The Luhmühlen Cross-Country Report: Laura Collett Goes for the Treble

Emily King and Valmy Biats. Photo by Alex Jeffery.

And so we come to the end of cross-country day at the Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials, the world’s ‘soft-option’ five-star; one that’s just really easy and like, doesn’t even count as a five-star. (Seriously, though, where’s the sarcasm font when you need it?) Though the course here is often misjudged for not being a ‘classic’ bold galloping track like Badminton or Burghley, it’s never an easy outing — instead, it’s a very continental one, and one which values keeping horses on their feet above all else. That’s something that course designer Mike Etherington-Smith very nearly managed perfectly today: not a single horse fell in the feature CCI5* class this morning, and just one fell in this afternoon’s CCI4*-S, and that’s because this clever, technical track was designed to exert influence through run-outs and drive-bys, rather than through out-and-out, thrills and spills carnage.

Influence is certainly something it exerted in spades: of the 38 starters, 29 would go on to complete, but just 22 did so sans jumping penalties. Mike had predicted that ten to twelve horses would make the time, helped by the venue’s flat, sandy, horse-friendly going, and he was right on the money: twelve combinations did just that.

The problems were scattered evenly around the course’s major questions — and some of the less major ones, too — but it was at the very start of the day that its intensity was felt most keenly. Pathfinder Oliver Townend and the nine-year-old Cooley Rosalent suffered a run-out at the skinny first element of the Meßmer Water at 17A; second out, seasoned Olympians Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg, picked up a 20 in the fiendishly tough first water; Laura Collett and Dacapo nabbed 20 penalties at 20B, the first of two angled brushes in the main arena; France’s Gireg le Coz and his debutant Caramel d’Orchis did the same at 20C, the second of the brushes — and then, full-time accountant, part-time rider, and five-star debutant Arne Bergendahl left the startbox on his homebred Luthien 3 and delivered what we’d all waited for: a clear round, and one that was inside the time, no less. But even once the great rounds started to trickle in, the problems kept cropping up all through the morning’s cross-country.

Laura Collett and London 52. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

With two wins out of two five-star starts behind them already, earned at Pau in 2020 and Badminton in 2022, Laura Collett and London 52 have come into this year’s Luhmühlen as the firm favourites — but after running into trouble at the double of brushes in the main arena with her first ride, Dacapo, Laura knew that she’d have to ride every stride of today’s tough course to get the job done.

“It was tough out there,” she says. “I had problems with my first horse and that made me realise just how tough every fence rode. I think we slightly underestimated some of the fences — there were obviously the ones that we were focused on, but it honestly felt like at every single fence around there you had to be on your A game, knowing when the fences were coming up so they didn’t surprise the horses who obviously haven’t walked the course. But yeah, it was a tough test and it rode tough from start to finish.”

But the ultra-consistent gelding took to the track as though he had, in fact, walked the course, adding another tick in another box after his stellar dressage score of 20.3 yesterday, which they added nothing to.

“That horse is sensational — I’m so lucky to ride him,” she says. “He’s a dream to ride in the dressage arena and he comes out and goes around there like a demon.”

Laura Collett and London 52. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Although he’s a big, rangy German-bred horse, Laura says that ‘Dan’ “kind of rides like a pony. He’s really tall and he’s got a massive stride but he’s so adjustable.”

That adjustability wasn’t always totally secure: in his earlier four-star seasons, he had a few high-profile blips as he learned his job — and one of those came on his last trip here, when he went onto cross-country in a competitive position at the 2019 European Championships but ran into a spot of bother at what was then the final water, resulting in a rider fall. Since then, though, the two-time five-star champions and Olympic team gold medallists have gone from strength to strength — and Laura, despite her superstar status and the pressure of the spotlight, has finely honed her sense of pragmatism.

“Just learning to trust him I think is the biggest thing — a few years back, I overcomplicated things and I should just let him get on and do his job because he knows what he’s doing,” she says. “At the end of the day, I’m so happy with how he’s gone today. Tomorrow’s another day and Kitty’s horse is an amazing jumper, so the main thing is that we get him happy and rested, and hopefully he comes out and jumps like I know he can — but that horse owes me absolutely nothing. He’s done so much for my career, and hopefully he can add another five-star title to his resume, but if he doesn’t, then I’m just super proud of how he’s gone ’round today.”

Kitty King and Vendredi Biats. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

She’s had a rubbish run of luck at her last couple of five-stars, but Kitty King and Vendredi Biats were pure class around Mike Etherington-Smith’s course today, adding nothing to their first-phase score of 26.8 to move up from third to second place, capitalising on a space made available by overnight runner-up Pippa Funnell, who went clear with her Burghley champion MGH Grafton Street, but added a steady 15.6 time penalties to drop to 16th.

“He was absolutely fantastic, and to be honest, it was a big relief to finish because we’ve had a few mishaps in our last couple of five-stars,” says Kitty, who rerouted from Badminton after an unlucky peck on landing early in the course. “He was very well-placed at Burghley after dressage and then we broke a pin, so that was very disappointing, and then he was just a bit too fresh at Badminton and jumped a log pile early on very big and stumbled on landing and we had a very frustrating fall. So to put those to bed and come around to Luhmuhlen and have such a fantastic ride was absolutely brilliant. He just felt back to his best; he was really looking for all the flags, and I couldn’t fault him at all.”

Although Kitty had the chance to learn from some of the early issues on the course, she still came out fairly early on — and she was determined to stick resolutely to the plan she’d created for ‘Froggy’. But one bit of key intel came as a great relief just before she left the start box.

“I had heard that people had been putting four strides in the first water before I went, but that was about the only feedback I had since I was so early,” she says. “But to be honest, I was glad that people were finding it long because he always jumps into water so big, so I was a bit worried he’d find it short on the three. So when I heard people going on four, once we’d done that fence I was like ‘yeah, he’s on it; he knows what he’s doing’.”

Now, she goes into tomorrow’s showjumping 6.5 penalties behind the overnight leader, giving Laura a rail and six time penalties in hand — but handily mounted on one of the best show jumpers in the field, she’s looking forward to putting the pressure on her friend. Even so, she’s not planning to get complacent about the task at hand.

“He’s an amazing jumper, but we as jockeys have to do our job as well,” she says. “So it’s easy to make a mistake and have a pole, but he’s great and I wouldn’t want to swap him for the world.”

Yasmin Ingham and Rehy DJ. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Yasmin Ingham was able to step up one place to overnight with the ever-reliable Rehy DJ, who romped home clear and inside the time in his first five-star since his educational debut at Pau in 2020.

“He was amazing today,” says the reigning World Champion. “I couldn’t be happier with ‘Piglet.’ He was incredible. He helped me out a few times and he really dug deep. He moved upon all his minutes and could not be happier with him. The first water I knew was going to be a bit long because he tends to just pop in, so I kind of kicked and chucked the rein at him and he understood and he just took off and was a total pro. I’m very proud of him.”

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Boyd Martin came to Luhmühlen well-stocked with three horses in this class, and although his day started out frustratingly, with an early 20 for the experienced Tsetserleg at the first water, it swiftly redeemed itself: his second ride, Fedarman B, did him and the Annie Goodwin Syndicate proud, jumping clear inside the time for overnight ninth place, and his final ride Luke 140 — perhaps rather the wild card of the three entries — showed exactly what he was made of as the last horse out on course today. He, too, added nothing to his first-phase score, and climbed up from ninth to fourth place going into the final day.

“I’m going to be kicking myself forever,” says Boyd ruefully, recalling his first ride of the day with Tokyo mount Tsetserleg, who ran out at the B element of the first water. “I made a horrible decision turning up tight to the first water jump, and I got a horrible distance in. He sort of clambered over it; I should’ve just kicked forward and got three strides, but I tried to hold him for four strides. We were between a rock and a hard place and ended up on a perfect three-and-a-half. I whipped around and did the option and he just coasted around the rest of the course. He’s still a champion horse, but that was definitely my mistake and I’ll be remembering that for a moment.”

Boyd Martin and Fedarman B. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

But with this other two rides, both aboard debutant horses, he couldn’t be more delighted.

“Bruno was an absolute star today,” he says of ninth-placed Fedarman B. “This was a huge step up for him at the five-star level. The course wasn’t riding that well by the time Bruno went ,and I was sort of half-considering an option here and there, but luckily [US chef d’equipe] Bobby Costello and Peter Wylde pulled me aside and told me to toughen up — and I’m glad they did because Bruno was a champion. He ripped around the track, all the direct lines and made the time.”

Boyd Martin and Luke 140. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And of tiny, occasionally feral, but seriously talented pony-on-steroids Luke 140, he grins, “Luke was an absolute wild man at the beginning of the course; I was half out of control at the first five or six fences, but luckily for me, Luke started to get tired and he became easier and easier to ride. He’s such a class horse; he just jumped everything beautifully and made the trip very, very well and had plenty left in the tank the end. And luckily we got the time as well, so we’re in the top group going into show jumping.”

For that, he’s got the help of a not-so-secret weapon.

“The show jumping is notoriously tough here at Luhmühlen, so I jetted over Peter Wylde, who’s been helping me earlier in the week,” he says. “I’m glad he’s here to help me warm-up and school the horses in the morning. I’m on good jumpers, but like we saw today, I’ve got to ride them well every step of the way.”

Harry Meade and Tenareze. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Harry Meade‘s Tenareze delivered his most professional, polished top-level round yet, adding nothing to his first-phase score of 30.7, which moves them from eleventh to fifth overnight — a long-awaited result befitting the 16-year-old Anglo Arab’s not inconsiderable talent.

“I was thrilled with him; he gave me a lovely ride,” says Harry. “He gets a little bit strong, so my plan was just to start out a little bit gently and try not to touch him, and when I saw a distance from a long way, just to do nothing — otherwise he can get fighting me a little bit. But he was super. I was totally thrilled with him, I thought particularly through the first water — it was a really good strong question, and I made sure I came out wider than most so that I could then ride forward to it, a little bit like hunting, just come through over the first log in a nice positive way and then the corner’s straight in front.”

Though the gelding — who was cut late and can still be used for breeding through a supply of frozen straws — is perhaps more naturally suited to an open, galloping course, Harry worked hard to help him find his pace in his own way through Luhmühlen’s twisty track.

“He’s a good galloper, and a horse that’s suited to Luhmühlen doesn’t always have to be the biggest galloper,” he says. “They have to be adjustable. And perhaps that’s where I had to cover up a little bit for him, because he wouldn’t be the most adjustable — so it’s about just trying to get into a rhythm. I always think when you start out, once you get to the third minute, you’re on a pace and it’s very difficult to change that — so it’s all about trying to just start as you mean to go on, and then hopefully you can ignore the clock and and the rest looks after itself.”

Muzi Pottinger and Just Kidding. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

New Zealand’s Muzi Pottinger delivered a coup for Thoroughbred-lovers everywhere, piloting her Pratoni mount Just Kidding — both the smallest horse in the field at 15.2hh and the eldest at seventeen — to one of the most enjoyable rounds of the day. They came home clear and just one second over the 11:08 optimum time to move from twelfth after dressage to sixth overnight.

“He is just amazing — it makes me emotional,” says Muzi, whose mother, Tinks, was one of the great mainstays of the Kiwi team in her generation. “He’s just a phenomenal little horse. I’ve had him for 12 years now and he’s take me all around the world, and he just keeps trying. We had one early combination that was not perfect by any means; it wasn’t the plan and he just felt a little bit underprepared — but he was dead on, and then after that, he was just on it every step of the way.”

Muzi earned big cheers from the crowds at the tough first water when she and her tiny champion made a huge effort over the big drop in and tackled the corner in the water with serious gumption — which gave Muzi a chance to breathe and enjoy the rest of the course.

“He was bloody honest going into the water. That fence made me really nervous,” she says. “It was a massive jump, and I just didn’t really know how you were going to get a perfect distance — but he was just phenomenal then every step of the way. He just keeps going, and then he looks for the flags. I just could not have asked for a better partner —  he’s just so bloody honest. Like, he’s so genuine. He does not — and I mean this in the nicest way — he does not have the most talent in the world when it comes to jumping. He lands short; he’s got no stride. He’s completely at his maximum here. He’s not going to ever go and jump a 1.40 show jumping track — he doesn’t have the scope. But what he lacks in scope he has in heart. You just can’t buy that.”

Oliver Townend and Tregilder. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though Oliver Townend‘s pathfinding round with the inexperienced nine-year-old Cooley Rosalent didn’t go quite to plan, he rallied for his next two: riding midway through the line-up, he delivered a clear round with 1.2 time penalties aboard Tregilder in the gelding’s third five-star, which allowed them to retain their overnight seventh place, and as the penultimate rider out of the start box with Swallow Springs, he was clear inside the time to move up from 14th to eighth.

“It’s fantastic to be back in Luhmühlen,” he says. “It’s not a five-star like a Badminton or a Burghley, but it’s still definitely a five-star, and I think what’s so beautiful about our sport is that you can go horses for courses —  this one might suit this one, this one might suit that one.”

Of his top-placed horse, Tregilder, he says, “He’s a huge horse, a huge, tall horse, so I feel sometimes I have to balance him a little more than I’d ideally like to, but he’s honest as honest could be and he tried his heart out there. The three seconds are mine: I could have gone quicker, but I just wanted to save and save and save [his energy], and I possibly saved for two strides too many somewhere around there. But at the same time, he’s home and safe and we’re thrilled with him.”

Felix Vogg and Colero. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Reigning champions Felix Vogg and Colero round out the top ten after finishing well inside the optimum time to claw their way back up from a disappointing first-phase performance, which saw them post a 33.3 to sit 20th coming into this phase, while young German five-star debutant Jérôme Robiné delivered one of the most popular clears of the day — though with 4 time penalties, which dropped him three places — to take overnight eleventh.

“It felt amazing,” says Jérôme, who was one of three German riders in this class — all of whom were making their debut, and all of whom went clear.

It was the first of those, Arne Bergendahl, who Jérôme says set the tone for his own success later in the class.

“In the morning, I was pretty nervous — normally I’m not, but I saw the first three riders, all are world-class riders, and they all had little problems, so I was like, ‘how will it go?’ And then Arne came and he had a brilliant round, and I said, ‘okay, with that feeling, I’m getting out of the [rider’s viewing] tent, and I’m going to my lorry to try to calm down!'”

Jérôme Robiné and Black Ice. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Leaving the start box with a positive visual in his mind about how the course could be ridden was key — and soon, he found himself having great fun with his ebullient Black Ice as they were cheered around the course.

“I started not that fast — I think I was always a bit late behind my minute markers but I said, ‘okay, I’ll try to to hold that rhythm’,” he says. “All the coaches said to just get in a good rhythm. After the coffin and after the first water I thought, ‘now we are in it’ — and then the Meßmer Water was, again, amazing. And then I said ‘okay, now we can really go for it!’ It was just a great feeling.”

As part of the Warendorf training system for upcoming talent in Germany, Jérôme was well supported by friends, fellow competitors, and coaches — including German team trainer Peter Thomsen and Warendorf trainer Julia Krajewski.

“It’s brilliant to have a lot of people around you who have this five-star experience to give you the right advice,” he says. “They all said, ‘just ride it as a normal four-star. You can do it.’ I think that, for me, was absolutely important from the coaches and some riders I’m really close to and can ask them everything — they all came down here when we came down to do the last warm-up, and then I got a big smile on my face and everyone smiled back, and then I thought, ‘okay, we can do it today! I think it’s cool to have three young German riders back on this five-star level. There’s not so many in Germany, and now we have three young people who tried their first time and all three did a very good job, I think, and so Team Germany was pretty happy!”

Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The USA’s Sydney Elliott was able to take advantage of the doors opened by the day’s influence, and climbed from 31st place after dressage to 14th with QC Diamantaire after delivering one of the early clears inside the time.

“To say the least, we had some pressure on us today — which was good,” says Sydney. “I love having the pressure! In the warm up he felt really good, right from the first fence so I was like, ‘I think we’ve got it, if I can do my job. He’s ready today.’ I think I walked the course about five times, just to know my minutes and my lines and where I can really get tight to the ropes.”

To ensure she could nail down the speed required to climb, Sydney called upon the intel she’d gained running the horse around similar European tracks.

“To me, I felt like the course, and especially that first water, reminded me of Aachen the last couple of years,” she says. “I just kept telling myself, ‘just ride it like Aachen, it’ll be fine’. The course really felt like Aachen in long format, soo it was great — it suited him. With him, I’m constantly pushing and I don’t have to touch the reins hardly until he gets a little bit tired, and then I just hold his hand, but that’s it. There’s no half-halting, really. I can sit up and he’s good, so I just can kick. I’m very, very fortunate — I can go fast around the turns even though he’s so big, but he can also turn on a dime, which is very beneficial.”

Sydney’s round was briefly interrupted by a hold on course, which came just after she’d cleared the first water — but this, Sydney explains, isn’t her first rodeo, and with that tough question behind her, she didn’t let the pause in proceedings — which came due to a non-catastrophic injury sustained at fence 17, the Meßmer Water, by Imogen Murray’s Roheryn Ruby — stress her out.

“We got held last year for about 45 minutes on a course, and so with the first water behind us, because we were always careful about the first water, I said, ‘we’re good, he can have a breather and then we’ll start back and be fine’.”

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

Fellow US competitor Katherine Coleman and RLE Limbo Kaiser slipped just two places, from 27th to 29th, after picking up 20 penalties apiece at the B element of the first water, a corner in the pond, and at 23B, an angled log after an upright gate, and adding 26 time faults.

For the rest of our US contingent, though, it was a tougher day in the office: Matt Flynn fell from Wizzerd at fence two after the horse chipped in a stride on take-off, twisted in the air, and then went to his knees on landing, and Hallie Coon put her hand up after an uncharacteristic run-out at the final element of the first combination at fence 5ABC with Global ExTamie Smith, too, put her hand up with five-star first-timer Solaguayre California after jumping through the first water and the fence just beyond it at 14, and then feeling that her mare wasn’t quite right.

“California is such a star, and I was having a beautiful round, but she somehow punctured her knee on the C element of the water [complex] after jumping easily through that influential combination. After galloping away she didn’t feel right and I pulled her up,” says Tamie, who tells us that she requested transport back to the stabling area as the wound was bleeding. Solaguayre California was then taken to the local equine hospital as a precautionary measure in order to avoid any infection risk.

“It was just a freak thing that you just can’t make sense of,” says Tamie. “The important thing is it looks to be an optimistic recovery.”

Editor’s Note: Tamie updated her social media after this article was published to say that the puncture had resulted in a bone fracture, but that the outlook for “California” is positive and she is resting comfortably at the local clinic.

Sorry this has taken me some time to post, but firstly and most importantly California is doing well and is happy at a…

Posted by Next Level Eventing Tamie Smith on Saturday, June 17, 2023

Now, we have 29 competitors remaining for tomorrow morning’s final horse inspection — and then, it’ll be on to the showjumping, which is historically the toughest of the world’s five-stars. Let the games begin.

The top ten following cross-country in the Longines Luhmühlen CCI5*.

In this afternoon’s CCI4*-S, which incorporates the German National Championships, competition was similarly fierce: of the 41 starters, 31 would go on to complete — but just 22 would do so without jumping penalties. As it always does here, the time proved much harder to catch in this class, too, with just five competitors coming home inside the time — and it would be that, in conjunction with penalties and problems encountered across the course, and by even the most experience of competitors, that would cause a total shake-up of the leaderboard.

Julia Krajewski and Nickel 21 move into the overnight lead in the CCI4*-S. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Olympic gold medallist Julia Krajewski had been delighted to find herself with two horses in the top ten after dressage, because for both Nickel 21 and Ero de Cantraie, this was something of a fact-finding mission: both horses are just nine years old, with limited experience at the level. But when problems arose for first-placed Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden, who retired after picking up 20 penalties at the first of the hugely influential double of angled brushes in the arena, third-placed Ingrid Klimke and Equistros Siena Just Do It, who suffered a rider fall at second of those angled brushes [Ingrid later shared on social media that she broke her clavicle in the fall], and fourth-placed Nadine Marzahl and Victoria 108, who picked up 20 penalties early on at the skinny brush at 5c, the door was opened for her duo of inexperienced up-and-comers to show exactly what they’re made of.

And that they did: riding early in the class, Julia first laid down the law with overnight fifth-placed Ero de Cantraie, who easily romped home exactly on the 6:33 optimum time to add nothing to his score of 30.2, which put him into the clubhouse lead for much of the class.

“Ero is quite green at the level, but he gave me a really good feeling from fence one on, really,” says Julia, who took on the ride on the French-bred horse as a green intermediate from France’s Jean Teulere. “He sometimes spends quite some time in the air, so after minute two, I felt like, ‘okay, if you want to be fast, then you really have to go from now’. But he was responding so well, and taking everything on super straight, as if he’s always done it. Then I felt, okay, I can really go for the time and he just went like a racecar. That was so cool. He feels to have quite an engine and a really good brain, and he’s super trusting by now, so I think he can really do cool things in the future.”

Julia Krajewski and Ero de Cantraie. Photo by Alex Jeffery.

By the time she left the start box for the second time on overnight second-placed Nickel 21, who she told us yesterday was initially sold on as a young rider’s horse as he didn’t necessarily appear to be an upper level horse in the making, she was in a comfortable position: whatever happened, she’d be the overnight leader, both in the class at large and in the German National Championships.

“With Nickel, I was a little bit more relaxed because, I mean, I knew I was in the lead already — but of course you want to do well on the second one,” she says. By this point, though, those high-profile issues at the top end of the leaderboard had already happened, and so she had 3.5 penalties in hand over her first ride. She ended up using 0.8 of them, delivering a classy, quick clear that belied the gelding’s relative inexperience.

“They’re quite different horses to ride, and Nickel, I always have to keep riding a bit,” says Julia. “He’s got a bit of a shorter stride than the other one, so I knew it wouldn’t be quite the same — but he’s the most honest horse I think I’ve ever had. He never thinks left or right; he just goes.”

Whichever way the competition had ended up today — and whichever way it goes tomorrow — though, Julia is mostly just delighted to have found out that both her boys have the guts, the gumption, and the raw speed to take on the upper end of the sport — and that the partnership she’s worked on cultivating with them has paid off.

“So many things they did today, they’ve never seen before — but they feel like they just trust in me, which makes me very proud and happy,” she says. “They just try to do their best. I didn’t expect that they would both be in the time, or very close to the time, but it’s quite cool because it’s always quite hard to get the time at Luhmühlen. When you do, you know you’ve got a horse that can do really well in the four-star short format — so it’s always special to make the time here.”

Calvin Böckmann and The Phantom of the Opera. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It wasn’t just a good day for Julia as a competitor — it was also an incredibly rewarding day for her as a coach. She’s long been at the helm of the German young rider training programme and is based at Warendorf, the German Federation’s training centre, where she works day in and day out with the next generation of top-level talent. Among those riders who benefit from her font of wisdom are this morning’s successful five-star debutants Jérôme Robiné and Emma Brüssau — and 22-year-old Luhmühlen first-time Calvin Böckmann, who climbed from overnight twelfth to third after whizzing home inside the time aboard the former Sandra Auffarth ride The Phantom of the Opera.

This is Calvin’s first year as a Senior competitor — last year, he came with the close-knit Warendorf crew as a spectator, and “dreamed of one day maybe getting to start here as competitor,” he says. This year, not only is he making that dream come true, he’s also establishing himself as a talent to be reckoned with on the world stage after years spent winning medals at the Pony and Junior European Championships.

“The horse has a really good gallop, so I felt I could go a long ways between the fences and could catch up a lot of time, and it worked out quite well,” says the 2015 Pony European Champion. “He’s a horse who’s super positive in cross country, you can really feel how much he loves to just work during the course. It was just amazing, and I had so much fun — he was feeling so good. But I honestly did not really expect to be sitting in this position right now!”

On training with Julia, Calvin laughs: “She’s quite strict! But I would say I’m really thankful for that, because I’m also kind of a person who really tries to improve every little percentage where it’s possible, and I think Julia’s quite the same — otherwise she wouldn’t be where she is so. Working on a daily basis at home makes quite a strong connection, so I’m just really grateful for having a trainer who was not only successful in sport, but who still is so successful and she’s just so close to that sport — just watching her first round, like watching which line she’s taking and how many strides she’s doing there, was giving me a lot of confidence.”

That strictness, though, is something that Julia stands firmly by as an essential part of her duty to the sport.

“As coaches and riders, we really have responsibility these days to shape the upcoming generation in a way that’s not only making them successful — not just good horse riders, but good horsemen and horsewomen,” she explains. “I was coached by a strict coach, which was sometimes tough, but I learned that way — and the way I’m strict is when I find it has to go more in a direction which is good for the horse. It’s about horse care; it’s about galloping them correctly; it’s about how you ride your horse, where you go, which show, is it too early? Calvin and I also have a bit of a discussion sometimes, like, he wants to go there, and I’m like, ‘no, no, you go there!’ But some things you only understand five years later or ten years later, and I think it’s a massive responsibility [of ours] to also make the sport look good, to keep it safe, and to make sure that the younger people learn it in a good way. That’s what I see as my responsibility. Of course, they do mistakes, it happens, but I try to bring them up in a way that’s hopefully safe, and educate them as good horse people.”

Though locally based Christoph Wahler didn’t find his first phase with D’Accord 70 as inspiring as the tests he can produce with his top horse, Pratoni mount Carjatan S, with whom he was second in the five-star here in 2021, he also knew that whatever he put on the board — in this case, a 34.4 — would be something he could reliably aim to finish on with the very consistent eleven-year-old.

“He’s so good across the country, that I just have to see how it goes for everyone else later,” he said sagely while watching the five-star this morning. “If the time is easy, I can go slow with him and get it; if it’s hard, I’ll just go a little faster.”

And right he was: the time and the course alike proved tough and influential, and his Diarado son picked his way around the track handily, coming home looking wholly unhurried but with the fastest round of the day, ten seconds inside the optimum time — a handy little manoeuvre that saw them climb from 24th to fourth going into tomorrow’s final phase.

Nadine Marzahl and Valentine FRH. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though day one leaders Nadine Marzahl and Victoria 108 slipped from fourth to 27th after picking up 20 penalties and an abundance of time faults, her second round — a nearly identical paternal half-sister in Valentine FRH — made up for a tough start to the afternoon by adding just 3.6 time penalties in an exuberant round that saw them climb from eighth to fifth, while Belgium’s Lara de Liedekerke-Meier was best of the foreign contingent, climbing from eleventh to sixth after adding 3.2 time penalties aboard her homebred Hermione d’Arville. Seventh place provisionally was awarded to another big climber: Italy’s Evelina Bertoli and the sharp, clever Fidjy des Melezes climbed from 19th after adding 3.6 time penalties, and young rider Anna Lena Schaaf — another member of the Warendorf training battalion — added 6.8 time penalties to drop from fifth to eighth with Fairytale 39. Hungary’s Imre Tóth made an underdog bid for a top placing with Zypresse 8, climbing from eighteenth to ninth with 4.4 time penalties, while the top ten was rounded out by full-time accountant and part-time eventing hero Arne Bergendahl, who returned for another spin around Luhmühlen after delivering the first clear — and the first round inside the time — in this morning’s CCI5*, this time riding his five-star mount’s uncle, Checkovich.

It wasn’t to be today for the small but mighty US contingent in this class: Dan Krietl and Carmango retired from their first European competition experience after running into trouble at the influential double of brushes in the main arena, which were responsible for faults in twelve rounds, while Hallie Coon opted to put her hand up after two run-outs at the skinny A element of the busy Meßmer water at 10ABC with the inexperienced Cute Girl.

Now, both classes will look ahead to tomorrow’s final horse inspection, which will begin at 8.30 a.m. local time (7.30 a.m. BST/2.30 a.m. EST) with the CCI5* competitors, following on at 9.15 a.m. (8.15 a.m. BST/3.15 a.m. EST) with the CCI4*-S horses.

Then, it’ll be go time for the showjumping: first up to bat is the five-star, which begins at 10.30 a.m. (9.30 a.m. BST/4.30 a.m. EST), followed by the prizegiving, before all attention turns to the finale of the CCI4*-S, beginning at 13.50 (12.50 p.m. BST/7.50 a.m. EST). As always, you can follow all the action via Horse & Country TV, which also has on-demand viewing available for all the completed phases thus far — and keep it locked on to EN for full reports and galleries from each class. Go Eventing.

The top ten following cross-country in the CCI4*-S, incorporating the German National Championships.

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

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

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