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Tilly Berendt


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Without wanting to sound like a broken record: WHAT a weekend. I’ve scarcely caught my breath from the whirlwind that was Pau — you can check out my probably faintly insane coverage at the link below — and now I’m diving straight back in time to catch up on all the finer points of the Pan American Games to find out what I missed. On both sides of the pond, yesterday was definitely a day of high-stress, high-stakes jumping — and now, I reckon we’ll all be heading into the off season glad for a bit of a breather (in a dark room, for my sanity, I think).

National Holiday: It’s National Checklist Day. At this end of the season, I’m pretty sure I need a checklist to remember even the most basic things, like remembering to inhale and exhale, or wear underwear. The struggle is… well, you know.

Major International Events

#Santiago2023: [Website] [Sport Schedule] [FEI Info Hub] [Live Stream] [Results] [EN’s Coverage]

Les 5 Etoiles de Pau: [Website] [Results] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

U.S. Weekend Preview

Chattahoochee Hills H.T. (Fairburn, GA) [Website] [Results]

Waredaca Classic Three Day Event & H.T. (Laytonsville, MD) [Website] [Results]

YEH West Coast Championships & Last Chance Qualifier (Paso Robles, CA) [Website] [Results]

Your Monday Reading List:

Head behind the stall door with fluffy-eared, smoking-jacket-wearing Claus 63, the Pan Ams ride of Sharon White. The big German boy will absolutely win your heart with this one — he’s a banana-munching doofus who just loves his job and his people. Dive in here.

When it comes to preventing or treating lameness, we’ve never had more tech on our side. Sometimes, that’s a pretty overwhelming thing — what should you be putting your money into for diagnostics or treatment, and at what point to do stop feeding the money pit? This enlightening article clears up, at least, some of the options. 

Surprise, surprise — there’s another story coming out of endurance concerning doping. This time, the evasion of doping tests, which is a totally normal, absolutely sane thing to do.

Morning Viewing:

Join me in reliving the thrill of Ros Canter’s winning round at Pau — now, I reckon I can watch it without my knees shaking, which is nice.


“It’s All About Belief and Trust”: Mercurial Debutant Seals Dream Pau Finale with Ros Canter

Ros Canter and Izilot DHI. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Les 5 Etoiles de Pau has always been renowned for a few things: twisty, technical cross-country courses; ringside entertainment that borders on deranged; and showjumping tracks that eclipse any other in terms of difficulty at the five-star level. This year has been no different — if anything, the cross-country was somehow even twistier and even more technical than usual; the little chaps in horse costumes were joined by a truly arrhythmic flash mob clapping on one and three and sometimes no beat at all to Freed From Desire and a troupe of very patriotic parachutists, who somehow managed to land right in the main arena; and, though just 34 competitors came to the showjumping finale today, 59 poles had already fallen by the time overnight leader Ros Canter entered the ring with Izilot DHI.

Had she entered an equivalent ring at, say, Badminton or Burghley, it would have been to a hush that hangs like a blanket over the arena, and practically vibrates with silent tension. But this is France, a country that does eventing like other countries do festivals, and so instead, she entered to raucous applause and cheers and vocal support that were only amplified as the commentator egged his audience on, listing the European Champion’s numerous accolades and encouraging ever-louder shouts — despite Ros’s desperate attempt to signal to the grandstands that her quirky ten-year-old debutant could really do with a bit less noise.

And so, as she had on Friday, when Izilot DHI spooked repeatedly at a cameraman before beginning his test, and as she had yesterday, when dealing with a hold on course and the surprise distraction of another cameraman driving alongside her horse at the start of the course, Ros simply got on with it, and trusted that the foundations she’d laid with the KWPN gelding, who she co-owns with Alex Moody, would help him overcome the many bids for his attention.

Knees to nose: Izilot DHI shows why he hasn’t had a rail since his first-ever FEI event. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

They did — and even when ‘Isaac’ had to pass a particularly spooky arena decoration, which he’d shied away from in his opening circle, en route to the oxer at fence 6, the leggy son of Zavall VDL never faltered in his stride, nor his focus on the fences. They’d been gifted a rail and time in hand, thanks to a rail down from formerly second-placed Tom McEwen and JL Dublin, but in the end, they barely needed to touch it: they crossed the finish line clear and just three seconds over the 81 second time allowed to finish on a score of 28.7 and take the win — Ros’s second at the level this season.

“It’s absolutely amazing, but I don’t think it’s really sunk in, to be honest,” laughs Ros, who began her day as the first in the ring aboard Pencos Crown Jewel, who tipped two rails to finish in 24th place. In the 32 rounds between that one and her second, winning ride, Ros was militant in keeping herself focused on the task at hand.

“I think sometimes I don’t really appreciate it until it’s over, because I am very, very careful on days like this in how I manage myself,” she explains. “I don’t let myself dream — it’s bad for me to let myself dream. It’s very easy for me to chatter to everybody else about how they’re how they’re going to ride their horses, and then when I get on I think, ‘golly, I haven’t actually focused on myself’. So I had to be really strict today. I think particularly at this event, I’ve made the mistake in the past, because there’s nowhere really like grandstand-y to sit for us — we’re all very bunched here [by the ringside]. I did my round, obviously, and went and watched a few more, had a chat to Chris [Bartle] and then took myself away. I’ve made the mistake in the past  of staying here for too long, and never really focusing on myself. So there’s such a big part of that bit for me that sometimes when I finish I’m just thinking, ‘Oh, thank goodness I didn’t mess up!'”

Ros Canter and Izilot DHI. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Perhaps one of the main reasons the glorious reality of the thing hasn’t quite hit Ros yet is that she never actually intended to try to win Pau this week with the famously quirky debutant, who also won Blenheim’s CCI4*-L last month.

“We just wanted to come here and give him a nice experience, but he’s absolutely amazing,” she says. “I was very open-minded today; I thought yesterday was kind of the dream for me and his owners. It’s what we came here to do — to tick that box of him going around the cross country — so it wasn’t really about today. But he’s an exceptional jumper, and now I can manage the spook and relax with the spook, hopefully, even if he’s off his line, if he knows he’s jumping a jump, he’ll go for it.”

Realistically, she continues, “even six months ago, this probably would have been a step too far for him, so I’m unbelievably proud of him. I mean, when you think back to Thoresby [at the start of the season], when we did an about turn at some pink haylage bales for about 45 seconds, and then Bramham when we spooked at fence 3 on the cross country [and had 20 penalties while in the lead], it was a little bit of a shaky start to the season! But then he’s been absolutely class. It’s all about me learning to ride him and learning to believe in him and just learning to be a partnership, is definitely what it is with him. I don’t think anyone else could just hop on straightaway and ride him, because he wouldn’t let you do that. But it’s all about the belief and the trust. I’m just grateful for him. I’ve learned so much more than I’ve learned from riding any other horse.”

All smiles for Ros and Isaac after a five-star win to end the season. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ros has had the ride on mercurial Isaac since he was a five-year-old, and he’s always been a tricky character — but throughout, she explains, she never lost faith in the talent that rumbled beneath the weirdness.

“To be fair to him, he has always performed, all the way through,” she says, looking back over a career that’s already seen him pick up nine FEI wins in 20 runs, with wins at every level. “Yeah, there’s been bumps in the road for sure. But I don’t think I’ve ever thought ‘oh, he’s not going to do it.'”

Sarah Charnley, who takes leave from her full-time job to groom for Ros at major events, celebrates with Isaac. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Eventing success takes a village, and Isaac’s — and Ros’s — village is extensive, made up of myriad crucial cogs that keep the wheel in motion and help to architect the tricky days into dream-making ones.

“I’ve had a huge amount of help along the way: [dressage coach] Ian Woodhead obviously sourced him, so I think this is a very proud day for him, but he’s also been absolutely instrumental in teaching me how to ride him. [Dressage rider] Amy Woodhead, she lives down the road from me, and anytime I’ve had a wobble with him, or I’ve not understood him, or things have gone a bit wrong, she’s always been there to hop on and show me how to do it a little bit. Caroline Moore has also been a huge help; we go to Vale View a lot [to work with her]. We spend a lot of time with him, and everybody does, and Chris Bartle has been amazing as well. So a huge amount of people have been involved in this horse’s journey.”

A result like this, says the rider whose own extraordinary season has included a first five-star win, at Badminton this spring, and the European Championship title, both with Lordships Graffalo, is a reward for every single one of the people who ebb and flow in and out of the gelding’s orbit.

“It makes all the hard work at home worthwhile,” she smiles. “We have a few hairy moments at home, particularly in the winter, with him. I get a little bit nervous and I have to call upon the help of all my members of staff to help keep me on the straight and narrow. So,  I think it’s definitely a team process here, and there has been hours and hours going into this. So it’s great that he’s been able to reward us!”

And, she continues, it’s a testament to working together to build something extraordinary.

“I think it’s amazing, really. My mum is is unbelievable; she works so hard. She’s just a farmer from Louth, and I’m just her daughter. We love horses, and we’ve managed to achieve this. So a huge amount of it is down to her, particularly now I’ve had [my daughter] Ziggy. My part in this story is riding the horse, and there are many other people that do all of the other jobs for me to enable me to have my daughter and be the mum I want to be, as well as ride the horses, and it’s really working. I think it’s just an amazing journey that we’ve been on.”

Oliver Townend and Tregilder. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

That one rail down for Tom McEwen and JL Dublin, who had sat in first after dressage and second after cross-country, opened the door for Oliver Townend and Tregilder to take the runner-up position after a round free of jumping or time penalties, which finalised a climb from first-phase fifth. It also put to bed any demons from the pairs run of bad luck, which saw them tumble at the penultimate fence while up on the clock at Burghley last year, pull up at two-thirds of the way around the course this year due to a broken rein, and then fall in their CCI4*-S prep for Pau at Little Downham.

“I’m incredibly proud of my horse and my team, and I’m incredibly happy for the owners, who have been with me for nineteen years,” says Oliver. “A podium finish in a 5* is a dream for them. He’s a genuine horse; always straightforward, and always doing his best in all three tests. This performance is the fruit of the work of the whole team that looks after him, especially at the stable, which enables him to achieve results like this.”

Tom McEwen and JL Dublin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tom McEwen, too, put “a shitty year” to bed with a super result with the former Nicola Wilson ride JL Dublin, and though he’s probably learned to be careful what he wishes for — he’d hoped to end his bout of ‘seconditis’, but probably didn’t intend for that to result in a third place finish instead — he was delighted with the Holsteiner gelding and the progression their still-fairly-new partnership has made.

“It’s been a great weekend, and probably the time to [have a rail] is when Rozzie is about to nail a beautiful round, and not to come second again,” he laughs. “He’s been amazing — he warmed up too well to be honest; he was fantastic and I just had a relaxed pole down, which was a shame in a very nice round, but we came to do we needed to do and he’s been fantastic.”

Though Tom’s troubles this year have been spread across events and horses, rather than just woven into the fabric of his partnership with ‘Dubs’, he did have a couple of tricky, prominent competitions midway through the year that he’s chosen to use as a springboard for improvement. Notable, and first, of those was at CHIO Aachen, where, just a couple of months after taking second at Kentucky CCI5*, they had a late run-out while fighting for the top spot; later in the year, at the European Championships, Tom suffered a surprise fall from the gelding in the influential final water at the European Championships, where many horses stumbled through the day.

“Aachen is basically a 5* short on steroids: you go flat out,” says Tom. “I went for learning experience. I know I could have gone and  hidden away at Aston le Walls and done really well there, but I wanted to go and find out a bit more about him, and that’s what I’ve done. When you put them under sheer pressure at speed, speed causes problems, and if you’re okay, hacking around and doing things in your time, then actually you can get most things done and resolved but actually, speed just catches out those little things that you haven’t quite covered or haven’t understood about each other. It shows the brainwaves that you’ve together. We’d had a fantastic round up to that point at Aachen and I never expected that, so it’s just learning bits and bobs. That’s come to fruition here — he was one of the quickest horses that didn’t get stopped on course yesterday, and I think that was a massive influence. His dressage was just fantastic, and for me, it [deserved] a lot better mark than his 23. So it’s all come together really, which is very good.”

Piggy March and Coolparks Sarco. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It was a good day in the office for former rides of the 2021 European Champion Nicola Wilson, who was supporting from afar while coaching, demoing, and mentoring in the Isle of Man over the weekend, and for Jo and James Lambert, who co-own Dubs with Deirdre Johnston and own the fourth place finisher, too. That was the ride of Piggy March, the five-star first-timer Coolparks Sarco, who jumped a faultless round to move up one place from last night’s standings, and three from his first-phase placing.

“I’m thrilled, but I also feel a bit lucky — I was only a little bit in the time, even though I didn’t feel like I was hanging around!” says Piggy, who won Millstreet’s CCI4*-L with the gelding earlier this year. “He jumped really very well, but I probably was a quarter of a second in the air more than I meant to be. He was really getting up in the air and flicking his tail, which was very nearly a rider error. But god, he felt fantastic! What a lovely horse; I’m very lucky. Hopefully we did Nic-Noc proud, too, because it’s been a big weekend here for her with both Jeremy and ‘Dubs’. We’re in the same camp; it’s very good.”

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

Kylie Roddy and the Fox family’s SRS Kan Do made good on the gelding’s return to the event where he made his five-star debut — and took eleventh place — two years ago, finishing fifth with a faultless round today to complete their climb from sixteenth after dressage and add a second five-star top-ten finish to their resume.

“You work so hard year-round for days like this,” beams Kylie. “And not just for me — for the team at home; for the owners — it’s a magic day. And it’s the last event of the season, so we’ve finished the year on a high. You can’t ask for more.”

Kylie celebrates with ‘Gorgeous George’. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

For Kylie, who used to sweep up hair in her mother’s salon to make money to ride and stepped up to five-star in her forties, every great result is a beacon for riders who can relate to her – but even this ineffably positive and much-loved mainstay of the upper levels has had her darker days, wondering if the high points will come again

“Sometimes you stop believing it can happen. I think Austin [O’Connor] said that about his horse [Colorado Blue at Maryland],” she says, reflecting on her Badminton run with ‘George’ last year, where they had to pull up during a great run due to two lost shoes. “You start to think, ‘what is it that I need to change? Am I not riding well enough? Is it that my management’s not good enough?’ But sometimes you do need a bit of luck on the day, and as the horses get older, they get stronger — I’d like to think he’s coming into his prime, now. He’s always been a fabulous horse, but I really think he’s an absolute superstar.”

Kirsty Chabert and Classic VI. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kirsty Chabert dropped from third to sixth after tipping two rails with the excellent Classic VI, who had sped home with just 0.8 time penalties yesterday, while Jonelle Price was the highest-place non-Brit in seventh with the debutant Hiarado, who climbed from first-phase 13th with a fault-free round.

Boyd Martin and Fedarman B. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Boyd Martin, too, added nothing to his scorecard with the Goodwin family’s Fedarman B, moving them up to a final eighth place from first-phase sixteenth, and giving the horse his second top-ten finish in as many runs at the level. Maxime Livio‘s Carouzo Bois Marotin did the same, but in his case, it’s now three for three where top ten placings and five-star runs are concerned. The top ten was rounded out by Kiwi James Avery and his smart first-timer MBF Connection, who tipped two rails but nevertheless completed their rise from an initial 30th place.

Cosby Green and Copper Beach. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Both Allie Knowles and Morswood and Cosby Green and the former Buck Davidson ride Copper Beach had a smattering of poles but retained top twenty places thanks to their excellent efforts across the week’s competition; Cosby took sixteenth in her debut at the level with three fences down today, while Allie took eighteenth after tipping four.

Allie Knowles and Morswood. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And so, windswept, whiplashed, and a little bit waterlogged, we arrive, skidding, at the end of the 2023 five-star season — and the end of my season, full stop, of reporting on events. It’s been a wild ride this year, and its memorable quirks — endless rain, mostly — were crystallised so well into this emotional, turbulent final event. We’ll bring you more from behind the scenes at Pau over the coming week, but for now, with tired eyes and a heart full of horses, it’s adieu from us. Go Eventing — even when there’s no more to go to.

The final top ten at Pau 2023.

Les 5 Etoiles de Pau: [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Live Stream] [Live Scores] [EN’s Coverage]

EN’s coverage of Les 5 Etoiles de Pau is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products.

One Horse Spun, Two Withdrawn, Shenanigans Ensue at Pau Final Horse Inspection

In classic Pau style, the final horse inspection began with…whatever this is. 

“It’s not lame, actually, and you can shove your veterinary degree where the sun don’t shine” — this guy, probably.

34 horses and riders will go ahead to the showjumping finale at Les 5 Etoiles de Pau, the final five-star of the 2023 season, after a handful of overnight withdrawals and a final horse inspection elimination.

Muzi Pottinger and Just Kidding. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

That elimination was the unfortunate fate of New Zealand’s Muzi Pottinger and her Thoroughbred gelding, Just Kidding, who sat 13th overnight after a clear cross-country round yesterday. Three further horses were held through the course of the inspection, which took place under the watchful eye of ground jury President Nikki Herbert and members Emmanuelle Olier and Helen Christie. Those were Britain’s Libby Seed and Heartbreaker Star Quality, 13th overnight, debutant India Wishart and Diamond Sundance, 28th overnight, and Ireland’s Ian Cassells and Master Point, 33rd overnight. All were accepted upon representation.

Libby Seed and Heartbreaker Star Quality. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Two horses were withdrawn ahead of the final horse inspection: Great Britain’s Selina Milnes opted not to present Gelmer, who was 36th after cross-country, and US Olympian Phillip Dutton withdrew Z, who had sat 22nd.

Allie Knowles and Morswood. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Cosby Green and Copper Beach. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Three US riders remain in the hunt: Boyd Martin and Fedarman B sit ninth, while Allie Knowles and Morswood and Cosby Green and Copper Beach move up to 13th and 14th, respectively, following Muzi and Just Kidding’s departure from the competition.

Ros Canter and Izilot DHI. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ros Canter and Izilot DHI, our overnight leaders, will go into today’s final phase with a 3.6 penalty margin ahead of second-placed Tom McEwen and JL Dublin — less than a rail in hand. In fact, none of the members of the top ten as it stands after cross-country has a rail in hand if they want to retain their spot, and Pau is famous for having arguably the toughest showjumping phase of all the five-stars – so if you’ve only just recovered from the emotional tumble dryer that was yesterday’s cross-country, prepare yourself, because we’re heading straight back in for a spin cycle, folks.

Best-placed US pair Boyd Martin and Fedarman B will go into showjumping in ninth place. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Showjumping has been moved back by half an hour, and will now begin at 3.00 p.m. local time/2.00 p.m. British time/10.00 a.m. EST. As always, you can catch all the action on Horse&Country TV, and tune back in to EN for live updates and full reports from all the day’s activities. For now, let’s take a look at how that top ten is shaping up:

The top ten after a topsy-turvy day of cross-country at Pau.

Les 5 Etoiles de Pau: [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Live Stream] [Live Scores] [EN’s Coverage]

EN’s coverage of Les 5 Etoiles de Pau is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products.

Allez All Day: Ros Canter Takes the Lead on Wild and Woolly Pau Cross-Country Day

The famously enthusiastic crowds of Pau in action. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

One of my most closely-held pet peeves is when I hear someone refer to Pau, the south of France’s late-autumn offering, as a ‘soft’ five-star. That’s usually an assessment that comes from people who’ve not been to the event; it’s one of those annoying little bits of mythology that spreads by hearsay, and perhaps leads the wider eventing world – at the very least, the fans of the sport — to underestimate what can happen here.

Pau is very different to the world’s other five-stars, that much is true: dimensionally, it’s not a patch on Burghley, and its terrain is very flat, but for some cleverly-utilised manmade mounds scattered around the course. But if Burghley exists on one end of a spectrum, Pau sits at the far opposite end. It’s intensely technical; glances off of extraordinarily skinny skinnies and deviously angled brushes and corners are the bread and butter of the thing, and the time’s no walk in the park, either.

And so everyone who tuned in to Pau’s livestream today, perhaps for the first time, might have found themselves a touch surprised at the influence Pierre Michelet’s course exerted throughout the day. From start to finish, there was not much in the way of respite: pathfinder Jesse Campbell went for a swim with Cooley Lafitte after finding himself on a half stride at the third water question at 20AB and 21, and second out of the box Ros Canter and her Badminton placer Pencos Crown Jewel had a driveby in the same complex. As fourth to go, Tim Price looked like he was going to get the job done — as Tom Rowland had, steadily, as third out with KND Steel Pulse — with his nine-year-old debutant Viscount Viktor, a horse he hails as his star of the future, but just a handful of fences from home, they suffered two run-outs at the skinny at 28B before finally clearing it and finishing the course. Then Kirsty Chabert fell from Opposition Heraldik Girl at the second pass through the first water complex; just behind her, Jonelle Price, too, hit the deck while navigating the final water complex at 24AB with her World Championships team medallist McClaren. Ten horses into the start list, we’d seen just two clears — and as one of those, Kylie Roddy and SRS Kan Do, proved, that created a colossal open door. Their clear, which saw them cross the finish line with 8 time penalties, rocketed them up the leaderboard from 16th to seventh going into the final day’s competition.

In all, 37 of our 54 starters (Tim Price opted to withdraw his former Boekelo winner Happy Boy) made it across the finish line, creating a 68.5% completion rate; just 21 would do so without picking up jumping penalties, putting the clear rate at a scant 39%. The problems, where they came, were well scattered: 9ABC, the second pass through the first water, which featured a brush spread to an up bank, followed by an angled hedge that was only visible at the last moment, caused the most headaches, with ten competitors picking up penalties here; similarly, fence 13AB, an oxer to an open corner on a blind left-handed turn, caught plenty by surprise, and we saw seven competitors run into grief here. Otherwise, the first pass through the water at 7AB saw just four, the tough third water at 20AB, at which most competitors ultimately opted to go the long route, saw another four, and — surprisingly, perhaps — just three picked up penalties at 28ABCD, the fearsome penultimate combination that helter-skeltered competitors down a mound and over a skinny and an angled brush.

And that optimum time of 11:06? Just about impossible to catch – and those who did get close by and large did so after mid-round holds on course. One rider throughout the day did catch the time, though not without jumping penalties: that was Boyd Martin, who, after a long hold, was deemed to have crossed the finish line six seconds inside, but activated a MIM-clip at 13B, that open corner on a blind turn.

Ros Canter and Izilot DHI take the lead at Pau in the gelding’s first five-star. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

With capacious, raucous crowds, tight, often blind turns, and some pretty extra fence decorations scattered around the course, Pau wouldn’t necessarily be a playground that you’d expect to suit Ros Canter‘s sharp, spooky ten-year-old debutant, Izilot DHI — particularly after his big fright prior to an excellent dressage test yesterday, when he took dramatic offence to a cameraman at B and wouldn’t go near him while preparing to enter at A.

But this isn’t Ros’s first rodeo, and ‘Isaac’, a horse she says has taught her more than any horse she’s ever sat on, is a puzzle she’s been making an extraordinary effort at figuring out. They began their round, which came very late in the day, on super form; by fence 18, though, just before the tough racecourse water complex, they were held — something that Isaac has never experienced before. When they were restarted, roughly fifteen minutes later, they had to get straight back into the swing of the tough track in something close to cold blood — but Isaac never faltered.

“I wasn’t sure what I was going to do at that water – I’d thought that if he was getting tired, I’d go long [as most competitors through the day had], but then I had no excuse,” she laughs. “I was umming and ahhing in that hold, thinking, ‘god, I’ve only got the triple bar and then that water, what do I do?!’ And I rode him really badly at the triple bar. So I was like, ‘come on, girl, get your act together,’ and then he was amazing at the direct route at the water.”

And so they tackled every single combination via the direct route, en route to a finish that would put them atop the leaderboard going into the final day — but the drama wasn’t done yet. As they made their approach to 28ABCD, that exceptionally tough penultimate combination, a crossing point on course hadn’t been closed on time, and Ros was pulled up again, suddenly, by a steward as the course, and the ropes, were cleared. And so back she went from whence she came, before turning around, picking up an attacking canter, and putting her horse exactly where he needed to be to sail through that combination, the next single fence, and into the arena, where they were welcomed home over the final three fences to enormous cheers. At first, that extra time was added to their tally, putting them on a two-phase score of 31.1 — the same as first-phase leaders Tom McEwen and JL Dublin, who’d added 8 time penalties, though they still edged the lead for being closer to the optimum time. But then, after an appeal, it was taken off; now, at the close of play, she sits in first place on 27.5, having added just 3.2 time penalties.

“Isaac was absolutely fantastic. He’s really matured and grown up this year, so I was really delighted with him,” says Ros. “He’s got a real spooky streak, and quite a big flight instinct, but god, he was absolutely amazing. Now he’s learned his job, he’s such an honest, genuine horse. I was really happy with how he set off at the start, because he was a bit anxious about the car next to him [filming alongside the competitors down the first stretch]. Once the car left, and he’d had a bit of a spook at the cameraman after fence two, he really settled down. I think he’s always a little bit shocked by what’s going on, but he was super — he’s a really polite horse to ride, as long as he’s not being flighty, he’s actually really easy.”

Though the hold itself might seem like something that could set Isaac off, Ros wasn’t worried about maintaining his sterling headspace — instead, she was mostly caught by surprise by its occurrence in the first place, which came after Tom Rowland and MGH Maybe A Mission suffered a horse fall in the final water (a fall from which, we’re told by the event, the horse has been checked over and released from the local veterinary clinic).

“I knew he’d be good in that kind of situation; I was confident about that,” says Ros. “I think it was a bit of a panic stop, though — it definitely wasn’t a stopping point, and they were shouting at me as I was jumping a jump, so I wasn’t really sure what was going on. So that wasn’t ideal, but I guess they did what they had to do.”

The making of Isaac, who’s always been brimming with talent but has had some frustrating blips while the pair have figured one another out, has been a depth of learned trust that’s a testament to Ros’s ability to put mind over matter — or, perhaps, matter over mind.

“I’ve tried to, perhaps, dominate him a bit more in the past and tell him not to spook but it doesn’t work — you just have to trust him and drop the reins and let it happen, and just assume he’ll choose to go over the fence, which goes against all my instincts, but I’m always learning with him,” she says.

Tom McEwen and JL Dublin execute a clean jump over the corner at 23. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tom McEwen and JL Dublin will now go into showjumping 3.6 penalties — or less than a rail — behind Ros and Isaac, having swapped leaderboard positions with them when picking up 8 time penalties. But, Tom explains, he’s just delighted to have had a total non-event of a round, executing all his plans and enjoying his spin around the track on the former Nicola Wilson ride, particularly after a year that’s had more than its fair share of blows.

“It’s been a bit of a weird year, because nothing’s really gone wrong, but a lot of things have gone badly wrong — at Burghley the horses were amazing, but it all went wrong, and the same at Aachen, Dubs was amazing but it went wrong,” he muses. “So it’s nice to come here and have a day like this; when we were first suggesting this trip, we did think, ‘when you’re having a bad year, is it better to call it quits?’ But actually, I’ve felt great on him all year, and he was amazing in his final run at Little Downham, so I was very much looking forward to coming here.”

That commitment to finishing the year on a high paid dividends, and — crucially — helped Tom avoid a rinsing from the assorted on-site members of his bachelor party, which will commence post-Pau but has, he laughs “kind of already started!” And — finally — they had a bit of luck, too: though they jumped cleanly over the corner at 23AB, as they jumped it, the MIM clip on the front rail simply fell off, but as the rail stayed upright and balanced, somehow, they didn’t incur any penalties.

“I was delighted with him; he flew through as one of the fastest of the day without being stopped. It shows the intensity of the track: people could have been up on the clock, but they couldn’t get close to it, and then the three fastest of the day were the ones that were stopped,” he says. And though there wasn’t much inspiration to take from watching the action unfold on the live stream through the day before his own start time, Tom did use what he saw to help him fine-tune his plan of action on course, a tactic that helped him cross the finish line with plenty of horse left.

“It wasn’t the viewing that I was after, to begin with! I did make a couple of different choices, in places where, perhaps, I’d planned on going on three strides, but he was so keen and bold and fresh that I thought, ‘if you start doing that, you start taking risks later on and eating up distances’. So I actually added a couple of times early on.”

Now, he says, after taking the runner-up spot at Boekelo last year and Kentucky this year, he’s got one big job to do tomorrow: “I’ve got to make sure I jump clear tomorrow and get rid of this bout of seconditis that I’ve got!”

Kirsty Chabert and Classic VI. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The fastest clear round of the day went the way of Kirsty Chabert and Classic VI, a horse who’s been as frustrating as she has been rewarding through her career. Today, she added to a tally of high points that includes second place at Luhmühlen last year, having motored around the tricky, twisty track to add just 0.8 time penalties — or two seconds — to her first-phase score of 32.6 and leap up from 22nd to third.

“She’s as fast around a bend as she is on the straight, so this suits her so well — I can’t take a pull or we’ll risk a stop, but she’s so quick and on the ball,” says Kirsty. “So for me, the twists and turns are very much in my favour — I can go as fast around a corner as I can when we’re going straight, and as she doesn’t have a particularly big stride, I’m never going to gain time on long galloping straights. There weren’t many of those: the first ten fences felt like a short-format, because you were constantly twisting and turning with lots of combinations, but that benefits me, because the big, rangy horses have to slow down going around the corners.”

Kirsty, like Ros, was held on course after Tom Rowland’s fall, but her hold was much earlier on: just before fence 9ABC, the tricky second pass through the first water complex, which was, incidentally, where she’d fallen with her first ride, Opposition Heraldik Girl.

“It wasn’t the best place to be held, right in front of the fence I’d just fallen off at!” she laughs. “So it was quite a good thing to let my adrenaline come down, and then pick it back up again, and the crowd got behind me, so that was great.”

Though the 14-year-old mare’s last FEI run, in the CCI4*-L at Blenheim that was won, incidentally, by Ros and Isaac, finished with a frustrating-on-paper 15 penalties for a flag that was deemed to have been missed, it was, Kirsty explains, a huge milestone moment that helped lead to her success today.

“Blenheim was a turning point for her. When I looked back at the video of the flag, you could see her contorting her body in the air to get herself over the fence. That was such a huge moment for me — in the past, she’d have looked for the way out the side door, and then, I felt her really become a cross country horse.”

Oliver Townend and Tregilder. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Oliver Townend and Tregilder stepped up one place to fourth, adding 7.2 time penalties after narrowly avoiding a dunking at the racecourse water complex when the gelding stumbled on landing from the drop in, while Piggy March and the former Nicola Wilson ride Coolparks Sarco step up from seventh to fifth with 8.4 time penalties.

Pippa Funnell and MCS Maverick. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Pippa Funnell had a day of two halves; her first ride, the seasoned, though not always straightforward, five-star gelding Billy Walk On picked up 20 penalties at that racecourse water — “the good thing is, though, he took me and jumped it the second time; actually, apart from that, he was very, very good” — while her second, the ten-year-old debutant and surprise Bramham CCI4*-L winner, MCS Maverick, came out at the tail end of the day and became a man on course, adding 13.2 time penalties to slip from third to sixth and stay well in the hunt for a placing. That squeaks them just ahead of Kylie Roddy and SRS Kan Do, that early hope-giving pair, who are a tenth of a penalty behind in seventh place; in eighth, Jonelle Price redeemed a roundly rubbish day for the Price clan by cruising her own debutant, Hiarado, to 12 time penalties.

Boyd Martin and Fedarman B jump into the crowds at Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Boyd Martin is the best-placed US rider after that clear round inside the time, which he completed aboard the Goodwin family’s Fedarman B after a lengthy hold on course. Though the pair did activate that safety device at 13B, they still executed a healthy climb from 16th to ninth place in ‘Bruno’s’ second five-star start.

“I was thrilled with him — he’s such a great horse,” says Boyd. “To have a break like that and then restart… he really fought for me. Unfortunately, we popped out one of the pins and got eleven penalties, but safety’s important, and to Bruno’s credit, I thought, ‘oh, god, I hope that didn’t rattle him’, but he flew the next jump and was fantastic all the way.”

Hold notwithstanding, Boyd and Bruno were able to stick to plan A very nearly the whole way ’round — except for one moment of true five-star quick-thinking.

“He slipped quite badly turning into the water in the race track, and in that split second, as we got into the water, I went the long way,” he says. “But I think it only added a couple of seconds, and because he’d freshened up so much, I felt like I had plenty of horse at the end.”

No shoe, no martingale, no problem: Maxime Livio’s Carouzo Bois Marotin works a miracle at Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Maxime Livio climbed to tenth place, and best of the home nation, with the excellent Carouzo Bois Marotin, who’s been placed in all his five-star starts and leapt up from 31st with his 12.4 time penalties today — but their round probably takes the prize for triumphing over a real series of unfortunate events.

“I’ve had quite a cross-country day,” he says with a wry grin. “My breastplate broke at fence three, and then we lost a shoe at six, and then every time I asked for a halt halt, I just couldn’t get it because we didn’t have the martingale. And then later on the course, my girth got caught on a fence and then it all slid back — but he’s amazing, really. 50% of horses would have run out somewhere with all that going on, and he’s still a young horse, so when he wants to go forward he really goes, but he’s incredible.”

Allie Knowles and Morswood. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Both Allie Knowles and Morswood and debutant Cosby Green and the former Buck Davidson ride Copper Beach climbed into the top twenty after excellent, bold rides: Allie goes into showjumping in 14th place, up from 28th, after adding 24 time penalties, while Cosby sits fifteenth, up from 35th, after adding 13.2 time penalties and an 11 for knocking a MIM clip at fence 23, an open corner after a downhill approach. But nothing could wipe the grin from her face as she attacked the influential water in the racecourse, and as she cleared the final skinny element, even the loud cheers of ‘allez! Allez!’ from the crowd were drowned out by her own cheer: “THAT’S MY BOY!”

Cosby Green and Copper Beach drop neatly into the influential racecourse water complex. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Phillip Dutton and ran into a spot of bad luck at the tail end of the course: they were clear until the penultimate combination at 28ABCD, where they ran out to the side of the skinny B element on the downhill, and ultimately added a further 20 time penalties, too, pushing them from 12th to 22nd place going into the final day.

Phillip Dutton and Z. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Of the two incidents on course that led to the day’s significant holds, we do have a brief update from Pau:

“Lea [Siegl, who fell at 13B] was mobile in all directions and did not lose consciousness when she’s been transported to the hospital. Her horse is ok. Tom [Rowland]’s horse [MGH Maybe A Mission, who fell at the final water complex at 24B] has been transported to the vet clinic and came back to the show’s stables before the end of the XC test.”

While those two incidents were the most notable of the day, there were a number of other horse falls throughout the day; Jesse Campbell and Diachello, who had been fourth after dressage, fell at the corner at 23; Jesse also fell with his first ride, Cooley Lafitte, at the racecourse water at 20AB and 21. Gaspard Maksud and Zaragoza, with whom he was sixth at the World Championships last year, fell at 24B, the final water, and Kirsty Chabert and Opposition Heraldik Girl fell at the second pass through the first water, making a total of six horse falls through the 54 starters — a number that puts a dampener on a day of otherwise exciting sport.

Lea Siegl and DSP Fighting Line. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Of the day’s competition, designer Pierre Michelet says, “I didn’t think we’d have quite so many surprises today; it was, perhaps, a little more difficult than last year, but largely used the same obstacles. I think that what probably happened is that the first part of the course was, perhaps, more twisty than in previous years, and so the horses didn’t quite get into their galloping rhythm as much as they would have in previous years. That made them a little more timid as they came out into the race course, which is a more galloping section. The ground was also a little bit sticky [after heavy rain on Thursday], which also made for some surprises. If you don’t make the course twisty when it’s this flat, though, you’ll get too many quick clear rounds.”

Tomorrow’s finale here at Pau will begin at 11.45 a.m. local time/10.45 a.m. British time/6.45 a.m. EST with the final horse inspection (and yes, those time conversions are correct – the clocks turn back an hour tonight both here and in the UK, but not in the US, which is definitely not confusing even one little bit), and the remaining competitors will head to the showjumping ring from 2.30 p.m. local time/1.30 p.m. British time/9.30 a.m. EST. As always, you can catch all the action on Horse&Country TV, and tune back in to EN for live updates and full reports from all the day’s activities.

Until then: Go Eventing.


The top ten after a topsy-turvy day of cross-country at Pau.

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Liberté, Egalité, Cross-Countré: Get to Grips with Pau’s Cross-Country Course

Once, years ago, I described Pau’s course designer, Pierre Michelet, a man who looks like the sweetest French grandpa in a butterscotch-yellow cardigan, as such:

“There’s a rumour that suggests that if you stand in front of an arena mirror and say “zut alors, zat is a short four!” three times he’ll appear, red-eyed and spectral, and make you jump a curving line of skinny fences as penance for disturbing his slumber. “Non,” he will say, “zat is a long three. 20 penalties.”

Others say that you can summon him by putting pointed studs, a triple espresso, and a man in a horse suit in a circle and singing the French national anthem, which is Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes, we think.

Michelet the Menace, as he’s been affectionately dubbed, is the man responsible for one of the most consistently interesting courses in top-level eventing. Lacking the sheer space of venues like Badminton, Burghley, and Kentucky, Pau is best known for its serious twists and turns as it snakes its way between the gas stations and garden allotments of the city’s fringes. It’s not a galloping track, despite the fact that it takes place at a racetrack — instead, it’s rather more akin to go-karting-meets-crazy-golf.”

Honestly, my opinion hasn’t changed, and my writing hasn’t improved enough to better this, and nor has my time management, which sees me finishing this thing up with, like, not that much time to go before cross-country starts, so this year, I’m sticking with it. Mr Burns GIF and all. He might look sweet and innocent, but he’s not. He might have a corgi,  but you cannot trust him. (He is, admittedly, very clever, though.)


Length: 6322m

Time: 11:06

Fences: 31

Jumping efforts: 45

And here’s a look at how that 6322 meters gets crammed into a teeny-weeny surface area, tucked into the north end of the city of Pau:

So little room for activities!

Cross-country gets underway in just over an hour, with our pathfinding combination, Jesse Campbell and Cooley Lafitte of New Zealand, leaving the startbox at 11.30 a.m. local time/10.30 a.m. BST/5.30 a.m. EST. You can find the times in full here, and follow along with the live stream here — but for now, let’s get this beast of a course walked.

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EN’s coverage of Les 5 Etoiles de Pau is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products.

The first three fences are, ostensibly, just the usual sort of run-and-jump profiles that you’d expect a course designer to set to get horses and riders off the ground, but with a twist: the startbox is situated right next to the warm-up and the lorry park, and so some horses may well feel a bit off the leg as they move away from the safety of their pals to the first. Then they’ll pop the second on flat ground – but the third, a stacked log table, is right at the crest of a steep artificial mound, and not only will they be taking a leap of faith – one of the most frequent elements of this course – with a downhill landing, they’ll also stare down the busy road outside as they take off, which is a lot for a fresh horse to take in without losing focus.

Fence 4AB.

Better get used to the feeling of going down, down, down: at the first combination at 4AB, there’s a beefy log drop to start, followed by a left-handed corner at B. There’s some options there for how you can execute that line, but in any case, it’s a classic Pierre Michelet distance. He tends to build things that walk, at first glance, on a half-stride, and on second glance, as a ‘long something’ or a ‘short something’ — and generally, he’s hoping to see you take the long something. This is an attacking three, by that logic, and it’s enough to really let you know you’re at a five-star. There’s actually an alternative B element here, which is quite poky and takes you back on yourself, but if you already find yourself needing a long route at the very first combination, you might be in trouble.

Fence 5.

Then, it’s a bit of a hustle down to fence 5, an upright, wood-topped, concrete wall with plenty of foliage to create a friendly groundline, but the solidity of this fence means that you want to moderate your pace a bit on the approach. There’s also changing light to think about: our competitors will be jumping right into the woods here.

Fence 6AB.

The second combination features two of Pierre’s favourite type of fence: achingly long, breath-holdingly narrow skinnies. There’s four of them, but just two to jump, with a big of a mix-and-match selection, route-wise. Riders will need to have a plan and ride this positively to make the distance — both between the A and B elements, and over their jumpable top spread.

Fence 7AB.

And so we come to the first water – and the first part of a twisty, turning, tumble dryer route around the wooded section that made me stop about five times when I walked the course because I was so lost that I wasn’t even totally sure I was within the ropes anymore. The photos don’t show any water, alas – that’ll have been pumped in for today’s competition – but here’s a look through the direct route at 7AB, which takes us over a big, brushy swan and then straight on down to a big old right-handed corner, before hanging a right and heading out of the complex. This, again, is a pretty aggressive line, with two big fences – and, pertinently, a huge amount of people hanging over the very close roping to get a glimpse of the riders. The atmosphere here will be huge, and distracting, so this will take major positivity.

Fence 8.

There’s a big loop to get through, at the middle of which is fence 8 — a MIM-clipped upright gate on a modest mound. It’s not a tough fence in its own right, but riders are stuck in a few slow minutes here and will be trying to get a wiggle on around this loop. If they come too fast to this, though, there’s the very real risk of a clip activation and 11 penalties, so they’ll need to moderate the pace and rebalance the canter. It’s effectively placed simply to make it harder to catch the time. Naughty, clever Pierre.

Fence 9ABC, with the B element – the up bank – visible on the left.

And back down we come! This time, we’re passing through the first water complex from the opposite side, over this not-at-all-small, quite skinny brush-topped spread fence, and then down the ‘chute’ into the pond, where they’ll hang a left, jump up a step, and over an angled brush at C, which is basically invisible to the horses until they’ve touched down atop that bank.

Fence 9BC.

There she is! This is, as you might have guessed, set on an open stride, and because the horses get such a late read on it, riders will need to make sure they’re being totally clear with their aids to keep them on a line, travelling boldly, and feeling confident. They’ll also want to execute a good jump up that bank, because if they land too short and close to the edge, they’ll make that long distance almost impossible.

Fence 10.

After negotiating that tough water, it’s time to head in the direction of the racecourse — the much more open middle section of the course. En route to that, they’ll jump this big brush spread at 10, alongside one of the perimeter roads. Spectators stuck in a queue on their way in will enjoy getting to see a bit of sport through what looks like prison fencing.

Fence 11AB – with Nadja Minder’s mum for scale!

Don’t get too comfortable with those single spread fences on flat ground, though: at 11AB, we head straight up a stiff mound to pop a log on top and land running — or tiptoeing — downhill to the B element, a skinny that’s so skinny that it might be worth skipping breakfast. This is a classic Pau question, and it’s also going to see plenty of action in the form of runouts through the day.

Fence 11B.

Yeah, sure, fine, no big deal.

Fence 12 – with reporter’s other half for scale!

After that technical effort, it’s time to cross the boundary line into the racetrack, find a bit of ‘allez, allez,’ and, after a short gallop stretch, leap this classic five-star fly fence. The ditch and brush combo might not be quite as dimensionally imposing as Burghley’s Cottesmore Leap, but it sure isn’t small. This is intended to be jumped from an attacking stride, and that sets the theme for this section of the course, which is where riders will want to claw back some seconds on the clock after a twisty, technical first section and a similar final section.

Fence 13A.

At 13AB there’s a combination that’ll invite the less on-the-ball to make a mistake and have a run-out. The first element is a timber oxer, which is MIM-clipped, and the second, which you can just see in the background of the photo above, is an open corner on a curving left-handed line — but it’s a totally blind turn, so riders will have to deliver on a very good plan that allows their horses time to see what they’re jumping. This isn’t a line where you can wing it: you need to know what you’re doing and prepare.

Fence 13B.

And if you don’t? Enjoy a run out to the right, or a MIM penalty.

Fence 14.

Phew! A single fence at 14 — it feels like we’ve seen so few of these.

Fence 15.

And another at 15, the farthest point of the racetrack, if angled trakehners are the sort of thing that floats your boat.

Fence 16. Can you spot the Swiss rider on the other side?

Fence 16, a brush fronted with white rails, might look pretty innocuous, but that brush is as wide as it gets — so once again, it’s all about pace and power here. Having had a few consecutive fences they can tackle in an open pace, though, riders will hopefully have a bit more of a handle on the clock as they come to next few combinations.

Fence 17AB – with Gaspard Maksud for scale.

There’s shades of 11AB at 17AB, which once again features a stiff manmade mound, a log on top, and a skinny at the bottom on a left-handed line. The log’s a big skinnier here, and the skinny’s a touch less imposing, and the line — well, that’s typical Pierre, and requires a bit of French, forward riding. By this point, though, horses and riders should be well-versed in this sort of thing.

Fence 18ABC.

New on course this year is 18ABC, which we wiggle our way around to from 17. It’s a coffin complex, with perhaps the smallest ditch I’ve ever seen – it’s only revetted on the take-off side, and its neon blue on the inside, so that’s…interesting, I guess. With skinny elements at A and C, a curving left-handed line through the question, and forward distances, this could well see a few faulters through the day’s sport.

Fence 19.

Before we get to the racecourse water, there’s another new fence — this time, a beefy enough elephant trap at 19. It’s a kick-on fence, but it’s also MIM-clipped, so there’s that. Kick on, but kick on wisely, and don’t miss, whatever you do.

Fence 20AB.

This middle water is interesting; the direct route is an angled log drop in, the same as last year, and then two skinnies on a curving right-handed line through the middle of the pond. But those skinnies are separately numbered; the first is a B element to 20, while the second is 21, which offers a bit more freedom in how you’d tackle them, even though they’re very much on a related distance.

Fence 20B to 21.

Like, you could technically circle between them without penalty. Although I don’t know why you’d want to. This whole thing walks, in Pierre striding, as a three to a two, but we’ll see all sorts of combinations of strides through here, plus a few long routes, no doubt, as well as some mix-and-match lines.

Fence 22.

After that water, our competitors will head out of the racetrack and back into the twisty bit of the course, following much the same track as they did on the way out. They’ve got a little room to breath, regroup, and kick on before they come to fence 22, a brush-topped house atop a mound (are you sick of mounds yet? Hoo boy).

Fence 23.

That can’t really be ridden as a single fence, though, because on a left-handed curving line at the bottom of the mound they’ll meet fence 23, a left-handed collapsible open corner.

Fence 24AB.

Then, they’ll come down to the final water, which is just next to the first water, which was also the second water, and oh man, this course should be sponsored by TomTom, if that’s a company that survived the advent of iPhones. Anyway, 24A is a log drop into the drink — there will be drink, I promise — and then onward to an angled swan, with some choices to be made about how much bend to put in that line, and how to make a half-stride a full stride.

Fence 25.

Then, they’ll hang a left, do a loop around the pond, and pop this single fence at 25, landing on a downhill slope. It’s a pretty nothing-y single fence to look at, but we always see some great saves here when people don’t quite give it the respect it deserves.

Fence 26.

New this year is this very cute family of champignons, who live on the edge of the woods and are a herald for home. There’s just a few bits and bobs left to do on the way…

Fence 27.

…and one of them, I guess, is a spot of trick or treating, which the kids of the lorry park did in fine style last night, as is tradition here at this spooky szn five-star. Horses, at this late stage, shouldn’t be spooking at decorations, and should make easy enough work of this rail, but they’ll need a touch of set-up so they jump it neatly and don’t hang a leg. Also, Ros’s Izilot DHI might not like these decorations — but she’ll be delighted that they’ve saved them for late, not put them in early on course.

Fence 28A.

As we bounded up the mound to fence 28A, we met up with one very, very famous face, who got off their e-bike, put their hands on their hips, glanced at the fence and then at what follows it and shook their head: “that,” they sighed, “is a m&$%£@f*£@$er.” There was no censorship, mind you.

This mound is always enormously influential at Pau, and always features a big, big jump at the top and a nearly blind right-handed line curving around the bottom of the hill, and that’s exactly what we’ve got again this year.

Fence 28B, in the foreground, as seen through the very high brush of 28A.

After jumping 28A, the direct line will take them down over the skinny that you can just see the top of in this photo, and then around to the right over a fence you can see a tiny bit of the base of, if you squint. There’s a long route, and a different, smaller A element, too, but for those guys who are fighting for the top spot and trying to overcome the super-tight margins of the first phase, they’ll need to make this work, because the gains on the clock will be so valuable.

Fence 29.

Then, they’ll scurry up another man-made mound to a single fence — nothing hard, just something to respect on a tired horse — before heading into the arena, where three final fences await.

Fence 30AB.

First up, as always, is this angled line, which infrequently causes issues but often causes not very pretty efforts, because horses are tiring and riders are gunning for the finish.

Fence 31.

And that’s what they’ll find on the other long side of the arena, and they’ll be carried over it by the enthusiastic cheers of the home crowd, who love eventing with a passion and fervour that’s above and beyond that of any other country, really. There’s a lot to do out there today, but that much is certain: all our riders and horses, no matter which country they represent, will be buoyed along by tens of thousands of peoples’ worth of cheers and support.

Want to know what those riders think of the challenge to come? We caught up with plenty of them here. 

Allez, allez, my friends – let’s Go Eventing.

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“You Can Ride Him Like a Pure Dressage Horse”: Tom McEwen and JL Dublin Lead First-Phase at Pau

Tom McEwen and JL Dublin, maybe, sort of, if you can excuse the cloud of lens fog this was shot through. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Today, in stark contrast to yesterday at Pau, the sun shone sweetly: over the main arena, over the swiftly-filling grandstands, over my camera, which was so waterlogged from yesterday that my photos of the first ten tests or so look like I drew them with Blo-Pens, and over one Tom McEwen, a former winner of the French five-star in his own right, and one of our first riders in the ring today.

He didn’t just get to relish the day-at-the-beach feel of the palm-lined arena; he also swiftly took ahold of the top of the leaderboard, delivering a very smart 23.1 with Nicola Wilson’s 2021 European Champion, JL Dublin, deposing day one leaders Tim Price and Viscount Viktor and setting a standard that couldn’t be bettered for the rest of the day.

“What a perfect way to start the day! It’s very nice,” says Tom, who’ll be heading straight to Benidorm after the event finishes for his stag do, and would, no doubt, love to bring the impeccable vibes of a second five-star victory along in his carry-on.

Those impeccable vibes, for the moment, though, were ever so slightly dampened by what Tom felt to be a touch of harsh marking, particularly as the pair had put a 22.6 on the board at Kentucky this spring, where they finished second:  “I think this is probably one of our best tests we’ve done together and actually, for me personally, I was quite disappointed with the mark — I thought he was going to be a lot lower. I was delighted with him.”

He’s not a rider who’s prone to dwelling on such things, though: instead, he’s happy to focus on the progression that’s come since he made his FEI debut with the Holsteiner just over a year ago.

“I think knowing that you can nearly ride him like a pure dressage horse in there, you can ride in balance, you’ve got the cadence, and you can really show expression between   movements, and between the mediums and extended,” he says. “For me, he showed the difference between a medium trot, which was excellent, to an extended trot, which was incredible, and that’s what they’re looking for, but they weren’t really marking up. But no, I’m delighted with it, and to be honest, this is now history. He’s put himself in a great spot — and now we have to focus on tomorrow!”

Ros Canter and Izilot DHI. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Some tests are beautiful to watch, and some tests are true masterclasses – and often, the detail that differentiates them is what happens outside the ring, and what the rider has to overcome to make them happen. That was very much the story for Ros Canter‘s test today with her five-star debutant, the Blenheim CCI4*-L winner Izilot DHI. As infamous for his sharpness as he is famous for his exceptional talent, ‘Isaac’ looked flashy and expressive on his way down the chute to the main arena – but almost the instant he got inside, he clocked the cameraman, who decided to pick that moment to strip off a layer, and shied violently. Ros steadied him, attempted to settle him, and turned him back towards the ‘monster’ at the ringside – but Isaac once again darted backwards. She tried again; he shied again. Then, the bell rang, and with just 45 seconds to make a plan and get her horse back on terra firma, she gave it one more college try, felt her horse shrink away beneath her again, and then did what she had to do: she got herself to A, got into the ring, and rode like her life depended on it.

And in the end? There wasn’t a visible spook to be seen, and Ros and Isaac were awarded a final score of 24.3, good enough for overnight second place.

“I wanted to show him the camera, but I knew I needed to get a straight approach the first time — but as I was coming down on my approach, the cameraman decided to take his coat, which wasn’t very helpful!” laughs Ros. “Hence why I shouted at him [very politely, might we add! – ed.]. I don’t think he understood a word of English, but anyway, he carried on doing it. Isaac was already a bit spooky in the arena familiarisation at that, but I think the coat coming off… and Isaac doesn’t like men at the best of times, let alone one on a stand taking a coat off right in front of him!”

The work she coaxed out of him in the ring, though, left her “delighted! I always say this: there’s more to come. Certainly at the beginning, I was a little safe because he definitely had his eyes all over the place. I was really pleased with him on his eight metre circle, because I thought that’s when he might have a whip off [at the camera], but no. He’s an amazing horse, isn’t he? He’s only ten, and he’s a weak ten-year-old, so there’s definitely more to come.”

That eight metre circle left all of us holding our breath ringside, too: it was the earliest movement that took Isaac face-to-face with the cameraman, who was situated next to the judge’s hut at B.

“I was like, ‘try and breath, try and let go of the reins’ — the moment you tense with him, he goes funny,” says Ros. “He’s definitely got demons, this horse, and he’s not going to change who he is. He’s definitely a flighty animal by instinct. So to go to his flight instinct and then settle back down was a real achievement, I think.”

Though Isaac’s faith in Ros no doubt contributed to the pair’s ability to claw back a great result, Ros explains that it’s not as simple as that when you’ve got a horse with as suspicious a mind as this one.

“There are times when Isaac doesn’t believe me, despite us trying to tell him it’s all okay,” she laughs. “But it is getting better and better, and I’ve learned so, so much from this horse. It’s been a real learning process for me, and I think in the last six months, I’ve learned a huge amount about how to deal with those episodes: to actually drop the reins. He’s almost got to be allowed to spook — if you try and block the spook from happening, it makes it worse for Isaac, so it’s trying to relax with it. I think I try and channel my inner Tim Price, because every time I watch him on a sharp horse, he just looks like he’s flopping around, and I think that’s what I’ve got to try and keep doing too, so that I can keep putting my trust in him as much as he has to put his trust in me.”

Now, she says, she’s got something of an unknown quantity ahead of her tomorrow, and although she knows her horse can be competitive on his day, he also has a long career ahead of him — so if the net positive takeaway is simply an education, then that, too, is a victory.

“It very much depends on the day with Isaac a little bit, how much that [spookiness] comes out in him or doesn’t. I have 100% faith in him jumping a 5* track in terms of the scope, the carefulness, the bravery — he’s got all of that, it’s about trying to give him a good experience. Will I be going for gold? I’m not sure yet; I’m very much going to let him tell me what he’s thinking. Equally, there’s not a huge amount of Thoroughbred in him, and I don’t want to knock him in that sense, either. So I’ll very much go out there trying to be competitive, but with his confidence in mind at the same time.”

Pippa Funnell and MCS Maverick. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Pippa Funnell has had two very different dressage days: after the frustration of yesterday, when she was sent up to the ring too early and then had to deal with spookiness from the experienced Billy Walk On, who now sits equal tenth on a 29.6, she returned today with her Bramham CCI4*-L winner and five-star first-timer, MCS Maverick, who merrily delivered the best test of his entire career to earn himself a 26.4 and overnight third place.

“I’m very, very pleased,” beams Pippa, who took the ride on the British-bred gelding just this year, and is still figuring out how to tap into his best work on every outing they undertake. That’s a process that’s complicated, slightly, by the fact that he’s a hot, sharp, sensitive little horse – so much so that he nearly turned tail right back into the ring after wandering out into the chute after his test and spotting a flapping flag.

The key, she’s discovering, is fighting the urge to work him on the flat and instead, giving him plenty to do that requires little mental exertion.

“I jumped him this morning, and  then he’s just done loads of quiet trotting on the lunge,” she explains. “He’s been out for three lots of 20 minutes, so not long, because A, I don’t want to make him sore and B, for the longevity of a nice horse, you don’t want to have to work them so hard to get the brain. So I’m thrilled I got the brain without drilling him today. I only got on him 15 minutes before, which makes you think, ‘oh my god, is that the right thing for one that’s a bit hot?!’ But I knew that if you pick him up, he’s still at a stage where he doesn’t find it difficult but he tries, and then it gets a bit tight, and once he gets tight it’s difficult to relax him. So ten to fifteen minutes of warm-up is brave, but that’s the thing that works for him!”

Jesse Campbell and Diachello. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

New Zealand Olympian Jesse Campbell and his Tokyo mount Diachello delivered one of the most pleasing tests of the day to be the best-place non-Brits, and will go into cross-country tomorrow in fourth place on their score of 26.9. It’s a remarkable upswing in performance for the gelding, who’s always been capable of very good scores but has, almost as frequently, boiled over in tests – but this, Jesse explains, is a milestone that comes after a serious effort to unpack what had been setting ‘Danny’ off.

“To be honest with you, I’m quite emotional about it, because when we first bought him and we took him and produced him all the way up to 4*, he was so generous and he was quiet and easy and everything like that,” he says. “Then we took him to Kentucky and he was okay — it was first 5*star, and then I sort of put the pressure on him to go to the Olympics, and he just didn’t feel very good. Then the next year, he came out, he didn’t feel very good — and he’s not the type of horse to show your typical ulcers, but we got him scoped then because we had sort of exhausted everything else: bone scans, the whole thing. He was riddled with ulcers, and so we went back to basics with him. I really thought I’d ruined him. But he’s just so generous, he’s let me train him back up. Every day he feels better and this week, he’s been feeling awesome, and really happy, and I’m pretty chuffed, actually! It was cool.”

The highlight for Jesse, other than feeling his horse back at his happy best, was the flying changes, he explains: “Where I think he probably would have been in pain in the past, they’d be quite conservative. Now he’s really throwing them and letting go. It’s just lovely that he’s happy, and that’s the main thing, right?”

Oliver Townend and Tregilder. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Oliver Townend piloted Tregilder to the gelding’s best-ever five-star score of 27.2 in his fifth effort at the level — an effort that sees them sit fifth overnight, which feels, actually, like quite a lot of ‘fives’ for this sentence, so sorry about that.

“He doesn’t find dressage easy; he’s 18hh, and a big, weak, blood horse, and he’s always found it very difficult — and he also finds it quite stressful,” says Oliver. “So he worries, and then he does silly things a lot of the time, but he’s done very well today.”

The key to getting a tune out of Tregilder without pushing him into a more fragile picture, Oliver says, is doing rather less than you might otherwise be inclined to.

“I feel like I’m going nowhere at times in there with him, just to try and give him time to breathe and relax into it, but he can’t work for too long — that was 25 minutes of work before he went in and most of that, or a lot of that, was walk,” he explains. “But as I said, he’s very sensitive, so it’s easy to have a spook or change where you don’t want when he’s not quite relaxed enough, so it’s a fine balance. But he knows me well, and I know him well, and he’s done as nearly as well as he could do today.”


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

Kiwi Sam Lissington made a great start to twelve-year-old Ricker Ridge Sooty GNZ‘s five-star debut, putting a 28.8 — a score better than most of his four-star efforts — on the board to sit ninth after the first phase, falling in step behind yesterday’s test-producers Tim Price and Viscount Viktor, Piggy March and Coolparks Sarco, and Ros Canter and Pencos Crown Jewel, who sit sixth, seventh, and eighth, respectively, after the second day.

“He was pretty cool,” says Sam of the diminutive gelding. “Sometimes the judges can think he’s a bit like a pony, so I try to show off a bit ’round the outside, to show that he’s a proper horse. He was very accurate, the changes were lovely, and he had a nice disposition about him — you can’t ask for much more than that!”

Lea Siegl and DSP Fighting Line. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Austria’s Lea Siegl joins Pippa in equal tenth place on a score of 29.6 with her Olympic ride, DSP Fighting Line: “I’m super pleased with my horse; he stayed very calm,” she says. “I was a bit afraid that he’s too excited with this atmosphere, because I did Luhmuhlen 5* this year and he got crazy in the dressage — he was so excited for the cross country, I think! But today, he really tried  to stay cool and it worked good. I’m very happy with him.”

Phillip Dutton and Z. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though Phillip Dutton‘s Tokyo Olympic partner is one of the most experienced horses in this year’s field, with six five-stars (and five top ten finishes) and two Championships under his belt already, he’s actually only ever previously come under the 30 barrier once in a test at this level. That was at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon in 2018, where he posted a 27.6; today, though, he repeated the feat, putting a 29.9 on the board to take twelfth place going into tomorrow’s cross-country.

“Actually, that’s the fun thing about it — the more you do, the more you realise you don’t know as much as you thought,” says Phillip with a laugh, reflecting on the the fifteen-year-old gelding’s ongoing improvement even at this latter stage of his career.

But, he continues, even on a good day in the office, there’s always something that can be improved upon.

“I let him down a little at the end — I was a bit quick to bring him up, and then he switched leads and I left the marker a little early to get the last change. But apart from that, it was good as he could go,” he says.

Boyd Martin and Fedarman B. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Just one rather spectacularly fluffed flying change – it scored a 1 from the judge at C — precluded a top-ten test from Boyd Martin and the Goodwin family’s Fedarman B, but such was the quality of the rest of their work that the pair find themselves well in the hunt on a 31.7. That puts them in a three-way tie for overnight sixteenth, and just 1.1 penalties away from the top ten, thanks to those extraordinarily slim margins after two days of competition.

“He’s been working well all week,” says Boyd. “He was pretty fresh when I arrived here in France — in the first two days he was jumping out of his skin. So I had to spend a fair bit of time getting him back to how he was going in America. By yesterday, I thought we had our horse back, and then I probably overdid it a bit, actually — he was brilliant this morning, but he was a tiny little bit empty when I went into the ring, and I screwed up one change, which I’m thinking was really, really expensive! It’s a shame, because that hadn’t happened all week.”

Boyd, like several of his fellow competitors, comes to Pau straight off the back of a run at Maryland, and he credits the team around him – and further afield, too, in the case of wife Silva, who’s stayed home with new baby Koa, as well as slightly older, slightly more feral Nox and Leo – with helping make it all happen in spite of the lightning-fast turnaround.

“Poor old Silva isn’t getting much sleep, so I’m getting phone calls here in the morning, which is midnight, one o’clock, while she’s feeding the baby,” grins Boyd. “Shout out to Silva — I wish she was here! Bettina [Hoy] has stepped in as my German coach, and hopefully next time, we’ll be able to leave the baby with the babysitter and get the bride Silva back here.”

Allie Knowles and Morswood. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though Allie Knowles and the former Susie Berry ride Morswood trended in the 20s for much of the early part of their test, they had to settle for a still very respectable 33.3 and overnight 28th after losing some marks in the canter work – but Allie was still delighted with how her 15-year-old Irish-bred gelding went in his fifth-ever five-star test, particularly with some tricky external factors to contend with.

“He was a good boy,” she says with a smile. “He was getting quite nervous; he hates a big screen, so I was like, ‘look away, look away!’ It felt like the storm was definitely just coming — all of a sudden it  got very windy, but he did a good job.”

Allie’s decision to take risks in her test today paid off in some respects, such as that trot work, which looked up there with his very best, but in other instances, it proved expensive: “I went for it — I tried to be a bit braver about the mediums. That cost me, because he swapped his lead in the medium canter, but you don’t know if you don’t try,” she says. “The mistakes we had were big mistakes. But he did exactly what I told him to do — quite literally. I kicked too hard, he answered by kicking out at my leg. But his halts are probably our weakest movement, and I felt like our final halt was good. It felt less on the forehand. He did a good rein back — at least for him that’s a good rein back! So I’m not disappointed, even if you always want it better.”

This is Morswood’s first trip to Pau, but not Allie’s — she came here in 2017 with her former top horse, the ex-racehorse Sound Prospect, with whom she finished 21st. That course form and experience is something she’ll take into tomorrow’s cross-country challenge.

“He’s a similar type of horse as Sounder was, and he’s little; compact,” she says. “And he’s deadly honest — so touch wood, I haven’t had a refusal at 5* with him. I’ve had a fall at 5*,  but not a refusal! So I’m just banking on if I point him at the flags, he’ll sort it out — he generally adds a stride when there’s a question of add it or leave it out. I’m going try to let him do his job and just try to stay out of his way; give him a smooth ride and do the best we can!”

Cosby Green and Copper Beach. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Five-star first-timer Cosby Green sits 35th going into cross-country after putting a 35.1 on the board with the former Buck Davidson ride Copper Beach, who competed here in 2017 with Buck. This is his first five-star since Kentucky in 2019, and the seventeen-year-old Irish-bred gelding delivered a test pretty much on a par with where he and Cosby have been scoring at four-star — a great start to their weekend.

“He’s tricky in the ring — he thinks he’s an old professional,” laughs Cosby. “So sometimes he doesn’t think he needs to listen to me and he knows what’s coming. But it was nice to do a test he hasn’t done in a while, so it kept him a little on its toes. It’s a good reflection of where he’s at, and he feels good in his body. With his age we just try to change the little things that we can.”

Cosby has been logging a busy — but rewarding — end to her 2023 season, which she’s spent based with Tim and Jonelle Price. She comes to Pau off the back of her Boekelo debut, where she finished as the best-placed first time with Jos Ufo de Quidam. That experience, plus the help she’s been getting from eventing’s most dynamic of power couples, should stand her in great stead going into arguably the biggest moment of her career thus far: her first five-star cross-country start.

“Just having good faith and riding smartly in the moment and sticking to the plan as best you can is kind of how I’m going into it,” says Cosby. “I’ve been relying on the training that I’ve done this past year to really be a good foundation, and so I’m just going to use that when I go out there. I find comfort in that.”

And what advice will tough taskmaster Jonelle, who’s been such an influence on Cosby this year, deliver as she heads out of the start box?

“Just go clear in time,” says the Kiwi with a grin. “I don’t think we’re going to see many in the time tomorrow, so I think there’s an opportunity — and you’re sitting  in a hunting spot on a 35. So go out and do some hunting!”

Easy, right? They’re certainly emboldening words to take out on course – and Cosby’s got determination on her side, too.

“I feel good. Nervous! But there’s no better horse to be sitting on. He gives me a lot of confidence,” she says.

Tomorrow’s cross-country, which will run over a technical track designed by Pierre Michelet, will kick off at the very sociable hour of 11.30 a.m. local time/10.30 a.m. BST/5.30 a.m. EST (yeah, sorry, that one’s less sociable). The first horse and rider out of the box will be five-star debutant Cooley Lafitte, ridden by New Zealand’s Jesse Campbell. You can check out the times in full here, and, as always, tune in to the live stream via Horse&Country TV. We’ll be bringing you both live updates and a full report right here on EN tomorrow – and before then, stay tuned for some in-depth course analysis and previews. Until then: Go Eventing!

The top ten at the conclusion of dressage at Pau.

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It’s Spooky Season at Pau: Tim Price Leads Dressage Day One After Afternoon of Hijinks

Exclusive behind the scenes footage of Pau director Pascal living his best life today.

And one of course designer Pierre Michelet, too, for good measure.

“I could do without the nightclub music in the walk,” says reigning Pau champion Jonelle Price wryly after her test with Pratoni ride McClaren, who scored a 32.4 to sit ninth overnight after the first day of dressage at Pau, the final CCI5* of the 2023 season. She’s fair to say it, too: for all Pau’s abundant charms, some of its oddities aren’t always wholly conducive to eking the best possible marks out of a hot, fit event horse, and that pounding oontz-oontz music – which was, today at least, piped out of speakers localised to one part of the arena – is certainly among those. That was just one of the factors that created a significant ‘spooky corner’; others in the same area included a cameraman next to the judge’s hut at B, who was at his most terrifying for the first few tests when he had an umbrella over his set-up, and, of course, the arena’s big screen, which looms over the ring in close proximity.

That meant that many of the horses we saw today — even the very experienced ones — spooked either inside or outside the ring, costing themselves valuable marks and leaving the door wide open for day two’s competitors.

Tim Price and Viscount Viktor: your day one Pau leaders. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

One horse who managed to get his spook out of his system before entering at A was Tim Price‘s nine-year-old Viscount Viktor (Viscount 22 – Nova EH, by Nobre xx), who took fright at the cameraman while negotiating his pass around the outside of the ring but then shelved any bad behaviour in favour of a professional, sweet test that belied his relative inexperience. That was enough to earn the pair a 28, which is just one-tenth of a penalty in front of their closest competition today – but over four whole marks better than their test at last month’s Blenheim eight- and nine-year-olds’ CCI4*-S.

“He’s coming along,” says Tim, who won here in 2021 with Falco. “He’s a young horse and unestablished at all of this stuff, but the end of the year is hopefully when you’re going to get a bit more, and when he’s going to understand the movements a bit more and start to relax. It was good today.”

That progression from Blenheim, he says, comes largely from simply giving the horse more exposure.

“It just feels a little bit more consolidated — a little bit going through the motions a bit more,” he explains. “I don’t have to make so much of a focus, in the days leading in, of making sure he actually knows his way through those movements. I can just think of relaxation: I can drop his neck, trot him round, get him used to the place and then when you go in and all that is  your foundation, then the movements aren’t a surprise for him. So that’s what Blenheim contributes, because there, you’ve got to hack all the way over to the main ring and he was like, ‘whoa, this is so new and big and different!’ So it’s just nice to get to this stage. This is such a good environment for them even though it’s cats and dogs appalling! But it’s good experience.”

Tim Price and Viscount Viktor. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This is hardly the zenith of what’s to come for Viktor, who Tim tipped at Blenheim as his next big thing.

“He does actually find the work quite easy and so for me, it was actually a little bit of an underridden test. I was just going for a nice test with not too many mistakes, and then we can build on that over the coming years. The places he finds difficult are coming back from a medium or extended canter, and then he just likes to keep his body nice and long. He knows to come back, it just takes a little bit longer — that will get better over the next couple of years,” he says, adding that the progression feels marked: “I used to have to, not that long ago, sort of introduce a half-pass and then go for the half-pass because otherwise he might pop into canter or lose his balance. But now I can sit him up in the corner and say, ‘let’s go sideways’. And the same with the medium trot. I can come around the corner and say ‘let’s go’, and he goes into a good medium trot, and those moments are really fun in terms of training a horse and building it through the grades.”

Piggy March and Coolparks Sarco. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Just a whisper behind him is another five-star debutant horse, this one ridden by a Brit: Piggy March put a 28.1 on the board with Coolparks Sarco, or Jeremy, who she inherited from her close friend Nicola Wilson after the European Champion’s career-altering fall at Badminton last year. The eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding  (Shannondale Sarco St Ghyvan x Coolpark Lady Diamond, by Coolcorron Cool Diamond) lost a couple of marks when delivering his final flying change a stride late, but otherwise, was polite and professional in the arena — a welcome change after yesterday’s arena familiarisation, when he was visibly unsettled by the big screen in corner.

“I mean, he was really nice until they put the screens on — then he got a bit panicked by that, but I don’t think he’s seen that,” says Piggy. “But today, I thought he was really nice. I might look at it back and be cross with myself for not just being a little bit maybe braver, I don’t know! But I didn’t ever go ‘oh dear’. He’s quite an attractive horse anyway, and  it all felt consistent; he can get a bit above the bit and not be still in his head, but he felt quite still.”

Though she might spot those margins for more bravery on her rewatch, Piggy’s decision to occasionally play it safe in the ring was one that was made with good reason: though Jeremy had settled into the idea of the big screen, he, like so many of today’s horses, wasn’t quite sure about that cameraman.

“Maybe I needed one more gear in there, but I was conscious not to then feel like I was chasing when he felt so nicely in front of my leg and under me — I thought, ‘surely this is quite nice’, and I just felt a little bit concerned with the camera just there. He was a little bit scared of it, but other than that, I thought he was nice.”

For Piggy this is a second five-star in as many weeks: she arrived here straight off the back of a run ’round Maryland with another debutant, Brookfield Cavalier Cruise. That means that she’d not ridden Jeremy herself in over a week on Monday, a situation that requires a bit of extra care and thought to manage appropriately.

“It’s not ideal — it’s not ideal at all, and then you’re conscious of not getting here when they’ve travelled and just picking up the reins and working them really hard straightaway,” she says. That, and the continual deluge that’s plagued us all day, also impacted the way she opted to warm up: “The weather today has been fairly horrendous, so I didn’t give him long, because he felt very good. I’m delighted with his brain as well; he really went in there and was very rideable and very relaxed.”

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

One of the earliest tests of the day was also one of the most competitive: reigning European Champion and Badminton winner Ros Canter piloted the seasoned five-star mare Pencos Crown Jewel (Jumbo x Cornish Queen, by Rock King), a maternal half-sister to her stable star Lordships Graffalo, to overnight third on a 28.3 after a test that, like Piggy’s, was well above and beyond the work she’d been doing while schooling yesterday.

“She was actually a bit lazy yesterday, and probably, if anything, she’s just naturally a bit on a forehand — sometimes she just needs to lift up a bit in front, [which was the case yesterday] but I’m absolutely delighted with what she just did in there,” says Ros with a smile. “Myself, personally, I feel like it’s been a bit harshly marked — but I haven’t spoken to anybody that watched it properly yet, so there might have been things I could have done better, but I was really delighted with the way she went.”

This year, Ros has been experimenting with the mare’s warm-up regime, and now favours a much more low-key approach to getting the good stuff in the arena.

“You just have to persuade yourself that twenty minutes is plenty in the warmup, and most of that is spent in walk: I do two minutes work, have a walk, two minutes work, have a walk, two minutes work, have a walk, and then I walk down here. She just needs to feel good in her body, and the day before a competition, sometimes she looks spicy, but she needs to look spicy in order to be upbeat enough in there for things like the changes.”

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

Pippa Funnell sits fourth overnight with Billy Walk On on his first trip to France since his young horse years, but while most of us would be frothing at the mouth to score a 29.6 at this level, Pippa was frustrated to post the second-worst score of the 14-year-old gelding’s seven-strong five-star record. They, too, suffered a spook in the ring — “he’s probably too experienced for that, really” — but the source of her frustrations wasn’t her horse, but rather, an anomaly in the stewarding that seemed to have been rectified later on in the day. Pippa was one of several riders who was sent down the chute from the collecting ring well before the prior test had finished, which meant that her on-the-boil and impeccably warmed-up mount suddenly had to contend with the confusion of ping-ponging back and forth down the chute until he could finally enter the ring.

“I was fuming,” admits Pippa, “because we  were sent down so early, when the test before still had all the canter work to do. I came back [to the warm-up] because I realised [the rider before me] was on her walk, and then I was sent right back down again — so that was annoying, because it was just enough that I lost the lovely feeling that I had out here. A lot of it is about split timing, isn’t it, at this level? Not overdoing it, not underdoing it, and loads of transitions just before so he’s prepped up and ready — but then he doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going because I kept on having to turn him back from the arena. You want to go straight in when you’re sent up.”

Nadja Minder and her horse of a lifetime, Toblerone, position themselves with the legends of the sport on their five-star debut. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The top four at the tail end of today’s competition are all household names in the sport of eventing, as are several more of the top ten — but for many fans of the sport, the rider in fifth place might be something of an unfamiliar face. 23-year-old Nadja Minder came to Pau with her horse of a lifetime, the 16-year-old Swiss Sport Horse Toblerone (Yarlands Summer Song x Medelyne), hoping to gain experience at a new level to them both; she certainly didn’t expect that that would involve delivering a competitive performance in the first phase. But that’s exactly what they did, putting a 30.5 — a top-three score for them across their 31-run FEI career — on the board to sit at the business end going into day two.

“What a time to do it!” says a delighted Nadja, who is Switzerland’s sole representative at Pau this week. “I mean, this horse keeps impressing me; keeps making my dreams come true, still. I’m so proud of him. The dressage was never the easiest phase for him, and we had to work a lot and we really had to make him believe that he can do it in the ring. I mean, he thinks he can jump a seven star cross-country but, it’s so cool that he now believes in himself when he’s in the ring, too, and shows off like he did. I’m so proud.”

Getting to that point, she explains, has just been a matter of patience and sympathetic riding to work out Toblerone’s comfort zones and gently expand them, taking everything back to basics as needed to reestablish his confidence.

“It took me some time to really figure out how he ticks, and it’s a little bit the same in the show jumping,” says Nadja. “He wants to be careful, but he doesn’t have the technique to do it, and when he’s unsure he maybe even starts to stop at the colourful fences. It was a little bit the same in the dressage. It was like, when we were easygoing, and he felt safe, he was super, and from the point we wanted to push him more or wanted more, to get higher marks or a flashier trot or whatever, but it felt like it stressed him out. Maybe I’m not the right jockey to ride it properly, but as I got to know him better,  I think I figured the training out, to just not push him too much, and to really make him believe, and then it just got better. But sometimes, like at the beginning of this year, I had a little bit of a step back again, because I wanted too much again, and then he started to stress out in the ring, and then nothing works anymore, and now we’re back to normal.”

Nadja Minder and Toblerone. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Nadja’s long been dreaming of making the move up to five-star — one that isn’t always common with many of the continental competitors, who’s pathways are often more championship-based. But the growing string of horses she’s producing to the top level opened a window of opportunity to make the move up with her old friend, with whom she contested this year’s European Championships and last year’s World Championships.

“To be honest, I was thinking about [coming to Pau] since last December. But it takes a lot of good circumstances to get your horse to five star. The thought process behind it was that the Europeans went well, and the cross country wasn’t that long, [because it was shortened to eight minutes]. So it wasn’t really a long format, even though the horses got tired anyway. I always wanted to ride a five star, and I luckily have other horses in my stable who I can think about for Paris next year. Maybe if there was only Toblerone, I wouldn’t have had the courage to come here. But I thought, it’s the time to do it, and if not now, when?”

Toblerone has been Nadja’s partner through the realisation of so many of her lifelong dreams: before the World and European Championships, they picked up an individual eleventh place finish in the 2021 Young Rider European Championships at Segersjö, and she contested her first-ever four-star with the gelding that year too, giving her valuable mileage to bring several more of her horses to the level. And so this moment? It’s understandably a pretty major one.

“I’m so f*cking proud of him,” she beams. “I have to be careful that I don’t start to cry! But right now… he’s so special. When he came to me, we didn’t know that he is this good, but it’s always very special when riders have their Young Rider horse [through to Seniors]. When you’re a young rider, you maybe have more time to process a partnership, so the process comes naturally than when you’re more experienced and you maybe have owners who push more or whatever. But  we never had expectations with him — it just happened, and he made the step from Young Riders to the Senior camp so easy. I don’t know if even now I know what I have with him. Maybe in a few years time I will realise how incredibly special he is. I don’t know if I can appreciate it — I appreciate him like crazy, but maybe in a few years time I really will know how special he was.”

Muzi Pottinger and Just Kidding. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

New Zealand’s Muzi Pottinger sits sixth overnight on a 31.1 with the full Thoroughbred, Just Kidding, while Kylie Roddy and SRS Kan Do, who were eleventh here two years ago, are equal seventh on 31.7 with Izzy Taylor and Happy Days. The top ten is rounded out by British-based Frenchman and five-star debutant Gaspard Maksud on his World Championships top-ten finisher Zaragoza, on a 32.9, just behind ninth-placed reigning Pau champ Jonelle Price and her Pratoni team bronze medallist McClaren, on a 32.4.

Tomorrow sees a full day of dressage on the agenda, beginning at 10.00 a.m. local time/9.00 a.m. BST/4.00 a.m. EST with France’s Cedric Lyard first in the ring with the experienced Unum De’Or. Check out the times in full here, and if you want to follow along with the form, you’ll find EN’s 5* Form Guide here. Tune in for the live stream via Horse&Country TV, and keep it locked onto to EN for live updates, full reports, and plenty of behind-the-scenes glimpses of all the goings-on via our Instagram account, too. Until then: Go Eventing!

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

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

Phenomenal Weather for Ducks at Pau’s First Horse Inspection, Where Stuff Happened, But Mostly Rain

“I hate my life.”
Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Generally, I like to think I watch horse inspections with a pretty analytical eye. I look at hooves, I look at stride length and whether it’s equilateral, I quietly brew up ways to make fun of all the outfits. I am present.

Today, I would like to be less present.

“Please. I beg of you. Make this an indoor sport.” Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The first horse inspection at Les 5 Etoiles de Pau, the final CCI5* of the 2023 season, took place mid-morning under the watchful eye of ground jury President Nikki Herbert (GBR), Helen Christie (NZL), and Emmanuelle Olier (FRA). It also took place under the watchful eye of probably the most malevolent raincloud I’ve ever encountered, at a horse inspection at least.

“Why didn’t I get into hamster breeding instead?” Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Just two horses were held through the course of proceedings, which was quite enough to make me want to consider a fistfight with the ground jury, not because they were wrong in their decision, but because I’d happily have sent a dying chicken on a unicycle through to dressage if it meant we could get the whole thing done a bit faster.

Izzy Taylor and Happy Days encapsulate THE VIBE. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Those not-dying-chickens-on-unicycles were both of the strong British contingent that’s come forward this week, and both of them, Selina Milnes’s Gelmer and Izzy Taylor’s Happy Days (truly, WHAT ARE THOSE) were accepted upon re-presentation. One further horse, James Avery’s debutant MBF Connection, was asked to trot a second time but not held. And then, I guess, some other people and some other horses fannied about on the trot strip; I don’t know, it felt like we were there for hours and I’ve been having to wring my sleeves out ever since. Can confirm, though, that all 55 are accepted. What more do you want from me?!

“I, inexplicably, am having quite a nice time, actually.” Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Just kidding. Kind of. We’re all delighted to be here, really, even if the south of France is meant to be much sunnier than this. Pau is a firm favourite, not just in my own and EN’s calendar, but in the calendar of the riders it attracts: it’s got a much more laidback end-of-season feel than the pomp and circumstance of the ‘big ones’, and it’s much more compact, too, with the lorry park and schooling area abutting the public food and trade village, which means that everyone intermingles with everyone else, and it’s just really quite nice, you know? It’s also an event that’s chock full of all the bonkers bonuses we all really, truly desire: pint-sized middle-aged Frenchmen in horse costumes, an inexplicable leather-clad horse dominatrix that wanders around, propositioning children, a horseball tournament, for some reason, and something new this year that keeps landing in my inbox with excitable headlines telling me to check out the ‘PONEY DERBY!!!’ that’ll take place in the main arena. Sure! I have no idea what’s happening! Sign me up! I’m still recovering from the bout of ennui that hit me when I realised that they’re not also hosting combined driving again this year, as they ordinarily do, because nothing thrills me more than seeing carriage horses and eventers do a lap of honour together, but I’ll survive — and more importantly, so will our competitors, this year.

Boyd, you good, my man? Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Dressage will begin this afternoon at 2.30 p.m. local time/1.30 p.m. BST/8.30 a.m. EST, with New Zealand double-hander Jesse Campbell first in the ring aboard his debutant, Cooley Lafitte. We’ll see nineteen horses and riders in total today, though none of our small but might US contingent — and you won’t want to miss this spicy first batch, which includes France’s Gaspard Maksud and Zaragoza, who were sixth at the World Championships last year, team bronze medallists Jonelle Price and McClaren, and Piggy March and the former Nicola Wilson ride Coolparks Sarco. You can check out the times in full here, and tune in via Horse&Country TV to catch all the action — a viewing mode I highly recommend, because it’s going to dump 30ml of rainfall on us in exactly the scheduled time period that dressage will be underway, according to H&H snapper Peter Nixon. So that’s fun. Wish me luck. Wish us all luck. Go Eventing. Or swimming. And in the meantime, catch up on everything that you need to know with our packed form guide. It’s dry in there.

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


A British-Bred Champion and a Double-Winner: The Le Lion d’Angers Debrief

Germany’s Anna Siemer and Pirate Smile present for the Seven-Year-Old World Championship at Le Lion d’Angers. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Mondial du Lion – or the FEI WBFSH Eventing World Breeding Championship for Young Horses, to use its full and wildly uncatchy name — is, arguably, one of the most fascinating competitions of the season. Situated in the heart of the rural Loire Valley in central France, famed for its chateaux and plethora of studs, it’s a celebration of the best of event horse breeding, in all its forms.

The format of the competition is effectively two championship classes: the Six-Year-Old World Championship runs as a CCI2*-L, while the Seven-Year-Old World Championship is a CCI3*-L, and both classes benefit from striking, uniquely artistic courses designed by Frenchman Pierre Michelet, who is also responsible for many Senior championships and, of course, the CCI5* at Pau, which will take place this week. The courses run across the racetrack at Le Lion d’Angers, which is itself a wholly unique entity in its own right, featuring sharp terrain that’s well utilised in its many jumps racing meetings. Actually, we could describe this to you further, but sometimes, only video proof can do – so here’s a glimpse at what that racetrack looks like when its being used for its usual duties.

The sprawling, wooded estate of Le Lion also features heavily in both courses, which give a comprehensive education in a wide array of obstacle types, varying terrain, and, most pertinently, enormous atmosphere. This is often the first time horses of these age groups will have competed in anything more well-attended than a mostly empty field somewhere; here, though, they meet tens of thousands of hugely enthusiastic, very knowledgeable French spectators, who clamour at the ropes, which are strung close to the fences. By the time a horse completes their weekend, they’ve generally levelled up in maturity, gained a Masters degree in being an event horse, and, even if they’ve picked up penalties along the way or, in fact, failed to complete at all (notable Le Lion non-completors of the past include Daisy Dick’s Spring Along, who became a stalwart of the British team, and Nicola Wilson’s Opposition Buzz, widely heralded as one of the greatest cross-country horses of the modern age).

The six-year-old competition was the domain of the morning’s activities on each day of the Mondial, and frankly, these riders of baby-green youngsters will have been thrilled: the weather wasn’t kind to the competition this year, and each afternoon, the heavens opened, notably on Thursday, when the afternoon’s seven-year-old competition was punctuated by heavy rain, thunder, and lightning — a storm so bad that the arena disappeared under standing water and the cross-country course, too, was gifted several new, unplanned water complexes, raising concerns about whether the competition might have to be abandoned, as it was in 2012 when the Oudon river, which runs along the edge of the hippodrome, burst its banks.

Mollie Summerland and Mojo glide through the stretchy trot circle. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

So it was some blessing that, in the first batch of horses on the first day of dressage, the sun shone merrily away over British five-star winner Mollie Summerland and six-year-old Jardy CCIYH2*-S winner Mojo, who she rides for Ginnie Wellings, Jane Grover, and Oliver Wood. Thanks, in part, to the KWPN gelding’s breeding — he’s dressage bred, sired by Governor, a son of Totilas, and out of a Stedinger mare — and, of course, to Mollie’s famously finely-honed dressage riding, the pair soared into the lead on a score of 25.1. By the close of the first phase the next day, nobody had managed to usurp them, but they were in fine company in the press conference, with fellow Brits Izzy Taylor and Kitty King sitting second and third, respectively.

Mollie Summerland and Mojo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

In his first-ever CCI2*-L cross-country test, too, Mojo shone. He and Mollie added nothing to their first-phase score to retain the overnight lead; Izzy and Kitty, for their part, managed the same feat, which meant that the two-phase podium was unshifted.

Kitty King and Kantango. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

On the final day, though, everything changed. Le Lion, which — thankfully — installed a surface in its main arena a couple of years ago after a particularly swampy year, builds a tough showjumping track for the level, and that’s compounded by the atmosphere on the final day that even five-star riders often say is the biggest they’ve ever faced. It’s not just that every available seat is filled: people flock to fence lines, cram into hospitality tents, crowd onto balconies, and even scale walls to perch atop them and watch the jumping with an intensity that’s well beyond even that at pin-drop-quiet Badminton or chatty and cheery Kentucky. The tension is palpable, and if a horse knocks a fence, it breaks from dead silence to a crescendo of groans that cascades out into loud laughter and conversation and gasping recollection of how thrilling the whole moment was, which is, we reckon, probably exactly as fun as you’d expect it’d be when you’re on a wiggle-worm of a six-year-old who hasn’t yet quite figured out that he owns legs.

And, of course, they enter the arena to all this, too — especially if they have the terrible luck of coming in off the back of another competitor’s clear round. That’s exactly what Mollie and the sharp, sensitive Mojo rode into after a classy clear by Izzy and the British-bred Barrington Alice, and at first, Mojo’s focus was noticeably jarred; while Mollie did an admirable job of settling him and building his confidence throughout their round, he toppled two green rails with his hind legs, dropping the two-phase leaders down to ninth and giving Izzy the win.

Izzy Taylor and Barrington Alice. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The 2023 season has been something of a testament to British breeding: our Badminton champion and the European champion, Ros Canter’s Lordships Graffalo, is a product of the country’s burgeoning breeding programme, which has been on the up and up for the last few years; likewise, last week’s Maryland 5* winner, Austin O’Connor’s Colorado Blue, was bred in Britain. That’s just the tip of the very exciting iceberg for this year, and there’s still another CCI5* yet to come, but to have a British-bred Six-Year-Old World Champion, as we now do in Barrington Alice, is a huge boon.

“These six-year-olds come here and they’ve never seen anything like it, but by the end, all being well, they think they’re very clever,” smiles Izzy, who rides Barrington Alice for co-owner Johnny Hornby. “She’s a lovely horse with a very good brain, and she’s classy. I hope she’ll be a Senior championship horse; she handled this week impeccably in every phase, and was very professional. She was never going to touch a fence on the final day.”

Barrington Alice was bred by Susie Holroyd, also the breeder of Izzy’s former top-level mount Allercombe Ellie, and is sired by Zangersheide jumping sire Cevin Z and out of the full Thoroughbred Allercombe Mayday, by Kuwait Beach. The grey mare, who has finished in the top three in all her Novice and Intermediate runs, began her week on a 26.1, and added just 0.8 time in the final phase to secure the win.

“The course was, I thought, plenty tough enough for them,” says Izzy. “We were eased in with two overs and then it got technical, and the time was tight enough for the babies. They had to keep thinking and keep jumping — it was a good track, but it wasn’t easy.”

Stephane Landois celebrates with Hermes du Gevaudan. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kitty King and the very appealing British-bred Kantango (by Tangelo van de Zuuthoeve and out of Eclaire, a daughter of Winningmood — himself the sire of Kitty’s European silver medallist, Vendredi Biats) also had a rail, knocking them from that overnight third down to sixth, and opening the door for young Frenchman Stephane Landois to take the silver medal with the Selle Français Hermes Du Gevaudan, who climbed from first-phase sixth after adding nothing through the weekend to his dressage score of 27.7.

“I am very, very happy with this weekend,” says Stephane, reflecting on his week with the son of Quintus d’09. “My horse was very focused; wonderful until the end. I was keen to have a great competition for this first here, at the Mondial du Lion, and the objective is more than fulfilled because I am on the podium. It’s awesome! I am very satisfied with all the work I have done with this horse, with his progress and obviously it is a great satisfaction when you cross the finish line. Hermès is going to take a little vacation and then we will prepare for his 7-year-old season, hoping to come back here with him next year.”

Amanda Goldsbury and Cooley On Ice. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

New Zealand debuted a new star rider this weekend in Amanda Goldsbury, who’s based in Ireland and rides for Richard Sheane’s Cooley Farm enterprise. She expertly piloted the Zangersheide mare Cooley On Ice (Cicero Z x Dirties, by Diamant de Semilly) to a climb from first-phase fifth, on a 27.6, to a final bronze medal, adding nothing across the country and 1.2 time penalties in the showjumping.

“It’s my first time at Le Lion, so it was obviously a really exciting result for us,” says Amanda. “We’ve only had the mare since June and she’d never evented; she’s done four events before coming here, so she’s very, very inexperienced, but she’s amazing — she’s brave, careful, and a lot of fun to ride. Everything she’s been asked, she’s always delivered, so I think her future should be very exciting.”

Sweden’s Therese Viklund took fourth place with the Swedish Warmblood mare Sella (by Mr Van GJ 1324), while British-based Australian five-star competitor Isabel English piloted Cil Dara Bombay S (Balou du Rouet x Cil Dara Duchess, by Diarado) to fifth.

Quidley Kellerman and Blakeneys Cruise. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Our sole US competitor in this class, seventeen-year-old Quidley Kellerman and her Irish Sport Horse gelding, Blakeneys Cruise (FFS Correlli Bravo x Caoimhes Crusing, by Cruising) made good on a long-held dream, not just completing their Le Lion debut but doing so with a top twenty finish after executing a classy clear under pressure on the final day. They added just 1.2 time penalties to their first-phase score of 34.9 to take twentieth place — and now, Quidley’s preparing to stay at Kevin McNab’s UK base for 2024 with the aim of a return to Le Lion for the Seven-Year-Old Championship next year.

“He’s been so good; it’s just been so fun to be able to come and enjoy it,” says Quidley. “He really took the atmosphere on really well, and this whole season, he’s come along so much. This is really the finishing touch to see it all come together.”

The final top ten in the Six-Year-Old World Championship.

Tom Carlile and Golden de Beliard win again. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The list of horses who’ve won Le Lion as both six- and seven-year-olds is a small and exclusive one — and one that French young horse mastermind Tom Carlile is well familiar with. He added another to the list this year, taking the Seven-Year-Old World Championship with last year’s Six-Year-Old winner, the Anglo-Arab mare Golden de Beliard – a daughter of his own former team mount, Upsilon, and out of Vieusinge du Maury, by Julienne.

“I still find it hard to believe it but I can only be happy,” says Tom, who began his week with the mare in fifth place on a 28.3, stepped up to third overnight after adding no penalties across the country, and then moved into the win in a moment of kismet with a faultless round on Sunday. “Golden’s progression is fantastic, and now, she goes a bit into the history of the World Cup — there aren’t many horses who have won two years in a row. I have known the mare since her debut; Golden’s mother is also the mother of Sirocco du Gers, who won here 10 years ago, in 2013, so she is an exceptional mother. The family is great, but this little mare is amazing. Yesterday she did a fantastic cross country. I’m a little emotional but I’m happy!”

Tom Carlile and Golden de Beliard. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tom didn’t think that he’d be jumping for the win; when he executed his classy clear, he was still sitting third, and with strong competitors ahead of him in overnight leader Nicolas Touzaint, perhaps the most-medalled rider at this event, and Belgium’s Lara de Liedekerke-Meier, one of this season’s winningest riders, a significant podium jump seemed unlikely. But then Lara crossed the finish line a fraction of a second over the optimum time, adding 0.4 penalties to her tally, and Nicolas used up his rail in hand and then — groan-inducingly — tipped the last, and victory was Tom’s, by just a tenth of a penalty.


“I couldn’t really imagine that I was going to win – I was just concentrating on riding my horse and riding the course,” he says. “The horse warmed up well and was calm enough during the round, and so she jumped as we’d hoped, with a great attitude and energy. I was very happy that the sun was shining as we did our round, and I’m so happy to have come out on top. I’m very happy to now have won both editions of the Mondial with the mare. She’s had a really good season, and thankfully, she’s come out of this feeling well, so now she can have a rest and then we can consider her next steps. It’s still a young horse next year, but one that I really respect, so I want her to maintain the form in the next season. She has a lot of want to do everything I ask of her, and I really hope that that lasts and we can carry this year’s luck through. We’ve really taken the time to train her slowly and respect her, and so I don’t feel rushed or pressured to move her up the next goals.”

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

Belgium’s Lara de Liedekerke-Meier might be ruing that fraction of a second for a while, but she’ll still be thrilled to have maintained the second place she held all week with the exciting Kiarado d’Arville, a homebred by Diarado and out of Nooney Blue (by Jet Set du Rezidal), the mare with whom Lara stepped up from Young Riders to her first Senior Championships appearance.

“Well, I haven’t changed my chair! But I’m really happy,” laughs Lara, sitting once again on the left-hand side of the press conference. “The horse had a really good competition, though I do have a little bit of regret that I didn’t come first. He did a really good dressage, a really good cross-country, and he jumped fantastically on the final day. He’s a product of ours, so we’re really happy.”

Kiarado’s 0.4 on the final day, plus 2 time penalties on cross-country, are all he added to his first-phase score of 26 — and now, Lara plans to continue his education in much the same way she’s enacted it so far, with a major long-term goal on the horizon.

“Each year he’s moved up a level, so hopefully next year he can tackle his eight-year-old season in the same manner – but I feel absolutely no pressure for him to move up, either,” she says. “He’s a horse that I have in mind as a prospect for Los Angeles [in 2028], and so my priority is simply to keep producing him in all three phases.”

Astier Nicolas and Gravure de la Mouline. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

French Olympic medallist Astier Nicolas took advantage of the open door left by Nicolas Touzaint’s fall to seventh place, stepping up into bronze with from first-phase sixth by finishing on his dressage score of 28.7 with the Selle Français mare Gravure de la Mouline (Eldorado de Hus x Quandy de Hus Z, by Que Guapo).

“I’m very happy with Gravure, who is a bit of a local,” says Astier. “She was raised near Saumur [the home of the Cadre Noir, based in the same region as Le Lion] and I bought her here at Lion d’Angers when she was participating in the Espoirs du Complet [a competition and sale for three-year-olds at the show]. She is a very efficient mare, very competitive, who trains well, jumps well and is great on the cross. She always stood out a little from the crowd. Yesterday she behaved very well and was not disturbed by the public. The terrain was demanding, the course is very hilly and the ground was a bit heavy even though it was good, so seeing the dynamic horses and jumping with freshness today is satisfying. She had never run on heavy ground so last night, we weren’t sure what it would be like today on the bars. But she recovered well and I knew she had a good chance of being clear. She had a great run and I am very satisfied.”

Hallie Coon and Lucky Fortuna. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Three US competitors began the week at Le Lion in this class, and two finished it: Hallie Coon was delighted with the performance of her inexperienced Lucky Fortuna (Cohinoor VDL x Fulavsca Fortuna), who finished 54th after a planned educational week saw him jump a sweet, steady clear across the country for 30.4 time penalties.

Chris Talley and Loughtown Cici. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Chris Talley finished just below her in 55th with the Irish Sport Horse mare Loughtown Cici (CC Captain Cruise x Castlelawn Diamond Clover, by White Clover), who similarly jumped a steady clear on Saturday and had two rails down on Sunday in what was a formative, educational outing. His second ride, the Holekamp-Turner grant recipient Gina, jumped well on Saturday in tough conditions, but was unfortunately eliminated late on the course for having been deemed to be outside a flag on a corner. A frustrating result, undoubtedly, but one that won’t take away from the enormous education the talented mare received over the two days of her competition.

“A mixed bag of results yesterday here at Mondial du Lion, but to say these horses were anything less than incredible wouldn’t be fair because they both were unreal yesterday,” wrote Chris on his social media on Sunday. “Loughtown Cici ZA was an absolute legend. She made easy work of the cross country course, and felt like she was up for more. I’ll kick myself for not putting my foot on the gas a bit more but at the end of the day, she is home safe and sound and she showed everybody yesterday this is only just a stepping stone toward her very bright future.

“Gina was nothing short of brilliant yesterday. She got the unfortunate spot of going second to last after some 68 horses had run around on already tough ground after 2 days of heavy rain. She jumped beautifully around the course and really dug deep in the testing footing. As we neared the end of the course and a down hill slope to a sharp turn to a corner she slipped a bit but pricked her ears and locked onto the flags like the gutsy mare she is. She jumped the wide part of the corner taking the inside flag down. The ruling was we were outside the flag, and Gina and I were sadly eliminated. It’s easy to be disappointed, but again at the end of the day she came across the finish line safe and sound and to us that is what is most important. There is no doubt her day will come.

“I will never have enough words to thank Hannah and Joan for their unwavering support and for making this possible. Thank you to the Holekamp Turner Grant and the USEA for this opportunity. As they say, you are always learning and this week has certainly been full of learning opportunities and growth.”

That’s all — for now — from Le Lion d’Angers, but keep it locked on EN (and our Instagram account!) to get further looks at some of these very exciting young horses, and the beautiful courses they faced in France. For now, we’re heading a bit further south to get the Pau adventure started — so allons-y, baby!

The top ten in the Seven-Year-Old World Championship.

Mondial du Lion links: Website | 6YO Results | 7YO Results

Tuesday News & Notes from Kentucky Performance Products

Many of us know Dan Kreitl as the high-flying amateur who became the USEF CCI4*-L National Champion — and an all-round real good egg, to boot. But what you might not be aware of is his wife Alyssa’s ongoing battle against appendix cancer, with which she was diagnosed while pregnant with the couple’s second child in 2021. She’s now begun an intensive round of chemotherapy, and while her loved ones are rallying around her, they could all use support – and this fundraiser, organised by Andrea McVicker, aims to ensure they have meal deliveries to ease the strain over the coming months.

The fundraiser’s post reads:

“Alyssa and Dan have already been through so much, and most of you know, Alyssa’s difficult health battles continue. But she will not be defeated!! She continues to fight and feels strengthened by her loving husband and 2 amazing children, along with all of her family and friends who love and support her. Alyssa has started a very vigorous and intense Chemo treatment plan that will last several months. It wipes her out and, based on this first round, takes about 4-5 days to feel somewhat functional again. There have been so many people, even friends of friends – which has been awesome to see! – ask what they can do to help. Well here is one way we can come alongside Dan, Alyssa, and kids and offer assistance to help take something off their minds. If you don’t live close by but want to help, scheduling a meal delivery is an option or giving gift cards is an idea too! Thank you for considering. I know it means a lot to them!”

You can donate to the Meal Train fundraiser here.

Events Opening Today: Full Gallop Farm Jingle Bells H.T

Events Closing Today: Full Moon Farm’s Fall HTHorse Trials at Majestic OaksRiver Glen Fall H.T.

Tuesday News & Notes from Around the World:

Not ready to say goodbye to the MARS Maryland 5 Star yet? Honestly, same. Relive the weekend with this gallery of images from US Eventing, full of action shots, candids, celebrations, and more. It’s, simply, a bunch of beautiful work.

And now, rewind to a couple of competitions ago! Knockemdown and Alison O’Dwyer won the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover earlier this month, beating out a huge selection of some of the country’s most dynamic second-career athletes. The four-year-old trained to race, but never made it to the track, and is now beginning his career as a dressage horse — and COTH caught up with Alison to find out more about him, plus, caught a video of his winning performance.

Is your horse showing pain signs during exercise, or are those learned habits? This quandary can become even more pronounced if you’re rehabbing your horse from injury, and this piece by Jec Ballou can help to begin the demystification process.

Horse rescue used to be a largely individual process, but in 2018, the Equine Welfare Data Collective was formed to unify it. Now, it’s much easier to get a sense of the scale of rescue operations and of horses across the US in need of homes. Find out more about this effort here.

Ready for the Pan Ams? Get the need-to-knows on the equestrian disciplines from the Olympic Committee right here.

#Santiago2023: [Website] [Sport Schedule] [FEI Info Hub] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

Watch This:

Rewatch the Seven-Year-Old CCI3*-L cross-country at Le Lion d’Angers:

Monday News & Notes from FutureTrack

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m coming into this rainy Monday feeling absolutely emptied out by the weekend that was — in a nice way, though! I spent my weekend on site at the World Championships for Six- and Seven-Year-Olds at Le Lion d’Angers (more on this to come soon!), watching the five-star winners of the future make their big-league debuts, and on the other side of the pond, half my brain was very committed to following the MARS Maryland 5 Star. That time difference definitely helped me out — Maryland’s 5* was usually beginning as I was wrapping up for the day, so I could fill each day with wall to wall eventing. And now I am a shell of a person, particularly after letting most of my soul escape my body with the shout I let out when that second rail fell for Oliver, ensuring Austin O’Connor Ireland’s first five-star win in nearly six decades.

But let’s also take a moment to talk about Mia Farley, who has been such an extraordinary shining light over the course of her five-star debut. Last Monday, we led this News & Notes roundup with photos of her riding ponies as a wee kidlet; this week, she begins a new week as the only person to make the time at Maryland, six seconds faster, even, than Austin and Salty, who are arguably the fastest duo in the sport. Two rails knocked her off the podium with her OTTB Phelps, but that’s always been his tricky phase and their round was undeniably one of their best — and fifth at your first five-star is pretty damn incredible. Well done, Mia — the future of US eventing looks bright with you. 

Major International Events

MARS Maryland 5 Star: [Website] [Results] [EN’s Coverage]

Young Horse World Championships (Le Lion D’Angers, France): [Website] [Results]

#Santiago2023: [Website] [Sport Schedule] [FEI Info Hub] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

Hagyard Midsouth Three-day Event: [Website] [Scoring]

U.S. Weekend Preview

Hagyard Midsouth Three-day Event (Lexington, KY) [Website] [Results]

Ram Tap National H.T. (Fresno, CA) [Website] [Results]

SAzEA Fall H.T. (Tucson, AZ) [Website] [Results]

Willow Draw Charity Show (Weatherford, TX) [Website] [Entries] [Results]

Windermere Run H.T. (Grandview, MO) [Website] [Results]

Your Monday Reading List:

Voting has opened for the 2023 Horse & Hound awards, and there are plenty of eventers in the running to take these coveted titles in the enormously glam ceremony this winter. Want to help give them something to celebrate? Cast your votes now.

We’ve long been fans of New Zealand’s Monica Spencer, and after Maryland, we reckon a lot of people will be keen to know more about this dynamo and her remarkable Thoroughbred. COTH caught up with her at Maryland to find out more about her journey so far, and her new life in the US.

The Pan Ams are underway, and dressage is leading the way for the equestrian sports. Head to Santiago with the FEI to check out the venue, find out what’s been going down, and see how the riders have been settling in.

Morning Viewing:

Get to know Australian 5* eventer Sammi Birch and her husband Ed in the latest episode of Eventing Weekly!

Dangerous Amphibians and Disco Divas: The Maryland 5 Star Golden Chinch Awards

For the last 24 to 48 to, okay, let’s be real, 150 or so hours, I have been deep in the kind of sulk you simply cannot reach me through. It is a sulk like a swamp; a mood so thick and soupy and opaque that I might as well have ear plugs in and an eye mask on. The reason for this dire state of emotional affairs? Simple: I haven’t been sent across the pond to the MARS Maryland 5 Star, presented by Brown Advisory, this year, even though I had the most fun last year and that, surely, is what I’m paid to do, right? RIGHT?!

Anyway, there’s one person who knows me well enough to get me out of my swamp sulk, even when it’s at its very swampiest and sulkiest. That, of course, is my editor, Sally Spickard, who handed me an olive branch in the form of an opportunity: the opportunity to take it all out on this year’s competitors and their outfit choices.

And so, a short and sweet edition of the Golden Chinch Awards, to fit this small but perfectly-formed field of competitors. I love you all, and that’s why I’m horrible to you, which is a really healthy way to view interactions with other people, right?

The Golden Chinch for Dressing to the Brief if the Brief is ‘A Wedding in India’

Austin O’Connor (IRE) and Colorado Blue. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Every time Austin rocks up in this waistcoat, I get that MC Punjabi song stuck in my head, which is great news for me, because I think that might actually be one of the all-time greatest bangers ever created, and that is an opinion you will not sway me from. I’ve actually now gone on a deep-dive about this waist coat style, which I’m not really going to make fun of, because that would be a weird thing to do after pointing out that it looks like a bit of Indian formal wear. So instead, some fun facts: that’s actually called a Sadri, or a Nehru jacket, apparently, and you can pair it with Kurta pyjama sets to elevate a look to wedding-ready, which, frankly, suggests to me that all the rest of us are doing weddings wholly and completely wrong, because I have never once been told I can wear pyjamas for the nuptials and not be shamed for it. How did the Nehru jacket worm its way into the tweedy stylings of the British nouveau-aristocracy’s favourite clothing brands? IDK, probably the same way coronation chicken became one of Britain’s most recognisable sandwich fillings: colonisation.*

*This is a joke, kind of, so please don’t shout at me in the comments, because I probably won’t read them anyway.

The Golden Chinch for Doing That Thing That Venomous Frogs Do and Looking Real Colourful and Fun While Also Being Frightening, Actually, and Maybe Dangerous

Caroline Powell (NZL) and Greenacres Special Cavalier. Photo by Sally Spickard.

I think my favourite thing about this outfit is that it’s like, quite sweet, right? It’s a bit Barbie-meets-flower-power; a bit bright and saccharine, in a nice way, but definitely in a way that suggests that its wearer probably hands out lollipops to orphaned kittens in her down time, or something. But if you’ve met Caroline — or, indeed, just about any high-achieving female event rider from New Zealand — you know that the reality is rather different. The reality is kind of more like that one gnarly Shetland pony at every yard that’s just too damn mean to die. They kick! They bite! They’re somehow dangerous in the middle! Why is it that Kiwis have the reputation for being laidback when this is so often the reality? (Jonelle, I’m looking at you, too, here.)

(For what it’s worth, Caroline is actually great. She’s very funny. She’s a good egg. Jonelle, too. But they are both TERRIFYING. Don’t accept the lollipop.)

The Golden Chinch for Treating Life Like a Picnic By Also Dressing Like a Picnic

Mia Farley and Phelps. Photo by Sally Spickard.

When you’ve got the trot-up at 1 and the regional saucisson and cider festival at 3, amiright? When you’ve somehow developed a taste for olives that’s so insatiable that at any point in time, you need to be able to stop, drop, and roll, and then crack open several of those 3-for-$10 fancy snack selection tubs and dive right on into those divisive, oily bad boys, yaknooowwww? Actually, Mia’s outfit is very sensible, because if she were to sit on the grass in those almost disturbingly pristine white jeans, she would end up with a green bum, but because she has enshrouded herself in a handy-dandy blanket, she can sit wherever she likes. She’s like this guy! Kind of.

The Golden Chinch for Managing Microclimates

Lillian Heard Wood and LCC Barnaby. Photo by Sally Spickard.

We are, realistically, at a cusp. The cusp of seasons, wherein surprisingly hot days become wintry chills as the sun goes down; the cusp, too, of our descent into a climate that simply cannot be regulated, and something to do with Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo di Caprio.

Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I, for one, am always somehow both a little bit chilly and a little bit sweaty at the moment, and pretty much always kind of grumpy as a result. And maybe Lillian Heard Wood (did she?) feels the same way, because she’s got this thing going on today that’s very winter-up-top, summer-down-below, which I think must regulate core temperature while also allowing for maximum breathability, and may, as such, be the most sensible trot-up outfit I’ve ever seen.

That, or she bought a nice dress, and then got cold and panicked, which is also something I do often.

The Golden Chinch for Doubling Up on Necklines

Emily Hamel and Corvett. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Emily Hamel is the worthy winner and, in fact, the only true contender in this category, although that might just be because we don’t ever really know what’s lurking beneath the collars of event riders, nor should we aspire to know, in most cases. Here, though, Emily is proudly rocking that most universal of equestrian accessories in fine style, with a built-in V neck to go with a squared-off sweetheart neckline and a pair of very good shades that say “yeah, I know a thing or two about the sun, actually.” I’m not sure which Caribbean beach she’s been lying on prior to Maryland; I’m also not sure how well she’s faring emotionally now that she’s in a climate in which tights are a necessary layer to stave off the cold. Can someone check on Emily, maybe get her a pack of those shakeable hand warmers and also a margarita? Thanks.

The Golden Chinch for the Ra-Ra-Rasputin-est Rider

Sarah Kuhn and Mr. Cash van de Start. Photo by Sally Spickard.

There lived a certain gal in Aiken (not) long ago
She was tall and strong, in her eyes a flaming glow
Most people look at her with terror and with fear
But to five-star steeds she was such a lovely dear…

Or something like that, anyway. I’m not sure anyone looks at Sarah with terror, nor with fear, but I certainly always look at her with enormously high expectations, because this girl never fails to deliver on the outfit front. Whether it’s the silk tailcoat she rocked up in for dressage at Carolina this spring, or her baby blue showjumping jacket, or now this, the Studio 54 disco-decadent one-piece of dreams, she’s always bringing the noise. This outfit is my favourite of the day, because it is pure chaotic good. It’s giving Elton John. It’s giving Liberace. It’s giving, ‘I’m going to go dunk some hoops like that one bit in that Ice Cube song’. It’s giving ‘I’ll spook your horse with my sequins and I do not give a damn, but also, just try to hate me for it, because you can’t.’ Sarah Kuhn is a red rag to this fashion bull, and I’ve just lost my damn mind and got my horns stuck on the arena siding. I just hope she’s planning on wearing the shades on cross-country day.

MARS Maryland 5 Star: [Website] [Entries, Schedule & Times] [Live Scores] [Live Stream (North America)] [Live Stream (Outside North America)] [Tickets] [5* Form Guide] [Digital Program] [EN’s Coverage]

EN’s coverage of MARS Maryland 5 Star is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products.

Tuesday News & Notes from Kentucky Performance Products


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When we think about the heroes of eventing, our minds collectively turn to the most obvious recipients of that accolade — the much-medalled riders and horses who come out year after year and lead the way in the sport. But eventing is a huge machine, and an expansive family, and so many of the heroes of our industry are people whose faces we might not immediately pick out of a crowd, but without whom the whole thing would be just, well, less good! I love this post from Sara Kozumplik, shining light on one such industry champion. Edy Hunter Rameika has her fingers in a tonne of pies; she helped bring the free Morven Park live stream to life (which meant that eventing fans around the world tuned in to catch the action in Virginia!); she helped make the Corona Kentucky happen back in 2021; she’s committed to helping young riders, which she does by loaning out horses, hosting training camps, and funding programmes; and she’s a huge, vital part of the SEE Ever So Sweet Scholarship, which helps to promote diversity and open up access to our sport. In short: a real hero! Thanks so much for all you do, Edy.

Events Opening Today: Rocking Horse December H.T.

Events Closing Today: Virginia Horse Center Eventing FallTexas Rose Horse Park H.T.Rocking Horse Fall H.T.The Eventing Championships at Galway Downs

Tuesday News & Notes from Around the World:

We’ll be sad not to see reigning champion Tim Price come to Maryland this week. He was arguably the frontrunner of this year’s field with his Pau winner and World Champs medallist Falco, but the gelding was withdrawn due to the discovery of a benign tumour that required surgery. Horses, eh — they’ll find all sorts of ways to get out of doing their homework! You can read more about the surgery here — and heal up quick, Falco! We can’t wait to see you out and about again soon.

One rider who is coming to Maryland, though, is Booli Selmayr. She’ll have a packed week ahead of her: not only is she riding the lovely Millfield Lancando in the CCI5*, she also has a smart five-year-old coming forward for the YEH Championships. She caught up with sponsor World Equestrian Brands to shed some light on how preparing two very different horses for two very different classes — and a tonne of pressure — works for her.

This is THE most insanely packed month. We’ve got a five-star this week, another next week, a duo of Young Horse World Champions unfolding over the next few days… and the Pan-American Games before October wraps, too. We’ll be bringing you plenty of eventing coverage from Santiago, but if you want to follow all the disciplines, here’s the handy primer you need. If you need us, we’ll be mainlining espresso to try to keep on top of it all.

Hot on Horse Nation: We all boot our horses up as a matter of habit, right? But actually, could you be doing more harm than good while attempting to protect those tendons? The HN team, joined by a round table of pros, are mythbusting this exact question. Check out their consensus here.

Watch This:

We love inner-city access programmes — and this one, in Vancouver, deserves a deeper dive:

Monday News & Notes from FutureTrack

Horse girls: they all start out the same! How cute is this throwback gallery of a teeny-weeny Mia Farley? Now, she’s just days away from making her five-star debut – and we couldn’t be more excited to cheer her on. All these stars of the sport began in the same way us mere mortals did – with an irrepressible love of horses and ponies. Now? It’s their job to light the same flame for a whole new generation of little’uns on horseback. Mia, this week, the torch passes to you: we know you’ll carry it magnificently.

Maryland 5 Star: [Website] [Entries] [Live Stream] [Volunteer] [EN’s Coverage]

U.S. Weekend Action:

Morven Park International & Fall Horse Trials (Leesburg, VA) [Website] [Results]

Pine Hill Fall H.T. (Bellville, TX) [Website] [Results]

Poplar Place Farm October H.T. (Hamilton, GA) [Website] [Results]

Radnor Hunt H.T. (Malvern, PA) [Website] [Results]

Redefined Equestrian H.T. (Fort Collins, CO) [Website] [Results]

UK Weekend Results:

Oasby (2) (Grantham, Lincs.): [Results]

Littleton Manor (Reigate, Surrey): [Results]

Bovington (2) (Wool, Dorset): [Results]

Your Monday Reading List:

When you’re the caregiver for an elderly horse, knowing when to say goodbye can be extraordinarily tough. That’s why it’s become so common to hear people talking about giving their much-loved horse ‘one last summer’ — but is it really going to be a few months of golden sunshine, basking in rich grass, and enjoyment, or could you be prolonging the inevitable in a way that’s not actually particularly fair on your horse? Vets have weighed in with their opinion on H&H.

Interested in the role horses can play in easing post-traumatic symptoms? This free webinar, hosted by practitioner Dr Anita Shkedi, which will run on November 1st, is exactly what you need to delve into the details of this life-changing form of therapy. Find out more here.

Snowbirds, have you thought about the ‘w’ word yet? Unfortunately, winter is swiftly coming — but it doesn’t have to be a totally grim time of year for horsey folks, if we’re savvy enough to plan ahead and get our ducks in a row ready to batten down the hatches and cozy up with our herd. Nutrition is one of those crucial elements we need to get in place before our grazing situations change for the worse, and here, a nutritionist has chimed in to help you make sure you’ve got your feeding set-up down pat for the colder months.

Ready for a status update on Equestrian Canada? The governing body had its Annual General Meeting earlier this month, and our friends at Horse Sport have pulled together this useful summary of all the info you need to know.

 Morning Viewing:

Relive all 80,000 hours or so of Boekelo’s cross-country action:


Kick On: Equestrian Sport Confirmed for LA 2028 Olympics

One of the earliest bid photos for the equestrian facilities shows a temporary arena that isn’t dissimilar to Greenwich’s arena for London 2012. Photo courtesy of Los Angeles 2028.

Following a meeting of the International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board, held October 12–13 in Mumbai, India, it has been confirmed that equestrian sports (dressage, showjumping, and eventing) will feature as part of the programme at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics — a welcome, and long-awaited, bit of news to horsey folks around the world.

“We are delighted with the IOC’s announcement that the equestrian disciplines at competition at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games will be on the Los Angeles 2028 sports programme,” FEI president Ingmar De Vos says. “Equestrian has been part of the Olympics since 1912, and with such a strong heritage and enthusiasm for the sport in the US, we are looking forward to delivering successful and engaging Games, focussed on the future and the values which make it unique in the sporting landscape.

“This is only the beginning. Venue confirmation in the coming months and quotas for LA2028, which will be decided after Paris 2024, will be our next big milestones in the lead up to these Games. We are actively pursuing all avenues and making sure we have our finger on the pulse, as we look towards not only LA28 but also Paris24 which is just around the corner!”

Only Modern Pentathlon will be denied the chance to ride horses in Los Angeles; following controversy in Tokyo, the sport has been provisionally left off the LA programme, but will be reinstated, as recommended by the IOC Executive Board, if the horse riding phase is replaced by obstacle racing.

The announcement of the inclusion of equestrian sports might feel a bit like deja vu — and no, you’re not imagining that you’ve read it all before. Equestrian sports were confirmed as being among the initial proposed sports early in 2022, which was a positive first step towards inclusion in the Games themselves, but the equestrian disciplines were required to reach ‘universality, integrity and fairness, gender equality and popularity’ criteria in order to gain the final nod. This criteria fulfilment saw IOC President Thomas Bach visit last year’s FEI Eventing World Championships in Pratoni to evaluate the sport’s suitability.

We also reported last year on some early teasers released about potential venues in Los Angeles, all of which are currently going through the bidding and confirmation process. For now, it looks very much as though we’ll be Keeping Up With The K-equestrians in the North Valley area, so work on that vocal fry and get those salads shaken, baby.


Virginia’s Crown Jewel: How to Watch Morven Park International, Wherever You Are


Morven Park’s iconic house and parkland play host to one of the most exciting events of the year. Photo by Valerie Durbon Photography.

Is there anything better than wall-to-wall live event coverage? Wall-to-wall FREE live event coverage, natch — and that’s exactly what’s coming out of Morven Park International this week. They’ll be bringing you 2*, 3*, and 4* action from now until Sunday afternoon, all streamable through YouTube with no account or bank details needed.

Here’s the schedule for this year’s live-stream:

From 8:30 am – CCI4*-L and CCI4*-S dressage

From 9:00 am – CCI4*-L and CCI4*-S cross-country
From 12:00 pm – CCI3*-S cross-country

9:00 -10:10 am – CCI2*-S cross-country
From 11:00 am – CCI3*-S showjumping
From 1:15 pm – CCI4*-S showjumping
From 2:25 pm – CCI4*-L showjumping

We’ll also be bringing you in-depth reports, packed with insights, analysis, and gorgeous photos, every day here on EN — so tune in and let’s Go Eventing at Morven Park!

Morven Park International & Fall H.T.: [Website] [Schedule] [Competitor Info Hub] [Live Stream] [Volunteer] [EN’s Coverage]

EN’s coverage of Morven Park International & Fall H.T. is sponsored by Kentucky Performance Products, home to 5*-caliber supplements for horses from all walks of life.

Thursday Video from Kentucky Performance Products: That Time Doug Payne Became a Roper


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There’s nothing better than a cheeky discipline swap — and Doug Payne, who’s already a keen moonlighter with his Grand Prix jumping outings and Hunter Derby accolades, swapped eventing for something totally different recently. He picked up a lasso and got stuck right into a roping lesson with Women’s Roping Commissioner Linsay Rosser-Sumpter, who was also game enough to give jumping a jolly good go.

I can think of few things I’d find more difficult than roping, mostly because my hand-eye coordination is, well, nonexistent, but Doug’s obviously much better than I am at just about everything, and I’d say he represents us all pretty well, all things considered. This, plus Boyd and Phillip’s Western excursion early this year, and Woods Baughman’s love for a hoedown, make me think that an EN-sponsored eventers’ rodeo should probably be in the pipeline in the not-too-distant future. Yee-haw.

Struggling to meet the nutritional needs of your easy keeper or metabolic horse without overfeeding calories? Kentucky Performance Products have the answer for you, Micro-Phase vitamin and mineral pellets.

Low calorie Micro-Phase provides the vitamins and trace minerals needed to meet nutritional requirements in horses on restricted diets. If your horse is eating a handful of grain, or no grain at all, then choose Micro-Phase to fill in the nutritional gaps.

Recommended for sugar sensitive horses. NSC 11%, ESC 2.9% Protein 14%

Learn more about Micro-Phase at

The horse that matters to you matters to us®.

Did you get your KPP sticker? Collect them all. Visit to grab one for your barn.

Who Jumped It Best: Boekelo’s Devilish Drop

Who Jumped It Best?

This year’s Boekelo CCIO4*-L cross-country was a step up in the toughness scales, and plenty of tricky combinations on course had riders and coaches putting their heads together — one rider even admitted that he’d walked the course ‘probably eighteen times!’ to get the measure of it all. But there was one complex that stood out above and beyond the rest, as it tends to every year: the main water, which began at 19 with a big, square timber oxer, then followed on a right-handed 90-degree turn to 20A, a huge drop into water, and 20B, a skinny on an island within the lake. Then, it was straight onto a double of skinnies at 21AB, which were set on a forward striding pattern.

The water caused problems for plenty of reasons: it’s one of the busiest, loudest parts of the course, so there’s plenty to get distracted by, and we saw no shortage of runouts at any of those myriad skinnies, even when some riders opted for one of the available long routes. The changing, dappled lighting can also make this water tricky, and many horses, too, can have a stumble when landing in it, depending on how they jump in.

Judging a drop fence isn’t always the easiest of tasks, but that’s what we’ve got on the agenda for you today. Take a look at this selection of horses and riders as they tackle 20A — you can even see 19 in the background! — and see who you think stands the best chance of landing neatly, regathering the knitting, and making neat work of those three skinnies to come.

Christoph Wahler and D’Accord. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Phillip Dutton and Denim. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

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

Laura Birley and Bob Cotton Bandit. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ben Leuwer and Citius. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Stephan Hazeleger and James Bond. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Karin Donckers and Leipheimer van’t Verahof. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Marcio Carvalho Jorge and Royal Encounter. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ros Canter and Dassett Cooley Dun. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tara Dixon and Master Smart. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And now, it’s over to you: grab your pool noodles and cast your vote for our best diving duo!

Military Boekelo Links: Website | Entries | Live Scoring | Live Stream | EN’s Coverage

EN’s coverage of Boekelo is presented by Kentucky Performance Products.


Don’t Miss Out on the Best Weekend All Year: Tickets Now On Sale for LRK3DE 2024!

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum make HERstory. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This year, after approximately a million years of waiting and wishing, I finally made my debut visit to the Land Rover Kentucky Horse Trials — home of bluegrass, bourbon chicken, one of the best Bloody Marys I’ve ever had, and, of course, wall-to-wall top-notch eventing. In short? It was perfect, and I’ve been dreaming of my next visit from basically the second my plane back to England left the tarmac.

Now, I’m very aware that you, the extended EN fam, are much more seasoned Kentucky-goers than I am, and that means you’ve probably already ransacked the box office, which opened today for Early Bird ticket buyers to get their paws on their 2024 passes. But maybe you’re not! Maybe you’re looking ahead to a first-ever trip yourself; or maybe, a little bit like me, too, you’re not totally organised, and so the opening of the box office might have passed you by entirely. If so, allow me to play the role of Santa’s horse-mad little elf, presenting you with the one gift you should definitely be giving yourself (and also maybe your barn pals) this nearly-holiday-season.

Need any further incentive? Prices for tickets are at their absolute lowest in this Early Bird sale, and this is the best opportunity you’ll have to nab the prime seats and best tailgating spots. General admission, reserved seating, tailgating, and more are all on sale now, with prices starting at just $20 – so dive on in and snap yours up. Early bird pricing will end on December 7, 2023.

China Loses Olympic Place; Japan Qualifies for Paris After Positive Drug Test

Alex Hua Tian, photographed by Y T Lim for the FEI.

This article has been updated at 11.15 a.m. EST, October 10th, with clarification on the effects of altrenogest on male horses.

China will no longer be heading to next year’s Paris Olympics, and instead, Japan will take a team spot, following breaking news of a retroactive disqualification for China’s leading rider, multi-Olympian Alex Hua Tian, and his mount Chicko from the Millstreet Group F & G Olympic Qualifier event held in July.

The thirteen-year-old gelding Chicko tested positive in a routine drug test for the controlled medication altrenogest, better known under its UK trade name, Regumate, which is used as an oestrus suppressant for mares, which helps to regulate cyclicity throughout the phases of the reproductive season. An independent investigation conducted after the fact concluded that the horse’s ingestion of the medication was inadvertent.

Nevertheless, the positive test disqualifies Alex and the gelding from the competition, which drops China to fourth place and, as such, removes their qualification for next year’s Olympic Games. They will not have a further opportunity to qualify as a team; the two remaining team tickets will be awarded at this month’s Pan American Games, and are exclusively available to countries from North, Central, and South America.

Japan, who finished third in the qualifier on a score of 125.7, have now been awarded the team qualification instead.

Alex has responded to the news with a detailed statement, reprinted in full below:

“On the 10th of July 2023, I was notified of a positive test on my horse, Chicko, during the Groups F/G Special Olympic Team Qualifier at Millstreet for the controlled medication* (not banned substance) altrenogest, prescribed and sold in the UK as Regumate. As a passionate supporter of clean sport, with a pristine record at international level for 18 years and knowing how careful we are as a team with any risk of contamination, I was in total shock. With the support of Richard Davison, Schelstraete Equine Law, JunZeJun Law and Penny Ecroyd we put together a team of specialist vets, equine scientists and toxicologists to conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances that led to this adverse analytical finding.

The investigation has found conclusively that the trace amount of altrenogest detected, inadvertently entered Chicko through urine contaminated hay that he had accessed and consumed from the next door stable at this competition.

The following background is of particular significance:

  1. On evening of the 1st of June, Chicko was attended by the Chinese team vet and the treatment vet at Millstreet as he was behaving unusually with some behaviour symptomatic of mild colic. As mild colic could not be ruled out, the attending vets directed us to remove Chicko’s feed and hay until the following morning. The following morning, Chicko was back to his normal self and was passed by all the vets fit and healthy to continue with the competition. We were directed to give Chicko his hay but in regular handfuls throughout the day.
  2. Due to the nature of temporary stabling, the gap between panel and floor and in the absence of his own hay, Chicko gained access to hay from the mare in the stable next door. This was noted when Chicko was checked on that evening and despite trying to block the hole, was also suspected during the following day when he had run out of his own hay.
  3. The mare next door was being medicated with Regumate (altrenogest is permitted in mares) during this competition and routinely urinated on her remaining hay.
  4. It was unknown to me, my team and everyone I have been able to discuss this matter with, including vets and equine scientists, that altrenogest is not only excreted in the urine in its whole compound (not metabolites as almost all other medication), but excreted in reasonably high concentrations.
  5. The blood and urine sample was taken from Chicko at 15:15 on the afternoon of the 2nd of June.

As altrenogest is a controlled substance*, not banned, I have not been subject to a provisional suspension which has meant that I have been permitted to continue competing whilst this matter was still ongoing. Due to my previous clean record, the FEI have offered me their “Administrative Procedure”, which I have accepted. This includes a fine but no ban or further sanction.

However, the core principles of the FEI, clean sport and the level playing field which I not only accept but support wholeheartedly is that a horse that is found to have a controlled medication in its system during competition is a rule violation and as a result is automatically disqualified from that competition, regardless of how that substance entered the horse. The disqualification of my result means that our team result at Millstreet drops from 2nd to 4th, in turn resulting in China losing our team qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

I am in total disbelief.

Despite the findings of the investigation, as a rider, I take full responsibility for the consequences. This matter has far reaching impact on my teammates, supporters of the sport and the National Chinese Equestrian Eventing Team. I sincerely apologise to the country, the Chinese Equestrian Association, my teammates Bao Yingfeng, Sun Huadong, Liang Ruiji, our horse owners, partners, our equestrian community and supporters. I intend to continue flying the flag for Chinese equestrianism on the international stage, uphold the principles of clean sport and the Olympic movement whilst taking every possible measure to ensure that issues related to doping and controlled substances for both humans & horses do not occur.”

Altrenogest, or Regumate, is a synthetic progesterone, which effectively works to inhibit oestrogen receptors, with varying degrees of success in its intended use in mares, for whom it can delay the ‘heat’ cycle. Its use in stallions and geldings is unclear; though there is some amount of oestrogen that’s produced alongside testosterone in stallions, there hasn’t been any significant research on its effect on male horses, and anecdotal evidence is inconclusive.

In 2011, the FEI categorised altrenogest as a controlled, but not banned, substance, explaining that “Altrenogest and MPA have the possibility to be misused as a calmative, especially if used on stallions and geldings, affecting performance and therefore contrary to FEI rules on clean sport.”

 The Administrative Procedure system is explained as follows by the FEI:

“If a horse’s sample is positive for a Controlled Medication Substance that was not taken at the Olympic Games or FEI World Equestrian Games™, and it is the first violation for both the Person Responsible and the horse, the Person Responsible will be offered the opportunity to take advantage of the Administrative Procedure (sometimes referred to as “Fast Track”). This means that they may accept to pay a fine of CHF 1,500 and costs of CHF 1,000 (the costs may be increased to CHF 2,000 if a B Sample analysis is requested) and, at the same time, waive their right to a Final Hearing before the FEI Tribunal. Both the Person Responsible and the horse will be disqualified from the entire Event at which the sample was taken, which includes forfeiting any prize money or medals, but no ineligibility period (i.e. suspension) is imposed. The Administrative Procedure is offered as a benefit for first-time minor offences. The Person Responsible has no obligation to accept it and may always insist that his case be heard by the FEI Tribunal. If the Person Responsible does not choose the Administrative Procedure, the matter will be referred to the FEI Tribunal, which will apply the sanctions provided for in the EADCMR (this means that the Person Responsible may be suspended and/or fined).”

“I’ve Reset the Counter”: Nicolas Touzaint Records Second Boekelo Win – Seventeen Years On

Nicolas Touzaint and Diabolo Menthe record a perfect finish, earning themselves the Boekelo title for 2023. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The margins were extraordinarily tight at the top, and in today’s showjumping finale at Boekelo, the poles were falling in much the same way that elusive concepts like ‘morality’ and ‘dignity’ and sometimes ‘trousers’ fall at the event’s various parties.

So when overnight leader Nicolas Touzaint entered the ring, it was without a rail in hand — and, no doubt, with bated breath. It had been seventeen years since his only former win here, which came when he was a green-bean 26-year-old and not even, yet, a Badminton winner (though he was already, then, an Olympian, because we’re pretty sure they started packing him off to Olympics when he was still riding horses with training wheels and sippy cups attached). In that seventeen years, a lot had changed: the sport, the event itself, which no longer, thank god, has a grass arena, and himself, too. Nearly two decades of experience and maturity and highs and lows and hard-won knowledge had deepened the colours of the world around him, had refined his instincts and sharpened his resolve — but they hadn’t changed the way he rides over a fence. And so, as he nimbly piloted the ten-year-old Diabolo Menthe around the influential showjumping track, legs pointing to Germany and elbows heading off towards Belgium every time he achieved take-off, it all made for rather exciting viewing. Would he tip a rail? Would he go into orbit himself? Or would he, like so many of the great French riders, use his unique style to shift all his weight out of his horse’s way, making it almost impossible to take a sensible photo but also, making sure every pole stayed firmly in its cups?

It was the latter, of course. Diabolo Menthe landed from the last fence, which had fallen seventeen times already, and the crowd — and expressive, ebullient, elbow-y Nicolas — went wild.

Nicolas Touzaint and Diabolo Menthe. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We just about managed to stop him from galloping pell-mell around the ring with no reins to catch up on how he’s feeling.

“I’m delighted to reset the counter,” he laughs.”I’m feeling very relieved, and very happy! It’s been a lot of work for a long time. Boekelo really is an important test in our programme, and I’ve got so much joy and satisfaction in doing well here. I felt like there wasn’t any rubs, and the time was exactly as we needed to be, so it felt really good.”

Diabolo Menthe, who hasn’t finished outside the top nine in an FEI event since 2020, and who has never had a cross-country jumping penalty in an international, seemed almost fated to win this week: this is his third CCI4*-L, and in his first, he finished third; in his second, he finished second; and now, because we like things to be nice and neat and organised around here, he had to win, really, didn’t he?

Boekelo’s 2023 podium: Nicolas Touzaint (centre), Lara de Liedekerke-Meier (left), and Ros Canter (right). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Of course, that’s so seldom how equestrian sport works — but since the horse’s first days under saddle, Nicolas has believed he had a big win in him one day, even when, as a young horse, Diabolo Menthe was dismissed by naysayers. Now, there’s a very real chance we could see him posing a serious threat at Paris in front of a home crowd next summer.

“I bought him as a three-year-old, and so I’ve done everything with him. I’ve built his career up all the way through ’til now,” says Nicolas, who began his week in third place on a 25.4 and finished on that score, too, moving up to the overnight lead yesterday after a fall for dressage leader Julia Krajewski and jumping penalties for second-placed Hallie Coon. “I’m very happy to have him shoulder to shoulder now with Absolut Gold HDC; today he joined him in aptitude and experience. I feel incredibly lucky to have two amazing horses, and to have them both qualified now for Paris — although I haven’t made any decisions about which one might be best for that.”

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

Belgium’s Lara de Liedekerke-Meier has had one hell of a week, to cap off one hell of a year — but before her final ride of three today, on overnight second-placed Ducati d’Arville, she wasn’t sure if her luck might be starting to run out. Her first ride, the inexperienced nine-year-old Formidable 62, knocked three rails; her second, the ordinarily very good-jumping Hooney d’Arville, dropped out of the top ten after tipping two.

But when she came into the ring on Ducati, a horse who she calls ‘the princess of the group’ because he’s not always been easy to manage and maintain, she decided to throw all her cards on the table — despite the fact that the gelding has never jumped a clear round at a long format.

And then, today, he did.

“I was second yesterday, I was second today — I’d rather not be second, but second it is,” laughs Lara. “But if you would have told me that [I’d finish in this position] at the beginning of the week, I would have just never believed it. I think I will have to check the result a couple of times, just to be sure that it happened! I’ve always loved this horse, to the moon and back, for so long, and I kept believing in the fact that [a result like this] might happen. I think it’s thanks to all the hard work at home: he’s not the easiest to handle, and this is a testimony to all the people behind me and just keeping on believing in it. I wish I can do that again; I hope it’s not a one shot, but today I’m just so thrilled. All my horses were fantastic. I have now three horses qualified for Paris, one which is second at Military Boekelo! I cannot complain, I’m just so, so happy.”

Lara has worked enormously hard to overcome a run of bad luck over the last couple of seasons that culminated in a hugely unlucky fall at the first fence at the World Championships last year — and this year, this result is just the cherry on top of a glorious cake. She’s currently the rider with the most FEI wins worldwide in 2023; she was also a crucial part of qualifying Belgium for the Olympics for the first time in over a decade at this summer’s European Championships, and in earning the overall FEI Nations Cup series win, too.

“It was just a question of being patient, and knowing the sport, that if I keep working, I keep believing in the system I have, it will work,” says Lara of her change in fortunes. “I know the wind will turn at some point, but at the moment it just is the way I want, and I will try as hard as I can to keep the horses happy and to stay surrounded by people who believe in me and think the same way and I hope we can stay on this path a bit longer.”

And of Belgium’s bright future, she continues, “It’s 24/7 we speak about it with my husband, Kai, who’s also the team manager. It was so much putting into place — to have the right horses at the right place, also not being influenced by the other riders at competitions, just trying to do what’s best for me and my horses and just leading the way. Even here, being third [as a team], it’s something — Australia, the USA, Great Britain…but we’re still in the picture in this bigger Nations Cup. There were some easier Nations Cups with less competition, but here, it was really amazing. I think we all did it together, and it has been a team effort, and it feels like we like being together more and more, which is something I think Kai worked hard on, and I’m really pleased to have been part of it and be again on the podium here.”

Ros Canter and MHS Seventeen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

European Champion Ros Canter came to Boekelo this week with two very different horses: in the former Nicola Wilson ride, she had a green-as-grass CCI4*-L debutant, while in the former Sarah Way ride Dassett Cooley Dun, she had something much more experienced, but pony-sized and short-striding, which meant she had to keep her headspace, and her plan of attack, split neatly into two halves. But with both rides, one thing was the same: she didn’t have notions of winning, simply of getting to know each better and develop them a little bit further.

That was something she certainly managed, but to her delight, she also went a few better — MHS Seventeen climbed from a first-phase 11th, on a 28.6, to fifth after an early clear inside the time yesterday. When he came into the pressure cooker of the main arena today, he didn’t bat an eyelid at the myriad distractions within and without the ring, and delivered another foot-perfect clear inside the time to finish on his dressage score and take a final third place. And 14.3hh Mouse? He, too, excelled, finishing on his dressage score of 32.3 to execute a weekend-long climb from 37th to eighth.

“I don’t think I had that expectation at all when I came into this week,” says a delighted Ros. “MHS Seventeen is still an inexperienced horse; he only stepped up to four-star at Bramham this year and was very green there. So he’s had a lot to learn in a very short space of time, and I didn’t dream at all that he would be where he was at the end of this week. And then little Mouse — what an amazing horse he is! It almost makes me emotional because I don’t even know him that well, but he just brings pleasure to every single person that watches him, and I think he’s just amazing.”

MHS Seventeen, who was also thrust into the important role of pathfinder for the second-placed British team this week, is another slightly quirky addition to Ros’s string.

“He can be a spooky little horse, actually, but  you just have to get stuck in with him,” she explains. “He’s not a horse you point to a fence and he says, ‘I’ve got the job’; he wants me to hold his hand all the time, but I actually really love that about him. I’m not into strong horses particularly, I don’t find strong horses easy, so to have a horse like him that I can really get behind on a cross country really suits me.”

But, she says, his spookiness is very different to that of, say, Izilot DHI, with whom she won Blenheim’s CCI4*-L last month.

“Izilot’s spooky at things around the jumps, whereas this horse would draw back, actually, at the fences, so it just means that you can kind of gallop in and he does the preparation work for you, which is actually a really nice feeling.”

Ros Canter and Dassett Cooley Dun. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ros rode the same dynamic duo at Bramham back in June, but there, she had them in the opposite order of go on cross-country day — something she was keen to reverse this time to allow her to give them the individual rides they needed.

“I definitely wanted to ride MHS Seventeen before Mouse,” she says. “I rode Mouse before him at Bramham, and I felt like, because riding [Mouse] is a little bit different, and his strides aren’t always the same as a normal horse, I thought that would be the better way round.”

But because of the slightly jumbled reverse order of go format of today’s showjumping, the two horses were switched the other way again. Fortunately, though, they were put into two completely different sections: Mouse jumped before the lunchbreak, while MHS Seventeen was fifth from the end of the day’s jumping, and that gave Ros ample time to work on reformatting her mental hard drive.

“I basically went and rewalked at lunchtime with a completely different mindset,” she says. “I’ve just made sure all week to remind myself to split the rides in two, because they’re quite different. I’ve been watching old videos of Sarah Way riding him ride him round Blenheim, just to see how she did it, and rewatching videos of them both has really helped me keep them separate.”

Selina Milnes and Cooley Snapchat. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Selina Milnes might fly under the radar a touch — and if she does, it’s unfairly so, because her track record of finding and producing incredibly talented horses speaks for itself. In nine-year-old Cooley Snapchat, she’s got a rising star that we could, and probably should, see on plenty of British teams in the not-too-distant future; he stepped up to CCI4*-S just one year ago, and since then, he’s won this summer’s Bramham CCI4*-S, finished fifth in Blenheim’s prestigious eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S, and now, in his debut CCI4*-L, he’s finished on his dressage score of 29.9 to take fourth place. And next year? A win at the level wouldn’t come as a surprise to us one bit.

Luc Chateau and Bastia de l’Ebat. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

France’s Luc Chateau and the relatively inexperienced twelve-year-old Bastia de l’Ebat very nearly finished on their dressage score this week: just 0.4 time penalties yesterday stopped them from becoming one of the seven to do so this week. Their fault-free round today, though, meant that they finished the competition on a 30.2, climbing from nineteenth to fifth.

For Luc, and for his family, it’s a particularly special moment, and a particularly special horse.

“My emotions are really strong,” he admits. “It’s the first CCI4*-L for this horse, and to finish fifth is magic. The horse is from our family’s stud; he was born at home, and I actually rode his father [Houghton and Tattersalls CCI4*-S winner Propriano de l’Ebat] at Boekelo, so it’s really a special history that I have with this horse. It’s magical for me.”

Propriano de l’Ebat was an undeniably excellent horse, but Bastia outshone him roundly today: Propriano had knocked three rails for a 60th place finish here in 2012, while Bastia made easy work of the job at hand today.

“I really need to give him confidence, and then he does the job all by himself,” smiles Luc. Now, it’s hard not to imagine that he could find himself potentially looking ahead to a spot on the Olympic longlist with the horse, though, he says pragmatically, “the places will be very difficult to obtain for next year with just three on the team, and it’s always nice to feel that you’re in consideration, but the road ahead is still long.”

Laura Collett and Dacapo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Like last year, Laura Collett and Dacapo knocked a single pole in this final phase and dropped three places as a result. This year, that was from third to sixth, rather than first to third — but, explains Laura, the circumstances of that pole were completely different.

“I was actually chuffed with him, because he tried really hard. Last year we had a rail because he was being a bit of a lazy pig,” she laughs. “This year, he actually jumped really, really well. I’m obviously annoyed and gutted, but I’m delighted with him. He came out and he really jumped in there — it was just a bit of a shame, really, but that’s horses.”

The close of the 2023 season marks something of a fresh start for ‘Cal’ — or, at least a revised set of goals, which comes after an abortive cross-country round in Luhmühlen’s five-star this year, and many years of hard work on Laura’s part to unpack the brain of a horse who just can’t always quite be bothered with it all, unless he’s at one of his personal favourite events. Boekelo is one of those, and yesterday, Laura’s confidence in that knowledge was bolstered by a super round, one second inside the time.

“You know when you go out the startbox with him [whether he’ll rise to the occasion],” says Laura. “At Luhmühlen I knew I was in trouble from the moment I left the startbox! He was totally up for it yesterday, though — for some reason, he loves it here. He actually gave me probably one of the best rides; I didn’t have to work too hard, he actually travelled and was just having a lovely time, really. It’s just nice to have him back. We know him now: he’s not a five-star horse, and we won’t try again. He can just come here each year and have a lovely time! There’s worse horses to have in the yard than one that keeps coming and finishing top-ten in a four-star long — so long may that continue.”

Tim Price and Jarillo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tim Price finished seventh with the nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood Jarillo, who proved why he was a podium finisher at last month’s Blenheim eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S with a cooly, classy trio of performances this week that saw him finish with just two time penalties on yesterday’s cross-country course to add to his 29 dressage.

“I’m so happy,” says Tim. “You just want them to come through sound and healthy, and he’s all that, which means you can start to think about next year and what you might do. He’s just been great in all three phases: he was a baby in the dressage and looked at the screen and things, but didn’t come off the job, although we didn’t quite produce our optimum where he’s at now. Then cross country, he was lovely. I gave him time and got some time faults — my intention was to just ride the horse first. I think, almost, that not having a top dressage meant it’s not like I’m trying to hunt the competition down. And he’s just such a lovely horse, and he’s such a careful jumper, I don’t want to go out there and hammer him around in the middle of the course and have some moments where he’s got to dig deep. I just wanted him to understand how easy it is and how he can cope with the stamina. It’s his first time over eight minutes and I couldn’t be more happy with all that, and then today, he’s just jumped like a show jumper.”

Jarillo didn’t show a jot of residual tiredness after his efforts of yesterday — “don’t you love young horses? They bounce back,” laughs Tim. “I’m really happy with him, and it definitely sets him up for next year and beyond.”

Though Blenheim was just a couple of weeks ago, the positive knock-on effects of Jarillo’s week there felt evident for Tim as he tackled each phase here.

“He feels a bit more forged as an Advanced horse this time,” he says. “Even though he’s young and green, the canter half pass, trot half pass, and changes aren’t a surprise to him anymore; he’s not like, ‘what’s this new stuff?’ I think going to Blenheim helps with that, plus the fitness that it put into him — up the hill and across the water and down and around — pushing him a wee bit there was definitely good for his fitness. It’s a big course at Blenheim, it’s quite permanently built and presented, and he coped there very well. It was a great prelude to this.”

Felix Vogg and Dao de l’Ocean. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Switzerland’s Felix Vogg confirmed a potential Olympic partner in the ten-year-old Selle Français Dao de l’Ocean, who climbed from first-phase fifteenth to a final ninth, adding nothing yesterday to his first-phase score of 29.4 and then, frustratingly, rolling the final pole today to move down three places from his overnight sixth.

“The horse is young, he did everything that he could, but I messed it up,” rues Felix, who was nevertheless delighted with the gelding’s performance in his CCI4*-L — especially as the path here hasn’t always been straightforward. He took the ride on after the end of the 2021 season from France’s Aurelie Gomez, who produced him to three-star, but for much of last year, Dao de l’Ocean had more educational outings than competitive ones, picking up a long string of cross-country jumping penalties and eliminations as Felix worked to produce him into a confident, capable partner. The turning point came at Montelibretti last November, when he won the CCI3*-S; he then began this season with another win at the same venue, though at CCI2*-S to confirm that newfound confidence, and has since had six top-five FEI placings and made the move up to CCI4*-S successfully.

“Last year he was quite crocked; he had a lot of eliminations, stops and everything,” he says. “We worked quite a lot over the winter, and this year he won quite a lot or was top-five in most things. He couldn’t do a log on the ground out of trot at first, he was so spooky and scared of everything. So I did a lot of cross country last year, but like 80cm, really low, every week, two or three times. And in the indoor in the winter and stuff like that, and I think that helped him quite a lot. He has everything that you wish for, but that’s the only thing which is still missing a bit — the strength.”

Though quieter tracks such as Montelibretti are great for building the skills that Dao needed to thrive, Felix didn’t want to go down the same route in making this step up: “I wanted to come here to do the first one because it’s a test and if he does it, it’s proper proof for the future. What he did was just brilliant yesterday.  Especially now, when he sees the line and two flags, he’s going for it. Last year, it was still like, ‘I’m unsure, what should I do?’ And now he’s like, especially yesterday when he did that, it’s a really nice effort.”

Now, Felix hopes there’ll be big things to come over the next nine months or so, including — if all goes to plan — a little trip to Paris next summer.

“He’s all ready. Only in dressage the strength has to go up a little bit, so that he can carry himself a bit more, but cross country and the show jumping is actually really good,” he says with a smile.

Karim Laghouag and Embrun de Reno. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

France’s most-loved comedian-on-horseback Karim Laghouag helped to confirm a win in the Nations Cup for the French, but in delivering his clear inside the time today, also nabbed himself a tenth-place finish with nine-year-old Embrun de Reno — a smart finale to an extraordinary climb from first-phase 48th, after adding just 0.8 time penalties yesterday to their dressage mark of 33.1.

Cosby Green and Jos Ufo de Quidam. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

22-year-old US representative Cosby Green finished 25th with relatively new ride Jos Ufo de Quidam, climbing from an original 73rd place after adding nothing to her score sheet yesterday and a single rail and 0.4 time today. That’s not just a very respectable result in its own right — it was also enough to earn her the title of best Boekelo rookie (hear us out here: a Roekelo?). That’s an even bigger deal, she explains, because she didn’t even necessarily know if she was going to be able to ride here at all a week ago. That all changed when Boekelo decided to take all its entrants and host a record-breaking size of field this year.

“I’m so happy, I really am — I’m very, very happy,” she says with a broad grin. “But my expectations were quite low! I found out Monday afternoon after returning from Lignières the past week, that I got into the competition, and I hadn’t obviously ridden him for the week before. This had always been the plan, but when I found out I finally got in, it was super exciting. My plan was to get a good MER and get a solid result, but really, everything about it was unconventional, so to have this result is just so exciting.”

Yesterday, she says, the 15-year-old gelding “gave me the ride of my life. He was so fast! It was hard all day — I had to sit there watching you know the best riders in the world go round, have some mistakes and whatnot. I just went out there and I attacked it and believed in my horse and he believed in me, and we had an amazing, amazing round. I was very stuck to my plan. I knew exactly. He’s one of the best cross country horses I’ve ever sat on, so I wasn’t too deterred by anything. But it was good to have breakfast, I will say!”

And today, he looked as fresh as ever, jumping neatly around the influential track.

“He was amazing,” enthuses Cosby. “With the big atmosphere, you never know how they’re going to act, but I think he just gave that little bit more to me, which is which is always what you hope for. He’s awesome.”

Now, Cosby will head to Pau to finish her year, before a winter trip back home to the US — and then she’ll be back before the spring season for another stint with Tim and Jonelle Price and then, presumably, world domination.

“It’s really nice that all my top horses have had really strong finishes in this fall season. I just hope I can finish this out strong!

Tiana Coudray and D’Artagnan. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tiana Coudray and her try-hard nine-year-old D’Artagnan tipped two rails and added 0.8 time penalties to finish in 36th place — but that won’t be much of a disappointment for the Olympian, who debuted the gelding at Novice last year and has been astounded by his quick, easy, generous progress through the levels. Now, with his first CCI4*-L behind him, there’s a whole future jam-packed with success to come — and that’s very exciting, indeed.

Hallie Coon and Cute Girl. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Hallie Coon and Cute Girl, who had delivered the second-best dressage test of the whole competition and a hugely classy cross-country round yesterday, with just one green error from the CCI4*-L debutant mare, also gave a masterclass in the arena today, jumping a classy clear with just 0.4 time to finish 59th, and brimming with hope for the nine-year-old mare’s undoubtedly bright future to come. Just. Look. At. Those. Knees. We’re obsessed.

The final top ten at Boekelo 2023.

With two of their team riders in the top ten, it’s no surprise at all that overnight leaders France secured the bag in the Nations Cup competition, finishing 13.4 penalties ahead of second-placed Great Britain. Third place went to those intrepid Belgians, who also secured the win in the 2023 series leaderboard, while the US’s squad of developing horses and riders completed a climb from eleventh to fourth, just two penalties off a podium finish.

James Alliston and Karma. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The best-placed of the US team was Brit-turned-West-Coaster James Alliston, who threw down the gauntlet with a very cool clear round with the enormously likeable nine-year-old Oldenburg Karma, who was bred on the West Coast by Patricia Crowley. That was enough to secure him a final 14th place, well up from the 75th place he began in — such is the power of finishing on your dressage score, and that’s just what he did to end up on a 35.9.

Cassie Sanger and Fernhill Zoro. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Nineteen-year-old Cassie Sanger and her Fernhill Zero had just the fickle final fence down to finish 35th, capping off an educational and hugely exciting week for the pair, who have delivered mature, measured performances brimming with quality over all three phases, and will no doubt be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.

Phillip Dutton and Denim. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Phillip Dutton’s eight-year-old Denim also had the final fence down, plus 0.4 time, to finish in 45th place, a smart finish to a developmental week for this classy young gelding, who was formerly piloted by the Netherlands’ Merel Blom-Hulsman.

We reported last month that Italy had, unofficially, qualified for the Olympics by default as the only contenders coming into the final Nations Cup leg, which awarded a Paris ticket to the highest-placed unqualified team in the series standings — and today, by dint of the competition finishing, they truly and officially became our latest team to secure that coveted Olympic qualification. Bellisimo.

The final team standings in the 2023 FEI Nations Cup finale.

Janneke Boonzaaijer and I’m Special N take the Dutch National Title. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And finally, the Dutch National Championship went back to 2022 winner Janneke Boonzaaijer, this time on I’m Special N, who were the only competitors in this leaderboard to jump clear, though they did add 0.8 time to their score sheet. That allowed them to step up from overnight third place after leader Merel Blom-Hulsman knocked a rail and added 1.2 time penalties with Vesuve d’Aveyron, dropping her to second, and overnight second-placed Sanne de Jong and Global Faerlie Flashy knocked three and added 0.4 time to move to third.

The final standings in the Dutch National Championship.

And so, for now, that’s EN over and out from another brilliant Boekelo. It’s been a wild ride, and we need some Berocca. Go, we implore you, To Sleep.

Military Boekelo Links: Website | Entries | Live Scoring | Live Stream | EN’s Coverage

EN’s coverage of Boekelo is presented by Kentucky Performance Products.

One Horse Spun; Top Five Contender Held in Boekelo Final Horse Inspection

Phillip Dutton’s Denim seriously considers joining the under-twelves football game that may or may not be about to kick off behind him. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We were only part of the way through the morning’s final horse inspection at Boekelo when the screaming started.

Just kidding. Sort of. This year’s new trot-up location is great in some ways: unlike previous years, which have seen the inspections take place on the sandy footing of the arena, we’re now blessed with a proper hard-standing trot strip, which allows for a more exacting view of equine movement — but the other side of that coin is that in order to get that hard-standing area, we’ve moved the trot-up to the back side of a school. And yes, it’s Sunday, but yes, those tiny little Dutch chaos agents came out in full force, ready to wreak havoc and eat poffertjes, probably.

No bother, though, for the horses and riders who successfully navigated yesterday’s tough cross-country track, because in doing so, they got a PhD in dealing with chaos agents. Yesterday, it was 60,000 happy, loud, drunk adults, so who’s going to be scared, really, of a large group of prepubescents on a sugar high? Well, me, maybe, but fortunately they don’t make me do any running on a Sunday morning at these things. Thank the lord for small mercies and all that.

Our field of 84 finishers has diminished slightly going into today’s showjumping finale, which will begin at 11.30 a.m. (10.30 a.m. BST/5.30 a.m. EST) with a big batch of individual riders to jump first. In theory, the jumping today will be kind of in reverse order of merit, though it’s fairly jumbled in order to allow for a proper team showdown in the second part of the day, which will begin at 14.30 (13.30 BST/7.30 a.m. EST). Once we get into our top ten riders, though, at the very end of the day, then we’ll see a proper reverse order of merit showdown. In the meantime, we’ll enjoy the gentle air of confusion — and for now, let’s take a look at what happened this morning.

Three horses were withdrawn before the final horse inspection: the Netherlands’ Beau Posthumus opted not to present Smokie, 42nd overnight after a clear round yesterday; Germany’s young talent Brandon Schäfer-Gehrau also withdrew Fräulein Frieda 10, who sat 80th, and Ireland’s Robbie Kearns didn’t present Avery Klunick’s Pisco Sour, who was 49th.

Felix Etzel and TSF Polartanz visit the holding box, but are accepted to continue in their bid for a top placing at Boekelo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There was some drama for those who did present, too. Overnight fourth-placed Felix Etzel and TSF Polartanz once again found themselves in the holding box, as they had at Wednesday’s first horse inspection, but were happily accepted upon representation, as was the Netherlands’ Maartje Van Riel and Eppo, who sit 65th overnight and seventh in the Dutch National Championship. But fortunes were fewer for France’s Cedric Lyard and Song du Magay, who were not accepted to continue the competition after some discussion by the ground jury of Judy Hancock, Xavier Le Sauce, and Merel Schurink.

Maartje van Riel and Eppo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Now, we have 80 left in the hunt, and a serious battle to come: France sit in first in the team competition, 9.4 penalties, or two rails plus three seconds, in hand over the Brits in second place, while series leaders Belgium are three rails and change off that top spot. The Netherlands sit fourth, and the US fifth, as we head into the final phase. And in the individual competition, the margins are even tighter: overnight leaders Nicolas Touzaint and Diabolo Menthe are on a two-phase score of 25.4, which gives them just two seconds in hand over Belgium’s Lara de Liedekerke-Meier and Ducati d’Arville. Laura Collett and Dacapo sit just 0.3 behind Lara, which isn’t even a second in hand, and Felix Etzel and TSF Polartanz are on an overnight score of 28.4, which is 1.5 penalties — or three seconds and change — behind Laura. In overnight fifth place, Ros Canter and MHS Seventeen are just two-tenths of a penalty behind Felix, and one rail covers the top six places. The showjumping course looks technical and tough, and the time in this phase tends to be influential here, so it’ll be a thrilling finale to one of the best competitions of the year. Make sure you don’t miss out: all the action is free to live-stream via the FEI TV YouTube channel, or via ClipMyHorse for members.

Here’s a look at our top ten after cross-country:

The top ten after an exciting day of cross-country at Boekelo.

We’ll be back with full coverage of today’s action later this afternoon. Until then: Go Eventing!

Military Boekelo Links: Website | Entries | Live Scoring | Live Stream | EN’s Coverage

EN’s coverage of Boekelo is presented by Kentucky Performance Products.

Ups, Downs, and Day-Drinking: The Boekelo Cross-Country Report

You want a party? Boekelo will give you a party! Tara Dixon and Master Smart navigate the busy main water – complete with loud music, louder people, smoking barbecues, clinking glasses, and more. Photo by Tilly Berendt.


When you think of the toughest four-stars in the world, there’s probably a few frontrunners that spring to mind: Bramham, for example, with its tough terrain and dimensionally enormous fences, is a clear leader in the field. But Boekelo? Not so much. It is, of course, one of the most atmospheric cross-country tracks in the world, with a thuddingly loud bar for every fence on course and a distinctly festival feel to the surroundings, which certainly ups the ante in terms of keeping horses focused on the task at hand — but this is the Netherlands, and so terrain is basically non-existent, and the course itself is generally a pretty easygoing one for the level, all things considered and loud bars notwithstanding.

This year, though, Boekelo has a bit of a different feel. Due to the loss of some land and build permissions, two of the former loops through the dense woodland are no more, and two much more open, galloping loops have been added in in their stead, giving the course a much more flowing rhythm. That’s a net positive, and it probably sounds like it should make the whole thing a bit easier — but actually, it encouraged designer Adrian Ditcham to build some tougher questions, and to work that bit harder at forcing riders to slow down. The result? One of the busiest, most surprising, and undeniably most influential days of cross-country we’ve ever seen at the venue.

With 110 starters to get through (two withdrew overnight, which is a pretty easy detail to lose in the shuffle when you’ve got just about every horse in Europe running over the course of a day), cross-country began much earlier than usual at 9.30 a.m. By 10.30, we’d already lost four of our top ten – Jonelle Price and Senor Crocodillo, eighth after dressage, ran out of the angled shoulder-brush at the bottom of the mound at 24B; Kevin McNab and Miss Pepperpot, fourth overnight, dropped out of the hunt after a run-out at the main water at 20B; France’s Maxime Livio and Api du Libaire retired at the water, taking themselves out of ninth place; and young German prodigy Anna Lena Schaaf, seventh overnight, hit the deck when Fairytale 39 stumbled in the main water. That latter incident was something we’d see throughout the day, as we so often do at Boekelo and despite fastidious checks of the footing — and it was a repeat of it that truly up-ended the leaderboard not long later, when overnight leaders Julia Krajewski and Nickel 21 ended their day on an early, and very wet, note.

After that first couple of hours of chaos, though, we seemed to find a bit of something like normalcy, and with it, a chunky swathe of clear rounds inside the time (nineteen, actually, at final count, a figure that Adrian says “is pretty much what I was looking for”.). That shock fall of Julia’s opened the door for US individual Hallie Coon to potentially take the overnight lead with her exciting CCI4*-L debutante Cute Girl, and though they ultimately bowed out of the top spot with a green run-out at the first of two skinny triple-bars at 14AB, theirs was a round brimming with class and confidence, and a testament to the new-found level of communication the pair have hit upon in the last few weeks.

Hallie Coon and Cute Girl jump into the main water. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“My ego’s a bit bruised,” admits Hallie with a smile, “but all in all, I’m not too upset, because I learned that she’s an even more mega horse than I thought she was. She felt absolutely proper, and she really dug deep for me today. I’m buzzing for next year now.”

While the pair have previously had occasional communication lapses in the getting-to-know you process, Hallie’s been thrilled to find that they’re both singing from the same hymn sheet now — something that was particularly evident in the two tough water complexes, and especially in the main water at 20AB and 21AB, where Cute Girl, like many horses today, tripped on landing from the massive drop in. But neither horse nor rider missed a beat in finding their way out.

“The second water [at 20AB was a real testament to her because she jumped in balanced, but then had a bit of a stumble, and she just pricked her ears and said ‘okay, where next?’ And that was the best part of the day for me,” says Hallie. “It feels like the beginning of a partnership now, instead of just two beings trying to adjust to each other.”

Nicolas Touzaint and Diabolo Menthe take the two-phase lead at Boekelo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

That 20, though, opened the door for a new overnight leader – and one of just four competitors from last night’s top ten to stay at this business end of the leaderboard. That was the flying Frenchman Nicolas Touzaint, who previously won here seventeen years ago, and his ten-year-old Diabolo Menthe. This is the Selle Français’s gelding’s third CCI4*-L; in his first, at Saumur last spring, he was third; in his second, at Lignières just over a year ago, he was second. So it’s probably no surprise at all to see him now in contention for a win on his third go-round, and even less of a surprise to have seen him execute a bold clear one second inside the 10:06 optimum time on his way to doing so. That marks his eighth FEI clear inside the time, and puts the young horse forward as a real hopeful for an Olympic call-up next year.

“My main objective is the Paris Olympics, and I feel very lucky to have two great horses, either of whom could do it and both of whom will have their qualification by the end of the year,” says Nicolas. “I’m not sure which I would choose between Diabolo Menthe and [stalwart team mount] Absolut Gold HDC, but I’m very lucky to have the two of them — they’ve both had the same development programme.”

Nicolas, who began the day in overnight third, rode at roughly the midpoint of the day, which ultimately, he says, proved a boon to his chances.

“Because I was the anchor of the team, it allowed me to see the other riders before me, which helped me,” he says. “After I’d seen a certain number of riders go through the course, I did change my plan for the number of strides I would ride in some combinations. That meant that when I was on course, everything went according to the new plan. I took a lot of pleasure in riding the course; I really felt my horse was with me, and I really enjoyed it. We were very lucky to have firm but forgiving ground, and with those conditions, I felt comfortable asking for more gallop. It was excellent ground.”

Nicolas, who was 26 when he last won here, comes back for his first serious bid since as one of France’s most reliable riders (and, notably, the only Frenchman ever to win Badminton).

“I hadn’t been riding cross-country at that level for very long when I won it the last time, and it’s been a project of mine for quite a long time to bring this horse to Boekelo, so I’m very happy to be here now,” he says with a smile.

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

Perhaps we’re at risk of becoming a full-time Lara de Liedekerke-Meier fan page over here on EN, but this year, the Belgian team stalwart has been absolutely firing on all cylinders, and frankly, that kind of upward trajectory — particularly after a spell of bad luck and a knock to one’s self-belief — is something we truly love to see. As the busiest woman on site at Boekelo this week, Lara could have had one of two very different kinds of ‘day in the office’, but through sheer force of will, calculated, horse-first riding, and the thing we love to see the most, that sparkle of belief in herself, she made sure it was a very, very good one indeed.

Her first horse of the day, the ten-year-old team representative Hooney d’Arville, climbed up from 22nd place to overnight ninth, coming home clear and two seconds inside the time. That provided valuable intel for ride number two, Lara’s Aachen top-ten finisher Ducati d’Arville, who crossed the finish line bang on the optimum time, catapulting Lara from fifth to overnight second. And her third, the nine-year-old Formidable 62, who’s brimming with talent but green for her age after time out to deal with a cancer of the eye, wrapped up her day with another exciting clear, with planned time penalties. Lara told us after Ducati’s exceptional test on Thursday that she couldn’t quite dare to dream yet — but now?

“I still don’t,” she laughs. “I’m trying to stay down to earth — I know the sport long enough, and I know today I have to enjoy the moment and we will see tomorrow. With Formidable, it was the goal to get a qualifying result. When I went out there, I had a voice in my head saying ‘you can go faster, you can do anything and make a third clear inside the time’. But I knew that it was the most noisy and the most crowded when I went out with her, so I just respected her experience and gave her a nice round, whilst the others had other targets. Hooney, I wanted to make the time, which I managed and which I’m really happy about because her rideability hasn’t always been her strength, but she was really honest, and she really tried to get what I wanted from her. I think this year has been really a work in progress, and next year will probably need to be a build up to the Olympics and to see if she goes, but now if she confirmed her qualification, I think I can sleep better at night and start really to believe in her, which is something I had to keep kicking myself not to give up.”

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

That newfound rideability, she explains, has come from changing her style to suit her horse.

“She’s a little bit introverted, she’s a bit shy. When she went to [the Young Horse World Championships] at Le Lion, she wasn’t ready. I think maybe I stepped up too quick, and then there was always a 20. Never something bad, but always, all the time, let me down in a way — and so this year has been just a work in progress, and me adapting my riding  to her, instead of trying to adapt her to become my horse. I think I know what she wants, and she wants more support — she doesn’t want my long reins and me just saying ‘good girl, good girl!'”

And of Ducati, the gelding who she’s loved since she spontaneously bought him at an auction while she was pregnant, and with whom she finds herself just 1.2 penalties off the lead, she says, “when Hooney was fine, I was just like, ‘you’re gonna give it a go, and we will see’. I had a really bad jump at fence four because he was watching the crowd, and it was this big house and then he took off one stride early, and I was like  ‘Oh, well, that ended early!’ But he managed to stay on his legs, and I think it woke him up and woke me up as well, in a way. For sure, I didn’t want us to part company and I wanted to make the best out of our round and also our dressage, and he just felt like he was game on.”

Lara came into the main water complex with a robust plan of action in mind to avoid meeting a similar fate to many of her competitors.

“He launched into the water at Aachen last year, and I had to circle to go to the corner, so this time I really was secure,” she explains. “I wanted him to pop in, and he was really listening and he was just nice to trust me and then say, ‘what’s next mummy?’ and game on. He was really fantastic, and I’m feeling privileged to ride those horses — they just gave me their best today.”

Laura Collett and Dacapo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Laura Collett and Dacapo, who finished third here last year, find themselves in the same position today — but it’s taken much of the evening for that to be confirmed for them. They were initially awarded 15 penalties for a missed flag at 24B, a skinny shoulder brush on an angle at the bottom of a steep mound, but while the fence did take a masterful bit of riding on Laura’s part to negotiate cleanly when Dacapo popped his shoulder on the approach, it was definitively within the boundaries of the flag, and ultimately, they were pulled right back up the rankings with their clear inside the time.

Felix Etzel and TSF Polartanz. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

That pushed Germany’s Felix Etzel and TSF Polartanz, who’d originally been awarded overnight third, down into fourth – but Felix certainly won’t be wasting any time ruing that fact. He came here with the compact, smart little stallion having run him solely in short-format competitions since early 2019, and so a CCI4*-L debut was something of a fact-finding mission — but in every way, the Trakehner excelled on course, finishing three seconds inside the time and full of running.

“It actually took him a bit longer to get up the levels — at the beginning, he had some run outs , even at 2/3* level,” explains Felix. “So I took my time with him, because he came out a bit late in the sport — he was a six year old when I rode him the first time, so it took him a while to get confidence. Last year was the first proper four-star season; actually, I tried one time as an eight year old, and that didn’t quite work out! He really gained confidence through doing all his four-star shorts last year and this year, and so I think it was the right decision for him to give him a bit more time. But because I’ve done his last long format four years ago, I didn’t really know how it would work today, riding him for ten minutes, but he felt so fresh and was like that all the way around — even the last minutes he was really forward and  looking for the fences.”

Felix is competing as an individual for Germany this week, rather than as part of the team, which meant that he had a late draw — and plenty of time to watch the chaos unfold through the day. But, he explains, he used this to his advantage: “In the end I rode the plan I already had yesterday evening,  but for sure, it helped today to see 40 or 50 riders before, and it gave me confidence in my plan. In the beginning, I was a bit worried about riding right at the end, but it didn’t make a huge difference. I think it kind of helped me more, to be really sure with my plan.”

Now, he’s hoping to end the week on a high with the twelve-year-old, who’s also, remarkably, able to keep up a busy breeding career alongside training and competing.

“He’s licenced for the Trakehners, and for some other German studbooks, and this year, alongside competing, he got 31 mares,” says Felix. “Which is quite impressive, because the first half of the season I also rode him at many shows to prepare him for Luhmühlen, and then he got picked up every day. When they ask for semen, they’d pick him up in the morning and bring him to the stud farm two kilometres away from us. It’s a lot to do for him — physically and mentally — it was usually five times a week that he got picked up every morning at 7, then training, then to the shows. But he’s still so gentle to handle. Sometimes he’s lookingM but he’s really looking for the person around him, not to go too crazy, and once you’re sat on him, he’s focussed. He doesn’t look for other horses; he’s really a special horse.”

Ros Canter and MHS Seventeen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Unlike Felix, Ros Canter found herself leaving the startbox very early on in the day as British team pathfinder with the former Nicola Wilson ride and CCI4*-L debutant MHS Seventeen. But for her part, going out without feedback or viewing time worked beautifully, and the pair finished a smart ten seconds inside the time to move from eleventh to fifth, ahead of Switzerland’s Felix Vogg and Dao de l’Ocean, who climbed from 15th to sixth after finishing on the optimum time exactly, and fellow Brits Selina Milnes and nine-year-old Cooley Snapchat, who go into tomorrow’s competition in seventh place, up from first-phase twentieth with a clear inside the time.


France’s Luc Chateau executed a similarly impressive climb, leaping up from 22nd to ninth place with the twelve-year-old Bastia de l’Ebat after adding a solitary second to the optimum time, and Tim Price and his Blenheim eight- and nine-year-olds podium finisher Jarillo stepped up from twelfth to tenth with two time penalties.

Tiana Coudray and D’Artagnan. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

While that 60% clear rate hit many riders hard, two of the US’s individual competitors enjoyed particularly successful outings on Adrian Ditcham’s track. Tiana Coudray leapt from 41st to 21st place with the CCI4*-L debutant D’Artagnan, who only made his FEI competition debut last year, with an impressive and confident round that saw them add just 2.8 time penalties, while Cosby Green, who’s spent the season based with Tim and Jonelle Price, added no time penalties, but did pick up a missed flag penalty at 14B, to climb from 73rd to 57th.

Cosby Green and Jos Ufo de Quidam. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The top ten after an exciting day of cross-country at Boekelo.

Today’s major shuffle also had a knock-on effect on the team leaderboard, particularly as the first half of cross-country — arguably, the most influential half — was devoted to team riders. First-phase leaders Germany tumbled all the way to eleventh after falls for both Anna Lena Schaaf and Julia Krajewski. That leaves just Christoph Wahler and D’Accord, who climbed from 27th to tenth after delivering by far the fastest round of the day, a whopping eighteen seconds inside the time, and team pathfinders Nicolai Aldinger and Timmo, who leapt from 26th to 13th after adding just 1.6 time penalties, in the hunt, and Germany’s competition as a team effectively over. Switzerland, too, will have to count one of their eliminations, worth 1000 points, after both Robin Godel and Roxane Gonfard failed to complete.

Christoph Wahler and D’Accord are the fastest of the day, moving into eleventh place and giving the Germans something more to celebrate. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

That, plus some trouble for the Brits, who added jumping penalties from Yasmin Ingham and Rehy DJ, Caroline Harris and D. Day, keeping them in overnight second, opened the door for formerly third-placed France to step into the top spot. They hold the lead by a reasonable margin, too: thanks to excellent efforts from Nicolas Touzaint, Karim Florent Laghouag and Embrun de Reno, who added just 0.8 time penalties, and Jean Lou Bigot and Utrillo du Halage, who added nothing, they go into showjumping on an aggregate score of 97.8, which is 9.4 penalties, or two rails plus three seconds, in hand over the Brits. That’s even with the early loss of Maxime Livio and Api du Libaire, who had sat ninth overnight, but retired after a runout at the main water at 20B. In third place, less than two rails behind the Brits and three rails and change behind the leaders, is Belgium, who climbed from sixth.

Let’s talk about those Belgians for a moment, because frankly, they’ve been my favourite story of this year. After a few tough years and some rotten luck, both as a nation and for some of its key players, they’ve come out all guns blazing into 2023, and their results — and palpable confidence — only get better by the day. The proof is in the pudding: they made such a committed bid on the Nations Cup series this year, hoping to use it as a pathway to their first Olympic ticket since 2012, that they come into this final leg as the de facto winners of the series. They also don’t even actually need that qualification route anymore, either, because they earned their ticket, alongside the Dutch, at the European Championships at Haras du Pin in August. Now, though, they could also add the finale win to their list of accolades, even if that margin looks stacked against them, thanks to the excellent efforts of Lara de Liedekerke-Meier, Karin Donckers and Leipheimer van’t Verahof, and Tine Magnus and Dizzy van het Lichterveld Z, who all rallied for classy, quick clears after teammate Jarno Verwimp had to put his hand up with Kyba van de Jomaheide. A season or two, this early trouble might have derailed the team; now, we’re looking at a Belgian front that finally believes in itself, and rightly so.

James Alliston and Karma. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The US made a seriously impressive climb up the leaderboard from first-phase eleventh to post-cross-country fifth, just 5.2 penalties, or a rail and three seconds, behind the fourth-placed Dutch, who stepped up from seventh. Team pathfinder James Alliston added to his personal Boekelo course form, cruising home a nippy 12 seconds inside the time to add nothing to his first-phase 35.9, which allowed him to step up from 75th to 20th overnight.

Cassie Sanger and Fernhill Zoro. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Team debutante Cassie Sanger might be just nineteen years old, but she rode with a maturity that belied her young age, heading out into the pressure cooker of cross-country – and team duties – with a focus and zeal that saw her add a scant 4.4 time penalties to her first-phase score of 35.1 and climb from 67th to 30th.

Phillip Dutton and Denim. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

For Phillip Dutton, his aim with the eight-year-old Denim was twofold: to deliver the goods for the US, of course, but also to pilot the CCI4*-L debutant to a confidence-boosting, educational round that would help to set him up for a long and fruitful career to come. He managed both, easing off the gas as needed and, as such, adding 12 time penalties — but that conscientious riding could well prove to be a classic example of ‘putting money in the bank’; tomorrow, we’d love to see Denim continue his spotless long-format showjumping record, buoyed along by the energy he’s kept in reserve today. He’ll head into showjumping in 52nd place, up from 69th.

Like the Belgians, though, the US riders also had to rally in the face of disappointment for one team member: after piloting Tim and Nina Gardner’s FE Connory around the majority of the course, the gelding tripped in the water splash at fence 26AB, which resulted in a frustrating rider fall, though we’re pleased to report that Jennie is no worse for wear after her tumble.

The team standings in the Nations Cup finale going into the final phase.

Merel Blom-Hulsman and Veluwe d’Aveyron. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Former Dutch National Champion Merel Blom-Hulsman now finds herself back atop this leaderboard after a clear round with Vesuve d’Aveyron added just 4 time penalties to her score sheet, and after overnight leaders Sanne de Jong and Global Faerlie Flashy picked up 7.6 time penalties, dropping them into second place.

“It was a good ride,” says Merel, whose last international outing with the fourteen-year-old saw her retire on course at the European Championships. “Me and the horse have had a really good season until the Europeans, and you’re as good as your last competition, so it was mentally challenging, but it was a great ride. It’s actually quite funny because I get a lot of those comments, like, ‘can you imagine riding a  horse like that?’ But to be really honest, he was a young rider horse stepping up to this level. He found it, at first, quite difficult last year, so it’s good to see how he’s developed — that’s really really cool to see.”

The leaderboard in the Dutch National Championship after cross-country.

The final day at Boekelo will begin bright and early for our remaining 84 competitors with the horse inspection at 8.30 a.m. local time (7.30 a.m. BST/2.30 a.m. EST), followed by the showjumping in reverse order of merit. We’ll bring you all the news you need to know from the inspection and beyond — so as always, keep it locked on EN, and Go Eventing!

Military Boekelo Links: Website | Entries | Live Scoring | Live Stream | EN’s Coverage

EN’s coverage of Boekelo is presented by Kentucky Performance Products.