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Friday Video: Experience Pratoni – Vlogger-Style

One of my favourite things about being a roving equestrian journalist is those weeks after a major competition, in which I sometimes — if I’m really lucky — find a spare second to enjoy everyone else’s content from throughout the week. Whether that’s scrolling riders’ social media, reading reports in Horse&Hound or COTH, or catching up on vlogs, it’s always great fun to see the angle others choose for their storytelling, and to experience the same week I lived from a totally different perspective.

The FEI is one of those outlets that took a completely different approach to their coverage than what Shelby Allen and I did (not least because they deal largely in video!). They recruited vloggers Lucy Robinson and Megan Elphick to gallivant around the grounds, interview riders, and enjoy la dolce vita in Italy – and it’s jolly good fun to watch.

Thursday Video: Checking In With Elisa Wallace in Ocala

Eventers are nothing if not a community, and the folks of Ocala and their horses aren’t far from any of our minds right now as Hurricane Ian continues to move across Florida’s peninsula. In the midst of preparing her farm for the storm to come, Elisa Wallace found time to make an educational, instructional video that shares how she secures her possessions and keeps her herd safe in the face of inclement weather. (Spoiler alert: it requires a fair amount of sandbags!)

Stay safe out there, folks.

Clinic Opportunity: Ride with Erik Duvander This October

Boyd Martin debriefs with Erik Duvander at Kentucky. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Heads up, Prelim + riders! Former US chef d’equipe Erik Duvander, who’s the primary coach for many of the country’s leading riders, is doing a whistlestop tour of the country next month, and there are still some spots remaining to ride with him in private or semi-private lesson spots. The dates and locations are as follows:

  • October 17-18: Summit Point, WV
  • October 20-21: Aiken, SC
  • October 23-25: Monroe, WA
  • October 27-28: Carmel, CA
  • October 29-30: Temecula, CA

Each facility is fully stocked with all you’ll need to enjoy the best lesson of your October — but slots are filling up fast, so don’t delay! Email [email protected] to book your place today.

Want a bit of inspiration to get you in the mood for your Erik lesson? We loved this Roadside Chat episode with Erik on life after USEF, the importance of teaching safety across the levels, and what he’s hoping to achieve with his October tour.

Wednesday Video from Kentucky Performance Products: NBD, Just a 14.7 at Beginner Novice

The Michael Jungs and Laura Colletts of the world might make us feel like sub-20 dressage scores are a totally normal, absolutely achievable thing — but in real life? Well, we know we’re not alone in getting a little bit moist around the eyes whenever we manage to slip sub-30, so they’re a serious feat. But trainer Erin Murphy and the expressive Hemisphere managed to stride easily into the sub-20 club at Old Tavern Horse Trials over the weekend in the Open Beginner Novice division, and thanks to owner Courtney Bolam DVM DVSc DACVS-LA, we’ve got the full video to share with you of their winning test.

Courtney, who works as a staff surgeon and Medical Director at Piedmont Equine Practice in Virginia, says: “I almost didn’t record this ride, thinking ‘it’s just another BN dressage test’…but it was something pretty special. My wonderful, amazing, talented trainer Erin Murphy [of Morningside Eventing, The Plains, VA] rode Quinn this past weekend (on very short notice) to an astounding dressage score of 14.7. They then went on to jump double clear and finish on that, 13 points ahead of 2nd place!”

Courtney ordinarily rides her ten-year-old Dutch Harness Horse cross gelding (that’s a Clydesdale/Hackney dam line, for those of you who are into curious breeding combos!) herself, and they’ve picked up some exciting results in the year or so they’ve been competing together — including a second place finish in the Open Beginner Novice at the CDCTA Spring Horse Trials this April.

Erin and Hemisphere. Photo courtesy of Courtney Bolan. 

According to Courtney, ‘Quinn’ is “one of the coolest horses I have known and ridden, [and he has] SOOOO much personality! He and I have come so far under the watchful eye and instruction of Erin with the support of Team Checkers!”

Of course, now Courtney’s got her eye on a jolly good challenge: beating that insane score.

“Now, to achieve something similar to this myself…hmmmm…goals!” she laughs.

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Tim Price Joins Maryland 5 Star Line-Up

Tim Price and Coup de Coeur Dudevin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We’ve got an exciting update to the entry list for the MARS Maryland 5 Star presented by Brown Advisory, which will return to the airwaves for its sophomore edition from October 12–16.

The overseas contingent who travelled over for last year’s inaugural edition are all coming back with a vengeance, and the latest to announce his intentions is New Zealand’s Tim Price. He finished third in last year’s running with Xavier Faer — becoming the first rider ever to complete all the world’s five-star events — and will return this year with the ten-year-old Coup de Coeur Dudevin, a former ride of Chris Burton, who will make his five-star debut this week.

Coup de Coeur Dudevin joined Tim’s string at the beginning of this year after a short stint with Jonelle, and was previously seventh at Le Lion d’Angers as both a six- and seven-year-old with Chris Burton. This will be the gelding’s fourth long-format event: he finished second in the CCI4*-L at Millstreet this year and looks set to make a seriously exciting debut.

Roll on Maryland!

Tuesday News & Notes from Ocala Horse Properties

 

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Our thoughts today are with our friends in Ocala, who are making contingency plans as Hurricane Ian makes its way landward. The World Equestrian Centre has battened down the hatches and filled its stables with evacuees, and although they’re now full, there are some other equestrian centres still offering stabling for horses who need to be moved to a safe place. Contact Dusty Rose Farm LLC on 636-751-1200 or drop Grand Oaks a line if you’re in need. You can keep an eye on the weather tracker here.

Events Opening Today: River Glen Fall H.T.Horse Trials at Majestic OaksTryon International 3-Day Event

Events Closing Today: Poplar Place Farm October H.T.Pine Hill Fall H.T.

Tuesday News & Notes from Around the World:

‘Tis the season for Area Championships – and the latest batch of winners comes from Area VII. The North-Western stronghold awarded ten titles at Aspen Farms a week and a half ago — and now, you can get to know them all. [Winner winner, Starbucks for dinner]

Every serpentine I’ve ever ridden in my life has gone something like this: half-halt; prepare; imagine the trajectory of the first loop; ride the first fifteen steps with anatomical precision; cross the centre line; get distracted by something shiny; flop my way through the last two loops; earn a 5; lather, rinse, repeat. I know I can’t be alone in this, so I’m committing to reading this instructional piece and NOT getting distracted by something shiny midway through. [I’m a sssssnaaaake]

I cannot believe we live in a world where spring still exists, but here we are. In great news, though, the passing of a new bill means that the end could be near. I, for one, want to know which nine walking scrotums tried to vote against the bill. [Justice for horses is coming]

Did you know that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month? Our friends at Achieve Equine are marking it with a limited edition bundle pack, from which 30% of proceeds will go to St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. The bundle includes two specially-designed Flair strips, a Gold VIP Half Pad, and the sunniest of specially-designed close-contact saddle pads. You can get your hands on it here!

Ocala Horse Properties Dream Farm of the Week:

Hubba, hubba. What a spot! With just shy of 12 acres and the sweetest, airiest ten-stall barn, this farm has everything you need to run a string of horses or get a compact business off the ground. I’m particularly into the gorgeous house, which makes generous use of gorgeous columns within and without. Truly a place where you can live your best life (and get yourself over to WEC in just a few short minutes!).

Watch This:

We’re nearly into Big French Autumn, and to get ourselves in the mood, join us for a trip to Saumur to meet the Cadre Noir and their extraordinary horses…

Monday News & Notes from FutureTrack

 

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I love seeing eventers try something new and succeed with aplomb, even though it generally makes me spiral into self-doubt and wonder why I, too, can’t be good at all the things. The reason for today’s crisis of confidence? Olympic eventer Tiana Coudray, who had a good crack at an Intermediare I freestyle over the weekend and walked away with a rather excellent score of 75% for her efforts. Go get ’em, girl.

National Holiday: It’s Alpaca Day. Offer your congratulations to any you encounter today, I guess.

US Weekend Action:

Stable View Oktoberfest (Aiken, SC): [Website] [Results]

Twin Rivers Fall International (Paso Robles, CA): [Website] [Results]

ESDCTA New Jersey H.T. (Allentown, NJ): [Website] [Results]

Larkin Hill Fall H.T. (North Chatham, NY): [Website] [Results]

Meadowcreek Park Fall Social Event (Weatherford, TX): [Website] [Results]

Old Tavern H.T. (The Plains, VA): [Website] [Results]

University of New Hampshire H.T. (Durham, NH): [Website] [Results]

UK Weekend Results:

Alnwick Ford (2): [Results]

Moreton Morrell (2): [Results]

South of England International (2): [Results]

Launceston (X): [Results]

Global Eventing Roundup:

Ballindenisk International CCI4*-L: [Website] [Entries/Times]

Your Monday Reading List:

It’s every rider’s worst nightmare: you pop down to the field in the morning and find your beloved horse standing there — on three legs. That’s exactly what happened to amateur rider Tamsin Palmer last summer, but although Bazaars Twister had shattered his pedal bone into a number of pieces, with plenty of rehabilitation and patience, they’ve made the comeback of a lifetime to win the 90cm unaffiliated championship at Frickley. [One to inspire the box-rest brigade today]

There are so many funny little mental roadblocks we pretty universally give ourselves. That step up from Training to Prelim? A huge leap, sure, but made even bigger by the weight we assign to it. Crossing the 1 metre threshold can be one of those, too — as writer Cathy Sobke found. Here’s how she got over it. [The answer is always ‘more leg’]

When it comes to caring for veteran horses, a little extra TLC is needed. That’s partly because every moment you spend with your older horse is a chance to spot niggling little issues before they snowball into serious problems — and grooming is a golden opportunity to get to grips with how your horse is getting on. [Here’s how to maximise that time]

And finally, whatever you do with your horses, and whatever level you compete at, they always take you on an adventure. For Dianne May, that adventure has included taking her first steps into the world of eventing as an adult amateur, and her joy in the sport is palpable. [We’re all on the same ride here]

The FutureTrack Follow:

The BE Support Trust, which aims to help event riders in need — and which has just announced its Winter Ball, for which Nicola Wilson will act as patron. EN table, anyone?

Morning Viewing:

Pratoni continued on apace last week with the FEI World Championships for Driving — and here’s how gold medallist Boyd Excell made the best of those crazy hills:

Friday News & Notes from Zoetis

 

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It takes a long old time to truck horses back across Europe from central Italy, and most of last week’s World Championships competitors — including the winner, Banzai du Loir — only made it home yesterday. I’ve been following their journeys keenly, partly because I love a top-horse-hangs-out-at-gas-station moment, and partly because all the reunions at the end of the journey melt my heart. Check out how sweetly Banzai was welcomed back to his stable at Yaz Ingham’s stunning Cheshire base. Definitely a bedroom fit for a champion!

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Stable View Oktoberfest (Aiken, SC): [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Twin Rivers Fall International (Paso Robles, CA): [Website] [Entries/Ride Times/Scoring] [Volunteer]

ESDCTA New Jersey H.T. (Allentown, NJ): [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Scoring]

Larkin Hill Fall H.T. (North Chatham, NY): [Website] [Scoring]

Meadowcreek Park Fall Social Event (Weatherford, TX): [Website] [Scoring]

Old Tavern H.T. (The Plains, VA): [Website] [Entries] [Volunteer]

University of New Hampshire H.T. (Durham, NH): [Website] [Entries] [Volunteer]

Major International Events

Ballindenisk International CCI4*-L: [Website] [Entries/Times]

News From Around the Globe:

Congratulations to the newly-crowned Area IV champions! After a hotly contested weekend of sport at Otter Creek, four new title-holders walked away victorious. [Meet them here]

I remain convinced that one of the things that keeps us all going is that quest for perfection. Maybe none of us will ever achieve it, but maybe — just maybe — we’ll get the chance to enjoy one of those extraordinary days in which all the pieces fall into place and we have the ride of a lifetime. [It happened to Laura Adriaanse]

Virtual reality headsets are being trialed as a way to measure concussion recovery. It doesn’t sound quite as fun as using them to play Mario Kart, but football, soccer, and racing alike are putting the technology to the test to try to measure the severity of concussions and moderate the recovery from them, which could have a seriously useful trickle-down effect into our sport. [This is no glitch in the matrix]

Training Tip of the Week: Successful Eventing is About Speed, Not Power

Thursday Video: Yasmin Ingham Makes it Happen at Pratoni

 

It’ll be a long time before we get over those last moments of the World Championships at Pratoni, during which Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH gave us one of equestrian sports most extraordinary plot twists, pulling the final rail and changing the course of the whole week’s competition.

Before that fateful final round, though, in which Michi Jung opened the door for Yaz to become the World Champion, she had to deliver the goods herself — and doing so over Uliano Vezzani’s showjumping course was no easy feat. Just 13 riders would produce clear rounds in the 68 rounds throughout the day, and the technical, dimensionally massive was indiscriminate in who it victimised.

But 25-year-old Yaz and 11-year-old Banzai du Loir? Well, they were about as close to perfect as it gets over a five-star showjumping track. Relive their round now.

Three Horses Pass Away at Blenheim International

 

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Three horses have now been confirmed to have died following incidents at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, which took place from September 14–18 in Oxfordshire, UK.

British-based Kiwi competitor Samantha Lissington suffered a horse fall at 12B, the Spinney Cottages, with Sharon Honiss’s nine-year-old Ricker Ridge Ricochet in the prestigious eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S, in which they were one of the earliest pairs out on course. After a hold and some deliberation, during which Samantha was transferred to hospital, organisers opted to remove this B element from the combination. Later on, it was confirmed that the talented young mare, who was making her second start at the four-star level after finishing third in the CCI4*-S at Kilguilkey, had been euthanised.

“It is with great sadness we announce that following immediate veterinary treatment Ricker Ridge Ricochet, ridden by Samantha Lissington passed away after a fall at fence 12 today,” added the statement. “Our thoughts are with all connections at this sad time.”

Fanta Boy, the twelve-year-old top-level partner of Great Britain’s George Goss (née Spence), was also confirmed to have died on Saturday night after successfully completing the CCI4*-L course without jumping penalties.

“With a broken heart I can confirm that very sadly our Fanta Boy passed away late into the night on Saturday. He was an incredible horse and I will cherish the memories I’ve shared with him and his wonderful owners, Nicky [Cooper] and Lucy [Fleming],” said George in a statement on her social media. “Gallop free my very special boy.”

Equador III, the ride of Great Britain’s Thomas Martin, was also confirmed to have died after a rotational fall in the CCI4*-L.

“This is a hard pill to swallow,” wrote 25-year-old Thomas, who was making his CCI4*-L debut with the gelding, in a statement on Instagram. “Me and Eddie had a rotational fall at Blenheim yesterday and unfortunately Eddie sustained a leg injury. Due to that leg injury we had to make the tough decision this morning to put him to rest.”

He continued his statement with a heartfelt letter to the horse, with whom he’d taken his first steps into the upper levels of eventing:

“Dear Eddie,

You have came along way since that £5 purchase 6 years ago, what was quite an uncertain time for you, through to you turning into my horse of a life time. We have been there through many highs and you’ve seen me through plenty of lows yet you never once wavered. I’m so proud of what we achieved. Although we did not make our £5 to 5* we did give it a bloody good go and had all the fun along the way. Your were nothing but heart and you are going to be sorely missed by not only me but by the whole of team Martin and many others that’s you touched along the way. It’s just not going to be the same on the yard with out you.  RIP the bestest good boy I could of ever asked for. Love you for ever.”

All of us at Team EN extend our most heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the connections of these remarkable horses, and wish Sam Lissington a speedy recovery.

Editor’s Note: The headline of this article has been updated to reflect the passing of three horses, two of which were confirmed to be euthanized following incidents on cross country.

“He’s the Ultimate Event Horse”: Yasmin Ingham Wins Individual Gold; Germany Wins Team Gold at Pratoni

The individual medallists at the 2022 FEI Eventing World Championships: Yasmin Ingham, Julia Krajewski, and Tim Price. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

After this morning’s enormously influential show jumping session, which saw just five riders jump clear from 43 starters and a whopping 136 rails fall throughout the course of proceedings, this afternoon’s top 25 competitors at the FEI World Championships were achingly aware of how tough their job would be — and equally, that there was no one bogey fence on course that they could take a breath after jumping. Every single fence fell multiple times through the course of the day, bringing that total rail tally to 178.

So tight were the margins at the top that, with every team rider that entered the ring, the podium positions changed hands. Though Germany started the day in the lead, and was bolstered by a foot-perfect clear inside the time from first rider Christoph Wahler in the morning session, the shakedown started promptly as the top 25 took to the ring.

The USA’s Lauren Nicholson tipped two rails — the first part of the third double at 11A and the penultimate fence at 12 — but was already sitting in drop score position with Vermiculus after adding a smattering of time yesterday, and so when this year’s Aachen champions Sandra Auffarth and Viamant du Matz pulled a shocking three, including the hugely influential white oxer at 5, it threw the scores into a tailspin.

Germany, previously riding high atop the leaderboard by the slimmest of margins, slipped down to bronze and, after being bolstered by the classy double clear of U.S. individual Ariel GraldWill Coleman‘s exceptional round aboard his own Aachen champion Off The Record pushed the Americans into gold medal position, with Britain lying close behind.

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

When celebrations happen at this midpoint, they happen swiftly, and in sharp focus, because there’s never much time to rest on one’s laurels: New Zealand, who’d looked out of the hunt entirely, pinged right back into contention when Jonelle Price‘s diminutive McClaren got the job done -– “I think this morning was the first morning I woke up and said, ‘I’m really happy to have McLaren here this week’,” she says wryly — and looked lost at sea once again when Monica Spencer‘s Artist tipped three rails.

The Brits, who’ve been riding a wave of extraordinary dominance since winning the last World Championships in 2018, found themselves on shaky footing when Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser, arguably one of the best show jumping pairs in the field, pulled the second part of the final double, giving the US a rail in hand to hold the gold.

Ros Canter‘s classy clear on the ten-year-old Lordships Graffalo meant that the pressure was on Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg, who entered the ring during the tumult of the British supporters’ cheers. But rail after rail fell, and when he left the ring with four to his name, the U.S. had dropped to bronze, below Great Britain.

But don’t start breathing again just yet: there are few horses in the world more consistent than Oliver Townend‘s Ballaghmor Class, who has finished in the top five in all seven of his CCI5* starts and the Olympics, but just two fences into his round, it all started to unravel. His four rails — arguably one of the most shocking pile-ups of the day — pushed the Brits off the podium entirely and guaranteed that, as long as anchors Tamie Smith and Mai Baum had no more than two rails down, the USA would take a medal at a World Championships for the first time 20 years.

Once again, we were looking at one of the best-rated show jumpers in the field. Once again, the unthinkable happened.

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Mai Baum started his round in exceptional style, looking fit, fresh, and tidy over Uliano Vezzani’s dimensionally massive, technical track — but as he approached fence five, which fell a whopping 28 times through the day, he did what so many horses had done before: he peeked downwards at the tall shrubs laid underneath it, let his forehand lower almost infinitesimally, and then misread the breadth of the fence in front of him, tapping out the front rail. And then, excruciatingly, another fell, this time at the penultimate fence, which was the second-most influential with 26 rails through the day. The U.S. was still guaranteed a medal  — and a silver one at that — but Tamie’s own grasp on individual bronze had slipped away.

Oh, did you think we were done here? If that’s exhausting to read, you’re halfway to imagining the experience of living it in real-time, which was a bit like watching a four-way ping-pong match on steroids. With the U.S. guaranteed silver, at least, and New Zealand having clawed their way back onto the podium for the first time in over a decade after Tim Price and his Pau winner Falco delivered one of the 12 clears inside the time of the day, it was down to the final two, and the match-race for the individual title.

Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There’s got to be something in the water on the Isle of Man, the teeny-tiny, 30-mile long and 10-mile wide, self-governing island that Great Britain’s Yasmin Ingham hails from. At just 25-years-old, she’s about as icy-veined as a rider can be: she’s won every single age title in the UK (that’s the under-16, under-18, under-21, and under-25 full gamut, for those unfamiliar); she’s been a double gold medallist at the Pony European Championships; she’s taken arguably the world’s biggest equine age title at the 2020 eight- and nine-year-old championship CCI4*-S, ordinarily held at Blenheim, and followed it up with the CCI4*-L last year, both with her ride this week, Banzai du Loir. And although she’s been an individual, rather than a team rider, this week, she’s been one of the most formidable presences at this week’s World Championships, which is her senior squad debut, never once shifting from the podium.

As the penultimate rider in the ring, the pressure must have been enormous — but the ice in those veins never thawed. The extravagant Selle Français gelding looked as fresh as he might at a short format, giving every fence on course extra inches without ever sacrificing efficiency. As she touched down from the last, clear and inside the time, Yaz had plenty to celebrate with her connections in the collecting ring: she was the new Reserve World Champion. Just one rider was left to go, and it was the infallible Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH — and so, she knew, that silver medal was all hers.

Yasmin Ingham waves to the crowd after a clear round with Banzai du Loir. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Until it wasn’t. It’s not often you see a great sporting upset play out quite like this: Michi had a rail, and some time, in hand, and so although Chipmunk has become an excellent performer in this final phase, that disappointing rail at 11A wasn’t wholly out of the question, nor was it any reason for expectations to shift. He popped out over 11B clean, jumped that achingly tough water tray at 12 without an issue, and so, as he hit his stride perfectly to the final fence and lifted off, the German team supporters in the Kiss & Cry began their victory cheer.

It was stop short, of course, when that top rail wobbled, bounced, and then fell.

Yasmin Ingham wouldn’t take home a silver medal after all. Hers was to be gold.

A celebration, cut short. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“Words can’t even describe how I’m feeling right now,” says Yaz, who becomes the first-ever individual competitor to take the gold medal at a World Championships. “I went in there and just tried to block everything else out. I was under a heap of pressure going in in silver medal position, and obviously, with only Michi Jung to go, I didn’t think he would make any mistakes. But I mean everyone’s, you know, normal, and he’s obviously not a robot.”

Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Yaz’s was one of just thirteen clear rounds today, and one of the twelve of those that was inside the time — but even at the tender age of eleven, Banzai has exceeded expectations throughout his career, finishing second at Kentucky this spring on his ultimate campaign for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

“I’m just delighted that my horse went out there today and tried his absolute best,” says Yaz, who rides the gelding for longtime supporters Sue Davies and Jeanette Chin. “He probably jumped the best round he’s ever jumped, and he was listening to me the whole way around the course. It’s just an absolute dream finish to this event — I just never thought this would happen.”

Of the exquisite Banzai, she says: “He’s the best horse I’ve ever sat on, and I don’t think I’ll ever sit on a horse like him ever again. He’s the ultimate event horse: he’s incredible in the dressage; he has so much potential and so much presence, and he’s fast on the cross-country, and agile, and brave. And then coming into the showjumping today, he just showed everybody that he was jumping a clear round and there was no two ways about it. He took everything in his stride, and I wouldn’t want to be sat on any other horse.”

Ros Canter and Jeanette Davies celebrate as Yaz jumps the last. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sue and Jeanette, who are also from the Isle of Man, have supported Yaz through from those heady teenage years, giving a young girl whose enormously supportive, but not wealthy, family a shot at making her dreams become reality.

“I started out riding in the Pony Club at home and did all the local competitions, and then my amazing family supported me at some events in the UK. It was all sort of a very lucky, right place, right time thing when I met Sue Jeanette, who are also Isle of Man residents. They wanted to support a younger rider from the Isle of Man, and we’ve made this journey together. And I’m just so grateful that they chose to support me all those years ago — just to reward them today with a World Championship title is pretty special.”

Along the way, she’s also been supported by Britain’s enviable structures, which help propel young riders through to senior level success.

“It’s amazing to be here with the amazing British team we’ve got here, and I’m so grateful for the World Class program, who have been supporting us in the lead-up to this event,” she says. “My trainers, family, the owners, especially, of the horse — I would not be here without them.It’s a huge team effort to be here and I’m just so glad that we delivered today.”

Yaz’s history-making victory doesn’t just fulfil her own wildest dreams — it’s also emblematic of a World Championships cycle that has seen young up-and-comers come to the fore. And for kids with ponies on the brain and posters on their walls? It’s a sure sign that no matter how lofty your ambitions, there’s a pathway to get there.

Julia Krajewski and Amande de b’Neville. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

So few were the clear rounds today that big climbs were possible for those who could achieve them — and after Michi and Chipmunk slipped down to fifth place, the door was opened for newcomers on the podium. So it was that Olympic gold medallists Julia Krajewski and Amande de b’Neville, who has looked almost a new horse after a winter of maturing and strengthening, stepped up from fifth into individual silver medal position.

Julia Krajewski and Amande de b’Neville. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I was super, super happy and delighted with my horse,” says Julia, who rode at the 2018 World Equestrian Games with Chipmunk before he changed hands that winter. “I’m again super proud of how she just delivers when it really matters — there’s the feeling that she knows.”

That silver isn’t the only medal she took today: despite the twist of fate at the end of the day, the Germans were rewarded with team gold — their first since that extraordinary period of dominance that came to a close after the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“For me this week, it’s felt like a real team effort,” she says. “We really thought ‘okay, let’s let’s make it a good team thing; let’s win a team medal’, and I think everyone did their bit. It went a little bit up and down but in the end, we really got it together, won the team gold — and then in the end to win individual as well, is just the icing on the cake. I’m so proud of the horse.”

Tim Price and Falco. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tim Price, too, was able to take home two medals: that long-awaited team bronze, and an individual bronze for good measure, too, after moving up from seventh place post-cross-country with Falco.

“It hasn’t sunk in — it’s only been a couple of minutes, and it’s not a position the Kiwis have been used to being in for some time,” he says with a laugh. “Andrew Nicholson came up and said, ‘you guys waited long enough for that, well done!’ but it’s just amazing, this team. We’ve had a great week and all stayed very solid. And what a finish! And what a horse.”

Though Falco wasn’t always an obvious champion — as a newly-minted four-star horse, his record was particularly up and down — but over the last eighteen months or so, he’s come into his own, winning Pau CCI5* last year and consistently delivering at the upper levels.

“We’ve had faith in him since the start,” says Tim. “He’s always been an out-and-out jumper but to get him to Sunday, so you can demonstrate that and have it in a useful way, is just incredible.”

For Tim, though, who has been so extraordinarily successful himself at the upper levels, it’s the team bronze that he picked up that, perhaps, means the most — particularly as the last few championships for the Kiwis have been so hard-fought and scantly rewarded.

“We’ve worked so hard for this, we’ve focused on this for years. It’s this kind of major event with the team behind you, with the nation behind you, that means absolutely everything.”

Ros Canter moved up from eighth to fourth to finish best of the British team, ahead of Michi and Chipmunk, while young Frenchman Gaspard Maksud was the runaway star for his country, putting a cap on an extraordinary week with the nine-year-old Zaragoza by jumping clear inside the time, moving himself up from a first-phase 21st place to sixth. Just behind him, best-placed American Will Coleman took seventh with Off the Record, while Japan’s Kazuma Tomoto had one rail down but still climbed from tenth to eighth with Vinci de la Vigne JRA — the same placing the horse finished on when he competed at the last World Championships with Astier Nicolas aboard. Tamie Smith wound up in a final ninth place with Mai Baum after her two rails pushed her out of bronze medal position, and Jonelle Price capped off the top ten with McClaren, after three phases in which he performed at his very best.

The individual top ten in the 2022 FEI World Championships.

Team Germany is on top of the world once again. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Germany’s team gold comes as former team rider Peter Thomsen dives into his first year as trainer, taking over from longtime head honcho Hans Melzer — and what a start he’s having to his tenure this week. With two former World Champions on his team, plus the current Olympic champion and an extraordinary new face on the team in Christoph Wahler — plus an extraordinary wealth of breadth and depth beyond them in the German ranks — it’s easy to forecast another wave of success after something of a fallow period at the championship level.

Silver never looked so sweet. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And speaking of breadth and depth, let’s talk about Team USA — and how sweet the relief of getting it done must be. Though many may have written them off, partly because it’s been two decades since they last stood on a podium at a World Championships and partly because the team exists in a funny sort of limbo period, with an interim (maybe!) chef d’equipe in Bobby Costello, it’s actually perhaps in part due to those things that this success happened. That, of course, and hard work by a number of riders, which made choosing a final line-up for the team unenviably difficult — and so good was the individual competitor, Ariel Grald, that if she’d been on the team this week, the USA would have been gold medallists.

At the start of competition, we posited that the USA’s secret weapon might be its period of sort-of instability, because it allowed for a less rigid program for team riders. This week, in a departure from the norm, we’ve seen each rider stick to their own system, and their own trainers, while coming together under a central care and management system that allowed them the support they needed along the way. That’s much more akin to the British system — and this week’s success could mean that we see the USA stick to it going forward. If they do, we could see them head into something of a renaissance, and a golden era that we’ve not seen in a long time. Bring it on, we say. (And, for more on the U.S. team — and our friends to the north in Canada — check out the North American end-of-day report!)

Felix Vogg’s round secures Olympic qualification for the Swiss — and much celebration atop the Kiss and Cry. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Of course, the medals weren’t the only thing that the 16 assembled teams were fighting for this week. This was also the first chance to qualify for the Paris Olympics, with seven team qualification spots on offer. Ordinarily, we see these primarily snapped up by the ‘big six’ nations — but a couple of countries on the up and up managed to punch their tickets today. Perhaps most excitingly is Switzerland, who have enjoyed a seriously impressive season with multiple four-star wins and Nations Cup victories, and have been riding with more gumption and educated risk-taking than ever before under the guidance of Andrew Nicholson. They took seventh place, clinched by top-place rider Felix Vogg and Cartania, and will take part in the next Olympics — as will Sweden, who finished sixth after a huge effort to consolidate their good form at Nations Cups and turn it into championship success. Ireland will also head to Paris after clinching fifth place, and Great Britain, who hold Olympic gold, will qualify with their fourth-place finish. For Brazil and Canada, there’ll be a Pan-American Games battle for a place, while the remaining European nations will work to secure spots at next year’s European Championships, and there’ll be spots to be grabbed through the Nations Cup, too, as well as an Asian and Middle-Eastern qualifier on the table. For our top seven, though, it’s time to relax, just briefly, and enjoy the spoils of their hard work.

And so, for now, we bid you adieu from Pratoni. It’s been a wild ride, a big slide, and now, we at EN are all, frankly, a bit cross-eyed. Go Eventing.

The final team standings in the 2022 FEI World Championships.

FEI World Championships for Eventing: [Website] [FEI TV] [Final Individual Standings] [Final Team Standings] [ EN’s Ultimate Guide ] [EN’s Coverage]

“It’s More Like a Mini-Prix”: Analyzing the Intensity of Morning Show Jumping at Pratoni

Denmark’s Mia Hastrup starts the day off. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

What a morning it’s been here for the first session of showjumping at the 2022 FEI World Championships for Eventing! This is just course designer Uliano Vezzani‘s second eventing showjumping course: previously, the ‘king of the slopes’ has spent decades as one of the most interesting characters in showjumping. He’s designed FEI World Cup courses, Global Champions Tour tracks, and innumerable Grands Prix, and his raison d’etre within the sport has been the reintroduction of grass arenas — and undulating ones, at that — into the top level.

In his first eventing role, which saw him design the showjumping track for the test event here this spring, he gave us a taste of what might be to come — and what we learned there is that he’s a man who isn’t afraid to build dimensionally big jumps and ask for a level of technical skill that’s above and beyond what we often see in our sport. As a result, we knew that today’s finale at the FEI World Championships of Eventing would be seriously influential — but even those of us with an inkling of what was to come were given lots to think about as today’s course was set.

The first session of showjumping, which runs in reverse order of merit, saw the first 43 competitors of the day take to the arena, and ultimately, just five would manage clear rounds — and four of those would do so without time penalties in the tight 90 second optimum time. As the day got underway, the faults were hitting the double-figures with such consistency that a one- or even two-rail round felt like an enormous accomplishment, and our first clear of the day didn’t come until the 28th rider in the ring. That was Italy’s Arianna Schivo and Quefira de l’Ormeau, who gave the enthusiastic home ground plenty to celebrate and move up at least ten places to a minimum of 32nd place as a result.

But what is it that’s making this track so achingly difficult, and what might that mean for this afternoon’s top 25, who take to the ring from 14.30 local time (13.30 BST/8.30 a.m. EST)? We caught up with several riders and trainers to find out — and crunched the numbers on the course’s most influential spots.

There wasn’t a single fence on the course that didn’t come down at some point in the first session, which saw 136 poles fall in total — an average of just over three rails per competitor. But there were several spots that were particularly tough: fence 5, a white oxer with a significant brush underneath it, which turned horses back away from the in-gate on a right-handed turn after the first of the three doubles on course, was the most influential single fence, with 21 riders faulting there.

“He jumped amazing, and that fence that he had down is really hard to read,” says Britain’s Laura Collett, who pulled 5 down with London 52. “I cantered up to it in the beginning and with the bushes in the back it just draws you past where the front rail is, which is clever.”

Unlike many of her competitors, Laura found that the course presented a wide variety of choices to make on the stride patterns.

“I think it’s a very clever track. I think with being in a big arena like that, it’s almost too many options on the distances because they’re big distances so you can almost change your mind a few too many times in there whereas if you’ve got a three stride or four stride that’s what it is. Whereas you know you’re on seven, eight, nine, ten stride… so it gives you more more options but equally sometimes that’s been more confusing for the riders.”

The doubles on the track increased in difficulty as the long, tough course went on: 4AB, which was built on a short two-stride line from an airy red-and-white striped oxer to an upright, claimed four rails at the first element and seven at the second, while 7AB, a slightly more flowing two from an upright to an oxer, saw seven poles fall at the A element and six at the B. But the final double, 11AB, which is made up of a upright to an upright, was by far the most troubling of the three, and 17 rails ultimately fell at the first, with a further eight coming down at the second. The distance from 10 to 11A quickly proved to be crucial: it’s a six-stride related distance, and if that wasn’t right on the money, the cumulative effect would see a snowball effect with poles falling.

There wasn’t any break for a breather after jumping the final double, either. A total of 19 competitors pulled the penultimate fence, an oxer over a water tray, while the final fence, an upright, fell 12 times through the course of the morning session.

“It’s a big arena,” points out Maxime Livio, who’s here in a coaching capacity helping Thailand’s Korntawat Samran, who delivered one of the four double clears. “It’s very long after quite a difficult cross country yesterday, so some horses start very well and jump after jump after jump would start to be a bit difficult for them to stay focused and careful until the end. That’s the first thing — and the second thing is, it’s quite big. I think it’s the highest fences we can have at a championship, but it’s the World Championship, so it’s quite normal to have that level here. And all the oxers are very square and very large, and course designer was clever to play with the colour of the poles, and something like little trees or a liverpool under the fences, and then the horses are more looking at that with a very light pull. That means you see some big scores even when the riders and horses aren’t actually making big mistakes.”

Worth bearing in mind as well, he points out, is that there are more inexperienced horses and riders in this first session, which contributes to the high overall numbers of faulters: “Some top riders are here [in the first group], here because they had a problem yesterday but most of the rider in the first session will be riders who may be a bit just inexperienced for that level. So we will see how the second part of the course goes, but it will be very interesting for the medals.”

One of the first riders in the ring was also one of the few to enjoy a single-rail round for much of the afternoon. He, too, noted the cumulative effect of the course, which is largely set on interlinked related distances, so one error inevitably leads to several more.

Carlos Parro and Goliath. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I think it’s big and square from the beginning, and it was tough yesterday on the horses,” says Brazil’s Carlos Parro, whose impressive four-fault round with Goliath gave competitors much to consider. “I came to the test event and found that he builds quite tough tracks. And it’s things that we’re not quite used to doing in the show jumping — like, you know, big, open distances, and then you come up to a combination and they’ve got a short distance. So this change of things, and the speed, I think that’s what catches you out.”

Germany’s pathfinder Christoph Wahler delivered another of the clears inside the time, which came after a period of intense schooling over technical questions at home — and was aided by the insight of teammates Michael Jung and Sandra Auffarth, both of whom jump at Grand Prix level as well.

“It is a difficult, difficult course,” says Christoph. “Honestly, the horse has had some incredible show jumping rounds in the past and I know he’s a very good jumper. But luck wasn’t on our side this year so far with the showjumping, especially in Badminton and also in Haras du Pin, so we did have a focus on on that clear around today in our preparation, and in the training courses we build at home, and he was fantastic today.”

“Usually at home we have a couple of training lines — you pop over and you pop over and then you go to the show and you ride whatever’s there, but now, you know with this year, not doing so well in show jumping, we tried to make it difficult at home — you know, all these rollback turns, the change of direction all the time, a lot of approaches, you know, a distance into combination, and [that’s] something we have been working on, and I think that paid off today,” he says, continuing: “I think the distances were clear, especially for a big-striding horse like mine, and then you have to turn and if you’re always focusing on only the striding and the distances then you can get caught up quite quickly. So for me, it was very important to use the turns to get him back on the hind legs because once you’re in the distances, as the others [said], one little mistake and it’s all gone. But for me, if you have show jumping riders, especially like Michi and Sandra your team, they jump the 1.60m week in, week out, and it is quite interesting to listen to what they have to say and try to put that to work.”

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

Sweden’s Sofia Sjoborg also delivered a clear, albeit with 1.2 time penalties, with Bryjamolga van het Marienshof Z. Part of the difficulty with time, she explains, is that Uliano lures riders into using more of the available space in the capacious arena than they actually need — or ought — to. He also tempts riders with distances that seem to invite one approach on the first walk, but require further unpacking for success.

“It’s very technical,” she says. “He he likes to do a lot of forward distances into combinations, so he almost invites you to come slightly flying in with the event horses — especially on the last day where they’ve just opened up so much yesterday. I found that it was actually better to almost add one nearly in all the distances just because they need that extra reminder today to sit back and collect. So I think he’s been very clever, actually, because in a classical event horse, that would be a weak part of the jumping.”

We now head into the final session of showjumping, and one thing’s absolutely certain: it’s going to be a nail biter. Stay tuned, and Go Eventing.

FEI World Championships for Eventing: [Website] [Definite Entries] [FEI TV] [ EN’s Ultimate Guide ] [EN’s Form Guide] [Live Scores & Schedule] [Daily Digest Email] [EN’s Coverage]

“He’s a Powerful Machine”: Michael Jung Retains Pratoni Lead with fischerChipmunk FRH

Michael Jung: back in gold medal position on the world stage. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

By the time Germany’s Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH left the start box today at the FEI World Championships of Eventing, 73 of the 88 competitors had already done so before them — and that meant that former World Champion Michi was more than aware of the issues that extraordinary hills and tough questions were causing for even the most experienced competitors.

He’d seen Badminton winners and Olympic team gold medallists Laura Collett and London 52 pick up a shock run-out at the second skinny at the bottom of the Pratoni slide, pulling the Brits out of gold medal position and themselves out of individual silver; he’d seen 2017 Seven-Year-Old World Champion Alertamalib’or do the same with France’s Astier Nicolas, starting a day of seriously mixed fortunes for the French.

He’d seen Tom McEwen very nearly take a flag penalty; he’d seen Australia’s Kevin McNab drop from ninth to 56th after his rein broke on course and he’d had to stop for a whole minute while trying to tie the broken end to the bit’s cheekpiece. 

He’d seen safety devices activated in droves — nine of them, in total, which no doubt gave him a twinge of deja-vu back to Tokyo last year, where he was one of many riders to pick up expensive frangible penalties.

He’d seen drive-bys, he’d seen misses, and he’d seen rider falls — but if the knowledge that this was a real Championship challenge fazed him in any way, he certainly didn’t let on. Instead, he did what Michael Jung does best, and he rose to the occasion. Now, he’ll go into tomorrow’s final day still sitting atop the provisional podium, and still sitting on that extraordinary first-phase score of 18.8.

“I feel very happy,” says Michael. “fischerChipmunk is an amazing horse, like yesterday in the dressage and today in the cross-country. He’s a machine. He was so — how do I say in English — motivated in the warm-up and playing right, left with the flying changes and it’s just an amazing feeling for the rider when you have such a powerful machine and still, in the end, he’s so super galloping. You have the feeling he can do everything again, and this is just a great feeling.”

With those safety devices in mind, Michael opted to play it cautiously in a few places, which he knew he could afford to do after seeing a number of other riders catch the time. Still, though, they had a ‘nearly’ moment at a small single fence at 15, and made quite hard work of the second pass through the water.

“Everywhere I did “whoa, whoa, whoa”, stay quiet, stay quiet, not too much, not too much,” he says. “I always stay a little bit on the brake. But he was so motivated and so powerful. I just tried to keep him relaxed because we have a few more minutes. It’s amazing, how he can gallop, how he can jump and also in some difficult situations how quick he can think and this big horse with the big strides, quick reaction. [The slide] was fun — you can jump the two hedges with a little smile. So this was this was just really, really good from him.”

Before his round, Michi had been a vocal critic of the course design here, which didn’t use as much of the property as he’d hoped for — and after, he doubled down.

“I have to say, sadly the ground wasn’t perfect, what we said before is that this is not great for championship, but in the end the course is tricky,” he says. “The beginning is nice: you have a nice open gallop, but then the middle part is very, very tricky. Turn left, right, forward, collect, up the hill, down, angle — and this is very difficult for the horses, with this speed and gallop, to still be so quick in the reaction and concentrate and keep the brain on. And you get a little bit the feeling when you get out of that and you have a longer gallop and then the horse thinks, ‘Okay, now we’re finished’, but then you still have to do two or three minutes. You definitely have to try to keep the motivation and the power in the horse that they don’t think too early that they are finished and that’s a bit the tricky thing here.”

Michi, though, was buoyed by an enthusiastic crowd — not just of German supporters, but of fans from the eventing world over.

“I hear [the cheers] everywhere,” he smiles. “They were really, really super crowds and super spectators. It’s nice to have the spectators on the competition, and also, when you warm up here and when you look out there, so many people are there and behind the sport and interested and that’s nice.”

Yasmin Ingham steps into silver medal position with Banzai du Loir. Photo by Shelby Allen.

25-year-old rising star Yasmin Ingham was just the second Brit out of the box today — and one of the first riders to come forward for this phase — but the British individual competitor rode it with an almost innate understanding of the questions being asked. That smart, quick-thinking approach — and the exceptional gallop of her 11-year-old Selle Français, Banzai du Loir, allowed her to cross the finish line with just 1.2 time penalties. After the influential day came to a conclusion, that was good enough to push her up one spot into individual silver medal position.

“It was hard work actually — it was very intense,” says Yaz of the course. “I think it was the terrain more than anything. You’re just constantly on the camber, up and down. But as I’ve said from the beginning, I’m just so glad that I’m sat on Banzai — he just really took it all in stride and just felt like he was really at home up in the hills.”

One of the benefits of going early was that Yaz didn’t have too much outside influence to think about: she’d watched just a couple of riders on course before mounting up herself, and was thus able to stick to her guns and the plans she’d made while walking. That paid off with a ride that very nearly went exactly how she’d expected it to.

“All the combinations I rode to my plan A, apart from the last water which it was just quite steep so we just didn’t land quite as far outside as I would’ve liked. And we just picked up the five strides instead of the four, so I think if I’d maybe been a bit quicker there we might have made the time — but I’m just delighted with him. He was incredible the whole way around, and grew in confidence the whole way. He was just looking for the flags.”

Yaz found herself down on the clock early on in the course — a problem that many riders found themselves subsequently unable to overcome, but she very nearly caught back up in the latter stages.

“I would say I was down on my first three [minute markers] at least. And then I made it up more where we had the single fences in the middle of the course. And then as we got down to the flatter land, it was easier to try and keep in a rhythm. Obviously when you’re up and down the hills, you’ve got to really get them back and prepare for the combinations on flat. It was a lot easier, so I think I definitely made up time throughout the middle and towards the end of the course. I was really pleased with how we managed to claw that back.”

For Yaz, even just coming to Pratoni at all is a dream come true. And to do it with her Kentucky runner-up and horse of a lifetime, Banzai? It’s almost beyond words.

“Honestly, I could never have even dreamed of being in this position,” she says. “I know the horse is more than capable: I think so much of him and he just certainly deserves it so much, he’s just such a incredible all around horse in the dressage and show jumping. And touch wood, tomorrow he’ll show everyone that he really is the ultimate animal.”

“I have an unbelievable, magical unicorn”: Tamie Smith and Mai Baum deliver the goods. Photo by Shelby Allen.

When the USA’s Tamie Smith crossed the finish line, she knew she was a second off the optimum time — but it wasn’t until she joined us in the media mixed zone that she realised that was one second inside, not outside, with Mai Baum.

“That feels even better,” she laughs. She and 16-year-old ‘Lexus’ had enjoyed a career-defining round, showjumping their way through many of the tough combinations on course and leaning on one another to make decisions and get the job done.

“He and I have such a great partnership now. This is a hard course for those horses, and I said to Eric Duvander the other day, I think it’s going to be hard for our five-star horses because the jumps aren’t big, but they’re super technical and twisty and you lose rideability,” says Tamie. “But he’s such a good jumper; the striding kept getting shorter and shorter and so I had to wrangle him in a couple of times but he was right there. He was just on it and super. I’m really pleased.”

Tamie credited US cross-country coach Ian Stark — and a healthy dose of denial — with helping her to make a plan of action that would stick.

“We had spotters at the beginning of the course, and we had a really good meeting last night with Ian [Stark],” she says. “We’d walked the course, and we had our ideas, and if it rides this way, great, if it doesn’t ride that way and the rider didn’t mess up, let me know. But it rode the way we had planned, the Slide particularly — obviously I’d never done anything like that, and I only got to watch the video from like, 1853 where they were trying to kill themselves. And I was like, ‘well, they’re not gonna have that, they won’t put that one on the course’. So then when I got here [and saw it], I was a little bit pooping my pants — it had my heart racing a little bit this morning again! But it rode great — and what a great thing for the Americans to have Ian. He’s a legend. So we have confidence and he’s showed us how to ride fast.”

Tamie and Lexus, who ordinarily deliver very pretty, correct stride patterns — sometimes to the detriment of the clock — got a little agricultural at the Pratoni slide, leaving a stride out from element A to element B and gaining in confidence from the flyer they took there.

“I didn’t really want to get six going down that slide that, but the six was right there and he’s just got a massive stride and he saw it and it was phenomenal,” says Tamie. “I’m actually glad he did it — it’s always fun to leave one out and have it work!”

There are few better horses to head into the final phase on than Mai Baum, who’s an exceptional show jumper — but for now, Tamie’s revelling in the moment, and in the joy of being part of a US contingent that absolutely nailed the brief across the board today.

“I have an unbelievable magical unicorn and all three phases,” says Tamie with a broad smile. “He’s a horse of a lifetime, and he’s made a lot of dreams come true. I will take care of him tonight. He felt great to the end, and I know his heart is as big as mine, so I know he’ll give me everything he has.”

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class deliver in their anchor round for Great Britain. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

British team anchor Oliver Townend had plenty of pressure on his shoulders as he left the startbox: second out, Laura Collett, had picked up an unlucky drive-by at the C element of the Pratoni slide combination, and third out Tom McEwen was still in limbo, awaiting a review of a flag rule contravention that would have pushed the British team right off the podium. But what better horse to be on when the going gets tough than 15-year-old Ballaghmor Class who, in seven CCI5* starts and an Olympics, has never finished lower than fifth?

It didn’t quite start out how Oliver would have hoped, though: as the pair came down the slide at 7ABC, Ballaghmor Class yanked off a front shoe, and skidded and slipped slightly around some of the course’s hairpin bends as a result. But after some clever rebalancing and an adherence to a rhythm, the pair were able to get themselves home clear and inside the time.

For Ballaghmor Class, though, who’s an out-and-out gallop-and-jump kind of five-star horse, Giuseppe’s style of designing didn’t come quite as naturally as the colossal fences of a course like Burghley do.

“It’s a different test to normal, but I think a very fair and cleverly designed test,” says Oliver. “I don’t think it particularly suits some of the older horses such as London, Ballaghmor Class, and Toledo de Kerser that have been around those big five-stars like Badminton and Burghley, because this is definitely smaller, dimensionally, and you’re up and down the hills and the terrain is tough. They want big open courses that they can attack. So the distances didn’t suit my horse, and he’s so genuine, even when he didn’t want to listen, he eventually did — and the one thing he does love is jumping between the flags, which makes my job a lot lot more relaxing. If he sees the fence, then you know he’s going to try and jump it for you.”

The cherry atop the cake for Oliver? After his round was complete and his own overnight fourth-place spot confirmed, the news wended its way back that Tom’s flag penalty had been removed, putting Britain back into bronze medal position overnight.

Olympic gold medallists Julia Krajewski and Amande de b’Neville help turn German fortunes around. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“She’s just an absolute fucking machine — like, for me, the coolest horse,” enthuses Germany’s Julia Krajewski, who came home six seconds inside the time on her Tokyo individual gold medalist Amande de b’Neville to move from 12th to fourth. “She’s got such a character and she’s super honest; genuine yet clever.”

That cleverness, and a finely honed sense of self-preservation, have helped the Selle Français mare grow into a seriously smart cross-country performer — and one that’s a confidence-boost for the sport to watch.

“That’s what I love most — she would never just run into a fence,” says Julia. “She’s not the genuine horse which you can just like, throw into the fence and they don’t manage because they’re too honest. She would pay attention, but she will always do what I point her at.”

Though ‘Mandy’ is an Olympic gold medallist, she took that title while still reasonably inexperienced — but over the year since, she’s developed considerably, gaining her first experiences of crowds and atmosphere and, most importantly, gaining in physical strength and speed. That was put to the test over today’s hills — and it was a test she passed with flying colours.

“I haven’t been here yet, so I didn’t 100% know how fit she would be, but I was quite confident that she by now is super fit and will be on it to the end,” says Julia. “After Sandra [Auffarth] had a super good clear, fast round I thought ‘okay, the horses are quite similar; we bounce off ideas about training. If her horse can do it like that, then Mandy is up to it as well’.”

The experience of riding the course at Pratoni was more enjoyable, Julia found, than riding in Tokyo — and she was much more effusive in her praise of it than some of her German teammates, who were largely critical of today’s track: “Yes, it’s a twisty course here — but it’s a Championship. Tokyo was, for me, more intense and more stressful to ride. Here, they were difficult questions, but you always had some time in between to reorganize yourself, to pet your horse. I gave her quite some pets and in Tokyo there wasn’t much time to do that! And I found the course built in a way that we as the more experienced riders have to work, but if you’re not quite up at the level you have the chance to get home because you can just slow down a bit in the end and the horses have the chance to jump and make it home in a good way. So I have to say, I know that some riders complain — but for my horse it was great.”

Though there’s still another phase to go, Julia has already begun to think about the next aims for her superstar mare — aims with roots that were planted much earlier this year, and which defined much of the mare’s early-season prep.

“I think it’s maybe about time we do one of the bigger five-stars now — maybe we start at Burghley,” she says. “The original plan was to go to Kentucky, and that was the reason why I’ve been here [at boyfriend Pietro Roman’s Italian base] in March for galloping, because Germany normally is too wet, too cold, to gallop in February and March. So we’ve had her quite fit, then she knocked herself — it wasn’t dramatic, but she couldn’t go to Kentucky.”

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF make it two in the top ten for the USA — and break that tie with Tim Price and Falco. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

As US team anchor Boyd Martin started his round late in the day with Tsetserleg TSF, our EN team group chat lit up.

“This might be the first time Boyd’s left the start box without any pressure,” mused one of my colleagues. And it’s an astute point: so often, the team stalwart has had to head out on damage control, with a view to putting a decent counting score on the board and salvaging a team effort that’s gone a bit awry.

Today, though, it was a totally different story: Boyd could have opted to dismount and do a handstand on fence one, or slowed down to a walk to politely explain to Pratoni’s wackier spectators that no, they cannot take their dog for a swim in the water complex while the competition is ongoing, or stopped for a quick panini at the lone food truck on course, and the US would still have been in absolutely grand form, such was its riders’ strength throughout the day.

He didn’t do any of that, of course. Instead, he and ‘Thomas’ delivered one of the rounds of their career, flying through the course’s toughest combinations and arriving home bang on the money, crossing the finish line just as the clock ticked over to the 9:50 optimum time.

“Boyd, you asshole!” shouted New Zealand’s Tim Price with a grin as his competitor arrived home. By hitting the optimum time exactly, Boyd had broken the dressage tie that the two had shared — because Tim, who had also added nothing in his round with Falco, had come home one second inside. That allowed Boyd to scoot ahead, putting him sixth overnight.

“I’d like to say that I just timed my round perfectly, but I was just going as fast as he goes,” laughs Boyd. “I thought I was right on the time or one second over, maybe one second under, so when I heard them announce that it was right on the time it was a big breath of relief!”

Although the pair made the hustle and bustle of Giuseppe’s course look flowing enough, it was actually a track that pushed the diminutive Trakehner out of his comfort zone, just as it had done for several of the British horses.

“It doesn’t suit him — he’s so suited to the five-stars, the Kentuckies that are just long gallops and I can get him settled in,” explains Boyd. “Here, it was sort of like Tokyo where it’s a bit sort of turning and stopping and starting ,and the sunlight was a bit weird by the end of the day. But I have to give the horse credit: he just tries and tries and tries, and it’s his best attribute with a horse that’s done as much as he has. He’s just a legend.”

Tim Price and Falco add nothing to their first-phase score. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tim Price, for his part, might have rued that one second that pushed him into seventh with Falco, but we can’t imagine he spent too long dwelling on it: after all, he’d managed to catapult himself from 14th to seventh place with his 2021 Pau winner, and now goes into the final phase less than a rail off a podium place.

The fact that 13-year-old Falco, who had had a rather turbulent record previously, came into his own at Pau last year may well have been a bit of an indicator of what he’d do here. While the French five-star doesn’t have any terrain, bar a few man-made mounds, it’s an incredibly twisty, intense long-format track that’s fatiguing in much the same way as today’s track was. In any case, that turning point last season has heralded a new era for the freakishly talented jumper.

“He’s an out-and-out jumper, and he’s learned the job of cross-country,” says Tim. “There was there was points here when he was a Novice and I’d be warming up with Andrew [Nicholson] and we’d both be like, ‘no, this horse is not not gonna be anything beyond a Novice horse’, because he was the wrong type for the job. But he’s been very trainable, so he’s just gotten better and more honest and more clever as he’s got on.”

Ros Canter’s ten-year-old heir apparent, Lordships Graffalo, shows why he’s a worthy successor to Allstar B with the first clear inside the time of the day. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Though a few riders early in the day came close to making the time — including second out Sam Watson, who was just six seconds over with Ballybolger Talisman — no one had got it done by the time Great Britain’s pathfinder Ros Canter left the box. To unfamiliar eyes, the reigning World Champion’s oversized ten-year-old Lordships Graffalo might not have seemed the likeliest prospect to catch it — but catch it he did, romping across the finish line seven seconds inside the time with a smile on his face.

“I couldn’t be prouder of him — he is just a phenomenal cross-country horse,” says Ros. “He’s only ten years old and it just feels like child’s play to him. He’s green and he’s inexperienced, but he just treats it like a big kid and he just plays with it and focuses when he needs to focus. He’s fantastic.”

Young though he may be, ‘Walter’ has already amassed a serious set of placings at the upper levels, including wins at Aston le Walls and Blair Castle’s CCI4*-S classes, second place finishes at Bicton and Blenheim’s CCI4*-L sections — and, most notably, a convincing second-place finish in his five-star debut at Badminton this spring. That gave Ros a robust indication of his ability to go the distance and how much, or little, help he needed to do so. As a result, he had enough left in the tank to rally in the final flat minutes, opening his stride up impressively and crossing the finish line looking fit and fresh.

“I was pretty confident after Badminton,” she says. “I haven’t done as much galloping work at home because of the hard ground and we only go on grass, but he experiences hills like this all the time at home, whether he’s hacking or cantering, so I knew he’d be able to keep his speed or accelerate up the hill. I think that’s key, because once you’ve done the hills, it gets very twisty — and if they feel a bit tired, that’s when they’re going to be hard to steer. So I was fortunate in that sense that he kept galloping.”

Gaspard Maskud and Zaragoza are the bright spots in an otherwise turbulent day for the French. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There’s a certain formula that everyone always seems to follow with the French team: we all head into a championship largely overlooking them, and then they come along and kick a few asses, making us all look very foolish indeed.

This week, though, the whole system has been rather subverted: though the French team is packed with relatively young and inexperienced horses, we’ve all put them up as potential medalists — and just one has come home clear. We saw rider falls for Olympic team gold medallists Nicolas Touzaint and Absolut Gold HDC and Bramham fourth-place finishers Tom Carlile and Darmagnac de Beliard, as well as a frustrating drive-by at the C element of the Pratoni slide for Astier Nicolas and Alertamalib’or — but the team’s morale was given a welcome boost by the round of senior squad debutant Gaspard Maksud. He stormed his way to a clear round four seconds inside the time with the nine-year-old Zaragoza, propelling them from 21st to ninth place on their first-phase score of 27.1.

“It was hard work, but the mare was very good,” says British-based Gaspard of the catty, quick-footed mare, who is owned by her breeders, Jane Young and Martin Thurlow. “She’s super class, nine years old, galloping in the World Championship. To do what she did, and be clear inside the time, and to be only nine years old do that, it doesn’t matter who’s on the top of them — they’ve got to be quite special to do it.”

Kazuma Tomato and Vinci de la Vigne move up into tenth place after a storming round across the country. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Japan’s Kazuma Tomotand Vinci de la Vigne JRA, who were individual fourth-place finishers at last year’s Tokyo Olympics, delivered yet another classy, speedy clear, adding just 1.2 time penalties and stepping up one spot into overnight tenth place. It’s not hard to imagine that the talented rider and the former Astier Nicolas ride, who finished eighth at the last World Championships with the Frenchman aboard, might yet inch up another few places.

Course designer Giuseppe della Chiesa considered the day’s sport, which saw an 81.8% completion rate and a 55.6% clear rate, a success, despite the mixed bag of rider reactions before and after riding it.

“Yes, in fact, it was exciting,” he says with a smile. “It was a World Championship! And I think at the end of the day the thing is that you have 88 competitors and horses, and so you must really ride 88 courses, and they’re all different. They all have come from different background experiences. And the idea was to try to, more or less, find a route for everybody. In general, I must say that I’m happy. Clearly the best ones had to work hard to get the time, but that was achievable.”

Eleven of the 88 starters caught the optimum time of 9:50, putting it roughly on a par with recent championships. Still, there were some areas on the course that Giuseppe had expected to exert more influence than they did, such as the corners at 11ABCD, which walked as a true five-star question but only saw five riders pick up penalties. One great victory of the day was that no horses fell, and the seven rider falls that happened on course all happened in different places, so there was no one part of the track that was unfairly weighted towards exerting punishing influence.

“I think that the conditions of the day were very good,” muses Giuseppe, “so the horses jumped well, and that is good. Maybe, I must say that riders are getting better and better — I thought that maybe the two corners up there would be a bit more difficult, a bit more demanding, but also there was a fair amount who did a fantastic job at it. So I would say it’s interesting.”

The KEP Italia Target on the Pratoni slide at 7ABC was the most influential combination of the day, with thirteen runouts and one rider fall here, but nearly every rider opted to go direct down the slope to the two skinnies — a major turnaround from its last appearance in a championship, when most chose to take an alternative route.

“I designed here in 2007 at the European Championships, and on the Slide there was something that was quite similar, or slightly different but was similar to this. But after 15 years of skinnies, horses seem, more or less, to jump them much easier.”

One of the major criticisms that those riders less in favour of the course held was that Giuseppe had opted not to use the far backstretch of the course to give more galloping space. But the designer was steadfast in his decision, despite suggesting earlier this year that another loop would be added in there: “Clearly, there are different elements that come in the design of course,” he says. “And there are some technical elements, some elements that impact how difficult you want to make the course, how you make it spectator-friendly, you want to do television-wise, and also some technicality. You must also use, a bit, the characteristics of the nature of the place. So I think that yes, there is more land to use, for sure. You can design many different courses here. For this championship, this was the course that I thought I wanted to design.”

The top ten after an influential day of cross-country at the 2022 FEI World Championships of Eventing.

Even with the removal of 15 penalties for a flag for Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser, the loss of Laura Collett’s extraordinarily competitive first-phase score meant that Great Britain dropped from a decisive gold medal position in the rankings down to bronze. That allowed Germany, who had been in silver, and the USA, who had been in bronze, to step up one spot apiece with their clear rounds across the board.

New Zealand retains the fourth-place position they held after the first phase, while Ireland made a serious leap up the leaderboard, climbing from 12th place into overnight fifth — and giving their efforts to qualify for the Paris Olympics a real boost. Likewise, Switzerland rallied after a devastating blow when their pathfinder, 22-year-old Nadja Minder, fell at the end of the course while up on the clock, and each of their three remaining team riders delivered the goods, catapulting them up into sixth place.

The final qualifying spot for Paris is currently held by the Japanese team, who had three riders come home clear and dropped the score of the veteran pair, Yoshiaki Oiwa and Calle 44, who laboured from the midway point in the course and picked up 31 jumping penalties and 32.4 time. Australia has slipped well out of the hunt, from fifth to tenth, after the broken rein and subsequent penalties for Kevin McNab and Don Quidam, and two shock refusals on course for Andrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos, a horse so consistent that in 30 FEI runs, he’s finished on his dressage score in 20 – and added just five seconds or less in a further five.

Effectively out of the hunt now are three teams: France, who had just one clear round and two fallers, sits 14th on an aggregate score of 1097.2 after having to count Tom Carlile’s elimination score, and Austria lag behind them on 1105.1 after one of their three-person team was eliminated. Spain carries a score of 1115.1 into tomorrow’s competition with just two riders remaining in their ranks.

Nabbing one of those top-seven places — and thus, a team ticket to Paris — is a huge goal for every nation here, none of which (with the notable exception of home nation France) have earned a spot yet, but just as fierce is that battle for medals. And boy, is it tight at that end of the leaderboard: we’ve got just a 1.3 penalty margin between Germany and the US at the moment, which gives the Germans just three seconds in hand but no rails at the moment, and Great Britain, for their part, is less than a rail behind the USA. New Zealand is just under two rails off the pace from the Brits, and while Ireland is a solid four rails behind the Kiwis, there’s still plenty that could change tomorrow.

One of Pratoni’s legacy features from its genesis at the 1960 Rome Olympics is its grass showjumping arena, which features a number of interesting undulations across its breadth, and the man who’s been brought in for tomorrow’s main job is equally likely to exert an influence. Uliano Vezzani had never designed an eventing showjumping course before this spring’s test event at Pratoni — instead, he’s best known for his work in elite showjumping, including the Global Champions Tour, and his raison d’etre of sorts has been putting courses back on grass. His showjumping track at the test event this spring certainly caused enough issues, and time was a factor, too – 30% of the field jumped clear then, but that was a much less intense short-format track, and horses were consequently fresher for the final day.

In any case, before we even get that far, we’ve got the final horse inspection at 9.00 local time (8.00 a.m. BST/3.00 a.m. EST) to get through. 72 competitors remain in the hunt and will be working hard overnight to get their horses there in the best shape possible — so we’ll see them, and you, in the morning. Go Eventing.

The team standings heading into the final day of competition.

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“It’s Important that Sport is Involved with Social Action”: Team Canada Rides for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights at Pratoni

Mike Winter and El Mundo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Elite-level sport is an extraordinary driver for positive social change, and that’s something we’ve seen writ large over the last few years: from NFL player Colin Kaepernick taking the knee in 2016 as a protest against racial inequality and oppression, which sparked a conversation that rippled well past the USA’s borders, to WNBA player Brittney Griner actively contributing to a campaign to bolster the right of recognition of transgender and nonbinary people, we’ve seen a number of high-profile athletes take their platform and use it to make a difference in the world.

This week, team Canada has joined their ranks with a visual campaign to recognise Canada’s indigenous communities, helmed by British-based competitor Mike Winter.

The Canadian team anchor has been a vocal advocate for representation and diversity within the sport— as well as promoting awareness of human rights issues outside of it. You can always spot him riding with a pair of Flex-On stirrup irons emblazoned with Black Lives Matter, and this week at the World Championships, he rides with a lapel pin and cross-country shirt honouring Canada’s First Nations and indigenous communities, designed by Kwakwaka’wakw artist Curtis Wilson. It’s part of a push for a unified Canada that sees indigenous peoples enjoy the same rights and representation as their compatriots.

“I think it’s really important that sport is involved in social action and picking the causes that are important,” says Mike. “Our sport is wonderful but we’re not always engaged with diversity and equality issues. The pin I’m wearing represents the role that First Nations play in Canada. It’s important that we recognise Canada’s history of wrongs in the building of the country and how still today, that affect the human rights of those indigenous people. There are opportunities in equality — things like clean drinking water, education, health care. I think those things need to be talked about, and being Canadian, if I can do a small bit to make people aware of then, I hope that helps.”

The Canadian team will head out of the startbox today in cross-country shirts that also feature the First Nations flag, and it can be found in situ in the array of national flags decorating the riders’ area near the start and finish of the course.

Mike Winter wears a lapel pin honouring Canada’s indigenous people at Pratoni.

Canada’s indigenous communities have long suffered the effects of colonialism: the right to land is still something that’s being fought for in the Supreme Court, and the Indian Act, brought in as an assimilation tactic in 1876, has long served to segregate indigenous communities to residential schools, reserves, and separate healthcare systems. Until 1950, indigenous people’s access to secondary education was restricted.

This was brought into sharp focus last spring, when the remains of 215 children were found at the disused site of a former school in British Columbia. The bodies were those of indigenous children, some as young as three years old, and since then, more than 1,300 further graves have been discovered at these residential schools, prompting a closer look at Canada’s troubling past.

More than 150,000 children were sent through the residential school system, which relied on an almost total extermination of culture in order to ‘assimilate’ these children to the new colonial way of life. They were forced to abandon their native languages, had their heads shaved, were often referred to in dehumanising terms — most commonly, as ‘savages’ — and removed from their families and communities. More and more evidence of widespread physical and sexual abuse has been uncovered — and most horrifyingly, the last of these 139 schools only closed in 1998, and the system was widely supported through the 20th century. As Canada’s first prime minister described it, the aim was to “sever children from the tribe” and “civilize” them — and the idea was borrowed, in large part, from a similar initiative in the USA. The Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, which was founded in 1879, had a horrifying school motto: “kill the Indian, save the man.”

In Canada, this often translated to killing the Indian within the child. Many of these young children would be referred to simply as a number throughout their tenure at the schools — a practice that was also used, famously, to identify people imprisoned in concentration camps in World War Two. Children died in droves as a result of physical and sexual abuse, poor sanitation, malnutrition, or after trying to escape, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up in 2008 by the Canadian government and helmed by Chief Wilton Littlechild, himself a survivor of the residential school system, referred to it as a cultural genocide.

While the atrocities of the residential school system have now become common knowledge, systemic racism and oppression against indigenous and First Nations communities still exists in Canada, and the team’s efforts this week to recognise Canada’s troubled past are a landmark moment in our sport, which has so often stayed mum on human rights issues.

Team Canada, we salute you.

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“We Don’t See Run-Outs That Much Anymore”: Pratoni’s Course in Focus

Cross-country morning has dawned here at the 2022 FEI World Championships of Eventing — crisp, drizzly, breezy, and with the promise of serious sport to come (though none of the torrential rain and thunderstorms we’d been forecast at the beginning of the week, crucially). We’ll see 88 horses and riders leave the start box today, representing a tightly-bunched field of 26 nations, and there’s very little room for error across much of the leaderboard as it currently stands.

Here’s the breakdown of the course to come by numbers:

  • 5600m
  • Optimum time: 9:50
  • Jumping efforts: 42
  • Fences: 30

So what is it that makes Pratoni so unique – and what will be the primary factors in today’s competition?

In a word: hills. Pratoni is situated in a volcanic crater, which means there are plenty of them, varying in intensity from long, slow pulls to steep, sharp, short runs. It’s unlike any other venue in the world, and will be a serious stamina test, even over a sub-10 minute track. But course designer Giuseppe della Chiesa has been sensible in how he uses them: they’re packed into the first half of the track, while the latter half, particularly the final couple of minutes, are on much flatter ground, to avoid punishing tired horses.

What makes it even more interesting is that, because of its shorter length — as is the norm at Championships — there’s a higher number of jumping efforts per 100m than you’d see on a normal long format. That ups the ante intensity-wise, because there’s not a lot of room to just get into a gallop. It’ll be a physical stamina test, but just as crucially, it’ll be a mental one, too.”

“All the jumps are jumpable by themselves, but reminds me a little bit of Tryon — I think the quantity is what gets you,” says Ireland’s Sam Watson, who’s one of the first riders out on course this morning with SAP Talisman.

“The first six minutes, you go up and down these hills a lot,” he continues. “I think more than anyone was expecting. And when I walked the course the first time, I was fit enough and I didn’t really notice it. When I ran the course — and I’ve run Avenches, I’ve run Tokyo, I’ve run a lot of courses recently –and this one took it out of me way more. It was interesting. I didn’t realise I was going up the hill for like the fourth, maybe the fifth little pull — that was just enough to kind of knock the wind out of me. So I think the first six and a half minutes are tough.”

Fence 1 is a friendly rolltop question with a significant groundline.

As is customary, Giuseppe’s placed a few single fences at the start to get horses and riders moving on in a positive rhythm and allow them to find their feet out on course. The first three fences are inviting, with solid groundlines, but fairly quickly, we head straight onto a hill — which is truly the main feature of the course. Fence one and fence two — which have the largest galloping space of the course in between them — are on the flat, but the second our riders land from the second fence, they’ll start the long pull up the first hill on course, which will open their horses’ lungs up nice and early.

Fence 2 is situated at the base of the first significant hill on course, and is a surprisingly small jumping effort.

After a pull uphill, there’s another straightforward single question at 3.

At the top of that hill, they’ll find another single fence — and a jolly big one, too — which will get their minds back on the job at hand before the first related question.

The first related distance at 4 and 5 offers a left- or right-handed option at both jumps.

The fences at 4 and 5 are reasonably narrow but shouldn’t cause problems.

At fences four and five we have a line of fences that feels kind of like a combination, but isn’t numbered as one — which means that riders could feasibly circle between the two without incurring penalties. They really shouldn’t have to do anything of the sort, though: that sort of lack of control at this early, straightforward question would be indicative of much bigger problems to come.

This is the first time we see Giuseppe give his competitors the luxury of choice, which will be an ongoing theme on this course. There are two reasonably narrow tables to choose from at 4, and the same again at 5, with a sharp dip in the ground between the two. Riders can go from either of the tables at 4, which are next to one another but on slightly different angles and distances, to either of the tables at 5. For those who want to choose the most economical line possible and save one or two valuable seconds early on, the left-handed fence 4 to the right-handed fence 5 will get them across the space faster.

Fence 6 is a triple bar that’ll require a positive, attacking approach.

From then, they’ll come to another single fence, though it’s a seriously wide one — and on the approach, it gives the illusion of taking off into space, because the landing side slopes away on a decline, so the key here will be to kick on for a forward, positive stride (and try, as best as they can, not to miss!). This is the first time on course that we’ll see MIM clips, so a miss here could result in early penalties. For those who get it right and respect it, it’s a chance to put their horses into full attacking mode — and they’re about to need it.

One of the talking points of the course is the formidable Pratoni slide, which comes up early at 7ABC and will ask a serious question of fit horses.

Lots of big-league cross-country courses have an iconic fence to their name: at Burghley it’s the capacious Cottesmore Leap, while Badminton boasts the Vicarage Vee as its bucket-list rider frightener. At Pratoni? The most talked about fence, and the one that has become emblematic of this historic venue, is the Pratoni Slide. This week, it goes by the moniker of The Kep Italia Target, but fundamentally, it’s the exact same question that we saw posed at the 2007 European Championships here. Let’s take a little leap into the eventing time machine to see how that looked:

And, before we move onto the final details, another look at that view from the top, this time with a Padraig McCarthy in situ for scale. This ‘slide’ was carved into the hillside in 1960 for use in the eventing at the Rome Olympics, so it’s another real nod to the past in a venue that largely has to rely on portable fences because of its status as a protected piece of countryside.

There’s a couple of options here for riders to choose between, and what is perhaps most interesting about the whole thing is how different the long route is this year, as opposed to in 2007. That year, which marked Giuseppe Della Chiesa’s championship designing debut, saw the majority of the field opt for the long route, which proved to be nearly as quick as the direct route and considerably less risky. Then, they could jump the log drop at the A element and cruise on down to the right over another fence, effectively just adding a swooping loop to the line — but this time, likely in order to force the frontrunners to take the risk and go direct, Giuseppe has crafted a much longer alternative that doesn’t feature the log drop and wends its way through the wooded area to the left of the slide instead. This certainly walks as a much slower route, and it still features some sharp terrain that’ll make it difficult enough, so we’ll likely see the slide taken head on by much of the field.

If they do run into issues when they get to the first of the skinnies on the direct route, they can add in an extra loop and jump a 7BC skinny, but that can only be jumped after a runout. Here’s how those routes look:

For good measure, here’s a view of the direct route from the bottom of that first major hill on course.

This is, without a doubt, the first part of the course that’ll have everyone’s beady eyes on it in those crucial early rounds — particularly as riders and trainers alike work out how gettable the time is. In the last few World Championships, the time has proven to be almost disappointingly easy to catch, with double-digit numbers of riders coming home inside the time. But when we last saw a championship run here, back at that Europeans in 2007, just one horse and rider caught the time. That was eventual winner Nicolas Touzaint, who is competing here again this week and sits 66th overnight on 34.4 with Absolut Gold HDC, with the great Galan de Sauvagere. If the time is similarly influential this weekend, the risk v reward factor may skew in favour of straight routes here. If, however, the time is catchable, we may well see more riders go long on team orders.

“The slide comes quite early, and I think we’re possibly underplaying its influence,” says Sam. “It’s identical to 2007 — they’re placed in the same place. I’ve looked at it back on the video. But what we’re all thinking is that that was 15 years ago, and these horses have all been jumping skinnies since they were baby horses. Skinnies have been in their life since they ever started doing cross country, so they’re just going to lock on more.”

The real question here, he points out, is the second of the skinnies — just as it was in 2007.

“I think what people are underplaying is there’s a bit of a drop at the back of the second skinny, and they’ve just come down a really steep hill. That Slide, that’s really steep. I actually think there’s a psychological element to some horses thinking that they won’t want to jump that second skinny because they can’t see the landing on the back of it. And in their head, they’ve just gone down the steepest bit of ground they’ve ever gone down — so I think there’ll just be more horses than we think [that run into issues here].”

The slide itself shouldn’t be an issue, he says, no matter how frightening it might look.

“Where we can warm up, our hacking route, where some poor Belgian and Austrian riders were calmly walking their horses, I came flying past them to go down the hill just to see if I had brakes, and [SAP Talisman] balanced up beautifully once the terrain got steep enough — and that wasn’t even as steep as the slide,” he says. ” There isn’t a horse in the world, to be honest, that will be out of control going down that slide. When we run downhill, we suddenly get to a point where you balance and you check your stride. I think with the first skinny, that you keep the fence in the way of the horse and you keep the horse in front of you. I just think you’ve got to apply a little bit of leg and a little bit of pressure to the second one and get them to the base of it. Giuseppe’s been kind with the distance, but you’ve got to get them there.”

The direct comparison that he makes, in terms of influence, is the waterfall feature at Tryon in 2018, which threw a number of experienced combinations out of contention.

“We had a lot of number one riders pick up penalties and that’s what suddenly threw it open for the U.S., the Australians, and I think the Kiwis,” he says. “There were three big nations suddenly on the back foot. I think we could see that here, which is exciting for everyone.”

Fence 8 will feel like a real relief after the tricky question at the combination prior.

Once they’ve made it through the slide one way or another, competitors find themselves back down at the flat bottom part of the course, where they’ll jump a timber oxer to get back on the move again and inject a boost of run-and-jump confidence before the next combination.

There’s a double of angled brushes at 9AB, which should ride well but could see a few fresh horses drive by the second element.

The combination at 9AB features two big, angled brushes on five strides. This feels forgiving after the slide, but could open the door for a horse who’s not quite on the money to slip out to the left. Realistically, though, it should be one of the less influential questions on this course.

There’s an identical triple bar to the one at 6 when you get to fence 10, which heralds the arrival of hill number two.

Then, there’s another single fence at 10, and it’s a bit of a case of deja-vu: it’s the same triple bar we saw at fence 6, but this time, it’s on a bit of flat ground, making it a real run and jump fence — albeit one that is, once again, set with MIMclips.

The first element of 11 at the direct route is lettered 11AB, so once riders commit here, they have to see this route through.

Once they’ve jumped fence 10, riders will be faced with a gallop up the steepest, though not the longest, uphill climb on the course, and at the top, they’ll be met with a serious question. Fence 11ABCD is one of the combinations on course with a number of route options, but more significantly, the fences are largely lettered in such a way that you have to be very aware of where you’re going, lest you jump the same letter twice and get yourself eliminated. That means that, as seen in the route diagram below, competitors who commit to the direct route — a brush-topped hanging log with an angled groundline, followed by two brush corners — have to see it through, because the first element is lettered as 11AB, and the second element of the long route is 11BC.

The long route will certainly add some seconds, which could prove enormously expensive — but the direct route is a serious five-star question, with a tricky three-stride line between those two brush corners. We’ll almost certainly see some horses — very possibly even top-notch ones — pick up a run-out here or, even more likely, a contravention of the flag rule.

The second element of the direct route, 11C, is followed by another brush corner at 11D.

After clearing 11ABCD, it’s time for another ‘breather’ fence at 12, but this rolltop is made more interesting by its downhill position. This was used in the same spot at the test event in May, and jumped well throughout the day, but it’s a different feeling and riders will need to rebalance their horses on the approach.

Fence 12 is a straightforward rolltop, but situated on a downhill pull that’ll require a focused ride.

One of the interesting things about this course is that, despite the space available in this area of protected parkland, there’s not actually a huge amount of galloping space on offer — partly because Giuseppe, who had made clear his plans to add an extra loop on the flat, open section of land behind the water complex and ditch line, hasn’t actually built in that space. Instead, the course tends to twist and turn back on itself, lending it a short-format sort of intensity. But between fences 12 and 13, which is a wide table covered in Willberry Wonder Ponies, there’s a bit of space to motor on as the course begins to flatten itself out again.

Fence 13, the Wilberry Wonder Pony Table, is covered in representatives of the cancer charity that’s been so well-supported by the equestrian community.

This is a rather serpentine-y part of the course: after hanging left-handed to get to 13, competitors will navigate a bit of a hairpin bend to the right to get to the pagoda fence at 14.

The pagoda question at 14 crests the top of a hill, and shouldn’t cause issues — but it is MIM clipped, and those look like they could be very influential on Saturday.

The pagoda, which features a MIM-clipped upright question and is on the course’s altitude midpoint, isn’t likely to cause issues: it was part of the test event course, where just one person hit it and activated the clip after coming in too deep. The roof is more obvious this time, as it’s covered in foliage, but a good, bouncy canter into this will give horses confidence, keep them focused on the rail, and help them make a nice shape and avoid those pesky 11 penalties.

Fence 15 is another let-up fence before the next set of intense questions.

Then, it’s onward to a fence 15, which is plenty wide but very readable for horses. It’ll encourage a longer, flatter, more open jump, though, which is in interesting opposition to the way they’ll want to be jumping to get the best result at the next combination — but at this midway point on course, riders should find they have plenty more adjustability to play with.

The MIMclip Complex at 16ABC features two elements on its direct route: a clipped timber oxer, and a yellow-clipped open corner.

Fence 16ABC, the MIMclip Complex, is actually a two-part question if you go straight, but it comes with an element of risk — and the clue, there, is in the fence’s name. The A element, which is the same for both routes, is a clipped timber oxer on a cambered approach, and if riders continue on straight from there, they’ll jump a right-handed open corner that’s seriously wide. It’s also, as per reasonably new FEI rules, clipped with yellow MIMs rather than red ones. Those yellow clips, which were designed precisely for this sort of fence, are more easily activated than red ones.

If, instead, riders choose to go long, they’ll give themselves an extra jumping effort, but more space to play with and no yellow clips.

The open oxer at 17 features a sandpit underneath it – perfect for containing errant children, perhaps.

Fence 16ABC is situated on another of those hairpin bends, this time to the left, so those who go the direct route here will find themselves more easily on course for the next question — a wide timber oxer over a sandpit, which is where we’ll be recommending that any badly-behaved children be stowed for the day, just to spice things up a bit.

The rail-ditch-rail complex at 18 and 19ABCD features a number of different routes.

The question posed at 18 and 19ABCD is an interesting one and — surprise, surprise! — another to feature a choice of options that, on first walk, left most riders scratching their heads. Fence 18 is a a red-MIMed upright rail, while the direct route at 19ABCD, which comes up fast, is a sharp downhill to a ditch at 19ABC, followed by two strides up an incline to an arrowhead at 19D. To the right of that, there’s a ‘middling’ long route, which adds an extra element in the form of an extra upright rail at 19A, the ditch, sans declines and inclines, at 19BC, and a one-stride distance to an arrowhead at 19D. The true long route is a long serpentine of a route that takes the ditch out of the equation entirely but will add serious time. You can see the three routes below:

Fence 20 offers riders the choice of a forgiving wall with a spread, or a clipped gate — but those who want to cut off a few seconds here will opt to go left handed over the gates and hug the rope.

Once through the sort-of-coffin complex, there’s a single fence with three jumpable parts, which riders can choose between: there are clipped gates to the left and the right, or a wall with a spread in the middle. The middle option has the most forgiving profile, and takes out the risk of a frangible penalty, but those who are chasing the time will find that the left-handed gate allows them to keep hugging the rope and shave a couple of seconds off.

The first pass through the water complex comes at 21ABCD, with a choice of two routes through. Each route begins with this skinny on the island as the A element.

Something that’s particularly curious about this course is that horses won’t get their feet wet until seven minutes or so in, which is largely due to the fact that the protected area that the venue sits within doesn’t allow for the building of another water complex. Certainly, though, Giuseppe has made the most of the one he’s got, and the first trip through it here at 21ABCD is no joke.

Horses will get the chance to splash through the water before being asked to negotiate one of the 21A elements on an island in the centre. Both are brush-topped skinnies, but once you’ve committed to one, you’ll really need to see your line through — and it’s the left-handed of the two that sends you on the direct approach. After landing on the island, there’s another splash through the water and back onto dry land, where two angled brushes on an extraordinary angle away at 21BC and D. Riders will need to angle the first fence, ride a stride straight on, and then turn for the final two strides before the third element. This is a particularly compelling question, because it invites run-outs so abjectly and will likely be very influential as a result — but it’s also unlikely that a horse fall will occur here, because that door is so open for non-injurious penalties.

“There’s so much open space in front of you to run off that last angled brush — and again, I think there’ll be a couple of high profile fly-bys there,” says Sam. “We don’t see run-outs that much in the sport anymore; we hardly saw any run-outs at Badminton, and I just think that for the first time probably since Tryon, we just might see run-outs again. We didn’t see them Tokyo. So there’s plenty going on.”

That’s a reassuring notion after a season that’s seen run-outs at a minimum and horse falls nearing an all-time high.

The straight route out of the water is directly out the other side and over a stiff challenge of angled brushes on a curving three-stride line.

If they don’t fancy that line — and who can blame them, really? — riders can go for the right-handed skinny on the island and then head left out of the water, hang a right, and then jump a couple of angled brushes on a more forgiving line, taking the time penalties on the chin for having done so.

Fence 22 is a natural open ditch, which is a historic element of this course.

Another historical element on this course is the ditch line, which has been present since the 1960 Olympics, and now, horses and riders will pop over it twice in quick succession on a large semicircular line. Fence 22 is a natural, open, very rustic ditch, which jumped very well at the test event and is a classic hunting-style question, and the airy trakehner at 23 was similarly untroubling back in May.

Riders will do a wide, swooping turn back over an open trakehner at 23.

There’s no rest for the wicked, though, and after popping those ditchy questions, it’s straight back to the water complex for another big test.

The riders quickly come back around to the water complex, with two route options. The direct route, seen here, is a log drop in at 24AB.

Go direct here, and you’ll meet a big log drop into the water at 24AB, followed by a big right-handed brush corner in the pond at 24CD. It’s essential to get the line right here, even before you’ve left the ground for the first element, because that corner will come up quick — and because of the lettering here, once you’ve jumped that AB element, you’ll need to get yourself out over the CD. The longer route consists of three elements: a rolltop on dry land, marked 24A, and then two boats in the water, marked 24BC and 24D. This is both a slower route, and one that adds an extra jumping element — not generally an attractive prospect for a tiring horse.

From 24AB, the direct route goes to a beefy brush corner in the water at 24CD.

At this point, the end feels achingly close, but there’s still plenty to do. First up: another rolltop at 25.

Riders will be delighted to meet fence 25, an inviting rolltop.

Then, it’s down to the lowest section of the course and a combination at 26AB that begins with a colossal brush-topped rolltop fence, followed by one of two options: a direct route over a brush-topped skinny, or a wider route over another big rolltop.

The combination at 26AB has two options — a brush rolltop to a skinny, or a wider route to another brush rolltop.

Here’s the skinny in the direct route at 26B.

The penultimate ‘combination’ isn’t technically a combination at all, but the option of a related distance makes it read a bit like one. If riders want to play it safe here at 27 and 28, both of which are clipped oxers, they can pick a 27 option that’s a much further distance away, as seen in the foreground of this photo:

The clipped oxers at 27 and 28 give two options: a 27 much further away, but on a wider, slower turn, as seen in the foreground here, or one on a related distance to 28 that’ll shave off valuable seconds.

Or, they can choose a 27 that’s on a related distance to 28, which won’t gain them much time, but considering the tight margins on the leaderboard, could actually make a significant difference.

Here’s a closer view of the related distance between the short route option at 27 and 28.

The final combination — for real this time — is a choice of two brush horses. There’s plenty more than two horses in this patch of field, and as we’ve seen several times before on this course, they’re all lettered in such a way that mixing and matching has to be done carefully. Here’s a view of the line through the straight route.

The final combination on course presents a wide variety of options, but the straight route is a direct line between two brush horses.

There are two alternate routes here, which offer more space between fences, but each of them adds an extra jumping element, as seen here:

And then, finally, 5600 metres after they left the start box, our competitors can come home — all the need to do is jump one last big fence. It’ll be a welcome sight for them all.

It’s every rider’s final fence: jump this, and you’re home and done.

We caught up with course designer Giuseppe after the test event to find out his vision and goals for this week’s course this spring. You can read the article in its entirety here, and an analysis of this spring’s test event (where 11% of the field made the time) with insights from Sam Watson here, but here are some of the most valuable takeaways we learned in that conversation.

“I was a younger designer [at the 2007 Europeans], and it was a bit hot,” remembers Giuseppe. “There were lots of experts that said, ‘oh, this is too easy, it’s not a championship’ — and then they all went out on Saturday and were like, ‘oh!’ There’s a bit of a hidden difficulty here that you don’t find until you’re out there on your horse, moving up and down. You could count 33 jumping efforts while you’re walking, but there are many more efforts hidden in the ground.”

“This venue is a fantastic venue, but you must use it with care because — and this will be very similar at the Championship — you must never finish on a hill,” he says. “A tired horse on a hill will not finish; he just stops. He says, ‘I’ve had enough’. But a tired horse on flat ground, if the rider has a bit of a brain, has the chance of a softer route to bring him home. I didn’t use that so much in the short-format competition, but in the long-format, I will. I’ve always been a big believe that you must do hills early on and finish flat.”

By placing technical combinations in the final two minutes, too, he hopes to minimise the chances of a blind gallop to the finish, which can drain a hard-working horse’s final supply of energy and potentially lead to accidents.

“I want to give them a chance to come home, and I’m quite happy with that, because when you finish on the flat there’s a real risk that the riders will just look at the clock and run. So I have this idea of always trying to keep them a bit busy — in a soft way, but busy on the flat. I think it worked quite well [at the test event], because to the last minute, they needed to have something left. I wanted to challenge the riders without punishing the horses, and I think it worked.”

Cross-country will commence at 10.30 a.m. local time (9.30 a.m. BST/4.30 a.m. EST) and can be viewed in its entirety on ClipMyHorse. You can find starting times here — and a reminder of how our team and individual leaderboards are looking below. Go Eventing!

The top ten going into tomorrow’s cross-country at Pratoni.

The team standings at the end of the first phase.

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Das Ist Gut, Indeed: Magic Mike Leads the Dressage at the World Championships

Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH get the job done again – and then some. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Well, here’s something nobody could have predicted: as we close the book on the first phase of competition at the 2022 FEI World Championships of Eventing at Pratoni, it’s Germany’s Michael Jung who holds the lead with fischerChipmunk FRH. A shock to bookmakers and statisticians worldwide! An unprecedented turn of events! Who’d have thunk it!

All jokes and flippancy aside, this is Michi’s world, and we’re all just living in it. And how lucky are we, really, to get to see such a tour de force at the top of his game, building superstar after superstar and consistently exceeding even his own rather flabbergasting standards?

That’s exactly what he did this afternoon. After witnessing the gauntlet-throw that was Laura Collett‘s 19.3 aboard London 52 yesterday, he wasn’t fazed — instead, he does what The Terminator does best: he rallied. Though he was rather lucky with the scores in a couple of places — the halt and rein-back, for example, in which he wasn’t quite square in front and then chucked his head while moving back but didn’t go lower than 6.5 — the test was, almost wholly, a masterclass in harmony and accuracy. When it was duly awarded with an 18.8 — and two 10s and a 9 in the harmony collective — the packed-out stands went wild. The maestro had done it again.

“I just have to say that I’m really proud of my horse — fischerChipmunk is an amazing horse,” says Michi, who smashed his own CCI5* record score this afternoon, while also delivering the second-best-ever test at a World Championships. For the man who’s won every title there is to win, including the World Championships in 2010 with the exceptional La Biosthetique Sam FBW, it’s an extraordinary feat to continue achieving above and beyond, and on a number of different horses.

“It’s just wonderful if you can compete at this high level at a championship with another horse, with another superstar — and it’s amazing how he performed in the arena,” he says. “He just brings everything inside [the ring], and you can ride like at home, so this is a great feeling. He’s so relaxed, but still powerful and concentrated that you can show everything that you trained before — and this is an amazing feeling for the rider. “

How does a rider even begin to think about marginal gains when riding a horse that’s been so exceptionally trained — first by teammate Julia Krajewski, who delivered a 19.9 with him at the 2018 World Equestrian Games, and latterly within one’s own programme?

“I think you cannot make it 100% the same and you can always be a little bit better,” says Michi. “You have always there a little mistake, and then there is better, so it’s always a bit different. But like I said, it’s a wonderful horse and he did everything right. He went like I wish, so I’m very happy. I just planned to have a nice preparation and to have a good feeling — I didn’t plan to have the result. I just look to have a great partnership and a good feeling together with my horse, and if everything works well, then we have also good results.”

Michi waves to an ebullient German front after taking the dressage lead at Pratoni. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Not only is Chipmunk one of the world’s most exceptional event horses in the first phase, he’s also in a league of his own across the country — though a couple of little blips, including a pin at Tokyo and a flag rule contravention at Aachen, prove that even the giants among us aren’t completely infallible. Still, there are few horses who are, on paper, better equipped to try to clinch the title here this weekend, even if Michi isn’t wholly in favour of the way the cross-country course has been laid.

“I’m not so happy about the cross country because when you know the cross country [course at Pratoni generally], it’s just a beautiful place,” he says. “But Giuseppe didn’t use the whole course, so he makes it very twisty, and many turns where you have to slow down, and it’s difficult to find a really nice rhythm on this high level. So it makes it much more complicated. But the course [itself] looks good. There are nice jumps, andI think he had a lot of nice alternative routes for some people or horses that are not having the best experience. If you have to change [your plan], of course you have a few options so that you still can arrive safely home. Maybe in the end it’ll be better to gallop and better to ride than I thought — but it’s just sad that he didn’t use the [back end of the course] so you can have a really nice, open gallop.”

Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

 

Michi is still riding a wave of confidence from his decisive Kentucky CCI5* win with the gelding this year, which confirmed for him his conviction that he’s truly made the horse his own.

“I had a great season, especially Kentucky, which gives me very good energy and gives me a very positive feeling,” he says. “He is absolutely a superstar; he is top in the dressage, top in the cross country, top in the show jumping. So all the competitions before he went really well, just in Aachen, I did a mistake so that was not him. He was again giving a great performance there, and I’m just happy to have another superstar.”

Alex Hua Tian brings Don Geniro forward for his last hurrah. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The sole Chinese representative at this Championships, Alex Hua Tian, pulled a seventh nation into the first-phase top ten after delivering a 23.7 with his two-time Olympic partner, Don Geniro. That’s their best-ever score at this level, though only just: at last year’s Olympics, we saw them put a 23.9 on the board. Their test today is enough to put them in overnight fourth place going into tomorrow’s cross-country, behind day one leaders Laura Collett and London 52 (now second on 19.3) and Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir (third, 22).

“I’m very, very pleased, and I’m very proud of him,” says Alex, who finished eighth in Rio with the gelding but has sometimes grappled with the appearance of ‘Psycho Don’ even in this first phase. “He’s 15 now, and he seems to get hotter and fizzier as the years go by — and he’s found the traveling here quite hard. We knew that was going to be the case, so we sort of broke the journey up to get here. I perhaps haven’t been able to work him how I would have liked to have done before the test, but despite all of that, I was really proud of him in there because I felt like he went in and really tried, so I’m very pleased.”

Despite Alex’s continued enormous efforts to build China’s presence on the world stage, Pratoni was never actually the main goal for this year — particularly as neither heat nor hills tend to suit his horse.

“Yeah, I’m looking forward to Saturday,” he says with a wry laugh. “It wasn’t plan A to come here in the first place. We were supposed to be at the Asian Games this week in China, but they’ve been postponed due to COVID, so it wasn’t until May that we — Pip, Don’s owner and I — came out for a day for the test event to look at the terrain and sort of discuss whether we want to bring him or not.”

Together, they made the decision to come — but with a crucial caveat.

“This may well be his last big one, I think,” he says. “He’s getting to that stage in his life and career. We sort of decided to bring him whether we were competitive or not, so I think tomorrow will be relatively academic in terms of competitiveness. I think we’ll we’ll set off and try and have a nice round, but in real terms, I think we’ll be out there to look after him and make sure he comes home safely.”

In making that call, Alex closes the book on a partnership that has been equally immensely rewarding — but also fraught with tricky moments that have no doubt shaped who he is as a rider.

“He’s amazing, but I’m happy to admit he’s quite a hard work horse to deal with in life,” he says. “He has quite a lot of quirks, and he’s very much a horse that when the stars align, and your educated guesswork and his management is good, then everything goes well. And if you don’t quite get one thing right, the way he is personally, he sort of punishes you for it at a competition. So he’s always been a horse that suits the championships, because you can you can work your way up to a big event and put everything in place for that to happen.”

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class round out a seriously strong start for the British team. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Oliver Townend closed out an extraordinary start for the British team, who set a new record for the lowest-ever first-phase team score at a World Championships with their aggregate score of 69.2, by slotting into overnight sixth with a 24.3. That puts them just three-tenths of a penalty behind the USA’s leading pair, Tamie Smith and Mai Baum, who hold onto fifth place after a dazzling test with one expensive mistake in this morning’s session.

It was a score that may have felt slightly off the pace for a horse who’s previously posted a 21.1 at five-star, but Oliver is happy to concede that it’s an enviable enough starting point to work from.

“I was happy enough with him,” he says. “Maybe didn’t quite take me forward enough in the trot, but I felt once I was into canter, I was away, and then I thought the work was very quality.”

It’s that thrust on the flat that Oliver and his team have been working on with the now-fifteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse, who now has seven top-five finishes from seven five-star starts — plus an individual fifth place at Tokyo — to his name.

“We’re always working, and we’ve just been trying to get him more forward,” he says. “He’s a horse that is always that’s a little bit introverted — either that, or completely explosive. So I’m just trying to get him to breathe and take me a little bit more in all the paces really, and it showed up in the canter. When it shows up in the trot, obviously we can produce a better score, but for him to go in there and do a correct test is very good for him and obviously very, very good for the team. I think it’s a bit of a dream start for the Brits — so let’s hope we can keep it up.”

Belgium’s Karin Donckers and her seventeen-year-old Fletcha van’t Verahof are arguably one of the most experienced pairs in this field at Championship level, with a fifth place finish at the 2014 Normandy World Championships under their belt and a total of six Olympics and seven World Championships to Karin’s name across her career. All that mileage is being put to good use this week as they take on anchor duties — and de facto lynchpin duties — for the Belgian team, and they certainly got their campaign off to a good start between the boards. Their score of 25.8 puts them into tenth place overnight, just a tenth of a penalty behind ninth-placed Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam and two-tenths of a penalty behind joint-seventh-placed Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser and Monica Spencer and Artist.

“You know, he counts on me, and I count on him,” says Karin sagely. “It’s amazing, that experience — for me, it’s so important to build up the bones between you, to trust between each other, and it’s so nice that I can have him for three World Championships. I really appreciate it a lot.”

That trust will be the basis of their tour around Giuseppe della Chiesa’s tough track tomorrow — and will be helped along by their trip to compete in the CCI4*-L here last year, where they finished fourth with ten time penalties.

“This is a big course as always, especially with the ups and the downs and the 10 minute course that you have to ride clever from the first moment till the last moment. It definitely will be no dressage competition, that’s for sure,” she says.

It certainly won’t. We’ll be bringing you an in-depth look at tomorrow’s challenge, plus a round-up of thoughts and opinions from many of the competitors, shortly — but suffice it to say for now that the intense, twisty, terrain-heavy track will be less a walk in the park and more a tour through a volcano. With just over a second separating our top two, and ten seconds separating third from twelfth, there’s very little margin for error — and a huge amount of potential for movement, even from the lower chunk of the leaderboard upwards.

Great Britain holds the lead going into cross-country on an aggregate score of 69.2, which sees Laura Collett, Oliver Townend, and Tom McEwen — all of whom are in the top ten — count, while Ros Canter, sitting equal fourteenth overnight, is the current drop score. They’re just 6.9 penalties — or just over 17 seconds — ahead of Germany, who’ve pulled themselves up by the bootstraps from seventh to second place today. It’s all pretty close, though: Germany has just a second in hand over the USA, who sit in bronze medal position overnight, and New Zealand is just 1.3 penalties — or just shy of three seconds — behind them.

The team standings at the end of the first phase.

Want to make sure you’re totally in the know before tomorrow? Click on through to read the three proceeding dressage reports and find out more about the competitors who’ve made their mark so far.

You can also catch up with the rest of today’s North American competitors in Shelby’s wrap-up here. And for an interesting overview? We’ve been crunching the numbers across the two days, and 88 tests, of dressage: in looking at how the tests were considered between judges, Peter Gray (CAN) gave the highest marks throughout, for an average score of 68.79% from H, and the judge at B was the harshest, averaging 67.99% from the side of the area at B. Christina Klingspor met in the middle with her average mark of 68.79%.

They disagreed the most on both Tim Price and Kazuma Tomoto where there was an 8.89-point spread. For the New Zealander, Christian Steiner (B) awarded a 69.07% compared to Peter Gray’s 77.96%. Kazuma, on the other hand, saw his highest marks from the centerline (77.78%) and lowest from B (68.89%.)

Stay tuned for more from Pratoni, and remember: when in Rome, Go Eventing.

The top ten going into tomorrow’s cross-country at Pratoni.

Want more Pratoni news? Head over to our Ultimate Guide to FEI World Championships for Eventing, and be sure to sign up for the #Pratoni2022 Daily Digest email, which will be delivered straight to your inbox each day through Sunday, September 18.

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The Pathway to the Podium: Pratoni’s Teams — Unpacked

Chef d’equipe: Performance Pathways Manager Will Enzinger takes on the chef role. It’s a job that’s tended to move around from championship to championship – even team rider Stuart Tinney has previously worn this hat – and top-level competitor and coach Will, who cheffed in Tokyo, is forward-thinking and well-suited to the job.

Team members: 

  • Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam
  • Andrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos
  • Shane Rose and Virgil
  • Hazel Shannon and Willingapark Clifford

Team reserve: Shenae Lowings and Bold Venture

When did they last win a medal? It’s been 16 years since Australia last won a medal at a World Championships, and on that occasion, they won two: team bronze, at Aachen in 2006, where Clayton Fredericks and Ben Along Time also took individual bronze. They also took team bronze at Gawler in 1986.

What’s their form like? Formidable. They took team silver — and an individual bronze for Andrew and Vassily — at Tokyo, and they’ve got some real cross-country bankers on their team across the board, including three-time Adelaide winners Hazel Shannon and Willingapark Clifford. It’s a team of stayers, and they can all start the week sub-30, which will put them in a serious position as they grit their teeth and work on staying on those scores.

What’s their secret weapon? A certain Mr Nelson Pessoa. The legendary Brazilian showjumper — and father of Rodrigo — has been working with the European-based Aussies for the few years to perfect their showjumping skills. Andrew Hoy based himself with Pessoa for ten days in Belgium en route to last year’s Luhmühlen Horse Trials in Germany, where he finished in the top three in the hot CCI4*-S. The team also keep in close contact with Bettina Hoy, who reviewed dressage videos and gave remote feedback throughout the constraints of the pandemic.

Chef d’equipe: Thomas Tesch.

Team members: 

  • Lea Siegl and DSP Fighting Line
  • Dr. Harald Ambros and Mountbatten 2
  • Katrin Khoddan-Hazrati and Oklahoma 2

Team reserve: None

When did they last win a medal? Austria has not yet medaled at World Championships.

What’s their form like? Austria brings forward a three-member team, which is notable as they’re the only country without a valuable drop score. This World Championships is about building on the hard work that Austria has put in as a developing eventing nation to produce a team completion. The Austrians earned an impressive sixth place at last season’s European Championships, which they would be delighted to replicate here. Olympic qualification may allude them in Pratoni, but Austrian eventing is certainly growing in strength and has it in their wheelhouse for a solid performance.

What’s their secret weapon? Lea Siegl. The 24-year-old put herself on not only Austrian eventing radar, but the world stage finishing 15th at the Tokyo Olympics. She’s here with the same ride, DSP Fighting Line, as the anchor of the Austrian team. They’re quick on the cross country and as the penultimate pair, they’ll have a day’s worth of viewing to help them determine how they best can shave seconds, which should boost their mid-30s dressage.

Chef d’equipe: Kai Steffen-Meier, who rides for Germany and is married to team member Lara de Liedekerke-Meier. Together, they host the Arville International Horse Trials at their fairytale property.

Team members: 

  • Karin Donckers and Fletcha van’t Verahof
  • Senne Vervaecke and Google van Alsingen
  • Lara de Liedekerke-Meier and Hermione d’Arville
  • Jarno Verwimp and Mahalia

Team reserve: Maarten Boon and Gravin van Cantos

When did they last win a medal? Belgium has not yet medaled at World Championships.

What’s their form like? Belgium were disappointed not to nab a spot at Tokyo after a tense showdown with Switzerland at the 2019 Nations Cup finale, and so their form is that of a nation that’s rebuilding itself over an Olympic cycle. The goal here will be to try to get as close as possible to securing their spot for Tokyo, and get valuable mileage into their horses, and they’re splitting their focus between some serious experience — Karin Donckers and Fletcha have a huge amount of team mileage, as does Lara, though her horse is just nine years old and inexperienced. In the addition of Senne and Jarno, who’s just 21, we’re seeing a commitment to nurturing the young guns of the squad, which is a savvy way to lay foundations for the future.

What’s their secret weapon? The power of serious team spirit. Not only are those experienced gals here to help their younger counterparts through, but 25-year-old Senne Vervaecke and individual rider Marten Boon have a long backstory together, too: Marten used to groom for Senne’s father, Kris, and babysat a young Senne. Now, Senne coaches Marten’s son. There’s a lot to be said for the kind of deeply-rooted confidence that bonds like that can bring to the table.

Chef d’equipe: Julie Purgly, although the Brazilian team largely operates under their own steam and in their own systems.

Team members: 

  • Ruy Fonseca and Ballypatrick SRS
  • Carlos Parro and Goliath
  • Marcio Carvalho Jorge and Kilcoltrim Kit Kat
  • Marcelo Tosi and Glenfly

Team reserve: None.

When did they last win a medal? Brazil has not yet medaled at a World Championships.

What’s their form like? They finished seventh at their home Games in Rio, a respectable spot halfway down the order considering that only one of the team logged a clear cross-country round. They fared slightly worse at the 2018 WEG, finishing 15th in that strong competition. Their team features two fairly inexperienced horses, plus one very experienced horse in Glenfly, so the aim likely won’t be to try to make a competitive mark – rather, this is a building block. They’re last to go in the drawn order of teams, and so they’ll get plenty of opportunity to see how the competition is playing out and plan accordingly.

What’s their secret weapon? William Fox-Pitt, who stepped in to help coach the team a few months ago and will assist them this week.

Chef d’equipe: Rebecca Howard, who was a stalwart of the Canadian team herself, finishing tenth at the Rio Olympics on Riddle Master.

Team members: 

  • Holly Jacks and Candy King
  • Mike Winter and El Mundo
  • Karl Slezak and Fernhill Wishes
  • Hawley Awad and Jolly

Team reserve: Dana Cooke and FE Mississippi

When did they last win a medal? Team silver in 2010, and a gold in 1978, the famously tough championships in Lexington.

What’s their form like? Canada has had checkered performances as a team in recent years, with many citing complaints about mismanagement from the top, but early this year Equestrian Canada rolled out the rider-driven Canadian Eventing High Performance Advisory Group with the goal of revamping the country’s High Performance program. The goal this week will be consolidation and getting a team score on the board, laying a foundation that can be built upon for the future. They won’t want to miss another Olympics, and while a top seven finish might not be that easy to grab, they’ll be quietly hoping the USA nails it here so they can use the Pan-Am Games qualification route as a way to get to Paris.

What’s their secret weapon? Diversity of location. That means that each rider has their own system that works for them, so they can take confidence in that and lean on it while Equestrian Canada is in a limbo period. They’ll feel less lost at sea that way. Also of note — though not a secret weapon — is the team’s commitment to honouring Canada’s indigenous peoples, which you’ll spot in a variety of ways in their attire through the week.

Chef d’equipe: Thierry Touzaint – uncle of rider Nicolas – continues his long reign as head of the French team. He’s tasted gold now, and will want to do so again.

Team members: 

  • Nicolas Touzaint and Absolut Gold HDC
  • Astier Nicolas and Alertamalib’or
  • Tom Carlile and Darmagnac de Beliard
  • Gaspard Maksud and Zaragoza

Team reserve: Cyrielle Lefevre and Armanjo Serosah

When did they last win a medal? They took team bronze in 2018 at Tryon, and have previously won silver at Punchestown in 1970, and again at Gawler in 1986, The Hague in 1994, here at Pratoni in 1998, and at Jerez in 2002. They’ve also had a World Champion in Jean Teulere, who took gold in 2002.

What’s their form like? Quietly excellent. They always seem to get the job done at Championships, despite never being particularly highly tipped in the lead-up. They were Olympic gold medalists at the Rio Olympics in 2016, and took bronze at Tokyo last year. Their riders are young, as are their horses, but there’s plenty of experience in their ranks and some serious talent to play with. All these horses would be ready to peak at Paris in 2024, which is undoubtedly the aim — but don’t underestimate their ability to get the job done this week.

What’s their secret weapon? Youth and hunger. These guys will dig deep and get agricultural if they need to, because the world truly is their oyster and it’s all to come.

Chef d’equipe: Prof. Dr. Jens Adolphsen takes on chef duties, ably assisted by team trainer Peter Thomsen, a former team rider in his own right, who tackles his first Championships solo after shadowing long-term chef d’equipe Hans Melzer for the last eighteen months or so. Now, Hans is enjoying his retirement, and Peter’s time to shine has come with a very strong team to hand.

Team members: 

  • Sandra Auffarth and Viamant du Matz
  • Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH
  • Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S
  • Julia Krajewski and Amande de b’Neville

Team reserve: Alina Dibowski and Barbados 26

When did they last win a medal? The Germans won team gold in 2014 at Normandy and 2006 at Aachen, silver at Luhmühlen in 1982 and Lexington in 1978 (both as West Germany), and bronze at The Hague in 1994, Stockholm in 1990, and Burghley in 1974 (again as the West German team). They also have a pretty good record of getting individual gold, with two of the last three World Champions coming from

What’s their form like? Excellent, though their period of championship dominance is rather behind them. They’re still an enormous threat, and will be Great Britain’s big threat this week. Their team is formidable this week, as is their 21-year-old individual competitor. The Germans are hungry to be back on top, and they won’t let a medal slip through their fingers easily.

What’s their secret weapon? Marcus Döhring, the team’s showjumping coach, who looks like something directly out of a Jilly Cooper novel. His significance can’t be understated at this Championship: the showjumping track will be seriously influential, as it’s on an undulating grass arena and designed by a Grand Prix showjumping designer who will amp up the technicality and make the best use of the space. If it doesn’t go to plan and you need a shoulder to cry on, Herr Döhring, EN is around…

Chef d’equipe: Chris Bartle and Richard Waygood, who both joined the team in late 2016 after a disappointing Rio performance a few months prior. Since then, the team has gone from strength to strength, and it’s no suprise: Chris Bartle was previously the architect of Germany’s success, and Richard Waygood helmed the British dressage team during its extraordinary trajectory from zero to hero.

Team members: 

  • Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class
  • Laura Collett and London 52
  • Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo
  • Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser

Team reserve: Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir

When did they last win a medal? Team gold in 2018, 2010, 1994, 1986, 1982, 1970, silver in 74, 90, 2006, 2014, bronze in 2002, 1998

What’s their form like? On top of the world. The Brits currently hold team gold at the Olympics, World Championships, European Championships, Young Rider Europeans, and Junior Europeans, meaning that the Pony European team gold is the only one they don’t have in their clutches. They also have the reigning World Champion and European Champion. They come into this competition as the firm favourites to win again.

What’s their secret weapon? Pure confidence. The Brits have been on such good form for a period of several years now, and there’s an untouchable sort of confidence that comes with knowing that you really are that good. They’ll be riding that wave as they work to retain their title.

Chef d’equipe: Two-time Swedish Olympian Dag Albert, who joined Horse Sport Ireland as Eventing Team Manager just last month.

Team members: 

  • Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue
  • Padraig McCarthy and Fallulah
  • Susannah Berry and Monbeg by Design
  • Sam Watson and SAP Talisman

Team reserve: Felicity Ward and Regal Bounty

When did they last win a medal? They took team silver in 2018, as well as individual silver for Padraig McCarthy and Mr Chunky. They also won the first ever World Championships team gold at Burghley in 1966. They’ve had a couple of other individual medals in their time, too — including a silver for Sam Watson’s father John Watson at Lexington 1978, and a bronze for  Virginia Freeman-Jackson at the first World Championships in 1966.

What’s their form like? Irish riders have certainly been making great strides. Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue were thirteenth at Tokyo last year; Padraig McCarthy and Fallulah were second after cross-country at Pau (though the showjumping proved an issue there). Susie Berry has been seriously impressive, particularly at Badminton this spring, though her ride this week is inexperienced, and Sam Watson is a real banker on the cross-country. As a team, it’s something of a building process — the results aren’t consistent on the world stage, but every championship is a step towards figuring out a system that works.

What’s their secret weapon? Tracie Robinson, who has been such a significant part of the British efforts as team dressage trainer. Ian Woodhead stepped down from the role at the onset of Covid, so he could focus his attentions on his business and family in England, and Tracie is a worthy replacement: she’s coached the Brits at four Olympics and numerous other championships. Oh, and of some help? Sam Watson’s EquiRatings. The data analysis company has been able to pull performance stats that the team can use to make valuable marginal gains.

Chef d’equipe: Giacomo Della Chiesa, who himself rode at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.

Team members: 

  • Giovanni Ugolotti and Duke of Champions
  • Evelina Bertoli and Fidjy des Melezes
  • Susanna Bordone and Imperial van de Holtakkers
  • Arianna Schivo and Quefira de l’Ormeau
  • Marco Capper and Uter

Team reserve: Evelina Bertoli and Fidjy des Melezes

When did they last win a medal? Italy has not yet medaled at World Championships.

What’s their form like? Italy has the honor of hosting this year’s World Championships, fielding a talented and experienced squad for Pratoni. The Italians have won medals here before – they’ve thrice won bronze as a team at previous iterations of what would typically be labeled the World Equestrian Games – but they haven’t quite managed to catch the higher podium tiers yet.

The team for Pratoni will return two members of the Tokyo Olympic team in Susanna Bordonne and Arianne Schivo, both of whom will bring their Tokyo horses (Imperial van de Holtakkers and Quefira de L’Ormeu). Evelina Bertoli also makes her return to the senior championship squad for the first time since the 2014 WEG in Tryon. Marco Cappai, who last competed in a world championship in 2010 and also represented Italy in the 1996 Olympics, adds more breadth of experience to the team, as does 2014 WEG rider Giovanni Ugolotti. 

While this team would be a longer shot to duke it out for the podium, it’s smart not to count out the host country whose horses and riders will be the most familiar with the venue and conditions.

What’s their secret weapon? Home team advantage. There’s much to be said for the intangibles of the sport, like the roars of a patriotic crowd, and they’ll benefit from this on Saturday.

Chef d’equipe: Laurent Bousquet heads up the good ship Team Japan after a stint as France’s coach. He’s been in the role since 2016, having done a stretch from 1991 to 2004 as well.

Team members: 

  • Kazuma Tomoto and Vinci de la Vigne JRA
  • Ryuzo Kitajima and Cekatinka JRA
  • Yoshiaki Oiwa and Calle 44
  • Toshiyuki Tanaka and Swiper JRA

Team reserve: None.

When did they last win a medal? Japan has not yet medaled at a World Championships.

What’s their form like? Good, but perhaps not consistent enough to really take down the big boys. But don’t think that doesn’t mean they can’t medal: they spent years honing their system with Tokyo in mind, and they’re still benefitting from that hard work now. Kazuma Tomoto was fourth individually at Tokyo last year, and could well medal here — and if everything works in their favour, they could medal as a team. It’s a fairly safe bet that they should grab their Paris qualification here, anyway, and that requires a top seven placing (or top eight, if France is within that number, as they automatically qualify for Paris as the host nation).

What’s their secret weapon? It’s not so secret, really, but it’s chef d’equipe Laurent – or, in this case, his contacts in France. He’s been instrumental in the Tokyo pathway and beyond for the team since 2016, not just by orchestrating training and competition schedules but by using his French connections to secure some exceptional horses from his fellow countrymen, including Vinci de la Vigne, originally piloted by Astier Nicolas. Other excellent horses sourced for Japanese riders include Rio gold medallist Bart L, originally ridden by Mathieu Lemoine and now ridden by Yoshi Oiwa, and Ventura de la Chaule, who moved from Nicolas Touzaint to Atsushi Negishi.

Chef d’equipe: The great Jock Paget, who’s joined by 2014 Badminton winner and former Aussie team stalwart Sam Griffiths, who hung up his boots and moved to team trainer life this year.

Team members: 

  • Monica Spencer and Artist
  • Tim Price and Falco
  • Jonelle Price and McClaren
  • Clarke Johnstone and Menlo Park

Team reserve: Amanda Pottinger and Just Kidding

When did they last win a medal? 2010: that was a team bronze in Lexington. They also won team gold at WEG Stockholm in 1990 and Rome in 1998.

What’s their form like? A mixed bag of fresh faces and veteran riders received the call-up for this Championship’s Kiwi squad. They’ve been unlucky at championships in recent years, which is something of a surprise when you consider how formidable the Prices are in any given international. They improved upon a 7th place finish at the last World Championships to 5th in Tokyo last summer, but they’ll need to do at least that well to secure their spot in the next Olympic cycle.

What’s their secret weapon? 

Monica Spencer. Monica’s traveled over 18,000 kilometers for her team debut with the thoroughbred Artist. Monica and “Max” are a forced to be reckoned with back home, but Pratoni will be their first crack at challenging the likes of the field of the Northern Hemisphere. The pair have shared several wins including most notably the CCI4*-L at Puhinui where they finished on their dressage score of 25.5.

Chef d’equipe: Pedro Rey.

Team members: 

  • Gonzalo Blasco Botin and Sij Veux d’Autize
  • Esteban Benitez Valle and Milana 23
  • Carlos Diaz Fernandez and Taraje CP 21.10
  • Antonio Cejudo Caro and Duque HSM

Team reserve: None.

When did they last win a medal? Spain has not yet medalled at a World Championships.

What’s their form like? As a team, they’re very much in the development stages. The results aren’t consistent enough at this stage to pose any real threat, but they have a team full of riders who are working hard to lay strong foundations and ride talented young horses (with the notable exception of 18-year-old Milana 23, but the mileage she offers Esteban this week will be put straight into practice on his young Paris prospects, including the very talented Utrera AA).

What’s their secret weapon? Trailblazing. Not in a pathfinding sense in this competition, but because the Spanish system doesn’t have roots like the ‘big six’ nations do, every championship is a chance for riders, coaches, and Spanish federation officials alike to refine and adapt what they’re doing in a collaborative way. They’ll learn a huge amount here.

Chef d’equipe: Dominik Burger

Team members: 

  • Nadja Minder and Toblerone
  • Mélody Johner and Toubleu de Rueire
  • Felix Vogg and Cartania
  • Roben Godel and Grandeur de Lully CH

Team reserve: Patrick Rüegg and Fifty Fifty

When did they last win a medal? The Swiss haven’t yet won a medal at a World Championships, but they took team silver and individual bronze at the 1960 Olympics.

What’s their form like? The Swiss team has gone from strength to strength this season, and will hopefully peak here in Pratoni. They bring forward the advantage of individual and team gold achieved in the Nations Cup test event earlier this summer, which not only give the team a nod of confidence, but also valuable intel of the property and Giuseppe Della Chiesa’s use of it. Their red-hot form continued over the summer, as they won the Avenches Nations Cup for the home fans.

Their rising generation of talent has added to their momentum, taking them from the last country to qualify for Rio to potential threats. The 24-year-old Robin Godel won individual gold at the Avenches Nations Cup and the 32-year-old Felix Vogg won Luhmühlen over the summer — breaking a 60-year dry spell for Swiss five-star wins.

What’s their secret weapon? Andrew Nicholson. He has been a major catalyst for the Swiss since joining on as cross county coach in 2018. It’s a job he clearly adores, and the young Swiss team are flourishing under his intuitive instruction. Andrew’s mantra is ‘never change a winning team’ – and so he’s worked to support each rider’s current system and tweak the bits that need help, rather than do a total overhaul.

Chef d’equipe: British-based Fredrik Bergendorff, who has proven a solid captain for the Swedish efforts so far (and also wears a pair of chinos exceptionally well).

Team members: 

  • Malin Josefsson and Golden Midnight
  • Sofia Sjoborg and Bryjamolga van het Marienshof Z
  • Aminda Ingulfson and Joystick
  • Frida Andersen and Box Leo

Team reserve: Niklas Lindbäck and Focus Filiocus

When did they last win a medal? They’ve never medalled as a team at a World Championships, though they do have one individual medallist in their books in Paula Törnqvist, who took bronze in Rome in 1998. Their Olympic form is a different story, though a historical one, too: Sweden were the dominant force in eventing in the early 20th century, and it was at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics that eventing as a sport made its debut. They were the gold medallists there, of course, and at Antwerp in 1920, and then they took silver at Paris in 1924. They disappeared for a couple of decades from the podium but returned for silver at London 1948, gold at Helsinki 1952… and then the reign of Sweden as eventing’s most formidable team was over. Now, it’s a case of rebuilding.

What’s their form like? The Swedes have been consistent in the Nations Cup series, which is held at CCI4*-S and culminates at the CCI4*-L level at Boekelo. They’re very good at pinning down the series win, partly because they make sure to show up for as many legs as they can — and now they’re working on taking that consistency up to championship level. Their weakness at the moment is the dressage, and they’ve pulled in great help to work on this — but their team is based between the UK and Sweden, so the cohesiveness is tricky. They’ve stepped onto the podium at European Championships, which is a CCI4*-L competition, and while they probably won’t do that here, they’ll be girding their loins to try to secure that Paris qualification nice and early so they don’t have to chase their tails and try to qualify through the Nations Cups again.

What’s their secret weapon? Technology. Fred Bergendorff made the best of a bad situation in the pandemic and created a structure of virtual training, bringing in exceptional coaches to help sharpen the Swedish game and build camaraderie.

Chef d’equipe: Bobby Costello, who’s acting as interim chef until after the Championships. He rode at the top level himself, representing Team USA at the 2000 Olympics.

Team members: 

  • Will Coleman and Off The Record
  • Tamie Smith and Mai Baum
  • Lauren Kieffer and Vermiculus
  • Boyd Martin and Tseterleg

Team reserve: Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan

When did they last win a medal? They took team gold in 2002, and prior to that, we saw them take gold at Burghley in 1974. They’ve also won bronze at Luhmühlen in 1982 and Lexington in 1978.

What’s their form like? It’s safe to say that it’s on the up and up, despite a period of turbulence in the management sphere of the high performance camp. The US has been performing better and better on the world stage, with a team silver at Aachen last year (and a historic first-ever US individual win, taken by Will and Off The Record) and team silver at the Nations Cup finale at Boekelo, too. This feels like the strongest US team in a long time, and realistically, they really ought to take a medal this week. There’s a good case for them taking more than one, too — their riders have what it takes to fight the big boys individually. Could this be the beginning of a renaissance for US eventing? We reckon so.

What’s their secret weapon? In a strange way, it’s probably this limbo period. The US system is due a rejig, and there’s compelling reason to believe that the sort of Wild West that it finds itself in at the moment will allow riders to lay their own roots in terms of structure, coming together as a unified group with their own systems that work for them. Erik Duvander is on site coaching a couple of the riders, and everyone looks to be sticking to what has served them well as individuals, which could pay dividends and lead to a new way of doing things going forward.

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“The Main Thing is Keeping Him Happy”: Laura Collett and London 52 Lead First Day of Dressage at Pratoni

Laura Collett and London 52 just keep getting better and better, breaking the elusive 20 barrier to take the lead at Pratoni. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Just a matter of hours after British individual rider Yasmin Ingham soared into the lead at Pratoni — and into the top five tests ever produced at a World Championships — another high-flying Brit came along to go one better. And was anyone surprised, really, to see Badminton winners Laura Collett and London 52 deliver the goods in this phase? The 13-year-old Holsteiner, who’s owned by Karen Bartlett and Keith Scott alongside Laura herself, has firmly established himself as one of the sport’s outliers in dressage, consistently delivering leading scores in the hottest of company. Today, he excelled even his own lofty standards, dancing his way to an exceptional 19.3 – Laura’s best-ever international result and the third best-ever test at a World Championships. That also boosted the British team, who are the reigning champions, into gold medal position.

Though plenty of horses have been starstruck by Pratoni’s atmospheric arena — and the strong winds that plagued the afternoon session — ‘Dan’ is a consummate showman, and thrives in front of his adoring fans. And boy, were they vocal in their adoration.

“He definitely loves the crowd,” laughs Laura. “He went in that arena and he was like, ‘Yeah, everyone’s here to see me,’ and he was just a pleasure to work with.”

It’s hard to imagine, sometimes, that a horse as consistent as Dan can find any way to eke out further marginal gains — but Laura has been hard at work with British dressage supremo Carl Hester, who has helped them to go from great to, perhaps, greatest.

“Obviously he was pretty good at Badminton, but there were bits that weren’t quite good enough and we’ve just been really working on those,” says Laura. “Once I got the first centerline out of the way, I thought, ‘Oh, Carl will be happy now!’ From then on, it just felt like he just got better and better, and I could just have a lovely time, basically.”

For Laura, who also won Boekelo in 2019, Pau CCI5* in 2020, and contributed to Great Britain’s team gold at last year’s Olympics, there’s a serious weight of expectation where this phase is concerned — but does icy-veined Laura still feel the pressure?

“Oh god, yeah,” she says. “I’m well aware that I’m sat on one of the very best horses in the world and people expect you to deliver — but luckily he delivered. I’m just the luckiest person to be sat on him, and he really does just keep getting better and better. He’s amazing.”

“I’m just the luckiest person to be sat on him”: Laura Collett and London 52. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ahead of Laura and Dan, who’s become a seriously consistent cross-country performer after an educational first couple of years at the upper levels, is a serious cross-country course — and one that Laura’s going to spend her ‘day off’ tomorrow analysing.

“Sadly, it’s not going to be a dressage competition! From start to finish, it’s full-on. There was a lot of head-scratching when we first walked it about what the direct route was in different places. There’s so many options, so that takes a lot of thought to figure out. But he’s done a lot of different types of tracks — we’re very lucky in the UK to have so many different venues to go to. It sort of reminds me of Chatsworth, with the hills, and he’s won that before, so hopefully it will suit him. He’s been on amazing form for the last two years, so I have no reason to think it won’t suit him.”

Mum’s the word: Laura celebrates with mum Tracey after her leading test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Although last year’s Olympic trip was ostensibly an excellent one, for Laura, it was an educational experience — and everything she learned about her horse along the way has helped to define her approach to competitions with him since.

“Trusting him [made the difference], really,” she explains. “We got that wrong in Tokyo last year, and we learned a lot from that. So the main thing with him is keeping him happy and not stressing him out. If you do too much and ask too much, then he worries because he wants to try — he is a trier and he wants to do it right. And if he thinks he’s not doing it right, he gets a bit nervous. So it’s just about telling him he’s amazing, which he is!”

Tom Carlile and Darmagnac de Beliard get the better of tricky conditions to sit equal fifth overnight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir now sit in second place overnight on their career-best score of 22, while early morning leaders Monica Spencer and Artist, who’ve travelled 18,000km to make their Championship debut, move to third place on 25.6, followed by reigning World Champion Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo on 26.2. (Missed their stories? Head to our lunch break report for all the details!)

France’s Tom Carlile joins the top five, tying for the spot with the USA’s Will Coleman and Off The Record. His nine-year-old Darmagnac de Beliard had, perhaps, the worst conditions of the day to contend with: strong winds meant that one of the arena’s flowerpots went into orbit just as the gelding approached it in extended trot, but although his rhythm was slightly disrupted and he raised his head in shock at the sudden disturbance, he didn’t spook or break into canter, and was able to secure a 26.4 to start his week.

“The most difficult part of our sport is the dressage — but I was very, very pleased with Darmagnac,” says Tom, who finished fourth at Bramham’s CCI4*-L on the horse’s level debut in June. “He’s a real genuine, very honest, shy little horse, and he comes into an atmosphere and he gets fazed. I think the worst thing you can do is just go a bit soft on him and a bit quiet — that doesn’t reassure him. He’s just so serious, and so with me, that you can really ride him into the confidence and then he just performs.”

When the flower pot went, and its contents began their tour around the outside of the ring, Tom remained calm and rode forward into the issue and put his faith in the long relationship he has with the young talent.

“Everything was sort of shaking his emotions, but I just kept his concentration and because he has that trust in me, that kept him occupied,” says Tom. “He’s a horse that I’ve been lucky enough to have since the start — my good owners bred him, and we used to feed him in the field as a yearling. We know him inside out, and we’ve built him into the animal he is today, so he has total trust in us. He has a very shy nature, and he does get a bit tense and emotional, but he’s a lovely horse to work with and there’s so much to come. Give him two years and this test will be five marks better.”

Although the gelding is one of the most inexperienced horses in the field, with just nine FEI runs under his belt, he’s also one of the most impressive: he’s finished outside the top ten in just one of those runs, and Tom has long suspected that he might have what it takes to go all the way.

“We knew his class, but he showed it to everyone in Bramham — and now we need to keep polishing the diamond,” he says. “He’s a horse that if you leave him alone to himself, he worries — so it’s just about keeping him confident. If you have his trust, it reassures him.”

Lauren Nicholson and Vermiculus take provisional seventh place, securing a podium place for the USA overnight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Team USA sits in bronze medal position overnight after both its day one riders strode into the top ten: after an excellent test by Will and Off the Record this morning, second rotation rider Lauren Nicholson slotted in just behind him with an excellent 27.1 aboard a focused, expressive Vermiculus. The diminutive Anglo Arab shelved any of the intermittent naughtiness that has previously crept into some of his tests and — bar a petulant little stamp of a hind foot in the final halt — looked every inch the professional in his tour of the arena.

“I’m thrilled with him. I think everyone kind of knows that the Arab can throw in some moments — but I didn’t aggravate the Arab, and he did quite well in front of the crowd,” says Lauren. “He does love a big moment, and he’s always at his best at these big competitions, so I was happy to put down a good score for the team. That was our job: not to go in there and do anything amazing, just to try not to mess it up.”

For Lauren, simply getting it right is often enough with ‘Bug’, who is naturally compact but has plenty of movement, which is ordinarily generously rewarded.

“The judges want to like him. They always have, even when he’s been naughty — but when he’s not naughty, he just goes in very workmanlike and the changes are super easy. It’s fun once it’s done,” she laughs.

Part of the key to getting the right stuff out of Bug in the right moment is understanding that he doesn’t have any latent desire to be held hostage by a lengthy workload — and Lauren was hyper aware of that as she planned her warm-up.

“My motto with him is that it doesn’t get better after the first ten minutes, so I came down to the final warm-up as the rider before Clarke [Johnstone, who was ahead of her] was starting. A little less than two tests’ warm-up was right for him,” she says.

Clarke Johnstone and Menlo Park power to a 27.4 and overnight eighth. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kiwi team rider Clarke Johnstone, for his part, ended up just three tenths of a penalty behind Lauren and Bug, posting a 27.4 with the relatively inexperienced Menlo Park, a former ride of Kevin McNab and Oliver Townend, who he bought from Tim Boland in Australia just a year ago. That also helped propel the New Zealand team to overnight second place.

“It was the test I was hoping for,” says Clarke, “but he’s very inexperienced for this level. I keep saying, ‘he’s light on experience, but he’s big on quality!’ So I knew he was capable of doing a really good test, but he’s pretty green with some of the movements. It all came together as well as I could have hoped today, though.”

Though their partnership is a young one, it’s come together quickly, and Clarke and the twelve-year-old British-bred gelding have already picked up three top ten finishes in their four FEI runs together. Clarke is hoping that the confidence boost of each successful run will have laid a great foundation for the challenges to come this weekend.

“He’s a beautiful horse, and we’ve spent a year getting to know each other — so hopefully we’re ready to tackle the challenge on Saturday,” he says.

Part of what makes Menlo Park such an attractive partner for Clarke is his wealth of personality, which has also helped the horse to settle into his first championship experience without any teething problems.

“He’s so cheeky, and he’s actually really thrived on this trip because he’s both relaxed and loves attention, and he’s a bit of a monkey, so he quite likes having people around him all the time, giving him carrots and brushing him and leading him around and stuff. He loves all that,” he says.

Clarke, who spent several years in the UK a decade ago, has been back in England since February, basing himself at Zara Tindall’s yard.

“It’s a fantastic place to live and work out of — the horses are really happy there,” he says. Now, he plans to base himself in England through the Paris Olympics with his growing string of horses.

“I’m really enjoying it this year. I lived in England for three years from 2011 to 2013 and I found it pretty tough going, but I guess I’m a lot older and wiser now, and I’m really enjoying it.”

Japan’s Yoshi Oiwa lays his claim on the top ten with Calle 44. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Japanese Olympic partnership Yoshiaki Oiwa and the fifteen-year-old Holsteiner Calle 44 (Cristo 5 x Sara IV, by Quebec) will sit in ninth place overnight on a score of 28, which bests their Tokyo score of 31.5 and just slides ahead of their last World Championships dressage score, a 28.2 earned at Tryon in 2018. They ultimately finished 20th there, but more recently, we’ve seen them working to sort out some teething problems in this and the second phase. That’s meant that the majority of the international competitions they’ve contested recently — seven of their eight FEI runs this year, in fact — have been at the three-star level. But taking the horse back down a level in terms of intensity and technicality has proven a real boon for the experienced gelding.

“Actually, I was quite happy compared to my last few shows,” says Yoshi, who is based in Germany at Dirk Schrade’s yard. “I was struggling myself, but I could do very good preparation to come here, and I think it was our best that I can do now, so I’m happy. My horse is getting older and older, so the body is getting stiff — and I feel a bit soft myself to ask more and more! So probably, that’s more my problem. I was not asking so much. But now, he did very good.”

Evelina Bertoli is best of the home nation in overnight eleventh with Fidjy des Melezes. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The home nation had plenty to celebrate today as well: not only do they sit eighth in the team standings, which would be good enough for a qualifying spot at Paris if they can maintain or better it, but their final rider of the day, Evelina Bertoli, was able to deliver an excellent test aboard her Fidjy des Melezes, earning her overnight eleventh place on 29.8. For Evelina, it’s particularly special: she’s lived in Rome her entire life, and while that presents some logistical challenges in terms of her sport, it’s home — and Pratoni is effectively her home venue.

“I’m nearly 2000km from any major competition,” she says with a laugh. “But I’ve competed here many times since I was very young, and I won a bronze medal in the Junior Europeans here in 2004. It’s a special place.”

 

Today’s first day of dressage saw 44 riders deliver their tests and, after the sad withdrawal this morning of Brazil’s Ruy Fonseca and Ballypatrick SRS due to a minor injury, we’ll duplicate that number tomorrow, with another spate of individual riders and the third and fourth rotations of the sixteen teams on the roster. We’ve seen just eleven tests break the 30 barrier today, and there’s plenty of heavy hitters to come tomorrow, including Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH, Olympic gold medallists Julia Krajewski and Amande de b’Neville, US superstars Tamie Smith and Mai Baum and Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg, and Burghley and Kentucky winners Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Keep it locked onto EN for all the updates and, as always, Go Eventing.

The top ten at the end of the first day of dressage at the 2022 FEI World Championships of Eventing.

The team standings at the halfway point of the first phase.

FEI World Championships for Eventing:[Website] [Definite Entries] [Live Scoring and Times] [FEI TV] [ EN’s Ultimate Guide ] [EN’S Form Guide] | Daily Digest Email | [EN’s Coverage]

 

Pratoni At a Glance: Meet the Horses of the 2022 FEI World Championships

You’ve met the riders of the Pratoni field — now it’s time to get to grip with the horses coming forward to fight for those coveted medals and Paris Olympic qualifying berths. We’ve got your need-to-knows condensed into a handy-dandy coffee-break scroll. We won’t mind if you make yours an Aperol.

FEI World Championships for Eventing:[Website] [Definite Entries] [Live Scoring and Times] [FEI TV] [ EN’s Ultimate Guide ] [EN’S Form Guide] | Daily Digest Email | [EN’s Coverage]

Thursday at Pratoni: Britain’s Rising Star Yasmin Ingham Leads the Morning Session

Yasmin Ingham and her elegant, rangy French-bred Banzai du Loir take an early lead at Pratoni. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

After a drizzly start to proceedings — and a tough one, too, with some harshly-marked early tests — the first day’s morning session of dressage at the 2022 FEI World Championships blossomed into a showcase of exceptional young talent peppered with fresh faces and up-and-coming superstars. Chief among their ranks is 25-year-old Yasmin Ingham, who rides as the individual for Great Britain this week. She produced a dazzling test with the eleven-year-old Selle Français gelding Banzai du Loir (Nouma d’Auzay x Gerboise du Cochet, by Livarot), putting a score of 22 on the board that absolutely skyrocketed past the horse’s four- and five-star average of 27.

That 22 isn’t just her best-ever international score, it’s also one of the top five tests ever delivered at a World Championships. It goes into joint fourth in the all-time rankings — equal with a certain Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW, who posted the same score in 2010 en route to becoming the World Champions.

“Honestly, it’s the first time we’ve gone in the boards at an event and he’s felt like he’s completely listening and with me, even with the crowds and the cameras and everything atmosphere-wise,” says a delighted Yaz, who pilots the rangy gelding for longtime supporters Sue Davies and Jeanette Chinn. “He didn’t really seem to flinch or bother with it. I’m just so proud of him; he’s really special horse and I still think there’s plenty more in there, which is even more exciting.”

Like many riders, Yaz found that her horse didn’t feel quite as fresh this morning as he has done in previous tests — something that’s no doubt due to the last two days of heat at the Italian venue. But that meant that Yaz was able to take risks in the ring, and her extended canter was a particular highlight of the test, with a clear, bold transition into and out of the movement.

“He maybe felt a little bit tired, so he probably could have been a little bit more sprightly — but I’d rather him do a test like that then have a little break somewhere or something like that. I just couldn’t really fault him today at all,” she says.

 

Yaz Ingham gets a hug from British chef d’equipe Chris Bartle after a superb performance. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Yaz credits her trip to Kentucky CCI5* this spring, where she finished second, and the opportunity to ride through the test in the main arena at Burghley, with helping her and Banzai deliver their best-ever performance today.

“I think we’ve had more experience now in the bigger, atmospheric arenas, for example Kentucky earlier this year. Then we also had Burghley just before we came here, so we’ve been trying different techniques with the warm up and how long we work him in for, and what we do with him in those work-ins — and I think we’ve come to the bottom of that now,” says Yaz, who has worked closely with British team trainer Chris Bartle to help fine-tune the process. Their schooling regime and warm-up today put them right on the money for their test, which was unanimously put into first place by all three judges.

“He’s actually come here really settled, and I think he’s getting more used to travelling and coming to the bigger events now, so it’s becoming a little bit more normal for him. We did half an hour of work at eight o’clock this morning — just sort of long and low, with lots of simple changes and easy things so as not to stress him out, and to keep him quite happy and confident. Then I worked him for half an hour at quarter to ten, and we started to do a couple of changes and some half-passes and things and just make it a bit more difficult to get him ready for this this afternoon. The work in then was just 20 minutes before we we came and did the test. He’s quite a fit and sharp character, usually, so we do have to make sure we give him enough work so that he doesn’t go in there and just go ‘ahh!'”

Yaz, who makes her Senior squad debut this week after winning every national age title in Britain, is living out something of a fairytale this week.

“It’s so special. I mean, I’ve worked towards this since I’ve started riding,” says Yaz. “It’s always something that I’ve wanted to do, and it’s always been one of my goals and to achieve that has just been a dream come true. Obviously, the team behind the scenes is what sort of helped me get there and my owners, Sue Davies and Jeanette Chinn, and my family. All my trainers, the World Class team — there’s just an army that’s behind every rider and they’ve all helped me get here, so it’s a big moment.”

Monica Spencer makes an 18,000km journey worth it with a superb test aboard full Thoroughbred Artist. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Another rider who’s living out a dream in real time is New Zealand’s Monica Spencer, who held the lead for much of the morning with the full Thoroughbred Artist. Their score of 25.6 was the first of the day to go sub-30, and came after a mammoth journey from the Southern Hemisphere: the CCI4*-L Puhuini winners travelled for over fifty hours from New Zealand to the UK five weeks ago, where they based themselves with teammate Clarke Johnstone.

“They actually announced the team three days before my flight and the horse’s flight left,” she says. “So you kind of plan like you’re going in case you’re going — and then all of a sudden you’re going, and then it’s action!”

The magnitude and complexity of the journey required new mum Monica to leave her husband, Spence, and ten-month-old baby Gus behind, “so I’m a little more emotional than I am normally,” she says.

But what a pay-off. Their test sees them sit second provisionally — and puts team New Zealand in the lead — at this stage in Monica’s debut on a championship team, and her first experience of competing in the Northern Hemisphere. The difference, she says, is huge.

“There’s not many people at a lot of our events — we’re kind of in the middle of a farm somewhere,” she laughs. “I mean, we have some great events too. But yeah, it’s pretty cool to be on this kind of stage, for sure.”

Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo give Britain plenty to celebrate with a competitive test for provisional third. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It’s been a jolly good morning for the Brits, who have two riders in the top three at the lunch-break — and third, provisionally, is team pathfinder and reigning World Champion Ros Canter. Her mount this week isn’t her 2018 World Championships ride, Allstar B, who was euthanised this summer after an injury at Aachen, but rather, a worthy heir apparent to his throne: the ten-year-old British-bred gelding was second on his five-star debut at Badminton this spring, and has a spate of impressive four-star wins and placings to his name over tough tracks. Though he didn’t quite catch his Badminton score of 26 today, his 26.2 puts him in an enviable position at this early stage of the game.

Like Yaz, Ros was able to bring ‘Walter’ to Burghley to run through the test in the atmospheric main arena, where the practice run also served as an exciting demonstration for spectators after the close of the competition’s dressage phase.

“I’m absolutely delighted with Walter — he’s only a ten-year-old, o coming here is a big occasion for him,” says Ros, who brings Allstar B along for the ride in the form of tail hair bracelets worn by herself and groom Sarah Charnley. “We were lucky enough to practice our tests at Burghley, and every day is still a school day for him, so we’re only just scratching the surface at this level. I truly believe that in the next few years, you’re going to see a bigger and better Walter. I’m just delighted that he went in there and was a complete professional — I don’t think he acts his age.”

Since stepping up to the upper levels, Walter has proven himself a horse who thrives in an atmosphere — and Pratoni is certainly delivering that, even on Thursday morning.

“He’s a very self confident horse,” says Ros with a smile. “He’s very happy in his own skin, and he adores attention. When I was practicing outside, Ian Woodhead, who’s our dressage trainer, said ‘don’t do a halt too close to the crowds, because they’re going to clap’ —  but he doesn’t give a monkey’s. He’s in his element when people clap; he thinks it’s all for him.”

Ros opted for a shorter warm-up today, schooling for twenty minutes first thing this morning and then doing a twenty-minute final work-in before her test, which put Walter right in his sweet spot for an excellent test.

“As soon as I went in, I knew he was with me,” she says. “We got the preparation right today, I think. And when he’s like that, he’s very easy, and he has beautiful balance, so I can sit up and he comes back to me, which is what makes him a lovely cross country horse, too.”

Will Coleman and Off The Record get Team USA’s campaign off to a great start with a 26.4. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The USA sit in bronze medal position after the first rotation of riders, thanks to an excellent test from Will Coleman and Off the Record that joins the top-five all-time dressage tests by a US rider at a World Championship. They sit fourth at the lunch break on their 26.4, which sees them just two-tenths of a penalty behind Ros Canter. It’s also one of 2021 Aachen champion ‘Timmy’s’ best-ever international tests, though Will no doubt hoped to match the 23.9 they delivered in their final run at Great Meadows CCI4*-S. But, he concedes, travelling to an event in Virginia is a very different prospect to travelling to Italy.

“We’ve had a lot of traveling, like a lot of horses, to get here, and I think that’s never easy on them,” he says. “Given everything, I thought my horse tried very hard today and I’m very happy with him. I don’t know if I would describe anything as ‘highlights’, but I thought we squeezed every point out of it we could, which, when he came out this morning, was sort of my mentality. I was like, ‘okay, it may not be our best stuff — but let’s just see if we can ride as clean a test as we can, and leave as few penalties on the table as we can.’ And I think we did that. So in that respect, I’m happy: I don’t know if there are any highlights in it, but it was clean and relatively mistake-free.”

Will once again takes on the pathfinder role for the US, a job he took at the last World Championships in 2018 — and one that comes with its own unique pressures.

“It’s a tough job,” he says. “I’ve been first before, and I’ve been last before in some instances, but I think we all have the same sort of approach that we want to go out and execute and just give our horses the best chance of coming home clear, and with as few time penalties as possible. It’s a really intense track, so my job is to go out there and bring back some good feedback for the other guys, and that’s what we’re going to try to do. He’s not the most blood but he’s a real fighter.”

Niklas Lindbäck and Focus Filiocus. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Sweden’s Niklas Lindbäck rounds out the top five after delivering an excellent test for a score of 29 with his experienced mount Focus Filiocus, who tends to average well into the 30s in this phase. The pair, who finished 35th at Tryon in 2018, come forward as the individual combination for Sweden this week — and already, they’ve exceeded their own expectations.

“Expecting is so hard, but we were hoping for this,” says Niklas. “Dressage isn’t maybe his strong point; he’s normally very stable and settled, but not going for the high marks — but we really tried here and it was actually fantastic. It’s the best feeling he’s ever given me.”

The top ten at the midway point of day one in the 2022 FEI World Championships for Eventing.

The team standings after the first rotation of riders.

FEI World Championships for Eventing:[Website] [Definite Entries] [Live Scoring and Times] [FEI TV] [ EN’s Ultimate Guide ] [EN’S Form Guide] | Daily Digest Email | [EN’s Coverage]

Pratoni At a Glance: Meet the Riders of the 2022 FEI World Championships

There are few things hotter than the Italian weather right now — but giving it a jolly good go is the field of entries in the 2022 FEI World Championships of Eventing. With 89 riders and 26 nations in the line-up, it’s a showcase of the very best of the sport, and if you don’t have the bandwidth to learn about all the finer details of their lives and competitive records in our extensive form guide, we’ve rounded up the quick fire details you need to know!

FEI World Championships for Eventing:[Website] [Definite Entries] [Live Scoring and Times] [FEI TV] [ EN’s Ultimate Guide ] [EN’S Form Guide] | Daily Digest Email | [EN’s Coverage]

Pratoni è Bellissimo: Sights and Sounds from the First Horse Inspection

Great British individual pair Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir, who finished second at Kentucky this spring. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The 2022 FEI World Championships for Eventing is officially underway after the first horse inspection this afternoon, which saw our field of 90 narrowed down to 89 — and dropped one of our 27 nations out of the hunt entirely. You can read about what happened in full in our report — and keep on scrolling to get a glimpse of this afternoon’s action. This is one of the most beautiful venues in the world, and the equine competitors aren’t too shabby either!

Ears up and smile! Team USA deploys all the tricks for the team photo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Olympic individual silver medallists Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser come to Pratoni with a great chance of going one better. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Has there ever been a more photogenic horse? Tamie Smith gives Mai Baum a pat. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do: the Swiss support team gets the ears forward with much joie de vivre. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Swiss team, with cross-country coach Andrew Nicholson, pause for the obligatory team snap after a successful trot-up. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ireland’s Susie Berry and Monbeg by Design. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

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

Australia’s Shenae Lowings and Bold Venture, who journeyed to Italy from Down Under for this event. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Netherlands’ Sanne de Jong and her homebred Enjoy. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Aachen winners Sandra Auffarth and Viamant du Matz. Sandra became World Champion in 2014 after winning Aachen with Opgun Louvo — can she do it again? Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ireland’s Sam Watson wrestles with an enthusiastic SAP Talisman. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Groom Natalie Sharp and Cekatinka JRA. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Japan’s Ryuzo Kitajima gives Cekatinka JRA some love. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo, who was second on his five-star debut at Badminton this spring. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Switzerland’s Robin Godel and Grandeur de Lully CH, who won the test event here this spring. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Oliver Townend, wearing a black armband in honour of the late Queen of England, waits with Ballaghmor Class. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Miloslav Prihoda Jr.’s Ferreolus Lat tries a bit of interpretive dance on the trot-up strip. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Mike Winter’s El Mundo poses for the cameras. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

He’s the king of the world, but will he be the king of Pratoni? Michael Jung presents fischerChipmunk FRH. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Melody Johner’s Toubleu de Rueire, representing Switzerland, shows the photographers what he thinks of them. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Brazil’s Marcelo Tosi and Glenfly. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Austria’s Lea Siegl laughs as her Tokyo mount DSP Fighting Line, who was 15th at the Olympics, spooks at the photographers. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Badminton winners Laura Collett and London 52. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Several riders are mounted on homebreds this week, and one of those is Belgium’s Lara de Liedekerke-Meier. She’ll ride the nine-year-old Hermione d’Arville. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Thailand’s Korntawat Samran and Uster de Chanay. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kazuma Tomoto and Vinci de la Vigne, who were fourth at Tokyo last year, come forward on a quest to step aboard the podium. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Belgium’s Karin Donckers and Fletcha van’t Verahof are among the most experienced pairs in the field, with a wealth of championship mileage behind them. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Canada’s Karl Slezak presents Fernhill Wishes. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Olympic individual gold medallists Julia Krajewski, in a sharp military uniform, and Amande de b’Neville. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Netherlands’ Jordy Wilken and his stalwart partner, Burry Spirit. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jonelle Price presents McClaren. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Belgium’s Jarno Verwimp, who’s just 21 years old, and Mahalia. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Poland’s Jan Kaminski and Jard. Poland has two representatives in this field, and they’re a real power couple. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Holly Jacks’s Candy King goes for a stroll after a successful presentation. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Canada’s Hawley Bennett Awad shares a moment with 18-year-old Jollybo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Dr Harald Ambros, the flying dentist, presents Mountbatton 2 in traditional Austrian dress. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Denmark will have two riders in this year’s field, both of whom fundraised to get here. Hanne Wind Ramsgaard presents Amequ Torino. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Poland’s Malgorzata Korycka and Canvalencia. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Italians know how to dress: Giovanni Ugolotti makes a sharp picture with Duke of Champions. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

British-based Frenchman Gaspard Maksud and nine-year-old Zaragoza. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sweden’s Frida Andersen and Box Leo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The French team gather for a squad snap after the trot-up. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

India’s Fouaad Mirza and the former Bettina Hoy ride, Seigneur Medicott. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Luhmühlen CCI5* winner Felix Vogg brings forward his Europeans mount, Cartania. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ireland’s Felicity Ward and Regal Bounty. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Groom Jess Elliott plants a kiss on Padraig McCarthy’s Fallulah. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Milana 23 goes in for a snuggle with Spain’s Esteban Benitez Valle. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Canada’s Dana Cooke and FE Mississippi, who were a last minute substitution into the squad. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ireland’s Austin O’Connor stops to enjoy the shade with Colorado Blue. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

New Zealand’s Clarke Johnstone and Menlo Park. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Germany’s Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S will be pathfinders for Germany — and for the entire field. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Brazil’s Carlos Parro and Goliath, who competed at the Tokyo Olympics as a ten-year-old. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sole Hungarian representatives Balasz Kaisinger and Clover 15. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ariel Grald gives Leamore Master Plan a cuddle after presenting for the USA. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Spain’s Antonio Cejudo Caro and Duque HSM – perhaps the biggest poser of the Pratoni field. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

New Zealand’s Amanda Pottinger and Just Kidding. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

21-year-old Alina Dibowski and Barbados 26. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

China’s Alex Hua Tian and Don Geniro will represent their nation as individuals this week. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Aistis Vitkauskas and Commander VG come forward as the sole representatives for Lithuania – sporting a special ribbon in support of Ukraine, too. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Want more Pratoni news? Head over to our Ultimate Guide to FEI World Championships for Eventing, and be sure to sign up for the #Pratoni2022 Daily Digest email, which will be delivered straight to your inbox each day through Sunday, September 18.

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Germany Takes Pathfinder Duties in Pratoni Draw

Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH will be part of the pathfinding German team. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The 2022 FEI World Championships at Pratoni del Vivaro has gotten underway — sort of! — with the official draw of nations, held with the chef d’equipes of each country in a ceremony at nearby Rocca di Papa. Here’s the draw in full, with teams marked with an asterisk (*):

  1. Germany*
  2. Ireland*
  3. Canada*
  4. France*
  5. Belgium*
  6. Czech Republic
  7. Poland
  8. Spain*
  9. The Netherlands
  10. Lithuania
  11. Switzerland*
  12. Thailand
  13. Italy*
  14. Sweden*
  15. Denmark
  16. New Zealand*
  17. Mexico
  18. Hungary
  19. India
  20. USA*
  21. Japan*
  22. Great Britain*
  23. Australia*
  24. Austria*
  25. China
  26. Ecuador
  27. Brazil*

The competition begins tomorrow with the first horse inspection, which will begin at 13.30 local time (12.30p.m. BST/8.30 a.m. EST). Want to follow along? We’ll be bringing you wall to wall coverage across EN and its social platforms, and we’ve put together a handy-dandy viewing guide so you can tune into the livestream wherever you are in the world. Check it out here — and stay tuned for the first of our bumper form guides, winging its way to you this afternoon! Don’t forget to bookmark our Utimate Guide to Pratoni, too, to keep all the need-to-know information at your fingertips, plus get all the latest coverage as it goes live.

Editor’s Note: The headline of this article has been updated to remove a potentially offensive German saying. We apologize for any offense initiated by these words.

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