The Feel-Good Gallery: A Whole Lotta Love at the European Championships

EN’s coverage of the 2021 FEI Longines European Eventing Championships is brought to you in part by Kentucky Performance Products. Click here to learn more about Kentucky Performance Products and its wide array of supplements available for your horse.

Whether your eventing aspirations centre around winning medals, or you’re more of a ‘one day, I’ll do a one-day’ person, there’s something you’ll know deep in your bones: competing in a sport like ours, with its tremendous ups and downs, its thrills and spills, and the enormous amount of trust and teamwork required, takes love. Love for your horse, even when it’s gleefully broncing through its flying changes; love for the journey, even when it means you have to muck out and saddle up in the pouring rain before the sun’s come up, just to fit it in around work; love for the people who help you out in the biggest and smallest of ways.

Without wanting to sound too much like Hugh Grant in Love, Actually, whenever we go to an event — or, um, Heathrow Airport — we really do see that love is all around. And never is that more apparent than at the zenith of sport, when a lifetime of hard work and dreaming has come good. This year’s FEI European Eventing Championships in Avenches, Switzerland, brought us joy, tears, and the long-awaited return of hugging after eighteen long, hard pandemic months — and because we haven’t openly wept quite enough to be truly embarrassing yet, we want to relive it all. Snuggle in close and join us for the soppiest recap you’ll ever see.

The first horse inspection and the opening ceremony were perfect opportunities to catch up with old friends. 

Belgium’s Lara de Liedekerke-Meier gives Ducati d’Arville a kiss after passing the trot-up. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Austria’s grooms sport the outfits of the day as they cheer on their charges. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Groom Ruth Asquith plants a kiss on JL Dublin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Anna Siemer makes sure nobody forgets which team she’s riding for at the opening ceremony. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

A ceremonial cannon goes off, sending everyone into orbit in fright…

And France’s Maxime Livio takes the opportunity to practice his amateur dramatics as he mimes taking a shot to the leg. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sarah Bullimore and Piggy March have a laugh with their Team GB compatriots. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kiwi photographer Libby Law retreats after capturing an up-close-and-personal photo of the cannon fire. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Gwendolen Fer spots the French support side in the stands. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

One man hits upon a novel method of stopping his wife from catching a glimpse of Maxime. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There were plenty of celebrations in the arena:

The Team Austria supporters make their allegiances known from the owners’ and riders’ marquee. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Dr Harald Ambros takes his place in the top ten in what’s shaping up to be a seriously big week for the Austrian team. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Before he celebrates, though, there’s time for a moment of gratitude with his horse, Lexikon 2, who he kisses heartily in the ring. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Nicola Wilson understood the assignment. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Maxime Livio punches the air after logging a significant personal best for eleven-year-old Api du Libaire, putting him in fourth place after dressage. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Andreas Dibowski celebrates a competitive test with FRH Corrida. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Austria’s Robert Mandl and Sacré-Coeur provide the dark horse result of the first day to round out the top five. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Anna Siemer’s FRH Butts Avondale grins for the cameras after her test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

As does nine-year-old fischerWild Wave, Michael Jung’s newest superstar. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Reigning World Champ Ros Canter waves to the audience after her first championship test in three years. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

 

The best thing to do post-test? Scoop up your nearest and dearest, of course.

Sofia Sjoborg is swept up by the Swedish team after her test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ros Canter plants a smooch on daughter Ziggy, moments after her test that would put her and Allstar B in silver medal position overnight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Czech Republic’s Miloslav Prihoda Jr is caught up in a wave of congratulations after an exceptional test with Ferreolus Lat earns him a 27.9. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Horses deserve smooches too, and Robin Godel’s Grandeur de Lully CH — proud owner of Switzerland’s fluffiest forelock — got plenty after producing a 27.5. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Meanwhile, Robin accepts a highly-covetable handshake from team coach Andrew Nicholson, who announced his own retirement from competition last weekend. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Germany’s Dirk Schrade sums up the vibe. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

John Perry, co-owner of Piggy March’s Brookfield Inocent, enjoys a good day in the office. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lara de Leidekerke-Meier is on the receiving end of a particularly good joke while supporting her fellow Belgians. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tamsin Thurlow gives Sarah Bullimore’s Corouet a big pat after the first of his three efforts that would eventually earn him and his rider the individual bronze medal. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And Ruth Asquith, head girl to Nicola Wilson, lets JL Dublin know what a good boy he’s been after he takes the first-day lead. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ruth gets scooped up by her fellow grooms. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Meanwhile, Nicola shares an embrace with partner Alistair. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kitty King’s Vendredi Biais enjoys a pat after a sweet, mature test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Harald Ambros gives son Paul a smackaroo after dressage. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sweden’s Malin Petersen shares a jolly moment with her groom. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

A mixed crew of Italians and Swedes cheer on Stefano Brecciaroli as he finishes a super test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Shortly thereafter, he re-enters their midst for the official debrief. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Finland’s Elmo Jankari and baby Elle take in the sights as official support crew to mum Sanna Siltakorpi. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Anna Siemer and her husband are couple goals as Anna makes her German senior team debut. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Speaking of goals, all we want is to be part of Anna and Kitty King’s girl gang: they’ve ridden at European Championships against one another at Pony, Junior, Young Rider, and now Senior level, and their friendship has grown each time. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The whole GB horse care squad comes together to look after Brookfield Inocent with groom Amy Phillips after his test with Piggy March. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Piggy discusses the finer points of her test with trainers Ian Woodhead and Chris Bartle, while Dickie Waygood wanders off in search of a snack, presumably. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Austria’s Robert Mandl impresses everyone in his senior championship debut. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Izzy Taylor’s Monkeying Around finds that the treats aren’t coming quickly enough, so he must make his own. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

He’s momentarily diverted from his career as an amateur hairdresser by a tickle on the nose from his groom, Becca Ross. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lithuania’s sole competitor, Aistis Vitkauskas, is well supported by a cheerleading crew helmed by Aistis’s daughter, who often enjoys hitching a ride on her dad’s ten-year-old gelding. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

After taking the lead with her superb score of 20.2, Ingrid Klimke did a lot of hugging. See?

Into the lead she goes! Ingrid waves to the crowds as her 20.2 is announced. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

First, she hugged her daughter, the newly-minted Young Rider European Champion Greta Busacker. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Then, she was on the receiving end of a kiss from Germany’s team jumping trainer, Marcus Döhring, and we tried not to be too jealous. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ingrid and German chef d’equipe Hans Meltzer, who will step down this year, share a celebration after her leading test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

She hugged teammate Anna Siemer…

…and the German team vet.

Meanwhile, Bobby got lots of loving too, particularly from head groom Carmen, who rode and trained him for ten weeks while Ingrid recovered from surgery. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

After a long night looking after their beloved horses with their grooms, riders could be spotted enjoying sweet moments among the tension of the final horse inspection on Sunday morning. 

Esteban Benitez Valle’s normally feisty Milana 23 goes in for a cuddle as she’s presented to the ground jury. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Overnight leaders Nicolas Wilson and JL Dublin take a moment to enjoy the misty morning. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Germany’s Christoph Wahler calms his fresh and fit Carjatan S before their jog. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Harald Ambros has the help of the tiniest groom on site to make sure Lexikon 2 is ready to go. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lithuania’s Aistis Vitkauskas and Commander VG look serene in the drizzle. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Anna Siemer has a chat with FRH Butts Avondale. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Czech Republic’s Pavel Brezina attempts to head back to the stables, but Cona Cia is far too busy posing for the cameras. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Team GB Performance Manager Dickie Waygood’s horoscope foretold good things, apparently. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Austria’s Lea Siegl only ever stops loving on Van Helsing P for long enough to be smash out amazing performances, and we reckon that’s a pretty good work/life balance. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Czech Olympians Miloslav Prihoda Jr and Ferreolus Lat talk business before the showjumping begins.

Robert Mandl’s daughter — who often rides his horse, Sacre-Coeur, at home — helps out with horse inspection duties. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Groom Sarah Charnley and Allstar B keep an eye out for the coffee van. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sam Watson and Ballybolger Talisman look quite serious for this gallery, actually, but it’s a nice photo so we’ll let it slide. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sarah Bullimore laughs as Corouet proves he’s still fit, fresh, and opinionated on Sunday morning. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The adrenaline was high during each of the showjumping rounds, which was reflected in the intense emotions felt in the ring:

Italy’s Evelina Bertoli hugs Seashore Spring in gratitude after making an emotional return to championship level. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The king of celebrations is at it yet again: Dr Harald Ambros, the flying dentist, nails the showjumping with Lexikon 2. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We’re not sure Austria’s Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati could actually stop after her round, so enthusiastically did Oklahoma respond to the crowd’s cheers, but she was having fun, and that’s all that matters, really. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We’re not sure Austria’s Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati could actually stop after her round, so enthusiastically did Oklahoma respond to the crowd’s cheers, but she was having fun, and that’s all that matters, really. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

France’s Luc Chateau logs a super round with Troubadour Camphoux, who’s quietly becoming one of Europe’s coolest horses. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Switzerland’s Patrick Rüegg puts the home side’s first clear round on the board. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

They might have knocked a rail and slipped off the podium, but it’s clear how much joy it brings Ingrid Klimke to ride around a third European Championships with her best friend Bobby. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Italy’s Paolo Torlonia finally takes in the huge crowds and their vocal support after completing his debut at a senior championship. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Switzerland’s Felix Vogg clenches his fist in delight after producing a clear with Cartania to secure his spot in the top ten…

…and then encourages the bellowing, raucous crowd to turn up the volume on their celebrations. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Michi Jung, too, knows how to get the most out of the crowd — and, of course, his horse, who finishes in fourth place despite being one of the youngest in the field. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Pats for Sarah Bullimore’s Corouet after a gravity-defying clear round that would eventually secure them the bronze medal. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

They might have knocked a rail and slipped off the podium, but it’s clear how much joy it brings Ingrid Klimke to ride around a third European Championships with her best friend Bobby. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Nicola Wilson clears the last and punches the air in glee after becoming the European Champion with ten-year-old JL Dublin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And outside of it, too, as each rider caught up with their support team:

Spain’s Esteban Benitez Valle gets a kiss from girlfriend Valentina after a nearly perfect round with Milana 23. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Former Italian Junior and Young Rider team member and Tokyo Olympics Eventing Organiser Carola Brighenti proves there’s nothing she can’t do as she takes on groom duties for Marco Cappai and precious Uter. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And of course, after those final medals were decided, the celebrations in the British camp — and the congratulations from outside it — were packed with indescribable joy:

Ingrid Klimke embraces newly-minted bronze medallist Sarah Bullimore, even after a knocked rail precluded her own chances of a podium finish. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

German team jumping trainer Marcus Döhring congratulates Chris Bartle — his former colleague and now ‘rival’ — for an incredible week. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The British team owners have been a source of constant cheer through the week, and they revelled in their winning moment. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Nicola and teammate Kitty King celebrate in the heady moments after Nicola’s winning round. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tenth-placed Izzy Taylor beams from the midst of the celebrations. Nicola and teammate Kitty King celebrate in the heady moments after Nicola’s winning round. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Finally, there was the prize giving: a chance to dance on podiums, hug and cry all over again, and then lose just a little bit of control in the lap of honour:

Germany’s Anna Siemer finds FRH Butts Avondale’s sweet spot while waiting for the ceremony to begin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The bronze medal-winning Swedes pose for a group photo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ruth Asquith prepares JL Dublin for the prize giving. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Piggy March and Sarah Bullimore plant one on European Champion — and great pal — Nicola Wilson. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Luc Chateau, Maxime Livio, and Felix Vogg look like they’re about to bring boy bands back into fashion. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The all-female British team — plus individual bronze medallist Sarah Bullimore — embark on their lap of honour after a clean sweep of the medals at the European Championships. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Reserve European Champion Piggy March beams with delight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And here she is, folks: your radiant European Champion, the sunny and superb Nicola Wilson! Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ain’t love (and eventing) grand?

The 2021 FEI Longines European Championships: [Website] [Schedule and Scoring] [Entries] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

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