It’s always impossible to predict the exact outcome of cross country day at a major championships, but throw a hurricane into the mix and you really have a plot twist. After much speculation as to how the weather would impact cross country day at the 2018 World Equestrian Games, Florence mercifully postponed the worst of her wrath to give us virtually clear conditions in Tryon.
But it was still a highly influential day on the leaderboard, with the riders agreeing that Capt. Mark Phillips’ course walked deceptively easier than it actually rode. EquiRatings confirmed we saw a 67% clear jumping rate today with 16 pairs catching the optimum time of 10 minutes, but we saw plenty of trouble across the board.
When dressage leaders Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH picked up a runout at 14C at the CSX Junction, Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD had the chance to take the lead. With Wilberry Wonder Pony strapped to her back, Ingrid and “Bobby” delivered a foot-perfect clear bang on the optimum time to sit in individual gold position overnight on 23.3.
“The best thing was that he was so fresh in the finish,” Ingrid said. “He really cantered up the hill and came right in time, so I was very pleased.”
As to whether she thought the track was a true championship course, Ingrid said the outcome on the leaderboard speaks for itself: “Strong riders, good riders, good horses” all had issues, from two-time World Champion Blyth Tait to double Olympic champion Mark Todd.
“(The course) was built that it could happen at different fences,” Ingrid said. “You had to be really focused and everything came quite quick … and you have to do smart thinking.”
The British team delivered clear rounds inside the time with all four of their team riders to sit in gold position overnight on a team score of 80.8. Ros Canter and Allstar B jumped clear and inside the time as the anchor pair for the Brits and sit in the individual silver position overnight on 24.6.
“Going fast is out of my comfort zone — I’m Captain Slow if I can be. But fortunately I just made myself keep galloping at the first, and it just set a really good tone,” Ros said. “It was really intense from that moment. After two minutes it just came up really thick and fast, and you found yourself 20 seconds down on the clock without even feeling like you could have gone any quicker.
“We just had to rely on the fact that the horses were fit, and they galloped so well at the end that we all managed to make it back up in the end.”
Sarah Ennis and Horseware Stellor Rebound delivered in a big way as the anchor pair for Ireland, with a fast clear boosting the Irish to silver position on a team score of 89.0. “Rocket” lived up to his name and skipped around 7 seconds inside the time to put Sarah in individual bronze position on 26.3.
“We’ve got such an amazing team and a really good team camaraderie,” Sarah said. “I can’t believe we’re actually here and this is happening. This is what you dream about.”
The French rose to the occasion and delivered fast clears with all four of their team riders to sit in team bronze position overnight on 91.8. Thibaut Vallette and Qing du Briot ENE HN jumped clear with 1.2 time penalties to sit in fourth place as the highest placed French combination on 26.8.
We’ll be bringing you a slew of comments from the top 10 and other riders who delivered top performances, but first we have to give an extra special shoutout to Lynn Symansky and The Donner Syndicate’s Donner. They emerged as the heroes of the day for the U.S. with a clear round inside the time to sit in ninth place on 28.3.
“I trust him and he trusts me, and everything really did ride completely according to plan,” Lynn said. “I was a little bit down on my minutes midway through the course, but I didn’t panic too much. I gave him his time though the middle because I know I can really rely on the fact that he’s a Thoroughbred at the end of that hill. He just dug so deep for me today.”
Phillip Dutton and Z also delivered a clear round for the U.S. team, coming home with 6.4 time penalties to sit in 21st place on 34.0. “I had to try to catch up at the end and didn’t have a lot of horse left, but we made up some ground.”
While the U.S. sat in bronze medal position after dressage, jumping penalties for Will Coleman and Boyd Martin ultimately dropped the team out of the medal hunt. The U.S. team sits eighth out of 16 teams overnight.
The Mars Sustainability Bay at fence 10 emerged as the most influential combination on course, with 15 combinations picking up jumping penalties there. Will Coleman and The Con Air Syndicate’s Tight Lines, pathfinders for the U.S. team, picked up a 20 when the horse said no to jumping up the waterfall bank on the direct route.
Teams quickly started sending their riders on the long route instead, but that caused its fair share of trouble as well, with the depth of the water and atmosphere from the crowds colliding to create a tricky question for the horses. Boyd Martin and Christine Turner’s Tsetserleg, the second pair out for the U.S., planned to take the long route but had a runout at the boat in the water to end the team’s chances for a medal.
“I just got in there completely wrong and tried to add a stride right at the end, and ‘Thomas’ got underneath it and stopped,” Boyd said. “It was a crushing moment because it destroys the team and the momentum we had. I’ve just come up short today. … It was the one jump I wasn’t even worried about, so this will haunt me for a while.”
Will and Tight Lines picked up a second runout on course at fence 14B, the first corner at the CSX Junction, but went on to complete with 40 jumping penalties and 11.6 time penalties. “My horse was a bit — for whatever reason — not himself today. It’s disappointing,” Will said. “It rode more or less to plan, but for my guy I don’t know what it was — the crowds or what. He was really strong.”
Lauren Kieffer and Vermiculus, who competed as individuals for the U.S., parted ways when the horse left a leg at fence 18A, the table at The Land Rover Turn. She made a valiant effort to hang on but unfortunately couldn’t quite save it.
The Canadian team sits 11th after cross country, with Selena O’Hanlon and John and Judy Rumble’s Foxwood High leading the way. “Woody” jumped clear with 8.0 time penalties to sit in 29th place on 38.7.
“Being in a team situation you’ve got to get the team through, so it was up to me to take some of the long routes, which I wouldn’t normally take with that horse, but I needed to definitely get home,” Selena said. “I couldn’t be happier with him. He felt great pulling up and cooled out instantly.”
Hawley Bennett-Awad and The Jollybo Syndicate’s Jollybo are representing Canada as individuals and knocked it out of the park, jumping clear with 10.8 time penalties to move up to 38th place on 43.5.
“She’s a champion. I could have gone a little faster in the beginning, but I just wasn’t sure what I was going to have in the end, so I went as fast and as safe as I could,” Hawley said. “She is unbelievable. You point her at it, she’s gonna go. She came hauling ass up that hill way faster than I thought she was going to go.”
Colleen Loach and Peter Barry’s Qorry Blue d’Argouges were the first pair out of the start box this morning and gave us a fantastic show, jumping clear with 10 time penalties to sit 40th on 44.4.
“He had lots of run left at the end,” Colleen said. “I think I had him good and fit. Looking at him you wouldn’t think he’d be much of an endurance horse, but he just keeps on going.”
Lisa Marie Fergusson and her own Honor Me also jumped clear for the Canadian team. Adding 8.4 time penalties moved them up from 80th place after dressage all the way up to 48th on 48.6.
She took the direct route at the tricky Mars Sustainability Bay water, and “Tali” was straight as an arrow. “He looked at the waterfall and then he jumped up and was like, ‘Yeah, I see my line. I’ve got it.’ I’m so lucky he hunts flags like nobody’s business.”
Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti were having a cracking round until 18C, the second squirrel brush at The Land Rover Turn, when they got in a bit too close. She tried desperately to hang on but unfortunately couldn’t quite save it.
We thankfully had a very safe day of cross country, way no major injuries reported for horses or riders. We were all very concerned about Anna Freskgård’s mount Box Qutie after the horse pulled up lame at the finish. The mare was transported via the horse ambulance to Tryon Equine Hospital and is being treated for a soft tissue injury.
Norway’s Heidi Bratlie Larsen and Euforian were pulled up by the ground jury after fence 21, and the horse was transported via horse ambulance to Tryon Equine Hospital. He is also being treated for a soft tissue injury.
The final horse inspection will take place at 3 p.m. EST on Sunday, with show jumping still planned to take place on Monday at a time yet to be determined. In the meantime as Hurricane Florence heads our way, all other WEG events scheduled for tomorrow have been cancelled. The media center at the venue has closed as of 8 p.m. tonight and will not reopen until 7 a.m. Monday morning. We will keep you posted as the situation continues to evolve. In the meantime, we are battening down the hatches here at EN headquarters.
We would also like to firmly state for the record that we are PUMPED for the finale of WEG. EquiRatings confirmed that this is the first time since 1996 that all teams have remained in the competition at a World Championships following cross country.
While things didn’t go according to plan for the U.S. team today, we are less than two rails out of sixth place — the threshold for qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. But here’s the plot twist: the Japanese team, which currently sits fourth, is already qualified for the Olympics as the host nation. So, if the Japanese finish sixth or better, the U.S. can actually finish seventh and still qualify for Tokyo.
It’s game on y’all. Keep it locked on EN for much more from Tryon. Go Eventing.