Articles Written 771
Article Views 1,940,653

Tilly Berendt

Achievements

Become an Eventing Nation Blogger

About Tilly Berendt

Latest Articles Written

Summer Loving at Luhmühlen: Mollie Summerland Takes First CCI5* Victory

EN’s coverage of Luhmühlen is brought to you in part by Kentucky Performance Products. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products and its wide array of supplements available for your horse.

Mollie and Charly seal the deal. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

As it turns out, sometimes dreams really do come true. That’s certainly been the case for 23-year-old Mollie Summerland, who made the long, tough trip to Luhmühlen, circumnavigating a plethora of travel ban difficulties, to contest her second-ever CCI5* this week. There was always going to be a great shot for her to lead the dressage – this is something of a speciality for both horse and rider — but there’s never any certainty about five-star cross-country, particularly when it claims the scalps of much more experienced pairs. When Mollie and Charly jumped the fastest round of the day to retain their lead, Mollie made sure to enjoy the moment – because she was certain it would be her last day in that position, because showjumping has typically been the phases she’s found the trickiest. Without a trainer there to help her, and with a dimensionally and technically tough track ahead of her, it would take guts and grit to get the job done. And when second-placed Christoph Wahler jumped a foot-perfect clear round ahead of her, there would be no margin for error.

Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

But despite tapping their way around some of the trickier fences on the course, every pole stayed where it was meant to be, and Mollie and Charly sailed through the finish – three seconds over the time allowed, but clear. They’d won, despite having no trainers, Team GB support staff, nor full-time grooms on site with them.

“It doesn’t feel real,” she says, going on to share her unique strategy for preparing for the round.

“I sent the videos to my showjumping trainer, Jay Malin, this morning – I was walking around the course filming the whole way around and he sent me voice notes back of how to ride it,” she explains. “I really struggle in this phase. I don’t have much confidence in the show jumping at all — I’d much rather would go and do the dressage or the cross-country again! But he was just brilliant. He actually was a bit tapping and touching a few, but he just pulled it out of the bag today. It was enough pressure going in there as it was, let alone with Christoph doing a beautiful clear just before.”

Mollie focused on maintaining a positive rhythm around the track, and didn’t realise until after she’d finished that the clock had tipped over into the red.

“I know that I can pick up some time penalties where I get nervous and I probably do one too many strides, so I did try to move up to the triple bar and then round to the final combination, but actually for myself I just wanted to jump a clear, so that was my main priority,” she says. “I’ve spoken a lot to my sport psychologist this week, which has been really helpful. And all she’s ever said was ‘you can’t control anyone else, so just go out there and do the best for yourself and concentrate on your performance, and if it’s good enough on the day then that’s the way it goes’.”

Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden clear the last to record their first CCI5* win. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Mollie’s victory will come as little surprise to anyone who’s followed her career with the 12-year-old Charly van ter Heiden, who she bought as a five-year-old and produced through the levels herself. In the last few seasons, they’ve notched up a string of impressive results against top-class combinations: second at Barbury CCI4*-S to Andrew Nicholson, third at Waregem CCIO4*-S, and top ten finishes in the Nations Cup finale at Boekelo CCI4*-L and at their debut CCI5* at Pau last season. But despite a clear and impressive upward trajectory, this is Mollie’s first time winning a three-day event.

“I’ve never won a three-day, so that’s the first time the national anthem has ever been played for me and I did cry most of the way through it,” she says. “I know my mum would have been sobbing at home watching on the TV. It’s one of those things that you dream about, and I’m very lucky that I got to experience that.”

Both of Mollie’s parents, like her trainers, have had to follow along with the event from home, due to travel restrictions in Germany. But one special connection did manage to make the trip: Charly’s breeder, Klaus Steffens, who hasn’t seen the horse in person in nearly a decade but who considers him the best horse he’s ever bred. With a friend along to translate, Klaus was able to see Charly and Mollie produce their leading cross-country round yesterday — and then be reunited with the horse who’s made so many dreams come true in the wash-off area afterwards.

For Mollie, who has become a popular role model for her candour about mental health, Charly is the horse of a lifetime – and that means that the tricky trip out to Germany, which saw her spend ten days quarantining at the base of Tim Lips in the Netherlands, has just been one of a string of fortuitous gambles.

“He’d never jumped under saddle when I bought him, I just tried him on the flat and that was all that mattered to me,” she says. “So they loose-jumped him for me and he was a good boy — but he jumped once and I said ‘oh, that’s good enough, that’ll do!”

Shortly thereafter, Mollie went to train at Pippa Funnell’s Billy Stud, and decided to bring Charly along.

“I could only take one to Pippa’s and I decided to take Charly, even though he was younger and really naughty, but I just had a gut feeling about the horse. She helped me kind of work out how his brain ticks and how to get the best out of him and I still really try and run by that philosophy in the way I work him at home.”

Once the successes started coming, so, too, did the offers to purchase the horse for significant sums of money.

“I could have sold him for what would have been, for me, a life-changing amount of money,” she says. “Sometimes I was the one saying ‘oh no, we should sell him’ and my dad talked me out of it, and sometimes it was the other way around. Obviously it wasn’t meant to be, and I’m so glad that I’ve still got him because he is absolutely my horse of a lifetime.”

Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S finish second in their first full five-star. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The final top three is populated by these kinds of partnerships, and the home nation was enraptured to see Christoph Wahler take second place aboard the striking grey Carjatan S in their first full five-star. After making the trip to Pau last year and withdrawing before the cross-country after an incredible mid-20s test, Christoph came to Luhmühlen prepared — but without necessarily thinking that he could come so close to the top spot.

“What’s to expect, I don’t know! But he was incredible; I’m so unbelievably proud of him because he really stepped up one more step,” says Christoph, who has worked hard since last year to make major changes to the gelding’s fitness and stamina.

“I already thought he’d be [prepared for the step up], but there’s always little things that we can do better and now today and yesterday especially, that was just foot perfect. You put so much effort to get here and it pays off, and he’s incredible.”

27-year-old Christoph, whose family owns a large dressage stud about 45 minutes from Luhmühlen, has been on a long journey with the gelding, who is one of just a few event horses he runs.

“I got him as a five-year-old from an auction nearby. I think he did the littlest level of cross country with [Swedish eventer] Christoffer Forsberg, and then I got him and since then nobody else has ever competed him,” he says. “He’s always been my horse for the future. There were a couple of people that told me he would be good, but what counted most was when Rudiger Schwarz told me he was a championship horse if I look after him properly. He was just turning six when he saw him for the first time and he said, ‘that’s the sort of horse we’re looking for, and now you just have to develop him well.’”

That prediction came true when Christoph and Carjatan were selected to ride as individuals for Germany in 2019’s European Championships, also held at Luhmühln.

“He did get to a championship two years ago, and now we’re on five-star level — and that’s just insane to go all the way with a horse like that,” Christoph says. Along the way, the journey has been marked with the ups and downs typical of the sport: they’ve picked up excellent results, including that great performance at the Europeans and a team and individual win in the Nations Cup at Houghton in 2019, but they’ve also had trickier times, with some tumbles in waters at four-star level a couple of years ago. For Christoph, even the start of this week was something of a low point: rather than putting another mid-20s score on the board, they had some differences of opinion in the ring to go into cross-country on a 32.1. But producing one of the rounds of the day over Mike Etherington-Smith’s tough track strengthened Christoph’s resolve and rewarded his infallible faith in his own horse of a lifetime.

“He’s a little bit of a special character – you’ve seen him go good and go bad and go very bad and very good,” he says. “But horses like him, you just connect to on a different level than any other horse. IHe’s the first horse I look at in the morning and the last horse I think about in the evening – and there’s many horses in between, but he’s always the first and the last.”

Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan experience plenty of airtime – in all manner of ways – to make their best-ever five-star result happen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

An arduous journey from the United States paid off for Ariel Grald and the Irish Sport Horse gelding Leamore Master Plan, who began their week in eleventh place and steadily climbed throughout the weekend to finish third in their third-ever five-star. Even more remarkably? Each of their runs at the level has come at very different venues: they were 12th at Kentucky in 2019, 10th at an incredibly tough Burghley in the same year, and now, third at twisty, turny Luhmühlen. Though she’d originally planned for a Badminton debut with the horse this year, she was forced to put her plans on hold while she waited to see what might run in 2021.

“I knew I wanted to go abroad again, rather than do another Kentucky, because it was important for me to gain experience by getting out of my comfort zone,” she says. “I’d never been to Luhmühlen before. My horse is pretty strong, he’s a big horse and he likes to really gallop so I’d say this was a little bit of a trickier track, but we specifically chose this event for him to give both him and I a different education and a little bit tighter turns, a little bit more technical – where he can’t just run at everything, which is sort of his style. So I was really impressed with the course, which was beautifully decorated and so well laid out. I think he and I gained a lot of confidence from our run this weekend.”

Ariel has spent nearly a month away from home to make this journey happen, supported along the way by her owners as well as US team coach Erik Duvander, who made the journey to Germany, and fellow competitor Jennie Brannigan.

“I live in North Carolina, but I spent two weeks up in Pennsylvania to get some extra help because Erik Duvander was up north,” she explains. “The horses went to JFK and flew to Liege last week and then had a long lorry ride out here, so we’ve been here since Saturday. The horses traveled great, we’ve had great travel support and to be honest, it was a lot easier than I thought. We were all wound up and we had all these documents, we had everything sorted and were prepared for the worst – and it was actually quite smooth.”

“It definitely was a team effort,” she continues. “We had a lot of support from so many people in the US to get over here, and we’re really lucky that this event was able to run, because I know it’s a really difficult time for everybody and we’ve each had creative journeys to get here. But we have a lot of backing from the US; our team coach Erik Duvander is here for the weekend and we’ve had a lot of help this spring. My owner, Annie Eldridge, wasn’t able to travel over from the US, but I know she’s been waking up very early every morning to watch the live stream, so she’ll be ecstatic. We’re just very, very lucky to be here. It took a lot, but we had a great flight, we had such great hospitality and everybody has been so welcoming here.”

Ariel rides with a maturity and professionalism well beyond her 32 years that makes it hard to believe that Leamore Master Plan is only, in fact, her first-ever four- and five-star horse. Like the two riders ahead of her, she’s known throughout the cheeky horse’s burgeoning career that her faith would be rewarded when he reached the top.

“I couldn’t be happier with my horse,” she says. “I’ve had him since he was a 5-year-old and we’ve kind of come up the levels; he was my first four-star and my first five-star horse and he’s done a lot for me, so I’m so appreciative of every day I get to ride him.”

Luc Chateau and Troubadour Camphoux. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Fourth place goes the way of France’s Luc Chateau, who produced the biggest leaderboard climb of the week to move from 20th place after dressage with Troubadour Camphoux after adding nothing to their first-phase score of 39.8. Behind him, Michael Jung and the youngest horse in the field, CCI5* debutant fischerWild Wave, jumped a classy clear round to take fifth, despite activating a frangible pin on course yesterday.

The final standings in the CCI5*.

Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

To absolutely nobody’s surprise, Michael Jung took the win in the CCI4*-S and German Championship aboard fischerChipmunk FRH – but the surprise did, perhaps, come from the fact that the horse jumped a foot-perfect clear round over an incredibly technical and tough showjumping track. This phase has historically been a weak point for the pair since Michael took the ride on the gelding, who was produced to four-star by fellow countryman Julia Krajewski. Time and careful production has won out, though, and the pair will head to Tokyo looking stronger than ever.

“Chipmunk jumped really good and gave me a really good feeling in the warm-up — powerful, but still listening, and jumping really well,” he says. “You need a very good partnership [to be able to train towards the showjumping improving in this way]; he has to fight with me together. He has to be clever, to watch the fence, to see the last stride and then listen to the rider and how I sit with my leg and hands. It’s a lot of things together, so that takes a lot of time to build that. Definitely, with the spectators, the pressure makes a lot of difference – and there wasn’t that, this time.”

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

Sandra Auffarth took second place on Viamant du Matz, who was named today as her reserve horse for Tokyo – she’ll head to the Games with Let’s Dance 73, who had an uncharacteristic blip across the country yesterday.

“It was so much fun today because he’s such a good jumper and came out so fresh,” she says of Viamant du Matz. “He gave me an amazing round yesterday; he was so powerful, so focused, and so quick in his own way. He’s really special and super safe, so it’s so good to enjoy it. He’s quite a shy horse, especially with different people, so even in his stable he’s always going backwards like ‘what is going on?!’ So you need a lot of time for him to trust you, and in the dressage, he’s needed that time too. He’s a naturally quick horse and always wants to go the short way — sometimes in the dressage arena too, so you always need to stay on your line! But I like that; it makes him super special and so careful. You can’t even ride over a pole on the ground in walk because he’s so shy, but that’s why he’s such a special horse for the jumping.”

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

Australia’s Andrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos produced their best-ever test as a partnership on Friday, scoring a 27.6, before delivering the fastest round of the day yesterday. Today, they jumped a flawless clear round to finish on their dressage score, giving their own Olympic hopes a fighting chance.

“It’s definitely going in the right direction, but this kind of thing doesn’t change from today or tomorrow,” he says. “To go from 70% to 75% is relatively easy, but to go from 75% to 80% is another thing entirely. It’s not one thing that fixes it all. I believe that we can still make improvements, but it’ll only be proven with the results.”

Andrew credits the great team around him with his recent successes — and the forty years of career successes in his life so far.

“As a person, I’m driven to keep on improving, and to try and learn more and try to find a better way. The sport has changed so much from where it was in 1978 to today’s sport, and as athletes, sometimes people get upset with rule changes and things. I don’t get upset, I just think ‘how can I work with this?’ We’re in the entertainment industry, and so we have to provide entertainment for the people who watch and the crowds who usually come to these events. [My wife] Steffi is my rock; she understands the sporting side but also sees the business side of it all. It’s the people that you put around you: this is something my father said to me when I was seventeen years old. He said, ‘if you want to be good, place good people around you.’ I’ve never forgotten that. It’s not just about having them around you — it’s taking their advice and making it actually happen. We’re all good at listening, but many of us aren’t good at activating it. The learning process is hear it, listen to it, and activate it.”

And so we come to the end of an extraordinary week at Luhmühlen, where the organising team, competitors, and gathered support teams have created a week to remember despite ongoing restrictions and a total closure against spectators. Though eventing looks a little bit different in the height of a pandemic, this week has proved that history can still be made — and dreams can come true — no matter how tough the world may seem. To all those who continue fighting for the sport, and for one another, we salute you. Go Eventing.

The top ten in the CCI4*-S, incorporating the German National Championship.

Longines Luhmühlen: Website, EN’s Form Guide, Entries, Timing & Scoring, CCI5* XC Ride Times, CCI4* XC Ride Times, XC Course Maps CCI5* Live ScoresCCI4* Live ScoresLive Stream, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Instagram, EN’s Twitter

The Luhmühlen Tour Diaries, Part Seven: In Which We Lead a Five-Star

 Getting to a CCI5* is always an enormous undertaking — but never more so than in a pandemic year. Our own Tilly Berendt is on the road to Luhmühlen with Great Britain’s Mollie Summerland and her horse Charly van ter Heiden – and she’s documenting the whole journey as it happens. Welcome to part seven: wherein they really, really go for it. 

Part One: The Long, Hard Road out of Plague Island

Part Two: The One with the Border Police Kerfuffle

Part Three: The BeNeLux Sausagefest

Part Four: A Heartbreaking Tale of Unrequited Love

Part Five: In Which the Price is Right

Part Six: Two Girls, One Five-Star

Mollie attempts to jump one of the beefy brush fences on foot, but evidently hasn’t got the right footwear on.

You’ll have to forgive me for being a little quiet on the blogging front since the first horse inspection, because since then, life has been, well, absolutely manic.

Throughout my career as a journalist, people have constantly told me that I’m mad for doing both the reporting and the photography while at an event. They have a point: both jobs require prioritising completely different things. The best event photographers stake out which fences will photograph best at certain times of day, and pre-plan their angles to catch horses at their peak against uncluttered backgrounds. Reporting, on the other hand, requires being able to see how the course rides in its entirety, and positioning yourself to be able to speak to as many riders as possible after they finish their round. It’s best done by parking yourself at the riders’ tent at the finish, which gives you the added bonus of being able to guage the general feeling and sentiment of the day. If you venture out on course, it’s ordinarily to go stand for a while at the most influential combination and see what makes it so tricky. Those don’t always tend to photograph well – particularly if you need photos of things going well.

For me, attempting to do both means running around to whichever fence I can get to easiest, while keeping a livestream running on my phone and making constant mental or physical notes to flesh out my report later. The photos are a bit of a gamble, as is being able to locate riders after the fact for all the important chats. Then, of course, it’s a real frenzy and mentally exhausting to edit all the photos you need, transcribe your interviews, find an angle, and flesh out a story with the overarching feeling of the thing. If you’re doing daily online reports, rather than working towards one overall write-up for publication, it’s even tighter on time. I often work from 7 or 8am through to 10pm without stopping; as a result, I take up a ferocious smoking habit solely at events so I can quell my hunger and keep on keeping on.

Adding a horse and rider into the mix is another level of intensity, mentally, emotionally, and physically – even when the rider is used to doing her own grooming and warm-up. Top that off with 34C heat (look, I’m a sun and sand girl through and through, but even I object when the temperature looks like a bra size) and it becomes the ultimate dizzying juggling act.

Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden take the dressage lead in Luhmühlen’s CCI5*. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

 

Dressage day, at least, meant that all my duties were in a fairly compact area – though I had to utilise the short judging breaks wisely to quite literally sprint back to the stables, borrow a much-too-tall bike, and attempt to get back down to the arenas balancing buckets of water and grooming tools from the handlebars. Once Mollie made her way down to the rings, it was a case of going back and forth, keeping an eye on whatever test was going on between the boards and trying to ensure Mollie had enough support, water, and time to be at her best – and Charly’s best, too — in the ring.

And then they only went and bloody well did it. I could tell from the second Mollie finished that she was disappointed with her ride; she’s a perfectionist and a real shining star in this phase, and it’s hard not to have high expectations when you do a mid-20s score in your five-star debut. But it was a day full of hard judging and little errors across every test, and no one could surpass their 29 mark. We were leading a five-star!

I think everyone expected us to celebrate, but actually, it was an odd situation to be in – a huge amount of pressure for Mollie, of course, and then there was the tricky fact that both of us were struggling enormously with heatstroke. Mollie had been hit by it earlier in the day before her test, whereas mine kicked in as dressage wrapped up and the adrenaline ebbed, but both of us felt totally overcooked, exhausted, and sick. It didn’t help at all that without a fridge, neither of us had had dinner in days, and I hadn’t been able to grab lunches, either. We decided to call for a pizza, but the delivery chap decided to show up at the venue, take a cursory glance around, neglect to call me to find out where we were, and then he left again. Would he be able to turn around and come back, I pleaded with the pizza place after hearing that he’d only just disappeared back down the drive. Absolutely not, I was told. And so we celebrated leading the dressage by going to bed hungry once again and committing wholly to the idea of eating five breakfasts the next day.

 

Except, you know, who wants to eat anything on cross-country morning? It was all certainly going to be a bit too much

I set out onto the course with a plan – or as much of a plan as anyone can ever have on cross-country day, anyway. With the livestream on the go on my phone, I head over to the busy Meßmer water to begin photographing, arriving just in time to see the shock refusal of Ringwood Sky Boy and Tim Price. And then the problems at that skinny brush continued. I sent Mollie two voice notes: the first simply said “don’t listen to the next voice note if you don’t want course feedback,” and then the second said, “look, none of them are reading this fence in time. If you’re going to go straight, risk a second or two to prepare your turn in earlier. Get his eye on it early and really ride it.” Then, it was time to relocate and see what was happening elsewhere on course. I spotted Sweden’s Anna Freskgard galloping back into the last short wooded stretch — and then she didn’t reappear. It was achingly clear that this course was causing way more carnage than any of us had expected.

Luhmühlen’s woods are lovely, dark, and deep, and there are miles to go before we sleep. Or manage to hear the tannoy again.

And then, the stream began to buffer. And buffer. And buffer some more. My heart sank as I realised what had happened: I’d run out of international data, which I’d had to use an enormous amount over the last couple of weeks while hot-spotting with my laptop, and because of yet another bloody irritating Brexit hurdle, I evidently wasn’t even going tobe able to purchase an add-on to get back online. Though a text message from my provider threatened to charge me a 50p/MB surcharge for continued use, it wasn’t actually prepared to let me rack up hundreds of pounds in fees over the course of the day. I could no longer see the course, the leaderboard – or, most importantly, any new messages coming in from Mollie as she prepared to head to the start. Had this stupidest of inconveniences just screwed the pooch entirely?

I began to compensate in the best way I knew how: by sprinting from fence to fence, taking increasingly lacklustre photos, attempting to decipher whatever bits of German I could hear from the distant tannoys, and bellowing the naughtiest of words at the stupid lump of useless computer in my hand. I repeatedly rang my phone provider, and only succeeded in accidentally blocking myself from viewing any adult content until someone over 18 can release me from my self-imposed porno prison.

I made it back to the collecting ring just in time to see Mollie and Charly, game faces well and truly in place, waiting for their countdown to begin. We’ve been so inordinately lucky to be helped along the way by a number of incredibly kind and generous people, and Jillian Giessen, head groom for Tim Lips, is really at the top of that list. She helped Mollie get her kit up to the collecting ring, provided much-needed water and support, and then dashed around taking videos on the course as Mollie and Charly attacked it.

GIF via H&C+.

Trying to follow Mollie’s whereabouts from the tannoy was horrendous, but getting to see her ride that influential triple brush at the Meßmer water (not pictured in the above GIF) as aggressively as it needed to be done reassured me hugely. The gal was going to be fine.

Turns out photographer tabards aren’t that flattering. Who knew.

As she crossed the finish line, whooping and crying after delivering the fastest round of the day, I threw my camera down and sprinted back to the wash-off area, where the three of us — me, Mollie, and Jillian — got to work trying to lower Charly’s heart and respiratory rates in the sweltering heat. This wasn’t helped much by the fact that the wash-off area ran short of water — a remarkable oversight that caught me by surprise, considering how much Germany prioritises horse welfare. Nevertheless, we all worked together to siphon water out of troughs, and everyone’s horses ended up with the care they needed. Even better, Charly’s breeder, a local man named Klaus who hasn’t seen the horse in ten years, was able to be reunited with his pride and joy on the biggest day of his life. It wasn’t the first emotional moment of the day, nor was it to be the last. A lot of happy tears have been shed, and I hope there’ll be more to come.

Klaus and Mollie after cross-country.

(I apologise, for what it’s worth, for the brevity of this blog — there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. I hope to be able to give you something a bit meatier, and a bit more behind-the-scenes, on Sunday. Keep it all crossed for us!)

I’m heading to the deflating airbed in the tent for the penultimate night listening to the sounds of the lorry park: someone is playing a guitar a few trucks down, others are chatting quietly through the nitty-gritty of their days in a multitude of languages. Softer, in the distance, I can hear the chorus of the frogs in the Luneberger Heide woods. Tomorrow is another day, and another adventure, and another story yet to be written. I’ll wait with anticipation to be handed the pen.

One last midnight schnack session with Charly.

EN’s coverage of Luhmühlen is brought to you in part by Kentucky Performance Products. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products and its wide array of supplements available for your horse.

Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials: Website, EN’s Form Guide, Entries, Timing & Scoring, CCI5* Friday Dressage Ride Times, CCI4* Thursday Dressage Ride Times, CCI4* Friday Dressage Ride Times, Live Stream, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Instagram, EN’s Twitter

All 15 Horses Accepted in Teeny-Weeny Final Inspection at Luhmühlen

EN’s coverage of Luhmühlen is brought to you in part by Kentucky Performance Products. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products and its wide array of supplements available for your horse.

Overnight leaders Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

If there’s one thing you can absolutely guarantee will happen at Luhmühlen, it’s a freak storm. They happen every time, without fail – and after the relentless heat and sunshine of the week so far, when it struck, it struck hard. Horses and riders alike were woken up with a bang at approximately 5.30 a.m. as the sky turned black and the thunder shook the foundations.

Mike Ryan wears a yellow ribbon in memory of young rider Tiggy Hancock as he presents Barnahown Corn Hill. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Fortunately, unlike 2019’s extraordinary storm, this one was short-lived and didn’t cause any significant flooding – just unsettled horses and a generally sludgy working space around the stables. By the time this morning’s final horse inspection dawned at 8.45 a.m., the rugs and waterproof coats were able to be tentatively removed one was particularly downcast to see the whole process over and done with in short order.

Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Just fifteen horses and riders completed yesterday’s tough cross-country course out of a total of 24 starters, and all fifteen remain in the hunt going into the showjumping finale at 11.10 a.m. local time/10.10 a.m. BST/5.10 a.m. EST. After a gruelling day like yesterday, wherein horses had to cope with extreme conditions and an exacting track, it’s great to see all looking so well this morning. They’ll need all the extra pizzazz they can muster, too – Luhmühlen is known for its dimensionally and technically maxed-out showjumping tracks. As always, you’ll be able to watch all the action on H&C+, and stay tuned for full reports and image galleries from both the CCI5* and the CCI4*-S, which will jump from 13.40 local time/12.40 BST/7.40 a.m. EST.

Here’s a little refresher on how that CCI5* leaderboard is looking:

The top fifteen – that is, all the riders still in the running – in Luhmühlen’s CCI5*.

As the Germans say, “Jetzt geht’s um die Wurst!” (That is, um, ‘now it’s about the sausage.’ Indeed.)

Longines Luhmühlen: Website, EN’s Form Guide, Entries, Timing & Scoring, CCI5* XC Ride Times, CCI4* XC Ride Times, XC Course Maps CCI5* Live ScoresCCI4* Live ScoresLive Stream, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Instagram, EN’s Twitter

Mollie Summerland Gets By With a Little Help from her Friends to Hold Luhmühlen Lead

 

EN’s coverage of Luhmühlen is brought to you in part by Kentucky Performance Products. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products and its wide array of supplements available for your horse.

Germany’s Malin Hansen-Hotopp and Monsieur Schnabel pop through the tough Meßmer water complex. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There have been accusations levelled at Luhmühlen in the past that it’s something of a ‘soft option’ CCI5*. This hasn’t always been an unfair statement, either: there have been plenty of years wherein the stats prove the point, and many riders have chosen Germany’s feature event as a kind move-up track for themselves and their young horses. But to be softer than, say, a Badminton or a Burghley isn’t the same as being easy — and this year, course designer Mike Etherington-Smith evidently decided he’d had enough of the naysaying.

We got a glimpse, in 2019, of how tricky a Luhmühlen track can be, when Mike made best use of the four water complexes on course and the twisty, tricky wooded galloping stretches to create a pillar-to-post challenge at the European Championships. That was a CCI4*-L, but it showed just how creatively the unique terrain here in northern Germany could be used. This year, as the CCI5* returns for the first time since that tough championship, it’s clear that Luhmühlen is ready to flex its own considerable muscles.

Trailblazers David Doel and Carneyhaugh Rua make the course look deceptively easy. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This morning’ CCI5* saw 24 horse-and-rider combinations leave the start box in the sweltering summer heat, but ultimately, just 15 of those would get the chance to jump the final fence. British rider David Doel served as trailblazer on the relatively inexperienced Carneyhaugh Rua, who made his CCI5* debut at Pau last year – and when he sailed home clear and nine seconds inside the time, the initial impression given was that conquering the course would be a straightforward job. But then the problems started.

Next away was New Zealand’s Tim Price, one of the most experienced riders in the field, aboard his 2018 Burghley winner Ringwood Sky Boy, arguably the most experienced horse. His was to be a round that other riders hoped to use for hints for their own upcoming rides, and perhaps, in some perverse way, it was. He opted to go the direct route at the Meßmer Water, the second water complex on course, which required riding a turn around a tree, cantering into the water, and popping a brush arrowhead in the water before continuing onto an island with a stiff log drop into the pond and, finally, an angled brush back on dry land. But as he presented to that first element, something almost unfathomable happened: the supremely reliable Ringwood Sky Boy popped his shoulder to the right and sailed by the fence. Tim regrouped, went back for a second attempt, and the same thing happened. That shock moment set a precedent that would continue for a further four riders, before word drifted back to the collecting ring that the direct route required an earlier turn and a more established line. From then, the problems would be scattered more evenly around the course, but with a striking frequency: neither Tim Price‘s 2019 Luhmühlen winner Ascona M nor Jonelle Price‘s 2018 winner Faerie Dianimo completed; Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois took a tumble at the frangible corners in the main arena; France’s Clara Loiseau fell at the penultimate fence from her experienced five-star partner Wont Wait; even Michael Jung picked up 11 penalties for a frangible pin activated at the coffin complex. With a 54% clear rate, there was nothing to suggest that this could be an ‘easy’ course for an inexperienced partnership.

Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden jump the last. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

But perhaps it helped, then, that dressage leader Mollie Summerland didn’t have time to watch any of the riders ahead of her on the live-stream, because she was busy at the stables screwing studs in. She heard word of the difficulties at that Meßmer water, so knew she had to work twice as hard as she might have planned there, but otherwise, it was all about sticking to plan A with the 12-year-old Charly van ter Heiden. The pressure of being in the lead — and riding the horse in front of his proud breeder, who had journeyed to the event for a long-awaited reunion with the horse after nigh-on a decade — would need to be shelved for now. It was time to kick on and make it happen.

And so they did, with a bit of grit and gumption, a few leaps of faith, and plenty of trust in one another. Not only did they record one of the five clear rounds inside the time over today’s course, they also delivered the fastest round of the day, coming in fourteen seconds inside the optimum time of 11:04.

“I was so messy, especially through a couple of combinations, but that horse is so genuine,” says a delighted Mollie. “He just keeps going, and keeps trying, and if I get things wrong he always tries to understand the question and what’s wanted of him. It’s rare to sit on a horse who can move in the dressage like him and gallop like him.”

Without trainers in situ, as the British support team couldn’t make it out to the event, Mollie relied on sending course-walking videos to British Performance Manager Dickie Waygood and her own cross-country coach, Robin Dumas, for analysis to help plan her ride. The rest of the trip, as documented in our Luhmühlen Tour Diaries, has been all about relying on the people around her: she tacked up and studded the horse herself ahead of cross-country, and then was joined in the collecting ring by Jillian Giessen, head girl for Dutch rider Tim Lips. After crossing the finish line, Jillian and your own EN roving reporter took over looking after Charly – and the on-course analysis and feedback was provided by her friends at home, watching along on the livestream.

“I didn’t have time to watch because of getting Charly ready, and it’s all taken a bit of management, but it’s worked well,” she says.

Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden pop the influential first element of the Meßmer water. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though Mollie had planned to ride competitively, she was taken by surprise by her own efficiency on course.

“I was actually on my minute markers, if not up on a few of them, but I think it’s part of my lack of experience that even when I was coming to the last few fences, I thought ‘surely I must have got it wrong; surely I’m not that quick!’ So I just kept riding, because I thought I’d kick myself if I backed off him and it turned out I’d made a mistake with my watch or something. It felt like he was still going well, so I thought he could go for a minute or too longer – I just didn’t want to risk having made a mistake on my watch, so I kept riding right to the finish line.”

Learning to cope with speed is one pivotal part of her ongoing education – but for a rider who hopes to ride on championship teams, learning to cope with pressure is another important, and unique, lesson.

“Every competition I go to I think, ‘well, it can’t be any more pressure than the last competition’ — but then Charly goes even better,” she laughs. “I thought this couldn’t be any more pressure than Pau; Pau was my first five-star, and I wasn’t expecting to come here and be in the lead, but then he came here and did that. It’s great, but I also think, oh brilliant, now I have to go out with even more pressure!”

Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Germany’s Christoph Wahler went out with a totally different kind of pressure: he needed to produce a quick, clear round over his first-ever CCI5* cross-country course to try to climb up the leaderboard after an uncharacteristic low-30s dressage mark yesterday.

“Obviously yesterday was a little bit frustrating, but on the other hand, I thought, ‘okay, well it’s also close at the top, so a couple of seconds can make a difference,'” he explains. “I was quite positive that the course would suit my horse, because it’s a very forward course with forward distances, and he has a good, big canter. This morning I woke up, walked the course, and thought, let’s give it a good crack. It’s my first five-star, and the dressage doesn’t really matter — just go for it and enjoy the cross, and see what happens.”

Like Mollie, Christoph hadn’t watched any of the other riders out on course — though that was a conscious decision on his part.

“I talked to David [Doel] in the warm-up when he came back with his second horse to warm up, because he had a perfect round with the first one. He said, ‘yeah, it’s a fantastic course, just keep riding forward and then it’s easy.’ So that’s when I thought, ‘okay, great, it seems to be going well out there!'”

Christoph’s plan to go direct through all the combinations paid off, and he finished nine seconds within the time – the same as David Doel, whose advice and positivity had been so useful to him — and moved from seventh to overnight second.

“We didn’t have a stupid situation anywhere on the course, so I didn’t have to readjust my plan,” he says. Going direct also gave Carjatan the chance to show his scope and honesty over this new, tough challenge: “I left out a stride at the corners and he really had to jump forward quite far, because I came too far on the inside there, but he’s so scopey.”

A new fitness regime gave Carjatan the extra room to dig deep, too: “He feels so confident in his stamina out there. At no point does he feel like, ‘oh god, you want me to keep on going?’ Sometimes he takes a deep breath, because he’s a big horse, not a small, Thoroughbred, good engine kind of horse — but now he’s good.”

Emilie Chandler and Gortfadda Diamond. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Emilie Chandler‘s big gamble to take advantage of the last-minute exemption granted to British travellers paid off, despite some worries about the uncharacteristic blip that she and Gortfadda Diamond had picked up on course in Bicton’s CCI4*-L before retiring the day the news came out. While a run-out is hardly an ideal final run before a five-star, Emilie knew that her Blair CCI4*-L winner was nothing but genuine, and so she worked on reframing the wobble as an educational opportunity.

“I’m feeling very relieved that I had a great cross-country round with him off the back of a not-so-great start at Bicton,” she says. “I probably learned that I set out a little bit too quickly, so I had the early run-out,  but I learned a lot and took that away with us to come here. Mentally, I think it was quite a challenge to come here, but I’m glad I’ve done it.”

Emilie made — and stuck to — a firm plan of action that paid dividends, allowing her to romp home just with just 3.6 time penalties and move from eighth to third.

“I wanted to use the first third of the course to settle him in his rhythm, and I didn’t worry too much about the clock. The main arena fence was probably the one I was most concerned about, because he’s not always the easiest to turn and that’s where I had my problem last week. Once I had the main arena out of the way I began to grow in confidence — from then on, we could execute it how we wanted to. He’s an awesome horse; he’s 80% blood and can be very fast, so sometimes it’s just about making sure his brain and legs are going at the same speed, and one’s not going quicker than the other. Our partnership’s growing all the time, and I think he’s very special.”

Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Like Emilie, Ariel Grald had to make a difficult journey to get herself and Leamore Master Plan to Germany — but they made the long trip from the USA worthwhile, jumping a classy and confident clear round, also adding 3.6 time penalties, to climb from eleventh to overnight fourth. They’re followed closely behind by Ireland’s Cathal Daniels, who jumped clear inside the time with his five-star debutante LEB Lias Jewel to move up from seventeenth to fifth.

The top fifteen – that is, all the riders still in the running – in Luhmühlen’s CCI5*.

Michael Jung and fischerChipmink FRH. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Michael Jung remains atop the leaderboard in the CCI4*-S section, incorporating the German National Championships and the final selection trial for a number of continental nations, after producing a typically swift and perfectly-executed round with the former Julia Krajewski mount fischerChipmunk FRH.

“Chipmunk was unbelievably good today,” he says. “He gave me a very good feeling right from the very start to the finish — every fence, every gallop track, he was super good at listening everywhere, and it was just fun and a joy to ride.”

Julia Krajewski’s Amande de B’Neville: from a princess to a queen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Julia Krajewski, who is responsible for the exceptional production of the leading horse, steps up a place into second with Amande de B’Neville, her Saumur winner who has had big shoes to fill following the shock retirement of Julia’s top horse, Samourai du Thot. But this year, the exciting mare is really coming into her own — and giving Julia a reason to dream again.

“She’s quite fighter, and a real machine — but it took some years to channel it in the right direction, but I think now we’ve really got it together,” she says. “She’s super clever and has a massive stride, but I’m able to really set her up quickly and it’s a super good feeling.”

The pair finished on the same time as Michi and the more experienced Chipmunk – and Amande de B’Neville’s speed today is indicative of a new strength in her cross-country education.

“She was actually quite fast, and after about four minutes I had to slow down a bit as I thought I’d better not risk it,” she laughs. “It’s actually only this year that she’s found it quite easy to get the time. Until last year it took me a little longer to set her up for the fences, so I thought, well, if I want to make the time I’ll have to really go for it. It worked fine, but then I thought ‘okay, you’d better slow down a little, actually!'”

Every good phase produced here puts Julia and her gutsy mare in closer contention for a ticket to Tokyo — something that seemed like a sure thing for the rider before her former top horse lost an eye in an accident earlier this year. But the change of plans has a silver lining: it gave Amande the time and space to grow into herself.

“She’s always been in the shadow [of Samourai du Thot] — but sometimes it’s good for them to have that time to grow where you don’t push them,” she says. “At the beginning of the year, I deleted all of the Tokyo deadlines and cancelled flights and things, because I thought, ‘okay, well, it’s not for me this year,’ and then we went to Saumur and I had to say, ‘oh, maybe we can go — better cancel the holiday!’ She’s really come into her own this year — she’s stabled next to Sam, so perhaps he’s telling her a few things. She’s so cool — she’s a real princess, and sometimes a queen. I love her, but it can be a challenge!”

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

Former World Champion Sandra Auffarth sat second after dressage aboard Let’s Dance 73, but a surprise early runout dropped him off the podium – and the rider, too, for a little while anyway. She managed to claw her way back into place on the last ride of the day, jumping a sterling clear inside the time to move Viamant du Matz from sixth to third. Behind her, Australia’s Andrew Hoy produced the fastest round of the day with Vassily de Lassos, coming home eleven seconds inside the time to move from eighth to fourth.

Fifth place is occupied by Sweden’s Louise Romeike and Cato 60, while New Zealand’s Tim Price redeemed a rough morning, in which neither of his or wife Jonelle’s CCI5* mounts completed and his other CCI4*-S mount picked up a 20, by jumping clear with 1.6 time faults with Vitali for overnight sixth.

Tomorrow sees both classes head into their respective showjumping finales, with the CCI5* starting at 11.10 a.m. local time/10.10 a.m. BST/5.10 a.m. EST, and the CCI4*-S to follow from 13.40 local/12.40 BST/7.40 a.m. Eastern.

The top ten heading into the showjumping finale of the CCI4*-S.

Longines Luhmühlen: Website, EN’s Form Guide, Entries, Timing & Scoring, CCI5* XC Ride Times, CCI4* XC Ride Times, XC Course Maps CCI5* Live ScoresCCI4* Live ScoresLive Stream, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Instagram, EN’s Twitter

Don’t Count Out the British: Mollie Summerland Takes Luhmühlen CCI5* Lead

EN’s coverage of Luhmühlen is brought to you in part by Kentucky Performance Products. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products and its wide array of supplements available for your horse.

Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden take the dressage lead in Luhmühlen’s CCI5*. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

When the Luhmühlen CCI5* entry list was revealed a month ago, it was to no small amount of excitement: over 70 combinations had put their names forward to contest the first five-star of the 2021 European season, and among them were more than 40 of Britain’s most illustrious pairs. It was set to be, without any hint of exaggeration, the hottest Luhmühlen field ever – until the travel ban kicked in.

As the Delta variant of the coronavirus began to spread through the north of England, several European countries decided to take early action to stop it from travelling to the continent. Chief among those was Germany, who brought in a hardline ban on travel from the UK, unless those travellers could prove they had an urgent need to enter the country. From the German government’s point of view, sport — no matter how elite — was off the table.

But there were a few exceptions to the ban. Travellers from the UK could, with some serious effort, secure entry into the country if they got together a huge amount of paperwork and agreed to quarantine: either for two weeks in Germany, or for ten days in another country. For most riders, this was still unsurpassable – after all, with businesses to run and strings of horses to ride, spending three weeks abroad for one competition isn’t possible. As a result, the withdrawals came thick and fast.

Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

As Luhmühlen week dawned, two British riders and a small smattering of British-based foreign riders were on their way to the event, having used events and training bases abroad as a way to notch up the requisite quarantine time. On Saturday, the 12th of June, the German government loosened its grasp to allow British-based riders to make the trip sans quarantine, but by then it was too late for most to get organised; ultimately, just two further riders made use of the new exemption.

This afternoon saw all 24 entrants complete the dressage phase, and their job wasn’t an easy one: just as in the CCI4*-S before them, the ground jury wasn’t prepared to give away any freebies. Another hurdle has been the heat; each day at the event has been a stifling, energy-sapping 34 degrees Celsius (that’s 93, for you Yanks). While horses acclimatise quickly to these extreme temperatures, riders have to work hard to overcome the mind-numbing, reaction-slowing effect of shifting from the cold, rainy temperatures of late into these conditions.

Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though the enormous original British entry list has been decimated, the remaining contenders in the hunt are strong — and in today’s dressage phase, one reigned supreme. 23-year-old Mollie Summerland comes forward for just her second five-star with her self-produced Hanoverian gelding Charly van ter Heiden, but after notching up a tenth place finish in an exceptionally high-class field at Pau last season, hopes and expectations alike have been high for their sophomore performance.

While they didn’t rival their own 25.5 at Pau last year, the pair made the best of the tough conditions to produce a slick, elegant test for 29 – one of just three sub-30 marks awarded in this class today. The test itself rewards supple, rideable horses: the trot work features changes of bend from the half-pass into an 8m circle, and a shoulder-in on the centreline into a change of bend around the short side. For Mollie, who’s a rare event rider who’d happily do pure dressage, the challenges of the test were there to be seized.

“He is a beautiful horse on the flat,” says Mollie, who trains with British dressage supremo Carl Hester. “I was actually a little bit disappointed when I finished as I knew I’d missed a change, which was costly. But I’m really glad that he got the result that he deserves.”

For Mollie, tackling Luhmühlen is about gaining further experience for the future — and learning to cope with the unique pressure of being at the top of the board is certainly an educational moment.

“It’s not ideal, as crazy as that sounds, to be in the lead, because it’s only my second-ever five-star so it’s a hell of a lot of pressure to deal with tomorrow to go out in that position. But I’m just going to try to enjoy the moment today and then forget about it tomorrow, because I very much need to ride the horse I’ve got underneath me,” she says. “He’s a young horse and I’d be very inexperienced myself as well, so I’m going to try not to let it go to my head too much when I’m riding around tomorrow — I’ll try to put him first and not ride for the result he’s had today. I know there’s very experienced horses and riders close behind me, as well. I don’t expect to be in this position tomorrow and certainly not Sunday, but it’s nice to take the lead now.”

Tim Price and Ascona M. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Just a hair’s breadth behind Mollie and Charly are 2019 Luhmühlen victors Tim Price and Ascona M, who began their journey to Luhmühlen at Ireland’s Millstreet Horse Trials and then, like Mollie and Charly, headed to the Breda base of Dutch Olympian Tim Lips. They posted a 29.1 to sit second, followed just as closely by Tim’s other ride, 2018 Burghley victor Ringwood Sky Boy on a 29.2.

“Ascona’s always on the edge of being extremely pissed off that I’m asking her all these questions, but she held it together and stayed with me, so we were able to have a nice, flowing test,” says Tim with a laugh about his ‘extremely talented — and just extreme’ mare.

Tim Price and his 2018 Burghley winner Ringwood Sky Boy. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This is a return visit to the event not just for previous winner Ascona M, but for Ringwood Sky Boy, too – though he’s best known for storming around the likes of Badminton and Burghley, he was fourth here in 2016, a result that helped him to clinch a spot at the Rio Olympics. Today’s performance bested his 2016 first-phase result by half a mark.

“Ringwood Sky Boy is just an old saint – even if he’s feeling particularly energetic or distracted, he knows to try hard and to focus. He did just that today,” says Tim. “I can’t ask for more from him; he doesn’t like to stand still, but he tried and didn’t do too badly, and the rest was really good. I’m really pleased with him – he’s not a dressage horse, but he’s an allrounder.”

Michael Jung’s debutant puts himself in a competitive early position. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sitting pretty in fourth place — and best of the home side — is Michael Jung, who posted a 30.1 with nine-year-old five-star debutant fischerWild Wave. He’s followed by France’s Maxime Livio, whose own five-star first-timer Vegas des Boursons put a 30.9 on the board after a consistent and pleasant test that earned 8s for the final flying change and the collectives.

France’s Maxime Livio and Vegas des Boursons sit fifth on 30.9. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

If anyone can rival the British-based riders for sheer force of will in getting to Luhmühlen, surely it’s the two remaining American competitors in the field.

“Erik [Duvander] is all in, so I’m all in, too – and my owners are too,” says Jennie Brannigan, who sits sixth overnight with Stella Artois on a 31.2, just a couple of marks above her previous effort at the level earlier this year.

“She did a 29 at Kentucky and I wasn’t very happy with [the test], and so to be on a 31 here and be happier with it — it is what it is! But at least she’s right up there. I’ll just try to end on it, and then we’ll be happy,” Jennie says.

Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois sit sixth overnight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Those improvements in the overall feeling of the work have come from a concerted effort to fine-tune the big, strong mare’s rideability.

“She was really running off with me at Kentucky in the trot, so I felt like that was a bit smoother, and I thought my changes were better here; they were all correct and I could trust them a bit more,” she says. “She’s quite big for me, to be honest — she’s more of a Boyd Martin-sized horse, really. I’ve always said that he should ride her, not me! She’s long, too, so she’s a lot of horse for me, to be honest. It’s been all about getting her a bit more rideable so I can hang onto her.”

Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There were some surprises through the course of the day, particularly in the hotly-anticipated test produced by Germany’s Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S, who posted a mid-20s score befitting the rider’s family dressage business when making their debut at Pau last season. Since then, Christoph has refined his fitness plan with the gelding, who he opted to withdraw before cross-country at that five-star debut — and though Carjatan is now visibly stronger and fitter than he’s ever been, that can translate to tricky moments in the ring. Though much of their work was wholly impressive, expensive mistakes in the canter work – plus a further two marks docked for entering the arena late – puts them on an uncharacteristic 32.1 for seventh place overnight.

All smiles for Emilie Chandler as she heads out of the ring with Gortfadda Diamond in eighth place. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Just behind them on a 32.4 is a second rider representing Great Britain: Emilie Chandler and Gortfadda Diamond were the only British combination to take advantage of the eleventh-hour exemption to the travel ban, swiftly rerouting from Bicton’s CCI4*-L to tackle Luhmühlen instead. They got their trip off to a flying start by slotting into eighth place, while German five-star debutant pair Malin Hansen-Hotopp and the Trakehner gelding Monsieur Schnabel impressed early on in the draw with their soft, communicative performance to earn a 32.5 and overnight ninth.

Malin Hansen-Hotopp and Monsieur Schnabel. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Rounding out the top ten is another previous Luhmühlen winner – lest you make the mistake of thinking that a leaderboard with just three sub-30 scores on it isn’t still serious business. New Zealand’s Jonelle Price climbed to the win here in 2018 with Faerie Dianimo, and though her 32.5 today doesn’t quite match the 27.1 she produced on that occasion, they still remain well in the hunt as we look ahead to tomorrow’s tough cross-country phase.

Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo navigate Luhmühlen’s spooky arena. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan, the second American pair on the entry list, sit just shy of the top ten in overnight eleventh on their score of 33.8.

“He gets a little nervous and anxious, and he’s still getting stronger, so it was a big step in the right direction for him,” says Ariel of her Irish Sport Horse gelding, with whom she finished tenth at Burghley in 2019. “There’s a lot to do, still, but he went in there and he tried and was pretty trustworthy, so I have to be proud of him for that.”

Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan sit just outside the top ten in overnight eleventh. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tactical use of the available schooling opportunities helped Ariel prepare for their moment in the spotlight.

“There’s plenty to look at in there, with the cross-country jumps and everything, but they gave us a lot of time to ride in there [in arena familiarisation sessions], so he was actually pretty settled. Usually they’d spook at the jumps and get a little bit excited, but it actually felt alright,” she continues.

He’s gotten pretty solid in the trot, but in the canter work he can sometimes threaten a kick out. He’s a big horse, and he’s Irish — and by Master Imp — so he’s got all those things and it’s really taken a long time [for him to mature]. But he’s the most genuine horse in the world; there’s not a mean bone in his body and he really tries. If he makes a mistake it’s because he’s trying too hard. We’re just starting to find it on the flat – there’s a lot left in there, so I’m looking forward to that, but I think his brain is in a good place.”

The top ten after dressage in Luhmühlen’s CCI5*.

The top ten after the culmination of dressage in the CCI4*-S.

 

Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH reign supreme again. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

If there’s anyone who can handle the heat it’s the man with ice water in his veins, and Michael Jung and the extraordinary fischerChipmunk FRH surprised absolutely no one by heading straight to the top of the CCI4*-S leaderboard earlier this afternoon.

“I’m very happy,” says Michael. “He was so lovely to ride; very calm and concentrated, and very good listening to my every signal. In the warm-up on the days before he gave me a very good feeling, so I’m very pleased with that.”

For Michael, the best of the test wasn’t found in any particular movement, but in the overall feeling and picture of the test as a whole.

“For me, it’s everything together. When you sit on the horse you have the feeling that he’s completely relaxed but also in a good power and listening to you — this is great. Then you go from point to point in the dressage test and everything’s good; there’s still maybe something you can do better but everything you do works really well. The trot, the walk, the canter, the changes, the half-pass — everything went as I wish.”

Julia Krajewski and Amande de B’Neville sit third. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Yesterday’s leaders, Sandra Auffarth and Let’s Dance 73 remain in second place on their score of 22, followed closely behind by fellow countrywoman Julia Krajewski and Amande de B’Neville, who sit third on 23.9. This is a pivotal competition for Julia and her up-and-coming mare, who won the four-star at Saumur earlier this year and is the top Tokyo prospect for the rider, whose top horse Samourai du Thot had to be retired unexpectedly earlier this year after losing an eye in an accident.

“She’s a mare, and she could be a little bit hot in the dressage, so we’ve changed a few things in the training and the warm-up and now she’s super relaxed,” says Julia. “So I went in not sure of how relaxed she would be, but she has been really nice these days and I was fairly confident she would be good. I started smiling halfway through the canter — I thought, okay, we’re going to be fine!”

Tim Price and Vitali. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tim Price sits fourth on relatively new ride and Strzegom winner Vitali on a 26.4, showing an enormous amount of potential for the future as the partnership progresses.

“I was really happy — it’s the best we’ve done, so I can’t be too disappointed,” says Tim. “I just know he can challenge the leaders one day, but it’s early days yet. I took him on last October, and we went straight into the winter showjumping and training, and this is our second time in a four-star ring. This was much better than that, but we’re in a place now where I really think I can go for more. He’s got this lovely canter with natural activity, so that’s just there no matter what — but the trot is a bit more of a genuine entity in terms of reflecting what we’re doing and where we’re going. I think that’s feeling a lot better, so I can ride nicer shapes on him. He’s got such a nice medium trot, so it’s fun to go and do a test like this where you can show it off three times.”

Tim Lips and Herby. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Dutch Olympian Tim Lips rounds out the top five on his Tokyo prospect TMX Herby, who put a 26.6 on the board with his accurate, attractive test.

“He did a wonderful job – he’s only nine years old, but he feels like he’s born for this atmosphere,” he says. “He wasn’t that impressed by it, so I’m really happy. I think he was very regular in his test; he didn’t really make a mistake – I think, to be honest, we can do much better, but it’s maybe because I didn’t want to take all the risks today. I know that they are not giving the points away. Normally you’d think this is a disappointing score for us, but if you look at the scores, it’s all relative.”

Both classes will head into cross-country tomorrow, beginning with the CCI5* from 11.00 a.m. local time/10.00 a.m. BST/5.00 a.m. Eastern, followed by the CCI4*-S at 13.05 local/12.05 BST/7.05 a.m. Eastern. As always, you can follow along with all the action live on Horse&CountryTV. Until tomorrow, folks, Go Eventing!

Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials: Website, EN’s Form Guide, Entries, Timing & Scoring, CCI5* Friday Dressage Ride Times, CCI4* Thursday Dressage Ride Times, CCI4* Friday Dressage Ride Times, Live Stream, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Instagram, EN’s Twitter

The Luhmühlen Tour Diaries, Part Six: Two Girls, One Five-Star

Getting to a CCI5* is always an enormous undertaking — but never more so than in a pandemic year. Our own Tilly Berendt is on the road to Luhmühlen with Great Britain’s Mollie Summerland and her horse Charly van ter Heiden – and she’s documenting the whole journey as it happens. Welcome to part six: the one where they go eventing.

Part One: The Long, Hard Road out of Plague Island

Part Two: The One with the Border Police Kerfuffle

Part Three: The BeNeLux Sausagefest

Part Four: A Heartbreaking Tale of Unrequited Love

Part Five: In Which the Price is Right

We all know the score: once you’ve quadruple-checked Google Maps and ascertained that your journey will take five-and-a-half hours maximum, even if the world ends on route, you might as well add on three hours if you’re heading to an event. The laws of time and distance simply stop functioning by any normal parameters. That’s exactly what happened on Tuesday morning when we loaded up bright and early and hit the road at 6 a.m., bleary-eyed because we’d both been too excited to sleep. Charly, for his part, was much brighter: he’d enjoyed a luxurious snooze after the third and final of his sessions on the EquusIR machine, an extraordinarily high-tech trailer that scans the entirety of a horse’s body, locates any areas of stress, discomfort, or injury, and then runs an electromagnetic therapy programme. He was feeling great; we, on the other hand, felt about 400 years old. But no matter – we were finally on our way to a five-star.

Deventers on de way to de event.

I can’t really explain to you how we ended up in that autobahn time loop, but somehow – between crossing the Dutch-German border and overtaking showjumper Daniel Deusser at speed — we realised we were seriously down on our minute markers. Matters weren’t helped at all when we found ourselves stuck on the hard shoulder of the motorway due to congestion on the slip road just 30 minutes away from the event, and poor Charly finally showed an emotion other than pure, unadulterated joy as lorries sped by us and rocked us in their slipstream. After twenty minutes that felt like hours, two girls, one unicorn, and a seriously pissed off event horse were finally on the final leg of the Tour de Deutschland. And lord, did we need naps.

Still, the butterflies began in earnest as I started to recognise the landmarks leading us towards our final destination — and as we cruised along the final kilometre, we spotted a man on a bicycle waving at us with great enthusiasm.

“Wow,” I thought to myself. “What a weird guy. He must really like horses.”

As he zoomed by us, I realised it was our brother-from-another-mother, Tim Price. My private interpretation remained unchanged – but the good vibes ramped up to eleven. To paraphrase Almost Famous: it was all happening.

We’re home! (Again.)

We pulled into the long, tree-lined driveway of the venue to find that the stables and lorry park had been moved right down by the show itself – a huge boon considered the long uphill trek to the usual stabling area. Everything felt as though it was slotting into place: grooming and covering the event would be no easy feat no matter the circumstances, but this seemed like a good enough omen to embrace.

The Hoy family welcoming committee, plus pony Verity.

Charly, for his part, settled in immediately to his new stable next to fellow Brit David Doel’s three horses and began demanding snacks – another good omen for a horse who ordinarily turns his nose up at food at events. Mollie and I got stuck into the big job of unpacking the lorry and setting up the stables, and then went in search of our parking spot. In a great show of team spirit, the Doel clan had reserved us a space right by their lorry and immediately welcomed us with open arms, as they had done a day or two prior when David’s mum and life manager, Maggie, called Mollie to offer her support and encouragement. I say it a lot, but it bears saying again: eventing folks truly are the best people in the world.

Time for a schooling session – and a great excuse for more quarter marks.

We need to talk about event showers. They are, without being dramatic in any way, my worst nightmare. You’re constantly either being invited into them by some male event rider who’s barely out of Young Riders or you’re emerging from them, panda-eyed and clammy with no bra on to find yourself face to face with exactly the stern senior rider you’re most terrified of. The process of showering never actually feels particularly refreshing or cleansing because you’re forever standing in a centimetre of someone else’s dirty foot water, and any sudden movement or downing of tools makes it sound horribly like you’re up to something naughty. Sometimes you actually DO end up showering next to someone doing something naughty, and that’s even worse. Foot water is bad enough; you certainly don’t want to risk dipping your toes in anything else.

I thought I’d experienced the worst of event showers. Nothing could be worse than the one rogue shower at Pau that always runs red-hot, or the showers at Blenheim that are always too cold.

Look, I’d trade anything for those right now. Because at Luhmühlen, the showers are glass-fronted. Personally, I like to have a drink or two bought for me before I consider showing the goods to anyone, but here, it’s a free for all. I’ve started planning my showers in the middle of the night – partly because that’s what my schedule permits, and partly because the traffic tends to be lighter. Well, except for the shaggers. At least they’ve already got something to focus on.

Hey, Roger.

At Tim’s, Mollie and I had shared a tiny bed in the lorry – but when we got to the event, we decided to set up the party tent outside in case I went off in search of beer with actual alcohol in it and came home in the wee hours. When it became obvious that it would be too impossibly hot to comprehend sharing a twin bed in an unairconditoned horse box, though, I opted to move out to the party tent full-time. All well and good, except that it’s about two and a half feet tall. Getting undressed involves some serious manoeuvring – again, it really looks and sounds like I’m doing something much more fun than attempting to peel myself out of sticky denim – and more than once, I’ve realised entirely too late that my entire lower half has escaped from the dignity zone and gone straight back into the pay-per-view zone. Oh, and with an air mattress inside, the door doesn’t actually shut. There’s no adrenaline rush quite like realising that next door’s Labrador, Roger, is on his way over for a good look just as you’re trying to stealthily change your knickers.

And then it was time for it all to begin. With Mollie on plaiting duties – a great time for some rider meditation – I took on the spit-and-polish of the rest of the beast. Perhaps more importantly, I had another job on my list: essential rider bronzing. I’m sure the Tims were getting the same treatment.

With Mollie due to trot up at the tail end of the line-up, I had to work fast to make sure Charly’s quarter marks were perfect, his socks chalked and spotless, and his face clean and oiled so I could leave him tied in his stable and ready to grab and go when Mollie was ready. Fortunately, while hoof-polishing at high speed I managed to keep the spillages on myself – and so Charly looked perfect, while I sprinted to the trot-up looking as though I’d just emerged from a coal mine.

Fashion and beauty influencing, here I come!

What’s a bit of sweat and hoof polish between friends, anyway? All that matters is the end goal – and we’d ticked off a big one on our list for the week. Mollie and Charly flew through the first horse inspection looking fabulous, and it was time to head out for our first walk around Mike Etherington-Smith’s serious cross-country track.

Mollie and Charly clean up pretty well, if I do say so myself.

EN’s coverage of Luhmühlen is brought to you in part by Kentucky Performance Products. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products and its wide array of supplements available for your horse.

Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials: Website, EN’s Form Guide, Entries, Timing & Scoring, CCI5* Friday Dressage Ride Times, CCI4* Thursday Dressage Ride Times, CCI4* Friday Dressage Ride Times, Live Stream, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Instagram, EN’s Twitter

Luhmühlen At A Glance: Meet the Horses of the CCI5*

EN’s coverage of Luhmühlen is brought to you in part by Kentucky Performance Products. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products and its wide array of supplements available for your horse.

Happy CCI5* dressage day, and welcome to your bite-sized glimpse of what’s to come in this afternoon’s jam-packed competition here in Germany! As always, you can head over to the form guide to get all the details you need to know about each pair – but we know you’re a busy bunch, so here’s the eiskaffee break edition.

Yesterday, we introduced you to the high-class field of riders contesting this year’s Longines Luhmühlen CCI5* – and now, it’s time to meet the stars of the show: their horses. Here’s how the field of equine athletes is broken down.

Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials: Website, EN’s Form Guide, Entries, Timing & Scoring, CCI5* Friday Dressage Ride Times, CCI4* Thursday Dressage Ride Times, CCI4* Friday Dressage Ride Times, Live Stream, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Instagram, EN’s Twitter

Luhmühlen At A Glance: Meet the Riders of the CCI5*

EN’s coverage of Luhmühlen is brought to you in part by Kentucky Performance Products. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products and its wide array of supplements available for your horse.

There’s a compact but classy CCI5* field gathered here at the Longines Luhmühlen CCI5* in Germany, a place so delightfully, unabashedly odd that it offers up a selection of tiny bratwurst for breakfast and, despite the lack of spectators this year, still has several beer haunts doing steady business.

Want to get to know all our beer-and-brat-fuelled competitors in detail? Head to the form guide, which has all the information you need to know about the 21 riders taking on this year’s competition. Or, if you’re more into a quickie, keep scrolling for the quick facts you need to know about the field.

Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials: Website, EN’s Form Guide, Entries, Timing & Scoring, CCI5* Friday Dressage Ride Times, CCI4* Thursday Dressage Ride Times, CCI4* Friday Dressage Ride Times, Live Stream, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Instagram, EN’s Twitter

Photo Gallery: A Sizzling Day of Dressage in Luhmühlen’s CCI4*-S

EN’s coverage of Luhmühlen is brought to you in part by Kentucky Performance Products. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products and its wide array of supplements available for your horse.

While we’re all waiting on the edge of our seat’s for Luhmühlen’s CCI5* class to kick off properly tomorrow afternoon, the vibrant German mainstay has hardly been short of action and excitement. Today was the first day of dressage in the CCI4*-S class, which incorporates the hotly-contested Deutsche Meisterschaften (or German National Championship, for those of you who haven’t got the hang of all those extra consonants yet) and is the final selection trial for continental riders vying for a spot on their respective Olympic teams before this Sunday’s deadline.

Though the Luhmühlen team are masters of the big tease and are saving their spiciest entrants, Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk, for tomorrow, today’s competition was a veritable smorgasbord of transcontinental talent.

Sandra Auffarth and Let’s Dance 73 take a healthy lead in the CCI4*-S. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ultimately, though, the top spot at the end of the day stayed with the horse and rider who had nabbed it at the very start: Germany’s former World Champion Sandra Auffarth and Let’s Dance 73 were the first in the arena at 11.00 a.m. this morning, where they delivered a 22 that no one throughout the day would even threaten to usurp.

“He went so well today,” says a typically modest Sandra of her fourteen-year-old Holsteiner by Lancer II. “He was fresh and still very correct with many highlights. The flying changes were also great. I am very pleased with my result and looking forward to cross-country day.”

This was a significant personal best at the level for the gelding, who has dipped as low as 22.4 at CCI3*-S but tends to score in the higher 20s at four-star. His last CCI4*-S at Baborowko saw him put a 30.9 on the board – but Sandra, who excels under pressure, has fine-tuned the process of producing a test with the horse, who she took the ride on in 2019.

Malin Petersen and Charly Brown 311. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Second overnight — by some margin — is Sweden’s Malin Petersen and Charly Brown 311, who put a 29.8 on the board as the only other pair to go sub-30 in today’s competition.

“My horse was very supple and relaxed – it was so much fun in the arena today,” she says, before turning her focus fully onto Saturday’s intense cross-country challenge: “The motto of the course is challenging and fair! As the competition is the German Championships and a qualifier for the Olympic Games, this was to be expected. The tasks are all fair and clear so that the horses should be able to read them well. The jumps look so beautiful – you just want to get going.”

Sophie Leube and Jadore Moi. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The rest of the top five is fully occupied by German competitors: Sophie Leube, whose riding has often drawn fair comparisons to Ingrid Klimke, sits third on 30.6, while Anna Siemer and her Kentucky mount FRH Butt’s Avondale are an achingly close fourth on 30.7. Felix Etzel continues to impress as one of the country’s serious up-and-coming superstars, and his compact and classy Stalliwa T strode to 31.3 for overnight fifth.

Anna Siemer and FRH Butt’s Avondale lie fourth after a sweet test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There’s plenty of movement to be expected during the course of tomorrow’s dressage session, with heavy hitters such as the Netherlands’ Tim Lips and TMX HerbyTim Price and Vitali, Germany’s Emma Brüssau and Dark Desire GS, fresh off a win at Renswoude CCI4*-S, Julia Krajewski and her Saumur winner Amande de b’NevilleAndrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos and, of course, that pesky Mr Jung among the star-studded line-up.

Felix Etzel impresses again, this time with Stalliwa T, fifth overnight on 31.4. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

You can take a look at the full running order here — and to follow along, make sure you’ve got your H&C+ subscription. A subscription costs less than two coffees and will give you unfettered access to every phase of both classes here, both live and on demand — and plenty more besides.

Tomorrow’s CCI4*-S dressage will run from 8.30 a.m. local time/7.30 a.m. BST/2.30 a.m. Eastern until 12.45 local/11.45 a.m. BST/6.45 a.m. Eastern. After that, we’ll dive straight into our compact CCI5* class, with tests running from 13.50 local/12.50 p.m. BST/7.50 a.m. Eastern until 17.05 local/16.05 BST/11.05 a.m. Eastern.

The top ten after the first day of dressage in the CCI4*-S.

Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials: Website, EN’s Form Guide, Entries, Timing & Scoring, CCI5* Friday Dressage Ride Times, CCI4* Thursday Dressage Ride Times, CCI4* Friday Dressage Ride Times, Live Stream, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Instagram, EN’s Twitter

EN’s coverage of Luhmühlen is brought to you in part by Kentucky Performance Products. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products and its wide array of supplements available for your horse.

Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials: Website, EN’s Form Guide, Entries, Timing & Scoring, CCI5* Friday Dressage Ride Times, CCI4* Thursday Dressage Ride Times, CCI4* Friday Dressage Ride Times, Live Stream, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Instagram, EN’s Twitter

One Horse Spun at Luhmühlen CCI5* First Horse Inspection

Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

EN’s coverage of Luhmühlen is brought to you in part by Kentucky Performance Products. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products and its wide array of supplements available for your horse.

There’s something special in the air at the Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials. Perhaps it’s just because it’s the first CCI5* of the 2021 European season, but it feels more intangible than that: there’s a shared sense of camaraderie, a delicious kinship, because everyone knows all too well how long and convoluted the journey has been for everyone, regardless of whether they’ve been impacted by travel bans. Walk along any of the venue’s sandy, sun-soaked pathways and every person you meet will greet you with a beaming smile — regardless of whether you know one another or even speak the same language. The weather is tropical, the horses are bubbling with hard, fit energy, and despite the event being forced to run behind closed doors, the music never stops and the atmosphere feels thick with anticipation of the great adventure yet to come.

Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This afternoon saw the first horse inspection take place for the CCI5* class, which shares feature billing with the CCI4*-S and German National Championship. Twenty-five horse-and-rider combinations presented to the ground jury — revised as a result of travel restrictions — of president Anne-Mette Binder (DEN), Ernst Topp (GER), and Katrin Eichinger-Kniely (AUT), and the eagle-eyed among you may notice that this is a slightly inflated number. That’s because of an eleventh-hour exemption granted to British-based competitors by the local government, which opened the tiniest window of opportunity for competitors on that enormous list of withdrawn entries.

Emilie Chandler and Gortfadda Diamond. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

With such short notice, though, only those who had got themselves organised early and had their horses’ bloodwork done and paperwork in process prior to last week’s Bicton Horse Trials were able to make use of the opportunity. As a result, we welcome British rider Emilie Chandler and Gortfadda Diamond and British-based Kiwi Samantha Lissington and Ricker Ridge Rui to our small but impressive list of runners.

Clara Loiseau and Ultramaille. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Just one drama marred an otherwise swift and straightforward trot-up. Clara Loiseau‘s Ultramaille will not start the competition after being sent to the holding box and subsequently rejected upon re-presentation, but the young French rider will continue on with her seasoned CCI5* mount Wont Wait.

Reigning champions Tim Price and Ascona M. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The CCI5* will do dressage in its entirety on Friday afternoon, while tomorrow’s action is all about the smoking hot CCI4*-S class. You’ll be able to stream every phase of each class on Horse&Country TV, and we’ll be bringing you full reports and images galleries every day. Plus, you can get a taste of life behind the scenes with the Luhmühlen Tour Diaries, as your resident journo combines wall-to-wall coverage with being a CCI5* groom for British rider Mollie Summerland. Expect antics galore.

Until tomorrow: Go Eventing!

Longines Luhmühlen: Website, EN’s Form Guide, Entries, Timing & ScoringCCI5* Thursday Dressage Ride Times, CCI5* Friday Dressage Ride Times, CCI4* Thursday Dressage Ride Times, CCI4* Friday Dressage Ride TimesCCI4* Live ScoresLive Stream, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Instagram, EN’s Twitter

The Luhmühlen Tour Diaries, Part Five: In Which the Price is Right

Getting to a CCI5* is always an enormous undertaking — but never more so than in a pandemic year. Our own Tilly Berendt is on the road to Luhmühlen with Great Britain’s Mollie Summerland and her horse Charly van ter Heiden – and she’s documenting the whole journey as it happens. Welcome to part four:

Part One: The Long, Hard Road out of Plague Island

Part Two: The One with the Border Police Kerfuffle

Part Three: The BeNeLux Sausagefest

Part Four: A Heartbreaking Tale of Unrequited Love

EN’s coverage of Luhmühlen is brought to you in part by Kentucky Performance Products. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products and its wide array of supplements available for your horse.

Family matters: Jillian and Lugano stop for a chat.

By the latter part of our stay in Breda, Mollie and I had formed a delightful little family unit with our cohorts at Tim’s: we’d spend the day working on our various jobs alongside one another and the evenings out cruising for snacks with head girl Jillian, who drives like she’s in a Dutch Grand Theft Auto and gave us all an early taste of those cross-country day heart palpitations. From our evening haunt on the terrace we’d construct elaborate drinking games based on the clinics taking place in front of us, none of which came to much as it turns out Tim has trained his students far too well. (And, to be fair, the booze is all nonalcoholic anyway.)

In those last few days, though, our family unit was to expand into the best kind of chaos: Tim and Jonelle Price, plus three grooms and six horses, joined our happy clan en route to Luhmühlen from Ireland’s Millstreet Horse Trials. Suddenly, it became very possible that we could be looking at a total Lips Stable domination across the two classes at Luhmühlen.

Hanging out with Popeye, just moments before the great faecal incident of 2021.

Team Price brought an extra addition along for the ride: a small, one-eyed dog they’d christened Popeye. Tim had spotted him running along the motorway in the wee hours of the morning and managed to do an emergency stop in the lorry, expertly manoeuvred a frightening moment in which the little dog nearly got hit by an oncoming truck, and scooped him up. In Breda, he quickly settled in, trying out any and all available beds, happily trotting along to do chores with whomever he came across, and getting frequently and inexpertly humped by a terrier belonging to one of the Lips Stable liveries. And then, of course, there was the delightful moment in which he accidentally covered me in poo, which means that somewhere in the security camera footage there’s an excellent video of me sprinting across the yard, hastily undressing as I went. He had his bum shaved after that by Kelsey, one of the Prices’ grooms, and so we all suffered some indignities that day.

Top-notch pony-spotting at Lips Stable.

The new addition of a plethora of Kiwi accents to our diverse selection meant that I started to sound like a parody of everyone: I split my childhood between the UK and the US, and when you undergo an accent change as a child, your brain becomes a uniquely self-conscious little creature that tries to adapt, chameleon-like, to whatever sounds it hears frequently. It had drifted towards something vaguely continental in the first half of the week; by the latter half, every third sentence sounded rather like I was doing a bad impression of the Crocodile Hunter. This led to some communication difficulties.

“Are the bosses around?” I cheerfully called out to Kelsey one day, strolling into the Prices’ barn aisle.

“Are the…bastards around?” she replied, looking puzzled and defensive.

I wasn’t the only one struggling with accent troubles, though for Mollie, the difficulty was in interpretation. She bumped into Gosia, Tim Lips’s Polish groom, one day in the kitchen. Gosia had made the best use of her morning off, cooling off at one of the many nearby swimming areas.

“You have to go there one day,” she told Mollie in her strong Gdansk accent. “You have beautiful legs.”

Or at least, that’s what Mollie thought she said. She appeared in the lounge moments later, looking harried.

“I thought she was hitting on me, and I didn’t know how to respond,” she said. “But she was just saying they have beautiful lakes.”

Mollie’s cultural education was taking shape every day.

“I’m going to leave here such an intellectual,” she proudly proclaimed one day. “I’m learning so much.”

Like Columbus before her, Mollie aims spectacularly poorly and somehow discovers the Americas.

After discovering on that first night that she didn’t, in fact, know what continents were, she set about learning them with gusto a couple of evenings before our departure, helped along by an interactive map-labelling game I’d found for her on the ages 5-7 section of an educational website. It took some serious focus and a couple of misfires — notably, the labelling of Africa as Europe, because “I thought that was the United Kingdom,” she said, pointing at Madagascar — but eventually, she got it. No one was more proud than Mollie herself.

“I can’t stop thinking about Antarctica,” she said, eating a block of cheese the next evening.

A reformed Charly shows off his best duck impression.

Charly — the happiest horse in the universe — had also come on in leaps and bounds. Not in his ridden work, which had already been excellent, but in learning to eat while away from home. At their debut five-star at Pau last year, he’d survived on a diet of 24/7 carrots, and for the first few days of our trip, he turned his nose up at mealtimes, but now he bellowed for extra meals whenever anyone dared venture past his stable. Mollie, high on the euphoria of knowing about Antarctica, reenacted a pivotal scene from Secretariat on her own in the barn aisle.

Teams Lips, Price, and Summerland convene for cross-country day.

The Prices were due to leave a day before the rest of us, and they’d been good company, providing sparkling commentary as we all piled into the lounge to watch Bicton’s CCI4*-L cross-country, putting on a suitably excellent barbecue, and giving us all a unique insight into just how many opinions Ascona M really has. (A lot, as it turns out.)

Tim never quite recovered from the discovery that all the booze was alcohol free.

Their horses had occupied a separate barn aisle during their stay, and anytime any of the rest of us pottered through, Tim would appear, roaring at us in jest to get out of his barn. After they headed to bed in preparation for their long journey the next day, Jillian, Molly and I decided to get our revenge, wrapped their lorry and aisle in banners reading ‘TIM LIPS 4EVER (no other Tims need apply)’. The battle of the Tims had commenced.

Throughout the ten days of our stay, it felt like there were good omens everywhere: I kept glancing at my phone just as 11:11 hit; Mollie and I had saluted every magpie within a five-mile radius; and little signs just kept adding up to add to the positive vibes around the place. Being in Breda felt like a lucky charm in and of itself – we were surrounded by people we’d come to adore and it felt more like a home than I could ever have expected.

Two Tims and a horse who changed their lives. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Just before it all came to an end, I sat down with each of the Tims in turn to chat about Keyflow, the now-24-year-old gelding whose sale had given Tim Price a foothold early in his career, and who had gone on to extraordinary success with Tim Lips for years thereafter.

After half an hour of sharing memories, the latter became pensive.

“I remember watching [Dutch Paralympian] Bibian Mentel on TV once,” he said. “She had had cancer over and over again and knew she was going to die. But she said life is all about collecting memories – it doesn’t matter what you own, or how much money you have, or how nice your car is. It’s about following your passion and gaining these wonderful memories. That’s what these great horses give us.”

I could say the same for the great people who work with them. Thanks for the memories, Tim: and now, onward to Luhmühlen.

The Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials: Website, Entries, Live Scoring, Form GuideLivestreamEN’s CoverageEN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

The Luhmühlen Tour Diaries, Part Four: A Heartbreaking Tale of Unrequited Love

Getting to a CCI5* is always an enormous undertaking — but never more so than in a pandemic year. Our own Tilly Berendt is on the road to Luhmühlen with Great Britain’s Mollie Summerland and her horse Charly van ter Heiden – and she’s documenting the whole journey as it happens. Welcome to part four:

Part One: The Long, Hard Road out of Plague Island

Part Two: The One with the Border Police Kerfuffle

Part Three: The BeNeLux Sausagefest

EN’s coverage of Luhmühlen is brought to you in part by Kentucky Performance Products. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products and its wide array of supplements available for your horse.

I adore you, you weird orange creature. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

TMX Herby, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight 

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

But mostly, I just love your cute little ginger schnozz

And that whopping great gallop

Even though

You do not love me in return. 

That is okay.

– Elizabeth Barrett Browning, maybe

When I first had the idea to contact Dutch Olympian and, let’s be real, total legend Tim Lips, I promise I did it wholly and completely because it was the perfect functional option: his yard in Breda, the Netherlands, is en route to Luhmühlen, his facilities are top-notch for preparing for a CCI5*, and we’d have access to his endless knowledge and experience if we needed it. (We have needed it.) He’s also heading to Luhmühlen, albeit for the CCI4*-S, and so it seemed like the ideal environment to ensconce ourselves in. It was only when the deal was done and dusted that I could indulge the feral little pony-mad girl I am deep down inside: because Tim’s top horse, TMX Herby, is my ultimate horse crush.

Let’s rewind a bit — to the Young Horse World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers in 2019, to be exact. I was huddled under a million layers photographing the first horse inspection in torrential rain, spinning around to alternate between shooting the action on the trot strip and the quiet moments under the large concrete roof, where waiting horses and handlers were sheltering from the worst of the weather. I turned in time to catch Tim as he stepped out from under the roof, directly into a torrent of water streaming from the building itself. I was so busy laughing myself senseless at the photo I took of him that I almost didn’t notice his horse. Almost.

ALMOST. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tall, slender, with legs up to his eyeballs, the seven-year-old chestnut gelding peered politely and curiously at the spectacle around him, with a slightly sleepy-looking countenance but an obvious sparkling intelligence. I don’t usually go in for a chestnut with lots of white, but something about the horse struck me, and I looked forward to his dressage test with about as much anticipation as I ever muster for watching dressage in the rain. There, he sweetly got on with the job in spite of the fetlock-deep, holding mud, and when I cornered Tim for an interview afterwards, he sealed the deal for me. As it turned out, Herby’s owner Max, a chap in at least his late sixties, shared the ride with Tim – and his final ‘prep run’ for the Young Horse World Championships had been a pop around a 90cm course with the enthusiastic amateur.

On cross-country day, I delegated the photography to Pam and Charles Cunningham of Irish Eventing Times so that I could watch the action in full from the riders’ tent and make notes through the day. Partway through the afternoon, an older man sat down next to me, asked me about my work, and then queried whether there was any horse in particular I was excited to see, a leading smile on his face.

“I have to follow all of them,” I told him, “but I can’t wait to see Tim Lips and Herby go.”

He beamed. “That’s my horse,” he said, and we happily chatted away about Herby as we watched the action unfold. When I watched that gorgeous, rangy ginger eat up the track with his extraordinary gallop and gutsy, easy jump, I knew my heart had been stolen forever. Broken a little bit, mind you, when he was withdrawn from the holding box in the final inspection, but stolen nonetheless.

Since then, I’ve followed his career with rapt attention, and poor Tim has probably largely known me as “that one English girl who like, really loves my horse, probably a bit too much.” When he won a CCI3*-S at Barroca d’Alva at the beginning of last year, I lost part of my mind. When he took the win in his CCI4*-L debut at Sopot later in the year, I felt great chunks of my sanity gleefully depart from my head. And when he won another CCI3*-S, this time at Oudskarpel, I knew my last remaining brain cells had left the country.  His was the name I was most excited to see on this year’s Luhmühlen entries — even though he’s not in the five-star. And now, I was going to spend ten whole days with him. Ten whole blissful, glorious days, in which I could feed him polos and pat his little nose and tell him he’s pretty and plan a foolproof heist.

To be honest, I don’t even know why Tim was willing to let me on his property.

Unfortunately, it turns out he doesn’t like me very much. It’s probably not helped by the fact that I lurk around outside his stable, waiting for him to acknowledge my existence, kind of like one of those sweaty drunk guys you always see hanging around near the women’s loos in nightclubs. He vacillates between total indifference and quiet annoyance, and his absolute determination to play hard to get only makes me try even harder. I am a woman possessed. The fact that he apparently doesn’t like a fuss from anyone does nothing to deter me. He WILL love me. Maybe.

Unfortunately, in this situation, I am absolutely Matt Hancock.

The day after our arrival was all about getting to know the lay of the land, stocking up on food (“why don’t they have cheddar here? I HATE STUPID GOUDA,” wailed Mollie, on multiple occasions), and, of course, waiting for our benevolent host to return from his busy weekend of training and competing. When he did finally come home that evening, it was to be greeted with the sight of two slightly dishevelled English girls, sprawled across his armchairs like discarded laundry. Mollie, who was on a FaceTime call, didn’t react as I nearly fell out of my chair in a swift attempt to look like a real grown-up and someone you might want to allow on your property. There was time for a quick hello and a short chat before Tim had to dash off again to take some horses to the gallops, and then he was gone as stealthily as he’d appeared.

“Who was that?” asked Mollie, glancing up from her phone.

“That was Tim,” I said.

“Tim who?” she asked.

“Tim…Lips. The guy whose place we’re at.”

“Oh. I saw China on his jacket and thought it was some Chinese guy we didn’t know,” she said.

“Tim is visibly not Chinese,” I pointed out.

Alex schooling in the sunshine. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This is one of the (many, many) interesting things about being here: not only is Tim a world-class rider in his own right, with Olympics, World Equestrian Games, European Championships and plenty of five-stars under his belt, he’s also a busy and accomplished coach. Chief among his duties is his work with China’s eventing programme, which has qualified a team for the Olympics for the first time ever. Two riders – Yingfeng Bao and Huadong Sun (or Alex, as we know him) — are based here at Lips Stables, each with an exciting string of horses that includes the former Andrew Nicholson mount Teseo and Tim’s own former ride Brent. Tim’s involvement, and that of his father Martin, goes further than simply training Bao and Alex, though — they’re also heavy involved in building China’s equestrian industry, and source horses of all breeds and types to send abroad. I’m also going to need you all to take a second to look at this place.

It didn’t take long for us to force everyone on site to become our new best friends, which was helped, I’m sure, by the fact that they all probably looked at us bumbling around the place and thought, ‘look at these sad, strange little English girls. We should be kind to them.’ The first time I met Bao, for example, I was out hand-grazing Charly, whose grazing style is that of a very hungry high-speed train: nose out and go. I attempted to carry on a civilised and sensible conversation while Charly produced some aggressive crop circles and then, with absolutely no warning whatsoever, dropped to the ground as though he’d been shot. That’s a pretty quick conversation killer, frankly — but it turns out he just wanted a roll and is a drama queen who simply cannot be tamed.

“Look, auntie Tilly, I’M DYING!” Photo by Tilly Berendt.

One of the best things about being on a yard like this is the incredible opportunities to watch horses and riders in training, which is always an enormously educational prospect. The other best thing? Chilled out evenings on the terrace, chatting away to Tim and his team, swapping stories and hearing about some of his incredible experiences.

Several days into spending quality time with us, it became obvious that Mollie’s influence was rubbing off on him.

“You know, I didn’t realise for a long time that Piggy had got married,” he mused, referring to her surname change. “I thought that maybe it was a reference to the fact that she’d won a lot of things in March.”

Mollie and Charly on their final gallop day before Luhmühlen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

By our fifth day in Breda, we were able to head out of ‘quarantine’, and so we embarked upon a series of adventures: long walks in the hot sun to the nearest bus stop so we could go into town and buy more socks, because ours kept wandering away in the night, attempt to cobble together a trot-up outfit on our teeny-tiny budget, and drink Kriek on cafe terraces. Ten long, luxurious days in Breda was feeling more like a holiday than the precursor to a five-star – but even this rare spate of relaxation and excellent company brings its perils.

A tried-and-tested rider psychology trick? “Here, have this beer and stop talking about lateral work.” Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Accompanying a rider to a top-level competition isn’t just about being on hand to help with the chores – it’s also often about managing rider psychology. Any professional rider, used to filling their days with multiple horses to school, finds having one horse to focus on a uniquely tricky situation. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of overdoing the work, of spending hours fretting about the marginal gains and worrying when a movement hasn’t felt perfect in that morning’s session. Really, the only time a rider ever usually has to deal with this is at an Olympics, where they have to arrive early and spend the lead-up with just their ride for the Games. Luckily, we had a seasoned Olympian on hand to help Mollie make sense of the conundrum and to join me in reassuring her that less is, in fact, more.

Changing my business name to Tilly Berendt Media, Logistics, and Expert Pony-Patting.

We did have one major training goal we wanted to tick off the list, though. Mollie has been working hard on showjumping, aided at home by her new trainer Jay Halim – and it was time to put her practice to the test in a real-world scenario. And so — after some sweet-talking to secure late entries — we got up at the crack of dawn to head to Peelbergen for some showjumping.

“A show! My favourite thing!” Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Peelbergen, like many European competition centres, is equestrianism on an industrial scale, complete with sprawling arenas, grandstands, marquees, flags…and frightening showjumping grooms. Mollie and Charly were due to jump two rounds in the 1.30m, the biggest class of the day, and after letting Charly use me as a pillow for a little while in the collecting ring, I wiped the horse dribble out of my cleavage and went into the fray to try to claim a jump.

“I bought myself the biggest backpack I could find to make myself more intimidating when I was a showjumping groom,” my friend Charley texted me sagely later on. I could see why. There’s a serious backpack hierarchy in showjumping warm-ups, and there I was, backpackless and covered in slobber, forced to beg and borrow jumps while some chap in a bright yellow, unbuttoned show jacket careered around the place on his enormous horse and nearly wiped us all out.

Mollie and Charly get set for world domination. Or at the very least, jumping some big fences. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It all paid off, though. Armed with a new showjumping warm-up routine, Mollie and Charly did their thing, headed into the competition arena, and produced two professional, educational rounds that stood them in great stead for the following week’s event. We headed home — only finding ourselves heading to the wrong side of the road once — and prepared ourselves to meet the lorryload of Luhmühlen-bound competitors who had arrived in our absence.

The Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials: Website, Entries, Live Scoring, LivestreamEN’s CoverageEN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

The Little Luhmühlen That Could: Your Guide to the CCI5* Competitors, Presented by Kentucky Performance Products

This Form Guide and EN’s coverage of Luhmühlen is brought to you in part by Kentucky Performance Products. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products and its wide array of supplements available for your horse.

“Though she be but little, she is fierce,” wrote Willy Shakespeare, probably while working on a 17th century version of a form guide for an event affected by the bubonic plague. It’s perfectly apt for Luhmühlen, too; though the original 70+ strong entry list is down to a petite 24 due to Germany’s ban on UK travellers, it’s still a high-class field that’ll put up one heck of a fight for the top honours this week. Across those 24 combinations, ten nations are represented, and a number of the entrants are Olympians and seasoned team riders. Oh, and did we mention those three five-star winning horses, including the 2018 and 2019 winners of this class?

Gird your bratwurst, dear reader, and let’s meet the Luhmühlen CCI5* class of 2021.

Editor’s note: It was announced on Saturday, 12 June that the local government had changed its mind and decided to grant an exemption for British-based riders to travel to Luhmühlen. Though many of those withdrawn had rerouted to Bicton, there are a small handful of competitors who may be able to make the journey today. We’ll update the form guide with any further entrants as soon as they’re confirmed. 

Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois (USA)

Thirteen-year-old Holsteiner/Thoroughbred mare (Satisfaction I x Comtess, by Contender). Owned by the Stella Artois Syndicate.

This will be a second CCI5* for ‘Toddie’, who made her debut at Kentucky earlier this season but ended her week early with an unfortunate horse fall about two-thirds of the way home. Otherwise, this pair have enjoyed some super form, with a win at Rebecca Farm’s CCI4*-L in 2019 and 7th at Tryon CCI4*-L last season.

‘Toddie’ is also a seasoned traveller: after winning the CCI3*-L National Championship at Fair Hill in 2016, she and Jennie were awarded the Connaught Grant by the USET Foundation and used it to travel to Millstreet, Ireland for the CCI4*-L, where they finished fourth. They’ve also made the trip to Boekelo in the Netherlands, where they were part of the US team at the Nations Cup finale in 2019. Though they didn’t complete cross-country, they were able to continue on to showjumping as the event was run under the new Olympic format.

Though Toddie probably won’t eclipse the likely dressage frontrunners on Friday, her marks in this phase are getting better and better: she’s consistently throwing sub-30 scores on the board and posted a 29.6 at Kentucky. Luhmühlen tends to be an easier time question than some of the other five-stars, which could work in her favour — and Sunday’s tough, up-to-height showjumping challenge will give this pair the biggest chance to climb. Their showjumping performances are reliably excellent.

Emilie Chandler and Gortfadda Diamond. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Emilie Chandler and Gortfadda Diamond (GREAT BRITAIN)

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Water Valley Cool Diamond x Panda, by Glacial Storm). Owned by Maria Doel.

Emilie brings her 2019 Blair Castle CCI4*-L winner Gortfadda Diamond forward for his second five-star after an impressive debut at Pau last year, wherein they scored a 28.6 on the flat and then jumped around with 9.6 time penalties. Unfortunately, they withdrew before the final horse inspection, but there’s much to like about their form over the last couple of years. They were ninth in the CCI4*-S at Aston le Walls last month, finishing on their dressage score of 29.1, and fifth at Burgham CCI4*-S last year, where they added just 0.4 time penalties to their 25.2 score.

Their journey to Luhmühlen has been plagued by travel bans, and they initially opted to reroute to Bicton CCI4*-L last week. After a couple of issues on course, though, Emilie decided to save the horse for another day and, when she heard news of the announcement that British riders could now travel to Luhmühlen, reverted to her original plan. Of course, those uncharacteristic issues last week leave a bit of a question mark hanging over them as they step back up a level, but ordinarily, this horse is a consistent competitor. If they can go sub-30 again this week, they’ll put themselves in a competitive position – but then Emilie will need to put Bicton behind her and ride for the bold, rhythmic round these two are so capable of producing. On the last day, they’ve got a 50/50 chance of producing a clear – and they did so when winning Blair after that tough cross-country course.

Luc Chateau and Troubadour Camphoux. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Luc Chateau and Troubadour Camphoux (FRANCE)

Fourteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Idem de b’Neville x Gold In Blue, by Veganum). Owned by S.C.E.A. Ecurie d’Albigny.

Luc Chateau must not be confused with the Chateau de Luc, a twelfth-century ruin in Occitanie, nor with the wine and vineyard of the same name in the foothills of Mount Alaric. No, stay on topic — it’s horses and the people who ride them that we’re chatting about now, not refreshing and delicious beverages.

You probably know Luc best for his partnership with Propriano de l’Ebat, the excellent stallion who’s the crown jewel of the family breeding enterprise — not too shabby an undertaking, when you consider that Luc wasn’t born into a horsey family at all. His sophomore five-star run comes, though, with Troubadour Camphoux, originally produced by Spain’s Alexis Gomez and then brought through to CCI4*-L by fellow Frenchman Didier Dhennin. Luc took the reins in early 2018, and though the pair have had some little whoopsies — 20s at Belton and Bramham, plus a broken frangible at Blenheim last year — they’ve also shown some of the sparkle they’ll be able to hone and refine in future.

They made their five-star debut at Pau last year, where the ‘Frenchness’ of the course design worked in their favour — they fly around home courses, which tend to be built on much more open stride patterns than the British courses that have been their downfall so far. They added just 2.4 time penalties across the country and a solitary rail to their 38.9 first-phase score to finish 19th in world-class company. This will be their first FEI run since Pau, and we’ll be looking for Luc to aim for a mid-30s score – and then to stay on it.

(Oh, and if small kiddos on fluffy ponies is your jam, we highly recommend giving him a follow on Instagram.)

Cathal Daniels and LEB Lias Jewel at Blenheim 2019. Photo by William Carey.

Cathal Daniels and LEB Lias Jewel (IRELAND)

Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Limmerick x LEB Liath, by Colin Diamond). Owned by Jo Breheny.

Cathal is one of just two Irish entries still standing in this year’s competition – though Ireland isn’t subject to the same German travel ban as the UK, that ban does wholly complicate things for riders trying to come over from the Emerald Isle. Rather than crossing the Irish Sea to the UK, driving down to the southern ports and then crossing over to Europe, Irish-based riders need to either take a considerably longer 18-hour ferry direct to Europe or find themselves subject to the same travel regulations as other riders entering Europe from the UK. Complicated, eh?

Still, it’s not hard to see why Cathal might have thought the journey well worth the effort with five-star debutant LEB Lias Jewel – even though it’s meant withdrawing his entries from Bicton. In 20 FEI starts, she’s finished in the top ten 15 times, added time penalties just six times, and knocked only four poles across her career. But she’s only started at CCI4*-L twice, retiring on course in her debut at Millstreet in 2019 but then finishing eighth at Blenheim CCI4*-L just a month later, so she’ll fly somewhat under the radar, particularly with her mid-30s first-phase score – but she couldn’t have a better jockey than Cathal on board for her first five-star cross-country round. Consider this your dark horse one to watch.

David Doel and Carneyhaugh Rua. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

David Doel and Carneyhaugh Rua (GREAT BRITAIN)

Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Harlequin du Carel x Carneyhaugh Bella, by Cavalier Royale). Owned by Ian and Jane James. 

Originally produced to CCI2*-S by Reserve World Champion Padraig McCarthy, Carneyhaugh Rua made his five-star debut at Pau last year after a string of solid results at four-star. He’s jumped clear around Saumur CCI4*-L and CCI4*-S sections at Ballindenisk, Haras du Pin and Barocca d’Alva, although his trip down to Portugal in early March was his last international run before that first five-star. At Pau, he had an excellent educational first run, jumping a steady clear on Saturday and a faultless round on Sunday to finish in the top thirty. This time, David will hope to bring down that 42 dressage and step on the gas a bit more across the country, now that he knows his horse can handle it. This could be the week for Carneyhaugh Rua to step up from a boy to a man.

David Doel and Dunges Don Perignon (GREAT BRITAIN) 

Eleven-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Jaguar Mail x Dunges Laurent Rose, by Almushmmir). Owned by Tim and Alice Page.

David’s sole debutant this week is young Dunges Don Perignon, who stepped up to four-star in 2018 at Haras du Pin. He’s produced plenty of clear rounds at the level, finishing seventh at Barroca d’Alva CCI4*-S in 2019 and 12th in his first CCI4*-L at Saumur that spring. This year, we’ve seen him grow in maturity, with quick clears at Aston le Walls and Burnham Market’s CCI4*-S classes; he added 3.2 time penalties in the latter but romped home inside the time at the former. David won’t be intended this as a competitive run, but rather, as a useful building block for this classy horse’s future: his aims will be to go sub-40 in the first phase and establish an economical, confident rhythm around Saturday’s course. On recent form, he could lodge an impressive round, which will give David lots to think about as he plans out the next 12 months. They’re prone to a rail on Sunday, and as a green horse jumping a tough showjumping course after the biggest challenge of his short career, this — or more — is to be expected. Regardless, it’s all a fact-finding mission, and it’ll be great fun to watch this up-and-comer learn lots through the week.

(Oh, and if you’re a bit of a breeding nerd, here’s a fun fact for you: Dunges Don Perignon’s dam, Dunges Laurent Rose, went to CCI5* with Australia’s Clayton Fredericks, finishing ninth at Pau and fifth at Luhmühlen in 2011.)

David Doel and Shannondale Quest (GREAT BRITAIN)

Sixteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Cascaletto St Ghyvan Z x Shannon Dales Clover, by Clover Hill). Owned by Gillian Jonas.

In a pretty great effort, Britain’s David Doel has managed to get three horses to Luhmühlen, using the Netherlands’ Renswoude Horse Trials as an initial stopover point and then going on to Dutch eventer Jos Houben’s base to wait out the rest of his ten days out of the UK. The eldest horse in his three-pronged attack is Shannondale Quest, who was produced to CCI4*-L by Britain’s Louisa Lockwood before David took the reins in 2017.

Since then, they’ve become a familiar sight in international classes all over the UK and Europe, clocking up top ten finishes in CCI4*-S sections at Barbury and Renswoude in 2019, and the latter in 2018, too. In 2019, Shannondale Quest tackled his first five-star at Burghley — a particularly tough year for a debut — and jumped a stylish but steady clear for 31.2 time penalties. They ultimately finished just outside the top twenty after tipping three poles on Sunday, but the experience will have allowed David the extra intel to refine this big horse’s fitness plan ahead of his second run at this level.

Though their sole international run in 2020 ended early with a tip-up across the country, they ran well and quickly across the country in the CCI4*-S at Aston le Walls last month. This course should suit the gelding well; we’ll be looking for a mid-to-high 30s dressage and then the chance for Shannondale Quest to nail down a swifter run across the country, which should come more easily here than at Burghley. They’ll likely tip a couple of rails, but David is no slouch and it’ll be interesting to see how he’s developed the horse since that first five-star.

Anna Freskgård and Techno (SWEDEN)

Twelve-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Hip Hop x Tatti, by Zwift). Owned by Sophia Ericsson.

Experienced competitor and coach Anna brings Techno forward for his second five-star. He ran at Pau last season, deputising for original entrant Fly Away V.D N.Ranch, and did an exciting two-phase performance, putting a 32.1 on the board and then running a classy clear with 9.2 time penalties, though he was then withdrawn before the final horse inspection.

There’s a lot to like about their form, not least the fact that the horse was one of those child prodigies who managed to win his first-ever international back in just 2016. In his past eight runs, he’s finished in the top twenty in six. They’re fairly swift — and this is a course that’ll allow them a bit more room to play with than Pau — and that’ll help give them a big boost up the leaderboard after their low-to-mid-30s dressage. Showjumping could be a heartbreaker for them, though — they’ll likely pull a rail, and two wouldn’t be a surprise.

Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan (USA)

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Master Imp xx x Ardragh Bash, by Cavalier Royale). Owned by Anne Eldridge.

You might remember Ariel Grald as The Great Flag Thief of Kentucky 2019:

Despite this, and as you can see in the video, both horse and rider remained cool, calm, and focused, totally belying the fact that it was their first five-star. In fact, they went on to finish 12th, and looked incredibly impressive in each phase. This came as no surprise to the good folks at US Equestrian, who had named Ariel to their 2019 Developing Potential Training List over the winter. Then, they headed across the pond to tackle one of the toughest Burghleys in recent memory, where they finished tenth and highest-ranked Burghley rookies.

Since then, they’ve notched up top twenty finishes in CCI4*-S classes at Unionville and Great Meadows, as well as in the CCI4*-L at Tryon at the tail end of last season. We haven’t seen them in an FEI event this year, but they won their sole national run of this year in the Advanced at Chattahoochee Hills. Their dressage mark was a very exciting 24.6 – a huge improvement on their usual high-20s to low-30s marks. They should give us another masterclass across the country, but there’s something of a question mark over Sunday – they can go clear, and certainly have done plenty of times, but they could also have a frustrating pole, as they did at both Kentucky and Burghley.

Malin Hotopp-Hansen and Monsieur Schnabel (GERMANY)

Thirteen-year-old Trakehner gelding (Birkhof’s Grafenstolz x Milka, by Heraldik xx). Owned by the rider.

The EN prize for the best horse name of the week goes, without a shadow of a doubt, to the charming Monsieur Schnabel. We challenge you to try to say that without putting on the most ludicrous combination of accents. It simply can’t be done.

This will be a five-star debut for both horse and rider, who stepped up to four-star in 2017 with a number of exciting performances since. They were ninth in a CCI4*-S at Strzegom on their debut, eighth at the same level at Sopot in 2019, and 17th in the German National Championship CCI4*-S at Luhmühlen last year.

Malin represented Germany in the Rural Riders European Championship in 2017, held at the three-star level, and she runs a busy teaching business with a focus on young riders – a passion developed from her early experiences jumping home-made cross-country courses built by her father Klaus, himself a former event rider. She’s built up a great relationship with her top horse, and could certainly impress this week: their scores fluctuate between the high 20s and low-to-mid 30s, and will likely err on the latter end in this tougher test, and they can be reasonably quick across the country, though may opt to take a couple of long routes. They reliably drop a pole in the final phase, and that’s one of the biggest challenges at Luhmühlen – but they have all the right stuff to enjoy a great, educational debut at this level at their home five-star.

Germany’s Michael Jung with Fischerwild Wave at the Ready Steady Tokyo test event. (FEI/Yusuke Nakanishi)

Michael Jung and fischerWild Wave (GERMANY)

Nine-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Water Dance xx x Uquina, by Acobat 2). Owned by Klaus and Sabine Fischer, Brigitte, Joachim, and Philip Jung and the rider.

fischerWho? fischerFifteen top tens in 22 international runs, that’s who. You might not have spotted Magic Mike’s exciting young five-star debutant yet, but we expect he might give you a reason to remember the name, Fort Minor style, this week. The gelding is already making waves — eh? Eh? — in Germany: he’s been named to the German Olympic longlist alongside Michael’s top horse fischerChipmunk FRH. Though Chipmunk will be Michael’s top choice for the Games, this could well be his Europeans mount later in the summer.

It’s a bit of a treat anyway to see Michi in the five-star here, as most of the Germans tend to run the four-star — as he is on Chipmunk, to the great chagrin of everyone who has to compete against him. But Wild Wave is ready to tackle the big stuff: he was second in the CCI4*-S at Baborowko last month (to Chipmunk, for what it’s worth), sixth in the CCI4*-L at Pratoni at the tail end of last year, and fourth in his CCI4*-S debut at Avenches last season. He does have a couple of technical eliminations on his record — Michi missed a fence at Marbach and was technically eliminated at Strzegom, where he’d also picked up a 20. But that was then, this is now, and it’s hard to imagine the horse having any major issues around this track. Expect a high 20s dressage, a swift clear — assuming he doesn’t opt for an educational long routes — and a possible rail on Sunday, though he tends to jump well on the final day. This could sneak into the top ten.

Samantha Lissington and Ricker Ridge Rui. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Samantha Lissington and Ricker Ridge Rui (NEW ZEALAND)

Thirteen-year-old New Zealand Sport Horse (by Littorio; dam unknown). Owned by Christine Quigley and the rider.

Samantha – nee Felton – is one of the new wave of Kiwi talent in the UK, and like fellow expat (and bridesmaid) Ginny Thompson, she based herself at the former yard of Blyth Tait with her husband, indoor football player Brayden, and a handful of her former string of horses. Like Ginny she, too, had to sell the rest to make the move, but with one eye on Tokyo, it was an inevitability.

Samantha is one of two riders to benefit from the exemption granted on Saturday for UK-based travellers to go to Luhmühlen, and she packed her bags and withdrew from Bicton’s CCI4*-S with this horse to make the long trip. There, they’d posted a 31.4 and tipped three rails, which is on the high end for them. Ordinarily, we can expect one or two to fall, and at the horse’s CCI5* debut at Burghley in 2019, it was just the one. They picked up a 20 across the country on that occasion, but this is a very different track to the long, galloping test of Burghley – here, the ability to shift gears easily and make up time while navigating twisty tracks through the woods is key. This duo scarcely ever left the top ten while competing at home in New Zealand, and are looking as though they’re on the cusp of really finding their groove on the European circuit – a 12th place finish in a huge CCI4*-S class at Aston le Walls is an exciting snippet of what could be to come. Sam is no slouch, and she knows that a good result here could secure her a plane ride to Tokyo – so keep an eye on her in the CCI4*-S, too, with Ricker Ridge Sooty.

Maxime Livio and Vegas des Boursons (FRANCE)

Eleven-year-old Selle Français gelding (Allegreto x Clio des Boursons, by Tin Soldier). Owned by SC Soixante Seize et Compagnie, Camille Letourneaux and the rider. 

Maxime’s five-star debutant is relatively inexperienced, though his CCI4*-L form is exciting: he’s competed twice at the level and finished in the top ten on both occasions. His debut was at Bramham, where he finished tenth with just 3.6 time penalties across the country, followed up by third at Strzegom with four time penalties. Oh, and did we mention he only stepped up to four-star in 2019, after running just once — in a CCI2*-S, no less — in 2018?

It’s easy to see how Vegas could go on to be Maxime’s next big star, but his 2020 season was a bit underwhelming; he didn’t run cross-country at Jardy in July and then went on to Haras du Pin in August, where he delivered a personal best at the level in dressage, a clear across the country with six time… and knocked five rails in showjumping. Then he was aimed at a five-star debut at Pau, but didn’t start. Maxime, whose own record includes top-ten finishes at Luhmühlen, Kentucky and, over and over again, at Pau, will be looking to educate his young horse for future world domination – and in this small field, he could end up vying for an exciting result.

Clara Loiseau and Ultramaille. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Clara Loiseau and Ultramaille (FRANCE)

Thirteen-year-old Selle Français mare (Maille Pistol x La Lorelai). Owned by Isabelle Peters.

Clara made her five-star debut at Pau in 2018 aboard the exciting Thoroughbred Wont Wait, and in doing so, strode straight into the international spotlight. They added just a solitary rail to their 31.7 dressage, finishing third and demonstrating the serious strength in depth that the French federation boasts — and adding Ultramaille to her top-level string gave her another great boost.

Ultramaille produced a very good 30.9 in the CCI4*-L at Boekelo in 2018, but her scores tend to sit more in the mid-to-high 30s bracket. She made her five-star debut here the following year, finishing fifteenth after scoring a 36.5 and adding 8.8 time penalties across the country and a rail and 1.2 time in the final phase. A rider fall followed at Haras du Pin CCI4*-S later that summer, but clear rounds at Jardy and Avenches followed the next summer. They haven’t run internationally this year, but the goal now will likely be to solidify that form and push for a quicker finish across the country. A couple of poles will preclude a truly competitive placing, but this could be the moment for Ultramaille to step up from second string to serious contender.

Clara Loiseau and Wont Wait. Photo Tilly Berendt.

Clara Loiseau and Wont Wait (FRANCE)

Seventeen-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Starborough xx x Impatience xx). Owned by the rider.

Pau 2018 was a seriously happy hunting ground for French young guns, and Clara and her beloved gelding were right up there with the very best of them. They finished third, delivering one of only four double-clears on Saturday – in the end, a solitary rail kept them from finishing on their dressage score at their debut five-star.

Clara is a stylish, positive, very French sort of rider, and a perfect match for her elegant Thoroughbred, who cruises down to forward distances seamlessly. They’ve never had more than 13.6 time penalties at the four-star level and above, and in fact, they finished a stonking 22 seconds inside the time at Pau. They added 13.6 time penalties when delivering a classy clear at Badminton in 2019, though they ran into trouble at Burghley the same year and retired after some problems on course. Last year, we saw them clock up penalties and a subsequent retirement at Haras du Pin CCI4*-S, but there final run of the year at Avenches was a confident clear inside the time.

Clara and Wont Wait were one of our standout pairs at Pau, but the course was made for them – it rewarded the forward riding they find so natural. Luhmühlen is a different kind of course, but should be well within their wheelhouse – though they’ll have to work hard over Sunday’s big showjumping course, as this is something of a weak phase for them. We’ll be expecting a mid-to-high 30s score — though they’ve proven at four-star that they can dip down to the low 30s — a quick, gutsy clear round, and then one or two rails that could prove expensive in this small but classy field.

Philippa Magnusson and Cesar (SWEDEN)

Eleven-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Crelido x Coco Chanell TH, by San Quintero). Owned by the rider.

Philippa, who works as an elite sporting member of the Swedish Armed Forces, made her championship debut at the Europeans here in 2019 with Cesar, riding as an individual. Though they picked up a 20 around the tough track, they’ll certainly have learned plenty in the process – a point that’s been in the six international runs they’ve had since, which have all been clear across the country. One of those was a fifth place finish in the CCI4*-L at Barroca d’Alva.

They won’t threaten the obvious frontrunners here, but that’s rarely the goal in a first five-star for both horse and rider. They’ll likely post a high-30s score and will then focus their full attention on Mike Etherington-Smith’s cross-country course, armed with the knowledge they picked up at that Championships – and though they can be a reasonably quick combination, we’ll expect them to favour accuracy and confidence-building over blind speed. Showjumping is a tricky phase for them, and they’ll likely topple a couple of rails – but for Philippa, who runs two young horses alongside Cesar, her first-ever FEI mount, it’ll all be great further education for the future.

Nadine Marzahl and Valentine. Photo by M&R Photo courtesy of Baborówko Horse Sale Show.

Nadine Marzahl and Valentine FRH (GERMANY)

Fourteen-year-old Hanoverian mare (Valentino x Vienna, by Varus). Owned by Heike Kikuth. 

It’s a happy homecoming for Nadine, who started her professional career based at Luhmühlen after a successful Junior and Young Rider career, which saw her win team gold at the 2002 Young Rider European Championships. Though she gained upper-level experience with her string of horses prior to Valentine, it’s this former Vice Bundeschampionat-winning mare who has been her most high-profile partner: together, they made their debut Senior Championship here in 2019 and flew around the track in fine style, but were sadly technically eliminated for missing a fence.

Still, a technical elimination isn’t a sign of bad form, and Nadine swiftly proved her point by winning their next two outings, in a CCI4*-S at Baborowko and, the following year, a CCI3*-S at Westerstede. In the seven internationals they’ve run since those wins, they’ve finished in the top twenty six times and haven’t had a cross-country jumping penalty in 15 consecutive internationals.

Their last run saw them post a 35.2 in last CCI4*-S, at Baborowko, but they’re more likely to sit around the 30 mark or just below it. Then, they’re likely to go quick and clear across the country at this familiar venue – although it’s a first-time five-star for both, so Nadine could opt for some slower, educational long routes. Their real time shine comes on Sunday: this is a seriously good showjumping combination, and Luhmühlen’s course always breaks a few hearts.

Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo (NEW ZEALAND)

Sixteen-year-old British-Bred Sport Horse (Dimaggio x Faerie Dazzler, by Catherston Dazzler). Owned by Jacky Green, Trisha Rickards, and the rider.

Jonelle returns with a fierce entry this year: 2018 Luhmühlen winner Faerie Dianimo, the ultimate pas de deux partner with Tim’s Ascona M. Well, she would be, but we expect that this spicy little mare doesn’t want any other horses in her space, muscling in on her thunder.

Here’s how Jacky Green describes the vivacious mare:

Homebred by Trisha Rickards, Maggie May is the princess of the yard. She is small, feisty, funny and has scope which belies her tiny frame. Her supermodel status means she does have food issues and she despairs at her friend Classic Moet’s attitude to eating which is to pig out at any opportunity.  Maggie May’s one weakness is that she gets bullied in the paddock by nearly everything which is probably due to the abuse she doles out to them on the arena.  Like Marilyn Monroe she is at her best in front of a crowd and despises doing dressage on grass in a 20 by 40 at a one day with no cameras in attendance.

Though Maggie May – a maternal half-brother of Tim’s horse Xavier Faer, who was second at Kentucky this spring — is an extravagant, powerful mover and very capable of a competitive first-phase result, but her marks tend to fluctuate and she can tip into the low-30s. She put a surprising 36.9 on the board at Pau last year, where she didn’t run cross-country, and earned a 28.4 at Burghley in 2019, where Jonelle opted to pull her up after activating a frangible pin. In 2018, when she won Luhmühlen, she started with a 27.1 and added just 1.2 time penalties to that score over the weekend. If she can get that kind of mark again, you can expect this plucky mare and her extraordinarily experienced rider to stay on it – they have four five-star top ten finishes and a top twenty at the Rio Olympics under their belt, and this mare hasn’t had a rail in an FEI event since 2018, owing in part to the Prices’ annual winter exodus to showjump in Spain.

2019 CCI5* victors Tim Price and Ascona M at Luhmühlen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tim Price and Ascona M (NEW ZEALAND)

Thirteen-year-old Holsteiner mare (Cassaro Z x Naomi IV). Owned by Suzanne Houchin, Sir Peter Vela, and Ben and Lucy Sangster.

She’s extremely talented but sometimes, she’s also just extreme – and that’s per Tim himself, who is the reigning champion here with the extravagant and opinionated ‘Ava.’ If she was a human, she’d be Maggie Thatcher — “although she wasn’t very beautiful, was she?” muses Tim, “so perhaps she’d be Helen Mirren or whats-her-name from The X-Files instead.”

Though you can occasionally spot her throwing down some serious shapes in the dressage warm-up, she’s an exceptional performer in the ring and will vie for the lead on dressage day: though we’ll be expecting a score around 25, like her 25.8 here in 2019, her preparatory test at Millstreet CCI4*-S two weeks ago saw her put a 20.1 on the board and Tim tells us she’s been incredibly professional in her work over the last few weeks. This could be her moment to put out a personal best and make herself even more formidable to her competitors.

She’s not always the fastest mare – she clocked up 16.4 time penalties at Pau last year, where she finished 6th – but she only added 2 time penalties at Luhmühlen, which tends to have an easier time than twisty, tight Pau. Her final phase performances err towards a pole, though she’s jumped clear on the final day in both her five-stars.

Ava used to be one of Jonelle’s rides, but she opted to let Tim take the reins while she was busy brewing up baby Otis back in 2017. Some serious negotiation obviously ensued because Jonelle, who had been very firm about the fact that her horses would all go back to her, relented and let Tim keep the ride on this serious talent. Now, the two matching grey mares go head to head for the title – don’t take your eyes off either of them.

Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy (NEW ZEALAND)

Eighteen-year-old gelding (Courage II x Sky Lassie, by Sky Boy). Owned by Verenna Allen and the rider.

The Prices’ horses aren’t short of talent – nor are they short of character, and ‘Ozzie’ is certainly one of the sport’s biggest personalities. The 2018 Burghley winner was never bought to be a superstar — instead, he was picked up on the cheap as a rogue young horse with a penchant for bolting. The plan was to put some miles on him and resell him, but Tim couldn’t persuade anyone to buy him – though we’re sure he’s not rueing that these days. This will be an extraordinary sixteenth CCI5* for the gelding, and he’s finished in the top ten seven times at the level.

He’s had his odd spots of bad luck, too. At the Olympics in 2016, he slipped and fell on the flat on cross-country day, and at Burghley in 2019 he did the same in the final water. Still, blips like that are easy to overlook, because they’re not really down to form – and Ozzie will certainly put up a strong fight for a win at Luhmühlen in what will likely be his final year at the top level. Expect to see a dressage score between 25 and 28, and a masterclass across the country. He’s not always one of the fastest horses, but Luhmühlen’s course tends to be less of a time question than the other five-stars. The final day could prove influential: he tends towards a rail on the final day at five-star, but has been known to topple more than that.

Anyway, we’ll shut up now and give you what you’re actually here for…the infamous Jacky Green bio.

Oz or Ozzie is without doubt one of the favourites on the yard despite his quirky personality. His relationship with Tim is legendary and when he rocked up to Rio Olympics bearing a team flag there was not a dry eye in the house.  He hates to be alone ( even when he is not alone he sometimes worries that he may be on his own) and he is best buddies with Wesko which shows his generous personality as he has often played second fiddle to him.  He is built like a long distance runner which is pretty appropriate as his youth saw him ‘bolt’ on many an occasion! Ozzie is like a fine wine that just gets better with age….

Kenki Sato and Shanaclough Contadora. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kenki Sato and Shanaclough Contadora (JAPAN)

Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Contador x Shanaclough Diamond Queen). Owned by Shodo Sato.

If you’re a keen follower of #JapanWatch (and if not, you probably ought to be), you’ll be as excited as we are to see Kenki Sato back on the main stage. Kenki competed at the London 2012 Olympics, taking a short leave of absence from his normal life to take part. That normal life? Training to be a Buddhist priest at the Myōshō-ji temple in the mountain village of Ogawa. His father, Shodo, is the master of the temple, and was an accomplished equestrian himself, just missing out on an Olympic appearance because of the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Shanaclough Contadora made the step up to CCI5* here in 2019, though she didn’t complete – Kenki opted to retire her after picking up a 20 on course. Since then, they’ve picked up plenty more experience with 15 further international runs, including a ninth place finish at the Tokyo test event that same summer and top ten finishes in four-stars at Barroca d’Alva, Strzegom, Pratoni, and Haras du Pin.

Shanaclough Contadora’s first-phase performances can fluctuate between the high 20s and mid-to-high 30s; we saw her post a 32.4 here in 2019, and she could easily go better with her extra experience now. She’s had fourteen consecutive international clears, so will be aiming for a tidy completion this time – but her usually excellent showjumping record has recently been slightly marred by three one- or two-pole rounds in a row.

Michael Ryan and Barnahown Corn Hill (IRELAND)

Ten-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Chinook Eclipse xx x Mats Lady). Owned by Carol and Tom Henry.

Experienced Irish stalwart Michael is one of just two Irish riders still in the hunt for Luhmühlen glory, but even a 19-hour ferry and a bit of extra admin isn’t putting him off – such is his faith in this exciting young horse. Since stepping up to four-star in 2019, he’s had two top ten finishes at long format — at Barroca d’Alva and Ballindenisk — and one at short format, again at Ballindenisk. Though he won’t come here to try to fight for the win, he could well be looking at notching up the requisite experience and result to think about an appearance at this autumn’s European Championships. We’ll be expecting a mid-to-high 30s dressage mark, a steady cross-country run, and a rail on Sunday — though he’s jumped clear once at CCI4*-L on the final day, he’s also had three rails on another occasion. An early technical elimination in his final prep run at Millstreet CCI4*-S does leave a question mark hanging over this pair, but likely isn’t indicative of form.

Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden (GREAT BRITAIN)

Twelve-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Contendros Bube x Espanja, by Escudo II). Owned by the rider.

23-year-old Mollie and her self-produced 12-year-old gelding head to their second five-star, having made their debut at Pau a roaringly successful one with a tenth place finish. Mollie bought Charly when she was a teenager: she’d looked at over 200 young horses on various European dealers’ yards before she spotted the striking gelding almost entirely by chance in a crowded stable. When you know, you know, and she certainly did – and in the last few seasons, this exciting pair have proven themselves a force to be reckoned with against the stiffest of competition. They’ve notched up 17 top-ten finishes in 27 competitions, most recently finishing eighth and best of the British team in the CCIO4*-S Nations Cup at Houghton, despite a highly uncharacteristic 32.4. We can chalk that up to a bit of bad luck: Mollie found herself with just ten minutes to warm up for dressage, and Charly’s a horse who likes to spend the better part of twenty minutes just stretching in the walk before he even thinks about the proper stuff.

In fact, the first phase is this pair’s piece de resistance: Mollie is one of those rare eventers who’d be just as happy doing pure dressage, and she trains with top riders Olivia Oakeley and Carl Hester to refine her performances as much as possible, and Carl has often said that the horse could make the discipline swap with ease, too. They put a 25.5 on the board at Pau to lead through much of the first day of competition, and they’ve dipped down to 23.8 at Barbury in 2019, where they finished second to Andrew Nicholson. Expect them to be near — or at — the top of the leaderboard after this phase. They came home inside the time at Pau with some gritty, determined riding, and with that experience under their belts they’ll aim to do the same again – Charly’s bold, quick and clever, and this duo trust one another wholeheartedly. Their only weaker phase tends to be showjumping, where they’re prone to a rail or two — but help from showjumping coach Jay Halim has refined their performances and given them a new, tailor-made warm-up regime, which she’s put to the test over 1.30m tracks in the Netherlands.

You can also follow Mollie and Charly’s adventures abroad via EN – check out the tour diaries here.

Aistis Vitkauskas and Commander VG. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Aistis Vitkauskas and Commander VG (LITHUANIA)

Ten-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Viegaard’s Come Back II x Nione Fortuna, by Abantos NRA STB 83 4). Owned by Mr and Mrs Kloeve-Mogensen and the rider. 

It’s a second five-star since 2013 for Aistis, who contested the level several times with former top for Ak’s Galopper. This horse, who jumped clear around the Seven-Year-Old World Championship at Le Lion d’Angers just three years ago, made his five-star debut at Pau last season, where he produced a confident, quick clear across the country with just 2.8 time penalties.

Unfortunately, it was the showjumping that was to be his downfall, and like Pau, Luhmühlen makes the most of its capacious arena to deliver one of the sport’s toughest showjumping challenges. Commander VG is ordinarily a two to four rail horse, but at Pau, he took nine poles. Hopefully, both horse and rider will have learned a huge amount from the experience and they’ll come to Luhmühlen fitter, stronger, and prepared to fight for all three phases.

Though the horse isn’t likely to be competitive — his low-40s dressage will preclude a big climb in this company, no matter how well he does in the other phases — this will be a great learning experience for him and a welcome return to the level for Lithuania’s top rider, who has represented his country at three European Championships. This pair are reasonably quick and consistent across the country, picking up a top ten finish in a CCI4*-L at Sopot in 2019 and finishing 14th in exceptionally strong company — and over a course that saw big names such as SAP Hale Bob make mistakes — at Luhmühlen CCI4*-S last year. Another strong performance here will be a great rung on the ladder for both horse and rider, and will help their cause of furthering Lithuania’s admittedly almost nonexistent place on the global eventing map, too.

Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S take top honours in Houghton’s CCIO4*-S class in 2019. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S (GERMANY)

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

Christoph has been quietly making a name for himself as one of Team Germany’s next string of superstars, winning the Nations Cup team and individual competition at Houghton International with Carjatan S in 2019, and following this up with a super top-twenty performance at the European Championships. Their 2020 was very exciting, too: they’ve notched up three top-ten finishes at Luhmühlen, Strzegom, and Arville, and although their trip to the German National Championships was thwarted by an uncharacteristic drive-by at a tough and influential line, there was plenty to be excited about. Their 22.4 was a personal best at the level and their showjumping round was typically classy, as was the rest of their cross-country round.

Christoph has worked hard to overcome some minor blips in the horse’s early education at the level, which saw them take a swim in CCI4*-S sections at Chatsworth and Luhmühlen in 2019. Since then, the young horse has visibly grown in confidence, and Christoph — whose family stud specialises in producing dressage horses — has continued to hone the other two phases, too. This pair are well on their way to being seriously formidable on the world stage, and so their CCI5* debut at Pau last year was one that was particularly hotly anticipated. They made great strides in this first phase, putting a highly competitive 25.6 on the board, but Christoph opted to withdraw before the cross-country as he didn’t feel that the horse was quite right. Since then, they’ve come back strong with a tenth-place finish in the CCI4*-S at Marbach, though the 38.9 they earned in a tune-up CCI3*-S at Strzegom is something of an eyebrow-raiser.

There’s another good reason to tune in, too, of course — and it would be remiss of us as the most determined flirts that ever made the equestrian media industry ridiculous not to give credit where credit is due here. Every event needs a bit of eye-candy — look, we all need a little something to get us through two days of dressage — and Christoph is certainly one of the poster boys of Luhmühlen this year. We’ve not even minded seeing him get a good dunking in the past, though we’re sure he probably feels differently. Lest we be accused of cursing them, we hasten to add that he works a podium well, too.

Jordy Wilken and Burry Spirit. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jordy Wilken and Burry Spirit (THE NETHERLANDS)

Fifteen-year-old KWPN gelding (Casco 4 x Retina H.H., by VDL Indoctro). Owned by the rider.

It’s a five-star debut for 27-year-old Jordy, who’s a hugely popular figure in Dutch eventing with his active YouTube and social media presence, as well as the By Jordy Academy, his busy teaching programme for aspiring eventers. He’s the current reserve Dutch national champion, a title he earned at Boekelo in 2019, and he’s represented the Netherlands on Nations Cup teams.

Though Jordy and Burry’s high-30s dressage will put them near the bottom of the pack on Friday, they’ve become a reliable pair across the country and have clocked up 10 consecutive FEI clear rounds in this phase. They’re generally quick, too. Their showjumping performances, on the other hand, can fluctuate: they’ve had two clears in a row at CCI4*-S, but they tend to topple a couple of poles in long formats. After the biggest test of their partnership so far on Saturday, we’ll expect to see this again on Sunday – but making the step up to this level will be an incredible moment for hard-working and much-loved Jordy and his legions of fans and friends.

The Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials: Website, Entries, Live Scoring, LivestreamEN’s CoverageEN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

Monday News & Notes from FutureTrack

It was Fathers’ Day in Belgium yesterday – and fittingly, that’s where Australia’s Andrew Hoy and his family have been based in the lead-up to this week’s Luhmühlen Horse Trials, where he’ll ride two horses in the CCI4*-S class. Are we losing our minds with excitement? Abso-freakin-lutely. Catch up on our Luhmühlen tour diaries to get in the spirit of the thing.

National Holiday: It’s World Blood Donor Day! Sign up to give blood here — you could save a life.

US Weekend Action:

Aspen Farms H.T. (Yelm, Wa.): [Website] [Results]

Bucks County Horse Park H.T. (Revere, Pa.): [Website] [Results]

Golden Spike H.T. (Ogden, Ut.) : [Website] [Results]

Seneca Valley Pony Club H.T. (Poolesville, Md.): [Website] [Results]

Queeny Park H.T. (St. Louis, Mo.): [Website] [Results]

River Glen June H.T. (New Market, Tn.) : [Website] [Results]

Valinor Farm H.T. (Plymouth, Ma.): [Website] [Results]

Woodland Stallion Station H.T. (Woodland, Ca.) : [Website] [Results]

UK Weekend Action:

Berriewood: Results

Bicton Arena International: Results, EN’s Coverage

Hopetoun (1): Results

Speetley: Results

West Wilts (1): Results

 

Your Monday Reading List:

Yasmin Ingham’s Banzai du Loir turned plenty of heads last season, when he stepped up to four-star and ultimately won the eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S at Burnham Market. Now, he’s moved up again to CCI4*-L with sparkling results. Get to know this remarkable horse. [‘I got on and didn’t want to get off’: will this horse be at Paris 2024?]

I’d love to write a sensible lead-in for this piece on penile tumescence, but I cannot. In any case, click through if you’re wondering why your horse is always getting his, uh, bits out. Schwing. [Rising to the Occasion: Why is my Gelding Always ‘Dropping’?]

The forthcoming Olympics sees several major changes to the equestrian disciplines — not least that pesky new team format. But what about showjumping’s ‘fall and out’ rule? Does it make sense in this new format or is it time for reform? [Olympic Showjumping’s Fall and Out Rule: Is It Fair?]

And finally, do you have a fat pony waiting for his star turn in the UK? He could be the leading man (erm, horse) in an upcoming live-action film based on Norman Thelwell’s much-loved comics about girls and their ponies. [Casting call for fat pony to bring Norman Thelwell’s cartoon to life]

The FutureTrack Follow:

Want to feel suitably inspired by the antics of the next generation of superstars? Check out Harry Crisp — son of five-star eventer Tom Crisp — as he navigates his first year of affiliated eventing in fine style.

Morning Viewing:

Sir Mark Todd has been a busy boy since switching over to the racing world — and now he’s looking forward to his first Royal Ascot runner:

Titles Claimed by Best of Brits on Final Day of Bicton

Nicola Wilson takes top honours in Bramham’s replacement CCI4*-L with JL Dublin. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

JL Dublin normally gets very excited and squeals in the warm-up, but today he really had his brain in gear and I thought and hoped that this might be our day,” says Nicola Wilson, whose ten-year-old Holsteiner mount, owned by Jamie and Jo Lambert and Deirdre Johnston produced a polished, professional clear round in today’s showjumping finale to take the Bicton CCI4*-L – his first international win and only his second run at the level.

Though he’s ordinarily overshadowed by stablemate Bulana, who’s on the longlist for Tokyo, it’s evident from his classy performances here that the relatively inexperienced gelding is a serious star in Nicola’s line-up. Sub-30 scores were few and far between in the first phase, which he led handily on a 28.7, and despite just 35.7% of yesterday’s cross-country starters producing a clear round, he ate up Helen West’s beefy, bold, and technical course to sail home inside the time and maintain that top spot. There was no room for resting on one’s laurels in the final phase, either: the showjumping track was built as tough as the cross-country, with just a third of the class having jumped clear rounds in yesterday’s CCI4*-S, a statistic that was nearly equalled today.

The feature class’s podium celebrates at the culmination of the class. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

But JL Dublin looked neither tired nor careless from the moment he cantered into the arena, and he sailed with verve and polish over the big track, never coming close to breathing on a single fence — not even the fickle brick wall at 8, where so many horses dislodged a solitary brick through the course of the afternoon. As the class came to a close, he would become one of just five horses to finish on his dressage score, finally giving Nicola the Bramham win she’s chased for so long – just not actually at Bramham.

Keen surveyors of young equine talent were given a great one-two in this class; after Piggy March and her Badminton winner Vanir Kamira toppled four rails, dropping them from second to fifteenth, Ros Canter‘s Aston le Walls CCI4*-S winner Lordships Graffalo was able to take the runner-up position. This is the nine-year-old gelding’s first CCI4*-L; now, in ten international runs, he’s never finished lower than eleventh place.

Third place went the way of Gemma Tattersall, who was the only rider to bring two horses home inside the time on yesterday’s cross-country. Both jumped clear, classy rounds today – helped, certainly, by Gemma’s ‘second career’ as a showjumper – and finished in the top ten, with Santiago Bay rounding out the podium and Chilli Knight taking seventh place. Kirsty Chabert pulled out another excellent performance, jumping clear for fourth place with Classic IV, while Laura Collett rounded out the top five with seasoned campaigner Mr Bass after producing a faultless, economical round. Notably, Sarah Bullimore‘s homebred Corouet, who has been longlisted as a reserve for Tokyo, finished sixth after adding just 2.8 time penalties yesterday to his 30.2 dressage.

The final top ten in Bicton’s CCI4*-L.

Bubby Upton takes top honours. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Twenty-two year old Bubby Upton took the spoils — and her first national title — in the CCI4*-L for under-25s, though it wasn’t on the horse many had expected. She went into today’s showjumping in first and second place, after delivering the only clear inside the time across yesterday’s cross-country and once again proving a maturity beyond her years in her riding. An early clear round jumped out of order on her second-placed Cannavaro secured her the win just moments into the start of today’s showjumping, and a rail in hand for her Young Rider silver medallist Cola III, who is generally a reasonably reliable showjumper, made a one-two finish seem almost inevitable. But it wasn’t to be: a surprising three rails toppled, moving her to fourth place on her likeliest champion and allowing 14-year-old Cannavaro to make his first-ever international victory a big one.

“I’m finally a British champion!” says Bubby, who has represented Britain in five European Championships at Pony, Junior, and Young Rider level and became Junior European Champion in 2017. A national title, though, has long eluded her.

“Six times I have been in the lead for a national title, but never won it,” she says. “Cannavaro is a class jumper and this shows he’s got a future. He has a heart of pure gold. Cola was just a little bit flat, but it’s his first mistake this year.”

Champagne well earned: the under 25 podium celebrates after hard-won honours. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Heidi Coy stepped into second place after deftly piloting nine-year-old Russal Z around the tough course.

“She’s only little, but she’s feisty and she answered every question,” she says of the mare, with whom she finished fifteenth at a tough Seven-Year-Old World Championship at Le Lion d’Angers in 2019.

Yasmin Ingham rounds out the podium in third place with Banzai du Loir, the exciting French-bred gelding she’s producing with the Paris Olympics in mind, and who was tackling his CCI4*-L debut this week. Though the last fence fell in their impressive round, the strength of their two-phase performance before it ensured that they didn’t lose any ground on the leaderboard.

The top ten in the CCI4*-L for under 25s.

Tom McEwen raises a bottle of the good stuff to another excellent result with Toledo de Kerser. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Finally, a hot CCI4*-S took to the cross-country course today, with the British longlisted pairs at the forefront of public attention. A rare rail for Laura Collett and London 52, last year’s Pau CCI5* winners, pushed them out of the top spot yesterday, and so Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser (also a Pau winner, this time in 2018) left the startbox hunting for the win – and looking to further cement their already enviable grasp on a Tokyo place. Ultimately, they would come home bang on the optimum time of seven minutes – despite Tom’s decision not to staunchly run to the clock.

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

“I don’t often run too quick, and I didn’t know whether to run quick here or not,” he says. “But he was phenomenal and cruised around as honest as the day is long. I did know where some of the minute markers were, but I just relied to establish the rhythm.”

Though Tom and Toledo have arguably been one of the British team’s most obvious choices for selection – a remarkable enough feat, considering the strength of Britain’s riders – he still needed to produce a great performance over a modified version of a course that had caused its fair share of problems. But at just 30, Tom is already a seasoned campaigner under pressure – and it’s in these high-intensity situations that he thrives.

“I’ve actually loved the pressure of this weekend – though it’s maybe come across that I’ve ridden a bit more desperate than I usually would,” he says. Like many riders, he went on to praise the tough courses designed by Helen West and Captain Mark Phillips.

“This is the way eventing should be – for safety reasons, more than anything. After doing a course like this, you know you’re ready for the next level.”

Kitty King and Vendredi Biats. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Kitty King‘s Vendredi Biats is on his third change of plans here — he was initially entered to run in the CCI5* at Luhmühlen, and then rerouted to the CCI4*-L here before swapping into the CCI4*-S to run the selection trial as one of the longlisted pairs. All that manoeuvring paid off, though; the Selle Français gelding, who won Bramham’s CCI4*-L in 2019, worked exceptionally throughout the week and finished on his dressage score of 23.1, giving the British selectors plenty to think about.

Ros Canter and Allstar B. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Following them in third are the reigning World Champions Ros Canter and Allstar B, who once again demonstrated their enviable consistency when scoring a 23 in the first phase and adding just 1.6 time penalties to it today.

Laura Collett and London 52. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

First-phase leaders Laura Collett and London 52 cantered home nine seconds inside the time, putting paid to any remaining doubts anyone may have had about their incredible run o form. Their fourth place finish means that the top four spots on the leaderboard go to longlisted combinations – and if the team were to be plucked straight from those positions (it’s not, for what it’s worth), it would be a formidable one indeed.

Piggy March and Brookfield Inocent. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

But then there’s Oliver Townend and his two-time Kentucky winner Cooley Master Class – listed as reserves for the British team — in fifth after adding just 1.6 time to their 24 dressage; longlisted Piggy March and her Pau runner-up Brookfield Inocent in seventh after pulling a single rail; and Nicola Wilson and Bulana in eleventh with four time penalties.

Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

There will be few jobs harder than making the call for Tokyo – thank Eventing Jesus, anyway, for the European Championships and Aachen to follow, so more of Britain’s incredible pairs can get a team outing in.

Chris Burton and Quality Purdey. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

It’s fitting that the best-placed non-Brit was Australia’s Chris Burton, who finished sixth with Quality Purdey after producing the first clear inside the time — and thus the first FOD — of the day. Chris is based at the stunning Chedington Estate, the title sponsors of this week’s competition.

And so we wrap up a remarkable week at a truly memorable event – a return to long-format sport in Britain, and a true test of guts and gumption. Until next time: Go Eventing!

The top ten at the culmination of Britain’s last selection trial, incorporated into a hot CCI4*-S.

Chedington Bicton International: Website, Times and Scores, LivestreamEN’s Coverage, EN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

“It’s Relentless Out There:” Bicton CCI4*-L Cross-Country Proves Enormously Influential

Laura Collett and Mr Bass sit in the top ten after a classy effort across the country. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

It feels like it’s been an awfully long time since we saw a truly tough and influential cross-country day in Britain, and that’s fair enough – since the start of the pandemic, many of the country’s top venues have had to temporarily close their doors and sport itself was shelved for a significant period. That means that horses and riders were largely unable to get in the prep runs and mileage they ordinarily would; it also means that many long-standing international fixtures have had to move – at least temporarily – to new venues. As a result, designers, riders, and organisers don’t have the great benefit of knowing how the course and terrain tend to work together, and so each new course at the upper levels feels like something of a gamble, no matter how much experience is behind it. It has made sense, then, that designers have erred on the side of caution, creating fair and often encouraging questions to ensure that horses aren’t punished for trying their best. The sentiment though, certainly from the upper echelons, has been that tougher courses are needed.

Perhaps this is a case of being careful what you wish for. Bicton’s organising team and designers Helen West and Captain Mark Phillips were under plenty of pressure to deliver an influential course; Bramham, the fixture they’ve replaced, is known as one of the world’s toughest CCI4*-L tracks, after all. But even they likely wouldn’t have quite expected the dramatic unfolding of today’s cross-country action.

80 combinations left the startbox in the senior CCI4*-L class after the overnight withdrawal of eight entrants, most notably Kitty King and her CCI4*-L debutante Cristal Fontaine and Piggy March and Brookfield Quality. Both horses had been in the top ten following dressage. A further 34 combinations came forward for the CCI4*-L for under-25s, which ran after the main section. It’s when you look at those numbers in conjunction that the influence of the day becomes quite staggering: 35.7% of starters came home without jumping penalties, and 38.4% failed to finish.

Though most of the overnight discussion had focused on fence 15ABCD, a tough coffin complex featuring a bounce to the ditch and one stride to a tightly-sliced angled hedge, the question only claimed eight scalps through the day — a relatively low number in comparison to fence 10 (21 faulters) which was the second of two offset brushes, fence 24AB (20 faulters), a brush-to-arrowhead question on a downward slope. Fence 7AB, a colossal angle tree stump to a tree-trunk corner, caused issues for 15 riders, while 21AB, a drop down to an arrowhead, marred the records of a further 12. Beyond that, issues were sprinkled evenly across the course, with fallers as early as fence three and as late as the final fence.

It might sound like, well, total carnage – but perhaps this is what we’ve been missing. Not horse or rider falls, per se, because those certainly aren’t one of the indicators of great sport; but this kind of stamina and technical challenge feels so unfamiliar now that, perhaps, it’s a sign that we need to start on the path towards rebuilding those skills around progressively tougher courses, ready for the resumption of something like normal.

Nicola Wilson and JL Dublin maintain their lead after tackling Bicton’s tough cross country. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

In any case, it’s made for interesting – and occasionally gasp-inducing – viewing through the day, with experienced and inexperienced combinations alike experiencing the full spectrum of triumph and disaster over the rolling Devon hills. At the end of the day, Nicola Wilson and JL Dublin remain the leaders, having added nothing to their dressage score of 28.7 – despite initially being award 15 penalties for a flag at 24.

“It took me completely by surprise, as I did feel that he was straight. I’m absolutely delighted with how he went — he just galloped and jumped,” she said of the 10-year-old Holsteiner owned by Mr and Mrs Lambert and Mrs Johnston. “Near the end of the course, I said ‘Come on,’ and on he went. He’s a super horse.”

Nicola has long fought for a win in Bramham’s feature class, as she’s the local darling of the event, but now, as it temporarily makes its way to the other end of the country, she finds herself in prime position – though with just three seconds in hand around tomorrow’s showjumping course.

Piggy March and Vanir Kamira. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

It’s been a tough season for Piggy March, not in terms of success, but when trying to consider a path and some end goals for her 2019 Badminton winner Vanir Kamira. But a reroute from her planned trip to Luhmühlen proved fortuitous as she ate up today’s tough track and climbed from seventh to overnight second.

“She’s such a little tiger, and I’m not ready to be done with her,” she says of the now-16-year-old mare, owned by Trevor Dickens. “She’s done nothing, really, for eighteen months except for little events [as a result of us] not knowing where she’s going to. I wasn’t that keen on coming here and dropping her down a level, but when I saw the course I realised it was tailor-made for her. She just gets her head down and goes – she says ‘let me get on with it, mum’.”

Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Rosalind Canter‘s remarkable young Lordships Graffalo stepped firmly into the spotlight when winning last month’s Aston le Walls CCI4*-S, a replacement for the same class ordinarily held at Chatsworth, and today, too, he proved he’s some extra special, romping home five seconds inside the time to slot into overnight third.

Gemma Tattersall and Santiago Bay. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Behind him, Gemma Tattersall posted her second clear inside the time of the day with Santiago Bay, fourth, after having soared through the finish line a remarkable 27 seconds inside the time on first ride Chilli Knight, tenth provisionally.

Kirsty Chabert and Classic IV. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Kirsty Chabert‘s five-star campaigner Classic VI made light work of the track, coming home two seconds inside the 10:08 optimum time, while Laura Collett and Mr Bass gave one of the earliest indications of the course’s rideability when they notched up just 2.8 time penalties.

Sarah Bullimore and Corouet. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Sarah Bullimore proved why homebred Corouet was selected for the Olympic longlist as a reserve, despite his relative inexperience, when he matched Mr Bass’s time and quality around the course to step into overnight eighth place.

William Fox-Pitt and Grafennacht. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Behind her, William Fox-Pitt‘s young mare Grafennacht matured demonstrably around the track, giving William exciting ideas for the future.

“She gave me such a lovely ride – and I’d hoped she would, as she’s a lovely horse,” he said. He was full of praise for the tough track, saying, “it’s a superb course – [the designers] have been brave and it’s a great step up; it’s really testing the kind of horse you’ve got. Now, my dear Grafennacht will be thinking about a five-star.”

The top ten heading into tomorrow morning’s final horse inspection.

In the CCI4*-L for under-25s, an emotional Bubby Upton finished the day in first and second place with Young Rider medallist Cola III and Cannavaro, respectively, after having jumped clear rounds on each horse.

Bubby Upton leads with Cola III. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

“I can’t quite believe it – he was amazing and I’m so proud,” she said after her first round aboard Cannavaro, which came after watching the drama of the main section unfold. But for Bubby, a seasoned competitor for her young age, her system was well in place and unshaken by what she saw.

“You can watch too much and change your plan everywhere, but I actually went with my plan the whole way around,” she says. “I try not to watch too many – I watch a a few good ones and then go and try to make it happen.”

Bubby Upton and Cannavaro. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

At the forefront of her mind, instead, was her horses’ stamina while tackling the tough, hilly track.

“I was really worried about [Cannavaro’s] fitness; I’d done a lot of galloping at Newmarket, and without that, he’d never have got round today. At the last hill, I thought I’d give him plenty of time but I pressed him and he just responded, so I thought, ‘here we go!’”

Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

After taking over the lead from Yasmin Ingham, who opted for some tactical long routes to produce her young horse Banzai du Loir for the future and now sits fourth, Bubby broke down into rare tears.

“[Cola] is amazing — just the horse of a lifetime,” she says after delivering the only clear inside the time of the section with the gelding. “He means the world to me; I’ve had him since he was six, and he’s taken a bit of time to establish himself at this level, but he keeps on pulling it out of the bag over and over again. He’s some horse — I say it time and time again, but he really is. Up that last hill I said, ‘come on mate!’ and he dug in so deep; they both did. I’m so lucky to have them.”

For Bubby, who balances a professional eventing career with her last year of university, horses are a true family effort — and part of the family, too.

“When they try that hard for you, you can’t help but just love them to pieces,” she says. “They’re part of our family; I don’t have many horses because I’m at university still, so I can’t have many – so when they do something like that for you, it’s so special.”

Heidi Coy and Russal Z. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

At 21, third-placed Heidi Coy is one of the youngest riders in this class, aboard one of the youngest horses at nine in Russal Z – but nonetheless, they delivered the second fastest time of the day, adding just 4.8 time penalties and making mature, gutsy decisions throughout the course.

“She was really good – she just answered every question I asked of her,” says Heidi. “She sees the flag and goes. she wouldn’t be the best galloper, but she’s really learnt over the years – I saved a bit in the tank for that last hill and she just flew.”

The top ten after cross-country in the CCI4*-L for under-25s.

Tomorrow sees us head into the final horse inspection for both classes, which will take place from 9.30 a.m. BST/4.30 a.m. EST before moving on into the showjumping finale. The CCI4*-S class, incorporating the British Olympic selection trial, will tackle cross-country with a new leader at the forefront: Tom McEwen and his 2018 Pau winner Toledo de Kerser are out in front after dressage leaders Laura Collett and London 52 pulled a rare pole showjumping today. Take a look at the top ten as it stands, and we’ll catch you on the flip side!

The top ten after showjumping in the CCI4*-S.

Chedington Bicton International: Website, Times and Scores, LivestreamEN’s Coverage, EN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

The Luhmühlen Tour Diaries, Part Three: The BeNeLux Sausagefest

Getting to a CCI5* is always an enormous undertaking — but never more so than in a pandemic year. Our own Tilly Berendt is on the road to Luhmühlen with Great Britain’s Mollie Summerland and her horse Charly van ter Heiden – and she’s documenting the whole journey as it happens. Welcome to part three: in which the girls discover that horse heaven does, in fact, exist. 

Part One: The Long, Hard Road out of Plague Island

Part Two: The One with the Border Police Kerfuffle

The internal monologue of the happiest horse on earth: “ooh, petrol station grass! My favourite!” Photo by Tilly Berendt.

What do you get when you combine two twenty-somethings, a horse who embodies the ‘big smile’ emoji at all times, and a big adventure on hardly any sleep? Giddy delirium – and sausages.

“I’ve got us dinner!” Mollie shouted across the forecourt of a Belgian petrol station, where we’d planned out a much-needed coffee stop and a chance for Charly to stretch his legs and get his head down. (This, as an aside, is one of my favourite parts of travelling horses long distances – as a reformed theatre kid, my latent yearning for a stage and a spotlight gets to stretch its legs in those delicious moments when I get to balance a coffee and a fag in one hand and hang onto a top-level competition horse in the other, while grandiosely telling everyone who wanders over for a closer look that the horse is one of the very best IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD. They all inevitably walk away thinking they’ve just met some great racehorse, because it turns out you really can’t explain eventing to the average trucker.)

Anyway, back to that dinner. Though Mollie and I have been eventing friends for a while (by which I mean, that great category of pal who you’ll always have a lovely natter and often a drink with out at competitions), we’d never spent any prolonged time together prior to this trip. Naturally, that means we’re learning a lot about one another – and one thing I learned nice and early is that Mollie loves the sausage. Big ones, small ones, spicy ones, rubbery German ones that burst out of their casings: shelve those shameful thoughts, folks, because I’m referring wholly and absolutely to her culinary preferences, which I discovered when she reappeared in that forecourt having done an entire provisions shop from the scant offerings inside. Inside her bag was our one-way ticket to scurvy central – pizza, chips, and the most extravagant, bulging sausages I’d ever set eyes upon.

In the headlines this week. I’m inclined to say that Boris Johnson’s sausage offering is nothing on the EU’s. I say this as one of a pair of wholly unbiased diplomats, of course.

Lest I come across like the resident health freak of the trip, my own contribution to our meal plan was a pack of hermetically sealed chocolate-covered waffles – when in Belgium, and all that, right?

From Belgium it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump over to Breda, our end destination — or so Google Maps claimed, anyway. As it happened, we got caught out by Antwerp’s aggressive traffic. At this point, I think Tim Lips – who was kindly checking in on us through the trip, despite being away at a competition himself – wrote us off as lost forever.

When we did finally arrive at Lips Stable (after some intense last-minute negotiations: “This isn’t a road. This doesn’t look like a road,” protested Mollie; “That’s because it’s a driveway, mate,” I replied, hoping I hadn’t just navigated us down a non-road we couldn’t get back out of) it was with that air of gleeful insanity and utter, bone-wrenching exhaustion that only a truly epic adventure can produce. Of course, we had to figure out how to get in – “it’s the gate that looks like a prison gate,” said Tim, which prompted a fierce debate over how prison-y on a scale of one to ten we reckoned each gate looked – before we were rescued by Gino and Gosia, two of Tim’s stable staff, who helped us to get Charly (still, predictably, looking delighted about everything) settled in before giving us the grand tour.

Keyflow says hi, making this overtired journalist very happy indeed. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Perhaps the first hint that this was about to be the coolest stopover point ever came just as we entered the capacious indoor barn. The first horse I spotted as we turned into our aisle was Keyflow, now 24 years old, half blind but bright-eyed and curious. To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t even realised the old boy was still going – so having him as part of our welcoming committee was a particularly special moment. Produced to four-star by Tim Price, he then enjoyed a stint with Germany’s Anna Siemer before joining Tim Lips’s string in 2011, and together, they successfully contested two European Championships, a World Equestrian Games where they won team bronze, and a smattering of five-stars, with a seventh-place finish at Badminton 2014 – probably the toughest Badminton in recent memory. In short, the old dude is the kind of chap you’d love to find yourself in a long chat with in a pub, if he was human. Alas, he’s not, and so we’ve had to settle for Tim instead.

I’m willing to ignore the erroneous possessive apostrophes there, because this is definitely the best office I’ve ever had. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

With Charly happily tucked into bed, Gino was our tour guide as we navigated the rest of the huge barn. You can often tell which country – or at least, continent – a yard is based in just by looking at the layout, in my experience: Americans favour wide-aisled internal barns, the UK largely utilises boxes around a central outdoor area, and many stables in the northern European horse hub are sprawling things, with all-encompassing internal facilities, often set around an indoor school. That’s how Tim’s place is, with an outdoor dressage arena, plenty of turnout, and a jam-packed cross-country course in which he builds tricky lines he’s seen at competitions, many of which are quickly rearranged when he’s teaching one of his regular clinics. But the piece de resistance? A huge lounge and viewing area, complete with a bar, fully-stocked drinks fridge, a terrace, a kitchen, a TV the size of a small horse, and countless memories of his extraordinary achievements over the years.

His most extraordinary achievement? The curtains.

I like to think my overjoyed reaction to the lounge would have been justified in any case, but in this situation, it was the best possible place to find ourselves. You remember, of course, back in the first instalment when I mentioned that we’d swapped Mollie’s big lorry for a much more compact, two horse one? The kind of size that doesn’t tend to have a full living area? You see, in the grand spirit of getting it done, Mollie and I had created a tiny camp in the back, where we were able to convert two seats into a bed that isn’t quite a single, but certainly isn’t a double, and we’re living in there without having hooked up to electricity and using every available nook and cranny (including the bathroom) as storage. Spending our days on the yard, making the best possible use of available electricity, wifi, and delicious, lovely space is the ultimate godsend, especially in the blazing heat we’ve suddenly been blessed with. There’s only so long two smelly horse girls can be within a foot of one another, after all, even when they have fully embraced the idea of old-school, make-it-happen eventing.

Free drinks from Tim’s sponsor, Bavaria – a delightful, but alas nonalcoholic, beer company. I endeavoured to find another way to make myself ridiculous, stat. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There are two things I know with full confidence will utterly flummox me whenever I go to a new place: the shower and the microwave. Here, we were able to add the oven to that list, and poor, long-suffering Gino was kind enough to allow us to continually interrupt his Julia Roberts-based Netflix sesh to help us make midnight pizzas and direct our truly abysmal chat in his direction. The hot topic of the evening? Mollie’s life-changing discovery that not every accent she would hear in the Netherlands was, in fact, Dutch. We embarked on teaching her about where Gino was from.

“Are you Italian? Are you German?” she asked, looking bewildered.

“Wrong continent, mate,” I said.

“Wrong what?”

“Do you know the continents? This one’s Europe,” I said.

“Yeah, and there’s South Africa, and…”

“She’s a really good rider,” I said to Gino.

“I’m from South America,” he told her encouragingly.

“What? You don’t sound American at all!” she replied.

South America,” I gently explained. “There’s a North America and a South America. Well, and a Central America, arguably, but let’s not overcomplicate things.”

“No. No, hang on, absolutely not,” she said. “That’s not an American accent.”

Mollie promptly pulled up YouTube on her phone and started playing videos of southern American accents. A thick Texas drawl filled the kitchen.

“That is NOT your accent,” she told Gino firmly.

“No, no, that’s a southern accent. Like, southern US. We’re not talking about the US, we’re talking about South America,” I said.

“But he doesn’t sound American!” she insisted.

“I’m from Argentina,” Gino said, helpfully.

“No you’re not,” replied Mollie.

“She’s really, really excellent at riding,” I told Gino.

Home sweet home. Forever. I’m not leaving. Sorry Tim. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Eventually we relieved poor Gino of our presence – for that night, anyway – and went to make our little nest a home and catch up on some seriously overdue sleep. The next day would be a big one: in the evening, our new host would be home from his competition, and in the meantime, there was riding to be done and sausages to eat. So, so many sausages.

The diet of a champion. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials: Website, Entries, Live Scoring, LivestreamEN’s CoverageEN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

Exercise-induced muscle damage that results in sore, stiff muscles and poor performance is a common problem in athletic horses. Vitamin E plays an important role in preserving optimal muscle function by interrupting the production of harmful free radicals that can damage critical tissues. When vitamin E levels in muscle tissue are inadequate, the risk of exercise-induced muscle damage is increased. Elevate® Maintenance Powder supplies the natural vitamin E your horse needs to neutralize damaging free radicals and support peak performance. Keep your horse at the top of his game with Elevate natural vitamin E. 
The horse that matters to you matters to us®.
Not sure which horse supplement best meets your horse’s needs? Kentucky Performance Products, LLC is here to help. Call 859-873-2974 or visit KPPusa.com.

Friday Video from SmartPak: Fly Around the Bicton CCI4*-L Course

 

All eyes are on the Chedington Bicton International Horse Trials this week, where the UK’s first CCI4*-L of 2021 is taking place, plus the prestigious CCI4*-L for under-25s and a CCI4*-S, all ordinarily held at Yorkshire’s Bramham Horse Trials.

There’s plenty of buzz around organiser and course designer Helen West‘s meaty track, which she’s designed in conjunction with Captain Mark Phillips — and rightly so. Bramham’s CCI4*-L is considered one of the toughest in the world, and so there’s plenty of pressure on the designers to deliver something that utilises terrain and true four-star questions to offer a significant test of the level. Take a look at the course via drone thanks to our friends at Irish Eventing Times, who’ve done a super job of showing the questions and hills facing competitors tomorrow – including the much-discussed coffin question, which looks set to prove a serious test of accuracy.

To all the competitors heading to the start box tomorrow, kick on and Go Eventing!

Bicton, Day Two: Nicola Wilson and Yasmin Ingham Stride into CCI4*-L Leads

Nicola Wilson and JL Dublin. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

There’s a strange irony in seeing Nicola Wilson in the lead in the CCI4*-L, a spot she holds with the ten-year-old JL Dublin: she’s long sought the win in this class at its ordinary venue, Bramham, which is her local international. Now, she’s travelled the length of the country and found herself in that long-coveted spot, which she earned with her final score of 28.7 and a pleasant, fluid, and mistake-free test.

This is a second CCI4*-L for this horse, and the second to take place at a replacement fixture: he finished 10th after jumping clear inside the time at Burnham Market’s Blenheim replacement in September. Despite his relative inexperience, though, he’s a horse that could well suit the major test to come tomorrow: it’ll be a stamina test and a time challenge, and he’s generally both fast and reliable across the country, picking up time penalties in just one of his five four-star runs.

Laura Collett and Mr Bass. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

A consistent test with some marks lost in the first flying change earned Laura Collett and Mr Bass overnight second place and a score of 29.2, pushing yesterday’s leaders Pippa Funnell and Billy Walk On down into provisional third on their 29.4.

Piggy March and Brookfield Quality. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Piggy March‘s Brookfield Quality — known at home as ‘Nervous Norris’ — once again proved his, well, quality and will head into cross-country in fourth place on a 29.6, earned not through extravagance but through accuracy and consistency. Below them, Pippa Funnell makes a second showing in the top five, this time with Maybach on a 29.7. This a second CCI4*-L for the eleven-year-old, owned and previously campaigned by Sweden’s Hedvig Wik, who made his debut at Boekelo in 2018 but has only competed at two FEI events in the years since. With no cross-country jumping penalties on his international record, he could be set to make the ultimate comeback this week.

Pippa Funnell and Maybach. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

The top ten in the CCI4*-L going into cross-country.

The smoking hot CCI4*-L for under 25s is looking rather like a match race between reigning under-25 National Champion Yasmin Ingham and formidable competitor Bubby Upton, who led until the end of the day with yesterday’s frontrunner Cannavaro on 28.3. He was initially knocked out of the top spot by one of Bubby’s other horses, 2019 Young Rider silver medallist Cola III, with whom she scored a 27.7.

Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

But it was the last combination of the day who shone brightest in the eyes of judges Angela TuckerLes Smith, and Anne-Marie TaylorYasmin Ingham‘s ten-year-old Banzai du Loir has already had high-profile starts, with a win in the eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S at Burnham Market’s Blenheim replacement last year. This is a CCI4*-L debut for the gelding, who was produced by France’s Axel Coutte and bought with the 2024 Paris Olympics in mind – and he’s off to a flying start after putting a 26.9 on the board, just missing some marks in the first flying change and final centreline.

“We’re still not 100% glued together, but there’s so much more we can do,” says Yasmin. “He’s got the wow factor so I just need to nail a few areas, like the flying changes, but he’s only done a handful of 4-star competitions. The cross-country will be a big ask for him, but he is the sort of horse that will jump where I ask him.”

Bubby Upton and Cola III. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

 

The top ten in the CCI4*-L for under 25s at the culmination of dressage.

Though no one could eclipse Laura Collett and London 52‘s 21, posted in yesterday’s first day of dressage, one rider gave it a solid double shot: China’s Alex Hua Tian put a competitive 21.6 on the board yesterday and followed it up with a 21.4 today aboard Jilsonne van Bareelhof, who led the dressage in last month’s Houghton International CCIO4*-S and is, according to the rider, “the most talented horse I’ve ever sat on.”

Alex Hua Tian and Jilsonne van Bareelhof. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Today, his test wowed both judges and spectators alike, earning 10s in the extended and collected trot as well as the final centreline. But minor mistakes in the second flying change and first walk pirouette precluded a step into the lead, despite trending sub-20 for the first half of the test.

“I’m really pleased with him – he’s a lovely animal,” says Alex of ‘Chocs’, so named because he’s ‘big, brown, and Belgian.’ The extravagant jumper will put up a tough fight in tomorrow’s showjumping, a phase he excels in, but his inexperience at the level still tends to show through against the clock – he finished fourth at Houghton ultimately after clocking up six time penalties, and Alex will likely look to educate the horse at speed on Sunday. He’ll get the chance to find the most economical routes on course on his first ride, Olympic mount Don Geniro, who sits third.

“We’ve had our ups and downs with ‘The Don’, but Rio in 2016 [where they were eighth, a Chinese Olympic record] was pretty special because he was only nine. It was a gamble but he thrived. He is probably my first choice for Tokyo, but I wouldn’t be unhappy if I ended up taking PSH Convivial [bronze medallist at the 2018 Asian Games], who has just done his best ever test,” says Alex, who sits 12th on 24.5 with PSH Convivial, or ‘Spike’.

Laura Collett proves unbeatable as the CCI4*-S dressage wraps.

Tomorrow brings us a huge day of cross-country action, with the CCI4*-L trailblazing from 9.00 BST/4.00 a.m. EST, followed on by the under-25 class. The CCI4*-S class will head into the showjumping phase, which gets underway from 10.00 a.m. BST/5.00 a.m. EST. You can livestream all three classes through Horse&CountryTV‘s subscription service.

Go Eventing!

Chedington Bicton International: Website, Times and Scores, LivestreamEN’s Coverage, EN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

 

#BictonRocks: Social Media Snippets from the Bramham Replacement

There’s no hotter place to be than Devon’s Bicton Arena this week, where the Bramham replacement CCI4*-L, CCI4*-L for under-25s, and CCI4*-S, incorporating the final British team selection trial, are currently taking place. If it feels a little bit like every rider in Britain is there, it’s not far off – each section is tightly packed with top-notch combinations, ready for a seriously exciting weekend over the West Country hills. Want to live vicariously through them? We’ve rounded up some of the best of Bicton, as seen on social media.

Franky Reid-Warrilow‘s groom, Zoe, documents the journey into the event:

 

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by zoeherb82 (@zoeherb82)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Irish Eventing Times (@irisheventing)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Chedington (@chedingtonestate)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Laura Collett (@laura_collett)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Bicton arena (@bicton_arena)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Kitty King (@kittykingeventing)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Bicton arena (@bicton_arena)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Yasmin Ingham (@yasmin_ingham_)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Franky Reid-Warrilow (@frweventing)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by zoeherb82 (@zoeherb82)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Kate Woolman (@katewoolman)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Ē M KĮNG (@emilykingofficial)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Rosie Fry (@rosiefry)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by John O Regan (@john_oregan94)

Chedington Bicton International: Website, Times and Scores, LivestreamEN’s Coverage, EN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

Britain’s Longlist Battles It Out on Day One of Bicton Dressage

Though we all dearly miss Britain’s stately home venues, most of which have cancelled their fixtures for the second year running due to the ongoing pandemic, there’s something special and exciting – a sort of one-time-only deal – about the replacement competitions that have been put on to host their classes. This week, Devon’s Bicton International plays host to Bramham’s CCI4*-L, CCI4*-L for under 25s, and CCI4*-S classes, and already, organiser Helen West‘s extraordinary efforts are felt, with atmospheric dressage arenas and meaty courses yet to come.

Today marked the first day of dressage for all three sections, with heavy-hitting combinations coming forward to battle for eventual glory. Chief among those sections is the CCI4*-L class – the first in Britain this year. Judged by Christian LandoltAnnabel Scrimgeour, and Tim Downes, this class will see more than 80 horse and rider combinations fight it out over the next few days – and this phase is already set to be hugely competitive.

Pippa Funnell and Billy Walk On. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

There were no freebie marks to be had in this section today, with just three horses earning sub-30 marks. Though Laura Collett held the lead for much of the class with 12-year-old Dacapo, who posted a 29.7 after scoring particularly well for his collected canter, it was to be Pippa Funnell and Billy Walk On who would lead at the end of the day. They squeaked in just ahead of Laura and Dacapo on their score of 29.4, giving the 12-year-old British-bred gelding, owned by Barbara and Nicholas Walkinshaw, an excellent early start on his mission to earn a fourth consecutive top-ten finish at four-star.

“It wasn’t his absolute best, but it was definitely a ‘clear round’,” said Pippa of the pleasing test that scored consistently, though not extravagantly, throughout. “He finds the dressage phase difficult and is quite a shy horse, so I am very pleased with him.”

Laura Collett and Dacapo post an early lead and are downgraded to second at the eleventh hour. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Third place is held by 2019 Badminton winners Piggy March and Vanir Kamira, who had originally been entered to run at next week’s Luhmühlen CCI5* but were forced to reroute as a result of the German travel ban. Their solid, mistake-free test earned a 29.9, while Sarah Bullimore and her homebred Corouet, who have been named as reserves on the British Olympic longlist, sit fourth on 30.2. Fellow reserves Ben Hobday and Shadow Man II, who made a late decision to run here instead of Luhmühlen after heading to Ireland’s Millstreet Horse Trials, round out the top five on 30.8.

The top ten after the first day of dressage in Bicton’s CCI4*-L.

Though the CCI4*-L is arguably the feature class at Bicton, the CCI4*-S may well be the most closely watched – and that’s because it’s being used as the final selection trial for the British team heading to Tokyo this summer. With the exception of the two reserve-listed horses currently hanging out in the top five of the CCI4*-L, the named horses and riders are being pitted against one another in the midst of this hotly-contested class – and the calibre of their performances shows through when looking at day one’s top ten.

Laura Collett and London 52 lead the way once again in the first phase. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Laura Collett once again finds herself sitting in the top spot with the indefatigable London 52, her 2020 Pau CCI5* winner who has long since grown past his up-and-down greener years to become one of the sport’s most consistent performers. The pair always shine in this phase, and though they made a rare mistake in their test, breaking to canter in the trot half-passes, they remained cool and calm in the considerable atmosphere to eke every mark they could out of the rest of the test, ultimately posting a 21 and leading the way on the strength of their collective marks, which earned them 9s across the board for harmony.

“That was entirely rider error, but otherwise I am really pleased,” says Laura, who had been trending in the teens before the blip in their otherwise sparkling test.

Alex Hua Tian and Don Geniro. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Their closest competition – and boy, was it close – comes from China’s Alex Hua Tian and his Rio Olympics mount Don Geniro, who put a 21.6 on the board with an expressive, fluid test that just lost a tiny foothold on the running average in the first flying change.

Both Tom McEwen and his 2019 Pau winner Toledo de Kerser and World Champions Ros Canter and Allstar B showed their consistency and experience in the ring – and made great strides toward earning their places on the Tokyo squad – when they each posted a 23 to tie for third with mistake-free tests. Just behind them, Piggy March and Brookfield Inocent and Kitty King and Vendredi Biats – also on the Tokyo longlist – are tied for provisional fifth on 23.1, while Oliver Townend and his reserve-listed two-time Kentucky winner Cooley Master Class are seventh on 24. Further down the leaderboard, Nicola Wilson and Bulana (26.3) and Pippa Funnell and Majas Hope (27.6; a significant personal best for this ordinarily mid-30s horse) each impressed the judges and gathered selectors but sit just outside the top ten.

The top ten at the end of day one in the CCI4*-S.

The CCI4*-L for under-25s is one of the most coveted age classes in the world, and competition here tends to be fierce – but it would be fair to name 2021’s field as the best this class has ever seen. Such is the strength in depth of Britain’s young professionals that even the withdrawal of 2019 winner Cathal Daniels, who is travelling instead to Luhmühlen, and fellow Irish rider and top contender Susie Berry hasn’t thinned the quality of the field at all.

Bubby Upton and Cannavaro. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Bubby Upton takes an early lead in this class, posting the only sub-30 score aboard Cannavaro, with whom she recently finished fifth in the CCI4*-S at Aston le Walls. Her mark of 28.3 was only marred by a mistake in the second flying change, though the overall presentation of the test and its fluent consistency gave her the edge against some serious competitors. Sitting behind her in second on a 30.6 is France’s Barbara Sayous, daughter of Pau organiser Pascal, who made the long journey to England with her British-bred Opposition Filmstar.

Barbara Sayous and Opposition Filmstar. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Ailsa Wates and the striking grey Woodlands Persuasion sit third on 30.8, while Katie Bleloch and Goldlook slotted into fourth on 31.6. Just behind them, reigning British under-25 champion Yasmin Ingham rounds out the top five on 31.8 with Rehy DJ, the second of her three rides in this class this week.

The top ten after day one in the CCI4*-L for under 25s.

Tomorrow sees another action-packed day of dressage – stay tuned for further updates and a previous of the challenging track to come.

Chedington Bicton International: Website, Times and Scores, LivestreamEN’s Coverage, EN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

Wednesday Video from Kentucky Performance Products: Head to Houghton with Piggy March

It seems like nary a day or two since the first FEI Nations Cup of the year wrapped at Houghton International – and it wasn’t just the team competition that filled the week’s roster. There was also a huge CCIO4*-S entry, two CCI3*-L sections, AND a CCI2*-L – and Piggy March, equestrian vlogger of the century, was on hand to capture the experience of competing across the sections. Soak up the sun and the good vibes (and some excellent cross-country riding, too).

Exercise-induced muscle damage that results in sore, stiff muscles and poor performance is a common problem in athletic horses. Vitamin E plays an important role in preserving optimal muscle function by interrupting the production of harmful free radicals that can damage critical tissues. When vitamin E levels in muscle tissue are inadequate, the risk of exercise-induced muscle damage is increased. Elevate® Maintenance Powder supplies the natural vitamin E your horse needs to neutralize damaging free radicals and support peak performance. Keep your horse at the top of his game with Elevate natural vitamin E. 
The horse that matters to you matters to us®.
Not sure which horse supplement best meets your horse’s needs? Kentucky Performance Products, LLC is here to help. Call 859-873-2974 or visit KPPusa.com.

Three Horses Out; Eight Held at Bicton CCI4*-L First Horse Inspection

Dance moves not required: Sara Bowe stays cool and calm under duress as Kilcoltrim Mermist shows his scope. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

The word on the street is that the course at Devon, England’s Chedington Bicton International – the replacement event for this year’s Bramham Horse Trials – isn’t anything to scoff at, with beefy jumps, tough, technical combinations, and more hills than you could shake a scone (cream first, then jam, naturally) at. In keeping with the spirit of the thing, though, today’s first horse inspection for the CCI4*-L felt just as achingly difficult to conquer.

Kitty King’s Burnham Market CCI4*-S winner Cristal Fontaine was one of the most high-profile holds in today’s horse inspection, but was subsequently accepted to begin his debut CCI4*-L. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Helmed by the ground jury of Christian Landolt (SUI) presiding alongside Annabel Scrimgeour and Tim Downes (both GBR), the first horse inspection saw its fair share of drama, with eight of the 88 presented horses sent to the holding box through the course of the afternoon. Though five of those would subsequently pass upon reinspection, two horses were spun: Eliza Stoddart‘s Renaissance Man and Michael Owen‘s experienced five-star campaigner Bradeley LawMax Gordon opted to withdraw Redwood Clover from the hold box rather than re-presenting.

Best-dressed gentleman: Will Rawlin and VIP Vinnie. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Two best-dressed awards were given at the culmination of the day’s inspection; Will Rawlin took best-dressed gentleman, while Emilie Chandler, rerouting from a planned Luhmühlen run with Gortfadda Diamond, was best-dressed lady.

Tomorrow’s first day of dressage is jam-packed from pillar to post, with the CCI4*-L class getting underway from 8.15 a.m. BST/3.15 a.m. EST and the hot CCI4*-S class running concurrently. The CCI4*-L for under-25s will trot up at 9.00 a.m. BST/4.00 a.m. EST, with dressage to follow from 12.52 p.m. BST/7.52 a.m. EST. You’ll be able to follow along with all three classes exclusively on Horse&Country TV, which will offer free streaming through the dressage and will show all the cross-country and showjumping on its subscription service over the weekend. For the price of a couple of lattes, you’ll get hours and hours of some of the hottest competition the sport has to offer – including the final selection trial for the British Olympic team in the CCI4*-S. Bargain, folks.

Chedington Bicton International: Website, Times and Scores, LivestreamEN’s Coverage, EN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter