It’s Ladies’ Day again at the EquiTrek Bramham International Horse Trials, with the fairer sex leading all three sections. Don’t worry, we’re happy to wait for a moment while you press play on this:
JULIA KRAJEWSKI TAKES NO PRISONERS
The CCI3* class was led throughout the morning by Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street, who posted a 27.9 early in the day. But all eyes were on Germany’s Julia Krajewski, winner of last year’s Luhmuehlen CCI4*, as she took to the arena with Chipmunk FRH.
As predicted, they took the lead – on an incredible 19.4. Even more incredible is that this isn’t the horse’s career personal best – that was posted at Kreuth’s CIC2* in 2016, where he scored an 18.5 – nor is it the venue record, set by Izzy Taylor and Orlando in 2014. What it is is an exceptionally good score for an exceptionally correct test, which affords the pair a margin of 5.8 penalties over second-placed Matthieu Vanlandeghem at the halfway point.
Chipmunk FRH and @JK_Eventing take the lead in style at the Equi-Trek CCI3* at @BramhamPark with a 19.4. Not enough for the overall record at the venue though, @1izzytaylor and Orlando back in 2014! @BEventing @german_eventing @luhmuehlen2018 @EventRiderMstrs pic.twitter.com/qUrO7Xgm53
— EquiRatings (@EquiRatings) June 7, 2018
“It’s very special to get everything right on an occasion like this,” says Julia. “This is my third try at Bramham; the first time, my horse wasn’t quite right before we left, and the second time, I made it to the dressage, but the horse slipped in the medium canter and knocked himself.”
Ten-year-old Chipmunk is something of an up-and-comer when compared to Julia’s stable star, Samourai du Thot, but his results speak for themselves: he hasn’t finished outside of the top ten in his last fourteen international competitions, and he won the CIC3* at Marbach last month in preparation for this competition.
“Competing at Bramham is something I’ve wanted to do for a years,” says Julia. “I thought about taking him to Luhmuehlen for his first four-star, but decided to come here instead. Chipmunk is quite a tall horse, with long legs, and it’s taken him a long time to grow into his body, but he gave me such a good feeling through the test today. He doesn’t have many weaknesses; he’s maybe not the biggest mover, but he’s very correct and pretty and the judges liked him.”
Julia, who works as the German junior and young rider coach, always strives to build upon and improve her performances, even when she finds herself in the lead: “Normally I call home and complain that things could have been better, but today I had no complaints. Although my boyfriend didn’t believe me when I told him my score,” she laughs.
After two aborted attempts, Julia admits that finding herself in this position on Sunday afternoon would mean an enormous amount to her, “but it’s only the first day,” she says, pragmatic as always.
A YEAR OF PREP PROPELS CAROLINE MARTIN
“I’ve been preparing this horse for this class since I came here last year – it’s always been my goal,” says an elated Caroline Martin, who leads the under-25 CCI3* aboard her first ride, Danger Mouse, on a score of 26. Her test was the first in the section, setting an early high standard that her competitors would have to try to catch throughout the day. Though Katie Bleloch and Bulano came close, with their mark of 26.9, Caroline was to be untouchable by the halfway point.
“Everything we’ve been working on, he’s totally taken in,” says Caroline. “He wasn’t stressed by the atmosphere, which is the first really big atmosphere he’s been in. He was so good, and he’s a real class horse. At Houghton, it was quite a lot for him, because he’d run Jersey Fresh and then had to get off the plane and get going, so [US under-25 coach] Leslie Law and I have worked really hard to get him ready for this.”
Their preparation for the test included plenty of stretching work, and ensuring a relaxed atmosphere for the horse to flourish in: “it was all about getting his mind right, because he’s got all the movement, so it’s about keeping him happy.”
Caroline and Danger Mouse’s score of 26 represents an impressive personal best of three marks across all levels, and the ten-year-old gelding still has plenty more to offer, Caroline tells us.
“There’s way more there – I feel like we could shave off another six points. He’s a very exciting young horse for me.”
Caroline credits the inimitable and indispensable coaching of Leslie, as well as the help of groom Charlie Milligan, who stepped in at the last minute to help her this weekend, with getting her and Danger Mouse off to a flying start in this week’s competition.
Hallie Coon and Celien posted a score of 31.9 to sit in equal ninth place overnight with France’s Stephane Landois and Uh La Up De Crazy. Despite losing a couple of marks for small errors in the first halt and flying change, they produced a flowing, elegant test – and one that Hallie assures us is ‘miles better’ than her test at Houghton Hall two weeks ago.
“There’s no comparison between them at all, really,” she says. “I was able to really ride her today, when she still gets a bit unrideable sometimes. We missed the first change, which actually used to be her easy one – somewhere along the way, she’s swapped them around! But I’m really happy with the quality of her work – it’s all coming together.”
The quality is undeniable, particularly in Celien’s trot work, which sees her nearly float across the ground. This, says Hallie, is entirely at odds with the five-year-old she initially bought out of a jumping yard: “she had no trot at all – there was a walk, a canter, the changes were there, but she just couldn’t trot,” she laughs.
Both riders are based with Rodney Powell in Wiltshire for the duration of their tenure here, which has been funded by the Karen Stives Eventing Endowment Fund Grant. The grant, bequeathed by the late Mrs Stives, affords talented up-and-coming US riders a fund of $25,000 to compete and train in Europe, furthering the depth and breadth of their experience and bolstering the success of the US team in the longer term.
“I wouldn’t be able to do anything like this without the help and support of the grant – I’m so grateful to be able to come here and have these opportunities,” says Caroline, who, having received the funding for three consecutive years, is a clear example of the quantifiable positive effect that it has on its recipients’ performances.
The second half of the under-25 section will perform their dressage tests tomorrow afternoon, with Caroline riding her second horse, The Apprentice, at 5.10pm BST/12.10pm EST. Caroline and The Apprentice were eighth here last year, and produced a personal best of 28 in the dressage at Houghton Hall two weeks ago.
ROS CANTERS INTO CIC3* LEAD
Britain’s Ros Canter, the newly-minted World #3, claimed the top spot in the CIC3* aboard the relatively inexperienced No Excuse. Ros has produced the nine-year-old Nekton gelding through the grades, having bought him as a rising five-year-old and contesting the age classes. Now, Michele Saul owns the horse, who finished ninth in his first full CIC3* at Chatsworth last month.
“I still think of him as a young horse, but he’s nine now,” says Ros. “He’s taken a long time to mature because he’s a big horse, but in the last six weeks, he’s suddenly learned how to carry himself. I think, in that way, he’s going to be very like [Europeans mount] Allstar B, who’s really just hitting his peak now, at the age of twelve.”
The pair scored a 24.4, putting them a tenth of a point ahead of second-placed Izzy Taylor and her 2017 Blenheim CIC3* winner Be Touchable.
“It’s so exciting to know that he can go and produce a 24.4, when I can still feel that there’s another 40% of his ability left to come,” Ros tells us. This final 40%, she says, will come when the 17hh gelding matures further and overcomes what she terms a bout of ‘mental tiredness’.
“He can still get tired and feel like a young, green horse at times – he’s laid-back but he has a spooky side, too. He’s so laid-back that sometimes he really could use just a bit of a chivvy up – but then sometimes that really does work in our favour, too,” says Ros. The ability to switch on and off from the job is a useful one when tackling the big atmosphere at competitions like this, but it comes in handy during the odd moments when things go wrong, too – as Ros discovered when No Excuse’s bridle came off as she finished her test. His response? To put his head down and sample the Bramham grass, of course. #priorities.
We’ll be back tomorrow with the latter half of the dressage in all three sections, as well as a look ahead at the testing cross-country course to be tackled at the weekend. Until then – go eventing!