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‘Some of Them Scare Me, As Well’ – Preview Burghley’s Course with Captain Mark Phillips

Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy en route to winning Burghley last year. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Somehow, we’ve managed to fast-forward through 2019 and find ourselves on the cusp of yet another Burghley. How? How, I ask you?!

Never mind – for all the end-of-season tidings it brings, we can’t help but feel like a kid hurtling towards Christmas when the biggest B rolls around again. And just to make sure we don’t forget about it in all the European Championships excitement, Burghley has released a first look at the course for this year’s running.

This is course designer Captain Mark Phillips’ fifteenth consecutive year working on the Burghley course, but he picked up plenty of experience prior to that, too – his first stint took place from 1989-1996, and his second from 1998-2000. A long history with the event certainly doesn’t mean he shies away from change, either. Last year, we saw him introduce an innovative flyover, which allowed the course to be run in a figure-of-eight, and introduced a new challenge for those riders who have ridden more Burghley courses than even they care to count.

Now, we’re getting an insightful look at the challenge that’s been set for this year’s field in a comprehensive course-walk video, featuring the Captain himself and jump jockey Bryony Frost.

“It’s completely different to what I’m used to,” says Bryony as the video opens. “It makes my job look easy – just going over a birch fence!”

We’re not sure about that, Bryony, but we’re glad to see that we’re not the only ones who piddle ourselves a little bit over the dimensionally enormous track that Burghley always delivers.

Yes, like this. Photo by Julia Shearwood Equestrian Photography.

“Some of them scare me as well,” admits the Captain with a chuckle.

So what can we expect from this year’s course?

“This year is big – in fact, it’s not just big, it’s very big,” he explains. Good start, then. But despite the emphasis on really getting the horses into the air, it’s important to remember that Burghley is always a course that focuses on positivity – it rewards positive riding, and it asks for it without any visual trickery or punishment for the horses, either. [Author’s note: I was unabashed in my praise of the Burghley course last year, which I thought was one of the best five-star courses I’d ever seen – and I wasn’t alone in my assessment. Click here to read my notes on what, exactly, Phillips did so right.]

The 2019 course follows the same route as last year’s, starting with a large counter-clockwise loop and then using the flyover to swap to a clockwise one. There’s 27 numbered fences, as opposed to last year’s 30 – that works out at 45 jumping efforts, if all the straight routes are taken, and around 60 if every long route is chosen instead. At 570mpm, we’re looking at an optimum time of between 11:15 and 11:20, though this will be set in stone closer to the event – last year’s optimum time, as a reference point, was 11:11.

“I think every course should have a beginning, a middle, where the real meat is, and an end – the beginning is to help them get warmed up, settle them, and really get them going,” explains Mark in the video. “The middle is where the questions are. And then there are two or three questions at the end to finish them off with a bit of a feel-good factor.”

Last year’s penultimate fence becomes 2019’s first fence, and it’s a Burghley classic – Lambert’s Sofa is a straightforward chair, jovially guarded by the larger-than-life figure of Lambert himself. For the uninitiated among you, it’s well worth familiarising yourself with the strange and rather sad story of Lambert who, at the time of his death, was the largest man in England. Formerly a gaoler, he steadily gained weight until he hit 52 stone, 11 pounds – or 739lb – and became a recluse. As he descended into abject poverty, he realised that he could profit from the very thing that had driven him into hiding in the first place, and he headed to London to put himself on show. Though he was a Leicester man, he remains part of Stamford lore for a rather grizzly reason – it was here that he died, while on a trip to the races. Raise a glass to him at Stamford’s famous George Hotel, where you’ll find his portrait in the front hall.

Daniel Lambert, as painted by Benjamin Marshall. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Anyway, moving swiftly on from Lambert, fences two and three on this year’s course certainly aren’t small – 1.20m tall, to be precise – but they’re straightforward, with forgiving profiles that encourage horses to really get themselves up in the air. Both fences will be the same as last year, but for some new decoration.

At the one-minute mark, we see the first real question on course, and just like last year, 4ABC takes us into the main arena. This year, the anniversary owl hole has been swapped for an upright wall, which will need to be jumped on an angle to manufacture the correct three-stride distance to the B element, a cascading fountain. Then it’s a further three strides to jump another angled wall.

Once again, Discovery Valley pops up at fence 5AB, which looks more forgiving this year – that big, beefy log we saw last year is followed up by a tall but straightforward brush fence, rather than a skinny B element.

The Captain makes up for it pretty quickly, though. Last year, fence 6 was a set of angled rails, which were considered a bit of a ‘gimme’ fence by everyone except poor Andreas Dibowski, who took a surprise tumble here. This year, they’ve been replaced by an incredibly skinny triple brush, which Mark recommends tackling at a slight angle to make it optically wider for the horse. This is the direct route, but there is an option here, which takes us over a slightly less intimidating triple brush and out over a brush upright on a curving line.

Randy Ward, Buck Davidson and Lillian Heard at the Leaf Pit in 2018. Photo by Chelsea Eldridge.

So far, so good? Welcome to the Leaf Pit, once again appearing at 7. Last year’s question included two skinny wooden arrowheads after that colossal drop, and we saw plenty of drive-bys through the day. This year, though, looks set to be the year the brush took over – once our competitors land from the bank (“a trot is fast enough [for the approach],” advises Mark), they’ll bowl on to a brush oxer followed by another skinny triple brush. And the striding?

“This is the one place you wouldn’t count,” explains Mark. “You don’t have a choice – you just have to go with whatever gravity gives you.”

There’s a lengthy alternative route here, but it looks time-consuming, and we’ll likely see most riders attempt to tackle the straight route – unless, of course, it starts causing problems.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, am I right? 8 takes us back to Discovery Valley again, but this year, we’re met by one of the widest log oxers we’ve ever laid eyes on. Four strides after clearing its six-foot top spread, there’s a beefy left-handed open corner – but, as Mark explains, the camber of the terrain will naturally direct the horses to the right spot. Or, of course, they could take the option, which will see them snake over logs and ditches.

The next big questions pops up at fence 10 and 11, the Trout Hatchery. Anyone remember last year’s jam-packed question? Allow us to refresh your memory – the first three fences saw horses jump in over a skinny cottage, pop a triple brush in the water, and then drop into the second section of the pond over a hanging log. Then they popped up a little bank – 12A – and turned tight into another triple brush. Phew. This year, the first fence is an airy timber oxer, which will see competitors take off and land on dry ground – but set on a downhill slope and with the water coming up fast, it’ll take some seriously positive riding. Then, there’s another of its ilk in the water, and because of the drag of the water, it could be quite hard to get enough momentum – so for those who think they’ll have problems, there’s an alternative route on dry land. Then, it’s a hanging log back into the water, just like last year, and then back up that step – but once again, the triple brush into the top pond has been replaced by some airy timber.

Ciaran Glynn and November Night tackle the Joules at the Maltings complex in 2018. Photo by Peter Nixon.

Joules at the Maltings at 13ABCD is the next serious question once again, and as usual, it begins with an absolutely colossal maximum dimension white oxer. Then, there’s a left-handed turn to another oxer, before a fiendishly tricky turn to a huge open corner. There’s a circuitous long route here, but it’ll add ten to fifteen seconds on the clock – so anyone who’s hunting for a win will go straight. Good luck to ’em.

The sea of finished timber at the Rolex Combinations (14ABCD) poses much the same question as last year, with one big difference – the oxers of the first and third elements have been replaced by open corners. But the skinny, airy, Vicarage Vee-style rail and ditch of the second element stays the same.

With the Rolex Combinations behind them, our competitors hit the six-minute marker, and here, Mark says, “it’s not over – but things start to get a bit easier.”

If you say so, Mark. It’s time to head over the flyover, with its new jump on top, and then onto Land Rover at the Lake at 16AB, which looks largely unchanged from last year – once again, it’s just two angled uprights with a variable stride pattern that depends on the line taken. A long pull up Winners’ Avenue follows, once again with a big, square ‘breather’ fence to break up the scenery, and then we’re into classic Burghley territory.

A note to course designers everywhere – if your feature fence hasn’t been made into a meme, it’s not terrifying enough. Photo via Libby Head.

The Cottesmore Leap at 18 is one of the world’s most infamous rider frighteners, but despite looking truly, wildly horrifying, it never tends to causes any issues. Standing at 3m wide and 4’9 high, though, it definitely takes a positive ride. Oh Captain, my Captain, why are you smirking?

The Keepers Brushes at 19ABCD, too, are much the same, with imposing hedges on curving lines and an option up for grabs, too – but the true difficulty here is in thinking ahead. The decision about which route to take will have to be made the second our competitors land from the biggest ditch-and-hedge in the world – so closing one’s eyes and kicking like stink simply isn’t an option.

Harry Meade and Away Cruising jump the egg boxes at Clarence Court, the final combination on Burghley’s 2018 course. Photo by Peter Nixon.

Clarence Court (20ABCDE) was the one combination on course that Mark wasn’t happy with last year, and he vowed to change it before 2019 – and he has done. Last year, it featured two wide egg boxes on a curving right-handed line, down to a skinny final element. This year, it’s an uphill approach to a coop, followed by three strides back down to the first eggbox. Then it’s a left-handed turn of nearly 90 degrees to the second eggbox. The alternative route, set for horses who are lacking some momentum, features an upright gate, a coop, two steps down, and another coop, which should allow them to regain some of that ‘go’.

Richard Jones and Alfies Clover at the Collyweston Slate Mine. Photo by Peter Nixon.

The last big fence, as Mark puts it, appears at 22, the Collyweston Slate Mine. A mainstay of the Burghley course, this enormous spread is visually imposing but effectively acts as a let-up fence. At the Anniversary Splash at 23AB, there are decisions to be made – do you go left-handed over the first upright brush fence, which walks as five long strides and requires a very forward ride to the second brush into the water, or do they go right-handed and take a second or two longer to ride an easy seven? It’s the last decision they’ll have to make – from here on out it’s just about trying to avoid a miss over the last handful of single fences.

The consensus? It’s a track that doesn’t differ hugely from last year’s excellent effort, which is a phenomenon we see quite often. But this can work in one of two ways – either those repeat visitors will have its questions largely sussed before they leave the start box, or they’ll think they do, and be lulled into a false complacency as a result. One thing’s absolutely certain: as always, Burghley will be the ultimate test of stamina, boldness, and forward riding – and we can’t wait.

#LRBHT19: Website, Entries, Live Scoring, Live StreamEN’s Coverage, EN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

Friday Video from SmartPak: High Drama (and High Winds) at Hartpury

Harry Meade and Tenareze at Hartpury. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Here at EN, there are few things we love more than a Harveywetdog video. It doesn’t get much more comprehensive, really – you get to see every rider, and you get to see multiple angles and several different approaches at every fence. For me, as an eventer in the UK, his back-catalogue is a unique and useful way for me to pick new courses to run at, and it’s also a great – and totally free! – way to learn from the comfort of my sofa.

So when David and I crossed paths in the media centre at the NAF International Hartpury Horse Trials, I was delighted – the stage was set for a hard-fought competition over a relentlessly tough course, and I welcomed the opportunity to be able to analyse it more closely after the fact.

Now that we’ve well and truly closed the book on Hartpury, we know how it all played out – and to no one’s surprise, it was hugely influential. Hartpury may ‘only’ be a CCI4*-S, but it’s very much designed with a certain autumn five-star in mind, and course designer Eric Winter ensures that horses and riders are thinking positively from the word go. Like Burghley, it’s a test of stamina and balance, making use of the undulations of the Gloucestershire countryside, and like Burghley, it doesn’t shy away from using maximum dimensions to really get horses in the air. Many of the horses we saw tackle it are entered for major long formats in the coming month or so, and so it provided an invaluable opportunity to watch them run and get an idea of their form as we head into autumn.

But it would be rude of me not to share the wealth, wouldn’t it? So pour yourself a glass of wine, settle in, and check out some of the world’s best horses over one of the summer’s beefiest four-stars. (And yes, you’ll get to see that fence – and you’ll get to see some of our chosen riders jump it, too!) Don’t forget to give David’s Facebook page a ‘like’, particularly if you’re based outside of the UK and want an incomparable insight into what we get up to on these shores.

Hartpury: Website, Ride Times, Course Preview, Live Scores, EN’s Coverage, EN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

 

 

Who Jumped It Best: The Ultimate Rider-Frightener at Hartpury

Who Jumped It Best?

There are certain fences that every rider wants a photo over. At the uppermost levels, Burghley’s Cottesmore Leap and Kentucky’s Head of the Lake top the bill, while Withington Manor’s iconic ditch-and-table has been the subject of many a Brit’s profile picture. While covering the NAF International Hartpury Horse Trials last weekend, I came across a new addition to my own (admittedly extensive) wish-list.

Fence 16, the Birketts Bunker, came two-thirds of the way around Hartpury’s CCI4*-S track. Set just two fences after the influential corner question at 13 and 14, it provided a short reprieve from accuracy questions – instead, the focus here was on forward, bold riding. Like Belton in the spring, Hartpury is a CCI4*-S that’s designed to be a funnel to a five-star. And, like Burghley to come, it relies on enormous galloping fences interspersed with tough combinations – and a clever use of terrain – to do so.

This fence is a classic rider-frightener: it’s objectively enormous, with an almost bottomless ditch that I couldn’t even fit in my photos. Its hefty timber lends it a timeless feel, although I can guarantee that not a single one of the 90 or so riders who tackled it on Saturday were thinking too much about its aesthetics. Instead, it was all about the attack. We saw a couple of different rides to this fence – there were the final-stride fixers, who turned to the fence and upped the impulsion dramatically, and there were the cool and collected types, who maintained their pace throughout the turn and popped the fence out of stride. (We also saw plenty of helicopter horses, who couldn’t resist the opportunity to bascule their way into another galaxy…!) Despite its dimensions and its general vibe of “thanks, but no thanks”, the Birketts Bunker, like many rider-frighteners, didn’t cause any issues. And boy, oh boy, did it make for some fun photos.

I couldn’t resist hunkering down against the wind here to snap a few horses and riders inspecting the ozone layer. So now it’s over to you, readers – take a look at the photos below, and then scroll down to vote on the pair that you think makes the best overall impression.

Lauren Blades (GB) and Jemilla. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Holly Needham (GB) and Forever Noble. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Millie Dumas (GB) and KEC Deakon. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Bubby Upton (GB) and Cannavaro. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sarah Bullimore (GB) and Corouet. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tim Price (NZ) and Bango. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

James Avery (NZ) and Aloha. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tina Cook (GB) and Billy the Red. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kevin McNab (AUS) and Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lexi Scovil (USA) and Chico’s Man VDF Z. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Hartpury: Website, Ride Times, Course Preview, Live Scores, EN’s Coverage, EN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

The Netherlands, Spain and Poland Reveal European Championships Teams

Pawel Spisak and Banderas. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And then there were three. The final teams have been revealed for the Longines FEI European Championships at Luhmühlen, where we’ll be heading from the 28th of August to the 1st of September. Both Spain and the Netherlands will be on the hunt for Tokyo qualification, a quest that sees eight nations battle it out for two available spaces. Poland, on the other hand, can rest a little bit more easily as they head into the Championships – with their Tokyo ticket secured in the special Group C qualifier at Baborowko this summer, they can focus on using Luhmühlen as a way to solidify their squad and gain valuable experience on the world stage.

Congratulations to the following riders, who have been named to Poland’s team:

  • Malgorzata Cybulska and Chenaro 2, owned by Marzenna Walden
  • Jan Kaminski and Jard, owned by Marcin Kaminski
  • Mateusz Kiempa and Grand Supreme, owned by Paula Mancak
  • Pawel Spisak and Banderas, owned by Marek Jodko

The squad is led by the enormously experienced Pawel Spisak, a former Young Rider team member who has since been to four European Championships (2005, 2007, 2009, and 2017), two World Cup Finals (2005 and 2009), two World Equestrian Games (2006 and 2018), and four Olympics (2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016). Based with German superhuman Michael Jung, Pawel Spisak and Banderas have plenty of experience competing against a world-class field: they finished 15th at Kentucky in 2018, 22nd at Tryon last year, and they won the qualifier at Baborowko before heading to Aachen, where they jumped a classy clear round to finish 24th.

Malgorzata Cybulska makes her senior squad debut after a fruitful under-21s career, which saw her contest two Young Rider Europeans (2017 and 2018) and two Junior Europeans (2015 and 2016). She and Chenaro 2 made the move up to CCI4* last season, recording two clears out of two runs at the level, and have spent this season solidifying. They’re inexperienced, sure, but with her squad experience, 21-year-old Malgorzata knows how to deal with pressure.

Jan Kaminski, too, will be heading to Luhmühlen with just Young Rider team appearances behind him – though his call-ups were back in 2012 and 2013. He finished third in the Baborowko qualifier with Jard, a nine-year-old Polish Half-Bred.

Mateusz Kiempa has just one championship appearance under his belt, but he notched it up in tandem with his partner for Luhmühlen, Grand Supreme. They contested the 2017 Strzegom Europeans, finishing 45th after nine rails slightly negated their clear round across the country.

Maria Pinedo Sendagorta and Carriem van Colen Z. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Just three riders will come forward for Spain, and so all three will need to start – and, ideally, finish – if the up-and-coming eventing nation is to remain in the hunt for a Tokyo ticket. Congratulations to:

  • Esteban Benitez Valle and Milana 23, owned by Jose Canedo Angoso and the rider
  • Maria Pinedo Sendagorta and Carriem Van Colen Z, owned by Santillana Paddocks S.L.
  • Manuel Senra Chova and Cruising, owned by Yeguada la Horcajada

Two of the three named combinations went to last year’s World Equestrian Games: Maria Pinedo Sendagorta and Carriem Van Colen Z finished 54th after delivering a slow clear, while Manuel Senra Chova and Cruising finished just behind them in 55th after doing much the same. Both pairs competed at the Strzegom Europeans, too, where they were joined by Esteban Benitez Valle, who rode Pizarra 28 50. That was Esteban’s first senior Championship experience – he’d ridden at the Junior Europeans in 2007 and 2008, and the Young Rider Europeans in 2010. Now, his fifteen-year-old mare Milana 23 will make her own championship debut after jumping a quick and classy clear around the CCIO4*-S at Strzegom in June. Manuel and Maria both return to Luhmühlen having contested its last European Championships in 2011, while Maria also competed at the Blair iteration in 2015 and Normandy’s World Equestrian Games in 2014.

Tim Lips and Bayro. Photo by Jenni Autry.

The Netherlands are one of the hot favourites to take one of those two coveted Tokyo tickets, although their line-up does yield a couple of surprises – namely, that the incredibly experienced Merel Blom isn’t named with her usual partner-in-crime, Rumour Has It N.O.P. Instead, the rider who at just 33 has competed at three senior Europeans (2011, 2015, and 2017), two World Equestrian Games (2014 and 2018), and the Rio Olympics, is named with Chiccolino, who will make his championship debut after returning from injury in the latter half of 2018. Congratulations to the full Dutch line-up, featuring:

  • Merel Blom and Chiccolino, owned by M.C. Blom-Muilwijk and J.M.J. Blom
  • Laura Hoogeveen and Wicro Quibus N.O.P., owned by Crimould B.V. and the rider
  • Ilonka Kluytmans and Image of Roses, owned by V.H.C. Erkamp
  • Raf Kooremans and Henri Z, owned by Pol Colpaert and Nina Tuytelaers-Kooremans
  • Tim Lips and Bayro, owned by Lips Stables, H.Meulendijks, C.V. Ham, N.V. Splunder, and W. Holvoet
  • Aliene Ruyter and Bomba, owned by A. J. Ruyter

In Tim Lips and Bayro, the Dutch team has a real asset: this combination have earned themselves the title of Dutch National Champions for the last two years on the trot, and they finished just outside the top twenty at the Rio Olympics, too. Before Bayro, Tim represented the Netherlands at four senior Europeans (2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015) and two World Equestrian Games (2010 and 2014, the second of which saw the team earn a bronze medal). He also went to two Olympics prior to Rio – he was on the team for London 2012 and rode as an individual at Beijing 2008. As a pair, Tim and Bayro head to Luhmühlen with two international wins already under their belts in 2019 – they took top honours in the CCI4*-S at Strzegom and the CCI4*-L at Strzegom.

Raf Kooremans and Henri Z finished 41st at last year’s World Equestrian Games, and this will be a fourth senior Europeans appearance for the former rider and producer of Hannah-Sue Burnett’s RF Demeter. He contested the 2005, 2009, and 2011 championships. Both Aliene Ruyter and Laura Hoogeveen will be making their senior championships debuts after Junior and Young Rider team appearances (2016 and 2017, and 2012 and 2015, respectively), while Ilonka Kluytmans receives her first championship call-up.

Belgian Team Named for European Championships

Karin Donckers and Fletcha van’t Verahof. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

After an unlucky thirteenth-place finish at the World Equestrian Games last year, and with a current ranking of sixth in the 2019 FEI Nations Cup series, Belgium has a big job ahead of it as we rocket towards the Longines FEI European Championships – this will, realistically, be their last chance to qualify for a team ticket to Tokyo. The nation, which is better known for its showjumping prowess, failed to send a team to Rio, but its Luhmühlen team is certainly a relatively strong one. Congratulations to:

  • Karin Donckers and Fletcha Van’t Verahof, owned by Carl Bouckaert, Joris van de Brabandere, and the rider
  • Lara de Liedekerke-Meier and Alpaga d’Arville, owned by Larga SPRL
  • Laura Logé and Absolut Allegro, owned by the rider
  • Constantin van Rijckevorsel and Beat It, owned by Mr and Mme von Rijckevorsel
  • Joris Vanspringel and Imperial van de Holtakkers, owned by Catharina Holtrust-Speerstra and the rider
  • Kris Vervaecke and Guantanamo van Alsingen, owned by BVBA Alsingen

Team stalwart Karin Donckers has also been named with a reserve horse, the homebred Lami-Cell’s Iris, owned by Victor Donckers and Lea Sterkens. Karin is easily the most experienced rider on the squad, and her partner, the fourteen-year-old Fletcha Van’t Verahof, the most experienced horse. Karin has competed at six Olympics (1992, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016, the latter of which was with Fletcha Van’t Verahof), seven World Equestrian Games (1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014, and 2018 – the final two with Fletcha Van’t Verahof), six FEI World Cup Finals (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2009), and eleven senior European Championships (1993, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2015, and 2017. In 2015 and 2017, she rode Fletcha Van’t Verahof). The duo wrapped their 2018 season with a win in a CCI4*-S at Le Pouget, and began 2019 with a win in the CCI4*-L at Barroca d’Alva. Though they’ve had a quiet season since their sixth-place finish at Houghton CCIO4*-S, they’ll be the most formidable weapon that Belgium has at this championship.

It’ll be a fourth senior Europeans appearance for Lara de Liedekerke-Meier, who competed at Strzegom in 2017 with Alpaga d’Arville, finishing 29th. They then went on to the 2018 World Equestrian Games – Lara’s third – and finished 42nd. Their best result this year has been a fifth-place finish in a CCI4*-S at their home event, Arville. Constantin van Rijckevorsel brings forward plenty of squad experience, too – he’s contested three Olympics (1996, 2000, 2004) in which he’s recorded two top-ten individual finishes, three World Equestrian Games (1998, 2010, 2014), and six Europeans (1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009). This is the former showjumper Beat It‘s second full season of eventing, but he’s proving an exciting prospect – he finished seventh in his last run, the CCIO4*-S at Camphire last month.

Joris Vanspringel and Imperial van de Holtakkers. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Joris Vanspringel, too, provides a compelling amount of championship experience for the Belgian front: he’s competed at seven Europeans (2003, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017), the World Cup Final at Malmö in 2006, two World Equestrian Games (2014 and 2018), and four Olympics (2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016). With Imperial Van De Holtakkers, he jumped clear around Tryon last year.

Kris Vervaecke contested the World Equestrian Games way back in 1998, and in more recent history, he’s gone to three European Championships (2001, 2011, and 2017). With Guantanamo Van Alsingen, he’s jumped clear in four-stars at Sopot and Strzegom this season. Laura Logé makes her championship debut after a successful summer that has seen her record top-ten finishes at Marbach and Strzegom with the eleven-year-old Absolut Allegro.

[Europese Kampioenschappen jumping, dressuur, eventing en paradressuur – Lees er hier alles over!]

Austria, Finland, Denmark, and Hungary Name Riders for European Championships

Austria’s Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati and Cosma. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Hang onto your hats, dear readers: the deadline has passed for federations to name their teams for the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships (28 August – 1 September), and we’ll be force-feeding you a heaping helping of announcements over the next day or so. This morning, we’ll be looking at two of the underdog nations on the hunt for Tokyo qualification.

Both Austria and Finland will field a team at Luhmühlen, all being well — Austria has named four horse and rider combinations, while Finland has named just three, so all three will need to present at the first horse inspection to be eligible to join the qualification hunt.

This will be the first time we’ve seen Austria field a full team since the 2007 European Championships at Pratoni, where they finished ninth. Congratulations to:

  • Harald Ambros and Lexikon 2, owned by the rider
  • Daniel Dunst and Loriot F, owned by Peter Pichler
  • Rebecca Gerold and Shannon Queen, owned by Arnulf Gerold
  • Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati and Cosma, owned by the rider

Harald Ambros brings forward the most significant championship experience, with a resume that includes trips to four senior European Championships (2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009), two World Equestrian Games (2006 and 2010), and three Olympics (2004, 2008, and 2012). The subsequent injury of his London 2012 ride O-Feltiz meant that it took Harald until 2018 to re-establish himself at the CCI4* (then three-star) level. With the ten-year-old Lexicon 2, he’s since collected top-twenty finishes at CCI4*-S competitions at Strzegom and Vairano, as well as a win in Dunakeszi’s CCI4*-L and second place in a CCI4*-S at Montelibretti.

This will be a second senior Championship appearance for Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati, who rode Cosma as an individual at the 2017 Europeans, finishing 24th. The plucky chestnut mare was just an eight-year-old then, and in 2018, as a nine-year-old, she contested her first five-star. Her first attempt, which took place at Burghley, didn’t go quite to plan, and Katrin opted to retire on course, but the duo then rerouted to Pau, where they jumped clear across the country for 26th place.

Daniel Dunst makes a return to championship competition – alongside Harald, he was part of the last Austrian team at the Europeans, back in 2007. He then competed at the Blair Castle Europeans as an individual in 2015, though he was eliminated on both occasions. This time, he’ll ride the ten-year-old Loriot F, who began his international career last season and contested his first CCI4*-S just six months later. He’s since finished 14th in a CCI4*-S at Strzegom and 5th in the CCI4*-L st Dunakeszi.

Rebecca Gerold will make her first senior Championship appearance after a successful young rider career that saw her contest three Pony Europeans (2011, 2012, and 2013), three Junior Europeans (2012, 2013, and 2015), and two Young Rider Europeans (2016 and 2018). The latter was completed in partnership with Shannon Queen, the nine-year-old Trakehner mare she’ll ride at Luhmühlen. They head to Germany with a second place finish in Dunakeszi’s CCI4*-L and a clear round at Strzegom CCI4*-S behind them.

Pauliina Swindells and Ferro S. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Finland, who have been solidifying their squad under the guidance of top trainer Lizzel Winter FBHS, will debut their very first team at a senior Championship. With just three combinations on their list, the pressure is most certainly on: all three will need to start the competition, and without a drop score, all three will need to do their very best to complete it, too. Congratulations to:

  • Elmo Jankari and Duchess Desiree, owned by Sanna Siltakorpi, S. Hacklin, and the rider
  • Sanna Siltakorpi and Bofey Click, owned by TMI Ratsuvalmennus and the rider
  • Pauliina Swindells and Ferro S, owned by Sharon Graves, Jari and Pirjo Martilla, James Swindells, and the rider

Both Elmo Jankari and British-based Pauliina Swindells bring forward championship experience – the former competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the 2014 World Equestrian Games, Senior Europeans in 2015, and Young Rider Europeans in 2012 and 2013, all with Duchess Desiree. Though the fourteen-year-old Oldenburg mare sat out the 2018 season, she’s clocked up a top-ten finish in the CCI4*-L at Strzegom so far this year. Pauliina Swindells and Ferro S headed to Tryon last year and the Strzegom Europeans the year prior to compete as individuals, although they’ve had a quiet 2019 season, with just two international runs. They jumped clear around Belton’s CCI4*-S Grantham Cup in March, but picked up a 20 in the CCI4*-S at Burgham at the end of July.

Sanna Siltakorpi is, perhaps, the rider with the most championship experience on the squad – she’s competed at two World Equestrian Games (2010 and 2014), four senior Europeans (2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015), two Young Rider Europeans (2007 and 2008), and a Junior Europeans (2005). The ten-year-old Bofey Click makes his championship debut at Luhmühlen. Both Sanna and partner Elmo had been named to the team for Strzegom, but Duchess Desiree and Sanna’s mount, Bofey Bridge, picked up minor injuries just days prior to the competition. Now, the German-based couple and new parents are looking forward to completing what they started in 2017.

Denmark is sending just one horse and rider combination forward — Irene Mia Hastrup and her own Constantin M will contest their third European Championships. They were part of the team at the 2017 Strzegom iteration, and competed as individuals in 2015’s Championship. The fifteen-year-old Hanoverian gelding completed his prep run in Strzegom’s CCI4*-S this month with a planned slow clear.

Hungary, too, will send just one pair. Péter Tuska represented his homeland at Junior and Young Rider level, but his appearance at Luhmühlen with Pal Tuska’s fourteen-year-old Hungarian Sport Horse Ben Bendeguz will mark his first senior call-up. The pair hasn’t notched up a cross-country jumping penalty in an international since 2015, nor finished outside the top twenty since 2014, though they have a tendency to flit back and forth between CCI2* and CCI4* with little provocation.

Swedish Team Revealed for European Championships

Louise Romeike and Waikiki 207 at Tryon. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Hot on the Tokyo trail, Sweden has announced its squad of six horses and riders ahead of the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships, which will take place at Luhmühlen from the 28th of August through the 1st of September. Congratulations to:

  • Ebba Adnervik and Chippieh, owned by Sara Sjöborg Wik
  • Malin Josefsson and Golden Midnight, owned by Karin Berglund
  • Niklas Lindback and Focus Filiocus, owned by Tun Albertson
  • Philippa Magnusson and Cesar, owned by the rider
  • Louise Romeike and Waikiki 207, owned by the rider
  • Ludwig Svennerstål and El Kazir SP, owned by Shamwari 4 Ltd.

“An Olympic ticket is the obvious goal and this is a strong team that has all the prerequisites to fix it,” says Swedish chef d’equipe Fredrik Bergendorff. “The focus in the selection has been on consistent results and reliable cross-country horses.”

Like Italy, who announced their team last week, Sweden has also been heavily targeting the FEI Nations Cup series as an alternative route to the Olympics. With five of the series’ seven legs complete, they currently sit second in the rankings. But their squad for Luhmühlen represents an interesting cross-section of experience and young talent, and the Scandinavian nation is one of the hot favourites to take one of the two available tickets to Tokyo.

Two of the listed combinations were part of Sweden’s ninth-placed team at last year’s World Equestrian Games: Louise Romeike and Waikiki 207 finished 29th, while Niklas Lindback and Focus Filiocus took 35th place, both off the back of clear cross-country rounds. Both have had significant championship experience beyond Tryon, too – Louise has competed at two senior European Championships (2017, with Wieloch’s Utah Sun and 2015, with Viva 29) and two Pony Europeans, in 2005 and 2006. Niklas has four senior Europeans under his belt: he was part of the silver medal-winning team in 2017 with Focus Filiocus, contested the 2015 Championships with Cendrillon, and rode Mister Pooh in 2009 and 2013. He clocked up a top-ten finish in the FEI World Cup at Malmö in 2006 and completed both the 2010 World Equestrian Games and the 2012 Olympics.

Ludwig Svennerstal and El Kazir SP. Photo by Lorraine O’Sullivan/Tattersalls.

Ludwig Svennerstål has amassed a significant amount of team experience too, though this will be a first championship appearance for El Kazir SP, who Ludwig started riding in 2017. The prolific Swede began his team career in the young rider ranks, during which he contested two Junior and two Young Rider Europeans (2007 and 2008, and 2010 and 2011, respectively). He’s been on senior Championship squads ever since, including three senior Europeans (2013, 2015, and 2017), two Olympic Games (2012, 2016), and last year’s World Equestrian Games.

Ebba Adnervik will be making her senior Championship debut after a busy young rider career that included a trip to the Junior Europeans (2014) and two to the Young Rider Europeans (2015, 2017). Her mount, though, has plenty of experience on the world stage – Chippieh competed at the London Olympics with Japan’s Kenki Sato as well as the 2014 Young Rider Europeans with Hedvig Wik. Malin Josefsson follows up on her 2017 Europeans debut with Allan V by partnering her Badminton mount Golden Midnight at Luhmühlen, while Philippa Magnusson makes her Championship debut, as does her horse, the nine-year-old Swedish Warmblood Cesar.

[EM-laget i fälttävlan klart]

A Pig-Pile at Hartpury: Piggy French Continues World Domination Tour in CCI4*-S

Piggy French and Quarrycrest Echo cash in the rider’s 10th international win of the season at Hartpury. Photo by Celeste Wilkins/NAF International Hartpury Horse Trials.

“Are you going to start crying now?” whispered Pippa Funnell, sotto voce and grinning, to Piggy French as the national anthem started playing.

“Of course not,” hissed Piggy, a smile spreading across her face. After all, who’d want to waste time blubbing when there are the spoils of victory to enjoy – and one of your closest friends beside you to enjoy them with?

By all accounts, it’s been a good day for Piggy, who earned her tenth international victory of the season in the NAF International Hartpury Horse Trials today. Riding Jayne McGivern’s Quarrycrest Echo, who will head to Luhmühlen later this month to contest the European Championships, she was the only rider to stop the clock inside the seven-minute optimum time – and she did so by an impressive margin, too, finishing easily in 6:53.

“’Red’ was fantastic – he’s just such a pleasure to ride cross-country,” says Piggy, who finished in runner-up position in this class last year with the gelding. “He’s very easy, to be honest, and so it’s easy to be economical and to be quick.”

Piggy French and Brookfield Inocent – another impressive string to Piggy’s incomparable bow. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Piggy also took second place with Brookfield Inocent, a relatively new ride who joined her string in the middle of the 2018 season. When her husband Tom told me earlier in the day that the horse would be next year’s Burghley winner, I joked that I’d have to quote him on it – and after seeing the ten-year-old make easy work of today’s tough track to add just 1.6 time penalties, I’m sticking to my guns on this one. I expect Tom is, too.

Piggy certainly thinks a lot of the horse: “He may well follow in Red’s footsteps [in being a quick and easy cross-country ride], to be honest. People say I’m so fast, but I’m really not – with some horses, you can get in a gear and change the gear so quickly. When they’re confident, you can ride so much quicker in the rhythm and in the lines, because you leave the adjusting so late. That’s what I can do with those two, and having the quality of gallop that they have helps, too. They’ve been great today, and to finish first and second is really exciting.”

Tina Cook and Billy the Red deliver another incredibly classy clear around the scene of last year’s victory, but a misstep on landing from the final fence sees them add an unfortunate elimination to their record. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

In eventing, you get by with a little help from your friends, as Piggy well knows – and so even as she was accepted her bounty of prizes, her mind was on Tina Cook, who had taken an incredibly unlucky tumble from Billy The Red as he pecked over the last fence. The fall came at the tail end of a quick and classy round, the sort we expect from this combination over this course – after all, it was a win here last season that saw them secure their ticket to Tryon.

“I just hope Tina’s okay, because she likes to come and win at Hartpury, and she was in a great position, so I know she’d have been trying,” says Piggy. “I wound her up at the start, saying ‘go on, old bird, kick on!’ So it’s always worrying when you hear that your mate’s had a fall. But we’ve heard that she’s fine – she just had a rattle, but it’s never nice.”

Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street take third, marking a promising streak of good behaviour from the reformed character. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Pippa Funnell may have relinquished her two-phase lead on time penalties, but solid rounds with the reformed MGH Grafton Street, who added eight time penalties, and overnight leader Billy The Biz, who added ten, saw her finish third and fifth respectively nonetheless. The latter round, which came at the tail end of a long and phenomenally windy day of cross-country action, was achieved despite a forty-minute hold due to a fall for Tom Jackson, which stopped Pippa just after the open corners at 13 and 14.

“It’s never a good thing for someone my age,” she says wryly. “You have all these things going through your head – but my main concern as I was being held was for Tom Jackson, who I’ve helped a lot over the last few years. I was really worried about him, and so you have that going through your mind, and suddenly the dangers of the sport become very real, and it’s difficult – you just have to stay focused and positive and pick up and get on with the job. A few years ago I was held in exactly the same place with Biz, and then he picked up a little fresh, overjumped into the water, and I had a fall – so that was going through my mind as well. I was sort of a psychological mess by the time I started again! But I had a great spin on all of mine – I’m chuffed. I was never going to threaten Pig, I knew that, but I had great rides.”

Pippa Funnell and Billy the Biz tackle the formidable Birketts Bunker after a lengthy hold on course. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Both Piggy and Pippa’s top two horses in this class also managed clear rounds over an influential showjumping course, which was moved, unusually, to the university’s indoor arena. Whether as a result of tighter and thus more technical lines, or because of a lack of match practice indoors, many reliable showjumpers knocked rails – and Toledo de Kerser and Tom McEwen, placed second after the dressage, opted not to showjump at all.

Badminton winner Vanir Kamira acts as pathfinder for Piggy’s string, cruising around in some of the worst conditions of the day in preparation for Burghley. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The reason for the move was the extreme conditions that moved over the Cotswolds overnight, bringing with them relentless winds that shunted and burst over the course at speeds of up to 50mph. With them came intermittent heavy rain showers, creating suboptimal conditions for several combinations.

“You feel very against the elements when it’s like that,” says Piggy. “In two of my rounds, I started off and the rain was sideways – it was face-on wind. I was galloping to fence four on Brookfield Inocent and I said to him, ‘I hope you can see something, because I can see nothing! You’ve just got your head down. No one likes the wind – it’s spooky, it’s tiring, and it’s noisy, and of course it changes the game a bit. The conditions vary from drying to slippery.”

Pippa Funnell and Billy The Biz navigate the tricky first water. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

But as Pippa points out, the efforts put in by Hartpury’s expansive ground crew ensured that despite the weather’s best efforts, the footing and the questions asked remained suitable, allowing for a positive and educational experience.

“A few places got a bit cut up, but I thought they were great courses, and they encouraged positive riding,” she says. “We saw a few falls and no, we never like to see falls, and maybe it was a bigger track than we normally see, but we need to have these bigger tracks if we want to go to Burghley or to a big three-day. It was a very good track, and I thought Eric did a great job. Horses had to be fit because of the conditions.”

Alex Bragg, who finished fourth on the inexperienced King of the Mill, agrees.

“The ground was great – they’d watered well anyway, and the grass coverage here has just gotten better and better over the last few years,” he says. “Yes, it was tiring for the horses towards the latter end, and you head to be careful, but they’ll be very comfortable tomorrow, because the rain really took the sting out of the ground.”

For King of the Mill, who contests just his sixth international at Hartpury, it’s another huge step in the right direction, and confirms the solidity he displayed when finishing seventh at Barbury last month.

“I’m thrilled for my young horse to finish fourth in a field of over 100 – he’s done great,” says Alex. “I’ve had him for a couple of years, and when I started him at BE100 he was always spooky, and I thought, ‘will I ever get him to Novice?’ And then he went Novice, and he was spooky at Novice, and then he went Intermediate, and he was spooky at Intermediate, and now he’s Advanced, and he’s spooky at Advanced! But he’s so talented – he’s one of the most agile horses you could ever sit on. He’s 17.2hh, and he’s a really big, rangy galloping horse, but he’s as sharp as you like with his legs, which is great for the cross-country. But he can also be sharp with his leg and dance around when you don’t want him to, so we need to master that a little bit! He’s a horse I would hope would contend Badminton and Burghley – he’s a real long-format character, and is over 80% Thoroughbred, so he has the stamina. You need a real blood horse to excel at places like Burghley. I’d like to have a podium finish there one day, and I think he could be the horse to do it.”

Tom Jackson and Pencos Crown Jewel. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sixth place went to Tom Jackson and Pencos Crown Jewel, who cruised home in 7:09 to execute a stratospheric climb up the leaderboard. The celebration, unfortunately, was short-lived – as Tom reached the latter stages of the course on his final ride of the class, Newmarket Prospect, he ran into trouble at fence twenty, causing the forty-minute hold that plagued Pippa. We’re pleased to report that Newmarket Prospect is absolutely fine, and all of us at Team EN wish a speedy recovery to Tom, who’s currently undergoing X-rays for a suspected broken leg.

Tim Price and Bango enjoy a steady run in preparation for Burghley. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Problems were widespread and not infrequent across Eric Winter’s track, which is built with long-format prep in mind.

“It’s not unlike Burghley, in that it starts out big, which gets the horses into a stride and really jumping in a bascule,” explained Tim Price yesterday. (His own horses, for what it’s worth, jumped planned slow clears to prepare for that big B.) “Then you’ve got to make some decisive action plans, particularly at the first water, where you see all sorts – it can be four and four, or four and five, or five and five…you almost want to see a flying Frenchman go through it and make it look really easy! The hill is a big influence too, so they have to be fit – it’s a good preparation.”

The course criss-crosses the hill in question, asking horses and riders to negotiate questions on both inclines and declines, as well as on a camber. 88 combinations started, while 69 would ultimately finish – and of those 69, 48 would cross the finish line without incurring jumping penalties, flag penalties, or knocked-pin penalties.

Sarah Bullimore and Conpierre turn in the air over the first element of the first water, preparing themselves for the tricky bending related distance to the two skinny elements to follow. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Fence 8AB, a hanging log to the first of two skinny triple-bars on a downhill related distance, proved the most influential, with six eliminations and two retirements occurring here. The first water at 6ABC saw four refusals or run-outs, which took place largely at the latter two skinny elements within the water, but in at least one case, the issue occurred at the first element, a rolltop in the water.

Pippa Funnell and Maybach negotiate the open corners at 13 and 14. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The open corner at 14, which acted as the second part of a related distance from another open corner, amassed five run-outs, two eliminations, and a retirement, while the final combination at 22AB – a brush to a corner in the woods, just two from home – notched up nine run-outs.

Lexi Scovil and Chico’s Man VDF Z. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

While the day might have felt like rather a dramatic one, the course was well-designed, well-built, and – if we’re allowed to embrace the superficialities for a moment – beautifully well-dressed, lending a three-day feel to this late-summer short-four. And for those riders preparing for bigger runs in the coming months, its difficulty will have served as a positive wit-sharpener. As US rider Lexi Scovil, who picked up an unfortunate 20 on courses, wisely says, “numbers are important, but they aren’t everything, and they certainly don’t encompass the positivity I feel about this weekend – Sprout jumped bravely around a spooky indoor showjumping, and felt amazing around most of another 4* cross-country, except when we both forgot to attach the big open corner. Still feeling on track for Blenheim!”

Brimming with gumption: Katherine Coleman and Monte Classico through the water. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It was a great day for our other US representative, Katherine Coleman, who produced one of the most positive rides of the day at that tricky first water, proving how much the exceptionally talented Monte Classico has matured this year. This combination looks set to be an exciting option as we stride down the trail to Tokyo.

That’s all for now from Hartpury, which has been an exciting and enlightening last look at many of our Burghley and Luhmühlen entrants. We’ll be analysing how they did this weekend – and across the summer – in two enormous form guides, coming to you soon. For now – wrap up warm, avoid the winds, and Go Eventing!

The final top ten in the NAF Five-Star Magic CCI4*-S at Hartpury.

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Hartpury: Funnell Plays Swapsies Amid Five-Star Frenzy

Remember the buzz in the air back in March, when we careened towards Belton (may it rest in peace) and the first UK four-star of the season? As it is every year, its entry list was so full of five-star names that you almost daren’t step away from the arena for a moment – amidst the previous season’s plethora of champions, could we find the next Badminton winner? With the 2019 season a barely-birthed thing, it was a week in which everything was still a possibility. Now, as we head into the final months of the season, it sort of feels like we’ve found that sweet spot again at Hartpury. The entry list is a thing of beauty: there were more five-star winners and gold medallists passing in front of my camera lens than I could count, a bevy of five-star and championship-bound combinations on display, and a harsh March wind, which was, you know, atmospheric.

Pippa Funnell and Billy the Biz head an adjusted leaderboard after the conclusion of dressage. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

On Thursday we reported a Pippa Funnell-led leaderboard and now, as we head into the jumping phases, not a lot has changed – except this time, her leading ride isn’t MGH Grafton Street (relegated to 5th on his score of 24.8), but rather the great grey Billy The Biz, who delivered a 23.3 to help re-establish his rider’s dominance.

Tom McEwen and his Europeans-bound Toledo de Kerser. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

In second place, we enjoyed the inarguable treat of seeing Tryon team members Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser in their first international run since Badminton. And what a return to the spotlight it was: they posted a 23.6, marking one of Tom’s career-best results in this phase. One of the things that makes Toledo such a special and exciting horse is the fact that it’s always felt as though there’s much, much more to come – and today, with his more open frame and stride pattern, we got a tantalising glimpse of what could be next if Tom’s willing to take a few risks.

For now, though, with the European Championships on the horizon, it’s all about keeping the gelding healthy, happy, and confident enough to produce the goods in Luhmühlen later this month.

“We had a couple of early mistakes but really, I’m super happy with him,” says Tom, who has quietly notched up some national-level placings with Toledo over the summer. “It’s all just been about keeping him ticking along – if he hadn’t had the Europeans on the cards, he’d have been heading to Burghley.”

Sarah Bullimore and her homebred Corouet. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Despite finding himself facing off against some of the sport’s top horses, Sarah Bullimore’s Corouet rose to the challenge and posted an international personal best of 23.6 in his four-star debut. This is enough to see him hold third place as we head into showjumping, and while Sarah has enjoyed three sub-30 tests with over the course of the day, this one is particularly special.

That’s because eight-year-old Corouet is the first foal from her former five-star mare Lilly Corinne, who retired in 2018 after a career-ending injury. Though she already has six babies on the ground from embryo transfers, she’ll now adopt a more traditional broodmare role – and while she’s busy cooking up the next generation of top competitors, she’s lapping up the affections of fellow five-star stalwart Valentino, who also retired last season.

“It was a big year of changes – to retire both Lilly Corinne and my lovely old boy Valentino was a massive blow,” says Sarah. “It was always on the horizon with him, although that doesn’t make it any easier emotionally, but with her, it was a total shock. But now, even though it’s been really sad, she has another job – and she’s enjoying her love nest! They’re so sweet together – she’s very much her own person, and wouldn’t usually like other horses, but she’s always liked him. He’s a real ladies’ man, and he’s always looked out for her – when they were in next-door fields, they’d graze near each other. So it’s lovely to see them enjoy life together.”

Sarah Bullimore and Corouet. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Nicer still is the chance to continue the mare’s legacy. In 2017, Corouet and Lilly Corinne put on a remarkable double feature – the former contested the six-year-old World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers, finishing sixth, while the latter finished 13th the following week at the CCI5*-L at Pau. Though tricky, the chestnut mare has been a pivotal part of Sarah’s career, and the promising journey her son is on has given the enormously talented and consistent rider an impressive second string, following in the footsteps of top horses Reve du Rouet and Conpierre.

“He’s a freak of nature, really,” she says of the diminutive gelding. “It’s not perfect yet, certainly, and there’s still lots to come, but he always says, ‘okay, yep, what’s next?’ And he’s so class that even if he has little mistakes, he still scores well. He’s small, but he’s clever and he’s feisty like his mother – but in a slightly different way.”

Sarah’s fledgling breeding programme has already proven to be a case in point for the power of dam lines, with Lilly Corinne’s offspring adopting her looks, her temperament – and her talent.

“There was never really a grand plan, but I thought, if you have a mare this good, you ought to breed from her,” says Sarah. “I kept hearing people talk about certain stallions and I just thought, well, this is what seems to be passed along.”

Though the rest of his weekend will be an educational one, Corouet is certainly one to watch for the future. All being well, he’ll head to Blenheim for the eight-and-nine year old CCI4*-S – “and I haven’t ruled out a trip to Boekelo, either,” says Sarah with a smile.

Piggy French and Vanir Kamira. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

In fourth place, European squad members Tina Cook and Billy the Red produced one of their best tests, scoring a 23.7 and showing no hint of the occasionally reactive behaviour that’s dogged them in the past. They sit fourth overnight. Meanwhile, Badminton winner Vanir Kamira was another top horse to reappear on the main stage today, and her score of 25.8 has her in ninth place – a worthy leader of Piggy’s four four-star entries, all of whom delivered sub-30 scores.

“I’m delighted with Tilly – she was so chilled, and came out and did a really sweet test,” says Piggy, who heads to Badminton with the mare next month. “There weren’t any moments I was complaining to myself about. She’s hard to keep straight, and I know that, but she’s so sensitive and delicate that I don’t want to overdo the straightening and upset her. It’s a fine balance.”

So, too, is the balance between using a short-format international test as a springboard to bigger things, while still applying enough pressure that she can accurately gauge her horses’ capabilities.

“You definitely still want to get the best test you can out of them, but I don’t try to chase marks – if they make a mistake, I’ll try not to freeze, but rather to use it as a training exercise. And actually, a lot of it is about figuring out how to get the warm-up right so they can perform at their best.”

Piggy French and Quarrycrest Echo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Scoring 26.6 for 11th place was Europeans-bound Quarrycrest Echo, who once again showed his remarkable consistency in this phase after a slightly longer-than-normal warm-up.

“He was a bit concerned about the flower pots, because it’s so windy,” says Piggy with a laugh. “But other than being very attentive of some of them, he felt so good and did some great work.”

Piggy French and Calling Card. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Quarrycrest Echo’s owner Jayne McGivern had plenty of reason to celebrate – her four-star debutante Calling Card also delivered an exceptional performance, scoring 28.6 for 20th place. Like Corouet, he’s young, inexperienced, but absolutely bursting with try – it’ll be exciting to see what he does next this weekend, and further down the line in his fledgling career.

Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

You know you’re looking at a strong field when a sub-30 score can only guarantee you a top-30 provisional placing, but despite the fact that he sits in 13th overnight, it would be a shame not to mention the efforts of 2018 Burghley winners Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy. They sit in 13th place overnight on a score of 26.8, proving that they’re back at their best just a handful of weeks before they prepare to defend their title. Objectively? A 26.8 is always a great test. Subjectively? This was some of the most pleasant, active, and uphill work we’ve seen from the gelding, who consistently delivers good performances between the boards. If Burghley comes down to a Piggy and Tim match-race, it certainly won’t be short of close-fought excitement.

Katherine Coleman and Monte Classico. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Two US representatives made their way down the centreline in the CCI4*-S today: Katherine Coleman and Monte Classico overcame some early sharpness to score 30.3 for overnight 29th, while Lexi Scovil and Chico’s Man VDF Z settled for a 37.9 and 83rd after some unexpected sparkle.

Lexi Scovil and Chico’s Man VDF Z. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Hartpury marks a return to international competition for Lexi and her nine-year-old gelding, who enjoyed a top-twenty finish in the CCI4*-S at Bramham earlier this summer.

“It was way more than I ever expected,” says Lexi, who is based at William Fox-Pitt’s Dorset yard. “I feel like he’s come back so well – he went to an OI and was phenomenal, except some idiot jumped the wrong fence! But while that was unfortunate, he really did feel the best he ever has. Last week I had a dressage lesson with Tracey Robinson and we absolutely got the most quality work out of him, so I definitely think we’re on the right track.”

That right track will lead them to Blenheim, where their original plan to contest the CCI4*-S has now morphed into a CCI4*-L goal. After that, Lexi hopes to extend her visa for another year.

“It’s all been way better than I expected it to be – I keep waiting for something to go wrong,” she laughs. “But it just seems like the programme is so good – it’s that good that it actually continues to work. It’s all really exciting – but it also feels like we’ll get to our goals, even if they’re bigger goals than I’d planned for. We feel so ready.”

With high winds forecast for tomorrow, showjumping has been moved into the college’s spacious indoor arena, with cross-country beginning at 11.20a.m. BST. We’ll be bringing you a closer look at Eric Winter’s course, and of course all the coverage from the day’s action – stay tuned!

The top ten after dressage in Hartpury’s CCI4*-S.

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A Very *Chef’s Kiss* Italian Team Announced for European Championships [Updated: 08/14]

Simone Sordi and Amacuzzi. Photo courtesy of FEI/Libby Law.

Hollow out your cheese wheels and pass us the extra virgin (that’s olive oil, you heathens) – the Federazione Italiana Sport Equestri has announced its squad of six riders for this month’s European Championships in Luhmühlen (28 August – 1 September). Congratulations to:

  • Vittoria Panizzon and Super Cillious, owned by Lucy Allison, Deborah Bevan, Juliet Donald, and the rider
  • Umberto Riva and Tim de la Lande, owned by Claudio Riva
  • Pietro Roman and Barraduff, owned by Antonella Ascoli
  • Arianna Schivo and Quefira de l’Ormeau, owned by Thomas Bouquet and the rider
  • Simone Sordi and Amacuzzi, owned by Maria Giovanna Mazzocchi
  • Giovanni Ugolotti and Note Worthy, owned by Andrew Cawthray

[8/14 update: Marco Biasia and Junco CP will replace Umberto Riva and Tim de la Lande on the Italian squad.

“Sadly no [European Championships] for us,” said Umberto in a statement on his personal Instagram account. “Tim did not full recover after [his] last competition at [Haras du Pin] and the short period of time left to the EU event leaves us with no other choice. We will be taking care of Tim and make sure he will be back stronger than ever before!”

New call-up Marco has a wealth of team experience: he’s competed at four senior European Championships (2001, 2003, 2007, and 2011) and four World Equestrian Games (1998, 2002, 2006, 2010), though this will be a first call-up with new ride Junco CP, who finished 24th at last year’s WEG with Spain’s Carlos Diaz Fernandez. In four internationals together so far, they’ve finished inside the top twenty at each – though their last international run, at Pratoni CCI4*-S in June, did see them clock up twenty penalties across the country.]

Italy is one of several nations that will be fighting for a Tokyo qualification in Luhmühlen, though they’re hedging their bets – they’ve fielded a team at every leg of the FEI Nations Cup series so far, and in doing so, they’ve accumulated enough points to lead the standings. With three legs left to go and the Swedes hovering just five points behind, it’s no sure thing, but it’s an impressive insight into chef d’equipe Kathrine Lucheschi‘s commitment to the cause.

The team is headed up by stalwart Vittoria Panizzon, who has represented Italy in two Olympics (2008, 2012), a World Equestrian Games (2014), four senior European Championships (2005, 2007, 2013, 2017) and two Young Rider Europeans (2003, 2004), as well as innumerable Nations Cups. Her ride at Luhmühlen isn’t top horse Borough Pennyz, but rather the British-bred Super Cillious. At just ten years old, he’s already notched up top ten finishes in CCI4*-S competitions at Blenheim, Belton, and in the Nations Cup at Camphire, and an exciting CCI4*-L debut saw him take eleventh place at Blenheim last year.

Giovanni Ugolotti, too, has amassed some crucial team experience, riding for Italy at the 2014 World Equestrian Games and both the 2013 and 2015 European Championships, but it’ll be a first championship call-up for new ride Note Worthy, previously piloted by Oliver Townend. They head to Luhmühlen off the back of an eighth-place finish at Camphire, which helped the Italian team to third place in the Nations Cup.

Arianna Schivo and Quefira de l’Ormeau. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Arianna Schivo also brings forward championship experience, though unlike Vittoria and Gio, hers has been in tandem with her named horse: she and Quefira de l’Ormeau have competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics, last year’s WEG, and two European Championships (2015, 2017). This spring, they finished just outside the top 20 at Badminton. Pietro Roman and Barraduff are a similarly experienced duo – they joined Arianna and Quefira at all four championships. Their last international run was at Luhmühlen, where they finished ninth in the tough CCI4*-S class.

Umberto Riva will be making his senior championship debut after a successful under-18s career that saw him contest two Junior European Championships (2009, 2010) and two Pony Europeans (2007, 2008). The 27-year-old will ride Tim de la Lande, a 12-year-old Selle Français on whom he took the ride at the end of 2017. Since then, they’ve maintained a spotless cross-country record at internationals, jumping clear – and fast – around tracks including Boekelo CCI4*-L and Luhmühlen CCI4*-S. The other two phases aren’t quite as strong, but as far as senior championship debutantes go, they’re a promising pair. Simone Sordi will be making his second championship appearance – he and Amacuzzi started at, though didn’t complete, Tryon last year. This season, they can boast a top-twenty finish in Luhmühlen’s CCI5*-L.

[Campionati Europei: Ecco la Short List Degli Azzurri]

Hartpury: Funnell Pips King at Post in Dressage Showdown

Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“The first Hartpury I ever came to, it was just a little event in the back field – there wasn’t an indoor or anything, it was just a very small agricultural centre,” says Pippa Funnell with a smile. Now, of course, the NAF International Hartpury Horse Trials looks rather different – held within the grounds of a university campus, best known for its industry-leading equine degrees, it’s one of the best-equipped internationals going.

As you stand atop the mound overlooking the expansive, green-fringed outdoor arena, the international-standard indoor, a bevy of classrooms and lecture theatres, and one of the best-stocked equine therapy centres in the world, you can be forgiven for thinking, “seriously – people go to university here?!” It’s hard to imagine anyone doing a keg stand here (not least because this is England, not an American Pie film), or stumbling bleary-eyed out of residence halls at 2 in the afternoon. In today’s sparkling sunshine, it’s all rather joyous and surreal, the architectural embodiment of two fingers up at anyone who ever said you can’t go to college for horses.

“It’s astonishing how it’s grown over the years,” Pippa says. “It’s one of our top venues in the country now – we come here jumping, too. We’re so lucky to have it.”

Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It’s not just a sightseeing trip for the enormously experienced British stalwart, though. A characteristically competitive score of 24.8 with MGH Grafton Street started Pippa’s day on an enviable – and not unfamiliar – track.

“He’s a really good boy, and he’s improving and getting stronger with every test he does,” says Pippa. “He’s always been pretty solid in this phase, so it’s just about getting the other bits together – but he’s improving, and fingers crossed by the time I get to Burghley he might be good. We’ll see!”

She also rode the nine-year-old Maybach to a provisional top-ten spot, scoring a 28.8 despite a break in the counter-canter.

“He wouldn’t have the same strength, but I was really delighted with his trot work. He just got a little bit bright in his canter and struggled a bit with that counter-canter. He recovered it, but a lot of his issue is just getting stronger. The system I’m doing with him is absolutely right, and now it’s just about being patient and not getting too greedy.”

Armed with an endless string of homebred and sourced showjumpers and eventers at her Surrey base, Pippa is arguably one of the country’s leading producers of young horses. When you see her ride two very different horses, each occupying a different end of the experience spectrum, it’s easy to see why.

“When you ride so many different horses each day, one of the things you always have to bear in mind is that you might have a system you believe in, but every horse is so individual in the way they think and how they’re built that you have to change the way you ride to help them,” she explains. “99% of horses don’t want to be naughty – it’s up to us to get inside their heads and work out how to get the brain on side. The brain comes on side when you ride them to help them, to help their physical build. Some people might have come out of that test on Maybach and been cross about the fact that he’d changed, but actually, he didn’t change because he’s naughty, he changed because he struggles to sit in the canter. Where I possibly went wrong is that I spent five minutes too long on him – that’s it. He had a bit of time off in the spring and although he’s cardiovascularly fit, he’s lost some of that topline muscle tone. It’s a bit of a thinking game – you have to think about each individual horse.”

Emily King and Brookleigh. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Despite an enormously successful day, Pippa certainly can’t rest on her laurels – Emily King and Brookleigh might have to be content with second place overnight, but their score of 24.9 keeps them well in the hunt. This will be a fourth international start for the pair after a tendon injury saw the seventeen-year-old gelding sit out three seasons. Earlier this summer, though, he proved that the break hadn’t dulled his competitive spirit when he added just a single time penalty to his dressage score of 23.6 to finish third in Bramham’s CCI4*-S.

“It’s so nice to go out there and feel like he’s enjoying his job – he had a bit of a wiggle at one point, but it’s great, because it shows how well he’s feeling,” says Emily, who made her five-star debut aboard the former Clayton Fredericks ride in 2015, finishing fourth. They then headed to their first Badminton in 2016, producing the goods yet again to lie second after dressage. But it wasn’t to be: a fast and classy clear round across the country was scuppered by a surprise fall at the penultimate fence. But after three years without her horse of a lifetime, Emily isn’t wasting a moment on regrets.

Emily King and Dargun. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Emily also sits equal third on 25.4 with Dargun, her 2018 Bramham Under-25 winner.

“It’s so lovely to just have my two boys here this week,” laughs the 23-year-old, who left her family home in Devon to set up shop with boyfriend Sam Ecroyd in Cheshire last year, and is kept busy producing, competing, and selling a string of exciting young horses.

Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Emily shares third place with Australia’s Kevin McNab, riding Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam. This is one of a small string of horses provided for Kevin by the luxury footwear company, which also owns some of Holly Woodhead’s mounts, as well as several international showjumpers.

“[The partnership with Scuderia] is something we’ve been working on for a few years, and it’s really coming along now,” says Kevin. “It’s gradually getting to the point where we’ve got some horses to a fun place, so the work is beginning to show, but it’s actually not that new of a relationship.”

Originally produced by Hannah Bate, Don Quidam contested the Blenheim eight-and-nine-year-old class in 2017 before Kevin took over the ride. He returned to international competition the following autumn, showjumping internationally in Lier before making a calculated ascent back to four-star. Though Kevin opted to withdraw him before cross-country in his last run at Barbury, he’s enjoyed three top-ten finishes at CCI4*-S (Luhmühlen, Burnham Market) and CCI4*-L (Sopot) previously this spring.

Will Furlong and Collien P 2. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Young British rider Will Furlong showed a continued proclivity for this phase with Collien P 2. The 2019 season has seen the pair push their low-30s scores down into the 20s, and while today’s score of 26.5 doesn’t quite match the lofty heights they hit when posting a 23 at Burnham Market this spring, it does set them up well for their week. They sit fifth at the halfway stage.

Consistent dressage performers Millie Dumas and Artistiek lie in sixth place provisionally on a score of 27.5, while Will Rawlin and his Bramham podium partner VIP Vinnie showed that they’re not just a flash in the pan. Their score of 27.8 sees them hold onto seventh place.

James Avery and Aloha. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

New Zealand’s James Avery proved the potency of a new partnership, delivering a classy test with Aloha for a 28.1 and overnight eighth. This is just James’ third international with the fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse, the ride of which he took over from Matt Heath at the beginning of this year. They’ve racked up top three finishes in three-stars at Tattersalls and Camphire, and this weekend, they’ll make their four-star debut as a partnership. This is one of those interesting horses who seems to have been ridden by just about everyone at some point – he was produced by Jonelle Price, and then briefly ridden by Irish rider Brian Cournane and Oliver Townend before Tiana Coudray took over in 2015. She had the ride for a year, and then the gelding had a year out before Matt took over. Now, with James in the irons, he seems to be going the best he ever has: in their two internationals together, they’ve produced dressage scores well below his average and they’ve delivered two FODs – the only FODs of Aloha’s career.

The 104 strong CCI4*-S is fully stocked with major names, among them some of the horse-and-rider combinations we’ll be watching at the Longines FEI European Championships and the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. Among tomorrow’s showpieces are Sarah Bullimore and Reve du Rouet, first reserves for Great Britain’s Luhmühlen squad, as well as Piggy French and her two top horses – Burghley-bound Badminton victor Vanir Kamira and team ride Quarrycrest Echo. We’ll also get a chance to see World Number One Tim Price, who brings forward Bango and Ringwood Sky Boy, both of whom head to Burghley next month. Tom McEwen and Tina Cook will also enjoy final runs on Toledo de Kerser and Billy the Red, respectively, before a trip to Luhmühlen in two-and-a-half weeks’ time. We’ve got two Americans in the mix, too – Lexi Scovil will ride Chico’s Man VDF Z, while Katherine Coleman pilots Monte Classico.

There’s no live stream from Hartpury, unfortunately, but keep it locked on to EN – we’ll bring you everything you need to know from this pivotal event.

Until tomorrow – Go Eventing!

The top ten after the first day of dressage at Hartpury.

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The Czech Republic and Norway Name Riders for European Championships [Updated 08/14]

Eliska Opravilova and Dunkas A. Photo by Daniel Tarka.

It might be a far cry from the star-studded announcements delivered by the likes of Great Britain and Germany, but here at EN, we’re all about championing those nations and riders who are making their first bold strides on the path to world domination. We’ll see some of those developing nations represented at the European Championships, taking place from the 28th of August – 1st September at Luhmühlen in Germany.

While these countries won’t join the fight for those two coveted Tokyo qualifications – without fielding a full team here, they’ll be ineligible to do so — the Europeans offers them a fantastic opportunity to gain experience and exposure on the world stage. (There will also be a few individual spots up for grabs for NOCs who don’t earn a team spot for the Olympics — we’ll be looking at this in more detail later this season!)

Two such nations have confirmed the riders they’ll be sending to Luhmühlen later this month. First up is the Czech Republic, with two riders named – congratulations to:

  • Eliska Opravilová and Dunkas A, owned by the rider
  • Robert Pokorny and Floor, owned by Jezdecky Klub NH CAR, LTD

[8/14 Update: the Czech Republic will only send Eliska Opravilová and Dunkas A to the European Championships.]

30 year old Eliska has been eventing internationally for seven years, after a busy junior career that saw her turn her hand to national-level dressage and international showjumping competition, as well as an avid sideline in polo. Her partnership with the sixteen-year-old Belgian warmblood Dunkas A is a relatively new one: they teamed up in 2017, moving up to four-star (then three-star) at the end of 2018. Since then, they’ve notched up clear cross-country runs at Strzegom CCI4*-S, Baborowko CCI4*-S, and Sopot CCI3*-L, and ran well but picked up an unfortunate eleven penalties in the CCI4*-L at Strzegom earlier this summer.

Dunkas A, for his part, has rather a lot of experience: Eliska is his fifth international partner, and he’s been ridden under four flags. In 2010, he finished 35th in the Seven Year Old World Championship under Belgium’s Paul Laurijssen, before Dutch rider Raf Kooremans took the reins for the first half of the 2011 season, successfully moving the horse up to four-star (then three-star) in the process. That September, Marc Rigouts of Belgium took the ride over, managing top-twenty finishes at Montelibretti and Bramham. In 2012, he piloted Dunkas A at the London Olympics, although they retired in the showjumping. After sitting out the 2015 season, Dunkas A spent 2016 with Germany’s Jörg Kurbel before heading to his current rider.

Robert Pokorny‘s mare Floor, on the other hand, is one of the youngest horses in the competition — at just nine years old, she’s contested fourteen internationals thus far, all with Robert in the irons. She finished 21st in 2016’s Six Year Old World Championship, winning her next international start — a CCI2*-S at Feldbach — with a 30.8 FOD. She moved up to four-star this May, executing a slow clear in Baborowko’s CCI4*-S for 21st place. Then, she delivered another clear — this one slightly faster — at Strzegom CCI4*-L in June for 12th place. Like Eliska, Robert will be making his championship debut.

Norway’s Hans Bauer and Præstegaardens Leopold. Photo courtesy of Roger Svalsrød/hesteguiden.com.

Norway, too, has announced its sole representative for the Europeans: Hans Bauer will ride Præstegaardens Leopold, owned by Blakstad Rideklubb, in his second championship appearance. Hans and the thirteen-year-old Danish Warmblood — his only international ride — helped make Norwegian eventing history in 2017, when they were part of Norway’s first-ever Europeans team. The year prior, they were in the Scandinavian country’s first Nations Cup team, too, following it up with another team appearance at the series finale at Boekelo. Though their mid-30s dressage scores will stop them from competing with the likes of Ingrid Klimke and Michael Jung, Hans and his stalwart partner have proven their consistency across the country over and over again: they’ve produced the goods over some seriously tough courses, with an 86% clear rate over their international career.

To those intrepid riders putting in the work to get their countries on the map — we salute you. This year’s European Championships will be closely fought, but it’ll be special for more than just its medal-winning teams — the competition is a phenomenal stepping stone for the great eventing nations of the future. And that sort of progress is what we’re all about, folks.

[Ready for the European Championships]

Germany Names 12-Strong Line-Up for European Championships

Ingrid Klimke heads a German domination at Aachen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Following a final selection trial at Poland’s Strzegom Horse Trials over the weekend, the Deutsches Olympiade-Komitee für Reiterei (DOKR) has named its squad for this month’s FEI Longines European Championships, taking place at Turniergesellschaft Luhmühlen from the 28th of August to the 1st of September.

As the host nation, Germany is allowed double the number of competitors as any other nation – while their final team, to be announced after the first horse inspection, while consist of four riders, they’re able to bring forward up to eight individual competitors, too.

There are few surprises in this very strong team, though one notable absence – double German national champions and 2017 Luhmühlen CCI5*-L winners Julia Krajewski and Samourai du Thot will not be in attendance, after an announcement from Julia earlier this week confirmed that Sam hasn’t yet returned to full fitness following some time off for a bruised foot, which also saw him miss CHIO Aachen in July.

Though this unfortunate absence certainly opens the door, the German team still can’t be underestimated. Germany is the second winningest nation in European Championships history, with 39 medals won since the competition’s inception in 1953. From 2011 through to 2015 they dominated the podium, winning team gold medals at Luhmühlen (2011), Malmö (2013), and Blair Castle (2015), while Michael Jung took individual gold at each, riding La Biosthetique Sam FBW (2011), Halunke (2013), and fischerTakinou (2015). 2011’s individual podium was entirely made up of German riders, and in the last three iterations, Germans have taken all but bronze. Though the team had to settle for a silver medal at 2017’s Strzegom championships, Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD took the individual title, and will defend it later this month.

Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH at Aachen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Congratulations to the named horses and riders, listed alphabetically:

  • Sandra Auffarth and Viamant du Matz, owned by Nikolaus Prinz von Croy
  • Andreas Dibowski and FRH Corrida, owned by BG Corrida
  • Felix Etzel and Bandit 436, owned by the rider
  • Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH, owned by the DOKR, Klaus Fischer, Sabine Fischer and Hilmer Meyer-Kulenkampff
  • Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD, owned by the rider
  • Jörg Kurbel and Josera’s Entertain You, owned by Nico Hauf
  • Nadine Marzahl and Valentine 18, owned by Heike Kikuth
  • Andreas Ostholt and Corvette 31, owned by Rudolf Westmeyer
  • Kai Rüder and Colani Sunrise, owned by Bernhard Reemtsma
  • Anna Siemer and FRH Butt’s Avondale, owned by Prof. Dr. Volker Steinkraus
  • Josefa Sommer and Hamilton 24, owned by Florian Appe
  • Anna-Katharina Vogel and DSP Quintana P, owned by Karin Vogel and the rider

Christoph Wahler and his Houghton winner Carjatan S have been named as direct reserves, while Frank Ostholt and Jum Jum will be second reserves and Claas Herrmann Romeike and Cato round out the squad as third reserves.

Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S take top honours in Houghton’s CCIO4*-S class. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The German team has been on excellent form so far this season, taking Nations Cup victories at Houghton International, England, and Strzegom, Poland, as well as clinching the win in the team competition at CHIO Aachen. All four members of the latter team have been named to the Europeans squad, although Michael Jung, who rode Star Connection for the team at Aachen, will be partnered with the former Julia Krajewski ride fischerChipmunk FRH, with whom he finished second individually.

Though Germany are already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics next year, they’ll be hoping to regroup and solidify their team performance after a surprising fifth-place finish at last year’s World Equestrian Games.

[EM Versatility: Short List Set Up]

Friday Video from SmartPak: Britain’s First Hijabi Jockey Wins Magnolia Cup

She’s been the talk of the UK equestrian industry this week, and rightly so: when eighteen-year-old Khadijah Mellah saddled up for her racing debut in Goodwood’s Magnolia Cup, a ladies-only charity race supporting medical research charity Wellbeing of Women, she’d only been training for four months. But while her accomplishment in not just completing but winning the popular race is impressive in itself, what’s even more important is the much-needed representation she brings to the forefront of the conversation.

“A big part of my life has just been proving people wrong about what a person like me can achieve,” says the teenager, who lives in Peckham, south London, and rides at Brixton’s Ebony Horse Club. And boy, has she done just that. Khadijah has stormed fearlessly into a sport that, for all its progressiveness where gender roles are concerned, remains inordinately whitewashed – and she’s done so at the maelstrom of a cultural climate that sees Muslims ostracised, targeted, and widely misunderstood by westerners. By wearing her hijab she doesn’t just become the first-ever hijabi jockey – she also wears her faith with pride, allowing it come to the forefront of conversation, and creating a familiar touchstone for many millions of little girls who will now see the horse world as one they, too, could join. And that, folks, is a beautiful thing.

The diversity issue in the equestrian industry is a thorny one, but it’s one that can be aided by open,  empathetic conversation. We encourage you to join in the discussion, but please – keep it kind and keep it productive. We’re all human beings united by one thing – the ineffable love of horses – and only by celebrating our differences can we make it clear that our wonderful, weird industry is a safe space for everyone.

In the meantime, go Khadijah – and go racing. We know she will.

French Team Named for European Championships

Lt Col Thibaut Vallette and Qing De Briot ENE HN. Photo by Eventridermasters.tv/Ben Clarke.

The French Equestrian Federation has announced its squad for this month’s European Championships, a competition they last medalled at in 2015, when they took bronze. Since then, they’ve delivered some formidable results — Olympic gold, for one, at the Rio Olympics — and although the squad is missing some familiar faces, it’s certainly an exciting one. Congratulations to:

  • Alexis Goury and Trompe l’Oeil d’Emery, owned by the rider
  • Nicolas Touzaint and Absolut Gold HDC, owned by Haras de Coudrettes
  • Christopher Six and Totem de Brecey, owned by François and Juliane Souweine
  • Jean-Lou Bigot and Utrillo du Halage, owned by Florence Assar
  • Sidney Dufresne and Tresor Mail, owned by Agnes Trouble
  • Thibaut Vallette and Qing du Briot ENE HN, owned by Institut Francais du Cheval et de L’Equitation

The squad represents the union with some of France’s most established talents with several of its newest faces. Nicolas Touzaint won Badminton in 2008 and remains the only Frenchman ever to have done so, and although we haven’t seen him on a championship team since 2015, he’s a double European Champion (2003 and 2007), and has helped his team to gold once (Athens Olympics, 2004), silver four times (2003, 2005, 2007 and 2011 Europeans), and bronze once (2013 Europeans). Thibaut Vallette, too, has plenty of team experience, all in partnership with the Cadre Noir-owned Qing du Briot ENE HN – they took team and individual bronze at the 2015 Blair Castle Europeans, and they were part of the gold medal-winning team at the Rio Olympics, where they finished 13th individually. At the 2017 Europeans in Strzegom they failed to medal, though finished 10th individually, and at last year’s World Equestrian Games they took home team bronze and individual sixth.

Somewhat less experienced is Sidney Dufresne, who joined Thibaut on the French team for the 2017 Europeans, finishing 42nd with the striking stallion Tresor Mail. At last year’s WEG, they fared considerably better, ending up 18th overall and sharing in the spoils of that team bronze.

Jean Lou Bigot rides Aktion de Belheme at Le Lion in 2017. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It’ll be a long-awaited return to the squad for Jean-Lou Bigot, who we last saw at a championship in 2005, at the Blenheim Europeans. Prior to that, he received the Olympic call-up once (Sydney 2000, where he finished 12th with Twist la Beige), the World Championships call-up twice (Rome 1998, 16th and The Hague 1994, sixth, both with Twist la Beige), and the Europeans call-up five times (Luhmühlen 1999, eighth, Burghley 1997, eighth, Pratoni 1995, seventh, and Achselschwang 1993, which he duly won. All of these were with Twist la Beige; at Punchestown 1991 he finished 26th with Pass).

It’s a senior championship debut for 24-year-old Alexis Goury, who took home the bronze medal at 2016’s Young Rider European Championships, and finished seventh in his first five-star at Pau last year. On both occasions he rode his selected horse, the 12-year-old Selle Français Trompe l’Oeil d’EmeryChristopher Six also heads to his first championship; he rides Totem de Brecey, with whom he finished 17th at Aachen last month.

[The European Championships: The Die is Cast!]

Reigning European Champions Announce Team for Luhmühlen

Team GB take the spoils at Tryon. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

With team gold medals from 2017’s Strzegom European Championships and last year’s World Equestrian Games stashed in their trophy cabinet, the High Performance managers in the British camp have wasted no time in ensuring their enviable array of horses, riders, and support teams are amply prepared to defend the first of their titles at this month’s FEI Longines European Championships in Luhmühlen (28 August – 1 September).

Though that cheeky little gold number at Tryon ensured their qualification for Tokyo, the European Championships remain a pivotal part of the calendar for Team GB, who have been on a sharp upward trajectory since the instatement of performance manager Dickie Waygood and performance coach Chris Bartle at the end of 2016. Great Britain is the most-medalled country at these Championships, with 82 to their name – in fact, they’ve only been off the team podium twice since the instatement of the Europeans in 1953 – and now, it’s all about looking ahead to the Tokyo Olympics, at which they’ll be aiming to collect their first team gold medal since 1972.

Six riders have been selected to the British squad, of which four will be named to the team and two will compete as individuals. The final selection will be made at Luhmühlen. Congratulations to:

  • Laura Collett and London 52, owned by Karen Bartlett, Keith Scott, and the rider. Groom: Zanie King
  • Tina Cook and Billy the Red, owned by Elisabeth Murdoch. Groom: Rachel Tolley
  • Piggy French and Quarrycrest Echo, owned by Jayne McGivern. Groom: Amy Phillips
  • Kitty King and Vendredi Biats, owned by Diana Bown, Sally Eyre, Samantha Wilson, and Sally Lloyd-Baker. Groom: Chloe Fry
  • Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser, owned by Fred and Penny Barker, Jane Inns, and Alison McEwen. Groom: Lucy Seddon
  • Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class, owned by Angela Hislop. Grooms: Suzi Cooper and Charlotte Hollyfield

Three of the combinations named – Tina Cook and Billy the Red, Piggy French and Quarrycrest Echo and Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser – represented Great Britain at last year’s WEG, while the remaining three horses will make their championships debuts off the back of strong results this spring. Laura Collett and London 52 won Chatsworth’s Event Rider Masters leg in May after taking the spoils in Blenheim’s eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S last autumn, while Kitty King and Vendredi Biats won both Bramham CCI4*-L and Burgham CCI4*-S. Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class, for their part, took Kentucky CCI5*-L for the second year.

Both Piggy French and Oliver Townend have been selected with direct reserve horses – for the former, that’s Trevor Dickens’ Badminton-winning Vanir Kamira, and for the latter, it’s Burghley winner Ballaghmor Class, owned by Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop, and Val Ryan.

Sarah Bullimore and Reve du Rouet at Luhmühlen’s CCI5*-L. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Four immediate reserves have also been named. These are:

  • Alex Bragg and Zagreb, owned by Philip and Sally Ellicott
  • Sarah Bullimore and Reve du Rouet, owned by Christopher and Susan Gillespie and Brett Bullimore
  • Pippa Funnell and Majas Hope, owned by Marek Sebastak and the rider
  • Tom McEwen and Figaro van het Broekxhof, owned by Barbara Cooper

“I am very excited about the squad selection, which includes four senior gold medallists from recent championships,” says Dickie Waygood. “It allows Team GBR to be competitive while still investing in the future, with several horses receiving their first team call-up. While Tokyo 2020 qualification is already secured, this European Championships is an important part of our Olympic preparations, so I’d like to thank all the riders and their owners for making their horses available for selection.”

Chloe Fry and Vendredi Biats at Bramham. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

You may have noticed an extra detail in Team GB’s selection list – they’ve made the fantastic decision to champion the grooms of the selected horses, recognising their essential role in their charges’ performance.

“It was such a shock when we got the news,” says Chloe Fry, who works as travelling head girl for Kitty King. “Vendredi Biats did really well at Bramham and Burgham, so he and Kitty deserve a place, but it was so amazing to actually hear that they have been selected. To represent Team GBR is a massive achievement and to do it with this horse means so much. I’m so excited, I used to dream about being a team groom and now having the opportunity to do it is amazing.”

Zanie King, the long-time right-hand woman to Laura Collett, agrees: “For me, it is unbelievable to be selected, especially when you have such a close working relationship with the horse and rider – it means the world. I’m just delighted for Laura and for ‘Dan’. You never assume anything, but when you get selected it brings it all together. It’s a massive reward for lots of talent and hard work that has been put in by all of the team. I love being a team player and working as part of Team GBR is really special.”

[Team GBR Names a Talented Squad to Defend its European Title]

WEG Silver Medallists Ireland Announce European Championships Team [Updated: 8/8]

Cathal Daniels and Rioghan Rua. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

A second team has been announced for the forthcoming FEI European Championships, to be held at northern Germany’s Turniergëlande Luhmühlen from the 28th of August through the 1st of September. As team silver medallists at last year’s World Equestrian Games, Ireland have secured their qualification for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, and they certainly haven’t been resting on their laurels since then. The announcement comes just days after the Irish team took silver at their home Nations Cup at Camphire, while Sam Watson won his second four-star of the year with Imperial Sky.

Five riders and six horses have been named to the Irish squad, of which five combinations will ultimately travel to Germany and four will be named to the team. Congratulations to:

  • Clare Abbott and Euro Prince, owned by Cormac McKay
  • Cathal Daniels and Rioghan Rua, owned by Frank and Margaret Kinsella
  • Sarah Ennis and Woodcourt Garrison, owned by Breda Kennedy
  • Ciaran Glynn and November Night, owned by Susanna Francke and Peter Cole
  • Sam Watson and Imperial Sky, owned by Cathy Byrne and Hannah Watson, or Tullabeg Flamenco, owned by Vahe Bogossian

[8/2 update: Tony Kennedy and Westeria Lane will replace Clare Abbott and Europrince on the squad after Europrince picked up an injury. Irish eventing team manager Sally Corscadden announced, “Stepping up to join the squad will be U25 rider Tony Kennedy and his experienced horse Wisteria Lane. We are very fortunate to have a combination that have already successfully completed Luhmühlen this year finishing a very credible 14th. Tony was a member of the bronze medal winning Young Rider (U21) team at the Strzegom Europeans in 2015 alongside teammate Cathal Daniels. This is a great opportunity for Tony to debut on a senior team.” The updated squad is Cathal Daniels riding Rioghan Rua, Sarah Ennis riding Woodcourt Garrison, Ciaran Glynn riding November Night, Tony Kennedy riding Westeria Lane and Sam Watson riding Imperial Sky. [Horse Sport Ireland]

“This year has been about building on our success from the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon, where Ireland won Team and Individual Silver Medals and became the first Irish sports team to secure Olympic qualification for Tokyo 2020,” says High-Performance Eventing Director Sally Corscadden. “The bar in European eventing is set very high, so we are sending experienced combinations to represent Team Ireland at the Europeans. We can be full of confidence going to Luhmühlen with four-star international wins earlier in the year from European squad member Sam Watson, and a great team result last weekend at our home Nations Cup in Camphire.”

Just one combination on the list contested last year’s WEG – Cathal Daniels and his feisty mare Rioghan Rua finished 26th individually, and have since finished sixth in the Event Rider Masters at Chatsworth, before going on to win Bramham’s under-25 CCI4*-L. Both Sam Watson and Sarah Ennis featured on the team at Tryon, though on different horses – Sam rode Ardagh Highlight, while Sarah rode her long-time partner Horseware Stellor Rebound.

“Fellow European squad members, Ciaran Glynn and Clare Abbott produced top-class performances in Badminton, one of only six annual International five-star events, and Sarah Ennis, part of the silver medal-winning WEG team, is a proven Championship rider,” continues Sally.

The team will be accompanied by a full bevy of support staff, including Grant Wilson, who takes over as showjumping coach from Ian Fearon. The Irish team will be aiming for its first European Championships podium finish since 1995, when they took team bronze and individual gold (Lucy Thompson and Welton Romance) at Italy’s Pratoni del Vivaro.

[Olympians and World Champions among Senior Eventing Squad named for the European Championships]

Switzerland Names Team for European Championships

Felix Vogg and Colero at the 2018 World Equestrian Games. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

We’re now just four weeks away from the start of the 2019 European Championships, which will see us head back to Luhmühlen in northern Germany for the second time this summer. 17 nations will go head-to-head in pursuit of not just a roster of medals, but of valuable Tokyo qualification, too: the two highest-placed teams not already qualified for the Games will secure their spot at this pivotal championship.

The catch? 12 of the 17 nations entered are after those two spots. One of those is Switzerland, who announced their final squad of six today, well ahead of the August 12 final deadline. Congratulations to:

  • Caroline Gerber and Tresor de Chignan CH, owned by Claude Gerber
  • Robin Godel and Grandeur de Lully CH, owned by Jean-Jacques Fünfschilling
  • Roxane Gonfard and Opi de Saint Léo, owned by the rider
  • Camille Guyot and Ulsan de Lacorée, owned by the rider
  • Tiziana Realini and Toubleu de Reuire, owned by Samuel Siegenthaler and Heinz-Günter Wickenhäuser
  • Felix Vogg and Colero, owned by Jürgen Vogg, or Archie Rocks, owned by Phoenix Eventing S.a.r.l., Jürgen Vogg, and the rider

Four of the final six combinations will be named to the Swiss team upon commencement of the Championships, while the remaining two will ride as individuals. Just two of the named combinations represented Switzerland at last year’s WEG: Robin Godel and Grandeur de Lully CH finished 60th individually, while Felix Vogg and Colero – then based in the States full-time – finished 70th, but haven’t been seen out of the top six in an international since.

The Swiss team is headed up by chef d’equipe and team vet Dominik Burger, and are assisted by trainers Ernst WettsteinPeter Hasenböhler, and Kiwi legend Andrew Nicholson, who was drafted in as cross-country coach at the tail end of last year.

“With a strong team result, we can secure us one of the two remaining quota places for participation in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo,” says Burger.

We’ll be bringing you further team announcements as they roll in, as well as a comprehensive form guide and field analysis once all the combinations – including the twelve put forward by host nation Germany – have been confirmed. In the meantime, go Switzerland – and Go Eventing!

[Swiss Team Selected for European Championships]

Sir Mark Todd Announces Retirement from Eventing

Mark Todd at Burghley. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Sir Mark Todd has announced his retirement from eventing in an emotional prize-giving ceremony at Ireland’s Camphire International Horse Trials. The announcement came as the crack Kiwi team of Mark, Tim Price, and Jonelle Price took top honours in the event’s leg of the FEI Nations Cup series. Mark rode his long-time five-star partner, Pete and Di Brunsden’s Leonidas II, with whom he finished fifth individually in the class.

“Victories always seem to come with bittersweet moment at the same time, so while it’s a good day for us, for team New Zealand, and for our athletes – who rose to the occasion and carried what’s going to be the new format at the Games to victory today – I do want to single out Sir Mark Todd,” said team New Zealand chef d’equipe Graeme Thom during the presentation. “Four Badmintons, five Burghleys, two Olympic golds, and countless other victories that are too many to mention today. He’s been an inspiration, he’s been a true competitor, an above all of that, he’s been a fantastic gentleman within the sport – someone today who is definitely leaving the room better than when he arrived.”

“I know that everyone will miss him,” he continued, “and we certainly won’t let him disappear from us – we’ll find something for him!”

Where do you even begin when trying to catalogue all the accomplishments that make Toddy one of the greats, not just in eventing, but in all of sporting history? It’s not just all those five-star wins – though they certainly play their part – nor is it the many team appearances and medals that he’s notched up through the years. Perhaps it’s the slight intangibles: the fact that he casually competed in showjumping at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the unforgettable moment that his stirrup leather broke on course at Badminton in 1995, but he completed nonetheless. Maybe it’s that he remains one of the only riders ever to take back-to-back Olympic golds riding the same horse – the ineffable Charisma – or maybe it’s something to do with the fact that no matter how many medals he wins or trophies he lifts, one thing never changes: he remains enormously generous with his knowledge, his time, and his incomparable wry humour.

Even the royals have recognised his excellence: in 1995, Mark’s 1985 MBE was upgraded to Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s birthday honours, and in 2013, he was formally made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace. His many titles and accolades don’t stop there: in 1999, he was named the FEI’s Eventing Rider of the Century and the same year, the UK’s Horse & Hound magazine crowned him their Equestrian Personality of the Century after a decisive public vote.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Mark retire from the sport: in 2000, following his bronze medal at the Sydney Olympics, he stepped back from competition to move back to his native New Zealand and focus on his interests in racing. In 2004, he acted as coach for the Kiwi eventing team at the Athens Olympics, and in 2008, he announced that he was making a long-awaited return to international competition with an aim to compete at that summer’s Games.

“I never thought I’d come back full time,” he said in an interview with The Telegraph. “It was just a bit of a dare to see if I could make it back to the Olympics in six months.”

He did just that, riding NZB Gandalf to a top twenty finish. Two more Olympics followed, making him the second-oldest Kiwi to ever compete at a Games, and the most-medalled New Zealand athlete – an honour he shares with canoeists Ian Ferguson and Paul McDonald. He was also the first Kiwi to compete at seven Olympics, and the 28-year margin between his first and last Olympic medals equals the record for the longest gap recorded.

Mark Todd wins Badminton 2011 with NZB Land Vision, over thirty years after winning the event on his debut in 1980. Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors/Kit Houghton.

In 2011, Mark lifted the Badminton trophy for the fourth time, making him the oldest-ever winner of the event. You might think us rather rude for continually referencing his age, but it’s an essential point to make – at 63, the evergreen eventer just keeps giving. Even now, when most normal people are opting to cash in their pensions and getting really into early-evening radio dramas, he’s diving head-first back into the busy world of flat racing.

“I’m not so much retiring as changing careers,” says Mark. “We decided about two weeks ago that we were going to do it. But it’s all still very surreal – it’s been very emotional. I’m just lucky that I got to go out riding one of my old favourites in Leonidas, and on the podium with my old friends Tim and Jonelle, who I’ve ridden with many times.”

Mark Todd and his biggest fan (or is Toddy Chinch’s biggest fan?)

Fortunately for us, Mark isn’t planning an exodus back to New Zealand – instead, he’s working on converting Badgerstown, his Wiltshire base, back into a training facility. And he won’t be entirely separate from the eventing world, either – his involvement with the Bridging the Gap Scholarship, a training and bursary scheme designed to help talented riders transition from the young rider rankings to senior competition, will continue, and he hasn’t ruled out further opportunities as a coach, either. But will we see a second comeback to international sport?

“I can bet you any odds that you won’t,” he laughs. Despite that, he counts his 2011 Badminton victory as one of his fondest memories across an almost ludicrously storied career: “to win there after an eight-year break – a long time by anyone’s standards! – was really special,” he says.

Sir Mark Todd and McClaren at the World Equestrian Games in 2018. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

And what of his horses? Well, that’s a work in progress, as he tells us – but the small string of top-notch talent will be rerouted to other riders or, alternately, sold. Among them is Kiltubrid Rhapsody, the gorgeous grey with whom he came infuriatingly close to winning Burghley last year – “he’ll make a great team horse for someone next year,” says Mark.

So what has been the secret to a career spanning over forty years at the top?

“I’ve been so lucky to have great horses, and great owners, and a great team working with me,” he explains. “I’m naturally very competitive, and I’ve been lucky not to have had any major injuries, and I’ve had the drive to keep going. But I think a mid-career break certainly helped!”

Mark Todd and Kiltubrid Rhapsody at Badminton. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

Our dreaming hearts won’t rule out another charge to the top in a few years, but for now, ten racehorses – “and probably more to come!” – will be enough to keep Sir Mark busy enough in his next wave of youth. In the meantime, join us in raising a glass to Sir Mark Todd, the harbinger of pony-mad daydreams, the poster-boy for generations, and the Kiwi who, as Vaughn Jefferis once said, “…was the first, and he paved the way for us.” He has paved the way for all of us in some way – as the indefatigable face of New Zealand’s formidable eventing front, as the person who made us all realise what we can do if we set our minds to it, and as the endlessly generous bastion of knowledge that has kept us media louts’ trains forever pulling into Inspiration Station. Here’s to Toddy, and here’s to eventing – a funny little world, the terrain of which has forever been shaped by his contribution.

The floor is all yours, dear readers – we’d love to read your favourite memories of the great Sir Mark and his whopper of a career. Have you met him, known him, competed against him, or been inspired by him? Do you remember where you where when he won that second Olympic gold? Was he your first celebrity crush? Leave your memories in the comments, and let’s celebrate one of the coolest career trajectories we’re ever likely to witness.

Friday Video from SmartPak: Nicky Hill Takes Hickstead Eventer’s Challenge

Nicky Hill and Kilrodan Sailorette race to victory in Hickstead’s Eventer’s Challenge. Photo by Emily Gailey.

Despite making her first appearance at England’s Hickstead show ground — and, as such, her first trip around the iconic International Arena, best known for hosting the famous Hickstead Derby — 27-year-old Nicky Hill clocked the fastest round to win the Amlin Eventer’s Challenge with eleven-year-old Kilrodan Sailorette. Remarkably, she took the win as the class’s trailblazer, which gave her no chance to suss out the best lines and approaches to the myriad tricky questions, including a sojourn down the side of the Hickstead Derby bank, a scuttle over a slightly smaller (though no less intimidating) Irish bank, and a trip through the notoriously tough Devil’s Dyke, named for a local natural landmark.

Paul Tapner and Bonza King of Rouges give it a bit of welly after the final fence. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Together, the British rider — who was named best first-timer at Badminton this spring — and her newly-minted four-star horse took economical lines and delivered blistering turns, speeding across the finish line with a total time of 121.65 seconds, after adding four seconds when they knocked the first element of the Devil’s Dyke. This relegated Paul Tapner and Bonza King of Rouges, on the hunt for a record third win, into second place on their final score of 122.8.

“I hoped she’d have a good chance of doing quite well, and I went in there hoping I could give it a good shot,” says Nicky of the diminutive mare, who she describes as ‘the ultimate chestnut mare.’ “I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to go for it, set the bar high, and give everyone something to ride for.’ She’s awesome, but she’s so bold — too bold, sometimes! I was worried she might try to jump from the top of the bank.”

Gemma Tattersall and Chico Bella P stretch for the final stride. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Last to go was Gemma Tattersall, riding her own pocket-rocket mare Chico Bella P. Remarkably, the mare hasn’t seen a cross-country fence in a year — but that certainly didn’t slow her down, and she finished third.

Want to see Nicky’s lightning-fast round? Check out the video, courtesy of Hickstead — and try to keep breathing when you see how the feisty mare tackles the bank…!

Who Jumped it Best: Aachen Edition

After a couple of days of processing time (read: a couple of days of driving around Germany, eating every sausage I could get my grubby little hands on and mourning the end of the CHIO for another year) I’ve reached something like terra firma, a sense of self that isn’t defined by a comically oversized accreditation pass around my neck, and a place of mental calm from which I can process, analyse, and compartmentalise the incredible week of competition.

Nah, I’m just kidding. I’m still loopy with overstimulation and as heartbroken as a girl whose long-distance boyfriend just boarded a plane home to California. I want to get straight back into my car and move into the Champions Circle, growing increasingly feral and subsisting entirely on free mojitos and Ritter Sport bars until the whole thing begins again next summer. Aachen, you have bewitched me body and soul and I, I, I … love you.

With a magnum opus of a reporter’s notebook on the horizon, I’ve got a veritable mountain of extra content to sift through and emotions (SO! MANY! EMOTIONS!) to process. So in the meantime, let’s turn to a comforting favourite. It’s time to decide which horse and rider jumped the second element of the SAP Water Combination best.

This combination came at the tail end of the tough course, just before the influential skinny tractors of the Stawag question, and featured a beefy rolltop into the water followed by a bending line to this sizeable brush. Once clear of the brush, they had to continue that bending line to the right and pop over a square house, tucked right into the heart of the crowd. With that slight bending line over the brush fence in mind, take a look at the following group of horses and riders, and then scroll down to log your vote for your favourite duo!

Pawel Spisak (POL) and Banderas. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Gemma Tattersall (GBR) and Jalapeno. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Caroline Martin (USA) and Islandwood Captain Jack. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

James Avery (NZL) and Mr Sneezy. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Michael Jung (GER) and Star Connection. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sandra Auffarth (GER) and Viamant du Matz. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Malin Josefsson (SWE) and Golden Midnight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kevin McNab (AUS) and Willunga. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Julien Guillot (FRA) and Elvis. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

CHIO Aachen: Website, Entries & Start Times, Live Scoring, Live Stream, EN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

Michael Jung to Make German Showjumping Team Debut

Michael Jung and fischerRocana FST. FEI/Jon Stroud Photo.

Fresh off the back of (almost) total world domination at last week’s CHIO Aachen, the maestro of eventing has eschewed the idea of a rest day entirely, instead choosing to load up five of his showjumpers ready for a trip to the Royal International Horse Show at England’s historic Hickstead show ground. Even more excitingly, he’ll be making his showjumping team debut as a member of Germany’s Nation Cup team.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Ze Terminator tackle the coloured poles — he’s been competing at the CSI5* level for almost eight years, and took his first 5* win in a 1.40m speed class last season at Bordeaux with fischerDaily Impressed (Cartani X Impression). He maintains an enviable string of showjumpers at his base in Bad Soden am Taunus, spearheaded by eleven-year-old fischerChelsea (Check In X Argentia E) and Dante RZ (Diarado x Alabama), both of whom will compete at Hickstead.

Nor is it the first time we’ve seen him earn a showjumping squad call-up: he was selected for the German team for Abu Dhabi’s Nations Cup at the beginning of last year, but didn’t compete. His selection this week is a last-minute call-up to the squad after the withdrawal of Holger Wulschner.

“Michael Jung is an absolute legend in the horse world, and we are honoured that he is making his Nations Cup five-star debut here at the All England Jumping Course,” says Hickstead Director Lizzie Bunn. “There are very few riders in the world who are capable of competing at the highest level in eventing, showjumping and dressage, and we’re sure Michael’s legions of fans will be keen to see him in action as he jumps for the very first time.”

If you’re not at Hickstead, you can keep an eye on the competition — which includes a star-studded Eventer’s Challenge class tomorrow — online. The competition will be live-streamed on Hickstead.tv and ClipMyHorse.tv, while Friday and Sunday’s feature classes, the Longines FEI Nations Cup and the Longines BHS King George V Gold Cup, respectively, will be broadcast on FEI TV. We’ll be on-site to follow his progress and bring you all the news from the Eventer’s Challenge, too, in which Paul TapnerAlex BraggJoseph Murphy and more go head to head in the iconic main arena.

Ingrid Klimke Takes Record Third Win at Aachen

Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD take Aachen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It’s a very Happy Hale Bob Day indeed, as the eponymous SAP Hale Bob OLD and veritable legend of the sport Ingrid Klimke clinched their third Aachen victory after producing the fastest round of the day. This makes Ingrid the first rider ever to win here three times – and also, curiously, the first rider to win having knocked a pole. (Though we suspect most people aren’t delivering 20.7 dressage scores, either.)

The fifteen-year-old Oldenburg gelding was buoyed home by an infectiously enthusiastic home crowd,

“It was a tough course, definitely,” says Ingrid. “There were several difficulties on the course, and we knew we’d have to pay attention and take our time for the narrow fences. But when I saw Michi [Jung] ride it [with first horse, Star Connection] I thought, no, I’m going to go for it – he took shorter turns and that helped me make a decision on what to do. But there were definitely several fences that we’d all been discussing – on Friday night, when all of us went to bed early, I think we all went to bed thinking we really have something ahead of us.”

Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD take the win. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Once firm in her convictions, Ingrid set out to enjoy the ride on her longtime partner.

“We had so much fun out there – he’s so smart, and so clever, and he was so full of himself in the warm-up so we could really go out running,” she says. “Then, I was so up on the clock that I could take my time in places.”

Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

After some tactical planningMichael Jung opted to ride for the time with new partner fischerChipmunk FRH in their final run before a potential Europeans call-up. It paid off, too – they romped home as one of just three combinations to make the time, coming in one second under the optimum time of 6:55. This allowed them to finish on a three-phase score of 25.5, adding just a rail to their impressive dressage result of 21.5.

“He’s a super horse, and really top quality in all three disciplines,” says Michi. “I’m just trying to get a good partnership with him. It’s a big change for him and big change for me, too, but it’s such fun to see how we can work together. I feel a difference at each competition, and at home he just gets better and better.”

Michael Jung and Star Connection. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Michi also rode Star Connection to a seventh place finish – and a significant team contribution –  after adding 5.2 time penalties early on in the day.

“It was quite difficult to go inside the time – the water [at 7ABCD] takes a lot of time, and so do the combinations, and then you have to gallop really fast,” he says. “But we have a couple of factors to keep in mind here. First, the ground is unbelievable in Aachen. It’s always fantastic, and it’s soft for the horses, so you get a great feeling as you gallop. But also, sometimes on cross-country you have to take a risk, and take a stride out and ride forward. That’s a big thing in Aachen.”

Another Aachen special is the crowds, who enthusiastically cheer on each and every rider as they clear each and every fence, but for whom the home nation heroes are the stars of the show. This year, those crowds were colossal, forcing the event to halt ticket sales for cross-country to avoid finding themselves over capacity.

“It’s a great feeling – everything’s quiet on the way to the fence and then the crowd really goes with you as you land. It’s great motivation; if you go clear they come with you to the next jump, and if you mess up they might say a few words, too,” laughs Michi.

Chris Burton and Quality Purdey. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

For the second year in a row, Chris Burton and Quality Purdey were the only pair to finish on their dressage score. They finished third on 27 after coming home one second inside the time – a round surely aided by Chris’ earlier round on Polystar I, who finished ninth after adding four time penalties and a showjumping pole to his first-phase score of 26.4.

“I think most of the riders will agree with me that this is the toughest course we’ve seen here – Rüdiger has done quite a good job of trying to slow riders down,” says Chris. “I was amazed at how well it rode – there were multiple combinations that were difficult, which meant it slowed you down. It’s very clever.”

Tim Price and Wesko jump through the tough Rolex Water at 7ABCD. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

World Number One Tim Price dropped from overnight second to fourth after picking up 4.8 time penalties with the evergreen Wesko, but such was the quality of the sixteen-year-old’s performances throughout the competition that he’s now considering a final five-star run with the Dutch-bred gelding.

“He was super – I just love that horse to bits,” he says with a rueful smile, adding, “I just needed to go faster. I felt very comfortable out there, and I was under a bit of a false illusion, because so often he’s made the time feel so easy. All the fences were coming up nicely, and I thought we were easily up on the time – but there was much more intensity to the course than I’d anticipated. It was busy everywhere, and there ended up being so many focal points throughout the course, that they just take a bit more time. I realised I was on the time at the skinny fences at 15ABC, and I knew then that I’d lost any chance to get ahead again. From there, we just haemorrhaged seconds.”

Tim Price and Wesko. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Nevertheless Wesko, who’s owned by the Windrush Equestrian Foundation, made easy work of the plethora of influential questions on Rüdiger Schwarz‘s notorious track, following up his 23.8 dressage – a personal best for Tim in his entire international career – and a smart clear showjumping round with a classy performance that belied the difficulty of the course.

Although, at sixteen, he may be in the twilight years of his career, the 2014 Luhmühlen winner is relatively low-mileage. He was sidelined in 2016, 2017, and in the first half of 2018 due to injury, but the time and attention paid to his management is evident in his return to form. Now, there’s a bigger adventure in the pipeline for him.

“I’d like him for the Olympics, and I’ll quietly keep working towards it. It would be a great bookend to his career, because I think he’s been a bit short-changed, really,” says Tim. “He’ll probably head to Pau this autumn, depending on how he comes out of today – although he’s finished in great shape.”

Andrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Australian stalwart Andrew Hoy climbed the ranks from an initial 18th to finish fifth riding Vassily de Lassos, a ten-year-old French-bred gelding produced by, and sourced from, Tom Carlile. Though he’s one of the younger horses in the field, he’s amassed a wealth of experience – he hasn’t finished outside the top five in an international since May of 2018, and has an 80% top-ten completion rate across his entire international eventing career. This includes individual fourth at last year’s World Equestrian Games, which he ran as a nine-year-old. With all eyes on the forthcoming European Championships, we suspect that many of the hopefuls will be breathing a sigh of relief that the competition is no longer an open one.

Piggy French and Quarrycrest Echo lead the way for the British team. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Piggy French and her WEG and Kentucky mount Quarrycrest Echo delivered one of the fastest rounds of the day, stopping the clock just four seconds over the optimum time to add 1.6 penalties to their 28.7 first-phase score. This allowed them to climb from initial 21st to eventual 6th, further securing Piggy’s claim to a spot on the British team for next month’s Europeans, for which she’s been long-listed with both ‘Red’ and her Badminton winner Vanir Kamira.

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

A tough day for Team USA was salvaged at the eleventh hour by an impressive performance from Caroline Martin, making her Aachen debut with the ten-year-old Irish-bred Islandwood Captain Jack. They added 18.8 time penalties to their double-clear jumping round and 36.3 dressage score to finish 21st, climbing 19 places across the course of the competition. Aachen is always a big ask, particularly for a young horse, but the week has proved to be an essential education for the horse who, Caroline says with a laugh, “used to be so rank that I’d have to tack him up and ride him in his field!”

These days, though, her focus has been on helping the rangy gelding to develop physically, making his job easier for him.

“We’ve spent the last few weeks really just focusing on the flatwork, which meant he was really rideable and with me out there – and that’s so important on a course like this, which feels more like showjumping sometimes.”

Caroline has produced the horse from a four-year-old and has been in the irons for every cross-country round he’s tackled, which proved a boon today: “we’ve jumped a lot of corners, and a lot of skinnies, and I know him so well – I’ve done it all myself. My goal since December has been to do Aachen with him; I thought it would be really good for his maturity. I went out there thinking I had to treat the course like I was schooling, because it’s so twisty and turny that it’s not like a normal course. I had to be really accurate – and now we can build on that and begin to take some risks.”

A slip on the flat at the end of the course brought Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z‘s day to an early finish. Though enormously frustrating, the fall came at the tail end of an exciting performance from the eleven-year-old, who will be aimed for Burghley this autumn.

“We both learned a lot from the rest of the course, and he was brilliant,” says Liz. The culprit for their unfortunate blip, which came between the first two elements of the long route at 21ABC, was a lost front shoe. The tight, almost rollback-style turn proved too much for Deniro’s diminished purchase on the ground, and the pair fell – though we’re delighted to report that both are absolutely fine.

So, too, are Phillip Dutton and Z, who suffered a dramatic parting of company while tackling the corner in the water at 7ABCD. We saw five horses misread this corner, which appears after a blind turn, and unusually, most went left-handed into widest part of the fence, rather than ducking out to the right. While some were able to get away with kicking the flag out, Z unfortunately got himself caught up and had to scramble over the jump, tipping Phillip out the front door in the process.

Overnight leaders Laura Collett and London 52. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

42 horses and riders set out on Schwarz’s course following the overnight withdrawal of Tim Lips and Bayro, and 34 would complete it. Of those 34, nine would pick up jumping faults. The problems were scattered around the track, but the Rolex water complex at 7ABCD produced eight, making it the joint most influential combination on course, a dubious honour closely rivalled by 15ABC, the Turkish Airlines complex of skinny arrowheads, which claimed seven.

The most high-profile rider to accrue jumping penalties was overnight leader Laura Collett, who had a surprise stop at the final element of 21ABC, the last combination before the main arena at the end of the course. Their 20 penalties – and subsequent time penalties – dropped them to 20th in the final standings.

“He was class, though – it’s not his fault,” says Laura. “I just took a bit too much away before the corner, and he tried everything in his power to jump it. But he really listened to me out there. Everything came up very forwards, and because I was up on my time I thought I could take a second or two there. But look: the main thing after Bramham was that he came back well, and he has done. He’s only ten, and he’s only been eventing for three years – some of the horses he’s up against today are 16 or 17. Imagine what he’ll be like in a few years’ time!”

The home team took a decisive victory, winning on an aggregate score of 94.5 despite the retirement on course of Josefa Sommer and Hamilton 24.

“The team was well prepared, and we were lucky to win,” says chef d’equipe Hans Melzer. “Hamilton lost a shoe early on, and the decision not to continue was correct. I was sad about the other German riders, though, who had not such a good day – but there are five weeks still until the Europeans, and we’re very happy for them to come to Germany.”

A strong Kiwi contingent takes second place in the nations’ competition. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The New Zealand team finished second on a total score of 102.7, while Australia stepped into third on 112.4.

That’s all for this evening from EN and Aachen – but don’t stray too far, because we’ve got lots of extra content coming your way, including the riotous Jump & Drive competition coming up this evening. Also, sausages. Prepare yourselves (and GO EVENTING!)

The top ten at the conclusion of an action-packed Aachen.

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