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“I Ride Him With Honour”: Piggy March Takes Bramham CCI4*-L Lead with Nicola Wilson Ride

Piggy March and Coolparks Sarco dance their way to the first-phase lead in Bramham’s CCI4*-L. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Every year at Bramham, the biggest crowds form — and the biggest cheers are heard — for local superstar Nicola Wilson, who has long said that winning the CCI4*-L here is one of her greatest career aims. But her absence, as she continues to work through her recovery after her crashing fall at Badminton, means that Bramham has a rather different feel to it; this year, it’s a competition that feels almost defined by someone who isn’t here.

But what sport does serendipity better than ours? Though she’s not on the leaderboard herself Nicola is, in a way, winning Bramham: her up-and-coming star Coolparks Sarco has stepped into the top spot on the CCI4*-L leaderboard, delivering a 23.3 that nearly brought the house down with Nicola’s great friend Piggy March in the irons.

“I’ve had him for two weeks, and I was going through the whole thing not having a bloody clue what I was doing, to be honest,” says an emotional Piggy, whose aim for the week is simply to give the horse, her friend, and everyone involved with them a nice experience and a glimmer of hope.

“We want to enjoy him, and I just want to make sure he’s okay. I got given this last-minute opportunity, which is wonderful, but obviously it came with a lot of mixed emotions,” she says. “It was from Nic that I heard, and she basically told me that yes, this is what I was doing. And so I agreed and it’s with pride and honour that I did, because she’s amazing — she’s been a wonderful teammate and just a friend in general. I ride him this week with honour, but I just want to get him back, so it won’t be with my usual ‘right, come on, I can win this’ [attitude]. Every little bit I do, I’m wanting to figure him out and hopefully just do the best we can for her team, and her owners, and her family who are here. This is a big week and we want it to be a happy one.”

Nicola Wilson’s signature Yorkshire Rose quarter marks are firmly in situ as Piggy pilots Coolparks Sarco in her stead. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Piggy, who was buoyed out of the ring by an extraordinary roar from the crowd, honoured Nicola further by ensuring ‘Jeremy’ wore her trademark Yorkshire Rose quartermarks:  “That was a very emotional moment, and I have to say, I’ve never had a cheer that big. It’s just for the love of Nicola, which is so wonderful. I just hope it’s a week that we can just do her proud. I have to keep quite strong because we miss her; this result is a credit to her through and through. He’s got her stamp on his bum, the rose, and that’ll stay there always, as far as I’m concerned, as long as I ride him.”

Piggy and owner James Lambert celebrate after the leading test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Coolparks Sarco was a relatively new ride for Nicola, who took the ride on the now-ten-year-old over from Andrew Nicholson early last year for longtime supporters Jo and James Lambert.

“Nic hasn’t had him that long — he’s quite an Andrew horse, and Nic’s done a lot in a year,” says Piggy. “So bless him, he’s probably not got a clue what’s going on. I had a run at Rockingham, but Rockingham’s not Bramham — but I did have a competitive run and sort of try to kick on. He’s a very sweet horse, and I’ve spoken to Nic two or three times, which has really helped. He’s a different horse to mine; he’s strong looking, and I was like, ‘are we fit enough?’ But Nic’s horses always are, so we discussed what he’s done and he feels great; he’s obviously just a different horse and used to different work. It’s been an interesting last couple of weeks, and the weekend will tell. But all credit to her — he’s a lovely horse. This will be a big week for him anyway, with where he’s at in his life and what he’s done and physically, too, with the terrain and the hills and his age. He’s done Boekelo, and that was flat. So we’re taking each day as it comes, each bit as it comes.”

Nicola’s longtime head girl, Ruth Asquith, with Coolparks Sarco. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Whether Piggy and Coolparks Sarco remain in the top spot through the week or cruise their way to an educational, steady finish, they’ve already accomplished something extraordinary: they’ve made those closest to Nicola remember that even in the very toughest of times, there’s a little bit of magic in eventing that can’t be underestimated — and the story isn’t over until the book has been closed.

Izzy Taylor and Monkeying Around produce the goods for second place going into cross-country. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Though Izzy Taylor‘s relatively inexperienced Monkeying Around can still be something of a wildcard across the country, he’s enormously reliable on the flat — unsurprisingly, perhaps, when you consider his dressage-heavy breeding. He sits second in the CCI4*-L class at the end of the first phase after producing a polished, sparkling test for a 24, which puts the pair just seven tenths of a penalty – or less than two seconds – behind the leaders.

“He was fabulous,” says Izzy, who also sits seventh with Ringwood Madras, who she describes as having a ‘delightful brain’. “[Monkeying Around] is beautiful, and he can do beautiful dressage, and he felt very, very good here today.”

Though we’ve seen many horses shrink away from the huge atmosphere and busy crowds around the main arena, Monkeying Around drew evident inspiration from it: “He enjoyed having a crowd, and he hasn’t had one for a very long time, so he was like, ‘this is fun!’ He has fun in the arena, whereas Ringwood Madras is very serious, so they’re very different, but they both put such a smile on my face.”

Ros Canter’s Pencos Crown Jewel sparkles in the first phase. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Third place is held overnight by Ros Canter and the smart Pencos Crown Jewel, who finished third in Chatsworth’s tough CCI4*-S last month. They posted a 28, putting themselves in a competitive position as they head into tomorrow’s cross-country challenge.

“She knows her job now,” says Ros of the British-bred thirteen-year-old. “She’s always Little Miss Consistent; she’s not the biggest or flashiest in the world, but she’s secure in all her work. I wasn’t expecting to top the leaderboard after the first day, but to be there or thereabouts is good enough.”

Though ‘Jasmine’ hasn’t previously competed at Bramham, she certainly has experience over tough terrain: she was ninth in the Bramham replacement CCI4*-L at Bicton last June, and returned to the venue to take fourth in its Burghley replacement CCI5* in September, adding 7.6 time penalties in each run over the Devon hills.

“We’re just having a bit of fun with her, really,” says Ros. “She’s got all the stamina in the world, so that’s never a problem with her, but it’s just about trying to get it right on the day and giving her a good ride.”

Kirsty Chabert and Opposition Loire round out the top five. Photo by Nico Morgan.

Kirsty Chabert stepped smartly into a close fourth place after delivering a 28.1 aboard Opposition Loire who, like Pencos Crown Jewel above her, is an ambassador for British breeding in this class. Though the eleven-year-old has previously posted a couple of very impressive mid-20s marks, she’s much more consistently spotted in the low-to-mid 30s, and so Kirsty was particularly pleased to eke one of her best-ever marks out of her on Bramham’s big stage.

“It’s quite an atmosphere for her to go into, and she actually went in the arena and went ‘ooh, mum, what would you like me to do?’, so I’m chuffed,” says Kirsty, who narrowly missed out on a Badminton run with the mare, who was a waitlisted entry. “I think she would have been the next one to get in, so she was fit for Badminton and she’s had kind of a stop-start spring with prep. We ummed and ahhed about going to Luhmühlen, but Bramham is my most favourite event of all places and I didn’t have anything to bring, so we’ve done that instead.”

Gemma Tattersall’s Flash Cooley steps up to the plate. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Newly married Gemma Tattersalls — who will soon be appearing on leaderboards as Gemma Stevens — rounds out the new-look top five with the former Liz Halliday-Sharp ride, ten-year-old Flash Cooley, who posted an excellent 28.5.

“I think the judges are pretty hard to get marks from [this week],” laughs Gemma, “but I’m really pleased with him — he went in and did everything I asked him to do, and apart from a little trip down the last centreline that he sort of overreacted to, I couldn’t be more happy with the whole test. He’s only ten, and this is his first four long, so he’s a young horse at this level — there’s more to come, and more strength, so we’re really happy with him.”

Yesterday’s leaders, Tom Carlile and Darmagnac de Beliard, are one of just two Thursday competitors to remain in the top ten after today’s tests; they sit in sixth place on their 29.3 ahead of tomorrow’s pivotal cross-country phase.

The top ten after dressage in Bramham’s CCI4*-L.

Alex Holman and Carrick Diamond Bard take an emotional lead in the under-25 class. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“It’s a lot to pull off — it doesn’t happen to people like me,” says a tearful Alex Holman, who leads the under-25 CCI4*-L going into cross-country with the expressive Carrick Diamond Bard on a score of 30. At just ten years old, the gelding has a mere nine FEI competitions under his belt already, but young professional Alex — who makes his Bramham debut in the week of his 25th birthday — has produced an exceptionally timed peak. This is the horse’s second-best score and well eclipses the mid-to-high 30s he’s earned in his last couple of events.

“He was one of the first horses I had as a sort of business project,” says Alex, who rents a yard in Somerset and trains and teaches from it to fund his riding. “I was meant to sell him and for quite a long time I did want to, actually! But after doing a bit more with him, I realised he’s actually quite good. He’s a bit quirky, a bit funny, and he was always quite difficult. He’s very sensitive – I don’t wear spurs on him and don’t normally carry a whip at all – and he was just quite a tricky young horse. He’s really scared of funny things on the ground – there’s a patch of differently coloured grass in the warm-up that I couldn’t go near because he’d jump sideways, and if the roads are wet and then drying out while we’re hacking, he’ll spook.”

Both Alex and ‘Jerry’ make their CCI4*-L debut this week, and they do so with some prior experience of serious terrain behind them: they won on their second-ever two-star together in 2019 at Devon’s Bicton International, which is known for its relentless undulations.

Phoebe Locke holds second place with Bellagio Declyange. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Phoebe Locke, who has been on British medal-winning teams at the Pony, Junior, and Young Rider European Championships, helped Alex wrestle this class back from the impressive French continent with her smart test aboard Bellagio Declyange, putting them just one second behind the leaders on 30.4. But though her efforts did help to push this prestigious class back into the clutches of the home nation, she does have a connection to one of the French competitors: “[Fourth-placed] Julia Simonet‘s mother Karine used to ride him, so it’s quite a nice story because they haven’t seen him since I brought him over four years ago,” says Phoebe.

The eleven-year-old gelding achieved one of his best FEI scores today; previously, his marks have been slightly marred by wobbles in the changes, which are much more established now.

“The changes have been a little bit difficult to get, but today we managed to get both of them,” Phoebe says. “It’s quite a big atmosphere in there, but he’s got a good head on his shoulders, and I’m really happy with how he dealt with it. I just don’t know if maybe [the judges] could have eked a couple more marks out for him; I thought that was better than his test at Houghton a couple of weeks ago [where he got a 29.3].”

Though this is the pair’s first time tackling Bramham, they did compete in Bicton’s replacement for the class last year, finishing fifth.

The rest of the top five is a French whitewash, with yesterday’s first- and second-placed riders, Morgane Euriat and Heloïse Le Guern, sitting third and fifth respectively. Between them, 20-year-old Julie Simonet makes her CCI4*-L debut with sixteen-year-old Sursumcord’Or, who was also previously ridden by her mother, Karine: “I broke my leg and she took the horse and never gave it back,” laughs Karine. The pair have since had considerable success at Junior and Young Rider level, competing at five European Championships, winning five medals and never finishing outside of the top ten. They start their Bramham with a competitive 31.9.

“The horse was a bit more tense than he usually is; there’s a lot of people and he was a bit stressed,” says Julie. “But I’m very happy, because all three French engaged in this class are [in the top five], so I’m very happy with my friends.”

The top ten after dressage in the under-25 CCI4*-L.

Ros Canter and Izilot DHI hold top spot in the CCI4*-S. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

There was plenty of change in the CCI4*-S class, too, with yesterday’s leaders Oliver Townend and Cooley Rosalent slipping down to third at the culmination of the phase. Taking over their spot at the top is Ros Canter, whose nine-year-old Izilot DHI proved his consistency on the flat with a very good 23.5.

“He’s still young and green, and he’s a very spooky horse — he’s a sharp lad,” laughs Ros. “So I’m never quite sure how he’s going to cope with things, but he’s actually level-headed, so I know he’s not going to blow up. It’s just whether he can cope with the flags, the atmosphere, and with people moving about; that can make him quite nervous.”

But, says Ros, “he’s by far the most talented horse I’ve ever had to ride on the flat. He’s beautiful to ride, so it’s all about me really learning to press the right buttons that I’ve never had to press before with other horses, so that’s very exciting.”

Izilot DHI is still inexperienced at this level, having stepped up at the end of last year at Blenheim’s eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S. Though they picked up a 20 on course there, it was an educational one: he returned to four-star at last month’s tough Chatsworth revival, jumping a classy clear and finishing just outside the top ten. But results aren’t the goal for now because, as Ros tells us, he’s a very different horse to Lordships Graffalo, the rising ten-year-old with whom she finished second at Badminton: “We’re still at the stage where I wouldn’t necessarily go for the time, and it’s a bit tricky with him, because he often tops a leaderboard [in dressage]. But he’s a horse for the big time in the future, and he’s a horse that needs time; he’s not going to go around Badminton next year like Lordships Graffalo. He’ll build up and we really hope that there are really big things to come in the future.”

Alex Hua Tian and Jilsonne van Bareelhof dance to the top three. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

One of the most consistent first-phase performers at this level is Alex Hua Tian‘s exquisite Jilsonne van Bareelhof, who once again delivered the goods to sit second on 26.5 after the first phase.

“I’m very happy with him, because he doesn’t come out that often, so when he does, he can be a bit fresh,” says Alex. “He’s either boom or bust, but he’s a very, very talented horse that just physically can’t run that very often. I’ve spent quite a few years looking after him and then he’s hit four-star and he’s been like, ‘holy shit, this is good fun!’ I’ve never sat on something that’s as talented as he is in all three phases.”

Alex goes into tomorrow’s jumping phases with two horses in the top ten: ‘Chocs’ is joined by his Olympic ride Don Geniro, who sits sixth on 28.6 after a smart test yesterday with an expensive sat-nav error in the walk work.

Piggy March and Brookfield Quality make their move in the CCI4*-S. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Piggy March‘s very good day was bolstered by a lovely effort from Brookfield Quality, who sits fourth ahead of yesterday’s runners-up Tom McEwen and MHS Brown Jack on a score of 26.9, despite a mistake in one of the changes.

“I missed a change, which was expensive, and I probably went in the warm-up for ten minutes too long,” laments Piggy. “I’ve not done masses with him; he’s felt like he’s been doing a 20 dressage the two times I’ve sat on him for half an hour, and I thought we might get up here and just be a little bit brighter. So I gave him forty minutes [of warm-up] before we went in and actually, he felt like he needed ten. It just went a little bit flatter, and a little bit back end out — it was fine, and it was a nice test, but I prepared him to do a 22, and then when you make a mistake it doesn’t quite happen.”

The top ten in Bramham’s CCI4*-S ahead of the jumping phases.

Tomorrow takes us into an eye-wateringly busy day of action, with the CCI4*-S competitors heading into showjumping from 8.30 in the morning and cross-country from 2.35 p.m. The CCI4*-L cross-country will begin at 9.30 a.m., followed by the under-25 cross-country at 1.05 p.m. You can follow along with all the action is it happens on Horse&Country TV, and take a good look at Ian Stark‘s seriously big and beefy track here. Until next time: Go Eventing!

Bramham International: [Website] [Schedule & Orders of Go] [Live Scoring] [Saturday XC Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage] [EN’s Instagram]

Day One at Bramham: The French (and Oliver Townend) Are Out in Force in First Phase

Tom Carlile debuts Darmagnac de Beliard at CCI4*-L. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We always see a formidable French contingent at Bramham International Horse Trials, and this year’s renewal is no different: not only have we got some heavy hitters from across the Channel in each class, we’ve also started the week with an impressive tricolour leader in the feature CCI4*-L.

Though it’s the nine-year-old Darmagnac de Beliard‘s CCI4*-L debut, the Selle Français (Canturo*Bois Margot x Palme de Moyon, by Barbarian) made a striking impression in this morning’s first batch of competitors, partnering Tom Carlile to a class-leading 29.3 on day one despite breaking to canter in both the trot half-passes.

“The horse was quite tense at Chatsworth [last month], and he’s coming back here to an atmosphere — but it’s done him good [to experience it at Chatsworth],” says Tom. “He was much more relaxed in his work and not fazed by the atmosphere, though him being more relaxed probably got me a bit nervous, because I felt like I was missing a bit of sharpness, so I pushed him into a mistake, which I’m kicking myself for, but for the rest of the test, he was very serious. The aids [for half-pass and canter] are the same, so it was a misunderstanding; there wasn’t any tension.”

Darmagnac de Beliard has been impressive in his short international career so far, with six top-five finishes from seven FEI starts to his credit.

“I think a lot of him,” says Tom, who has produced him throughout his career for owners S.C.E.A. Beliard and Jean Jacques Montagne. “He’s a real introvert and very shy, but he’s very polite. He internalises a lot of his emotions and he wouldn’t be the most self-confident, but he’s a real trier and he has a lot about him and a lot of spark: if he can get out of his bubble, he’s got a lot to show. I’ve just got to get his confidence.”

Ros Canter and Rehy Royal Diamond. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Ros Canter sits second overnight with Christopher and Jane Makin’s eleven-year-old Rehy Royal Diamond, who delivered a smart 29.8 despite some uncharacteristic head shaking in the ring. The sizeable gelding’s test was just the second of the day, but he impressed the ground jury — made up of Polly Ann HuntingtonAnnabel Scrimgeour and Xavier le Sauce — sufficiently to hold onto a competitive spot throughout the course of the day’s action. Though we’re seeing a number of talented debutants come forward in this year’s field, Rehy Royal Diamond is relatively experienced at the level: this will be his third CCI4*-L after debuting at Bicton’s Bramham replacement last year, where he was ultimately retired, and then finishing thirteenth at Blenheim in September.

Toshiyuki Tanaka and Ventura de la Chaule JRA take a top five spot on day one. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Japan’s Toshiyuki Tanaka sits third overnight with Ventura de la Chaule JRA, a new ride that he inherited this year from fellow Japanese squad member Atsushi Negishi.  They made their FEI debut together in Ballindenisk’s CCI4*-L in April, followed by Houghton CCIO4*-S last month — and though both runs proved more educational than competitive, they find themselves in an enviable position at this early stage on a 31.9, close to the gelding’s career-best four-star score of 31.3 at Ballindenisk. They’re closely followed by New Zealand’s James Avery and One Of A Kind II on 32.

Allie Knowles and Ms. Poppins take a top five spot on day one at Bramham. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though Allie Knowles had hoped for a lower first-phase mark with the elegant Ms. Poppins, their 33.2 was still competitive enough to see them hold fifth place overnight at the halfway stage of the 62-strong CCI4*-L.

“As always, she gave me exactly what I asked for, so I can’t be disappointed with that,” says Allie of the eleven-year-old Westfalian, who produced three stylish phases at Houghton two weeks ago for a top fifteen finish. “You always want the marks higher, but in a new ring and a new space, she was a lady as always, so I can’t be disappointed with her.”

Since Houghton, where Allie and Ms. Poppins were part of the second-placed US team, the pair have been based with J.P. Sheffield, from whom Allie sourced the mare for owner Katherine O’Brien.

“[The horse is] so good, so I just want to keep her happy and keep her wanting to do this for me, so there hasn’t been a tonne of training [since Houghton] — we’ve done a few schools, and a few jump schools to keep her sharp, but we haven’t done anything differently.”

The top ten at the end of the first day of Bramham’s CCI4*-L.

The French domination continues on apace in the under-25 CCI4*-L, which saw the first half of the 21-strong line-up take to the arena this afternoon. It was the last rider in the ring, Morgane Euriat, who ultimately took the top spot overnight, earning a 31.2 with the eleven-year-old Anglo-Arab mare Baccarat d’Argonne. This is a second CCI4*-L for the pair, who won on their debut at Lignières in October and have also placed at the Young Rider European Championships — and it’s also a personal best for both at four-star.

“She was a bit stressed and not fully relaxed today – normally we do better,” says Morgane, who began her own international eventing career in 2018 with the mare. “She’s ready for the cross-country now. She’s always a feisty mare; when she arrived here she was very excited and she just looked at the cross-country – she’s asking me all of the time when we’re going to do that bit!”

Heloïse Le Guern and Canaskine du Sudre Z continue to prove themselves an exciting force to be reckoned with for France. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Fellow French representative Heloïse Le Guern sits second overnight with the exciting grey Canakine du Sudre Z, with whom she finished 16th in last month’s WEG test event at Pratoni del Vivaro. Their 31.9 today is among their best scores at the level, and marks the start of a CCI4*-L debut for both the gelding and his rider, who has previously represented France on European Championship teams at Pony, Junior, and Young Rider level.

“My horse was a bit overwhelmed by the arena, and a bit stressed at the beginning of our test, so the first few movements were really difficult,” says Heloïse. “But he didn’t explode and managed to hold it together — so although it wasn’t the most comfortable, I was pleased with him.”

Harry Mutch and HD Bronze deliver their best-ever test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“That’s the best test he’s ever given me in his life, so I’m absolutely thrilled,” says an emotional Harry Mutch, who briefly took the lead with his five-star partner HD Bronze and now sits third provisionally on 33.3. That’s a career best score for the 16-year-old gelding, and Harry cites his training with Pippa Funnell, which he’s received through the Wesko Equestrian Foundation, as making all the difference to their performance: “Pippa’s been helping me all week, and she’s just been incredible. She has really got the horse on my side and taught me how to ride him at a show. He’s normally really tricky in the dressage – we’ve been getting 48s and 38s – so to do a clear round pretty much, I couldn’t be happier. He’s so sensitive that just to be able to get the leg on to him is hard, and then there’s the atmosphere on top of that. We just got it right today, and I’m so, so happy.”

Heidi Coy’s young Russal Z takes a provisional top five spot on day one. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Heidi Coy and Russal Z are certainly among the favourites to fight for the win in this class, and though their pathfinding score of 36.3 was higher than they’ve previously scored in an international, it was competitive enough to see them take fourth place at the halfway stage of this class’s first phase: “I don’t think it’s going to be a dressage competition, that’s for sure,” says Heidi. “I know she can do a lot more, which is slightly disappointing — she didn’t blow up or anything, but there was just a fair few mistakes, which is quite disappointing after her superb test at Houghton two weeks ago.”

Isabelle Bosley and Night Quality take a top five spot on day one. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

US Emerging 25 athlete Isabelle Bosley holds fifth place overnight with Night Quality, who delivered some of his best work but lost marks for twice spooking at spectators at the A end of the arena, ultimately earning a 36.7.

“[Leslie Law] has spent the last two weeks really drilling me to get us ready,” says Isabelle. “He’s pout a lot of work in a short amount of time, and it’s made a massive difference from my test two weeks ago at Houghton to now. I feel good about riding through the test confidently and actually performing the movements properly now; I’m still quite green at the level, and I’m just getting to a full year at it, so I’m starting to now get to the point of being like, ‘let’s not just get through the test, let’s actually put in a performance.’ Minus the two disobediences, the test itself felt the best it’s ever felt, so I’m really happy — a little frustrated, too, because of the naughtiness here and there, but through all the movements, I’m just thrilled with how he felt.”

The leaderboard at the halfway point of the under-25 CCI4*-L.

“She’s a beautiful person”: Oliver Townend takes the lead with young gun Cooley Rosalent. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Oliver Townend ensured that the day wasn’t entirely in the hands of the French by taking the lead in the hot CCI4*-S section with the excellent Cooley Rosalent, who makes her third start at the level after two educational runs previously this spring. Her 26.6 once again proved that the mare, who was reserve Six-Year-Old World Champion in 2020, has an enormous amount of potential — potential that Oliver continues to be hugely excited about.

“She’s very baby at the level, obviously, but she’s probably as good as I’ve ever had at this stage,” he says. “She’s very, very special, and so there’s no pressure on her — I’m just ticking along, and when she becomes competitive in all three bits on the same day, she’ll win. She’s here to learn and to get a qualifying result, and what will be will be. She’s just a beautiful person — she’s bred beautifully, and to me, she looks beautiful. The colour has been lucky for me before, so fingers crossed. I think she’s as good as we’ve had.”

Tom McEwen and MHS Brown Jack enjoy a breakthrough between the boards. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Had you asked Tom McEwen about his chances in this phase ahead of his test with the eight-year-old MHS Brown Jack, he’d probably have been quick to temper your expectations – after all, he tells us, the gelding has been “getting his knickers in a twist a bit learning the changes!” But despite his inexperience the Irish Sport Horse, who’s owned by stalwart supporters Fred and Penny Barker, delivered a clear round test to post a 27.4 and take overnight second place in his first four-star.

“He got all [the changes] today and he was brilliant; the work was excellent, and there’s a lot more to come,” says Tom, who describes the OBOS Quality son and Le Lion graduate as “really polite – he’s a lovely horse, and Penny actually use to hack him out a little bit. He adapts well to situations, and he’s loving being at a big show again, which is always great news for finding the top — and he’s worked really hard today, so I’m very happy with him.”

An error of course doesn’t stop Alex Hua Tian and Don Geniro from making a strong start in Bramham’s CCI4*-S. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It was a case of so close and yet so far for China’s Alex Hua Tian, who delivered one of the most deliciously watchable tests of the day with the extravagant Don Geniro, but walked away with a slightly disappointing 28.6 for his efforts after going wrong in the walk section of the test.

“The trot was lovely and the walk was fine, but then Nick [Burton, judge at C] beeped me,” says Alex. “I think I learnt an old version of the test, and so it’s a different walk.”

After a quick debrief with Nick, the pair were quickly back on track, and though their score doesn’t rival the low-20s marks they’ve previously produced at the level, it puts them in a hugely competitive early position in a tough-marking day of sport.

Jesse Campbell and Gambesie impress in the first phase. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Also sitting on a 28.6 overnight is New Zealand’s Jesse Campbell, who earned the score with the flash but under-the-radar Gambesie. Owned by Sarah Moffatt and previously piloted by Ireland’s Jonty Evans, Gambesie has always shown plenty of promise, but niggling injuries have prevented him from realising his potential.

“He’s super low mileage, so it’s great to get him in the arena, despite some little baby mistakes,” says Jesse. “Going down the centreline disunited is probably not what you want to do — it’s kind of 101! But those are baby mistakes, and he had a good attitude in there.”

Jesse, who describes the eleven-year-old Dutch Warmblood as “really cool, but a little bit quirky — like all the good ones are”, is aiming to campaign the gelding at the short-format for now as they get the measure of his management. That gives them an exciting goal on the horizon, though: all being well, Jesse plans to take the son of Zambesi TN to Germany’s CHIO Aachen in a few weeks.

Great Britain’s Dani Evans rounds out the top five overnight with Ann Butler’s ten-year-old Hollywood Dancer, who earned a 29.7 to continue her streak of sub-30 scores at the level.

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

Tomorrow’s packed day of competition takes us straight back into a wall-to-wall line-up of dressage, with the CCI4*-S running throughout the day and the CCI4*-L for under-25s once again following after the open CCI4*-L. There won’t be a live-stream of tomorrow’s action, but we’ll be back with a full report at the end of the day’s competition. Until then: Go Eventing!

Bramham International: [Website] [Schedule & Orders of Go] [Live Scoring] [Saturday XC Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage] [EN’s Instagram]

Six Reasons to Celebrate the Return of Bramham International

Hallie Coon’s Celien and groom Jordan Wells in front of Bramham’s colossal centrepiece back in 2018. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

What the eventing overlords taketh away, the eventing overlords giveth back… or something like that, anyway. After a couple of years of cancellation announcements (however bored you got of reading those, know that we were doubly bored of writing them) and innovative ‘pop-up’ fixtures, 2022 so far has been stuffed to the gills with long-anticipated returns to the calendar including, in the UK alone, Badminton, Chatsworth, and now, Bramham International Horse Trials. Set in sultry Yorkshire parkland, this most venerated of four-stars is one of the world’s greatest showcases of eventing – and if you’re not already bouncing off the walls with joy about its return this week, allow us to give you a few jolly good reasons to tune in.

Kitty King and Vendredi Biats. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

1. It’s as big and bold as four-star gets

Where four-star competitions are concerned, there’s a not inconsiderable spectrum of difficulty – and Bramham, with its dimensionally massive fences, tough, undulating terrain, and technical demands, is at the topmost end. Sometimes dubbed a ‘four-and-a-half star’, Ian Stark’s track is the kind of course you might use to prepare a horse for a Burghley bid later in the year — but winning a class here is as much of a career goal in itself. As a result, the competition is always action-packed from start to finish, and the horses and riders you see triumph ordinarily go on to great things. Case in point? Look at the last couple of winners: in 2019, Kitty King topped the CCI4*-L with Vendredi Biats, while 2018 saw the feature class go the way of Germany’s Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk, who won this spring’s Kentucky CCI5* with Michael Jung aboard.

This year’s course looks every inch the Bramham we fondly remember, and we’re also seeing the return of Ian Stark’s seriously influential undulating coffin fence, which caught plenty of riders out in 2019 when they came in at too high a velocity.“At all ages, they have to learn to ride a coffin,” he says. “Some of the riding was great, but others kept winging into it – and actually, I’m surprised there’s not more accidents as a result. There’s not enough of an education in riding these types of fences; many of the riders, if they were intimidated by it, just galloped at it. I think a coffin is a great fence, if the horses are ridden and trained correctly, and I’m not going to back off using them, but people need to train more often over them. They don’t need to train them at four-star height, but they do need to train the concept.” Let’s hope they’ve been working on itnduring Bramham’s absence!

The final podium in Bramham’s 2019 CCIU254*-L: Yasmin Ingham, second, Cathal Daniels, first, and Will Rawlin, third. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

2. It’s your chance to talent-spot the stars of the future

The under-25 CCI4*-L is pretty much identical to the feature CCI4*-L — it has the same test, the same ground jury, and the same courses. The only difference, of course, is that age restriction and the national title on the line – and the convenience of a leaderboard stuffed with the next generation of superstars. You’ll see big names from the Pony, Junior, and Young Rider teams step up to the big leagues, including the likes of Phoebe Locke and Heidi Coy, alongside exciting talent from further afield. Watch closely, take notes, and trust your gut on whose style you most admire — there’s nothing more satisfying than being able to boast that you’ve supported the next Laura Collett since the start of their senior career.

Tiana Coudray and Cancaras Girl perform in front of Bramham’s perfectly formed spectator hill. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

3. It’s a shopaholic’s wet dream

While the trade village doesn’t have quite the scope of Badminton’s extensive shopping quarters, it’s certainly among the best that Britain’s eventing scene has to offer — and it’s also easier to navigate than the aforementioned, because it’s not quite as extraordinarily busy. The avenue of shopping — which features upscale and more affordable equestrian and country brands alike — buffers one side of the main arena, and the natural amphitheatre creates a super viewing area to sit with your bulging bags and watch a few tests. You can see both the CCI4*-L and CCI4*-S running side by side, so no agonising decisions about which horse and rider you’ll prioritise, and then it’s just a step or two back into the thrum of the stands, plenty of complementary glasses of Prosecco, and the obligatory duck wrap. Describe a better day to us if you can.

Caroline Martin and Danger Mouse in 2018. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

4. It always attracts a seriously good US and French contingent

Particularly post-Brexit, we’re always grateful to see new faces at our UK events, and though CCI4*-S classes might not offer sufficient financial incentive to get people to cross a body of water anymore, the prestige of the CCI4*-L classes here certainly does. We always see some solid French entries here — such as Thibault Fournier and Siniani de Lathus, who finished second in the under-25 class here in 2018 before going on to win their five-star debut at Pau that season. This year’s no different, with Tom Carlile and Gireg le Coz each riding exciting up-and-coming horses amid a number of other talented French entries.

The US, too, always fields a good line-up, particularly because Bramham — like Houghton’s Nations Cup CCIO4*-S a couple of weeks before it — is one of the events that’s part of some of USEF’s grant pathways. This week, we’ll see Allie Knowles and Ms Poppins benefit from the funding to tackle the CCI4*-L, joined by UK-based Brits Tiana Coudray, riding Cancaras Girl, and Grace Taylor, riding Game Changer. In the under-25 CCI4*-L, Emerging 25 athlete Isabelle Bosley will fight for top honours with Night Quality, while the CCI4*-S has entries from Kimberley Cecere and Landmarks Monaco, who are enjoying a stint basing with Team GB coach Chris Bartle, Katherine Coleman and Monbeg Senna, and Grace Taylor and Hiarado. You go, girls.

Harry Meade and Away Cruising. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

5. It’s the most fun you can possibly have while logging 48,000 steps and 84 flights in your Health app

Look, we won’t beat around the bush: Bramham isn’t just a serious stamina test for competitors, it’s a real trek for spectators, too, with endless rolling hills and long galloping stretches to wander along. But we can promise you this — it won’t feel like hard work, because the estate is so beautiful, and the horsepower so excellent, that you’ll be bouncing along on adrenaline and won’t even notice the achy legs until you slip into a well-earned bubble bath.

Who needs rockstars when you can hang out with eventers? Emily King gets cozy with the Bramham under-25 CCI4*-L trophy. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

6. It’s a little bit rock and roll

Okay, okay, bear with us a little bit on this one — but Bramham Park is also the site of Leeds Festival, that iconic mainstay of post-school summer escapades, muddy dance-offs to the Arctic Monkeys, endless overpriced plastic cups of slightly warm beer, and overt indecency while camping. Bramham Horse Trials is kind of the same, except it swaps the face glitter for hoof oil and the guitarists for actual rockstars — that is, folks who are willing to fling themselves at colossal solid obstacles at 500mpm. The party spirit is also strong here: if you’ve ever fancied finding yourself in a conga line with Mary King, it’s not a shabby idea to find your way into the competitors’ party by the main arena on Thursday night. Bring your most robust liver.

Bramham International: [Website] [Schedule & Orders of Go] [Live Scoring] [Saturday XC Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage] [EN’s Instagram]

Wednesday Video from Kentucky Performance Products: Start Your Pathway to Badminton Grassroots

There’s more than one way to compete at Badminton Horse Trials, and not all of them involve hurling yourself over the Vicarage Fee (and spending years qualifying yourself for five-star, too). One of the most covetable competitions in the UK is the Badminton Grassroots Championship, which is held at BE90 (US Novice) and BE100 (US Training) levels and criss-crosses much of the same land as the iconic CCI5* track that’s used later on in the week.

Want to know what the process of qualifying and competing there is actually like? Vlogger Meg Elphick — who finished third in the BE90 class this year — has shared all the info you need to know to help you get a few steps closer to jumping ultra-exciting, bold courses like the ones we saw there this year. (And yes, the prizegiving happens in front of the house itself, in case you needed any more inspiration and incentive to try to get yourself there!)

Equi-Jewel®

Simply put, horses need energy.

Energy is traditionally supplied by cereal grains such as oats, corn, and barley. These feedstuffs deliver energy as carbohydrates or starch. But what if you want to supply more energy to your horse without increasing the feed intake? Feeding a fat supplement is an excellent way to achieve this.

Fat is considered a source of “calm” energy and is thought to modify behavior in some horses, making them more tractable. This, in turn, allows horses to focus their energy on work rather than nervousness.

Learn more at https://kppusa.com/2017/10/20/high-energy-advantages/

The horse that matters to you matters to us®.

KPPusa.com

One Horse Spun at Bramham Revival’s First Horse Inspection

Izzy Taylor and Monkeying Around step out in style for a shot at the CCI4*-L title at Bramham. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

What a thrill it is to return to Yorkshire’s Bramham International Horse Trials and particularly, to its first horse inspection, which is held in front of the grand façade of the estate’s showpiece: the Lane Fox family’s expansive 18th-century vintage Bramham Hall. Rather fittingly, Bramham’s architecture was inspired by the traditional ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe and the French styles of architecture and landscaping at the time – nowadays, of course, we see French riders attend the event en masse, as well as competitors from further afield.

Before any of them can start the battle for the Bramham crowns in earnest, though, they need to make it through this first inspection — and even before the event gets going, there’s always a little bit of drama sprinkled throughout proceedings.

Sylvain Davesne’s Atout Coeur Theod is spun in the first horse inspection for the CCI4*-L. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Just one horse per class was held in the horse inspections, which were run consecutively: in the main CCI4*-L class, France’s Sylvain Davesne and Atout Coeur Theod ended their week early when the horse was spun upon reinspection.

Xanthe Goldsack and Hi Tech survive a tense moment in the under-25 CCI4*-L horse inspection. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

In the CCI4*-L for under-25’s, Great Britain’s Xanthe Goldsack was also sent to the box with her Hi Tech, though the 13-year-old gelding was subsequently accepted. Each of the CCI4*-L classes has the same ground jury: Polly Ann Huntington takes on the president role, ably assisted by Annabel Scrimgeour and Xavier le Sauce.

Susie Berry wins Best-Dressed Female – shown here presenting Ringwood LB, one of two rides in the CCI4*-L. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Two riders were given special nods for their trot-up outfits, too: Ireland’s Susie Berry took the Best-Dressed Female prize, and will pilot Helen Caton’s Ringwood LB and Monbeg By Design in the CCI4*-L, while Christopher Whittle, who rides Skip Mill in the same class, took the Best Dressed Male honours.

Christopher Whittle channels James Bond to win Best-Dressed Male. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Now, 62 horse-and-rider combinations will begin their week in earnest in the CCI4*-L, while 21 go forward for the under-25 CCI4*-L. Though they didn’t have to contend with a horse inspection today, there’s also a hot line-up in the Land Rover-sponsored CCI4*-S class, with 77 combinations set to start.

Allie Knowles and Ms. Poppins head an exciting US contingent at Bramham this year. Photo by Hannah Cole Photography.

Tomorrow’s first day of competition begins at 9.30 a.m. as the first CCI4*-L horse takes to the arena, followed on by the under-25 class from 2.52 p.m. The CCI4*-S class will run in an adjacent arena, presided over by ground jury president Nick Burton and members Nikki Herbert and Faith Ponsonby.

You can find times for the CCI4*-L here, the CCI4*-L for under-25s here, and the CCI4*-S here.  Though there isn’t a live-stream running throughout the competition, you’ll be able to watch along as competitors tackle Ian Stark’s famously beefy course on Saturday via Horse&Country TV — and, as always, we’ll be bringing you bumper reports every day with all the updates and insights you need from the world’s premier CCI4*-L. Go Eventing!

Bramham International: [Website] [Schedule & Orders of Go] [Live Scoring] [Saturday XC Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage] [EN’s Instagram]

Britain and France Name Teams for CHIO Aachen

Sarah Bullimore and Corouet. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

After the exciting announcement of the US eventing team for CHIO Aachen, which will take place at the start of July, we’ve got some more line-ups to share with you — and the British certainly aren’t messing around as they prepare to head to Germany. The CCIO4*-S competition at Aachen is historically used as an important selection trial, as well as a hugely prestigious team competition in its own right — and the Brits have opted to send out a field of big guns, including the reigning World Champions Ros Canter and Allstar B, one of the country’s finest ‘young guns’ in Yasmin Ingham, on her second-string horse, and two top-class competitors in Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser and Sarah Bullimore and Corouet who’ll be hoping for redemption after uncharacteristic errors at spring five-stars. Here’s how the line-up looks:

Sarah Bullimore and Corouet – 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Balou du Rouet x Lilly Corinne, by Lovis Corinth), owned by Brett Bullimore, the Kew Jumping Syndicate, and the rider

Ros Canter and Allstar B – 17-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Ephebe For Ever x Narenca B, by Ekstein), owned by Caroline Moore and the rider. Direct reserve – Izilot DHI, owned by Alex Moody and the rider.

William Fox-Pitt and Little Fire – 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Graf Top x Heraldiks Angara, by Heraldik), owned by Jennifer Dowling and the rider.

Yasmin Ingham and Rehy DJ – 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Tinaranas Inspector x Rehy Misty, by Big Sink Hope), owned by Moorecroft Limited.

Tom McEwen and Toledo De Kerser – 15-year-old Selle Français gelding (Diamant de Semilly x Ariane du Prieure II, by Papillon Rouge), owned by Fred and Penny Barker, Jane Coppell and Alison McEwen.

The French team has gone for a different tactic, focusing their team strategy on developing exciting young horses — and the nine- and ten-year-olds they’ve selected have delivered some promising results over the last season. It’s a particularly poignant selection for Chaman Dumontceau who, prior to joining the string of Stéphane Landois, was the ride of Thaïs Meheust, who tragically passed away after a riding accident in 2019 at the age of 22.

Here’s the French team in full:

Luc Chateau and Cocorico de l’Ebat – 10-year-old Selle Français stallion (Propriano de l’Ebat x Nela des Bruyeres, by Papillon Rouge), owned by Caroline Queval and the rider

Stéphane Landois and Chaman Dumontceau –  10-year-old Selle Français gelding (Top Berlin du Temple x Cocagne des Pins, by Narcos II), owned by S.C.E.A. Blue Cherry Stable

Camille Lejeune and Good Size des Quatre Chênes – 10-year-old Belgian Sport Horse stallion (King Size x Jamila des Quatre Chenes, by Figaro de Belle), owned by Catherine de Foy

Gaspard Maksud and Zaragoza – 9-year-old British-bred Sport Horse (Cevin Z x unknown dam), owned by Jane Young and Martin Thurlow

Benjamin Massié and Climaine de Cacao – 10-year-old Selle Français mare (Captain Paul x Nolis du Bois Heroult, by Trophee du Rozel), owned by Claire Mugnier, Malaurie Marceron, and the rider

Both line-ups will be made up of a four-person team and an individual pair, and this will be decided upon closer to the time of the competition. Keep it locked onto EN for all the latest Aachen updates and, of course, wall-to-wall coverage from the competition itself. Go Eventing!

Tuesday News & Notes from Kentucky Performance Products

 

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Okay, it’s official, we’ve found it: the greatest cross-country outfit the world has ever seen. There have been many moments in my life when I could have benefited from a figurative pair of Big Girl Panties, and as it turns out, putting a literal pair of them on is a great way to find your mojo. I look forward to seeing this trend at the five-star level. Boyd, you up for it?

Events Opening Today: The Event at Rebecca FarmSilverwood Farm Summer H.T.Course Brook Farm Summer H.T.Full Moon Farms H.T.

Events Closing Today: Valinor Farm H.T.Fox River Valley Pony Club H.T.Inavale Farm HTMidsouth Pony Club H.T.Stable View Summer H.T.Horse Park of New Jersey H.T. ILoudoun Hunt Pony Club Summer H.T.Larkin Hill H.T.

Tuesday News & Notes from Around the World:

Are you an aspiring professional, aged 21 or under? If so, don’t miss out on the chance to apply for US Eventing’s Emerging Athletes 21 program, which opens today and could put you on a pathway that’ll change your life. [Get your application in now]

Enormous congratulations to British Olympian Gemma Tattersall and her partner, Gary Stevens. The two tied the knot in an intimate ceremony at Gemma’s parents’ home in East Sussex, and even included their beloved terriers in the proceedings. [Take a break to check out some wedding photos]

Horses: they’re always finding new and creative ways to injure themselves. Take Phillip Dutton’s ride Quasi Cool, for example, who broke his orbital bone after running into a tree. After an extraordinary effort by his vets and home team, he’s back at his best. [Click for the gory details of how they did it]

Eric Smiley is back with another op-ed for Horse&Hound: and this one, on letting horses make mistakes for long-term gain, the importance of being ready vs being qualified, and learned helplessness across the country is well worth a read. [Sometimes, those 20s are key]

The Queen’s jubilee took place over the weekend in the UK. A lifelong horsewoman in her own right, she was honoured with a number of celebrations that referenced her love for riding — and plenty of media retrospectives, too, including this look back at some of her favourite horses over the years. [Do royal horses poo gold?]

Just when you thought the perfect job doesn’t exist…Ride iQ is hiring a part time Social Media Marketer! If you’re an equestrian with a strong background in creating and implementing content strategies on social channels, this role could be a good fit for you! Ride iQ is a high-growth business with a lean team, so the best fit for this position will be a proactive, creative person who takes initiative and enjoys startup environments! If you’re interested, email your resume to [email protected].

Listen to This: Check out the latest episode of the USEA podcast, in which Dr Paul Haefner discusses how you can implement sports psychology practices into your daily riding.

Watch This:

Take a spin around GMHA’s Novice track:

Got an ulcer-y horse or wondering if your horse is at risk? Check this out:

Equi-Jewel®

Simply put, horses need energy. Energy is traditionally supplied by cereal grains such as oats, corn, and barley. These feedstuffs deliver energy as carbohydrates or starch.

But what if you want to supply more energy to your horse without increasing the feed intake? Feeding a fat supplement is an excellent way to achieve this.

Fat is considered a source of “calm” energy and is thought to modify behavior in some horses, making them more tractable. This, in turn, allows horses to focus their energy on work rather than nervousness.

Learn more here.

The horse that matters to you matters to us®.

KPPusa.com

Monday News & Notes from FutureTrack

The start of June means one thing: it’s all killer, no filler eventing content from Europe. (Apologies; I took a weekend off horses and saw Sum 41 on Saturday night, so I can only think in album titles now.) This week, EN heads back to beefy Bramham in Yorkshire for arguably the biggest CCI4*-L in the world, which returns after a long hiatus throughout the pandemic. Then, we’re off to Germany for Luhmühlen CCI5* next week and CHIO Aachen, the greatest of all the CCI4*-S competitions, in the last week of the month. Das ist sehr gut.

National Holiday: In a real throwback to first lockdown, it’s cool cat Carole Baskin’s birthday. Is that a national holiday, strictly speaking? No. But it feels a touch more interesting than ‘National Eyewear Day’.

#PrideMonth Learning Opportunity: Sometimes, it can be hard to separate Pride and all that it stands for from the mass exploitation that corporate culture puts it through — and so it’s doubly important to take five and familiarise yourself with the rich history of the fight for equal rights for LGBTQ+ folks, and significant milestones such as the Stonewall Uprising. Get to grips with history — and learn how you can help the cause — here.

US Weekend Action:

Genesee Valley Riding & Driving Club Spring H.T. (Geneseo, Ny.): [Website] [Results]

GMHA June H.T. (South Woodstock, Vt.): [Website] [Results]

IEA H.T. (Edinburgh, Ind.): [Website] [Results]

The Spring Event at Archer (Cheyenne, Wy.): [Website] [Results]

MCTA H.T. at Shawan Downs (Cockeysville, Md.): [Website] [Results]

Ocala Summer I H.T. (Ocala, Fl.): [Website] [Results]

UK Weekend Action:

Ascott Under Wychwood (2): [Results]

Belsay: [Results]

Little Downham (1): [Results]

Global Eventing Round-up:

It’s been a busy weekend of sport, but the highlights have come from two European hotspots: Germany’s Longines PfingstTurnier at the extraordinary Wiesbaden Palace, and Ireland’s Millstreet International.

Laura Collett enjoyed a blinder of a weekend at Millstreet, claiming both the CCI4*-L feature class and the CCI3*-L with Dacapo and Outback, respectively. Both horses led from pillar to post, and we truly hope it’s not too early to call it, but we think Laura might be on track to having a season that rivals Piggy March’s 2019. Fellow Brit Kirsty Chabert took the win in the CCI4*-S with Classic VI, who heads to Luhmühlen next week, followed up by a second and third-place finish for Ireland’s Cathal Daniels with LEB Lias Jewel and Rioghan Rua, who we’ll also see at the German five-star fixture. Jonelle Price took top honours in the CCI2*-L with Fernhill Kankan, while the USA was victorious in the CCIYH2*-S, with Cornelia Dorr‘s DHI Qyaracolle Z climbing from seventh place to take the win in her first run at the level — and at just six years old.

A smoking hot continental line-up battled it out in Wiesbaden’s sole class, the CCI4*-S fixture that’s one of the best-loved in Europe — but it was our Olympic champions, Germany’s Julia Krajewski and Amande de B’Neville, who took the spoils on their return to international competition. They beat fellow German medal fiend Michael Jung, who took second place with Highlighter, and Austrian superstar Lea Siegl, who piloted her Tokyo mount DSP Fighting Line to third place.

Your Monday Reading List:

Could show prep — including the use of coat sprays and frequent bathing — be harming your horse’s skin? There are several conditions that competition horses are much more susceptible to, whether that’s from overgrooming, shared brushes, long stints in transport, or proximity to horses from other yards — but by ensuring you’re aware of the risks, you can work to prevent issues this season. [Find out how]

We see a lot of older horses changing hands on Facebook sales groups, and it always breaks my heart a little bit. As an antidote to that sort of thing, here’s a feel-good story about a teenage girl and an unruly summer camp horse, and the promise that kiddo was able to fulfil decades later to ensure the now-37-year-old horse has the very best of retirements. [We should all aspire to this]

Is your barn and home insured against catastrophe? It’s well worth triple-checking your policy — or getting one in place if you haven’t yet. Dom and Jimmy Schramm’s frightening house fire experience will be enough to convince you. [An actual nightmare]

Have you ever been on the receiving end of social media vitriol? You’re not alone. British dressage rider and podcaster Olivia Oakeley is joining the conversation about social media negativity, and the ‘pile-on’ effect, and sharing her simple strategy for learning to deal with the haters. [Social media continues to be a plague tbh]

The FutureTrack Follow:

This week it’s got to be Yorkshire’s Bramham Horse Trials, which returns to the calendar after an achingly long wait since 2019. Ian Stark’s CCI4*-L and CCI4*-S courses look just as tough as we remember them, and each class has a seriously hot field lining up to fight for the titles — so give them a follow for sneak peeks at what’s going on, and stay locked onto EN for wall-to-wall coverage from the king of the four-stars!

Morning Viewing:

Ever fancied checking out big game from the back of a horse? Now you can — vicariously, at least — with vlogger Matt Harnacke:

Friday Video from SmartPak: Arena Eventing to the Extreme

Ever fancied trying your hand at high-octane arena eventing under lights and in front of a packed out stadium? Now you can — well, kind of — thanks to Boyd Martin and his handy hatcam, which accompanied him for his rides on second-placed Federman B and third-placed Prezley at the Devon Horse Show’s $50,000 Arena Eventing class. You’ll get to enjoy all the thrill of the rounds themselves, plus those tense moments in the in-gate, watching the prior rider finishing up as you await your turn in the ring. Feeling your heart rate rise already? Us too.

Ramping back up into full work for the spring? SmartPak has everything you need to make the transition back to show season. Click here for more.

Opening Doors and Maximizing Access: Seven-Figure Cash Injection Propels British Eventing into New Era

There’s a lot to be said for the work being done at British Eventing under the leadership of CEO Helen West, who stepped into the role last year and immediately began cobbling together a figurative life raft for the organisation after several tricky years in which it came under fire for a financially debilitating IT project, among other contentious issues. She can be credited in large part with bringing a CCI5* to British soil for the first time since 2019 in the form of last year’s ‘pop-up’ Bicton fixture; at the same venue, where she’s long been the manager, she also produced a replacement for Bramham’s CCI4*-L, under-25 CCI4*-L, and CCI4*-S in June.

Now, with the pandemic largely behind us, we’re seeing some exciting and forward-thinking ideas become reality – first in the form of Go BE, a new initiative that allows unregistered riders to compete over BE courses without their results being recorded and now, with the reveal of a new partnership that could change the face of the sport in Britain.

The Howden Way, which launched yesterday (May 31) at Oxfordshire’s Cornbury House, is the brainchild of David Howden, Group CEO and founder of Howden insurance brokers and the man responsible for bringing Cornbury’s much-loved fixture back to the calendar. David, who first got into eventing via his daughters’ love for the sport, has been an enormously enthusiastic and generous figure on the scene since Cornbury’s return in 2020 — and with The Howden Way, he’s pushing even more valuable resources into British Eventing with a seven-figure cash injection that will be used over five years to create pathways for both horses and riders.

The funding will be split across three main areas of focus: The Howden Regional Training Academy, which will provide subsidised training opportunities for riders of all levels, the Howden Talent Academy, for which riders aged 14–28 will be selected based on their potential and given access to top-class training and support, and the Howden Young Horse Academy, which will create more robust systems for nurturing talented young horses from the age of five to nine, ensuring a steady output of world-class equine talent within Britain.

“This is a very exciting time and a significant opportunity for British Eventing,” says Helen West. “The creation of The Howden Way represents the largest direct sponsorship into one of the national governing bodies of an Olympic equestrian discipline. We are very grateful to the support given by David Howden and look forward to the benefits our members will receive from the introduction of The Howden Way.”

David Howden added: “I am thrilled to support British Eventing and the future of the sport through the introduction of The Howden Way. Eventing is such a special sport and through The Howden Way we want to ensure riders and young horses are offered the best opportunities to reach their full potential.”

The most exciting bit of the whole endeavour, from our perspective? David Howden’s insistence that “[the Howden Way] is going to allow for much greater accessibility — we’ve got to get a diverse set of people coming into eventing […] and hopefully the Howden Way will really enable that. That’s the exciting part.”

Team GB chef d’equipe Dickie Waygood is particularly enthusiastic about education at the grassroots level, pointing out that by raising standards and education at the lower levels, it’ll create a positive upward push to the top levels — an approach that’s refreshing in its difference to the usual ‘trickle down’ effect we tend to see favoured. Check out some more soundbites from David, Dickie, and a number of riders here:

 

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British Eventing has put together a handy FAQ guide to help people get to grips with the new pathways:

When will The Howden Way begin?

Elements of The Howden Way will be launched at different times throughout the current season. Young Horse Leagues will be introduced first, and regional training for members will be rolled out during the season, while the talent pathways will take longer to be developed and integrated.

How frequent will The Howden Regional Training Academies be? 

Regular regional training sessions will be held, and riders will also be able to access remote online content at all times.

Who are the trainers and selectors for The Howden Way?

British Eventing Youth Performance Manager Darrell Scaife will be the Howden Talent Academy lead coach. He will be joined by carefully selected discipline-specific coaches who will also offer support to British Eventing accredited coaches who will deliver the regional training.

Will there be any additional cost involved if taking part in The Howden Way?

The Howden Regional Training Academy will be delivered at a subsidised fee for all riders. Riders will be provided with an educational syllabus free of charge to work through with the support of an allocated coach and have access to online content at all times. The Howden Young Horse Academy and The Howden Talent Academy will be free of charge to those attending. Riders will be expected to cover their expenses.

Is The Howden Way just for British riders?

The Howden Regional Training Academy is open to riders of all nationalities. However, if selected on to The Howden Talent Academy or The Howden Young Horse Academy, all horse and rider combinations must be eligible to represent Great Britain.

Can PAYG British Eventing members take part in The Howden Way training?

Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) British Eventing members can take part in The Howden Reginal Training Academy along with having access to the online educational content.

Go (British) Eventing!

 

Home Nation Italy Releases Shortlist for World Championships Team

Pietro Sandei and Rubis du Prere at the 2021 European Championships. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Somehow, inexplicably, we’re at that time of year again already: it’s team announcement season, and getting the ball rolling for this year’s World Championships in Pratoni del Vivaro (September 14–18) is the home side, who have released their first squad shortlist. This initial shortlist is particularly short, but is set to expand; by the end of June, the Italian selection committee will add two more pairs to complete the list, from which they’ll ultimately select five combinations plus two reserves on the 15th of August.

The six shortlisted horses and riders, all of whom ride for various divisions of the Italian Armed Forces, are as follows:

  • Susanne Bordone and Imperial Van de Holtakkers – 14-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Quidam de Revel x Ava van de Holtakkers, by Argentinus). Owned by Maria Giovanna Mazzocchi
  • Marco Cappai and Uter – 13-year-old Italian Sport Horse gelding (Caster di Villa Francesca x Elle d’Aulix, by Iubumbashi). Owned by Cascianese Country Club
  • Emiliano Portale and Aracne dell’Esercito Italiano – 10-year-old Italian Sport Horse stallion (AS Lucsan x Aliree, by Hunting Hawk). Owned by the Italian Army
  • Pietro Sandei and Rubis de Prere – 17-year-old Selle Français gelding (Fedor de Seves x Cina du Logis, by Quandy du Mayne). Owned by Az. Agr. Galanthus di Castellani S.
  • Arianna Schivo and Quefira de l’Ormeau – 18-year-old Selle Français mare (Iolisco de Quinhon*HN x Isabelle du Brulot, by Beausejour IV). Owned by Thomas Bouquet and the rider
  • Giovanni Ugolotti and Duke of Champions – 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Duke of Hearts x Nebraska 22, by Noble Champion). Owned by Philip Hunt, Jo Preston-Hunt, and Joyce Snook

Susanna Bordonne (ITA) and Imperial Van De Holtakkers. Photo by Sally Spickard.

The list features an exciting mix of experienced team talent and up-and-coming young horses: Susanna Bordone and Imperial van de Holtakkers, who won the Italian National Championship and Italian Armed Forces National Championship titles at the recent Pratoni test event, were part of Italy’s Tokyo Olympics team, finishing eighteenth as individuals. The gelding has also competed in a previous World Equestrian Games in 2018, though not with Susanna — he was piloted there by Joris Vanspringel of Belgium, finishing 58th. With other horses, Susanna has two further Olympic appearances, four WEGs, and seven Senior European Championships — including two in pure dressage — under her belt. Pietro Sandei and his stalwart Rubis de Prere represented Italy at the 2018 WEG, finishing 52nd, and at the European Championships in 2017, where they scored a top twenty individual result and team bronze, and 2021. Arianna Schivo and Quefiro de l’Ormeau, who we last saw at Badminton last month, rode on the team at the Tokyo and Rio Olympics, the 2018 WEG, and at the 2015, 2017, and 2019 European Championships. Marco Cappai and Uter were part of the Italian front at last year’s European Championships in Avenches, and Marco has previously had the call-up for Italy at the 1996 Olympics, 2010 WEG, and 2011 European Championships.

Italy’s Emiliano Portale and Aracne dell’Esercito Italiano. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

British-based Giovanni Ugolotti has a relatively new ride shortlisted in Duke of Champions, who joined his string in the latter part of last season, but together they’ve already notched up some exciting results, including fourth in a CCI4*-L at Ballindenisk and 21st in a hugely competitive CCI4*-S at Thoresby. If selected, this would be a second World Championships appearance for Gio, who finished just outside the top twenty at the 2014 WEG and has also ridden in three European Championships for Italy. Both Emiliano Portale and his exciting ten-year-old Aracne dell’Esercito Italiano, who was one of our horses of the week at the Pratoni test event last month, will be chasing their first appearance on the world stage: Emiliano has two Senior European Championships under his belt and represented Italy multiple times as a Young Rider, but hasn’t yet ridden at a World Championships or Olympic Games.

The final deadline for nominated entries – effectively, the shortlist – and certificates of capability, which prove that nominated combinations have the required qualifications, is August 15, while the final deadline for definite entries will be September 5. Each National Federation will be allowed to select and enter up to five horses and riders — that’s a team of four, plus an individual. Keep it locked onto EN for all the shortlist and selection updates as they’re released. Go Eventing!

Who Jumped It Best? Houghton Nations Cup Edition

Who Jumped It Best?

Is there anything that heralds in a week better than a bumper edition of ‘Who Jumped it Best’? We don’t think so — and today, we’ve got an exciting one, fresh from this weekend’s cross-country finale at England’s Houghton International Horse Trials. The feature CCIO4*-S did double duty as the second leg of the FEI Nations Cup series and a stacked four-star in its own right, with nearly 100 entries.

The Suzuki ATV Log and Arrowheads water complex at 8ABC ended up being the most influential question on the course. Surrounded by crowds in something of a natural amphitheatre, it consisted of a seriously beefy log drop into the water, which riders approached off a right-handed S-bend turn. How they navigated this first question was crucial, because on landing, they had to navigate a right-handed turn to an arrowhead in the water and then another on dry land — though there were a couple of long routes that proved popular through the day, because it was so easy to lose the line after an extravagant jump at A.

The water itself was bisected with a guard railing, which stopped horses and riders from straying too far into the deep end, and this could be used cleverly: rather than making the error of turning too early, brave riders could direct their horse towards the railing and then use it to almost push their horse’s shoulders back onto the right line. (The risk there, of course, is that a very keen horse could, theoretically, end up jumping the rail and going for a swim, though we didn’t see that happen through the course of the day!)

For today’s WJIB, we’re looking at that A element that proved so crucial. Who do you think made the most balanced, tidy effort? Which pair found the fine line between power and caution? Take a look at our selection of snaps and then scroll down to cast your vote!

Houghton International CCIO4*-S: Website, Live ScoringEN’s CoverageEN’s Twitter, EN’s Instagram

Cornelia Dorr and Daytona Beach 8. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tom McEwen and Bob Chaplin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ginnie Howe and CHF Archie. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Daniel Scott and High Time V. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Milo Kennedy and Moher Prince. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tristram Owers and Van De Man. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Toshiyuki Tanaka and Swiper JRA. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Bruce Haskell and Ex Cavalier’s Law. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Georgie Spence and Feloupe. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Imogen Murray and Roheryn Ruby. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jesse Campbell and Cooley Lafitte. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Andrew James and Celtic Morning Star. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Houghton International CCIO4*-S: Website, Live ScoringEN’s CoverageEN’s Twitter, EN’s Instagram

Tuesday News & Notes from Legends Horse Feeds

 

 

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Watch out, Le Lion 2028! The latest high-profile eventing foal has dropped, and it’s a stunning colt who’s the result of an embryo transfer from Merel Blom‘s 2019 Dutch National Champion Ceda and by the stallion Gemini CL, the clone of Gem Twist. We can’t wait to see what this one ends up doing!

Events Opening Today:Applewood Farm YEH/FEH & Mini EventChampagne Run at the Park H.T.The Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy Farm

Events Closing Today: Masterson Equestrian Trust YEH 4YO and 5YO QualifierShepherd Ranch Pony Club H.T. IKent School H.T.Full Gallop Farm June H.T.Bucks County Horse Park H.T.Seneca Valley Pony Club H.T.Honey Run H.T.Silverwood Farm Spring H.T.

Tuesday News & Notes from Around the World:

British Eventing has received its largest-ever direct infusion of funds after a seven-figure investment from David Howden. David, who’s the man responsible for bringing Cornbury’s estate back to the sport’s line-up, intends for the funds to be used over five years to create regional training programmes, talent pathways, and subsidised training opportunities. [This is huge and we applaud it]

The road to the FEI Eventing World Breeding Championships for Young Horses at Le Lion d’Angers is a long and winding one, but for US riders and their horses, it’s made significantly more straightforward by the Holekamp/Turner Grant, which funds a seven-year-old’s trip each year. [Find out more about it here]

Further validation that your horse might actually know and like you as a person has come through the airwaves. So no, it’s not just in your head. [That special whicker really is all for you, baby]

Watch This:

Relive Kentucky’s CCI5* cross-country with added commentary in this directors’ cut edition from Elisa Wallace:

Monday News & Notes from FutureTrack

 

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How nice is it to be back in this whirlwind-y bit of the year, in which there’s scarcely time to reflect and wash one’s knickers before the next big adventure comes along? It’s faintly mad to think about, but we’re already starting to see some Badminton competitors come back in from the field and begin the rebuilding and fittening process for their summer and autumn goal events. It’ll be 2023 before we know it — hopefully we’ll all find a spare second to smell the roses before then!

National Holiday: It’s Memorial Day, a holiday which began after the Civil War as a way to commemorate the fallen.

U.S. Weekend Action:

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

Spring Coconino H.T. (Flagstaff, Az.): [Website] [Results]

Equestrians’ Institute H.T. (Cle Elum, Wa.): [Website] [Results]

Flora Lea Spring H.T. (Medford, NJ): [Website] [Results]

May-Daze at The Park H.T. (Lexington, Ky.): [Website] [Results]

Mill Creek Pony Club H.T. (Kansas City, Mo.): [Website] [Results]

Mystic Valley Hunt Club H.T. (Gales Ferry, Ct.): [Website]

Willow Draw Charity Show (Weatherford, Tx.): [Website] [Results]

The Spring Event at Woodside (Woodside, Ca.): [Website] [Results]

UK Weekend Action:

Barefoot Retreats Houghton Hall CCIO4*-S: [Website] [Results] [EN’s Coverage]

Bishop Burton (1): [Results]

Pontispool (1): [Results]

Shelford Manor (1): [Results]

Global Eventing Round-up:

We saw events up to two-star level in Mexico, Italy and Peru over the weekend, plus three-stars at Tramandai in Brazil and Chaumont en Vexin in France. But the highlight of the international calendar — beyond the Nations Cup series at Houghton Hall, of course — was Poland’s Baborowko, which hosted classes from CCI1* through CCI4*-L and saw some seriously star-studded entries come forward to battle for the titles on offer.

As it turned out, what has been a very good season for Switzerland so far with a double win at Pratoni continued on apace: Felix Vogg took the spoils in the CCI4*-S class riding Colero, while Michael Jung finished second with rising star Kilcandra Ocean Power. Third place went the way of young German talent Jerome Robiné, who will fight for a chance at the German national title at next month’s Luhmühlen CCI4*-S with Black Ice.

22-year-old Swiss rider Nadja Minder, who was so impressive at Pratoni with two horses clear inside the time, lifted the LOTTO trophy in the CCI4*-L class with her team horse Toblerone, while Belgium’s Jarno Verwimp took second place with MahaliaLissa Green rounded out the top three for Australia with Billy Bandit after making a seriously long journey from the UK.

“Today’s course was tough enough, but I made a plan after I watched the other riders and I’m really happy,” says Nadja, who’s proving to be a real ‘one to watch’ competitor on the European scene. “Showjumping used to be our weak phase, but I think I figured it out now! [Toblerone] is an outstanding eventer and I’m really proud of him. It’s an amazing show here, really professional, warm and welcoming.”

Your Monday Reading List:

It’s been a big couple of weeks for goodbyes. The latest set of well-earned tributes is being paid to the splashy Pick and Mix II, who helped a number of riders get their careers started — including Britain’s David Doel, recently sixth at Badminton, who piloted the gelding at the Junior European Championships. [Thanks for everything, champ]

Blogger Sophie Coffey might be the only person ever to benefit from reading the Facebook comments on an article. After struggling with a case of the mysterious not-quite-rights, she stumbled upon an unexpected lead in the unlikeliest of places. [A rare victory for the social media platform, frankly]

Ever felt the pressure to perform on a competition day and then crumbled under its weight? Yeah, us too. Fortunately for all of us, Daniel Stewart’s created a robust gameplan to help us all control our brain jitters and get the results we deserve. [It’s a mental game, at the end of the day]

We were sad to hear of the passing of British jockey, Lester Piggott, yesterday. A true legend of racing, Lester was the five-time British champion, won nearly 4,500 races, and inspired countless riders across all disciplines with his extraordinary horsemanship. [He’ll be sorely missed]

The FutureTrack Follow:

 

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There’s nothing we like better than filling our feeds with equestrian media folks, because then we get to see stories play out from so many different angles — and rising star Rosie Russell is definitely worth a follow. She produces and participates in the EquiRatings Eventing Podcast, and can be found on commentary and broadcast duties at a number of shows and events around England.

Morning Viewing:

Fancy filling your lunch break with horses and history? This incredibly interesting documentary on riding for the US team will do the trick marvellously.

Tom McEwen Triumphs in Houghton Cross-Country Shake-Up; Team USA Takes Silver

The US team takes another podium finish at Houghton after a pandemic-induced leave of absence. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We’ll admit it: yesterday’s showjumping in Houghton International‘s CCIO4*-S didn’t necessarily thrill us. With just over a 65% clear rate, it was considerably less influential than it has been in the past, and our report yesterday was more of an exercise in finding 500 creative ways of saying “nothing’s actually changed here, folks” than anything else.

But today’s cross-country, designed by Musketeer Events’s Alec Lochore, ensured that no one was feeling complacent through the afternoon’s proceedings. The field of nearly 100 had thinned to a scant 72 prior to the start of the phase due to a spate of withdrawals that included ninth-placed Pippa Funnell and Billy Wonder (28.9), tenth-placed Laura Collett and Hester (29.3), and, most crucially, two-phase leaders Tim Price and Vitali, whose withdrawal also eliminated the second-placed Kiwi team from contention in the Nations Cup. Across the class, we saw a generous 80.6% completion rate – but a more telling and influential 65.3% clear rate, with the Suzuki Water at 8ABC leading the way on eleven faulters. The Sema Lease trough and corners at 11ABC, which featured a table atop a mound and then a sharp downhill run to a double of corners, followed closely behind with ten faulters through the day, while issues were otherwise scattered across the track.

Beyond the realm of the Nations Cup teams, the individual leaderboard in this CCIO4*-S class saw some significant changes: Oliver Townend had sat second after showjumping with the eight-year-old Cooley Rosalent, but she picked up a twenty at the corners in the second of her thus far educational, rather than competitive, four-star runs. New Zealand’s Jesse Campbell started the day in sixth place with Gambesie but opted, as many riders did, to run slowly over the hard ground, dropping down to 41st with 30.8 time penalties.

Tim’s withdrawal — and the drop-out of the Kiwis — meant that Team USA, who had held third place through the first two phases, were able to step up into second place from the get-go today, but the dominant British team looked wholly untouchable on their two-phase score of 79.2, which put them 23.5 penalties ahead of the US at the start of the day.

Tom McEwen takes the CCIO4*-S title – and another British team win – aboard the five-star bound Bob Chaplin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

But what’s that about the fat lady and singing? By the time the class came to its exciting conclusion, the gap had narrowed significantly, and though Great Britain did still take the eventual win, it was by just 3.9 penalties over the US team. It certainly wasn’t the most straightforward victory the Brits have ever had; though their pathfinders, Tom McEwen and Luhmühlen-bound Bob Chaplin, made easy work of the course to also take the individual win, and second rider Heidi Coy, too, featured in the top five with her Russal Z, they also lost a team member in Phoebe Locke, who was forced to withdraw Bellagio Declyange after an earlier tumble from first ride Pica d’Or — and most startlingly of all, anchors Piggy March and Brookfield Quality picked up 20 penalties at the quarry combination just a couple of fences from home while sitting sixth.

The US, too, had to fight for their close second place: though a blazing-fast pathfinder round from debutants Cornelia Dorr and Daytona Beach 8 buoyed resolve in the camp, the team suddenly found itself down to three — with every score to count — after an excellent early effort by Isabelle Bosley and Night Quality ended suddenly with a stop and rider fall at the influential water complex.

Allie Knowles and Ms. Poppins prove themselves as team bankers with their thoughtful round. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though Isabelle was fortunately unharmed and cushioned by the liberal brush atop the log she fell at, the fall put plenty of pressure on the riders to follow her — and Allie Knowles, who left the box fighting for a top ten placing with Ms. Poppins, felt the weight of team expectations most tangibly.

“I took the long route at the water and man, that’s the difference in my mind between the team winning or losing,” she says ruefully. “But she jumped in so big that I wasn’t sure she was going to lock on, and I knew Isabelle had fallen and so I had to get home clear — so in that moment I just thought, ‘no, I’m going to play it safe’.”

Allie was far from the only person to make the decision to ride for the longer, circuitous route out of the tough water complex, which saw her finish with 13.2 time penalties and wind up in 14th place at the culmination of the class — but the choice weighed heavily on her in the aftermath.

“I’ll be wondering about that for a while, whether it would have worked out or not, but she’s so honest that I just didn’t want a stupid mistake happen and for her to genuinely miss it. I saw horse after horse run past it, and I was like, I know I can have a clean round; it’s slower than I wanted, but I knew what had happened and Leslie said to me in the box, ‘we need you to get home. We need you to go clean.’ In that split second, you just think, ‘I don’t see the line — how’s she going to see the line?’ It’s just one of those split-second calls, and when there’s anything left on the table, you always wonder ‘what if?'”

There are plenty of silver linings for Allie to look back on, though — namely, the fact that her excellent eleven-year-old once again proved that all the faith her rider has in her is totally well-founded.

“She was bold, she was honest, she jumped clean, and she’s ready for Bramham — so I couldn’t be more proud of her, and I think this was a nice prep run,” she says. “Every other thing went to plan, so what else can we really ask for — we got second, we all made a long trip to be here, and we can’t be disappointed in that.”

Caroline Martin cruises to fifth with Islandwood Captain Jack, making a super start to her stint in the UK. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

When anchor Caroline Martin set off, she did so with a valuable asset in her pocket: she was the one member of this week’s US team that had been here before, and been in the position of riding for the team before. Even more importantly, she’d logged prior team experience with Islandwood Captain Jack and knew exactly where she could push his natural rhythm, and where she could take calculated, competitive risks to try to slim down the margins on both leaderboards. When she did, she wasn’t just best of the US team, she was also at the upper end of the individual leaderboard, too: she climbed from a first-phase 19th to eventual fifth place after adding just 1.6 time penalties across the country. Their round — which was one of the fastest of the day — put a neat bow on an excellent weekend that saw them jump a sterling clear round in yesterday’s showjumping, and deliver a competitive 30.4 in the first phase.

“He’s not the fanciest, and he’s not the best jumper, but he has a heart of gold, and he’s done well in his career because of that heart of gold. Whenever you tell him to do something, he does his best to do it — and he’s a bit of a plough horse, but we know each other so well and he’s getting stronger, which is the biggest thing. Now he’s getting the strength to do it, and he’s just very, very, very genuine — I don’t have another as genuine as him,” says Caroline, who returns to Houghton after making her Nations Cup debut here in 2018 — this time, with a longer-term stay in the UK on her radar as she settles into life at Andrew Nicholson’s Wiltshire base.

“I was grateful to come here, because the course stays pretty similar and I’ve had a few trips around it now,” she says. “I’ve had such different horses in the past, but it’s kind of the same track, and it’s really good to start my new life here with a couple of things I’m familiar with. I’m not totally off the deep end.”

Caroline is quick to credit the team around her that helps make a trip like this a reality — “at the end of the day, I just ride the horse,” she says modestly — including this week’s chef d’equipe and Development Program head trainer Leslie Law, previous US team trainer Erik Duvander, head groom Casey McKissock, and many others, particularly as she turns her eye back towards chasing her biggest dream of riding on a championship team: “You’ve gotta take the wins sometimes; you get pretty beaten up in this sport, so you’ve got to smile and take a breath. I’m just really grateful for the team for continuing to give me these changes — I know people are a little hard on me that I’ve done so much, but I’m 27 and I still need to practice at this stuff, so if I get a chance to be on a team and work on that, I’m always going to take it.”

Cornelia Dorr and Daytona Beach 8 put on a gutsy, gritty display to climb to the top fifteen and help the US team to second. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There’s a lot to be said for a rider who can take on pathfinder duties in their team debut, and Cornelia Dorr certainly rose to the occasion, delivering the second-fastest round of the day with the electric Daytona Beach 8 in a round that included one particular moment of gutsy, agricultural riding: after a big leap into the influential water question, Cornelia and Daytona found themselves off their intended line, and Cornelia put herself in the back seat and drove her horse with resolve to the flags of the skinny element in the water. Once the horse spotted her target, she twisted herself through the air to make sure she cleared it — and both horse and rider reached the other side unscathed and brimming with determination as they set out to tackle the remainder of the track.

“She’s amazing — so genuine, so smart; I have no words for her,” says a delighted Cornelia, who finished fifteenth as an individual. “She sees things from so far away — she reacted a little bit differently to the water than I thought, so when I came around the corner, plan A, B, C, and D kind of went out the window! I was just so glad we were able to think that quickly. It was scrappy!”

Unlike her three teammates, who all head to Bramham CCI4*-L in a fortnight, Cornelia’s now planning ahead for the mare’s five-star move-up later on in the season – though her lips are sealed as to which she’s going to aim for. In any case, the mare’s ‘oceans of scope’ look set to see her through even the biggest and beefiest of challenges.

As far as a team-building exercise for the US program goes, making the long journey to Houghton Hall has certainly been a productive one.

“For us, it serves a big purpose — before Covid, we brought our younger athletes here for the two previous years, and we had a good run in the Nations Cup before everything got shut down, so as soon as it opened up again and allowed us to come back, it made it very much a destination event for us,” says Leslie Law, who acted as the team chef d’equipe for this leg as he has done previously. “It’s great to bring the younger athletes and get them into that team space; we don’t have the biggest opportunity to get them into team competitions back in the US, so I think it’s extremely important and it’s what we need to do to give ourselves a bigger pool of athletes with team experience.”

To create that team atmosphere, Leslie focused on fostering a close-knit collaborative approach, not just between his riders, but between their support teams, parents, and owners too — many of whom could be seen out on course together, celebrating and commiserating en masse through the afternoon.

“The girls are great; they really work. We’ve been doing team meetings and coursewalks together, and it’s about fostering the respect for one another, starting off by putting them in that space,” he continues. “Obviously it’s very exciting for them; I think this is Caroline’s second or third time on a Nations Cup, and you can see it’s starting to show: she’s starting to become very cool about it and handle the pressure, which is why I put her last on the team. For the other three, it’s their first time, so you can see that they perhaps had some more nerves — but that’s why we’ve got to do it. The more we do it, the more we can work on building that team atmosphere and strength. You’ve got to do it to make it happen.”

Heidi Coy, pictured riding Russal Z, nails the double with two ten-year-olds in the top ten. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

22-year-old Heidi Coy is only just out of the Young Riders programme but already, she’s proving herself a force to be reckoned with in Senior competition — and her Nations Cup debut this week was capped off with top ten finishes for both her exciting ten-year-olds. Halenza finished ninth, adding just 3.6 time penalties to her first-phase score of 29.9, while the star of her string was the diminutive, gutsy team ride Russal Z, who added 4 time penalties to Friday’s excellent 26.3 to finish third. She completes a British podium, with Kitty King taking second place on her Rio Olympics mount Ceylor LAN, who’s now enjoying ‘fun runs’ at the CCI4*-S level in the twilight of his career.

“The course rode pretty much as I’d expected — it’s flat, but the time is always tight here, and the questions come at you fast,” says Heidi, who finished second in last year’s under-25 CCI4*-L championship when it was temporarily relocated to Bicton, and will now tackle the ‘real deal’ at Bramham with both horses in a fortnight.

Though Heidi’s still very young, she carries herself with a quiet maturity that makes her come across as enormously calm, even in high-intensity situations — but, she admits, she certainly felt the nerves when she knew her score would have to count for the British team to complete today.

“I knew my little grey mare is a cross-country machine — I’ve had her a few years now, and she’s tiny, but she just gets her head down and she’ll jump whatever’s in front of her,” she says. “I felt fairly confident that once I got out there, we’d be fine — it’s just when they count you down that you’re like, ‘oh my god!’ And of course, I broke my collarbone not that long ago, so I was still a bit anxious about that. I got down there quite early and didn’t realise there was a bit of a hold, so I said to my mum, ‘I need to get off and have a look at the course, not just walk around!’ Once I’ve got something to think about, I’m okay.”

Therese Viklund and Viscera make a super comeback after injury. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Like Kitty King before her, Sweden’s Therese Viklund had a hugely enjoyable weekend with an Olympic mount that’s now enjoying less pressurised competitions: her one-eyed superstar Viscera sustained two suspensory injuries after Tokyo last year, and made her return to competition for the first time since August this week. And what a return it was: their first-phase score of 29.4 put them well in the hunt, and their clear round over the poles yesterday proved an asset both to team Sweden and to their own climb up the board. Their efficient round today, which added just a scant 1.2 time penalties, propelled them into fourth place, setting an exciting tone for their four-star ventures to come.

“She’s been brilliant; she did one event after Tokyo, which she won, and then she got injured after that — so this is her first outing and she feels super happy,” says Therese, who will now campaign the mare exclusively at short-format competitions. “She’s just like an old pair of gloves; she just fits.”

The dressage-bred mare has had an unusual trajectory; she was rejected as a prospect for her intended discipline because it was felt she wasn’t a good enough mover, and then had a foal quite young before joining Therese’s string as a six-year-old as a sales prospect. Three years ago, the now fourteen-year-old had her left eye removed after a two-year battle with uveitis, and in the years since has picked up a number of four-star placings, several team spots, and a trip to last year’s Olympics, seemingly without missing a beat.

“From day one, it’s like she hasn’t noticed. She’s very confident, so I think that helps a bit, but she just thinks she knows it all and just does it. I’m so impressed with her — every time she does the cross-country, she’s so straight,” says Therese, who suspects that the mare’s sight had begun to wane prior to the removal of the eye, indirectly helping the transition process. “I’m thinking, ‘is it harder to have the flag on the left side or the other side?’ but she’s so straight between my legs that she just goes for it either way. She’s the bravest little horse.”

The Swedish team finished third in the final rankings, though they, too, had just three riders left to count after the overnight withdrawal of Sofia Sjoborg and Targa.

Italy’s Daniele Bizzarro is the only rider of the class to make the time. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Just one horse and rider would make the time: British-based Italian Daniele Bizzarro, who has previously worked as a stable jockey for William Fox-Pitt, redeemed a tough day for his team by sailing home bang on the 6:41 optimum time with Alice Dazeley’s Stormhill Riot, finishing 24th. Italy, who began the week with just three riders, fell almost literally at the final hurdle when their third rider out of the box, Giovanni Ugolotti, took a tumble in the latter stages of the course with new ride Lark Away.

Sweden’s consistency — this is now their second third-place finish from two legs in this year’s series — means they take the lead in the 2022 FEI Nations Cup series rankings on a total score of 180, while Great Britain and Switzerland are tied for second on 100 points apiece. Third place is held jointly by France and the USA, who are on 90 points apiece.

The next leg of the 2022 series will be held at Poland’s Strzegom Horse Trials from the 22–26 June. There are nine total legs in this year’s series, including one in North America at Canada’s Bromont International from 18–21 August, and the series will conclude, as always, with a long-format finale at the Netherlands’ Military Boekelo in October. Will we see another Swedish series win? It’s hard to bet against them at this point.

The final individual top ten at Houghton CCIO4*-S.

The final team standings in the second leg of the 2022 FEI Nations Cup series.

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Houghton Nations Cup: Team USA Remains in Podium Position After Showjumping

Tim Price and Vitali retain their first-phase lead after a faultless showjumping round. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We’ve seen the showjumping phase at Houghton International‘s CCIO4*-S and Nations Cup exert plenty of influence in the past: set on an undulating grass arena, it cleverly tricks riders into using more of the available space than they really need, which can make the time as much of a decider as the rails that inevitably fall. Today, though, it was considerably less dramatic, with just 34 of the 90 starters pulling rails and a scant six riders adding time penalties. That meant that the upper end of the leaderboard was largely unchanged through the course of the afternoon’s action: Kiwi team anchors Tim Price and Vitali remain at the head of the class on their first-phase score of 21.2 after logging a neat, stylish round that helped to put their tricky Tokyo showjumping round into the annals of last season.

Tom McEwen and Bob Chaplin sit resolutely in second place. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

In fact, the entire top five is unchanged: Tom McEwen and Bob Chaplin, who are pathfinders for the British team, remain in second place on their clear round, despite a slightly tricky warm-up, and Oliver Townend‘s exciting young mare Cooley Rosalent keeps her place on the podium in what is just her second start at the level.

Heidi Coy celebrates after an exciting clear with the ten-year-old Russal Z for fourth overnight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Heidi Coy‘s assault on her Nations Cup debut continues on apace, and she’ll go into tomorrow’s cross-country finale holding onto fourth place with the ten-year-old Russal Z, who carries over a score of 26.3, followed up by Kitty King and her Rio Olympics mount Ceylor LAN, who has ‘retired’ to tackling four-star shorts for fun these days.

Kitty King and Ceylor LAN get the job done to remain in fifth place. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

In fact, the most significant influence exerted on the leaderboard came in the form of withdrawals: just four horses were pulled prior to showjumping but one of those, Izzy Taylor‘s Monkeying Around, was ninth after dressage and another, Bundy Philpott‘s Henton First Lady, had been a part of the New Zealand team, whose three remaining combinations’ runs will all count tomorrow.

That doesn’t stop the Kiwi team, helmed by Tim and Vitali and well supported by Jesse Campbell and Cooley Lafitte (39th on 35.4) and Bruce Haskell and Ex Cavalier’s Law (33rd on 34.9), from remaining in second place overnight on an unchanged aggregate score of 91.5. Great Britain, too, add nothing to their overnight aggregate score of 79.2, with all four riders jumping clear and inside the time allowed today.

Isabelle Bosley and Night Quality. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Team USA holds onto third place for another night, though with a slight switcharoo: Isabelle Bosley and Night Quality had an unfortunate rail at the final fence, putting them on a two-phase score of 43.3 and moving them into the drop-score spot, taken over from Cornelia Dorr and Daytona Beach 8, who jumped a sparkly, speedy clear.

“The atmosphere definitely perked him up a bit but we had one unlucky rub at the last, when he got a bit strong coming down the hill and just kind of caught it the wrong way in front,” says Isabelle, who goes into cross-country tomorrow in 70th place. “But I’m so happy with how he handled the atmosphere, and he felt super the whole way around.”

Though many US venues are blessed with surfaces for showjumping, Isabelle compares Houghton’s undulating ring to that at Pine Top: “but then, you add the atmosphere here,” she says, “and they really sit up and take notice. But that actually helps him jump better.”

Cornelia Dorr and Daytona Beach 8. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Cornelia’s team pathfinder round was an impressive exercise in tact, as the speedy, huge-jumping Daytona whizzed her way around the track in a sharp reversal from how she’d behaved in the warm-up: “She was so quiet in the warm-up, and I sort of know that if she’s quiet in the warm-up, she’s wild in the ring,” says Cornelia with a laugh. “I went in and was like, ‘I’m not really sure what to do right now — I just really need them to ring the bell!’, but she was really good. She’s so switched on, but I do wish she’d let me help her a bit more today. When she’s like that, I have to rely on her athleticism a little bit — she just needs me to steer!”

Allie Knowles and Ms Poppins flirt with the top ten after another excellent performance. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Allie Knowles and the super-smart Ms. Poppins remain at the forefront of the US effort, pinging their way to a tidy clear and sitting 12th as individuals overnight on their 29.6.

“She’s a wonderful jumper — she just went in there and felt like Ms. Poppins,” says Allie, who is quick to praise the eleven-year-old’s consistency. “She went in there and pricked her ears up, after having been dead quiet in the warm-up. I saw the ears go up and I said, ‘okay, good, you’re present!’ I probably should have gotten her going a bit more before we started the round, but once I jumped that first fence, she was right there. She’s fun to jump, and if I make a mistake, she gets out of the way for me — but luckily, today was pretty smooth! As we went around, she just kept getting higher and higher — I was like, ‘okay!‘”

The close team rotations meant that each rider only got to watch one or two of their compatriots before being spirited away to the warm-up ring themselves: “That was a bit of a shame, and Leslie [Law] couldn’t watch our rounds because he was in the warm-up helping us, which was a bummer — but we did have hours and hours to watch [the non-team competitors] and see how it was riding, and overall, it did ride well.”

Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack nail the anchor role with a classy clear. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Fifteenth-placed Caroline Martin‘s clear round with Islandwood Captain Jack consolidated a great effort for the US, which sees the team take a score of 102.7 into the final phase — and, more pertinently, opens up the narrow margin they had ahead of fourth-placed Sweden yesterday. After dressage, they sat on 99.3 to Sweden’s 100; now, their 102.7 gives them 5.3 penalties, or 13 seconds across the country, over Sweden’s 108. Italy’s three-man team remains fifth, now on a 124 after tipping five rails across their rounds.

Tomorrow’s 3810m course, designed by Alec Lochore, will zig-zag our competitors across Houghton Hall’s parkland for an optimum time of 6:41 — and it’s here that we’ll likely see some significant influence exerted. Houghton’s variable distances are paired with tricky Norfolk ground that runs to the harder side, and we’ll likely see the majority of our field cruise around for time penalties, or join the seven pairs who’ve already withdrawn since the culmination of showjumping.

You can take a closer look at the challenge to come via the CrossCountry App‘s interactive coursewalk, and tune back in tomorrow for a full report and jam-packed image gallery spanning all the action here on EN. Go Eventing!

The team standings following the showjumping phase at Houghton CCIO4*-S.

The individual top ten after showjumping at Houghton.

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Houghton CCIO4*-S: Tim Price Leads as Great Britain Dominates Nations Cup

New Zealand’s James Avery and One Of A Kind show off the unique camber in the four-star arena in front of Houghton Hall. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

England’s Houghton International, with its reasonable tracks and comfortable late-spring slot in the calendar, serves a number of purposes: it can be a great early four-star run for inexperienced horses of riders, can be used as a useful, confidence-giving run before Bramham’s CCI4*-L or Luhmühlen’s CCI5* — and, of course, it’s a formative leg in the FEI Nations Cup series.

It’s always interesting to see how different countries use the Nations Cup series, particularly when we get two legs that are very nearly back to back, as Pratoni and Houghton have been. There are the dominant countries who use them as a way to nurture young talent, like the Brits do; on the flip side, there are the countries who are still in the building process at the very top levels and bring out their best to consolidate and learn at this four-star series, as consistent Sweden does.

The Swiss, who won the first leg of the series at Pratoni and, as such, are overall leaders at this early stage, are conspicuous here only by their absence, as are second-placed France – a sad symptom of Brexit, which has made travelling across the English Channel with horses so complicated and expensive that it simply doesn’t pay to do so for a short-format four-star anymore. But the Swedes, who sit third after their good finish at Pratoni, have enough UK-based riders to field a team, as do the Italians and the Kiwis. They’re coming up against an exciting British front, featuring two talented team debutants and two experienced team campaigners on second-string horses, while the US once again opts to use Houghton as a crucial building block in their team system and has a forward-thinking team of three debutants and an experienced anchor here.

As the first phase pulls itself to a neat conclusion, the home nation is – rather unsurprisingly, given recent form – holding down the lead spot, led by pathfinders Tom McEwen and Bob Chaplin, who also sit second individually on their 25.4. All four of their riders, including team debutants in Heidi Coy and Phoebe Locke, sit sub-30 after the first phase, putting the team on an aggregate score of 79.2 — a clear leap ahead of second-placed New Zealand, on 91.5. The US team, which has a clear history of success at this venue, currently sits on the podium in third place on a score of 99.3, though Sweden is close behind them in fourth on 100. Italy, who field a team of just three, sit in fifth place going into showjumping.

We caught up with the US riders, some of whom are basing in the UK in the longer term.

Allie Knowles and Ms. Poppins are best of the Americans after the first phase. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Allie Knowles stands as best of the US contingent with the British-sourced Ms. Poppins, who delivered a tidy 29.6 to sit fifteenth provisionally out of 94. Though she’s just eleven, the petite Westphalian mare has become something of a pillar of consistency in Allie’s string, consistently delivering results that sit on or just under the 30 barrier at this level.

“She’s a wonderful mare — I’ve had her since she was four, and it’s been a really fun journey. She’s unbelievably reliable, and if a mistake is made, which is rare, you know it was genuine,” says Allie, who makes her Nations Cup debut this week — though not, notably, her European competition debut. Allie has previously ventured across the pond twice for runs at the top level with Sound Prospect, who contested Luhmühlen and Pau prior to the pandemic. Now, though, her focus remains in the UK and, like the rest of her teammates here, on Bramham’s big, tough CCI4*-L, which returns to the calendar next month.

For Ms. Poppins, the chance to perform on Houghton’s uniquely undulating arena was as much of a training exercise as anything, but the workmanlike little mare never faltered.

“We don’t do dressage on grass often, and while she’s correct, she’s not an overly big mover, so I know if I push too hard she’ll just get faster, not bigger,” says Allie. “So knowing that the medium was coming down the hill in the end of the test, I was really holding her like, ‘come on, stay uphill, don’t trip!’ But she just put in the test that she almost always does — she never disappoints me.”

Caroline Martin returns to Houghton with Islandwood Captain Jack. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Acting as team anchor, and the only rider on the team with previous call-ups, is Caroline Martin, who posted a 30.4 to sit 19th overnight with the stalwart Islandwood Captain Jack.

“‘James ‘is like fine wine — he just gets better with age,” she laughs. “He’s not the most talented horse, and he’s not fancy, but you’re not going to find a horse that has more heart. He first came over here when he was nine, so he was young, and I was young when I got him, so he has a lot of bruises in his training — I scratch my head sometimes and wonder what I was thinking! But these are the horses you’re going to look back on and be so grateful for. It’s like having my best friend over here with me. For a long time, he physically couldn’t do the movements — he’s bred to pull a plough, but he’s getting more and more correct.”

Caroline, who last competed here in 2018 and then returned to Europe the following year to contest Aachen, brings a sense of well-earned pragmatism to the table as she makes her return to Houghton’s Nations Cup: “I had been planning to go to Luhmühlen, but any time I get the opportunity to ride on a team, I’ll take it — I don’t care if it’s four-star, two-star, whatever! Getting to practice the team atmosphere is so important to me, so I’m so grateful for them to put me on this grant. I haven’t performed well in the past, so hopefully it’s James’s and my time to shine. There’s a lot that feels the same — Leslie Law has been at the helm of the development squad for years — so in a way, it feels kind of second-nature to come back and have all these cylinders firing.”

Caroline’s arrival at Houghton marks the two-week point since her arrival in England, where she’s planning to spend the next six months — at least — based with Kiwi eventing legend Andrew Nicholson. With three horses already in situ at his Wiltshire base, and another four on their way, she’s settling in quickly — and the move marks a priority shift that she explains has been an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.

“When I got the Wilton Fair Grant at the end of last year, it kind of threw me into a bit of a spin because I’m so set up in America — I have my farm, I have my business program, and I thought I had everything all set up,” she says. “But then they said, ‘do you want this opportunity to step away from the sales and focus on your career again?’ and I said, absolutely! Andrew has always been my idol — anytime I wake up in the morning and I’m nervous for cross-country, I pop on a video of him, and I’ve read his book like, a hundred times. So when they told me I’d got the grant I knew exactly where I wanted to go.”

Caroline, who produces sales horses for Emile Spadone and Paul Hendrix, is enjoying the chance to focus on producing upper-level results with a tangible end goal in mind: to represent the US on the world stage.

“Since day one, I’ve always wanted to be a top rider, and the sales thing came along when I needed to figure out how to support myself, but it has taken over — I need to get back to my career,” says Caroline, who continues to work with Spadone and Hendrix and is considering creating a remote sales operation out of Andrew’s yard alongside her competitive pursuits. “I’m so grateful to have been put on this Nations Cup team, because it feels like the perfect introduction to my new life. I’ve got a little bit of home with me, in a way, and then I get to start afresh. I’m excited to be a student again — that’s my biggest excitement — and not be spread so thin. That’s the hard thing about being home; I take on too much. I don’t know how to say no, and I like to take on a challenge.”

Caroline’s support team at home has been a fundamental part of her international ventures this year: “I’m so grateful to them, and the biggest shout-out has to go to Casey McKissock — I was like, ‘I’m leaving!’ and she was like, ‘okay, bye, I’ve got this!'”

Isabelle Bosley and Night Quality. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Also basing at Andrew Nicholson’s, though just temporarily in this case, is team debutant Isabelle Bosley, who ventures across the pond for the first time with her eleven-year-old Night Quality. This is an exciting early juncture in the 24-year-old’s career: she and Night Quality have made their journey up the levels together, stepping up to four-star in the latter half of last season. Their Houghton start — and team debut — comes as just their twelfth FEI start as a partnership.

They begin their week in 74th place, picking up a score of 39.3 after a test of two halves that included some lovely moments and, frustratingly, one uncharacteristic blow-up in the first flying change that saw the horse rear dramatically and then continue on quite sweetly.

“He pulled it back together after that,” says Isabelle with a laugh. “He’s a bit spicy — I describe him as a bit of a naughty pony. He’s lazy and then hot, all at the same time, and he gets in the ring and definitely bubbles up. He can have moments like that, unfortunately, and I need to make sure I use a lot of leg but stay calm at the same time and just keep on pushing forward. He’s something else!”

For Isabelle, though, this week isn’t about winning in the first phase — it’s all about consolidating the bigger picture and preparing for their second CCI4*-L, which will be at Bramham next month and follows a top-ten finish in their debut at Morven Park last year.

“The jumping bit we like a little bit more,” she says, smiling.

Isabelle cites her experience with Andrew so far as a significant learning opportunity on her trip abroad: “He’s been great — he’s pretty laid back, but also really helpful, and he’s been able to give us the inside scoop on the shows. He knows the deal over here, so that’s been really nice — we can pick his head about everything.”

Though this is Isabelle’s first competitive trip abroad, it’s far from the first time she’s come to the UK on an eventing recce: she’s worked for US five-star stalwart Lillian Heard for seven years, and has travelled over with her for all three Burghleys and her Badminton run.

“It’s been really helpful to groom for her over here and take it all in — I’ve been able to see what it’s all about,” she says. “I knew what I was walking into and how it would all work, which definitely makes it less stressful. The first time we did a Burghley trip, I was way more stressed than I am now!”

Cornelia Dorr and Daytona Beach 8. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Cornelia Dorr takes the team pathfinder role in her Nations Cup debut, which she’s contesting with the smart Daytona Beach 8. Daytona is one of several horses she’s brought with her to the UK base of Australian Olympian Kevin McNab, with whom she’s been training since the tail end of last year. At 12, the Oldenburg mare — who was sourced from Sandra Auffarth’s yard for Cornelia by Dirk Schrade in late 2018 — rounds out a relatively young team of up-and-coming horses, which makes Houghton a largely educational experience. Her first-phase performance, which has historically been fairly spicy, looked to bubble over a bit in the ring, and the pair walked away with a score of 42.7 to sit in 91st place going into showjumping.

“I was actually really happy with her trot work, but it all kind of caught up to us in the canter,” says Cornelia. “But she tried really hard for me. She just has some stuff we’re working through, and so I’m really happy with how she tried to stay with me in the trot.”

While Daytona Beach can struggle in this phase, she makes up for it across the country with her enormously consistent performances: barring one activated MIMclip, she’s never had a jumping penalty at four-star level, which means that her, and Cornelia’s, team debut can be all about the building blocks.

“I’m grateful to [the selectors] for that — they know the flatwork is a work in progress, so I’m really grateful for the opportunity,” says Cornelia, who has previously competed in England with former top horse Sir Patico MH. This time around, she’s in it for the longer haul and already, she’s made the most of learning opportunities that will shape the rest of her professional career.

“I’m getting married in June, so I was really excited to be able to sneak away and do this before I get tied down,” she laughs. “Kevin has been amazing — he’s a magician. He’s just fabulous, and has been so good for me as a rider — and I’m so glad I’ve got five more months here to keep working on everything!”

One of the major steps that Kevin has helped Cornelia make is finding an extra gait for her fizzy mare: “She never used to walk in a dressage test, so that’s a big deal that Kevin’s got back for us! But beyond that, the scientific level of his training is fascinating to me, and I really enjoy that.”

The team standings at the end of the first phase.

Tim Price and Vitali take the lead. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though we’ve seen two full days of dressage, with over 90 competitors in this class, the first-phase lead wasn’t pinned down until the very last rotation of team riders in the final session. New Zealand’s Tim Price, who had already laid down a 29.9 for provisional 17th place with day one ride Spartaco, piloted his Tokyo mount Vitali to a 21.2 in a performance that made the whole thing look frankly easy.

“He’s so much fun to ride when he’s like that,” he said to his support team as he dismounted with a broad smile. ‘That’ is relaxed, focused, and with him – which isn’t always a given for the relatively inexperienced horse, who has an impressive resume behind him with Tim so far but has actually only been a part of the rider’s string for 18 months.

“Mentally, he’s quite immature – he’s a late developer, but when he’s relaxed, he can focus, and when he’s focused, he’s so easy to get on side,” explains Tim. “Then I’m able to be relaxed myself, and I don’t have to be thinking one step ahead. I can just enjoy it.”

Their expressive, fluid test allowed them to overtake British team pathfinder Tom McEwen, who now sits second overnight with the exciting Bob Chaplin. Previously produced to the Young Horse World Championships by Australia’s Paul Tapner, Bob Chaplin has always had an enormous amount of natural scope within his movement, but building the strength required to marry that with accuracy and correctness has been a slower process. So far, though, the time and patience looks to have paid off, and Bob Chaplin’s work around the side of the arena ensured that those gathered were paying very close attention indeed to the test that followed.

Tom McEwen and Bob Chaplin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“He’s so much stronger, and he’s getting better and better. We used to get away with things because he’s pretty, and now it’s all about trying to finalise the details,” says Tom, who plans to debut the gelding — and currently 21st-placed Braveheart B — at Luhmühlen CCI5* next month. “He’s really flashy on the flat — the trot is unbelievable, and now I just need to make the test as correct as possible so we can keep the marks as high as we can. The medium trot is incredible, sure, but right now we can do that in other parts of other movements!”

Oliver Townend and Cooley Rosalent. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Third place overnight is held by World Number One Oliver Townend, who brings his young mare Cooley Rosalent forward for her second CCI4*-S after an abortive debut at Burnham Market in April. The smart mare, who’s a full sister to Irish team horse Jewelent, has had considerable success on the world stage in young horse classes, and looks to be one of Britain’s most compelling up-and-comers — as long as those errors at Burnham Market, which was arguably designed tougher than usual, prove educational. They begin their week with a 25.7, followed closely by fourth-placed Heidi Coy on 26.3, who makes her Nations Cup debut for the British team with the ten-year-old Russal Z, just weeks after breaking her collarbone in a fall.

“This is only actually my second or third event back since then, so I’m still getting back into it, but the mare’s really good even though she’s a young horse. I had three weeks off, and a lot of painkillers, and then I got back on because I was determined to get to Chatsworth with her. She was amazing, to her credit — she pulled off a 29 and a clear cross-country there.”

Heidi Coy and Russal Z. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“She’s only ten, and she’s only little, but she tries really hard,” continues Heidi, who has already picked up a number of four-star top tens with the mare, including second place in the under-25 CCI4*-L at Bicton last year. “The dressage has been a work in progress, but she’s always tried so hard and she really got the result she deserved today — so hopefully we can pull it off for the rest!”

Kitty King enjoys a weekend away with ‘fun ride’ Ceylor LAN. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kitty King rounds out the top five — and breaks up that sea of greys — with her Rio Olympics mount Ceylor LAN who, at fifteen, is now her ‘fun ride’ for four-star shorts.

“He doesn’t enjoy the fitness work to get ready for the longs,” she explains, “and so he gets to come out and do these and have a nice time, as do his owners.”

For Kitty, too, it’s a refreshing break from the pressure of producing a championship mount in Vendredi Biats, and both she and ‘Sprout’ looked to be having a spectacularly jolly time as they worked their way to a 27.3.

The competition heads into its showjumping phase this afternoon, followed by a cross-country finale on Sunday. We’ll be bringing you a full report from each day, plus a preview of the cross-country track to come, right here on EN – so stay tuned for all the updates from Houghton and, in the meantime, Go Eventing.

The individual top ten at the end of the first phase.

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Prolific British Medallist Miners Frolic Dies Age 24

Tina Cook and Miners Frolic at Badminton. Photo by Jenni Autry.

We’re sad to report that the great Thoroughbred Miners Frolic, who partnered Great Britain’s Tina Cook at two Olympics, has died at the age of 24. Miners Frolic, known as Henry at home, was retired early in 2014 after suffering a heart fibrillation on a hack, and subsequently enjoyed eight years of rest and relaxation at the home of Sarah Pelham, who co-owned him alongside Nicholas and Valda Embiricos. He particularly enjoyed spending time with his companion, Sarah’s grandson’s pony Jolly.

Tina’s journey with the great gelding (Miners Lamp x Mighty Frolic, by Oats) was punctuated with extraordinary highs and dramatic comebacks: they contested both the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics, winning individual and team bronze in 2008 and team silver in 2012, when they finished sixth individually. They also represented Great Britain at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, taking team gold and individual 29th place, and at the Europeans in 2009 and 2013, taking double gold medals at the former to become the European Champions. The pair also finished sixth on Henry’s CCI5* debut at Luhmühlen in 2009 and nabbed a top twenty at Badminton in 2013, his final season — though it was that most iconic of British events that was very nearly the site of a much sadder end for the horse. In 2011, he was withdrawn before his dressage test due to an insect bite on his withers, which swelled sufficiently that he couldn’t wear a saddle — and in the weeks that followed, it would take a complicated turn for the worse, leading to admission to Arundel Equine Hospital in late June for a nasty bout of enterocolitis and endotoxemia, effectively a life-threatening bacterial infection and inflammation of the colon that’s generally linked to an adverse reaction to antibiotics. Henry survived as a result of round-the-clock care by the veterinary staff, but for several achingly long days, his recovery seemed unlikely.

All’s well that ends well, though, and one of Henry’s most covetable characteristics was his gritty tenacity, whether facing down a life-threatening illness or a tough cross-country course. In 2012, he returned to competition and to the Olympic stage, representing the home nation at the London Olympics in front of his enthusiastic fan base. His 2013 season was also a great success, with that top-twenty Badminton result, another successful European Championships appearance, and a top-five finish at CHIO Aachen, too – and although he’d been aiming for selection at the 2014 World Equestrian Games, his sudden retirement at the start of that year meant that he went out on a high, with the 2013 European Championships as his last FEI outing.

“Miners Frolic was as close to the ideal type of event horse that you would wish for,” said then-chef d’equipe Yogi Breisner upon the announcement of Henry’s retirement. “Very few horses make it to Olympic Games yet he made it to two, winning medals for Britain at both. His Olympic achievements combined with his European Individual gold puts him among the hall of fame of top event horses ever. He has been fantastic for the British team in contributing to several big successes in his career. He was a wonderful individual and a lovely horse to be around.”
Indeed, his record speaks for itself: in 18 of his 37 FEI starts, he finished in the top ten, and was the Reserve Seven-Year-Old World Champion at Le Lion d’Angers in 2005 — notably, the heyday when Thoroughbreds were still eligible to compete. He was a stalwart of the circuit and the British team at a time when success for the squad felt much less certain than it does now, but it’s hard to imagine an era in which the classic, consistent Henry wouldn’t flourish. Though he quickly flunked out of his intended career as a racehorse, he certainly landed in the right family early on: Tina’s late father, Josh Gifford, was an exceptional racehorse trainer, and her brother, Nick, is very successful in his own right, and there’s a real sense of collaboration in their Findon, West Sussex family base. Though Henry’s breeder Maurice Pinto had sent the 17hh five-year-old to Nick, he was quickly repurposed and passed along to Tina to see if there might be something special there — and astutely so. When Nicholas and Valda Embiricos came in as part-owners, there was a real sense of a cyclical fairytale playing out — they’d also owned Aldaniti, the extraordinary 1981 Grand National winner who partnered Bob Champion, newly recovered from cancer, to victory. Aldaniti was trained by Josh Gifford, and though Josh’s passing in early 2012 shook the bedrock of Tina’s life, the interwoven links between her horse of a lifetime and the people connected to him kept his indefatigable spirit alive as she and Henry tackled the Olympics that year.
Our thoughts are with Tina, Henry’s owners Sarah, Nick, and Valda, long-time groom Rachel Tolley, and all of this special horse’s connections.

 

 

It’s Been Pure Fun: Celebrating SAP Hale Bob OLD’s Exceptional Career

Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD win CHIO Aachen in 2019. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

In what has been an enormous week for top-level retirements, with Cooley Master ClassVandiver, and Qing du Briot among those stepping back from the limelight, the end of eighteen-year-old SAP Hale Bob OLD‘s extraordinary career feels particularly poignant in its magnitude. The Oldenburg gelding (Helikon XX x Goldige, by Noble Champion), who was bred by Dr Rolf Lueck, had been on a trajectory towards another German team appearance this year at the World Equestrian Games, but was pulled up midway around the course at Pratoni’s test event CCIO4*-S earlier this month with a tendon injury.

Though it’s desperately sad not to see ‘Bobby’ bow out with another medal to his name, his achievements have been so far beyond the scale of many of his compatriots that we could wax lyrical about them endlessly – and our own image archives are so well-stocked with images of the big man doing his thing that we wanted to take a closer look back at his exceptional successes with Ingrid in the irons.

Bobby came to Ingrid’s stable as a five-year-old, having previously contested some showjumping classes — but it was his sire line, rather than any natural ‘wow’ factor, that really drew the rider’s attention. His sire, the Thoroughbred Helikon, was also the sire of Ingrid’s — and latterly, William Fox-Pitt’s — previous mount Seacookie, and at just shy of 72% blood, Bobby was bred to the hilt for the sport. To ensure an innate sure-footedness across the country, Ingrid first focused on hunting the young horse, then turned her attentions to the German young horse classes, or Bundeschampionat, which he contested with both Ingrid and her former partner, Andreas Busacker. Though he wasn’t a particularly easy horse in the beginning, and Ingrid considered selling him on, she quickly realised that the key to getting the best out of him was to connect with him on an interpersonal level — and soon, their famous friendship blossomed.

“Bobby is not a spectacular mover and he had a very poor Thoroughbred trot when I got him at the age of five. Bobby is a horse that showed his qualities later in his life. He has so much stamina, he is such a fighter, so fast and so bold, and so good in cross country,” said Ingrid to The Horse. “Now his dressage has really developed. Every year he is getting a little bit better and his jumping is neat. I think he has all the talent he needs.”

 

 

Ingrid Klimke and then-Horseware Hale Bob. Photo by Julia Rau.

Though we often look back at Bobby’s career as being part of many of Ingrid’s own extraordinary milestones, he actually also played a part in another major German rider’s competitive education, too: early on in his international career, he partnered 2021 Boekelo winner and 2020 Le Lion d’Angers winner Sophie Leube around her first FEI event, helping to lay a foundation for the rider that has become, in the decade since, a promising trajectory to a potential first senior championship appearance this year.

Just three years after that, Bobby and Ingrid would hit their first milestone, winning the CCI5* at Pau in 2014 — Ingrid’s first victory at the level. They would follow that up with several ‘nearly’ moments at five-star — they were second at Badminton in 2015, and ninth in 2017 after a freak stop in the showjumping scuppered their chances of victory — but that early Pau win was far from their zenith as a partnership.

 

Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob at Badminton 2015. Photo by Nico Morgan.

There are few horses as prolific as Bobby, who boasts 70 FEI starts on his record and among those, 19 wins and 52 top-ten finishes. Most notable, perhaps, has been their consistent success as members of the German team: they’ve twice been European Champions, winning individual gold in 2017 at Strzegom and 2019 at Luhmühlen, and helping the German team to gold in 2019 and 2015 at Blair Castle. They finished fifth individually at Blair, and again at last year’s European Championships at Avenches, where they took home a team silver medal.

In 2018, they sat in second place following the dressage at the World Equestrian Games, and moved up into first after a tough day of cross-country — but it wasn’t to be, and the final showjumping fell agonisingly late after they’d jumped it, pushing them into individual bronze position. They’ve got an Olympics under their belt, too, and though that was a trickier week for them, they still contributed to Germany’s team silver medal, finishing 16th individually. Their shot at a second attempt, at last year’s Tokyo Olympics, was put on the back burner after Ingrid herself picked up an injury earlier in the year and was sidelined for the Games.

Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob OLD at Luhmühlen. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

 

Though the title of German National Champions evaded them, Ingrid and Bobby consistently ended up on the podium of the CCI4*-S class at Luhmühlen, and they enjoyed great success at arguably the world’s greatest horse show, winning the CHIO Aachen CCI4*-S in both 2017 and 2019, and finishing second there in 2015.

Bobby’s FEI record reads like a pony-mad girl’s dream come true, but for Ingrid, and for those of us who had the sheer joy and privilege of following his career, he was more than a purveyor of world-class results — he was, as Ingrid always beamed during post-ride debriefs, his rider’s very best friend, and always, consistently, just the most fun horse to pilot. We can believe it, too: one look at his pricked ears and sky-high knees proved that he was as hungry for the flags as Ingrid and, had he not been derailed by this unfortunate injury, we’d no doubt have seen him fighting for another individual medal at this September’s World Equestrian Games.

While we won’t have the honour of doing so, we suspect that such a great horse will get his final moment in the spotlight with a formal retirement ceremony — once, of course, he’s had the time to recover fully under the careful auspices of Ingrid’s home team and veterinarian Dr Ingrid Hornig. Until then, he’s in the very best of care, and will enjoy a long and happy retirement in the field once his injury has sufficiently stabilised. In honour of everything he’s brought to eventing, we’ve pulled some of our favourite archive images to share with you — and to Bobby, we thank you for your great contribution to the sport. Thanks for the memories, old boy.

Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“He’s Been a Very Dear Friend”: Double Kentucky Winner Cooley Master Class Retires at 17

Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class. Photo by Shelby Allen.

World Number One Oliver Townend has announced the retirement of seventeen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Cooley Master Class (Ramiro B x The Swallow, by Master Imp), with whom he won the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event in both 2018 and 2019.

“Very emotional to announce the retirement of Cooley Master Class today. We bought him as a 4 year old and he has for the last 13 years been a fantastic competition partner but moreover a very dear friend,” wrote Oliver in a statement on his social media pages. “His competition highlights include back-to-back Kentucky 5* wins, 2nd at Maryland 5*, team silver at the European Championships and 16 international top 10 placings. He’s now 17 years old and although still fit and well, we’ve always said it’s important that he retires from competition on his own terms and we feel that the time has come.”

Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class, winners of the 2019 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

The gelding, who is owned by Angela Hislop, has been with Oliver throughout his international career, which began auspiciously in May of 2012 with a second-place finish in the CCI2*-L at Ireland’s now-defunct Tattersalls Three-Day Event. Bred by County Wicklow’s John Hagan, he began his early education in the showjumping ring, contesting four-year-old classes under the saddle of Ireland’s Cathal McMunn before spending his five-year-old season with Steven Smith. From there, he was sourced by Richard Sheane of Cooley Farm, who set about placing him with the right rider for the job ahead — and Sheane’s savviness in pairing him with Oliver would yield the Cooley empire its first five-star victory a handful of years later.

Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Though the gelding has been prolific in his career accomplishments, he’s done so with a remarkably limited number of runs: at seventeen, he retires with just 29 FEI starts under his belt, and would often come out for just a couple of major outings per year, as part of Oliver and his team’s ongoing efforts to manage a number of ‘niggles’. In those 29 starts, he notched up an impressive 15 top five finishes, with two wins at Kentucky, a second place finish at the inaugural Maryland CCI5* last year, and a team silver and individual ninth place at the 2019 European Championships among the highlights of his career.

Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class. Photo by Abby Powell.

Now, Cooley will step back from competition and enjoy a ‘second career’ as a hacking mount.

“Cooley is a huge character and has always made sure to be a yard favourite, so he will retire to a hacking lifestyle where he’ll continue to be treated and looked after like the king he is,” says Oliver. “I could not be more grateful to have had the honour of partnering Cooley for all these years. He’s achieved more than we could have dreamt of and we’ve literally travelled the world together with memories that’ll last a lifetime! Huge thanks to Angela Hislop, who has co-owned him with me, and who’s just down the road from his retirement home to make sure he stays spoilt rotten! Thanks for everything Cooley, and happy retirement!”

Tuesday News & Notes from Legends Horse Feeds

 

 

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Though the subsequent announcement of SAP Hale Bob OLD‘s retirement comes as no surprise after his tendon injury at Pratoni, it’s still a huge moment for eventing — particularly as he’d have headed to Italy this September as one of the hot favourites to take a gold medal with Ingrid Klimke aboard. More importantly, though, he’s been such a cultural rallying point for fans of the sport, who’ve so enjoyed following his adventures with Ingrid and his team, and we’ll miss seeing his happy face out and about at events across Europe. We’ll be looking back at his career highlights this week but in the meantime, thank you, Bobby. You’ve been a real once-in-a-generation sort of horse.

Events Opening This Weekend: Woodloch Stable Young Event Horse QualifierGenesee Valley Hunt H.T.Round Top H.T.Huntington Farm H.T.The Maryland International + Horse TrialsSummer Coconino HT and Western Underground, Inc. TR,N,BN 3 Day Event

Events Closing This Weekend: Cobblestone Farms H.T. IGolden Spike H.T.River Glen June H.T.Queeny Park H.T.Middleburg H.T., Unionville H.T.Aspen Farm H.T.

Tuesday News & Notes from Around the World:

Planning a trip out in the trailer to get some schooling in ahead of your next event? It doesn’t have to feel like a big deal, and you can absolutely keep the whole experience a low-pressure one — with a bit of planning ahead. [Get ready to rock and roll(tops)]

I happily embrace slob life at the barn – or at the very least, I’m terrified of colourful clothing, so I stick to my navy, tan, and black outfits. But a lot of the people who also keep their horses at my yard are a bit younger than me and absolutely committed to getting the latest matchy-matchy set – much to the detriment of their bank accounts, and often, their self-esteem if they feel like they aren’t keeping up with the trends. [Here’s why none of it actually matters]

In a groundbreaking idea I’m absolutely going to steal, Icelandic office workers are calling on the services of freelance horses to craft their out-of-office replies. Absolutely none of this makes any sense, and I’m pretty sure it’s a fever dream I’m having right now, but I’m very into it. [Hwldlfhjsdlr to you too, sir]

With the hottest months fast approaching — and the most intense segment of the season coming with them — do you know how to spot the signs of exhaustion in your horse? And perhaps more importantly, do you know how to tackle it when it happens? [Brush up on your knowledge]

Listen to This: Catch up with what’s been going on in this year’s US eventing season — plus updates on the road to Pratoni — with the latest USEA Podcast.

Video Break:

Take a ride around Britain’s BE100 (Training) championship track at Badminton:

Monday News & Notes from FutureTrack

 

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What’s life actually like behind the scenes at Badminton? Avery Klunick, who’s a five-star eventer in her own right, documented the experience while helping Tamie Smith make her week a seriously successful one. Dream team vibes.

National Holiday: It’s World Turtle Day. Big up the turtles, I guess.

US Weekend Action:

Chattahoochee Hills H.T. / USEA Intercollegiate Championships (Fairburn, Ga.): [Website] [Results]

Fair Hill International H.T. (Elkton, Md.): [Website] [Results]

Hunt Club Farms H.T. (Berryville, Va.): [Website] [Results]

Otter Creek Spring H.T. (Wheeler, Wi.): [Website] [Results]

Spring Gulch H.T. (Littleton, Co.): [Website] [Results]

UK Weekend Results:

Fairfax & Favor Rockingham International: [Results]

Somerford Park (1): [Results]

Tweseldown (2): [Results]

Warwick Hall (1): [Results]

Global Eventing Round-up:

It’s been a big weekend for South American eventers, with FEI events in Chile, Argentina, Colombia, and Ecuador hosting levels up to CCI3*-L as they continue to develop pathways for their up-and-coming riders. Meanwhile, three European events slotted into the fixtures list for the weekend: Great Britain’s Rockingham Castle was joined by Austria’s Ried am Riederberg, which ran a CCI2*-S and CCI3*-S, and Spanish event Arenas de San Pedro, which hosted the same classes plus an additional CCI2*-L and pony two-star.

The Antipodeans had just one event on their radar over the weekend: Naracoorte in South Australia, which had a full roster of short format classes from two-star to four-star. Sarah Clark was victorious in the feature CCI4*-S riding her longtime partner LV Balou Jeanz, while Kirilee Hosier and AEA Flynn took top honours in the CCI3*-S. The CCI2*-S went the way of Chelsea Clarke, who rode Highfield Chiquita’s Chico to the win, climbing from second place after the first phase.

Your Monday Reading List:

One of the great success stories of the Pratoni test event was Beat Sax. At the age of 62, he made his Swiss team debut — which came after 45 years of eventing as a ‘200% amateur’. Even sweeter? The team won. [This is what dreams are made of]

I often feel that eventing’s greatest fundamental failing is its emphasis on toughness. When we prioritise being tough over all else, we learn to swallow our pain and ignore the warning signs, both mental and physical, of something more insidious. Writer Emma Friedman shares her own experience of pushing through after a fall — and why we shouldn’t be so quick to get back in the saddle. [Taking a step back isn’t a sign of weakness]

When we’re young, we think of ourselves as infallible in a lot of ways. And major health interventions such as hip replacements? Well, they’re just for old people, right? Not so much, as university hunter-jumper rider Rhian Murphy discovered when her hip started falling apart in her early teens. [Don’t worry, this has a happy ending]

While there are few things more frustrating than rejigging your horse’s bitting systems, it might be time. A recent study in Finland showed that the vast majority of horses are being ridden in poorly-fitting bits, which can have major consequences. [Time to conduct some routine checks]

The FutureTrack Follow:

Two things I love come together in one account here: horsey grooming tips, secrets, and life hacks — and an achingly cool goth gal at the helm of it all. Niki Baxter of Baxter Equine Services will make your horse look ten times better at competitions this year with her demos and advice, guaranteed.

Morning Viewing:

Give team chasing a go with British eventer Ashley Harrison:

Reporter’s Notebook: Pratoni Pulls it Out of the Bag

Christoffer Forsberg and Con Classic 2 tackle the first water. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It’s been a scant few days since my plane from Italy touched back down at London’s Gatwick Airport, but I’m still in denial: without a scrap of exaggeration, I’d give just about anything to head straight back to Pratoni del Vivaro, where the vibe and attitude is as sunny as the weather (and that’s pretty damn sunny, as my odd collection of tanlines will confirm). The CCIO4*-S Nations Cup also acted as a test event for this September’s World Championships, giving us all a valuable chance to check out the place and figure out what to expect when the big week rolls around — and as I continue to sift through all my many notes and interview recordings to bring you other people’s perspectives on the place, I wanted to take a moment to share some of my own thoughts: thoughts on the hills, thoughts on the road systems, and thoughts on all those Pietros.

Spain’s Eduardo via Dufresne and Maribera Pomes 15.6 cross the country at Pratoni. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

On the worthy challenge for the world’s best — and those on their way up

I’d guessed, as I glanced out the window of my EasyJet flight with a space gin in hand, that Pratoni might be a hilly event: as we coasted through our descent into the heart of Italy’s Lazio region, a great swathe of undulations unfurled below us. But as I’d never been to Pratoni, nor seen much in the way of footage from previous events there, I wasn’t prepared for just how unique the terrain at the event would be. Pratoni del Vivaro sits in an area of protected parkland, all of which used to be part of a chain of volcanos in the area some millions of years ago. The lingering effects of this make it an event like no other, and one that feels uniquely horse friendly: yes, there are relentless rolling hills through the crater, but there’s also extraordinary volcanic ash sand, which has a very different molecular make-up to other types of sand and soil, and simply cannot clump together on a molecular level. This means that it remains consistent, whether there’s a prolonged dry period (very likely) or heavy rain (less so). It won’t become mud, it drains spectacularly so doesn’t tend to give a ‘greasy’ feel on the hills, and it remains springy and almost loamy even when very arid. (Unrelated, but still fascinating, is that the curious science of these ‘ex-volcanoes’ actually has some effect on magnetic fields, too, and there’s a hill very near the event in which gravity is counteracted and rolling objects head upwards. It’s also easier to walk up this hill than down it — though I don’t suspect the same can be said for the hills at the event itself.)

My role as a journalist for the week at Pratoni was simple: get to know the venue, and as many of the secrets of those hills as possible, ahead of the World Eventing Champs this autumn. Preparations for a Championship aren’t always straightforward, and as we saw when Tryon took over the hosting role back in 2018, sometimes they can feel outright chaotic, but I was pleasantly surprised by Pratoni. Beyond some minor logistical tweaks, which are so small and uninteresting that they don’t even warrant me writing about for fear of boring you all to death, everything’s coming along swimmingly: no, they’re not trying to build a number of luxury resorts on site, nor are they constructing five-star restaurants within the premises, but in all ways, Pratoni is prioritising the horses to great effect. The central ‘hub’ of the event — the stables, grazing, arenas, and ‘back of house’ rider and official areas are all very close together, and it was easy enough to watch a test, nip up to the rider restaurant to grab a gelato and a bottle of water, and then head back down to the arena having only missed part of the next. Though the spectator area was mostly still being built and mapped out while I was on site, the country fair, VIP pavilion, and public bars and restaurants are similarly brilliantly located and will hone their focus on local produce and artisans, which will be a real treat for visitors. They’ll also enjoy how accessible the viewing is out on course; there’s a hill you can stand on that gave me a view of seven different combinations, plus a further six single fences, and I could happily have stayed there all day — but when I did meander away to get closer to some fences, I was delighted to find a big screen down at the water complex that allowed spectators to watch all the action unfold. It’s a small touch to implement, but one that does make a huge difference to the experience of watching a competition.

For me, the most important thing to keep in mind when assessing a venue ahead of a Championship is how it contributes to a fair challenge that gives the very best in the world something to sink their teeth into, while also offering useful educational opportunities for those horses and riders who are just stepping into the big leagues. Of course, the majority of the credit must go to course designer Giuseppe della Chiesa, but what a playground he’s got here. While Pratoni’s defining characteristic is its hills, it does also boast several flat loops, which Giuseppe has placed the tail end of his course over; this allows him to test stamina over the terrain in the first two-thirds of the course, but to ease off of tired horses and let them get home happily in the last third. His use of angled brushes and accuracy questions in these final couple of minutes mean that we should still see plenty of influence and drive-bys, but hopefully very few ugly scenes. I also appreciate the way he’s designed long routes: they’re not big looping circles through combinations, which can disrupt the rhythm and lead to ‘picky’ efforts — instead, they’re certainly very slow routes, but set out to ensure that the horse flows through and gains confidence from doing so.

The time will certainly be a factor, and good galloping horses who are real stayers will come into their own here. The clever decision to put the final phase on grass, too, means that this shouldn’t end up being a dressage competition — the gentle undulations of the jumping arena, combined with the aftereffects of the previous day’s exertions and the challenging track designed by Grand Prix showjumping designer Uliano Vezziani, who has been so influential in bringing grass arenas back to top-level jumping, will mean that the competition will surely come down to the wire in September. And that’s what we need: an event that isn’t a walkover even for the very best horses and riders, but also gives developing eventing nations a chance to grow and learn through the week. Pratoni feels like a treasure trove of competitive and educational opportunities, and I’m excited to see how it plays out when we get to the real deal.

The Swiss team returns for a second victory in Pratoni. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

On the Swiss team, who just keep getting better and better

The greatest success story of the test event was the Swiss team, who have always had the potential to be excellent but are finally taking the bit between their teeth and riding aggressively, rather than playing it safe and relying on other teams’ mistakes to get themselves a placing. That’s due, in large part, to the help of Andrew Nicholson, who was drafted in to help them with their cross-country riding in the lead-up to the 2019 European Championships. He’s still in the role now, and when you watch him at work, it’s hardly a surprise he’s stuck around — he’s a natural coach and takes real pride and joy in helping to produce his riders to chase down results. The pride he felt on Saturday, when five of the seven clears inside the time were delivered by Swiss riders, will have been enormous — and probably bigger, even, than their eventual win of the Nations Cup leg, which was hard fought until the very end. They’re starting their season on a serious high, and that’s a great place to begin their pathway to Pratoni. Their main goal there is to produce a result good enough to earn them a qualification for the Paris Olympics, but every time I see them — and I’ve been watching them closely for several years — they get better and better. They’re very nearly at the point where they can start thinking realistically about chasing down medals.

Robin Godel, who won the test event, continues to be absolutely world class — I faintly remember describing him as a ‘continental Andrew Nicholson’ for his natural instincts and horsemanship about four years ago, and his union with the man himself has brought him to a whole new level. He’s got ice in his veins and doesn’t seem to feel pressure at all, but watching him across the country is a masterclass in innate focus and balance. I’ve been backing him and Ireland’s Cathal Daniels as the two best cross-country riders of their generation for a long time, and my resolve on that front has only been bolstered by his exceptional performances here. I’m rooting for him to have a good stab at an individual medal this September, which would help to shift some of Switzerland’s keen interest in showjumping over to eventing.

 

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Beat Sax offered the feel-good story of the week when, at the age of 62, he made his team debut, contributing to that big Swiss win with his only horse, Secret IV. This debut came after over four decades of competing, proving that dreams don’t give up as long as you keep on fighting for them — and everyone I spoke to told me with enormous fondness that he’d been a real lynchpin for team spirit. That can never be underestimated: we saw last season how good the US team can be when it’s cohesive and collaborative, as it was at Aachen and Boekelo, and so having a team member like Beat, who not only delivered the goods on Saturday, but also keeps everyone in the winning frame of mind, is crucial.

On the other end of the age spectrum, 22-year-old Nadja Minder was impressive on both her horses, and was the only rider to bring two horses home clear and inside the time on Saturday. (She also told me I was cool at one point, but she’s young and her judgment calls will improve over time.) Like Beat, she brought a palpably sunny energy to the team, and I never saw her without a smile on her face all week — but in the saddle, she’s laser-focused and will absolutely be a rider to keep a close eye on over the next few years. It’s no surprise at all that Andrew’s having a jolly time coaching these guys, because they’ve all got everything it takes and the right attitudes, too.

Pietro Sandei and Rubis du Prere. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

On the proliferation of Pietros 

“I have a riddle for you to solve while you’re in Rome,” Swedish rider Christoffer Forsberg sagely messaged me at the close of the competition. “What is the name of the rock upon which the Catholic Church was built?”

“Oppression, probably,” I replied, before delivering my final answer: Pietro — the Italian version of Peter, one of Jesus’s apostles, and Petra, the rock upon which he built his first church.

Pietro could feasibly be the answer to just about any question asked about, or during, the test event and indeed, when I put up a question box on the EN Instagram story, one of you even asked why there are so many of them. At Pratoni, you could use it as some sort of bird call: stand in the middle of the lorry park and shout ‘Pietro’ and about ten men would probably come running. One time at Luhmühlen, consummate Italian dreamboat Pietro Roman told me that the ratio of Pietros in eventing is actually extraordinarily high as it’s not as common a name as you might expect in Italy. I don’t think I believe him.

An Italian traffic jam as someone spots a friend and stops for a chat. It’s fine, we’ll just hang out here.

On embracing my inner Alberto Ascari (reluctantly)

Pratoni has an extraordinarily rich history that dates back to the 1960 Rome Olympics — which also must be roughly the last time anyone bothered to pave the roads. Driving in the area around the event is an extreme sport in and of itself, with extraordinary gradients and hairpin bends that you have to navigate, a touch sweatily, in first gear, and a ‘Hail Mary and sod the rest’ attitude shown by the locals that adds just a touch of zest to every experience. Spotted someone they want a chat with on a roundabout? No bother — an Italian will simply stop with no warning and have a chat. Going 70kph in a 30? The Italian behind you will drive so close behind you that you’ll suspect his Fiat is programmed to operate like a Labrador, getting a good sniff of your rear end before roaring past you at a speed that would make even a German on the autobahn wince. I’ve been back in England for 24 hours and have already had to rein in my newfound Italian spirit, which has seen me do THAT very Italian all-purpose hand gesture and loudly call someone an idiot out of my open car window several times. Whoops.

The views are phenomenal — the whole town of Rocca di Papa and its offshoots sit on a vantage point high enough to see practically all of central Italy, but god forbid you get distracted while winding up or down the pseudo-mountain, because there’s not much in the way of guardrails to stop you from plummeting to an admittedly very scenic death. There’s also, for some reason, always Italians just wandering willy-nilly in the roads, so you have to approach all those bends with caution, because even if there’s an available sidewalk, they love to just meander up the middle of the lane and seduce their own demise. And don’t get me started on the one-way systems: Google Maps will lie to you, and dare you to do potentially terribly dangerous and illegal things, but as it turns out, even the people familiar with the roads are slinging back a limoncello and doing it too. Welcome to Pratoni, where the rules mean nothing and the points don’t matter (unless they’re earned while on a horse).

To be honest, you’re not actually much better off on foot, as I discovered while trying to work out crosswalks in Italy. In the UK, the system is pretty simple — if you so much as glance at the crosswalk, all the traffic in the vicinity comes to a juddering halt and everyone tuts while you do an apologetic little jig-jog across the road, waving your gratitude with one of those uncomfortable little smiles that just makes your lips disappear. In Italy, that little jig-jog becomes an all-out panicky sprint as you realise that the oncoming traffic simply is not stopping. The next time you come to a crosswalk, you’ll act more cautiously and wait for the road to clear, and then all the drivers will shout at you for being an idiot and not understanding that you have the right of way. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, frankly. On the plus side, everything around here is impressively cheap, so you can calm your nerves with a couple of litres of wine without having to break a banknote.

On falling in love (with horses)

One of the greatest joys of travelling abroad for events is getting the chance to spot horses I’ve not seen before, and meet riders I haven’t yet encountered. It’s why I love covering the Six and Seven-Year-Old World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers so much, but a CCI4*-S always throws up a good field full of newbies to my personal radar — and this week was no different. There were a few horses I really loved watching, and whose careers I’ll be following with interest.

Emiliano Portale opens up Aracne dell’Esercito Italiano’s extraordinary stride while crossing Pratoni’s terrain. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The foremost of those was Aracne dell’Esercito Italiano, ridden by Emiliano Portale for the home side. The ten-year-old Italian Sport Horse stallion, who was actually bred by the Italian army, finished just outside the top twenty and second in the Italian National Championship, and although his first phase performance was hampered by some tempestuous moments, he shone in the jumping phases. It was during cross-country that I fell irreversibly in love: his natural gallop is extraordinary and looks tailor-made for Pratoni’s relentless hills, and it’s paired with a phenomenal jump that helped him to deliver one of just seven faultless showjumping rounds, too. A glance back at his record previously shows that he can easily go sub-30 when he doesn’t get starstruck in the main arena, and he’s been consistently quick and reliable across the country, with five international wins already in his short career.

“This is what it’s all about for the fans,” said Sam Watson with a grin as he patiently listened to me wax lyrical about the horse on Saturday evening. “The smile on your face while you’re talking about him tells me everything.”

He’s spot on, too: while there’s always plenty of hype built around the sport’s big names, I think a lot of the fun comes from spotting something that’s not in the spotlight and cheering it all the way to the finish. I’m not sure I’ve ever taken so many photos of a horse simply galloping from one fence to another, but Aracne warranted it, and in total fangirl fashion, I had to track Emiliano down as he packed up his lorry, simply to tell him how much I adored his horse. I’d love to see him make a return to Pratoni this September but whatever happens, he’s just writing the first chapters of his upper-level career, and he looks set to be a seriously exciting horse for the Italian front. For now, I’ll be content with scribbling his name in (admittedly very large) hearts on the cover of my notebooks. He is high-speed poetry in motion.

Aminda Ingulfsson and Joystick. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Another horse of the week for me was Joystick, who was best of the third-placed Swedish front, finishing eleventh with Aminda Ingulfson. Aminda made her own four-star debut at the end of 2019, and this was just her second Nations Cup appearance, but as chef d’equipe Fred Bergendorff told me on Sunday, she’s a real fighter and exactly the kind of person he wants on the squad. I got to know her over a jolly dinner at the event, so was always going to follow her rounds with interest, but even with unbiased eyes her team ride — one of two horses she had at Pratoni — really caught my eye. He was reasonably quick across the country and jumped a faultless showjumping round, but what really won me over was how much fun he looked to be having as approached every fence. He absolutely radiated joy in his work (fittingly, given his name), and he was so obviously game and genuine, with a super connection to his rider. Some days it’s fun to deep-dive into performance analysis; other days, all I want to do is sit back and enjoy watching the horses who look for the flags and delight in digging deep. He’s absolutely one of those cool characters.

Eduardo via Dufresne and Maribera Pomes 15.6. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

So many of the Spanish team’s horses’ names read like microwave models (“the Taraje CP 21.10 comes with five heat settings, and can defrost a chicken in ten minutes!”), but there’s some real talent in their oddly-monikered line-up. Eduardo via Dufresne had a bit of a seat-of-the-pants round across the country with Maribera Pomes 15.6, and they were one of rather a lot of combinations to pick up a drive-by at the first combination, but the game, gutsy little nine-year-old ticked so many boxes for me: she’s an Anglo-Arab, which has always been enormously appealing, and she’s got all the scope, talent, and quirks inherent to the breed. She looks the very picture of ‘try’ and certainly found her way out of some tight spots on Saturday. Produced sympathetically at these top levels, she should make a really cool, successful little horse.

Newly relocated Kiwi Amanda Pottinger was a real one-to-watch with her top horse, Just Kidding, at Badminton — but Pratoni proved that she’s got a very good double-hander at the upper levels. Good Timing might have been making his four-star debut in Italy, but he tackled both courses with a maturity well beyond his years, adding neither jumping nor time on Saturday and tipping just one rail on Sunday for a spot in the top twenty. His flatwork isn’t where his stablemate’s is yet, but it’ll get there — and in her short tenure in Europe so far, Amanda has proven she’s an exemplary producer of event horses. I’ll be excited to watch her develop her string in her time here.

A very keen Equistros Siena Just Do It heads out of the start box with Ingrid Klimke after nailng the first-phase lead. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It wasn’t to be for the Germans this week as a team, but individually, they had some exciting moments: I confess I’ve never wholly backed Ingrid Klimke‘s Equistros Siena Just Do It, because her very obvious talent has always come paired with a tendency towards tempestuousness that I wasn’t sure she’d get past. But Ingrid certainly knows better than me, and whatever she’s been doing over the winter with Siena has paid dividends. The mare looked at her best in all three phases, with a will to win that I hadn’t previously seen in her. In a tricky week for Ingrid, that three-phase performance will have meant an awful lot.

Germany’s Sophie Leube and J’Adore Moi. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Elsewhere in the German line-up, Sophie Leube and J’Adore Moi continue to be one of my favourite upper-level partnerships, and I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to see them among the entries for Luhmühlen CCI5* next month, which will be their debut at the level. Though they weren’t in the upper echelons of the leaderboard this week with their ten time penalties across the country, this extraordinarily attractive mare has all the goods, looks like an oil painting, and moves for a ten when she can settle into her work, and I truly believe Sophie is one of the most underrated riders in Europe at the moment, despite winning Boekelo last year with this horse and taking a Le Lion win the season prior with Sweetwaters Ziethen TSF. I’d put money on her winning a medal of some sort with J’Adore Moi in the next couple of years.

Finally, an honourable mention must go to the ride of Spain’s Paula Urquiza Domingo. ‘Hand Solo del Amor‘ must be the only event horse in history to have a name that so blatantly references a very specific type of self-care.

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