Luhmühlen, Day One: Pippa’s in Pole Position in the 5*; Genius & Madness in the 4*

Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street take a decisive day one lead at Luhmühlen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There’s something to be said for the wave of confidence that comes hot on the tail of a great result — and of the power that it can have to bring on further bouts of excellence. I’m not going to delve into any armchair psychology here, but certainly, mindset is a not-so-secret weapon in its own right, and so, when Pippa Funnell came down the centreline at the Longines Luhmühlen CCI5* for her test today with her 2019 Burghley winner MGH Grafton Street, hot off the back of a win (and a seriously speedy turnaround) at Bramham on Sunday with MCS Maverick, it’s not really all that surprising that she was able to pull out the goods and take a decisive lead.

But that score of 23.1 — a full 3.7 points clear of second-placed Kitty King and Vendredi Biats — isn’t just the result of a bit of good juju in the air. Jonathan and Jane Clarke’s fifteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse has only visited the 30s once since 2017, and has gone as low as 22.8 at this level, when winning on his debut at Burghley. This, though, might even rank higher than that test in Pippa’s estimation.

“I think it’s nearly his best test,” she says. “I thought he was with me all the way, and just lovely to ride. It’s not often I really enjoy dressage, but actually I really enjoyed riding that test– I felt I could go for the movements, and he felt really secure.”

Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It’s the rideability, she explains, that earns those consistently excellent scores for the OBOS Quality son, who might otherwise find this phase something of an uphill battle: “I know he’s a very different type to some of the big, impressive moving horses. He’s got a little, short neck, so that all the time you’re trying to get that neck looking longer. But you’ve got to live with what they were made with and make the best of that, and he’s lovely in his brain to ride in this sort of atmosphere.”

Longtime followers of the sport will know ‘Squirrel’ as a bit of a mercurial character: though he can be excellent — and truly, it does take excellence to win Burghley — he can also be tricky across the country. Now, though, he’s making a bid for a return to glory as an older, and perhaps wiser, horse after a long stint dipping in and out of the sidelines.

“He’s not really done a proper five-star since Burghley [in 2019],” says Pippa. “A lot of it was COVID, then the first year out of COVID  I was really poorly and off games myself. Then the next year, when he was really firing on all cylinders, he went to Hartpury and he picked up quite a nasty injury, where I think he landed over a fence and I thought, ‘oh gosh, is he alright?’ and I went three strides and he felt fine, so I finished and afterwards he was really sore. It turned out that he bruised his pedal bone badly, and it was eight weeks before he came sound, so he missed the whole of that year.”

Last year, she brought him back and aimed him at Badminton, which he started well on a 26.1, but which ended with a fall for the pair that Pippa suspects might have been down to some sense of self-preservation.

“To be honest, you just never know,” she says. “They can’t talk — and I’m not convinced, looking back now, that he didn’t have the injury landing into water or landing off a drop. I thought it was a drop, because I remember him pitching a bit on landing. You never know whether they have memories of these things, and they could easily think ‘gosh, if I jump a fence like that, again, it might [hurt].’ So I think probably in his brain there was a little lack of confidence, and then through that I had that nasty fall at Badminton and we both lost a bit of confidence, I’ll be honest. But then this year, he’s just felt much better again, so that’s why I brought him back.”

Kitty King and Vendredi Biats. Photo by Alex Jeffery.

It’s been a tough old job to please the judges today — especially Germany’s Joachim Dimmek, who’s been laying down the law, and some seriously high standards, from his position at M. For many riders, that’s meant that while they’ve put themselves in competitive positions, they’ve also been disappointed with the scores on paper — and one of those thus affected was Britain’s Kitty King, who sits second overnight with Vendredi Biats on a score of 26.8.

“I was really chuffed with how he went, but it’s disappointing when the marks don’t always reflect how you feel they went,” she says. “It was as solid a test as Badminton and Burghley, where he was scoring 21s and 22s, so 26 is kind of disappointing.

But, she reasons, “if they keep marking harsh, then that’s fine — as long as they keep that up, like they did at Bramham [last week].”

As the French-bred ‘Froggy’ gets older and wiser, Kitty’s finding even more rideability in the 14-year-old gelding — which helps her, like Pippa ahead of her, to overcome any weaknesses he may have in this phase.

“He really stayed solid and he didn’t really make any errors anywhere. At the end of the day, he’s not the biggest mover in the world, but he’s a nice mover and he does everything on the markers and stays with me the whole way round,” she says. “He’s gotten more and more solid as he’s got older — thank goodness, because he was always a bit tricky. But at all the five-stars he’s done he’s not put a foot out of place; even at his first one when he was 10, he did as well as he could. I moan about him at the one-days because he can be a bit annoying, but when it counts, he’s never really put a foot wrong — and the stronger he’s getting at home, it’s coming through into his tests. He stretched better than he normally does and the changes all felt good and that’s all you can ask of him, really. He’s just been really consistent and solid and I think that’s better than one that’s a flash in the pan.”

Laura Collett and Dacapo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

If there’s a theme to today’s competition, it must be that some horses age like fine wine — and Laura Collett‘s Dacapo, at fourteen, is certainly coming into his prime after a rather opinionated youth. Though he didn’t touch his own lofty level personal best — a 25.2 that put him in seventh place after the first phase at Badminton, from which he was then withdrawn as the ground conditions worsened — he certainly made an excellent effort in the ring today, earning himself a 29.7 that’s good enough for third overnight.

“I  was really pleased with him — he missed one change, but other than that, he felt very obedient and did everything when I wanted him to do it,” says Laura. “So I can’t really complain about his performance!”

Dacapo is the first half of a serious double-header for Laura: tomorrow, she brings forward her 2020 Pau and 2022 Badminton champion, London 52, who’s hotly tipped to lead the first phase and is, arguably, the odds-on favourite for the win this week. But there’s plenty to before then, including a tough, twisty Mike Etherington-Smith track that Laura says requires an essential first step: “make sure the sat-nav’s turned on!”

Oliver Townend and Tregilder. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Fourth place is held overnight by Oliver Townend on his second of three rides, the experienced 13-year-old Tregilder, who makes his third five-star start this week. Like their fellow competitors, we saw them trend higher than their usual scores at the level — their 29.9 today is the worst of their five-star results, though only marginally, and largely thanks to a late third change — but it’s enough to keep them well in the hunt going into tomorrow’s second day of competition.

Muzi Pottinger and Just Kidding. Photo by Alex Jeffery.

Likewise, New Zealand’s Muzi Pottinger and her tiny, high-performing Thoroughbred Just Kidding have previously proven they can throw down serious scores at the top level — they posted a 25.9 at Badminton last year — but this time, a 30.7 would have to do for their mistake-free test. That sees them take overnight fifth.

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The best of the significant US contingent here was Boyd Martin, who rode two of his three horses today and sits sixth overnight with Tsetserleg TSF on a 31.1, and eighth on the Annie Goodwin Syndicate’s five-star debutant Fedarman B on a score of 32.4, bookending the tidy 32.1 that sees Ireland’s Elizabeth Power hold onto seventh overnight with the former Tim Price ride, Italian-bred Senza Fine.

“It’s always hard going really early in a class, but I thought Thomas put in a really good test,” says Boyd of his experienced team mount, with whom he performed the second test of the class. “With both horses, though, I wish I had my time over again; I’d do one or two things a bit differently, but all in all, it wasn’t a disaster, and we’re within striking distance.”

Boyd Martin and Fedarman B. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Boyd’s second ride closed out the day’s competition — and was well-supported by ‘Bruno’s’ legion of fans and connections, for whom this wasn’t just a five-star debut for the gelding, but a five-star debut in spirit for his late, much-loved rider, Annie Goodwin. For Boyd, the test was an educational experience for the Dutch-bred 13-year-old, who he began riding at the tail end of 2021.

“He went well, and I was very pleased with him,” he says. “It’s his first attempt at this five-star test, so we’ve been practicing it like mad. We got about 80% of what we get at home, which is pretty good for a first-timer!”

Those practice sessions have been well-supervised by Boyd’s flatwork training dream team, made up of wife Silva and the ineffable Bettina Hoy, both of whom have been on site keeping Boyd and his boys in check (and looking relentlessly glam in the process, it’s important to note). One of their key points of the week, though, didn’t quite come together in the ring: “Bettina and Silva have been training me to try to get the canter a bit shorter, and then I did the exact opposite and let him rip,” laughs Boyd. “You can still feel that he’s a little bit inexperienced in the ring, but all in all I’m very pleased — if we can finish on that, that’d be fantastic.”

The top ten is rounded out by Fiona Kashel and Creevagh Silver de Haar, who rerouted from Badminton after withdrawing before cross-country, and who sit ninth overnight on 32.7, closely followed by their near-neighbours, Tom Jackson and smart debutant Farndon, who hold tenth on a 34.9.

Katherine Coleman and RLE Limbo Kaiser. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

British-based American Katherine Coleman holds thirteenth overnight after posting a 36 with RLE Limbo Kaiser, who was previously campaigned to this level by Great Britain’s Rosa Onslow.

“This is his first five-star with me, and he can get a bit tense, so it’s mainly all about keeping him calm,” says Katherine. “But he was a good boy today — I’m pleased.”

This is Katherine’s third season with the 16-year-old, with whom she’s been aiming for a five-star run since last year: “Rosa went on to have a proper job outside of horses, and I picked him up just to have another horse at the level,” she explains. “He was meant to do Pau last season, and he was having a great season: he was eighth at Barbury, and did well at Hartpury, but he pulled a shoe on cross-country and got a bit of trauma laminitis, so he missed the rest of the season. He was on glue-on shoes over the winter, and now he’s come back out well, though he hasn’t had much eventing this spring [due to cancellations], so he’s just done a couple and then come here. This’ll be my second long-format with him!”

Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Frequent flyers Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire were greeted at the in-gate by a multinational support team: before coming to Luhmühlen, they spent twelve days at Arville, the home base of Belgian rider Lara de Liedekerke-Meier and her husband, German eventer and Belgian team chef d’equipe Kai-Steffen Meier. For several seasons now, Sydney has trained intensively with the Meiers when she’s on the continent, and has sourced horses through them, too, but now, the relationship has morphed into more of a familial one — “I’m Auntie Syd to the kids!” she laughs.

The savvy move to fly in early didn’t just afford her plenty of time for catching up with her friends, though — it also gave spicy ‘Q’, who can be prone to some tension, the best opportunity to settle into a routine and decompress after a long flight before trucking over to Germany. Though their mark of 37.8, which puts them 15th overnight, doesn’t quite reflect it, that effort showed itself in a sweet, sensible test.

“He was so good,” she enthuses with a broad smile. “There was just a mistake here and there, but overall, he was delightful. Two years ago at Aachen, he had a complete meltdown, so this is such a big step for him — the last few years he’s been doing better and better, and he’s thirteen now, so we’re like an old married couple at this point.”

For Sydney, the test was something of a tale of two halves: “I loved the canter work today more than I have the last few outings,” she says. “The trot work was a little bit disappointing, but overall, I mean, he is such a good boy, so I can’t ever be upset with whatever he does.”

Hallie Coon and Global Ex. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Our final US rider of the day, Hallie Coon, goes into tomorrow’s competition just behind Sydney, sitting sixteenth on a 38.4 with the former Katherine Coleman ride Global Ex. Hallie, who relocated to the UK just before Christmas, was ably supported on the ground by Australia’s Kevin and Emma McNab, with whom she rides in Surrey – and we’re particularly excited to see her come forward tomorrow in the CCI4*-S with Cute Girl, the former Seven-Year-Old World Champion, who was piloted by Kevin until last spring.


The top ten at the end of day one of dressage in Luhmühlen’s CCI5*.

Nadine Marzahl and Victoria 108. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Before the CCI5* competitors even got a look in, though, all eyes were on the first half of the CCI4*-S class, incorporating the German National Championships, which got underway this morning in the main arena. At the tail end of day one, it’s very nearly a German whitewash in the top ten — but for a strong bid at some national diversity from Belgium’s Lara de Liedekerke-Meier, who sits fifth on a 31.8 with her homebred Hermione d’Arville, and Italy’s Evelina Bertoli, who’s currently ninth on a 33 with the elegant Fidjy des Melezes.

The overnight leader, though, is a rider who’s more than earned her moment of glory, if only for how calmly she’s dealt with all manner of spicy ginger antics this week. Nadine Marzahl has two nearly identical chestnut mares in this class in Victoria 108 and Valentine FRH, both of whom are sired by the Dutch-bred stallion Valentino 240, and both of whom appear to have inherited a similar tempestuousness — one that’s seen endlessly patient Nadine spend as much time reversing at speed around the venue as she’s spent actually getting to ride her horses forwards.

“They are similarly crazy,” laughs Nadine, who explains that time, tact, and the ability to compromise have been the keys to unlocking the mares’ undeniable talent — which was made evident by Victoria 108‘s expressive, impressive effort in the ring today. That earned them a 29.9 and the overnight lead, both in the CCI4*-S at large and in the German National Championship — but Victoria also made sure that everyone present knew exactly who she was, spooking exuberantly the second Nadine finished her final salute.

“She’s really awake and it’s always just between genius and madness — but today she was really, really good,” says Nadine. But, she adds with a laugh, “It’s not always like this! Today it was the first time for her in such atmosphere and I was a little bit wondering how she would manage it, but she was great.”

Nadine has had the now-twelve-year-old since she was three, which means that she knows all the horse’s quirks and understands the fine line she needs to straddle to keep her performing at her best.

“She was really, really difficult to break in,” she remembers. “But I loved her from the first second, so I tried really hard to get her heart fighting with me. I think now we’re a good team, and I hope that we have some more nice years and can stay on this level and maybe more. You can’t tell her ‘you have to do it’. You get her on your side, and sometimes, it takes a little bit longer. You have to ask her for everything. And you have to tell her ‘okay, it’s your idea, you can do it.’ And then she’ll do anything.”

Julia Krajewski and Ero de Cantraie. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We’re used to seeing Olympic individual gold medallist Julia Krajewski come forward at Luhmühlen with serious heavy-hitters — or, at the very least, little-known up-and-comers that so swiftly become big names that we forgot that we were still furtively Googling them ringside when they first appeared on the centre line here. That’s certainly true of the French mare Amande de b’Neville, who promptly won the Olympic gold just after finishing fifth in her debut here (although, yes, okay, at that point she’d picked up a little win at Saumur, too) — and perhaps it could be true for Julia’s duo of nine-year-olds this week, the first of which has already made a serious impression.

Ero de Cantraie hasn’t long been in Julia’s string — she picked up the ride from France’s Jean Teulere at the end of 2021 — but in their 11 FEI cross-country runs together, they’ve finished in the top ten eight times, and Julia is quietly optimistic that he might have what it takes to be a top contender in her string. Though he couldn’t crack the 30 barrier today — they score a 30.2 for overnight second — he absolutely looked the part. And, Julia says, he felt it, too.

“He’s only been with me for a good year, and he’ jumped a lot before, so he’s kind of had to find his body in the dressage,” she says. “I had it quite sorted for last year and then we had to learn the changes and he was like, ‘what? I can’t do it!’ But he’s always getting better. He tended to get a bit nervous last season, and I couldn’t ride him, and now he’s staying so calm that I’m like, ‘Okay, you can go for more’ and that’s a really good feeling. And I think if he goes from now, and keeps improving, I think he will be very reliable and really cool.”

At this early point in his career — he’s run just one CCI4*-S before this, finishing second at Marbach — he’s beginning to remind her of another very special horse in her stable: the now-retired Samourai du Thot, with whom she competed at the Rio Olympics and won the CCI5* here in 2017.

“Normally he is a very good jumper, he wants to do well, and cross country really, I think it clicked for him this year,” she says. “He sometimes reminds me of Sam somewhat — he has a funny mind, but he’s very trusting, and I have the feeling that once he understood we’re doing it as a team, he was like ‘okay, fine. Tell me what to do. I’m on it.’ It’s really nice; I really like him.”

For both horses, Luhmühlen presents an unmissable opportunity to learn about the challenges of a buzzy atmosphere, plenty of distractions, and a little bit of pressure, too.

“You really only feel what you’re dealing with when you do four-star — before, when you do dressage you’re somewhere in a field and no one sees it,” she says. “But so far, they’ve both done really well. And I’m always happy when I feel that I really established good trust in the early stages, and I’m really excited about both of them.”

Prolific young horse producer Ben Leuwer — the man responsible for horses such as Clever Louis, Chris Burton’s Blenheim eight- and nine-year-olds winner, now ridden by Bubby Upton — sits third overnight on a score of 31 with the eleven-year-old Holsteiner Citius, while Felix Etzel, who rides as part of the German Federation’s Warendorf training system for talented young riders, sits fourth on 31.3 with the diminutive, talented young Trakehner stallion TSF Polartanz.

The second half of the CCI4*-S will come forward from 9.15 a.m. local time (8.15 a.m. BST/3.15 a.m. EST), with US competitors Dan Krietl and Carmango first down the centreline. We’ll see another US competitor not long thereafter in Hallie Coon and Cute Girl, who ride at 9.45 a.m. (8.45 a.m. BST/3.45 a.m. EST), and we’ll also be treated to a test from 2021’s Luhmühlen CCI5* victors Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden at 11.15 a.m. (10.15 a.m. BST/5.15 a.m. EST). The class will wrap up after  Nadine Marzahl and Valentine FRH‘s test at 12.53 a.m. (11.53 a.m. BST/6.53 a.m. EST).

The CCI5* will get back underway from 13.45 local time (12.45 p.m. BST/7.45 a.m. EST) with British duo Will Rawlin and The Partner, and is jam-packed with highlights, including Thoresby winners Emily King and Valmy Biats at 14.37  (13.37 p.m BST/8.37 a.m. EST), Kentucky winner Tamie Smith and her five-star debutant Solaguayre California at 14.52 (13.52 p.m. BST/8.52 a.m. EST), New Zealand’s Tim Price and his Boekelo winner and first-timer Happy Boy at 15.22 (14.22 p.m. NST/9.22 a.m. EST), Matt Flynn and Wizzerd at 15.30 (14.30 p.m. BST/9.30 a.m. EST), World Champ Yasmin Ingham and Rehy DJ at 15.37 (14.37 p.m. BST/9.37 a.m. EST), reigning Luhmühlen winners Felix Vogg and Colero of Switzerland at 16.00 (15.00 BST/10.00 a.m. EST), and 2022 Badminton winners Laura Collett and London 52 at 16.07 (15.07 p.m. BST/10.07 a.m. EST). The day will be closed out by Boyd Martin and his first-timer Luke 140, who’ll ride at 16.22 (15.22 p.m. BST/10.22 a.m. EST), preceded by  Oliver Townend and the third of his trio of rides, Swallow Springs, who reroutes from Badminton.

We’ll be bringing you all the news and some behind the scenes views, too — so keep it locked onto EN for all your Luhmühlen updates. Go Eventing!

The top ten in the CCI4*-S, incorporating the German National Championships, at the end of the first day of dressage.

Longines Luhmühlen: [Website] [Entries] [Timing & Scoring] [How to Watch] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage] [EN’s Form Guide]

EN’s coverage of Longines Luhmühlen is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products and Ocala Horse Properties.

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments