Tag Archive: Ben Maher

  1. Jeroen Dubbeldam bags gold in Aachen

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    Jeroen Dubbeldam completed a spectacularly successful FEI European Showjumping Championships for Holland by being crowned individual gold medallist in Aachen on Sunday. In doing so, the 42-year-old sealed a remarkable title hat trick of reigning European champion and world champion, plus past Olympic champion.

    Dubbeldam became the first rider since Frenchman Eric Navet 24 years ago to hold European and world titles simultaneously, while 15 years ago he won Olympic gold in Sydney, and this latest success came just 48 hours after he combined with colleagues Jur Vrieling, Maikel van der Vleuten and Gerco Schroder to see Holland win the European team title.

    Two clear rounds meant that Dubbeldam finished on a score of 3.68 penalties across five rounds of jumping, which included last Wednesday’s opening speed class.

    Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet, riding Conrad de Hus, took the silver medal, with Frenchman Simon Delestre claiming bronze on Ryan des Hayettes.

    But there was no joy for British pair Joe Clee and Ben Maher, who finished 15th and 23rd, respectively, although the week’s main business — securing team qualification for next year’s Rio Olympics alongside Michael Whitaker and Jessica Mendoza — had already been accomplished.

    Clee had a fence down in each of Sunday’s rounds on Utamaro d’Ecaussines, while Maher withdrew Diva II for round two after collecting eight faults.

    Belgium-based Clee said: “The first round, in hindsight, I probably should have gone on seven strides to the combination and kept the canter a little bit bigger, as it would have made it easier for him to jump in. In the end, I ended up a little bit too short and he slowed himself down. The rest, he jumped fantastic.

    “The second round, if they could build a combination that was difficult for him then that was it — oxer, oxer and two waters, and the water feature on that side.

    “He jumps a little bit to the left anyway, and then, as he jumped in, he was looking at the water and the lake at the side as well. He was spooking off the lake, then, as he was drifting left, the distances were obviously getting longer and longer for him and he couldn’t get out. He tried his best, he really tried to get out, but couldn’t make it in the end. Everything else, one mistake per round, he has done incredibly well. He’s jumped amazingly.”

    And former world number one Maher added: “She lost a stud. She has special shoes, and she lost a bit of the plate off the shoe and I could feel it after the combination. She moved a little to the left on the oxer, and then just coming around down that last line she just lost her balance a couple of times.

    “She jumped a good round, actually. She was a bit keen, but I am very happy with the way she jumped today. She is maybe a little tired — she’s only a 10 year old — but she has done a great job this week helping the team qualify.

    “She’s had a great first championships. It has been a great experience, and hopefully we can use that going forward. She’s certainly proven that she is a championship horse this week. She has done me proud.”

    Individual result: 1 Jeroen Dubbeldam (SFN Zenith) 3.68, 2 Gregory Wathelet (Conrad de Hus) 5.04, 3 Simon Delestre (Ryan des Hayettes) 7.67, 4 Penelope Leprevost (Flora de Mariposa) 8.00, 5 Jur Vrieling (VDL Zirocco Blue) 9.29, 6 Sergio Alvarez Moya (Carlo 273) 9.47, 7 Christian Ahlmann (Taloubet Z) 9.56, 8 Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (Fibonacci 17) 10.09, 9 Andreas Schou (Lenardo der Kleine) 10.98, 10 Kevin Staut (Reveur de Hurtebise) 12.01.

  2. Pictures from the equestrian world: August 15 to 21

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    British showjumpers secure Olympic qualification

    Ben Maher, Jessica Mendoza, Joe Clee and Michael Whitaker brought home the much prized ticket to Rio although they missed on the bronze medal by just 0.760 penalties at the European Championships in Aachen.

    Holland wins driving gold

    The Netherlands dominated the FEI European Driving Championships for Four-in-Hand. On Thursday, four-time world champion IJsbrand Chardon (pictured below) and 2013 European champion Theo Timmerman, who are both Dutch, took first and second place in the dressage test, with Spain’s Juan Antonio Real Garcia in third and another Dutch driver, Koos de Ronde, in fourth. On Friday, Belgium’s Felix Marie Brasseur was first in the cones, followed by Hungary’s József Dobrovitz in second and Chardon in third. A third place for de Ronde and a fifth for Chardon in the marathon clinched the team-gold medal for Holland, but a great marathon performance by Germany’s Michael Brauchle meant he pipped Chardon by a minuscule 0.21 seconds in the individual standings to become the new European champion.

    Dutch drivers rule at Aachen

    Europe’s best vaulters do battle in Aachen

    Hot favourites Jasmin Lindner and Lukas Wacha (pictured below), who hail from Austria, landed the pas-de-deux gold medal at the FEI European Vaulting Championships in Aachen, which started on Thursday, August 20. Germany’s Jannis Drewell bagged the male freestyle gold, while Switzerland’s Simona Jäiser took the female title and Team RSV Neuss-Grimlinghausen won gold for Germany in the squad final.


    Horse put down after assault in Scotland

    A 23-year-old mare was stabbed in the chest and horrifically assaulted near New Pitsligo in Aberdeenshire, on the night between August 16 and 17. The pony had to be put to sleep because of her injuries. Her owner, Zoe Wright, is urging people to be vigilant and check their horses for cuts, while Police Scotland have asked local residents to report any suspicious activity they may have spotted in the area.

    Horse assaulted in Scotland

    Shock win at York

    50-1 filly Arabian Queen ended Golden Horn’s unbeated record at York’s Juddmonte International Stakes, snatching a surprising victory by a neck.

    No Blair for Flora Harris and Bayano

    A disappointing performance at Aachen cost Flora Harris and Bayano their place in the team that will represent Great Britain at the FEI European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle. The British Eventing senior selectors have decided to replace the combination with Tom Jackson and Waltham Fiddlers Find, following Bayano’s “recent lack of form” in Aachen. In another change, Izzy Taylor will now ride KBIS Briarlands Matilda at Blair because Allercombe Ellie was found to be lame in Aachen.

    Main image: Joe Clee’s ride, Utamaro d’Ecaussines, by Hippo Foto – Dirk Caremans, courtesy of the FEI

  3. Holland wins in Aachen but Britain gains a ticket for Rio

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    Great Britain’s showjumpers made it a case of mission accomplished at the FEI European Championships in Aachen by securing prized qualification for next year’s Rio Olympics.

    Although the British team of Ben Maher (Diva II), Jessica Mendoza (Spirit T), Joe Clee (Utamaro d’Ecaussines) and Michael Whitaker (Cassionato) missed out on a bronze medal by just 0.760 penalties, a fourth-place finish still took them to Rio, where they will defend the Olympic title next summer.

    Maher jumped clear, while Mendoza and Clee each had four faults, and Whitaker’s total of nine faults proved to be the discarded team score.

    Switzerland and Spain booked the other two qualifying places, but controversy reigned after Ireland missed out on the Olympics in unexpected circumstances.

    One of the main arena stewards ran in front of Cian O’Connor during his round, and the London 2012 individual bronze medallist had the next fence down. If O’Connor had jumped clear instead of collecting four faults, then Ireland would have overtaken Spain and qualified.

    Irish team officials lodged an immediate protest, but it remains to be seen if anything can be done. Ireland finished a mere 0.380 penalties behind Spain.

    Reigning world champions Holland added European gold to their collection after an imperious display by Jeroen Dubbeldam (pictured), Maikel van der Vleuten, Jur Vrieling and Gerco Schroder, with the German quartet of Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Christian Ahlmann, Ludger Beerbaum and Daniel Duesser finishing second and Switzerland third.

    Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya leads the individual competition heading into Sunday’s final, when the top 25 qualifiers will also include Clee and Maher, together with Irish trio of O’Connor, Bertram Allen and Denis Lynch.

    Clee said: “My horse jumped amazingly. I am so happy with his performance, but I am just kicking myself a little bit. I could have been a bit sharper coming down that distance, and I could have helped him a bit more.

    “We came here to do a job, and that was to qualify for the Olympics, but then when you come so close, it’s gutting when you don’t get a medal.

    “The team performed fantastically. I am really happy for Jess. She pulled it back and she rode a really good round to finish, which is great for her, and it was great for the qualification for the Olympics. She helped us qualify for the Olympics.

    “We all had that on our minds, and we had great team spirit and we all had the same purpose here. I think the team spirit carries us, and we really pulled together.”

    Mendoza, who, at 19, is the youngest British showjumper selected for a senior championship since Debbie Johnsey went to the 1976 Montreal Olympics, added: “I think the first few days I wasn’t used to the ring, and today I knew I had to try and go good, so I gave it all I could.

    “It’s completely different here in Aachen. It wasn’t really suiting my horse on the first few days, then after riding in it for a few days I’ve got used to it.”

    And Whitaker said: ““We were less than one fault away from the bronze medal, so it’s really disappointing actually. The main thing was to qualify, and we did that, but a medal would have been a real bonus.

    “I’m very happy (to help get the team to Rio). I want to stick with this team next year. All these guys have worked really hard, and they deserve a chance. The main thing was to get qualified, and we did.”

    Final team standings: 1 Holland 8.820, 2 Germany 12.400, 3 Switzerland 18.230, 4 Great Britain 18.990, 5 France 21.700, 6 Spain 25.580, 7 Ireland 25.960, 8 Ukraine 32.030, 9 Sweden 44.300, 10 Denmark 47.270.

    Image: Jeroen Dubbeldam led the Dutch team to win team gold at the European Championships in Aachen, by Hippo Foto – Dirk Caremans, courtesy of the FEI

  4. British showjumpers on course for Rio at Aachen

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    Great Britain’s showjumpers dug deep in Aachen to deliver a character-filled display as they stayed on course for an FEI European Championships medal and an all-important place at next year’s Rio Olympics.

    It proved to be an incident-packed penultimate day of team competition action, but Britain ended it in fourth place behind France — led by Penelope Leprevost (pictured above) — in first place, Holland in second and Germany in third.

    Going into Friday’s final team-jumping round, five of the surviving 10 nations — Britain, Switzerland, Spain, Denmark and Ireland — will be chasing three Rio places available for countries that have not yet qualified.

    Britain were indebted to clear rounds from Joe Clee and Utamaro d’Ecaussines (pictured below) — their second in successive days — and Michael Whitaker with Cassionato, after former world number one Ben Maher had four faults on Diva II and 19-year-old Jessica Mendoza saw three fences go down aboard Spirit T.

    Mendoza’s tally proved to be the discarded score, while Clee is currenty third in the individual competition that concludes on Sunday. France’s Leprevost leads, just ahead of German star Ludger Beerbaum.

    “My horse has been jumping great – even a bit too good,” Clee said. “He settled down after about fence four.

    “It is a case of each day as it comes. With success here comes the Olympic qualification, so just one job at a time. I will start to enjoy it after Sunday has been and gone.”

    And 55-year-old Whitaker added: “I got a lot of confidence from my horse. He has never been in this ring, and he’s never been under this kind of pressure. I didn’t know how he would react, but he actually rose to the occasion.

    “I said when I came out, I’ve never felt pressure like it. There is extra pressure to qualify for the Olympics. If I had gone in and not had a good round, that would have been it. Now, we’re still fighting for tomorrow, even for a medal.

    “You couldn’t get it (the course) wrong, you had to ride every fence and think about all the lines and even the last fence — you saw the problems the last fence caused. You had to get it all right, you could not make a mistake.

    “Joe was brilliant and Ben was brilliant. What the mare did was out of his hands. She just took off, and Ben did unbelievably to stay on.”

    Maher was powerless as Diva II went airborne too early going into the last fence, meaning that they ploughed through it, but Maher somehow stayed on and avoided elimination.

    “I don’t really know how it happened,” he said. “She should have picked up two strides, but she picked up on one. I guess it was just quick reaction and instinct from me. I could not afford to fall off — that would have been pretty damaging for the team.

    “She jumped probably as good as any other horse today, but that’s the way it goes.”

    And Great Britain team boss Di Lampard added: “This just shows how focused the team are. To come back from the shock at the start with Ben and Diva, when they had looked home and dry, shows just how tight the team are. Team spirit really couldn’t be better.

    “We came here to qualify for Rio. We are two thirds of the way through, and in a strong position to deliver.”

    Current team standings are: France 5.700, Holland 7.820, Germany 8.400, Great Britain 10.990, Ukraine 13.030, Switzerland 14.230, Spain 16.580, Denmark 17.270, Ireland 17.960, Sweden 19.300.

    Watch the action in Aachen:

  5. British showjumping lays claim to a Rio ticket at Aachen

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    Great Britain’s showjumpers are off and running on the road to next summer’s Rio Olympics after starting well in their qualification quest at the Longines FEI European Championships in Aachen.

    The British quartet of Joe Clee, Ben Maher, Michael Whitaker and Jessica Mendoza occupy third place following the opening day’s one-round speed class in Aachen.

    Six notable nations — Britain, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Belgium and Switzerland — have yet to qualify for Rio, and three places are available in Aachen’s last-chance saloon.

    But Britain made a flying start as Clee (Utamaro d’Ecaussines), Maher (Diva II) and Whitaker (Cassionato) all jumped clear, while 19-year-old Mendoza had two fences down with Spirit T on her senior championship debut.

    Host country Germany are the early leaders, following an imposing performance by their quartet of Ludger Beerbaum, Christian Ahlmann, Daniel Deusser and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, with France second, Britain third, Spain fourth, Holland fifth, Ukraine sixth, Italy seventh, Ireland eighth, Sweden ninth and Belgium 10th.

    There are still two days of team jumping left, though, while the individual competition does not finish until next Sunday.

    France’s Penelope Leprevost is the current individual leader, followed by Beerbaum, Clee, Gregory Wathelet, Bertram Allen, Sergio Alvarez Moya, Maher, Ahlmann, Piergiorgio Bucci and Maikel van der Vleuten.

    Clee was among only five of 94 starters to clock under 70 seconds, and he was understandably delighted with his horse’s performance.

    “I was aware I had to go fast, but he is a great horse to go fast on. The faster you go, the more he tries,” he said.

    “He handled it really well, I felt really confident on him, and the further the round went on the more risks I felt I could take.

    “Ben and Michael were brilliant to start with, which takes the pressure off you a little bit, but it’s still on. Those two rounds put me a little bit more relaxed and motivated me as well, seeing those guys going so fast. There is a great sense of team spirit with everyone, and I think that helps you and motivates you.”

    And Maher, who helped Britain win London Olympic gold and the 2013 European team title, added: “We’ve come here with a good team and a definite strategy.

    “The plan was to set Michael off first, because he has the slowest horse, and I said I had the second-slowest, but actually we sped up today. The plan was to come out and get ahead today if we could on some of the other teams, and then probably change the strategy around tomorrow.

    “Diva jumped incredibly. I took certain risks in some places and played a little safe to one jump there, which probably cost me the individual lead right now, but we are here for one thing only, and that’s what was important today.”

    The action continues on Thursday with another round of team jumping, with the top 10 countries then moving forward to Friday’s finale, when medals will be decided.

    Image: Joe Clee and Utamaro d’Ecaussines by Hippo Foto – Dirk Caremans, courtesy of the FEI

  6. British showjumping stakes it all on Aachen

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    The waiting game will finally end on Wednesday when Great Britain’s showjumping team embark on an FEI European Championships campaign like no other.

    The clock has effectively been ticking since last September’s World Equestrian Games debacle in Normandy, when an 18th-placed finish meant a spectacular case of mission unaccomplished.

    The mission in question is Olympics qualification for Rio next summer, and the London 2012 gold medal-winning nation now finds itself with one last chance to ensure they will at least go to Brazil and defend a title won so spectacularly at Greenwich Park three years ago this month.

    Ben Maher is the sole survivor from London, being joined in Aachen by his fellow 2013 European team-gold medallist Michael Whitaker, Belgium-based Joe Clee and 19-year-old Jessica Mendoza — the youngest British showjumper chosen for a senior championship since Debbie Johnsey gained Montreal Olympics selection in 1976.

    Missing from the Aachen adventure is Britain’s world-number-one showjumper, Scott Brash, whose top two horses Hello Sanctos and Hello M’Lady have not been made available, while an in-form John Whitaker ruled out his premier ride, Argento, some time ago, not wanting to present it in Aachen’s formidable king-sized arena.

    Encouragingly, Maher, Whitaker, Clee and Mendoza have previously shown top form together, being reunited in Germany just two months after they delivered a brilliant collective display to win the Rotterdam Nations Cup.

    Clee went double clear that day, while his three colleagues also left all fences up in either round one or two. Left trailing behind them were a German team containing Christian Ahlmann, Ludger Beerbaum and Daniel Deusser, a Dutch quartet led by reigning world champion Jeroen Dubbeldam and a French combination featuring 2013 European individual gold medallist Roger-Yves Bost.

    Rotterdam was the third Nations Cup triumph of team boss Di Lampard‘s first season in charge, following victories in La Baule and Rome, so there is no doubt that Britain will feature prominently on any current European showjumping form guide, and the feel-good factor has most definitely returned following last year’s crushing WEG disappointment.

    Three Olympic places are available in Aachen, with Britain, Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland and Spain leading the hunt.

    Maher will ride Diva II, the horse on which he jumped double clear at last month’s Hickstead Nations Cup, Whitaker boards the ever-impressive Cassionato, Mendoza will be with Spirit T, a combination that showed star quality through finishing fourth in the recent Longines King George V Gold Cup, and Clee rides the ultra-consistent Utamaro d’Ecaussines.

    Clee said: “I think we’ve got a super team. It is the same team that won at Rotterdam, and a mix of fast horses and big jumpers. You need some luck on the day, but we are all motivated to deliver.”

    Wednesday’s opening round is followed by further action on Thursday, after which the top 10 teams will contest Friday’s final, when medals — and Olympic joy or heartache — take centre-stage.



  7. Ben Maher visits the Ebony Horse Club

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    The Ebony Horse Club is one of British equestrian sport’s great success stories.

    Based in Brixton’s Coldharbour — one of the most disadvantaged inner-city neighbourhoods in the country — it provides young people with the opportunity to gain new experiences and to benefit from the powerful, life-changing influence that contact with horses can bring.

    Through the support and experiences members have at Ebony, all are encouraged to exceed their own expectations, and many are inspired to go on to college, university or horse-related careers.

    So it was another red-letter day in the South London-based club’s history this week when London 2012 Olympic showjumping team gold medallist and Land Rover ambassador Ben Maher took time out from his London Global Champions Tour preparations to offer riding tuition and horse-care advice to some of the club’s younger members.

    “I remember starting riding on a Shetland pony called Dougal. I got the riding bug, and it started from there,” said former world number one Maher, who won gold at Greenwich Park three years ago alongside Scott Brash, Nick Skelton and Peter Charles.

    “Horses always bring you back down to earth — I am learning something new about them every day — and it is a nice way of life. I get to do the job I love to do, and I think they really enjoy their job too.

    “To have the Ebony stables is a fantastic idea, and it was a real privilege for me to visit. I met some wonderful young people, some of which have great riding skills and horsemanship. You can’t underestimate the effect that horses can have on people, and so for these kids to be able to regularly partake in this sport right in the heart of their inner-city community is brilliant.”

    Among the facilities at Ebony Horse Club are stabling, a floodlit manège, turn-out paddock and classroom facilities, all sandwiched between tower blocks and a railway line in the corner of a small park. By 2010, the club — a registered charity — had grown from five to 46 members, and that figure continues to rise.

    Susan Collins, Chair of Trustees at Ebony Horse Club, said: “One of our aims is to encourage involvement in sport, especially for teenagers, where the drop-off rate is the greatest — young people living in this area are most at risk from gang culture, drugs and other negative influences.

    “It is inspiration for them to have an athlete of Ben’s calibre to visit.

    “Within the three years that we have had our centre, 10 of our members have moved on in to further education, nine of them in equine studies. This is quite an achievement for kids growing up in Brixton.”

    As well as giving some riding lessons, Maher presented some much-needed new horse equipment to Ebony Horse Club, donated by Land Rover, including horse rugs and saddle pads for the 10 horses and ponies that are stabled in Brixton.

    The club relies entirely on donations, grant-giving trusts, foundations and corporate organisations, so for more information on how to donate visit www.ebonyhorseclub.org.uk