). Bred by J. Faber. Owned by C.P.A.J. Leenaars & S.J.A. Leenaars.

4*/5* dressage average: 34.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows:  Olympian Elaine Pen returns to Europeans for the theird time as a Senior (she also represented the Dutch five times as a Junior in European Championships), this time on a different horse than the familiar red mare Vera. For this challenge, it’ll be the 15-year-old mare Divali stepping up to her biggest test to date.

This pair, competing as individuals this weekend, will be looking to put some of the skills they’ve been honing to a real test, especially as they’ll want to put in a solid showing for the selectors on hand. They’ve got a great cross country record at the 4* level, though they’ve not quite begun to chase too hard for the time. A pesky pole or two down litters their record, so if they can pull the pieces together and finish nearly on their dressage mark, that’ll be mission accomplished.

Fun Fact: Elaines father, Wolter, was a successful Modern Pentathlete, earning a reserve spot for the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Her mother, Hélène Aubert, was a World Championships and European Championships medal-winning in her chosen sport of dressage.

Jordy Wilken and Wilbert BoINDIVIDUAL

Fourteen-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Watermill Rolex xx – Winnie, by Woodstock). Bred by Katrin Butterbrodt-Over. Owned by E.R. van Someren and Mea van Someren.

4*/5* dressage average: 34.8

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: 

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 Europeans experience in his jolly, fun style, so give him a follow to see the competition from his perspective.

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Joanna Pawlak and Fantastic Freida. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Joanna Pawlak and Fantastic FriedaINDIVIDUAL

Fourteen-year-old Hanoverian mare (For Edition – Pirola, by Pinkus). Bred by Sonja and Klaus Jungclaus. Owned by the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 41.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows:  Joanna Pawlak and Fantastic Frieda got their first taste of senior championship competition at the Tokyo Olympics, and though that outing wouldn’t have been to their plan they took away valuable intel to grow from. Now, they’re back for another crack representing Poland, coming off a confidence-boosting 3* win in Poland at the end of July to set them up well for this event.

Fantastic Frieda is 14 this year, and she’s been with Joanna from the outset. That partnership shows in their consistency the last two seasons, putting them into, well, “fantastic” form to make a strong showing here at Haras du Pin.

This pair’s dressage score won’t compete with the leaders, and they’ll need to put the pedal down more on cross country than they’ve historically done in the past in order to make some moves up in the standings.

Fun Fact: Joanna got her first taste of championship competition as a junior, competing three years in a row in Junior Europeans (2008 – 2010).

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Frida Andersen and Box Leo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Frida Andersen and Box LeoTEAM

Thirteen-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Jaguar Mail – Box Qutie, by Quite Easy). Bred and owned by Therese Orup.

4* dressage average: 34.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆.5

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 fourteen FEI starts together, including ten 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 their first season together. That helped them earn a berth at last year’s World Championships, where they were quick, clear, and impressive for an individual top twenty (and a team qualification for Paris!). Since then., they’ve done three four-stars and never finished lower than eighth in any of them – and that eighth place came at last month’s CHIO Aachen, where they were the sole Swedish representatives in seriously hot company. And course from here? They’ve got that: they looked on excellent form at Haras du Pin CCIO4*-S last August, 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.

Sara Algotsson-Ostholt and Dynamite JackTEAM

Ten-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Diarado – Jermaine, by Grundyman xx). Bred by Josef Auge. Owned by Frank Ostholt and Elke Vietor.

4* dressage average: 33

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: This will be Dynamite Jack’s first-ever championship — and just his sixth four-star competition, a level at which he’s still very much establishing himself. In his previous five runs at four-star, he’s had blips across the country in three of them (though one was a missed flag penalty). When he’s had clears, they’ve been classy, as at Kronenburg CCI4*-L in June, which he won, and Arville CCIO4*-S last summer, at which he was twelfth. But one of his 20s came in his most recent international at Jardy, and so he’ll be relying heavily on his rider’s considerable experience to help sharpen him up for this major run. Sara’s certainly no slouch: she’s been to six Senior European Championships, four Olympics, and a World Championships.

Fun fact: Sara’s part of an extended family of eventing excellence: her sister, Linda, is a five-time Olympian for Sweden and her husband, Frank, is a two-time Olympian for Germany.

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

Sofia Sjöborg and Bryjamolga Van Het Marienshof ZTEAM

Twelve-year-old Zangersheide mare (Bamako de Muze – Cryolga M, by Lord Z). Bred by Marienshof Stal. Owned by Juliet Sjoborg, Mattias Sjoborg, and the rider.

4* dressage average: 35.1

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: 25-year-old Sofia made her World Championships debut last year aboard this mare, with whom she went to the 2022 European Championships as an individual. At that Euros, 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. But from then on out, they’ve been seriously solid: at Pratoni, they jumped a reasonably steady clear across the country and then delivered a clear showjumping round over a tough course to help secure Sweden the Olympic qualification. The first phase isn’t the mare’s strong suit, but she makes up for it across the country – and on her day, she’s a good showjumper, though it can be hit or miss. In any case, in their third championship together and 23rd four-star, they certainly come in ready to fight for another Swedish team medal.

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 in 2021.

Amanda Staam and Corpoubet ATTEAM

Ten-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Corporal VDL – Bulgari, by Baloubet du Rouet). Bred by Tobias Nilsson. Owned by the rider.

4* dressage average: 34

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: 32-year-old Amanda, who rode on the Young Rider team in 2010, makes her Senior Championship debut this week with the very exciting ten-year-old Corpoubet AT, who has impressed in spades since stepping up to four-star at the tail end of 2021. He made his debut at the level at Sopot, where he won, and then came second a month later in Baborowko’s CCI4*-S. He began last season with a fourth place finish in a CCI4*-S at Kronenburg, and then won his CCI4*-L debut at Sopot — evidently his happiest of hunting grounds — before jumping a quick, classy double clear in the hugely competitive 100+ strong field here last August, finishing 33rd amongst a plethora of World Champs prepares. Then, he was 20th with a steady clear in the prestigious Blenheim eight- and nine-year-olds class, and began this season with a three-star win and a four-star second place at Kronenburg. All that is enough to just about forgive his shock 20 — and frangible penalty — in the CCI4*-S at Jardy, and his frangible penalty in his FEI run prior to that at Strzegom. He’s a horse who knows how to make a mark on a debut, and it’ll be great fun to watch what he makes of this, his Swedish team debut.

Fun fact: Amanda’s a seriously busy woman: not only does she run the family training business and compete at four-star eventing, she’s also a prolific jumping and dressage rider, and breeds two to four foals a year at her home in Sweden.

Lina Forsberg and Kaizen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lina Forsberg and KaizenINDIVIDUAL

Fifteen-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Caressini L – Madame Butterfly, by Nocturne). Bred by Johan Björk. Owned by Marie Forsberg.

4* dressage average: 31.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 3

The need-to-knows: The Swedish individuals this week are exciting in much the same way as Sofia Sjöborg and Bryjamolga van het Marienshof Z were exciting as individuals in 2021 – that is to say, they stand a very good chance of being the best-placed of the pack on their day. They have something really special on their side: they’ve been on this whole crazy journey together, competing in both the Junior and Young Rider European Championships en route to this momentous occasion, in which they’re making their Senior Championship debut as a team. They’re capable of putting a score on the board that’ll keep them well enough in the hunt (their 4* average of 31.9 is actually what they scored at their prep run at Jardy); they’re seriously speedy across the country and generally very reliable, but for a couple of educational blips at the lower levels and one enormously frustrating fall on the flat at Strzegom this year, and their showjumping… okay, that bit’s their weak point. But they can jump clear, and one-rail rounds aren’t uncommon, so after two good phases, determination could well win out for this pair who’ll no doubt be a part of the Swedish front for the foreseeable future.

Fun fact: Lina previously based with Irish rider Susie Berry while preparing for Junior Europeans.

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Robin Godel and Grandeur de Lully CH. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Robin Godel and Grandeur De Lully CHTEAM

Fifteen-year-old Swiss Sporthorse gelding (Greco de Lully – Miola, by Apartos). Bred and owned by Jean-Jacques Fünfschilling.

4* dressage average: 31.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: 25-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 over the last couple of years. He won the Pratoni test event last spring aboard this horse and was part of the victorious Swiss team then, too, and the pair also won the Nations Cup leg at Avenches last summer. Robin also took victory in the CCI4*-L at Strzegom, riding Global DHI, before helping the Swiss team qualify for Paris at the World Championships with this gelding, finishing 15th. They’re hugely reliable across the country, without a blip on their FEI record since 2017, they can score very well on the flat – a 26.8 at Pratoni, for example – and they have a huge amount of mileage at the four-star level. Robin might be young, but he’s a master at coping with pressure, and now that the Swiss have their Paris ticket punched, they’ll be here to consolidate their performances – and fight for their shot at the podium for the first time since 1981.

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 RueireTEAM

Sixteen-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Mr. Blue – La Guna de Rueire, by Bayard D’Elle). Bred by Edouard Neuhaus. Owned by Peter Thuerler and Heinz-Günter Wickenhaüser.

4* dressage average: 36

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: It’s a third senior championship for this pair, who debuted at the Tokyo Olympics, finishing seventeenth individually, and then went to Pratoni last year, where they were clear and 38th after a tricky showjumping round. In Toubleu de Rueire’s seventeen FEI runs with Mélody, he’s been top ten 12 times. They’ve never picked up any cross-country jumping penalties in an International, and have become a really solid banker pair for the Swiss front, which is on enormously good form this year. This is Mélody’s fourth 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 spot on that podium. Her showjumping round at Pratoni, which saw her pull four rails, might be weighing on her a bit, but both their FEI runs since then have been one-railers, and that was a very influential day of showjumping, so we can probably safely consider it an outlier.

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 TobleroneTEAM

Fifteen-year-old Swiss Warmblood gelding (Yarlands Summer Song – Medelyne). Bred by Eric Attiger. Owned by Nicole Basieux.

4* dressage average: 31

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Nadja might be one of the youngest riders here at just 23, but she rides like a much more seasoned pro – and despite a truly uncharacteristic tumble from Toblerone at last year’s World Championships, she can be relied upon to keep forging on ahead and fighting for her goals. She has a palpably close bond with all her horses, but Toblerone, particularly, is special: they’ve come up from Young Rider Europeans to the big leagues together since 2020, and together, they earned Nadja’s first four-star win, taking the CCI4*-L at Baborowko last spring. Nadja was also enormously impressive at last spring’s Pratoni test event, where she rode two horses and lodged two of the just seven clears inside the time of the week. Though they’ve not yet been to Haras du Pin – they had an entry here last year, but didn’t use it – we can expect to see them tackle the track with their typical gumption.

Fun fact: Toblerone might have a sweet name, but he’s actually a very cheeky chappy – he’s the resident joker of Nadja’s yard, with a real sense of humour and a tendency to keep things rather interesting for everyone on a daily basis.

Felix Vogg and Colero. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Felix Vogg and ColeroTEAM

Fifteen-year-old Westfalian gelding (Captain Fire – Bonita, by Bormio xx). Bred by Heinrich Stephan. Owned by Jürgen Vogg.

4* dressage average: 29.3

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: When Felix and Colero won Luhmühlen’s CCI5* last summer, they were the first Swiss pair to win at the level since XXX did so at Badminton in 1956 (CHECK). On their day, they’re exceptionally competitive — their long partnership so far has seen them finish sixth at Kentucky in 2019 after their stint in the US, nineteenth at the Tokyo Olympics – a result just marred by a frangible penalty at that corner, and place at 12 total four-stars. But that doesn’t mean that the wheels aren’t immune to falling off the bus, which they’ve done a couple of times recently. They had a frustrating 20 penalties in the CCI4*-S at Baborowko in May, which was their final international prep run before they returned to Luhmühlen, where the gelding just didn’t perform as he can on the flat, and though they went clear inside the time across the country, their 33.3 in the first phase and truly uncharacteristic five rails in the final phase meant that the closest they could come to defending their title was a disappointing 20th place. Still, Felix had options for this championship, and the fact that the decision was made to bring Colero suggests that the rider and his support team have gotten to the bottom of it all since then. If that means that they’re coming to Haras du Pin back on form, they will be formidable.

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. Unlike the rest of the Swiss riders, he keeps himself separate from the ‘system’, working independently with his own mentors and trainers instead. Unrelated, but fun: his five-star win came on his 32nd birthday, which is a pretty sweet present, we reckon.

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Five Horses We Can’t Wait to See at the European Championships

When you put form and statistics aside, us turbo horse nerds are all united in one thing: sometimes, you just really love watching a horse because something about it lights your pony-mad brain up. We rounded up two of EN’s newest recruits, Diana Gilbertson and Cheg Darlington, to find out which horses they’re heart-eyed over at this week’s FEI European Eventing Championships – and why, if you tune in and give them a cheer, you might just be to. Take it away, girls!

Giovanni Ugolotti and Swirly Temptress. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Swirly Temptress – Giovanni Ugolotti (ITA)

I’m a sucker for a striking black horse, and one named Swirly Temptress was always going to get me going. In my opinion, we all need to be more swirly temptress on occasion. Sometimes unpredictable but often brilliant, she’s a real picture — flashy and extravagant, full of drama and power, and totally befitting of her name.

Produced from the beginning by British-based Italian rider Giovanni Ugolotti, the mare was sent to him to be broken in and stayed. Despite being dressage-bred, she has at times shown her hot side between the white boards, where she’d rather be showing off her fancy movements than standing to halt. Even when she’s standing on her hind legs she’s impressive though, and rarely posts a score over 30 in the first phase. Her best 4* test came at Boekelo at the end of last season, where she showed all her talent for 24.4 and second place as she headed out onto cross country. She was caught out by the final fence that day — as were a number of others, leading to it being removed mid-way through the competition. Up ‘til that point she’d been brilliant and the sense of ‘what if’ was tangible. Overall, her cross country record is notably clean — she’s speedy and accurate and attacks the course with the kind of flair her name suggests she might.

If everything comes together for her, there is every chance of a very impressive result this weekend and I can’t wait to see how Swirly Temptress takes to the Championships atmosphere.  – CD

Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Capels Hollow Drift – Tom Jackson, GBR

I can’t remember the last time that I was this excited leading up to a championships, something that I can only attribute to the sheer amount of talent lining up in Haras du Pin this weekend. It is not just the usual suspects that have me whipped up into a frenzy; alongside Laura, Michi, Yas, et al is a whole host of young up and coming talent, too. It seems that every single one of the 14 nations being represented in France this weekend has a horse and rider to get excited about. One such combination is 30 year old Tom Jackson and his partner of 5 years, Capels Hollow Drift.

Runner up at the World Young Horse Championships at Lion d’Angers as a seven year old, 12 year old Walshy – as he is known to his pals – has impressed from the off. Georgie Campbell evented him as a young horse, before Tom took the reins in 2018. He finished 16th on his CCI5* debut at Badminton in 2022, and followed that up with a second place at Burghley later that same year, adding just 3.2 cross country time faults to their first phase score of 28.9.

Tom is full of praise for the Shannondale Sarco St Glyvan grey – ‘he makes my job easy,’ he has said of him in the past, and again commended him for just ‘getting the job done,’ in less than favourable conditions at Badminton this year, where they once again added just cross country time (and who didn’t have time faults at Badminton this year?!) to their  dressage score, jumping one of just two clear rounds to finish up 5th and secure their place on the team for the Europeans.

You will have to go back as far as 2019 to find a cross country jumping fault on Walshy’s record, and his show jumping form is similarly superb – he rarely lowers more than a pole.

Bought as a foal by his co-owners Sarah Webb and Mollie Simmie (who also happen to be mother and daughter), there is a big support team heading to France to support this lovely grey gelding, and he deserves all of the superlatives  – and more – that have been thrown at him of late. He is nothing other than consistent, and though his first phase score is not going to break any record books, it will still be good enough to keep them well in touch going into the jumping phases. If they deliver their usual double clear, they could easily make the top 5, if not a podium place, delivering us sentimental fools yet another fairy tale ending – and one that is very well deserved  for this popular pair – DG

Nadja Minder and Toblerone. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Toblerone – Nadja Minder (SUI)

I go totally googly eyed for a heart horse and Swiss rider Nadja Minder’s Toblerone is one of the sweetest on the circuit. Not only does this tasty gelding have a yummy show name, but his stable name is a real treat — I mean, who doesn’t want a little ‘Schoggeli’ (translation: chocolate) in the barn? A Young Riders to World Championships horse, Toblerone’s cross country record with Nadja is immaculate — their only penalties coming in Pratoni when Nadja took a tumble not far from home, after jumping all of the tough stuff — including that slippery slide — like a dream. Good humor is something that stands eventers in good stead, and Nadja seems to have it in bucketfuls — after their mishap she posted, “This man took off like a 🚀 didn‘t break any pins but my seatbelt broke for sure and the ejection seat got activated… 🪂🪂🪂”. 

There’s nothing quite like watching a horse and rider who clearly love and trust one another, and that’s just what we get when Nadja and Toblerone take to the course. Rarely outside the top twenty, and often inside the top ten, this is a partnership which is definitely on my ‘one to watch’ list as they continue their Senior journey together. Toblerone obviously has a liking for French soil, with a third place finish in the 4*-S in Jardy last month, so I’ll be keeping a keen eye on how he finds Haras du Pin. 

Nadja says Toblerone’s character “is as funny as his name” and he’s “THE rascal” in the barn – and I just love that there’s something very apt about a horse with a chocolate bar for a name having a bit of a naughtiness about him, as all the best treats do. – CD

Gaspard Maskud and Zaragoza. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Zaragoza – Gaspard Maksud, FRA

Another bright young talent to keep an eye on this weekend comes in the form of Gaspard Maksud and Equiratings Horse of the Year 2022, Zaragoza. Still only ten years old, this fabulous mare seriously impressed on her and Gaspard’s Championship debut in Pratoni last year, finishing in 6th place having added nothing to their first phase score of 27.1. A double clear in Pratoni last summer is something to be proud of in itself; let’s not forget the number of top horses that ran into trouble out there on both jumping days.

To think that such a result came from a relatively inexperienced horse – ‘Zoe’ was nine when she skipped around the Worlds – means that the home side will be pinning a lot of their hopes on this combination. Surrey-based Gaspard broke his collarbone earlier this year, so they missed their intended Bramham run, though they did then finish in second place in the CCI4*-S at Aston-le-Walls to make up for it, adding just a smidge of time to their dressage score. The mare’s phenomenal jumping record is matched by an ever improving first phase score; she improved with every international outing she has last season, and has beaten her Pratoni PB down even further, posting a 26.6 at Aston.

This Cevin Z mare is undoubtedly on her way to great things: she was in the top ten at 9 of her 13 FEI starts last season, an incredible statistic in what is just the beginning of her career. One of those top 10 finishes was 4th place on her CCI4*-L debut in Saumur and another 4th place in the Nations Cup in Haras du Pin, of all places. Could this prove to be a happy hunting ground for them again this weekend? The French supporters will certainly be hoping so, and if they produce their usual solid performance, they could contribute to a very good result for the home side this weekend.

This is a horse that has all the potential to become a star on the world stage, and one that has already started to make her mark. The European Championships could well see her challenge the status quo even further – watch this space… Zoe is only just getting started! – DG

Nicolai Aldinger and Timmo. Photo by Mariusz Chmieliński.

Timmo – Nicolai Aldinger (GER)

If you love watching cross country, then you’ll love watching Timmo tear up the track. This is a horse that, for me, epitomizes the event horse. With every single stride, you can see he’s grinning from ear to ear as he gallops and jumps for joy. And his cross country record confirms just how adept he is at his job – with 24 clears from 25 runs with Germany’s Nicolai Aldinger, Timmo’s clearly a force to be reckoned with come cross country day. 

It’s fair to say Timmo doesn’t love the dressage phase — like a true eventer he’s in it for the cross country — but he’s so motivated by what’s coming on Saturday that he’s willing enough for some marks in the high-20s, although he’s more likely to be low to mid-30s, and has been as high as 39.2 this season. By no means write him off by those higher scores though, because, as I said, cross country day is Timmo’s time to totally shine.

There was a bit of a tense moment at the First Horse Inspection in Haras du Pin when he was sent to the holding box, and Nicolai must’ve had a horrible sense of deja vu after being spun at the same point at Luhmuhlen, which would’ve been Timmo’s first go at 5*. But all was good after a second trot down the jog strip, which earned a big clap from the crowd and a cheer from me, watching at home, and very much looking forward to seeing this lovely chap doing what he loves to do most of all on Saturday — run and jump. – CD

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Team EN Makes Their Picks for FEI European Eventing Championships

It’s time for EN’s writing team to make their predictions for this week’s European Eventing Championships!

Want to study up to make your own picks? Reference our Form Guide here and our Nations Form Guide here for more information than you could possibly need on each combination. Let us know who you’re picking for in the comments!

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France’s Stéphane Landois and Ride For Thaïs Chaman Dumontceau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

TILLY BERENDT

Team Podium: It would be all too easy for me to put the Brits in this spot — and look, they truly do go into this as odds-on favourites, and as the most successful nation ever (by a seriously long way!) in the entire history of the European Championships. But they also went to Pratoni as favourites, where they ended up fourth as a team after a series of little mishaps. No nation is infallible, and I think they’ve got some fierce competition this week, all of which will help to get them at their most blisteringly competitive for next year’s Olympics. So with that said, I think Germany, flying high off the back of their Pratoni win, and with plenty of experience at this venue, take the gold; the Brits take silver by the tiniest of margins, and the home side, who haven’t had much like in Europeans in recent years, rally in their Olympic ‘dress rehearsal’, and are buoyed by cheers of ‘allez, allez!’ to take a bronze medal that’ll leave them salivating for more next year.

Individual podium: It’s JL Dublin, Vendredi Biats, and fischerChipmunk, but I can’t give you an order or any rational analysis here because by the time I do, I’ll have changed my mind for the eighteenth time. Sorry!

Dark Horse: They’re not ‘dark horses’, really, but Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift have been so impressive over the last couple of seasons, taking second at Burghley in 2022 and fifth at Burghley this year. I love this gutsy, game horse’s clever, catty approach to cross-country, and I think Tom Jackson is a seriously exemplary stamp of a rider. I’d love to see the crack the top ten here.

One to Watch: Stéphane Landois and Ride For Thaïs Chaman Dumontceau. They won a seriously tough Chatsworth CCI4*-S in appalling conditions earlier this year, and have been quietly impressive in all three phases over the last couple of years while they’ve been developing their partnership. In 11 FEI events together, they’ve finished in the top ten eight times; they average just under a 28 in the first phase at four-star, the 11-year-old has never added a time penalty at CCI4*-L (nor at CCI2*-L, and only once at CCI3*-L, in an early run for the partnership where they had a very uncharacteristic 20), has been clear at every four-star he’s done, and is a one-or-none showjumper, but didn’t touch a single pole at Chatsworth, where course and conditions alike were so bad that plenty of riders were technically eliminated for knocking too many rails. On paper, they’re formidable, but it’s also the story they bring to the table that makes them well worth your extra cheers: Chaman was previously piloted by much-loved young rider Thaïs Meheust, who tragically lost her life in 2019 at the age of 2022 after a freak fall on cross-country with the gelding at Haras du Pin. Now, Stéphane is deputising for his friend with the horse she hoped would take her to the top of the sport – and as he makes his own European Championships debut, so does Thaïs.

Spoiler Alert: Belgium’s getting one of those two Paris tickets. They’ve been on a serious upward trajectory this year, and their dominance in the Nations Cup series — which also yields an Olympic berth — means that in a funny sort of way, they come into the Europeans with some of the pressure taken off. I think they’ve got confidence on their side, and one of the two qualifying spots will go their way. It’ll be a great moment when it happens; they’ve not qualified a team for the Olympics since London 2012.

Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

CHEG DARLINGTON

Team Podium: 

I’m guessing there’s not going to be much variety in EN’s podium predictions for this week’s competition, although there’ll perhaps be some slight shuffling back and to for which country will take the top and which will be snapping at their heels in silver.

The British line-up is a seriously serious one in terms of both horses and riders. The World Champions (Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir), former World Champion (Ros Canter), and European Champion (JL Dublin) are joined by Olympic team gold medalists (Tom McEwen – who also took the individual silver in Tokyo – and Laura Collett and London 52), Badminton winners (Ros and Lordship’s Graffalo), and Burghley and Luhmuhlen runners up (Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift, and Kitty King and Vendredi Biats, respectively) – I mean, that is one impressive line-up, and even if I wasn’t British, I’d be backing them for the win. I know Pratoni didn’t go the Brits’ way for the team, but I’m predicting that the Euros will tell another tale altogether.

I have Germany down for the silver. As all eventing fans know, the German eventing team is a force to be reckoned with, for sure. As well as the formidable Michael Jung with the equally talented fischerChipmunk FRH, and former World Champion Sandra Auffarth with Viamant du Matz (who were 4th at Kentucky this season), the team (and individuals once they’re announced) is an interesting prospect which is full of potential. For me, Christoph Wahler’s Carjatan S should be on every eventing fan’s one to watch list – and keep an eye out for Nicolai Aldinger and Timmo on cross country day for a joyous example of a horse who truly loves his job with all his heart.

My third place goes to France. On home ground, with some decent recent form from all of the horses and riders, and a mix of experience and great potential, I think they’ll tip the scales over the other teams lining up this week.

Individual podium: 

Last year’s podium is one of those eventing moments that’s etched into my heart. Seeing those three women – Nicola Wilson, Piggy March and Sarah Bullimore – standing together in celebration summed up my long-time love for this sport. It’ll be poignant for JL Dublin to return as reigning champion with a new rider, but Tom McEwen’s gracious acknowledgement of the huge part Nicola has played in his successes with the horse (taking second place at both Kentucky and Boekelo) remind us that eventing is a journey with high highs, low lows, and a whole lot of love and respect – for our horses and one another. As a relatively new partnership, they’re obviously still learning and growing together (something else Tom talks about in his interviews), but I believe in great stories and Dubs doing the double would certainly be a lovely one.

I’m tempted to go with equal second rather than trying to pin down the next two places. I have a feeling that Germany will upset the British dominance over the podium that we saw last year, and that Michael Jung will be up there this time with fischerChipmunk FRH (more on this in my Spoiler Alert). But whether he’ll get one up on Walter (Ros Canter’s Lordships Graffalo) – we’ll have to wait and see. A horse who loves and excels in each phase equally is a hard one to beat, and Walter is one of those rare examples, as evidenced at Badminton (where he won this year and was second last year). After finishing on his dressage with the same score as bronze medalists Tim Price and Falco at the Worlds, taking fourth place due to cross country time, I hope to see Walter on the podium at these Championships.

Dark Horse: 

My dark horse is literally a dark horse – and his name fits the bill too. Jérôme Robiné and Black Ice have been on my radar for a while now, and I’ve enjoyed watching them progress as a partnership. With their dressage scores hovering around the mid-20s, nary a cross county jumping penalty on their record together and generally just a handful of time, they’re set to be in a very strong position come Sunday. Their show jumping isn’t quite as secure as the other two phases – yet – but they can go clear and would be unlucky to roll more than one pole. Like certain couples or a pair of best friends, some horses and riders just seem to click, and that’s the feeling I get from these two.

One to Watch: 

Another one I’ve had my eye on for a couple of years (well, since Tokyo), Lea Siegl seriously impressed me on her Olympic debut – not only was she the youngest rider in the field (aged 22) but she also finished 15th (with DSP Fighting Line). My interest in this exciting young rider is really thanks to some unfortunate commentary on the feed I was watching at the time – the guy had obviously drawn the short straw and was given a sport he didn’t have one clue about and the resulting fury I felt when he thought 15th place was laughable and an ‘oh dear’ moment, cemented my support for a young athlete who had performed brilliantly. Lea brings Van Helsing P to the Euros, and, as a huge fan of Gothic literature and having read ‘Dracula’ at least ten times, I obviously approve of this gelding’s name. His recent form isn’t bad either – with two wins, a top five and a top ten placing this season. For me, this is a real eventers’ horse – he’ll probably be around the 30 mark after dressage, but then he’ll jump clear on Saturday and Sunday and potentially be a leaderboard climber as the weekend progresses. Whatever happens, I’ll be rooting for Lea and will no doubt be impressed by her potential.

Spoiler Alert:

When Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir came second to Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH at Kentucky in 2022, I’m pretty sure Yas had no idea that just five months later, as she entered the World Championships show jumping ring in second place with Michael in first, that the tables would be turned this time around and she would end up beating the legend that is Michael Jung. I can only imagine what that must have been like for a young woman who must have watched his winning ways as she dreamed of riding at the top level when she grew up. And the tussle didn’t end there. Just a few weeks ago, in the 4*-S at Aachen, Yas and Michael were 1 – 2 on the podium once again with Yas taking the top spot. I can’t help but feel for Michael Jung. Whilst I aplaude and celebrate Yas’ success and am thrilled to see a young woman at the top of her game, I do remember how excited I was by fischerChipmunk FRH when he first appeared on the eventing scene (with Julia Krajewski), and I believe he’s been a bit unlucky (and achingly close to greatness) – what with that mim clip at Tokyo and the final fence at Pratoni. This time out, I think he’ll win out over Yas and Banzai du Loir, but perhaps not by much.

Lara de Liedekerke-Meier and Hermione d’Arville. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

DIANA GILBERTSON

Team Podium: 

AH. This is a tricky one. I have three teams in mind, but the order in which they will stand atop the podium on Sunday is more difficult to settle on.

After much consternation, I’m going to put my neck on the line and put the Brits on top.  Every. Single. One of the riders making the trip across the channel from Blighty  have a roster of incredible results behind them – we’re talking Olympic Medals, a couple of World Championship titles, multiple 5* wins and indeed, European Team Championship titles too. Oh and they also have the current  FEI World No. 2 amongst their ranks. That being said, the same was true of the team that went to Pratoni, and we all know what happened there. Still, perhaps as a result of their slip up in Pratoni, Team GBR are coming to France with a point to prove making them an even more formidable presence than usual, all of these riders have more than endless amounts of experience of not only riding under incredible amounts of pressure, but delivering top results whilst under said pressure – hence the countless titles held between them. So it is not just my ever present patriotism that puts them on the top of the podium in France – these guys will be more determined than usual to bring home the gold, and in doing so, laying the ghosts of their Italian nightmare to rest once and for all.

Silver though, is a little more difficult to decide. It is more than likely going to be a battle between France and Germany for second place. It would be nothing short of glorious for the home side to slide in there behind the Brits, and they certainly have a lot of form between them, but then, so do the Germans….not least of all that of Mr Jung, and Fischer Chipmunk. Sandra Auffarth is one hell of a seasoned campaigner, too and so for me, these guys edge sightly ahead of the French, who are definitely ‘up and coming,’ but just not quite there enough yet. Still a bronze on home soil will certainly give them reason to celebrate on the final day.

Individual podium: 

Sacre bleu! How can ANYONE make a sensible decision here?! My initial response to this was to mindlessly throw a handful of names out there, and leave it open ended as to which way round they eventually settle. In fact, that is probably what I am going to do here, anyway. Maybe it is a cop out, but I just cannot make my mind up. Decision making is not high in my skill set, ok?!

Most of the names I’m going to leave floating around the podium are, of course, British, and even more of them are female….Who can look past Yas, Ros and Laura?! You’ve got 2 World Champions, and an Olympic gold medalist right there, and it would be nothing short of GLORIOUS to think that we could have a re-run of 2021 out in France this weekend, with an all British, all female 1,2,3, but I think there will be a certain German who will be keen to put a spanner in the works. Twice in recent history has Mr Jung been denied the top spot; individual Gold in Tokyo evaded him as a result of that frangible pin, and a far less questionable  coloured pole saw him lose out to our very own Yas in the Worlds last year. Thus he will have his eyes firmly on the top prize, and anyone attempting to get past him has quite a task on their hands. Time and again we have seen him lead from the front and Michi will be doing all he can to make sure it stays that way this weekend. He has beaten all of our Golden Girls on more  than one occasion, and to be perfectly honest, patriotic as I am, it would be lovely to see him do it again, even if just as some vindication for the much discussed Tokyo pin. See, not such a cop out after all – I am putting someone up for Gold after all.

But as for Silver and Bronze, it is quite simply, IMPOSSIBLE for me to settle on. I’m not even able to narrow it down to two, interchangeable names. Laura, Ros and Yas are all capable of an excellent first phase score, and indeed, a double clear to seal the deal. So too, is a certain Mr McEwen with the 2021 European Champ, JL Dublin. In fact, the sentimental part of me wants him to take Gold, but the facts would suggest otherwise – Tom has yet to nail it 100% with ‘Dubz,’ and though he will be more  determined than ever to pull off a top result after a verrrrryyyy near miss in Aachen, I think he will have to settle for either Silver or Bronze, at best.  So yes, I am leaving four names to fight it out for two places, but like I say, decisions are not my strong point. So shoot me.

Dark Horse: 

For me, this is easy. Lara de Liedekerke-Meier has had less than favourable results at Championships before this year – who can forget (though I am sure she would LOVE to) her shocking fall at the first fence in Pratoni last year?! However, thus far 2023 has proved to be an altogether better year for the Belgian rider, including a recent top ten placing in Aachen, with Ducati d’Arville. She brings forward her World Championship ride, Hermione d’Arville this weekend, and though she may have fallen on her last team outing,  the now ten year old mare has proven herself on more than occasion since then, with several CCI-4*S placings, including fourth in the Nations Cup in Jardy in July. It’s unlikely that Lara will be fighting for the top spot, but this determined Belgian will be determined to pull out all of the stops, not only to put her own personal Championship problems to bed, but also to help her team secure their place at the Paris 2024 Olympics, which has eluded them thus far. As such, I’m predicting a top ten result, shaking up the usual proceedings in all the right ways!

One to Watch: 

Again, this is a category that caused me quite the conundrum – there are a huge number of horses and riders that deserve to be named here. As such, I shall deliver you a (long) shortlist, of those that I considered bestowing this title upon, before deciding on one final name. Such is the power vested in me by this being my top picks, rather than those of more succinct and decisive individual. Combinations on that list include the 2022 CCI4*-L Blenheim Winner, Malin Hansen-Hotopp and Carlitos Quidditch K, one of Germany’s many emerging talents, and certainly one to watch for the future. Alongside her are fellow German Christoph Wahler and he delightful Carjatan S, and increasingly reliable pair, who have been nail bitingly close to pulling off a big result for a little while now – see their 4th place at Aachen if you need any verification of this. Similarly, the French duo of Gaspard Maksud and Zaragoza are incredibly close to smashing through to the top – they were 6th individually in Pratoni, and Zaragoza -Equiratings Horse of the Year 2022 – is still just ten years old, so the sky is surely the limit for these two in the future. Other notable names upon my list are Jérôme Robiné and Black Ice – a duo that fit together like peas in a pod, and that just keep on delivering solid results, as well as the young Austrian Lea Siegl and Van Helsing P, and Susie Berry with Clever Trick. Another combination I almost settled upon here was Switzerland’s Felix Vlogg, who has arguably already hit the big time with his 2022 Luhmuhlen champ, Colero, and is certainly capable of delivering an incredibly good result in France this weekend.  However, although I will be keeping a very tight eye on those two, the combination I will be watching even more closely will be the 2022 Burghley runners up, Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift. They romped to fifth place in Badminton earlier this year, and have been banging on the door of the big time for a number of years now. Incredibly consistent in the jumping phases, their first phase score means that they are unlikely to be in contention for a place on the podium, but mark my words, their senior team debut will be one to remember for all of the right reasons.

Spoiler Alert:

Hum de dum. I hate this category. I was going to go with Mr Jung finally grabbing back the Gold, but a. I have already alluded to that in the podium picks, and b. my esteemed colleague Cheg has already outlined that finisher for you perfectly. So instead, I offer you even less of a spoiler. Michi will not only lead from the front, but he will destroy the current European dressage score, delivering something  like, IDK, a 17, or something equal ridiculous, that will see them etched into the record books, foreverrrrr. C’mon, you and I both know he’s got it in him, it’s just a case of when. This weekend, my friend, that’s when.

Tom McEwen and JL Dublin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

ALLIE HENINGER

Team Podium: 

While my brain tells me that Germany has some pretty big names contesting this year — this time including one of my favorite pairs with former World Champion Sandra Auffarth on Viamant du Matz — my heart says that it has to be the 24th win for Great Britain this year. Four top women and two strong Toms will be taking to the field, and let’s just recap some recent accomplishments here: Ros Canter, our current Badminton champion and second-highest competing rider from Pratoni; Laura Collett, current Luhmühlen champion and previous Badminton champion; Yasmin Ingham, current Aachen and reigning World champion; Tom Jackson, Burghley silver medalist currently sitting 11th in the FEI World Athlete rankings; Kitty King, our Luhmühlen silver medalist who is on her third consecutive run at the European Championships, having helped her team take the gold in 2019; and Tom McEwen, World #2 Athlete riding the last Championships’ winning mount.

This absolute powerhouse team is guaranteed to show some great sport over the weekend, especially without German Olympian and Pratoni Team reigning champion Julia Krajewski to breathe down the neck of Yasmin Ingham once again. Germany is quite likely to be right on Britain’s tail for the silver, so this incredibly strong team had better be bringing their very best!

Individual podium: 

Look, I hope it’s finally going to be our sweet Tom McEwen’s time to shine here as an individual. JL Dublin has to protect his title, after all, and what better tribute to Nicola Wilson than her reigning champion taking another gold for Team Britain? Tom has been stuck in second for so long (silver medalist at the Tokyo Olympics, Pau 2021, Boekelo 2022, and Land Rover Kentucky this year), including currently sitting number two in the FEI Eventing World rider rankings, that I think it’s about time he gets his moment at the top of the podium. JL Dublin just continues to improve as time passes, and I’m excited to see how they fare here this weekend.

I expect 2022’s Le Pin au Haras Nations Cup champion Michael Jung to be right on Tom’s tail, but I think one of our British girl-power contestants will be right up there on the podium with them. Yasmin Ingham, reigning World Champion with Banzai du Loir, will surely be giving the boys a run for their money, but I could also see Ros Canter, Badminton champion and current World #3, really work to shake things up. Will it be a Michi sandwich on British bread, or will one of these ladies overtake fischerChipmunk on the podium to make room for the other?

Dark Horse: 

The Austrian team may be small but mighty. Lea Siegl and Van Helsing P especially have been doing some pretty rockstar work lately, including staying within the top 10 at nearly every event in the last two years, a Nations Cup win at Strzegom in June, and a fifteenth place finish at the Tokyo Olympics. Let’s hope that the rest of Lea’s elite team can help scrape themselves through towards an Olympic qualification here.

One to Watch: 

The addition of Nicolai Aldinger and Timmo to Sandra Auffarth and Michael Jung’s power team is what had me strongly pondering the possibilities of a German win this time around. I’ve never seen this gelding take a wrong step on cross country, and while they may not be the highest-placing pair historically, they sure are a pleasure to watch — let’s hope that plays in their advantage this time around! It sure doesn’t hurt that Timmo is very easy on the eyes… okay fine, and so is Nicolai. Sue me.

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

SALLY SPICKARD

Team Podium: Team GB

It’s difficult to bet against the Brits in any capacity these days, and they’ve rustled up the A-team to head to France this week. You’ve got the 2021 European Champion horse (JL Dublin), the reigning World Champion (Yasmin Ingham), a former World Champ (Ros Canter), an Olympic gold medalist (Laura Collett), and two rising stars that have seriously made their mark on the sport in recent months (Tom Jackson and Kitty King). Any of these individuals are poised to shine on their day, but in the end the team will take priority as the Brits look to capture their 23rd team victory dating back to the very first iteration of Europeans at Badminton in 1953. No matter which way you toss the dice, I don’t see a whole lot of scenarios where the Union Jack doesn’t fly high come Sunday.

Individual podium: Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo

I’m not sure there’s a horse in the field I am more unabashedly obsessed with this year than Lordships Graffalo. This cheeky boy waltzed into his first 5* (Badminton, of course) last year and finished second, on his dressage mark, as if he’d been doing it his entire 10-year-old life. Then, as if that wasn’t enough of a statement, he returned to Badminton this spring and took home the whole cake with 2018 World Champion Ros Canter showing him the way once more.

Combine that absolute raw talent and the partnership he’s built with his rider since his young years with Ros’ vast amount of expertise and grittiness on tough competition days, and it’s not difficult to see them topping the individual podium (while, perhaps, also collecting their team medal) at the end of the weekend. I would expect this pair to swoop close to or into the lead after dressage, and if they can capture the time on a hot Saturday cross country, they’ll be in excellent position to capture the title once and for all.

Dark Horse: Gaspard Maksud and Zaragoza

Competing on home turf in the Europeans is a huge privilege, and Gaspard this weekend gets another shot at glory after seriously impressing us as an individual at last year’s World Championships in Italy. They were sixth individually there and could be a big threat to have a similar (or better) finish at Haras du Pin. They’ll be looking to leave it all out there, as this pair has also been named to the long list for the Paris Olympics and will do all they can to put themselves firmly on the short list after this weekend. Zaragoza’s Anglo-European breeding will serve her well for the endurance element of Saturday’s cross country, which could certainly benefit her once you factor in the heat index. Don’t be surprised if you see this pair flitting into the top 10 after a demonstrative round on cross country.

One to Watch: Lara de Liedekerke-Meier and Hermione d’Arville

I always love to see the horses Belgium’s Lara de Liedekerke-Meier brings to major events, as she can always be counted on to have a strong roster of homebred and handpicked prospects coming up the ranks under the Arville suffix. It was a bit of happenstance that caused the breeding that resulted in Hermione, after Lara received her dam (Kyra du Relais Pachis) as a “one-off after she seemed not to take well to the sport” and a breeding opportunity to Birkhof’s Royaldik via trade.

What I love about Lara is her resilience and her willingness to look inward when it comes to down times. After parting ways with Hermione at, of all fences, the first fence on the World Championships track last year, she admitted she had to pull herself out of it at first. “Falling at fence one at Pratoni was quite something,” she told Tilly earlier this year. “When I felt my head on the ground, I was like, ‘no way, I’ve got to wake up, there’s no way – it’s a nightmare’. But no, I never woke up. It was reality. I mean, everything happens for a reason — you don’t always know why, but I’m confident it will come along, and considering that the horses I have are good, I just need to keep producing them the right way.”

Lara’s brought Hermione tactfully back up to this level this year and has collected four finishes inside the top 10 (including two inside the top five) in FEI competition this season. Belgium stands poised to gain their hard-fought Olympic qualification this weekend, so all efforts will be focused on this ultimate goal — and Lara could be one to lead that charge.

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Das Ist Gut, Indeed: Team EN Picks Their Movers and Shakers of Luhmühlen 2023

One of our favourite traditions here at EN is putting our pocket change where our mouth is and doing some serious claim-staking on five-star fields. Luhmühlen is no different, and between us, we have all the opinions. Check out our team picks, and then drop your own in the comments!

Emily King and Valmy Biats. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

TILLY BERENDT

The CCI5* Winner: Emily King and Valmy Biats 

There’s some names in this field that seem pretty obvious — how can anyone look past Laura Collett and London 52, for example? They’d certainly be the odds-on favourites here, and for good reason, and we’ve got last year’s winners, Felix Vogg and Colero, in the mix, too. But I suspect this will be a week for a five-star win for a rider who’s not yet nabbed one, and I think that rider will be Emily King. She and Valmy Biats have impressed a number of times, including when they finished eighth at Pau last year, and she was one of my riders of the day at Badminton this year when she decided to pull the gelding up because she felt him start to tire, long before any of us on the ground could see even a hint of weariness creeping in. They looked great to that point, and I like to think that the good karma of being a great horseman does come back around at some point. Maybe that point is this week, and we’ll see the next generation of five-star winners in the King family. I’ll certainly be rooting for them — and if they start their week with a score like the 25.5 they got at Pau, I think a lot of folks will be singing the same tune as we go into the weekend.

The Best of the US: Boyd Martin and Fedarman B

Having skim-read some of the team’s predictions after pulling my own list together in my Notes app, I’m not at all surprised to see that this combo is a particularly popular choice. And rightly so: it’s hard not to root for beautiful, blaze-faced Bruno, which also means rooting for the late and much-missed Annie Goodwin, who made him the serious upper-level horse he is. Every time Boyd pulls out a great result on him, he does so in her honour, and I’ve loved seeing Annie’s family and friends rally around her heart horse and her extraordinary legacy. If he wins this week — which he could do, even though it’s a five-star debut, because in his last six FEI runs, he’s never been lower than tenth and he’s won twice — it’ll be one of those fairytale moments that’ll have us all in our feelings. It won’t just be a win for the USA, nor just a win for Boyd — it’ll be a five-star win for Annie, which she so richly deserves.

The Best Brit: Kitty King and Vendredi Biats

Kitty’s had a bit of rubbish luck at her last two five-star runs with Vendredi Biats, but man, they really do have all the right raw material, and sometimes, you just need the winds to blow in your favour a bit. This is one of those partnerships that I really feel just deserve a big result on their record, and I think this is a competition that’ll play in their favour in a big way — especially come Sunday and that historically tough-as-hell showjumping track. This horse is an insanely good jumper, and I, for one, haven’t forgotten the European Championships in 2019, which were held here — and at which they finished best of the Brits in seventh. Go get ’em, Kit Kat.

The Top Mare: Elizabeth Power and Senza Fine

Dark horse alert: Esib and the Italian-bred former ride of Tim Price really could make a great impression here, though. While Senza Fine doesn’t have the most inspiring record at short-format, she really comes into her own on a long-format course, where she’s seriously nippy and very reliable, too. She tends to hover around the 30 mark on the flat, but absolutely can and does go below it, too, and she’s a one-or-none horse on the final day, too. I think this, the mare’s five-star debut, could be their week.

Biggest Climber: Aistis Vitkauskas and Commander VG

I’ll admit I was a touch surprised to see this pair on the entry list after a successful trip to Badminton, but Commander VG is a tough, scrappy dude of a horse and Aistis is a very good horseman, so I’ll hold my hands up and say that it’s highly unlikely that I know the horse better than he does. What I do know is this: Commander is a climber through and through. Though the first phase isn’t his forte — Aistis picked him up as a young horse from a dressage yard, and his bad experiences there mean that he gets defensive and tricky to ride in the dressage ring — he’s a classic run-and-jump machine, and he loves his job. That should see him make a significant leap up the leaderboard, especially if Saturday proves tough. I also think an honourable mention must go to David Doel and Ferro Point here: they’ll sit on a mid-30s score going into Saturday, where they’ll be seriously classy and quick and zip right up to the business end of proceedings. The final phase can be hit or miss — and the less said, the better about their round here last year, where poor David fell when the saddle slipped right under Ferro Point’s belly — but they can, and have, jumped clear on the final day of a long-format.

The Highest-Placed Rookie (Horse or Rider): Tim Price’s Happy Boy

Every time I see this horse on an entry list I just think of that one TikTok of the tappy-toed little dog and that ear worm of a song that goes with it. I know you know what I mean. But beyond his endless meme-ability, Happy Boy is also one heck of a competitor. At just eleven, he’s already got two CCI3*-L wins and a CCI4*-L win — at Boekelo last year — to his name, and he’s a quick little bugger with some seriously snappy knees. The first phase can go in either direction, really, but on his good days, he’s well into the 20s — and if he can start on a strong note, Tim knows he’s got speed on his side. When it comes to Sunday, he’ll be feeling confident, too — the gelding hasn’t had a rail in an international since running a young horse CCI2*-L at Tattersalls (RIP, you brilliant, boozy event) back in 2019.

The CCI4*-S Winner: Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden OR Hallie Coon and Cute Girl 

I hereby reserve the right not to choose. Last time Mollie and Charly came to Luhmühlen, the three of us were a mad, sweaty, unbeatable trio and nabbed a five-star, and it was, frankly, really bloody special and great. They should easily lead the first phase and have got everything it takes to follow through in the next two, too. (Oh, and our 5* lucky mascot, Sprinkles the unicorn, has come back to hang out in Chazzle’s stable this week!) But also, Hallie’s one of my best pals, we went pony shopping together and found the horse of a lifetime in Cute Girl, and I genuinely think that this pair has some absolutely massive results in them on the world stage. This will only be Gypsy’s second four-star, but she learned a tonne in her first at Millstreet, she’s looking and feeling great, and Hallie’s a serious competitor. It would surprise me not one jot to see them burst into the spotlight this week. DON’T MAKE ME PICK. THANKS.

Laura Collett and Dacapo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

CHEG DARLINGTON

The CCI5* Winner:  I’m going to go all in and say Laura Collet and Dacapo. London 52 may be the more obvious choice — being an Olympic team gold medalist and Badminton winner — but Dacapo seemed all for it in the first phase at Badminton before Laura decided not to run due to the weather, and if he can match the dressage score he posted there — 25.2 — he won’t have done his chances here any harm. Laura’s looking for her first 5* completion with the gelding, having had two previous starts, so she’s surely ready to put that to bed and I can see her doing it in style here this weekend.

The Best of the US:  Wow, this is tough when you look at the entries from the US! My heart always tells me Thomas (Boyd Martin’s Tsetserleg TSF) because I love him. But I’m going to plump for Boyd’s other ride, Fedarman B, because I also love a big white blaze and the gelding was looking great at the horse inspection. Boyd’s on fire at the minute after his Bromont hat-trick and I think Fedarman B’s speed and accuracy will see him well and truly hit the big time this weekend.

The Best Brit:  Another tough one given the impressive entries list from the British camp, but I’m going with Emily King and Valmy Biats. This is a combination I just have a feeling is heading for a big result at the level. He looked well up for the challenge at Badminton before Emily sensibly decided to save him for another day, and having had a taste of the muddy ground there, he’ll surely appreciate the going at Luhmuhlen.

The Top Mare: Emma Brussau’s horse, Dark Desire GS. I would never underestimate the power of a longtime relationship between a horse and rider, particularly when they’ve ‘grown up’ together. Their accomplishments in Juniors and Young Riders speak volumes about the quality of this pairing, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them finish on an impressive result this weekend.

Biggest Climber: Known to post a dressage result in the 40s, sometimes the high-40s, Arne Bergendahl’s Luthien 3 is likely to be towards the bottom end of the leaderboard at the end of the first phase. But let the mare loose on the cross country and you’ll truly see a horse who loves her job! We will for sure see them climb after Saturday’s action, and could well see them climb further on the final day.

The Highest-Placed Rookie (Horse or Rider): Tamie Smith‘s horse, Solaguayre California — it’s a long way to travel if you don’t think you can win. Although I’ve followed Lea Siegl and DSP Fighting Line for a while and would have put them as my Spoiler Alert had we included that category. I’ve narrowed it down for all my other picks (for once), so I’m giving myself two for this one.

The CCI4*-S Winner: Ingrid Klimke and EQUISTRO’s Siena Just Do It. Who would bet against Ingrid? Not me, that’s for sure!

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

DIANA GILBERTSON

The CCI5* Winner: Ah heck. I hate this one. I will likely get it wrong, and I’m not sure if I can mention the same horse twice, but here we are…. My pick for the Luhmuhlen 2023 5* Champ is quite simple. London 52. Yes, he ran out at Pratoni, but he also won Badminton in 2022, won Pau in 2020, and oh yeah, helped Team GB to victory in the 2021 Olympics.  So, it may be the obvious choice, but for once I think I might be backing the right one.

The Best of the US: Hmmmm. Tamie or Boyd, Boyd or Tamie. I am going to take a punt on Boyd Martin as the best of the US, purely because he has 3 shots here this weekend, to Tamie’s one.

Of those, it seems obvious to say that Tsetserleg TSF will bring home the goods for Boyd, being a 5* champ, and Olympian and a WEG horse, but I am going to buck the trend and say that Federman B will beat his stablemates this weekend. Yes, it is Bruno’s 5* debut, but hello?! Have you seen this horse’s jumping record? It’s pretty tidy I have to say, as is their 4* form. So, I reckon he will come out of the start box here like an old pro and give Boyd a really great result, 5* debut or otherwise.

The Best Brit: Oooh this is a tough one – we have quite a few major contenders coming across the water to Germany this weekend. Eventing Legend and the first ever Grand Slam Winner Pippa Funnel brings 2019 Burghley winner MGH Grafton Street forward, while the World Champion Yasmin Ingham brings her Young Rider Champion Rehy DJ along for a spin, and then there’s Kitty King on the lovely Vendredi Biats. However, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is hard to see past Miss Collett, who has not just one but two incredible contenders lined up and ready to shoot for the title this weekend: Dacapo and London 52, 2022 Badminton Winner and all round superstar. If Dacapo keeps his head and puts in the performance that he has proven himself capable of, he will be pretty far up that leader board, but let’s face it, it’s doubtful he will knock his stablemate off the top spot. London 52 has oodles and doodles of experience at this level now, and as long as he doesn’t do anything silly like her did at Pratoni last year, he will be hard to beat. He will likely lead the first phase by a country mile and good luck to anyone trying to catch up!

The Top Mare: There are  a few super smart mares lining up this weekend, not least Tamie Smith’s Solaguayre California and given her penchant for jumping a double clear, and the incredible jockey holding her hand around her 5* debut, she will almost certainly finish in a notable position on the leader board. However, Oliver Townend’s Cooley Rosalent, as beautiful as she is talented, has the potential to go even better. Oliver holds the mare in very high esteem indeed, and he would know, having partnered   her all the way from BE100. She placed second in her first ever CCI4*L at Blair Castle last year, and has shown little to no reason as to why she shouldn’t absolutely smash her first 5* too, vindicating Oliver’s long held faith in his noble steed.

Biggest Climber: I’d love this to be Susie Berry and Monbeg by Design. Arthur tries his heart out for his young jockey, despite not always finding the job easy, and his show jumping record is pretty awesome. He added just a few time faults to his dressage score at the World Championships in Pratoni last year, jumping clear around that show jumping course. So if he can get his skates on around the cross country, he could make up for his likely mid-range dressage score and do himself and Susie very proud indeed and  beat a few of the horses that may lay ahead before the second and third phase.

The Highest-Placed Rookie (Horse or Rider): This one is easy…. Tim Price and Happy Boy. Winner of Boekelo Nations Cup last year, he is, in Tim’s words, ‘really nifty.’ An incredible jumper, and a horse that just seems to get better and better every time out, Happy Boy may not be right up there after dressage, but he could easily skip up the leader board after both jumping phases, such is his prowess at getting between those flags, and keeping his knees up over the coloured poles.

The CCI4*-S Winner: Ahhhhh. A no brainer. Mollie Summerland and Charly Van Ter Heiden. They have already won the 5* here, so why not add the 4* title to their list of achievements? Like Laura Collett, Mollie benefits from the guidance of dressage maestro Carl Hester, so they will likely top the charts after the dressage. The jumping phases shouldn’t offer too much of a challenge given their previous performance here in Germany, so there is no valid reason why Mollie and her best mate Charley shouldn’t bring home another win here this weekend.

Laura Collett and Dacapo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

CASSIDY OELTJEN

5* Winner: Laura Collett and Dacapo (GBR)

I realize that this means I’m going against the stellar record of London 52, but I really liked this horse for having a breakout performance at Badminton. But if we can collectively agree that Badminton was just a bit different this year, I’ve punted my opinion to this weekend. Shine that light bright Dacapo… I think this is your time to shine.

Best of the US: Boyd Martin and Fedarman B (USA)

Being a part of the tearful masses at Bruce’s Field for last year’s Grand Prix Eventing solidified my forever fan status for this pair. While Boyd has never been short on mounts with fairytale stories, this one really has the collective positive vibes of an entire nation of eventers behind it. Not to mention Fedarman is stunning in all three phases, and being piloted by a jockey as skilled as Boyd doesn’t hurt either.

Top Mare: Tamie Smith and Solaguayre California (USA)

Tamie didn’t need any help learning to win, but that weekend in Kentucky sure didn’t hurt. While this mare is inexperienced at the level, she is no stranger to clear rounds and pulling out mare tenacity. I feel like the energy she and Tamie collectively have will be electric in all the right ways.

Top Brit: Laura Collett and London 52 (GBR)

I’m just going to cover all my bases with talented horses from Laura’s barn. Even though I put my eggs in the Dacapo basket, I’m also confident in London 52’s winning ways. It seemed unlucky that he had to scratch from Badminton, but with how the weather played out, maybe it was luck’s way of ramping him up for a big Luhmuhlen finish.

Biggest Mover: Tim Price and Happy Boy (NZL)

I’m not going to be one who bets against Tim Price, even on a rookie horse. I have utmost confidence in Tim’s ability to pilot Happy around, finishing on his dressage score, whatever that might be.

Best Rookie: Lea Siegl and DSP Fighting Line (AUT)

When making notes for Lea’s form guide entry, I couldn’t stop saying “And then…”. She and Fighty have a long list of accomplishments, and although she was entered last year, Fighty was not, making this the first official CCI5* run for the pair. Hard to believe since they have Olympic and WEG appearances to their name.

4* Winner: Julia Krajewski and Ero de Cantraie (GER)

Both of Julia’s mounts are equally inexperienced, and equally talented. They both have the ability to pull of some pretty stellar performances in all three phases, and they both have the expert piloting of Julia. In all honesty, I’m going with Ero de Cantraie because alphabetically his name comes first and I had to find some way to separate these two who I think each have a chance at their first CCI4*-S win.

Boyd Martin and Fedarman B. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

SALLY SPICKARD

Winner: Boyd Martin and Fedarman B

In order to assuage myself of any pro-U.S. bias, I took a good spin through our Form Guide to the pairs entered in this year’s 5* at Luhmühlen before I made my selection. I’ve had an inkling in my head for awhile now, but it’s always good to make sure you do some research before putting your cards out there. But even after that review session, I stand by my first pick: Boyd Martin and Fedarman B.

Boyd brings arguably three of his best current horses to the table in Germany this week, and I can tell you that he didn’t come all this way just for shits and grins. He will have selected each event on his horse’s schedule with an eye to his chances of winning (save, perhaps, the later addition of Tsetserleg TSF after an issue early on cross country at Kentucky forced a plan B).

I chose “Bruno”, piloted in honor of the late and loved Annie Goodwin, for a few reasons:
1. Bruno is rideable and capable of going fast, efficiently. He’s got his own style of jumping, but he always looks smooth and effortless, not requiring much in the way of set-up from his rider. On a course that demands intelligent selection of lines in order to have a hope of making time, having a rideable horse will matter more than having only a fast horse. Bruno is both, and Boyd has been selective about the times he’s asked the horse to go for the time, meaning he’ll have loads of reserve fitness to call on in the final minutes of the thinking track.
2. Boyd and Fedarman B stand a good chance to go out of the start box well-placed in the beginning. A penchant for a competitive score puts a top three or better post-dressage placing well within reach.
3. Touch wood, this duo have yet to lower a rail in FEI competition since beginning their partnership. Boyd’s got a not-so-secret weapon in the form of show jumping Olympian and super coach Peter Wylde, whose quiet influence can be seen in Boyd’s much-improved jumping technique in recent seasons.
4. The power of a story carries more weight than you may give it credit for, and this weekend Boyd will be carrying out a dream first laid out for Bruno by his former person, Annie Goodwin.

The Best of the US: Tamie Smith and Solaguayre California

Having chosen a U.S. rider to win, I’ll follow that choice up with our own Queen of Kentucky, Tamie Smith. Hot off a historic 5* win at Kentucky in April, Tamie now focuses her attention on 5* debutant Solaguayre California, who is owned by Julianne Guariglia. This is a hotly-anticipated debut for California, whose zest and exuberance on cross country are unforgettable and whose athleticism should lend itself well to this level of sport.

Tamie will have selected Luhmühlen as a good debut spot for California on purposes and provided Tamie has the ride ability she needs to go quick on Saturday, she could be looking at another podium finish — and some proper momentum to take into CHIO Aachen at the end of the month with her Kentucky winner, Mai Baum.

The Best Brit: Kitty King and Vendredi Biats

After a heartbreaking fall saw their Badminton dreams end prematurely, we know this pair has the chops for this top tier of the sport. They’ve got a top-10 finish at both Badminton and Burghley to hang their hat on, and adding another to the pile would be icing on the cake this weekend. We know Kitty and Vendredi Biats will be near the top after the first phase, with a low-20s score more than possible, and if they can just nip around quick enough on Saturday they’ll be in good stead to go for all the glory on Sunday.

The Top Mare: Dark Desire GS (Emma Brüssau)

Reading through Emma and “Desi’s” collective CV is quite impressive. Similar to British World Champion Yasmin Ingham, this pair is a product of a healthy young rider pipeline, already laying claim to multiple individual and team titles on the junior squads for Germany.

Much of that success has come during Emma’s partnership with the 14-year-old Hanoverian mare, and we all know that a large part of any success in eventing comes from health of partnership. So while this weekend is a debut of sorts, at the 5* level, this pair has more than enough experience to consider them prepared to go for a big result.

Biggest Climber: Arne Bergendahl and Luthien 3

Let’s face it: not every competitor who finishes on the podium at a three-day started in that position. And really, it’s a nod to the history of the sport and its completeness. It tests all facets of athleticism and ride ability, and in the best tests, the horses that show the best results at the end of the weekend aren’t always those that pull out the best marks in the first phase.

You may not find German pair Arne Bergendahl and Luthien 3 on the board after the first phase, more likely to pull a score in the 30s to start their weekend. But you’re likely to see them much closer at the end of the day Saturday. This is a pair that has proven themselves capable of going quick across the country and climbing the leaderboard as a result. If they can find the best way around Mike Etherington-Smith’s track Saturday and leave the poles where they belong Sunday, the Biggest Climber award will be firmly in their grasp.

The Highest-Placed Rookie (Horse or Rider): Emma Brüssau and Dark Desire GS

I’m going to be a little lazy here and refer you back to my pick for top mare, as the words still apply here!

The CCI4*-S Winner: Anna Lena Schaaf and Fairytale 39

It’s once again difficult to bet against experience, and I’m giving this nod to Anna Lena Schaaf and Fairytale, who’ve come up the rankings together — with plenty of competitive success along the way. That success includes medals at the Young Rider Europeans and a win in their first 4*-S at Strzegom in 2021.

While this pair doesn’t have a world of experience at this level — this weekend marks their fourth start at 4* over three seasons — they do know each other quite well at this point. That experience will come in handy in what stands to be a formidable test, but not one that this pair isn’t well-prepared for.

Tim Price: lost his horse, kept the vibes. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

TOKEN NON-HORSEY BOYFRIEND AND UNOFFICIAL EN MASCOT ALEX

CCI5* Winner: Tim Price and Happy Boy

Why? It’s Tim, duh. And he looked great when he was looking for his missing horse after the trot up. The look of a champion, that. 

The Best of the US: Tamie Smith and Solaguayre California

Because it’s Tamie, and she’s awesome. Does there need to be more reasoning than that? I don’t think so.

The Best Brit: Yasmin Ingham and Rehy DJ

I like Yaz. I’m picking riders here who talk to me, mostly. Also her horse is called Piglet, and that is great.

The Top Mare: Emma Brüssau and Dark Desire GS. 

I’m going with this one for the name alone, to be honest. WHAT A NAME.

Biggest Climber: Hallie Coon and Global Ex

I had to pick Hallie because she tried to whip me after the trot up and I fear further retribution. Also, great horse. We hosted Hallie for Christmas at our house as well, which means she’s basically family, and also I’m mentioning this so I look really well-connected and in the game

The Highest-Placed Rookie (Horse or Rider): Lea Siegl and DSP Fighting Line

This horse will obviously be FIGHTING to get on the right LINE and that seems like a pretty essential trait for an event horse to have. Sold. (Also it’s a real pretty horse.)

The CCI4*-S Winner: Hallie Coon and Cute Girl

Look, again, the whip thing. Also my girlfriend Tilly helped Hallie find this horse so the horse is also part of the family. NEIGH. 

Longines Luhmühlen: [Website] [Entries] [Timing & Scoring] [How to Watch] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage] [EN’s Form Guide]

EN’s coverage of Longines Luhmühlen is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products and Ocala Horse Properties.

Your Form Guide to Longines Luhmühlen: Meet the Horses and Riders of the German CCI5*

It’s time to get the party started at the next CCI5* on the 2023 calendar: Longines Luhmühlen, which takes place just to the south of Hamburg in the north part of Germany. This staple on the eventing fixture list is known for its technical, winding cross country track and high-atmosphere arenas. We’re also treated to a CCI4*-S class, most of which will be competing for the Meßmer Trophy — the German National Championship.

A star-studded entry list in the 5* headlines the weekend, with 43 horse and rider combinations entered. Another 50 pairs will compete in the 4*-S division running concurrently.

This weekend’s 5* Ground Jury is presided over by Great Britain’s Nick Burton, who is accompanied by Katrin Eichinger-Kniely (AUT) and Joachim Dimmek (GER). The 4*-S Ground Jury is helmed by Seppo Laine (FIN), accompanied by Ernst Topp (GER). Mike Etherington-Smith is the cross country designer here for both divisions. The jumping tracks will be laid by German designer Marco Behrens.

As is tradition here at EN, we’ve dug into the archives and our mind palaces to bring you all the bits and bobs we can muster about each horse and rider entered in the Longines Luhmühlen CCI5* division. Keep scrolling for a list of all pairs, each horse’s age and breeding, and fun facts about each.

Tilly Berendt is our roving reporter this weekend, and she’ll be doing a monster of a job bringing you the latest updates at the end of each day. Cheg Darlington and Sally Spickard will be helming live updates for dressage and cross country, and the rest of the EN team will be working weird hours to make sure you have all the information you need and want at your fingertips. Be sure to follow us on Instagram (@goeventing) for more, and you can also catch all the action live on Horse & Country (subscription or one-time pass required — you can save 15% on an annual H&C+ membership using code EVENTINGNATION15, by the way!). You can find scheduling info and more on the live stream in our info post here.

Longines Luhmühlen: [Website] [Entries] [Timing & Scoring] [How to Watch] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage] [<a href=“https://eventingnation.com/luhmuhlen-form-guide/“ target=“_blank”EN’s Form Guide]

EN’s coverage of Longines Luhmühlen is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products and Ocala Horse Properties.

Want to jump straight to your favorite horse and rider? Click the links below to jump to their section (the combinations are listed below in alphabetical order by last name; sections in alphabetical order by country and last name):

Bill Levett and Huberthus AC (AUS)
Lea Siegl and DSP Fighting Line (AUT)
Seppe Vilain and Kawa de la Cour Z (BEL)
Nicolas Wettstein and Meyer’s Happy (ECU)
Florian Ganneval and Blue Bird de Beaufour (FRA)
Gireg Le Coz and Caramel d’Orchis (FRA)
Cedric Lyard and Unum de’Or (FRA)
Nicolai Aldinger and Timmo (GER)
Arne Bergendahl and Luthien (GER)
Emma Brüssau and Dark Desire GS (GER)
Jerome Robine and Black Ice (GER)
Laura Collett and Dacapo (GBR)
Laura Collett and London 52 (GBR)
David Doel and Ferro Point (GBR)
Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street (GBR)
Yasmin Ingham and Rehy DJ (GBR)
Tom Jackson and Farndon (GBR)
Fiona Kashel and Creevagh Silver de Haar (GBR)
Emily King and Valmy Biats (GBR)
Kitty King and Vendredi Biats (GBR)
Harry Meade and Tenareze (GBR)
Imogen Murray and Roheryn Ruby (GBR)
Will Rawlin and The Partner (GBR)
Kylie Roddy and Carden Earl Grey (GBR)
Izzy Taylor and Happy Days (GBR)
Izzy Taylor and Monkeying Around (GBR)
Oliver Townend and Cooley Rosalent (GBR)
Oliver Townend and Swallow Springs (GBR)
Oliver Townend and Tregilder (GBR)
Susannah Berry and Monbeg by Design (IRL)
Felicity Ward and Regal Bounty (IRL)
Aistis Vitkauskas and Commander VG (LTU)
Muzi Pottinger and Just Kidding (NZL)
Tim Price and Happy Boy (NZL)
Felix Vogg and Colero (SUI)
Katherine Coleman and RLE Limbo Kaiser (USA)
Hallie Coon and Global Ex (USA)
Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire (USA)
Matthew Flynn and Wizzerd (USA)
Boyd Martin and Fedarman B (USA)
Boyd Martin and Luke 140 (USA)
Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF (USA)
Tamra Smith and Solaguayre California (USA)

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AUSTRALIA

Bill Levett and Huberthus AC. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Bill Levett and Huberthus AC (AUS)
Eleven-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Douglas – S. Anubertha 16, by Voltaire). Owned by Elisabeth Murdoch, William Levett, and Keith Tyson. Bred by A. Cornelese.

Eventing fans will be familiar with the name Bill Levett, who, at 60, is one of the most experienced riders in the field. Based in Britain since 1994, Australian Bill is rerouting from Badminton where he retired after a 20 on a very muddy cross country day with Huberthus AC, or “Bart” as he’s known in the stable. As Badminton was the gelding’s first CCI5*, given the difficult ground conditions, Bill’s intention was to see how the horse found it on the day and retire if he felt the experience wasn’t as positive as he’d like for Bart’s first 5*. The ground shouldn’t be an issue at Luhmühlen — with its sandy base, it can easily cope with serious rainfall, so it’ll be interesting to see how Bart enjoys what will be his second 5* start in more favorable conditions.

Bart was produced by Chris Hall and Emily Oppenheimer, joining Bill’s team in 2019. He stepped up to the Advanced level in 2021, finishing 27th in the Bicton 4*-L and 21st in the 4*-L at Blenheim, where he added just 4 show jumping penalties to his dressage of 32.8. Bart didn’t compete in 2022, coming back in 2023 with a run in the 3*-S in Montelibretti, where he finished 6th. He returned to Italy the following month for the 4*-S, finishing 6th and adding just 4.8 cross country time to his 30.7 dressage. The first phase has seen his most inconsistent scores, from very low 30s to very low 40s, but his most recent form suggests we’re likely to see a low to mid-30s test – he posted a 32.5 at Badminton. His cross country record is where he shines, jumping clear in all but two of his thirteen FEI runs. He does tend to add time, and with Bart being inexperienced at the level it’s unlikely Bill will have his pedal to the metal, but he has shown he can make the time at 4*-L, and the most he’s added due to the clock this year is 15.3 in his first run of the season. On the final day, he has had a pole more often than not, but in his last two runs (except Badminton, where he didn’t show jump) he’s left them up, completing with only cross country time added to his dressage scores.

Bill represented Australia at the 2014 and 2018 World Championships and was named traveling reserve for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. He was an Event Rider Masters regular, taking fifth, fourth and third placings in the 2018 series. When he’s not training or riding, Bill works as part of the Monart Sales team, helping to select top-quality young horses for the luxury off-season auction.

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AUSTRIA

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

Lea Siegl and DSP Fighting Line (AUT)
Sixteen-year-old German Sport Horse gelding (Ostermond xx – Pia, by Laretto). Owned by Marianne Mühlböck. Bred by Josef Fuchs.

Don’t let her young age and limited CCI5*-L experience fool you, Lea Siegl comes to play. After contesting the Junior and Young Rider European Championships, she and DSP Fighting Line stepped into her first year at the senior level in a big way by being the youngest competitor at the Tokyo Olympics where she finished in 15th place. In 2022 she and Fighty once again represented Austria on the world stage, by placing in 25th place at the World Equestrian Games held in Pratoni.

Lea contested her first CCI5* with Cupido P at Luhmuhlen last year, but withdrew at the second horse inspection.

In 2023, she has seven(!) FEI horses competing, with Luhmuhlen hopefully completing her CCI1* to CCI5* hat trick. She and Fighty have had a somewhat quiet spring, with only one FEI event, but they stepped out in style winning the CCIO4*-S Nations Cup at Montelibretti in Italy, adding just 0.4 time penalties to their (personal best) dressage score of 24.5. (note: the same weekend she also won the CCI4*-L with Van Helsing P – this girl knows how to win).

She and Fighty may be contesting their first CCI5*-L together, but look for them to lay it down in all three phases, especially when the pressure is on.

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BELGIUM

Seppe Vilain and Kawa de la Cour Z (BEL)
Fifteen-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Klarion Dancer xx – Great Thinker, by Bis de la Mare). Owned by the rider. Bred by Damiaan van Hollebeke.

The 22-year-old Seppe Vilain is making his CCI5*-L debut this week with longtime partner Kawa de la Cour Z. Seppe has brought “Kawa” through all the International ranks, which includes two Junior and one Young Rider Championship, before being called up to his first senior team for the Nations Cup at Boekelo in 2021.

This weekend’s sole Belgian entry stepped up to the 4* level two seasons ago with Kawa, and while he’s had scores as low as 30.5 at the level, we’ll likely see the pair go mid-30s at 5*. Kawa has a very strong cross country record, and he hasn’t had a jump related penalty in this phase since 2019. He’s also proven he can go quickly as well: the pair went double clear in the CCI4*-L at Kronenberg three months ago.

Show jumping could be the pair’s most influential phase in terms of their finishing result, and more likely than not they will have some penalties here, but Seppe will be looking to finish as neatly as he can for his first 5* result and all the education that this weekend can offer the up-and-coming Belgian rider.

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ECUADOR

Nicolas Wettstein and Meyer’s Happy (ECU). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Nicolas Wettstein and Meyer’s Happy (ECU)
Sixteen-year-old Holsteiner gelding (My Happy Guest xx – Nottfelderin, by Caletto). Owned by Monique Deyme, Frank Wettstein, and the rider. Bred by Meyer Friedrich.

Despite many years at the top level of the sport together, this is only technically “Happy’s” second CCI5*. His debut was here at Luhmühlen five years ago where the pair finished in the top 20. He’s spent the years in between focused on the 4* level with two World Championships sprinkled in.

This weekend will be a big test for Nico and Happy. The pair historically produced many successful cross country rounds, but their record on the endurance phase has been less than sparkling in the last few years. They started — but did not complete — two CCI4*-Ls earlier this season, one due to a higher-than-average dressage score and another because of a lost shoe on cross country, but they have produced two top ten finishes at 4*-S this spring, which is a boost of confidence coming to this weekend’s big test.

Based in Switzerland, Nicolas holds three passports thanks to a Swiss father and a French mother. He previously rode under both the Swiss and French flags until he swapped nationalities to Ecuador in 2011 after he became eligible through marriage. Since then, he represented Ecuador at the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2022 World Championships. He was also the first representative from Ecuador to ride at Badminton. When he’s not in the saddle, Nico keeps plenty busy with a full time job as a director of a pharmaceutical company.

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FRANCE

France’s Florian Ganneval and Blue Bird de Beaufour. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Florian Ganneval and Blue Bird de Beaufour (FRA)
Twelve-year-old Selle Francaise stallion (Diamant de Semilly – Macy van Leut, by Elanville). Owned by Rider. Bred by Eric Levallois.

Amateur riders everywhere will love to follow full-time farrier Florian Ganneval, brings forward the 12-year-old stallion Blue Bird de Beaufour to his third 5* start this weekend. Having twice competed at Pau – unfortunately running into elimination in their second start at Pau last year after the Ground Jury opted to pull the pair up on account of Blue Bird de Beaufour being tired – they’ll make their first start at the level at a different venue this weekend.

Florian refers to Blue Bird de Beaufour as a “good student” who aims to please in his work. On the flat, he works to keep the horse engaged and in front of the leg, naming him as a bit on a lazy side in this phase. While this pair has squeaked into the 20s in the past, at the 3* level, they’re more likely to earn a low-to-mid-30s mark from the Ground Jury this weekend to start off their competition.

Having gone to England in 2022 for some additional practice and exposure, Florian has spent this season closer to home and will be looking to have a strong experience this weekend in Germany.

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Gireg Le Coz and Caramel d’Orchis (FRA)
Eleven-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Grafton – Jacarilla Verte, by Apache d’Adriers). Owned by Rider. Bred by Monique, Phillipe, and Pascal Gatesoupe.

Gireg Le Coz brings forward a 5* debutant horse in this 11-year-old French-bred gelding. Despite it being this horse’s first go at the top level, he’s far from short on experience at up-to-standard events: he’s contested the tough 4*-L at Bramham, finishing 30th overall in 2022, as well as earned a top-10 finish at Strzegom’s 4*-L and a fifth place in 3*-L competition at Le Pin au Haras back in 2020. He also capped off his 2022 season with a top-10 finish at the 3*-L level.

Riding a high of being recently named to the French long list for the Paris Olympics next year, Gireg will focus his attentions on this lesser experienced partner of his. While this week will be firmly focused on experience for this young gun, Caramel d’Orchis stands to make a good impression as his cross country record gets stronger and his dressage marks slowly whittle down. We’d love to see this pair squeeze out a high-20s effort on the first day of competition, but a low or mid-30s score is more likely to see in this debut.

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Cedric Lyard and Unum de’Or. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Cedric Lyard and Unum de’Or (FRA)
Fifteen-year-old Anglo-Arabian gelding (Yarlands Summer Song – Fee du Logis, by Prince Ig’Or). Owned and bred by Marie-Christine Duroy-de Lauriere and Rider.

Still owned by breeder Marie-Christine Duroy-de Lauriere, Unum de’Or is a veritable member of the Lyard family, having been produced for the majority of his eventing career by the French Olympian.

This Anglo-Arab gelding made the step up to the 5* level in 2021, with Cedric opting for Pau as the horse’s debut. It was a successful first trip – the pair finished ninth overall. While an early 2022 trip to Badminton would eventually end up in retirement on cross country, the pair rebounded nicely to contest Burghley later in the year. Unum de’Or made good on that bet, finishing inside the top 20. He would have finished higher, would it not have been for a couple of unfortunate poles down on the final day of competition.

Now, they’ll add another new 5* venue to their CV with a start in Germany at Luhmühlen. If they’re able to go quick on Saturday and leave the poles up on Sunday, a low-30s mark in the first phase – which has historically been where this pair has left the most points on the board – will put these two into good standing when the dust settles.

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GERMANY

Nicolai Aldinger and Timmo. Photo by Mariusz Chmieliński.

Nicolai Aldinger and Timmo (GER)
Thirteen-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Timolino xx – Windgold, by Carlos D Z). Owned by Jutta and Michael Spethmann. Bred by Ole Lehmann.

Nicolai Aldinger will bring forward a debutant horse this weekend in the 13-year-old Timmo, with whom he’s earned some well-deserved recognition as he’s made his way up the levels. He’s been thoughtful with his production of Timmo, who began his FEI eventing career with Danish rider Peter Flarup in the irons. After transferring to Nicolai, the gelding moved up to the 4* level in 2020 but has spent the intervening seasons gaining experience and getting steadily more competitive. It’s a good example of not pushing to make that last leap to the top level too soon – Nicolai and Timmo went from finishing mid or late-pack to consistently finishing inside the top 10 and top 15 of events starting in 2021.

In 2023, Timmo has won once at the 3* level and finished fifth once at the 4* level. This pair was also a part of the gold medal-winning team contesting the FEI Eventing Nations Cup leg at Le Pin au Haras last summer, and with a strong performance here could find themselves at least on the long list for Germany at this year’s FEI Eventing European Championships. They did compete here at Luhmühlen in 2022, finishing 14th overall in the 4*-S division that also serves as the German National Championship.

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Arne Bergendahl and Luthien 3. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Arne Bergendahl and Luthien (GER)
Eleven-year-old Westphalian mare (La Calido – Taramanga, by Templer xx). Owned by Helmut Bergendahl. Bred by Heinrich Bergendahl.

This weekend will be a 5* debut for both Arne Bergendahl as well as the 11-year-old mare, Luthien 3. Long-listed to the German squad for the FEI Eventing World Championships in 2022, this pair made an impression on the selectors as they climbed the levels together. They’ve been partnered since the outset of Luthien’s FEI eventing career, and have been campaigning at the 4* level since 2021.

Opting to compete primarily in the Netherlands, Arne and Luthien have found success at venues such as Strzegom and Baborowko, finishing fourth together in their first 4*-L as a pair in the spring of 2022. A trip to Boekelo didn’t quite end so well, as the pair were spun at the final horse inspection Sunday morning, but they’ll have put that experience behind them and will be firmly focused on the task at hand this weekend.

Dressage would not be the phase where you’ll see this combination make the most moves; a mid-30s effort would likely make Arne quite pleased, as Luthien is typically more likely to pull a score closer to the 40 mark on most days. They’ve got a darn impressive cross country record though, with nary a jumping penalty on their record at the 4* level save their very first attempt back in 2021. They’re also keen to leave the jumps where they belong on show jumping day, so if Arne can put all the pieces together, we could be looking at a strongly-placed pair of debutants come Sunday afternoon.

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Emma Brüssau and Dak Desire GS. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Emma Brüssau and Dark Desire GS (GER)
Fourteen-year-old Hanoverian mare (Don Frederico – Cantate, by Carismo). Owned by Jürgen Brüssau. Bred by Bernd Gehrdau-Schroeder.

Emma Brüssau and Dark Desire GS have been paired together since Emma was a teenager, and they’ve developed much of their respective eventing experience together. Along with valuable experience and mileage, this pair has also become a major “one to watch” on the international radar – bringing to mind the junior-rankings success of one Yasmin Ingham. Together, Emma and “Desi” have taken the golden crown at the 2019 FEI Eventing European Championships for Juniors and Young Riders as well as a silver medal at the level below in the previous years’ championship. These accomplishments add to success Emma had previously found at young rider championship level, and she eventually went on to make her senior squad debut with the 14-year-old mare in FEI Nations Cup competition in 2019. They were most recently named as reserves to the 2021 European Eventing Championships squad for the Germans.

So while this is a banner weekend for both Emma and Desi in terms of debut, it comes as the next step in the natural progression of a career whose star is surely just beginning to rise. They’re coming off a top-10 finish in 4*-S competition at Baborowko (Poland) this spring and will be coming into this important debut on home soil looking to put a solid first outing under their belt. While it may not happen in this first attempt, this pair is well-capable of a dressage mark in the 20s, and you’d be hard-pressed to find many flaws in their combined cross country record. Show jumping may prove to be this pair’s nemesis this weekend, but a solid debut may put this pair firmly on the radar (as if they weren’t already there!) of the German selectors ahead of this year’s European Championships and – dare we say – next year’s Olympics.

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Jerome Robiné and Black Ice (GER). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jérôme Robiné and Black Ice (GER)
Thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Vechta – Brookhall Lady, by Touchdown). Owned by Dorothea von Zedtwitz. Bred by Judith McClelland.

A product of the German Federation’s military-based Warendorf production system, Jérôme Robiné comes forward to make his debut at the 5* level on home soil this weekend with the impressively talented Black Ice. Very nearly the 2022 German National Champion here in 2022, Jérôme and Black Ice instead took home the under-25 title and now stand poised to build on that result this weekend. Despite it being a debut, we can’t help but think that this could be a well-ranked pair at the end of the day on Sunday. They have yet to incur a jump penalty on cross country since beginning their partnership during the pandemic in 2020. While they’ve been known to lower a pole when they can’t afford one, they could put themselves into good striking distance with a strong showing in the first two phases.

This partnership is a good example of one that just seems to gel naturally. Black Ice underwent several changes of jockey in the beginning of his international career, before joining Jérôme’s program. Since this consistency has been in place, the horse’s record has gotten progressively more competitive. Despite its lack of length, the bond horse and rider have built here is evident in their marks, and that strength should come in to play this weekend.

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GREAT BRITAIN

Laura Collett and Dacapo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Laura Collett and Dacapo (GBR)
Fourteen-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Diarado-Tosca VII, by Canturo). Owned by Diana Chappell, Gillian Morris-Adams, Alison and Michael Smedley, and Carolyn Taylor. Bred by ZG Kirsten and Eggert Bock.

Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to the “next big thing” to come out of Olympic Gold Medalist and Badminton 2022 winner Laura Collett’s yard: Dacapo, or “Cal” as he is known to his friends. Although he is the same age as his stable mate — the legendary London 52 — it would be fair to say that thus far at least, Cal has very much been in his shadow. Admittedly, an Olympic medal and a Badminton title is a tough act to follow, but perhaps 2023 will be the year we start to see his star begin to rise.

His jumping record is impeccable, marred only by the occasional coloured pole here and there and his first phase score is becoming similarly immaculate. He led the CCIO4*-NC-L at Boekelo from start to finish last season on a 21.9 dressage, adding just 4 jumping faults in the final phase. This followed a similarly polished performance in the CCI4*-L at Millstreet earlier in the year, where he also took the win with a 24.3 dressage.

Cal has continued this incredible form so far this season, with three out of three double clears and a win at Burnham Market CCI-S 4* in the Spring. Indeed, he showed promise at Badminton too, lying seventh after dressage with a formidable 25.2, although Laura ultimately made the decision to withdraw ahead of the jumping phases after the constant deluge saw the cross-country dissolve into a mud bath. Re-routing to Bicton CCI-S4* paid off though, and Cal romped home in third place, the perfect prep run for Luhmühlen .

Hopefully it is third-time lucky for Cal and Laura in Germany; his 5* debut in Pau 2021 saw him retire on cross country, but two years of experience could be just what he needed to show us what he is made of — let’s not forget it took the formidable London 52 a few years to come into his own — so watch this space. Cal could well be the one to watch, and if he keeps his head across country, he is more than capable of a top 10 placing.

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Laura Collett and London 52. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Laura Collett and London 52 (GBR)
Fourteen-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Landos – Vernante, by Quinar). Owned by Keith Scott, Karen Bartlett, and the rider. Bred by Ocke Riewerts.

Where to begin with the eventing legend that is London 52?! Badminton winner, Olympic gold medalist… these are but a few of the accolades afforded this incredible horse who seems, like the finest of wines, to just keep getting better with age.

He did have an uncharacteristic run out at the World Championships in Pratoni last year, but then so did a fair few others, so we can’t hold it against him too much. Let’s not forget he had just posted an incredible 19.3 dressage score – their best international result to date. Indeed, Dan seems to have put this minor blip firmly behind him anyway, notching up three wins already this season. Most recently he stormed home to take the top spot at Bicton CCI4*-S, adding just a handful of cross-country time faults to his first phase score of 19.8.

The 5* here in Luhmühlen is certainly “Plan B” for Laura and “Dan” — he was originally destined to defend his Badminton 2022 title until he picked up a minor injury a few weeks out from the event and Laura made the brave but sensible decision to withdraw him. Now back to full fitness, Dan will surely be raring to go and strut his stuff in front of his adoring fans once more. He famously loves a crowd, and his dance moves in the first phase really are a thing of beauty. Laura has honed them to nigh on perfection — with help from Dressage legend Carl Hester — and so there is little doubt that they will be at the head of the leader board after dressage.

Admittedly, the last time Laura bought Dan to Luhmühlen — for the CCI-L4* back in 2019 – he was eliminated on the cross country. But he returned to form a month later, winning the CCI4*-L at Boekelo, confirming his place as a star on the world stage with a win at Pau in the 5* in 2020 – his debut at that level I might add. Thus, is stands to reason that London 52 could easily add another 5* win to his ever-growing honors list this weekend in Germany and earn his place in the Eventing Hall of Fame as one of the G.O.A.Ts.

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David Doel and Ferro Point. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

David Doel and Ferro Point (GBR)
Thirteen-year-old Irish-bred mare (Match Point xx – Ferra Jones, by S. Creevagh Ferro). Owned by Christine and Hannah Lees and Molly Nunn. Bred by Trevor Badger.

While likely most known for his recent string of successes aboard Galileo Nieuwmoed — including an eighth place finish at this year’s Land Rover Kentucky CCI5*, sixth at his Badminton debut, and fourth at Pau last year — David Doel has a rather full roster of horses campaigning across Europe. He cleaned up across the board at Kronenberg-De Peelbergen’s 2*-S and 3*-S in the Netherlands this March, taking top ten finishes on nearly all of his five horses’ runs. Currently sitting in 20th for the FEI World Athlete rankings, David attributes his success to a lot of prep and fitness work with one of his trainers Nick Turner, as well as support from his team at Reybridge Eventing – just a 20 minute jaunt from Badminton itself.

David’s Reybridge Eventing website names Ferro Point as “the nimble lady of the yard – an elegant picture with a really swanky walk.” Since taking 12th at Kronenberg’s 4*-S in 2022, “Ferro” managed a bronze medal at the FEI Eventing Nations Cup in Chatsworth just last month — one of only two ever top five international wins for the mare. David also ran Ferro in Pau last year with Galileo Nieuwmoed, but the pair were caught up by a frangible on course, as well as several poles on the final day, finishing the event in 20th place.

“She’s very cute but has kissing spine, which we manage with great care, and ultimately, she loves her job,” David explained to Horse & Hound. “We spend a lot of time working on her top line and don’t do anything too intense with her… In the stable she’s really reserved, but as soon as she gets out onto the cross-country, she’ll be pulling my arms out and she loves to gallop — she’s a cool little pocket rocket and quite a feisty little blood-type mare.”

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Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street (GBR)
Fifteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (O.B.O.S. Quality 004 – unknown). Owned by Jane and Jonathan Clarke. Bred by Martin J. Collins.

The legendary Pippa Funnell returns on a Luhmühlen first-timer just days after her fourth win at the Bramham CCI4*-L on MCS Maverick. After such an exciting weekend, we are anxious to see how this week will turn out for her. With 27 5* runs in the last decade alone, the British Olympian is often most well-known as the “Eventing Grand Slam” winner on the late Primmore’s Pride, who she also placed individual third with at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

This will be the second international event this year for “Squirrel” after taking fifth place at Bicton’s CCI4*-S last month, just a handful of cross country time over his lovely dressage score of 22.8. The pair finished in the top 20 at Blenheim’s 4*-L in September, but were eliminated on cross country in both other events last year — Burnham’s 4*-S and the 5* at Badminton. Pippa also withdrew the gelding from two events out of five in 2021, but ended the year strong by taking fifth at the Hartpury Standard Show that fall.

We are hoping for a second 5* finish for Pippa and Squirrel at Luhmühlen this weekend. The 15-year-old nearly always comes out of cross country with a handful of time and a spare refusal now and then, but is frequently in the top five when finishing — including five of his last eight completions. The duo were the champions at Burghley in 2019 for Squirrel’s 5* debut, but were eliminated in last year’s Badminton — which we will see this time around?

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Yasmin Ingham and Rehy DJ. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Yasmin Ingham and Rehy DJ (GBR)
Thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Tinarana’s Inspector – Rehy Misty, by Big Sink Hope xx). Owned by The Sue Davies Fund. Bred by Noel L Russell.

In recent years, Yasmin Ingham has become more well known for her partnership with Banzai Du Loir, whom she piloted to become World Champion in 2022. However, Rehy DJ was the horse that first helped her to make headlines.

Sourced in Ireland as a six-year-old by the late Sue Davies and Janette Chin, “Piglet” has been campaigned by Yas all the way from Novice level, and together they won the British Young Rider Championships at Houghton Hall in 2018, finishing on their dressage score of 32.8. They would go on to be fourth at the Young Rider Europeans in Fontainebleau that same year, and it was with this horse that the World Champion was first selected for the senior British Team, as part of the Nations Cup in Aachen in July 2022.

Piglet has an impeccable jumping record, rarely tipping a pole in the final phase; cross country jumping faults are rare too. Yas is full of praise for her long-term partner, and says of him: “We know each other inside out… he is unbelievable.”

This, combined with his natural jumping ability and his rider’s natural talent, make them a formidable duo. Ever consistent at both short and long CCI4* level, this will be Piglet’s second 5* attempt; they made their debut at the level at Pau in 2020, with an impressive first phase score of 28.7, picking up 40 penalties cross country before being withdrawn at the second horse inspection. Now, with another 3-years worth of experience for both horse and rider, perhaps Luhmühlen could be the place for Piglet to step back into the spotlight.

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Tom Jackson and Farndon (GBR)
Thirteen-year-old KWPN gelding (Hemmingway – Silvanda, by Marlon). Owned by Anne and Lain Slater. Bred by S and N Burton.

Farndon is a 5* debutant for British rider Tom Jackson this weekend, with two solid seasons at the Advanced and 4* under his belt leading up to this first start. Previously campaigned by Marcus Roberts and Francis Whittington, Tom first took the reins and began competing this son of Hemmingway in 2021, stepping right into competition at the 4* level. Tom has been notably pleased with the gelding’s work on the flat as he’s come on this season; the pair has begun to achieve mid- or high-20s marks more consistently to begin 2023, compared to scoring more steadily in the low- or mid-30s in previous seasons.

As an event horse matures into his or her job, oftentimes a drop in scores is seen as the horse gains strength in the body and maturity in the mind. At this point, now Tom has decided that the next level makes the most sense in the horse’s progression. It’s a good lesson for all of us to take away: completion at a level does not automatically mean “ready to move up”. With two full seasons and 14 4* competitions on his CV, this gelding has more than demonstrated his readiness to move up safely and, potentially, competitively. That thoughtful production could pay off in a big way this weekend.

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Fiona Kashel and Creevagh Silver de Haar. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Fiona Kashel and Creevagh Silver de Haar (GBR)
Fifteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Camiro de Haar Z – Vanir Silver River, by Golden River). Owned by Fiona Breach. Bred by Kathryn Jackson.

This year’s Luhmühlen will mark the fourth CCI5* start for Fiona and Creevagh Silver De Haar, re-routing from this spring’s Badminton where the pair opted to withdraw before cross country on a particularly treacherous day.

These two know each other hand-in-glove by this point, with Fiona having brought “Hero” up the levels herself. The pair logged their first FEI start at the now-CCI2* level in 2015 and made their 5* debut in 2022 at Badminton, which was also Fiona’s first ride at the level. With Pau and Badminton completions under their belt (or girth?), these two are no longer newbies at the level, although this will be their first trip around Luhmühlen.

While they’re still seeking their first clear cross country run at the level, Fiona and Hero have delivered several of them at the 4* level. With a first phase score that is usually in the low 30’s and a clear show jumping rate of just under 50%, these two seem poised and ready to deliver a solid effort this weekend.

As an added bonus, Hero is actually three-quarters related to Piggy March’s incredible 5* winning mount Vanir Kamira. The two share a sire in Camiro de Haar Z, and Hero’s granddam Fair Caledonian (dam of Vanir Silver River) is Vanir Kamira’s direct dam. It’s in the genes for this one!

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Emily King and Valmy Biats (GBR). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Emily King and Valmy Biats (GBR)
Fourteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Orlando – Aurélie Du Prieuré, by Hadj A X). Owned and bred by Philippe Brivois.

Fresh off of a win at Thoresby Park in the CCI4*-S and a top 20 finish in the CCI4*-S at Burnham Market, Emily King and Valmy Biats are off to a strong start for the 2023 season — their third FEI year as a partnership. However, after a retirement on cross country at Badminton this year, the duo will be looking to reestablish their 2023 season at the 5* level.

Prior to their early Badminton 2023 retirement, King and Valmy Biats competed at the 5* level at Badminton and Pau in 2022 — their first 5* ended with a fall at Badminton, but an eighth place finish at Pau, adding some time and a rail to their impressive dressage score of 25.5. While they didn’t clinch their second complete at Badminton this year, Luhmühlen could prove a great opportunity for another top ten finish with their typical 20s dressage score and clear cross country.

Keep an eye on this duo to see how they’ll come off of their early 2023 success at Thoresby. With their usually impressive dressage scores, and continually developing partnership, they certainly look to be a pair to watch!

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Kitty King and Vendredi Biats. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kitty King and Vendredi Biats (GBR)
Fourteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Winningmood – Liane Normande, by Camelia de Ruelles). Owned by the late Sally Eyre, Diana Bown, Samantha Wilson, and Sally Lloyd-Baker. Bred by Sophie Floquet and Philippe Brivois.

A strong partnership, Kitty King first saw Vendredi Biats as a five-year-old at Lucy and Padraig McCarthy’s stable. Although she wasn’t incredibly impressed when she first saw him in the stable and he was known to be a bit cold-backed, once he started working under saddle, the team knew to move on the gelding, and syndicate owners Diana Bown, Sally Eyre, Samantha Wilson, and Sally Lloyd-Baker purchased the horse.

Kitty and “Froggy’s” FEI partnership started back in 2015 with a fourth place finish at the CIC1* at Somerford Park. While their first CCI5* competition at Badminton in 2019 was cut short with a rider fall on cross country, the pair has since won the 4*-L at Bramham in 2019, the 4*-S at Alnwick-Burgham in 2019, and have finished within the top ten at ten other 4* and 5* events.

The partnership recently delivered an impressive dressage score of 21.2 at Burghley in 2022. Despite a frangible pin and a bit of time on cross country, they ended with sixth place in the 5*. Their impressive dressage score at Burghley wasn’t uncommon, as the duo often delivers a mid-20s dressage score. While this has delivered consistent top ten results, they do typically pick up a handful of time, and possibly an occasional rail, which has kept them off the top of the board previously. While they have seen great success at the 5* level, after a fall at Badminton earlier this spring, this duo will be looking to get back to the top!

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Harry Meade and Tenareze. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Harry Meade and Tenareze (GBR)
Sixteen-year-old Anglo-Arabian stallion (Jaguar Mail – Utopie du Maury, By Quatar de Plape). Owned by David Bernstein, Sophie Caruth, and Nigella Hall. Bred by M. Patrick Sisqueille and Castera Verduzan.

Harry Meade maintains quite the prestigious position in British Eventing at the moment, currently holding second place for cross country jump clears — 51 out of 55 runs this year. This puts him behind only Izzy Taylor at 56 clears — but with a better ratio, given she has completed 81. Harry’s most successful CCI5* moments thus far include his fifth place finish at Kentucky in 2021 and two consecutive seventh place finishes at the Maryland 5* in 2021 and 2022, all on his and Mandy Gray’s gelding Superstition.

Tenareze was the winner of the Six- and Seven-Year-Old Young Horse World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers in both 2013 and 2014, then piloted by French rider Thomas Carlisle, finishing on their dressage scores both years. His biggest successes include a seventh place finish at Millstreet’s 4*-S in 2022 after taking second place at their 4*-L the year prior. While this will be Harry’s ninth run at the level, Tenareze has only completed one 5* at Pau in October, where he and Harry sat in 11th position after dressage with a 29.3, but unfortunately dropped to 24th place after an uncharacteristic refusal on cross country — one of just five total in his career. The stallion gave a lovely dressage round at this year’s Badminton with a score of 26.9, but ultimately withdrew from competition on cross country.

Both Harry and Tenareze have shown a bit of inconsistency in recent competition results – while eight of Harry’s last 15 completions were within the top 10, his others have been in the middle to bottom of the pack. Since Tenareze’s 4* debut, he has also been in and out of the top 20s – although this has shown to usually be only due to cross country faults or time, as his dressage scores have regularly stayed in the mid 20s and he hasn’t dropped a show jumping rail in over two years. Tenareze has also had a much lighter international load the last few years, only having four starts and two completions since 2021. Despite these setbacks, we hope to see Harry’s experience pull off another memorable completion for this pair.

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Imogen Murray and Roheryn Ruby. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Imogen Murray and Roheryn Ruby (GBR)
Fifteen-year-old British-bred Sporthorse mare (Roquefort – Billy). Owned by MS Team, Kim Pengelly, and Fran Reeve.

Imogen and Ruby earned themselves viral fame when a loose horse insistently interrupted their dressage test at Oasby Horse Trials back in 2019. Since then they have been knocking out CCI4* completions across Europe and will be making their first 5* attempt here at Luhmühlen.

Ruby topped the CCI2* (now 3*) at Le Pin au Haras back in 2018, which also happens to be the last time they jumped clean in show jumping at an FEI event. Ruby definitely gives it all across the country, having only two FEI events with jump penalties, and usually within striking distance of the optimum time.

Their dressage score is taking a lovely downward trend, most recently scoring a 24.9 at the Bicton 4*-S in May. While they will be looking for lady luck on Sunday to keep the poles up, Imogen will be using her experience to give this mare a confident 5* debut.

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Will Rawlin and The Partner. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Will Rawlin and The Partner (GBR)
Thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Iroko – Backhander, by Colourfield xx). Owned by Miranda and Andrew Rawlin and the rider. Bred by Hayley Togher.

“Conquer” may have been bred to be a show jumper, but he has found his niche in galloping across the country. Will acquired the horse as a six-year-old and has produced the gelding through the levels.

The big gelding is a sensitive fellow, with his team working hard to keep him relaxed while away at big competitions. His CCI4* results reflect this learning process, with top ten finishes at Burnham Market’s CCI4*-S in both 2020 and 2022, and the odd cross country penalty or high dressage score thrown in in other showings.

The team must be getting the relaxation process honed in, as the pair hasn’t seen a cross country jump penalty since 2021, and the show jumping is clear the majority of the time. Will will be looking to continue the progress and earn a 5* completion, and being a member of the younger generation of social media eventers, we will likely be able to follow the journey on his active social media pages.

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Kylie Roddy and Carden Earl Grey. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kylie Roddy and Carden Earl Grey (GBR)
Seventeen-year-old Anglo-European Sporthorse gelding (Last News xx – Palencia, by Corland). Owned by Earl Grey Tea Party-Goers. Bred by Didy Morgan.

One of Kylie’s first jobs as a teenager was making tea and coffee for clients in her mom’s hair salon, but it was manes and tails rather than bobs and mullets that Kylie dreamed of. She began working with horses when she left school aged 16, shortly afterwards making the move to work with Olympic gold medalist, Britain’s Leslie Law. Whilst working for Leslie she produced her first horse to CCI3*, which she made the difficult decision to sell in order to continue with her eventing dream. Kyrenejennella’s Boy went on to compete at Badminton and the Athens Olympics with Czech Republic rider Jaroslav Hatla.

This will be Kylie’s second trip to Luhmühlen — her first came as a Badminton re-route with SRS Kan Do (Arkansas – La Vie En Rose, by Touchdown) last year when she finished sixth. This year sees her return after rerouting from Badminton once more, this time with Carden Earl Grey, after deciding to withdraw following the dressage due to the very wet and muddy ground conditions on the cross country course. This will officially be the gelding’s third CCI5* start. Last year, the pair completed at Pau, where they put down a very respectable 30.9 in the dressage, but added 20 jumping and 38.8 time on cross country day to finish 28th. At Badminton this year, they squeaked sub-30 in the first phase, scoring 29.9 for a very solid effort between the white boards. In 19 FEI starts together, they’ve completed 15 times, only adding cross country jumping penalties on that one occasion at Pau. Their dressage scores do tend to hover around the 30 mark, but they’ve been as low as 26.9 in the 4*-L at Strzegom in 2019, where they finished eighth. They’re not the speediest around the cross country and can sometimes add time in the show jumping too. They’re more often than not clear jumping on the final day though — the odd 4 slips into their record, but they’d be really unlucky to have more than that.

Carden Earl Grey officially has my favorite stable name ever — “Early Whirly” — and his owners’ team name is just as splendid: the Earl Grey Tea Party Goers. He was originally produced by JP Sheffield before being competed up to CIC3* by Nick Gauntlett; Kylie took on the ride in 2018 and says the gelding is the love of her life and “the best unicorn ever”. As well as top-level eventing, Kylie is also a qualified Fellow of the British Horse Society. She owns AquAEquestrian, an equine water therapy and rehabilitation center, as well as running a livery yard and teaching. When she’s not busy with horses, she’s making them — saddle horses, that is, which she creates from upcycled furniture. She also breeds Jack Russells and enjoys boxing.

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Izzy Taylor and Happy Days. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Izzy Taylor and Happy Days (GBR)
Eleven-year-old British-bred Sporthorse gelding (Cevin Z – Vale Brook, by Tudorville xx). Owned by Alex Colquhoun, Lavinia Taylor, and Caroline Wilson. Bred by Emma Humphrey.

Happy Days made his CCI5* debut at Pau last season, finishing 21st after a reasonably slow clear across the country and a three-rail final round. Since then, we’ve seen him out at a very wet Thoresby — where Izzy withdrew her whole string after dressage — and a rather drier Burnham Market, where he finally got a run in and finished fourth in the 4*-S, his best 4* result yet.

He’s very much a low-30s kind of horse, though he’s had a couple of trips down into the 20s — including a very good 25.9 at Burgham 4*-S in 2022 and a 29.3 at Blenheim 4*-L in 2021. Though he hasn’t quite yet had the experience or consistency up the levels going into his fourth season eventing, it’ll be exciting to see the prodigious young gelding aim to expand on his Pau experience.

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Izzy Taylor and Monkeying Around. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Izzy Taylor and Monkeying Around (GBR)
Twelve-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Bertoli W – Donnee, by Donnerhall 11). Owned by Mark Sartori and the rider. Bred by Christian Heinrich.

Monkeying Around started his FEI eventing career in 2017 with Izzy Taylor in the irons, finishing second in the CCI1* at Ballindenisk. The duo moved on up quickly to the CCI4* level in 2019, where we’ve seen them competing since.

We see this pair consistently lay down an impressive low- to mid-20s score in the dressage, but they run into some inconsistency across the country. In the 2020 and 2021 season, Izzy and Monkeying Around hit their stride with all three phases, maintaining clear cross country runs to finish in the 20s and at the top of the leaderboard. We saw recent success in 2022 at Hartpury in the 4*-S, where they finished 6th after adding just a bit of time and a rail to their dressage score of 24.7, and a win at Bramham in the 4*-L in 2022, adding only 1.2 time from cross country and show jumping to their dressage score of 24.

However, since then, we’ve seen some inconsistency creep back into their cross country rounds, and they have retired on cross country at the last three events, including their 5* debut at Pau last year after a few jump penalties. If Izzy and Monkeying Around can pull out a clear cross country round, we can expect to see them towards the top of the board!

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Oliver Townend and Cooley Rosalent. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Oliver Townend and Cooley Rosalent (GBR)
Nine-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Valent – Bellaney Jewel xx, by Roselier xx). Owned by Paul W. Ridgeon. Bred by J.W. Rosbotham.

At nine years old, Cooley Rosalent is the youngest horse in this year’s 5* field, making her debut with Tokyo team gold medalist Oliver Townend in the irons. Oliver’s had the ride on this mare since the outset of her eventing career, bringing her up from her first events at BE100 and moving up to the Advanced level in 2022. This girl has an impressive CV to her name already, with just one finish outside of the top seven across 13 FEI starts. This year, she’s picked up at sixth place finish in 4*-S competition at Bicton in May. After finishing on the podium in second in her first 4*-L at the notoriously hilly Blair Castle to cap off her 2022 season, Oliver originally aimed the mare at Badminton for her 5* debut, but in the end opted to put some more mileage on her and aim instead for Luhmühlen. With that decision, she now has two more solid runs under her belt to prep for this weekend, where Oliver will aim to make the experience a strong one for what he hopes will be another 5* contender to add to his burgeoning string.

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Oliver Townend and Swallow Springs. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Oliver Townend and Swallow Springs (GBR)
Fifteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Chillout – Kilila, by Cult Hero xx). Owned by Diana and Paul Ridgeon. Bred by Maria Keating.

After facing elimination and a recorded warning from the FEI for pressing a tired horse – this horse, to be specific – at Badminton earlier this year, we now see Swallow Springs return for another go at the 5* level. The 15-year-old gelding rebounded from his time at Badminton well to finish second overall at Bicton’s 4*-S at the end of May. Oliver will now look to replicate or improve on the podium finish he achieved with this former Andrew Nicholson ride at Badminton in 2022.

The track here at Luhmühlen will have a distinctly different feel to it than the “Big B” 5*s Swallow Springs has contested to this point, being one that’s a bit more mentally-taxing and technically challenging than it is dimensionally large. This style could actually quite suit Swallow Springs nippier way of going, and should this guesstimate prove to be true we could be looking at a podium finish if the cards are dealt properly.

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Oliver Townend and Tregilder. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Oliver Townend and Tregilder (GBR)
Thirteen-year-old British Sport Horse gelding (Royal Concorde – Trewins xx, by Hand in Glove xx). Owned by The Hazeldines and Mitchell Fox Group. Bred by Preci Spark LTD.

It’s been a couple of years now since we saw Tregilder finish in the top 10 (and would likely have finished higher would it not have been for an 11-penalty activation of a frangible device on cross country) at his 5* debut, the one-off “pop-up 5*” held at Bicton Arena to replace abandoned 5* events during the pandemic in 2021. Oliver did bring this British-bred gelding to Burghley last fall, but a fall on cross country would keep them from making good on a competitive dressage mark.

But more experience never hurt anyone, and now Tregilder finds himself a bit more seasoned at the 4* level before making this next attempt at the next tier. Like stablemate Swallow Springs, Tregilder’s style could find itself well-suited to the nippy nature of Luhmühlen’s cross country laid out by Mike Etherington-Smith. He’s certainly capable of making it around inside the time, and we know Oliver is not one to hang around on Saturdays. We should see Tregilder finish the first phase in a decent standing to make a strong bid over the following days, and it’s never a good idea to count Oliver out of the running to take the win on one of his many entries.

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IRELAND

Susie Berry and Monbeg by Design. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Susannah Berry and Monbeg by Design (IRL)
Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Pacino – Eskerhills Lexi, by Puissance). Owned by Helen Caton. Bred by Fiona Molloy.

Susie has taken the eventing world by storm in the last three years. She struck out on her own as recently as 2020 after working as a stable jockey for Piggy March (née French) for the previous five years. Only in her mid-twenties now, she’s been competing at the FEI level since 2011. She has had a bit of a rough start to the 2023 competition season — she had big plans to ride at Thoresby with Ringwood LB, which were unfortunately sidelined when she picked up a hand injury at Lincolnshire in March. Since recovering, she has been busy competing at the FEI level with Ringwood LB, Wellfields Lincoln, Kilcandra Capitol, Clever Trick, and Jesmond Renard.

One horse that hasn’t seen international competition yet this year is her Luhmühlen mount, Monbeg by Design (“Arthur”). This 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding hasn’t been out at the international level since last year’s World Championships at Pratoni where the pair finished 27th, after adding 8.4 time faults to their dressage score of 38. Susie has campaigned Arthur for the entirety of his FEI career, starting at the CCI1* level in 2018 and winding up at the Eventing World Championships at Pratoni just four years later, where they were instrumental in securing Team Ireland a spot in the 2024 Olympics.

According to Horse & Hound, Susie describes Monbeg by Design as a horse with a lot of heart. “He wouldn’t naturally find it that easy and he tries so hard. It makes me a bit emotional talking about him, because he is such a trier,” Susie says.

Arthur has had four British Eventing competitions to get his feet wet before Luhmühlen. The pair has improved their dressage scores since Pratoni — they’ve shown scores consistently in the low thirties so far this spring, although they’ve yet to break that coveted sub-thirty score. Their biggest weakness this season has been time faults in the cross country phase, particularly at Cirencester Park and Burnham Market. Based on his most recent result at Tweseldown and on last season’s scores, Arthur is capable of getting the time if he and Susie put the pedal to the metal at Luhmühlen. With only four rails in the entirety of his eventing career, we’ll keep our fingers crossed that Arthur and Susie can jump the last fence on Sunday with a double clear ride and finish on their dressage score.

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Felicity Ward and Regal Bounty. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Felicity Ward and Regal Bounty (IRL)
Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (VDL Orestus – Edge of Reason, by Senang Hati xx). Owned by James O’Callagham. Bred by Miriam de Feu.

Felicity Ward and Regal Bounty, barn name “Cuba,” have hit the ground running this season. After one run around the E110 level at Lisgarvan House, they quickly jumped up to the FEI level and have so far completed the Ballindenisk CCI3*-S, the Marbach 4*-S, and the CCIO4*-NC-S at Millstreet International Horse Trials. The 2023 season also marks their highest placing in international competition, which occurred at the Ballindenisk 3*-S where the pair came in second place, with a score of 33.9, adding just 0.8 time faults to their dressage score.

Felicity took the ride on the 16.2-hand black gelding from Andrew Kavanaugh before the 2017 competition season. Since then, she has produced Cuba from the EI110s to the five-star level. Together, they have only one cross country retirement on their record, which occurred at Pratoni in 2022. Besides that, Felicity and Regal Bounty have completed every single cross country course they’ve ever taken on, with only a few time penalties being the norm. Dressage scores for the duo typically land in the mid-thirties. Show jumping is clearly their toughest phase, with a total of 28 jumping penalties so far in 2023. However, Cuba is quick on his feet and usually makes the time or comes in less than a second outside the time.

The 2023 Luhmühlen Horse Trials marks both their second time at the venue, as well as the second CCI5* they’ve ever attempted. Their 2022 run at Luhmühlen landed them solidly in the middle of the pack, just five shy of the top ten, in a competition that saw more than 40 percent of the field eliminated or retire. Felicity and Cuba have improved their dressage scores since last season, with their lowest score since 2018 (33.1) achieved at the Ballindenisk 3*-S. If they can maintain their stellar cross country record, and bring their dancing shoes, they could easily improve upon last year’s 15th place finish to earn a coveted top ten spot in 2023.

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LITHUANIA

Aistis Vitkauskas and Commander VG. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Aistis Vitkauskas and Commander VG (LTU)
Twelve-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.

This very experience pair from Lithuania comes forward to contest what stands to be their sixth 5* competition this weekend, and their third trip to the 5* here in Germany. Aistis Vitkauskas are something of Lithuanian eventing legends, having reached the top tiers of the sport as individual competitors at the 2021 FEI Eventing European Championships as well as the 2022 FEI Eventing World Championships in Italy. Despite his Lithuanian passport, Aistis actually bases his operation in Denmark, traveling about Europe with Commander VG in tow. This year, Aistis will be looking at Europeans as well as, looming in the not-so-distant future, the Paris Olympics with his longtime partner, who he’s had since the beginning of the Danish gelding’s eventing career.

While this pair won’t be ones to make a bid for the top on the first day of competition, they can be generally relied upon to come home on cross country day. They’ve got a few penalties on their record for activating frangible devices, so Aistis will want to make sure he’s got the handiness in check as he sets out around this traditionally technical track. Should they get home with few time penalties, they’ll be in a good position to make some jumps up the board. Show jumping has proven to be this pair’s undoing in the past, so a fault-free round would be a huge success on Sunday.

When Commander VG isn’t busy tackling giant cross country fences, he can typically be found doling out pony riders to Aistis’ daughter – the true mark of an invaluable horse, if you ask me.

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NEW ZEALAND

Muzi Pottinger and Just Kidding. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Muzi Pottinger and Just Kidding (NZL)
Seventeen-year-old Australian Thoroughbred gelding (Fusaichi Pegasus xx – Gypsy Princess xx, by Sadler’s Wells xx). Owned by the Pottinger Family. Bred by Chelsaus and Orpendale.

This will be 15.2-hand pocket rocket Ferg’s fifth CCI5*-L start; he already has two top ten placings at Adelaide to his name and flew around his first Badminton last year. Sadly, he did not fare so well there this year, with an elimination cross county after a promising start, hence their nifty re-route to Germany this weekend.

The former racehorse, who Muzi bought off the track as a five-year-old, posted a 31.5 dressage at Badminton. However, they are capable of much lower: they pulled off a 25.9 at Badminton 2022, so here’s hoping they can find that form again this weekend. Despite the blip earlier in the year, Ferg is usually a reliable kind of guy across the country. Muzi says it “still astounds her how he manages to get his little body over those fences,” but somehow he does, with all the gusto and more of horses a fair few inches higher than he. Hopefully he will put Badminton behind him and attack the cross country at Luhmühlen like only he can.

The real chink in this old stalwart’s armour though is his show jumping. His tendency to drop a few poles in the final phase has seen him drop way down the leaderboard on more than one occasion, despite his solid performance in the cross country and dressage. Indeed, he tipped four out of their cups at Badminton and the World Championships last year — frustrating to say the least. With that in mind, it is unlikely that Just Kidding and Muzi will be within the top ten at the close of play, but it will still be a delight to see this courageous little horse and his long-term partner return to their best form cross country and put their misdemeanor at Badminton firmly behind them. Perhaps if that is the case, we might see them tackle their first Burghley later this year. Pure speculation on my behalf, but you heard it here first…

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Tim Price and Happy Boy. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tim Price and Happy Boy (NZL)
Eleven-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Indoctro – W. Amelusina 17, by Odermus R) Owned by Susan Lamb and Therese Miller. Bred by A. Rijpma.

The current FEI world number one and 2019 Luhmühlen winner brings forward a CCI5*-L debutant this week, the 2019 Le Lion d’Angers Seven-Year-Old champion Happy Boy. Owned by long-term supporters of Team Price, Susan Lamb and Therese Miller, Happy has a knack for finishing on his dressage score, a helpful habit which earnt him a top ten finish in all of his FEI runs last year, and indeed saw him top the leader board in the Nations Cup in Boekelo in autumn.

His dressage is ever improving — it rarely strays above the 30 mark and can dip to mid-20’s, as it did when he won Boekelo on a 25.6. His jumping record is what really stands out though; both his show jumping and cross country record are remarkable — he knocked just two poles last season and often leap frogs his way up the placings as a result. Tim has described him as “the consummate all-rounder, who just really loves his jumping.” Always a helpful thing to love as an event horse, and something that will stand him in good stead on his 5* debut.

Tim gave him a steady prep run in the CCI4*-Sat Millstreet earlier this month, where he added just cross country time to his dressage score, and hopefully this will have filled him with the necessary confidence for a good run in Germany this weekend. Indeed, Happy certainly has all the credentials to make a very good impression at his first 5*. His dressage score may not trouble the leaders, but should still see him within contention heading into the jumping phases, and given his penchant for a double clear, a top ten placing would not be out of the question for him.

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SWITZERLAND

Felix Vogg and Colero. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Felix Vogg and Colero (SUI)
Fifteen-year-old Westfalian gelding (Captain Fire – Bonita, by Bormio xx). Owned by Jürgen Vogg. Bred by Heinrich U. Stephan.

Last year’s winner is back to defend his title! Felix became a bit of a national hero with last year’s Luhmühlen win, becoming the first Swiss rider to win a CCI5* since 1951 — on his birthday, no less.

Felix and his long-time partner Colero will be looking to bring that magic forward, and they have every chance for a repeat here. Expect a dressage score near the top of the leaderboard and the ability to stay on or near it by the end of the weekend. While they’ve had a couple blips lately, including a pin at last fall’s Pau followed by a very uncharacteristic five rails, these two are a very established pair and have been logging international starts together since 2015.

After last year’s win, Felix said of Colero: “You have to have him as your friend. He can be like a dog, but he can also be like a total princess, and if you don’t push him to make a mistake, or you don’t go against him in the warm up, he doesn’t [end up making] a mistake in the ring. If you keep him happy and confident, then he’s trying his hardest.” Let’s hope that Colero is feeling happy and confident again in 2023!

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UNITED STATES

Katherine Coleman and RLE Limbo Kaiser. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Katherine Coleman and RLE Limbo Kaiser (USA)
Sixteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Abdullah xx – An Cailin Donn, by Dawn Review xx). Owned by the rider. Bred by Jane Scully.

Hopefully Katherine has dried out after finishing 23rd at a very wet Badminton with Monbeg Senna. She now brings RLE Limbo Kaiser to Luhmühlen, looking for her second (and hopefully more dry) CCI5* finish of the year.

RLE Limbo Kaiser is a relatively new ride for Katherine. He was introduced to eventing by Ireland’s Michelle Kenny, and then brought to the 5* level by Great Britain’s Rosa Onslow — who completed Pau in 2020 before Katherine acquired the ride.

Taking on the ride of an experienced advanced horse is hardly easy, and Katherine has been using the time to form a partnership with RLE Limbo Kaiser. In the lead up this spring, they have added only some time on cross country at both of their FEI starts, and at Bicton Arena International, they matched their personal best dressage score at the 4*-S level.

Although being based in the UK has made Katherine slightly more used to inclement weather, I’m sure she will be hoping for things to be a bit more dry at Luhmühlen than they were at Badminton, and checking the 5* box for her and RLE Limbo Kaiser’s partnership.

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Hallie Coon and Global Ex. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Hallie Coon and Global Ex (USA)
Fourteen-year-old KWPN mare (Contador – Wesely Wonderfly, by Horse la Loi II). Owned by Helen Coon. Bred by Trainingsstal Jeantien.

These two will have a shorter trip than most Americans to Luhmuhlen, as they’ve spent the 2023 competition season in Great Britain, thanks to a grant from the Wilton Fair Fund. Hallie has been competing Global Ex – aka “Dolly”– since 2020 when she took over the ride from USA’s Katherine Coleman. Together, they’ve competed everywhere from Barroca d’Alva in Portugal to Boekelo in the Netherlands. Now they’re adding yet another stamp to Dolly’s passport.

Luhmuhlen will be Hallie and Dolly’s second CCI5*, their first five-star event being the Kentucky Three-Day Event in 2021. The pair had a few issues at LRK3DE, which resulted in 20 jumping penalties and 22.4 cross country time faults, as well as just two extra poles in the show jumping round. Since then, Hallie and Dolly have put in a few good rounds at the three-star and four-star level. The best event on their record in recent years was a CCI3*-S at Stable View, where the pair finished in the top ten. They’ve put in some excellent efforts at top events, such as the FEI Eventing Nations Cup at Boekelo in 2021.

Dolly has been pulling dressage scores in the low to mid-thirties so far this season and has had only one rail in show jumping. Despite their consistency and solid efforts in the dressage and show jumping phases, cross country tends to be a bit of a bug-a-bear for the pair. When they’re on form, the pair can come in inside the time and with no jumping faults, but can swing to the opposite end of the spectrum with a refusal or run-out scattered throughout their record together. Boekelo was among their top events, so let’s hope that Luhmuhlen’s technical course will play to their strengths.

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Sydney Elliot and OC Diamantaire. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire (USA)
Thirteen-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Diarado – Lantana, by Sandro Hit). Owned by Carol Stephens. Bred by Berthold Gerdes.

I am a big fan of this horse — and no, I’m not just biased because he’s a big, beautiful, black gelding… although that does help quite a bit. Described as quiet, sweet, and mellow, this handsome fellow is much more laid-back than most top-level eventing horses you’ll typically see. In the Chronicle of the Horse’s Behind The Stall Door interview with groom Emilie Mudd, she says “Q” has been “quite a joy to work with. He’s very unassuming in the barn. I don’t expect him to come out and be this big showman. Once you put his braids in, and he takes his little nap, and then [Sydney] gets on and he’s a totally different horse. He loves his work… But he’s also easy to work with on the ground compared to a lot of the upper-level horses. He comes off cross-country, and he grazes while we ice him and rinse him off. That’s all he wants. No antics, no craziness. He’s just happy to do his job.”

This talented pair took an impressive third place in the CCI4*-S at Kentucky this year, falling just behind Karl Slezak’s Hot Bobo and Tamie Smith’s Solaguayre California — the latter of whom she will be competing against once more this weekend. Luhmühlen will be Sydney and Q’s third 5*, after an eighth place finish in last year’s Kentucky and a top 20 score in their debut the year before. Although they have traveled to Aachen the last two years and took a very strong fifth place at Boekelo in 2021, this will be the pair’s first international at the 5* level.

Out of 35 total international runs, only nine of these have ended outside the top ten. Sydney’s personal record is also nearly as clean as her horse’s — she comes ready to place with top ten finishes in each of her last six runs, on both Q and her 4* mount Commando D’Osthuy, owned by Arden and Carol Stephens. While typically ending dressage on a score in the high 20’s to low 30’s, Sydney and Q have only ever had three refusals on cross country in international competition, with just small handfuls of time faults across the board. It wouldn’t be unusual to see a pole dropped on their final day, but we look forward to seeing how this team fares this week in Germany!

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Matt Flynn and Wizzerd. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Matt Flynn and Wizzerd (USA)
Fourteen-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Wizzerd WV – Amai, by Oklund). Owned by Kathleen and A. Patrick Flynn and Merry Go Round Farm. Bred by M.C.J.M Burgers and C.A.M. van den Oetellaar BV.

The jumper-bred Wizzerd was imported by Matt as a five-year-old, and together they have climbed through the levels. Luhmühlen will mark the pair’s sixth CCI5* start. While based in the US, Matt used his degree from the University of Delaware School of Business to develop a successful import and sales business — usually selling between 10-15 horses a year. While competing a lot of sales horses gave Matt a lot of competition experience, Wizzerd was the only one who hung around long enough to bring him to the 5* level. Together they were the 2015 Young Horse National Champions, and contested — and completed — their first 5* in 2019 at Kentucky.

After receiving the Karen E. Stives Endowment Fund Grant to compete at Boekelo in 2021, Matt and Wizzerd have been enjoying the luxury of experience that is granted to UK based US riders. In 2022, the pair rerouted to Luhmühlen and finished in 17th position after retiring on course at Badminton. They then concluded their fall season with a 26th place finish at Pau. Both finishes were coupled with 20 jump penalties on cross country.

While the pair usually averages right around the 30 mark for day one and is consistently leaving the poles up on the final day, Matt will be looking to jump clear around the Mike Etherington-Smith course and erase the trend of having 20 penalties come up at FEI events.

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Boyd Martin and Fedarman B. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Boyd Martin and Fedarman B (USA)
Thirteen-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Clooney – Paulien B, by Fedor). Owned by the Annie Goodwin Syndicate. Bred by G and G.F. Brinkman.

Boyd rides in honor of the late Annie Goodwin, who was “Bruno’s” previous rider. Annie’s family asked Boyd to take over the ride after her death in 2021 in what he describes as “a massive honor to continue Annie’s work with Bruno.” Boyd describes Bruno as a “one-person horse”, and the pair had to take time to grow roots in the partnership, but it has certainly blossomed in the time since.

Their top finishes include winning the Tryon CCI4*-L in May of 2022 as well as their 4*-S last month. They also were seventh at Boekelo last year in addition to winning the Grand-Prix Eventing Showcase at Bruce’s Field at the start of 2022.

Though this will be Bruno’s 5* debut, this pair could be a big threat for the top. The two have been able to reliably produce sub-30 results on the flat and have proven both at Boekelo and Tryon that they can finish cross country clear and within the time. In addition, Boyd and Bruno have never had a rail together in their International career, making them a good bet for a top five finish.

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Boyd & Luke 140. Photo by Kim Miller.

Boyd Martin and Luke 140 (USA)
Twelve-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Landos I – Omega VI, by Limbus). Owned by Luke 140 Syndicate. Bred by Georg Clausen.

Fresh off the heels of winning the 2*L, 3*L, and 4*S at the MARS Bromont CCI, Boyd is going to tackle Luhmuhlen with Luke 140, as well as Fedarman B and Tsetserleg TSF. Boyd took over the ride on “Luke” from Swedish Eventer Malin Petersen in 2018. Since then, the pair have become a regular feature at four-star events across the United States.

This will be Luke’s first European voyage since his time with Malin Petersen and his second time at Luhmühlen. Luke and Malin tackled the Luhmühlen CIC1* in 2018, where they came in second place with an impressive total score of 25.9. While the Luhmühlen 5* will be Luke’s first event at this level, it’s just another notch on Boyd’s already jam-packed belt.

Luke has had a quiet past two years after being pulled from the Olympic Team for Tokyo after sustaining a leg injury in 2021. In 2022, he completed a CCI2*-S at MARS Great Meadow International, where the pair took it a bit slow on the cross country course. In 2023, it appears Luke and Boyd are back at the top of their game. So far this season, Luke has successfully completed the Tryon CCI4*-S in May, earning a fourth place finish against a competitive field of riders.

Boyd and Luke have historically swung to both sides of the spectrum when it comes to placings. They’ve either been in top five or found themselves finishing in the lower half of the pack, a trend that also chased Luke throughout his career with Malin. For his first five-star event, I’d expect to see Luke with a sub-30 dressage score and a double clear show jumping round. Cross country will be the deciding factor for where they fall in the ribbons, as Luke has been known to have a few time faults in the cross country phase. However, Luhmühlen’s historically mentally challenging track with its technical lines instead of stamina-sapping length could work in Luke’s favor.

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Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF (USA)
Sixteen-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall – Thabana, Buddenbrock). Owned by Christine, Thomas IV, and Tommie Turner. Bred by Timothy Holekamp.

Is there anything left that superstar Thomas hasn’t done? As it turns out, yes… Luhmühlen.
While this wasn’t their Plan A — Boyd opted to reroute to Luhmühlen after an early glance-off and subsequent retirement at Kentucky CCI5* this spring — I feel like fans of this pair can’t help but feel a bit excited about their Plan B. Thomas is a PanAm winner, a 5* National Champion, an Olympian, and a World Equestrian Games veteran. Why not have a go around a European 5* for funsies?

It might be the first trip around Luhmühlen for Thomas, but Boyd is no stranger to the track. He’s made a total of five starts at the venue, with his best result coming in 2014 aboard Shamwari 4. This year marks his first trip back since 2018.

Despite their uncharacteristic blip at Kentucky — their first cross country jump penalties at an international event in almost five years — there’s no doubt that a pair with this much experience will be primed and ready to go this weekend. Expect a dressage score solidly in the 20’s, with potential to sit Boyd and Thomas at or near the top of the leaderboard, and a speedy trip across the country. Thomas does have the occasional pole or two in the showjumping, but still, we would expect a solid result for this pair as one of our top US representatives.

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Tamie Smith and Solaguayre California. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Tamie Smith and Solaguayre California (USA)
Twelve-year-old Argentinian Sport Horse mare (Casparo – Solaguayre Calandria, by Casall ASK). Owned by Julianne and David Guariglia. Bred by Haras Solaguayre.

What more can I add to what’s already been said of our first US Kentucky champion in 15 years? Besides, of course, the fact that she was the first female victor since 2011, or the first champion from the West Coast in nearly four decades. Can’t forget that. We all know at this point that Tamie is a force to be reckoned with, so look out Luhmühlen — she’s coming for another victory.

Rather, we shall focus on the CCI5* debut for a truly impressive up-and-coming mare. I remember this horse seemingly coming out of nowhere in 2021, proceeding to clean up at 3*s across the board in California and on the East Coast the following spring. Bred and trained at Haras Solaguayre in Argentina, the 12-year-old mare was a respectable show jumper in her previous career. After a bit of a “rough start”, including an ankle fracture from a fall off California at the beginning of 2021, Tamie was very pleased when they took a fast and clean first at Morven Park’s 4*-L last fall, finishing just one time fault over her dressage score. More recently, they took a nice complementary second place to Tamie’s 5* victory at Land Rover Kentucky’s 4*-S, only two seconds behind Karl Slezak and Hot Bobo’s win. They followed up with a strong third place finish last month in the 4*-S at Tryon.

The pair hold only five completions outside the top five, one of which was still quite a respectable top-20 finish at Boekelo in 2021, and with most of the rest being due to her only cross country refusals on record. The mare really shows her experience on the third day, with only seven poles in total ever dropped in competition, always giving fast rounds under the time. Although we may expect a handful of time on cross country, their dressage scores have been trending in the high 20’s, so we can expect quite the competitive score from this powerful duo.

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Allons à Bromont! Your Form Guide to the Horses and Riders of the MARS Bromont CCI

We are set to get underway with competition at one of the key North American CCI4* events: the MARS Bromont CCI, set in the absolutely gorgeous city of Bromont to the east of Montreal, Quebec. This is a former Olympic equestrian site (1976), and the area’s rich history is evident throughout the grounds.

There are two 4* divisions competing this weekend, a CCI4*-L and a CCI4*-S. Many riders will use the 4*-L division here as a preparation for horses they hope will eventually step up to the 5* level, and it’s a great test over a true Derek di Grazia track ahead of next year’s Kentucky Three-Day Event.

The EN team is proud to be assisting the MARS Bromont CCI team on the ground this weekend with promotion and social media support. Stay tuned for much more, and be sure you’re following @bromontcci and @goeventing on Instagram for the latest.

We’ll kick off competition tomorrow with dressage. The 4*L division will ride their tests tomorrow afternoon, the 4*S riders will do their tests on Friday afternoon. We also have a full slate of action for the MARS Bromont Rising program, which provides ample opportunity for a group of selected young riders – competing in U25 sections of the 3*L and 2*L – to obtain coaching and mentorship from program directors Peter Gray and Bettina Hoy.

For now, dive right into our Form Guide to the horses and riders competing in the two 4* divisions. Enjoy, and Go Eventing!

Want to jump straight to your favorite horse and rider? Click the links below to jump to their section (the combinations are listed below in alphabetical order by last name; sections in alphabetical order by country and last name):

CCI4*-L

Arielle Aharoni and Dutch Times (USA)
Hanna Bundy and Lovely Assistant (CAN)
Phillip Dutton and Azure (USA)
Ariel Grald and Forrest Gump 124 (USA)
Ariel Grald and Diara (USA)
Lillian Heard Wood and Chilly (USA)
Lillian Heard Wood and Dassett Olympus (USA)
Hannah Sue Hollberg and Capitol H I M (USA)
Jennie Jarnstrom Dennis and Flower Girl (SWE)
Jamie Kellock and Summer Bay (CAN)
Sara Kozumplik and Rock Phantom (USA)
Kendal Lehari and Audacious (CAN)
Shannon Lilley and Ideal HX (USA)
Colleen Loach and FE Golden Eye (CAN)
Jessica Phoenix and Watson GS (CAN)
Jessica Phoenix and Isla GS (CAN)
Jessica Phoenix and Freedom GS (CAN)
Jessica Phoenix and Fluorescent Adolescent (CAN)
Lindsay Traisnel and Bacyrouge (CAN)
Ryan Wood and Cooley Flight (AUS)

CCI4*-S

Melissa Boutin and Obeah Dancer GS (CAN)
Phillip Dutton and Z (USA)
Colleen Loach and Vermont (CAN)
Alex MacLeod and Newmarket Jack (USA)
Boyd Martin and On Cue (USA)
Booli Selmayr and Millfield Lancando (USA)

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CCI4*-L

AUSTRALIA

Ryan Wood and Cooley Flight. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Ryan Wood and Cooley Flight (AUS)
Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Plot Blue – Making Moments, by Laughton’s Flight). Owned by Linda Ledray and Ryan Wood.

Five-star Australian event rider Ryan Wood has had a rich eventing career, having been competing at the FEI level since 2002. Ryan hasn’t had the ride on the imported Irish Sport Horse, Cooley Flight, for very long; the pair first started competing together in 2021. The 2023 MARS Bromont Horse Trial marks Cooley Flight’s tenth FEI competition, all completed with rider Ryan Wood, and his third go around at Bromont.

Historically, Ryan and Cooley Flight have placed well at Canada’s premiere eventing venue. In June of 2022, the pair earned third place with a score of 58.1. Note, we’re discounting Ryan’s pre-cross country withdrawal from the 2022 FEI Eventing Nations Cup at Bromont, as Ryan withdrew due to coming down with an ill-timed stomach flu and not for riding-related reasons.

Cooley Flight is a jumping machine. Despite his short FEI career, he’s had some impressive results, including a double clear ride at the Morven Park CCI4*-L in October of last year that earned him fifth place in a very competitive lineup. The Irish Sport Horse has had zero cross country obstacle penalties in his FEI career and tends to come in between five and 15 seconds outside the time. Dressage scores for the pair tend to range in the mid-thirties. If Ryan chooses to push for the time on cross country, Ryan and Cooley Flight could have a shot at the top ten, which would be a fitting finish for their tenth FEI competition together. Keep your fingers crossed that Ryan has an iron stomach this year!

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CANADA

Hanna Bundy and Lovely Assistant. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Hanna Bundy and Lovely Assistant (CAN)
Twelve-year-old Thoroughbred mare (Colonel John – Absolutely Lovely, by Silver Ghost). Owned by Juliana Hansen.

After starting her FEI career with owner Juliana Hansen in the CIC1* in Bromont in 2018, Lovely Assistant became the ride for Canadian Hanna Bundy in 2019. Although Hanna has had previous FEI experience on rides Exquisite and D’Jion through the 2* level, Hanna piloted Lovely Assistant around both of their first 3* competitions at Bromont in 2020 where the pair finished in second place.

Since then, the duo contested at the 3*S and 3*L levels throughout the 2020 and 2021 seasons, then moving up to the 4*S in 2022. They have completed four 4*S events so far, most recently at Kentucky this April, where they added 16.4 time penalties to their dressage score of 41.8 to finish in 21st on a 58.2.

While their dressage scores hover in the low-mid 40s, this duo impressively has not seen a cross country jump penalty on their record. However, some cross country time and a rail or two could be expected. With Bromont being their first 4*L competition, keep an eye on these cross country superstars to see how they tackle the course!

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Jamie Kellock and Summer Bay. Photo by Abby Powell.

Jamie Kellock and Summer Bay (CAN)
Fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (unknown breeding). Owned by Jamie Kellock.

2022 was a whirlwind year for Jamie and “Quinn,” who was originally produced by Clark Montgomery. A second place finish in the Tryon CCI4*-S kicked things off before the pair were named to their first Nations Cup team in August. Their biggest triumph came from their overseas journey to the Blenheim Palace CCI4*-L in England.

Blenheim was their first trip across the pond and they gained invaluable education all the way. They finished 50th, but their only faults were time across the country and one rail down on the final day. This effort landed them on the 2023 Equestrian Canada Eventing National Team Development Squad as the cherry on top of their unforgettable year.

This is their second season at the four-star level. Here in Bromont last year, they nabbed 8th place, and they’ll be trying to match or improve that effort. We can expect a dressage score in the high 30s to low 40s, and will probably choose time faults over risks on cross country for a most successful trip.

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Kendal Lehari and Audacious. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Kendal Lehari and Audacious (CAN)
Ten-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding (Ironman – Megan’s Mayflower xx, by Rumlum Star xx). Owned by Kenal, Gwen, and Rein Lehari.

While Uxbridge, Ontario native Kendal Lehari has been an international level rider for many years – she completed her first FEI event here at Bromont in 2005 prior to representing Canada at Young Riders the following year – it’s been this talented young gray that’s helped propel her to the very upper echelons of eventing. This all-Canadian pair are ready to take their first crack at Bromont’s marquee class this year.

Initially intended to be a resale horse, Kendal purchased Audacious directly from his breeder, Carolyn Baird, as a three-year-old. However, the pair quickly bonded and “Junior” never left her stable. Kendal has been the gelding’s sole rider and rapidly became one of her top prospects.

Kendal and Junior won the CCI3*-S division at this event in 2021 and returned the following year to step up to the 4*-S. After a third place finish in their first four-star appearance, the Ontario native and her Ontario-bred gelding were named to their first Canadian national team for the FEI Eventing Nations Cup Canada CCIO4*-S here later last summer, where they finished 8th overall after adding just cross country time to their dressage score to help Team Canada clinch second place.

Kendal and Junior have tried their hand at the 4*-L level twice before but are still looking for their first completion. They made their first attempt at the level at Morven Park last fall where they retired on cross country and then tried again later that season at Tryon where they were sadly eliminated at the first horse inspection. Mostly recently however, they are coming off a big second place finish in the Ocala International Festival of Eventing CCI4*-S this April.

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Colleen Loach and FE Golden Eye (CAN). Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Colleen Loach and FE Golden Eye (CAN)
Eleven-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Goldfever – Cascade, by Contendro). Owned by Peter Berry, Amanda Bernhard, and the rider.

After being imported as a four-year-old by Fredericks Equestrian International, this compact bay gelding was quickly spotted by Colleen Loach, who was an assistant rider there at the time. Colleen proceeded to “hide away” the young horse from prospective buyers until she found the funds to purchase him, and after winning his Five-Year-Old YEH class, “Goldie” stepped up to the international ring in 2018, where he finished seventh in the CCI1* at Bromont. There are actually several “FE” horses taking the field this weekend at Bromont: fellow Canadian Dana Cooke’s two horses in the CCI3*-L, Hugh Wrigley’s 2* horse for Australia, and USA’s sister pair Benita and Lucia Strini’s 2* and 3* mounts.

After just six international competitions together, the two-time Olympian brought Goldie with her to the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, where they took 20th individually and earned a Team Bronze for Canada. Colleen and Goldie have since cleaned up across the board in both Canada and the US, with just five of his 23 completions falling out of the top 20, most recently winning at the Intermediate level at Pine Top this Spring. A nearly spotless show jumping record has seemingly brought the pair to begin dabbling in pure show jumping this year – Colleen and Goldie took the win in the 1.35-1.40m National Grand Prix here at Bromont in May, after scoring 11th place in another Grand Prix at Live Oak this spring.

Goldie has quite the impressive record at Bromont since his international debut, taking first place in Bromont’s 3*-S in 2020, second place in 2021’s 3*-S, and third place in the Nation’s Cup CCIO4*-S this past August. If this pattern is to repeat itself, we could be looking at yet another top ten finish at the 4* level – and if this pair takes fourth place this weekend, making a lovely one-two-three-four combo, those numbers will allow me to die happy.

While we’re looking at patterns, Goldie has been in and out of the top ten almost every other show for the last two years – five out of his last nine events, with 12 overall top-ten placings since 2018. After a cross country refusal dropped them to 28th place in the Land Rover Kentucky 5* in April, they’re due for another highly competitive score here on their home turf.

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Jessica Phoenix and Watson GS. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jessica Phoenix and Watson GS (CAN)

Twelve-year-old Canadian Trakehner gelding (Humble GS – Woodstock GS, by Voltaire Pref). Owned by Rider and Charlotte Schickedanz.

The 12-year-old Watson GS has loads of experience at the 4* level at this point, having made his debut at the 4*L level in 2019 at Fair Hill with Canadian multi-Olympian Jessie Phoenix. He and Jessie have been partnered since the outset of his international career, and most recently the Canadian Trakehner gelding finished inside the top 20 at the Lexington CCI4*-S.

It’s a bit of a family affair for Jessie this week in terms of her horses: Watson GS, Freedom GS, and Isla GS are all by the stallion Humble GS, with whom Jessie competed through the 4* level. You can read more about his seriously impressive breeding career here.

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Jessica Phoenix and Isla GS. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Jessica Phoenix and Isla GS (CAN)

11-year-old Trakehner mare (Humble GS – St.Pr.u.Pr.St. Iselle, by Sir Chamberlain). Owned by Charlotte Schickedanz.

Isla GS is a newer horse to this level, with just one 4* start under her belt to date. She’s got two 4*-S starts on her record this season and will be looking for experience and mileage in this first 4*-L run. Isla GS, who is 11 this year, has also competed in pure show jumping with Jessie, who’s a bit of a Jill-of-all-trades on a horse. Isla started off as a sales horse in Jessie’s program, and she quickly showed her prowess for the sport and has found herself a spot on the Phoenix string moving forward.

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Jessica Phoenix and Freedom GS. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Jessica Phoenix and Freedom GS (CAN)

11-year-old Oldenburg mare (Humble GS – Friedel GS, by Fidertanz). Owned by Charlotte Schickedanz.

Another lightly-campaigned partner of Jessie’s, Freedom GS, is also contesting her first 4*L this weekend at Bromont. This 11-year-old mare also sired by Watson GS won the 3*-L at Virginia in 2022, finishing very nearly on her dressage mark save a few seconds of time on cross country. A low-to-mid 30s dressage mark may not yield a top spot on the board after Thursday’s dressage, but this galloping track could suit this mare quite well to make some jigs and jumps up in the standings after the jumping phases.

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Jessie Phoenix and Fluorescent Adolescent. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jessica Phoenix and Fluorescent Adolescent (CAN)

Fifteen-year-old Canadian Sporthorse mare (Gaudi – Amelia II, by Ali Baba). Owned by Makayla Rydzik.

You won’t miss this aptly-named Canadian Sporthorse mare, whose splashy piebald color is eye-catching to say the least. Fluorescent Adolescent comes to Bromont also as a 4*L debutant, having most recently finished in the top 25 at the Lexington 4*S in Kentucky. Jessie is riding for owner Makayla Rydzik, who campaigned this mare herself through the 3* level before handing over the reins. This is one who won’t necessarily be in contention for the top prize after the first phase, and it’s probably a safe bet to think Jessie will prioritize education and confidence over competitiveness this weekend — but this is Jessie Phoenix: Ironwoman™, we’re speaking of here so we know if there is time to be made up safely out there on Saturday, you can leave it to her to get it done.

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Lindsay Traisnel and Bacyrouge. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lindsay Traisnel and Bacyrouge (CAN)
Twelve-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Mylord Carthago – Lelia, by Clyde de la Combe). Owned by Patricia Pearce.

There’s a certain amount of confidence that comes from bringing a horse through the levels. Combine that experience with a facility who’s running seems to really suit your horse, and your weekend might just be ‘Dreamy’.

Lindsey got Dreamy as a four year old, and while he was originally bought as a project, the rest of the sale horses got sold off and the promising Selle Francais gelding stuck around. They return to Bromont after finishing reserve to Jennie Saville and Twighlightslastgleam here last year. Dreamy ran his first 4*-S here in 2021, and really seems to enjoy the low key atmosphere of the event.

They followed up their 2022 second place finish with another second place finish at the CCI3*S at River Glen last summer. They’ve started this spring with a handful of successful CCI4*S runs, including a respectable 17th place finish at the hotly contested CCI4*S at Land Rover Kentucky.

Show jumping has always been a bit tough for this gelding who is built to run and jump, but he’s maturing into a seasoned four star competitor. Lindsey will use their experience to keep the colored poles up and fight to best their result from last year.

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SWEDEN

Jennie Jarnstrom Dennis and Flower Girl. Photo by Al Green Photo.

Jennie Jarnstrom Dennis and Flower Girl (SWE)
Eleven-year-old American Hanoverian mare (Futurist – Lucy, by Romino). Owned by the rider.

Florida-based Swedish rider Jennie Jarnstrom-Dennis comes to Bromont with her own Flower Girl. In order to spend time producing a more competitive ride, Jennie decided to stick to CCI 4*-S competitions with the mare during the 2022 season, with three runs and one completion. They came back with a bang in 2023, finishing 14th in the 4*-S in Myakka City, Florida, where they added just 16 cross country time penalties to their dressage of 33.4. Three weeks later they took third in the 4*-S in Ocala, with a dressage of 33.9, just 4.4 penalties cross country and one pole in the show jumping. In their only 4*-L run since May 2021, at Tryon a couple of weeks ago, they were eliminated on the cross country.

Flower Girl is yet to go sub-30 in the first phase, but she’s been mighty close, posting a 30.1 in the 4*-S at Stable View in 2021. All in all, she’s generally a low to mid-30s kind of gal. With 13 completions from 17 FEI starts, she has cross country penalties on her record on just three occasions. We have to go back to 2019 and a 2*-L to find a double clear on cross country day, but having said that, the pair delivered the fastest round of the day in the inaugural 4*-S at The Event at TerraNova in 2021. They’ve jumped clear over the colored poles in six of their 15 attempts, but when they don’t, more often than not they keep it to just one pole down. There’s a smidge of a time penalty here and there in the show jumping too.

Jennie’ll be hoping to put their elimination at Tryon well behind them and focus on the great form they showed at Ocala as they take on Bromont.

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UNITED STATES

Arielle Aharoni and Dutch Times. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Arielle Aharoni and Dutch Times (USA)
Fifteen-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Goodtimes – Alino Queen, by Michellino). Owned by Christina Aharoni.

Arielle Aharoni and Dutch Times return to Bromont to contest the spring CCI4*-L for the second year in the row, having finished tenth in this division last year. Later in 2022 they returned to complete as individuals in the FEI Eventing Nations Cup Canada CCIO4*-S held that summer, where they also finished tenth.

Arielle and Dutch share a unique partnership, having known each other essentially for the gelding’s whole life – Arielle’s mother, Christina, purchased the horse before he was even foaled. While Arille learned to event through Training level on a pony, Dutch Times was ridden under the tutelage of Tik Maynard and campaigned through the CCI3*-S level. Arielle took over the ride aboard Dutch in 2016. The now 23-year-old rider and 15-year-old horse have since contested 19 4* events together, most recently completing the Lexington CCI4*-S this past April where they finished 16th overall after adding just cross country time penalties to their dressage score. And it may not be a 4*, but most most recently they clinched a podium finish and placed third at the $50,000 Devon Arena Eventing just the other week.

At this level this pair generally scores in the mid-to-high thirties or low forties in the dressage and has yet to make the time across country, but watch for them to make their mark on the final day with a clear show jumping round. Arielle and Dutch dabble in FEI show jumping alongside their upper-level eventing, as Arielle seeks to contest a Grand Prix someday.

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Phillip Dutton and Azure. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Phillip Dutton and Azure (USA)
Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Omar – Cavalier Roselier, by Cavalier Royale). Owned by Anne, Caroline, and Michael Moran.

A relatively new addition to Phillip’s string, having made her first US start in January 2022, it may seem like this stunning gray mare appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Bred and produced by Irish rider Elizabeth Powell, Azure had already competed to the CCI4*-L level in Europe before making the trip across the pond to join Phillip’s string.

Under his experienced guidance the pair certainly hit the ground running, placing in the top five at the 2022 Red Hills CCI4*S and the 2022 Tryon CCI4*L. Their latest outing was in the CCI4*S this April at Kentucky, where they added just one rail and one time penalty to their dressage score to finish seventh.

While dressage is not Azure’s best phase, she is a cross country machine, and together with Phillip this duo has yet to log a single XC penalty. She might not love her time in the sandbox, but if you’re looking for a horse that has the potential to deliver a penalty-free cross country round, Azure has to be a top pick.

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Ariel Grald and Forrest Gump 124. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ariel Grald and Forrest Gump 124 (USA)

Twelve-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Fuerst Nymphenburg – Amaterasu, by Amerigo Vespucci xx). Owned by Annie Eldridge. 

If I had to pick a favorite Ariel Grald horse at the moment, my nod would go to Forrest Gump 124 (and yes, I know there are plenty to challenge this title!). This quirky guy owned by Annie Eldridge is one Ariel will tell you has taken some time to get to know, and for good reason: historically, Ariel will take a horse in its younger years and place her own stamp on the training process. Forrest Gump came to Ariel already an established international eventer with experience through the 3* level with Great Britain’s Tom Jackson.

Because of this amount of experience, Ariel describes her partnership with the 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding as a veritable work in progress, learning his quirks and ways of going as she spends more and more time with him. Of course, they’ve still earned their share of competitive results thus far — they’ve finished in the top 5 in eight of their FEI competitions together, and though they had an unfortunate parting of ways at Tryon last month, this could be a weekend where all of those moving parts gel together. This horse has competed here before and could go even better with a solid showing — he was fifth in the 4*L — his debut at the level — here at Bromont in 2022.

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Ariel Grald and Diara. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Ariel Grald and Diara (USA)
Nine-year-old Hanoverian mare (Diacontinus – Lady Revens, by Colon xx). Owned by Anne Eldridge.

If you’re a fan of gorgeous grays with big floppy ears, look no farther – “Dani” is your girl. This lovely mare by the popular stallion Diacontinus (by Diarado) is also just as sweet and friendly as she is talented, making her a barn favorite.

Produced up the levels by Ariel, Dani has a very good cross country record and has logged plenty of dressage scores in the 20’s. While show jumping seems to be her least consistent phase, she’s still pulled off some excellent results, including two wins at the CCI3* level in 2021. Their most recent international start was at the Tryon CCI4*S in May where they added a handful of XC time and one rail to their dressage score to finish 5th.

While Dani is still young for the level, she’s got a fantastic pilot in Ariel and has been brought along carefully – we would expect to see a strong educational finish for these two here at Bromont.

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Lillian Heard Wood and Chilly. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Lillian Heard Wood and Chilly (USA)
Eleven-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Zanjero xx – Tax Rob xx, by Artax xx). Owned by Steve Berkowitz.

Though not the youngest of Lillian’s horse that will contest this division, 11-year-old Chilly will be making his debut at the CCI4*-L level this weekend. Just last month the gelding completed his first CCI4*-S at Tryon where he finished 16th overall after adding cross country time faults and two rails to his low-thirties dressage score.

Chilly, an Oklahoma-bred off-the-track Thoroughbred, came to Lillian’s barn as a five-year-old after she first met him at a clinic she was teaching. Prior to starting his eventing career, Chilly made 29 starts under his Jockey Club name, Landron, clinching three wins and earning just under $40,000 on the track. Chilly was initially a prospect for his owner, equine veterinarian Steve Berkowitz, but turned out to be a little too hot for the adult re-rider. Steve happily turned the reins over to Lillian, maintains full ownership of the horse, and enjoys staying involved in upper-level eventing.

Back in 2020 Chilly experienced a mysterious and life-threatening illness which caused him to spike severe bouts of fever for weeks on end. His veterinarian owner couldn’t figure out the cause, nor could an entire team of veterinarians from the University of Pennsylvannia’s New Bolton Center, and his case remains a mystery to this day. Chilly went through copious amounts of banamine to treat his symptoms before suddenly and miraculously recovering; simply put, the fever broke one day and never returned. Chilly was turned out on pasture at his owner’s farm to recover and regain some weight before Lillian legged him back up and resumed competing him at Training level.

While Lillian will most likely not be looking to make a super competitive push aboard Chilly this weekend, she’ll be looking to give the gelding a great first run at this level. Their triumph will be a positive and educational round, especially considering that just a few years ago it didn’t look like Chilly might be here at all.

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Lillian Heard Wood and Dassett Olympus. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Lillian Heard Wood and Dassett Olympus (USA)
Ten-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Lancelot – Cushlamochree, by Cruising). Owned by the rider and Debby Greenspan.

For a 10-year-old, the gorgeous gray Dassett Olympus is already quite a seasoned competitor. Initially backed by Great Britain’s Kate Rocher-Smith of Dassett Eventing, Lillian sourced the gelding through Cooley Farm 2018. She stepped the gelding up to the four-star level in late 2021 and already have 11 completions under their belt at the level as a pair including three CCI4*-Ls, each of which they finished in the top 10.

This will be gelding’s third trip across the border to Bromont. They contested this division last year as well, ultimately finishing in 6th place adding just time to their dressage score. Later that summer Lillian and “Troy” were one of four combinations named to the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team for the FEI Eventing Nations Cup Canada CCIO4*-S here that August. Team USA took home the gold medal, with Lillian and Troy contributing a fourth place individual finish.

This pair has steadily been chipping away their dressage score, dipping sub-30 for the first time in the CCI4*-S at Stable View this April. Watch for them to put their best feet forward in the sandbox and likely rack up a few time penalties cross country. Neither a rail nor a couple time penalties in the show jumping are out of the question either, but another long-format top ten finish is certainly within reach for this pair.

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Hannah Sue Hollberg and Capitol H I M. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Hannah Sue Hollberg and Capitol H I M (USA)
Sixteen-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Con Air – O-Heraldika, by Heraldik xx). Owned by Christa B. Schmidt.

Hannah Sue comes to Bromont with “Cheeto”, best friend and field buddy of Hannah’s longtime partner Harbour Pilot, Hannah Sue’s individual silver and team gold 2011 Pan American Games ride.

Cheeto has relatively low mileage for his age, having only begun his international career in 2019, stepping up to 4* in 2021 and 5* a year later. Don’t let that fool you into thinking he’s not experienced though – he’s finished in the top ten in all but one of his seven 4* starts. The odd one out came in the 4*-S at Kentucky this spring where he was 11th.

We probably shouldn’t expect them to be at the business end of things after the first phase – they’re typically low to mid-30s at the level, although they have posted a couple of scores in the mid-20s at 3*. In their two 4*-S runs this year, they’ve had a 30.8 and a 34.1 (at Kentucky and Myakka City, Florida). According to form though, they should be looking at jumping clear across the country – in their 21 FEI starts, they’ve only incurred jumping penalties on four occasions. They generally add a handful of time penalties at the level, but they have jumped double clear at the level below.

The show jumping ring is where Cheeto really comes into his own, although he has had a spate of uncharacteristic faults in his most recent runs. After seven consecutive clear rounds between the fall of 2020 and the spring of 2022, he dropped two poles in the 3*-S at The Plains, and then three in the 3*-L in Maryland. In his two runs so far this season, he’s had a pole at each. Will he be back on his clear round form for Bromont? We’ll have to wait and see.

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Sara Kozumplik and Rock Phantom. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sara Kozumplik and Rock Phantom (USA)

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Spirit Horse – Ballycroy Rose, by Clonakilty Hero). Owned by Edy Rameika. 

Rock Phantom joined Sara Kozumplik’s string ahead of the 2022 season after previously campaigning under Brazilian rider Nilson Moriera da Silva, with whom he reached the Advanced and 4* level. Sara’s first FEI event with “Rocky” was actually here at Bromont in the 3*L in 2022, where the newly-formed pair finished inside the top 15. A consummate horsewoman who can always be relied upon to produce her horses with tact and dignity, Sara has ticked away with this Irish gelding sensibly and may be ready to really ask for the competitive finish here this weekend. Time on cross country would be the biggest challenge for this pair, though some of that could be intentional as Sara checks her rideability and stamina. If this pair can put the pedal down on Saturday, their low-30s or high-20s dressage mark will put them into a strong position to make a challenge for the top prize.

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Shannon Lilley and Ideal HX. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Shannon Lilley and Ideal HX (USA)
Ten-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Vittorio – Elocia, by Ustinov). Owned by Alex and Shannon Lilley.

Originally from Portola Valley, California, Shannon Lilley has moved her way east to now operate out of West Chester, Pennsylvania. Ideal HX was bred by Stal Hendrix and originally sourced by Caroline Martin. Shannon picked up the ride on the chestnut gelding during the height of the COVID pandemic in September of 2020. This will be Shannon’s first time competing outside of the United States since the Pan-American Games in 2011, as well as the first stamp on Ideal HX’s passport.

Shannon and Ideal HX have had a bit of a touch and go season so far. When they’re on their game, the pair has been coming in in the top ten, but on the other hand, they’ve also withdrawn from two out of three events at the FEI level. Their best event so far has been the Grand Prix Eventing Festival at Bruce’s Field, where they came in with a point total of 37.1 and wound up in eleventh place, just outside of the top ten in the Advanced division.

Like so many other event horses, dressage is clearly not Ideal HX’s favorite phase. The chestnut gelding’s dressage scores typically range in the mid to high 30s, although the pair did get a sub-30 score at the Rocking Horse Spring Horse Trials in early April. Unfortunately, a run out or refusal on the cross country course added 20 points to that wonderful dressage score and dropped them from first place to eighth place. Show jumping is where the pair really shines. It’s rare for Ideal HX to get a time penalty in the show jumping ring, with only one measly penalty of 1.6 seconds so far in 2023. He has taken down a grand total of only three rails throughout the entire spring season. Only time will tell if he’ll continue to shine in the show jumping phase at Bromont.

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CCI4*-S

CANADA

Melissa Boutin and Obeah Dancer GS. Photo by Joan Davis / Flatlandsfoto.

Melissa Boutin and Obeah Dancer GS (CAN)
Eleven-year-old Trakehner mare (Humble GS – Claudia Cardinale, by Buddenbrock). Owned by the rider.

Melissa Boutin is no stranger to Bromont. She hails from Ascort Corner, Quebec, which is just an hour’s drive away, and she and her equine partner Obeah Dancer GS have worked their way up through the levels at this venue. In 2021 they swept the CCI2*-S, winning the division at both the June and August events. Then in 2022, though they didn’t attend the spring event, they returned to the contest the CCI3*-S in August and earned a very respectable fourth place.

Obeah Dancer, known as “Colleen” around the barn, bears the familiar “GS” suffix for Schickedanz Galten Farms of Newmarket, Ontario and is a half sister to all three of her coach, Jessica Phoenix’s, mounts in the CCI4*-L this weekend. Their sire, Humble GS, who competed through the CCI4*-S level with Jessica is arguably Galten Farm’s most prolific stallion.

This will be Melissa and Colleen’s second CCI4*-S start. They notched a sixth place finish in their debut at the level earlier this spring at the Ocala International Festival of Eventing. This pair can easily earn a low-thirties dressage score and has a relatively clean jumping record, so keep your eye on them this weekend!

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Colleen Loach and Vermont. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Colleen Loach and Vermont (CAN)
Eleven-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Van Helsing – Hollywood, by Heraldik xx). Owned by Peter Barry.

Colleen and “Monty” are one of the more experienced pairs here in this year’s CCI4*S division, having logged eleven starts together at the CCI4* level.

A big chestnut with a penchant for excellent dressage marks, Monty has been part of Colleen’s string since he was a young horse. Last year he found himself on a bit of a hot streak, finishing second at the Tryon CCI4*L and then second again at the CCI4*S here at Bromont. He was also on the Canadian team for the FEI Nations Cup leg of last year’s Bromont, helping his team earn a silver medal finish in preparation for the FEI World Championships. Unfortunately he also sprained a fetlock in that outing, which ultimately prevented Colleen and Monty from making the trip to Pratoni.

After a bit of rest their 2023 season started off strong with a 4th place finish at the CCI4*S at TerraNova, but an unfortunate 20 penalties and withdrawal at the second horse inspection derailed their 4-star attempt at Kentucky.

There’s no doubt that Colleen will be looking to get things back on track here with Monty, and given their history at Bromont, this could very well be just the ticket. They have every chance to find themselves well-placed at the end of the weekend.

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UNITED STATES

Phillip Dutton and Z. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Phillip Dutton and Z (USA)
Fifteen-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Asca Z – Bella Bouche B, by Babouche van het Gehucht Z). Owned by Z Partnership: Evie Dutton, Ann Jones, Suzanne Lacy, Caroline Moran, Thomas Tierney, David Vos, and Patricia Vos.

Phillip Dutton brings forward his Olympic partner and 2019 USEA Horse of the Year, Z. Originally produced to CCI1* in Portugal by Francisco Seabra and then Duarte Seabra, Phillip took on the ride in 2015. Born in Australia, Phillip made the trip to the States in 1991, changing nationality to ride for the US in 2006.

Phillip is a seven-time Olympian, winning team gold for Australia in Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000, and individual bronze with Mighty Nice (Ard Ohio – Sarazen) for the USA in Rio in 2016. Z was his Tokyo 2020 ride where he finished sixth with the US team. He’s also a multiple-time World Championship rider, and Z is no stranger to championship events either – together they finished 13th at Tryon in 2018, the highest placed of the Americans. On the lead-up to the Championships, he won the test event, finishing on 28 after adding just 0.4 cross country time to his first phase score.

Z has finished in the top ten in three of his four CCI5* starts, and top five in two of them. At the 4* level, he’s been top five in half of his 14 starts – winning two and placing 2nd in four others. His latest outing at the Kentucky 5* saw him adding just 0.4 cross country time to a dressage of 31.9 to finish 5th. His other run this season was in the 4*-S at Stable View in Aiken, where he finished 12th after posting a 26.5 in the dressage to which he added 16.4 cross country time penalties and a pole in the show jumping. His only trip to Bromont, until now, came in 2018 when he was 6th in the 3*-S. That day he added just 7.2 cross country time to his dressage of 27.1 to finish on 34.3.

At the 4* level, we’re generally looking at a score in the mid to high-20s in the first phase. Follow that up with the fact that Z has jumped clear cross country in his last 13 runs – in his 38 FEI completions he has just one jumping penalty (a 15 in the 4*-L at Maryland in the fall of 2019) on his entire record – and we just know that Z will be looking for the flags the whole way round the course, and is sure to be climbing the leaderboard come cross country day. They sometimes add a breath of time, but not always. Naturally a bit of a perfectionist, he’s a careful show jumper on the whole, with more clears on his score sheet than penalties. All in all, based on his form, experience and recent excellent performance at Kentucky (not to mention having Phillip in the saddle), Z may well be one to watch at Bromont.

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Alexandra MacLeod and Newmarket Jack. Photo by Abby Powell.

Alex MacLeod and Newmarket Jack (USA)
Fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Newmarket Jewel – Newmarket Chantepie, by Newmarket Venture) owned by Alex and Carla MacLeod.

Alex and “Jack” come forward to contest the 4*-L this spring after a big 5* debut at Kentucky in 2022. A full time veterinarian, Alex is constantly juggling work and upper level competition. Now based in Massachusetts, Alex previously spend some time in southern California where she and “Jack” top results including a win in the Galway Downs CCI4*-L back in 2021.

Alex found Jack in Ireland as a 5-year-old, where she and her mother, Carla, bought him and brought him stateside. She was a working student for Phillip Dutton at the time while in school, where the youngster was so “feral” that Phillip wouldn’t let Jack jump until the flatwork improved. Which it did the following year, and Alex has brought her partner along ever since.

We’ll likely see this pair in the upper 30s after the first phase, but it’s well within their wheelhouse to finish on that score, which could be a very competitive advantage on their first trek to Bromont.

Boyd Martin and On Cue. Photo by Abby Powell.

Boyd Martin and On Cue (USA)

Seventeen-year-old Anglo-European mare (Cabri d’Elle – On High, by Primitive Rising). Owned by Rider and Christine, Thomas, and Tommie Turner.

The inaugural Maryland 5 Star winner is officially back in action this season after some time off to rehab an injury. On Cue handily won the 2021 Maryland 5 Star, giving Boyd his first 5* win in the process, and this year has come out strong with some light prep runs to get her back up and running at the top levels. She’s coming off a top-15 finish in the 4*-S at Tryon last month, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Boyd start to ramp up the pressure here for a competitive run. “Cue” is one to bet on to lay down a top score in the first phase, and should she do so this weekend she’ll be well placed to make a run for it across these lovely Bromont hills. She has competed here before, finishing third in her first 4*L in 2019.

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Booli Selmayr and Millfield Lancando. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Booli Selmayr and Millfield Lancando (USA)
Sixteen-year-old Anglo European Sporthorse gelding (Lancer II – Fancy II, by Langata Express xx). Bred by Millfield Stud. Owned by Booli Selmayr, Kelly Morgan, and Jacqueline Thorne.

Bromont will be something of a rerouting for this Westchester, NY, native and her five-star partner “Lance.” Their second crack at the Kentucky 5* a few weeks ago ended prematurely when Booli came off at the first water complex.

Booli bought Lance from upper level eventer and veterinarian Kevin Keane when he was going Preliminary, and at the time she couldn’t quite put her finger on what his “it” factor was, but she’s now glad she pulled the trigger and decided to build a partnership with the Irish-bred gelding.

Lance is capable of a mid-30s, but we’ll likely see him stick slightly above that. Their strongest phase is cross country where they’ve only had three faults in their entire International career together.

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The Big B Cometh: Your Guide to Every Competitor in the 2023 Badminton Horse Trials

There’s something so special about Badminton that even just getting your name onto that exalted entry list is the kind of achievement that should warrant some sort of medal. It takes a lifetime of work, of dreaming, of riding in the rain and hitting the deck and leaping over literal and metaphorical hurdles, and then, one day, if you’re very lucky, you get to submit that entry form and hack through that golden archway for the first time and know that no matter what happens next, you did it. You’ve made it. You’re here.

Now, we don’t have the budget to start getting precious metals carved into shapes for all this year’s competitors, much as they may deserve it. Instead, though, we like to undertake a serious labour of love in the form of our encyclopaedic form guide, because we believe that everyone — not just the hot favourites for a win — deserves their moment in the spotlight. And so this is for you, bold riders, loyal owners, hardworking grooms, and parents who provide packed lunches and watch between their fingers. Welcome to Badminton. And this is also for you, long-time, dedicated fans of the greatest sport in the world. Get comfy, pour yourself a glass of something nice, and get to know the horses and riders you’ll be cheering for this week, in drawn order, because we love convenience and ease of use nearly as much as we love breaking our fingers down to sad little stumps in service of our favourite pastime in the whole world: being total, unapologetic nerds.

Quick Scroll by Country (alphabetized by rider last names):

68: Sarah Clark and LV Balou Jeanz (AUS)
51: William Levett and Huberthus AC (AUS)

62: Michael Winter and El Mundo (CAN)

70: Luc Château and Viens du Mont (FRA)
56: Arthur Duffort and Toronto D’Aurois (FRA)
43: Gireg Le Coz and Aisprit de La Loge (FRA)
47: Arthur Marx and Church’Ile (FRA)

20: Anna-Katharina Vogel and DSP Quintana P (GER)

64: Georgia Bartlett and Spano de Nazca (GBR)
50: Alexander Bragg and Quindiva (GBR)
71: Rosalind Canter and Lordships Graffalo (GBR)
12: Rosalind Canter and Pencos Crown Jewel (GBR)
29: Alice Casburn and Topspin (GBR)
17: Kirsty Chabert and Opposition Loire (GBR)
34: Caroline Clarke and Touch Too Much (GBR)
78: Laura Collett and Dacapo (GBR)
32: Felicity Collins and RSH Contend OR (GBR)
54: Tom Crisp and Liberty and Glory (GBR)
61: William Fox-Pitt and Graffenacht (GBR)
9: Pippa Funnell and Majas Hope (GBR)
84: Pippa Funnell and Billy Walk On (GBR)
53: Kristina Hall-Jackson and CMS Google (GBR)
18: Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift (GBR)
25: Andrew James and Celtic Morning Star (GBR)
37: Richard Jones and Alfies Clover (GBR)
2: Fiona Kashel and WSF Carthago (GBR)
81: Fiona Kashel and Creevagh Silver De Haar (GBR)
49: Kitty King and Vendredi Biats (GBR)
63: Emily King and Valmy Biats (GBR)
66: Helen Martin and Andreas (GBR)
40: Greta Mason and Cooley For Sure (GBR)
48: Tom McEwen and Toledo De Kerser (GBR)
14: Harry Meade and Away Cruising (GBR)
72: Harry Meade and Tenareze (GBR)
45: Aaron Millar and KEC Deakon (GBR)
58: Selina Milnes and Iron (GBR)
21: Rose Nesbitt and EG Michealangelo (GBR)
69: Wills Oakden and Arklow Puissance (GBR)
1: Wills Oakden and Oughterard Cooley (GBR)
26: Hector Payne and Dynasty (GBR)
39: Kylie Roddy and Carden Earl Grey (GBR)
31: Tom Rowland and Possible Mission (GBR)
19: James Rushbrooke and Milchem Eclipse (GBR)
30: Gemma Stevens and Jalapeno (GBR)
15: Izzy Taylor and Happy Days (GBR)
79: Izzy Taylor and Graf Cavalier (GBR)
5: Oliver Townend and Swallow Springs (GBR)
75: Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class (GBR)
65: Bubby Upton and Cola (GBR)
44: Alexander Whewall and Ellfield Voyager (GBR)
27: Francis Whittington and DHI Purple Rain (GBR)

35: Susie Berry and Ringwood LB (IRL)
23: Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue (IRL)

22: Aistis Vitkauskas and Commander VG (LTU)

60: Lauren Innes and Global Fision M (NZL)
8: Dan Jocelyn and Cooley One To Many (NZL)
82: Dan Jocelyn and Blackthorn Cruise (NZL)
36: Amanda Pottinger and Just Kidding (NZL)
41: Caroline Powell and Greenacres Special Cavalier (NZL)
85: Tim Price and Coup de Coeur Dudevin (NZL)
11: Tim Price and Vitali (NZL)
38: Hollie Swain and Solo (NZL)

33: Felix Vogg and Cartania (SUI)

42: Katherine Coleman and Monbeg Senna (USA)
46: Lillian Heard Wood and LCC Barnaby (USA)

The Horses and Riders of Badminton 2023:

Wills Oakden and Oughterard Cooley. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

1. Wills Oakden and Oughterard Cooley (GBR)

Thirteen-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding (Puissance – Oughterard Sky Cruise, by Cruising). Owned by Liz Magennis and Debbie Whalley. Bred by Gerard Lynch. Groomed by Sarah Murray, Kelly Reid, and Luke Burnett.

Wills goes out as pathfinder on Oughterard Cooley, who has the same sire and dam sire as his other ride, Arklow Puissance (making them half-brother-cousins, kind of!). “Rich”, as he’s known in the stable, made his CCI5* debut last year at Burghley, where he finished in 13th after a 32.4 in the dressage (his best score in this phase at any level), clear jumping cross country, adding only 10 time penalties, and then having an uncharacteristic three poles down in the final phase. Coming back after a break for the whole of the 2021 season, in the spring of 2022 he finished on his dressage in the 4*-L at Ballindenisk for 6th place, and other than retiring on course in the 4*-S at Barbury last year, you have to go all the way back to a 2* in 2018 to find any cross country jumping penalties on his record.

His dressage is a bit more varied — it’s in the 30s, but swings a bit from low to middle to high — but having delivered his best test at his first 5*, perhaps he’ll make that his trend at the top level — we’ll have to see how he finds the arena at Badminton. His latest form is at the top end — a 39.8 in the 4*-S at Burnham Market in his first outing of the 2023 season. He tends to add some time cross country, but more often than not, it’s not a lot, and he does have another FOD on his record in the 4*-S at Burgham in 2020, where he finished just outside the top 10. He’s jumped clear in the show jumping in around half of his 20 FEI starts, and when he doesn’t he’s more likely to have one pole than two.

With his cross country form, the likelihood is that he’ll be one of our leaderboard climbers. Will he improve on his 13th place at Burghley? There’s a very good chance.

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Fiona Kashel and WSF Carthago. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

2. Fiona Kashel and WSF Carthago (GBR)

Thirteen-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding (Cobra – Enigma, by Viking xx). Owned by Frank Breach. Bred by Francis Mulvihill. Groomed by Emma Copestick and Amy Chittenden.

Fiona Kashel has seen WSF Carthago from his first CCI1* in 2016 to his first 5* in 2022, where they had an impressive weekend to finish within the top ten at Luhmühlen, adding just a bit of time in both jumping phases to their dressage score of 30.9.

This partnership has also finished in the top ten at the 4* level, finishing ninth at Barbury Castle in the CCI4*-S in 2021, and finishing fifth at Ballindenisk in the CCI4*-L in 2021. The duo consistently delivers dressage scores in the low to mid 30s, but they’ve seen a few jumping and time penalties added to their score. Most recently, at their second 5* at Pau, they added both jumping and time penalties from cross country and show jumping to their 31.5 dressage score to finish 29th.

As they enter their third 5* competition together, they’ll be looking to deliver the quality across all phases that we’ve seen them bring at Luhmühlen before.

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Oliver Townend and Swallow Springs. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

5. Oliver Townend and Swallow Springs (GBR)

Fifteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Chillout x Kilila, by Cult Hero). Owned by Paul and Diana Ridgeon. Bred by Maria Keating.

Oliver Townend’s direct reserve for Pratoni, Swallow Springs, is also one of the clear frontrunners in this field, despite only joining Oliver’s string late in 2021 after the retirement of Andrew Nicholson. He made his five-star debut at Burghley with Andrew aboard back in 2018, finishing third, and followed it up with fifth at Badminton the next spring. He was also second at Bramham CCI4*-L in 2018 — despite being chased by a dog in his showjumping round — and won Barbury CCI4*-S twice. With Oliver aboard, he was tenth at Blenheim CCI4*-L — their first FEI event together — and won Burnham Market and Burgham CCI4*-S last year. His third place finish at Badminton last spring was impressive, but not without its dramas: the pair had a wobble early on in the course at the final element of the Quarry, and were subsequently held for over half an hour, restarted, and then eliminated retrospectively for what appeared to be a contravention of the flag rule. Ultimately, actually, it turned out that they’d been mistakenly eliminated for a horse fall, which was removed once contested, but that flag footage was a stark reminder that the specifics of that particular bit of the rule book are a little bit of a grey area even now.

Despite that, though, this is a very, very good horse who’s been produced to attack the toughest courses in a clever, economical way. He’s arguably one of the fastest horses in this field, and he’s extraordinarily reliable. His first-phase scores are impressive, too, generally hovering in the mid 20s but dipping well below them, too, and he’s a a good show jumper, though prone to a rail in a long-format. If he leaves them all up, and if Oliver opts to bring him, this could well be our winner.

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Dan Jocelyn and Cooley One To Many. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

8. Dan Jocelyn and Cooley One To Many (NZL)

Fifteen-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding (Jack of DIamonds – Taffin, by Delamain xx). Owned by Shaun and Lucy Allinson, Francesca Clapham, and Carole King. Bred by Ronnie Kelly. Groomed by Josh Levi.

Cooley One Too Many – Jack, to his friends – was initially competed by his owner, Francesca Clapham, before Daisy Berkley took over the ride, all the way through from Novice to CCI4*. Dan just took over the ride just last year. Despite their relatively short relationship, they have already started to make their mark with an impeccable cross country record and various notable placings, including 15th place in the CCI4*-L at Bramham, sixth place in the CCI3*-S at Wellington International, and a top 30 finish at Blenheim CCI4*-L.

They have struck off on the right foot in 2023 too, finishing in 12th place in the CCI4*-S at Thoresby Spring Carnival of Eventing in March, and eighth in the Open Intermediate at Kelsall Hill after a steady double clear. Unfortunately, his show jumping record is not as consistent as his cross country, and although he has posted dressage scores in the 20s, they average around the 30 or higher mark, meaning that Jack is probably not going to break any records on his 5* debut – but his bravery across country, coupled with Dan’s many years of experience, should see them finish safe and well. Indeed, given their consistently improving form last year, this could be one to watch for the future and a pleasing addition to Dan’s ever increasing string of horses.

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Pippa Funnell and Majas Hope. Photo by Shelby Allen.

9. Pippa Funnell and Majas Hope (GBR)

Sixteen-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding (Porter Rhodes xx – Brown Sue, by Flagmount King). Owned by Marek Sebestak and Pippa Funnell. Bred by Jack Murphy. Groomed by Emily Gibson and Lily Wilson.

Pippa Funnell MBE – multiple Olympic, European and World medalist, first (and only in the long format) winner of the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, Wesko Equestrian Foundation mentor, children’s author, and video game star – comes to Badminton double-handed this year.

Mr. Reliable, Majas Hope, has already taken team gold at the European Championships in 2019, proving to be a capable pathfinder for the team. Consistent and genuine, he’s a trooper who may not be the fastest horse in the field, but will get the job done. At Burghley last year he was placed 16th after adding 12.8 cross country time penalties to his 28.2 dressage, with an uncharacteristically expensive show jumping round seeing him roll four poles; in 2018 he was 13th adding only 8.8 in total to a dressage of 35.2. At last year’s Kentucky, he was 14th, posting a 35.2 in the dressage and coming home with 11.2 time faults in the cross country and 4 in the jumping. At the pop-up 5* at Bicton in 2021, it was a similar story; some cross country time and a pole – he finished fifth that day. He was 16th in his Badminton run in 2019, with 31 in the dressage, 18.4 cross country time and 0.4 time in the jumping.

With five 5* completions under his belt, he’s a safe bet for a clear cross country round and, thanks to Pippa’s time and patience in his flat work, his dressage scores have got better and better. We can likely expect sub-30; we’ll have to wait and see how tight the time is come cross country day.

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Tim Price and Vitali. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

11. Tim Price and Vitali (NZL)

Thirteen-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Contender – Noble Lady I, by Heraldik xx). Owned by Joe and Alex Giannamore and Tim Price. Bred by Guenther Fielmann. Groomed by Meggan Hodder and Kerryn Edmans.

Another 2021 Olympian, Vitali comes to Badminton with pretty strong 5* form, including a third at last year’s Burghley, and tenth at Luhmuhlen before that – on his CCI5* debut, it should be noted. Sadly, the number one spot often tends to slip from their reach thanks to Vitali’s sporadic show jumping record. He has proven on more than one occasion that he can leave them all standing, but unfortunately he has a sneaky tendency to have a pole – or three – when it really matters. Indeed, their first 5* could have ended with a podium finish had he picked his knees up a little higher – they were lying second after cross country only to drop right down to tenth. But, he is piloted by the current FEI World Number One, so if anyone can turn a weak phase around, it is Tim.

The dressage phase, on the other hand, is not something that Tim needs to worry about with this horse – since taking him on in 2021 their score has rarely dipped out of the 20’s, dropping lower and lower on recent runs, including a 21.3 at Burghley 2022, leaving them in second place after the first phase. Ditto with their cross country record, so if their stint on the Spanish Sunshine tour this winter has honed Vitali’s only weakness, this combination could be serious contenders for the top spot. Watch this space!

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Ros Canter and Pencos Crown Jewel. Photo by Hannah Cole.

12. Rosalind Canter and Pencos Crown Jewel (GBR)

Fourteen-year-old British Sporthorse mare (Jumbo – Cornish Queen, by Rock King). Owned by Kate James and Annie Makin. Bred by Pennie Wallace. Groomed by Sarah Charnley and Travis Leigh.

Another exciting horse from Ros Canter’s yard, Pencos Crown Jewel – better known as “Jasmine” – is actually a half-sister to Ros’ other mount, Lordship’s Graffalo. The two horses share a dam, Cornish Queen, who is a daughter of CCI5* mare Cornish Faer. Top-level talent certainly runs in this family of horses.

This year’s Badminton will be Jasmine’s third start at the 5* level, and her first go at this venue. She finished fifth at Bicton in 2021 in her first start at the level, and eleventh at Burghley last fall after an uncharacteristic three rails dropped her down the leaderboard in the last phase. There’s no doubt Ros will be looking to keep the jumps in the cups and improve on that finish here. With dressage scores averaging in the high 20s, it’s unlikely that Jasmine and Ros will be at the top after the first phase, but they shouldn’t be too far off.

Heading into the second phase, we know that Jasmine is a tenacious mare with an efficient gallop – just the type to potentially make a big move up the leaderboard after cross country. She did just that at Bramham last year, which pushed her up to an eventual second place finish in the world’s toughest CCI4*-L. Similarly, this is Badminton – it won’t be a dressage show, and Ros could potentially find both of her mounts very comfortably placed by the final day.

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Harry Meade and Away Cruising. Photo by Peter Nixon.

14. Harry Meade and Away Cruising (GBR)

Sixteen-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding (Cruise On – Parklands Princess, by Able Albert xx). Owned by Jane Dear and Charlotte Opperman. Bred by Eamon O’Flaherty. Groomed by Jess Errington and Molly Parkin.

The gorgeous grey Away Cruising brings forward a wealth of experience to this year’s edition of Badminton, having completed here twice out of their five CCI5* appearances. He was sidelined for a handful of years, but returned to the top level at Badminton last spring. His 29th place finish in 2022 was a good mark off his best performance at the level, a sixth place at Burghley back in 2018.

“Spot” is very capable of a sub-30 score, but he hasn’t quite cracked that threshold in the last year which will make it difficult to strike out against such an impressive field. This will be his sixth 5* appearance, and the Irish-bred gelding is quite reliable to clear the fences, but their end result may come down to just how much Harry can put the pedal down. Come Sunday, at least one rail is nearly guaranteed to be added to their score, but if the first two phases go to plan they have a shout for top 20.

Badminton’s a local event for Harry, who’s the son of eventing legend Richard Meade, and it’s full of special memories for him beyond the competition results as well – he proposed to his now wife, Rosie, on a course walk here in 2010.

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Izzy Taylor and Happy Days. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

15. Izzy Taylor and Happy Days (GBR)

Eleven-year-old British-bred Sporthorse gelding (Cevin Z – Vale Brook, by Tudorville xx). Owned by Alex Colquhoun, Lavinia Taylor, and Caroline Wilson. Bred by Emma Humphrey.

Busy Izzy has three horses entered for Badminton this year, though she’ll have to choose two to ultimately bring forward for the competition. Her own potential pathfinders include Happy Days, who made his CCI5* debut at Pau last season, finishing 21st after a reasonably slow clear across the country and a three-rail final round. Since then, we’ve seen him out at a very wet Thoresby — where Izzy withdrew her whole string after dressage — and a rather dryer Burnham Market, where he finally got a run in and finished fourth in the 4*-S, his best four-star result yet.

He’s very much a low-30s kind of horse, though he’s had a couple of trips down into the 20s, including a very good 25.9 at Burgham CCI4*-S in 2022 and a 29.3 at Blenheim CCI4*-L in 2021. Though he won’t be a big winner this week, if Izzy chooses to run him, it could be a big milestone in his career – this is just his third full season eventing, and it’ll be great fun to see the prodigious young gelding tackle such a big challenge.

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Kirsty Chabert and Opposition Loire. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

17. Kirsty Chabert and Opposition Loire (GBR)

Twelve-year-old British Sporthorse mare (Opposition Heracles – Brooks Varnaval Spiritus, by Carnaval Drum). Owned by Kirsty Chabert and Daisy Chain Syndicate. Bred by J. Johnson. Groomed by Izzi Kirk.

Last year’s pathfinder, and just-touched-down Kentucky competitor, Kirsty Chabert brings forward just one mount for 2023, CCI5* first-timer Opposition Loire. While the 12-year-old mare – known in the barn as Daisy – might be new to the level, she has a long and solid partnership with Kirsty, who has been in the irons for all of her nineteen international starts. In fact, Kirsty has known the mare for her entire life and also competed the sire – Daisy is a product of Kirsty’s father’s breeding program.

Although Daisy’s international record shows a handful of XC penalties as she’s climbed the levels, the pair’s last 4*-L start was a strong one, adding only a few time penalties to their 28.1 dressage score to finish third at Bramham. Kirsty has taken her time developing Daisy, dedicating extra effort over the last couple years to slowly build her strength and conditioning. “She looks much stronger in her top line,” Kirsty notes. “She’s a horse that puts in so much effort at any phase and any time, that it takes its toll and she needs that time to recover, and I made the right decision because she feels mega this year.”

With an average dressage score around the high 20s to low 30s, it’s unlikely that they’ll be placed near the top of the pack after the first phase, but Kirsty will be looking to use her depth of experience to get a confident completion under this mare’s belt in her first time round Badminton.

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Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

18. Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift (GBR)

Twelve-year-old Irish Sporthorse stallion (Shannodale Sarco St. Ghyvan – Lucky Crest, by Lucky Gift xx). Owned by Patricia Davenport, Sarah Webb, and Milly Simmie. Bred by Jeanette Glynn. Groomed by Chloe Whiteman.

Previously piloted by Georgie Campbell, Capels Hollow Drift became a ride for Tom Jackson in 2018. Shortly after beginning their partnership, Tom rode the Irish Sporthorse stallion to runner-up position in the Seven-year-old World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers fall of 2018.

Since then, the duo has found success through the CCI5* level, first attempting the level at Badminton in 2022, where they delivered a 30.3 in dressage, adding 10 time on cross country, and a rail in show jumping to finish in sixteenth place. At their second attempt at the level at Burghley in the fall of 2022, they added only 3.6 time penalties to their 28.9 dressage score for an impressive second place finish on a 32.5.

In their first FEI outing of 2023, we saw them withdraw from Thoresby Park’s 4* during the incredibly sloppy weekend in a few weeks back, but finished twentieth at Burnham Market in April’s 4*-S, adding 14.8 time to their 29.4 dressage score. Now going in to their fifth season together, this pair is consistent and bold across the country, as they have seen only one cross country jump fault within their partnership when they added a 20 at the 4* in Arville in 2019. Between their consistency on cross country day, and their typical dressage scores hovering around the 30s, this duo has shown themselves to be fierce competition.

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James Rushbrooke and Milchem Eclipse. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

19. James Rushbrooke and Milchem Eclipse (GBR)

Eleven-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding (breeding unknown). Owned by James Rushbrooke. Groomed by Emma Grange.

26-year-old Yorkshireman James has had an exciting 18 months. He made his team debut in October of 2021, riding as part of the victorious British line-up at Boekelo CCIO4*-L, and then came forward for his 5* debut aboard one of the youngest horses in last year’s Badminton field. They finished 43rd after a steady clear, and then have since picked up an eighth place finish in Little Downham’s autumn CCI4*-S and a top twenty placing in Thoresby’s spring CCI4*-S.

The “slightly weird” Milchem Eclipse was intended as a sales horse for James, who also moonlights as a Master for the Badsworth and Bramham Moor Hunt, but earned his right to stick around on James’s Leeds yard after proving his game, gutsy knack for jumping solid fences.

This will be his 24th FEI start, and with just two blips on his record thus far, he’s certainly proven himself as a proper sort. He’s naturally efficient, and plenty honest — any wobbles so far have certainly looked more like green, educational ones, and he’s not had an error in an FEI cross-country phase in over a year. He’s also a handy show jumper, and should use himself well on the final day. His two rails here last year were outliers. His dressage, which fluctuates between the low and high-30s, will keep him out of the hunt early on, but if he gets in a good, attacking rhythm from the early stages of the course and James decides to try to catch the minute markers, we could see a serious climb — particularly as their hunting background will really help them out on this course.

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Anna-Katharina Vogel and DSP Quintana P. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

20. Anna-Katharina Vogel and DSP Quintana P (GER)

Sixteen-year-old German Sporthorse mare (Quality – Lady Sunshine P 2, by Landor S). Owned by Karin Vogel and the rider. Bred by Pfitzmann GbR.

Germany’s sole entry this year comes from Anna-Katharina and her spicy, speedy Quintana, who stepped up to the level at Pau last year, finishing eleventh. Though they might be lower-mileage where 5*s are concerned — a pretty common thing for continental riders, particularly Germans, whose focus is so often on team pathways — they’ll offer up a treat for spectators whether they’re familiar with the pair or not.

Though they won’t cause a stir in the first phase, where we’d be looking to them to deliver a mid-30s mark, it’s the cross-country where they really shine: when they made their European Championships debut in 2019, riding as individuals for their country, they handily delivered the quickest clear of the day, beating Michi Jung and Chipmunk, Ingrid and Hale Bob, and last year’s Badminton winners, Laura Collett and London 52 in that phase. They are prone to a rail on the final day, and they duly took that at Pau last year, but this year’s tough, almost European Badminton course looks tailor made to help the pair climb.

Anna-Katharina, for what it’s worth, is a great role model for the hard-working pseudo-amateur rider this week: she’s a state-certified structural draughtsman for an engineering firm, and balances that tough role with training her small string of horses and teaching a few riders, too. She’s had Quintana since she picked her up from the breeder at the age of five – the mare was actually her second horse after a string of successes riding ponies on the German under-16s teams – and that long, fruitful partnership will serve them well as they tackle their biggest challenge yet.

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Rose Nesbitt and EG Michaelangelo. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

21. Rose Nesbitt and EG Michealangelo (GBR)

Twelve-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding (Chellthago Z – Jaspers Flower, by Ojasper). Owned by John and Fran Nesbitt. Bred by Michael Beattie. Groomed by Alex Jackson.

Rose, who trains with Caroline Moore, is no stranger to top-level competition, having had a double win aged 12 at the Pony Club Championships, and a team gold at the Pony European Championships, on her way through the ranks to CCI5*.

Rose partnered up with “Jack” – as EG Michealangelo is known at home – when he was a five-year-old and they’ve enjoyed a successful run up the levels together. This will be their second 5* and second Badminton – last year they finished in 48th place. It all began with a solid dressage of 33.3, with 20 jumping and 30 time added in the cross country, and 4 jumping and 3.2 time on the final day.

Realistically, Rose will be aiming for the low-30s in the first phase, but they have gone sub-30 – in the 4*-S at Barbury Castle in 2022 and the 4*-L at Blenheim the same year – although they also creep up to the mid-30s too sometimes. Their most recent run, in the 4*-S at Burnham Market, saw them add only time penalties to their dressage of 32, ending on 54.4 in 37th place. Prior to that, they were third in the 3*-S at Bicton, again adding only time to their first phase score. They’ve jumped clear cross country in all but one of their completions – the 20 they had at last year’s Badminton – but they’re still chasing the clear inside the time form they showed at the lower levels.

They are likely to have at least one pole in the show jumping, although they have left them up in their last two runs, so Jack is certainly capable of being careful on his day. Catching the time is something that doesn’t always come easily to them in the show jumping too, but the most they’ve added is the 3.2 at Badminton last year. For their second 5* together, Rose will be looking for a good solid completion, a fun ride round the cross country and perhaps an improvement on last year’s placing.

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Aistis Vitkauskas and Commander VG. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

22. Aistis Vitkauskas and Commander VG (LIT)

Twelve-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Come Back II – Nione Fortuna, by Abantos). Owned by Mogens and Birgitte Kloeve-Mogensen and the rider. Bred by M & B Klove-Mogensen. Groomed by Helene Stenshoj.

Loyal readers of EN’s European coverage will know this pair of Lithuanian history-makers well: we’re huge fans of kind, brave, and game Commander VG, and for good reason. Not only is he very talented across the country, he also has the sweetest soul, and can be spotted at events giving Aistis’s young daughter pony rides, looking as placid as a hunter.

This will be a fifth CCI5* and first Badminton for Commander VG, who made his debut as a nine-year-old at Pau in 2020 and was eleventh at Luhmühlen in 2021. He’s also twice represented his country at Championship level, finishing just outside the top twenty at the Europeans in 2021 and picking up a very rare Big E at the World Championships at Pratoni last year. Generally, we expect a very good cross country performance from the horse, who has earned himself a reputation for being reliable and fast in this phase. It’s the other two phases that can be tricky: in dressage, he’s not at all averse to dipping a toe into the 40s, though his scores have been trending downwards and in his last three runs, he’s been in the 36-39 bracket — which, if you can stay on it at Badminton, actually isn’t a bad place to be. In his 5* debut in 2020 he toppled a whopping nine rails, but that phase, too, has improved significantly, and in his two internationals this year, he’s had a clear round and a one-rail round, which feels very promising.

Aistis has waited a long time to make his Badminton debut, and this is a serious horse to be mounted on for an Eric Winter track. Prepare to fall in love (especially if they bring out their Ukrainian braids again — Danish-based Aistis is very proud of his Lithuanian heritage and a staunch supporter of the neighbouring country that has been under siege by Russia).

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Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

23. Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue (IRL)

Fourteen-year-old British-Bred Sporhorse gelding (Jaguar Mail – Rock Me Baby, by Rock King). Owned by The Salty Syndicate and the rider. Bred by Mellon Stud. Groomed by Francesca Denning.

Originally sent to Tokyo as travelling reserves for the Irish team in 2021, Austin and “Salty” stepped up in exceptional style following the withdrawal of Cathal Daniels and Rioghan Rua and ultimately delivered the best Irish performance of the week, finishing in a very respectable 13th place. That was despite a 38 dressage that was much higher than they’d usually produce – they’re a low-to-mid-30s pair that can occasionally sneak into the 20s, generally speaking. But their exceptional cross-country performance, in which they added nothing to that first-phase score, saw them climb – and even a rail down on the final day didn’t hamper them much, as the showjumping proved tricky across the board.

This is Salty’s third 5* start, and though he didn’t complete his debut at Pau in 2020 because he was spun at the final horse inspection, he did finish the cross-country clear inside the time. Last year, he came to Badminton and finished eighth after adding nothing to his 35.9 dressage across the country, and just 0.4 time penalties in showjumping in a very impressive performance indeed. Then, he went to Pratoni and was quick and clear again for a top twenty finish. That’s classic Salty: he’s reliable and he’s fast, and those two qualities tend to make up a lot of the ground he loses in the first phase. He’ll have a tough job on his hands to eclipse some of the horses in this field, who can lay down a sub-30 and stay on it, but you can expect him to work his way up the board anyway – and his limited early-season runs have looked good so far, with a top ten finish at Burnham Market CCI4*-S, where they finished on their dressage score of 36.7.

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Andrew James and Celtic Morning Star. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

25. Andrew James and Celtic Morning Star (GBR)

Twelve-year-old British Sporthorse gelding (Chilli Morning – Rebels Riches, by Rich Rebel xx). Owned by Michelle Harries. Bred by M Harries. Groomed by Rachel James.

Andrew James has ridden Celtic Morning Star from his first CCI1* in 2017 to his first 5* in 2022. At the 4* and 5* levels, the duo is consistent in delivering a high 30s or low 40s dressage score, and has been consistent on cross country – only seeing a jump penalty at Blenheim’s 4*L, where they picked up a 20 prior to retiring, and at the 5* in Burghley in 2022, where they saw a 20 and some time. While they had seen more jump penalties in the show jumping, the partnership seems to be improving in the phase, picking up fewer jump penalties in the recent years.

After finishing 23rd in their first 5* with a cross country penalty, Andrew and “Joey” started the 2023 strong with a sixteenth place finish in the 4*-S at Thoresby Park, adding only cross country time to their dressage score despite the sloppy weather. Coming off of a successful weekend and looking to build upon their first 5* outing together, we can expect to see Andrew and Joey working to maintain that consistency that they’re developing in all three phases as they solidify their success as a 5* partnership.

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Hector Payne and Dynasty. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

26. Hector Payne and Dynasty (GBR)

Fifteen-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Whitesnake – Cleopatra, by Calvados). Owned by Jeremy and Judith Skinner, and David and Margie Hall. Bred by ERM Sieling & CJ Kloet. Groomed by Sophie Woolford and Yaz Olsson-Sanderson.

Another rider who started out in the Pony Club, Hector Payne comes forward with jumping bred Dynasty for their fifth CCI5* together. “Raffles” as he’s known at home, started out with William Fox-Pitt, who Hector was working for at the time of William’s accident in 2015. Hector took over the reins of a number of William’s horses while he was recuperating – Dynasty was one of them. When William was back in the saddle, he offered the ride to Hector on a permanent basis and the pair have enjoyed a successful run up the rankings from 2* to 5* over the last few years. As well as some great results, Dynasty has also gifted Hector with a new set of teeth courtesy of one of his “little moments”. William’s influence is evident in Hector’s softness and tact in the saddle, producing educated, highly watchable rounds.

The pair’s first 5* came at Burghley in 2018 where they started out with a very respectable 33.8 in the dressage, followed by jumping clear cross country, adding 25.6 time. They withdrew before the final horse inspection that day. They returned to the level at Pau two years later, where they had their first 5* completion, scoring 34.4 in the first phase, but having an uncharacteristic 20 jumping penalties in the cross country. Hector spent most of the 2021 season out with a broken femur, but he was back at 5* for Badminton in 2022 where he finished 42nd after adding 26.4 time penalties in the cross country to his dressage of 33.8, and rolling three poles in the show jumping. Their best result came with a return to France and a 3rd place finish at Pau. They were speedy across the country that day, adding just 1.2 time penalties to their 30.9 dressage, and a further 0.4 on the final day. Their most recent form suggests a low-30s dressage is likely, but they have sneaked into the 20s at the 4*-S level. In 28 FEI completions, they’ve added cross country jumping penalties on only three occasions, and although they’re not always the swiftest, Pau last year proved that they can come very close to the time at 5*. On the final day, they are prone to rolling a pole, but it’s more likely to be one than two, although sometimes it is three. When it’s his day though, Dynasty can be careful over the colored poles, as he proved in his 3rd place round at Pau. With the experience they now have at the level, and his success at Pau last year, there’s no doubt that Hector will be aiming to be competitive this time out at Badminton.

As well as working for William Fox-Pitt, Hector has also spent time with Pippa and William Funnell and Ian and Heidi Woodhead. When he’s not riding, you may well find practicing his number one talent – shimmying up a rope. Or he may be playing golf, or watching racing, rugby or Formula 1. Fun fact: Hector’s dad and grandmother were the owners of William Fox-Pitt’s Burghley winner Ballincoola.

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Francis Whittington and Purple Rain. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

27. Francis Whittington and DHI Purple Rain (GBR)

Thirteen-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Arthos R – Wynona VWG’S, by Niveau). Owned by Ro Audley, Belinda Drummond, Amy Drummond, and Beryl Chaplin. Bred by D. Gjaltema. Groomed by Ellie Roe.

What better barn name for DHI Purple Rain than “Prince”? It’s basically a requirement. This KWPN gelding has an interesting FEI record, with his biggest challenge being the show jumping phase. Last year, Francis told Horse & Hound that “[Prince] can go in, start jumping really nicely, then have a moment and have the next four, five, or six fences down, and then carry on with a nice clear. It comes from his anxiety.”

Despite having had only one cross-country obstacle penalty in the horse’s FEI career, this duo’s most recent CCI5* attempt didn’t quite go to plan, having retired on the cross country course at Burghley. However, Prince’s 2021 Bicton 5* run was excellent. The pair would have been in the top ten, if it weren’t for four rails down in the show jumping phase.

For Prince’s first run at Badminton, you can expect a dressage score in the low to mid-30s and a solid cross country round with a few time faults. The wild card on the books will be the show jumping phase, which all depends on Prince’s anxious nature, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed for a double clear.

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Alice Casburn and Topspin. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

29. Alice Casburn and Topspin (GBR)

Fifteen-year-old Anglo European Sporthorse gelding (Zento – Capriati xx, by El Conquistador xx). Owned and bred by Caroline Casburn. Groomed by Dave Burton.

At just 21, Alice will be the youngest rider in this year’s field – but that’s hardly likely to put any pressure on her. She’s fielded that accolade a couple of times previously — such as at Pau in 2021, where she finished in the top twenty with two classy clears at just 19, or at Badminton last year, where she was also a top twenty finisher and won the highest-placed under-25 prize, the highest-placed owner/breeder prize, and the Glentrool trophy for making the biggest climb up the leaderboard. At Burghley in the autumn, they proved their prowess once again, taking on the ultimate climber course at Burghley and pinning down a very respectable fifth place as a result. Oh, and they popped in to the Young Rider European Championships in the middle of the season, too, winning team gold and individual bronze.

Alice’s story doesn’t begin and end with the fact that she’s prodigiously talented for one so young — it’s also a great family epic. Lanky Topspin is owned, and was bred by, her mother Caroline, a former Team GB member who competed the gelding’s grandmother to Advanced, and he still lives in the very same stable he was born in. He originally competed in showjumping with Caroline, because he was deemed too sharp and quirky for Alice, then a young teenager. But a few years ago, they came together and began their eventing career – which is still a fledgling thing, despite its many major successes – and also competed in jumping, even contesting some Puissance classes.

Their first phase is their weakest: they can score from the mid-to-high 30s, though they did dip as low as 33.6 at Burghley last year. On cross-country, though, they’re super-fast, reliable, and fun to watch – and on Sunday, they’ll be ones to watch, as their jumping experience means that it’s rare to see them topple a pole. They’ve had 21 clear rounds out of 24 career FEI starts.

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Gemma Tattersall and Jalapeno III. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

30. Gemma Stevens and Jalapeno (GBR)

Fifteen-year-old British-bred Sporthorse mare. (Chilli Morning – Maiden Voyage, by Shaab xx). Owned by Chris Stone. Bred by Nick Gauntlett. Groomed by Charlotte Overton.

It’s hard not to imagine Gemma (née Tattersall) experiencing a serious swell of emotion as she unloads the smart, spicy “Jala” at Badminton’s historic stables for her first run at the event. That’ll be for two reasons: firstly that it still must feel so odd for Gemma, as it does for all of us fans, not to have the late, great Arctic Soul at this event – and secondly, because this talented horse is finally making the trip here after so many hurdles along the way.

Jala was originally competed to CCI4*-L by Belgian Olympian Karin Donckers, and was bought for Gemma to ride in the 2018/2019 off-season by longtime supporter Chris Stone. It was clear from the offset what a serious horse they’d bought into — but along the way, Jala has been plagued by little niggles that saw her sit out all of 2020, most of 2021, and half of 2022, too. They did manage a 5* debut for the mare in 2019 at Pau, though Gemma opted to withdraw her from the holding box on Sunday morning, which was really the start of that prolonged hiatus. Now, though, she’s back – and from what we’ve seen, she looks better than ever. While Gemma was one of many to opt to withdraw from the Thoresby torrent, their 27.4 on the flat was very competitive, and they followed it up with a 26.9, and then 9.2 time penalties, for eighth place at Burnham Market CCI4*-S last month.

Will Jala be a Badminton horse? It’s hard to say until she’s in the thick of it — but expect her to find herself in the mix after her dressage test, and expect Gemma to give her a gutsy, go-for-it ride in pursuit of that all-important clear. This could be a very big week for Jala.

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Tom Rowland and Possible Mission. Photo by Libby Law.

31. Tom Rowland and Possible Mission (GBR)

Sixteen-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding (Temple Clover – Bahrain Supreme, by Ricardo Z). Owned by Robin Patrick. Bred by Richard Barron Jr. Groomed by Georgina Dobbin.

The aptly-named “Hunter” was purchased from a hunting yard in Ireland when he was five, by which point he already had two years’ experience jumping colossal drains, banks, and gates. Unsurprisingly, he’s a reliable cross-country horse, although he does find showjumping a bit spooky. The pair tackled their first CCI5* in 2018 at Burghley, finishing a very creditable 27th after a slow clear. That was enough to qualify them for Badminton, where they finished 36th, again delivering a steady clear. The horse was just a twelve-year-old then, and it was one of the nasty knock-on effects of the pandemic that we saw those young, early-career 5* horses coming back as very low-mileage teenagers, having lost a couple of valuable seasons in the prime of their competitive careers.

Hunter sat out 2020, but returned in 2021 to finish seventh in a hot field at Houghton Hall CCIO4*-S, adding nothing to their dressage score of 32.3 and proving that they do have speed on their side if they need it. Last year, they finished 46th at Badminton after knocking a safety device, and then had an uncharacteristic tumble at Burghley. They wrapped their year with third at Little Downham CCI4*-s and this year, they’ve prepped with a steady clear at Thoresby for a top thirty finish. They know each other well now and will mean business heading out of the start.

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Felicity Collins and RSH Contend OR. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

32. Felicity Collins and RSH Contend OR (GBR)

Fourteen-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Nintender – Coulonia, by Toulon). Owned by Avrina Milton and Vicky Collins. Bred by Gestuet Lewitz. Groomed by Frankie Marsom.

5* eventing is in Felicity Collin’s blood. The 25-year-old’s mother, who also is part owner of her Badminton mount, competed to the CCI5* level in the 1990s, and now the two of them have partnered to run a busy yard in East Sussex where they are successful in breeding and producing horses.

Felicity has made her way through the British Eventing program, remarkably having a horse at each of the national age finals. She has produced RSH Contend OR up the levels and has racked up a very impressive record. They achieved the Under-21 national title at Houghton in 2017, and then a 13th place finish at that summer’s Young Rider European Championships. That autumn, she moved him up to CCI4*-S, and he finished 14th in the eight- and nine-year-old class at Blenheim. In 2018, he was clear around Blenheim’s CCI4*-L, and this year, the pair finished 15th in the Young Rider Europeans, at which the team won gold and the dynamic duo were chosen as pathfinders. They made their 5* debut at Pau in 2019, and though they didn’t complete, they did go home with a large amount of knowledge and education. Since then, we’ve seen them finish in the top ten in CCI4*-S classes at Barbury and Burnham Market, and a tenth place finish at their return to the 5* level at Bicton.

They contested their first Badminton in 2022, where they finished 21st, and last fall they finished fourth at Blenheim CCI4*-L, where they’d rerouted after retiring on course at Burghley. After a good warm-up this spring with a go at the CCI4*-S at Burnham Market International – adding just a bit of time in each of the jumping phases – this reliable pair should be looking to have a crack at climbing the leaderboard throughout the weekend – especially on Sunday seeing as they have averaged just one rail a year since 2018.

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Felix Vogg and Cartania. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

33. Felix Vogg and Cartania (SUI)

Twelve-year-old Holsteiner mare (Cartani – C Tenda, by Clinton). Owned by Phoenix Eventing S.à.r.l. and the rider. Bred by Koch Guenter.

Casual fans might be forgiven for associating Swiss superstar Felix with his stable star and Luhmühlen CCI5* winner, Colero – but just behind him in his string is the exceptional Cartania, who’s been his ride of choice for both the European Championships in 2021 and the World Championships at Pratoni last year. It’s not hard to see why, either: the clever, catty mare is quick on her feet and tidy over a fence, and although her tendency to squeak up into the 30s might have her off the boil in the first phase, she’s very good at adding negligible amounts of penalties to that along the way. She’s still relatively inexperienced but as she learns, she’s becoming more consistently quick – and eighth place at the Euros and fourteenth individually at the Worlds looks very good indeed. She won’t have jumped anything like Badminton before, but its more European feel this year should suit her well.

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.

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Caroline Clarke and Touch Too Much. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

34. Caroline Clarke and Touch Too Much (GBR)

Sixteen-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding (Imperial Hights – Touch of Dutch, by Douglas). Owned by Penny and Caroline Clarke. Groomed by Penny Clarke.

Hopefully, her third time entering Badminton will be the charm. The 28-year-old amateur rider may have sent in her entry two other times, but she has yet to even trot down centerline. For Caroline, this Badminton will be a family affair, as she’ll be looking for her first CCI5* completion on Touch Too Much, who she owns alongside her mother – who will be pulling double duty as owner and groom for the weekend. The mother-daughter duo will also be joined by Caroline’s brother in the barns – a familiar practice since the three work together regularly in the yard as the young dentist balances a professional life with keeping a string of horses fit.

She managed to earn the qualifications for her first 5* at Burghley – where the pair retired on course – while she was attending university, competing on the weekends and relying on her mother to keep the horse in work during the week. She now reflects that the big galloping course wasn’t best suited for her nimble horse, and uses the learning experience to be selective about where she runs.

“Possum” was bought as a four-year-old from the Goresbridge sale when Caroline was just sixteen. They’ve climbed through levels of eventing together, and although Caroline has described Possum as “lazy” and not necessarily the most natural event horse, they have developed quite a consistent record.

They’ve had a fairly light spring season, with just one completion in an Intermediate run at Lincolnshire, and in 2022 they completed just two CCI4*S (Bramham and Chatsworth) in addition to a handful of Novice and Intermediate runs. Although the pair lacks miles at this level, they have a tremendous partnership, which they will rely on as they aim to succeed at getting their first 5* completion.

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Susie Berry and Ringwood LB. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

35. Susie Berry and Ringwood LB (IRL)

Fourteen-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding (Iroko – Seoidin Alainn, by Master Imp xx). Owned by Susannah Berry, Helen Caton, and Gwen Purce. Bred by Caitriona Mulkere. Groomed by Crisy Salmon.

Last year Susie Berry made her debut at Badminton with John the Bull. This year she returns for a second go-round with her long-time partner, Ringwood LB. Susie got the ride on Ringwood LB – or “Albie” – in the summer of 2018, taking over the ride from fellow Irish rider, Jonty Evans.

Albie’s most recent (and first-ever) run at a CCI5* was at Burghley in 2022. Sadly, the pair was eliminated after a fall at the wide oxers at fence 19. Badminton is on track to be the pair’s first FEI run of the year, as the horse has only competed at the Poplar Park Horse Trials so far in 2023, where they put in a fantastic ride and earned a double clear. Susie’s absence at Thoresby could be due to sustaining a hand injury in mid-March. Hopefully she’ll be right as rain for a 2023 FEI debut at Badminton in the beginning of May.

Albie is always a big contender in the dressage phase, with his last four FEI events showing nearly identical (and low!) dressage scores of 29. Susie and Albie are typically very near the time on cross country, but swing to both sides of the pendulum when it comes to cross country jumping penalties. In 2022, the pair either went clear or were sadly eliminated. When it comes to showjumping, Susie and Albie tend to get four faults in the phase and come in very close to or right on the time.

The pair find themselves at a slight disadvantage when it comes to Badminton, as they weren’t able to have a run at Thoresby Park. We’re expecting a strong start to the weekend with a solid dressage score, hit-or-miss cross country run, and a penalty or two in the show jumping phase. It’ll be interesting to compare how Susie and Albie handle the intimidating course at Badminton in comparison to her ride last year with John the Bull.

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

36. Amanda Pottinger and Just Kidding (NZL)

Seventeen-year-old Australian Thoroughbred gelding (Fusaichi Pegasus xx – Gypsy Princess xx, by Sadler’s Wells xx). Owned by The Pottinger Family. Bred by Chelsaus & Orpendale. Groomed by Amy Bliss Bennett.

The diminutive Ferg – 15.2hh on his tippy toes – flew around their first Badminton last year, although four down on the final day dropped the placings. Previous CCI5* form includes a fourth at Adelaide back in 2018, and second just a year later – maybe they could have topped the podium in 2020, had the dreaded C word not hit.

All in all, not bad for a former racehorse: “Muzi” – herself the daughter of Olympic Bronze medalist Tinks Pottinger – bought him off the track as a five-year-old, and he has picked up more than one notable result in his second career, including thirteenth in the notoriously tough CCI4*-S at Bicton in 2021. They are capable of a very good first phase score – they posted a 25.9 here last year – and that should put them in very good stead heading into the cross country, and, as proven last year, they are more than capable of a confident, steady spin around there, too. Their weakest spot, historically, is the showjumping, where they’re prone to a few rails – four apiece, as it happens, at Badminton and the World Championships last year. But the mileage that this special little Thoroughbred is giving Muzi at the topmost levels is invaluable, so we’ll forgive the odd final phase indiscretion in favor of cheering him on in the first two phases, where he’s reliably excellent.

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Richard Jones and Alfies Clover. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

37. Richard Jones and Alfies Clover (GBR)

Sixteen-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding (Tajraasi xx – Aoifes Clover, by Clover Hill). Owned by Sandra Martin, Dinah Jones, and the rider. Bred by James Hickey.

Everyone loves a comeback kid, and good-humoured Jones has, perhaps, one of the more unusual comeback stories in the field. In 2017, he and Alfies Clover were on track to achieve the best result of Jones’ career in the CCI4*-L at Bramham, where they posted a 35 and one of the top cross-country rounds of the weekend to sit in 11th place going into the final phase. After their round, however, disaster struck – Jones slipped while stepping out of the living area of his lorry and caught his wedding ring on the way down. He ended up losing his finger.

But he’s not stopped easily – this is a man who, the year prior, had to have a foot completely rebuilt – and we saw the pair at Burghley a mere three months later. They finished in 22nd place, despite the constant pain and lack of grip in Jones’ left hand. That was the 11-year-old gelding’s first 5*, and Jones’ first since 2014. The following year they returned, added just 2.8 time penalties to their 34.2 dressage, and finished seventh. It’s all been a bit of a rollercoaster since then: they retired on course at Badminton in 2019 and then finished fourth at Bramham CCI4*-L, which is a big, tough, hilly track, and then had a 20 at Burgham and finished the year with a Burghley retirement. Then they sat out the entirety of the 2020 season. With just Burgham’s CCI4*-S under their belt to get them back into the swing of things last year, though, they jumped clear around the CCI5* at Bicton in 2021, adding 8.8 time penalties across the country and 6.2 total penalties in showjumping to their first-phase score of 33, giving them a very good sixth place finish. And in 2022? They capitalised on that, big time: in just three FEI runs across the year, they managed tenth at Badminton and seventh at Burghley, punctuated by a planned slow clear in the CCI4*-S at Burgham.

When it’s good with this pair, it’s very good, and when it doesn’t quite come together, Richard puts his hand up and calls it a day – but we haven’t seen that in a long time, and now, they’re a real “banker” pair. They’re here to work on another top ten finish, and a top five wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility, either, though the first-phase scores across the spectrum of the 30s will stop them being out and out winners.

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Hollie Swain and Solo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

38. Hollie Swain and Solo (NZL)
Fourteen-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Solos Landtinus – Manie Af Sulsted, by Praestegardens Hamlet). Owned by Jan and John Bodenham. Bred by Knud Lynge Jensen. Groomed by Jade Head.

Another Badminton first-timer, this combination still has credible 5* form – they finished 18th on their first run at the level in Luhmühlen last year and completed their first Burghley too, despite an early run out. Hollie – who originally came to England back in 2012 to ride for Jock Paget before setting up on her own in 2015 – describes 17.2hh Freddie as “a gentle giant who would never hurt anyone.” Instead, his desire to do the best job he can for Hollie sometimes sees him become so anxious he boils over, hence dressage is not his strong suit. As such, Hollie says she would be thrilled to post a mid-30’s dressage score, before having some fun out on the cross country.

These two have certainly formed a phenomenal partnership since Hollie took over the ride on the nearly 18hh gelding in 2017, and they should have a safe and enjoyable first trip around the cross country — the kind of round we all love to watch!

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Kylie Roddy and Carden Earl Grey. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

39. Kylie Roddy and Carden Earl Grey (GBR)
Seventeen-year-old Anglo European Sporthorse gelding (Last News xx – Palencia, by Corland). Bred by Didy Morgan. Owned by Earl Grey Tea Party-Goers.

One of Kylie’s first jobs as a teenager was making tea and coffee for clients in her mom’s hair salon, but it was manes and tails rather than bobs and mullets that Kylie dreamed of. She began working with horses when she left school aged 16, shortly afterwards making the move to work with Olympic gold medalist, Britain’s Leslie Law. Whilst working for Leslie she produced her first horse to 3*, which she made the difficult decision to sell in order to continue with her eventing dream. Kyrenejenellas Boy went on to compete at Badminton and the Athens Olympics with Czech Republic rider Jaroslav Hatla.

This will be Kylie’s second trip to Badminton – she didn’t complete on her first attempt last year with SRS Kan Do, although they did reroute to Luhmuhlen where they were 6th. She’s looking for her first Badminton completion with Carden Earl Grey at his second 5*. Last year, the pair completed at Pau, where they put down a very respectable 30.9 in the dressage, but added 20 jumping and 38.8 time on cross country day to finish 28th. In 18 FEI starts together, they’ve completed 15 times, only adding cross country jumping penalties on that one occasion. Their dressage scores tend to hover around the 30 mark, but they’ve been as low as 26.9 in the 4*-L at Strzegom in 2019, where they finished 8th. They’re not the speediest round the cross country and can sometimes add time in the show jumping too. They’re more often than not clear jumping on the final day though – the odd 4 slips into their record but they’d be really unlucky to have more than that.

Carden Earl Grey – whose owners’ team name is just the best – was originally produced by JP Sheffield before being competed up to CIC3* by Nick Gauntlett; Kylie took on the ride in 2018 and says the gelding is the love of her life and “the best unicorn ever”. As well as top-level eventing, Kylie is also a qualified Fellow of the British Horse Society. She owns AquAEquestrian, an equine water therapy and rehabilitation center, as well as running a livery yard and teaching. When she’s not busy with horses, she making them – saddle horses, that is, which she creates from upcycled furniture. She also breeds Jack Russells and enjoys boxing.

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Greta Mason and Cooley For Sure. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

40. Greta Mason and Cooley For Sure (GBR)

Sixteen-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding (Ramiro B – unknown). Owned by Sarah Winfrey and Geoff Mason. Groomed by Amy Pakenham and Cecily Hopkins.

While this may be their first crack at Badminton, this is not the first CCI5* run for these two. They contested Pau last October, finishing up in fourteenth place – a pretty decent result at their first run at the level. In fact, 2022 was definitely a year to remember for Australian-born Greta and the Ramiro B gelding. Their season started with a win in the Advanced at Cirencester Park, and went on to include several more top-ten finishes, not least of which a second in the Under-25 CCI4*-L at Bramham in June, which also saw them crowned National U25 champions.

Murphy was originally bought as a five-year-old for Greta’s twin brother, but she took over the ride back in 2016, and describes him as part of the family. He has been known to be quite sharp – hence his dressage not always being his strong point. Still, Greta has worked hard on the first phase and it shows; while he may not trouble the first phase leaders, he still rarely scores anywhere above the low 30 mark, which should leave them in a good position going into the cross country – arguably their strongest phase. They may have a pole or two on the final day, but going on previous form, this pair are more than ready for their first attempt at the big B!

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Caroline Powell and Greenacres Special Cavalier. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

41. Caroline Powell and Greenacres Special Cavalier

Ten-year-old Irish Sporthorse mare (Cavalier Royale – Greenacres Touch, by Touchdown). Owned by Chris Mann. Bred by Michael Callery. Groomed by Tristan Hudson.

“Cav” may not have been the easiest young horse – she was eliminated from the jumping phase as a five-year-old in the Burghley Young Event Horse classes – but she is more than making up for that now. Caroline has high hopes for the mare – still a relative youngster at just 10 years old – and she has been tipped on more than one occasion as a Paris 2024 contender.

She was second in her first CCI3*-S at Burgham in 2020 and third in her first CCI4*-L at Ballindensik last year, before finishing fifth in her first CCI-L5* at Pau in the autumn, so who knows what result she could be capable of pulling off at her first Badminton? Her jumping record is increasingly consistent, and she didn’t have a single jumping fault last year. In fact, her incredible show jumping form has seen her leapfrog up the leaderboard on more than one occasion; she went from ninth to fifth after show jumping in the eight- and nine-year-old CCI3*-S at Blenheim last year, with a speedy clear cross country moving them up another two places to an eventual third place. Their dressage has also been steadily improving – they posted a 27.7 on their 5* debut, leaving them in eighth place after dressage amongst horses of far more experience – and again, the mare’s incredible jumping ability silenced any doubts Caroline may have had about taking her to a 5* as a nine-year-old.

“Queen Bee” Cav loves a crowd, so Badminton will provide her ample opportunity to strut her stuff, and perhaps we could even see her post a first phase PB as a result, leaving her in a seriously competitive place heading into the jumping phases. A top ten finish for this top quality young horse on her Badminton debut is not out of the question, and if any one can keep her cool long enough to pull off such a result, it is Caroline, whose own experience of top level competition makes up any that Cav may lack: she has 14 Badminton completions under her belt, is a double Olympian – she was part of the bronze medal winning New Zealand team in London 2012 – and of course, she won Burghley on the late, great Lenamore in 2010. A Badminton win is just about the only thing missing from her list of achievements, so perhaps this special mare will be the one to help her pull it off.

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Katherine Coleman and Monbeg Senna. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

42. Katherine Coleman and Monbeg Senna (USA)

Thirteen-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding (Zapatero VDL – Brooklyn Breeze, by Fortunus). Owned by Kalai LLC. Bred by Ennisnag Stud.

It’ll be a first CCI5* for Monbeg Senna, and a long-awaited return for British-based Katherine, who last rode here in 2017. She has a great partner for her return in the thirteen-year-old gelding, who she’s produced throughout his international career. She stepped him up to four-star just before the onset of the pandemic, taking 22nd place on his debut at Ballindenisk in Ireland with a steady run in September of 2019 and spending a productive winter in Ocala before the sport shut down in 2020. He wouldn’t run in an FEI event again until 2021, when he returned as part of the US Nations Cup team at Houghton Hall, finishing 46th individually.

He wrapped his year with a clear at Blenheim’s CCI4*-L — his debut at that level — and then jumped clear around Bramham CCI4*-S, finished fifth at Strzegom’s CCI4*-L, and had an educational, rather than competitive, run at Boekelo CCI4*-L at the tail end of the season. This year, they’ve had a steady prep run in the CCI4*-S at Burnham Market, and though it’s unlikely that Katherine is planning to try to catch the clock at Badminton, they should deliver a respectable clear – and will be ones to watch on Sunday, as Senna’s showjumping has been on the up and up, and they haven’t had a rail in an international in nearly a year.

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Gireg Le Coz and Aisprit de la Loge dance their way to a day one top five despite some disappointing moments. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

43. Gireg le Coz and Aisprit de la Loge (FRA)

Thirteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Quppydam des Horts x Image de la Loge, by Dollar du Murier). Owned by Augustin and Frederique Grand. Bred by Elavage de la Loge. Groomed by Véronique Boutet.

Last year’s Badminton heralded a long-awaited five-star debut for the excellent Aisprit, and a kind-of debut for Gireg, who stepped up to five-star at Pau in 2013 but had a fall on course. They ultimately put those demons to bed, finishing a very respectable 18th after delivering a 26.7 on the flat, jumping a speedy clear with 7.2 time penalties, and then having a frustrating and uncharacteristic three rails on Sunday. After that, they tackled their home 5* at Pau, although that didn’t go quite to plan, and they opted to retire on course.

Now he’s back with his horse of a lifetime, with whom he was propelled into the spotlight in 2019 when he won the Jardy leg of the Event Rider Masters series. That was only the horse’s second four-star, and he bested an influential Pierre Michelet track to get it done – and afterwards, Gireg credited the horse’s extraordinary honesty with securing the win.

That’s one of those qualities that money can’t buy and breeding can’t guarantee: either the horse is genuine and will dig deep to find his way to the other side of the fence, even if things go a bit pear-shaped, or he won’t. Aisprit is quantifiably the former type of horse, and proved last year on that tough, vintage Badminton track that he has all the grit a horse could possibly need. This year’s more European feel will be an interesting challenge to see him face, and though we haven’t seen him in an FEI event since Pau, his 21 clears out of 25 FEI cross-country runs should fill both with confidence.

Gireg, who is based at Le Lion d’Angers, the site of the FEI Young Horse World Championships for eventing, will be the first to admit that Aisprit’s first phase performances can lack some ‘serenity’, and while he consistently scores in the 28-32 range, we’d love to see a repeat of last year’s beautiful test. Gireg has also played around with the gelding’s bitting set-up; he used to ride him in a hackamore, but after the horse had nearly a year out due to injury in 2020, he discovered that the arrangement wasn’t working quite as well anymore, and now rides him in a simple snaffle across the country. Keep an eye on them as they make their sophomore Badminton start, because they could do big things — especially if they keep their rails to the usual one-or-none.

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Alex Whewall and Ellfield Voyager. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

44. Alexander Whewall and Ellfield Voyager (GBR)

Fourteen-year-old British Sporthorse mare (Birkhof’s Grafenstolz – Ellfield April Joy, by Grannex). Owned and bred by Dr. Sheila Rowe. Groomed by Rose Grant.

Rookie alert! Badminton marks Ellfield Voyager’s first CCI5* event, and “Jilly” has been putting in extra hours on the water treadmill as the pair prepares to move up. Alex last competed in a CCI5* at Badminton in 2018 with Chakiris Star, where the pair was unfortunately eliminated. This will be his first return to the 5* level (and to Badminton) since then.

Jilly is known to be a scopey jumper, but also has a history of being a bit hard to handle in the dressage round and typically lands in the mid-30s to mid-40s. Out of an FEI career that spans nearly a decade, this horse has only three obstacle faults on her record. The success of Alex’s return to the 5* level will depend on the mare’s dressage performance.

So far, Jilly’s return to the FEI level in 2023 has been slow and cautious. The pair received 25.6 time penalties in the cross country phase, but came home with zero jumping penalties at the Eventing Spring Carnival at Thoresby Park International. Their final score of 70.7 earned them seventeenth place. However, last year’s records show that if Alex decides to put the pedal to the medal, the pair can greatly reduce their time faults and still come home clean with zero jumping penalties – at least at the 4* level.

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Aaron Millar and KEC Deakon. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

45. Aaron Millar and KEC Deakon (GBR)

Thirteen-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding (Chacoa – KEC HotFoot, by Glidawn Diamond). Owned by Heidi Bates. Bred by Anna Kennedy.

Malmesbury-based rider Aaron Millar is making his first trip back to Badminton since 2009. It was that event 14 years ago where he made his CCI5* debut with Stormstay. Now partnered with KEC Deakon, this will be the pair’s second 5* attempt together, having finished 33rd at Pau last autumn.

Heidi Bates’ “Deakon,” who is 13 this year, got his start with Emma Silman before being piloted through the Advanced level by Millie Dumas. Aaron got the ride in 2020. At home, Aaron also rides Tomatillo who is a clone of the 2004 Badminton winner Tamarillo.

Aaron got into the sport the way most do, through Pony Club, and he won the 2005 Pony Club Championships when he was 16. He followed that through the young rider pipeline, earning the best British score at the Junior Europeans that same year.

With Deakon, we can expect Aaron to sit in the low 30s after the first phase. After a frustrating 20 penalties and a frangible pin at Pau, Aaron will be focused on an accurate clear round, which could cost them some time, though they have been quite quick in their last 4*-L performances, finishing with only a few scant seconds above time. A rail seems likely on Sunday – they had four at Pau – but Aaron will be pleased with a stronger cross country performance as these two tackle one of the biggest events in the world.

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Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

46. Lillian Heard Wood and LCC Barnaby (USA)

Seventeen-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding (Guy Cavalier – Lady Tanjour, by Rafael). Owned by the rider. Bred by Linda Courtney Cadam.

It’s another trip over the pond for frequent flyers Lillian and her long-time partner LCC Barnaby, who came here last year but suffered a rider fall on course. Prior to that, we last saw them in the UK for that big, tough, influential Burghley in 2019, where they finished 18th after a gutsy clear round with 28.8 time penalties. That might sound rather a lot, but that’s what these true 5* cross-country days do: they make the finer margins of time a little less relevant and focus on tenacity and fortitude. This year, we have a very different Badminton to last year, and one that’ll require serious trust between horse and rider to commit to some technical lines – so a partnership like this, in which horse and rider know one another better than they know themselves, already has a great advantage.

This’ll be an incredible 12th CCI5* start for this stalwart pair, whose best result at the level so far is eleventh place at Maryland last year. They’ve got five top-twenty finishes at the level under their belt so far, and the low-30s they’ve scored in the first phase in both their prep runs for this was the culmination of plenty of hard work to bring their performances between the boards to a consistent and competitive place.

Great things often come from humble backgrounds, and Lillian first teamed up with the impressive gelding when he was a very green six- year-old and she was basing herself in Ireland to gain more experience. Lillian’s own horse had been sidelined, so she needed to find a replacement – and so, with trainer Boyd Martin’s advice to just choose one that jumps well in her mind, she picked the rank, rogue gelding that no one enjoyed riding, because he never, ever said no to a fence. They began their career together in Britain, and since then, they’ve become familiar faces at the top events all over the world.

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Arthur Marx and Church’Ile. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

47. Arthur Marx and Church’ile (FRA)

Eleven-year-old Selle Français gelding (Grafenstolz – Ile d’Ohe, by Apache d’Adriers). Owned by Philippe Marx. Bred by Phillippe Marx.

It’ll be a second five-star for both Church’ile and 29-year-old Arthur, who celebrates his big 3-0 next week and will no doubt relish the opportunity for even bigger celebrations. They completed their debut at Pau last year in 23rd place despite an educational 20 penalties across the country, and now, as they come to their first Badminton, they do so armed with the knowledge of that extra bit of oomph that this level requires. That 20 was actually their first whoopsy in an international since 2019, so it’s fair to assume that they’ve spent the winter doing their homework ahead of this trip — and having done so will make them a truly formidable combo for the compact but competitive French side here. They won’t lead the first phase, with their typical mid-to-high 30s dressage, but they’re achingly good at staying on that come cross-country day: in 19 FEI runs, they’ve made the time twelve times. Allez, allez! Showjumping can be a bit of a bugbear for them, though, and their two rails down at Pau was a good day in the office for them — we’ve seen them take as many as six before, although they’re usually averaging more like three. Still, many of their toughest showjumping results have come on surfaces, and on the continent, a surface is a chance to build an even trickier, bigger showjumping course — so Badminton’s grass arena and slightly more straightforward final phase could suit them well.

Church’ile is actually a Marx family homebred: Philippe, Arthur’s father, rode both his dam and grand-dam. He’s also one of a number of Grafenstolz offspring in this field, which makes him a half brother to the likes of Ros Canter’s Lordships Graffalo, among others. Not a shabby family reunion, this.

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

48. Tom McEwen and Toledo De Kerser (GBR)

Sixteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Diamant de Semilly – Ariane du Prieure II, by Papillon Rouge). Owned by Jane Inns and Alison and Tom McEwen. Bred by Kerstin Drevet. Groomed by Adam Short.

The progeny of Diamant de Semilly are not known for being amateur friendly, but they are absolutely freakish jumpers, and Toledo is no different. There are few horses at this level that are an equal and consistent threat in all three phases, but Toledo brings the fire on a regular basis. He stormed into the spotlight back in 2016, when he partnered Tom to a win in Bramham’s hotly-contested Under-25 CCI4-L.

He has eight CCI5* starts under his belt, as well as two World Championships, and a cool individual silver medal at the Olympics in Tokyo. His first 5* was Pau in 2016, quickly followed by an eleventh place at Badminton and a fourth at Burghley in 2017. In 2018, they snagged a seventh placed ribbon at Badminton, and then hopped across the pond to the WEG in Tryon to help the British team to a gold medal, and finished twelfth individually. In 2019 they were 11th at Badminton again, and finally scored their first 5* win that fall at Pau. They’ve continued to be a force since then, but we’re running out of room to mention all of the top placings this pair has accrued.

Toledo is consistent and flashy in the ring, scoring in the mid-20s reliably, and he’s only faulted five times across the country in his 31 internationals. He got a little cocky last spring at this event, resulting in a rare error of judgment on Saturday, but that’s unlikely to happen again. On Sunday, you’ll really see the French gelding shine – he’s probably the best showjumper in this entry list, and has only ever knocked two rails in his international career – despite being a slightly quirky chap who doesn’t jump at home at all. Tom and his team have created a system around the horse that suits him perfectly, and they know one another as well as they know themselves at this stage. Don’t bet against them.

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Kitty King and Vendredi Biats. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

49. Kitty King and Vendredi Biats (GBR)

Fourteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Winningmood – Liane Normande, by Camelia de Ruelles). Owned by the late Sally Eyre, Diana Bown, Samantha Wilson, and Sally Lloyd-Baker. Bred by Philippe Brivois. Groomed by Chloe Fry.

A strong partnership, Kitty King first saw Vendredi Biats as a five-year-old at Lucy and Padraig McCarthy’s stable. Although she wasn’t incredibly impressed when she first saw him in the stable, and he was known to be a bit cold-backed, once he started working under saddle, the syndicate owners Diana Bown, Sally Eyre, Samantha Wilson, and Sally Lloyd-Baker purchased the horse.

Kitty and “Froggy’s” FEI partnership started back in 2015 with a fourth-place finish at the CIC1* at Somerford Park. While their first CCI5* competition at Badminton in 2019 was cut short with a rider fall on cross country, the pair has since won the 4*-L at Bramham in 2019, the 4*-S at Alnwick-Burgham in 2019, and have finished within the top ten at ten other 4* and 5* events.

The partnership most recently delivered an impressive dressage score of 21.2 at Burghley in 2022. Despite a frangible pin and a bit of time on cross country, they ended with sixth place in the 5*. Their impressive dressage score at Burghley isn’t uncommon, as the duo often delivers a mid-20s dressage score. While this has delivered consistent top ten results, they do typically pick up a handful of time, and possibly an occasional rail, which has kept them off the top of the board previously. Heading into Badminton 2023, they will be one to watch as they work to maintain their score throughout all three phases.

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Alex Bragg and Quindiva. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

50. Alexander Bragg and Quindiva (GBR)

Thirteen-year-old Oldenburg mare (Quintender – Ruby Roller, by High Roller). Owned by Alexander Bragg and The Roe Family. Bred by Cliodhna Carroll. Groomed by Sarah Whatley.

While Badminton will welcome Quindiva to her first CCI5* (albeit Alexander’s ninth), the little bay mare has been running 4* since 2019. Her most recent big wins were last summer at Barbury Castle’s and Wellington International’s CCI3*-S, both of which saw completely clear rounds ending on dressage scores of 28.7 and 30, respectively. The pair then claimed a tenth-place finish at Blenheim’s 4*-L in September, finishing just one showjumping time fault over their dressage score. The aptly-named “Diva” mare is Irish-bred by Cliodhna Carroll of Kingsborough Sport Horses, and is known to be very selective as to which people she accepts into her circle. Her dam has also produced a few other familiar names, including Tim Bourke’s 4*-S mount Quality Time and Lucinda Atkinson’s 3*-L gelding KGB Sandro.

Alexander has an impressive top-five placement record at the 5* level, taking a fourth-place finish at Pau in both 2019 and 2020, as well as a third at Luhmuhlen in 2019, with former 5* mount Zagreb. Alex also ventured back to his roots in the world of pure showjumping last year, taking some good placings with two of his other top eventing mounts – Hegglelane Houston and Shannondale Aristo – at the Keysoe International CSI1* and 2* last fall. The Chilton Trinity-based rider was present at Badminton in 2022 with 5* gelding King of the Mill, but was unfortunately eliminated on cross country due to a fall.

In addition to conquering the British eventing scene, Alexander acts as his own farrier for all the Team Bragg horses, having started his own shoeing business after training to become a registered farrier at 16 years old. Upon being introduced to eventing through his wife Simmone, he transitioned his focus to becoming a top British event rider. After his 4* debut in 2016, Alex’s impressive record includes several competitions on British Nations Cup teams, including acting as the reserve for the European Championships in 2017, and was long-listed for the 2018 World Equestrian Games. Alex currently holds a sixth-place spot in British Eventing’s Highest Show Jumping Clears ranking for the year, and is tied for eighth for Most Cross Country Jumping Clears – not surprising given his extensive line-up of top-notch horses.

Quindiva hasn’t dropped a single pole since 2019 – the year of her 4* debut – and has only seen four show Jumping rounds over the allowed time at any international competition. The pair did have an uncharacteristic 21.6 penalties of cross-country time last month at Thoresby Park’s 4*-S, but typically gives consistent double-clear rounds – we have seen only one outlying cross-country run-out per year since 2019, so hopefully she’s just got it out of her system for 2023! If this quick little mare can continue her sub-30 dressage score trend, she could easily be a heavy contender.

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Bill Levett and Huberthus AC. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

51. Bill Levett and Huberthus AC (AUS)

Eleven-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Douglas – S.Anubertha 16, by Voltaire). Owned by Elisabeth Murdoch, William Levett, and Keith Tyson. Bred by A. Cornelese. Groomed by Lucy Whitehead and Debbie Carpenter.

Eventing fans will be familiar with the name Bill Levett, who, at 60, is one of the most experienced riders in the field. Based in Britain since 1994, Australian Bill brings forward Huberthus AC, or “Bart” as he’s known in the stable, for the horse’s first CCI5*. Bill’s no stranger to Badminton, having first competed there in 2000, so will know just what it takes to guide a 5* first-timer round a demanding course.

Bart was produced by Chris Hall and Emily Oppenheimer, joining Bill’s team in 2019. He stepped up to the Advanced level in 2021, finishing 27th in the Bicton 4*-L and 21st in the 4*-L at Blenheim, where he added just 4 show jumping penalties to his dressage of 32.8. Bart didn’t compete in 2022, coming back in 2023 with a run in the 3*-S in Montelibretti, where he finished sixth. He returned to Italy the following month for the 4*-S, again finishing sixth and adding just 4.8 cross country time to his 30.7 dressage. The first phase has seen his most inconsistent scores, from very low 30s to very low 40s, but his most recent form suggests we’re likely to see a mid-30 test at Bart’s first 5*, although he is capable of a bit better than that, so we’ll see how he enjoys the atmosphere at a big event.

His cross country record is where he shines, jumping clear in all but one of his twelve FEI runs. He does tend to add time, and with Bart being inexperienced at the level it’s unlikely Bill will have his pedal to the metal, but he has shown he can make the time at 4*-L, and the most he’s added due to the clock this year is 15.3 in his first run of the season. On the final day, he has had a pole more often than not, but in his last two runs he’s left them up, completing with only cross country time added to his dressage scores.

Bill represented Australia at the 2014 and 2018 World Championships and was named traveling reserve for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. He was an Event Rider Masters regular, taking fifth, fourth, and third placings in the 2018 series. When he’s not training or riding, Bill works as part of the Monart Sales team, helping to select top-quality young horses for the luxury off-season auction.

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Kristina Hall-Jackson and CMS Google. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

53. Kristina Hall-Jackson and CMS Google (GBR)

Thirteen-year-old Irish-bred mare (Baltimore – Shalom Internet, by Cavalier). Owned by Kristina Hall-Jackson and KHJ Eventing. Bred by Ray O’Rieilly. Groomed by Danielle Smithson and Tessa Downs.

Badminton rookie Kristina Hall-Jackson may be at the younger end of the field in terms of age, but having been riding since she was eighteen months old, she certainly isn’t lacking in experience. Called up for Team GB when she was just seventeen, and part of the BEF Excel talent program for horses and riders with Olympic potential between 2015 and 2017, she has trained with Chris Bartle and is part of the Wesko Equestrian Foundation program, mentored by Pippa Funnell. Kristina and long-time partner CMS Google are certainly ones to watch at what will be the pair’s second CCI5* together. Kristina will be joined at the event by her sister, Danielle Smithson, for moral support as well as practical. Danielle will be looking after Google and, having been a GB swimmer on the world class program, she understands what it’s like to compete at the highest level.

Historically, Google has found the dressage to be a bit tricky. She’s squeaked sub-30 a couple of times, but is more likely to hover around the mid-30s mark; at Burghley last year, their first 5*, she posted a 33, completing in 25th place. They were sixth in the 4*-L at Bramham in 2022 – a career-best for both – adding just 2.8 cross country and 0.8 show jumping time to their 35.9 dressage score. Kristina says herself, CMS Google is a “jumping machine”, although she has her own style when it comes to galloping across the country – “she’s a bit of a truffle-snuffler”. But, having been together since 2017, Kristina is used to her style and, based on the fact that they’ve completed at all but one of their 24 FEI starts, it certainly seems to work for them.

Despite being sharp and spooky when hacking at home, “the biggest chicken, scared of her own shadow”, come competition day, CMS Google knows her job: “she’s as brave as a lion”, and will likely eat up the cross country fences. They can have the odd 20, but more often than not they don’t, and it’s a similar story in the show jumping – realistically we can expect them to jump clear, although an unlucky pole isn’t unheard of for the mare. Time is where they tend to add penalties, but they have proved themselves against the clock on occasion, finishing on their dressage in the 3*-S at Alnwick in 2022 and the 4*-L at Burnham Market in 2020.

Kristina fell in love with Google the moment she sat on her. She describes the mare as “the kindest horse” who everyone loves at home, which she uses to her advantage when she’s fluttering her eyelashes to procure a polo or two. Going from “donkey at home” to “sassy madam” at shows, Google clearly knows she’s special. Kristina is understandably very excited about her partnership with CMS Google – they’re undeniably a promising prospective pair – and we’re excited to, hopefully, see all that potential realized in a successful trip round Badminton.

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Tom Crisp and Liberty and Glory. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

54. Tom Crisp and Liberty and Glory (GBR)

Sixteen-year-old British-bred Sporthorse Mare (Caretino Glory – Little Runnymede xx, by Ginger Boy xx). Owned by Robin and Patricia Balfour and Sophie Crisp. Bred by Patricia and Robin Balfour. Groomed by Amy Akehurst.

Liberty and Glory, or Lori, is our dark horse pick of the week: she is, after all, quite literally a dark horse. But she’s also one of those classic, feisty little mares, fueled by rage and opinions, and frankly, her first-phase performances don’t even MATTER when she produces the goods on Saturday. We saw her at her very best at Pau in 2018, where she climbed an absolutely ridiculous 54 places to finish sixth, delivering an emotional CCI5* best for Tom, and again at Burghley last year when, after a few on-off years due to the pandemic and niggling injury, she returned with a bang to take ninth.

Lori is truly a family horse, ridden by a family man: she’s out of a full Thoroughbred mare who Tom’s wife Sophie competed through Advanced, and Sophie’s parents Robin and Patricia not only bred the mare, but continue to part-own her. The Crisp family at large – including sons Hugo and Harry, and youngest child Hermione – can be seen out in force at events, with everyone chipping in. Harry, who’s just hit his teens, is already jumping well around Novice (US Prelim) tracks, so we’d be unsurprised to see him trying to cadge the ride on dad’s mega mare before long.

Born on the fourth of July and given a patriotic moniker to match, Lori probably won’t dazzle in the dressage – she’s a high-30s scorer, although Tom has been working hard on her flatwork and her tempestuous nature. It’s Saturday that’ll really have you paying attention – despite the fact that she spent her early years enacting elaborate protests that included lying down in start boxes, 16hh Lori is yet to face any course she considers difficult. Her penalties at her 5* debut at Luhmühlen way back in 2018 came as a result of enthusiasm and a subsequent genuine inability to get herself to the next element. Now, watching her come back and have a jolly time around this big track will be as fun for fans as it is for her.

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Arthur Duffort and Toronto d’Aurois. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

56. Arthur Duffort and Toronto d’Aurois (FRA)

Sixteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Polack II – Jovaly D’Aurois, by Daloubet D’Evordes). Owned by Arthur Duffort, Julie Gatien, and Paul Gatien. Bred by Robert Maury. Groomed by Leonore (Leo) Gignoux.

British-based French rider Arthur Duffort is coming back to Badminton for another go after making his debut there with his 2023 Badminton ride Toronto D’Aurois. As well as completing Badminton in 2022, Arthur and Toronto D’Aurois finished in 15th at Burghley, where the gelding made his CCI5* debut in 2019, finishing in 29th place. The combination have also completed the 5* at Pau; in 2019 they finished in 24th, although their return trip the following year wasn’t so successful – they were eliminated on the cross country that time around.

Toronto D’Aurois was produced in France up to CCI2* by part-owner and Arthur’s friend, Paul Gatien. The original plan was for the horse to be produced and then sold on; however, Toronto D’Aurois had other plans. He was so difficult that they couldn’t find a buyer for him and so he ended up staying and Arthur took on the ride in 2016. He stepped up to the CCI4* level in 2019, finishing seventh at Tattersalls in the 4*-S where they added 8 show jumping and 2 time penalties to their dressage of 35.6. Generally around the mid to high-30s in the first phase, their 5* tests trend towards the top of the scale, the best at the level being a 37.9 at Pau in 2021. In their last 14 FEI runs going back to 2018 – barring the elimination at Pau and a 20 at Burghley in 2019 – they’ve jumped clear cross country, generally adding a handful of time penalties, but not always. We can expect a pole to be rolled on the final day, maybe two, and one or two time faults, but they have jumped clear in the 4*-S format so Toronto D’Aurois can keep the poles up on his day.

Arthur spent four years riding for Andrew Nicholson before setting up his business, Otis Eventing, with his wife, Logan, where he produces horses. Alongside this, he’s a director of bespoke horse sales business Tandem Sport Horses, which is based in France.
Toronto’s groom, Leonore Gignoux, describes him as “truly a gentle giant” who’s always paying attention to his humans despite not enjoying much fuss from them. He’s very shy and is easily spooked – Leonore says she would turn off the giant screen in the dressage arena for his test if she could! Toronto loves to be in the field more than anything and during his holidays becomes a wild horse that no one can approach. Leonore has a trick though – she brings him treats every day to persuade him into having his rug changed. Sounds like Toronto’s one smart cookie!

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Selina Milnes and Iron. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

58. Selina Milnes and Iron (GBR)

Fourteen-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Aquilino – Ushuaia – Donnerschlag). Owned by Angela and William Rucker. Groomed by Sarah Towler.

The experienced partnership of Selina Milnes and Iron are aiming for their second Badminton completion this week. They were 24th out of 52 finishers.

Iron brought Selina back up to the 5* level after a 10-year hiatus back at Pau in 2021 where they finished eighth, adding just 4.4 time penalties across the country and 0.8 in showjumping to their first-phase score of 30.1. The following season at big, bad, Badminton saw them pick up 15.6 cross country time penalties to their otherwise clear round in addition to 1.6 show jumping time penalties. Both of these were tacked onto their dressage result of 31.7. This secured their spot on the long list for the 2022 World Championships.

Selina and “Bently” have consistently delivered results, especially in the jumping phases. They won the Ballindenisk 4* Nations Cup last autumn over in Ireland with one of their best dressage results to date, a 26.5, and just 2 cross country time penalties. Their 5* dressage marks have hovered between 30 and 31, but even if they don’t squeak into the twenties, if they can put the pedal down on Saturday – and they’ll almost certainly jump clear on Sunday – they’ll have a very good shot at top 15.

Back at home, Selina is married to an equine veterinarian, Scott, and her brother, Greg, is a farrier for Team GB.

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Lauren Innes and Global Fision M. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

60. Lauren Innes and Global Fision M (NZL)

Twelve-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Flipper d’Elle – Kantussa, by Cantus). Owned by the rider. Bred by Veehandel Musterd Made B.V. Groomed by Charlie Farrow.

Seeing Lauren Innes on the Kiwi entrant list for the first time at Badminton last year might have been a bit of an unexpected item in bagging area – the British-based rider only swapped nationalities a number of weeks prior, making use of her claim to Kiwi-hood through her father. It was a savvy move, particularly as the British side is so overpopulated with top-level talent at the moment, and a swap to the relatively compact Kiwi side allows her access to more support and a chance to fight for team selection. But this savviness won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows Lauren, a true amateur rider who works full-time as an accountant and does some seriously impressive balancing to fit in producing “Flipper”: “[Working from home during] COVID has certainly helped, because I can get off him at like, one minute to nine and be at my desk by nine,” she laughs. “I go to Oakingham Stud to use their hill gallops to get him fit for the longs, and that’s about fifty minutes from home, so I’ll get up at quarter past five and leave home just before six. Then after the drive, I’ll be on him just before seven, gallop him, wash him down, and be back by nine. Then he goes out in the field, and I work all day.”

This is Lauren’s only upper-level horse, and they’ve climbed through the levels together ever since she bought him as a five-year-old from Ireland’s Brian Morrison, co-founder of Global Horses. Lauren’s friendship with Brian began when she was studying Biological Sciences at Oxford – and while she hadn’t been a part of Britain’s bustling Young Rider circuit and teams, she was able to pursue her passion for competing through student riding, helmed by the World University Equestrian Federation. The set-up of the federation means that no competitor is required to have their own horse; instead, students go head to head in heats, each riding the same horse to determine who has exhibited the best horsemanship. Success at student riding competitions can lead to opportunities such as the Student Riding Nations Cups, which give riders from universities around the world the chance to compete together. The system has produced an impressive array of riders on the cusp of the big leagues, and Lauren has since ridden for Britain at the CCI3*-S European Cup and enjoyed a fruitful run at 4*, with super results including a third-place finish at Blair and an eleventh place finish in the very tough CCI4*-L at Bicton in 2021. But Flipper certainly isn’t the easiest ride, and according to Lauren’s trainer, Mark Corbett, it’s because he’s not in a professional string that he’s able to thrive.

“He can get really hot, and when he gets hot, he kind of loses it. He’s by Flipper d’Elle and he’s very French, in his brain,” Lauren told EN during Blair Castle’s CCI4*-L in 2021, in which they finished third. “He’s the most confident horse to jump thing; nothing is too big, and he has the utmost belief in his ability. I don’t think he’s ever lost his confidence. But that confidence gets him a bit hot in the dressage sometimes, so he’s had to work a lot on it by going out and doing British Dressage.”

Because of Flipper’s quirks, much will depend on how he takes to the atmosphere at Badminton. Lauren has a finely-honed routine for helping him settle at three-days, which suits him much better than coming out at short-formats, where there’s less time to get used to his new environs, but if he bubbles over, he can hit the mid-30s and beyond. On cross-country, though, all trickiness is cast aside, and he’s straight, focussed, incredibly genuine, and though not the fastest horse in the field, still fairly swift. He’s also at his best when showjumping on the final day, and should go clear. Lauren will be taking this one phase by phase – Flipper’s prep has been interrupted by the tricky spring season in the UK, and he bubbled over badly in the ring at Thoresby, where he had to warm up totally on his own because of the number of withdrawals. His score in the 50s there should be considered an outlier, but he scored in the 40s at Badminton last year, so it’ll definitely be this phase that Lauren will be most pleased to see in the rearview mirror.

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William Fox-Pitt and Grafennacht. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

61. William Fox-Pitt and Grafennacht (GBR)

Eleven-year-old Oldenburg mare (Grafenstolz – Nachtigall, by Narew xx). Owned by Amanda Gould. Bred by Hans-Jürgen Bobsien.

Chances are, if you’ve watched eventing, you’re well aware of the legend that is William Fox-Pitt – you may even have seen him walking the course surrounded by a small pack of dogs. With multiple Olympic, World, and European medals to his name, William has been World Number 1 four times, and has won five of the now – after the addition of Maryland CCI5* to the eventing calendar last year – seven 5*s. His name is immortalized on Burghley’s Winners’ Avenue a whopping six times, he’s had a hat trick of Kentucky wins, picked up four Badminton Armada Dishes and won the trophy twice, done the double at Pau, and won Luhmulen. Will he be adding to his accolades at Badminton?

William brings forward Grafennacht, or “Lillie” as she’s known at home, who’s got a mixed bag of scores on her card from her 12 FEI competitions thus far. Back after a break last season as she wasn’t feeling quite right, her most recent outing in the CCI4*-S at a very wet Eventing Spring Carnival at Thoresby Park International (UK) saw her post a 29.9 dressage in really quite boggy conditions. She went on to roll a pole in the jumping, as well as adding 0.4 time. 26 cross country time faults meant they finished in twentieth, but it was a slow day for many out on course.

As far as a prep run for Badminton goes, let’s hope the conditions are more favorable in the Gloucestershire countryside, but either way, Lillie won’t mind too much – William describes her as a “tough old wench”! Earlier this year, the Open Intermediate class at Lincolnshire (UK), saw her deliver a lovely dressage of 26.1, to which 16 show jumping faults and 20.8 cross country time penalties were added. Before that, her last run was in the 4*-L at Boekelo in 2021, where she finished second after posting a 24.9 dressage, adding only 1.2 time in the jumping. She may not have been the quickest cross country thus far, but she’s likely to go clear, and with this being her first 5*, we’ll see how she fares. One thing’s for sure: with William in the saddle, she’s in great hands.

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Mike Winter and El Mundo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

62. Mike Winter and El Mundo (CAN)

Fourteen-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Numero Uno – Calvaro’s Bria Z, by Calvaro Z). Owned by Jonathan Nelson, Emma Winter, and Michael Winter. Bred by H.G K M. Derks. Groomed by Amy Ferris.

Based in the UK and representing Canada, double Olympic and World Championship rider Mike Winter brings El Mundo – “Roberto” in the stable – back to Badminton for another spin ‘round the Eric Winters track. Last year the pair picked up 20 on the cross country, so he’ll be hoping to put that right this go around. They jumped clear cross country at Pau CCI5* last year so Roberto’s definitely capable of coming home clean at the level. That day they added 24 time penalties, but that’s the most they’ve had when jumping clear. Their prep run this year came in the 4*-S at Burnham Market, where they added just 10.8 time to their dressage of 33.3 to finish in 19th. We can probably expect a mid to low 30s dressage, although they have scored as low as 29.6 – at Roberto’s first 5*, which came at Bicton in 2021. They went on to have some green errors cross country and retired on course, but they proved that a sub-30 in the first phase isn’t impossible. They may roll a pole on the final day, and they may add a smidgen of time, but they’re just as likely to be clear. We’ll have to see how Roberto’s feeling after his big day out on the cross country.

Roberto joined Mike’s stables as a six-year-old, originally as a “produce and sell” prospect as part of his business. But when a major injury meant Roberto was put on box rest, Mike put himself in charge of his round-the-clock care, and the bond they formed meant that selling was no longer an option. And what a joy their relationship is to see when they’re out on track boldly navigating the cross country course, something that will stand them in great stead for Badminton.

Mike is an outspoken advocate for diversity and anti-racism in the sport, as well as equality issues such as clean drinking water, education and health care. He uses his platform as a top-level rider to raise awareness of these issues, saying, “If I can do a small bit to make people aware of them, I hope that helps”. When he’s not training horses, going eventing, or being an advocate extraordinaire, Mike likes snowboarding and tractors.

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Emily King and Valmy Biats. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

63. Emily King and Valmy Biats (GBR)

Fourteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Orlando – Aurelie du Prieure, by Hadj A X). Owned by Emily King, Philippe Brivois, Mrs. Jacquie Shere and Mr. Jeremy Shere, and Event Horse Owners Syndicate. Bred by Philippe Brivois. Groomed by Sarah Morrily.

Fresh off of a win at Thoresby Park in the CCI4*-S, Emily King and Valmy Biats are off to a strong start for the 2023 season, their third FEI year as a partnership. Despite “playing it safe” in the dressage at Thoresby, the pair scored a 26.8, adding 14.4 in cross country time to finish in first on a 41.2.

This is actually quite a new partnership — a pandemic partnership, if you will. Emily was sent the horse to try by owner and breeder Phillippe, who offered to let her keep the ride if she covered the horse’s running costs. Sensing she was sitting on something special, she scrimped and saved to be able to campaign through the early part of their partnership in 2019, and then teamed up with the then-newly formed Event Horse Owners Syndicate, an innovative collective that offers annual “microshares” in horses — a model that’s been highly successful in racing, but hadn’t yet made it to eventing. For less than £100 a year, “owners” can buy in to the Valmy experience, receiving regular updates, yard visits, and quality time with Emily, “their” horse, and other syndicate members out at competitions — and it was this set-up that allowed Emily to continue riding the gelding. The EHOS continued to support Valmy even when Emily was sidelined with an injury, and they got to enjoy seeing him in action at Aston le Walls CCI4*-S in 2021 with Oliver Townend deputising. Oliver was quick to confirm that Emily had found an excellent prospect in Valmy, who’d been produced to CCI3*-L by French Olympian Mathieu Lemoine.

Previously competing at the 5* level at Badminton and Pau in 2022, the duo will be looking for this third run to solidify their success at the level, with a fall and their first 5* at Badminton, but an eighth place finish at Pau, adding some time and a rail to their impressive dressage score of 25.5.

Starting in to the season at Thoresby, Emily comments that “[Valmy Biats] can be a bit of a hothead in his first tests of the year, so just for him to go in and be so calm was the main thing.” Despite dealing with a hot horse, the pair potentially had a slight edge to the rest of the field, competing in the rainy, sloppy conditions at Thoresby – Valmy Biats lives out in the field, so is used to dealing with the slop. Keep an eye on this duo to see how they’ll come off of their success at Thoresby to make another run at Badminton. With their usually impressive dressage scores, and continually developing partnership, they certainly look to be a pair to watch.

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