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One Horse Spun in Bramham Final Horse Inspection

CCI4*-L leaders Kitty King and Vendredi Biats. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The sun finally made an appearance – mercifully – during this morning’s final horse inspection at the Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials, illuminating a largely drama-free undertaking, despite the intensity of yesterday’s track.

Harry Meade and Tenareze survive a tense moment, and will proceed to the final phase. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Just one horse was held in the CCI4*-L: Harry Meade‘s Tenareze re-presented after a thorough examination, and was passed without hesitation on his second trip up the jog strip. The CCI4*-L showjumping starts at 1.00 p.m. BST/8.00 a.m. EST, with competitors going head-t0-head with a big, square Di Boddy track. Kitty King and Vendredi Biats sit in the top spot after yesterday’s action, but they’ve got nothing in hand: they sit just a tenth of a penalty ahead of second-placed Gemma Tattersall and Jalapeno.

Charlotte East and King Albert. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The under-25 class, already considerably thinned after an influential cross-country day yesterday, was further condensed after King Albert, presented by Charlotte East, was held and did not re-present. Charlotte and King Albert had produced one of only five clear rounds in this class yesterday, and were sitting in fifth place overnight.

CCIU254*-L leaders Yasmin Ingham and Sandman 7. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Overnight leaders Yasmin Ingham and Sandman 7, who stepping into the top spot after a lengthy appeal yesterday, sailed through the final horse inspection. They head into the final phase just 2.8 points – or seven seconds – ahead of second-placed Will Rawlin and VIP Vinnie. The CCIU254*-L showjumping kicks off at 11.00 a.m. BST/6.00 a.m. EST – stay tuned for the full report at the conclusion of the competition.

Bramham: Website, Entries and Ride Times, Cross-Country Live Stream, EN’s CoverageEN’s Instagram, EN’s Twitter

Bramham Cross-Country: A Trio of British Ladies Serve Up Kardashian-Level Drama

Gemma Tattersall Takes CCI4*-S Victory

“She’s so amazing,” enthused a beaming Gemma Tattersall, after skipping her way around the CCI4*-S track with Quicklook V, winning on her dressage score of 21.6. ‘Pebbles’, as she’s known at home, isn’t ordinarily fond of the sort of wet conditions that today offered up, but the incredibly well-maintained parkland absorbed the consistent rain, allowing for springy, productive footing.

“It’s the best ground we have in eventing – it can take the rain,” says Gemma. “You’d never have known that horses had been round it all day.”

Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It was a welcome return to the level for Pebbles, who hasn’t run cross-country internationally since the European Championships in 2017. There, she added just 3.6 time penalties across a fiendishly tricky Pierre Michelet track, despite an incredible detriment in the final stages.

“Two minutes from home, her larynx completely collapsed, [but we didn’t know until afterwards, because] that little horse just galloped on until the end,” explains Gemma. “Afterwards, my vet heard her breathe and said that she was one of the bravest horses he’s ever seen to keep going.”

Pebbles underwent a significant wind operation, and then was sidelined with a minor, unrelated injury. Now fourteen, she’s inarguably back with a bang: today marks the first competition of this level in which she’s finished inside the time.

“Her showjumping round was one of the best she’s ever jumped; she was just pinging around, and never even came close to touching one. She’s only about 15.3hh, but she has so much scope and stride – you can really open her up [on cross-country], but you can also make her really little.”

Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Pebbles’ return to form begs the obvious question: will we see the Olympian at the very top level again?

“We’ve never quite got to five-star with her, because we didn’t know if she’d have the stamina. She’s such an amazing jumper, too, that I’d never want to break her heart. We won’t rule it out, but we won’t promise it, either – she owes us nothing,” explains Gemma.

Laura Collett and Dacapo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Second place went to Laura Collett and Dacapo, offering up a positive end to a rollercoaster day for the rider, who retired on cross-country in the CCI4*-L with London 52. Dacapo, for his part, jumped flawlessly around the short four-star, finishing on his impressive dressage score of 23.3, and sparking a revelation for his rider after a disappointing first CCI4*-L run last week at Tattersalls.

“He’s been a different horse all week – in every way, he’s been awake and on it. At Tatts, he felt like he couldn’t be bothered, and I think that’s because I didn’t have to keep after him – there was space for him to just gallop, and I think he went a bit braindead with it.”

For now, Laura plans to play to the talented gelding’s strengths, and will run him in CCI4*-S competitions and Event Rider Masters legs, although she hasn’t ruled out a trip to Boekelo for the CCI4*-L.

“It’s the only one I’d take him to at the moment,” she says. “It would suit him much better.”

Emily King and Brookleigh. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Third-placed Emily King also enjoyed a return to form with her horse, but in a slightly different way: Brookleigh makes his long-awaited return to competition this season after nearly three years out with an injury. The former Clayton Fredericks ride ran at Ballindenisk last year, winning the CCI3*-S, but has otherwise been totally off the radar since Badminton in 2016, where he fell at the penultimate fence while lying in second place. Prior to that, he and Emily made their five-star debut together at Pau in 2015, finishing fourth. Today, the seventeen-year-old Westphalian added just an extra second in the showjumping to his 23.6, cruising to an easy podium finish.

“He feels amazing – so happy and enthusiastic,” says Emily. “He’s been squealing and bucking around the place all week.”

A laid-back lifestyle has been key to Brookleigh’s return to form: “we keep the pressure off at home,” explains Emily. “He doesn’t do a lot of schooling, and he spends a lot of time in the field, which keeps him enthused. I’m over the moon to have him back – he’s taught me so much.”

Tamie Smith and Wembley III. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Both of our US riders produced classy performances today: Lexi Scovil and Chico’s Man VDF Z added just 4.4 time penalties to finish fourteenth, while Tamie Smith and Wembley III added the same to round out the top twenty. Now, both will be looking ahead to big end of season goals: Lexi hopes to contest the CCI4*-L at Blenheim, while Tamie will be focusing on a Burghley run.

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

The King in the North: Vendredi Biats Leads CCI4*-L

61 starters took to Ian’s beefed-up Bramham CCI4*-L track today, and although 70% would complete, only 20 would manage to do so with clear rounds – a mere 33% success rate. Interestingly, despite that percentage being so low, a significant amount romped home clear inside the time – thirteen in all, or 21% of the starters. The reason for this slightly baffling set of figures? A tough course, yes, but one set over remarkably good ground, which benefited from a steady fall of rain to add just enough softness overnight. The clear rate, too, was considerably lowered by a higher-than-average number of frangible pin penalties. Ten horse-and-rider combinations, in all, would be awarded eleven penalties somewhere on the course.

“There was, possibly, more trouble than I’d have like, especially where the pins breaking is concerned,” says course designer Ian Stark. “They’re there for safety reasons, and though some were unlucky – and I’d really have loved those riders not to have had eleven penalties – others wouldn’t have stayed in the saddle, or upright, if not for the pins. They did their job.”

Kitty King and Vendredi Biats soar into the lead in the CCI4*-L. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

On the hunt for redemption after a disappointing elimination at Badminton was British stalwart Kitty King and the ten-year-old French-bred Vendredi Biats, known as Froggy. Though he has a history of some cheekiness, he delivered a mature and commendable performance to gallop home clear, inside the time, and in the lead, putting his Badminton demons well and truly to bed.

“I hadn’t necessarily thought he’d be ready for Badminton this year, but then he came out this spring and he was excellent,” says Kitty. “I thought there was no reason not to go, really, but then his inexperience came out. It’s a shame, but it’s competition, and he’s come here feeling no worse for it – it hasn’t set him back at all. I don’t think he even realised anything had gone wrong.”

“He was pretty much foot-perfect everywhere today. He can run through the bridle a bit, but he didn’t do that here at all – he stayed in balance, which made riding for the time easy. It’s nice to put Badminton behind us.”

The pair’s exceptional clear round allowed them to take over the top spot from dressage leader Pippa Funnell, who picked up twenty penalties for an unfortunate glance off the second element of the influential Spinny at 13AB with Billy Walk On.

Kitty and the talented grey gelding have course form here: they finished fourth last year in this class. This year, though, she finds herself sitting on a valuable extra year of milage and maturity.

“He’s definitely growing up,” she says. “Normally, it takes three runs in the spring to get his arse in gear and his brain back in the box. This year, he’s come out focussed. Badminton wasn’t a naughty mistake; he was just green and a little bit naive. He felt so confident today.”

Gemma Tattersall and new ride Jalapeno III. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Gemma Tattersall moves up a placing into second aboard new ride Jalapeno III. Formerly piloted by Karin Donckers, the Chilli Morning mare gave Gemma an exciting trip around the tough track.

“She gave me some feeling today,” she enthuses. “She just kept galloping to the end – she couldn’t have been any more perfect.”

The pair overcome a slightly sticky moment at the coffin: “I just shouted through it, because that’s what Karin would have done,” laughs Gemma.

Selina Milnes and Iron IV. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Selina Milnes and her big-strided Iron IV added 1.2 time penalties, making them the only pair in the top ten to add anything to their dressage score, but they still moved up two places to sit third overnight, after yet another performance that left spectators coveting a ride on the gelding. Meanwhile, Polly Stockton and her five-star mount Mister Maccondy climbed from fifteenth to overnight fourth on the strength of their performance.

Emily Philp and Fallulah. Photo by Tim Wilkinson/Eventing Images.

It may be the horse’s first CCI4*-L, but Ian Wills’ Fallulah showed her class yet again with Emily Philp in the irons. Fresh off the back of her ERM debut at Chatsworth, which saw the pair finish fifth, the ten-year-old mare added nothing to her dressage score of 32.4, moving her nine places up the leaderboard to sit fifth overnight. Originally produced by Ian, Fallulah contested the Seven-Year-Old World Championships in 2016, jumping clear across the country and showing an early inkling of the horse she’d become. Then, after a year out, and following Ian’s decision to devote his time to teaching, rather than competing, she was sent to join Emily’s string. Since then, she’s been on a steady upward trajectory, jumping clear around Blenheim’s eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S and Belton’s Grantham Cup.

The Equi-Trek CCI4*-L heads into the final horse inspection at 8.30 a.m. BST/3.30 a.m. EST tomorrow, with the showjumping following from 12.15 p.m. BST/7.30 a.m. EST.

The Pratfalls of Flag Penalties: Yasmin Ingham Takes Late Lead in Under-25 Class

Though run over the same course, the under-25 competition played out wildly differently: after three overnight withdrawals, just twenty-two combinations would start. Thirteen of those would make it over the finish line, and just five – or 23% of the field – would do so without adding jumping penalties.

Yasmin Ingham and Sandman 7. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

“From the moment you started walking the course, you just knew that it was Bramham from the word go: it’s big, it’s bold, and it’s so Ian Stark, as it should be here,” says overnight leader Yasmin Ingham, who produced one of just two clears inside the time in this class. But taking top honours, as she did with the former Pippa Funnell ride Sandman 7, took some work, and not just because of the tough course.

“It’s my first competition at this level with Sandman, and we weren’t sure how it would go,” says Yasmin. After clocking up some impressive results over the years, including a win at Chatsworth in 2015 and eighth place in the European Championships the same year, Sandman had notched up some significant non-completions, too. He had been retired on course here in 2017 and at Tattersalls the following year, before Pippa opted to find a young rider to take the reins. Although Yasmin, who took the ride in the latter half of last year, has posted some great results with Sandman at CCI4*-S, she quite understandably moderated her hopes heading into their first long-format four-star as a partnership.

“I didn’t come here expecting any of this – I just wanted to grow the partnership,” she explains. “But at this level, you have to put it all on the line, or you won’t get around.”

Yasmin and Sandman did just that, only encountering a slight sticky moment at the final water.

“He was getting a bit tired, and I probably wasn’t punching as much as I should have been. He landed a bit too nicely, but we made it to the skinny and he popped over it so honestly. I knew we’d kicked the flag out, but I didn’t think anything of it – I just put it behind me, because on courses like this, you’ve got to stay on your lines and think ahead to ride them properly. When I finished, someone told me ‘you’ve got a 20’, and I thought, ‘oh god, where did that come from?!'”

Yasmin lodged an appeal against the decision after reviewing both the video footage and the wording of the flag rule. While she awaited the ground jury’s decision, she kept herself busy: she had another ride, this time in the CCI4*-S.

“I had to totally rejiggle my head and focus on what was ahead,” she says. “Afterwards, the owners rang me to tell me it had been removed. Everyone does need a bit of luck sometimes, and today it was on my side.”

Yasmin Ingham and Sandman 7. Photo by Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Such was the influence of cross-country today that even with the 20 penalties, Yasmin would have held third place overnight.

“It’s all so surreal,” she says of the fortuitous position she finds herself in. “I’m just delighted, honestly – you learn to appreciate the good times in this sport, because it might be a while before you get one again!”

Will Rawlin and VIP Vinnie relinquish their lead but hold a very respectable second place overnight. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Will Rawlin completed with just two time penalties to move from fourth place into second overnight riding his mother Miranda’s V.I.P. Vinnie. Just eleven years old, the Hanoverian gelding (Valentino x Gianna Nannini) has already proven an exciting prospect for his 25-year-old rider, who has produced him from a four-year-old. The lengthy partnership would prove crucial when horse and rider found themselves up against the almost incomprehensible attrition rate of the class, which serves as Great Britain’s Under 25 National Championship.

“The horse is definitely capable, so I thought we could be up there, if I was on it. But I try not to get too excited about these things, otherwise you only end up disappointed,” he says with a smile.

Managing expectations certainly paid dividends today for the rider, who admits that learning to cope with competitive pressure, and its accompanying nerves, is a work in progress. But today will certainly have offered the chance for some practice in dealing with the roller-coaster of emotions in top-level sport: though Will occupied the top of the leaderboard for several hours after the conclusion of the class, Yasmin’s successful appeal saw him slip into a close second place.

Although Will doesn’t come from a horsey background, he does come from a sporting one – his father, Andy, represented Great Britain in cross-country skiing at the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics. Will, who pursued a diploma in Sports Coaching and Development, runs his compact string out of a yard he rents with the support of his family, and helps to finance his competitive pursuits by offering web-based coaching services, as well as forward-thinking and affordable syndicate packages.

“We’re learning as we go,” says Will of his homegrown venture. “I’m very lucky that my mum and dad support me, no matter what. But this is my only horse at this level, and obviously I want to get noticed by sponsors, and owners, and for teams.”

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

Ireland’s Cathal Daniels may only be twenty-two, but he can claim the most experience of the field in this class: the leading Irish rider at last week’s Tattersalls International Horse Trials has also represented his country on several occasions, most notably helping Ireland to a silver medal at last year’s World Equestrian Games. There, as here, he rode the fiery, petite mare Rioghan Rua, much admired on the circuit for her fast and ferocious approach to cross-country. As expected, they produced a classy clear inside the time, propelling them from eighth after dressage into third place overnight.

The under-25s will trot up at 8.30 a.m. BST/3.30 a.m. EST tomorrow, with showjumping commencing from 10.00 a.m. BST/5.00 a.m. EST.

Beefy Bramham: An Inside Look at the Cross-Country Challenge

You’d be hard-pressed to find a tougher four-star than Bramham. Set on endless acres of sprawling parkland, it traverses hill and dale and makes clever use of every possible inch of terrain to create an all-round challenge of skill and stamina. Masterfully designed by Ian Stark, it’s the perfect litmus test ahead of a five-star attempt later on in the season. But for all that, it’s still designed to be an education – and today, it showed a gap in many riders’ training that Ian firmly believes needs addressing.

“At all ages, they have to learn to ride a coffin,” he says. “Some of the riding was great, but others kept winging into it – and actually, I’m surprised there’s not more accidents as a result. There’s not enough of an education in riding these types of fences; many of the riders, if they were intimidated by it, just galloped at it. I think a coffin is a great fence, if the horses are ridden and trained correctly, and I’m not going to back off using them, but people need to train more often over them. They don’t need to train them at four-star height, but they do need to train the concept.”

Harry Meade and Away Cruising. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Another crucial concept that Ian hopes to impart across his courses is the ability to analyse lines and adapt them to suit the horse in question.

“Some of the riders have got it in their heads that I want them forward all the time – if I give them a shorter distance, they think I want them to go on one less stride. But actually, it’s about terrain, it’s about the question, and it’s about the horse. They have to learn to read the questions better; they think I galloped everywhere out of control when I was eventing, but actually, apart from the odd day on Murphy Himself, I was never out of control,” he says with a laugh. “I’ve tried to make the distances more open [to interpretation] – they can decide to go forward, or to shorten up, but it’s not a set stride pattern. They have to decide what will work.”

The Spinney at 13AB was one such question. Without a clear trajectory to the second fence, it relied on a well-thought-out line and a committed plan of action. Early on, many riders tried to ride it in a forward four strides, leading to run-outs at the second element and knocked pins, too, as the horses gave it a clout on the way over. Later in the day, though, and with the benefit of having watched their competitors, more and more riders opted to go slightly wider and slow the question down, turning the line into a five-stride one and meeting both elements more directly.

Ultimately, Ian’s aim is to help riders and horses improve and grow as they take to his tracks. It’s important, he points out, that competitors know that course designers are available to help the riders.

“I’m here to answer riders’ questions, and I’m always happy to do course walks, too – but maybe some of the riders are intimidated [by the idea of seeking me out]. This is still a training level – sure, it’s at the top of the level, but it’s meant to help riders progress. I’d be horrified if I though I’d tricked the horses.”

We’ll be back tomorrow morning with all the news from the final trot-up, and the full reports from both CCI4*-L showjumping finales. Go Eventing!

Bramham: Website, Entries and Ride Times, Cross-Country Live Stream, EN’s CoverageEN’s Instagram, EN’s Twitter

Bramham, Day Two: Funnell in Front; America Invades CCI4*-S

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

Dressage at Bramham concluded today amidst a torrent of rain, but nevertheless, quality shone through. Leading the CCI4*-L as we head into tomorrow’s cross-country phase is Billy Walk On, rerouting after an aborted attempt at a Badminton debut with Pippa Funnell. Though inexperience had stymied an initially impressive start there, the ten-year-old British-bred Sport Horse comes back to Bramham with course form: he jumped clear here last year, finishing fourteenth. Today, he very nearly matched last year’s first-phase score of 26, putting a 26.6 on the board.

“I’m happy enough; there are still bits I know we need to work on,” says Pippa. “It’s nice, actually, because to me, he’s still developing – he’s still not the finished article in terms of his strength. That’s why the changes aren’t quite there. He’s got a good brain, but I think we just nearly overdid the work out there – only by about five minutes – so I felt that I was slightly carrying him in the canter work.”

Despite the horse’s wobble at Badminton, Pippa has opted to make use of the momentum created by its build-up.

“He’s had a Tweseldown Open Intermediate run since Badminton – that’s it! He’s going straight back into it here – it’s a big track. It’ll be interesting to see how he is after Badminton; he had a nice OI run, but you never know how they think. You might think you know how they think … a bit like husbands, really,” jokes Pippa.

Kitty King and Vendredi Biats. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Second place, too, is held by a combination rerouting after a problematic Badminton. Kitty King and Vendredi Biats, fourth here last year, earned a 26.8 for a mature, flowing test.

“He can be a bit naughty and a bit cheeky, and do a few spooky, naughty things, but he was really good today,” says Kitty. “It’s a big atmosphere here, but he was so good [in the ring] at Badminton and really naughty at Houghton, where there was nothing to look at! He found the one thing to spook at and was a monkey, so it’s nice that he’s gone in there and behaved, and tried really hard.”

Gemma Tattersall has been a busy bee indeed, with three horses across the long- and short-format competitions this week. Though her short-format entrant, Quicklook V, would steal the show [see below], new ride Jalapeno III, formerly ridden by Karin Dockers, was impressive too, posting a 26.9 to hold third place overnight.

“It’s nice, actually, to have both Jalapeno III and [Quicklook V] here today, because I don’t actually know Jalapeno that well yet,” says Gemma. “But I actually felt like we came together and worked as a team, which gave me a huge amount of confidence to go out there and have fun in my test with Pebbles.”

Jalapeno joins a yard full of fellow Chilli Morning offspring, and Gemma, who took over the ride at the beginning of the year, spent some time showjumping the eleven-year-old mare in Vilamoura before tackling her first events with her. In their three international runs, they’ve never been out of the top fifteen, but today marks a personal best for the partnership.

France’s Aurelie Gomez slipped into fourth place aboard Slamm de la Selune, while yesterday’s leaders, Selina Milnes and Iron IV, sit fifth overnight.

A truly international top ten at the conclusion of the CCI4*-L dressage.

Tattersall Heads CCI4*-S 

Equally tightly-bunched is the Land Rover CCI4*-S, which is led overnight by Gemma Tattersall and her Rio mount Quicklook V on an international personal best of 21.6. They’re closely followed by Laura Collett and Dacapo, who have rerouted here after retiring on course in Tattersalls’ CCI4*-L last week, and sit on a comfortable 23.3 overnight. Just behind them on 23.6 is Emily King, who rides Brookleigh, her former five-star mount who’s enjoying a long-awaited return to the sport after a couple of seasons out.

“She absolutely loves doing dressage, which is rare for an event horse, but she just loves showing off. She’s fun to ride in there too, because you know she’s not going to explode or make a mistake – she’s just with you the whole time,” says Gemma of her fourteen-year-old mare, who displayed an incredible return to form after a disappointing performance at Chatsworth three weeks ago.

“When the rain started this afternoon, I wondered if she’d do her normal prancing, because she actually hates the rain. She’s a complete princess, and she likes sunshine and a beautiful surface! Chatsworth wasn’t the event for her; it just felt wrong from the minute we got there, but she’s come here and felt amazing.”

Martin Plewa, who judged from B, was full of praise for the pair’s work: “I love the way she presented [the horse] – it was a great performance, which you don’t see very often,” he says. “[It showed] absolutely the correct way of training the horse; it was very precise, with enough balance always out in front.”

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

US representative Lexi Scovil has been based with William Fox-Pitt since February, and today, she enjoyed her first international start in the UK with Chico’s Man VDF Z. She made it count, too – they put a score of 28.2 up to sit in 11th place overnight.

“Overall I’m very pleased with it; that’s probably the most atmosphere he’s ever experienced,” says Lexi of the relatively inexperienced gelding. “It’s only his third Advanced, and so the changes need to be better, and he can get a little bit worried about the canter half-pass, but he keeps going and keeps listening, and he does the job. He’s such a cool horse, because he goes around the ring and he spooks, and he spooks, and he spooks – but then he gets in there and he’s like, ‘I need to put my head down and do the job!’ So I’m really lucky – he’s that horse that’s always better in the ring than he is at home, which I’ve never had before!”

Lexi bought the horse sight unseen as a six-year-old, shortly after he’d been piloted around the Young Horse World Championships by his amateur rider owner.

“I was working for Leslie Law at the time, and he went on a horse-shopping trip for himself,” Lexi explains. “He found him and loved him, but didn’t have an owner to buy him. I’d just sold my horse, so he said, ‘do you want to buy this?’ I said, ‘okay, I’ll get on a plane,’ and he goes, ‘no, no, just buy it – if you don’t like it, I’ll resell it for you!’ He showed up and the first day I rode him, he was perfect. The second day, though, he was wild, and I couldn’t put his head down, and I couldn’t ride one side of him! But he’s been a really cool horse in that even if I have something I struggle with at home, he goes in the ring and the judges love him.”

 

Lexi Scovil puts herself well in the hunt at the conclusion of the first phase. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“He’s always a worker. He’s a funny, quirky, spooky horse at home, and you’d never put just anyone on him, because he’ll be walking around the school and will spook at a jump that’s been there for two months!”

Although Lexi and her talented gelding enjoyed considerable success at the Preliminary (BE Novice) level, they hit a stumbling block upon their move-up to Intermediate – but by stepping back and taking the time to figure out how to produce her horse, Lexi hit upon the system that now governs their day-to-day training.

“I changed a lot. I stopped schooling the dressage on him, and just jumped and hacked – and he loved it. He’s just a horse you can’t drill; the more you worry about whether he’s going to do it right, the less he does right. He just wants to be loved and wants a really positive environment; I have to put the micromanaging away and say, ‘I know you’re a good horse, and I’m going to let you get on with it.'”

For Lexi, who will spend the remainder of the season at the Fox-Pitt base in Dorset, a run in Blenheim’s CCI4*-L is becoming a more and more realistic goal.

“Hopefully he’ll be the horse I can experience all these things with,” she enthuses. “I was really worried about moving over and being the little fish, but it’s been amazing so far. I have to give credit to everyone at the Fox-Pitts’ – it’s such an amazing team to be part of. It’s not even the lessons so much; it’s the atmosphere, and the fact that everyone’s so supportive and we’re all so happy. I really believe horses go better when you’re happy.”

The top ten in the CCI4*-S heading into tomorrow’s jumping phases.

Sussing out Saturday

Tomorrow’s schedule is overflowing with cross-country action, with all three classes taking to Ian Stark’s meaty courses.

“It’s typical Ian Stark – big, bold, and attacking riding,” explains Kitty King. “There are plenty of questions and lots of skinnies where you can have a silly run-out, so you need to be really focused the whole way around. You can’t take a breath and think, ‘oh, we’re doing quite well!’ – that’s when you’ll be caught out.”

She’s not wrong. Replete with achingly teensy skinnies, yawning ditches, bold timber fences and, of course, the famous hills of Bramham’s sprawling parkland, neither course is for the faint of heart. Want a sneak-peek? Check out the CCI4*-L course here, and the CCI4*-S here. Now, factor in an inordinate amount of space – and some seriously sherpa-worthy hills – and you’re halfway there.

Cross-country commences tomorrow morning at 9.00 a.m. BST/4.00 a.m. EST, with the CCI4*-L running until 12.13 p.m. BST/7.13 a.m. EST, followed by the CCI4*-L for under-25s. Then, the CCI4*-S class will round out the afternoon’s proceedings. You can follow along with all the cross-country action from all three classes through the free live-streaming service on Bramham’s website.

Go Eventing!

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Bramham: Golden Performance from Iron IV and Selina Milnes

Selina Milnes and Iron IV take the lead after the first day of CCI4*-L dressage. Photo by First Class Images.

Amongst the household names of last year’s Blenheim field, there was one horse and rider combination who snuck into the upper echelons of the leaderboard and made everyone watching sit up and pay attention in the process. Selina Milnes and Iron IV didn’t just make the serious track look easy – they made it look enormously fun, too, and everyone, commentators, photographers, journalists, and fellow riders alike, got stuck into some good-spirited bickering about who might have the best chance of stealing the striking Irish gelding. They ultimately finished fourth in the CCI4*-L there, and today, they proved that their performance then was no fluke. Coming into the arena as one of the last competitors of the day, they posted a 29.2 to take over the lead from Sweden’s Jonna Britse.

“He’s still got so much more to give – he just sort of backs off me a bit in the arena,” says Selina, who finished 11th here last year in the CCI4*-S. “But in the way he moves, and his frame, he’s just a lovely type. He catches the eye, doesn’t he?”

William Rucker’s eleven-year-old gelding (Aquilino x Ushuaia) was sourced from Richard Sheane’s Cooley Farm. He made the step up to four-star in 2017, finishing 20th in Blenheim’s eight-and-nine year old CCI4*-S.

“I’ve taken it steady, really – he’s so rangy in his stride that I’ve had to, otherwise on cross-country he just gets bigger and bigger and bolder and bolder,” explains Selina. “But he’s lovely, he’s got everything you’d want. He’d definitely make a five-star horse.”

Zimbabwe’s Camilla Kruger and her Rio mount, Biarritz II, step into second place overnight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I’m feeling a little bit emotional!” laughs a damp-eyed Camilla Kruger as she exits the ring with Biarritz II. It’s hard to blame her: the road she’s travelled with ‘Sam’, the Dutch Warmblood gelding with whom she made history at Rio, has been a winding one, replete with ups, downs, and everything in between.

As Zimbabwe’s first-ever Olympic competitors in the equestrian disciplines, Camilla and Sam’s clear cross-country round in Rio meant something extra-special. It wasn’t a chance to prove what they were made of; it was also a chance to help build the profile of the sport in Zimbabwe and beyond, where eventing is slowly beginning to gain in popularity. Camilla, for her part, is active in its development, heading back each winter to contribute her extensive experience and knowledge to the planning of the Azaluna CCI2*-L in Harare, which makes up part of the African ‘Nations Cup’ series.

Since Rio, though, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. Though undeniably talented, Sam has had a run of bad luck at the top level, retiring on course at both Luhmühlen in 2017 and Pau last year. He also had a surprise 20 in Blenheim’s CCI4*-L last year, but interspersed with the bad were the flashes of brilliance: the sterling performance here last year, which saw them finish just outside the top twenty, and the clear rounds over Chatsworth’s fiendishly tricky tracks.

“I’d always said that I didn’t think Sam was a Bramham horse, because he’s not very blood,” she says, recalling last year’s run. “But we needed to get a WEG qualification, and so we came here, and he loved it.”

A moment of quiet celebration for Camilla Kruger and Biarritz II. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

They may only have one phase in the books thus far, but yesterday’s best-dressed winner rightfully considers the 29.4, for overnight second place, a very good start indeed.

“Getting into the 20s was the plan, but things don’t always go to plan. In fact,” says Camilla with a wry smile, “things never really go to plan! But I knew he could do it, and he did, so I’m really chuffed with him. There’s a serious dressage diva in this horse, but he’s just never believed in himself in there – it’s been a case of spending so much time doing the same thing and being really consistent with him. Once he starts to realise that it’s easy, he builds in confidence. At home he’s unbelievable, but he’s still learning how to deal with atmosphere; he’s got huge amounts of experience and he’s been around the world, but he did everything at quite a young age. He’s only thirteen this year – so there’s so much more left to come.”

Sweden’s Jonna Britse and Quattrino sacrifice their early lead, but remain in third place overnight. Photo by Tim Wilkinson/Eventing Images.

Young Swedish rider Jonna Britse is making the most of a first trip to England with her sole horse, the talented fourteen-year-old mare Quattrino. They’ve tackled Chatsworth and Houghton’s CCI4*-S classes so far, logging clear rounds at both, in preparation for what is a CCI4*-L debut for both horse and rider.

And what a start to make in a debut performance: the duo put a score of 29.9 on the board, holding the lead for much of the day and ultimately sitting in third place overnight. Jonna, who studied sports psychology at university, has clearly taken her learnings to heart – but for a small mistake, she would have delivered a personal best, too.

James Avery and Mr Sneezy. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Coral Keen and Total Belief sit in overnight fourth place on a score of 30.6, closely followed by Wiltshire-based Kiwi James Avery and Ian and Heidi Woodhead and Tiny Clapham’s Mr Sneezy, fifth on 30.9. Formerly ridden by Holly Woodhead, Mr Sneezy joined James’ string in 2018 and since then, the eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse has gone from strength to strength. Today, he overcame his first-phase weaknesses, plummeting his usual high-30s dressage mark to a creditable 30.9.

“I was really pleased with the horse; he’s been a bit fresh with me before, and today I could ride him,” says James. “There were a couple of little mistakes, but nothing major, which is a good start.”

For Mr Sneezy, this Bramham run is something of a litmus test: if it goes well, as it ought to, the team can start to seriously consider scheduling in a five-star debut for both horse and rider at Burghley.

Emily Philp and Fallulah: consistent between the boards. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sixth place is held overnight by Ian Wills’ exciting young mare Fallulah who, with Emily Philp in the irons, has been building up a solid string of good form over the last year. In that time, the ten-year-old has run at five CCI4*-S competitions, jumping clear and quick across the country in all but one. Last month, she lodged a fifth-place finish in her Event Rider Masters debut at Chatsworth and today, in her first CCI4*-L, she put a 32.4 on the board to sit comfortably within the top ten overnight.

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

California Dreaming at Bramham

Elsewhere on site, Richard Coney and Kananaskis lead the under-25 CCI4*-L. Fresh off the back of their senior squad debut at last month’s Houghton International, they’re obviously feeling full of confidence and ready to embrace all the big leagues have to offer. A strong CCI4*-S class got underway today too, with Nicola Wilson taking an early, unassailable lead with the impressive young horse JL Dublin. Together, they scored 25.1, giving them nearly a full penalty margin ahead of second-placed Ben Hobday and Shadow Man II, who posted a 26.

We caught up with Tamie Smith, who comes forward with her experienced partner Wembley III. Tamie and Wembley initially made the journey to the UK to contest Badminton this spring, but an ill-timed abscess led to their withdrawal at the first horse inspection. Undeterred, Tamie left Wembley in the safe hands of Rodney Powell and Alex Franklin and headed back to the States to keep the rest of her string on the go. Now, with the end goal of Burghley, she brings the great grey to Yorkshire for a short four-star run.

“It’s not a bad plan B to have, really,” she laughs. “My vet back home told me that this is what horses are here for: to torture us, to break our hearts, and then to give us an amazing amount of joy, too. He knows his job, so he doesn’t really need to practice it too much. It’s mostly his fitness and his flatwork – and Alex is fantastic on the flat, so we’re really lucky to have access to her. And I’m at home practicing, too, so it’s easy to come back and fit back into it like a hand in a glove.”

Although Tamie had considered a reroute to Luhmühlen, she knew that deep down, she wanted to pursue a competitive goal that would set her heart alight. Bramham, she explains, is the perfect track to help amp the gelding’s fitness back up, while giving him enough of a challenge to sink his teeth into. “There are some skinnies that are skinnier than he is, but luckily we practice a lot of that,” she says. “And it’s funny, people always say it’s hilly here, but until you get here … to me, these are mountains! It’s all about your perspective. But he’s a big galloping horse, and it’s a beautiful place to be. It’s a really fun step down from Badminton – but it wouldn’t be much of a step down!”

Tamie Smith and Wembley III enjoy a revised early-summer competitive plan. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The pair sit in 14th place overnight on a score of 32 at the halfway point of dressage.

“The atmosphere was massive in there, but I was so pleased with him – he was really workmanlike,” says Tamie. “There are still some places we can work on things, but overall, he’s producing some really beautiful work.”

Tamie credits supergroom Monique Coston with making it possible for her to continue to chase the dream, despite a change in plans: “she’s so much more than just a groom; she does everything. She does all the fitness work, the day-to-day, all the gallops – she’s wonderful, irreplaceable!”

Dressage resumes tomorrow morning at 9.30 a.m. BST/4.30 a.m. EST. Stay tuned for a full breakdown of all tomorrow’s action, plus a look at the two tough Ian Stark-designed courses awaiting our competitors this weekend.

Go Eventing!

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

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Bramham First Horse Inspection: One Horse Spun as CCI4*-L Classes Kick Off

Zara Tindall and Class Affair. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

From rugged Ireland, with its jolly ginger men (plentiful) and pots of gold (less so), Team EN heads in wildly different directions this week. Your loyal British correspondent (that’s me!) heads to the Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials, set in sumptuous Yorkshire, a locale with slightly fewer tired stereotypes, but perhaps a few more beetle-browed men slamming their heads into trees and shouting “Cathy!” Jenni, for her part, is en route to Bromont – because you can never have too many ‘B’ events – where she is, presumably, going to become a mountie, or a piece of Mounty Bounty, or something.

Harry Meade and the delicious Tenareze. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Last year, I made the grievous error of trusting southern England’s balmy temperatures to follow me north, and by the time I parked up in front of Bramham’s impressive 18th century Palladian manor house, my shorts-clad thighs had turned a few blotchy shades of purple, and I was wearing every piece of clothing I could easily grab whilst traversing a motorway on my upper half. This year, I wasn’t going to be caught out. This year, I was going to be warm and smug, stationed at the end of the jog strip behind the absolutely colossal lens I cart around to these sorts of things like the pack-mule I am.

Except I wasn’t. The M1 – that gloriously inglorious strip of motorway that bisects approximately THE ENTIRE CONTINENT with nary a Starbucks to break up the skyline – decided that today was the day to send some of its constituent roadgoers pinging over the grass verges, and so I found myself stuck, my car in park and a truly grim audiobook on the go, for what felt like half my life. By the time I rolled into Bramham, red-faced and bearing an R-rating for prolonged and almost incomprehensible profanity, the whole sodding thing had finished. And so I come bearing a consolation prize, which is probably better than what I could have offered you anyway – a smattering of images from Actual Professional Photographer Nico Morgan. Thanks, Nico. I’ll show you the best head-slamming tree later.

Gaby Vaughan and Cufflink present for the CCI4*-L. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

First, though, the actual news. 77 horses came forward to present for the Equi-Trek CCI4*-L, down one after Britain’s Alex Whewall didn’t present Ellfield Voyager. Two of them were sent to the hold box, and both were subsequently withdrawn without presenting a second time – those were Alex Postolowsky and Richard Skelt, both representing Great Britain, with Howick Freedom and Man Hunt, respectively. 75 horses will proceed to dressage, which begins tomorrow at 9.00 a.m. BST/4.00 a.m. EST, and six flags will be represented: Great Britain, France, New Zealand, Sweden, Ireland, and Zimbabwe each have riders in the class.

27 horses were presented for the British Horse Feeds CCILu25-4*, which serves as the Under-25 National Championship. Again, two horses were held – but while Indie Vaughan-Jones‘ Quob Dynamic was passed upon re-presentation, Rebelle de Neuville, the ride of France’s Thomas Piejos was spun. 26 horse-and-rider combinations representing four nations – Great Britain, France, Ireland, and the Netherlands – will continue forth to the competition proper, which commences tomorrow at 2.37 p.m. BST/9.37 a.m. EST.

We’ll also be keeping an eye on the Land Rover CCI4*-S, which is chock-full of fantastic horses and riders. Most excitingly, we’ll get our first look at the brand-new partnership of Ryuzo Kitajima, one of Japan’s rising stars, and Cekatinka, the incredibly talented mare with whom Tim Price contested last year’s World Equestrian Games. The stars and stripes are also represented in this class: Lexi Scovil, who has been based with William Fox-Pitt this spring, rides her Chico’s Man VDF Z, while Tamie Smith reroutes Wembley III here after a Badminton that didn’t quite go to plan.

Millie Kruger is best turned out in Bramham’s first horse inspection. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

The best-dressed competition was judged by representatives from Hiho Silver and Land Rover, as well as Bramham’s owner, Rachel Lane Fox. The ladies’ prize was awarded to Zimbabwe’s Camilla Kruger, who rides her Rio mount Biarritz II in the CCI4*-L, while Richard Coney scooped the gents’ honours. He’ll be piloting Kananaskis, the horse with whom he made his Nations Cup debut two weeks ago, in the CCI4*-L for under-25s.

Richard Coney and Kananaskis. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Can’t make the trip north of the Wall? No matter – this year, Bramham will be live-streaming all three classes’ cross-country phases for free through their website. (You might want to set your Saturday plans aside, mind – the action begins at 9.30 a.m. BST/4.30 a.m. EST and continues until 6.00 p.m. BST/1.00 p.m. EST.)

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Izzy Taylor Takes Historic Tattersalls Triple in CCI4*-L

Victory repeated: Izzy Taylor takes Tattersalls’ CCI4*-L with PSH Gazelle. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Rewind twelve months: it was the first half of 2018, and the world was a purer place, full of unspent hopes and dreams, and totally devoid of the finale of Game of Thrones and the FEI’s revised flag rules. What a time to be alive, eh?

It could have been 2018 all over again as the showjumping finale of the Irish Field CCI4*-L at Tattersalls came to its conclusion yesterday. Just as he had been a year ago, Will Coleman held the overnight lead, though rather than his stalwart campaigner OBOS O’Reilly, this time he rode level debutante Off The Record. And, heartbreakingly, all it took was a whisper on a rail, once again, to end the dream. Once again, he had to pass the top honours to Izzy Taylor, who also rode a debutante in PSH Gazelle.

A chilly Izzy Taylor tops the podium in the CCI4*-L, making her the only rider to take this class on three occasions. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

In winning the CCI4*-L, Izzy writes her name in Tattersalls’ history books: she’s now the first person to ever win this class three times. Her first win came in 2014 aboard Allercombe Ellie, and her second, of course, was last year with Call Me Maggie May. This week, she takes top honours aboard Gary Power’s eleven-year-old mare (Flipper d’Elle x Miss Roxcento), climbing from eleventh after dressage to win, finishing on her first-phase score of 32.4.

PSH Gazelle shows her potential with a classy victory for Izzy Taylor. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I’m very pleased; she delivered a fantastic clear round, and she couldn’t have gone any better,” beamed Izzy, who also took top spot in the Cooley Farms-sponsored two-star and two top-ten finishes in the three-star. “Unfortunately – or fortunately! – Mike [Owen] and Will [Coleman] both had a fence down, so she could win.”

Izzy, who is a regular visitor to Tattersalls with a lorryload of horses, praised the competition for embracing the core values of the sport: “All three phases have been very influential, and that’s how it should be – it’s a three-phase sport,” she says.

Dan Jocelyn’s Blackthorn Cruise fuels the Tokyo fire for the Kiwi rider. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“The dream is that he’s my Tokyo horse – that’s what every step of his production has been geared towards. Whatever falls in our way in that path is what we’ll take,” said New Zealand’s Dan Jocelyn after finishing second aboard the ten-year-old Blackthorn Cruise. A great round aboard one of his three-star rides had filled the experienced rider with confidence, and he came forward prepared to pull out all the stops.

“He’s finished brilliantly – I couldn’t ask for a better result, really. He’s done three solid performances and put all three together; I’m absolutely thrilled.”

Despite his young age, Blackthorn Cruise has now lodged four starts at this level, though this is his best result so far. “He got to the top quite quickly, which was a little bit of a detriment to him, actually – he needed to feel comfortable, and now he does, which has shown through in all three phases,” explains Dan.

Blackthorn Cruise will likely head to Aachen next, giving him the chance to experience a championship atmosphere as Dan continues on the Tokyo trail.

Will Coleman misses out on the win, but discovers an inexorable talent in his Off The Record, finishing third after an unlucky rail. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Once Will Coleman gets past the initial disappointment of missing out on the win – just barely – he’ll surely be comforted by the fact that his ‘quiet confidence’ in Off The Record has proven well-founded. In the ten-year-old’s first CCI4*-L – and first trip abroad – he’s stepped up to the plate in every way, posting a competitive first-phase mark of 31.5 to sit in equal sixth, and catapulting into the lead after a foot-perfect cross-country round that saw the pair finish on the optimum time of 10:18. Despite that rail, which came late on course at the triple bar heading into the final related distance, his showjumping, too, was excellent, and throughout the week he’s shown an enviable aptitude for atmosphere and pressure.

“I can’t complain at all, really,” he says. “The horse tried really hard; he was a little nervous in there, and it was just hard to get into a good rhythm where he felt a little distracted. He’s normally a good jumper, but I couldn’t quite settle him enough. I was a bit off that triple bar and he tried, but he couldn’t quite make it. It’s a good atmosphere and a windy day, and he’s still pretty young, so I’m not going to be upset about it. We’d love to win, but hopefully there will be other chances.”

Little and large: Will Coleman’s Off The Record boasts an impeccable Irish heritage, while 15.1hh Jims Pal brings to the table a bit of rough – “he could have been stolen from someone’s field as a foal, for all anyone knows about him,” says Michael Owen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Off the Record was sourced through Richard Sheane’s Cooley Farm, and Will and his family enjoyed the Sheanes’ proper Irish hospitality through the week.

“It was nice to come back to where we got him and try to put in a good performance, and he did do that – I don’t think I can be at all upset,” says Will. “He’s got a ways to go [before he’s a championship mount], but I think a lot of the horse; he really, really wants to be good, and it’s my job to help him figure out how to do that. That’s how I’m looking at it – you’ve got to try to get a little bit better each time. This week’s been great for him. He’s going to come away more mature and ready for this type of competition the next time.”

Esib Power is best of the Irish, finishing fourth aboard the experienced Samuel Thomas II. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

She’s arguably one of Ireland’s most accomplished riders, but Elizabeth Power – known to her nearest and dearest as Esib, the daughter of former showjumping legend Captain Con Power and sister of champion National Hunt jockey Robbie Power – has been dogged by an all-too-common problem. Despite pairing a successful five-star eventing career with a sideline in showjumping that has seen her finish in the top twelve in the Hickstead Derby on two occasions, her continued quest for world domination has been somewhat stymied by a lack of top-flight horses.

That’s why it’s such a thrill to see the rider partnered up with Samuel Thomas II, the fifteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse (El Rio x Banard Que) with whom Oliver Townend enjoyed a top-ten Burghley result in 2016. But for all that, he’s not necessarily the most straightforward of horses, and when Esib took the reins from her then-boyfriend midway through the 2018 season, she took over the gelding’s baggage, too, which showed in their early international efforts together. In this, their fourth international together, it all finally came together, and Esib’s ability to impart her own fighting spirit unto her horses won the day. The pair climbed from 21st place after dressage, in which they scored a 36.5, to eventual fourth after clear rounds inside the time in both jumping phases. This was enough to earn Esib the prize for being the best Irish rider in the class – though, in fact, the prize was always to be hers, as none of the other contenders completed the week’s competition.

Esib Power and Samuel Thomas fly the flag for the home nation. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

For Esib, who finished seventh at Burghley last year after producing a masterclass in cross-country riding aboard Soladoun, fourth place at Tattersalls certainly isn’t the upper limit of her scope – but now, perhaps, with Samuel Thomas proving himself a worthy second string, she’ll be better equipped to step into the spotlight and earn the accolades she deserves for her fierce, determined riding.

Michael Owen and the ‘overgrown pony’ Jims Pal dig deep to post the horse’s career-best result. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It was to be a battle of mind over matter for Britain’s Michael Owen, who nevertheless produced a 4.4 fault round aboard the thirteen-year-old Jims Pal. They finished in fifth place, dropping from overnight second, but completing a week-long trajectory that saw them climb from initial eighth after producing one of just four clear rounds inside the time on Saturday.

“To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to ride today – I’m in so much pain,” said  a grimacing Michael, who dislocated his shoulder at the end of the cross-country horse when the gelding hit the penultimate fence. A Herculean effort from both horse and rider kept the pair upright, but Michael took the full force of the impact.

“He hit it very, very hard. It’s a miracle that I actually got to jump today – I actually jumped another one this morning, too, and it went clear. I’m in agony!”

Despite measuring in at just 15.1hh, Jims Pal easily made up the forward-set strides on Ian Stark’s cross-country track. This, Michael says, comes down to his can-do attitude – a trait that may have been passed down from some suspected pony lineage.

“He’s Irish-bred, but we don’t know his full breeding – we think he probably has a lot of Connemara in there, though,” he explains of the horse who came from a dealer as a ‘naughty’ four-year old with an untraceable history. Bought for a pittance, the youngster then went hunting with Michael’s girlfriend, who produced him to Novice. “I took over the ride when we realised he had a bit more potential, and the rest is history. He just ate that cross-country up so well yesterday – he’s a little star, such a pocket rocket.”

Tina Cook’s Killadeas comes good. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Beyond the big win, the fifth through tenth places on the leaderboard were taken by British riders, too. Sixth place went to Tina Cook and Killadeas, who added a smattering of time penalties on Saturday, but produced one of Sunday’s five double-clears to step up from seventh. Killadeas has, thus far, been one of the under-the-radar denizens of Tina’s string, but a glance across the collecting ring proved that he’s obviously one of the most popular. Tina’s children, Izzy and Harry, made sure the talented nine-year-old knew just how well he’d done throughout the week – good incentive, one would hope, for a continued surge in performance.

That’s all for us from a blustery, beautiful Tattersalls. Next, Chinch will be working off the Guinness over the formidable hills of Yorkshire’s Bramham International Horse Trials, where we’ll be reporting on a jam-packed CCI4*-L and CCI4*-S, as well as the much-coveted CCI4*-L for under-25s. Sláinte!

The top ten at the conclusion of the exciting Irish Field CCI4*-L at Tattersalls.

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Tim Price Takes Tattersalls CCI4*-S, Prompts World’s Most Adorable Prizegiving

Otis Price: Tattersalls’ most popular winner. This is not a question. This is a cold, hard fact. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“Oh god, that’s not the one you’re taking to Luhmühlen, is it?!” asked a horrified Alex Bragg as Tim Price waited in the wings to accept top honours in the George Mernagh Memorial CCI4*-S. He has jolly good reason to worry – the eleven-year-old Ascona M (Cassaro x Naomi IV) has gone from strength to strength over the last eighteen months, choosing more and more frequently to use her formidable talent for good, rather than evil. In doing so, she makes herself almost unbeatable, and she was just that this week, leading throughout to take the win in her final run before the German five-star.

Tim Price and Ascona M make light work of the final water combination. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tim and ‘Ava’, owned by Lucy and Ben Sangster, Sir Peter Vela, and Suzanne Houchin, started their week with a 25.9 dressage, giving them a commanding lead of 3.9 points.

“She’s sensitive and a little bit outrageous,” Tim told us after his test, which very nearly rivalled the performance she produced in her five-star debut at Pau last season. “Her reaction to something she detests is big. For example, with the flying changes, she can claim that she never saw that aid coming, and what the hell were you thinking?! She’ll throw herself into the air, and there’ll just be legs everywhere. So you say, okay, no worries girl, and a couple of minutes later, she’ll do them perfectly. I won’t have done anything different, but she’ll have taken it better. I have to be the diplomat in the relationship!”

When the duo took to Tattersalls’ notoriously beefy showjumping track yesterday, it looked as though we might see a glimpse of Ava’s radical side. But a few sassy head-tosses notwithstanding, she picked her way over the twisty course, never threatening to touch a rail. Although her exuberant jumping style meant that she and Tim added 1.2 time penalties, the lead was still theirs.

Tim Price and Ascona M fly across Ian Stark’s CCI4*-S course. Photo courtesy of Tatts.ie.

But there was still cross-country to face, and after yesterday’s CCI4*-L track caused such an incredible shake-up of the leaderboard, nothing was certain in today’s fast and furious short-format. And though Ava is unarguably a phenomenal talent, winning a CCI4*-L at Haras du Pin as a nine-year-old and finishing second in Blenheim’s Event Rider Masters the same season, she’d also had a surprise elimination in her five-star debut at Pau last season. Though she spent the winter showjumping on Spain’s Sunshine Tour, and had three good – though slow – Open Intermediate runs this season, she hadn’t contested an international since that unlucky tumble.

Ascona M: established in her extravagance. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

If there was a question mark hanging over her as she left the start box, it had been well and truly dissipated by the time she crossed the finish, three seconds under the optimum time of 6:56. Her exuberant, attacking style had been her downfall last autumn, when she took an enormous leap over a log drop into the water at Pau and consequently stumbled upon landing but today, she looked confident and calculated as she tackled the final water on course. From there, she was home free, and Tim was able to enjoy a fitting conclusion to a busy week in Ireland.

“We’ve absolutely loved it, as usual! It’s so nice to go somewhere with proper jumps and perfect going, and with that little bit of competitive spirit,” says Tim. “That’s certainly the Ian Stark influence coming through, and his design has come on so much. We’ve been coming here for many years, and we’ve got so many stories. In the beginning [of our careers], when we were really struggling, Tattersalls was so kind to us and really helped us to keep the show on the road.”

Between them, Tim and wife Jonelle had five horses to manage throughout the week – and they also had their young son, Otis, along for the ride.

“I’ve heard a lot of feedback on bouncy castles and fair rides, and all sorts of things like that,” says Tim with a wry grin. “He comes back exhausted and sleeps all through the night, which is a very good thing for all of us!”

Otis Price stands to attention for the national anthem of New Zealand. “I don’t think he’s ever stood still for so long,” whispers mum Jonelle. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Otis, for his part, enjoyed his first podium appearance, stealing his dad’s thunder as he clambered aboard, ably assisted by second-placed Kazuma Tomoto, who finished a second inside the time, further establishing his new partnership with former Astier Nicolas ride Vinci de la Vigne JRA.

Vinci de la Vigne and Kazuma Tomoto: fast, economical, and enormously determined to the end. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This week has been a crucial fact-finding mission for the Japanese rider, and an exciting prospect for committed followers of #JapanWatch. Would Vince’s step back up to four-star be a success with his new rider? Could he, in fact, be Kazu’s mount for next year’s Tokyo Olympics? Those watching in suspense will have been gratified to see that the partnership between man and horse already looks well-established, with Kazu taking calculated risks and riding seamlessly at speed throughout the tricky combinations on course. If this is what a fact-finding mission looks like, then Olympic podium pretenders, be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

Alex Bragg and Zagreb show off what they’re made of for a podium finish. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Alex Bragg and Zagreb enjoyed a welcomed return to form, recording one of the fastest rounds of the day to stay in third place. Their spring season has been a bit of a rollercoaster – Alex opted to withdraw his fifteen-year-old campaigner from Badminton after they found themselves off the pace after the first phase, and then, after performing exceptionally around two-thirds of Chatsworth’s fiendishly tough CCI4*-S track, they made a costly mistake and fell on the home stretch. But a 29.9 dressage, with nothing added throughout the week, is none too shabby – and Alex, who heads to Luhmühlen’s five-star in two weeks with the lanky gelding, should be able to draw crucial confidence from his performance here. Zagreb is back, baby, and both he and his rider are fuelled by hunger for a big one.

Alex Bragg’s young talent Hester climbs to fifth after an impressive FOD. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

That hunger for success also propelled Alex and one of his debutantes into the top five. Hester may be just eight years old, and her first phase performance might have been marred by some greenness in the atmospheric main arena, but two foot perfect jumping rounds inside the tight times allowed her to climb from thirteenth to an eventual fifth place in her first-ever CCI4*-S.

Sam Watson and Tullabeg Flamenco fly the flag for the home nation. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sam Watson took the best Irish rider honours in this class, finishing fourth with the Luhmühlen-bound Tullabeg Flamenco. Though they added 1.2 time penalties in yesterday’s showjumping, they were one of seven combinations to complete clear and inside the time today – and, in fact, those seven combinations filled the top seven spots on the leaderboard.

(As an aside, we have a new motto: #BeMoreToby. Just look at how thrilled Mini Mr Watson was about getting his hands on dad’s rosette!)

Only two of the sixteen starters in today’s cross-country failed to complete – Niall Ferguson opted to retire MX Calamity after a problem on course, while Millie Dumas, ordinarily astonishingly reliable in this phase, took a surprise swim at the final water when Fabian misjudged the skinny triple brush in the water. Eleven of the fourteen to complete managed to do so with clear rounds, while seven combinations finished clear inside the time.

The George Mernagh Memorial Fund and Trophy are named for the titular founder of the event at Tattersalls, which began in 2006. George passed away in 2011, but left a legacy that has proven invaluable to the Irish eventing community: each year, a bursary is granted to someone in the industry who is helping, in some way, to develop the sport within the country. His name also adorns this prestigious class, which acts as a gateway to the top level of eventing for many up-and-coming horses and riders alike, as well as offering Irish riders a chance to compete against the world’s best on home turf.

That’s all for us from this incredibly exciting class – but stay tuned, as we’ll be bringing you a full report from the Irish Field CCI4*-L shortly!

The top ten at the conclusion of Tattersalls’ George Mernagh Memorial CCI4*S.

 

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Tattersalls CCI4*-L: Final Horse Inspection Sees Field Shrink by One

Overnight leaders Will Coleman and Off The Record easily pass the final horse inspection. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

All nineteen horses that completed yesterday’s cross-country phase came forward for the final horse inspection this morning at the Tattersalls International Horse Trials. The horses were presented to an assembled ground jury of Annabel Scrimgeour (GBR), Dr Ernst Topp (GER), and Tim Downes (GBR). After the withdrawal of one competitor from the holding box, eighteen will proceed to this afternoon’s showjumping finale.

Sarah Dowley and Rubix Kube. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ichak de Monfirak, presented by Belgium’s Hugo Laschet, and Rubix Kube, the ride of Ireland’s Sarah Dowley, were both sent to the holding box. While the former was accepted on re-presentation, the latter was withdrawn. Rubix Kube had been lying in 14th place overnight after producing a steady clear yesterday.

The remaining field, led by Will Coleman and Off The Record, head into the showjumping finale at 3.30 p.m. BST/10.30 a.m. EST today. As always, you can tune in via the Tattersalls live-stream.

Go Will, and Go Eventing!

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Tattersalls: Will Coleman Leads CCI4*-L; Tim Price Unstoppable in CCI4*-S

And then there were nineteen. You’d have been forgiven, after watching pathfinder Izzy Taylor‘s laughably easy clear aboard PSH Gazelle, for thinking that Ian Stark had, perhaps, made his Tattersalls CCI4*-L track a bit too doable. But as the afternoon’s action unfurled, and our field of competitors shrunk from 28 to 19, it became clearly evident that only the boldest and bravest would end the day at the upper echelons of the leaderboard.

Will Coleman and Off the Record step into the lead in the CCI4*-L. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

He might be a first-timer at the level, and he may have flown all the way from the States to begin this next, crucial stage of his education, but Will Coleman‘s Off The Record looked a consummate professional around the tough track, jumping clear to finish bang on the optimum time of 10:18. For the ten-year-old gelding, who was sourced just down the road at Richard Sheane’s Wicklow-based Cooley Farm, the trip to Tatts has been something of a homecoming – and it certainly shows. When overnight leaders Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street picked up twenty penalties at the drop element of the four-part mound combination, they moved into an easy lead.

Will Coleman and Off the Record. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“He was great; I thought he did it really easily, and I was really happy with that,” says Will of the young talent, with whom he won the Jersey Fresh CCI4*-S last month. “The course suited my plan, and I wasn’t really surprised by anything out there – he gave me a great round. I was up ten, fifteen seconds most of the way around; I thought, at that point, that I was still tied with Pippa [Funnell and Billy Beware, withdrawn before cross-country], so I thought there wasn’t any point in finishing ten seconds under. So I slowed up towards the finish, but I nearly overdid it. [My wife] Katie was really worried that I’d maybe slowed up too much, but thankfully we finished dead on it! He’s a real bulldog; he loved every minute of it.”

Top position at Tattersalls is a familiar position for Will, who came achingly close to a win in last year’s CCI4*-L aboard OBOS O’Reilly. Just a single pole on the last day precluded the victory, and instead, they had to settle for fifth – but for all his relative inexperience, Off the Record is an impressive showjumper, with plenty of clear rounds across his international record.

Michael Owen and Jims Pal climb six places to sit second overnight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Problems scattered across Ian Stark’s track, on which the coffin at 13ABC proved enormously influential, set in motion a seismic shift across the rest of the leaderboard, with some vastly experienced combinations pulling up and other competitors making fortuitous climbs. British rider Michael Owen stepped from eighth into second place overnight aboard Jims Pal. Though the thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding has been contesting this level since 2017, he’s yet to break into the top ten on a final leaderboard – and Michael will need to work hard tomorrow to stop the gelding from sending a handful of rails flying.

Pathfinders Izzy Taylor and PSH Gazelle record one of four double-clears, propelling them to third place. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Izzy Taylor was first out of the box with PSH Gazelle, and she also recorded the fastest round of the day, finishing seven seconds inside the optimum time. This is a debut CCI4*-L for the eleven-year-old, who was produced to three-star by Michael Jackson (no, not that one). The mare’s efforts allowed her to climb from eleventh to third overnight, putting Izzy – who won this class last year with Call Me Maggie May – within touching distance of a repeat victory.

Dan Jocelyn and Blackthorn Cruise stay in fourth place after adding just 3.6 time faults across the country. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

New Zealand’s Dan Jocelyn and Blackthorn Cruise evidently felt quite comfortable in fourth place, and there they stayed – they added 3.6 time penalties after an easy spin around the course. The ten-year-old gelding stepped up to this level last season, jumping clear around Bramham’s CCI4*-S course, but picking up 20 penalties in his first CCI4*-L at Boekelo. He’s not been a particularly quick horse thus far in his career, and so his round today shows promise for a bright future.

Cross-country dynamo Millie Dumas records a fast clear with Fabian, moving up to fifth place. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

British up-and-comer Millie Dumas was the only British Eventing competitor to record fifty consecutive cross-country clears in 2018, and the quiet achiever demonstrated why again today, piloted Fabian around the track with a nurturing determination. Though they added 2.4 time penalties, the nine-year-old gelding was able to move up four places to sit fifth overnight, putting the pair 1.9 points ahead of the best-placed Irish combination, Esib Power and Samuel Thomas II. Their double clear catapulted them from 21st place after dressage to overnight sixth – an exciting stepping stone in the new partnership between Esib, who splits her time between top-level eventing and top-level showjumping, and Samuel, who was produced to five-star by Oliver Townend.

Esib Power confirms her reputation as one of the fastest cross-country riders in the world with a blazing round aboard Samuel Thomas II. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tina Cook and Killadeas relinquished their hold on fifth place, moving down to seventh with 6.4 time penalties. But Tina, who has been carefully producing the talented, under-the-radar gelding, was thrilled with her horse’s performance, effusively praising him at the finish.

Tina Cook and Killadeas slip from fifth to seventh after adding 6.4 time penalties. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Overnight leaders Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street were the most high-profile combination to come to grief on course: they added twenty jumping penalties and 16.4 time to slip down to fifteenth place. Two riders were eliminated; Melissa Townshend fell from Chapeau at the first element of the coffin, while Lauren Blades and Jemilla were eliminated for missing fence eight. A further seven riders opted to retire on course, including Laura Collett, who ran into trouble at both the coffin and the Horse Sport Ireland water with DacapoKazuma Tomoto, too, put his hand up after Bernadette Utopia took offence to the coffin, while Ludwig Svennerstal called it a day when Salunette opted out of jumping the big log drop into the HSI water.

Tomorrow, our nineteen remaining competitors head into the showjumping finale, which kicks off at 3.30 p.m. BST/10.30 a.m. EST.

The top ten after a hugely influential cross-country phase in the Irish Field CCI4*-L at Tattersalls.

Tim Price Holds CCI4*-S Lead

The CCI4*-S field – whittled down to sixteen starters after the withdrawal of Tina Cook and Calvino II – faced a tough showjumping challenge in the Colm Quinn main arena today, but yesterday’s leaders proved unassailable, despite adding 1.2 time faults.

Tim Price and Ascona M. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“She’s not the most orthodox horse – she throws her heart over the fence first, which is great if you can channel it, but it means you can’t nip around like some of the other horses can,” says Tim Price of the opinionated Ascona M, with whom he heads into tomorrow’s cross-country on a two-phase score of 27.10. This puts him 2.7 penalties – or six seconds – ahead of second-placed Kazuma Tomoto and Vinci de la Vigne JRA, who delivered the round of the day to finish as one of just five combinations inside the time.

Kazuma Tomoto and new ride Vinci de la Vigne JRA. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Only five riders stayed on their dressage scores today, while just seven left all the poles in the cups. Alex Bragg produced two of those five completely fault-free rounds, which was enough to allow Zagreb to hold onto third place and the former Jonelle Price ride Hester to climb from thirteenth to eighth.

Alex Bragg and Zagreb. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The best-placed Irish rider, Sam Watson, very nearly managed the feat too, delivering clear rounds with both Imperial Sky and Tullabeg Flamenco, but adding just 1.2 time penalties aboard the latter. They sit in fifth and seventh overnight, respectively, just below fourth-placed Millie Dumas and KEC Deakon, and creating some sort of Irish sandwich (potato bread, anyone?) with Mary King, who holds onto sixth place aboard her homebred King Robert.

Sam Watson and every girl’s dream pony, Tullabeg Flamenco. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tomorrow sees the CCI4*-S competition head into its final phase, a shortened version of today’s tough track. Will we see it separate the men from the boys again? And where can I actually get some potato bread, now that I mention it? Stay tuned to find out.

The top ten going into tomorrow’s cross-country finale in the George Mernagh Memorial CCI4*-S.

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Friday Video from SmartPak: The Houghton Cross Country Binge

We’ve reached the bit of the season where the internationals come up so thick and fast that you’ll put yourself at risk of whiplash if you try to keep up with them all. But sometimes, what we all need at the end of a long week is the opportunity to binge some cross country, priming ourselves for an action-packed weekend of … binging more cross country. Fortunately, our friends at the FEI have given us the chance to do just that, with all the action from the weekend’s Nations Cup at Houghton Hall in one handy video. Crack a beer, put your feet up, and relive how it all went down.

Go Eventing!

Tattersalls CCI4*-S: Number One Position for World Number One

Greenery and good horses: welcome to Fairyhouse Racecourse. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There’s something about Tattersalls. Even when the wind is blowing – and boy, is it blowing – and a cluster of foreboding clouds jostle for prime position over the main arena, it’s possessed of a (blustery) air of good sport and great craic. Plus, frankly, it’s just rather pretty.

With yesterday’s CCI4*-L competitors enjoying a well-earned break, our focus today shifts over to the CCI4*-S. Though the entry list has shrunk down to just seventeen competitors, it’s a classy field chock-full of experienced five-star combinations and red-hot up-and-comers.

Tim Price and Ascona M eclipse the competition in the George Mernagh Memorial CCI4*-S. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

If you’d wanted to place a bet on it beforehand, though, you’d have been hard-pressed to get any odds worth emptying your wallet for. Tim Price becomes our newly-minted World Number One tomorrow, and to say that our reigning Burghley champion is on form would be to utter an egregious understatement. Here at Eventing Nation, we really only deal in overexcited hyperbole. But although we could wax lyrical about Tim’s achievements all afternoon, we have to make note of Ascona M, too. The eleven-year-old Holsteiner mare (Cassaro Z x Naomi IV) is still a relatively new ride for Tim; he first took the reins in 2017, when wife Jonelle was sidelined on maternity leave. Then, the fiery mare went back upon her return – but mid-way through the 2018 season, Jonelle decided to let Tim take over again. Since then, the pair have been on the up and up – they scored a hugely competitive 25.3 at Pau, although an unfortunate stumble after an exuberant jump into the water put paid to their campaign. Today, they very nearly equalled it, putting a 25.9 on the board to take the lead by a significant margin.

“She’s such a quality mare; she’s a winner at home every day of the week. But saying that, she can be radical as well, being a lovely … mare,” Tim says with a grin. Today, though, ‘Ava’ kept her opinions to herself, fairly floating around the arena as we saw her do in her five-star debut at Pau last season. Though she stands a fighting chance here, it’s not a major goal: instead, it’s all useful preparation for her return to the top level at Luhmühlen.

“That felt like a really good thing to have in the back of my head – the fact that she was rideable, the fact that she stayed in front of me, and the fact that she just went through the motions. She’s feeling the best she ever has this year, especially as this is the first season I’ve had from January. I think that’s really benefited us.”

Occasionally radical: Ascona M is on best behaviour to take the lead with Tim Price. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The primary benefit of this extra time together is manifesting itself in the mare’s rideability. Although Ava is a naturally elegant mover, and though she seems to find the work incredibly easy, it’s not a push-button job to produce the goods.

“She’s sensitive and a little bit outrageous,” explains Tim. “Her reaction to something she detests is big. For example, with the flying changes, she can claim that she never saw that aid coming, and what the hell were you thinking?! She’ll throw herself into the air, and there’ll just be legs everywhere. So you say, okay, no worries girl, and a couple of minutes later, she’ll do them perfectly. I won’t have done anything different, but she’ll have taken it better. I have to be the diplomat in the relationship!”

Kazuma Tomoto and new ride Vinci de la Vigne put the pressure on the leaders. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

After clinching overnight third place in yesterday’s CCI4*-L class, Japan’s Kazuma Tomoto returned today firing on all cylinders. This time, he rode new mount Vinci de la Vigne JRA (Esterel de Bois x Korrigane de la Vigne), the ten-year-old Selle Français with whom France’s Astier Nicolas finished seventh at last year’s World Equestrian Games. Vinny was purchased by the Japan Racing Association at the end of last season as part of the country’s quest to take top honours in next year’s Olympics – and though it’s a new one, the partnership has been quietly impressive so far. Kazu and Vinny finished sixth and second, respectively, in three-star competitions at Belton and Ballindenisk, and though this will be their debut four-star together, they’ve started it in a competitive position.

Their score of 29.8 might seem a long way behind that of the leaders, but the margin of 3.9 comes a hair’s breadth away from giving Tim a rail in hand going into tomorrow’s competition. Now, he’ll need to make sure all the poles stay up if he wants to hold his lead while Kazu, whose overarching goal is to qualify his four horses for next year’s Games, can focus on the task at hand without feeling an enormous amount of pressure.

Alex Bragg and debutante King of the Mill. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

He may well feel some from his nearest rival, though. Alex Bragg and Zagreb (Perion x Renera) sit just a tenth of a penalty behind Kazu and Vinny on a score of 29.9, giving Alex early momentum in a class in which he has three horses entered. Michael and Naomi Roe’s King of the Mill (Stormhill Miller x Ballycanew Queen) sits in ninth place overnight on a score of 36.1, while Lucy Nelson’s Hester succumbed to the vibrant atmosphere in the main arena and waits in the wings on 41, putting her in 13th place.

“Zagreb was great, actually – I’ve been trying to wait for the summer, but I seem to be following this wet, breezy weather around,” joked Alex whose top horse, much like one EN reporter, performs at his best in milder weather. “He had a little spook at the camera at the end of the arena in the counter-canter work, which was a shame, for one small mistake – but other than that he was super, as always.”

Though Zagreb – known at home as Rhett – is the much-deserved subject of our endless poster-boy adulation, it’s exciting to see Alex methodically building up a great string of up-and-comers. Both of the younger horses entered in this class are level debutantes: nine-year-old King of the Mill has just three international runs under his belt, while eight-year-old Hester has five, though she racked up considerable international showjumping experience with her prior rider Jonelle Price.

Alex Bragg and the former Jonelle Price ride Hester. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I brought them over here for the cross-country, actually – I know it’s big and bold, and Ian Stark always builds it that way, but I’ve always felt that horses come back from it feeling really confident, and then they go on to do well through the year,” explains Alex. “The main arena, too, has enough of an atmosphere that it tests them out a bit and gives them some experience there. Hester is a young eight-year-old, and she got a bit lively – she has a bit of a history of that, and it did, unfortunately, tip her over today. King of the Mill has always been a bit of an anxious horse, but he’s gone in there and been incredibly professional. He’s very Thoroughbred-y, so he lacks some of the softness of movement of some of the cross-bred horses that are more expressive, but his main feature is his gallop and his stamina. This is a stepping stone for him, hopefully, to go onto bigger things this year and next. They’ve been fantastic so far, and it’s wonderful to be here.”

A trio of British women hold fort in the middle of the top ten – Tina Cook and Calvino II sit in provisional fourth place on 30.5, while Millie Dumas makes it a second top-ten appearance in as many days, this time riding KEC Deakon. They sit in fifth on 31.3. Less than a penalty and a half behind them, Mary King and her homebred King Robert lie sixth, posting a 32.7.

Sam Watson and Imperial Sky. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

EquiRatings’ big boss Sam Watson is the highest-placed Irish rider in the class, squeezing both his Luhmühlen-bound horses into the top ten. His Ballindenisk winner Imperial Sky leads the way, holding seventh place on 33.8, while the striking dun Tullabeg Flamenco rounds out the top ten on 37.9, just behind lone French representative Arthur Duffort and Toronto d’Aurois.

The CCI4*-S field looks ahead to showjumping next, which commences at 6.15 p.m. BST/1.15 p.m. EST tomorrow, while the CCI4*-L heads to Ian Stark’s beefy cross-country track at 2.50 p.m. BST/9.50 p.m. You can keep an eye on all the action as it happens through Tattersalls’ live-stream, and we’ll be bringing you all the juicy insight after the fact, right here. Go Eventing!

The top ten after dressage in the George Mernagh Memorial CCI4*-S.

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Tattersalls CCI4*-L: Best of British as Pippa Funnell Heads Dressage

Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street deliver another top performance to head the Irish Field CCI4*-L at Tattersalls. Photo courtesy of Tatts.ie.

He might not be sitting atop the leaderboard with his own ride, Rosemaber Lancuest (24th on a 37.5), but it’s been a good day in the office nevertheless for Irish rider Padraig McCarthy. Two of his competitors’ horses in the Irish Field-sponsored CCI4*-L at Tattersalls today were produced and sold from his Devon-based sporthorse empire, and both of them nabbed spots in the top five at the conclusion of the thirty-strong class.

One of them took top spot, a not unfamiliar haunt for the eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding. Jonathan and Jane Clarke’s MGH Grafton Street (OBOS Quality) has established himself as a consistent first-phase performer with Pippa Funnell in the irons, and he delivered on that consistency yet again today, earning scores of well over 70% from judges Tim DownesAnnabel Scrimgeour, and Dane Rawlins. His final mark of 25.4 sees him lead the first phase by three full points, relegating the morning’s leaders, Laura Collett and Dacapo, into second place on 28.4.

Laura Collett and Dacapo get off to a flying start in the horse’s first CCI4*-L. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“It wouldn’t have been his best test he’s ever done; the halts and the first flying change weren’t great, but everything else felt really nice – that’s the easy part on him. Normally, he’s really good at the changes, but he actually got a bit lazy in there; he came out yesterday like a raging bull but today he was like, ‘I’m over it now!’ But he’s so consistent in his dressage, and it’s nice to go in there with him, because you know he’s not going to blow,” says Laura of ‘Cal’ (Diarado x Tosca VII). Owned by Gillian Morris-Adams, Diana Chappell, Carolyn Taylor, and Michael and Alison Smedley, the ten-year-old gelding is as reliable a performer as the overnight leader, but where MGH Grafton Street can boast two-and-a-half seasons at this level, including an eighth-place finish here in 2017, Dacapo makes his CCI4*-L debut this week.

“The aim is to go out and be competitive – he’s been super at all his short-formats, and the only reason he didn’t go and do a CCI4*-L last year is because I didn’t think he was ready. He’s come on from the great note he finished on last year, and jumping-wise, he’s been phenomenal this season – the fact-finding mission will just be that he’s never gone this far [on cross-country] before. But he’s been foot-perfect all year so far,” says Laura, who praised the efforts of the organising team for their hard work on the track. “[The course] has been beefed up from normal, and there are some decent questions out there, but I think it’s a very fair track. It’s very much in front of them and not trappy at all. I’ve never seen the going so good here; for me, it’s the best ground I’ve seen all year.”

Kazuma Tomoto and Bernadette Utopia make great strides towards a longer-term goal. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

He’s known around the lorry park as King Kazu, and rightly so: Kazuma Tomoto, the exceptionally talented Japanese rider who started eventing just three years ago, has set himself a huge goal this season – and so far, it’s coming good.

“I’m not expecting to win this time, just to qualify for Tokyo – we just need a good round,” he explains. Kazu is on a mission to qualify all four of his top horses for next year’s Olympics, at which he hopes to help his team to a home medal and, after much work by both the Japanese federation and its riders, newfound popularity for the sport in Japan. Just three weeks after taking his first CCI4*-S win, which he claimed at Chatsworth aboard Brookpark Vikenti, Kazu is back for more with yet another of his enviable string. Today, he started off his first-ever trip to Tatts with a bang, producing a competitive test with Bernadette Utopia – the second of the Padraig McCarthy-sourced horses in the class – to post a 29.2 and take third place as we look ahead to cross-country.

“She did a really good job today; she can do every movement and she’s a big mover, too, so I tried to make her relax. She can be a hot horse, so I need to ride her once or twice before a test – but this time I rode her once and she was much better.”

His score just edges New Zealand’s Dan Jocelyn into fourth place with Blackthorn Cruise, with whom he earned a 29.3.

Tina Cook brings forward an unknown quantity in Killadeas. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Fifth place is held overnight by Tina Cook and Ella Boyle’s under-the-radar Killadeas. The nine-year-old by Hermes de Reve stepped up to four-star last season, though his campaign at the level has been a learning curve thus far: he jumped clear around his debut at Hartpury, but notched up 40 penalties at his first long-format at Boekelo, and again at Burnham Market’s CCI4*-S earlier this year.

Pippa Funnell makes a second appearance in the top ten, this time riding Billy Beware and tying for sixth place with lone US competitor Will Coleman. Will opted to bring his up-and-comer Off the Record to Tatts after a productive and successful trip to the event last season with OBOS O’Reilly.

“I really thought it was a good course, and where it’s this guy’s first four-star long, I thought it would be the perfect event for him,” says Will. “It gives him a bit of experience at getting to travel, and it’s a nice ten-plus minute course without being a killer. It’s big, but it’s very fair – I think Ian does a great job. For me, I thought the footing was amazing last year, and this year, it’s even better; they put forward a class effort and I thought this would fit really well into the two-year plan for the horse. The owners agreed, so lucky me!”

This will be a debut CCI4*-L for the ten-year-old (VDL Arkansas), who hasn’t been out of the top ten in his last ten internationals, a lucky streak that takes us back to mid-2017. Even more excitingly, he’s only added time in three of those ten runs, and the most he’s added in those instances is a paltry 7.2.

“We’ll know a lot more about him after this weekend, but he’s performed so well in his lead-ups over the last few years. He’s become a really consistent horse, so hopefully that continues. We’re quietly excited about him having a bright future.

[AN: due to a bit of a technical hitch this morning, we’re unfortunately lacking in a photo of Will and Off The Record – for now, you’ll have to take our word (and the judges’!) for it that their test was lovely. We’ll be bringing you lots more of this fantastic pair this weekend!]

Our CCI4*-L competitors will enjoy a day off tomorrow, while we focus on the small but hugely competitive CCI4*-S class, presented by the George Mernagh Memorial Fund. It all kicks off at the enormously civilised time of 11.00 a.m. BST/6.00 a.m. EST – presumably to allow for plenty of whiskey-quaffing at tonight’s Goresbridge Select Event Horse sale – with Alex Bragg and mega-hunk Zagreb kicking off proceedings. Can he top the leaderboard with one of his three exciting entries? Will Luhmühlen-bound Sam Watson notch up a win in his final run with Ballindenisk victor Imperial Sky? Will King Kazu reign supreme with the exceptional Vinci de la Vigne? Or will newly-minted World Number One Tim Price run away laughing with the crown aboard the feisty, flashy mare Ascona M? It’s all still to play for. Go Eventing!

The top ten at the conclusion of the first phase of the Irish Field CCI4*-L at Tattersalls International Horse Trials.

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Tattersalls: All Pass CCI4* First Horse Inspections

Will Coleman and Off The Record. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Welcome to Tattersalls International Horse Trials and Country Fair where, just north-west of Dublin, Ireland’s foremost event has kicked off its 2019 iteration. It’s a bit grey, and a bit soggy, but the craic is plentiful — and so are the hopes of our assembled competitors. Today, the CCI4*-L and CCI4*-S entrants assembled for the first horse inspection, presided over by Dr Ernst Topp (GER), Annabel Scrimgeour (GBR), and Tim Downes (GBR).

Will Coleman and Off The Record were the first combination to take to the strip in this afternoon’s CCI4*-L line-up, and they kicked off an uneventful inspection that saw each of the 27 horses entered pass through to tomorrow’s dressage.

Likewise, all 24 of the CCI4*-S horses and riders made it through the first horse inspection, held in the sprawling stable blocks abutting the Tattersalls house. Though reasonably compact in size, both classes feature an array of world-class combinations from across the continent and beyond, all fighting for the chance to triumph over the tough Ian Stark track criss-crossing the Co. Meath estate.

Our tips? Look out for Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street to set a competitive bar in the first phase of the CCI4*-L, but don’t discount the inexperienced but flashy Fabian, piloted by Millie Dumas, who could put up a solid fight. Japan’s Kazuma Tomoto is riding high off a CCI4*-S win at Chatsworth two weeks ago, and could deliver three very, very impressive performances with Bernadette UtopiaIzzy Taylor is the reigning champion in this class, and this year, she brings forward PSH Gazelle – when Izzy’s in it, she’s in it to win it, so don’t take your eyes off her. Laura Collett‘s Dacapo might not have had his moment in the spotlight yet, but it’s certainly coming soon – and it could be this week.

Daniel Alderson’s TS Jamaimo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

In the CCI4*-S, our brand-new World Number One Tim Price looks formidable with the super-talented, super-sassy mare Ascona M, who will likely lead the dressage. But she has stiff competition from some experienced top-level talent: Alex Bragg‘s stalwart partner Zagreb heads up his stable of three entries in this class, while Sam Watson brings forward his Luhmühlen entries, Ballindenisk winner Imperial Sky and Tullabeg FlamencoTina Cook‘s experienced Calvino II appears here, too, having rerouted after not making it off the Badminton waitlist, and the former Chris Burton mount TS Jamaimo comes forward under new rider Daniel Alderson. Here, too, Kazuma Tomato could challenge for the win: he rides Astier Nicolas’ enviably talented WEG mount Vinci de la Vigne.

The competition begins in earnest tomorrow, with CCI4*-L dressage from 9.00am BST/4.00am EST, and CCI4*-S dressage following upon its conclusion. Can’t make the trip to Dublin this year? You’ll be able to live-stream all phases through Tattersalls’ Facebook page. Want to dive into an analysis of the fields? Check out the Eventing Podcast preview, available to download now. We’ll be back with everything you need to know from Ireland’s premier event – stay tuned!

CCI4*-L First Horse Inspection

CCI4*-S First Horse Inspection

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Who Jumped it Best? Houghton Nations Cup Edition

The first leg of the 2019 Nations Cup series got off to a rollicking good start over the weekend at the Saracen Horse Feeds Houghton International Horse Trials, with Germany taking a consecutive fifth win. But now it’s time to move onto more subjective victories: namely, who jumped a randomly-chosen fence the best.

Our choice was fence 6A, the Saracen Horse Feeds parallel. This early combination consisted of the parallel rails — pictured — and, upon landing, a right-handed turn to two steeply angled offset brush fences. So now, dear readers, the power is in your hands — who do you think showed the best form and effort over the first element of this technical combination?

Christoph Wahler (GER) and Carjatan S. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ben Way (GBR) and Enduro A Dalriada. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Joris Vanspringel (BEL) and Imperial Van De Holtakkers. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Antonio Cejudo Caro (ESP) and Duque HSM. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Robin Godel (SUI) and Grandeur De Lully CH. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Alberto Giugni (ITA) and Mischievous. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jonna Britse (SWE) and Quattrino. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Elaine Pen (NED) and Under Cover. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Eliza Stoddart (GBR) and Dick O Malley. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Felicity Collins (GBR) and Glasker Sweet Clover. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

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Germans Doubly Victorious in Houghton Nations Cup

The final podium in the first Nations Cup of 2019 – Great Britain in third place, Sweden in second place, and Germany in first place. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Can anyone stop the Germans? Certainly not at Houghton’s leg of the Nations Cup, at which they’ve been victorious for the last four years. Today, they made it a fifth, winning on a finishing score of 90.6  – a margin on just 0.6 penalties ahead of the second-placed Swedish team. The home team stepped into bronze position after all four team members laid down clear rounds, giving them a final score of 99.2. The three successes came at the tail end of a day that saw problems scattered across the track, with several coming to grief at the tricky hanging brush log into the water.

“We thought we should have a nice time this year, because next year we might not be invited,” joked German team chef d’equipe Hans Meltzer. This year, he brought forward a team that mixed vast experience with relative newcomers – Ingrid Klimke rode the four-star debutante Asha P, Christoph Wahler continued to establish his reputation aboard Carjatan S, and two young guns in the form of Jerome Robine and Felix Etzel rounded out the group. “We always have a different team here, but everyone is always so motivated to compete and do well at Houghton. We have different courses in Germany, we don’t have these big spaces and parks, so it’s a good experience for the riders to have these galloping courses. It’s not too twisty like we have at most in Germany. I thought this was more twisty than usual, but after you walked it two or three times you could find the lines. In the end, it was good to ride. I think Alec did a super job – my first impression was ‘wow, so many turns!'”

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

Christoph Wahler held onto his overnight lead, finishing five seconds inside the time with the ten-year-old Holsteiner gelding Carjatan S, marking both horse and rider’s first win at this level. Their finishing score of 24.8 saw them add nothing to their dressage score, and also helped them propel the German team to the top of the podium. The win also sees Christoph and Carjatan back on form after an uncharacteristic tumble at Chatsworth two weeks ago – only their second cross-country fault in 22 international runs.

“Chatsworth was rough, but afterwards we rerouted here, because we just wanted to get another run over with,” he explains. “He did a brilliant job here in all three phases; he was very calm and relaxed in the dressage, he really concentrated showjumping, and then today he felt good from the first couple of fences and just kept galloping and jumping. All the combinations came up well and he gave me a pretty safe feeling, and I just went for it! He’s a very good, honest jumping horse, so I thought I’d just stick to what I normally he do. I know he’s got a lot of confidence on cross-country, so I was confident.”

Christoph was full of praise for Alec Lochore’s influential track, despite some initial misgivings: “It was good, and the ground rode well – when we came here, we were a little bit worried it might be hard, but in the end it didn’t ride hard. The combinations were all nice and the jumps were good, and I liked the questions that were asked.”

Next, Christoph and Carjatan head to Luhmühlen, where they’ll contest the CCI4*-S German National Championships.

Sweden’s Louise Romeike and Waikiki 207 finish their leaderboard climb in second place. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Swedish team took second place, and so did one of their team riders: Louise Romeike and Waikiki 207 climbed from eighth place after the first phase to eventual second, finishing on their dressage score of 28.4. They led an exceptionally strong Swedish front, with three team riders finishing in their dressage score and in the top ten. Ludwig Svennerstal and Stinger finished fifth, while Malin Josefsson and Allan V climbed an incredible 39 places to finish tenth.

For Louise, this marks a second Nations Cup at which she’s taken second place – she did the same thing aboard thirteen-year-old Hosteiner mare Waikiki at last year’s Haras du Pin.

“I’m super happy with Kiki,” she says. “In the dressage, she was a little bit hot, with one or two mistakes, and then showjumping and cross-country she was brilliant. This is my first time riding her in England, and my first time at Houghton Hall – and I loved it, I thought it was really, really nice. On cross-country, everything came up really quick, but she’s really good on her feet and quick in her turns, so it suited her.”

Rosa Onslow finishes third with RLE Kaiser Limbo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There was only one rider in the top ten who wasn’t part of a team, and her third-place finish is a career best. 20-year-old Rosa Onslow had to miss a university exam to attend the competition, but her decision paid dividends when she managed a podium finish with RLE Kaiser Limbo.

“I’m over the moon with both my horses – they’re both incredible,” says Rosa, who also posted a cross-country clear with Diamond Sundance, finishing in 42nd place. “RLE Kaiser Limbo tried his heart out; it’s quite a technical course with lots of questions, and for him, it would be quite twisty, but we had a great ride.”

While Rosa is away at Newcastle University completing the first year of her Economics and Politics degree, her mother takes the reins at home: “it’s not too easy, but hopefully I’ve done enough to pass this year! It’ll all get easier in a week once I’ve broken up for the summer, but for Houghton, mum has had to do pretty much everything – so it’s all down to her.”

After recording her career-best result today, and with her top horse fully qualified for five-star, Rosa is looking ahead to a potential level debut at Burghley this autumn: “but I’m only twenty, so we’ll see!”

Piggy French finds an extra gear in Cooley Monsoon, finishing fourth. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

British team anchor Piggy French added another top five finish to her incredible 2019 resume, finishing fourth with comedian Jennifer Saunders’ Cooley Monsoon. The eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse is named after his owner’s character, Eddie Monsoon, in the British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous – and his form thus far has been fabulous indeed, with nine international runs and nine top-ten finishes. This is only his second competition at this level, and although he’s not a naturally fast horse, the quick ground played well in his favour. ‘Eddie’ and Piggy finished on their dressage score of 29.2 to take the top placing of the British team combinations.

“He was very good; it’s only his second time at this level, so I thought he might still be green. The speed, for him, is still a pretty green thing at the minute, and it’s still unknown territory, so we were delighted,” says Piggy. “It was quite a step up for him, so hopefully he comes out of it well. It’s exciting for the future.”

Though the rest of the season remains up in the air, Piggy is quietly looking ahead to a potential run at Blenheim for the talented up-and-comer.

Karin Donckers and Fletcha van’t Verahof record the best Belgian result, taking sixth place. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sitting just behind fifth-placed Ludwig and Stinger were the Belgian stalwart Karin Donckers and her longtime partner Fletcha van’t Verahof, who slipped from second to sixth place after adding 6.4 time penalties. Just half a penalty behind them, Germany’s Jerome Robine and his Quaddeldo R finished seventh, with just 1.6 time penalties precluding them from finishing on their 30.2 dressage score.

Switzerland’s Robin Godel and Grandeur de Lully CH take eighth place. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It was a good day for young guns, and three of the aforementioned, representing three different countries, rounded out the top ten: Switzerland’s Robin Godel and Grandeur de Lully CH finished in eighth place, after a tumultuous weekend which saw them start in seventh, slip to 25th, and ultimately climb back up the rankings. In ninth was Richard Coney, one of three British senior team debutantes, riding Kananaskis, and in tenth, Sweden’s Malin Josefsson and her Allan V contributed to their team’s excellent result.

Just keep climbing: senior squad debutante Richard Coney and Kananaskis leap 37 places to finish ninth. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

With Germany and Great Britain on the podium and already qualified for Tokyo, team Sweden picks up valuable points on the Nations Cup leaderboard, which will aid them in their quest for a much-coveted team slot.

That’s all for now from Houghton – next, we’re rolling straight on over to Ireland, where we’ll be bringing you coverage from Tattersalls. Don’t miss it, pals – it’s going to get rowdy.

The top of the leaderboard at the conclusion of the competition.

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Houghton Nations Cup: A Showjumping Shake-Up

Felix Etzel and Bandit 436 produce a clear to sit seventh and second-best of the Germans. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Welcome back to the Saracen Horse Feeds Houghton International Horse Trials, where we’re wrapping up a busy day of showjumping action in the open Nations Cup class.

Sue Peasley‘s CCI4O*-S track made clever use of the slight undulation in the terrain which, when combined with tricky distances set on long and short strides, set the stage for an exceptionally influential afternoon of showjumping. It was going to need to be, too: 112 horse-and-rider combinations came forward to jump this afternoon, with much of the class closely-bunched after the first phase. 111 would complete, after the retirement on course of Samantha Seaton and Rowbury Spree, and just 54% would lodge a clear round. With such tight scores, even a single rail would be enough to start a tailspin down the leaderboard.

Ingrid Klimke’s CCI4*-S first-timer Asha P tips two rails to swap from leader to German drop score. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Two surprise rails – the same number of rails the mare had previously had in her career, cumulatively – sent overnight leaders Ingrid Klimke and her seven-year-old World Champion Asha P plummeting to 19th place, making them the drop score for the formidable German team. Nonetheless her motherland, which has won the Nations Cup here for the past four years running, still maintains first place on a provisional mark of 84. Taking her place at the top of the leaderboard is Christoph Wahler, who rides Carjatan S in pursuit of redemption after Chatsworth’s Event Rider Masters leg a fortnight ago. There, they took an unfortunate and uncharacteristic tumble in the final water, but their form is generally very promising: in 22 international cross-country runs, they’ve gone clear 20 times.

Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S take over the top spot. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Belgium’s Karin Donckers and her enormously experienced Fletcha Van’t Verahof were one of a small number of riders to do their dressage this morning, and their first-phase score of 24.9 put them into a competitive third place. A clear round over the poles and the usurpation of Ingrid popped them up another place into overnight second, and the Belgian team into third.

Karin Donckers and Fletcha Van’t Verahof head up the Belgian effort – and its quest for Olympic qualification. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The top of the leaderboard is truly international, with six nations represented. Switzerland’s Salome Ludi and Super Rossi moved up to third place overnight, while New Zealand’s Jesse Campbell, riding as an individual, holds fourth place with Diachello II. This is the horse’s first four-star and, in fact, only his seventh international start. Fresh off the back of her first Badminton completion, Sweden’s Louise Romeike piloted Waikiki 207 into fifth, cementing Sweden’s second-place position on the team leaderboard. They’re lying 3.4 places behind the German leaders at the moment, considerably narrowing the margin after yesterday’s competition.

Jesse Campbell and Diachello II move into the top five. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The home team has moved from sixth up to fourth place, just behind Belgium, after strong performances from its younger constituents and a 29.2 dressage from anchor Piggy French and Cooley Monsoon. They followed it up with a clear round over the poles and sit ninth overnight, but they’re not the best of the British at this stage – instead, that honour goes to Tom McEwen, who competes as an individual with No Excuse, ordinarily ridden by the incumbent World Champion Ros Canter.

The real hard-hitting news story of the day, though, was of the unqualified interloper who outclassed and outperformed approximately EVERYBODY today. As Felicity Collins and RSH Contend OR, the 2017 winners of the Young Rider national championship at Houghton, took to the ring, they were joined by an extra competitor.

Look, this might not be hilarious to anyone else, but it was SPECTACULARLY funny to me.

IT WAS A GOSLING, and like Cotton-Eye Joe, we didn’t actually know where he came from, nor where he went. But he was on some kind of medal-seeking mission, and as the bell rang, he ran? Waddled? Flapped? at his maximum speed and FOLLOWED her all the way to fence three, whereupon he got a bit tired and went off to terrorise another arena. Honestly, I haven’t thought about anything else since.

 

Now, we look ahead to cross-country – and this year looks to be Houghton’s toughest yet. Alec Lochore has reversed his course for the first time in several years, which means that the tough quarry now comes up quickly at fence three. There, horses will have to take a leap of faith from sunshine into the shadows, jumping a hanging log down into the depths of the quarry before nipping up and out the other side. 6ABC will catch a few out, too – set in front of the iconic water tower, it features a friendly enough oxer, swiftly followed by two steeply angled offset hedges. Fence 7 is quite unique; it’s a wide ditch, but with a lip on either side that makes it almost look like a log drop on approach. Upon landing, there’s a 90-degree left-handed turn to 8, a relatively unimposing flower tray with … white walkers on it?

No, stop, it’s summer now.

The next influential-looking question comes at 12ABC, which features an open left-handed corner, a raised gun cartridge, and a right-handed corner, and also makes use of a slight mound. The water at 15ABC starts with a suspended log drop in – not dissimilar to the question we saw earlier this spring at Carolina. Then, there’s a curving right-handed turn to a house in the water, before a canter out and over a box. After all the aforementioned, horses should be up for just about anything, but we may still see some glances off the super-skinny sundials at 17AB.

Set at a distance of 3,990m, the course’s time will be reasonably achievable for those who can pull off a clear round – the going is firm and fast, and so we should see a fair few riders come home within the seven minute optimum. It’s the tough combinations early on that will be decisive, as we’ve seen across the two- and three-star divisions today.

Want a closer look at the course? Check out the interactive map, with images of each fence, here. We’ll be back tomorrow with the full rundown of the action-packed final phase, plus interviews with the day’s biggest movers and shakers. Stay tuned!

The top ten after showjumping in Houghton’s CCI4O*-S.

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Houghton Nations Cup: Ingrid Klimke Leads the Way for German Domination

Ingrid Klimke’s impressive young mare Asha P sets a high standard in her level debut. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The first Nations Cup CCIO4*-S of the 2019 season is well underway at England’s Saracen Horse Feeds Houghton International Horse Trials, with nine teams fighting for top honours. Despite finishing a very creditable second in last year’s competition, the US hasn’t put forward a team – instead, it’s a pan-European competition.

So why should we be paying extra attention to team events like this one this year? Simple: we’re still in the qualification period for next year’s Olympics, and there are several key countries fighting for the remaining eight team slots. Only Great Britain, France, and Germany are already qualified in our nine-nation field; the rest of the entrants – BelgiumThe NetherlandsSwedenSwitzerlandItaly, and Spain are still in the hunt for the golden ticket. The Nations Cup series offers a valuable opportunity to nab it – there will be one team qualification awarded at the finale of the series at Boekelo this October to the highest-placed country not already qualified. Phew.

Best-placed on the Italian team is Paolo Torlonia, who rides Miss Fernhill. He sits in 31st place on a score of 32.4. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

With one rider per team left to ride, the German powerhouses currently lead – well, sort of. Three of their four team members have already ridden, and their highest possible score after the end of the first phase will be 78.2. With two team riders holding first and second place provisionally, it’ll be down to the final pair – Felix Etzel and Bandit 436 – to try to better Jerome Robine and Quaddeldou R‘s 30.2. But technically, Germany will start the day in second place; the Netherlands, who field a three-person team and have only seen two of their riders start, currently sit in first on a 66.2. If they want to stay there, final rider Laura Hoogeveen and Wicro Quibus NOP will need to produce a dressage score of … 12. Or better. No pressure, then.

Ingrid Klimke and Asha P. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lest we get too bogged down in team technicalities, though, it’s worth taking another look at our overnight leaders. It should come as no surprise that the Queen of Dressage herself, Ingrid Klimke, tops the standings – but the horse she’s on is a bit of a dark one. Eight-year-old Asha P (Askari 173 x Hera, by Heraldik xx) took the Seven-Year-Old World Championship (CCI3*-L; formerly CCI2*) at Le Lion d’Angers last year, but since then, she’s only contested two CCI3*-S competitions. Houghton marks her four-star debut, but despite her relative inexperience, she displayed the results of Klimke’s sky-high production values, putting a 23.2 on the board to head it overnight. Just behind them on 24.8 is teammate Christoph Wahler, riding Carjatan S, with whom he took an unfortunate tumble in the Event Rider Masters at Chatsworth two weeks ago.

Even if Germany can’t improve upon their provisional team score of 78.2, they’re almost certain to lead after the first phase: they currently enjoy a commanding lead of nearly ten points over their nearest competitor, Sweden. The young home team currently sits in sixth place on 99.5, but their big gun, Badminton winner Piggy French, will come forward tomorrow riding Jennifer Saunders’ exciting Cooley Monsoon. After a final morning of dressage, we’ll be heading straight into showjumping – so stay tuned!

The top ten as we head into the final session of dressage.

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Friday Video from SmartPak: The Bright Side of Life

Have you checked in with yourself – and with your loved ones – lately? It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and there’s no time like the present to make sure that everyone is, well, okay. Mental health struggles are often hidden ones, particularly in the equestrian industry, which places an enormous value on toughness and work ethic. To admit that you’re struggling might feel like admitting that you’re weak, or that you’re not up to the job – but that’s not the case, nor is it the case for the 1 in 4 people who are going through the same thing.

Though it might not be eventing themed, we love Racing Welfare’s powerful, poignant video, which highlights just how much can lurk beneath the surface of an outwardly happy exterior. If you’re feeling down, or stressed, or sad, you don’t have to try to bury it – admitting you need a bit of extra support or help can be one of the bravest things you’ll ever do. Keep an eye on your barn friends, colleagues, and fellow competitors, too. Sometimes, all they need to know is that there’s someone there.

Have a great weekend, gang. Look out for yourselves – and for each other … and Go Eventing.

Laura Collett Takes First Event Rider Masters Win Aboard London 52

Laura Collett and London 52. Photo courtesy of Event Rider Masters.

A field of 30 horses and riders becomes a tightly-knit group of 24 as Di Boddy’s enormously influential showjumping course dropped key contenders out of the hunt at the Dodson & Horrell Chatsworth International Horse Trials, the first leg of the 2019 Event Rider Masters series. With its tight distances, up-to-height treble combination, and jump-off style rollback turns, the first of the jumping phases saw just seven clear rounds.

These elusive clears proved valuable: they allowed outside chances such as Emily Philp and FallulahBubby Upton and Fernhill Rockstar, and Lucy Jackson and Superstition to make bold strides into the top ten. But for those who failed to hit the mark, the losses were as significant as those gains. Sarah Cohen and Treason dropped from fifth to 20th position after lowering three rails, while two rails pushed Alex Bragg and Zagreb from ninth to 13th.

But Laura Collett’s position on the leaderboard wasn’t to budge: she and London 52, the 10-year-old former showjumper who won Blenheim in just his third season of eventing, delivered the seventh and final clear round over the poles to hold their lead going into cross-country.

How did it play out?

Chatsworth’s CCI4*-S track is always a test of speed and stamina. With its long pulls over hill and dale and its relentless series of technical questions, it’s no surprise that the course sees so few double-clears. Only six people have made the time here over the last decade, while the average time faults collected sits between 11.7 and a whopping 22.

No one would make the time in today’s test, although those who came closest were amply rewarded. Tom McEwen and Figaro van het Broekxhof, fresh off the back of their decisive win in Belton’s Grantham Cup CCI4*-S, came home with just 4.4 time penalties, rocketing them from eighth place to a final second. They shared the honour of being the fastest round of the day with Emily Philp and her talented up-and-comer Fallulah, who climbed thirteen places to finish fifth.

A clear round over the poles and a typically quick cross-country round, adding just 6.8 time penalties, allowed Ireland’s Cathal Daniels and his fiery World Games mount Rioghan Rua to bounce back after a disappointing first-phase performance yesterday. They recorded the biggest climb of the competition, moving from 28th to sixth.

Time was far from the only influential factor on course. A smattering of problems led to stratospheric shifts across the leaderboard, as Pippa FunnellBubby Upton, and Yasmin Ingham each took tumbles on course. Fan favourites Alex Bragg and Zagreb ended their day late on course at the Event Rider Masters’ Stags’ Heads at 14ABC, while Germany’s Christoph Wahler took a dramatic tumble in the Dodson & Horrell 80th Anniversary Splash with Carjatan S.

Australia’s Bill Levett is no stranger to ERM legs, and today was certainly looking like his day – he and Shannondale Titan slipped from third to sixth after showjumping, but a strong start to his cross-country round saw him set to climb. 15 penalties for missing a flag and 13.6 time penalties saw him tumble down to a final 16th place, though, just two spots ahead of Ireland’s Sam Watson, who started cross-country in second place. An otherwise foot-perfect round was scuppered by a late run-out and a subsequent 17.6 time penalties, and he and the striking dun Tullabeg Flamenco finished 18th.

None of the problems across the board affected leader Laura Collett. She and London 52 left the start box on a mission, and with an incredible 29 seconds in hand, it was their game to play. They wouldn’t, ultimately, need the entirety of the comfortable buffer they’d given themselves; instead, they sailed through the finish line having added just 7.6 time penalties.

“That horse is unbelievable,” says a delighted Laura, who takes her first ERM win  – and £16,000 – here. “He’s finished second so many times, and he only started at CCI4*-S last year. I just can’t believe it! I’m the luckiest girl in the world to sit on London 52. Three years ago, he’d never seen a cross-country fence – he’s come a hell of a long way, so roll on the future!”

Tom McEwen‘s Grantham Cup winner Figaro van het Broekxhof is steadily establishing himself as a superstar in Tom’s enviable string, and today he showed why with his joint-fastest cross-country round. Such was the influence of his speed that he finished second, climbing from seventh place despite an unfortunate pole.

Tom McEwen and Figaro van het Broekxhof. Photo courtesy of Event Rider Masters.

“It’s brilliant!” says Tom, standing atop his first ERM podium since the series’ launch in 2016. “I’m lost for words. I’m delighted for the horse, and delighted for the owners. It’s just been a great weekend – and lovely to finish off in the sunshine! It’s a real busy track, and there’s a lot coming up very quickly on the hills, so you’ve got a lot to take into consideration out there. It’s about riding with your brain, rather than too much bravery.”

The woman responsible for keeping London 52 fit while Laura contested last week’s Badminton Horse Trials also got to enjoy her own moment of glory.

Lucy Jackson and Superstition. Photo courtesy of Event Rider Masters.

“This is my first podium ever in an international,” laughs New Zealand’s Lucy Jackson, who produced one of the all-important clear showjumping rounds and added just 8.4 time penalties across the country to finish third with Superstition.

“I’m super, super, super chuffed with him. Unfortunately, I probably had too much control; if I’d gone that little bit quicker we could have been higher! But he’s green, he’s extravagant, and he’s pretty arrogant at times, so there were times when I needed to give him a second longer to assess the fences. It was busy out there.”

Germany’s Julia Krajewski, a real threat for the series podium this season, finished just out of the top three after adding 9.6 time penalties and a single rail with the inexperienced mare Amande de b’Neville.

Each of the top fifteen riders in today’s competition adds crucial series points to the leaderboard, giving them the chance to fight for end-of-season honours and a £30,000 prize.

What comes next?

The second leg of the 2019 Event Rider Masters series sees us head to Wiesbaden in Germany on the 7th and 8th of June. Set in the grounds of the magnificent Biebrich Palace, it’s sure to draw a truly world-class field. Near, far, wherever we are, we’ll be bringing you all the action as it happens on EventRiderMasters.tv. Don’t miss it.

Chatsworth: Collett Leads the Event Rider Masters Charge

Laura Collett and London 52 take a commanding lead in the ERM. Photo by Anna Franklin/Event Rider Masters.

Thirty horses and riders came forward today to contest the first phase of competition at the Dodson & Horrell Chatsworth International Horse Trials. Among them were some of the world’s leading riders – including five-star winners, Olympic veterans, and up-and-coming superstars.

But taking a first-phase lead wasn’t going to be an easy job. Heavy rain had led to tricky, muddy conditions, and the assembled competitors were going to have to bring their ‘A’ game – as morning leader and EquiRatings analyst Sam Watson says, ground like this “exploits [the horses’] vulnerabilities”. With no margin for error – and no chance of sneaking extra points for flashy movement – the battlefield was ready to separate the good from the truly great.

One woman with an innate ability to produce the goods in this phase is the young British superstar Laura Collett. As last year’s ERM series runner-up, she comes into the 2019 season hungry to go one better – and today, she got that mission off to a decisive start. Riding her exceptional Blenheim CCI4*-S winner London 52, Laura produced a copybook test to rocket to the top of the leaderboard in the afternoon’s final session.

“He was super; he’s still so shy, and in an atmosphere like that, he does get a little bit tense,” says Laura, who delivered an unsurpassable score of 26.9. “But he stayed with me, event though he was pretty scared going up the centreline the first time when he saw the camera tower. Every time we went down that end he froze a little bit, but at least he didn’t do anything too drastic!”

German phenomenon Julia Krajewski is well-known for her prowess between the boards, and she didn’t disappoint. Riding the inexperienced Amande de b’Neville, she produced a 27.4 to sit in a close second place overnight.

“I’m very happy – Mandy, as we call her, definitely had her first experience in a big atmosphere in there,” she says. “But she didn’t seem to mind – she was very focused, very concentrated, and minding her feet, because it was very muddy in there! She was like, ‘this is dressage?! Okay…!’”

Julia Krajewski brings young talent Amande de b’Neville into the spotlight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Of her ordinarily unassailable skills in this phase, she says, “I try to see it more like working with the horse and developing the horse, rather than thinking, ‘now I do dressage.’ It’s all about doing it together. It’s about harmony and being with the horse – not so much about showing off or having huge gaits. But I really enjoy it!”

Australia’s Bill Levett is a familiar face in the ERM series, and he holds onto third place – and a podium position – overnight. He and the stalwart Shannondale Titan posted a 28.5, leaving them just 1.6 points, or four seconds across the country, behind our leaders.

“He was really with me, and allowing me to ride him with bravery, so I’m very pleased,” says Bill. “Yesterday, I was feeling very apprehensive about the whole thing; coming in here seems to light them up, but today we got the work right and he was with me most of the time.”

Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V: “she doesn’t like the mud, so she wasn’t as twinkletoes as usual.” Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Olympic veterans and former Chatsworth ERM winners Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V hold fourth place overnight with a score of 28.7. Just a penalty point behind them in fifth sit fellow ERM leg winners Sarah Cohen and Treason. With ERM – and course – form, these pairs should be formidable.

Tomorrow’s competition begins with a tough showjumping track designed by Di Boddy. With less than a rail separating the top seven after dressage, a clear round over the poles will be crucial – but Di hasn’t made it easy. Our riders will need to ride tactically over well-calculated lines, and they’ll need to think about the time, too. Our overnight leaders, Laura Collett and London 52, haven’t had a rail since last summer, while second-placed Julia Krajewski‘s Amande de b’Neville has never knocked a pole at this level.

“But,” says Julia, “she’s not used to jumping on grass that’s very wet, so we’ll see if she realises she needs to jump a little bit higher.”

Oliver Townend will be aiming to make a leap up the leaderboard with Ulises, currently 15th on 32.3. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

While the showjumping phase offers plenty of opportunity for our leaderboard to change, it’s the final phase that will be the most influential. Cross-country at Chatsworth is no fool’s game. With its colossal hills and tough, technical questions, it creates a serious question of speed. Can our clubhouse leaders put the pedal to the metal and stay up on the clock? Or will the day’s torrents slow them down as they tackle the terrain? And can the fastest man in the world, Chris Burton, make up the 9.6 penalty margin to take the lead with Lawtown Chloe?

The average time penalties accrued across the country at the ERM’s Chatsworth leg is 11.7 – that’s 1.1 penalties more than the margin between our current leaders and Cathal Daniels, who sits in 28th place overnight.

Tomorrow’s showjumping will be live from 13.00 p.m. BST/8.00 a.m. EST until 15.00 p.m. BST/10.00 a.m. EST, while the cross-country will follow from 15.15 p.m. BST/10.15 a.m. EST to 17.30 p.m. BST/12.30 p.m. EST. You can watch the livestream for free on the Event Rider Masters website.

Want to take a deeper dive into the world of ERM? Make sure you download EquiRatings Stacks, the high-stakes prediction game that can win you an iPad. Want to get ahead of the competition? Head over to the Prediction Centre to see how your favourites stack up against the competition. Then, jump into the SAP Spectator Judging app to see how you fare against the ground jury.

Want a preview of Ian Stark’s tough track? Check it out:

 

The top ten going into tomorrow’s showjumping in Chatsworth’s ERM.

Chatsworth ERM: Website | Live Stream | Live Scores | Prediction Centre | EN’s Coverage | EN’s Twitter | EN’s Instagram

Friday Video from SmartPak: The Chatsworth Challenge

Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V — the 2017 Chatsworth ERM winners — come forward to reclaim their title this weekend. Photo courtesy of Event Rider Masters.

The weekend is nearly upon us, and with it comes the return of the Event Rider Masters series. Once again, the fourth season of this innovative series kicks off at the iconic Dodson and Horrell Chatsworth International Horse Trials, the sprawling seat of centuries’ worth of Dukes and Duchesses. From the Baroque balustrades and gilded galleries of the house, to the secret gardens and unfurling lawns of the greater grounds, Chatsworth House is a setting as timeless as the sport itself.

But you won’t find Mr Darcy emerging from the lake – instead, you’ll spot the modern-day approximation wearing a tail-coat and tall boots, and rather than a battle of wits, the stage is set for an epic showdown of guts and gumption between a hot field of thirty. Thirty of the biggest stars in the sport of eventing. Thirty riders, and thirty horses, who are determined to put on a show you’ll never forget. Here’s what to expect…

Tuning in? Check out the latest episode of the Eventing Podcast to find out how your favourites stack up against the competition. Then, download the EquiRatings Stacks app to play along, make your predictions, and compete to win an iPad. Want a cheat sheet? Head over the brand new Prediction Centre to check out the odds. Then, tune back into EN – we’ll be bringing you all the news and behind-the-scenes views from the event.

Go ERM, and Go Eventing!

When Pigs Fly: Piggy French Takes Badminton

We’ve waited a long time for this moment, and now it’s here. Folks, we’re getting Piggy with it.

When Oliver Townend established such a dominant lead in the first phase, we thought that was it: the competition was in the bag, and the unbeatable man would be just that once again. When he produced two tactical clears and led after the second phase, swapping his leader around, it seemed almost set in stone. And when he knocked the one rail he had in hand and cleared the final fence, we started writing the headlines in our head. But then the pause happened.

A margin of 5.3 marks heading into showjumping might seem like too wide a gap to leap. It might seem like a foregone conclusion. And it might, when the horse with that lead has never been out of the top five in a five-star, seem like a total impossibility to assume that the balance could tip over the edge by a fraction of a second to change a slew of fates. But that’s exactly what happened, and time was momentarily crystallised as over 150,000 horse people tried to puzzle out some quick-fire calculations. Then the penny dropped.

Piggy French had contested 24 five-stars before this running of Badminton. She’d come close to the top, too, with a close second at Burghley in 2017 among her top honours. But the win? Well, that had eluded her. But it’s not the Chinese Year of the Pig for nothing, and after recording the most early-season wins of any rider in British Eventing history (and, of course, a cheeky little top-five finish at Kentucky just last week), her star was only rising. When she and second-placed Vanir Kamir delivered the clear round she needed today, all she could do was wait – wait to lose, wait to win, and wait for an absolution that may never come, to butcher a quote from, um, Titanic.

Absolution would come in the form of a single second. Leaders Oliver Townend had a rail and three seconds in hand, and when that rail toppled mid-course, the crowd began to hold its collective breath. When Ballaghmor Class hesitated and found himself on a half-stride, Oliver had to use all his experience to regather the rangy gelding, nearly hover on the spot for a stride, and find one more to make it out cleanly. And he did, but it was costly: he finished four seconds over the optimum time, and the win – after that stutter-step of puzzlement – was Piggy’s.

Piggy French and Vanir Kamira contribute to a second consecutive year of girlpower glory at Badminton Horse Trials. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

“I looked at the scoreboard and I couldn’t believe it – I was quite happy to think that second is great,” said a delighted and emotional Piggy. “You get so used to it not being your day, and going home, and you just keep going. I woke up first thing this morning and thought maybe I could do it, but then I walked the course and I thought there was no chance – it’s tight, there are so many related distances and lines, and it definitely wouldn’t be her sort of track. We were getting lower and lower [over the fences] as we went on; I kept hearing rattles but no noise from the crowd, so I thought we must be all good. Oliver’s is a great jumper – I had to turn away [as he jumped] the last, and I just thought, ‘well done, him’, but then the clock went red … it was very, very close in the end.”

“There’s something about her, and those great little mares that just do enough when they need to.” Piggy French and Vanir Kamira. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Piggy’s win doesn’t just mark her first five-star win, nor just her 25th attempt. It also makes her the first British winner of Badminton since William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning took the title back in 2015. Furthermore, her victory is the 100th-ever victory for a British rider at the five-star level. And on a more personal level? It’s been a long time coming, both for the enormously likeable rider and for her plucky, gutsy mare – the second consecutive ‘very ordinary’ mare to win here.

“It’s these little horses that make it for us,” said Piggy of Trevor Dickens‘ fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Camiro de Haar Z x Fair Caledonian).  “She’s a pain in the ass 362 days a year, and she’s really tricky to manage. She’s not the nicest of things to ride, you know, and she’s difficult, but she’s amazing – I say it all so fondly, because we all love her to bits. She’s a true five-star horse that comes to form at Badminton and Burghley. The rest of the time, she feels pretty ordinary, and you have to work pretty hard for what you can get. She doesn’t find any of it easy, and if I’d built that course at home and practiced it on the same side of the arena, I could do it fifty times and never have a clear round. There’s something about her, and those great little mares that just do enough when they need to. If they’re on your side, they’re just incredible.”

Piggy French directs the crowd’s adulation to the game and gutsy Vanir Kamira. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

For Piggy, the win – and the ongoing upward trajectory towards it – is made even more special by the fact that she’s had to rebuild her business and, more pertinently, her self-belief. After a period of plummeting lows in the early years of the decade, which saw her miss out on an Olympic berth in 2012 and a team place at the Europeans in 2013 and subsequently lose owners, sponsors, and funding, she’s now reaping the rewards and the joys of rediscovered love for her sport.

“It’s a complete fairytale, if I’m honest. It’s such a team effort, and I know everyone says it so much, but nobody has a bloody clue what you go through to get to the level, to be competitive at this level, and actually get your nose in front of the line first. It’s impossible, and you kind of get used to saying ‘well done’ to everyone else, and going home and thinking ‘oh, I had a rail; I could have been here, I could have been there.’ You go home and you work away, and you dream again, but you get way more knock-backs. It’s so hard, and it’s just having those people here when it all comes together means so much. It’s such a team effort.”

Two of those crucial people are Piggy’s partner, Tom March, and their three-year-old son, Max, who had spent much of the week with his godparents. Today, the family was reunited at Badminton as Piggy completed her round.

“The emotions when I saw him, when he came over to me when I finished – it’s really special,” Piggy smiled. “He has no idea what’s going on; he’s much more interested in the tractors going around moving the jumps, but it’s amazing. Hopefully, one day he’ll realise how special this is.”

One day, we suspect he will – but we also suspect he might live to regret his rather casual approach to his first television appearance when he brings a girlfriend home to meet mum and dad.

via GIPHY

She has the successes, the happy family, and now the biggest win of her career, but one thing still niggles at Piggy French: “They’ll have to write the name ‘Piggy’ in the history books, which will annoy everyone,” she grinned. “Is it too late to start going by ‘Georgina’?”

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class take a close second place. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Although he missed out on another big win today, Oliver Townend can’t be too upset – he managed, after all, to finish with both his horses in the top ten, despite the general consensus that in the game of Cillnabradden Evo you win, or you, well, crash and burn. He did neither of those things, and instead treated us to a week full of masterclasses in riding the horse you’ve got in the phase you’re in.

2017 Burghley winner Ballaghmor Class ultimately finished second, marking the fourth five-star for the twelve-year-old son of Courage II, who’s never yet been out of the top five at this level. In spite of all the horse’s previous achievements, Oliver found a new level of quality in him this week.

“He’s impressive all the time, but that was his best performance to date, yesterday,” he asserted. “The horse doesn’t really know it’s not won Badminton – he never does prizegivings anyway because he’s a bit wild, so he’s probably down there in the stables telling his mates he’s won!”

Oliver was quick to celebrate the victory, despite the fact it cost him his moment of glory: “congratulations to Piggy for an unbelievable performance and an unbelievable achievement,” he said. “We were actually together for seven years, so we know each other quite well, and it’s been a long time coming. It’s a very special week for her and the family.”

Cillnabradden Evo and Oliver Townend prove their detractors wrong in spectacular, inarguable fashion. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Finishing in sixth place was the competition’s ultimate dark horse, stablemate Cillnabradden Evo. Sally-Anne Egginson’s thirteen-year-old gelding, defying the odds and his detractors, and showing Oliver’s riding at its very best. The horse seemed to bottom out in the latter stages of yesterday’s course, but Oliver picked him up and guided him home, breathing a second wind into him and adding just 12.4 time penalties to his record-breaking 19.7 dressage. Today, ‘Gary’ came out as fresh as a daisy, delivering a very nearly foot-perfect round and just tipping one rail. Despite this, he was one of the most enjoyable horses to watch – he’s a consummate showjumper, and looks quality enough to tackle this discipline with aplomb, too.

Chris Burton and Graf Liberty jump cleanly over the water tray after a surprising fault there moments before. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Australia’s Chris Burton made it a double in the top five, despite a shock moment in fourth-placed Graf Liberty‘s round. Mid-way through an impeccably smooth course, he dropped anchor at the water tray, crashing through it and stopping the clock for a rebuild. Undeterred, he then restarted to produce an otherwise clear round, ultimately losing Chris no ground on the leaderboard, but allowing Kate Walls’ young gun Cooley Lands to step up into third place.

“I’ve had a terrible run at Badminton [over the years] – I’ve never had any luck here, so I’m delighted with how the week’s gone,” he said. “There’s no doubt it’s the premiere event in the world; in the weeks leading up to it, I try to tell myself it’s not important, but you can’t help it. I’m delighted to have gone so well.”

Cooley Lands shows his quality, despite an unconventional system. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Cooley Lands’ success is made even more remarkable by the fact that he isn’t ridden full-time by Chris; instead, owner Kate produces, schools, and occasionally still competes the horse, just handing the reins over to Chris for major competitions.

“I’ve always been very fond of him, and I was very lucky to pick up the ride on him,” said Chris. “He’s a little star, and he showed it today. Of course it’s sometimes a bit of the unknown, but he’s a very good horse and that makes it work.”

Andrew Nicholson and Swallow Springs

The indefatigable Kiwi Andrew Nicholson rounded out the top five with the twelve-year-old Swallow Springs who, we think it’s fair to say, has officially taken the step from ‘up-and-comer’ to ‘stable star’. The tricky grey didn’t quite manage the FOD he delivered for third at Burghley last year, but two rails down still only cost him two placings on the leaderboard.

“He felt very babyish at the beginning of the round – it’s difficult when you’re up against the crowds and the trees, and he just showed his inexperience there,” explained Andrew. “He went into himself a bit and wasn’t really concentrating, but the second half of the course felt very, very smart. He’ll have learned a lot from it. I’ve been very pleased with him; he’s a youngish horse at this level and I think he’s done very well.”

Dreams came true across the board: Imogen Murray and Ivar Gooden once again took the Glentrool trophy for making the biggest climb up the leaderboard, leaping an incredible 57 places through the weekend. Even better, they finally cracked the top ten, finishing eighth overall. It would be amiss, too, not to mention William Fox-Pitt, who completed his first Badminton since his 2015 victory and the subsequent accident that nearly ended his career. He finished tenth aboard Little Fire and thirteenth aboard Oratorio II, a son of his five-star winner Oslo.

“For a while I did wonder what I was doing [coming back to the sport],” he said. “But suddenly, at 50, I see a future. Who says that at 50?!”

So what should the take-away of all this be for those of us who struggle through, who try to make it happen, and who take the hits and wonder, sometimes, why we’re doing it at all? Our 2019 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials champion says it best:

“Three days ago if you’d asked me [whether to make eventing a career], I’d say do something else, do anything else – but now I can say that dreams do come true. You’ve got to keep believing, keep working, keep believing in your system, and keep loving riding horses. Everyone earns their own success one day, and this is mine.”

From Badminton, with love – we bid you adieu.

The top ten at the conclusion of the 2019 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials – a vintage year, and a poignant victory, to mark the end of one of the sporting world’s longest-running sponsorships.

#MMBHT: WebsiteEntries, Live StreamEN’s Coverage, EN’s Course PreviewEN’s Form GuideEN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

The 2019 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials is brought to you in partnership with the team at Voltaire Design United Kingdom. Going to Badminton? Head to Voltaire Design on Stand 253 on Somerset Way and meet the team of Sports Saddle Specialists, arrange a free, totally no-obligation fitting for you and your horse, or indulge in the Deal of the Day. Put a deposit on a new saddle during the event, and you’ll receive a matching girth, stirrup leathers, and saddlepad – free! Looking for a bargain? Head to Voltaire Design’s sister stand, EquiTack, to check out their premium pre-loved saddles at rock-bottom prices.

 

Badminton Final Horse Inspection: All Pass After High-Profile Withdrawals

Overnight leaders Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

56 horses came forward to the final horse inspection this morning at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, down from the 59 who completed yesterday’s competition. This comes after the overnight withdrawal of three horse and rider combinations overnight: Ireland’s Jim Newsam and MagennisPadraig McCarthy and Mr Chunky, and Laura Collett and Mr Bass, who sustained an undisclosed injury across the country yesterday.

Elsewhere, the morning was largely drama-free: each of the 56 horses presented was accepted by the assembled ground jury of Nick Burton (GBR), Jane Hamlin (USA), and Christian Steiner (AUT). One horse was sent to the hold box – Italy’s Pietro Sandei had to re-present his Rubis de Prere, but they were subsequently accepted.

Pietro Sandei and Rubis de Prere await the decision of the ground jury. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Last week at Kentucky, we saw a totally drama-free Sunday morning, and withdrawals notwithstanding, it’s great to see another one this week – we’ve been blessed, once again, with fantastic ground and going, and a course that didn’t cause any nasty incidents throughout the day.

Woodge Fulton and Captain Jack come forward for the final day of their first Badminton. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

In Praise of Supergrooms

Amy Akehurst takes the top groom honours. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Each year, a prize is awarded to the groom who is deemed to have provided a superior level of care for their charge throughout the week. This year’s winner was Amy Akehurst, who works as head girl for Tom Crisp. Amy has worked tirelessly throughout the week to look after two horses with wildly different needs and today, Liberty and Glory came forward looking as fresh and feisty as always, despite having faced the biggest test of her life just weeks after contracting a respiratory infection.

Amy rides Coolys Luxury in front of Badminton House. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“She’s a rare gem,” said Tom of the perennially sunny Amy. “She’s so likeable, she’s always smiling, and she works so, so hard.”

The first session of showjumping will begin at 11.00 a.m. BST/6.00 a.m. EST this morning, while the top twenty will jump from 2.00 p.m. BST/9.00 a.m. Let’s see this thing through, my friends.

The top ten as we head into the showjumping finale.

#MMBHT: WebsiteEntries, Live StreamEN’s Coverage, EN’s Course PreviewEN’s Form GuideEN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

The 2019 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials is brought to you in partnership with the team at Voltaire Design United Kingdom. Going to Badminton? Head to Voltaire Design on Stand 253 on Somerset Way and meet the team of Sports Saddle Specialists, arrange a free, totally no-obligation fitting for you and your horse, or indulge in the Deal of the Day. Put a deposit on a new saddle during the event, and you’ll receive a matching girth, stirrup leathers, and saddlepad – free! Looking for a bargain? Head to Voltaire Design’s sister stand, EquiTack, to check out their premium pre-loved saddles at rock-bottom prices.