On Top of the World: Your Complete Guide to the 2022 FEI World Championships Competitors

In the immortal words of Almost Famous‘s glamorous groupie Penny Lane, “it’s all happening!” We’re finally here in sunny Pratoni del Vivaro, just south-east of Rome, for the 2022 FEI World Championships for Eventing — and we’ve got an incredibly exciting field of entries that’s jam-packed with 27 nations and some truly extraordinary talent and stories. Want to get to know them? Pour yourself an Aperol and dive on in, baby.

Andrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Andrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos 

13-year-old Anglo-Arab gelding (Jaguar Mail x Illusion Perdue, by Jalienny), owned by Paula and David Evans, groomed by Clémentine Girardeau

4*/5* dressage average: 29.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Tokyo individual bronze medallists (and team silver medallists!) Andrew and Vassily will be looking to improve upon their podium placing here, and they’ve certainly got form on their side. Produced to CCI4*-S by France’s Tom Carlile — arguably the world’s greatest producer of young event horses, and himself a competitor this week — Vassily has an eye-wateringly good record, with just one whoopsy ever in an international out of 30 FEI starts. That was back in 2017 at Sopot, where he made his CCI4*-L debut, and other than that, he’s finished in the top 10 in every event bar Fontainebleau CCI3*-S in 2016, where he was fifteenth in extraordinary company. He’s now had sixteen consecutive top-tens in a row, and even more impressively, he’s finished on his dressage score 20 times out of 30 FEI starts. Five of those non-FODs come from crossing the finish lines less than five seconds over the optimum time. In short? He’s the most consistent horse in this field, and while he won’t lead the pack in the first phase, he’s nearly guaranteed to make his starting score his finishing score.

Fun fact: Last year was 63-year-old Andrew’s eighth Olympics, making him the most seasoned Olympian in Australian sporting history. This will be his fifth World Championships — he and Vassily competed at Tryon in 2019, finishing a frustrating fourth individually. Totally unrelated? Vassily arrived at Andrew’s yard on May 13, 2017 –  the same day he got married to wife Stefi, who he describes as “my absolute rock.” And one of the secrets to his excellent feel for a horse? A spot of, um, kangaroo-flipping as a child. “We tried to ride alongside the kangaroo, grab it by the tail and flip it off its feet,” he says. “I think we did it in one out of a hundred kangaroos.” That, he explains, taught him to “go with the horse”.

Shenae Lowings and Bold Venture. Photo by Stephen Mowbray.

Shenae Lowings and Bold Venture 

12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Devaraja x Royal Zam, by Zamoff), owned by the rider, groomed by Olivia Barton

4*/5* dressage average: 28.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: 26-year-old Australian team debutante Shenae is one of two riders on this squad who’s actually based in Australia, where she’s been enjoying a seriously excellent last couple of seasons. She and her ex-racehorse Bold Venture won the Melbourne CCI4*-L back in June on a finishing score of 25.3, adding that to a roster of success that includes a win at Tamworth’s CCI4*-S in March. Their form can be a bit up and down: the gelding had a spate of teething problems while learning the ropes at three-star and then stepping up to four-star, but they’ve looked formidable in 2021 and 2022.

Fun fact: To minimise the stress of the journey to Italy, Shenae and Bold Venture travelled to the UK in July and have been basing themselves with fellow Australian Sammi Birch.

Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam 

14-year-old KWPN gelding (Quidam x Nairoby, by Amethist), owned by Scuderia 1918 and Emma McNab and groomed by Lucy Hartley

4*/5* dressage average: 30

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: British-based Kevin’s top horse is an animal that can seem quite ordinary on paper at short-format, largely because Kevin is very tactical in how he uses his runs and tends to cruise at a low travelling speed at CCI4*-S. But the gelding isn’t actually a slow horse, as you can see when he steps up to a long format: he was clear inside the time at Kentucky last year, and added just 2.8 time penalties at Tokyo. A 20 in a CCI3*-S at Millstreet just before Pratoni was a bit of a shock result, but hopefully it’ll serve to sharpen this very competitive pair up as they aim to replicate last year’s team silver medal.

Fun fact: “Don Quidam is cheeky in a nice way; he’s a bit of a pretty boy, a bit blonde in a nice way. Every day’s fun with him — he’s a horse you enjoy riding each time,” says Kevin, who runs a thriving yard south-west of London with wife Emma, who rode on the Australian team at the 2018 World Equestrian Games. The son of dairy farmers is a rider who’s really been waiting for his own big moment: he’s responsible for producing world-beating riders including Chris Burton and Jock Paget, and now his time has come to shine.

Shane Rose and Virgil. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Shane Rose and Virgil

17-year-old Warmblood gelding (Vivant x unknown dam), owned by Niki Rose and Michelle Hasibar, groomed by Jamie Atkinson

4*/5* dressage average: 30.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Isn’t it a treat to have Shane Rose back in the Northern Hemisphere? We got so used to seeing him around the UK and European circuit in 2017 that we didn’t quite accept that one day he’d leave us to head back to his base in Australia, where he trains eventers, racehorses, and fighting kangaroos [Ed. note: please check this]. While he was here, he and Virgil finished sixteenth at Burghley, seventh at Luhmühlen, and took the win in Blair’s CCI4*-S, and upon buggering off back from whence they came, they promptly won the CCI4*-S at Camden, finished second in the CCI4*-S at Werribee, and won CCI4*-S classes at Canberra and Camden once again. They popped over to Tryon in 2018 for the WEG, although it didn’t go quite to plan: they had a sub-30 dressage but picked up a 20 across the country. Since 2019, though, they’ve been on flying form: in 10 FEI starts, they’ve won six times, been top-ten nine times (including tenth place individually at Tokyo), and had just one little whoops — a rider fall across the country at Tamworth CCI4*-S. They’re a real banker pair with serious team experience.

Fun fact: At 17hh, Virgil is one of the biggest horses in the field. Don’t expect Shane to get vertigo up there, though – he’s extraordinarily tough, or perhaps just a bit mad. His business is split between eventing at the top level and producing racehorses, and along the way, he’s amassed enough injuries to make Boyd Martin look fresh out of the box: he’s broken both arms and legs a couple of times each, smashed both wrists, reconfigured his thumbs, done most of his ribs, punctured a lung, split his liver, contracted a brutal staph infection, and got himself a new face – with eight metal plates behind it – after a particularly hideous accident left him in a coma for a week. He’s also battled through thyroid cancer, back in 2001 when he was 28. Four years after that came the accident that rearranged his face, when he was using long reins to teach a horse to enter the starting gates and ended up being double-barrelled. His face was in such bad shape that the surgeons had to work from photographs to recreate it. “I took in photos of Brad Pitt, but it didn’t work,” jokes his wife, Niki.

Hazel Shannon and Willingapark Clifford. Photo by Julie Wilson.

Hazel Shannon and Willingapark Clifford 

17-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Passing Shot x unknown dam), owned by Terry Snow, groomed by Bronte Buttel

4*/5* dressage average: 31.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Hazel and her impressive Thoroughbred have won Adelaide CCI5* three times — more than any other combination. After setting the Southern Hemisphere alight, they ventured north, heading to Pau last year as their European debut, though they withdrew before cross-country. The blow of such a decision was softened by Hazel’s long-term plans: instead of going home for Australia’s summer, they headed to the UK and have been based with Kevin and Emma McNab ever since. Kevin is an exceptional trainer of riders, and he’s been helping Hazel to refine the marginal gains. This year, we’ve seen them run well, though steadily, at Burnham Market CCI4*-S and take thirteenth at Millstreet CCI4*-L, where they rerouted after a rider fall at Badminton. They earned their spot here at Haras du Pin CCI4*-S, where they pinned down a top twenty finish in a world-class field of over 110 entries.

Fun fact: Tasmanian Thoroughbred Clifford was so hopeless as a racing prospect that he didn’t even make it to starting gate training, but in 2011, when Hazel was just eighteen and had a year of eventing experience under her belt, they came together courtesy of Clifford’s then-owners, who lived next door to Australian superstar Heath Ryan, with whom Hazel was training. Their record since has been very exciting: over 44 FEI starts, they’ve picked up 28 top-ten finishes, including 11 wins.

Harald Ambros and Mountbatton 2. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Dr Harald Ambros and Mountbatton 2

12-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Mount Etna XX  x Weimar, by Wolkenstein II). Owned by the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 34.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: This will be a team debut for the relatively inexperienced Mountbatton, who has been a second string to Harald’s stalwart partner Lexikon. He’s got just one CCI4*-L under his belt so far: that was Baborowko in Poland, where he finished eleventh last spring. He travelled to Pratoni, alongside Lexikon, for the test event in May, which he completed with a 20 across the country, but he was relatively quick even with that mistake. He won’t come here to be competitive as an individual, but this World Championships is about building on the hard work that Austria has put in as a developing eventing nation, and coming home ready to tackle the final day will be the main thing.

Fun fact: You don’t see many event riders with a doctorate, but Harald Ambros is out here showing the world what a bit of multitasking can do: he’s a practicing dentist alongside being a regular member of the Austrian team line-up. Of course, he’s not the first dentist to make a splash at the top levels: the 2008 Olympic individual and team gold medallist, Dr Hinrich Romeike, was also regularly found rooting around in people’s molars.

Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati and Oklahoma 2. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati and Oklahoma 2

12-year-old Trakehner mare (Sixtus x Osterfreude V, by Donaumonarch). Owned by Nico Hauf and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 37.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: This will be a second Championship appearance for Oklahoma, who was part of the Austrian team at last September’s European Championships in Avenches. She was 38th there, and the Austrian team finished sixth, which would be a serious landmark moment for them if they can replicate it here, as it would allow them to take a qualifying berth at the Paris Olympics. That might be a bit of a stretch, but Austrian eventing is certainly on the up and up — and young Oklahoma, who stepped up to four-star in 2019 with a third-place finish at Strzegom on her debut, is an exciting horse for them to send out of the starting box. Her first and final phases aren’t particularly competitive yet, but she’s become a consistent, reliable cross-country performer and should secure an essential completion.

Fun fact: Katrin has historically chosen not to work with a trainer, but instead to self-educate and focus on the production of her horses without outside influence.

Lea Siegl and DSP Fighting Line. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Lea Siegl and DSP Fighting Line

15-year-old German Sport Horse gelding (Stalypso x Pia, by Laretto Diavolo). Owned by Marianne Mühlböck.

4*/5* dressage average: 32.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: 24-year-old Lea and her feisty chestnut gelding wowed on the world stage last year, finishing 15th at the Tokyo Olympics and giving the wider horse industry a reason to pay attention to Austrian eventing. That confidence boost has had a palpable ripple effect on her compatriots, with Austrians putting in a great show — particularly in the first phase — at last year’s European Championships. Lea herself rode another horse — Van Helsing P — there, finishing 16th and best of her nation, but it’s with this horse that she really shines. They’re very quick, and excellent across the country, and that’ll help them climb from their low-30s dressage when Saturday proves seriously tough.

Fun fact: At just 22, Lea was the youngest rider in the Tokyo field – but only by the tiniest of margins: Switzerland’s Robin Godel was born one day before her. She managed to qualify an impressive three horses for Tokyo, but opted for ‘Fighty’. She’s trained by her father, Harald, who rode for Austria at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and she and Katrin were just the second and third women ever to represent Austria in eventing at the Olympics.


Lara de Liedekerke-Meier and Hermione d’Arville

9-year-old Belgian Sport Horse mare (Birkhof’s Royaldik x Kyra du Relais Pachis, by Kashmir van Schuttershof). Owned by Five Star Eventers SPARL and Larga SPRL.

4*/5* dressage average: 31.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Lara has been a stalwart of the Belgian team since her teens, when she first represented the country at the Pony Europeans. In total, she’s ridden in eleven Europeans across the Pony, Junior, Young Rider, and senior levels, and made her World Championships debut in 2010 riding Nooney Blue, her Young Riders partner. Nooney is now a lynchpin of Lara’s extensive breeding programme, and some of her offspring are moving up to the top levels now. Hermione isn’t a daughter of Nooney, but she’s an integral part of the production line at Arville, the Belgian castle estate at which Lara and her husband, German eventer and Belgian chef d’equipe, base their operation and run an international horse trials, too. She’s one of the youngest horses in this field and much more inexperienced than some of Lara’s other rides, but on her day, she’s very good, and she’s getting quicker with each run, too. They won’t fight for an individual placing this week, but Lara’s experience and the mare’s talent will help the Belgian team on their path to trying to nab a Paris ticket.

Fun fact: Lara, who has a Master’s degree in Commerce, was raised by eventing parents: “For as long as I can remember, there have always been horses around me. I got my first pony when I was eight years old. It wasn’t a very easy journey from the start [of her competitive eventing career]. I was often eliminated. I was told that I lacked fighting spirit to get to the top level. There were a lot of pitfalls but I think it forged my character.”

Karin Donckers and Fletcha Van’t Verahof. Photo by William Carey.

Karin Donckers and Fletcha van’t Verahof

17-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Vigo d Arsquilles STX x Southern Queen, by Southern Gale). Owned by Joris de Brabandere, Carl Bouckaert, and the rider. 

4*/5* dressage average: 29.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Karin and Fletcha van’t Verahof are lynchpin partnership for Team Belgium. Karin is one of the most decorated riders in the field with over three decades of Senior Championship experience. She’s had six Olympic Games (1992, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016) and seven World Championship (1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018) appearances. Her best finish among those came in 2014 with Fletcha van’t Verahof where they were fifth individually. 

This pair have an impressively competitive cross country record with only two completions having jump penalties across an eleven year partnership. They finished the CCI4*-L at Pratoni last fall in fourth place individually, earning a 25.6 on the flat, one of the best dressage scores at the level in the last several years. That experience should give Karin valuable intel for team Belgium this weekend.

Fun fact: Karin’s direct reserve for this championship, Leipheimer van’t Verahof, is a full brother to Fletcha van’t Verahof. 

Senne Vervaecke and Google van Alsingen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Senne Vervaecke and Google van Alsingen

11-year-old KWPN mare (Watch Me x Pinot Brun VH Pannehof, by Forever). Owned by BVBA Alsingen.

4*/5* dressage average: 39.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: This is Senne’s Senior team debut, though he is no stranger to championship pressure as he has represented Belgium at six Junior and Young Rider European Championships in his young 25 years. He brings forward the eleven-year-old chestnut “Google” who Senne has brought up the levels. Aside from two blips at Advanced level, they are quite proficient in the cross country phase, and their show jumping usually adds nothing to their final tally, though they’ve only done one CCI4*-L where they had four down on the final day.  

Most recently at Le Pin au Haras, they had a personal best on the flat (35) and only time added across the jumping phases for a last boost of confidence before Pratoni. 

Fun fact: Belgian individual rider Maarten Boon was Senne’s babysitter growing up.

Jarno Verwimp and Mahalia. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jarno Verwimp and Mahalia

10-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Elvis ter Putte x Cohiba, by Condrieu). Owned by Marc Rigouts and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 32.3

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Jarno is the youngest rider in this year’s field at just 21 years old, and he’s riding one of the youngest horses, too, in ten-year-old Mahalia. This is his senior championship debut, but he’s no newcomer to the British team: he’s represented Belgium at Pony, Junior, and Young Rider European Championships, most recently last year with this mare. They suffered a horse fall there, so didn’t complete, but they’ve had some exciting results since, including third at Strzegom CCI4*-S and second at Baborowko CCI4*-L as part of a five-run stint of top-five finishes at FEI events. This is a big step up in their career but one they’re very capable of making in fine style.

Fun fact: We love a good international eventing friendship, and Jarno’s bestie is in this field representing another team: Nadja Minder of Switzerland is one of his nearest and dearest, and when he finished second to her at Baborowko, one of the highlights of the week was seeing them share a cuddle on the podium. They’ll no doubt be cheering one another on from the sidelines this week.

Maarten Boon and Gravin van Cantos. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Individual: Maarten Boon and Gravin van Cantos

11-year-old KWPN mare (breeding unknown). Owned by the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 31.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Pratoni will be Maarten’s first championship appearance. Gravin van Cantos is Maarten’s primary upper level horse, and he’s brought him up the levels to include an appearance at Le Lion as a six-year-old. The pair have not had a cross country jump penalty since 2019. They can be quite quick at the three-star level, but have a smattering of time at four-star level. Here at the test event, Maarten jumped clear with 12.8 time penalties.

Maarten owns the mare himself, and she’s been told to be gentle enough for his children to help look after her.

Fun fact: At 17, Maarten groomed for Kris Vervaecke in the 1998 World Championships in Rome. Now, 24 years later, he’s back riding as an individual alongside Kris’ son, Senne. “It was clearly written in the stars,” he says.

Carlos Parro and Goliath. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Carlos Parro and Goliath

11-year-old KWPN gelding (Chello III VDL x Octa, by Belisar). Owned by EMTEC Laboratories and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 35.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Eleven-year-old Goliath was one of the youngest horses in last year’s Olympic field, and arguably the least experienced. He’d done just two CCI4*-L competitions since stepping up to four-star at the tail end of 2020: on his CCI4*-L debut at Barroca d’Alva in December he retired after two problems on course, but then regrouped for a steady clear at Strzegom in April of last year. It all worked out well, though: Goliath delivered a steady clear, finishing 32nd. Since then, he’s come on in leaps and bounds, delivering faster, more attacking clears at short formats — including this spring’s test event, where he was 26th — and improving the other two phases, too. It’ll be exciting to see him consolidate that in this, his first long format since the Olympics. This should be a great educational building block for longer-term success if Carlos is able to ride him with that in mind.

Fun fact: Carlos first moved to the UK to train with Chris Bartle in 1997, and then set up shop permanently from 2002. These days, he gets help on the flat from none other than Britain’s most-medalled female Olympian of all time, dressage superstar Charlotte Dujardin. Last year was his third Olympics: he competed at Sydney and Rio, and rode at the WEG for the first time when he was nineteen.

Marcelo Tosi and Glenfly. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Marcelo Tosi and Glenfly

17-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Presenting x Dorans Glen, by Over the River). Owned by the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 33.3

XC speed rating:  ☆☆☆

Reliability rating:  ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 3

The need-to-knows: Tokyo was nearly a second Olympics for Glenfly: he did the Rio test event and was very much in consideration for the real deal, but Marcelo decided he was too inexperienced and opted to save him for the next Olympic cycle. By the time he made his Olympic debut, he did so with a WEG run and three five-stars under his belt: he jumped clear at Tryon in 2018 for eventual 53rd place, and he’s jumped clear around Kentucky in 2019 and Pau the same year, though Marcelo took a tumble in their Burghley attempt. Though they’ve amassed 15 top-six finishes in FEI competitions in Brazil, they tend to find themselves a bit further off the pace against top-class fields, and were out at the second horse inspection in Tokyo. They won’t trouble the obvious medal candidates, but Brazil would be savvy to send them out as the first of their competitors: Glenfly is experienced, and Marcelo has been a stalwart member of the Brazilian team, so they’ll be able to bring back crucial info — particularly on those hills. As a full Thoroughbred, Glenfly will give a solid indicator of how much staying power they require.

Fun fact: Glenfly was the only full Thoroughbred in last year’s Tokyo field – his sire is top National Hunt stallion Presenting, and his dam is by the same stallion who sired British Olympic silver medallist Over To You. Glenfly himself raced underwhelmingly over fences, despite his not inconsiderable purchase price of €44,000 as a yearling from Tattersalls Ireland. He retired from racing in mid-2012 after pulling up in his final run, and Marcelo bought him directly from his owners after a tip-off from a friend. By the end of the year, he’d run in several BE90 (US Novice) events. Marcelo’s partner is top British dressage rider Anna Ross.

Marcio Carvalho Jorge and Kilcoltrim Kit Kat

13-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Waldo van Dungen x Kilcoltrim Kitten, by Ghareeb). Owned by Alison and Helen Mordaunt and Alistair and Annabel Vere Nicoll.

4*/5* dressage average: 35.1

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: This is just the sixth FEI start for Marcio and Kit Kat as a pair — the mare joined his string just this year, and has been fast-tracked to a qualification to allow Brazil to field a team for this Championships. Because of that, the aim for Marcio won’t be to try to be competitive — it’ll be to complete safely, contributing to the team effort and helping them to fight for a placing that will yield them a spot in Paris. Previously produced by Great Britain’s Katie Prowse, Kit Kat stepped up to four-star last year, and has had two clears in five runs at the level so far, including in her one and only CCI4*-L.

Fun fact: Three-time Brazilian Eventer of the Year and two-tie Olympian Marcio is a tough cookie: in 2019, he broke his leg, underwent surgery, and was back in the saddle in just over a month. He’ll have managed the injury well, too: he worked as a doctor and anaesthesiologist in Brazil, riding after his shifts at the hospital. If that doesn’t sound like enough of a feat of time management, he also managed a rubber plantation.

Ruy Fonseca and Ballypatrick SRS. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Ruy Fonseca and Ballypatrick SRS

11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Pacino x Ballypatrick Romance, by Clover Hill). Owned by Renata Rabello Costa and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 32.1

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: British-based Ruy, whose farm is the training hub for the team, is a real stalwart of the Brazilian front, having competed at three Pan-American Games, two Olympics, and two World Championships. One of those Pan-Am appearances was with his Pratoni ride, Ballypatrick SRS, who recently made a blazingly fast, impressive go of the Eventers Challenge class at Hickstead. At in 2019, they were eliminated for a horse fall, but the gelding was very young and inexperienced then, and has come on in leaps and bounds in the seasons since. We’ve seen him place in a CCI4*-L at Sopot, a CCI4*-S at Strzegom, and a CCI3*-S at Montelibretti this year alone, and though he’s not quite ready to try to compete with the obvious frontrunners here, this pair should put in a solid performance as Brazil fights for a team completion and — if luck is on their side — a ticket to Paris.

Fun fact: Ruy’s wife, Renata, is an accomplished equestrian in her own right, and represents Brazil in dressage.

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jollybo. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jollybo

18-year-old British-bred Sport Horse mare (Jumbo x Polly Coldunnell, by Danzig Connection), owned by the Jollybo Syndicate LLC and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 33.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 3

The need-to-knows: Stalwart multi-Olympian Hawley Bennett-Awad and her little mare that could (but don’t you dare call Jollybo little!) certainly need little introduction, particularly to their North American fan base. Hawley’s been around more than a few World Championship tracks, both with Jollybo (Tryon 2018) as well as Gin & Juice (Normandy 2014, Lexington 2010) as well as two Olympic Games (2012, Gin & Juice; 2004, Livingstone). And at 18 years young, Jollybo will tackle her second World Championships touting an impressive resume of clear cross country runs.

Running a small operation out of Galway Downs in southern California, Hawley maintains a low number of personal horses and training clients, instead opting to travel the country teaching in-demand clinics. This allows her to focus solely on the careful finessing of the British-bred mare by Jumbo. Even though Jollybo would be considered one of the eldest horses in the field, her miles are relatively low as Hawley only selectively preps her for major events – and with a consistent performer like this mare, why waste the wear and tear?

So it’s a very fit Jollybo who arrived at Pratoni early this week after a short training camp alongside teammates Holly Jacks and Candy King. Show jumping will be this combination’s sore point, but Hawley works hard at home with coaches Susie Hutchinson and Buck Davidson, so you can be sure she’s coming into this week determined to deliver an anchor performance in what could be this little supermare’s final championship tour.

Fun Fact: Hawley’s close friend, Maralee Paul, travels to groom Jollybo at major events, and Hawley can always be found traveling with stuffed animal mementos/good luck charms that always adorn Jollybo’s stall.

Holly Jacks and Candy King at Kentucky. Photo by Kristin Strehlow Photography.

Holly Jacks-Smither and Candy King

12-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Grafenstolz x Eye Candy, by Moothyeb), owned by the Candy King Eventing Limited Partnership.

4*/5* dressage average: 32.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: When Holly Jacks learned that her longtime five-star partner, More Inspiration, had a heart murmur just before the start of competition at Kentucky last spring, she wasn’t sure what would come next. She had Candy King coming up the levels, but you don’t know if you have a five-star horse until you try – and worse, she was going through some life changes that appeared to necessitate the sale of her top horses. So she listed the British gelding by Grafenstolz on the open market, but before he could sell some of her supporters banded together to form what’s now known as the Candy King Syndicate to keep the horse with Holly.

It was a gesture Holly will never forget, and she’s done her best to make good on her commitment to make the most of her partnership with the gelding.

While this pair’s five-star debut at Maryland last year didn’t quite go to plan (Holly was attempting to ride with a broken ankle and wound up parting ways with Candy King midway around cross country), Holly kept the faith and was rewarded with a clear cross country and a top-15 finish in the tough Lexington 4*-S this spring. Following that with an eighth place finish at Tryon’s spring 4*-L all but stamped Holly’s ticket to Italy, and now she stands on the cusp of her second senior championship. She’s not a stranger to pressure, though: she’s represented Canada in Nations Cup competition and is a steely athlete through and through.

This will be a stiff challenge for the still relatively green Candy King, but through his career he’s proven to be a dependable cross country horse more than capable of delivering a solid team performance in his big-stage debut.

Fun Fact: Holly has also boxed competitively, so best not to get on her bad side. (Just kidding, Holly, you’re actually quite nice!)

Karl Slezak and Fernhill Wishes. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Karl Slezak and Fernhill Wishes

12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Chacoa x KEC Galway Bay, by Gildawn Diamond), owned by Kirk Hoppner and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 35.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Nickelback-loving Karl Slezak (yes, it’s likely no longer funny and no, we aren’t planning to stop) and Fernhill Wishes debuted at the five-star level at Kentucky last year, but it would be at Maryland in the fall that they’d get that first completion after an otherwise gorgeous Kentucky cross country was cut short by a fall. Karl’s long term goal for this horse has been these World Championships, and he’s spent the majority of 2022 in the UK, rerouting from Badminton to Luhmühlen where he and “Chocy” finished 15th.

Karl and Chocy have worn the team jackets before, riding for the Canadian team in the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, collecting a team bronze in the process. Their record carries a couple of blips, but experience has done well for this pair, who jumped clear around the Hartpury 4*-S in August in prep for this week. They’re certainly capable of scoring a competitive sub-30, but it will depend on just how fresh Chocy feels on dressage day.

Fun Fact: I don’t actually think Karl loves Nickelback THAT much. Were you just too nice to say no to that t-shirt? Blink twice if you need help.

Mike Winter and El Mundo. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Mike Winter and El Mundo

13-year-old KWPN gelding (Numero Uno x Calvaro’s Bria Z, by Calvaro F.C.), owned by Jonathan Nelson, Emma Winter and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 33.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Based in the UK out of his and his wife Emma Winter’s Wayfarer Eventing, Mike Winter will make his first appearance on a World Championships roster with the 13-year-old El Mundo. This combination has two five-star completions under their belt, one at Pau in 2021 and one at Badminton this year, and are another that are capable of delivering a strong team ride this week.

Mike is a two-time Olympian, having ridden for Canada in 2004 (Athens, Balista) and 2008 (Hong Kong, King Pin). He’s also a two-time Pan American Games medalist (2007, Kingpin; 2003, Balista), so this depth of experience will mix in well with the veteran and fresh-faced riders on Team Canada.

El Mundo, or “Roberto” as he’s affectionately named in the stable after a former friend and employee, was originally a sale horse in the Winter program, but then the gelding suffered a major leg injury that required long rest and nearly round-the-clock care. It was during this period that Roberto became a family horse, cared for and brought back to health by the Winters. By the time he’d healed and rehabilitated, the for sale sign was gone.

Because of these setbacks, fortuitous as they may have been in the long term, the gelding didn’t have his first full season of eventing until his eight-year-old year. But he took to the game quickly and naturally, stepping up to the 4* level in 2019. This combination has delivered low-30s scores in the past, but a mid-30s is closer to their average so they’ll be looking to climb following the first phase.

Fun Fact: Like many of us, Mike came from a non-horsey family and caught the horse bug and, later, the eventing bug after going away to a summer camp and riding for the first time. These days, he’s a vocal campaigner for opening the doors to riders from all backgrounds, and champions diversity movements within the sport. You’ll spot him riding with Black Lives Matter stirrup irons.

Dana Cooke and Mississippi. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Dana Cooke and Mississippi

12-year-old Württemburg mare (Cassini II x Liastra, by Legaat), owned by the FE Mississippi Syndicate LLC.

4*/5* dressage average: 31.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Dana Cooke gets her first World Championship nod as a call-up following the withdrawal of Colleen Loach and Vermont. She’ll bring forward her 2019 Pan American Games partner, Mississippi, who has really grown in the intervening seasons as she’s gained mileage. This spring, the pair delivered a very impressive fifth-place finish at the “five-star-short” Lexington 4*-S.

Typically based in Mooresville, NC out of Kingfisher Park Equestrian, Dana temporarily relocated to Ireland this year to get in some additional mileage and exposure on the international scene. They were top-5 at Burgham’s 3*-S in July and also jumped clear around Hartpury’s 4*-S last month.

While the team and individual riders have yet to be announced for the teams, Dana and Mississippi are ready to step into their role and will be looking to lay down the rides of their lives in their biggest challenge to date.

Fun Fact: You’ll be able to ID Mississippi, who is also known as “Miss Perfect” in the barn, by her very distinctive, faintly grey and white markings. She’s a gorgeous gal, that one!

Alex Hua Tian and Don Geniro. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Alex Hua Tian and Don Geniro

15-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Don Kennedy – Gina, by Giorgione), owned by Pip Higgins, Sarah Higgins, Pam Dews, and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 24.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: 32-year-old Alex returns to Championship level with his Rio and Tokyo partner The Don, with whom he was the lynchpin of the fledgling Chinese team last year. Don is spectacular on his day, and can easily put a 22 on the board in the first phase, but his marks do tend to fluctuate through the twenties if he’s struck by his inner ‘Psycho Don’. On cross-country, he’s generally reliable but does have the odd blip – including at Bramham CCI4*-S this year and Bicton CCI4*-S last year. Now 15, he’s less likely to demonstrate his sense of humour in the first phase, but the wind will need to blow in the right direction to get his best performances this week. If all goes to plan, he can easily aim for another top-ten finish – but there’ll be a few folks holding their breath until their round is over on Saturday.

Fun fact: Alex made history in 2008 when he became China’s first-ever Olympic equestrian and the youngest-ever Olympic eventer at just eighteen. Though it ended in heartbreak – he fell on cross-country – it spurred him on to improve and he returned to the Games at Rio in 2016 and finished in eighth place. He’s a testament to all the reasons why you shouldn’t write off the developing nations, nor the riders you may not know quite as well yet, because he proves that every step along the way is a crucial brick in the foundation being built. He’s also a forward-thinker within the equestrian world, not just for his work with the Chinese equestrian federation on building the sport, but as an ambassador for the Red Cross, the founder of a charity to help low-income kids get in the saddle, and an outspoken supporter of inclusivity and diversity in the sport. We have no choice but to stan, as the youth say.

The Czech Republic’s Miloslav Prihoda Jr and Ferreolus Lat. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Miloslav Prihoda Jr and Ferreolus Lat

12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Jaguar Mail – Veonille II, by Royal Dance), owned by Vladimir Malak and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 34.3

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: This pair were quite successful in the horse’s first couple of seasons competing internationally, with several top-ten placings to their credit, and they still occasionally sneak onto the leaderboard at the upper levels now: they were third in a CCI4*-L at Sopot, sixth in the CCI4*-L Olympic qualifier at Baborowko, where Poland booked their team ticket, 10th in a CCI4*-S at Sopot, and seventh in a CCI3*-S at Kreuth, all in 2019. In 2020 they gave solid but uncompetitive performances, which continued into 2021 – most notably at the Olympic Games, where he finished 33rd with a pin penalty, and the European Championships, where he was 29th and clear. They won’t be fighting for a top finish here, but they could prove to be a delightful surprise this week with three exciting performances that will win them plenty of admirers.

Fun fact: 31-year-old Miloslav underwent hip surgery when he was just twelve years old, and the aftereffects of the operation affected him for several years thereafter. He’s from a particularly horsey family: his mother show jumped, his father evented, and both his younger sisters have evented at FEI level. He’s competed at seven European Championships, representing the Czech Republic at Pony, Junior, Young Rider, and Senior level, and finished thirteenth twice at the Young Riders level. He’s had Ferreolus Lat since the horse was a four-year-old, and there are four paternal half-brothers in this field: Vassily de Lassos, Joystick, Box Leo, and Colorado Blue are also by Jaguar Mail.

Miroslav Trunda and Shutterflyke. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Miroslav Trunda and Shutterflyke

11-year-old Dutch Riding Horse mare (Sir Shutterfly – Zaramba, by BMC Kigali), owned by Svobodova Adela

4*/5* dressage average: 40.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Miroslav tends to produce his own horses through the levels, rather than buying established competitors, and this is a prime example: Shutterflyke first hit the international scene in 2017, and that year, she finished eighth in the Six-Year-Old World Championship, beating fellow Tokyo competitors Goliath, MP Imagine If, Chicuelo, and Fascination, as well as notable horses such as Cooley Quicksilver (Liz Halliday-Sharp), Senza Fine (Tim Price), and John the Bull (Susie Berry). Across her 30 FEI runs, she’s finished in the top ten 16 times, and while she tends to compete in Central to Eastern Europe where the entry lists are somewhat smaller, she’s still beaten significant opponents at four-star, including Julia Krajewski’s Amande de b’Neville, Michael Jung’s Highlighter, and Louise Romeike’s Cato 60. She’s a fast, efficient horse on cross-country with the right kind of fighting spirit that’ll serve her well this week. Her showjumping is improving significantly, and while her high-30s score will keep her out of the upper echelons of the leaderboard, she’s another under-the-radar horse who you might find yourself falling in love with this week.

Fun fact: Prague-based Miroslav is a full-time vet. “Given that I treat and service horses for leading domestic and foreign riders, both in home stables and in races, I consider it a great advantage and experience,” he explains. “Obviously it is manageable, but of course there are times when I feel more mental and physical pressure during the season. However, since these are two different issues, I feel more like working with horses. In general I perceive competing and horse training as my hobbies. My primary goal is not to collect winning ribbons, no one is pushing me anywhere, and I consider this a huge advantage. I just do what I enjoy.”

 

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Mia Hastrup and Shjabrina

4*/5* dressage average: 35.1

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 3

The need-to-knows: Mia’s dream of horses came alive when she stumbled upon a video tape of an event at Brovst in 1990 and she was hooked. She took to her first competition in 1998 and since has grown her own career and a bustling teaching facility.

Mia has ridden for Denmark on four European Championship teams, but this is her first World Championship appearance.She brings to Italy with her Shajabrina, a sixteen-year-old mare who is the self-proclaimed queen of Mia’s farm. The two have a lengthy partnership, which they will rely on as they challenge themselves this weekend to achieve a strong result for their developing eventing nation.

Their first phase score won’t be the envy of the group, but the mare is quick around the cross country. They’ve only done one long format in the last three seasons, so their form will be hard to predict, but a solid outing for Denmark is top priority for this pair.

Fun fact: Based in Tureby, Denmark, Mia runs a busy yard where she hosts several students. She leans heavily on her bachelor’s degree in Sports from the University of Copenhagen alongside her personal riding experience to train people mentally and physically.

Hanne Wind Ramsgaard and Amequ Torino

4*/5* dressage average: 42.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: The ten-year-old “Lillefisen” is a homebred for Hanne, and that’s demonstrated in their synced partnership. With her previous horse Vestervangs Arami, Hanne has had two team experiences at European Championships, and this will be her World Championship debut.

Their dressage will likely not wow the judges, but the chestnut’s keen appreciation for the jumping phases should keep them in competitive form. One rail is likely to come down on Sunday, but along with Mia, Hanne’s main goal here will be a finish as competitive as she can achieve for her home country.

Fun fact: Without funding support from the Danish Equestrian Federation, both Hanne and Mia partnered up to fundraise their journey. They’ve shared insights on themselves and their horses along with behind the scenes content on their joint instagram page, which you can find here.

 

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Nicolas Wettstein and Meyer’s Happy

15-year-old Holsteiner gelding (My Happy Guest XX x Nottfelderin, by Caletto I). Owned by Monique Deyme, Frank Wettstein, and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 36

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆

Predicted poles: 3

The need-to-knows: It’s a second World Championships appearance this week for Happy, who finished 67th with 20 penalties with Nico at Tryon in 2018. Beyond that, Nico himself has plenty of championship experience: he’s ridden at two Pan-American Games and two Olympics for his adopted nation, Ecuador, and a Young European Championships for France.

This pair won’t be here to be competitive, but instead to focus on gaining another completion for their nation. Happy, who was initially produced by Claas Romeike of Germany, went through a long stint of being a very good cross-country partner, but since the 2018 World Championships, he’s been rather less reliable: in his 20 four-stars since Tryon, he’s gone clear six times. Nicolas will be ready to rally and find his way home on Giuseppe’s cross-country course, but he’ll also be aware that the prize he’ll win is valuable mileage that he can carry over to his next championship mount.

Fun fact: Based in Switzerland, Nicolas is the son of a Swiss father (who himself evented internationally) and a French mother. Nicolas was named as a reserve for the Swiss team at Athens in 2004 and rode for France as a Junior, but swapped nationalities to Ecuador when he became eligible via marriage in 2011. He competed for the country at Rio in 2016 and was the first Ecuadorian representative to ride at Badminton. He also has a degree in hotel management, which seems like a pretty great case for never using one’s higher education, since he now runs a pharmaceutical company.

Tom Carlile and Darmagnac de Beliard. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tom Carlile and Darmagnac de Béliard

9-year-old Selle Français gelding (Canturo x Palme de Moyon, by Barbarian). Owned by S.C.E.A. de Beliard and Jean-Jacques Montagne, and groomed by Camille Coton.

4*/5* dressage average: 28

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: At just nine years old, Darmagnac de Beliard is the joint-youngest horse in this year’s field, but also one of the most interesting. Though he’s only got one CCI4*-L under his belt — he made his level debut at Bramham in June, finishing fourth — Darmagnac is a serious contender for the exciting French team. This will be his squad debut, though it’s not a debut for Tom, who is one of the world’s most exciting producers of young horses. Tom has ridden at two European Championships, and was the reserve rider for last year’s Olympics with the excellent mare Birmane. Though this will be just the tenth FEI start for Darmagnac, there’s every chance he could be a dark horse entry onto the individual podium: in nine runs so far, he’s been out of the top ten just once, and had eight clears. He’s preternaturally quick and looks for the flags from strides out, and Tom’s unique, compassionate understanding of his horses’ complexities should mean we see a masterclass in production over the week.

Fun fact: Tom is responsible for the early education of a number of excellent horses — including Australian superstar Vassily de Lassos, ridden this week by Andrew Hoy.

Cyrielle Lefevre and Armanjo Serosah. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Cyrielle Lefèvre and Armanjo Serosah

12-year-old Selle Français gelding (Romando de l’Abbaye x Jolyjo Serosah, by Sassanian). Owned by Charline Guerin, and groomed by Soizic Lefèvre.

4*/5* dressage average: 34.8

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: A top twenty debut at five-star level put Cyrielle on the French selector’s radar last fall at Pau, and she followed that up with a confident Badminton completion this spring. She and Armanjo Serosah are as reliable as they come on cross country, the only blip on their record being a frangible pin three seasons ago.

Armanjo Serosah found his way to Cyrielle’s farm as a four-year-old and she’s very molded him with Championships in mind. The partnership has rails more often than not, but she’ll likely still be in the hunt for a competitive finish for France.

Fun fact: Cyrielle’s love for horses is very much a family affair. She rides and trains alongside her sister Soizic out of their grandparent’s farm in Perthes, France, while mom, Christelle, heads up the management of the operation.

Gaspard Maksud and Zaragoza seal the deal with an impressive performance at Haras du Pin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Gaspard Maksud and Zaragoza

9-year-old British-bred Sport Horse mare (Cevin Z x unrecorded dam). Owned by Martin Thurlow and Jane Young, and groomed by Lucy-Anna Westaway.

4*/5* dressage average: 31.3

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Gaspard makes his championship debut just months after his first appearance on the French team, which came at CHIO Aachen with this excellent mare. They were very competitive in the dressage and looked great for 95% of the cross-country, but an exuberant leap into the water in sight of the finish line saw them end their weekend early. They learned a lot from that and came back strong at Haras du Pin, finishing fourth in a seriously hot field of over 110 entries, many of whom are in this line-up. This might be one of the youngest horses in the field, but she’s formidable: in 11 FEI runs, she’s only had one whoopsy — that fall at Aachen — and has made the time in every completion bar one, where she had 5.2 time penalties. This is a serious horse and rider partnership for France, and one that shouldn’t be overlooked. Their dressage scores this year have been beating their average, too — at Aachen and Haras du Pin alike, they went sub-30.

Fun fact: Gaspard has been based in the UK for a decade, and first came over to work for Andrew Nicholson before going on to Sam Griffiths’s place. Now, he has his own spot in Surrey, near Pippa Funnell, but eventing wasn’t his first sporting dream — he was initially keen on playing rugby, but “I didn’t really have the size and when the other players started to think I was the ball, it was time for me to change sports!”

Astier Nicolas and Alertamalib’Or. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Astier Nicolas and Alertamalib’or

12-year-old Anglo-Arab gelding (Summer Song x Dambine, by Prince Ig’Or). Owned by Aliette Forien, Nicholas Paul, and the rider, and groomed by Laura Schmitt.

4*/5* dressage average: 27.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Alertamalib’or was the talk of the town in 2017, when he became the Seven-Year-Old World Champion — but a spate of niggling injuries meant that he disappeared from the circuit for all of 2019 and most of 2020. Now, though, he’s back and looking better than ever, as evidenced by a strong performance at Haras du Pin, where was 13th. They also won Saumur CCI4*-L this spring, but have had some iffy moments, too, with a horse fall at Blair CCI4*-S last summer and a retirement on course at Barbury’s CCI3*-S this year. He’s undeniably talented but not necessarily a sure thing — fans of the sport would likely have expected to see Babylon de Gamma this week, but the great grey has had some time out with injury and only returned to international competition this summer.

Astier has a wealth of team experience to bring to the table this week: beyond his many European Championships, from Pony through to senior level, he was an individual silver and team gold medallist at the Rio Olympics with his excellent former ride Piaf de b’Neville, and finished seventh in the World Championships in Tryon with Vinci de la Vigne, who competes here this week with Kazuma Tomoto.

Fun fact: Astier is the only French rider to compete on Pony, Junior, Young Rider, and Senior teams — and he’s a great success story for the concept of the Equine Science degree path. He got a BSc in the subject at England’s Hartpury University.

Nicolas Touzaint and Absolut Gold HDC. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Nicolas Touzaint and Absolut Gold*HDC

12-year-old Selle Français gelding (Birkhof’s Grafenstolz x Belle Meralaise, by Verglas). Owned by Haras des Coudrettes, and groomed by Aure Coulange.

4*/5* dressage average: 30.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: The only members of last year’s bronze medal-winning Olympic team to return for this year’s Championship are Nicolas and Absolut Gold, who doesn’t necessarily look like an obvious champion but is enormously consistent across the phases. Nicolas took the ride on in 2018 from fellow French rider Elodie Patenotte, who produced him up to CCI3*-S, and since then, he’s been an impressive competitor for the French contingent. Tokyo is a fifth Olympics for the rider, who was part of the gold medal-winning team at Athens in 2004. With Absolut Gold, he’s logged two championship runs: they finished tenth at the 2019 Europeans at Luhmühlen, adding nothing through the week to their 31.6 dressage, and finished sixth at Tokyo. They’ve finished on their dressage score or a fraction of a penalty over in their last five FEI runs and haven’t finished lower than 12th since 2018. They won’t lead the first phase – instead, look for a mark around 30 – but they’re odds-on to finish on it, which will allow for major movement on the leaderboard.

Fun fact: Nicolas, whose uncle Thierry is the team chef d’equipe, was something of a child prodigy: he was just 20 when he competed at his first Olympics in 2000, and he became the youngest-ever European Champion when he was 22. He’s also the only Frenchman ever to win Badminton, which he took in 2008 with Hidalgo de l’Ile.

Sandra Auffarth and Viamant du Matz. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sandra Auffarth and Viamant du Matz

13-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Diamant de Semilly – Heralina, by Voltigeur le Malin), owned by Prinz Nikolaus von Croy

4*/5* dressage average: 28.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: The former reigning World Champion is back and she’s got her eye on the top of the podium in Pratoni. The question will be — does history repeat itself? In 2014, Sandra won at Aachen before achieving individual gold with Opgun Louvo, and this year she’s already squared away her Aachen win with Viamant du Matz.

Tension will keep this pair from the very best dressage scores we’ll see this week, but the horse’s form on the cross country is nearly impeccable, aside from the devastatingly uncharacteristic 20 penalties they picked up at the Tokyo Olympics last year. That aside, Sandra believes “Mat” to have come into his own in recent seasons and he’ll be one to hunt the flags all the way around.

Fortunately for the final day nerves, show jumping is one of the pairs strongest phases, and they’ve not seen a pole fall in the last phase of a long format in the last three seasons.

Fun fact: Former World Champion and Olympic individual bronze medalist Sandra also trains India’s Fouaad Mirza, who makes his World Championship debut this week. The daughter of farmers, her first-ever four-star was the 2011 European Championships, where she won individual silver and team gold.

Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH

14-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Contendro – Havanna, by Heraldik xx), owned by Deutsches Olympiade-Komitee für Reiterei e.V., Hilmer Meyer-Kulenkampff, Klaus Fischer, Sabine Fischer

4*/5* dressage average: 21.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: The 2010 World champion returns as hot favourite for another gold medal, this time with the former Julia Krajewski ride Chipmunk. She produced him to the top level and competed at the 2018 WEG with him, scoring an extraordinary 19.9 in the first phase but unfortunately picking up a 20 on course. That winter, the German Federation bought the horse for Michael, and though they’ve had to take a fair amount of time to gel in the showjumping, they’ve already won seven four-stars, including the final selection trial at Luhmühlen before Tokyo last year, become reserve European Champions, won team European gold, won Kentucky five-star, and finished eighth at the Tokyo Olympics after a contentious pin knock gave them an 11, and the same placing at Aachen this year after a flag penalty knocked them out after they’d been awarded the win.

They’ll be fighting hard for the top spot in the first phase and will likely add nothing on cross-country day – and the question mark over the poles is well nigh gone, too. They haven’t knocked one in their last eight FEI runs. It’s hard to bet against a horse who finished on 20.1 at Kentucky, or against the man who has won gold at two Olympics, has been World Champion, and won the Senior Europeans three times.

Fun fact: Michi’s married well: his wife, Faye, is an event rider herself but more importantly, she’s an equine physio — which means that all of the horses at the Jung yard always feel tip-top. That’s no small contribution to success of his magnitude.

Julia Krajewski and Amande de B’Neville. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Julia Krajewski and Amande de b’Neville

12-year-old Selle Francais mare (Oscar des Fontaines – Perle be B’Néville, by Elan de la Cour), owned by rider and Bernd Heicke

4*/5* dressage average: 26.9

XC speed rating:  ☆☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating:  ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: You wouldn’t want to bet against the reigning Olympic gold medallists, even if that gold medal victory did rather come as a surprise. That’s not because this pair aren’t incredibly good – they are – but rather, because ‘Mandy’ was young and very inexperienced when she went to Tokyo, and really grew up in the spotlight there. This year, she’s come out looking and feeling stronger and more mature, which means Julia can ride her even quicker – and, funnily enough, she’s encountered her first taste of factors such as crowds, which she’d never seen before the 2022 season.

Julia was part of the German line-up at the World Equestrian Games back in 2018, though that time, we saw her riding Chipmunk, who she produced through to the top level before Michael Jung took on the ride. They posted an exceptional 19.9 in the first phase on that occasion, and while Mandy probably won’t catch that score, she could well start her week in the mid-20s and make her presence very well known indeed. A win at Wiesbaden CCI4*-S, ninth at Aachen, and fourth in the huge, Pratoni-lite field at Haras du Pin, will have them feeling confident and ready to fight for both team and individual podium places.

Fun fact: Prior to joining Julia’s string as a six-year-old, Mandy had only show jumped. She was spotted by Myriam Meylemans, who had sourced Samourai du Thot originally.

Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S

Thirteen-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Clearway x Kajenna, by Galant Vert). Owned by the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 28.2

XC speed rating:  ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating:  ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Christoph has been quietly making a name for himself as one of Team Germany’s next string of superstars, winning the Nations Cup team and individual competition at Houghton International with this horse in 2019, and following this up with a super top-twenty performance at the European Championships. Their 2020 was very exciting, too: they’ve notched up three top-ten finishes at Luhmühlen, Strzegom, and Arville, and although their trip to the German National Championships was thwarted by an uncharacteristic drive-by at a tough and influential line, there was plenty to be excited about. Their 22.4 was a personal best at the level and their showjumping round was typically classy, as was the rest of their cross-country round. They enjoyed a seventh place finish at last autumn’s European Championships, where they once again competed as individuals, and this time, they’ll step into the team proper.

We last saw them at Badminton, which was technically a third five-star for them: they made their debut at Pau in 2020, putting an excellent 25.6 on the board before Christoph decided to withdraw the horse, who he felt wasn’t quite right, before cross-country. Though no doubt an achingly tough call to make, it paid off when, after months of getting the horse fitter than he’d ever had him, he returned to the level to take a close second place at Luhmühlen last year. At Badminton, they finished 22nd, putting a 32.5 on the board, coming home across the country with just 3.6 time penalties, and then tipping three rails – an out of character final phase that was largely down to the horse having lost a chunk of hoof. That first phase performance felt less surprising: now that he’s at peak fitness, Carjatan settles into his work and really delivers the tests in the second half of the season.

Fun fact: Christoph wears many hats in the horse world. He took over ownership of his family’s business, Klosterhof Medingen, during the pandemic, and so he’s now responsible for running a sprawling, fairytale-beautiful yard near Luhmühlen, breeding some of the world’s best Trakehners, and running elite dressage horse and foal auctions, as well as producing top dressage horses. His small string of eventers has to be treated almost as a hobby, and he rides them outside of his work hours on the yard.

Alina Dibowski and Barbados 26. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

INDIVIDUAL: Alina Dibowski and Barbados 26

13-year-old Polish Sport Horse gelding (Moravia x Babilonia xx, by Jape xx). Owned by Susanna Dibowski

4*/5* dressage average: 29.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: 21-year-old Alina, who’s the daughter of German team stalwart Andreas Dibowski, makes her senior championship debut before she’s even aged out of the Young Rider rankings. She’s making major waves in the sport, even as she multitasks her way through university in Hamburg, where she’s training to become a biology and English teacher. Her top partner, and her ride here, is Barbados 26, with whom she’s competed at two Junior and two Young Rider European Championships. Since stepping up to four-star and senior competition, they’ve been extraordinarily impressive: most recently, we saw them finish third in the final selection trial at Haras du Pin out of over 110 world class competitors, and they were sixth in the hot CCI4*-S at Luhmühlen back in June. That’s just the tip of the iceberg where top-tens are concerned – out of ten four-star starts together, they’ve got five top fives, and the others weren’t far behind. They’re still learning together, but every time out, they get more and more formidable and exciting.

Fun fact: Alina’s partnership with ‘Baba’ was a bit of a happy accident – when she was twelve, her pony sustained an injury and she didn’t have anything to ride. Her parents pulled a couple of options out of the stables – one was FRH Corrida, who has since been a top horse for Andreas, and the other was four-year-old Barbados. The two gelled quickly, climbed through the junior and young rider ranks together, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo 

10-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Grafenstolz x Cornish Queen, by Rock King), owned by Michele Saul. Groom: Sarah Charnley

4*/5* dressage average: 26.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: ‘Walter’ would probably have been a direct reserve for this team, but for the tragic passing of Ros’s World Champion, Allstar B. But the reigning titleholder still comes into this week’s competition with a strong hand: the ten-year-old was exceptional on his five-star debut at Badminton this spring, finishing second after a tough week of sport, and he’s had a number of four-star wins and placings to his name, too, including victories at Blair Castle CCI4*-S and Aston-le-Walls CCI4*-S. His second place finish in last year’s extraordinarily tough CCI4*-L at Bicton proved that he’s a stayer over tough terrain and long distances, so Pratoni’s unique hills and slightly shorter ten-minute track shouldn’t prove an issue for him at all. In fifteen FEI starts, he’s never finished lower than fifteenth — and he’s not picked up a single cross-country jumping penalty, either.

“He’s an amazing horse — he’s just fun, and he has the ability to gallop really fast, balance very quickly, and gallop downhill like he’s on flat ground. And he’s careful,” Ros told us when he won Blair last year.

Fun fact: Ros and her team will just be hoping that Walter likes his new digs in Pratoni’s stable yard – he can be a bit tempestuous to manage on the ground at shows, and has been known to have a tantrum if he’s not keen on his view. Once Ros is on board, though, she always finds he focuses and behaves brilliantly. That’s showbiz, baby?

Laura Collett and London 52. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Laura Collett and London 52 

13-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Landos x Vernante, by Quinar Z), owned by Keith Scott, Karen Bartlett, and the rider. Groom: Tilly Hughes

4*/5* dressage average: 22.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: One of the most exciting match races of the week will be seeing which horse can lead the dressage: Laura’s Badminton winner, Tamie Smith’s Mai Baum, or Michael Jung’s exceptional fischerChipmunk FRH. It’ll be closely fought, anyway: all three horses are very capable of going sub-20, and they’re all hugely consistent in this phase in particular. Certainly, this pairing are among the frontrunners for the individual gold, though their success — which includes a win at Pau CCI5* in 2020 and team gold at Tokyo last year — has been hard-won after an up-and-down first couple of seasons at four-star for the prodigal gelding, who only began evening six years ago. He was a bit of a child prodigy, stepping up to the top level within two years of beginning his eventing career at the age of seven and winning the prestigious Blenheim eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S just three years into the job. He followed that up with second at Boekelo on his CCI4*-L debut, second in CCI4*-S classes at Belton and Burnham Market, and then a win at Chatsworth in 2019. But every horse, no matter how preternaturally talented, must go through a learning curve at some point, and his came in the second half of 2019 when he was well and truly in the spotlight. He picked up a green 20 at Bramham, an unfortunate late run-out while leading at Aachen, and Laura fell at the end of the course at the European Championships that year. By the end of the season, though, they regrouped to win Boekelo CCI4*-L, and the horse has been extraordinarily consistent ever since. He’ll lead or come very close to it in the first phase, where he scored a 21.3 at Pau and a 21 at Badminton, and he’s among the quickest cross-country horses in the field. He’s ordinarily super over the poles, too, and will be a real threat throughout the week.

Fun fact: London 52 was sourced in Germany at the yard of former Olympian and soon-to-be German chef d’equipe Peter Thomsen. Like all her horses, he’s named after a Gossip Girlcharacter – at home, he’s known as Dan, to go with Chuck (Mr Bass), Rufus (Camouflage, now with Alex Bragg), and Nate (Lyjador – now campaigned by a young rider). Laura is also passionate about racing, and has a sideline in schooling top-level National Hunt horses over fences.

Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir 

11-year-old Selle Français gelding (Nouma d’Auzay x Gerboise du Cochet, by Livarot), owned by Jeanette Chin and Sue Davies. Groom: Alison Bell

4*/5* dressage average: 27

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 

The need-to-knows: 25-year-old Yaz is one of Britain’s brightest talents, and not even in a ‘maybe in a decade she’ll be able to take over from the likes of Oliver and Piggy’ sort of way. Her results are so strong that if she represented any other country, you’d almost certainly have seen her at a major championship last year, and this selection comes after a strong second place finish at Kentucky CCI5* made her impossible to overlook. She’s won every national age title all the way through from her days on ponies (and she was Pony European Champion, too!), and with the exceptional French gelding Banzai, she’s also nabbed the national CCI4*-S title for eight- and nine-year-olds, following it up with a win at Blenheim CCI4*-L last season. In fact, in their last seven international runs, they haven’t finished outside the top five — and that includes a run in the achingly tough, very-nearly-five-star CCI4*-L at Bicton last year and fourth in the 100+ strong CCI4*-S at Thoresby this spring before heading to Kentucky.

She comes forward with a very good chance of running away with the title – a result that would be a real fairytale for the young rider from the Isle of Man, who has been so generously supported by owners Jeanette and Sue over the years. Banzai is excellent on the flat and a consistent 25-27 scorer with good changes, so expect him to be well in the hunt from the first phase. Across the country he’s a real natural and finds it easy enough to go quickly, though Yaz is pragmatic and sympathetic and will give him a long route if he needs it. He was bought with a specific goal in mind — Paris in 2024 — and so this is all part of his education along the way. On Sunday, though, assuming all goes well they’ll pose a serious threat: they’re excellent over the poles and have had just one rail at four-star. A top five finish is not at all unreasonable to expect, and few would be surprised if she went for it and took the win.

Fun fact: Yas is part of an Isle of Man sporting power couple — her boyfriend, Jamie McCanney, is something of a motocross superstar in the making.

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

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 Inns, and Ali McEwen. Groom: Francesca Gorni

4*/5* dressage average: 25.3

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Olympic team gold and individual silver medallists, 2019 Pau CCI5* winners, and top-level stalwarts Tom and Toledo return for their second World Championships after helping the British team to gold at Tryon in 2018. They’re among the most consistent and competitive pairs in the field — and can be forgiven for a freak fall late on course at Badminton, which is hugely uncharacteristic and which they put behind them with an excellent run at CHIO Aachen. They’ll be aiming for a podium place, and nobody would be too surprised if we saw them take the title of World Champions this week.

Fun fact: Toledo is less than 50% blood, though that hasn’t affected his stamina or gallop: he’s been at his best over some of the toughest tracks in the world, such as Bramham and Burghley. He’s an extraordinarily quirky horse, too, and can’t be jumped at home – or caught, much of the time.

“You can’t jump him at home – if you try he’ll bolt blind, or refuse to come in a second time or he’ll be like a crouching tiger and press himself to the floor, then go flat out,” Tom told Horse&Hound. “He’s never done a grid or polework. Rather than make an issue of it, we’ve just never made an issue of it.”

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class

15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Courage II x Kilderry Place, breeding unknown), owned by Karyn Schuter, Angela Hislop, and Val Ryan. Groom: Charlotte Holifield. 

4*/5* dressage average: 24.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: It’s almost impossible to overlook this pair, who might well be the most consistent five-star competitors in the world: they’ve completed seven so far, winning two of them and never coming lower than fifth place. One of those wins was Burghley on the horse’s debut as a ten-year-old; the other was Kentucky last spring. ‘Thomas’ also gave Oliver his long-awaited Olympic call-up, where they won team gold and finished fifth individually.

It all bodes rather well for the tough-as-nails Yorkshireman and the rangy Irish gelding, who shares a sire with similarly quirky superstars Ringwood Sky Boy, the Duke of Cavan, and Cooley Rorkes Drift. A couple of outlier scores earlier in the horse’s career drive up his first-phase average, but you can realistically expect a 25 or lower – he’s scored a 20.8 and 21.1 at Badminton before, and will fight hard for the dressage lead. He’s not been on quite as fiery of form as usual this season, and posted a 28.9 at Thoresby, but a 25.9 at Badminton saw him head back down towards the business end of the marks, and he’s been great since.

He’s fast and as accurate as they come across the country, but it’s showjumping that can be the heartbreaker for this pair: they’ve only ever jumped clear on the final day in three long-format events, though one of those was a very convincing round at Kentucky when winning it last spring. A rail at Tokyo cost them individual gold, and they missed out on the win at Badminton in 2019 because they added a stride — and lost a couple of valuable seconds — in a line and handed the win to Piggy by less than the value of a single second.

Fun fact: Though he’s one of the world’s best horses – and has certainly contributed to making Oliver the World Number One – Ballaghmor Class wasn’t always an easy ride. “He’s always been very sharp and he’s had us all on the floor at home,” said Oliver after that first Burghley win. “He had a girl off going up the gallops just two weeks ago and he’s gone through arena mirrors and out of the school through the fence in the past. But I’ve always liked him and we’ve probably got a stronger relationship as a result.”

Balasz Kaizinger and Clover. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Balázs Kaizinger and Clover 15

9-year-old Oldenburger Springpferd gelding (Carrico x Lara, by LandCapitol), owned by the Hungarian Equestrian Association

4*/5* dressage average: 34.1

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Balázs, who is based in Warendorf, Germany, has brought the nine-year-old Clover up the levels himself. The clever chestnut had his first major challenge at the FEI World Breeding Eventing Championships at Le Lion as a six-year-old where he finished with a a double clear cross country inside the time for 27th place.

Sensing the talent form this pair, the Hungarian team elected to purchase the horse outright in 2020 — a fortuitous decision for them as the two have never had a cross country penalty in International competition. They haven’t yet cracked sub-30 on the flat at four-star, but have been close with marks in the low 30s, and have at least a pole down in the final phase of a three-day more often than not, so we may expect to see four penalties added to their score, but how fast they can be around the cross country will be the determining factor in their competitiveness.

Fun fact: No caption needed for this one, folks…

Photo courtesy of Balázs Kaisinger.

Fouaad Mirza and Seigneur Medicott. Photo by Sports View India.

Fouaad Mirza and Seigneur Medicott

16-year-old Westfalian gelding (Seigneur d’Alleray xx – Gina XIII, by Finley-M), owned by M/S Embassy Property Development PVT Ltd

4*/5* dressage average: 28.8

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: German-based Fouaad, who trains with Sandra Auffarth, burst into the global spotlight at last year’s Olympics, where he and the former Bettina Hoy ride Seigneur Medicott smashed out an impressive 28 in the first phase. The pair are very reliable across the country, and in 14 FEI runs together, they’ve never picked up a cross-country jumping penalty — but they’ve not often been fast enough to keep themselves at the business end of the leaderboard, and the gelding is prone to a couple of poles, too. Still, they should look impressive this week, and their participation in top-level competitions has a positive ripple effect well beyond their own results and goals — Fouaad is bringing eventing to an Indian audience and inspiring legions of young Indian riders to take to the saddle.

Fun fact: In Tokyo, Fouaad became the first Indian equestrian at the Olympics since Imtiaz Anees rode at Sydney in 2000, and just the third-ever Indian Olympic equestrian. His Asian Games success boosted public interest in the sport, which he hopes to build on: “The 2018 medals really boosted people’s confidence to pursue the sport back at home. We’re still at the grassroots and I think people still need to know more about the sport before they can really support me like they support their cricket team.”

Susie Berry and Monbeg by Design (IRE). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Susie Berry and Monbeg by Design
Ten-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Pacino x Eskerhills Lexis, by Puissance). Owned by Helen Caton, groomed by Crisy Salmon.

4*/5* dressage average: 35.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: The youngest member of Team Ireland for Pratoni will be Susie Berry, who will partner the 10-year-old Monbeg By Design for her first senior squad appearance. This will hardly be Susie’s first high-pressure situation, however – she’s got six championships as a Jr/YR under her belt and will be riding for a small bit of redemption after finding her Burghley trip cut heartbreakingly short by an unlucky fall on cross country from Ringwood LB. Prior to that, Susie made a smashing 5* debut with John The Bull, finishing in the top 20 at Badminton earlier this year.

Monbeg By Design will see his biggest challenge to date at Pratoni, which is just his 13th FEI start, but he’s certainly proven he’s got the chops to go quickly across the country and jump a clear round on the final day. This combination won’t be a threat to the leaders after dressage with a mid-30s score most likely, but they’re poised to make a big splash for the Irish if they can string together some strong jumping performances.

Fun Fact: Susie was one of the first riders to receive support from the Windrush Equestrian Foundation Young Eventer Programme (now known as the Wesko Equestrian Foundation) in 2019 and has also worked extensively with newly-crowned Burghley winner Piggy March throughout her career.

Padraig McCarthy and Fallulah. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Padraig McCarthy and Fallulah

Thirteen-year-old Westfalian mare (Fidertanz 2 x Devona, by Di Versace). Owned by Amanda and Nicholas Boyle, Di Brunsden, Peter Cattel and the rider, and groomed by Jess Elliott.

4*/5* dressage average: 29.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 3

The need-to-knows: The 13-year-old Fallulah, who was top-20 in her five-star debut at Pau (though Padraig likely doesn’t want to talk about that weekend – four rails down on Sunday meant he lost out on a potential win and at least a podium finish), is tapped to be defending world silver medalist Padraig McCarthy’s partner this week. While show jumping remains the “weak” point for this mare, her ability to score well on the flat and quick turn of foot across the country made her a decent choice for this championship.

For his part, Padraig’s an exceptional cross country rider and is fresh off a brilliant finish at Burghley, where he put in one of the more textbook rounds of the day aboard the all-class HHS Noble Call. It’s also safe to say he’s got an eye for a decent horse: together with his wife, Lucy, he runs the well-respected MGH Sporthorses, which has sourced horses such as MGH Grafton Street, Cilnabradden Evo, and Vendredi Biats.

Fun Fact: Padraig’s a bit of an academic soul in addition to his riding background, earning a first class honors degree in Economics and Finance with German in 2008 before going on to complete a PhD study of business insolvency laws in Ireland. He’s also a published author, having written book chapters and academic journals throughout his education. Fancy a tour as an EN reporter, Padraig?

Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue

Thirteen-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Jaguar Mail x Rock Me Baby, by Rock King). Owned by the Salty Syndicate and the rider, and groomed by Francesca Denning.

4*/5* dressage average: 32.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Austin O’Connor returns to the senior squad with the sneakily impressive Colorado Blue, who was subbed in at the Tokyo Olympics just after the first horse inspection after Cathal Daniels and Rioghan Rua withdrew. The choice proved to be a fortuitous one as the then-12-year-old “Salty” (who, sadly, doesn’t have a cool story behind his barn name except for the fact “he came with it”, as Austin succinctly describes) trounced around a tough Derek di Grazia track and collected a coveted double clear cross country. They’d go on to finish 13th individually in Austin’s third Olympic appearance.

This year sees Austin named to his first World Championship squad, and we already know he’s more than suitably mounted for the task at hand. He’s also got a wealth of experience to bring to the table, having repped Ireland in five European Championships and three Olympics dating back to the 2000 Games in Sydney.

Fun Fact: Austin’s parents ran a riding school and also broke young horses, which meant he was on a horse from the word go. This experience paid off early, as at age 13 he became the youngest rider ever to compete in the then-2* event at Punchestown.

Sam Watson and SAP Talisman at Aachen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sam Watson and SAP Talisman

Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Puissance x Ali Row, by All Royal). Owned by Hannah and Julia Watson, and groomed by Hannah Watson.

4*/5* dressage average: 34.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: We really enjoyed watching this horse grow into himself last year at the European Championships under Equiratings co-founder/number guy/professional sleeper Sam Watson. This was a last-minute call-up for the then-10-year-old who had, at that point, only done one other 4*-L previously. Never mind, though, as Sam rode a class, tactful round to add just a few seconds of time for the Irish.

So it’s that much more exciting to now see SAP Talisman (who formerly campaigned as Ballybolger Talisman) now get another call up, this time to the World Championship squad. They were 12th at Saumur’s 4*-L earlier this year and look to be a solid team combination for the Irish, who will look to defend their team silver medal. Sam is one of two members from the 2018 squad returning to this championship cycle; Padraig McCarthy is the other member from Tryon.

Fun Fact: Sam can typically be counted on to chuck a helmet cam on his head and then tell us how his ride went later on with cool SAP Analytics to complement. Take a look at his run ‘round Avenches with SAP Talisman here.

Felicity Ward and Regal Bounty. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Felicity Ward and Regal Bounty

Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Orestus VDL – Edge of Reason x Senang Hati), owned by James O’Callaghan

4*/5* dressage average: 37.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Felicity Ward was a late sub in for Joseph Murphy, whose Calmaro had a training setback and was withdrawn from the original squad. After an impressive run at Haras du Pin, which many European and UK federations used as their final Pratoni selection trial, Felicity now gets her first senior squad call with the 11-year-old Regal Bounty.

This combination has had some great results thus far in 2022, finishing 15th in their five-star debut at Luhmühlen with time and one rail on Sunday added to their dressage mark. They’ve also jumped clear around some serious four-stars, including Boekelo’s Nations Cup Long format and Millstreet’s 4*-L. A mid-30s mark on day one will sit them a bit lower in the pack, but once again this is a pair that’s perfectly capable of climbing on their day.

Fun Fact: Felicity isn’t just a talented event rider — she’s also an exceptional artist. You can check out her work here.

Evelina Bertoli and Fidjy des Melezes. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Evelina Bertoli and Fidjy des Melezes 

Eleven-year-old Belgian Sport Horse mare (Aga Khan x Louna de Sainte-Ode, by Bayarde d’Elle), owned by Az. Agricola di Campello Argenta

4*/5* dressage average: 34.8

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Evelina Bertoli certainly isn’t short on championship experience: as a junior, she represented Italy five times in Young Rider and Junior Championship competition and also has a World Equestrian Games and a European Championship appearance under her belt. This will be her third senior squad appearance, and this time she brings forward the 11-year-old mare Fidjy des Melezes.

Together, this pair won’t have the scroll of experience some of their squadmates boast, but they have competed – and won – at Pratoni in the past. They did suffer a parting of ways at the Nations Cup/Pratoni Test Event leg at this venue in May, and Fidjy des Melezes has yet to complete a 4*-L event so this week will be a step up for the Belgian mare but previous experience at this venue is not to be discounted.

Fun fact: You’ll spot several of the Italian riders in uniform — but not necessarily the same one. It’s common for Italians to join the armed forces as riders in order to get funding and support, and Evelina, for her part, is a member of the Penitentiary Police Corps.

Susanna Bordonne and Imperial Van De Holtakkers. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Susanna Bordone and Imperial van de Holtakkers 

Fourteen-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Quidam de Revel x Ava van de Holtakkers, by Argentinus), owned by Maria Giovanna Mazzocchi

4*/5* dressage average: 34

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Despite the fact their partnership only began in 2019, Susanna Bordone and Imperial van de Holtakkers already have one Olympic appearance under their belt in Tokyo last year, where they were the highest-placed Italians in 15th individually. This is also a combination who have recently competed at this venue – they were 15th (consistent, eh?) at the Nations Cup/Test Event leg in May, collecting just two seconds of time on the 4*-S cross country track and taking the Italian national title.

Without a “true” five-star under their belts together, what stands to be a tough challenge on cross country this weekend remains a bit of a question mark – or does it? Imperial van de Holtakkers did jump clear around Tryon’s WEG track in 2014 and has plenty of clear runs at tough 4* tracks to boast on his CV, so this could well be his time to really show what he’s made of.

Fun fact: Imperial van de Holtakkers previously competed at the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon with former rider, Belgian Joris Vanspringel.

Marco Cappai and Uter. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Marco Cappai and Uter 

Thirteen-year-old Italian Sport Horse gelding (Caster de Villa Francesca x Elle d’Aulix, by Lubumbashi), owned by Cascianese Country Club

4*/5* dressage average: 35.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Marco last competed in a World Championships in 2010 when WEG came to Kentucky, though he withdrew before show jumping after a clear cross country. He’s also an Olympic veteran, having gotten his first team nod at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Uter began his FEI career with Marco and has historically finished strong at Pratoni, albeit at the 3* level. This is another combination without any “true five-star” experience on their resume, but they can generally be counted on to deliver a clear cross country and, importantly, a clear show jumping on the final day — they haven’t had a rail since 2017. They looked on excellent form at Luhmühlen this year, when they finished fourth in an exceptional field in the hugely competitive CCI4*-S.

Fun fact: Marco rides in the colours and uniform of the Italian State Police, for which he rides on the ‘Fiamme Oro’, or sporting division.

Arianna Schivo and Quefira de L’Ormeau. Photo by FEI/Massimo Argenziano.

Arianna Schivo and Quefira de L’Ormeu

Eighteen-year-old Selle Français mare (Iolisco de Quinhon*HN x Isabelle du Brulot, by Beausejour IV), owned by Thomas Bouquet and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 34.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: The 18-year-old Quefira de L’Ormeu will be one of the elder horses in the World Championships field this week, but don’t let that steer you off track: this scrappy mare brings a whole slew of major experience with longtime rider Arianna Schivo in the saddle.

Together, this partnership has spanned two Olympic Games, one World Championships, and three European Championships, but interestingly enough has never competed at Pratoni. Arianna and “La Madame” were top-25 at Badminton earlier this season – the picture of consistency as they equaled their 2019 placing and shaved a few marks off their finishing score. With a low-to-mid-30s starting point most likely for this pair, look for them to be on the march to catch the leaders with a clear cross country. Time should prove to be significantly influential at World Championships, but this partnership has the capability to at least get near the optimum to stay in contention for a strong placing and, hopefully, a Paris qualification.

Fun fact:  Quefira de L’Ormeu originally came from French rider Nicolas Touizant and shares a sire with fellow Frenchman Maxime Livio’s 5* winner, Qualao des Mers.

 


Giovanni Ugolotti and Duke of Champions

Eleven-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Duke of Hearts x Nebraska 22, by Noble Champion), owned by Phillip Hunt, Jo Preston-Hunt, and Joyce Snook

4*/5* dressage average: 32.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Duke of Champions will be the horse tapped for Giovanni Ugolotti, who finished just outside of the final top 20 at the 2014 WEG in Normandy. This will be Giovanni’s first senior championship since the Europeans in 2019 and will be a step up for the 11-year-old Duke of Champions. Duke of Champions was formerly ridden by Kiwi rider Dan Jocelyn before coming into Giovanni’s care last year. The pair were fourth in their first 4*-L together at Ballendenisk and should be well-positioned to have an emergence at Pratoni if they can put three consistent phases together.

Fun fact:  Together with British-born Canadian rider Kathryn Robinson, Giovanni runs Cranford Stud Eventing out of a beautiful base in Farmington, Gloucestershire, producing event horses up the levels and seeking opportunities to ride for Canada and Italy along the way.

 

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Ryuzo Kitajima and Cekatinka JRA

15-year-old KWPN mare (King Kolibri x Katinka, by Julio Marnier). Owned by Japan Equestrian Federation

4*/5* dressage average: 31.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: A sixth-place finish at the Asian Games in 2014 catapulted Ryuzo onto the eventing scene. From here, he relocated to Angela Tucker’s Tetbury base. Since then, he’s honed his skills and become a mainstay of the British Eventing results. 

Ryuzo withdrew from the competition at the Rio Olympics and was reserve for the Tokyo Olympics, but he did complete the 2018 WEG with Queen Mary. The horse, meanwhile, is no stranger to the World Championships, finishing 8th with Tim Price at Tryon four years ago. 

Ryuzo and Cekatinka are a suitable pair, sharing a record that has zero cross country jump penalties in their three-year partnership. Their dressage average of 31.6 is just that, an average, because they’ve seen a mark as low as 25.5 and alternatively as high as 39.5. They’re also fairly dependable over the show jumping, so if the stars align it could be a strong weekend for Ryuzo.

Yoshiaki Oiwa and Calle 44. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Yoshiaki Oiwa and Calle 44

Fifteen-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Cristo 5 – Sara IV, by Quebec), owned by the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 29.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Yoshi, who is based in Germany with Dirk Schrade, first leapt into the spotlight when he led the dressage at the London 2012 Olympics, his second Games. It ended in heartbreak for him when he fell on cross-country day, but it was a landmark moment and ensured that the world was sitting up and paying attention to Japan’s eventers. Though the emotional anguish of the experience nearly made him give up riding, he decided to stick at it when, in 2013, Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Olympics. Since then, he’s finished 20th at Rio, 20th at the 2018 WEG on this horse, and won the Asian Games, as well becoming the first-ever Japanese rider to win a European four-star when he took Bramham with Calle 44 in 2017. After that, the pair won Strzegom CCI4*-S twice and have been victorious at Baborowko CCI4*-S, too. The 2022 season hasn’t been an easy one for them, though: in seven FEI runs, they’ve gone clear three times, and all of those have been at three-star. They’ve also had two 20s and a rider fall at the level and in their only four-star start of the year, they picked up 60 penalties.

Fun fact: Yoshi comes from a dynasty of exceptional athletes: his aunt competed at the World Championships for figure skating in the 1960s, his uncle won a silver medal in swimming at the 1960 Olympics, and his wife represented Japan in showjumping at the Rio Olympics. Yoshi rode as a child and teenager and began eventing at university, but briefly quit after graduating and worked at a cockroach extermination company for a spell before moving to England in 2001 to pursue it properly.

Kazuma Tomoto and Vinci de la Vigne. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Kazuma Tomoto and Vinci de la Vigne JRA

Thirteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Esterel des Bois – Korrigane de Vigne, by Duc du Hutrel), owned by the Japan Equestrian Federation

4*/5* dressage average: 28.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: This duo finished in fourth place individually at the Tokyo Olympics — arguably the most frustrating place to finish in, especially when riding on home soil — and are absolutely capable of making the step onto the podium this week. Kazu and the former Astier Nicolas ride, who the Frenchman piloted around the 2018 World Championships for seventh place, have had a fairly quiet year, but that’s par for the course for empathetic Kazu, who doesn’t tend to overrun his horses. They clocked up a top ten finish in the CCI4*-S at Bramham earlier this summer, but then had an uncharacteristic horse fall on cross-country at Hartpury. They seldom finish outside the top ten, so hopefully that mistake will simply sharpen their resolve, rather than dent their confidence.

Fun fact: Kazu isn’t just the nicest man in eventing (although he really, truly is that), he’s also quite a remarkable athlete: he originally showjumped for Japan at World Cup events, but the Japanese Federation felt that they had enough jumping candidates on the trail to Tokyo and so asked him to consider swapping to eventing in 2015. In 2017 he relocated to England to base himself with William Fox-Pitt, and that autumn, he finished second in the prestigious eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S at Blenheim, missing the win by a fraction of a second. He’d been eventing less than two years at that point and had done his first FEI event just a year prior. Since then, he’s been part of the family on the UK and European circuit, and has been kicking ass and taking names wherever he goes, including leading the dressage at Luhmühlen CCI5* in 2019, winning CCI4*-S classes at Ballindenisk and Chatsworth and a CCI4*-L at Camphire on different horses, and finishing top ten at a number of events, including Blenheim CCI4*-L, Boekelo CCIO4*-L, Little Downham CCI4*-S (on two different horses in the same event), and Tattersalls CCI4*-S. He also got four horses qualified for Tokyo. In short, he’s bossing it.

Toshiyuki Tanaka and Swiper JRA. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Toshiyuki Tanaka and Swiper JRA

13-year-old Warmblood gelding (Contenda x Amber Pacific, breeding unknown). Owned by Japan Equestrian Federation

4*/5* dressage average: 30.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 3

The need-to-knows: Toshi has two Olympic completions (London 2012, Tokyo 2021) in his arsenal as he takes on his second World Championships this weekend with Swiper JPA – at his first in Tryon he was the top-placed Japanese rider in 15th. Swiper was one among many that the Japan Equestrian Federation bought up in an effort to bolster the Japanese eventing dream.

Toshi would be thrilled with a high-20s mark to start the competition, and it might just be achievable in the laid-back atmosphere at Pratoni. Together they’ve been at the Advanced level since 2019, and have a mid-tier reliability ranking from us due to a few errant 20s dotting their record. In the final phase too we’re likely to see one or two rails come down.

Fun fact: Swiper is a transcontinental lad, having been brought up the levels by Shane Rose in Australia before relocating to Toshi’s UK base.

Aistis Vitkauskas and Commander VG. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Aistis Vitkauskas and Commander VG

11-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Viegaard’s Come Back II x Nione Fortuna, by Abantos NRA STB 83 4). Owned by M. and B. Kloeve-Mogensen.

4*/5* dressage average: 40.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 3

The need-to-knows: Lithuania’s leading horseman — who’s actually based in Denmark — brings forward a really exciting horse in Commander VG, who has proven to be an exceptionally reliable cross-country horse in his short career at the upper levels so far. He’s got three five-stars under his belt so far, and in each, he’s been excellent in this phase: he was clear with 2.8 time on his debut at Pau in 2020, clear with 5.2 time for 11th place at Luhmühlen last year, and clear inside the time for 13th at Luhmühlen this year. He also went to the European Championships last year, adding just 4.8 time and finishing 25th. He won’t be competitive in the first phase, and the final phase is a work in progress, too, but he’s one to keep an eye on on Saturday, and should give Aistis a great ride around their World Championships debut.

Fun fact: Aistis is a real family man, and Commander is a family horse — so much so that when he made his five-star debut at Pau, as a nine-year-old, he could be spotted doing pony rides around the schooling rings for Aistis’s very young daughter, who whooped and cheered from his saddle while clad in her oversized pink helmet. We’ve been huge fans ever since.

Daniela Moguela and Cecelia. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Daniela Moguel and Cecelia

Nineteen-year-old Thoroughbred mare (Connecticut – Penny Stock, by Spend A Buck)

4*/5* dressage average: 36.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 3

The need-to-knows: It was a poster of Karen O’Connor jumping into the famous Head of the Lake at what was then known as Rolex Kentucky that first caught the eye of Daniela Moguel. She attended the Kentucky Three-Day for the first time in 2001, and — I’m sure many of us can relate to this — caught “the bug” officially. 

Little by little, Daniela chipped away at a budding riding career in both the States and Mexico, but it wasn’t until she found Cecelia (on EN’s sister classifieds site, Sport Horse Nation, no less! #shamelessplug) that things really began to take off — literally.

Splitting time between Mexico, where she ran a training business out of Aurelio and Maribel Alonso Quinzano’ Rancho El Mirador, and the U.S. Daniela worked hard with Karen O’Connor to improve her skills. Her goal? To become the first-ever Mexican rider to compete at the five-star level. And in 2016, she did just that. 

“She was the horse I always wanted,” Daniela describes. Now, they’re on the cusp of their second World Championships appearance, having first done so in 2018 at the Tryon World Equestrian Games. 

Daniela is an advocate for diversity and visibility, in particular for riders of Latina/Latino descent. “As you go up the levels [of eventing in Mexico], there are fewer and fewer girls and women competing,” Daniela notes in a recent interview with Ema Klugman.  “She cites the military influence as creating a gender stereotype”, Ema wrote, “and also the fact that many women go into show jumping instead of eventing because there are more opportunities in that sport.”

At 19, this could be somewhat of a swan song for Cecelia, who has become the horse of dreams for Daniela. 

Fun Fact: When Daniela first met her husband, Zully Martinez, he was admittedly afraid of horses. But in his efforts to win her over, he overcame his fear — to the point where he now rides himself and helps run Dazull Eventing alongside Daniela. 

Sanne de Jong and Enjoy. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sanne de Jong and Enjoy

13-year-old KWPN mare (Cartano x Next Joey, by Haarlem), owned by Jantien van Zon and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 33.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Enjoy burst onto the scene as a young horse, taking fourth place at the Six-Year-Old World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers and finishing nineteenth as a seven-year-old. In 2017, at the age of eight, she moved up to four-star, and has been going from strength to strength since. They were sixth last year in the CCI4*-L at Strzegom and won Montelibretti’s CCI4*-S in March of this year. They make their World Championships debut after going to the European Championships last year, where they were technically eliminated, and they look on solid form. Dressage has always been the mare’s weakness, but her scores have been trending downward and even went sub-30 at Montelibretti, so Sanne and Enjoy should deliver a respectable result as part of the Dutch rebuilding project here.

Fun fact: x-year-old Sanne is the daughter of an eventer mother, who’s now heavily involved with equestrian media, and a course designer father — and to continue the theme of family legacies, she’s riding one of her homebreds this week in Enjoy, who she’s produced through the levels.

Jordy Wilken and Burry Spirit. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jordy Wilken and Burry Spirit

16-year-old KWPN gelding (Casco 4 x Retina H.H., by Indoctro), owned by the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 36.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Jordy and the sixteen-year-old “Burry” made their Championship debut as a pair last year at the European Championships, which unfortunately came to a premature end when they withdrew before the final trot up.

This pair share a lengthly partnership that includes nine years of International competition. They claimed the Dutch Reserve National Championship title in 2019, and made their five-star debut together the following year at Luhmühlen where they finished 15th.

The first phase may prove as the toughest for the lanky grey, but if anyone can eek out better marks from Burry, it’s Jordy. The duo are historically very good in the cross country phase, aside from 20 penalties picked up at both Luhmühlen and the Euros in 2021. Luckily, the two rerouted for the CCI4*-L here last fall at Pratoni where they were successful in a clear round with time. Now, Jordy is in the advantageous spot of knowing first-hand what to expect from this venue.

Fun fact: Jordy, who doesn’t come from a horsey background, has had to find his own ways to fund his riding — and the hard-working, affable rider has been creative in these endeavours. He runs the By Jordy Academy, a coaching programme for young riders, and is also a bit of a YouTube superstar in the Netherlands. He’ll no doubt be documenting his Pratoni experience in his jolly, fun style, so give him a follow to see the competition from the perspective of a debutant.

Tim Price and Falco. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tim Price and Falco 

13-year-old Hanoverian (Cardenio 2 x Witta, by Weinberg), owned by Sue Benson and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 27.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 0

Need to Know: World No. 3 Tim Price brings forward his Pau CCI5*-L winner Falco, and while they won’t lead after the dressage but they’ll be nipping at the heels of those first phase world beaters with a result in the mid- to upper-20s.

Tim and Falco went clear inside the time for their five-star victory last autumn at Pau, on a track that is known to come up hard and fast, a feat which can only be beneficial at WEG, where the cross country presents like a supercharged four-and-a-half-star, though here they will have much more terrain to attend to. Their sparkling show jumping record will give Team New Zealand loads of confidence on the final day, too.

Of course, Tim also brings forward the intangible asset of Championship experience: since his Senior Championship debut at Normany in 2014, he hasn’t missed a team since.

Fun Fact: Falco, who thrives in the madcap Price yard full of free-range pigs, sheep, and children, is part-owned by Sue Benson. You may remember her as the course designer for the London 2012 Olympics.

Jonelle Price and McClaren. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jonelle Price and McClaren

15-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Clarimo x Toni 1, by Landjunge). Owned by David and Katherine Thomson

4*/5* dressage average: 30.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

Need to Know: Jonelle is likely who many would describe as the toughest rider in the sport, and she’s partnered this week with the former Mark Todd mount McClaren. McClaren was also on the Kiwi team at the last World Championships in Tryon with Toddy.

McClaren’s record has been a bit of a mixed back for Jonelle. At Pau last fall, the pair made it around the notoriously intense, yet flat, track free and clear, but this spring at Kentucky, they picked up a 20. If Jonelle can keep it all through the flags she’ll have a competitive time, as she’s arguably the fastest event rider in the pack (even with the 20 at Kentucky, she still had only 13.2 time penalties). Their show jump record also offers a benefit to their final result, strengthened by time spent on the Sunshine Tour early in the season.

Fun Fact: When McClaren was in Toddy’s string, he was the firm favourite of Mark’s former head girl, Jess Wilson. Although she’s now busy with vet school — and jetting off to Egypt pretty regularly to volunteer in veterinary clinics there — she almost always joins the Price team to look after him at major competitions.

 

Clarke Johnstone and Menlo Park 

12-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Berlin x Faerie Queen, by Rock King). Owned by Jean and Rob Johnstone and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 30.8

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 0

Need to Know: Clarke’s last team championship appearance was in Rio and he’s chopping at the bit at another chance to support his home nation. His partner Menlo Park is a relatively new ride for the kiwi as the two made their International debut together just last November. Clarke is normally based around the other side of the world, but he relocated to the lovely Aston Farm in Gloucestershire for the 2022 season. From here, he took advantage of the UK eventing scene with several horses, included Menlo Park, with whom he picked up a strong fourth place finish in the four long at Millstreet.

Clarke will have his fingers crossed for a sub-30 dressage park, which he did produce in their final outing at Alnwick, and another quick trip like he had a Millstreet to end in the competitive mid-30s range.

Fun Fact: Menlo Park has shared such riders as Kevin McNab and Oliver Townend who evented the horse in his first FEI competitions.

 

 

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Monica Spencer and Artist

11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (breeding unknown). Owned by Andrew Spencer and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 27.3

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The Need-to-Knows: Monica hails from Taupo in the North Island of New Zealand and she’s traveled over 18,000 kilometers for her Team NZL debut. She’s made her long journey with “Max,” who she bought as a four-year-old. The Thoroughbred was bred for racing, but never made his way to the track, and Monica, who for more of her career has focused on buying and selling of sport horses, recognized his talent straight away.

The pair have had several wins together back in New Zealand, including most notable the CCI4*-L at Puhinui where they finished on their dressage score of 25.5. This event will be the pair’s first in the Northern Hemisphere, so they certainly have situated themselves as a dark horse entry if they can match previous performances. Additionally, Monica does this all while missing her darling nine-month-old son, Gus, who will be watching from home.

Fun Fact: To prepare for this Championship, Monica used her next-door neighbor’s cow paddock to work on Artist’s fitness. Talk about an eye for a cow pie.

Amanda Pottinger and Just Kidding. Photo by Julie Wilson Photography.

Amanda Pottinger and Just Kidding

16-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Fusaichi Pegasus x Gypsy Princess, by Sadler’s Wells). Owned by the Pottinger family.

4*/5* dressage average: 27.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The Need-to-Knows: Amanda hails from eventing royalty. Her mother, Tinks, won team bronze for New Zealand in 1988, and is still one of her biggest supporters. Amanda relocated to the UK in 2021 to prepare for this season with high hopes of this World Championship.

Their best finish has was in the four short at Bitcon last season where they were 13th. Amanda and the small statured Thoroughbred completed their first Badminton this spring with a smashing cross country run, but a disappointing four down in the show jumping. We should see two solid first phases from this pair, but the last is their most dodgy, espcially considering Pratoni show jumping will be held on grass similarly to Badminton.

Fun Fact: Just Kidding is by Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, who also became known as the worlds most expensive horse after selling at auction for $70 million in 2000.

Jan Kaminski and Jard. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jan Kaminski and Jard

12-year-old PZHK (Czuwaj x Juczia, by Chef Supreme), owned by Marcin Kaminski

4*/5* dressage average: 34.1

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Jan and Jard have represented Poland on Senior Championship teams several times, but this will be their World Championship debut. Their journey to a first Olympic appearance last summer was nothing short of dramatic. They were first tapped to become traveling reserves shortly before the team traveled to Tokyo, then, faithfully stepped into a competition role after the first horse inspection when teammates Pawel Spisak and Banderas were spun. They completed for 29th individually.

This pair have the ability to put themselves right into the meat of the competition this week with a mid 30s dressage mark, and they are consistent through the cross country phase. Show jumping may be their biggest challenge, especially considering the toll we can expect terrain to play on the horses this week. Jan does have the inside scoop on this, though, having completed the test event here earlier this spring with Jard.

 

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Malgorzata Korycka and Canvalencia

11-year-old Oldenburg (Verdi TN x Canberra, by Contender), owned by Beata Korycka.

4*/5* dressage average: 35.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Gosia came up through the ranks representing Poland on young rider teams and represented Poland at the Euros in 2021, but this will also be their first World Championships. The last year has been particularly sweet for this pair. In 2021, Gosia became the first Polish rider to win the CCI4*-L at Strzegom with Canvalencia, which was also her first career FEI win. This partnership also helped Poland win their first Nations Cup title earlier this summer where they individually were 10th.

Gosia and Canvalencia are a consistent cross country pair, and if they can keep the pedal down they may see themselves improve upon their mid 30s dressage score after the second phase. They’ve been seen to have a pole down on the final day in the past, but if they can imitate their Strzegom win from last summer they’ll be looking for a solid performance as individuals for Poland.

Fun fact: Poland has not fielded a team this year, but the two individuals sent forward are something of a power couple. In their personal lives Jan and Gosia are engaged to be married, but professionally the two have ridden together at a number of big competitions, including the Euros and the gold medal winner Nations Cup team in June.

Gonzalo Blasco Botin and Sij Veux d’Autize. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Gonzalo Blasco Botin and Sie Veux d’Autize

16-year-old Selle Français gelding (Urbain du Monnai x Novia d’Autize, by Pamphile). Owned by Marta Botin Naveda

4*/5* dressage average: 33.9

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: This will be a third championships for this duo, who competed at the last World Championships in 2018, though withdrew after dressage, and then contested last year’s European Championships, finishing 21st. They’ve had a tricky season in the lead-up to this event, and haven’t logged a clear across the country in their four FEI runs, but their previous form shows that they can deliver the goods when it counts. The goal will be a completion, and preferably a clear one: it would be a very big deal indeed if Spain could finish high enough in the team standings to earn a qualification for Paris.

Fun fact: Gonzalo is a seriously clever cookie: he has a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering, and another in international business, and works as an investment analyst at Madrid’s Bankiter Capital Riesgo.

Esteban Benitez Valle and Milana 23 (ESP). Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Esteban Benitez Valle and Milana 23

18-year-old British-bred Sport Horse mare (Medoc x Morka, by Flemmingh). Owned by José Cañedo Angoso and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 39

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Milana 23 has been competing at International levels for the last decade, and he brings that wealth of experience forward with Esteban Benitez Valle. Based in Horsnmühlen, Germany, Esteban first rode for Spain in the junior and young rider ranks before his senior team debut in 2017 – he’s been on every Europeans team since.

What the mare lacks in size, she makes up for in personality, and she certainly lets everyone know it in the dressage. Esteban will be looking to put that behind them quickly, because it’s the cross country where they shine brightest. More likely than not, the pair will have one down in the show jumping, but should still enjoy a strong finish in their first WEG.

Fun fact: Esteban got plenty of mileage as part of the Student Riders programme, which has fielded graduates such as Kiwi five-star rider Lauren Innes, Ireland’s Brian Morrison, and Horse&Hound journalist Lucy Elder among its esteemed ranks. Esteban served as president of the Spanish University Riders Association and was a selector for their national team, too.

Antonio Cejudo Caro and Duque HSM. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Antonio Cejudo Caro and Duque HSM

11-year-old Spanish Sport Horse gelding (River Dance x La Mona 2, by Limbus). Owned by Hannoveraner San Miguel S.L.

4*/5* dressage average: 34.1

XC speed rating: ☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Antonio makes his World Championships debut with Duque HSM, the horse who he partnered to his first team call-up at the European Championships last year. They didn’t complete on that occasion, but Antonio has been hard at work educating the inexperienced horse, who jumped a classy, steady clear here at the test event in May. He’s had a couple of confidence-building CCI3*-S runs since, and will have his eyes on a valuable completion and another educational building block for the horse’s — and his own — future.

Carlos Diaz Fernandez and Taraje CP 21.10. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Carlos Diaz Fernandez and Taraje CP 21.10 

9-year-old Spanish Anglo-Arab gelding (Eole des Orcets x Gazelle de Gats, by Count Ivor). Owned by Campeagro Sat.

4*/5* dressage average: 33

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: This will be a third World Championship appearance for Carlos Diaz Fernandez. He did not complete in 2014, and in 2018 he was 24th individually as the top-placed Spanish rider.

His partner this weekend is the Taraje CP 21.10, who is owned by his breeder. At just nine, the gelding is among the youngest in the lineup. He moved up to the Advanced level last year and has taken to the top level with much enthusiasm – he’s only got one error on his cross country record (which he picked up at his first International). At the three-star level he can be quite fast, but hasn’t yet beat the time at four-star.

Carlos elected for a unique prep ahead of this World Championships, taking Taraje to the CCI2*-L just a month ago at Le Pin au Haras. We’ll see how that plays out for the Spaniard.

 

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Frida Andersen and Box Leo 

12-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Jaguar Mail x Box Qutie, by Quite Easy). Owned by Therese Örup.

4*/5* dressage average: 33.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Frida and the former Ludwig Svennerstal ride Box Leo, who she teamed up with in early 2021, have picked up some exciting results across their ten FEI starts together, including seven top-eight finishes at events such as Saumur CCI4*-L, Strzegom CCI4*-S, and Sopot CCI3*-L, which they won in the latter part of last season. They looked on excellent form at Haras du Pin CCIO4*-S, where they finished 24th out of over 110, but did pick up a 20 in their international run prior to that at Jardy CCI4*-S. That’s been their one blip so far — and it doesn’t look to have negatively impacted them.

Fun fact: 32-year-old Frida made her Olympic debut in 2016 with the homebred mare Herta — a partnership that was largely down to a bit of luck. Her family had downsized their horses when the mare was two, but couldn’t decide which to put on the market. A literal roll of the dice decided that Herta would be the one to stay.

Aminda Ingulfsson and Joystick. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Aminda Ingulfson and Joystick 

Fourteen-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Jaguar Mail x For Joy SN, by Cardento 933). Owned by Helena Gunnarsson and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 33

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Both Aminda and her sweet, ebullient former showjumper Joystick, who only ran in his first FEI event at the end of 2019, are making their Championship debut this week after an exciting year that’s seen them win a CCI4*-S at Strzegom this spring, take eleventh in the Pratoni test event, and nab tenth place in a very hot field at Luhmühlen CCI4*-S in June. Their last run, in the selection trial at Haras du Pin, saw them pick up an uncharacteristic 20 penalties, and because we’ve not seen them since, we have to hope that it’s served to sharpen them up rather than dent their confidence.

Malin Josefsson and Golden Midnight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Malin Josefsson and Golden Midnight 

Fourteen-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Goldmine x Duva, by Maraton). Owned by Karin Berglund.

4*/5* dressage average: 37.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Swedish team stalwarts Malin and Golden Midnight return for their third Championship as a partnership after finishing 25th at the European Championships in 2019 and 20th last year. Their first phase is their weakest — although they all have a tendency to get held at the horse inspections, so you could really argue that the horse’s natural way of going is his weakness — but they’re excellent, as well as quick and reliable, over the poles and across the country, although they, like Aminda and Joystick, had an uncharacteristic 20 at Haras du Pin. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them put in the highly-pressurised pathfinder position, because they’ll get the job done and bring back some seriously good intel to their teammates. At the Pratoni test event, they were the first pair to catch the time, which is a great confidence boost for them and the team.

Fun fact: Malin, who’s half Japanese, balances riding with a ‘proper’ job as a small animal vet in Sweden alongside her parents. They also breed German Shepherds.

Sofia Sjoborg and Bryjamolga van het Marienshof Z .Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sofia Sjoborg and Bryjamolga van het Marienshof Z

Eleven-year-old Zangersheide mare (Bamako de Muze x Cryloga M, by Lord Z). Owned by Juliet and Mattias Sjoborg and the rider.

4*/5* dressage average: 36.3

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: 24-year-old Sofia makes her World Championships debut aboard the mare with whom she went to last year’s European Championships as an individual. There, they finished 13th, despite being just 23 and 10, respectively, at the time. That was just the mare’s third CCI4*-L; the first two were good runs in small fields at Portugal’s Barroca d’Alva, which probably wouldn’t have tipped anyone off about what was to come. They’ve done a number of CCI4*-S competitions since, and though the mare’s tricky first phase has gotten in the way of any truly tremendous results, they should get the job done in fine style over the Pratoni hills that they saw at this spring’s test event.

Fun fact: British-based Sofia, who trains with the Prices and dressage star Laura Tomlinson, with whom she’s based, did a stint at Michael Jung’s yard alongside best friend and competitor Ailsa Wates. They competed against one another at Junior and Young Rider championships and both stepped up to five-star at Pau last year.

Niklas Lindback and Focus Filiocus. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

INDIVIDUAL: Niklas Lindback and Focus Filiocus 

Fifteen-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Feliciano 823 x Blue Bells, by Be My Chief). Owned by Tun Albertson.

4*/5* dressage average: 34.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: It’s a fourth championship and second World Championship for experienced pair Niklas and Focus Filiocus, who finished 35th in Tryon in 2018, 14th at the 2017 Europeans, and 30th at the 2019 Europeans. Nevertheless, they find themselves in the individual slot after a relatively dormant period from the end of 2019 through 2021, though they’ve been back with a bang in 2022 with five FEI runs under their belt this season. That’s included a win in the CCI4*-S at Sopot in May and a conservative run for 16th place at Luhmühlen CCI5* in June.

Fun fact: Many will remember Niklas for his partnership with the great Mister Pooh, with whom he was successful at the 2010 World equestrian Games, the 2012 Olympics, and the 2009 and 2013 European Championships. When the pair won the Six-Year-Old World Championships in 2006, they became the first-ever Swedish champions at Le Lion d’Angers.

Robin Godel and Grandeur de Lully CH. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Robin Godel and Grandeur de Lully CH

Fourteen-year-old Swiss Sport Horse gelding (Greco de Lully CH x Miola, by Apartos), owned by Jean-Jacques Fünfschilling

4*/5* dressage average: 29.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: 24-year-old Robin is rather the darling of the Swiss team, and with good reason: he rides with a natural feel across the country that’s not dissimilar to that of Andrew Nicholson, who has been the team’s cross-country coach since 2019. With Nicholson’s guidance, he and his teammates have stopped playing it slow and safe, waiting for another team to make mistakes, and have begun to take calculated risks instead — and that’s shone through in his results this year. He won the Pratoni test event aboard this horse and was part of the victorious Swiss team, too, and since then, the pair have also won the Nations Cup leg at Avenches and gone well at the selection trial at Haras du Pin. Robin also took victory in the CCI4*-L at Strzegom, riding Global DHI. They’ll be aiming for a sub-30, a quick clear across the country and, if they can keep the poles up on the final day, a look-in at the top ten. This could be a momentous week for Switzerland, and Robin, who’s already got a World Championship under his belt with this horse, will be at the helm of it.

Fun fact: Reigning Swiss Champion Robin has won that title an impressive five times, and previously represented Switzerland at European Championships at the Junior and Young Rider level.

Mélody Johner and Toubleu du Rueire. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Mélody Johner and Toubleu de Rueire

Fifteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Mr Blue x La Guna de Rueire, by Bayard d’Elle), owned by Peter Thuerler and Heinz-Günter Wickenhäuser

4*/5* dressage average: 35.2

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: It’s a second senior championship for this pair, who debuted at last year’s Olympics, finishing seventeenth individually. In Toubleu de Rueire’s fourteen runs with Mélody, he’s been top ten 11 times. They’ve not picked up any cross-country jumping penalties, and have become a really solid banker pair for the Swiss front, which is on enormously good form this year. This is Mélody’s third championship – she also rode at the 2017 Europeans, though was eliminated – and her focus will be on doing what she does best: coming home fast and clear and helping to aim for a top-seven placing for the team.

Fun fact: Toubleu de Rueire doesn’t just look like a unicorn — he’s adopted that role for Swiss riders throughout his career. He’s been a superb partner for Mélody, who started her career as a showjumper, and was Swiss junior jumping champion in 2003. She picked up eventing in 2013 after her husband, Benoit, issued her a challenge. She got the ride on the gelding in 2020, and he was previously piloted by Tiziana Realini, and before that, Sandra Leonhardt-Raith, both of whom are Swiss riders who rode him in Europeans teams.

Nadja Minder and Toblerone. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Nadja Minder and Toblerone 

Fifteen-year-old Swiss Warmblood gelding (Yarlands Summer Song x Medelyne, breeding unknown), owned by Nicole Basieux

4*/5* dressage average: 33.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: 22-year-old Nadja was enormously impressive at this spring’s test event, where she rode two horses and lodged two of the just seven clears inside the time of the week. Toblerone also went sub-30 there, which was a first at an FEI event, and both horse and rider performed with a maturity well beyond their combined experience level. We can expect to see them carry that into this week, where they’ll help fight for the chance to qualify Switzerland for the Paris Olympics. That’ll be the championship where we’ll see Nadja hit her zenith and start fighting for placings.

Fun fact: This is Nadja’s senior championship debut, but far from the first time she’s represented Switzerland on the world stage. She’s ridden at two Junior and two Young Rider European Championships, most recently finishing 11th at last year’s Young Riders with her World Championships mount. She’s one of several riders in this field to come forward with her Young Riders horse — Germany’s Alina Dibowski is another example.

Felix Vogg and Cartania. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Felix Vogg and Cartania II 

Eleven-year-old Holsteiner mare (Cartani 4 x Z-Schatzi, by Clinton), owned by Phoenix Eventing S.à.r.l. and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 31.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Felix had the rare luxury of being able to choose for this championship: he was named with both the young Cartania, with whom he finished eighth at last year’s European Championships, and with Colero, who he rode to a top twenty place at Tokyo and with whom he won Luhmühlen CCI5* this summer, making him the first Swiss five-star winner since the ’50s. Even then, though, he was sold on the idea of riding this mare in what will be his third World Championships, and it’s easy enough to see why: she’s still gaining in experience, and isn’t quite the speediest horse in the mix yet, but she’s getting closer and closer to being the kind of horse that’ll finish on her dressage score at a long-format. A freak tumble in the final minute at Aachen this summer looked bad, but shouldn’t actually detract from her form at all, particularly as she performed well in the CCI4*-S at Haras du Pin’s selection trial last month.

Fun fact: Felix might be Swiss, but he’s also pretty German — he was born and raised there, and he’s spent much of his life training there, too. His major mentor is Michael Jung, with whom he’s based himself for much of his career, but he also works closely with Bettina Hoy to sharpen up the first phase, and he spent a year based in the States with Phillip Dutton, too. His five-star win came on his 32nd birthday, which is a pretty sweet present, we reckon.

Patrick Rüegg and Fifty Fifty. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

INDIVIDUAL: Patrick Rüegg and Fifty Fifty

Fourteen-year-old Hanoverian mare (Fidertanz 2 x Meerfuerstin, by Friedensfuerst 1), owned by Angela Häberli

4*/5* dressage average: 36.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: The Swiss individual competitors come forward after making their championship debut together at last year’s European Championships, which were held on home soil at Avenches. Though they didn’t complete this May’s test event at Pratoni after Patrick took a tumble, they do have course form here: they were ninth in the CCI4*-L back in 2020, adding nothing to their dressage score of 38.1. Patrick has been riding the mare since she was a four-year-old, which is the sort of partnership that will really benefit them in a tough competition such as this one.

Fun fact: Fifty Fifty has a half-sibling in the field in Ireland’s Fallulah, ridden by Padraig McCarthy. Both are sired by the dressage stallion Fidertanz 2.

 

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Korntawat Samran and Uster de Chanay

Fourteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Negus de b’Neville x Ironne de Chanay, by Clyde de la Combe), owned by Harald Link and Nunthinee Tanner.

4*/5* dressage average: 33.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Korntawat was part of the first-ever Thai eventing team to compete in the Olympics last year, and this week, we see him on a different horse — the smart French-bred Uster de Chanay, who was piloted by Camille Lejeune until mid-2019. In their nine FEI starts together, Nut and Uster have never had a cross-country jumping penalty, and they’ve enjoyed placings at Strzegom CCI4*-L and Montelibretti CCI4*-L.

Nut has been based in France himself since 2014, and trains with Maxime Livio, who is a key part of the Thai efforts. A completion is a solid aim this week, and a crucial stepping stone en route to Thailand’s continued development as an eventing nation.

Fun fact: ‘Nut’, as he’s known to his friends, won the 2019 Princess’s Cup at the Equestrian Rising Star Awards Night in Thailand. He has a degree in Sports Science from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg

Fifteen-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall II – Thabana, by Buddenbrock), owned by Christine Turner, Thomas Turner, and Tommie Turner

Groom: Stephanie Simpson

4*/5* dressage average: 26.5

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: “We must never underestimate a horse’s desire! It is very hard to measure at first sight.” That’s one thing Boyd told Abby Powell a few years back when he first was getting to know “Thomas”. An unassuming, smaller-statured Trakehner gelding bred by Dr. Tim and Cheryl Holekamp, Tsetserleg wouldn’t necessarily scream “I’M AN OLYMPIC HORSE” at you if you saw him at home. But once you get him to the big stage, all bets are off and he “rides like he’s more 17.2 hands,” Boyd describes.

Indeed, Thomas (why haven’t we begun calling him Thomas the Tank Engine?) has stepped up to the plate in every imaginable way since he came to Boyd’s program in 2016. Before that, he’d been campaigned by Michael Pollard. He and Boyd finished 11th in their five-star debut at Kentucky in 2018 and would go on to rep the U.S. for the first time at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon that year. While an unfortunate runout at the water question would keep them from being competitive, the experience was invaluable – and this combination has been nearly picture-perfect ever since.

Boyd and Tsetserleg now add their fourth U.S. team appearance to their roster, most recently finishing 20th individually in Tokyo. To hear Boyd describe Thomas is to hear him talk about the gelding’s try and the partnership they’ve built and solidified in the past six years.

“I think this particular competition really suits him,” Boyd told us after the U.S. team was announced. “Every WEG I’ve gone to, my gut feeling is that they call it a four-star, but it’s always a five-and-a-half star and Thomas’ strength is when it’s long and tough and big and demanding physically. He’s such a trier and a pure athlete, so I think it’s a perfect competition for him.”

Boyd and Tsetserleg will be the most experienced pair on the squad in Pratoni, and we know Boyd’s a staunch competitor who won’t let much stand in the way of delivering when it’s needed the most.

Fun Fact: To our knowledge, Boyd did not pack his U.S. suit for this trip, and we’re not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum. Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum

Sixteen-year-old German Sport Horse gelding (Loredano 2- Ramira, by Rike), owned by Alexandra Ahearn, Ellen Ahearn, and Eric Markell
Groom: Alyssa Dobrotin

4*/5* dressage average: 23.4

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆.5

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: What can you say about Mai Baum other than: what a horse. It’s been a long time coming for southern California-based Tamie Smith, who will get her first starting position on a major championship team for the U.S. (she was a part of the gold medal-winning team at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima). Tamie was the traveling reserve for the Tokyo Olympics last year, and while the experience was heartbreakingly tough, it also left Tamie with a simmering determination. She left Japan with vital experience gained and enough motivation to drive herself right into a spot on this year’s World Championships team.

But first, a quick stop at Badminton, where Tamie and the striking German gelding originally sourced by Michelle Pestl finished ninth after delivering two clear jumping rounds. This result all but sealed the deal for a pair who has long been tapped by fans and experts alike as potential world beaters were they ever given the chance. An ill-fated downed frangible pin at Kentucky in 2021 kept them from what would likely have been a five-star win – but honestly? Tamie doesn’t dwell on stories like that. She’s not here to wax poetic about what could have been – she’s come to Italy to show us why she and “Lexus” are meant to be here.

One question that looms as the competition approaches is the fact that show jumping at Pratoni will be held on grass. While there are venues in the U.S. that hold this phase on grass, it’s still far less common here versus in the UK and Europe. But Tamie and Mai Baum have one more feather in their cap ahead of this week: they jumped a double clear around a tough Badminton track on Sunday – on grass.

Fun Fact: Mai Baum was previously campaigned by his owner, Alex Ahearn. Alex rode Mai Baum as a junior through the now-three-star level before opting to hand the reins over to Tamie. Alex and her family are in Italy to cheer their team on, naturally.

Will Coleman and Off the Record. Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

Will Coleman and Off The Record

Thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Arkansas – Drumagoland Bay, by Ard Ohio), owned by the Off the Record SyndicateGroom: Hailey Burlock

4*/5* dressage average: 27.3

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: 2021 proved to be a fruitful year for the camp at Will Coleman Equestrian. Will became the first American winner of the prestigious CHIO Aachen CCIO4*-S with the horse who now becomes his World Championships teammate, Off the Record. This will be the second Worlds appearance for Will and his third time on a senior championship team.

“Timmy” came to Will via Cooley Farm’s Richard Sheane as a four-year-old (his “given” name had been Cooley Stateside – it was destiny). “Humble beginnings” is how WIll describes the horse’s young days, describing the gelding as gangly and Irish as he matured. And mature he did – and continues to do each year. He finished second in the end of year Fair Hill then-CCI2* in 2017 and in 2019 came third in his “return home” to the Tattersalls 4*-L in Ireland. En route to his Aachen victory, Off the Record collected a 15th place finish in his debut at the five-star level.

This year, Will and Timmy returned to Aachen, this time coming a respectable sixth – though Will would have loved to defend his title, no doubt. Although Will can often be heard describing Al, affectionately, as “a refrigerator” to ride on cross country, the Irish gelding is not without try, and that gumption has earned him this top berth in a very competitive Coleman string.

Fun fact: Many of Will’s horses are named after songs from his favorite bands. Off the Record and stablemate Dondante share a namesake in the rock band My Morning Jacket.

 

Lauren Nicholson and Vermiculus. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lauren Nicholson and Vermiculus

Fifteen-year-old Anglo-Arabian gelding (Sazeram – Wake Me Gently), owned by Ms. Jacqueline B. Mars
Groom: Sally Robertson

4*/5* dressage average: 29.6

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: This will be the fourth team appearance for Lauren Nicholson and her second World Championships trip with Vermiculus. This pair’s 2018 run at Tryon ended in abbreviated fashion after they parted ways on cross country, but they’ve amassed a slew of consistently competitive results in the time since. Lauren and “Bug” were ninth at both Kentucky and Burghley in 2019 and most recently were fourth at Luhmühlen this past June.

Lauren will tell you herself that she’s a huge supporter and advocate of Anglo-Arabians as sport horses. After all, her first five-star horse, Snooze Alarm, was also an Anglo-Arab and is – fun fact – Vermiculus’ full brother. And it’s that Arabian blood that could come into play on Saturday. The test that lies ahead is one that will require endurance as well as rideability and speed. Time faults are the main thing that one could point to as a factor in competitiveness for Lauren and Bug – but to be quite honest, clear rounds may well count for more than fast ones on Saturday, and that track might just be perfectly suited for a quirky horse like Vermiculus.

Another Fun Fact: Lauren has worked with eventing legends David and Karen O’Connor since she was a teenager. The first time they connected? During a week at the O’Connor Event Camp, which Lauren received as a high school graduation gift.

Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan

Thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Master Imp – Ardragh Bash, by Cavalier Royale), owned by Annie Eldridge
Groom: Meredith Ferraris

4*/5* dressage average: 32.7

XC speed rating: ☆☆☆.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Southern Pines, NC-based Ariel Grald gets her first nod to a senior championship squad this year with the Irish gelding Leamore Master Plan. Owned by longtime supporter Annie Eldridge, “Simon” is another one of those consistent cross country horses you’d want on any team these days. Imported as a “rogue five-year-old” by Ariel for Annie, Simon quickly earned his spot on the roster and would eventually go on to be Ariel’s first five-star horse.

Described as a “puppy dog” on the ground but quite exuberant to handle and ride (hint: sometimes the vet assistants won’t jog Simon during routine exams – that’s a privilege left to Ariel!), Simon is an affable guy who simply loves to run cross country. And he’s got results to prove it: in four five-star completions, Simon has not accrued any cross country penalties and can often be quick across the ground when push comes to shove.

Ariel knows she’s got more in the tank after a higher-than-desired dressage mark at Badminton earlier this year left her lower in the initial standings than she’d like. This pair has snuck into the high-20s in the past, so look for Ariel to be pushing for every mark she can get on the day one. But no matter what, this will be a pair to watch out on Giuseppe Della Chiesa’s cross country come Saturday.

Fun Fact: Simon’s owner, Annie Eldridge, owns and operates Setters’ Run Farm in North Carolina, where she specializes in U.S.-bred sporthorses who are started correctly. She’s also stepped up as the new title sponsor of the Carolina International CCI4*-S – three cheers to you, Annie, a gracious supporter of our sport.

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