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Michael Jung Aims to Make More History With a Hat-Trick of Gold in Tokyo

Germany’s Michael Jung rides his 2019 European Championship horse fischerChipmunk FRH in Luhmuhlen, (GER) and is aiming to make history with a hatric gold in Tokyo (JPN). FEI/ Oliver Hardt/Getty Images

After Germany’s Michael Jung won the second of his two consecutive Individual Olympic Equestrian Eventing titles at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games he was asked what he had next in his sights. “Tokyo 2020 of course, and the Europeans and maybe the world title along the way!”, he replied.

He wasn’t joking of course, because the 38-year-old who made Eventing history by becoming the first to hold the European, Olympic, and World Championship titles at the same time is one of the most formidable athletes in all of equestrian sport.

He didn’t make it to the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in 2018 when his horse had an injury, but at the FEI European Championships the following year he took team gold and was just pipped at the post for the individual title by team-mate Ingrid Klimke.

This is a man who sets the bar really high for everyone else, and if he can do the individual hat-trick in Tokyo then he will set a new Olympic record. Charles Pahud de Mortanges from The Netherlands came out on top in Amsterdam in 1928 and again at the following Olympics in Los Angeles in 1932, and New Zealand’s Mark Todd won in Los Angeles in 1984 and again in Seoul in 1988. Both riders partnered the same horse on each occasion, the Dutchman riding Marcroix and the Kiwi riding the legendary Charisma.

Jung was also riding the same horse, the mighty Sam, when coming out on top at London 2012 and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. This time around he will partner his 2019 European Championship horse Chipmunk, and the world waits to see what more magic he can bring.

Team silver

He’ll be joined on the German team by two of the three athletes who helped clinch team silver in Rio, Sandra Auffarth (Viamant du Matz) and Julia Krajewski (Armande de B’Neville). However it is the French who line out as defending team champions, with Thomas Carlile (Birmane), Nicolas Touzaint (Absolut Gold HDC) and Christopher Six (Totem de Brecey) flying the flag for Les Bleus.

The British arrive as reigning world champions with the world number one, Oliver Townend (Ballaghmore Class), number five Tom McEwen (Toledo de Kerser) and number 22, Laura Collet (London 52) in their side, backed up last-minute replacement reserve Ros Canter with Allstar B, the horse she rode to individual gold at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018. . There’s great strength in depth in this selection, while the Irish world silver medallists, and the Kiwi side that includes husband-and-wife Tim and Jonelle Price, also look highly competitive.

But there are further Olympic records hanging in the balance. Australia’s Andrew Hoy, Shane Rose and Stuart Tinney have 166 years of life-experience and eight Olympic medals between them. And 62-year-old Hoy could make Olympic history by becoming the first athlete to win gold medals an incredible 29 years apart. He won his first team gold in Barcelona in 1992 and if he could do it again he’d break the all-time record set by Hungarian fencer Aladár Gerevich, who triumphed in 1932 and 1960.

Hoy went on to win two more team golds, at Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000, and just by turning up in Tokyo he will set an Australian record with his eighth Olympic appearance since his debut in Los Angeles in 1984 at the age of 25.

From left: Sandra Auffarth, Michael Jung, Ingrid Klimke and Julia Krajewski. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Changes

The sport of Eventing has been subject to many changes down the years and at the Tokyo 2020 Games there will be a new and shorter Dressage test, which will take just under four minutes to complete. The Dressage and Jumping phases will be staged at Baji Koen Equestrian Centre in the city, while the Cross Country action will be held at Sea Forest Park in Tokyo Bay.

Following the Ready Steady Tokyo Equestrian Test event staged at Sea Forest in August 2019, during which an FEI official climate impact study and horse monitoring project took place, the Cross Country course was shortened to approximately eight minutes.

It’s all a long way from the first time Eventing was included in the Olympic programme back in 1912 in Stockholm when the competition began with Phase A, “an Endurance ride over 55km in four hours” and Phase B, “Cross-country over 5km in 15 minutes with 12 obstacles”.

After a rest day the all-military competitors then set out to tackle “Steeplechase over 3,500m in 5 minutes and 50 seconds with 10 obstacles”, while on day four there was “Jumping over 15 obstacles up to 1.30m high and 3.00m wide” before finally finishing up on day five with “Dressage”. From seven starting teams, four completed and Sweden took both Team and Individual gold.

Times have indeed moved on, but the partnership between horse and athlete remains at the heart of equestrian sport, and in Olympic Eventing that partnership is at its zenith.

What is Eventing?

Once known as “The Military” because it was a test for cavalrymen and their horses, Eventing is the most comprehensive test of horse and rider, combining the separate disciplines of Dressage, Cross Country and Jumping, with results from each phase totalled for a final score. It is the lowest score that wins, both for the team and individual medals.

It has been an Olympic sport since 1912.

Michael Jung and Sam at the first horse inspection in Rio. Photo by Jenni Autry.

How it will play out…

The Team and Individual competitions will run concurrently on consecutive days as follows: Dressage test (over two days, 30/31 July), Cross Country test (1 August) and First Jumping Competition (2 August) to determine the Team classification.

The Individual Final Jumping test will take place after the Team Jumping Final on the same day (2 August), with the top 25 battling it out for the medals.

Eventing Dressage and Jumping will both be staged at Baji Koen Equestrian Centre, with horses travelling to Sea Forest Park for Cross Country day.

To enable a finish by just after 11.00, the start time on Cross Country day will be 07.45 JST.

Horses can be substituted for the team competition, and a horse/athlete combination may be substituted by a reserve combination for medical/veterinarian reasons in any of the three tests after the start of the competition.

The top-25 horse/athlete combinations go through to the Individual Final.

The athlete rides the same horse throughout for the Individual classification.

There will be two horse inspections – on 29 July, the day before the Dressage phase begins, and on 2 August before the final Jumping phase takes place.

A drawn starting order will be used for the Dressage and Cross-Country tests but in the final Jumping test horse/athlete combinations will go in reverse order of merit.

Facts and Figures:

  • 29 countries
  • 15 teams
  • 65 horse/athlete combinations
  • 14 countries represented by individuals
  • Australia, Germany and USA share the biggest number of team victories in Olympic Eventing history with four each.
  • Australia, victors in Rome in 1960, has the unique record of winning three team titles in a row – at Barcelona in 1992, Atlanta in 1996 and on home ground in Sydney in 2000.
  • Team France are the defending Olympic champions.
  • The French have twice claimed the team title – in Athens in 2004 and at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
  • Germany’s Michael Jung is the defending double-champion having won the Individual title at London 2012 and again at the Rio 2016 Games.
  • Germany has won the Olympic Eventing Individual title on three occasions but Sweden holds the record for most wins with a total of four, the last recorded on home soil in Stockholm in 1956 by Petrus Kastenman riding Illuster.
  • When the Olympic Games were last staged in Tokyo in 1964, the Eventing it was held in Karuizawa, 150km north-west of Tokyo.
  • History was made when a woman competed in an Olympic three-day event for the very first time that year. The USA’s Lana du Pont, who 27 years later as Mrs Wright won team gold at the World Driving Championships in Paris (FRA), finished 33rd of the 34 horse-and-rider combinations that completed. A total of 48 riders from 12 nations participated, and 14 were eliminated in the Cross Country phase.
  • At Tokyo in 1964, Italy claimed Team gold and the Individual title went to team member Mauro Checcoli riding Surbean.

The Teams

Australia: Andrew Hoy (Vasilly de Lassos), Shane Rose (Virgil), Stuart Tinney (Leporis). Alternate: Kevin McNab (Don Quidam).

Brazil: Carlos Parro (Goliath), Marcelo Tosi (Glenfly), Rafael Mamprin Losano (Fuiloda G). Alternate: Marcio Appel Cheuiche (Iberon Jemen).

China: Alex Hua Tian (Don Geniro), Huadong Sun (Lady Chin V’T Moerven Z), Yingfeng Bao (Flandia 2). Alternate: Ruiji Liang (Agora de Bordenave).

France: Thomas Carlile (Birmane), Nicolas Touzaint (Absolut Gold), Christopher Six (Totem de Brecey). Alternate: Karim Laghouag (Triton Fontaine).

Germany: Sandra Auffarth (Viamant du Matz), Michael Jung (Chipmunk FRH), Julia Krajewski (Amande de B’Neville). Alternate: Andreas Dibowski (FRH Corrida).

Great Britain: Laura Collett (London 52), Tom McEwen (Toledo de Kerser), Oliver Townend (Ballaghmor Class). Alternate:Ros Canter (Allstar B).

Ireland: Cathal Daniels (Rioghan Rua), Sarah Ennis (Woodcourt Garrison), Sam Watson (Flamenco). Alternate: Austin O’Connor (Colorado Blue).

Italy: Susanna Bordone (Imperial van de Holtakkers), Victoria Panizzon (Super Cillious), Arianna Schivo (Quefire de l’Ormeau). Alternate: Stefano Brecciaroli (Bolivar Gio Granno).

Japan: Yoshiaki Oiwa (Tullyoran Cruise), Toshiyuki Tanaka (Taima d’Allou), Kazuma Tooto (Vinci de la Vigne).

New Zealand: Tim Price (Vitali), Jonelle Price (Grovine de Reve), Jesse Campbell (Diachello). Alternate: Bundy Philpott (Tresca).

Poland: Pawel Spisak (Banderas), Malgorzata Cybulska (Chenaro 2), Joanna Pawlak (Fantastic Frieda). Alternate: Mateusz Kiempa (Libertina).

Sweden: Ludwig Svennerstal (Balham Mist), Theese Viklund (Viscera), Louise Romeike (Cato S). Alternate: Sara Algotsson Ostholt (Chicuelo).

Switzerland: Robin Godel (Jet Set), Melody Johner (Toubleu dd Rueire), Felix Vogg (Cartania). Alternate: Eveline Bodenmuller (Bioline de la Brasserie).

Thailand: Arinadtha Chavatanont (Boleybawn Prince), Weerapat Pitakanonda (Carnival March), Korntawat Samran (Bonero K).

USA: Philip Dutton (Z), Boyd Martin (Tsetserleg TSF), Doug Payne (Vandiver). Alternate: Tamra Smith (Mai Baum).

The Individuals

Austria: Lea Siegl (DSP Fighting Line), Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati (DSP Comsa).

Belgium: Lara De Liederke-Meier (Alpaga d’Arville).

Belarus: Alexandre Zeleno (Carolo Grande JR), Aliaksandr Faminou (Martinie).

Canada: Colleen Loach (Qorry Blue d’Argouges), Jessica Phoenix (Pavarotti).

Czech Republic: Miloslav Prihoda Jr (Ferreolus Lat), Miroslav Trunda (Shutterflyke).

Denmark: Peter Flarup (Fascination).

Ecuador: Nicolas Wettstein (Altier d’Aurois).

Hong Kong: Thomas Heffernan Ho (Tayberry).

India: Fouaad Mirza (Seigneur).

Netherlands: Merel Bloom (The Quizmaster), Janneke Boonzaaijer (Champ de Tailleur).

Puerto Rico: Lauren Billys (Castle Larchfield Purdy).

ROC: Andrey Mitin (Gurza), Mikhail Natstenko (MP Imaging If).

Republic of South Africa: Victoria Scott-Legendre (Valtho Des Peupliers).

Spain: Francisco Gavino Bonzalez (Source de la Faye).

The Officials

Ground Jury President: Nick Burton GBR
Ground Jury Members: Christina Klingspor SWE and Jane Hamlin USA.
Technical Delegate: Philip Surl (GBR)
Course Designer: Derek Di Grazia USA
Chief Steward: Helen Christie NZL

The Nations:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Puerto Rico, Republic of South Africa, ROC, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, USA.

Today in Tokyo: Dressage Team USA All Clear at First Horse Inspection

From an FEI press release with additional information from a US Equestrian press release.

America’s Adrienne Lyle and Salvino at the Dressage horse inspection today in the stunning Baji Koen Equestrian Park where the equestrian events of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games get underway with the Dressage Grand Prix tomorrow morning. Photo by FEI/Christoph Taniere.

Brazil’s Joao Victor Marcari Oliva and his 12-year-old stallion Escorial will be first into the arena tomorrow morning when the Dressage Grand Prix gets equestrian action underway at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The Dressage horse inspection took place this morning at Baji Koen Equestrian Park, and from the 72 listed, a total of 70 horses were presented to the Ground Jury with two held over for further re-inspection tomorrow morning at 09.30 — the 14-year-old Hot Chocolat vd Kwaplas ridden by Isabelle Pinto for France and the 15-year-old grey gelding Sultao Menezes ridden by Portugal’s Carlos Pinto. Members of the Olympic Ground Jury included Susan Hoevenaars (AUS), Francis Verbeek (NED), Janet Foy (USA), Andrew Gardner (GBR), Hans-Christian Matthiesen (DEN), Magnus Ringmark (SWE), and President of the Ground Jury Katrina Wuest (GER).

The Grand Prix is the Team and Individual qualifier and will take place over two days, tomorrow 24 July and Sunday 25 July. A draw took place after today’s horse inspection, and the 15 teams will go in the following order: Denmark, Japan, Australia, Great Britain, Sweden, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Canada, ROC, Austria, Belgium, France, USA and Germany. Team Germany are defending champions and are chasing down their 14th Olympic team title.

Photo via US Equestrian.

Team USA 

All three team combinations of the U.S. Dressage Team passed the First Horse Inspection.

Sabine Schut-Kery (Napa, Calif.) and Sanceo will lead with the first ride for the team on Saturday, July 24, at 9:15 p.m. JST / 8:15 a.m. EDT. Adrienne Lyle (Wellington, Fla.) and Salvino will follow in the first group on Sunday, July 25, with their ride at 6:21 p.m. JST / 5:21 a.m. EDT, and Steffen Peters (San Diego, Calif.) and Suppenkasper will enter the ring at the end of Group F at 9:42 p.m. JST / 8:42 a.m. EDT. Traveling reserves Nick Wagman and Don John were withdrawn before the First Horse Inspection.

After arriving safely at the venue in Tokyo, Don John sustained a minor injury. He has continued to show improvement, but after further evaluation with the team veterinarian, the decision was made to withdraw him before the start of competition out of extraordinary precaution, and though it is believed he would have passed the horse inspection if presented, the team felt that he should not be considered to compete to ensure he has the proper time to fully heal.

U.S. Dressage Team Ride Times & Results

Saturday, July 24

  • 9:15 p.m. JST / 8:15 a.m. EDT – Sabine Schut-Kery & Sanceo

Sunday, July 25 

  • 6:21 p.m. JST / 5:21 a.m. EDT – Adrienne Lyle & Salvino
  • 9:42 p.m. JST / 8:43 a.m. EDT – Steffen Peters & Suppenkasper

Charlotte Dujardin (GBR) and Gio. Photo by FEI/Christoph Taniere.

Groups

Athletes are drawn in six groups, with three groups per evening. A total of nine athlete/horse combinations will go in the first group that includes Australia’s Mary Hanna with Calanta and Great Britain’s Charlotte Fry with Everdale, with competition starting at 17:00.

The Netherlands’ Edward Gal will be first to go when the second 10-strong group take their turn at 18:36, and Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour and Bohemian will conclude this session.

Rounding up the day will be another group of 10, with Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera last into the arena at 21.42.

Another three groups of 10 will compete on Sunday to identify the top eight teams that will go through to Tuesday’s team medals decider, with world number one Isabell Werth last to go on the mare Bella Rose. And, for the individuals, the top 18 will going through to next Wednesday’s Freestyle for the individual medals.

Japan’s Shingo Hayashi with Scolari 4. Photo by FEI/Christoph Taniere.

Great praise

The top-class facilities at the Japan Racing Association owned Baji Koen, which include air-conditioned stabling, a stunning competition arena and beautiful training areas for the horses, have drawn great praise from the athletes who are now looking forward to superb sport over the coming days.

There’s a mix of excitement and relief that these Games, which have been doubly-challenged by the Covid-19 pandemic and the Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) outbreak in mainland Europe, are at last about to begin.

“We are so grateful to be here in Tokyo and owe a big debt of thanks to our hosts, the people of Japan, and of course to the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the IOC for maintaining their belief in the Olympic Games and finding the route to deliver them in a safe and secure way”, FEI President Ingmar De Vos said. “Our athletes and our horses are ready, our venues are superb, we have amazing volunteers and we’re ready for top Olympic equestrian sport, starting with the Dressage Grand Prix tomorrow!”

Live results and start lists are available here.

Panoramic view of the Baji Koen Equestrian Park. Photo by FEI/Christoph Taniere.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics: WebsiteLatest NewsEN Olympic Digest Newsletter SignupEN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

Horses and Courses: Behind the Scenes with the Tokyo Olympics Course Designers

Kazuma Tomoto & Tacoma D’Horset of Japan in the Cross Country during the READY STEADY TOKYO Equestrian test event
at the Sea forest Park on August 13, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan.
Photo: FEI/Yusuke Nakanishi

As the FEI celebrates its centenary this year, some of the biggest names in modern course design talk about the changes and challenges in the sports of Jumping and Eventing. They may have their very different styles and their own personal opinions, but they are all agreed on one thing. Their job is all about what is best for the horse….

Spain’s Santiago Varela had just returned from the hugely successful CHIO Rotterdam in The Netherlands and was turning his focus to the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. It’s a busy time for the man whose life is divided between his job as CEO of a company involved in the renewable energy sector and building tracks for the best Jumping horses and athletes in the world.

“I will fly to Tokyo on 21 July and arrive on the 22nd and will start work immediately”, he says. “The 1st of August is the Jumping phase of Eventing and the last day I will build will be 7 August. So in one month I’ll be free, and the happiest man in the world because I will have fulfilled a dream!”.

He made his name in the course design business through his connection with Madrid Horse Show where he was Assistant Course Designer until 1998. He should have taken over the Official role that year “but my wife had other ideas! We got married during the show and on the day of the wedding I worked in the arena until 3pm and then rushed home to change and go to the church. So for that year I had to remain as the Assistant!”.

He competed himself during his teenage years, and amongst his heroes was six-time Olympian Luis Alvarez Cervera. “Everyone came to the show in Madrid when I was young, the British team, Eddie Macken from Ireland and I remember Neco (Brazil’s Nelson Pessoa) too. All the horses he rode were the perfect ones because he made them perfect!”.

Philosophy

His philosophy for course design is simple. “The course always needs to be fair for the horses. The modern horse is very clever and they are super athletes, but they need to be protected so we must always build a course that they can jump well.”

He says good design is all about keeping the horse’s canter. “It is fundamental, it’s the only way to play with the balance of the horse. Arno Gego (legendary German course designer) defined it well – ‘you find your line and the horses need to flow’. It’s only when you understand that then you can progress to becoming a top course designer. If you don’t allow horses to keep their canter and rhythm and flow through the course then they cannot jump the big fences”, he explains.

And he reveals one secret. “The fences are only a relative issue, not a definitive issue. Distances are only numbers, and numbers alone don’t mean anything. A distance in a combination looks short or long depending on what happened before you arrived there. The riders need to interpret the course because it is a different test for every horse. They need to adjust their plan for a smaller or slower horse with a shorter or longer stride, but one thing they all have in common is that they need to keep the canter and keep the balance.”

So is it difficult for the course designer to find his own balance when, for instance, setting a track for the Olympic Games where riders with many different levels of experience will compete?

“No, it is exactly the same when you are building for a World Cup Final or European Championship or World Equestrian Games, you present the same course for the rider ranked 1,000 and the rider ranked number one and everyone in between. At the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona we have 19 teams, and not all of them are Germany!”, he quips, referring to the strength in depth of Germany in the sport.

So his expectations for how things will play out in Tokyo? “We know about the heat and humidity and have to take that into account. I built a course for Eventing riders at the Test Event and saw the venue being developed and it is truly unbelievable. I’ve been to Tokyo four times now and Baji Koen is a fantastic venue and the conditions for the horses are excellent”, he says.

Michael Jung and fischerWild Wave at the Ready Steady Tokyo test event in 2019. Photo: FEI/Yusuke Nakanishi.

Impression

Alan Wade was speaking from Tryon, North Carolina (USA), the venue where he made such a huge impression with his brilliant Jumping courses for the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018. The Irishman’s design-style is different to Varela’s, but his principles are much the same.

“Course design has improved immensely, and nowadays everything we do has the safety of the horse at the forefront. I make courses that are fair for the horse and testing for the riders”, he says.

He cut his course design teeth in the green fields of South-East Ireland, in particular at Holycross Show in Tipperary where his legendary father, the late great Tommy Wade, presented some of the most challenging tracks on the Irish circuit. And, like his dad, Alan builds courses that are not for the faint-hearted.

“When I started out there were no safety cups, the poles were heavy and a lot of the fences were filled in. Maybe you needed a braver horse back then, but the sport has moved on. Personally I’m still looking for that boldness, using trees or nice fillers but still looking for carefulness.”

Quality horsemen

He says it was easy for him to learn his trade because he had such quality horsemen competing over his tracks. “Francis Connors and Shane Breen – two of the best riders Ireland has ever produced – they weren’t shy about fillers and they set a standard that raised the bar for everyone else”. Great Britain’s David Broome was one of his childhood heroes. “Everything looked so smooth and if adjustment was needed it was done early. Against the clock he never seemed to be going flat out and he always had the horse balanced. The top riders make it look easy.”

He particularly enjoys building at Dublin Horse Show because he’s free to use fence material of his own choosing. “In some parts of the world you can have 50% sponsor fences and sometimes the same fences are sent from competition to competition and it’s the same visual test for a lot of the horses. I like to mix it up a bit.

“All top courses should have different tests all around the course, parts that might suit a smaller horse or one with a longer stride. The overall test should be a mixture of a whole lot of different tests, so when the rider walks the course he needs to work out what will and won’t suit his particular horse at various points around the track.”

And what about building Championship courses for riders with a range of experience? “It’s nearly easier to build a 5* track because 5* riders know what to expect. But when you’ve got 10 to 15 really good combinations, then a bunch of middling ones and 10 to 15 that are stepping up in the sport then that’s where I feel your judgement has to be just right if you are going to have good sport and a proper winner. That is the real test of the skill-set of a course designer.”.

Derek di Grazia. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Both sides

Eventing course designer, America’s Derek di Grazia, was speaking from his home in California, USA. It was 9 July, and he had just returned from his last pre-Games check in Tokyo. This is a man who knows his sport from both sides of fence. “I’ve always been a rider and still am to this day”, he says.

He started out doing design work in the 1980s, built his first track at Essex in New Jersey (USA) in the early 1990s, “and my first big break was at Fairhill (USA) in 1999 where I’ve been involved for 21 years!” Over the years he’s had a long association with many other high-profile events including Bromont in Canada and the Kentucky 5* since 2011.

Tokyo 2020 is his first Olympic contract. “Everyone wants to build at an Olympic Games and it’s probably always going to be a situation where you are presented with a new site and you have to develop it.

“It’s been a big project and we are into our fifth year now. From the beginning I knew it would be a challenge. The site was just a big open piece of ground with a lot of trees on it.”

But it’s not just about plotting a course and placing fences on it. “I don’t think people realise how much planning and thought goes into the infrastructure too. There’s a huge list of things to be put in place – stabling for the horses who will spend one night there, veterinary facilities, cooling areas, broadcast facilities, the list goes on and on.”

He says his biggest task was making the distance fit onto the piece of land he was presented with, and then finding a spot for everything else. “Sea Forest is basically an island with water all around and great views of the city. The transformation from the beginning to now is quite amazing. We are just doing the final preparations at the moment and I’ve been working with fence builder David Evans. This is his third Olympic Games.”

Wiggle room

From the outset, di Grazia left himself some wiggle-room when laying out the Cross Country track. “When I started out I designed it so that we could shorten the course if we needed to. I created loops and ways to connect parts of the track and after the Test Event that’s when we decided to reduce it from a 10-minute course to around eight minutes.”

There was a lot of groundwork involved. “There was a lot of flat ground and some ups and downs and it was a case of balancing them both out. We added mounds and rises to some of the flat areas and graded some of the steeper parts. We were basically dealing with a landfill that was covered up to four feet, and we had to lay in subsoil and top soil with sod on top of that. We finished sodding the whole track back in 2018, 18 months before the Test Event so it had time to grow in.

“There are four water-crossings, the main one utilising a catch-pond and when I saw it all last week it was in very good shape. After the Games it’s going to be a public park and I really hope the local people will come out and enjoy it!”

He returns to Tokyo on 23 July, “and when I get there I’ll just be checking everything over again, and then it’s all about decoration and final appearance.”

So is it nerve-wracking waiting for the competition to play itself out? “It’s exciting more than anything else because there will be so many different sets of eyes looking at what you’ve done and lots of different opinions about it. When the riders walk it they’ll be thinking about their own horse and about finding the best path for them. Everyone will see something different but I hope they all appreciate it!”

Onlookers watch during the show jumping portion of the Ready Steady Tokyo test event in 2019. Photo: FEI/Yusuke Nakanishi

All-rounders

It seems Eventing course designers are indeed all-rounders. Great Britain’s Mike Etherington-Smith has been a horse producer and competitor, a Technical Delegate, an event organiser, an administrator and one of the most sought-after creators of top Cross Country tracks of the modern era. In recent years he moved into the racing world, taking up the role of Equine Safety Advisor for the Horse Welfare Board, but he is still involved in course design and enjoys every moment of it.

Reflecting on the principles he applies to his design work he says that when he builds a fence he always asks himself if he would be prepared to jump it. “We have to be fair to horses while testing the rider’s ability over different terrain so that they show their skills, competence and ability to prepare and to compete well.

“We don’t have to be smart as course designers, we don’t need to over-complicate things. You put your test out there so that horses learn and grow from the experience of tackling it. No tricks, and no surprises…..fences need definition and contrast so the horse knows exactly what it is being asked to do”.

He says Eventing horses have not changed a lot down the years, but the sport is making different demands on them. “They still have to be athletic and nimble, but today’s courses are more intense and more technical because big, bold fences stopped being good enough to sort them out.”

Put his stamp

From his breakthrough when asked to organise Blenheim Horse Trials back in 1990 to multiple other venues and on to 5* Kentucky where he built the much-lauded track for the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in 2010, Etherington-Smith has put his stamp on many of the world’s greatest events and tracks, and set the bar very high.

A special memory is the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. “I loved that job, literally carving the course out of the bush. There was a massive amount of earthworks involved but I enjoyed every minute of it!” And he has a special affection for Kentucky where he was course designer for 18 fantastic years. “The terrain there is the best, it’s perfect for the sport”.

The only person ever to create two Olympic tracks – both Sydney and Beijing 2008 – he has cut back on his design work now, but Adelaide in Australia and Luhmühlen in Germany are still on his radar.

“Every course has different challenges. Adelaide is right in the middle of a big city so that’s fairly unique, and I’m excited for Luhmühlen because it’s developing a new parcel of land so that will change the style and feel of the course which will be great.”

Like di Grazia, Etherington-Smith has seen plenty of changes in the sport of Eventing over the last 30 years and more, including the transition from the old format to the new format and everything that brings. “Responsibilities have changed, and we can only put in place what we believe is the best system possible for our sport but we have to remain open to further change.”

For him, one simple principle is at the heart of it all.

“I’m 100% on the side of the horse, and their safety and welfare has to be top of the list!”

For more updates from the FEI, click here.

FEI Eventing Risk Management Committee’s David Vos on Drone Technology, Frangible Fences and Saving the Planet

What do you get when you combine an aviation engineer, a successful amateur rider and a galloping event horse? The answer, it seems, is the man who has made a massive contribution to the work of the FEI Eventing Risk Management Committee, and his name is David Vos. This article is made possible by the FEI and Louise Parkes.

David Vos competing at Carolina International. Brant Gamma photo.

David describes himself as “an airplane nut” who was fascinated from childhood by aviation dynamics and controls. He only started riding when he was 40 years old, but he has competed up to the CCI2* in Eventing and his contribution to the creation of an updated standard for frangible devices for cross-country fences has been pivotal.

He’s passionate about improving safety. “We have to use all the tools at our disposal, including the people with a world of experience who have been in this sport for a very long time. You can never keep everyone perfectly safe, but we can do what’s necessary to make things as safe as possible if we take a responsible and disciplined approach”, he says.

As an athlete who came so late to the game, his integration into the Eventing Risk Management Steering Group took some time. “When you enter a new community no-one is going to listen to you”, he points out. It was through friends of his wife, journalist and entrepeneur Patricia Vos, that he was introduced to USEA Cross-Country Safety Committee Chair Jonathan Holling and it kicked off from there.

“I took videos of 2* and 3* horses running at Fairhill and began monitoring what the trajectory looked like and how the horses jumped.

“It evolved pretty quickly because that’s my specialisation area. I was surprised how little of that existed in the dialogue which was much more driven by trial and error and experience, but very little by theoretical physics – the dynamics of systems.”

Talking with someone who knows how to use mathematical modelling to explain and predict natural phenonema could be a bit like swimming through soup for some of us. But David balances the conversation with stories of his groundbreaking inventions, his love of nature and his pioneering work through the Vos Foundation which aims to ensure the diversity of life by planting billions of trees. And he talks about his horses too of course.

It’s not just his intellectual energy that shines through, it’s also his altruism and humanity.

Free spirit

Born near Capetown in South Africa in 1961 he has always been something of a free spirit, hitch-hiking around the beautiful countryside from the age of 11. “When I was growing up my two big loves were nature and aviation. Animals have always been very special to me, and today it really hurts to know that when I was a kid there were half a million lions in sub-Saharan Africa but today there’s maybe 30,000 or some tiny number like that”, David says.

His parents and his sister remain in South Africa while his brother moved to London in 1987. “We grew up in the apartheid era and hated our Government. I discovered very early on that good ademic credentials would be my ticket out of the country – basically the world hated us all so it was pretty hard to find a home”, he explains.

He seemed destined for a life in the aviation business. “There’s something magical about flight – my father was always into it and his brothers were pilots who flew in the Korean war.” Instead of becoming a pilot himself however he set his sights on a place at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in Boston, USA and, at the age of 26, his wish came true. He made a big impact when, as part of his PhD project, he developed a unicycle robot in a laboratory that was also home to Marc Raibert and Robert Playter who went on to found the world-famous robotics company Boston Dynamics. It was the first step on the road to an extraordinary career.

Contracts

He started small, working out of his own basement for several years before forming a company that went on to win contracts all around the world. “The unmanned aviation market was just beginning in the late 90s so it was perfect timing”, he says. In one of many research projects, he blew off 80% of a wing and tail of an airplane in flight and demonstrated how the automation system would just keep adjusting the aircraft so it could land successfully. It was ground-breaking stuff in the early days of drone technology, and by 2008 his company, Athena Technologies, was a hot property that was eventually bought by avionics and IT giant Rockwell Collins.

“I worked for them for four years as part of the contract and then left in 2012 and tried to hide away because I wanted to spend more time on our lovely 200-acre farm in Virginia where I had always felt I was just visiting. I wanted to immerse myself in the countryside and the animals, and to spend real time with my wife. I managed to do that for two years, but then Google found me through Patricia’s horse business and I ended up incubating their business on drone delivery service for two years”, he says. It was a real hit. “We delivered 1,000 burritos by drone and they wanted me to take it further, but that’s when I decided I was retiring for real!”

Horses

It was in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 that David was first introduced to the sport of Eventing, and he was immediately hooked. He and Patricia were living in Cape Cod at the time, and on that infamous 9/11 morning David boarded the third of the 8am flights out of Boston. The first two were hijacked.

“It was a bizarre day and I ended up stuck in DC for several months because the aviation world shut down and we were busy with my business there. Patricia came to visit me after being stuck in Europe, and she dragged me out of my office to go to this thing called a Horse Trials in Fairhill and I immediately decided I wanted to do it. In six months we packed up our Cape Cod property and bought our farm in Virginia”.

The first thing Patricia, who has spent many years re-training off-the-track racehorses, put in place was David’s trainer, American rider Jennifer Simmons. “It was a synergistic partnership because we used to sponsor her and bought her a bunch of upper-level horses over the years. She was a great coach for me”. But he admits he hadn’t the first idea what he was letting himself in for.

“When I started I thought you take one lesson, buy a horse and off you go. I had no idea it was a lifelong process of always learning, and and going through all the ups and downs with different horses and how easily they get injured. Maybe if I knew that ahead of time I mightn’t have started!”, he says with a laugh.

First horse

His first horse was lame within six months but lived out a long and happy life on the farm until passing away last year at the age of 27. “After that I bought any old horse as long as it was sound!”, David laughs again. A wild Trakehener/TB mare was followed by off-the-track Thoroughbreds, but it was a telephone call from US rider Will Coleman that introduced him to his most successful horse to date.

“Will said he’d seen a great Irish Sport Horse in someone’s back yard in England and that I should come and try it. So we combined a visit to Burghley in 2012 with going to see the horse along with Jennifer Simmons and Chris Hunnable”. It wasn’t love at first sight “he was more bulky that I had in mind”, but once David sat on him “I took a deep breath, and that was it”. The pair of them went from strength to strength despite some drama along the way.

“His name is Pablo (Spring Centurion) and he took me from Training all the way to the old 2* (now 3*) level. He was eight when I got him so he’s now 17 and I’m hoping to have him back in work again soon”. Pablo has twice ripped off part of a hoof – once out in the field and then in his stable – and he’s still recovering from that second incident. “But I’m a person that never gives up, so I’m still hoping he’ll come back!”.

On a business-trip to Ireland in 2016 he bought another horse, Apollo, as a four-year-old. “His mother is Irish and his father is German and he’s a super-nice guy!”, David says. He started working with Apollo after retiring for the second and last time in 2017. “I always wanted to train a young horse. It’s been a bit like the blind leading the blind but a whole lot of fun!

Segues

Asked how his aviation systems expertise segues into advising on Risk Management in the sport he loves so much – especially since animals are not machines and therefore must be less predictable – David says “that’s the interesting part! You’d be surprised when a horse jumps how the physics really dominates. There’s a cross-domain convergence of really high-tech physiology, psychology and human-animal relationships and it’s really cool!

“At Burghley in 2019 for example I worked together with British Eventing and the FEI and we had up to 25 cameras around the course and I could show how the physics and the video aligned with each other within 5% of accuracy. It gave us confidence in the methodology and in simple tests such as putting a kettle bell on a chain and swinging it at a frangible fence. Depending on the release heights you can very accurately determine the energy of the impact”.

Then we segue into talking about David and Patricia’s work in the Vos Foundation and the Trillion Trees project. “Right now our main drive is to significantly increase the publicity about tree-planting. We launched together with the Eden Project back in 2018 in Mozambique and so far around 20 millions trees have been planted and are growing and we are working with them and others to scale up the message.

“When you think about it, tree planting is the only known solution to mankind today to resolve our carbon dioxide problem. And all we have to do is plant one more tree for every three out there on the planet today. If we do that by 2030 we will buy probably as many decades as we need to bring online all the sustainable energy solutions the world needs to be able to have humans easily survive on the planet without driving carbon dioxide and global warming nuts!

“It’s incredibly exciting doing this simple thing – pushing seeds into the ground and letting nature grow them. All we have to do is help nature here and we can resolve this monstrous problem that we, as humans, have created.”

Similarities

Back talking horses, David says there are strong similarities between people in the equestrian world and his academic and business colleagues. “There are always people who are really brave, people who are really scared and people who are really smart, and I believe that being clever about things is about being a fearless thinker more than anything else.

“To reach the top of anything you need fortitude and commitment along with solid doses of humility. There are awesome people everywhere and I’m a really big believer that most people are good people and want to do the right thing. The Eventing Risk Management Group is full of people like that.”

FEI Nations Cup Series Concludes at Montelibretti: Historic Win for Italy But Dutch Take 2020 Title

Italy’s Montelibretti is the third and final round of this year’s abridged FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ series, with legs having also taken place at Poland’s Strzegom and France’s Le Pin au Haras. Team Italy took the top podium spot: Juan Carlos Garcia, Arianna Schivo, Marco Cappai, Team Manager Giacomo Della Chiesa, Pietro Maiolino. Photo by FEI/Massimo Argenziano.

Team Italy posted a runaway win at the third and last leg of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ 2020 series on home ground at Montelibretti today, but the overall title goes to The Netherlands. In the lead after the first two legs at Le Pin au Haras (FRA) and Strzegom (POL) in August, the Dutch could only be threatened by Poland at this final competition.

A Polish victory would have left them on level pegging with the Dutch at the top of the leaderboard, but it wasn’t to be as they lined up third of the four competing nations who enjoyed a great weekend of sport in the autumn sunshine at the Montemaggiore Estate which is home to Italy’s Military Riding Centre.

Team Austria (2nd place), Team Italy (Winners), and Team Poland (3rd place). Photo by FEI/Massimo Argenziano.

Austria finished second while the three-member Swiss side lined up in fourth place this afternoon. For the Italians this was a really special day because it marked their first-ever FEI Nations Cup™ success according to veteran team member Juan Carlos Garcia: “We had a good lead after cross-country yesterday so we had a good feeling going into the showjumping today. But you never know the result until the horses and riders are over the last jump. We are very happy this evening!”

Juan Carlos Garcia (ITA) and Ugo Du Perron. Photo by FEI/Massimo Argenziano.

Held the lead

Poland held the lead after Dressage, buoyed up by a strong test from Mateusz Kiempa and Lassban Radovix who put 33.79 on the board. However their team total of 106.00 left them only 1.5 points ahead of Austria in second and just over two points ahead of the Italians in third at this stage, and cross-country day would change everything.

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

“It wasn’t a difficult course, but the time (6 mins 49 secs) was tight,” explained Garcia who galloped through the finish with Ugo du Perron in 7 mins 11 secs to add 8.8 time penalties to his scoreline. All four Italian team members stayed clear over the fences and they had a commanding lead going into today’s final phase on a score of 132.20. Austria lay second on 159.60 but less one rider following cross-country elimination for Lea Siegl and Van Helsing P, while Poland sat in third on 178.30 ahead of Switzerland in overnight fourth on 189.4.

Marco Cappai (ITA) and Santal du Halange. Photo by FEI/Massimo Argenziano.

The Italians sealed it confidently when both Garcia and Arianna Schivo riding Quefira de L’Ormeau were foot-perfect and within the time, while both Pietro Majolino riding Vita Louise DH Z and Marco Cappal partnering Santal Du Halage dropped only a single pole and added a few time faults.

Juan Carlos Garcia (ITA) and Ugo Du Perron. Photo by FEI/Massimo Argenziano.

Debut

At 23 years of age, and making his Nations Cup debut, Majolino was the baby of the winning side but his team-mates have a world of experience behind them. Garcia is a veteran of two Olympic Games and four FEI World Equestrian Games™ (WEG), competing in both Jumping and Eventing at the very top level. Schivo and her 16-year-old mare were on the Italian team at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and the WEG in Tryon, USA in 2018 while Cappal finished individually 14th at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA in 1996.

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

The final Italian team total of 138.60 left them well clear of the rest of the field and celebrating a big moment. They finished second in the final classification after lining out in all three legs of the series this season, and as Chef d’Equipe Giacomo Della Chiesa said this evening, “it’s been a very good competition for us and we finish the year in a very good way.”

Harald Ambros (AUT) and Lexikon 2. Photo by FEI/Massimo Argenziano.

Title

The Netherlands can also celebrate tonight after taking the title. Tim Lips (Eclips), Janneke Boonzaauer (ACSI Champ de Tailleur), Elaine Pen (Divali) and Laura Hoogeveen (Wicro Quibus NOP) flew the Dutch flag when runners-up behind French winners Thibaut Vallette, Thomas Carlile, Christopher Six and Karim Florent Laghouag at the opening leg at Le Pin au Haras.

Malgorzata Cybulska (POL) and Chernaro 2. Photo by FEI/Massimo Argenziano.

And when Germany’s Ingrid Klimke, Andreas Dibowski, Beeke Jankowski and Heike Jahncke came out on top in Strzegom later in August then Hoogeveen was joined by Merel Blom (Ceda NOP), Jordy Wilken (Burry Spirit) and Raf Kooremans (Dimitri NOP) to fill second spot.

Their total of 180 points couldn’t be bettered today, and the final standings at the end of the abbreviated FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ 2020 series are as follows:

1. Netherlands – 180 points
2. Italy – 170 points
3. Poland – 160 points
4. Austria – 150 points
5. France – 100 points
6. Germany – 100 points
7. Great Britain – 80 points
8. Switzerland – 70 points
9. Sweden – 70 points
10. New Zealand – 55 points
11. Australia – 50 points

View complete results from Montelibretti here. You can watch a replay of the event here.

Final Standings FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ 2020:
1. Netherlands – 180 points
2. Italy – 170 points
3. Poland – 160 points
FULL RESULTS

Be Not Afraid: Jimmy Wofford Recalls Great Horses & Magical Moments from His Career

Jim Wofford and Kilkenny on their way to clinching team silver and individual sixth place at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico. Photo copyright Werner Ernst.

An interview with James Cunningham Wofford is not something to be taken lightly. Any attempt at leading the conversation fails miserably, because you are talking with a man with the most exceptional communications skills and extraordinary stories to tell. There’s a sense of riding the tide of equestrian history as the double-Olympian and world-famous American coach recalls sporting highlights, great horses and magical moments from his stellar career.

But it’s a bit like sitting on a runaway train, and even when you get to the end it feels like you’ve only half-halted. Because you just know that there are many more tales to be told and lots more wisdom to be shared by this raconteur par excellence.

I begin by asking him if he always had Olympic ambitions, and he admits it was “in my crosshairs from a very early age.” Not surprising really considering his father, Col John W. Wofford who later became first President of the United States Equestrian Team (USET), competed in Jumping at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles (USA) and his older brother, Jeb, helped claim bronze for Team USA in Eventing at the Helsinki (FIN) Games in 1952. Another brother, Warren, went to the top of the sport in both Jumping and Eventing and was reserve for the US Eventing team at the Olympic Games in Stockholm (SWE) in 1956. That’s quite some pedigree just there.

When Jim was growing up, Jeb and his Helsinki team-mates Champ Hough — father of American Jumping star Lauren Hough — and Wally Staley were his childhood heroes. “Then along came Mike Plumb and Michael Page — I looked up to them for years so when I joined them on the US team that was a real thrill!,” Jim says.

Did he ever have any doubts about his ability to make it to the top in sport? “I had terrific doubts, and at first I didn’t have a suitable horse, I was riding around on a 15.3hh roan Appaloosa. However Warren lived in England, and in spring 1967 he went to Ireland looking for horses and saw Kilkenny who was for sale because he’d been to the Olympics, the World Championships and Badminton and they reckoned he was pretty much done.”

Kilkenny

“Warren called my mother and said what a cool schoolmaster the horse would be, so they sent him to me and suddenly I was the hottest kid on the block! We had an unusual partnership, we really shot to the top, from him being thought to be over the hill with all his mileage and me having never been anywhere of any repute — they put us together and it just worked. So we won the National Championships at my first try, and now I’m standing on the podium with Mike Page and Mike Plumb!”

Kilkenny had previously been ridden by Irishman Tommy Brennan who, following a stellar jumping and eventing career, became a world-renowned horse agent and cross-country course designer. Did Jim have a preference for what discipline he would compete in with the horse? “I was intrigued by showjumping, but I was a moth to a flame when it came to eventing!,” he says.

Kilkenny had already enjoyed a successful career in both disciplines. “In late summer ’64 he went to Tokyo (Olympic Games where he finished individually 16th in eventing), in ’65 he went showjumping with Tommy, and in ’66 he was back on the Irish gold medal eventing team at the World Championships in Burghley,” Jim explains.

I ask him to describe Kilkenny.

“He was a 17hh dark bay gelding by Water Serpent with a mealy nose, a tiny star on his forehead and the look of eagles. When he trotted by you in hand he had all four feet off the ground! He had seen every sort of situation which was handy for me because I’d seen none of them. So I could just drop my hands and tell him to get on with the job which he was happy to do!”

That US National Championships victory was in 1967, and the following year they competed at Badminton (GBR) in preparation for, arguably, the most memorable eventing Olympic Games of all time in Mexico in 1968.

In the heyday of the “classic format,” the toughness and versatility of horse and rider were fully tested. Dressage was followed by Speed and Endurance day which consisted of two sessions of Roads and Tracks interspersed by a steeplechase phase, and then a vet check before heading out on the cross-country course. The final day’s showjumping decided the result.

Mexico

Talking about selection for Mexico, Jim says, “Plumb and Page would never be left off the team if their horse was sound, and Kevin Freeman was such a marvellous horseman, maybe the best rider of all of us. So there was really one slot left, and fortunately I filled that.” However the Americans were steeped in good fortune when drawn early to go on Speed and Endurance day, because an afternoon deluge created monstrous conditions that nearly claimed the life of Kilkenny’s former rider.

“I went early and was first out of the box for us. We were on top of the ground so I had the fastest round of the day and I think Michael may have had the second-fastest. When you look back at the scores it’s two different competitions, but it could all have been completed in sunshine!,” Jim recalls.

Despite knowing that a monsoon would descend around 1 p.m. as it did every day, the start-time was not adjusted and those that set out later in the competition met with a nightmare. “Once the heavy rain began the volcanic soil became a morass immediately. It was a golf course, there was a shell of grass over this powdery substance that turned to soup under wet conditions and we got the biggest monsoon of the five weeks we were up there!,” Jim explains.

Tommy Brennan was only called into action at the last minute with the reserve Irish horse, March Hawk. Second-last to go, he faced inches of water on the steeplechase track where he took a fall on the flat, and by the time he headed out cross-country a stream that had to be crossed several times had become a dangerous flood in full spate. Only the top few inches of Fence 5 were visible and Fence 6 was almost fully submerged. Horse and rider were swept away and disappeared underwater, both in danger of drowning. But somehow they struggled ashore and continued a little further before March Hawk decided he’d had more than enough.

Great Britain claimed team gold, USA silver and West Germany bronze. Jim’s compatriot Michael Page (Foster) took individual bronze and Jim and Kilkenny slotted into sixth place.

Punchestown

The World Championship in Punchestown (IRL) two years later was another dramatic affair, but Kilkenny’s class saw Jim take individual bronze this time around.

Once again there was controversy on cross-country day with a big number of fallers late on the track. “The Irish knew they had to lead with their strength and that was the quality of their horses, so they designed a course that was maximum in every aspect — distance, speed, dimension of obstacles, number of obstacles. This was always going to be a big test, and that suited me because I had a horse purpose-built for it!,” he points out.

“But no-one knew there was a bogey fence at the 29th. You came through the woods above the old sheep tank and you galloped on a trail and then there was a guard rail and the ground fell away precipitously, and six feet out there was an oxer rail stuffed with gorse. You were supposed to gallop and jump out over the oxer and take a 6ft 6ins drop — it’s what Americans call a ‘gut-check,’ a test of courage, scope and balance. But what the course designer didn’t take into account was a few fences before that there was a double-bank, and it rehearsed the horses to step on the gorse which they did again and again. As they built up the brush every time they kept stuffing the fence with more green branches so it was even more inviting for the horses to step on it.

“Something like 27 horses got that far and 24 of them fell including Kilkenny, and including Richard Meade (GBR) who got the silver medal. But Mary Gordon-Watson’s (GBR who took individual gold) horse jumped it neat as a pin. Nowadays if there were two falls like that the jump would be removed from the course and adjustments made in the scores. But in 1968 this was still a sport run by cavalry generals!,” Jim says.

Munich

The Olympic Games in Munich in 1972 brought his partnership with this faithful steed to an end. The US side that also included Mike Plumb with Free and Easy, Kevin Freeman riding Good Mixture and Bruce Davidson with Plain Sailing claimed team silver, but for Jim and Kilkenny it wasn’t their finest hour.

“I rode according to orders instead of the way I should have, and we finished well down the list. But he didn’t get the ride he needed so that’s nothing to say about him. At our silver medal victory bash I said that Kilkenny would retire now and come home. He was property of my mother, but my brother (Warren) who was a Master of Foxhounds in England was dropping heavy hints about what a wonderful Fieldmaster’s horse he would be, so I had to have a little palace revolution there to make sure he did come home!”

Kilkenny’s cross-country days were still not quite over however because he hunted another few seasons with Jim and his wife Gail back in the US even though he wasn’t the ideal candidate because he was a bit over-keen. “He couldn’t bear to have another horse in front of him, and Gail was too brave with him!,” Jim points out.

There was a lean period after Munich. “I was ‘on the bench’ and I knew part of it was because I’d ridden badly in Munich, but also because I didn’t have a horse of Olympic capability,” he says.

Carawich

All that would change however when he met Carawich. Jim insists he doesn’t believe in anthropomorphism — attributing human traits and emotions to non-humans — but then tells the story of how they first met….

He hadn’t won a competition above Preliminary level since 1972 when, at Badminton in the Spring of 1977, he experienced a moment of connection during the vet-check when a horse stopped and turned to look at him. “The hair stood up on the back of my neck — he picked me out of the crowd and stared at me. His groom tugged on the lead but he didn’t listen — it took about 30 seconds but it seemed like an hour!”, Jim recalls, with excitement still in his voice after all these years.

The horse wasn’t for sale at the time but came on the market a few months later. “He arrived in late December 1977 untried. I took out a loan on my life insurance policy to pay for him and it was the best investment I ever made!,” says Jim.

“Carawich suited me as the rider I was after two Olympics and one World Championship. We went to Lexington World Championships (Kentucky, USA) in ’78 where we finished 10th and were on the bronze medal team, and then we were fifth at Badminton the following spring and then second at the alternate Olympics in Fontainebleau (FRA) in 1980. We were second in the Kentucky event that spring and won Kentucky the following year. He was quite some horse too!”

More great horses

An injury sustained at Luhmühlen (GER) in 1981 put an end to Carawich’s career, but Jim still had more great horses to ride. There was Castlewellan who came his way when British rider Judy Bradwell, in recovery following a nasty accident, asked him if he knew of a suitable new US owner for the horse.

“I said don’t go away, and in about 30 minutes we had a deal! He came over that summer, again untried, and we won a big Intermediate event. Then in Spring ’84 we were well-placed at Kentucky and then we were non-riding reserves at the LA Olympic Games”.

Jim retired after that, but two years later came out of retirement for one more moment of glory. Offered the ride on The Optimist, normally competed by America’s Karen Lende (now O’Connor) who was riding in Australia that year, he jumped at the chance.

“He was a big bull of a horse, Irish-bred, 16.3hh and a bit big-eared and small-eyed, with massive shoulders like a bullock. He’d run away with everyone who got on him, but he had a wonderful attitude going down to jumps,” Jim recalls. It wouldn’t be all plain sailing, but again a moment of connection would turn everything around.

“For about a week or 10 days I thought I’d painted myself in a corner because we were not getting along at all,” he explains. However he accidentally caught the horse unawares in the stable one day, and The Optimist didn’t have time to put on his normal sullen expression. Instead Jim got a fleeting glimpse of a bright, intelligent, focused horse. “I laughed and shook my finger at him and said ‘it’s too late, I saw you!'”, Jim says. “I suddenly realised he didn’t want to be told what to do, he already knew his job so the next time I threw my leg over him I did it with that in mind and we got along famously. He won a couple of prep events and then he won Kentucky. And then I quickly retired again!,” Jim says.

Talent

Asked to compare the talent of riders from his own era with those of today he replies, “this stuff about ‘Oh we were better in the good old days’ – don’t you believe it! I lived through the good old days — these people today would beat us like a carpet!,” he insists. There have been many changes in the sport of course. “Riders are in a much more predictable situation these days. When they are pacing distances between cross-country obstacles you know it’s a different sport.”

And the horses — are there big differences in them too? “In the classic format they had to be brave as a lion because we jumped some formidable stuff. We don’t test now for strength of character in the horse — today it’s a test of technique,” he points out.

For many years now he’s been a dedicated and hugely successful coach, and he enjoys training pupils at all levels. He’s looking forward to getting back to working with his students again very soon and seeing how “profitably” they’ve used this time during the pandemic shutdown. “Will they have improved their horse’s training, or will they have worn them out by endlessly practicing competitive details?,” he wonders.

I ask what advice he has for riders concerned about returning to competition in the shadow of the virus still sweeping across the world, and he replies, “Event riders are already bio-mechanically engineered not to be afraid, so don’t be afraid! Know the risks and the safeguards, and go from there.”

Life, he concludes, is like the wording on a famous painting “The Bullfinch” by English artist, Snaffles — “glorious uncertainty” is what awaits us all on the landing side. And, for James Cunningham Wofford, that’s all part of the thrill of the ride …..

We thank Louise Parkes and the FEI for sharing this story. 

Ingrid Klimke: ‘Let’s Stay Optimistic and Be Thankful for What We Have’

Double European eventing champion and five-time Olympian Ingrid Klimke was on track to a historic 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, having qualified for not only eventing but dressage as well. Now that the Olympics, along with much of this season, has been wiped from the calendar, how is Ingrid coping? With a smile on her face and a positive attitude, as usual. We appreciate this update from Louise Parkes and the FEI — Ingrid, you’re an inspiration to us all!

“It’s alway more special when the horse is getting older. Now he is 16 and these are our last years together so I treasure it even more.” Ingrid Klimke talking about her partnership with SAP Hale Bob OLD, pictured here at Aachen in 2019. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ingrid Klimke was cooking dinner while we chatted on Saturday evening. No surprises there, the German star is a born multi-tasker, so juggling an interview and an evening meal is a breeze for this lady.

In the sport of eventing she has five Olympic Games, four FEI WEGs  and 10 FEI European Championships under her belt. Her medal collection includes two Olympic team golds and one team silver, two WEG team golds and an individual bronze, and last summer’s double-gold in Luhmühlen brought her European Championships tally to six golds along with a silver and a bronze.

Her prowess as a dressage rider has been key to many of these successes, and just to prove the point she finished seventh in the FEI Dressage World Cup Final in ’s-Hertogenbosch in 2002. It’s a staggering record but far from complete. As we begin our chat she reminds me that she was selected for the German A squads in both eventing and dressage for the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, “with three horses in the two disciplines, so already a dream has come true! Now I’m very much hoping that they all stay healthy for next year!,” she says.

One of my dreams

So what prompted you to try to qualify in two Olympic disciplines this time around? “I watched Mark Todd (New Zealand superstar) compete in jumping and eventing in Barcelona, so it was one of my dreams to do the same some day! My father (the late, great German horseman Reiner Klimke) competed at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome in eventing and later changed to become a dressage rider.”

Apart from your father who were your heroes when you were growing up? “I really admired Lucinda Green and I read all her wonderful books. She was World and European Champion when she won here at Luhmühlen (team gold for Great Britain at the World Championships in 1992) — I ran around the course after her that day! She was so brave and horses did everything for her. I really liked the way she talked about her horses and the kindness of her — she was fun and open-hearted and had a lovely personality.

“And Mark Todd has always been a legend — when I was at my first Olympics in Sydney neither myself nor my horse (Sleep Late) had ever done a four-star. When I saw the cross-country I thought ‘Oh my God!’ and I followed behind Mark when he was walking the course hoping to learn something from him!”

Has it been a pressure for you being Reiner Klimke’s daughter? “When I was young people would say when I did well ‘Oh for a Klimke that’s a typical result’ and when I made a mistake they would say ‘a Klimke should be doing better than that.’ So I tell my girls (her two daughters Greta and Philippa) don’t worry, you can’t make everything right for other people, but you don’t do it for them you do it for yourself because you love the sport and you love the horse.”

Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD claimed individual bronze at the FEI WEG 2018 in Tryon. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Ambitious

Are your daughters ambitious? “The oldest, Greta, is now 18 and will be in Young Riders next year and she’s very ambitious and very determined. The young one is almost 10 and she likes to play with the horses, to ride bareback. She comes into the arena and goes ‘OK I’ve done one round of dressage so now Bye Bye M’am!’ She’s having a lot of fun and she has a lovely pony but I’m not sure what she will do with herself!”

I realise Miss Philippa has inherited some of her mother’s characteristics when I ask my next question….

What do you like best about being around horses? “I’m starting a four-year-old again and a friend said to me why are you starting a four-year-old, let the girls do it! But this is what gives me such fun, to see how they discover the world, how they trust you, connect with you. And the other part I enjoy is the horsemanship, going bareback, riding with a neck-rein (see what I mean?), I feel like I’m playing with my ponies again!”

Is there anything you don’t like about being around horses? “No, although my father didn’t want me to become a professional rider when I was young. He thought it would change my attitude to the horses because I’d have to sell them. He wanted horses to be my hobby and it took me a while to persuade him that I could find another way, but I did and I love it.”

Ingrid created her own business model. “We don’t sell horses but keep them and compete them, and I’m really happy to have very good sponsors and try to take good care of them. Asha (her now nine-year-old star eventing mare), could have been sold for so much money but her owner said we don’t sell family members!”

Ingrid Klimke and FRH Escada JS at the 2014 WEG in Caen. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Pinot

The horse you liked most? “Pinot, my first horse, a little Trakehner stallion. I did my first dressage, my first jumping and my first eventing with him. I had no idea what I was doing, and on my first cross-country round I was looking around and thinking how wonderful it was so I was nearly two minutes too slow!

“He was small with so much heart and not much scope but he was a great schoolmaster and because of him I decided I wanted to do all three disciplines.”

The horse you liked least? Ingrid hesitates here, she doesn’t really want to be critical of any horse and doesn’t name him but…”there was one horse that wasn’t my favourite but I knew there was something in him that he wasn’t showing me. I said to myself, ‘Ingrid you are a Reitmeister (Riding Master) and you’ve got to be able to ride every horse so look for other ways with him!’ We got there in the end and he taught me a lot about having to be patient, and later he won my heart — but it certainly wasn’t love at first sight!”

The best horse you’ve ever ridden? “The mare Escada, she was in the winning team in the WEG at Caen (in 2014) and she had all the qualities you can imagine. She was a unique jumper, careful, powerful, so much scope with lovely gaits, and she could go forever cross-country. Unfortunately because she was always giving too much we couldn’t keep her sound. She and Hale Bob grew up together and Bobby was always no. 2 when she was at her most brilliant.”

How did you learn to master three tough disciplines? “Because of the chances my parents gave me, to feel different dressage horses and schoolmasters, and when I was with (Canadian Jumping legend) Ian Millar I had the chance to see the Canadian way of showjumping. And Fritz Ligges (German gold medallist, Munich Olympic Games 1972) was also competing in eventing and jumping and was a close friend of my father so when I was growing up I went on holidays and did a lot of jumping there, so I think from youth on I had a good chance to feel wonderful horses in the three disciplines.”

Your favourite discipline and why? Eventing cross-country — I’m really competitive when I’m out there. The buzz going into the start-box is what I love the most!

“And in top dressage when you ride the freestyle to music. My father always said try to have invisible aids so the spectators can’t see what you do and the horse seems to be doing it on its own … when you have that, and it’s not too often but when you have it, then I also really like dressage a lot!

“It depends on the horse too. In my next life I would maybe like to become a jumping star!”

Ingrid Klimke and Butts Abraxxas. Photo by Kit Houghton/FEI.

Memorable moments

Memorable cross-country moments? “At Sydney (2000 Olympic Games) the cross-country was so long — 13 minutes and five seconds — with steeplechase and roads and tracks, and it was so hot. I really wasn’t sure I was ready for it. I went at the very end, and so many people before me had falls and it didn’t go well for the German team either. When I came in the 10-minute box I heard someone say ‘I don’t think Ingrid will make it’….

“I said to Blue (Sleep Late) we have to do something we’ve never done before and that we’ll never forget, you have to show you are a thoroughbred and run forever! The second water was jumping onto a bank and into a deep drop followed by a brush fence and I was leaning too far forward at the drop. But he just jumped everything totally straight without any attention to me trying to hang on. He galloped the last minute uphill and kept this incredible rhythm and I was in time and I couldn’t believe it!

“And then there was my last ride with Braxxi (Butts Abraxxas, two-time Olympic team gold medallist) when he was 16. It was at Burghley (2013) and I couldn’t believe how huge the fences were! He gave me his everything — twice on that cross-country round I wondered if I should stop, but when we finished it was so emotional. I said to Braxxi this is our last competition together, you can’t give me any more! He showed more ability than he had, more scope than he had. I hadn’t planned it but I retired him then”.

Where did he retire to? “Greta was 11 at the time and he was a great schoolmaster for her. He’s now 23 and still in my barn. I did send him to a retirement home with other horses but he decided he didn’t want to stay there and kept jumping out. He wanted to be with us, so I took him back and I love it every day when I see him out with the ponies. He’s still in Stable No. 1 which he deserves!”

Ingrid Klimke wins double-gold at the 2019 FEI European Eventing Championships at Luhmühlen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Philosophy

What’s your philosophy when things go wrong? “Get back on your feet and look for the positive things even though sometimes you don’t see them right away. A good example was me and Braxxi, he was not a good show jumper and all his life I tried everything with him but finally I had to accept that there are some things you cannot change. When I did that then I could appreciate our wonderful dressage and cross-country rounds even though I knew I was never going to win an individual medal because he would never jump clear. But I was always a good team member.”

Was European double-gold in Luhmühlen last summer particularly special for you? “Yes I was so thrilled for Bobby (Hale Bob) because in Strezegom (POL in 2017) it was a close battle between Michael Jung and me, and it was very close this time again. Bobby did such a wonderful cross-country round, it felt so easy, I looked at my watch and we were so much ahead of time we could canter home! He did a brilliant show jumping round. In Tryon (WEG 2018) we had the last  showjumping fence down and lost the medal, but this time we showed we really could do it when the pressure was on.

“And it’s alway more special when the horse is getting older. Now he is 16 and these are our last years together so I treasure it even more.”

Smiling through the rain: Ingrid Klimke and the 7-y/o Equistros Siena Just Do It making the most of it during a soggy first horse inspection at the FEI World Championships for Young Horses at Le Lion D’Angers last fall. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Three mothers

The important people in your life? “My family of course, and I have three mothers (two along with her mother Ruth). There is also Faith Berghuis (Canadian patron of equestrian sport) who supported me with great advice and gave me the chance to work with Ian Millar, and Aunt. She’s not my real aunt but she owns a little farm behind my parents house and I spent a lot of my childhood there learning about animals and farming and nature.

“After my father died (aged 63 in 1999) his advisor, friend and teacher when he was young, the old cavalryman Paul Stecken, became my mentor and just four years ago he passed away aged 100. He was a lovely man.

“And my friends, some who have nothing to do with horses who were in my school here in Münster (GER) and we have many things in common. And then there are my ‘culture’ friends who take me out to cultural events so my life is not all about horses!”

What makes you laugh? “Kids, and young horses … the way they see the world can be really funny!”

What makes you cry? “Seeing the refugees sitting in those camps in Greece and nobody willing to take them. When people are poor and born into hopeless situations, that makes me very sad. I’m a member of PLAN International, an organisation that works to improve children’s rights and equality for girls who live in poverty. We have to help as much as we can.

“And also the animals, when you see the rhinos and other beautiful animals being slaughtered by poachers it makes me so angry — that really makes me cry.”

Finally how are you coping with life during this pandemic? “If you listen to the news it’s very easy to lose your positive attitude, because there is so much uncertainty. But I tell myself I’m privileged, I’m healthy and so are my family so we must stay patient. We don’t know when the vaccination will come but until then we must stay optimistic and be thankful for what we have.”

Team USA’s Sarah Lockman Unlocks Individual Dressage Gold at Pan Am Games

On the 2019 Pan American Games individual dressage podium: L to R – silver medallist Tina Irwin (CAN), gold medallist Sarah Lockman (USA) and bronze medallist Jennifer Baumert (USA). Photo: FEI/Daniel Apuy, Getty images.

It was Team USA on the top step of the Pan American Games podium today when Sarah Lockman steered the lovely chestnut stallion First Apple to clinch individual dressage gold. A superb score of 78.98 in the Intermediate l Freestyle clinched it for the 30-year-old who pipped Canada’s Tina Irwin and Laurencio by just over a single percentage point, while Lockman’s teammate Jennifer Baumert claimed the bronze with her gelding Handsome.

This was America’s ninth individual dressage title in the history of equestrian sport at the Pan Am Games, which dates back to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1951. And Lockman made it a U.S. three-in-a-row as compatriot Steffen Peters posted a consecutive double at Guadalajara, Mexico, in 2011 and Toronto, Canada, in 2015.

Photo by Vidal Tarqui / Lima 2019.

Both Small Tour and Big Tour combinations compete at the Pan Ams, and the Small Tour riders were first to battle it out in the Intermediate l Freestyle today. Just four horse-and-rider partnerships contested the higher-level Big Tour class that followed, but the medals were decided by the biggest scores on the day, regardless of the category, and it was Small Tour contenders Lockman, Irwin and Baumert who posted those to claim the top three steps of the podium.

Team USA’s Jennifer Baumert claimed the bronze with Handsome. Photo by Vidal Tarqui / Lima 2019.

The USA was never eligible for one of the two Olympic team qualifying spots on offer because they sent just three Small Tour riders to Lima. They already had their Tokyo ticket in the bag after claiming silver at last year’s FEI World Equestrian Games on home soil in Tryon and were quite happy to settle for silver in the team competition won by Canada on Monday.

But today they were gunning for the gold and they got it, thanks to a stunning performance from team debutante Lockman and her sensational nine-year-old Dutch stallion which is owned by Gerry Ibanez. Judges Thomas Kessler (GER), Mary Seefried (AUS), Eduard De Wolff Van Westerrode (NED) and Janet Lee Foy (USA) all put the American first, while Canada’s Brenda Minor placed her second, and the winner achieved high marks for Degree of Difficulty from all five judges, including a nine from Kessler.

Jennifer Baumert and Handsome. Photo by Vidal Tarqui / Lima 2019.

“I’m over the moon excited about it!” Lockman said. “It’s everything I ever dreamed of and wanted, and I’m so proud of my horse and grateful to everybody who helped me get here and the whole support staff that have been here helping me at my first ever Games experience — it’s been truly unforgettable!”

Irwin and Laurencio, members of Canada’s gold-medal-winning team on Monday, put a strong 77.78 on the board to hold second spot, and when Baumert and Handsome slotted into third on 75.755 then all three medal contenders had an anxious wait while the Big Tour foursome strutted their stuff in the Grand Prix Freestyle. And Dominican Republic’s Yvonne Losos De Muñiz put in a strong challenge here with her 14-year-old mare, Aquamarijn, but when the scoreboard showed 75.43 she just missed out on the podium and the top three wouldn’t change.

Yvonne Losos De Muñiz and Aquamarijn. Photo by Vidal Tarqui / Lima 2019.

US Chef d’Equipe Debbie McDonald, who with the great mare Brentina was double-gold medallist at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1999, couldn’t hold back her tears of delight. Lockman described the motivation her team leader has been providing throughout these Games.

“Debbie has been sending us some really amazing quotes and I think I’m going to have to have one put up in my barn and on my mirror … she told us ‘you are what you believe, and preparation is everything and you can really do it, and to work to the very last moment for it.’ I’m so thankful to her for the leadership, and to my coach Scott Hassler for his encouraging words leading up to this which have helped me handle the pressure and figure my way through my first Games!” said the new Pan American individual dressage champion.

View complete results here.

[Pan American Games Lima 2019: Americans turn the tables to take Dressage Individual gold and bronze]

2019 Pan American Games: WebsiteEventing EntriesTechnical ManualLive ScoresEN’s Coverage

It’s Dressage Team Gold and a Tokyo Ticket for Canada at Pan Am Games

Canada claimed dressage team gold for the third time in the history of the event, and the first time in 28 years, at the Pan American Games in Lima 2019 yesterday. Photo: FEI/Raul Sifuentes/Getty Images.

Canada came out on top in a tight battle with the USA when the Team Dressage medals were decided yesterday at the 2019 Pan American Games taking place at the Army Equitation School at La Molina in Lima, Peru. The three-member U.S. side had a fractional advantage after Sunday’s opening competitions, but consistently strong performances from the Canadian crew on Monday saw the defending champions having to settle for silver in the final analysis, while Brazil stood on the third step of the medal podium.

This was Canada’s third time to take the team title in the 68-year history of equestrian sport at the Pan Americans. Their first victory posted in Cali, Colombia, in 1971 and their second in Havana, Cuba, in 1991.

The Pan Am format sees team members compete at both Small Tour and Big Tour level, and Team USA, already qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games following their silver-medal-winning performance at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games on home ground in Tryon, sent an all-Small-Tour side of just three horse-and-rider combinations. Canada fielded two Small Tour and two Big Tour partnerships, and when Lindsay Kellock with Floratina, Tina Irwin with Laurencio, and Naima Moreira Laliberté with Statesman all posted scores of 73 percent, their final tally of 440.111 left them 2.32 points ahead of USA in silver and over 31 points clear of the Brazilians in bronze. Fourth team member Jill Irving with Degas 12 provided Canada’s discard score when the top three results for each team were counted.

Canada’s star performer was 22-year-old Moreira Laliberté, daughter of Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté, who won both Sunday’s Grand Prix and Monday’s Grand Prix Special with her 12-year-old Sandro Hit gelding, Statesman. “This is my first year of Grand Prix, my sixth competition at this level and my first major Games,” said the talented rider. Irving is also a Big Tour contender, and the 56-year-old steered her WEG 2018 ride, the 17-year-old Hanoverian gelding Degas 12, into third behind her team-mate.

In the Small Tour Intermediate 1 today, Irwin and Kellock finished second and third. This is Irwin’s second Pan Am Games, having helped her country to team silver in Guadalajara (MEX) in 2011. The 38-year-old rider and her 12-year-old gelding Laurencio are Small Tour stars, setting a world record at that level in 2017 before moving up to Big Tour. However they moved back down to Small Tour this year with the specific goal of helping Canada earn their spot at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and it has worked a treat. “The whole team gave it our all today. Yesterday it was close behind the Americans, and today we were on our ‘A’ game!” Irwin said.

Kellock and her 11-year-old Hanoverian, Floratina, are a relatively new combination who clicked from the moment they came together. The mare was bought as a schoolmaster for a friend who couldn’t find the time to ride her as much as she would like, so loaned her to Kellock who got a really high score with her on their first outing and they have blossomed from there. “The next goal in our minds is Tokyo, we all three have horses that are aimed at that,” said the ambitious 29-year-old.

Irwin and Kellock finished second and third on the Individual leaderboard ahead of Wednesday’s Individual Final in which the top 50% in the rankings from both the Big and Small Tour competitions will battle it out in the Grand Prix Freestyle and Intermediate 1 Freestyle for the Individual Pan American Dressage title, and in which everyone starts from scratch.

Team USA’s Sarah Lockman topped the individual leaderboard tonight with her lovely nine-year-old Dutch-bred stallion, First Apple, who won both Sunday’s Prix St Georges and Monday’s Intermediate 1. After accepting her team silver medal alongside compatriots Nora Batchelder with Faro SQF and Jennifer Baumert with Handsome, Lockman said her Pan Am experience so far has given her “a feeling like no other! It’s my first time to represent the U.S. and it’s such a different feeling for us, as sport is for the most part an individual sport. This (the team competition) has brought a different element and I love it, it’s amazing seeing our flag raised, it’s definitely a rush and something I will never forget!” she added proudly.

And the experienced bronze-medal-winning Brazilian side of Joao Paulo Dos Santos with Carthago Comando SN, Joao Victor Marcari Oliva with Biso das Lezirias, Leandro Aparecide Da Silva with Dicaprio, and Pedro Manuel Tavares de Almeida with Aoleo also have every reason to be pleased as they, like the winning Canadians, are now Tokyo-bound. Oliva said “we are very happy with this qualification, we came here for this, we trained for this, so thank you to my teammates and to everybody who is behind us. Now we have to celebrate!”

View team dressage results here. View complete results here.

 

[Pan American Games Lima 2019: It’s Dressage team gold and a Tokyo ticket for Canada]

Three-time Gold for Germany, Britain takes YR Team Title at European Junior/YR Championships

On the Young Riders Individual podium at the 2019 FEI European Eventing Championships for Juniors and Young Riders at Maarsbergen (NED). L to R: Great Britain’s Isabelle Upton (Silver), Germany’s Emma Brüssau (Gold) and Great Britain’s Heidi Coy (Bronze). Photo by FEI/Victor Krijt.

Germany dominated the 2019 FEI Eventing European Championships for Juniors and Young Riders at Maarsbergen in The Netherlands (July 10-14), taking Junior Team and Individual Gold along with the Young Riders Individual title. A total of 22 countries were represented, and Great Britain reigned supreme in the Young Riders team event.

Young Riders

Germany’s Jerome Robine and Guccimo R OLD led the Young Riders leaderboard after dressage with a super score of 22.1 ahead of Morgane Euriat and Baccarat d’Argonne who posted 23.4 for France. But it would be Robine’s teammate, 20-year-old Emma Brüssau, who would rise from third spot after the first phase to the top step of the medal podium when adding nothing to her mark of 25.3 at the end of the tough contest.

Robine disappeared from the reckoning on cross country day when Guccimo fell at fence 15, and when Anais Neumann also took a tumble from Pumeckel E at the same fence German team chances were dashed. In total 56 of the 66 starters ran into problems around the track, with 21 eliminations and two retirements on course. The combination water fence at seven proved particularly influential, and only four horse-and-rider partnerships made it home inside the time.

Euriat picked up just 0.4 time faults so was out in front on the final day, but 12 jumping penalties saw her drop to sixth in the final standings. Lying second overnight after a foot-perfect and on-time cross country run, Brüssau stood firm once again to finish on her dressage mark and claim the coveted Individual title.

“I’m a bit shocked and can’t believe it!, said the psychology student afterwards. However success is nothing new to Brüssau, who has an impressive CV that includes Team Gold and individual fourth at the Junior European Championships at Montelibretti (ITA) in 2016, Junior European Team Gold and Individual Bronze at Millstreet (IRL) in 2017 and Individual Silver in the European Young Riders Championship at Fontainebleau (FRA) last summer — on that occasion also with her 10-year-old Hannoverian mare Dark Desire GS.

Britain’s Isabelle Upton and the 11-year-old gelding Cola claimed the silver. Lying fourth on 25.9 after dressage they completed one of those rare cross county clears to move into third going into the final day, and a foot-perfect run over the colored poles saw them settle into silver medal spot, just 0.6 penalty points behind Brüssau’s gold-medal-winning score. This was a big boost to British team chances, and together with Felicity Collins on RSH Contend OR, Phoebe Locke on Union Fortunus, and Richard Coney on Kananaskis, Upton stood on the top step of the team podium.

Britain also claimed Individual Bronze thanks to an extraordinary performance from Heidi Coy and the nine-year-old Royal Fury who rocketed up from 26th after dressage to fifth with a superb cross country round, and then added nothing more on the final day to complete on a score of 32.6.

The British team score of 111.0 left them just over three penalty points ahead of France in Silver, while The Netherlands claimed Team Bronze on a final tally of 171.1.

Juniors

It was a runaway win for Germany’s Anna Lena Schaaf and the aptly-named mare, Fairytale, in the Junior Individual Championship. The 17-year-old rider threw down the gauntlet with the leading dressage score of 24.1 and stood firm to add nothing more.

And backed up by an Individual Bronze-medal-winning performance from Ann-Catrin Bierlein with Auf Feht’s Fraeulein Hummel, a ninth-place finish for Calvin Bockmann and Altair de la Cense and 11th spot for Joelle Celina Selenkowitsch with Akeby’s Zum Glueck, Schaaf helped Germany to grasp the golden double in this division. The final German team tally was just 87.0, while Great Britain took Team Silver on a score of 97.2 and France claimed Team Bronze with 99.7.

It was British team member Saffron Osborne who was Schaaf’s closest rival after the first phase having posted a mark of 24.8 with her nine-year-old gelding Lakantus. However a stop at fence seven proved costly, and the addition of 5.6 in the jumping phase saw them eventually line up in 28th place.

Of the 75 starters on cross country day there were 15 eliminations and one retirement, and three more were eliminated in the final jumping phase. A total of 54 completed and once again fence seven was highly influential.

Britain’s Leilia Paske moved up from sixth after dressage to fifth after cross country, and when third-placed French rider Jeanne Cauvel with Iggy Pop was eliminated in the jumping arena and fourth-placed Irish contender Lilly Keogh with Master Tredstep withdrew, then Paske’s clear round with Billy McFee took the silver.

Like her Young Riders Gold-medal-winning compatriot, Schaaf is also an experienced athlete having taken Team and Individual Gold at the European Pony Championships in Aarhus (DEN) in 2016 and Team Bronze at Junior level in Fontainebleau last year. She was delighted with the performance of her home-bred Rheinlander mare who never put a foot wrong all week.

“She was so clever, and she did everything for me!” said the new Junior champion.

View full results here.

This report has been edited from a press release

Re-watch the Young Rider competition in full: