We couldn’t be luckier or more grateful to have Lucinda Green take some time again to share her thoughts on last week’s Burghley CCI4* cross country and look ahead to today’s Blair Castle European Championship cross country track. Multiple Team and Individual European Champion herself, Lucinda is here as a coach this weekend to sole Austrian competitor Daniel Dunst riding Daiquiri Key West so as usual she has a unique perspective.
“Burghley was every bit as exciting as I’ve ever known any Burghley, simply because I was on the edge of my seat thinking the course was a little bit too tiring and possibly a little bit too difficult, and thinking we hadn’t had enough training in our advanced events; anyhow so proved wrong because they were all fit enough, all but a couple really came through the finish well and jumped well the next day, and 42 clear rounds or something but only two inside the time so we see which way the sport is going.
“I think we’ve been seeing it for some time but if the four star can stay at this higher level which it started to do last year at Badminton – Badminton a little bit let us down again this year but that was because poor (course designer) Guiseppe (della Chiesa) got so much criticism for too difficult a course that he just thought ok I’ll just get their confidence back and then hopefully next year it will be a proper four star again – I think if we can keep the top end of the sport at a very high level it will trickle down and encourage the course designers to be a little bit braver at the lower levels; at the moment the three star is almost a different sport than a four star, it’s more motivated by dressage and show-jumping which is a very important part but it shouldn’t be the all-important part.
“The course at Blair is absolutely fascinating, it couldn’t be more different to the one at Burghley, a little bit nearer to the one at Chatsworth but nothing like so big. That’s probably a good thing because we’ve got quite a lot of countries here who aren’t experienced, and I help look after one of them (Austria) and for them I’d like to think it’s a brilliant course because they’ll learn an enormous amount even if they don’t get all the way round it, and it’s not too big. How it will test the top levels of which there are also plenty here, I’m not sure. Again, I would have thought it could be a very tiring course, it’s a different sort of hills to Burghley but having seen them so fresh at Burghley I’m tending to think people have cracked the fitness after getting a fright at Badminton last year when quite a few weren’t fit enough so maybe the endurance side of this won’t be so great.
“I think it will still be quite difficult to get the time, I do hope so, it’s historic at Blair that it’s impossible to get the time I think, maybe the exceptional few like at Gatcombe, so that could make it really exciting at the top end whilst giving the nations that are really needing the experience the chance to get it and not be thrown out at the fifth fence. I think possibly Ian has been incredibly clever but we’ll watch this space….”
In the years since Lucinda competed, eventing has seen a sea change in so many ways, but perhaps courses are beginning to come full circle and we’re seeing a return to something akin to something of the more old-fashioned style.
“Burghley Europeans was small one year, I remember because I nearly won the dressage so I was able to win, it was small and disappointing for Burghley, whereas Luhmühlen Europeans was quite often absolutely enormous and Lausanne in Switzerland was also a cross country test; what we call enormous then may not look enormous now. In the seventies when you look at past videos things were so small but at that time they were as difficult as any of us had ever met. In the eighties you look at it and actually it looks big, and difficult; ’76 Montreal looked impossible, I watched it the other night! What I think Ian’s got here which is what we often lose on cross country is variation: he’s only got seven brushes. I’ve counted 20/25 brushes on courses up till now, and sometimes even 30 and he’s only got seven and therefore he’s had to find variations in profiles and he has.
“People have stopped putting fences in ridiculously difficult places; Mark Phillips was incredibly brave to put a five bar gate on top of the dairy mound at Burghley and that’s what we lack, and look how beautifully it jumped – that’s what we lack, that real guts, Ian has done it with the ditch down the bank into the water. I have a funny feeling that unless the horse is really bold that’s going to ride quite tricky and I’m really glad there’s a long way round.”
Lucinda used to be a selector for Team GBR and thinks they’ve got it right this time.
“I think Team GBR had 39 possibilities and I would have said that a lot of it is picked upon giving them international experience with a view to the next few years, not necessarily just Rio, it’s the ideal opportunity with 12 spaces. I am not a selector anymore and I was very pleased when Sarah Bullimore got in because I felt she really deserved it because she doesn’t probably sit in the category of ‘young up and comings’ anymore she sort of just fell between two stools and I felt really sorry for her, and had huge admiration that she came up anyhow and look what’s happened – hopefully it will continue to be a really good story for her. I think having to get 12 was a really difficult thing because there were so many to leave behind, there were so many who deserved it and that’s why I’m thrilled that Sarah’s come in, it’s great, but of course I’m deeply sorry for the three that had to go out.”
The situation with Lucinda’s Austrian rider, Daniel Dunst couldn’t be more different to the well-oiled machine that is Team GBR; he drove himself here from Vienna on a tiny budget but Lucinda reports he couldn’t be happier to competing at Blair, and she ponders the conundrum of the two vastly different demographics we currently have in our sport.
“He is loving it, he’s loving the pomp and ceremony, he’s thrilled to bits and over the moon! He’s got a lovely team around him, he deserves to get round, he really fights the odds. We don’t want to lose this side of the sport as the other end gets, more and more thrillingly so, competent. But the universality they talk about in the Olympic Games – we’ve only got 13 – 15 nations, it’s nowhere enough compared to other sports. You could bring in India and more South American countries but not higher than 2* level? I don’t think they’d ever get now to the level we’re at, so we’re being pulled at both ends, it’s very tricky.”
Lucinda rushes off to help Daniel and watch the action in the pouring rain, as passionate about eventing, the horses, the people, the sport, as ever. We’re so honoured to be able to share her thoughts on Eventing Nation and wish Daniel and all the riders today safe rides around Ian Stark’s European Championship track. I’m off out to the mixed zone too to try and get some pictures and riders’ reactions as they come in off the course and we’ll be back later with much more from Blair Castle hopefully. Thank you to Lucinda of course, and thank you for making Eventing Nation part of your Blair Castle weekend. Go Longines FEI European Eventing Championships and Go Eventing!