Tales from the Frontlines at Tryon: Riders React to WEG Cross Country

Cross country day at a major championship is unlike any other. While there’s always a palpable tension in the air on the morning of Kentucky, Badminton or Burghley, a team championship adds an entirely different dimension.

As the first few riders go out on course, teams are analyzing how the combinations are riding and whether or not they need to adjust their plan. Riders are often receiving last-minute instructions to change their route at certain key combinations just as they are going into the start box.

The mixed zone for media is located at the end of the course, so we are interviewing riders soon after they finish to get their reaction. You get to experience the raw, gritty emotion that accompanies both the triumph of the ride they wanted and the heartbreak when things didn’t go to plan.

Read on for thoughts from the riders following their cross country rounds at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games.

Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD (GER). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

1st – Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD – Germany
Clear and bang on the optimum time
Moved up one place to individual gold position

On Bobby being fit and full of running: “He was so full of himself. We had to wait a little bit at the start (due to a hold) and he was ready to go, so when I wasn’t allowed to go I tried to trot back but he didn’t want to. I thought, ‘Well, don’t lose a shoe, try to behave’ — but then he was very fast in the beginning. He really wanted to run, and I thought this will be quite too fast if we keep going like this.

“Everything went really the way I wanted. We came up the hill — deep breath — and he came to the finish line saying, ‘OK, so more?’ I was very, very pleased and proud.”

Ros Canter and Allstar B (GBR). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

2nd – Ros Canter and Allstar B – Great Britain
Clear and 9 seconds inside the time
Moved up one place to individual silver position on 24.6

On being the anchor for the British team: “It’s quite a lot of waiting around. It’s quite hard to get in the zone at the right time, but I’m just so lucky that we’ve got such a great support team and that all the other riders fed back to me such brilliant information. I went out there with that advantage.”

Sarah Ennis and Horseware Stellor Rebound (IRL). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

3rd – Sarah Ennis and Horseware Stellor Rebound – Ireland
Clear and 7 seconds inside the time
Moved up three places to individual bronze position on 26.3

On the Irish team sitting in silver position: “I can’t believe it. We have worked so hard and we have done so much through the year, and we’ve got trainers for everything now. We’ve got such an amazing team and a really good team camaraderie. It’s amazing. So I can’t believe we’re actually here and this is happening. This is what you dream about.”

Thibaut Vallette Lt Col and Qing du Briot ENE HN (FRA). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

4th – Thibaut Vallette and Qing du Briot ENE HN – France
Clear with 1.2 time penalties
Remained in fourth place on 26.8

On pre-cross country nerves: “I’m never quite confident. For me it’s easier to be a little anxious because I am very concentrated on the dressage test, for the cross country, for the jumping. I have to be a little anxious to be quite good. If I’m too relaxed I’m not very good.”

Astier Nicolas and Vinci de la Vigne (FRA). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

5thT – Astier Nicolas and Vinci de la Vigne – France
Clear and bang on the optimum time
Moved up four placed to sit equal fifth on 27.2

On the mercifully dry weather conditions: “This weather is amazing — thank you to Florence because it brought much nicer temperatures. The conditions are great and the state of the ground is perfect — that’s why we see some horses finishing easily inside the time.”

Tim Price and Cekatinka (NZL). Photo Leslie Threlkeld.

5thT – Tim Price and Cekatinka – New Zealand
Clear and 5 seconds inside the time
Moved up three places to equal fifth on 27.2

On Cekatinka: “She was a cracker wasn’t she? She just finds it so nicely in her stride. She’s quite a hot-headed little mare — not in a way that gets in the way too much, but she wants it. She’s up for it and she wants to know where the job is and she’ll do it. It’s just a matter of putting her in the right channel and getting to the start box and getting on with the job.”

On his strategy for course walks: “Now I’m getting a little bit braver on my first walk, and I’m leaving strides out and asking people why they’re being wimps by adding strides. And then I tone it down for the second and third walk, and then I have a look on the morning … I had the benefit of going later in the day to see these things so it just confirmed my initial plans.”

Padraig McCarthy and Mr Chunky (IRL). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

5thT – Padraig McCarthy and Mr Chunky – Ireland
Clear and 8 seconds inside the time
Moved up two places to equal fifth on 27.2

On the hill at the end of the course: “I was a few seconds down at the bottom of the hill, and Sam Watson said he was in the same position. We knew we didn’t have to be up on the clock here because until you get to the bottom of the hill there’s still a lot of tricky questions that you have to negotiate, and my horse is very fit. He trains on the hill in Dartmoor, and I knew when I got to the bottom of the hill that I could kick, and he responded. I actually had to take a pull and slow down coming into the main ring because there was three of us on the same score and I didn’t want to be too under the optimum time.

Piggy French and Quarrycrest Echo (GBR). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

8th – Piggy French and Quarrycrest Echo – Great Britain
Clear and 5 seconds inside the time
Moved up seven places to eighth on 27.8

On the pressure: “The course rode a bit bigger than I thought it walked, but then it’s just riding with such a different pressure that you feel being in a team, and you’re so desperate to get the job done rather than just going out for yourself so much.

On Quarrycrest Echo digging deep: “He got to the bottom of the hill, and I was much more feathered down (on the clock) than I’d have liked to have been, but he just put his head down and got really gritty all the way up the hill with his ears back, and he just tried to the finish and made up so much time. I’m so proud of him because he’s not a Thoroughbred horse. He’s not got loads of experience of doing longer CCI (courses), so I’m just really proud that he’s dug as deep and come back as well as he did.”

On being selected for the British team: “I’m glad to have done it today because there were probably horses that were more experienced than mine that could have gotten the team slot, but I think people also see what horse there is in there. I’m very grateful that he got given the go.”

Lynn Symansky and Donner. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

9th – Lynn Symansky and Donner – USA
Clear and 4 seconds inside the time
Moved up eight places to ninth on 28.3

On having a rest day before show jumping: ” You get a little longer to take care of the horses, but sometimes if you go out and run a really, really long race, you feel kind of OK the next day and then you’re even more sore the day after. You’re muscle-fatigued. So I think it will be a big shake-up on Monday when everybody jumps because I don’t think we quite know how to prepare the horses because we’ve never practiced that before.”

On caring for the horses on Sunday: “You’ve got to rely on the job you’ve done, and take care of them as best as possible and keep them moving, which may also be very difficult with the storm coming in because there aren’t a lot of big covered places to do that. Part of the care after is icing, but then keeping them moving so they don’t get too still in the stall. Fingers crossed the weather doesn’t get too dramatic on us.”

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser (GBR). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

10th – Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser – Great Britain
Clear and 1 second inside the time
Moved up eight places to 10th on 28.4

On making the time: “I knew I’d be down midway through the course, and obviously we’ve got our (long) route at the water that we’re doing. But he picked up all the way up the hill. The hill is what we’re doing in training. I’m very lucky where I am to have a few hills to practice on. We cruised home, but did a little work up the hill to make sure I made the time, but he jumped brilliant. I couldn’t ask any more of him.”

Andrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos (AUS). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

11th – Andrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos – Australia
Clear and 6 seconds inside the time
Moved up 18 places to 11th on 29.8

On his horse being only 9: “Vassily de Lassos is just one of the greatest horses I’ve ever sat on, and I’ve sat on some very, very good horses but the way he just ran and jumped around Mark Phillips’s course was just phenomenal. David and Paula Evans bought him for me to ride in May last year as a 1*/2* horse, and for him to now run round the world championships has just been extraordinary.”

Jonelle Price and Classic Moet (NZL). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

12th – Jonelle Price and Classic Moet – New Zealand
Clear and 16 seconds inside the time
Moved up 18 places to 12th on on 30.0

On riding the Badminton winer: “In a funny way I feel like I go out with more pressure on me now because I know how good she is. She’s proven it time and time again over the last four years since she first reached four-star. You sort of leave that start box knowing that if there’s not a double clear on the scoreboard, then it’s my fault. It’s sort of more a duty I owe to her. Thankfully I did my part today and she answered all the questions.”

On having a rest day before show jumping: “I think it’s absurd. It really worries me who is calling these shots. … I think it completely changes the game. The whole point of jumping on the day after cross country is the horse that can recover the best and come out and close their stride and be careful. Giving them the extra day is a whole other kettle of fish, so I think here and now it’s really sad. I really hope (the weather) is as bad as they say; otherwise it’s going to look very stupid for our sport.”

Pawel Spisak and Banderas (POL). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

13th – Pawel Spisak and Banderas – Poland
Clear and with 0.8 time penalties
Moved up 22 places to 13th on 31.4

On changing his plan at the water: “I thought it would be really really difficult when we walked the course, but when we watched a few riders in the beginning we saw that some of them made the time really easy, so then we decided to take a longer route on the second water because some horses were really surprised about the waterfall. Banderas is usually not so scared about such a fence, but we didn’t want to make a risk, and then I had to really try to catch the time. …  In the end he still had power enough up the hill, so we were really close (to making the time).”

Tina Cook and Billy the Red (GBR). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

14th – Tina Cook and Billy The Red – Great Britain
Clear with 2.4 time penalties
Moved up nine places to 14th on 31.5

On the course being a proper championship course: “A lot of the riders were a little bit dismissive. We thought it wasn’t the biggest course that we’d ever walked at world championships, but the more times we walked it the more problems you could see and questions that were being asked of the horses, and it’s proved it today. We’ve been very lucky with the weather and the ground is fantastic, but it was a little more undulating than it walked on foot. So It was a proper championship course and I’m really pleased with him.”

Maxime Livio and Opium de Verrieres (FRA). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

16th – Maxime Livio and Opium de Verrieres – France
Clear with 2.0 time penalties
Moved up 15 places to 16th on 32.1

On why the water caused so much trouble: “I would say its not technical mistakes, it’s more on cross country there is the technique but there is also the atmosphere — the people, the water over the bank — there are many, many, many fences everywhere when we get in a combination with the options and the horses say, ‘We’ve got this one, we’ve got this one.’ … We really have to keep the connection with the horses; even when we start to go fast, we have to keep them focused.”

Sam Watson and Horseware Ardagh Highligh (IRL). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

25th – Sam Watson and Horseware Ardagh Highlight – Ireland
Clear and 3 seconds inside the time
Moved up 38 places to 25th on 35.5

On going out as pathfinder for the Irish team: “One last minute adjustment was to not do the waterfall in the main water because he’s a little spooky, and we had heard that Will (Coleman) had had a problem there. I always said from the word go, ‘I like that long route so much that if anyone looks at that let me know because I’ll take it long.’ So I did that.”

On taking the pressure off in the middle of the course: “I probably lost 10 maybe 15 seconds intentionally. I knew he’d be fit enough to make it up. I just didn’t want him fried in the middle, I just wanted him to enjoy himself. He did that. He was fantastic. We’ve trained for this. We had him fit for it. I do cross country with him every week so we can do these questions and so today was just a day at the office for him. I’m very, very pleased with him.”

Cathal Daniels and Rioghan Rua (IRL). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

28th – Cathal Daniels and Rioghan Rua – Ireland
Clear with 3.6 time penalties
Moved up 30 places to 28th on 37.6

On having time penalties: “The hill did take its toll. She’s run a bit this year, but we haven’t pushed the gallop work because she struggles also a little bit in the dressage (with being hot), so we kind of eased off in the gallop work, and it did show a little bit today that she did get a little bit tired. She kept trying and everywhere she jumped she jumped super. I’m delighted by her.”

On Ireland being in contention for a team medal: “A good jumping day on Monday now and we could be in a very good position for — I don’t know what color medal — but hopefully it’s the right color.”

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jollybo. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

38th – Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jollybo – Canada
Clear with 10.8 time penalties
Moved up 12 places to 38th on 43.5

On getting Jollybo fit on the West Coast: “Jolly started using the water treadmill at San Luis Ray Equine a year ago, and that has been a game-changer. She is so strong now and so fit. I did three gallops before I came out, and I went up Ms. Mars’s hill twice, and I could have gone for two more minutes on her. She feels unreal. And you don’t have to do all the pounding on them. She’s up to 18 minutes on the treadmill with water up to her chest on an incline walking. And that’s all it takes.”

Daniela Moguel and Cecelia (MEX). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

42nd – Daniela Mougel and Cecelia – Mexico
Clear with 8.8 time penalties
Moved up 31 places to 42nd on 45.9

On representing Mexico: “For so many years I was very upset with my government and the way things have been handled in my country for the people and for the athletes. A year ago we had a really bad earthquake in Mexico City, and it was horrible for us. A lot of people lost their houses and lost everything they had, and it was then when I realized what a wonderful people we are and how much we want to help each other. Today I am here for them. I am here for my people. I am very proud of them.”

Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH (GER). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

47th – Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH – Germany
20 jumping penalties and 8.4 time penalties
Dropped from first place to 47th on 48.3

On their runout at 14C, the CSX Corners: “It was a miscommunication, which we don’t have very often, but sometimes it happens. Otherwise I should say I’m quite proud of him because he did a great job, and he finished really fit and well and he really wanted to gallop and do everything right. It’s quite annoying, but that how it goes sometimes.”

Lisa Marie Fergusson and Honor Me. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

48th – Lisa Marie Fergusson and Honor Me – Canada
Clear with 8.4 time penalties
Moved up 32 places to 48th on 48.6

On being at WEG with a self-produced horse: “It’s so amazing, especially because he was a challenge a little bit as a young horse because he has such a big step — fitting him into a small dressage arena was not fun. But it really works for you out on cross country. He’s so fun. I’m sure in all the pictures I’m grinning like an idiot because I’m like, ‘Oh, that was so awesome, good boy!’”

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

54th – Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg – USA
20 jumping penalties and 11.6 time penalties
Dropped from eighth to 54th on 58.7

On the course: “It’s just got everything: it’s technical, it’s a hill, it’s gallopy, it’s twisty and turny, and there’s options galore. For the life of me, it was the one jump I wasn’t even worried about so this will haunt me for a while. We had to change plans just before I set out. I changed my way at the corners and that water. It’s no excuse though, I was very wrong.”

A huge shoutout to Abby Powell for helping to transcribe interviews yesterday. Go Eventing.

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