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Monday News & Notes from FutureTrack

How cool to see not one, but two eventing gals honoured at last night’s FEI Awards! 20-year-old Alice Casburn, who we first wrote about back in mid-2021, won the Longines Rising Star Award, while Kerryn Edmans, groom to Tim and Jonelle Price, took the Cavalor Grooms’ Prize. Well done, ladies — we couldn’t think of anyone more deserving!

National Holiday: It’s National Pickle Day! Not quite as divisive as, say, Marmite, but I will still hold it against you if you remove the pickle from your burger.

US Weekend Action:

Dutta Corp. Tryon International Three-Day Event (Mill Spring, NC): [Website] [Shannon Brinkman Photo] Results] [YR Team Results]

Horse Trials at Majestic Oaks (Ocala, FL): [Website] [Results]

River Glen Fall H.T. (New Market, TN): [Website] [Results]

Global Eventing Round-Up:

The big one on everyone’s radar over the weekend was Montelibretti in Italy (ha! I told you the European season was over! I lied!), which hosted a full spectrum of classes all the way from CCI1* to CCI4*-L, with both long- and short-format classes on the roster AND the Senior and Young Rider Regional Championship titles up for grabs.

14 combinations came forward for the feature CCI4*-L, which proved plenty tough: just eight would complete the competition, and after the withdrawal of two-phase leaders Maxime Livio and Elvis de Hus Z after cross-country, plus an unlucky 20 penalties for second-placed Calvin Böckmann and The Phantom of the Opera and an elimination across the country for third-placed Susanna Bordone and Walvis Bay, the door was open for France’s Benoit Parent to step up into the top spot with Dragibus D’Olympe AA. At just nine years old, this exceptional Selle Français impressed through the weekend, delivering a 31.9 in the first phase and coming achingly close to making the time — an achievement managed only by Maxime — in the second. His two seconds over the time on Sunday certainly didn’t take any of the shine off a sparkling clear round.

The CCI4*-S, which had 25 starters and 23 finishers, was led from pillar to post by Germany’s Felix Etzel, a student of the DOKR Warendorf system, and the Trakehner stallion TSF Polartanz. Their excellent clear over a tough showjumping course added just 1.6 time penalties to their first-phase score of 27.5, which gave them a comfortable margin for the cross-country, where time proved tricky: nobody caught it throughout the class, and Felix didn’t have to push to be one of the fastest, either. He picked up 9.6 time penalties on the track but still stayed in front by nearly six penalties — and comfortably romped home with his first-ever four-star victory.

Maxime Livio made up for his disappointment in the CCI4*-L by taking first and second in the CCI3*-L, riding Joel and Chateau de Versailles M2S, respectively. He edged first-phase leaders Julia Krajewski and Ero de Cantraie into third place in the process, ahead of China’s Ruiji Liang and Kiriaantje in fourth.

It was a great weekend to be called Felix: the Swiss edition, Felix Vogg, took top honours in the CCI3*-S, riding wire-to-wire leader Dao de l’Ocean, and won from the front in the CCI2*-S, too, with Zucker 4and took the CCI1*, for good measure, leading throughout with Giandra van Schloesslihof. Learn to share, Felix.

Finally, the CCI2*-L went the way of another Swiss rider — this time, Camille Guyot, who rode Vinecheska Jeclai’s to a decisive win after taking the lead in the first phase and never relinquishing it.

Your Monday Reading List:

Next month, five new inductees will be added to the US Eventing Hall of Fame. Get to know the four people — and one horse — who’ve been granted this enormous accolade, and find out how you can join in with the celebrations. [Let’s get this party started]

The question of social license and horse welfare was the focal point of this year’s World Horse Welfare conference, with participants discussing the precarious position that the equestrian industry finds itself in in the public eye at the moment. Some salient points were made across the disciplines, including racing, and this round-up of the key points is well worth a read. [Can equestrian sports improve their image?]

How’s this for nominal determinism? Researcher Gordon Gallup has been looking into horses’ sense of self — and, indeed, whether they even are self-aware — and some of the findings and arguments are truly fantastic. Mostly the one that suggests that horses can’t be self-aware because they don’t use mirrors to check out their own bottoms, which, frankly, I’m quite glad about, as someone with a whole wall of mirrors in the arena. [Is your horse self-aware? Who knows.]

The introduction of a surveillance and reporting system at some key competitions has led to a decrease in incidents reported. The Equestrian Community Integrity Unit was set up to tackle any instances of wrongdoing in horse sport, and now, backed up by comprehensive CCTV footage, it appears to be leading to a diminished chance of wrongdoing being committed. [Equestrian sport continues to take out the trash]

The FutureTrack Follow:

FEI photographer and charming Italian Massimo Argenziano is well worth your follow for his vibrant, emotive photos of equestrian sport across the disciplines. Ciao, Bella!

Morning Viewing:

Check out these faintly mad scenes from the showjumping at the 1948 Olympics in London, where stride patterns and sensible lines weren’t really a thing, but horse sports could pack out Wembley Stadium:

Friday Video: A Day in the Life of a Professional Eventer

No two riders have the exact same routine on their yards, which is why it’s so endlessly fascinating to dive into how different people do things. In this vlog, you’ll get the chance to meet young, up-and-coming four-star rider Kate Dennis (and her mum, Vicky!) and her horses, and find out how she structures her day with the long-term aim of upper-level success. I’m particularly impressed with that in-barn DIY gym set-up!

Michael Jung Takes Ninth(!) Consecutive Victory in Stuttgart Masters Indoor Eventing

Michael Jung and Kilcandra Ocean Power. Photo courtesy of Stuttgart German Masters.

We’re well into the thick of indoor cross-country derby season, and no one’s embracing the format more than Herr Michael Jung. Fresh off a plane from catch-riding in Canada’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair edition, he zoomed over to his local, the Stuttgart German Masters, where he roundly won the class for the ninth consecutive time. Not only that, but he did so by a margin of nearly ten seconds. That’s just showing off now, Michi.

His ride in the class was Kilcandra Ocean Power, the nine-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding with whom we saw him tackle CHIO Aachen earlier this year. Though still relatively inexperienced, the smart chestnut obviously enjoys an atmosphere: he entered the ring as the last horse of the evening to a great swell of support from the audience, and duly delivered the goods to trounce the til-then leaders, Cathal Daniels and CDS Cairnview Romolu. His 44.52 second round put the Irishman into second place on his still very respectable 53.43, while Sweden’s Sofia Sjoborg – who has been based previously with both Michi and Cathal, and has obviously picked up a thing or two along the way — took third place with a classy 53.64 second effort aboard the Dutch Warmblood Eastbourne.

“It’s great that the German Masters are taking place again and it’s a great pleasure to ride here,” says Michi. “Thanks to my supporters I have great horses at my disposal. Kilcandra Ocean Power gave me a great feeling today and was a blast to ride!”

18 total competitors, representing five countries, took part in the competition, which also saw the return of Ingrid Klimke‘s former Seven-Year-Old World Champion Weisse Dune, these days a specialist in these classes, who finished in a close sixth place. You can check out the full results here.

So how did Michi do it? Inside turns, baby, all the way — with some fine rollbacks that show exactly why he’s also a formidable Grand Prix show jumper in his own right. Check out his round in full (and take notes, because some of those turns are pure artistry. The music? Less so.)

The top five in the hotly-contested 2022 Stuttgart German Masters Eventing Derby.

“I Owe Them Everything”: Jonelle Price Announces Retirement of Five-Star Winning Mares

It’s a day we all knew, deep down, was coming, but it certainly doesn’t make the announcement any less poignant: Jonelle Price has officially retired Classic Moet and Faerie Dianimo, the dynamic mares with whom she won back-to-back five-stars in 2018.

 

“With the season drawing to a close, sadly the time has come to officially call time on these two incredible mares’ careers and break the news to Molly [Classic Moet] that she won’t be going to Badminton,” writes Jonelle of the mares, both of whom are owned by Trisha Rickards, who also bred Faerie Dianimo. “They have done so much for my career — taught me how to compete on the world stage and together made many dreams, reality. I will miss them hugely and forever be indebted to them for all that they did for me. Trisha Rickards, not only their owner but one of the most knowledgeable horse ladies I’ve met, thank you for entrusting me with Molly and Maggie’s journey. I owe them everything.”

Both mares enjoyed call-ups for Team New Zealand at Championship level: Faerie Dianimo at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she finished seventeenth individually and the Kiwis were fourth as a team, and Classic Moet at the World Championships in 2014 in Caen, where she was fourth as an individual, and in 2018 at Tryon, where she was nineteenth individually and the team was seventh.

 

 

Jonelle Price and Classic Moet check out their new piece of silverware at Badminton 2018. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

But it was at the five-star level where each mare truly shone. Though enormously different in their characters and styles, both mares shared a common characteristic: an excess of grit, which helped them to log fruitful, lengthy careers.

Classic Moet (Classic x Gamston Bubbles, by Bohemond) amassed 31 FEI eventing starts — plus a number of FEI jumping rounds in her winters on the Sunshine Tour — and ten of those, non-inclusive of World Championships, were at the five-star level. In seven, she finished in the top ten — and never finished outside the top twenty at the level, nor did she ever pick up cross-country jumping penalties at five-star. Across her career, though, she was most famous for her extraordinary penchant for easy speed, which led her to make the time in seven of those ten five-stars — and amass just 6 total time penalties at the level.

Jonelle Price finishes her round and realises that she and Classic Moet have scooped Badminton. Priceless. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

“She’s so unspecial that she’s very special,” said Jonelle after cross-country at Badminton in 2018, where they finished just one second over the optimum time and ultimately went on to win. “She’s so quick that she makes me look good – I’m dreading the day she retires and people realise it’s all her! The partnership is so cemented – she trusts me. I got her as a ten-year-old and did a two-star on her at Hartpury and I thought, ‘I just don’t know how fast she’s going to be.’ But she’s proved me wrong, and she’s like a best friend. She wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea – she has a pretty peculiar way of going.”

‘Molly’s’ career began with British team stalwart Karen Dixon, who produced her to CCI3*-L before handing the reins to Darrell Scaife. He enjoyed two international runs on the mare before Ireland’s Esib Power took over, though her run with the mare was even shorter, with just one international start. New Zealand’s Caroline Powell was next up to bat, and she ran the mare in one FEI event before the unique mare landed at her final destination: Wiltshire’s Mere Farm, under the auspices of Jonelle. That was the latter half of 2013, and by late June of the following year, Molly was a five-star horse, finishing twelfth on her debut at Luhmühlen.

2018 Badminton winners Jonelle Price and Classic Moet. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

Her WEG debut would follow that year, and in 2015, Molly would make her first trip to Badminton, where she jumped clear inside the time on Saturday, giving everyone a taster of what was to come from the exceptional little athlete. A frustrating first phase and two rails down on the final day meant they had to settle for twentieth place — but that would be the lowest Molly would ever finish at the level. That autumn, the pair were fifth at Burghley, and when they returned to Badminton in the spring, it was to take tenth place. A few months later, they were third at Burghley — and by now, everyone had clocked that the mare was truly a vintage sort of competitor, and one perfectly suited to the ‘Big Bs’. When she won Badminton eighteen months later, after Jonelle’s return from maternity leave, it felt like a bit of fairytale kismet come true: the unassuming champion ridden by one of the world’s fiercest competitors, taking her very first title at the level. In 2019, they followed it up with a decisive win in the British Open Championship at Gatcombe, which would be their last international run before Covid-19 hit.

Though the pandemic robbed us of, perhaps, another Classic Moet five-star victory, we’ve been lucky to witness her greatness around the world since eventing’s return. She’s been aimed exclusively at national level competitions as prep and five-stars as ‘real-deal’ runs, and in 2021, was seventh at Kentucky and eighth at the inaugural Maryland Five Star. This year, at the age of nineteen, she was eleventh at Badminton and fourth at Burghley, which would also serve as her final run. There, she was also awarded with the inaugural Avebury Trophy, given by Captain Mark Phillips to the horse and rider deemed to have delivered the best cross-country round of the day. They were the only pair to finish inside the optimum time, despite a stopwatch malfunction that meant that they had to rely solely on rhythm.

Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo at Aachen in 2019. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Faerie Dianimo (Dimaggio X Faerie Dazzler VII, by Catherston Dazzler), for her part, made 37 FEI starts in her career, first bursting into the spotlight in earnest back in 2014, when she picked up her first international win in the Blenheim Eight- and Nine-Year-Old CCI4*-S. She then went on to make her five-star debut a month later at Pau, finishing fourth, and would follow it up with an impressive second place finish the following year at Luhmühlen. Two consecutive top-ten finishes in the tough CCIO4*-S at Aachen bolstered her resume, leading to her selection for the 2016 Rio Olympics, and on her return to five-star at Pau in 2017, she was once again in the top ten.

The next year, just over a month after Jonelle took her first five-star title at Badminton with Molly, ‘Maggie May’ gave her her second at Luhmühlen.

“Faerie Dianimo is pint-sized,” Jonelle told EN back in 2018 after that Luhmühlen win. “She is tiny. She thinks in her head she’s about 18 hands high — and it’s that attitude that has seen her get to the very top level of the sport. She fights me a bit on the cross-country, and in the dressage she can get a bit hot, but it’s these qualities that make her such a competitor. It was almost like she knew how important it was today.”

Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo put a run of bad luck behind them to take third. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

In the couple of years following that win, Maggie May was the victim of a bit of bad luck — but was also well-preserved by her rider, who never ran the horse when circumstances made them uncompetitive. She started at Burghley in 2019, but activated a safety device for 11 penalties, after which Jonelle decided to save her for another day; the next year, she travelled to Pau but delivered an uncharacteristically high dressage score, and so Jonelle withdrew her before the cross-country. In 2021, Maggie May was one of five horses to make the big, two-week journey to Luhmühlen with the Prices, who cleverly worked around travel restrictions by competing abroad and basing with the Netherlands’ Tim Lips, but a freak stumble on course saw her and Jonelle hit the deck while in a competitive position. This year, though, they returned to Germany and took a decisive third place finish in the CCI5*, proving that the good stuff had been there all along, despite some mishaps along the way.

“She’s just had a few unlucky years,” said Jonelle at Luhmühlen. “In 2019 at Burghley she had a reaction to a jab in her neck and wasn’t quite right, and then last year here I had a stupid crash. She hasn’t really been off form, but we just haven’t had a clean run – and she only does one big event a year, because she’s made of glass, so when you only do one a year and you fuck your chance, it’s a long old way to the next!”

Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo. Photo by Ben Clark/Event Rider Masters.

Of that last run, Jonelle continued: “It’s kind of a relief, and just a pleasure to have her here, because she’s been such a phenomenal mare. She went Advanced when she was eight — she did the CCI4*-L at Blenheim at eight and won the eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S there as a nine-year-old, so she’s been a pretty special mare. It’s nice to finish up on a good one.”

“As much as she’s brilliant in every respect, she’s a right madam and she’s as hot as you like. So the dressage is quite hard work, and it’s not because she’s not capable. She can easily go from an 8 or a 9 to a 3 or a 4, and I’m afraid that’s just her. Even though she’s seventeen years of age, she’s not got any better. We sort of managed to keep a lid on it on Friday, but certainly when I was stood in the prize giving, I couldn’t help but think what might have been.”

“It was a relief, really, to tick the box and do all the right things, and she gave me a really lovely ride. She’s a little bit unorthodox; I think she’s got double-jointed front limbs or something, because you see one leg up there and one leg up there, but you know that she’s always fighting for the fence and looking for the flags. I always liken her to a tumble dryer — you sort of just sit on top and get rocked around, but she’s always trying to do the right thing.”

The well-earned retirement of these two extraordinary mares opens the door for Jonelle’s enviable ‘second string’, including this year’s Pau winner Grappa Nera and team bronze medallist McClaren, to step to the forefront of her line-up — but their unique characters will no doubt be missed aboard the Price lorry.

Happy retirement, girls — and thank you for all the great story fodder you’ve given us over the years! It’s been a pleasure and a privilege.

Tuesday News & Notes from Ocala Horse Properties

 

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There are two things I really, really love, perhaps above all else: impromptu shopping sprees and horsey fairy tales. Last week, while reporting on Pau, I got to be a part of both when my great friend and yard owner Kate Tarrant ventured down for a jolly at the event with our pal Helen Howell. One of the lesser-known things about Pau is that it also hosts a rather informal horse sale on Saturday evening, and Kate and Helen had watched some of the young horses registered for the sale as they’d loose-jumped a few days prior — with no intention to actually buy, of course.

That is, until they spotted Ipanema Classic. Tall, beautifully put together with legs up to here; sired by World Champ Banzai du Loir’s sire Nouma d’Auzay and packed with talent on the dam side, too; equipped with big, clever radar ears and kind eyes and a clever, curious countenance — she was perfect. And so, a few pink wines and a little bit of enabling later, they snuck off into the crowd as the sun set over the auction and minutes — and some cobbled-together French — later, came back with a horse they now own between them, a big five-star dream, and a bottle of champagne. What a whirlwind!

Once they’d rung their husbands to admit to what they’d done, we got down to the business of celebrating — and now, Penny Pau, as we’ve christened her, has arrived back in England, every bit as perfect as she was in France. We’re all redownloading DuoLingo so we can actually talk to her, and in the meantime, she’s had her first short lunge and will enjoy her inaugural ride on English soil today. We’ve all got a great feeling about this one, and I can’t wait to follow her through the age classes all the way up — we hope — to the very top of the sport. Expect to see plenty more of EN’s unofficial new English mascot.

Events Closing Today: Pine Top Thanksgiving H.T.

Tuesday News & Notes from Around the World:

Have a brand that NEEDS to be on everyone’s holiday list this year? We’ve just opened up spots for our 2022 Holiday Gift Guide with Horse Nation. Info/book your spot here.

We’re on Day 2 of SmartPak’s 12 Days of Deals! Today, you can snag a free saddle pad with a Buy 2, Get 1 Free deal using code 22DEAL2 at checkout. Click here to shop.

Two years into their five-year contract, The Jockey Club has withdrawn from its role in running England’s Blenheim Palace International. This major blow to eventing comes as a result of the current economic climate in the UK, and leaves the prestigious event — which hosts one of just three CCI4*-L competitions in the country alongside the enormously important eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S — with an uncertain future. [A blow for Blenheim]

I don’t follow racing much, but after I saw the viral video of Flightline’s owner quietly crying as he watched his horse run away with the Breeder’s Cup, I needed to know everything about the race, the horse, and the circumstances that led to such an emotional moment. [Here’s the full story]

What’s the difference between being a rider and being a horseman? That’s the question at the heart of a new book by hunter-jumper trainers Traci and Carleton Brooks Balmoral, and this article, which condenses the answer down to ten essential bullet points. The key? Communication — and setting aside your ego to do so effectively. [Become a horseman]

Are you planning a move-up? Brushing up on the expectations at your intended level is never a bad idea, and can help you stay safe as you amp up the difficulty. The USEA Eventing Handbook by the Levels was developed by the USEA Eventing Coaches’ Program’s members, and is jam-packed with useful information — and best of all? It’s a free download, so there’s no excuse not to be clued up. [Get it here]

Last winter, EHV-1 once again triggered a major circuit shutdown and plenty of fear among horse people. Nearly a year on, what have we learned from it, and how can we best prepare to avoid outbreaks and manage situations in which they occur? USEF is hosting a free webinar on Tuesday, November 15 at 5 p.m. ET covering these topics and more, with a panel of experts discussing best practice and prevention. It’ll be well worth the watch. [Sign up here]

The Ocala Horse Properties Dream Farm of the Week:

How sweet is this barn-and-apartment combo? It’s got eight stalls and six paddocks, and it’s perfectly located just a couple of minutes from WEC. While the property comes with plenty of space to build a huge main residence, I actually love the idea of just moving into an apartment and closing those big gates so me and my horses can enjoy our little slice of heaven without any input from the real world. Is that a realistic dream? Maybe not — but who among us hasn’t dreamed of looking out our bedroom window and seeing our happy horses, knowing that it’s just and them tucked away in a perfect little oasis? Bliss.

Watch This:

Check out how dressage has changed — and how it’s remained the same — in this vintage training footage.

Monday News & Notes from FutureTrack

 

Three cheers for Canada’s Holly Jacks, who took the win in the indoor eventing at Canada’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, riding in honour of her late student, Zara Buren, and beating out the likes of Michael Jung. Get ’em, girl!

National Holiday: It’s National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day, and I don’t really know why either.

US Weekend Round-Up:

Galway Downs International Three-Day Event (Temecula, CA): [Website] [Results]

The VHT International & H.T. (Lexington, VA): [Website] [Results]

Full Gallop Farm November H.T. (Aiken, SC): [Website] [Results]

Rocking Horse Fall H.T. (Altoona, FL): [Website] [Results]

Texas Rose Horse Park Fall H.T. (Tyler, TX): [Website] [Results]

Global Eventing Round-Up:

The South American Games took place over the weekend in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and was duly won by the Brazilian team — and individual gold, too, went the way of Brazil, with British-based Carlos Parro taking top honours in this CCI3*-L competition with Tullabeg Chinzano. The course didn’t mess around; they had their own level-appropriate version of Pratoni’s slide, giving the nineteen entrants plenty to sink their teeth into.

Your Monday Reading List:

Getting transitions right — and then riding a tonne of them — is key to a great ride. But nailing the transitions in life, too, is pretty essential, for many of the same reasons. [Direct, indirect — they all count]

World Championships team silver medalist Will Coleman is having one heck of an 18 months. Between that Pratoni result and his history-making Aachen win last year — and a slew of other accolades in between — he’s riding high at the top. But that upper-level success comes off the back of a commitment to training his horses properly from their earliest rides. So what’s his secret? US Eventing sat down with him to uncover his training philosophies. [Spoiler alert: he loves the YEH program]

Horse show competitors said the darnedest things. This collection of gems from the Facebook group ‘Overheard at the In-Gate’ is particularly good, and even features a couple of stinkers from the competitors at Maryland last month. The pros: they’re just like us. [No one knows where the stretchy thing starts]

I’ve been following along with the National Horse Show over the last few days, mostly because I like to get wine drunk and treat my boyfriend to my own unique brand of Maclay commentary. But in all seriousness, what a show — and what a rich history it has, too. COTH has done a deep dive back into their own archives to look at the 52nd edition, back in 1937, when the show was still held at Madison Square Garden. There’s even some remarkable footage, courtesy of the British Pathé archives. [Vintage? SO cute.]

The FutureTrack Follow:

 

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Bring a bit of fine art to your timeline with this curated collection of UK-based equine artists. On show today? These gorgeous oils of racehorses. I particularly love the slightly undone studies.

Morning Viewing:

Take some inspiration from the world of dressage, and this incredible performance from Olympic gold medallist Jessica von Bredow-Werndl at Lyon, where she made her return to the top after maternity leave.

Saturday Video: Jump in the Wayback Machine to Atlanta ’96

You all know I’m a sucker for a bit of eventing history, especially if it harks back to a part of the sport I actually kind of remember. I definitely had posters from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics ripped out of Horse and Pony magazine and Blue-Tacked onto my walls, even if it came just weeks after my fifth birthday, and no matter your age, I’d be willing to bet you’ve spent some time idolising some of the riders in this cross-country footage. Some of them are still going strong, too, so you may well have had a very recent fan-girl over them! This is about as Equestrian 2001 as a bit of eventing footage can get — enjoy.

Paris 2024 Reveals Equestrian Schedule – With a Twist

The 2024 Olympic eventing format will feel even more compact than that of Tokyo 2020, which delivered the sport in a condensed, high-intensity format. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

In the latest news from the International Olympic Committee and the Paris 2024 organisers, we’ve been treated to a much firmer timetable of sports, including a daily plan of each of the equestrian disciplines — and all, at first glance, looks pretty much as normal.

At first glance, that is. Another cursory glance will reveal something interesting: at the next Games, we’ll see all the eventing dressage take place over one day. That’s a stonking 65 tests in one go, folks — a big difference from Tokyo, where we saw a 44/21 split over two days. We also saw shorter tests in action at that Games, which will be wholly necessary at the next with this ambitious timetable, and our sources on the inside tell us that some events will begin to trial this format next year so it can be finely honed in time for July 2024.

Here’s a look at how the most exciting couple of weeks of 2024 will play out:

Friday, July 26

Opening Ceremony

Eventing – First Horse Inspection

Saturday, July 27

Eventing – Dressage (team and individual — 65 starters)

Sunday, July 28

Eventing –  Cross-Country (team and individual — 65 starters)

Dressage – First Horse Inspection

Monday, July 29

Eventing – Final Horse Inspection

Eventing – Jumping (team final and individual qualifier)

Eventing – Jumping (individual final, 25 starters)

Eventing – Medal Ceremonies

Tuesday, July 30

Dressage – Grand Prix (1st team and individual qualifier, 30 starters)

Wednesday, July 31 

Dressage – Grand Prix (1st team and individual qualifier, 30 starters)

Jumping – First Horse Inspection

Thursday, August 1

Jumping – Team Qualifier (20 teams/60 starters)

Friday, August 2

Dressage – Second Horse Inspection

Jumping – Team Final (30 starters)

Jumping – Team Medal Ceremony

Saturday, August 3

Dressage – Grand Prix Special, Team Final (30 starters)

Dressage – Team Medal Ceremony

Jumping – Horse Inspection, Individual

Sunday, August 4

Dressage – Grand Prix Freestyle (individual final, 18 starters)

Dressage – Individual Medal Ceremony

Monday, August 5

Jumping – Individual Qualifier (75 starters)

Tuesday, August 6

Jumping – Individual Final (30 starters)

Jumping – Medal Ceremony

Santa, Baby?: A Horse-Crazy Shopaholic Meets the Goresbridge Go-For-Gold Catalogue

Remember the good old days of magazine advertisements for horses? Whether you grew up circling your dream horses in the back of Horse&Hound or, like me, you lived in rural New England and picked your horse of a lifetime out of the weekly Uncle Henry’s, the sport of window shopping is as time-honoured as the sport of actually riding a horse itself. These days, we’re spoilt for choice: I, for one, end up down an endless rabbit hole whenever I’m asked to pick out my favourite listings in Sport Horse Nation, and I can happily browse HorseQuest for hours. So deep is my love for daydreaming about horses and trying to spot future champions that I’ve even picked up a little side hustle sourcing horses, which is just about the most fun a gal can have, frankly. Even better? The special days when I’m asked to have a browse through an auction catalogue and pick out some eye-catchers. I’m delighted to be heading to Ireland this month for the Goresbridge Go For Gold Sale (November 14-16), and so, to prepare for my big trip to come, I took a deep dive into the newly-revealed auction catalogue, and picked out the horses I’ll be keeping a particularly close eye on when I’m there. I tried to keep it to a top ten, but like any good horse-shopaholic, I have no willpower, so here’s my eleven favourite horses from this year’s line-up. Happy bidding!

Lot 4: MBF Flintstone

Five-year-old gelding (Grandorado TN x Dakota G, by Heartbreaker). 16.2hh.

I spend half my time living in a glorious fantasy world, in which I have a healthy chunk of expendable funds that I can use to pick up young, talented horses and produce them to sell into uniquely American niches. Flintstone ticks all my boxes there: he’s got the style to go nail the hunter derbies, but the scope and canter to succeed across all three US hunter/jumper disciplines, frankly. In this fantasy world of mine, I’m also the only person who would ever possibly have this bright idea, so I’m sure no one else will scoop him up and sell him for six figures in six months’ time. Oh, hang on, spoiler alert — I think that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Lot 31: Monbeg Celtic Mist

Three-year-old gelding (Celtic Hero B Z x Ballycapple Mist, by Boherdeal Clover). 16.1hh. 

I know you lot love a grey, so I’m going to skip ahead a bit in the catalogue here and keep everything monochromatic for now. I love how blood this three-year-old looks, and the quality that the Zangersheide lines bring to the table make him a really attractive sport prospect. He’s also enormously commercial, because we’re all a sucker for a bit of colour and a sweet white face, and his spotty botty and rose-grey hue mean he’ll be an eye-catching prospect if produced for resale. I could see this being a really fun young rider’s horse or competitive amateur ride in a few years’ time.

Lot 23: Belline Olympic Date

Four-year-old gelding (Olympic Lux x MH Smart Date, by Tjipke). 16.1hh.

Everything about this compact, athletic four-year-old looks fun. He’s got a great, naturally balanced canter and a sweet, neat jump — plus, I love how he really takes the time to analyse where he needs to take off and makes a tidy job of it as a result. I think there’s talent to burn there, but I also think this would be a super project for a young rider who wants to produce their own horse to go on and tackle some teams with. The whole impression here is of a horse who wants to please and likes his work, and that’s the sort of youngster we all like to climb aboard.

Lot 30: MBF PLS Castlecomer Q

Three-year-old gelding (Castlecomer Q x Fornet Roos, by Cornet’s Stern). 16.2hh.

Each year, I’m more and more impressed by MBF Sporthorses, the production and sales business operated by Co. Waterford’s Brian Flynn and Meabh Bolger. Generally speaking, my favourite lot in every Irish sale comes from their place, and this flashy chestnut is yet another excellent stamp. He reminds me, in many ways, of TMX Herby, the former ride of the Netherlands’ Tim Lips and a horse I unabashedly adored, despite the fact that every time I tried to bribe him into liking me, he just determinedly hated me more. I feel confident I’d have more success with this chap, and I intend to test that theory at the sales. Even if he, too, hates me, though, he makes up for it with an extraordinary natural lightness that I can’t help but love: even though he throws a huge jump, he immediately lands in balance, allowing him to travel on. That’ll be a seriously handy trait in the years to come, and no doubt comes, in part, from his maternal great-granddaddy, the excellent Cornet Obolensky.

Lot 36: MBF Otasia

Three-year-old gelding (Glasgow x Santasia, by Corland). 16.1hh.

If one athletic chestnut gelding with a tonne of chrome wasn’t enough — and is it ever, really? — meet the second of my Big Orange MBF Crushes, the delightful Otasia. What initially drew me to this gelding, who has some serious jumping lines on top and bottom, including Quidam de Revel and Darco through his sire and Cor de la Bryere and Nimmerdor through his dam, is the twinkle in his eye. I just KNOW this talented boy is going to make his new person laugh every day, whether that’s through comically spooking at his own farts, making faces and throwing buckets over the stable door, or simply through serving up *that* cheeky head-toss after every fence. He’s got clown vibes in the best possible way, and I hope that he finds someone who finds life as much of a lark as he does. He’s pretty well-matched with Castlecomer in terms of talent, though if I’m being picky, I’d say his lower hindlimb and hoof conformation slightly edges the win for me — but both horses are super special, and I can’t wait to see them in the flesh.

Lot 49: Caragh Harley Jo

Three-year-old gelding (Jorado x Caraghs Harley Lady, by Ringwood Harley Carol). 16.2hh.

I love a Diarado, and this paternal grandson of the German stallion has really been stamped by him. He’s got the Diarado head, the easy jump, and the loose movement that makes the sire so coveted, and I’ve often found that the line brings forward a real clever trainability, too. I like the look of this horse a lot, and I suspect we’ll see it go the way of a good professional, who’ll be happy to give him a year to continue filling out so that his front end catches up to his slightly croup-high back end.

Lot 33: Unnamed

Three-year-old gelding (Diarado x The Kings Lady, by Kings Master). 16.1hh.

Speaking of Diarados, this own son is another really nice sort with a tonne of ability and balance. Every time I see an unnamed horse pop up in an auction, it makes me think of the delightful Italian rider Filippo Gregoroni, who has a very good horse that he’s campaigned at the Young Horse World Championships, who is actually registered as Unnamed. I don’t actually know the story, but my best guess is that a language barrier got in the way somewhere there, and when the horse was bought, they assumed that was actually his name. It’s the kind of harmless whoopsy that I live for, frankly.

Lot 66: Balief MBF

Three-year-old filly (HHS Cornet x Lazio, by Aldato). 16.1hh.

Talk about a leg at each corner: this sweet filly is beautifully put together with plenty of strength through her hindend and a real oil painting countenance that I find totally irresistible. And she can move and jump, too! With great jumping lines top and bottom, plus some classy Thoroughbreds just a couple of generations back (and a maternal great-granddam called Great Tilly, delightfully), she’d be as useful as a breeding prospect as she is as an athlete.

Lot 74: Rincoola MBF

Three-year-old gelding (Moonlight Silver Shadow x Rincoola Duchess, by Presenting). 16.1hh. 

IT’S GOLD.

Lot 78: Aidensfield Babel

Three-year-old colt (Corporal VDL x Aidensfield Caprice, by Aldatus Z). 16.2hh.

Generally speaking, this striking chap wouldn’t actually be my type of horse – he’s quite big, and I like a pony on steroids; he’s uncut, and I prefer my men to have had their undercarriages cleared out, frankly; and he’s an extraordinarily powerful, scopey jumper. Okay, okay, that might seem like a really odd gripe to have – after all, we all want to spend our hard-earned pennies on something that can actually get to the other side of a fence. But when a three-year-old is particularly showy over a fence, I start to worry that it might be too careful to make a great eventer, or that it may have been overproduced at an early age.

But this guy? I can’t stop myself from going back to his videos, because it doesn’t look at all like he’s been overproduced — it just looks as though he’s having the most fun ever. Do I want to try to sit that enormous effort? Probably not! But will I be achingly curious to see which strong-cored pro picks this obvious talent up? Totally. This is a horse whose progression I’d love to watch.

Lot 90: MBF Mystro Max

I promise, I’m not actually being paid off by MBF Sporthorses here — they really do just have a seriously nice collection of horses in this sale. This one ticks a lot of boxes for me: he has a great name (Mystro Max! He sounds like a superhero!), a great hind end, and a great jump. I also love his sweet, cheeky expression, which suggests that I might sit a couple of good dance moves through his younger years if I buy him, but that it’ll all be worth it for the things we’ll win, too. He’s ‘bred in the purple’ on the bottom and the top half, which is much more continental, has him closely related to a German horse I once had the ride on, so that feels like a good enough omen. This one looks much better quality, for what it’s worth.

As a bonus entry, I also have to put forward Lot 3, who wins the prize for the best name of all the horses in this year’s sale. My totally non-horsey boyfriend is constantly disparaging of odd horse names, and has taken to referring to any horse with a slightly silly name as ‘Filly of the Bush’. Therefore, he was as delighted — or perhaps horrified; I don’t know — as I was to click into the catalogue and find the exceptionally-monikered Red Hot Chilli Filly. I would buy her ten times over just for that name. It is, truly, a work of art.

 

Thursday Video: A Day in the Life of an Up-and-Coming Jockey

For today’s evening viewing, we’re steering slightly away from the world of eventing and into that of racing — more specifically, into the life and story of Kanane Francis, a graduate of Freedom Zampaladus’s inner-city riding programme The Urban Equestrian. Nowadays, the 21-year-old is a trainee jockey, a career path in which he’s thriving — and vlogger Riding with Rhi met him with a camera in tow to find out more about his day-to-day routine.

Galway Through the Lens: Sights and Sounds from the First Horse Inspection

Kaylawna Smith-Cook and Mai Blume. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

The European season might have wrapped up, but on the West Coast, eventing is still alive and kicking — and this week takes us straight to sunny California, where Galway Downs International got underway with the first horse inspections. Our friend Sherry Stewart is on the ground with her cameras to give us all a bit of escapism and some gorgeous horses — and if you want to follow along, you can do so with our handy-dandy viewing guide. For now, though? Let’s take a front-row seat at the jog strip.

James Alliston and Monkey. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Sophie Click and Tarantino 54 Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Tamie Smith and Cheers. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

James Alliston and Karma. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Sophie Click and Quidproquo. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Sophie Click and Quidproquo. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

James Alliston with Paper Jam and Keep Calm. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

James Alliston and Paper Jam. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Kaylawna Smith-Cook and Passepartout. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Tamie Smith’s ride Kynan meets a much smaller four-legged friend. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Molly Duda and Disco Traveller. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Taren Hoffos and Findlay. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Tamie Smith and Crafty Don. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Taylor McFall and Stoneman. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Galway Downs International Three-Day Event (Temecula, CA): [Website] [Ride Times] [Scoring] [Live Stream] [Volunteer]

Wednesday Video from Kentucky Performance Products: Every Horse Movie Ever, in Four Minutes

No matter how old we get here at EN, we’re always going to be suckers for the most basic of horse movie tropes — the rogue mare who won’t be tamed but turns to putty in the hands of a stroppy teenager; the mustang or racehorse who displays such an aptitude for jumping fences that within a year, he’s at five-star; the unfeeling parent or farm owner who wants nothing more than to keep the main character and the horse apart, often for no real reason. It’s the blood in our veins, this stuff, but even we are willing to admit it’s all just a touch ridiculous — and that’s why we’re suckers, too, for a jolly good parody of the whole silly business.

Simple Solutions, Scientifically Proven®

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There is still time to grab your 2022 fall sticker – KPPusa.com/fall22.

Who Jumped It Best? The Big, Bad Pau CCI5* Water Drop Edition

Who Jumped It Best?

Last week’s coverage of Pau on EN is brought to you with the support of Kentucky Performance Products. We couldn’t do much of what we’ve done these last few years without the support of sponsors such as KPP — which, by the way, is a horses-first, women owned and operated company based in, you guessed it, Kentucky — and without you, our readers! So as we head into this final hurrah of our season, too, we thank each and every one of you.

We couldn’t exactly let the final five-star of 2022 go by without our favourite game of all, could we? For this week’s edition of Who Jumped It Best, we journey back to Les 5 Etoiles de Pau in the south-west of France and, more specifically, to the second water complex, which ended up being one of the most influential sections of the course. It featured an A and a B element, and it was the B element — a yellow MIM-clipped open corner on a right-handed four-stride turn — that ended up being a particularly busy segment of this year’s track, as the clip was activated nine times throughout the day, including by the first-phase leaders, Felix Vogg and Colero.

But our focus today goes to the A element instead, which was a beefy hanging log drop on a wide right-handed turn. Riders needed to land tidily to catch the reasonably tight four strides to the B element, and they needed to get it very right, or risk that clip being activated. Have a look at each effort and then scroll down to cast your vote on who you think made the best job of it.

Hector Payne and Dynasty (GBR). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Fiona Kashel and WSF Carthago (GBR). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Emily King and Valmy Biats (GBR). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

David Doel and Galileo Nieuwmoed (GBR). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Anna-Katharina Vogel and DSP Quintana P (GER). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Alex Donohoe and Guidam Roller (IRE). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Karim Laghouag and Triton Fontaine (FRA). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Les 5 Etoiles de Pau: [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Timing & Scoring] [H&C+ Live Stream *Use code PAU2022 for 15% of H&C+ Annual!*] [EN’s Coverage] [EN’s Ultimate Guide to Pau] [EN’s Instagram]

British-Piloted Five-Star Winner Oslo Dies at Age 20

William Fox-Pitt and Oslo.

We’re sad to report that Oslo, the Pau-winning French-bred ride of William Fox-Pitt, has died at the age of 20 after a busy, happy retirement, leaving behind a multifaceted legacy in the sport of eventing.

The Selle Français gelding (Lando x Aurelie du Prieure, by Hadj A X)  was bred at Ferme de Biats France, which has made headlines at Pau again last week for the success of Emily King’s mount Valmy Biats, who was also bred by Ferme de Biats’s Philippe Brivois. Though Brivois has bred a number of top-level eventing horses, including Kitty King’s excellent Vendredi Biats and Tom Crisp’s Vendome Biats, it was Oslo who would be his first foray into breeding for this discipline, and the lynchpin of a sea change that has had a huge impact on the sport.

When I sold Oslo Biats when he was two years old and they told me it was to do eventing, I immediately replied that it was out of the question because I didn’t want hurt my horse,” says Brivois in an interview with French magazine l’Eperon. “I bred show horses and only used champion stallions in this discipline. It was Jean-Luc Dufour who convinced me to take a full interest by explaining to me that eventing is no longer what it was. In the end, I did well to embark on this adventure.”

Oslo was best known for winning the CCI5* at Les Etoiles de Pau in 2011 as a nine-year-old, on his debut at the level, but his sixteen-run international record featured a number of highlights, with five total FEI victories and a further four top-three finishes to his name. He became the Six-Year-Old World Champion at Le Lion d’Angers in 2008 and followed that victory up with a silver at the Seven-Year-Old World Championships the following year, and in 2011, he won both the CCI4*-L at Tattersalls and the Blenheim Eight- and Nine-Year-Old CCI4*-S before tackling that fateful Pau.

 

William Fox-Pitt and Oslo at Badminton in 2013.

He was officially retired from competition in mid-2017 at the age of fifteen, after a spate of niggling injuries and setbacks, which included a foreleg suspensory injury that had knocked him out of contention for the 2012 London Olympics and some hock issues, which had crept in in the year of his retirement. After an initial period of downtime, in which he enjoyed time out in the field with two of his stablemates, he re-entered light work, first as a happy hacker, and then was given to William’s goddaughter, Daisy Dollar, who gained experience at BE100 (US Training) and stepped up to Novice (Preliminary) with the gelding in 2018, enjoying a competitive season of Novice classes in 2019 before Oslo’s official retirement. Since then, he’s enjoyed a relaxed life with Spencer Sturmey, partner Freddie Ellams, and Lucinda de Mauley, and was finally laid to rest in mid-October.

William Fox-Pitt and Oslo.

Oslo’s impact on the industry stretched further than his own excellent competitive record: he was also one of the first horses to be piloted under a successful syndicate, bringing the concept in from the world of racing, in which William’s wife Alice has such a wealth of experience. Though he was cut at five, he also has a significant breeding legacy: one of the sixty straws of semen taken at West Kington Stud was used to produce William’s current five-star mount, Oratorio II.

William Fox-Pitt and Oratorio II at Kentucky. Photo by Shelby Allen.

All of us at EN send our sympathies and condolences to William, Alice, Philippe, and all those connected with the horse through his extensive syndicated family.

Tuesday News & Notes from Ocala Horse Properties

Pinch, punch — it’s the first of the month! I used to really dread November, because for me, it always meant dragging myself home from Pau and facing many months without events. It bummed me out so much, but these days, I actually really look forward to it. A little bit of nesting; some cozy evenings in; the chance to assess the season and make plans for the next; time to read, and watch, and learn, and hone all those skills we don’t really get a chance to develop when we’re all rushing around from competition to competition. I love using these first couple of days to really unwind and write down a list of achievable goals for the next six months, whether that’s things I want to work on with my horse, ways I want to improve my house, or personal skills I’m keen to develop. Having that list in front of me definitely makes the short days feel a bit less gloomy. I’d love to know what your off-season goals are!

Events Closing Today: Ram Tap H.T.SAzEA Fall H.T.

Tuesday News & Notes from Around the World:

The first recipients of training and funding from British Eventing’s exciting new Howden Way initiative have been announced. Ten young horses, with riders ranging from established upper-level competitors to up-and-coming stars, will take part in the Young Horse Academy programme from January, with the longer-term aim of developing talent within the country. [Meet the lucky recruits]

In Piggy March’s latest column for Horse&Hound, she reflects on a couple of exciting weeks in France. From the trials and tribulations of travelling abroad post-Brexit to Le Lion’s somewhat uneven standard of judging, there’s a lot of ground covered — and as always, her sage wisdom and frankness make for fascinating reading. [To be fair, if she wrote shampoo bottle blurbs, we’d read them]

USEA member Carole Bennett just enjoyed her first horse trials at the age of 68, after decades working in Hollywood. In true eventer fashion, she reckons the thrill of the cross-country course beats any buzz at a film premier — and we’d be inclined to agree! [Read all about her first competition here]

Have you ever had one of those bright ideas that’s made you think, ‘if someone made this, it’d make them millions?’ I’m personally still waiting for someone to get on self-mucking stables, but entrepreneurs Allison Malefant and Connie DeMaio have been a bit more forward-thinking after realising that equestrians had nothing available for them that served as a comfortable, functional coverall for cold winter days. Now, there’s no stopping them. [Horse people need to be warm too]

The Ocala Horse Properties Dream Farm of the Week:


Okay, you know how I was saying I’d like to hunker down and tick some goals off my list this winter? First goal: secure this place. Second: use it to make myself the very best rider I can be. With 10 stalls, a stunning irrigated arena, plenty of acreage, close proximity to WEC, and a house that is, frankly, to die for, it’s getting my daydream machine working overtime.

Watch This:

Charisma remains one of my great celeb loves of all time, so to get us all moving on this, the first of the truly cold months, I reckon we could use a bit of inspiration from the tiny man himself.

Monday News & Notes from FutureTrack

And just like that, my 2022 competition reporting season is over! I’m a little blue, and a little overtired, this morning in the south of France, but also so excited for the off-season and all that comes with it: visiting horse sales, working on longer pieces with horsepeople I admire, and also, maybe, taking some time to work on a few projects that aren’t at all horsey to clear my cluttered brain box out. The more I chat to riders, grooms, owners, and journalists alike, the more I realise that sometimes, the smartest thing we can all do is give ourselves the leeway to step away from horses temporarily, even if just for a day or two, and feel absolutely no guilt about it. It keeps us all fresh to do so, at the end of the day, and then we can bring our best selves back to the equation when we’re ready. So for the next day and a half, it’s ciao from me as I head off road-tripping around the south of France in search of good wine, even better bread, and a bookshop or two. A demain!

National Holiday: It’s Halloween! Start it right with my favourite topical song, AFI’s cover of the Misfits classic banger. The perfect mood-setter for spooky szn.

US Weekend Action:

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

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

Full Moon Farms H.T. (Finksburg, MD): [Website] [Results]

Your Monday Reading List:

Have you got a wobbly sense of self because you don’t really feel like you can identify as an eventer? I get that: I haven’t evented all year while my horse has some time off, but deep down, I still think of myself as one. Writer Laura Reiman muses on who gets to consider themselves a member of each discipline — and whether it even matters. [You’re an eventer if you feel like one, friends]

Honestly, if I had my way, I’d schedule a costumed class at every show. Enjoy this round-up of photos from the Washington International Horse Show, where basically everyone inexplicably showed up as Tom Cruise. [It’s better than a Peaky Blinders outfit, I guess]

I’m always impressed by people who balance riding with some other very intensive pastime — such as ultramarathons. I say this as someone who can maybe run 5km at a push, so I’m hardly likely to get inspired to take up long-distance running myself, but it’s always fascinating to see those folks who chase a multitude of dreams, and find out what makes them tick. This ‘Day in the Life’ feature Grand Prix rider and ultramarathon runner Cyndi Jackson makes for a great read. [Rather her than me, though]

Straightness is the key to basically everything you do on board your horse. Without it, he can’t truly sit on his hindend and move seamlessly between dressage movements, nor can he meet jumps in a tidy, balanced manner, so a crooked horse is far more likely to have rails down or run-outs. Here’s why it matters, and how to begin addressing the issue if you’re dealing with a bit of wonkiness. [On the straight and narrow]

The FutureTrack Follow:

 

 

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You definitely want to give Belgian rider Tine Magnus your time today — not just because she won the CCI4*-S at Kronenberg yesterday, but because she’s consistently producing some of the most exciting horses on the circuit, while still flying largely under the radar. Start cheering her on now, and you’ll be able to brag that you were following her before she was famous. She certainly will be.

Morning Viewing:

Our sport is a constantly evolving one, and in the latest episode of her XC Academy series, Lucinda Green takes a closer look at how the pivotal phase has changed over the years.

Like a Fine Wine: Jonelle Price Takes Pau Victory with Grappa Nera

This week’s coverage of Pau on EN is brought to you with the support of Kentucky Performance Products. We couldn’t do much of what we’ve done these last few years without the support of sponsors such as KPP — which, by the way, is a horses-first, women owned and operated company based in, you guessed it, Kentucky — and without you, our readers! So as we head into this final hurrah of our season, too, we thank each and every one of you.

Jonelle Price and Grappa Nera add another sterling accolade to the Price family’s roster. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“We’ve got the his and hers versions for the mantelpiece now,” jokes Jonelle Price, who followed up husband Tim’s victory at Pau last year with one of her own today, riding The Grape Syndicate’s eleven-year-old mare, Grappa Nera (Karandasj x Cetonette, by Babalouba).

The victory came after a typically tough day in the office for many in Pau’s pivotal final phase, which boasts the lowest clear rate of the five-stars at just 17%, on average. Today’s was significantly lower than that: just three competitors delivered double-clear rounds, giving a clear rate of less than 9%, though a further five would manage clear rounds with jumping penalties.

Yann Royant’s track is difficult for a number of reasons: it’s achingly big; it’s situated on a slightly undulating surface that doesn’t have any spring to it at all, really; it makes use of technical, difficult changes in stride length; and, pivotally, it’s surrounded at close quarters on all sides by approximately the entire population of south-west France, and we’re pretty sure they’re all at least a little drunk. Every rider who enters the ring does so to colossal cheers and an intimidatingly close atmosphere, and lord help the poor souls who have to follow a clear – never mind a clear executed by a French rider.

For some horses, though, that sense of immediacy seems to lift them over the fences, which was certainly the case for diminutive, feisty Grappa Nera. She entered the ring as the penultimate competitor, having climbed from first-phase 13th to second off the back of a clear round with just 1.2 time penalties yesterday – and today, her trips to the Spanish Sunshine Tour to showjump in the off-season paid off. She delivered the third clear inside the time of the day, and all that was left to do was wait: wait for second place, perhaps, at worst, or wait to see if something rather bigger might be about to come.

Jonelle Price and Grappa Nera. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It was. We’ve seldom seen a rider so well-supported by his fellow competitors as overnight leader David Doel, who sat on the cusp of his first-ever five-star victory with Galileo Nieuwmoed and was quietly willed over every fence by each rider along the fence line. And his excellent round — jump after jump after jump of solid distances and committed approaches — started to feel like a sure thing when he touched down from the final line and headed to the last, an airy upright on a dogleg turn. Horse and rider met it right at the distance they’d meant to, took off and, just as the crowd broke into a great roar of appreciation, gently tapped it out. Jonelle Price had become the Pau champion, one year after her husband had taken it — and just two weeks after he’d won another five-star at Maryland.

“I actually couldn’t see the last fence from where I was standing, and I just thought he jumped a clear round, so I was more looking at the clock to see if he tipped over on a time fault or two, knowing that it was so close,” she says. “Naturally, you’d be lying if you didn’t say your first reaction is jubilation. But then secondly, you feel for your fellow competitor. But I was 38 when I won my first five-star and he’s only 29 now, so he’s definitely got a few years on me — his day will come, for sure.”

For now, though, the moment — or perhaps the season — belongs to the Prices, who have been pretty well unstoppable from the word go in 2022.

“It’s quite hard to keep up with my husband at the moment,” laughs Jonelle, who was recently named World Number Two, while Tim holds World Number One status. “He’s been on fire this autumn, so I’m just trying to keep up my side of the household, really.”

Jonelle Price and Grappa Nera. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

But although the Prices are arguably eventing’s First Family, Jonelle confesses that even she had struggled with the tiniest seeds of doubt, having not taken a win at this level since Luhmühlen in 2018, which she won aboard Faerie Dianimo.

“A five-star win is always very special. I won my first two back to back in 2018, and it’s been a fairly long drought since,” she says. “I was sort of starting to wonder if I was ever going to win another one!”

In just her second-ever five-star, though, young Grape managed it — and in fine style that showed a huge progression from her debut at Kentucky last year, where she finished 8th after a mid-30s dressage score, a handful of time penalties across the country, and two rails down.

“The mare really came through for me this week; she delivered three really good phases,” says Jonelle, who took the ride over from British competitor Alex Postolowsky, who had piloted her to a win in the 2016 British Five-Year-Old Championships, in late 2017. But for all the mare’s talent, it hasn’t been an easy road to the top — and those around her have had to exercise extraordinary patience en route.

“It’s been sort of six years in the making — these things don’t happen by chance, so I’m just delighted for her. She’s got a lovely syndicate of owners who’ve been incredibly patient, and there’s been a lot of disappointments along the way but she really came through this week.”

Jonelle Price and Grappa Nera. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Those disappointments have included rails, previously, but more pertinently, she’s been an extraordinarily mercurial horse on the flat, often flitting between the mid-20s and the high-40s to low-50s from competition to competition.

“For years I’ve been saying, ‘don’t you worry, we’ll get there!’ as she’s been cavorting around dressage arenas and whatnot at one-day events, so [the Grape Syndicate have] had to be very patient. But I always said we’d get there,” says Jonelle.

This year alone, she posted a 51.4 in the Open Intermediate at Burgham Horse Trials in July, and two weeks later, earned a 31.4 in the CCI4*-S at Haras du Pin. Last year, she twice stepped into the 40s at national Intermediate and Advanced classes; in 2019, she put a 40.3 on the board in the CCI4*-L at Millstreet. For Jonelle, the greatest investment of time has been into her mind — a bit of measured patience that has ultimately been more important, even, than the near-year the mare had off from mid-2021 to the start of this summer while rehabilitating from an injury.

All that meant, though, that while Jonelle was certain she was sitting on a horse who would be worth the wait, she wasn’t necessarily convinced that her day would come today.

“She jumped her socks off today. I always thought she was a good horse, and it was more question of when she would come through for us, not if — and she did today. But I certainly didn’t expect this — she’s a good jumper, but sometimes I think the moment can sort of get to her,” she says. That ‘moment’ was compounded by the sheer chaos of following a Frenchman who’d gone clear: “She’s quite excitable, and I knew Karim was jumping clear, so I tried to stay down the chute and just keep her a bit quiet.”

Though the mare’s stamp — she’s a petite, fine black mare — yields easy comparisons to Classic Moet, Jonelle explains that she’s not at all similar to ride and work with.

“She’s very different — if anything, I’d compare more to Faerie Dianimo. They rival each other, in terms of hotness, and because they’re both fiercely determined and athletic. And it’s delightful when they start to come of age, for sure.”

 

Karim Laghouag wraps up a tricky year with a bit of ‘revenge’ with Triton Fontaine. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

France’s Karim Laghouag and his Tokyo partner, Triton Fontaine, were such popular runners-up that they must have felt as though they’d won the whole thing — and, Karim ruefully recognises, they nearly could have if he hadn’t had a mistake in one of his flying changes in his dressage test.

“If I had gotten my change in time, I might have a little less to regret, but overall, it’s ok — I’m always happy to come second when it’s Jonelle who wins,” he says with a grin.

There’s more to celebrate than there is to regret, anyway: he and Triton Fontaine began their week in nineteenth place on 31.4, climbed sixteen places with one of the four clears inside the time yesterday, and then finished second overall today after stopping the clock just one second over the tight time in the showjumping ring, not only giving them a week to remember, but also putting the cap on a tricky year that’s seen Karim pick up cross-country penalties in five of his twelve total FEI runs.

“I’ve not had a great year and I really saw this competition as a good chance to come back and be with the best, even though we thought the horse was a little bit below the competition level,” says Karim, who has finished first and second at CCI4*-S this year with the 15-year-old gelding, but has also picked up penalties and retired in three internationals with him since finishing 12th individually at Tokyo.

“I had some setbacks in the beginning of the season — I was failing a lot of courses, but at least this is a nice revenge on the season, and at an event I really enjoy being at.”

Coming back to Pau also gave him the chance to bolster his own confidence by surrounding himself by the fans who love him — and their support, he points out, is crucial to the sport. What makes Pau a particularly worthy event, he continues, is that it’s all about them.

“It’s really a nice edition — although inevitably, when we do well as riders, we think it’s great,” says Karim with a laugh. “It’s becoming more and more equal with the quality of Badminton and Burghley, even if we don’t have the hills. It’s really an incredible event with the public, and it’s really important for the sport to have the public and for us to have [organiser] Pascal, who takes care of the public who are often present. For me, I think it’s very very important for the sport.”

Hector Payne and Dynasty. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I decided that if you’re going to do well in two phases, you might as well get it all right on the same weekend — I’m normally the king of screwing up one phase,” laughs Hector Payne, who added just 0.4 time penalties to leap up into final third phase after a week of personal bests with 14-year-old Dynasty. “So I couldn’t be more happy; he came out a million dollars today, and apart from getting a little bit nervous to the last, he was brilliant.”

This isn’t Hector’s first time at this event with the gelding: they came in 2020, though picked up 20 penalties across the country on that occasion. Still, their completion gave them a chance to experience Pau’s tough final phase, which helped Hector prepare for the job at hand today.

“It’s always very big here, and today’s course was probably even more technical than last time I was here,” he says. “Everything was related in it, and it did make getting the time quite difficult, because if you even shut off for one stride it gave you time. When the leaderboard is as close as it is, that makes quite a big difference. I’m very glad I could afford my one second over, because I’d be kicking myself otherwise!”

For Hector, who began his career riding for William Fox-Pitt, from whom he inherited Dynasty after William’s accident in 2015, this moment is the culmination of a huge amount of work and a lifetime of dreaming — not to mention a long recovery from a badly broken femur last year. Now, though, he reckons he’s winning a long-standing argument with his mentor: “I’ve had an ongoing dialogue with William that started years ago, because Dynasty and Little Fire were the same age. Now, William’s go to better me — I always said mine was the better one!”

“I’m absolutely thrilled with him,” he continues. “His owners trusted me to bring him out here; we debated Burghley for a long time, but I really felt he could come here and be competitive. I wasn’t quite expecting to be that competitive, but we’ll take it! I haven’t been on a podium in a very long time, so I hope I remember what to do!”

David Doel and Galileo Nieuwmoed. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Cross-country leaders David Doel and Galileo Nieuwmoed were struck by an impossibly frustrating bit of bad luck when the final fence came down, but their great efforts throughout the week still earned them a very respectable fourth-place finish, capping off a year that also saw them take sixth at Badminton.

“We came with the aim of being in the top three, so fourth isn’t too bad,” says David. “I was absolutely stoked with his round; he jumped mega all the way, and I don’t think I really would have done anything different to the last fence. Even when I re-ride it in my head, I don’t think I really tightened. He jumped fantastically — the warm-up was so good, and everything was spot-on.”

David certainly wasn’t the only rider to tip the final fence, which came as part of a fiendishly difficult line at the end of a lengthy course.

“He opened you up over the water tray and over the oxer, and then you had two big oxers all the way down the line, as well, so to finish with a really small, lightweight vertical on a left-handed turn was tough. But that’s what makes that 0.1 of a difference.”

Caroline Powell impresses with the youngest horse in the field, Greenacres Special Cavalier. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

When Caroline Powell first made the decision to bring her nine-year-old Greenacres Special Cavalier to Pau, she wasn’t sure if she might be mad — but, she reasoned, the experience would be valuable for the talented young mare, who finished third in the Blenheim Eight- and Nine-Year-Old CCI4*-S last month.

“The whole thing was to try and get ready, hopefully, for Paris,” says Caroline, who finished fifth after delivering one of the three clears inside the time. “As an eight-year-old she made a few mistakes on cross-country, but she’s just got better and better as a nine-year-old. She’s come out and just been amazing; at Blenheim she was fantastic, and we thought, if we don’t keep pushing her, then she’s going to start switching off — because she’s bright. She’s far too bright in herself, and she just loves to work. I think the horses like that, you’ve got to you’ve got to make most of them while you’ve got them, because they’re a long time coming.”

Like most great mares, ‘Cavvy’ is a character in her own right, and now that she’s on side, she’s becoming a ferocious competitor, too.

“She’s sort of a queen bee in the yard,” says Caroline. “No one can walk past her box without her coming over the door. She’ll pick a person by it every day, so you just sort of take a number! She wouldn’t be the best out hacking, but she loves the treadmill. I mean, she’s just a worker — jumping at home is quite fun! She’s a quirky old bird, but her dressage has got better and her cross-country’s so much better. She’s always jumped well; she loves to jump, and she’s just gone from strength to strength.”

Caroline Powell and Greenacres Special Cavalier. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

One of Cavvy’s greatest strengths is that she loves an atmosphere, something that Caroline discovered when piloting her around Le Lion d’Angers as both a six- and seven-year-old. That paid dividends for her today as she entered the bustling, vibrant arena.

“She loves a crowd, and she thought everyone was there for her today, which is even better. They’re unique, those ones.”

Like Grappa Nera ahead of her, Cavvy has become an exceptional competitor off the back of a rather wild and wooly youth, and plenty of patience from her rider and owner Chris Mann.

“It’s pretty special,” says Caroline. “As a five-year-old she actually went to Burghley [Young Event Horse], and we managed to eliminate ourselves in the five-year-old class because the jumping was so bad. She had the power, she just didn’t know how to use the power. And so we’ve had her for a long time, and I think when you you’ve known them for that long… she’s always jumped, and the mistakes she’s made have never been scary mistakes, she’s just been too long and too big. She’s as long as a boat, and when the power starts taking over the front end, you get in trouble. But she seems to have all that mustered and under control now!”

Bubby Upton makes it happen with Cannavaro. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“It’s been so great to be back at Pau,” says a damp-eyed Bubby Upton after the clear round inside the time with Cannavaro that secured her sixth place. “This is where I made my [five-star] debut, and I love it here.”

Her excellent finish — and the unique honour of being the first rider to make the time and jump clear today — is made even more special after a tricky year, which saw her and ‘Joey’ lead the dressage at Luhmühlen but fall on cross-country. Their redemption began inauspiciously, with an uncharacteristic 33.3 in the first phase for 25th place, but adding just 4.8 time penalties yesterday allowed them to leap up the standings to overnight ninth.

“The week started off great, and he felt fantastic, but Thursday, I was really, really disappointed; he does a fantastic test, and he did that with one big error, but I feel like he was really unfairly marked in the dressage, as do quite a lot of people,” says Bubby. “So obviously, in the back of my head I’m thinking about what could have been — but whatever! He’s been truly phenomenal all week, and I can’t fault him. He was unbelievable out there on cross-country — not many people know, but he had ten weeks off after Luhmühlen, so he’s only jumped four times since June! So for him to come here this week and do what he did just shows what a heart of pure gold he has, because he shouldn’t have performed like he has.”

Bubby Upton and Cannavaro. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The gelding, who formerly showjumped, was perfectly suited to today’s tough track, which gave Bubby no end of confidence as she came in to tackle the final phase.

“Today, I wouldn’t want to be sat on any other horse. He’s a class act — I got on him and I just felt so at ease, because there’s not an eventer that jumps like him out there,” she says.

Now, she can enjoy a restored sense of confidence in herself and her system, too: “I let him down at Pau [last year], and we were a bit of a mixture of my fault and a little bit of bad luck at Luhmühlen [this year] when we lost the win, which was an incredibly tough pill to swallow on the back of Badminton. For him to get the result this week means the absolute world, and I just hope to go five better next year! I’ve learned this year to trust my gut and trust my horses, because I know them better than anyone else.”

Maxime Livio and Carouzo Bois Marotin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though Maxime Livio didn’t quite pin down the clear round his enthusiastic fans were urging him towards, his one-rail round with the ten-year-old debutant Carouzo Bois Marotin still looked very impressive — particularly as the gelding hasn’t had many clear rounds yet in his FEI career, though not for lack of ability. Their rail dropped them just one place to seventh, and the son of Kannan out of a Flipper d’Elle mare looks set to take his rightful place in Maxime’s A team of superstars in the seasons to come.

Emily King and Valmy Biats. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Like Bubby and Cannavaro, Emily King and Valmy Biats came to Pau with a point to prove after a tricky week at a five-star previously. Their wobble came at Badminton this spring, where the Selle Français impressed in his debut but had a late fall on the way home across the country. This week, they put Badminton to bed, taking eighth place after tipping one rail today.

“He’s shone in every phase, really — he’s been amazing,” says Emily, who has featured in the top ten after every phase this week. “He was exceptional today; he’s such a good jumper. One of the things that makes him a super cross-country horse is that he’s so scopey and so brave, so it’s just been about reining in that bravery over the knockable poles.”

Learning to do so has been one of the silver linings of that Badminton fall, Emily explains.

“He’s probably learned a lot from it, because the only thing that would be his hindrance is his boldness. It’s a quite exaggerated lesson to be learned, and I think you probably don’t want it to happen too often, but I think it has just made him respect everything a bit more and made it obvious to me that it was literally the only thing that I needed to guard him from in cross-country and showjumping. We’ve definitely used it to learn from.”

Though their rail today didn’t lose them any ground on the leaderboard, it did cost them the chance to move up to sixth — though on balance, Emily isn’t planning to waste time on regrets.

“I thought that line might be our one, and in hindsight, I just needed to work a bit more — but I was thinking just now that it’s easy to be disappointed, but he was amazing. If someone had said to me that we’d be eighth before we came, I’d have been like, ‘okay!’ It’s only my second time riding him in a long-format event, so actually, with all those things, you get to know them more. So I’m really chuffed.”

Luc Chateau and Viens du Mont. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

France’s Luc Chateau made it three in the top ten for the home nation with Viens du Mont in the thirteen-year-old Selle Français’s five-star debut, tipping just one rail along the way to put a cap on an exceptional week that has seen them climb from first-phase 44th place to a final ninth.

Kazuma Tomoto and Brookpark Vikenti. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Japan’s Kazuma Tomoto rounds out the top ten after a three-rail round with Brookpark Vikenti, which dropped him from overnight fourth but still kept him well in the mix as a result of the high number of faults amassed across the class today.

That’s all for us from Pau — for now, at least! — and so we bid adieu to the 2022 European season, to the south of France, and, for tonight, to you. Go Eventing.

The top ten after a nail-biting finish to the 2022 edition of Les 5 Etoiles de Pau.

Les 5 Etoiles de Pau: [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Timing & Scoring] [H&C+ Live Stream *Use code PAU2022 for 15% of H&C+ Annual!*] [EN’s Coverage] [EN’s Ultimate Guide to Pau] [EN’s Instagram]

Pau Field Thins by Two at Final Horse Inspection

Xanthe Goldsack and Hi Tech. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This week’s coverage of Pau on EN is brought to you with the support of Kentucky Performance Products. We couldn’t do much of what we’ve done these last few years without the support of sponsors such as KPP — which, by the way, is a horses-first, women owned and operated company based in, you guessed it, Kentucky — and without you, our readers! So as we head into this final hurrah of our season, too, we thank each and every one of you.

Just 36 competitors will head into the final phase at Les 5 Etoiles de Pau this afternoon following a dramatic final horse inspection, held before the ground jury of President Sue Baxter (GBR), Anne-Mette Binder (DEN), Xavier Le Sauce (FRA).

Matt Flynn and Wizzerd. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Four horses ultimately went to the holding box, with two of those returning for a successful re-presentation: Italy’s Pietro Sandei and his stalwart Rubis de Prere (28th) and the USA’s Matt Flynn and Wizzerd (30th) were given the go-ahead, while British debutante Xanthe Goldsack was first asked to trot again with a looser rein in her initial presentation of Hi Tech, then sent on to the holding box. She opted to re-present, but was sadly eliminated — likely an aftereffect of a lost shoe on course yesterday, where she was clear but with 48.4 time penalties for overnight 34th place. Her fellow British rider in the holding box, five-star barrister Max Gordon and his Redwood Clover (35th after cross-country), chose to withdraw, which marks the second time that the pair have seen their five-star end on Sunday morning.

Karim Laghouag and Triton Fontaine. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Two further horses were asked to trot again immediately in their initial presentation, both as a result of some misbehaviour on the jog strip: both third-placed Karim Florent Laghouag and Triton Fontaine and Harry Meade and Tenareze (26th) had a job on their hands to deal with the huge atmosphere from the packed grandstands, but both were given the nod after those cursory second trot-ups.

Overnight leader David Doel waits with his two horses, Ferro Point (left) and first-placed Galileo Nieuwmoed (right). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Here’s another look at the top ten going into this afternoon’s showjumping finale, which commences from 3.00 p.m. local time (2.00 p.m. British/10.00 a.m. EST). With less than a rail separating the top five, and with Pau’s reputation for building the toughest five-star showjumping courses in the world — there’s just a 17% average clear rate here — it’ll be a seriously exciting bit of sport:

The top ten after an influential day of cross-country at Pau.

Les 5 Etoiles de Pau: [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Timing & Scoring] [H&C+ Live Stream *Use code PAU2022 for 15% of H&C+ Annual!*] [EN’s Coverage] [EN’s Ultimate Guide to Pau] [EN’s Instagram]

David Doel Tops New-Look Leaderboard After Action-Packed Pau Cross-Country

This week’s coverage of Pau on EN is brought to you with the support of Kentucky Performance Products. We couldn’t do much of what we’ve done these last few years without the support of sponsors such as KPP — which, by the way, is a horses-first, women owned and operated company based in, you guessed it, Kentucky — and without you, our readers! So as we head into this final hurrah of our season, too, we thank each and every one of you.

Every time someone refers to twisty, turn-y, tight-timed and atmospheric Pau, with all its skinnies and corners and accuracy questions (and the odd swimming rat in the water) as the ‘soft’ five-star, I can’t help but laugh a bit — because never yet in the five years that I’ve been covered it for EN has it been anything close to an easy competition. Often, we see a leaderboard so tightly packed that even if the only influence comes from the tough-to-grab time, that’s enough to see huge changes — but most years, including this one, it serves up wall-to-wall action. Though today’s completion rate of 80.9% might look high on paper, its 62% clear rate is much more closely aligned with the historically ‘tough’ five-stars, and with just four of yesterday’s top ten remaining at the business end of the leaderboard, the Pierre Michelet course certainly did the job it set out to.

Though, as predicted, the first combination — a sizeable log drop to a corner at 4AB — caused plenty of influence, with eleven competitors running out the side door at the B element, it was very nearly eclipsed by a particularly efficient set of MIM clips much later on in the course. They featured as the B element in the middle water at 21B, which was an open corner equipped with the more sensitive yellow clips, four strides after another hefty hanging log drop. Nine competitors in total picked up 11 penalties for activating those clips, including dressage leader Felix Vogg and Colero, as well as Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden, who had been fourth going into today’s action.

David Doel achieves a career highlight, taking the overnight lead after a fifteen-place climb with Galileo Nieuwmoed. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The first of the nine to activate those clips was David Doel, who was fourth out of the box with his first ride, Ferro Point, and reached the B element on a half-stride, kicking out the rails. But sometimes, eventing’s sense of kismet works in funny ways: having made that early mistake, he was well-prepared to nail the line, and that final stride, when he came back out as the last rider of the day with the Dutch-bred Galileo Nieuwmoed.

The eleven-year-old gelding (Carambole x Sjaloma, by Harcos) has been quietly proving himself as a serious talent for some time: he finished inside the time here last year, and was sixth at Badminton this year — but still, by the time David was counted down in the startbox, the pressure had been piled on. So much had changed through the course of the day — and particularly, in the final batch of riders, which saw Felix drop out of the lead, third-placed Tom McEwen and Bob Chaplin and second-placed Izzy Taylor and Monkeying Around both opt to retire after a duo apiece of refusals in the early stages of the course — that despite his fifteenth-place position at the end of the first phase, David was suddenly, keenly aware that a quick clear would give him the lead.

If he felt the pressure, though, he never showed it. His ride through that influential MIM-clipped water complex was one of those masterclasses of focus and commitment, and the four perfect, balanced, attacking strides he got were a clear indicator that David, like all his vocal supporters in the crowd, knew that his time had come.

David Doel and Galileo Nieuwmoed. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And boy, had it. Just four riders made the 11:00 optimum time out of 47 starters — France’s Luc Chateau was the first, with Viens du Mont, and fellow countrymen Karim Florent Laghouag and Maxime Livio each did it too, with Triton Fontaine and Carouzo Bois Marotin, respectively. But David’s round didn’t just squeak inside the time — he romped across the finish line a full nine seconds under, lodging the fastest round of the day, despite a serious technical hitch that could have made even catching it nearly impossible.

“I actually stuffed up my clock because as I left the start box, I hit it twice,” he explains. “By the time I realised it wasn’t running, I was about three or four seconds out on my clock, so I had to just sort of keep myself ahead of it a little bit, just to make sure that my stuff up at the start box didn’t affect us. So I didn’t actually realise [I’d made the time] until I was back and my mum told me!”

David, who stepped up to five-star here in 2018 and has since produced an enormously impressive six horses to the level, entered into a debate at today’s press conference about whether luck plays a part in how a week of eventing can go — and the man who has suffered a fair share of rubbish luck, including a slipped saddle in the showjumping at Luhmühlen this year that resulted in a very late elimination, argued that it certainly does have a role.

“I think you need a little bit of luck,” he says. “Sometimes you have a trip or a stumble on cross-country, and sometimes the horse falls over, and sometimes they stand up. So I think there’s definitely a bit of luck involved, but the majority definitely comes down to preparation — to the days, weeks, months, and years in the process of getting horses to this level. The good horses are well-prepared, and you don’t often see someone get lucky and win a five-star — so it’s a bit of a mixture of both [luck and preparation].”

Certainly, though, those years of hard work, which have seen David run a yard alongside the family ice cream business, are the primary factor — and so the 29-year-old couldn’t be more delighted to relish the moment for now.

“[Leading a five-star is] a huge goal, and it’s been on the cards,” he says. “He’s a fantastic horse, and I’m very lucky to ride him. He’s athletic, and he has the power. he should have gone to Burghley, and we did a lot of prep for that, but then he had a bit of man-flu before Burghley, so he’s come here really fit and feeling fantastic. It’s a massive team effort — it’s not just my trainers that are out here, my granny’s out here, and the owners, and my mum and dad, and [for all of us], it’s been years and years of working to get him to this position. He’s been close, and so it’s lovely to be rewarded.”

Though the gelding jumped a classy clear on the final day at Badminton this spring for sixth, last year, he tipped two rails here — and so David is remaining pragmatic ahead of tomorrow’s competition and focusing on the variables he can control — namely, making sure his horse feels as good as he can do.

“Tomorrow’s going to be another day,” he says sagely, “but we’ve got great help, and the British team have been fantastic, so we’ll hopefully get him feeling as fit as possible for tomorrow.”

Jonelle Price’s Grappa Nera steps up to the big leagues with a swift, decisive run and overnight second. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I could have been [clear inside the time] number five,” says Jonelle Price ruefully, reflecting on her 1.2 time penalties with Grappa Nera. “I’m afraid it’s my fault — I could have been inside the time, but I had the three seconds, and that was my undoing today!”

But although those three seconds cost Jonelle the overnight lead, it’s a scant loss: she sits second with the five-star sophomore on a score of 31.3, which puts her just 0.7 penalties, or less than two seconds on the clock tomorrow, behind David.

Grappa Nera, who has gone under the radar at one-days for her propensity for naughtiness in the first phase, has come out of a spate of time off for an injury as a real contender — and although her primary role this year was as a back-up horse for the World Championships at Pratoni, Jonelle had long earmarked Pau as an event that could suit her perfectly.

“All the five-stars have their own unique flavour, and Pau is certainly unique,” she says. “It’s not the biggest of the five-stars, but the time is always influential because the woods really slow you down in the first and last third of the course. You need a nimble, athletic horse, but some of the distances that appear aren’t really suited to that type of horse, and you’d want something a bit bigger and scopier. I thought I had the perfect candidate in Grappa Nera: she’s very nimble and athletic, but some of those distances were pretty good for me, and luckily there’s another option there.”

Karim Laghouag and his Olympic partner Triton Fontaine lead the way for the home side and sit third overall going into the final day. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There’s probably no man in France more popular than the ebullient, jovial Olympian Karim Florent Laghouag, and never more so than when he gives fans the chance to see his most recent Olympic partner, Triton Fontaine, in action. Those fans’ enthusiastic support was rewarded in kind today (and truly, you could chart his progress around the course from their screams of encouragement alone) with a speedy clear two seconds inside the time, hoiking him right up the leaderboard from 19th to overnight third.

“He gave me an amazing ride, and when he’s like that, he could do a six-star,” says Karim with a smile.

Kazuma Tomoto and Brookpark Vikenti move into fourth place. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Japan’s Kazuma Tomoto is one of the sport’s real stylists in this phase, and his efficiency and prowess — and that fourth-place individual finish at Tokyo last year — belie the fact that he only began eventing less than six years ago after a career in the showjumping arena. Just a smattering of weeks after a top-ten finish with Vinci de la Vigne at the World Championships, he journeyed to Pau with a very different horse in Brookpark Vikenti. Though we’ve not seen the gelding at this level since 2019, when he led the dressage at Luhmühlen but ran into trouble across the country, and though he sat out much of 2020 and all of 2021, he’s been solidifying every skillset along the way, picking up a number of placings — and a win in his prep run in the CCI4*-S at Little Downham. That time and patience paid dividends today, and the pair go into the final day in a strong fourth place, just 1.4 penalties off the lead after adding 6.4 time.

Hector Payne and Dynasty climb into the top five after a storming clear round. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Hector Payne sits fifth overnight after what felt like a coming-of-age round for the 14-year-old KWPN gelding Dynasty, who was campaigned in his early years by Hector’s former employer Willian Fox-Pitt, and who Hector inherited the ride on after William’s accident in 2015. This is the pair’s fourth five-star start, and their second trip to Pau — but the first time that, in every phase so far, the gelding has felt like he’s finally hitting the targets that they’re able to set at home. Their week began with a personal best score at the level of 30.9, which put them into 16th place, and their round today, which was clear with just 1.2 time penalties, was a sea change from their educational 20 penalties here in 2020 and their slow, steady clears at Burghley in 2018 and Badminton this spring.

Their newfound competitive bent comes after a trick year or so for the rider, who suffered a crashing fall while riding at a one-day event last year, resulting in a badly broken femur that ostensibly healed quickly, but has left lingering longer-term muscular damage that Hector has been working hard on with a physio.

“The first 80% of healing happened quickly — it’s the last 20% that’s felt like it’s taken a year,” he says, adding wryly, “I’m only allowed to do one-leg exercises in the gym!”

We chatted to Hector after his dressage test about the course to come, which he laughingly described as “Chris Bartle’s dream: he’s always telling us to ride everything as though there’s a corner three strides later, and here, there is!”

Maxime Livio and Carouzo Bois Marotin take overnight sixth in the horse’s level debut. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There are few riders as efficient across the country, regardless of which horse is beneath him, as Maxime Livio — and at Pau, which is always packed to the rafters with a vocally enthusiastic home crowd who effectively carry their riders home with cheers of ‘Allez! Allez!’, there’s an even more noticeable buoyancy to the way he pilots his horses. That was evidenced today in his ride with the ten-year-old debutant Carouzo Bois Marotin, who came here with limited experience — though two top-ten finishes in as many CCI4*-L runs — but crossed the finish line looking like a truly established top level horse. They added nothing to their first-phase score of 35.1, catapulting themselves a remarkable 29 places up the leaderboard from 35th to sixth.

“He’s only ten, but I did two four-star longs with him, and this year in Saumur when I crossed the finish line with him still pulling the reins I thought, ‘shit, he’s ready for bigger sport!'” says Maxime. “So I let him have a rest for a little bit in the middle of the season to let him prepare for here. I was a little bit disappointed with the dressage, but even if he has a great ability for the test, he’s still very sensitive in his mind, so I can lose him a bit in a test. It’s his worst test of the season, but the atmosphere is different [to what he’s used to], and I’d really like to finish this competition well, because for me, if I do well today and tomorrow, then all I need to do is school him to learn that the dressage can be an easy job for him, too. Then, next year, I think I’ll have a real five-star horse.”

His ride today certainly buoyed his convictions in the gelding: “I didn’t have to work hard, because he’s really quick in the gallops, but also at the jumps. So on the twisty parts, I was quite fluent and up on time, and when I came back, I was still on my time. And I let him breathe a little bit for the last loop of the water which is quite twist and you can’t go fast, so I use that moment to say, ‘that’s a good job’. But then even in the last minutes, he was asking me to go for more. He’s quite an amazing horse.”

Caroline Powell’s Greenacres Special Cavalier may be the youngest horse in the field at just nine, but she’s one of the most impressive, too, jumping a confident clear for seventh. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

When we spoke to Burghley winner and seasoned Olympian Caroline Powell after her dressage, she confessed that she’d initially wondered if she might be mad to bring her preternaturally talented nine-year-old, Greenacres Special Cavalier, to Pau, rather than waiting until next season for the step up. But, she reasoned, even if they couldn’t be competitive this week, the exposure and experience would still serve as an important foundational and educational milestone for the mare, who has long looked set to be one of Paris 2024’s major contenders.

As it happened, though, they went a few better than that. Despite her inexperience, the nine-year-old mare sunk her teeth into the Pierre Michelet track as though it was a particularly good meal, and along the way, the pair were able to take calculated risks and add a relatively scant 8 time penalties to their first-phase score of 27.7. That sees them go into the final day in seventh place — one spot higher than they were after the first phase.

Emily King and Valmy Biats shake off their Badminton demons with an excellent round for overnight eighth. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

After completing three-quarters of Badminton’s exceptionally tough track this spring with her then-debutant Valmy BiatsEmily King knew she was sitting on a horse with the scope and guts to succeed at this level — even if he didn’t quite have the mileage yet. And so it was particularly refreshing to see that the Selle Français gelding, who is owned by breeder Philippe Brivois and ‘run’ by the Event Horse Owners Syndicate micro-syndicate group, hadn’t suffered any obvious loss of confidence after his unlucky late fall there — and that Emily, who enjoyed such extraordinary success on her own five-star debut here back in 2016, when she finished fourth, was able to repeat her fate of old today. They sit eighth overnight after an exuberant, bold round with 11.6 time penalties — a drop of three places from their first-phase fifth, but one that Emily isn’t wasting a moment regretting.

“He was just foot-perfect,” says a delighted Emily. “He was very strong and very brave — I nearly  could have had two gears left on the straight, and I could have gone for it, but I didn’t want to overdo it and then him get tired and have a mistake. I really wanted to use it to see where he was at — and he just cantered home so easily. Every fence was perfect; he was just amazing.”

In fact, as Emily explains, much of the time she accrued was actually intentional, with two eyes firmly set on the future.

“He was so quick with his legs and made all the distances I’d planned,” she says. “I was planning to go one extra stride [in a combination] at the beginning, purely because he’s so brave. He could have gone one or two strides less if I let him, but I didn’t want to let that gain on him and then at the end have him be too keen, because that’s what led to the only mistake he’s had [previously]. I think like I could have gotten flat out and been a bit riskier, but actually, I wouldn’t have really learned much from it.”

Bubby Upton and Cannavaro tick all the boxes for ninth. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

So much has changed in a year for Bubby Upton, who made her five-star debut here last year with this week’s ride Cannavaro and her Badminton partner Cola. Then, she had a storming clear on the latter but opted to retire Cannavaro on course after an early issue, and this year, her five-star campaigns have largely been something of an educational experience — an odd irony considering that over the last number of years, she’s been successfully eventing alongside completing her degree, which she finished this spring. At Badminton, she picked up a frustrating run-out at the final fence with Cola after an exceptionally classy effort around the tough track, and at Luhmühlen in June, the former show jumper Cannavaro led the dressage, but showed his sporting roots across the country, jumping ever higher and more carefully until he effectively went into orbit over a drop combination, resulting in their elimination. A 14th place finish at Burghley with Cola marked a turning point — and Cannavaro’s turn has felt inevitable.

But there’s never been any doubt that Bubby would tick the boxes she did today at this level. The former Junior and Young Rider European Champion is a fierce competitor and, of course, a committed learner — and every frustrating moment she’s had this year was channeled, today, into the round the pair have long deserved at five-star. She and ‘Joey’ made light work of the analytical track, delivering that coveted clear and adding just 4.2 time penalties to move from 25th after dressage to overnight ninth.

“It’s probably one of my proudest rounds I’ve had, because I’ve let him down twice now and he so deserves to show everyone how classy he is,” says an emotional Bubby. “Although I was very disappointed with his mark in the dressage, I wasn’t disappointed with him — he’s just incredible. Last year, I messed up; Luhmühlen, I messed up. And today, I feel like I did him justice, and we showed everyone what we can do.”

Bubby, who now has valuable mileage over four of the world’s seven five-star tracks, rated today’s Pierre Michelet effort as among the most difficult she’s ever tackled.

“It was so tough out there. It was one of the toughest I’ve ridden — Burghley was tough physically on me, because I was having to keep plugging Cola along, but the intensity of this track, I’ve never written anything like it. So I’m so proud of how we handled it.”

“It was just one of those courses that you had to ride by the seat of your pants and by feel,” she says. “I’m one that always goes out with a set plan; I’m like, I want to know if I’m doing it on three or four or five or six. But as soon as I get out there it all goes out the window and I ride by feel. I know that that’s what works for me; having a plan mentally, knowing I have it, and then just going by feel. It paid dividends today.”

One of the major boxes that Bubby ticked with Cannavaro today was that of speed — something that’s not come naturally to the gelding.

“He’s never gone the trip before. I’ve said it time and time again that I never knew if he was ever going to make the distance. And actually, he had 11 weeks off after Luhmühlen, just in the field, because he injured his knee when he fell — so he jumped for the first time on the 22nd of September. That’s just a month ago, so for him to go around like that means more than anyone could know.”

Felix Vogg and Colero are one of several pairs to pick up 11 penalties in the second water complex, losing them their first-phase lead but only dropping them to tenth. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though Switzerland’s Felix Vogg attacked the course with the serious focus and gumption we’d expect from the Luhmühlen winner, he and Colero sacrificed their first-phase lead when they, too, were victims of those tender clips in the racecourse water. They added a further 3.2 time penalties for coming in eight seconds over the optimum time, but such was the influence of the day that even those 14.2 total additional penalties only dropped them as far as tenth overnight.

Matt Flynn and Wizzerd. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Our sole US representatives, Matt Flynn and Wizzerd, picked up twenty penalties at 10A, a skinny in the first water, but nailed a completion, which sees them sit 30th overnight on a two-phase score of 83.3.

Tomorrow’s final day of competition kicks off at 12.30 local time (11.30 a.m. British/7.30 a.m. EST) with the final horse inspection, followed by showjumping from 15.15 (14.15/10.15 a.m. EST). Keep it locked on EN for all the news and updates, and until next time: Go Eventing!

The top ten after an influential day of cross-country at Pau.

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Luhmühlen Winner Leads the Way at Close of Pau Dressage

This week’s coverage of Pau on EN is brought to you with the support of Kentucky Performance Products. We couldn’t do much of what we’ve done these last few years without the support of sponsors such as KPP — which, by the way, is a horses-first, women owned and operated company based in, you guessed it, Kentucky — and without you, our readers! So as we head into this final hurrah of our season, too, we thank each and every one of you.

Felix Vogg and Colero. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Yesterday’s short dressage session at Pau, which saw just 17 of the 50 combinations make their way around the main arena, served as something of an appetite whetter – and today’s jam-packed line-up truly was the full meal. There are just two five-star winning combinations in this field, which set up a match race of sorts, and at the close of play, both are within inches of one another — but it’s this year’s Luhmühlen winners, Felix Vogg and Colero, who reign supreme on a score of 24.2.

But although the fourteen-year-old Westphalian gelding is a stalwart campaigner for the Swiss rider, who has piloted him around the World Championships in 2018 and also finished sixth with him at Kentucky in 2019, he’s still thrown a few surprises Felix’s way this summer.

“I was really nervous, because since Luhmühlen, he’s been really nervous in tests, like at Strzegom two weeks ago,” he says. “I think it’s because he did the prizegiving at Luhmühlen, and that’s not his thing at all! Yesterday, he completely freaked out in here.”

Despite a rather sparkly preparation, though, Colero cantered down the first centreline with his professional hat firmly in place.

“When it matters, he stays with me,” reasons Felix. “Usually he’s always too calm — he’s not usually allowed to do familiarisation, and I didn’t do that in Luhmühlen at all, but he needed it here!”

That meant that, despite a couple of lost marks in the halt and reinback due to tension, they were able to execute a valuable clear round and impress the ground jury, who have proven to be tough nuts to crack this week.

“All the way through was quite okay, and the walk was quite good for him — sometimes he’s a tiny bit nervous. The medium canter was very good, I think,” he says.

Though his five-star win at Luhmühlen was a milestone moment for him, and for Swiss eventing, which hasn’t seen a five-star winner since the 1950s, Felix is remaining level-headed under the weight of expectation this week.

“It starts from the beginning again — it’s like before Luhmühlen. Probably some other people expect something, but for me, he’s done enough.”

Izzy Taylor and Monkeying Around. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

A perfunctory glance out at the schooling arena yesterday yielded a bit of excitement, if you happened to have that glance when Izzy Taylor was riding her Bramham CCI4*-L victor Monkeying Around: the exceptionally talented dressage-bred gelding spent a fair amount of time demonstrating his extraordinary athleticism, in a way that Izzy no doubt hoped he’d avoid in the main ring. But, as Izzy explains moments after her musical, fluent test, part of getting to the bottom of this tempestuous talent has been letting him have his ‘moments’, so that when the real deal rolls around, he’s ready to crack on and give his best work.

“He’s a character, and you have to work with that,” she says with a grin. “He likes to have fun, and everything’s very easy for him, so you have to make the preparation harder so that when he’s in the ring he’s like, ‘oh, this is easy!’ and he’s happy, he’s smiling, and he loves life.”

That joie de vivre was evident in his work today, which had none of the extra dance moves we’ve sometimes seen in four-star tests — and in his hotly-anticipated five-star debut, Monkeying Around pulled it out of the bag, putting a 24.4 on the board and taking a close second place at the culmination of the first phase.

“He’s a very characterful horse, so if I can bring the character into the ring, then it’s great — but I need to make sure we’ve had our chat beforehand,” says Izzy, who, despite her gelding’s relative experience at this point, hasn’t yet ridden him in an atmosphere of this scale. “I suppose Bramham has an atmosphere,” she says, “but he’s never really been anywhere because of Covid and life, I suppose, so he did come in here and go ‘ahh!’ I was like, ‘you need to breathe!’ and then he grew and smiled the whole way through. I was very pleased with his brain.”

Just one tiny error precluded an overnight lead: the first change came a touch early, earning them 4s at H and B.

“It’s annoying with the change — he went early in front because he was so eager to please, and you can’t fault them for that,” she says. “But I’m so proud of him; he’s a beautiful horse, and it’s special when you have them from the word go.”

Tom McEwen’s second ride, Bob Chaplin, gives him two in the top ten at the conclusion of the first phase. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

2019 Pau champion Tom McEwen goes into cross-country with two horses in the top ten: his day one pathfinder, Braveheart B, sits ninth on 28.3, while today’s ride, the exquisite grey Bob Chaplin, takes third overnight on 24.6 after a real clear round test.

“He was a really good boy,” says Tom, who opted to scale back the gelding’s schooling prior to his test, with great success. “Harriet [Fettes, my fiancee] has hacked him; he’s been out looking at the racehorses every morning, and he did ten minutes of arena familiarisation and that’s literally all he’s done. He can get a bit bored and irritated if you kick him around a school, so however much you want to work on bits and bobs, you’re better off leaving him alone.”

Both of Tom’s horses come to Pau with a point to prove after an unlucky week at Luhmühlen in June, where Bob Chaplin fell at the penultimate fence as a result of an errant dog on the course, and Braveheart, too, took a tumble. Tom, though, is a stoic soul and a lifelong learner, and while he’s not dwelling on the past this week, he’s certainly found things he can improve upon from that week — namely in that warm-up routine.

“[Doing too much before dressage is] the mistake I made at Luhmühlen with him, when he feels a little bit perky — but he’s also been on the road for two weeks now, so he’s seen enough,” says Tom, who brought both horses to Le Lion d’Angers with him last week so he could keep them in work as he competed his young horses. “He does very limited stuff at home, too — he does twenty minutes of schooling and then goes hacking, so we can keep him nice and happy and fresh.”

Though Tom is sitting on a horse with a very low 20s score within him, he tempered his expectations in the ring today, instead focusing on laying firm foundations for all that’s to come with Fred and Penny Barker’s eleven-year-old.

“I knew he could do a good test, but apart from the first change, which we messed up, it was a clear round,” he says. “I know he’s expressive and he can go and do all these amazing things, but he’s just not yet strong enough to do that in a test. So for me, it’s more important to go and do that nice, clean test, rather than worrying about how expressive he can be, because we know it’ll come.”

As one of just four riders with two rides here, Tom had the rare opportunity to feel out the difference in the arena surface, which was watered heavily overnight and had a noticeably shallower cut underfoot today, resulting in easier, more fluid rides and, arguably, a slightly less taxing route to great marks.

“It’s good that they listened to feedback, but it’s a shame it couldn’t have happened a day earlier,” says Tom. “Realistically they’re beaches that are maintained with water, and yesterday, there wasn’t enough water, so it was like the tide had been out for a good couple of hours — whereas today, it’s back to a normal Pau surface.”

Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden dance their way to a close fourth place. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The ground jury certainly hasn’t been giving marks away freely today, and never was that more keenly felt than in 2021 Luhmühlen champions Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden‘s test, which was wholly mistake-free and elegant but just saw them slip out of a potential lead on a final score of 25, just 0.8 off first place.

“He felt really rideable, and it was nice that they’d just rolled the arena, so there was some spring to it,” says Mollie, who trains on the flat with dressage supremo Carl Hester and is reliably a force to be reckoned with in this phase. “He did everything I asked, and maybe one change wasn’t as expressive — I think I rode it a bit safe, but I was really happy with the way he went. He had a good brain in there, and he didn’t take much work outside, so it’s nice to know that I’ve got some left in the tank for tomorrow.”

Emily King and Valmy Biats. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There was a very jolly scene in the chute after Emily King‘s test with Valmy Biats, who remains under the ownership of France’s Philippe Brivois, who also bred the gelding, but is also ‘co-owned’ by the successful Event Horse Owners Syndicate, which provides affordable micro-syndicate memberships for eventing enthusiasts, many of whom turn out at events near and far to watch their horse strut his stuff. Today, they were rewarded in kind with one of the 13-year-old’s best-ever tests, which demonstrated his burgeoning strength and earned him and his rider a 25.5, slotting them into fifth overnight.

“He’s just getting better and better, which is so nice,” says Emily. “You don’t really know where the end’s going to be with him, because every time he goes out, whether it’s a one-day or an international, he just keeps getting better. He’s got a really good brain on him, and he finds the lateral movements very easy, it’s just that he can get a little bit hot in there, so it’s all about keeping him calm.”

Though he’s thirteen, Valmy is still learning his job — and one of his big learning curves has been the flying changes, which didn’t just look good in the ring, but also looked newly well-established in the schooling ring, where EN’s roving journalist admired him earlier on in the day.

“He’s only just started doing the changes properly this year, so they’re getting more and more established, but they’re not quite beautified — but this is one of the first shows where he hasn’t missed many in the warm-up, so everything’s getting more consistent,” says Emily, who is supported this week by mum Mary King and boyfriend Sam Ecroyd, and returns to Pau for the first time since finishing fourth in her five-star debut here in 2016 with Brookleigh.

This is the gelding’s second five-star: he made his debut at Badminton this spring, where he was one of several good horses to be caught out late on course at the Mars flower boxes — but already, Emily is seeing a huge improvement in his work as he begins to understand the nuances of what he’s being asked.

“He’s very supple naturally, and the changes, he can jump them a bit — he knows what he should do, and he tries to do all this extra stuff to help him, which actually doesn’t,” she explains. “So it’s just been about polishing the changes and getting him really rideable — all those little things that’ll step him up again.”

Valmy is a big, rangy boy to look at, rather than the whippet-like French horses that we so often see on the continent, and that, too, has contributed to affording him a touch more time to establish himself at the upper levels.

“He’s quite a chunky monkey, so he doesn’t get the elegance factor quite so naturally, so it’s been about getting him through and showing him off but keeping the basics understood, rather than showing off and little mistakes creeping in,” she says. “That’s the thing as he levels up — as he gets more established, he can get more elegant.”

Kazuma Tomoto and Brookpark Vikenti. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Japan’s shining star Kazuma Tomoto is never a man to throw a mark away in a test, despite picking up eventing just over five years ago — and today, he delivered a characteristically sparkling performance aboard Brookpark Vikenti to earn himself a very respectable 25.6, which sees him hold sixth overnight. That moves day one leaders, Ros Canter and five-star first-timer Rehy Royal Diamond, into seventh place on their 27.3 in this tightly-packed top ten.

Caroline Powell and Greenacres Special Cavalier. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The youngest horse in the field, nine-year-old Greenacres Special Cavalier, gave us one of the most enjoyable tests of the week, posting a 27.7 for overnight eighth with Olympian and Burghley winner Caroline Powell in the irons. That puts her six-tenths of a penalty ahead of Tom McEwen and Braveheart B, yesterday’s pathfinders, who sit ninth now on 28.3.

“She’s been on it all week,” says Caroline, who gave the expressive mare a sympathetic, nurturing ride that yielded some serious ‘wow’ moments in the ring.

But, like many seasoned producers of young horses, Caroline wasn’t always sure if the step-up was the right step.

“She’s only nine, and so you wonder if you’re a bit silly bringing them here, but if she makes a mistake, it’s going to be a glance-off or something. She jumps so well, and she’s never scared herself; she just needs to learn how to do the lines.”

 

Caroline Powell and Greenacres Special Cavalier. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though she came to Pau with the tempered expectations that come par for the course with a first-timer, Caroline always knew she was sitting on something that could produce a really special test — particularly as her mindset has shifted in the right direction over the last couple of seasons.

“She’s been doing some quite nice tests, and all week, she’s been with me. Once you get a mare on your side, you’re a wee bit further on. She loves her work; she’s a real workman, and that makes a real difference. Once she’s got something in her mind, she’s fine — but if she gets the wrong thing in her mind, then you’re in trouble!”

The pair go into cross-country tomorrow in an enviable position, just 3.5 penalties, or just under nine seconds, off the lead — but still, Caroline is maintaining a firm hold on her sense of pragmatism, because ‘Cavvy’ is a serious contender for big things in the years to come. Tomorrow, she reasons, will be an exceptional learning opportunity for the eye-catching mare, and whatever happens, she’ll benefit from the experience.

“She’s a big girl, but she’s getting better between the strings, and the more places she can go, the more she’s going to learn,” she says.

Kevin McNab and Willunga. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Today’s first out, Australia’s Kevin McNab, was one of several riders in the field to pilot a mid-teens first-timer — and fifteen-year-old Willunga certainly stepped up to the plate, delivering a 28.9 that puts him in tenth place overnight. But his workmanlike behaviour in the ring belies a rather wild frat-boy past: his former rider, young horse aficionado Nicky Roncoroni, fondly remembered his early years in a celebratory Facebook post ahead of his performance.

“When perseverance is key,” she writes. “The most characterful little rascal to start off, causing no end of entertainment to anyone who had the pleasure of working with him. The early days were not the most simple, from marching off with people on the long reins, changes in direction quicker than a jump jet, frequently clearing collecting rings, knocking my two front teeth out & the first 3 events reading something like E/R3 145.60 and E/AR & we’re talking about BE80(T’s) [US Beginner Novice] here!”

“He’s a lot more professional now than he used to be,” laughs Kevin. “He certainly was interesting in his younger years! I think Nicky got a lot of that out of him, but there was still some there [when I got him]. He actually thought he was a proper boy, so he’d call out in his tests and he had a few little tricks — but he’s settled down a lot, which he should do, because he’s fifteen!”

Time has been the key for Willunga, who paid that back in full today.

“We’ve just had to get to know him, and figure out what works for him and the set-up. We’ve had to go at his pace, rather than our pace, and that’s meant it’s been a bit slower getting there.”

Though the atmosphere, which was bolstered by low-flying planes and nearby firing practice, certainly added an extra pizzazz factor to proceedings, Willunga remained almost entirely cool and collected, showing some real highlights in the test.

“His trot work is really fun to ride, and it’s really solid, so it was nice to be able to show that off a bit,” says Kevin. “The walk is always a little bit of a thing if he’s tense, and it was a little bit today. That carried on into his canter, but once we got going, he was back again and he made a nice picture.”

Matt Flynn and Wizzerd. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We’ve got just one US representative in the field after the withdrawal of Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack from the holding box yesterday morning, and Matt Flynn, who’s been based with Tim and Jonelle Price in England this season, put in a solid effort with the stalwart Wizzerd to post a 35.7, which sees them go into cross-country in 34th place. That’s less than 12 penalties — or 30 seconds — off the leaders, and in a tightly-wheeled track like Pau’s, that’s a much smaller margin than it might sound.

“There’s always things you want to improve, but I was happy with the way he went,” says Matt sagely. “There’s still plenty to do this weekend, and we’ll give it a good shot.”

Tomorrow sees our competitors head into Pierre Michelet’s cross-country challenge, which will begin from 1.00 p.m. local time (12.00 p.m. British/7.00 a.m. Eastern). You can follow all the action live on Horse&Country TV, plus, stay tuned on EN for riders’ thoughts on how the course walks and what we might expect from the competition to come. These things are rarely dressage competitions, but with its abundance of corners and technical, analytical questions, Pau offers a particularly unique challenge, which should yield plenty of changes across our leaderboard and a seriously spicy day of five-star action. Keep it locked on EN — and until next time, Go Eventing!

The top ten after dressage at Les 5 Etoiles de Pau.

Les 5 Etoiles de Pau: [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Timing & Scoring] [H&C+ Live Stream *Use code PAU2022 for 15% of H&C+ Annual!*] [EN’s Coverage] [EN’s Ultimate Guide to Pau] [EN’s Instagram]

Pau At A Glance: Meet the Riders of 2022’s Final Five-Star

This week’s coverage of Pau on EN is brought to you with the support of Kentucky Performance Products. We couldn’t do much of what we’ve done these last few years without the support of sponsors such as KPP — which, by the way, is a horses-first, women owned and operated company based in, you guessed it, Kentucky — and without you, our readers! So as we head into this final hurrah of our season, too, we thank each and every one of you.

Tucked in as it is at the tail end of the season, Les 5 Etoiles de Pau can sometimes fly a touch under the radar — but that’s not really fair on this unique French five-star, nor the intrepid riders who tackle it. We’ve got a seriously exciting field this year, and we’re diving straight into figuring out what exactly makes it so  compelling.

Yesterday, we took a look at the horses taking part in this week’s five-star — and today, our spotlight is wholly on the riders. Who’s the youngest in the field? How about the oldest? Which riders have a track record of success at this venue, and are men or women leading the way in the line-up? For all this and more, keep on scrolling.

 

Les 5 Etoiles de Pau: [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Timing & Scoring] [H&C+ Live Stream *Use code PAU2022 for 15% of H&C+ Annual!*] [EN’s Coverage] [EN’s Ultimate Guide to Pau] [EN’s Instagram]

La Vie En Ros: Your Day One Pau Dressage Round-Up

This week’s coverage of Pau on EN is brought to you with the support of Kentucky Performance Products. We couldn’t do much of what we’ve done these last few years without the support of sponsors such as KPP — which, by the way, is a horses-first, women owned and operated company based in, you guessed it, Kentucky — and without you, our readers! So as we head into this final hurrah of our season, too, we thank each and every one of you.

Ros Canter’s five-star debutant Rehy Royal Diamond delivers the first day’s leading score as the last test of the day. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

From the tiny men dressed as horses (we’ll get to this, I promise) to the cross-country course that practically enters a Citroen dealership, everything at Les 5 Etoiles de Pau is done in its own unique way — and that certainly includes day one of competition. Unlike other five-stars, which host the trot-up on a Wednesday and dedicate Thursday to dressage, Pau takes more of a ‘bit of column A, bit of column B’ approach to proceedings — and after today’s first horse inspection, we dove pretty well headlong into a short, sweet session jam-packed with the horse-dancing stuff.

This afternoon’s action saw just 17 of the 50 competitors take a turn around the main arena — and along the way, just two would crack the 30 barrier. The lead was held through most of the afternoon by pathfinders Tom McEwen and Braveheart B, but at the very tail end of the day, they were pipped at the post by fellow Brit Ros Canter, who came forward as the last rider of the day and delivered the new leading score with debutant Rehy Royal Diamond.

“I’m absolutely delighted with him,” says Ros, who posted a 27.5 with the eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Ars Videndi x Pegasus Star, by Diamond Lad), who she rides for owner Christopher Makin.

Though the gelding has proven an exciting talent, taking a top ten placing at Bramham CCI4*-L this season, he hasn’t always been particularly straightforward: “He’s not been the easiest to get his brain right on the flat,” explains Ros. “He just has a game, and goes on a bit of a jolly — like, ‘look at the crowd!’ He’ll change when he’s not supposed to do, or miss a change when he’s supposed to do one, and waggles around in his halts and jogs in his walks — he’s just a jolly fellow!”

Coming to a long-format event gives the gelding a chance to settle into his environs and perform at his best, she explains: “We need a three-day; his one-day results aren’t anything to go on, because he just needs to be in a place for a bit longer and get a bit bored by it.”

Getting a clear round in the ring was the goal of the day, and although Ros is realistic about her expectations for the week, it’s a starting point she’s very happy with.

“He pulled up completely mistake-free, which is pretty much unheard for him, so that’s great stuff,” she says. “[The highlight] was the way he just stood in his halts with his head so still, because that’s what we struggle with the most, and it’s quite a difficult thing to train with a horse, and it’s just a bit of a habit for him. So just the rideability in a change, and the fact that I could have my leg on all the way is a massive improvement for him.”

Now, both horse and rider will enjoy a ‘day off’ to prepare for Saturday — and once again, Ros is looking to take it one step at a time, always keeping the future in mind.

“It’s a bit of a fact-finding mission,” explains Ros. “I have no doubt about his scope and ability and generosity — it’s just that his build and shape mean that sometimes he runs out of balance, and he’s very long-striding. I’ve struggled in the past, towards the end of the course, to hold him — not because he’s wanting to gallop off with me, but because his length of stride gets a bit too big and I have to overcompensate and slow down quite a lot. So I’m fairly realistic: if we have a great experience, that will do for us. It’s just a case of, I’ll go as fast as I can, but hopefully in a safe way so that he comes home enjoying the experience.”

Pathfinders Tom McEwen and Braveheart B hold the lead for much of the day, but relinquish it at the eleventh hour. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though Tom McEwen was usurped from top place with Braveheart B, his first of two rides, he didn’t slip by much: the pair’s 28.3 sits them in second place, just eight-tenths of a penalty behind the leaders going into the second, fuller day of dressage. For the twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Radolin x Buenos Aires, by Heartbreaker), it’s the first time breaking the 30 barrier since 2019, when he did so in the CCI3*-L at Tattersalls. At four-star level, he’s been a pretty consistent mid-30s scorer — but although today’s tidy test undoubtedly earned its final score, Tom’s assessment was that it was on much the same par as his previous five-star performance at Luhmühlen back in June.

“He went really well at Luhmühlen, going in early, and actually, he produced a really similar test there,” says Tom, who scored a 31.6 on that occasion. “He did as well as he could do and tried as hard as he could, and all we can ask for is for them to try as hard as they can.”

Still, though, he was delighted to tick every box in the ring with the rangy gelding, who’s owned by Barbara Cooper.

“The changes, for him, would be highlights — they can be a little small compared to the others, but for him, they’re very nice,” he says. “There’s some nice work in there — he can hide a little bit behind the vertical at some points, but overall, he showed a really nice test and outline and gave us a solid, safe clear round.”

The trick to coercing a competitive score out of the gelding hasn’t been any magic button solution, he explains, but rather the long, slow process of building him up with correct foundations. Getting to school him in unique atmospheres, too, has been a blessing — which meant that his early trip to France, accompanying Tom’s ride in the Seven Year Old World Championship last week, paid dividends.

“It’s all coming; it’s just his strength. He’s taken a bit of time,” he says. “He actually came to Le Lion with us last week, and that was really good for him — just seeing the atmosphere, and working on the surfaces, which at Le Lion, are a bit softer than what you’d expect at Pau. So just getting him working through his body and running through the tests around other horses; it’s one thing doing it at home and another thing doing it a show.”

Jonelle Price and Grappa Nera curb their enthusiasm for overnight third. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Less than two weeks after her husband, Tim, won Maryland’s CCI5*, World Number Two Jonelle Price put herself in a competitive early position, taking provisional third place with the diminutive, expressive Grappa Nera on a score of 30.1 despite mistakes in the changes. That’s a considerable upgrade from her previous five-star score of 35.6, which she earned at Kentucky last year — but, as Jonelle explains, she’s not been the easiest horse to produce.

“She’s been a bit of a livewire, but it feels like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” she laughs. “The changes aren’t quite there yet, so you don’t expect to magically go and pull them off, but to sit on a thirty with four bad changes reflects on the quality of the rest of the work, so when — if! — I can get it, it’ll be good.”

Like Ros’s ride, Grappa Nera is at her best when she’s able to settle into a new location, and her best scores — such as the 30.5 she earned at Strzegom CCI4*-L in 2020, which ultimately helped her earn second place — have come at long-format events.

“She regularly does a 50 at a one-day — she’s a true three-day horse,” says Jonelle. “She needs to work and she needs to settle into an environment, but she is eleven, so she’s growing up a wee bit, hopefully, so hopefully we’ve got a few good years ahead of us.”

Gireg Le Coz and Aisprit de la Loge dance their way to a day one top five despite some disappointing moments. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

France’s Gireg le Coz leads the way for the home nation after putting a 30.4 on the board for overnight fourth place with Aisprit de la Loge — but the expressive twelve-year-old Selle Français gelding (Quppydam des Horts x Image de la Loge, by Dollar du Murier) has so frequently been a mid- to high-twenties scorer, including at Badminton this spring where he earned a 26.7, that Gireg couldn’t help but feel the sting of disappointment after his test.

“I’m not really happy,” he says. “I think he was feeling very good in the warm-up and good in there — there were just some uncharacteristic mistakes that normally doesn’t happen with him. I had a nice feeling when I started, and then there were just a few little mistakes in the canter. I don’t really know why, so I’m disappointed.”

Disappointed though he may be, it’s never over until it’s over — and Aisprit de le Loge, with his short-coupled build and easy manoeuvrability, is a horse who’s made for Pau, as he proved when winning the now-defunct CCI3*-S here back in 2018.

Izzy Taylor and Happy Days. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Izzy Taylor rounds out the top five overnight on the first of her two rides, the five-star debutant Happy Times. At just ten years old, the British-bred Sport Horse is among the least experienced horses in the field, but he delivered a mature, promising performance to earn a 31.7, just losing a minor smattering of marks in the second flying change and the stretchy canter circle.

“I think did the best he can do with where he is at the minute,” says Izzy. “He’s a first-time five star horse with not a lot of mileage, and he came and did everything. He had a clear round, basically.”

Time, too, has been key with Happy Times, who has had to learn to carry himself in balance but has, this year, picked up promising placings as a result, including fifth place in the CCI4*-S at Burgham.

“He’s lovely, but he’s quite a big horse, so there’s a lot of him to manoeuvre and he’s actually very bendy, so actually translating that to having the legs in the right place… he wants to do it right, and then he gets into it and he can’t,” says Izzy.

Tomorrow sees us dive headlong into a fully-stocked day of dressage, with 33 tests to be performed from 10.00 a.m. local time (9.00 a.m. British time/4.00 a.m. EST), with Australia’s Kevin McNab and Willunga first in the ring. As always, you’ll find all the biggest stories of the day right here on EN — so tune in for all the news that’s fit to print. Until then: Go Eventing!

The top five after day one’s first (short!) day of dressage at Pau.

Les 5 Etoiles de Pau: [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Timing & Scoring] [H&C+ Live Stream *Use code PAU2022 for 15% of H&C+ Annual!*] [EN’s Coverage] [EN’s Ultimate Guide to Pau] [EN’s Instagram]

Top US Contender Out at Les 5 Etoiles de Pau First Horse Inspection

This week’s coverage of Pau on EN is brought to you with the support of Kentucky Performance Products. We couldn’t do much of what we’ve done these last few years without the support of sponsors such as KPP — which, by the way, is a horses-first, women owned and operated company based in, you guessed it, Kentucky — and without you, our readers! So as we head into this final hurrah of our season, too, we thank each and every one of you.

Japan’s Ryuzo Kitajima and Feroza Nieuwmoed. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Is it just us, or is time moving differently in the aftermath of the pandemic? Les 5 Etoiles de Pau, which takes place in the shadow of the Pyrenees in the south-west of France, is one of those special events that managed to run throughout the turbulent last couple of years, and perhaps for that reason, it’s beginning to feel like EN’s de facto second home. It’s somehow been a full year since we escaped a torrential downpour just after Tim Price’s big win here with Falco, but we will not believe it. We won’t. Accepting the passing of time means we must accept our own mortality, and that’s a minor crisis that no one needs on an overcast Thursday morning. Ennui might be very French, but a full on existential breakdown is surely beyond the pale. Let’s get back to the horses, shall we?

Matt Flynn and Wizzerd make a last minute leap onto the Pau line-up. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This morning saw the competition kick off with the first horse inspection, which is almost always held on Thursday, rather than Wednesday, at this event. There were some last-minute additions to, and withdrawals from, the entry list before it began: 2019 Burghley winners Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street will no longer contest this week’s competition, nor will Tim Cheffings and Gaston and the USA’s Katherine Coleman and RLE Limbo Kaiser. We’re excited to welcome another US representative, though, in Matt Flynn and Wizzerd, and Austria now has an entry in Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati, who rides five-star first-timer Pippa 2.

Max Gordon and Redwood Clover. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Our final start list now sits at 50 competitors after no small amount of drama at this morning’s first horse inspection, which was held before the ground jury of President Sue Baxter (GBR), Anne-Mette Binder (DEN), Xavier Le Sauce (FRA). Two horses were asked to trot again immediately after presenting, but subsequently accepted without a trip to the holding box — first of those was Redwood Clover, the sophomore five-star mount of Great Britain’s Max Gordon, who has had quite a trip to Pau after travelling directly from a wedding in Dubai. The second was another British pair in Harry Meade and the debutant stallion Tenareze, who cantered his way back down the strip and was thus given another opportunity to show the correct pace.

Emily King and Valmy Biats. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

A further two horses were sent to the holding box, where fortunes were considerably more mixed. Emily King and the exciting Valmy Biats, who had a late fall at Badminton this spring, were accepted upon re-presentation, while we were sad to hear the news that the USA’s Caroline Martin, who has been enjoying an exceptional season in England based with Pippa Funnell, opted to withdraw Islandwood Captain Jack from the box.

“He’s just a little body sore from two weeks of travelling and being stuck in a stall,” explains Caroline, who has been competing in France over the last couple of weeks with a successful run at Le Lion d’Angers last week — an end-of-season adventure that always requires competitors to bring their five-star horses out for the full shebang.

Fortunately, Caroline’s got a great sense of perspective about the disappointment: “We’ve had an unreal season and I get to go home with happy horses,” she says.

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

This week’s competition brings forward a bumper field of entries, including five-star winners Felix Vogg and Colero (Luhmühlen 2022) and Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden (Luhmühlen 2021); this year’s Bramham CCI4*-L victors Izzy Taylor and Monkeying Around, who makes his five-star debut as one of the hot favourites in the field; British under-25 National Champions Greta Mason and Cooley For Sure; Luhmühlen runners-up Kirsty Chabert and Classic VI; and French fan favourites Karim Florent Laghouag and Triton Fontaine, who were twelfth individually and team bronze medallists at the Tokyo Olympics.

Luhmühlen victors Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden return to Pau, where they were tenth in their five-star debut in 2020. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The dressage will commence at 2.30 p.m. local time this afternoon — that’s 1.30 p.m. if you’re watching from Great Britain and 8.30 a.m. if you’re on the East Coast. Our first pair of today’s 17 competitors in the ring will be Tom McEwen and the first of his two rides, Braveheart B, while our sole remaining US competitors, Matt Flynn and Wizzerd, will come forward at 10.42 a.m. (9.42 a.m./4.42 a.m. EST) tomorrow. You can check out the times in full here, and to tune into the livestream — with a cheeky 15% discount! — click here.

We’ll be back soon with plenty more from France’s weird, wonderful crown jewel — until then, faire du concours complet!

Les 5 Etoiles de Pau: [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Timing & Scoring] [H&C+ Live Stream *Use code PAU2022 for 15% of H&C+ Annual!*] [EN’s Coverage] [EN’s Ultimate Guide to Pau] [EN’s Instagram]