Tag Archive: eventing

  1. Christopher Burton claims Barbury title

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    Australian Christopher Burton delivered a dominant display to win this year’s headline class at the Barbury International Horse Trials in Wiltshire.

    Burton, riding Polystar I, cruised home by more than six penalties on a final score of 42.2 to land the CIC3* title.

    The combination were among just four from 60 starters to record cross-country clears inside the time, with overnight leader Gemma Tattersall and second-placed Pippa Funnell among those who withdrew after showjumping.

    Great Britain’s Nicola Wilson was second on Bulana, with Sarah Cohen and Treason third, while Burton’s fellow Australian Paul Tapner was fourth and fifth on Kilronan and Vanir Kamira, respectively.

    Reflecting on his victory, Burton said: “I only came here to show him his first three-star competition, not to win! But I was impressed with his stride and scope – he’s got quite a bit of thoroughbred blood – and he’s got a good attitude. The course was twisty, but I had a great ride.”

    Meanwhile, Wilson was also on a mission – to get the feisty black mare Bulana, a winner at Boekelo last year, to listen to her and to come back to the hand.

    “I’m hugely relieved,” Wilson said. “Usually, when her feet touch the ground after a fence, she’s off, but today I thought ‘my God, we are actually in a rhythm’. It was such a joyous feeling – she gave me a beautiful ride.”

    And third place was a great thrill for Cohen, as Treason is now her only ride. After a stellar career at the highest level, she devotes most of her time now to looking after her two children.

    Cohen said: “(Fellow rider) Beanie Sturgis gave me a right talking to and told me to get a move on. I’ve ridden this horse for 10 years and have always believed in him. He’s still got it – I just wanted to make sure I’ve still got it.”

    The third leg of the Event Riders Masters series also concluded at Barbury on Sunday, with victory going to Wiltshire-based New Zealander Andrew Nicholson and his London 2012 Olympics ride Nereo.

    Nicholson, a regular winner of the Barbury3* with recently-retired former Burghley champion Avebury, led after showjumping and then delivered a trademark cross-country masterclass, going clear inside the time.

    It means that Nicholson finished on a score of 39.6, taking top spot by an emphatic margin from Tapner and Yogi Bear VIII, while Tattersall and Santiago Bay took third and Dani Evans (Smart Time) fourth.

    So far, the ERM competitons at Chatsworth, Bramham and Barbury have been won by riders from three different countries – France, China and New Zealand.

    Image: Christopher Burton, by Henry Bucklow/Lazy Photography, CC BY-SA 3.0

  2. Rio hopefuls lead at Barbury Horse Trials

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    The Great Britain Olympic selectors had a day to savour as this year’s Barbury International Horse Trials reached its halfway stage on Friday.

    Rio-bound riders — Gemma Tattersall and William Fox-Pitt — lead two of the four principal classes, while a third team member, Kitty King, also shone at the event, along with travelling reserve Pippa Funnell.

    Tattersall, unquestionably the in-form British rider this season, delivered a dressage score of 38.2 on Quicklook V to take pole position ahead of showjumping and cross-country in Barbury’s headline CIC 3* section.

    The Sussex-based eventer, who was the highest-placed British challenger at this year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, leads by almost three penalties from Funnell and Billy The Biz, while Oliver Townend and the ultra-experienced Armada lie third on 41.5, just ahead of Australian Christopher Burton and Polystar I.

    Meanwhile, Fox-Pitt is in charge of the CIC 2*, section E, after guiding Top Biats to a score of 40.0, leading the way from German Franca Luedeke (Cero Song) and Funnell (Billy Walk On).

    Fox-Pitt is also second in the CIC 2*, section C, aboard Secret Night, and fifth with his Rio ride Chilli Morning, after their dressage score of 44.9 slotted them just in behind King and her Rio challenger Ceylor LAN.

    The two-star form man, though, is Burton, who leads sections C and D on Santano II and Nobilis 18, respectively.

    Burton also won one of Barbury’s five novice classes on Friday, along with France’s Arthur Pottier, Tim Price, Caroline Harris and Michael Jackson.

    Barbury action continues on Saturday with the CIC 2* sections concluding, while on Sunday the CIC 3* champion will be crowned, along with the latest Event Rider Masters competition winner.

    Image: Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V lead the CiC three star competition at the end of Day 2 at the Barbury International Horse Trials, by Adam Dale, courtesy of the Barbury International Horse Trials

  3. Gemma Tattersall’s 10 top tips for eventing success

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    Rio hopeful Gemma Tattersall, who won the CIC3* at Bramham and finished third at this year’s Badminton, gives her top ten tips for eventing success. As told to Julie Harding.

    1. Team up with the right horse

    Partner a horse that is safe and suitable for your level of ability. There is no point riding something that frightens you as confidence can easily be dented, plus there are many nice, well-mannered horses out there. Also be realistic about what you want to do together in the future.

    2. Prepare thoroughly

    Preparation is the key to success, not least by ensuring that your horse is fit enough for the level you are competing at. To achieve optimum fitness, consistency is essential. Don’t do random bouts of work, but do something every day, whether you go for a 40min hack one day, school for 40min the next, then practice gridwork, jump a course or go up the gallops. If you are competing at the lower levels, however, make sure that you don’t take your horse to the gallops more than once a week.

    3. Be organised

    Good preparation also includes organising things well in advance if you are going to a competition. Getting to an event and finding that you have left equipment at home is a nightmare. I always use a checklist which you can either keep in the tackroom or have on your phone. Then spend five minutes ensuring that you tick off everything when pacing up the lorry. And always leave enough time if you are off to a competition. Eventing is an expensive sport and you need to enjoy your day — but being in a rush will spoil the experience.

    4. Ensure that you are happy with all your equipment

    If you are uncomfortable in any way it can jeopardise your performance and make you feel uneasy. Therefore buy a good-fitting saddle for you and your horse, make sure his bridle is fitted correctly and he has the right boots for each phase.

    5. Choose the right bit

    It’s a good idea to receive professional help on the subject. The most common mistakes I see are badly fitting bits, so ensure that whatever bit you use is correctly fitted and make sure that it isn’t too high or too low in the horse’s mouth.

    6. Train, train, train

    Whether you are aiming for your first BE80 or are trying to get to the Olympics, invest in some lessons. There are no short cuts — everyone should have training as regularly as they can with someone well-respected who understands them and their horse.

    7…but don’t over-do practice jumps

    In the show jumping practice ring, I invariably see riders jumping far too many fences. Remember that your horse only has so many jumps in him, so try and keep these for the ring. I jump a maximum of eight practice fences and never canter manically round. The whole process should be done in a way to conserve your horse’s energy — so jump the fence, walk, pat the horse and wait for your assistant to raise the pole before carrying on again.

    8. Keep steady

    Ride in a steady rhythm across country and remember to rebalance your horse before a fence — sit up and put him on his hocks rather than galloping towards it.

    9. Don’t go flat out across country

    Let your horse travel at his own speed. If you push him too hard out of his comfort zone, this is when horses make mistakes, fall or get injured.

    10. Keep calm and carry on

    Earlier in my career I worked for Pippa Funnell, who told me that if a horse was being difficult it was fine to be firm and lay down the rules, but if at any point the rider’s heart rate became raised then the horse had won. This means keep calm at all times and never lose your temper with any horse.

    Image: Gemma Tattersall at a past edition of the Chilham International Horse Trials, by Smudge 9000 via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

  4. Which are the world’s 11 eventing queens?

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    Some lady riders are born to be great and some of the very best among them compete in horse trials. Here’s our pick of the 11 ladies who set the eventing world alight.

    1. Sheila Willcox

    The first true eventing queen, stylish and sassy Sheila Willcox entered a sport dominated by men in the 1950s and invariably beat them. ‘They didn’t even know how to get a horse on the bit,’ she once said. Her record of three consecutive Badminton wins has never been equalled. Sadly, the ‘men-only’ ruling precluded her from riding at the Olympic Games and an horrific fall at Tidworth Horse Trials in 1971 left her partially paralysed and ended her dream.

    2. Anneli Drummond-Hay

    Anneli Drummond-Hay successfully crossed the divide between eventing and showjumping, and won the inaugural Burghley Horse Trials in 1961 with her then six-year-old Merely-A-Monarch. The youthful pair claimed Badminton’s crown the following year before switching their attentions permanently to the coloured fences.

    3.Lana DuPont

    America’s Lana DuPont achieved what Sheila Willcox failed to do when she became the first woman to ride at an Olympic Games in 1964. Piloting Mr Wister, DuPont completed the tough contest in Tokyo despite two cross-country falls, and won team silver in the process.

    4. Lorna Clarke

    Twice a winner at Burghley, Lorna Clarke is best remembered for her association with the coloured Popadom, victor in 1967 in the days when skewbalds and piebalds were conspicuous by their absence. A true tough sporting queen, Clarke held the record for 22 completions of Badminton until overtaken by Andrew Nicholson. She is also the only female rider ever to have piloted three horses around the cross-country on the same day.

    5. Jane Bullen (now Holderness-Roddam)

    Jane Bullen was nicknamed ‘the galloping nurse’ due to her career choice, but she combined that with eventing and became the first British female eventer to contest an Olympic Games, when riding at Mexico in 1968. To add to her team gold medal secured there, Bullen also won Burghley once and Badminton twice.

    6. Princess Anne

    The Princess Royal may be the daughter of a monarch, but victory at Burghley in 1971, which also earned her the title European Champion with Doublet, additionally made her an eventing queen. She became the first royal to contest an Olympics when piloting Goodwill at Montreal in 1976.

    7. Lucinda Green (née Prior Palmer)

    Lucinda Green is one of the true all-time greats. Her CV includes six victories at Badminton on six different horses, two wins at Burghley, and a team silver medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. She was twice crowned European Champion and became World Champion in 1982.

    8. Ginny Elliott (née Holgate)

    Ginny Elliott’s purple cross-country colours were sometimes pitted against the yellow worn by Lucinda Green. Elliott’s record reads like that of her rival and teammate, with five Burghley victories, plus three at Badminton. She became European Champion three times and World Champion once, while two Olympic appearances netted team silver and individual bronze in both LA (1984) and Seoul (1988).

    9. Mary King

    Always the crowd’s favourite thanks to her engaging smile, this Devon rider has been a regular on British squads down the years, notching up six Olympic appearances and boasting a clutch of team medals in her cabinet at home. Add to that two Badminton wins, one at Burghley and one at the Kentucky CCI4* and you can see why her daughter, Emily, put up such a polished performance across the country at Badminton this year until she fell two fences from home. Skill and dedication clearly run in the family.

    10. Pippa Funnell

    Until recently, this Surrey-based equestrian was the only event rider in history to have claimed the elusive four-star accumulator prize, the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing — which she did in 2003 following victories at Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley. It took 13 years and the superb skills of German star Michael Jung to match her extraordinary feat.

    11. Zara Phillips

    Like her mother, the Princess Royal, and her grandmother, The Queen, Mrs Tyndall has clearly inherited the horse-loving gene. She’s a former European and World Champion, but some wondered if she was a one-horse rider and would be able to replicate her successes after she retired Toytown. However, she proved her detractors wrong, bringing out High Kingdom and helping Britain to secure team silver at the London Olympics.

  5. Oliver Townend and Holly Woodhead lead at Bramham

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    British riders are firmly on course for double success at the Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials.

    And it could also be a Yorkshire double on home territory, with Oliver Townend and Holly Woodhead leading the way.

    Townend will win Bramham’s CCI3* if he jumps clear on Sunday aboard MHS King Joules, as he holds a two-penalty advantage over Australian Sammi Birch and Hunter Valley II following a brilliant cross-country clear inside the time.

    Also firmly in the mix, though, are New Zealander Andrew Nicholson — he lies third on Jet Set IV — and Lauren Shannon, riding Quality Purdey, in fourth.

    “We were really hopeful for the horse to put up a big performance,” said Townend, whose career title success include Badminton and Burghley, but never Bramham. “We know that he’s very capable.

    “He has got everything he needs to be absolutely exceptional — a good horse, full stop. If I do my job and he does his, then it’s all positive.

    “It’s very special here — a fantastic event that I’ve been coming to for as long as I can remember. I am extremely pleased with the horse, and even more pleased for his owner, Tom Joule. Let’s hope we are in the same set up on Sunday night.”

    York-based Woodhead leads the CIC3* on her consistent performer DHI Lupison. An immaculate cross-country display left them on a score of 40.0 penalties and in pole position after dressage leader Pia Munker withdrew.

    Like Townend, though, Woodhead knows a clear round is essential ton win the CIC title, given that Gemma Tattersall and Chico Bella P are just 2.7 penalties behind in second, with Tina Cook (Billy the Red) third, Paul Tapner (Yogi Bear VIII) fourth, Tattersall (Quicklook V) fifth and Kitty King (Ceylor LAN) sixth.

    Meanwhile, the second leg of this year’s inaugural Event Masters Series was won by China’s Alex Hua Tian, riding Don Geniro.

    French riders monopolised the podium after the opening event at Chatsworth last month, but this time it was Hua Tian who stepped up to the plate, posting a cross-country clear inside the time to finish on a score of 40.1 penalties and take the £16,000 winner’s purse.

    American Clark Montgomery, riding Loughan Glen, was second, with Jonelle Price (Faerie Dianimo) third, Bill Levett (Shannondale Titan) fourth and leading British finisher Rosalind Canter (Allstar B) fifth.

    The series now moves on to Barbury, in Wiltshire, next month, followed by Gatcombe, Blair Castle and Blenheim. The rider with most points from their best four rides will collect an overall champion’s prize of £30,000.

    Image: Oliver Townend by Smudge 9000 via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

  6. Oliver Townend leads after the dressage at Bramham

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    Oliver Townend made a strong start in pursuit of a title that has previously eluded him as two busy days of dressage drew to a close at the Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials.

    Yorkshireman Townend, who is now based in Shropshire, took an overnight lead in the CCI 3* competition aboard MHS King Joules.

    The horse, an 11-year-old gelding previously ridden by Andrew Nicholson and Mary King, had showed glimpses of star quality with Townend by claiming eighth-placed three-star finishes at Ballindenisk in Ireland last year and Houghton earlier this season.

    And Townend drew a superb test out of his ride, posting a dressage score of 37.9 penalties to overtake long-time leaders — British-based Australian Sammi Birch and Hunter Valley II — while Townend’s fellow Rio Olympics hopeful Nicola Wilson moved into equal-third place on Bulana, joining Birch and The Court Jester.

    Saturday’s cross-country phase promises to be a thrilling affair, with Nicholson lying fifth on Jet Set IV, while Townend’s second ride Sandiman II is eighth, just behind his fellow former Badminton winner Sam Griffiths, riding Angelo IV.

    Assessing her weekend prospects, Birch said: “I know he (Hunter Valley II) is very capable in the dressage, but I’ve really been looking forward to jumping the cross-country.

    “I came here for that reason, so I was relaxed, and so was he, so that makes it better. Competition pressure is a massive issue, but if you take that aside, it becomes so much easier.

    “It’s a serious track. You need a fit, good cross-country horse. The course is scary, but beautiful and very clever. If you jump around here, the horse is definitely ready for four-star.”

    The CIC 3* class also reaches its cross-country stage on Saturday, with Holly Woodhead and DHI Lupison currently leading the British challenge in second place, with the likes of Kitty King, Gemma Tattersall, Tina Cook and Pippa Funnell not far behind her.

    “I’m overwhelmed with him,” said Woodhead, following Lupison’s outstanding dressage work. “He was brilliant — he tried his heart out and really looked after me in there. He was really rideable, which helped, so I’m extremely happy. He clearly likes this place, and it’s my favourite event.”

    Bramham is also the second event of this year’s inaugural Event Rider Masters Series, which carries a £16,000 winner’s purse at each of six venues — Chatsworth, Bramham, Barbury, Gatcombe, Blair Castle and Blenheim — with an additional £30,000 prize for the overall series winner.

    French riders took all three podium places at Chatsworth, whereas Bramham feels more like a cosmopolitan affair thus far, with the top six places filled by competitors from six different nations.

    American Clark Montgomery (pictured above) and renowned dressage exponent Loughan Glen leads the way on a dressage score of 36.5, followed by Australian Bill Levett (Shannondale Titan), China’s Alex Hua Tian (Don Geniro), Frenchman Maxime Livio (Pica D’Or), New Zealander Mark Todd (NZB Campino) and Britain’s Pippa Funnell (Mirage D’Elle).

    Images: top Oliver Townend by Smudge 9000 via Flickr, CC BY 2.0; bottom, Clive Montgomery by Libby Law Photography, courtesy of the Event Rider Masters series

  7. France rules at the Chatsworth International Horse Trials

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    French riders made a flying start to the inaugural Event Rider Masters series by filling all three podium places at the Dodson & Horrell Chatsworth International Horse Trials in Derbyshire.

    The series comprises six three-star events — Chatsworth International Horse Trials, Bramham International Horse Trials, Barbury International Horse Trials, the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe, the Blair Castle International Horse Trials and the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials — with five-figure prize money, and a powerful French contingent certainly cashed in on its opening weekend.

    In-form Astier Nicolas (pictured below) won the class with Riaf De Bneville on a score of 45.0 penalties, just 0.9 ahead of Thibaut Vallette and Qing Du Briot, with Karim Laghouag third aboard Entebbe De Hus.

    Astier Nicholas rider the cross country at the Chatsworth International Horse Trials

    Gemma Tattersall, who was third at Badminton last week, continued her impressive run by guiding Quicklook V into fourth spot, but the only other British rider in the top 12 was 11th-placed Izzy Taylor, riding KBIS Briarlands Matilda.

    Wiltshire-based Kitty King dominated the class in dressage and showjumping aboard the likely Rio Olympics-bound Ceylor LAN — he posted a personal-best dressage score at three-star level — but they lost valuable cross-country time when the horse initially would not leave the start box.

    King ended up in 17th, but the Great Britain selectors will have noted an impressive cross-country round once Ceylor LAN got going. Other Rio hopefuls like Tina Cook and Zara Tindall delivered solid displays, but Emily King and Flora Harris were among those who had cross-country falls.

    The Dodson & Horrell Challenge in CIC three-star section B went to Ireland’s Padraig McCarthy, riding Mr Chunky — the horse was previously competed by his wife Lucy Wiegersma. Their score of 52.7 proved enough for a comfortable win ahead of runner-up Bill Levett (Alexander NJ) and third-placed British prospect Holly Woodhead on her 2015 European Championships ride DHI Lupison.

    “The plan was for Lucy to ride him at Badminton, but he’s always been quite a strong horse, and at Belton (in April) Lucy found she couldn’t go fast enough on him to be competitive,” McCarthy said.

    “I am incredibly fortunate to have the ride, although I do feel that my arms are now six inches longer! I don’t think I’ve ridden a better horse.”

    Meanwhile, Woodhead, reflecting on her performance, said: “He (DHI Lupison) has been brilliant across country this year, and I wanted to run him competitively at Chatsworth. I changed my technique over the winter, and I have been riding him on a looser rein. He was totally amazing.”

    Arnaud Boiteau won section C with Quoriano, and he said: “It was a deliberate move for the French to come here, to see a very different style of course and to compete against the best in the world. The French team looks strong for Rio, and we have at least three riders who could win individual medals.”

    Elsewhere at Chatsworth, New Zealand Andrew Nicholson and Teseo won the advanced class, while the four CIC one-star sections went to Ludwig Svennerstal (Silver Skymaster), Katherine Cross (Romeo Z), David Doel (Cracker Jack II) and Lizzie Baugh (Quarry Man).

    Images: The all-French podium (top) and Astier Nicholas during the cross-country phase at the Chatsworth International Horse Trials, both courtesy of Event Rider Masters

  8. Can anyone stop Michael Jung?

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    There is a saying that goes “lies, damned lies and statistics” – but in Michael Jung‘s case, never could a truer word be written or spoken.

    The minute Jung confirmed his entry aboard the brilliant La Biosthetique-Sam for this year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, there appeared to be a degree of inevitability about how he would fare across what are often four days of total unpredictability.

    “Jung not only delivered his first Badminton title, he did so in a fashion that unquestionably confirmed him as the greatest event rider of all time”

    Jung was the bookmakers’ favourite, and rightly so, but he not only delivered his first Badminton title three year as after a final showjumping fence knockdown had previously denied him, he did so in a fashion that unquestionably confirmed him as the greatest event rider of all time, aged just 33.

    And if anyone seriously has any doubt he could win, then a look at his career record should remove all uncertainty.

    Jung was the first eventer to hold Olympic, World and European individual titles at the same time, he has won Badminton, Burghley, Kentucky and Luhmuhlen four-stars, and his unforgettable triumph saw him complete only the sport’s second Rolex Grand Slam achievement for winning consecutive Burghley. Kentucky and Badminton crowns, after Pippa Funnell did so 13 years ago.

    “When Jung and whichever of his four-star string are on their game, they are pretty much unstoppable

    When Jung left the main arena on Sunday to rapturous applause, he departed having posted the lowest winning score — 34.4 — in Badminton’s 67-year history. He was also the first German winner at Badminton and the first rider to triumph after leading in the dressage phase since Lucinda Fredericks guided Headley Britannia home nine years ago.

    Watch Michael Jung ride in the dressage phase at Badminton

    His nine-point winning margin over runner-up and fellow German Andreas Ostholt also emphatically underlined the gap between Jung and the rest, and that he should have accomplished it just three months out from an Olympic individual title defence in Rio could hardly have served as a bigger statement of intent.

    Put simply, when Jung and whichever of his four-star string are on their game, they are pretty much unstoppable.

    Germany’s national team trainer — Yorkshireman Chris Bartle — knows Jung better than most, having witnessed his rise to the sport’s pinnacle.

    “Michael is such a good person to work with because he is ultra-relaxed and so interested in every detail that you might say to him. He would never ever be arrogant enough to shrug off any suggestion you might make,” Bartle said.

    “He is a huge talent. His mental attitude is fantastic, his coolness, his attention to detail and his focus — and an acceptance that every day doesn’t always go fantastically.

    “Michael is very good at sticking to his system, which is a very important aspect of his success.”

    While Jung rode off into the Badminton Sunday sunset, there were other fascinating observations to make from a brilliant 2016 running, notably the pre-Rio feat of four New Zealanders finishing in the top 10, led by 60-year-old Mark Todd in fourth, and four French riders claiming top 20 results.

    Michael Jung with the Mitsubishi Motors TrophyThere was some good news for Britain, too, led by Gemma Tattersall’s third place aboard Arctic Soul, while Tina Cook (Star Witness) and Izzy Taylor (Allercombe Ellie) were also among the top 10.

    Rio selection remains on everyone’s mind, of course, with attention now turning to Chatsworth, before Bramham next month, which is set to be the final event before the British selectors start formulating their Brazil-bound quartet ahead of an early July team announcement.

    At the moment, Tattersall, Kitty King, Pippa Funnell and William Fox-Pitt would be the choice of many, but so much can still happen during the next two months, including working out an answer to eventing’s most taxing question — how does anyone stop Michael Jung?

    Images of Michae Jung by Kit Houghton, courtesy of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials

  9. Michael Jung wins Badminton and the Rolex Grand Slam

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    Michael Jung underlined his domination of world eventing by completing a remarkable double success on the final day of this year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.

    Jung and La Biosthetique-Sam led a German one-two, beating countryman Andreas Ostholt into second spot by nine penalties, while Britain’s Gemma Tattersall was third aboard Arctic Soul, enhancing strong Rio Olympics selection claims.

    In addition to winning Badminton’s £80,000 top prize, Jung also became the first rider in 13 years to complete the £240,000 Rolex Grand Slam, which is awarded to any rider that completes consecutive victories at Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton — the only other rider to pull the feat was Pippa Funnell in 2003.

    At the age of just 33, Jung can now reflect on Olympic, World and European gold medals, Badminton and Burghley titles, plus the Grand Slam.

    He also claimed a record Badminton winning score, finishing on 34.4 penalties to eclipse Australian Andrew Hoy’s 36.5 aboard Moonfleet in 2006. Not since Lucinda Fredericks and Headley Britannia nine years ago had a rider won Badminton after leading in the dressage phase.

    Jung said: “I am so happy, so proud of my horse. He felt very good in the warm-up today, and I really can’t believe it at the moment.

    “He is a really good friend to me. We are a really special team – a very good partnership. I know him very well in every situation, and he jumped amazingly.

    “We will celebrate and enjoy the moment. This is a really special thing. We need a bit of time to understand everything of what we have achieved.

    “I am very happy to ride horses. I like to bring the young horses to the top level, and that is not just my job, it is my hobby as well.”

    Germany once again showcased enviable strength and depth, finishing first and second despite another star rider, Ingrid Klimke, not being at Badminton this year. However, there were also impressive collective displays from Britain, with three riders in the top eight, New Zealand, with four in the top 10, and France claiming four top-20 finishers.

    In terms of the British challengers, beyond Tattersall, Tina Cook was seventh aboard Star Witness, Izzy Taylor (Allercombe Ellie) eighth, Francis Whittington (Hasty Imp) 21st, Laura Collett (Grand Manouevre) 22nd and Zara Tindall (High Kingdom) 23rd.

    Reflecting on her podium finish, Tattersall said: “I cannot even describe how this feels.

    “He went in there, rose to the occasion and was absolutely phenomenal. I pretended that I was at my local place – jumping at Pyecombe (in Sussex) – just so we could get it into perspective. We did the job today, and I cannot tell you how pleased I am.

    “It (showjumping) is not his strongest phase, but he is starting to prove that he can jump clear rounds on the last day now. He can jump clear rounds, and he was so calm today.

    “I don’t know whether he even touched a fence. I am so proud of him. I feel absolutely fabulous, and this means more than you can possibly imagine.”

    Final Badminton leaderboard: 1 – Michael Jung (La Biosthetique-Sam) 34.4, 2 – Andreas Ostholt (So Is Et) 43.4, 3 – Gemma Tattersall (Arctic Soul) 44.6, 4 – Mark Todd (Leonidas II) 44.8, 5 – Clarke Johnstone (Balmoral Sensation) 45.6, 6 – Jonathan Paget (Clifton Lush) 49.2, 7 – Tina Cook (Star Witness) 49.7, 8 – Izzy Taylor (Allercombe Ellie) 50.4, 9 – Camilla Speirs (Portersize Just A Jiff ) 50.7, 10 – Jonelle Price (Classic Moet) 51.3, 11 – Beanie Sturgis (Lebowski) 52.8, 12 – Ben Way (Galley Light) 52.9, 13 – Blyth Tait (Bear Necessity V) 53.3, 14 – Astier Nicolas (Quickly Du Buguet) 53.9, 15 – Andreas Dibowski (FRH Butts Avedon) 54.1.

    Image: Michael Jug during the showjumping phase of the Badminton horse trials, by Kit Houghton, courtesy of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials

  10. Oliver Townend’s Armada performs brilliantly in his last-ever Badminton cross-country

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    Eventing legend Armada began to say farewell to Badminton by producing another brilliant cross-country performance.

    The 17-year-old, ridden by Oliver Townend, is nearing the end of his four-star career, but he once again delivered the goods as this year’s event reached its pivotal phase.

    Townend, this year’s cross-country pathfinder, jumped clear inside the time to put himself in sight of a top 10 finish.

    “He (Armada) is different to what he used to be,” Townend said. “He has changed a lot with age. He has definitely got very clever with the ones (fences) that he doesn’t have to put much effort into!

    “Of course, he has got a huge amount of ability, of course he wants to still do it, but I think he is the equivalent of a 70-year-old man now! It’s a huge thrill for him to have a last Badminton like that.

    “If he is fit and wanting to do it, he isn’t going to have any other job apart from an event horse, so what do you do? He jumps out of the field when he is bored these days!

    “We are coming towards the end with him, for sure. There were not particularly comfortable feelings at times, but at the same time, it was a very safe feeling. He always felt like he was going to happen one way or another.”

    Germany’s Michael Jung led the way approaching the halfway stage of cross-country after conquering the course inside the time on the brilliant La Biosthetique-Sam.

    It means he remains on his dressage score of 34.4 penalties, and will win £320,000 if he jumps clear in Sunday’s final showjumping phase.

    Badminton has a top prize of £80,000 while Jung will also secure an additional £240,000 if he lands the Rolex Grand Slam for landing consecutive Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton titles. No German rider has ever won at Badminton to date.

    Image: Oliver Townend and Armada at a past edition of the Badminton horse trials, by Kit Houghton, courtesy of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials

  11. Badminton 2016: Emily King clinches second place after an excellent dressage test

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    Emily King has continued her stunning rise through the senior eventing ranks by putting herself in a major position to challenge for Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials success.

    King, the 20-year-old daughter of six-time British Olympian Mary King, moved into second place after dressage following a brilliant performance on 14-year-old gelding Brookleigh.

    She stands just 2.4 penalties behind reigning Olympic champion Michael Jung, heading into Saturday’s cross-country phase, while four other British challengers — Francis Whittington, Dani Evans, Izzy Taylor and Oliver Townend — also hold top-eight places.

    King, who finished fourth at Pau last October on her four-star debut, is seen by many as a strong candidate to make the Great Britain team for this summer’s Rio Olympics. And she did nothing to lose ground in the popularity stakes.

    “The horse can do a good dressage test, and he didn’t do anything differently today from what he did in the warm-up,” said King, whose mother, Mary, was a British team member at every Olympics from 1992 to 2012.

    “I am over the moon. Brookleigh was really good. I knew he was capable of doing such a test, but he has never been in such a big arena as that. He kept his cool.

    “I want to do very well here. I am a very competitive person. Since Pau, and having a good result there, I knew he was capable of doing well.

    “I really like the look of the (cross-country) course — it is nice and bold and attacking. The conditions are great, and hopefully, if I attack it well, he will respond.”

    Jung, who is chasing the £240,000 Rolex Grand Slam this week for consecutive victories at Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton, still leads the way, though.

    Friday also saw the four-star return of Zara Tindall, who scored 48.0 with High Kingdom, a horse that missed most of last season due to a freak stable accident just before dressage at America’s Rolex Kentucky event.

    “He was a little bit jolly in there, but it is better to be that way,” Tindall said. “He hasn’t been in a proper arena for a year, so I am pleased with him. Some of his work was really good.

    “There are bits we have got to work on, and he was a little bit fresher than he normally probably is, but you just have got to deal with what you get and make sure everything is accurate. Now, he can go and do the fun bit!”

    Attention will now turn to Italian Giuseppe Della Chiesa’s cross-country course which, with an optimum time of 11 minutes and 58 seconds, will provide a major test of stamina, as well as jumping ability.

    “You are confident that everything is done,” Della Chiesa said on the eve of cross-country. “As a course designer, you have 70-odd horses to ride, not just one!

    “The ground has dried up very well, although you always need to be careful on drying going, because it could become sticky in some places.

    “So far, the feedback from the riders has been good. It is a course that is to be respected and jumped. In principle, I always try to design a package. Difficulties should be spread all around the course.”

    Four-time Badminton winner and twice Olympic champion Mark Todd will be among those who could mount a serious title bid across the parkland course, and he said: “It’s a proper Badminton. The course asks questions, and I think this year it has got a little bit more flow to it.

    “It’s Badminton. It is big, it takes jumping, you can’t afford to lose concentration anywhere around the course, and you have got to have a horse that can keep galloping to the end.”

    Leaderboard after dressage: 1 – Michael Jung (La Biosthetique-Sam) 34.4, 2 – Emily King (Brookleigh) 36.8, 3 – Andreas Ostholt (So Is Et) 38.2, 4 – Francis Whittington (Hasty Imp) 40.0, 5 – Christopher Burton (Nobilis 18) 40.3, 6= – Dani Evans (Raphael II) and Izzy Taylor (Allercombe Ellie) 40.4, 8 – Oliver Townend (Black Tie) 40.7, 9 – Clarke Johnstone (Balmoral Sensation) 40.8, 10 – Jesse Campbell (Kaapachino) 41.1.

    Image: Emily King and Brookleigh at Badminton, by Kit Houghton, courtesy of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials

  12. Michael Jung leads overnight at Badminton 2016

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    Michael Jung has successfully completed the first stage of his quest to land a significant eventing double.

    Not only is Jung, the reigning Olympic and European individual champion, chasing an £80,000 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials top prize, he also has eyes on an additional £240,000 jackpot.

    The Rolex Grand Slam, a prize awarded to any rider than wins consecutive Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton titles, has only been won once before — by Britain’s Pippa Funnell in 2003.

    But 33-year-old Jung will achieve the feat is he follows up victories at Burghley and Kentucky by taking the Badminton crown.

    And he could hardly have made a stronger start, leading after day one of dressage with La Biosthetique-Sam on a score of 34.4 penalties, which put him 3.8 penalties clear of his fellow German Andreas Ostholt, riding So Is Et, with Britain’s Francis Whittington lying third aboard Hasty Imp.

    Jung said: “I am very happy. I had a wonderful feeling on the horse today. It was a really nice test.

    “He was a bit nervous after we got here. He was full of energy when he arrived, and I couldn’t gallop him on Tuesday because the ground was very soft. But we have done enough work.

    “I think about it (the Grand Slam), yes. It’s always in the head, but I would like to ride as normal, as if it is any other competition here.

    “For me, it is the same as when you go to a major championship. You have to work like it is a normal competition, and today has worked well.”

    Jung’s early afternoon test was performed in glorious sunshine, evident throughout day one, but his lead could be challenged on Friday when a number of strong contenders enter the dressage arena.

    Among them are Mark Todd (Leonidas II), Zara Tindall (High Kingdom), Laura Collett (Grand Manoeuvre), Emily King (Brookleigh), Bettina Hoy (Designer 10), Gemma Tattersall (Arctic Soul) and Christopher Burton (Nobilis 18).

    Reflecting on his test, current leading British contender Whittington said: “When I was planning for coming here, I came with no expectations. I have been in this (leaderboard) position before, but I know it can change overnight.

    “It was a case of getting the horse nice and relaxed, and we did. He was very relaxed, and so was I.

    “We went in there and didn’t try to do anything magical. We enjoyed it. I walked the cross-country course early today, and I am just going to the ride best I can and do the best I can.”

    Attention will soon switch to Saturday’s cross-country challenge, with many observers feeling its degree of difficulty is back to that of two years ago when Badminton course designer Giuseppe Della Chiesa really made his mark.

    Badminton leaderboard: 1 – Michael Jung (La Biosthetique-Sam) 34.4, 2 – Andreas Ostholt (so Is Et) 38.2, 3 – Francis Whittington (Hasty Imp) 40.0, 4 – Clarke Johnstone (Balmoral Sensation) 40.8, 5 – Jesse Campbell (Kaapachino) 41.1, 6 – Sam Griffiths (Paulank Broackagh) 42.2, 7 – Sarah Ennis (BLM Diamond Delux) 43.6, 8 – Sarah Bullimore (Valentino V) 44.4, 9 – Jonathan Paget (Clifton Lush) 45.2, 10 – Rosalind Canter (Allstar B) 45.6.

    Image: Michael Jung riding La Biosthetique-Sam at Badminton, by Sebastian Oakley, courtesy of the FEI

  13. Badminton 2016: Why all eyes are on Michael Jung

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    Michael Jung could be acclaimed as the greatest eventer of all-time if he lands the sport’s richest prize at this week’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.

    The reigning Olympic and European champion is one win away from completing the £240,000 Rolex Grand Slam, which is awarded for any rider who wins consecutive titles at Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton.

    German ace Jung already has two in the bag — Burghley last September and Kentucky three days ago — and he has arrived at Badminton with London 2012 Olympic gold medallist La Biosthetique Sam.

    And while there are a number of challengers who could run him close in pursuit of Badminton’s £80,000 top prize, no-one seriously expects him to come unstuck.

    Remarkably, Jung has won eight of the 20 four-star events he has competed in during his stellar career, which says everything about the level of dominance he currently enjoys.

    Zara Tindall, a former world champion and one of the leading British challengers this week, said: “It is the way sport evolves. People get better, and we have just got to catch him up. If you are able to get to the same level, then you are hopefully knocking the door at him, but you have got to get to that level first.”

    Tindall, who competes in her first four-star for more than a year following High Kingdom’s recovery from injury, will be among several British combinations hoping to impress the Great Britain seectors just two months out from Rio Olympics selection.

    Firstly, though, they have to meet the Rio qualifying standard at Badminton after missing out on the opportunity last year when High Kingdom suffered a pre-dressage stable injury in Kentucky and did not compete again until 2016.

    “It would be amazing to go to Rio, and it is something we are all working towards, but it is competition by competition. We want to be as high placed as we can be here, then think about the rest after,” she said.

    “I am really looking forward to it. I haven’t been here for a couple of years, and it is always nice to have a horse that is able to run at four-star level. There are so many in the frame (for Rio), but at the end of the day, if you don’t get enough consistent results, you are not going to go anyway.”

    Jung apart, Badminton this year is perhaps just as notable for riders who are not among the field, with reigning champion William Fox-Pitt, former world number one Andrew Nicholson and three-time Badminton winner Pippa Funnell all absent.

    But there is still plenty for anticipated bumper crowds to enjoy across four days of action — sunshine is promised throughout — with last year’s European Championships quartet of Oliver Townend, Gemma Tattersall, Laura Collett and Nicola Wilson among those looking to make a mark.

    Townend will set the ball rolling on Thursday morning as first-to-go in dressage on Thursday with the 17-year-old Armada, while he also has his 2014 World Equestrian Games campaigner Black Tie in the field. Elsewhere, former Badminton winners Mark Todd, Paul Tapner and Sam Griffiths all have their backers.

    “Both my horses look like they are in good nick,” Townend said. “We all know Armada, we know he has been very special. This will be his last Badminton — I am pretty certain his last four-star — so let’s give him a good week.

    “Black Tie being here is just very special for the owner Karyn Shuter, who brought him over from New Zealand. He cost a few hundred pounds out of a free-ads magazine in New Zealand. He’s been a racehorse, he’s been a gymkhana pony, and now he’s at Badminton.”

    Image: morning at Badminton, by kit Houghton, courtesy of Kit Houghton and the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials

  14. Badminton loses Andrew Nicholson and Pippa Funnell alongside William Fox Pitt

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    The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials have lost three of eventing’s most prestigious riders, after Andrew Nicholson, Pippa Funnell and William Fox-Pitt all decided to withdraw.

    Nicholson was entered for the competition with his long-standing partner, 16-year-old gelding Nereo, owned by Libby Sellar. The New Zealand champion suffered a serious neck injury at the Festival of British Eventing in Gatcombe last August. Although he has recovered brilliantly, returning to competition last March and winning at advanced level on Jet Set IV at Withington last Sunday, he feels he is not ready for the rigours of a CCI4* event.

    “I have reluctantly decided to withdraw Nereo from Badminton — through no fault of his own,” he said.” I have doubts over my own fitness and ability to do him full justice at this point.”

    “I successfully rode four horses in the advanced at Withington on Sunday, all of whom won prizes, but was aware I felt fatigued by the end of the seven-minute cross-country course. It would therefore not be sensible to attempt an 11 1/2-minute course at Badminton.

    “I have every confidence my strength and fitness will continue to improve and, with the full support of Nereo’s owner Libby Sellar, we now plan to target Nereo towards significant events such as those in the exciting new Event Rider Masters series.”

    Nicholson’s decision comes hot on the heels of a similar announcement by Funnell. The three-time Badminton winner fell while riding Sandman 7 on the advanced course at Withington on May 1, and had to be taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxfordshire. She was thankfully given the all clear and is returning home today, Tuesday, May 3, but has chosen to withdraw her two rides, Second Supreme and Billy Beware, to give herself more time to recover.

    “It’s devastating not only for myself but also for the owners, Jonathan and Jane Clarke and Marek Sebestak, my groom Frankie and the hard working team at home not to be able to compete at Badminton this year as I feel both my horses are in great form and the Mitsubishi Badminton Horse Trials is one of the greatest events in the world,” she said. “I very much hope to back competing again shortly.”

    The third rider to throw in the towel is Fox-Pitt, the reigning Badminton champion. The Olympic rider, who has recovered from a head trauma following a fall during the cross-country phase at Le Lions d’Angers last October and returned to competition in early April, withdrew Parklane Hawk from Badminton after a disappointing performance at Weston Park, where the 16-year-old gelding owned by Catherine Witt had a tumble on the cross country three fences from the end.

    “I have decided that we have run out of time for Badminton,” he said in a statement. “It is obviously a shame not to be heading back but you have to have the right preparation for a competition like this. Parklane Hawk has got the whole autumn to look forward to.”

    Fox-Pitt’s “next big target” is the first leg of Event Rider Masters at the Dodson & Horrell Chatsworth Horse Trials on May 13-15.

    Image: Andrew Nicholson with Quimbo, by Kasey Mueller via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

  15. Germany’s Michael Jung sets his cap at the Rolex Grand Slam

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    German master Michael Jung has put himself firmly on course to land eventing’s richest prize after retaining the Rolex Kentucky title in emphatic fashion.

    Jung, the reigning Olympic and European champion, will arrive at Badminton this week for a full-blown assault on the £240,000 Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, which is awarded to any rider that wins consecutive Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton crowns.

    But it’s so difficult to win the prize that Great Britain’s Pippa Funnell is the only rider to have previously achieved it, although others like Andrew Nicholson, Oliver Townend and William Fox-Pitt went close.

    Jung’s victory margin in Kentucky aboard Fischerrocana FST was an astonishing 13.3 penalties as he destroyed the field with a dressage score of 34.2, just 0.8 cross-country time faults and then four faults in Sunday’s final showjumping phase.

    The nearest anyone got to him was American Lauren Kieffer, riding Veronica, on a score of 52.5, followed by her compatriots Maya Black (Doesn’t Play Fair) and Phillip Dutton, who claimed fourth and fifth places aboard Mighty Nice and Fernhill Cubalawn, respectively.

    It was Jung’s fifth four-star crown of his career, and while Badminton promises to be a much closer contest with an array of realistic title challengers, 33-year-old Jung is clearly the man to beat after becoming the first back-to-back Kentucky champion on the same horse since Kim Severson in 2004 and 2005.

    Jung, who boosted his bank balance by £75,000, said: “I have to thank all the people behind me and my horses. It’s a success of the whole team. Every horse in my stable had a part in it.

    Watch Michael Jung ride the country-course at Rolex Kentucky

    “I think always the same thing when I go a championship or a four-star event. I say to myself ‘this is a normal competition’. I try not to change anything. It’s important to win, but it’s important that you have a good feeling for the horse and that you have a good ride.

    Jung’s genius came to the fore during a demanding cross-country test when heavy rain and muddy conditions tested every combination, but he guided his 11-year-old bay mare through an exemplary round, jumping clear just two seconds over the optimum time on the Derek di Grazia-designed course.

    “It was a really great feeling,” Jung added. “She was really concentrated from the start box, and I knew we could gallop. I gave her more time in the beginning of the course, and at the end she had a enough power so that she could go faster.”

    “In the cross-country, you need a fighting horse, and she’s a really fighting horse, because not everything on the cross-country is perfect. You have to know your horse, like I do with her, because we’ve been together for many years.”

    Reflecting on the challenge he set, Di Grazia said: “You are always a little bit nervous about the weather. We ran in the rain last year, and the footing held up well, so I thought we’d probably be okay. Still, I will take my hat off to the riders, because they produced some great rounds.”

    A total of 40 combinations went clear cross-country, but none without time faults, while five horses were eliminated and three were retired on course.

    Attention now switches quickly to Badminton, where Jung will ride his London 2012 Olympic gold medal winner, 2010 world champion and last year’s Burghley king La Biosthetique Sam.

    Image: Michael Jung and Fischerrocana make history with their victory at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, third leg of the FEI Classics™ 2015/2016, by Red Bay Group LLC/FEI

  16. Avebury, Andrew Nicholson’s legendary partner, retires

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    A legend retires. Avebury has been withdrawn from Badminton and retired from competition by owners Mark and Rosemary Barlow.

    “This is a day we were all dreading,” said Rosemary Barlow. “He has served us so well and after his last gallop he wasn’t showing his normal exuberance and zest for life. Sadly, old age has begun to catch up with him, and he deserves a well-earned rest.”

    Avebury, by Jumbo out of Memento, was bred and broken by Andrew Nicholson, a fortunate pairing that would go on to make eventing history. But the grey, nicknamed Buddy by Nicholson’s daughters, Rebecca and Melissa, didn’t start his competitive life with the New Zealand champion. Instead, he was sold to go showjumping, where he had some success. Wiggy Nicholson, Andrew’s wife, then bought him back when he was six and evented him, winning a novice competition at Gatcombe — until Nicholson ‘nicked’ the horse from her.

    “Rosemary Barlow wanted a new horse, so I said to her that I thought I knew of one. Wiggy went away for a few days, so I sneaked him up to the gallops to see what he could do. I was quite impressed, so I suggested Rosemary bought him for me to ride.”

    A star combination was born. In their first season together, in 2007, Nicholson and Avebury won the CCI* at Tattersalls, finished second in the British Novice Championships at Gatcombe and placed fourth in the World Young Horse Championships at Le Lion d’Angers. They went on to take the CCI2* at Tattersalls (in 2008) and the CCI3* at Saumur (in 2009).

    From 2012, they were unstoppable, claiming the Barbury Castle title four times (2012 to 2015) and Burghley three times (2012-2014) — Avebury is the only horse to have achieved this remarkable feat. The pair were poised for a fourth Burghley victory when Nicholson broke his neck after a fall at Gatcombe and had to end his season.

    This year, Avebury competed at Great Witchingham in March, where he won. These days, however, “he just doesn’t quite feel like he used to,” says Nicholson. As a result, the Barlows took the decision to retire him.

    “Avebury is a horse of a lifetime and owes us nothing, “ says Barlow. “Sometimes in his younger years he could be a little bit naughty, but he has been a complete joy to own. He won 27 times and was placed on numerous occasions. Mark and I would like to thank Andrew and Wiggy and all the staff at Westwood for looking after him so well over the past 10 years.”

    Avebury will continue to live with the Nicholsons at Westwood: “He’s part of the family, and will stay here with us. Wiggy will ride him, and no doubt my daughter Lily will put her name down for a go,” says Nicholson.

    “He’s got a cheeky side to him, but whenever you walk into the yard, he’s happy to see you. He loves his work and is very bubbly about everything. He’s still naughty to catch in the field — he gallops around squealing, but as soon as it rains, or he thinks something might be happening without him, he runs up and down the fence line yelling to be brought in.

    “He has been an exceptional performer. He loves a big atmosphere and shows off in it, and has always been a brilliant jumper and galloper. He has always been a winner, and I have to thank him for some of the greatest days of my career.”

    Top image: Andrew Nicholson and Avebury at Westwood Stud by Edward Whitaker/Racing Post Books

  17. Oliver Townend claims ninth Burnham Market victory

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    Oliver Townend continued his monopoly of the Burnham Market International Horse Trials in Norfolk by claiming yet another victory at this year’s event.

    Having won the headline CIC three-star class eight times in the past, on horses like his 2009 Badminton champion Flint Curtis, Ashdale Cruise Master, Pepper Anne ad Black Tie, the Yorkshireman once again came up trumps, this time aboard Cooley Master Class — and he also finished second on Noteworthy.

    The victory gave Townend a dream start to the new Tri-Star Grand Slam series, of which Burnham was the opening competition.

    “Cooley Master Class didn’t event last year, but he could have,” Townend said. “I was riding him at home, but we just kept putting it back, and I think the break has done him the world of good. He felt better than ever. I have always believed that he is a very, very good horse.

    “The Tri-Star Grand Slam is fantastic to aim for, and I’m lucky to have several horses at the right level, but I will still aim the horses at the best events for them and to suit their major goals for the year.”

    The CIC two-star crown at Burnham Market went to Australian Sammi Birch, riding The Court Jester, ahead of runner-up Ludwig Svennerstal on Master Ping, and there was a triumph in the advanced section for Bettina Hoy, riding Designer 10.

    This year, though, Burnham Market was perhaps most memorable of all for Britain’s former world-number-one William Fox-Pitt making his competitive comeback following a serious cross-country fall during the World Young Horse Championships in Le Lion-d’Angers last October.

    Fox-Pitt rode Cool Mountain and Parklane Hawk at Burnham Market, and he said: “They are both old pros and literally carried me round. I only had to hold on. It was a great relief to finish in one piece and feeling good.”

    Image: Oliver Townend by Smudge 9000 via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

  18. Top eventing champions hail the launch of the Event Rider Masters

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    Former Olympic champion Mark Todd has led the acclaim for a new eventing competition that could take the sport to a new level.

    The Event Rider Masters, which has a guaranteed £350,000 prize fund, will link CIC*** events at Chatsworth, Bramham, Barbury, Gatcombe, Blair Castle and Blenheim.

    Hailed by organisers as “representing a new dawn in the world of eventing.” the goal of Event Rider Masters is to package the sport specifically for television audiences and to deliver prize money as yet unseen in the world of short-format eventing.

    The launch of the series has come about through a collaboration of owners, riders and organisers. A team of six eventing stakeholders led by Di Brunsden have developed the concept over the past 18 months. The series has full support of British Eventing, the British Equestrian Federation, the Event Horse Owners’ Association and the Eventing Riders’ Association. It was granted full FEI approval last November.

    Each of the six classes will run under FEI rules and will be open to just 40 horse and rider combinations, balloted by FEI rider ranking points and ensuring a top-flight competition featuring the best in the world. With dressage in form order, reverse-order show jumping and the top 20 reverse-order cross country, the excitement of the competition is ensured.

    The successful business team of Christopher and Lisa Stone, themselves event horse owners, intend to support and develop the business model through their wealth of experience in both the sporting and financial spheres.

    The £350,000 prize fund sees £50,000 awarded for each of the six classes, and a further £50,000 prize fund for the leading riders at the end of the series.

    For this year, the series will be UK-based, with an expansion plan into Europe and beyond from 2017.

    The series has been warmly welcomed throughout the sport, with Wiltshire-based New Zealander Todd stating: “The Event Rider Masters is without doubt the most exciting development in eventing that I’ve ever seen.”

    And Britain’s former world-number-one event rider, William Fox-Pitt (pictured), said: “As riders and as a sport, we have all been trying to work out a way of securing investment and encouraging television within eventing.

    “It would seem that the Event Rider Masters series has the potential to deliver on both counts. I am really excited about the future of the sport, and very much hope I can be a part of it.”

    Captain Mark Phillips, cross-country course designer at Gatcombe’s Festival of British Eventing, added: “I have been really impressed by the way Event Rider Masters is being marketed to a global audience. It has the full support of the Festival at Gatcombe, and I am looking forward to playing an important role in what promises to be an exciting future.

    And the FEI’s eventing director Catrin Norinder said: “The Event Rider Masters is a great new series. We believe it will attract additional interest and give further exposure to eventing. It will be good for our sport, appealing to a new and wider range of spectators, as well as engaging those already involved. We look forward to its development.”

    Image: William Fox-Pitt at a past edition of the Chatsworth international Horse Trials by Smudge 9000 via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

  19. New eventing Grand Slam launched

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    Former Badminton winner Paul Tapner (pictured) has led the acclaim for a new eventing Grand Slam initiative that offers a £50,000 jackpot.

    The Shearwater Insurance Tri-Star Grand Slam, which was launched this week, has a £50,000, winner-takes-all prize for any rider who can win three of the five CIC3* events this year – Burnham Market International, Belton International, Houghton International, Hopetoun International and Burgham International.

    Wiltshire-based Australian star Tapner, who won Badminton in 2010, said: “Eventing is a hugely-popular, exciting and extreme equestrian sport. It is long overdue a prize fund to match its exhilarating nature and reward the expertise and dedication of the participants, both human and equine.

    “International event riders on the world’s most competitive competition circuit here in the UK will all be hugely excited and motivated by the Tri-Star Grand Slam innovation. We are massively grateful to Shearwater Insurance for their longstanding, and now substantially increased, support of our sport.”

    Alec Lochore, of Musketeer Event Management, and Stuart Buntine, of BEDE Events, have joined forces to launch the Grand Slam, while Shearwater Insurance managing director Jeremy Lawton is a long-standing supporter of eventing, owning 2004 individual Olympic gold medal-winning Shear l’Eau as well as his brother Shear H2O, who won the team silver medal in the 2000 Olympics.

    Lawton said: “We are delighted to be sponsoring the Shearwater Insurance Tri-Star Grand Slam. Being experienced event horse owners ourselves, we have supported the sport for many years and recognise the importance of offering good prize money across all levels of competition.

    “The costs involved in owning, training and entering horses have only increased, and we want to ensure that all riders have the potential to cover them. The hope is that by creating a prize pot of £50,000, we can not only support dedicated owners and riders, but also raise the profile of the sport.

    “By pitching the prize fund at the 3* level, we believe that we have created a real opportunity for aspiring and amateur riders to win a significant amount of money.”

    Lochore and Buntine are both former eventers, now heavily involved in staging competitions, and Lochore said: “Facilitating opportunities like this, I hope, show competitors that we are responding to their concerns regarding the level of prize money available in the sport and rewarding them for their skill and dedication.”

    The first Grand Slam event will be Burnham Market on April 1-3, followed by Belton Park (April 15-17), Houghton (May 26-29), Hopetoun (June 17-19) and Burgham (July 29-30).

    British Eventing chief executive David Holmes added: “British Eventing are delighted to be a part of this exciting new Grand Slam initiative — delivering riders, owners, sponsors and spectators with a thrilling competition to follow throughout the season.

    Image: Paul Tapner by Henry Bucklow/Lazy Photography, CC BY-SA 3.0

  20. The 12 horse trials you shouldn’t miss

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    Impressive locations and top class sport come together to provide great days out for the eventing enthusiast

    Burgham International, Northumberland, March 25-27

    England’s most northerly horse trial, kicks off the international season and runs the first CIC 2&3* of the year. Burgham is situated in the heart of Northumberland in an area of outstanding beauty and attracts more and more riders every year.

    Burnham Market International, Norfolk, April 1-3

    One to consider for the Easter holidays. Burnham Market, which runs classes up to CIC3*, is situated short distance from the east coast seaside towns of Hunstanton and Wells-next-the-Sea.

    Belton Park International, Lincolnshire, April 15-17

    Held in the grounds of the National Trust property of Belton House, Belton CIC3* is the final Badminton prep for many combinations. As well as top class eventing, the event hosts many spectator attractions such as dog agility, a classic car show and stallion parade and has more than 100 shopping and food trade stands.

    Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, Gloucestershire, May 4-8

    Who doesn’t want to go to Badminton, the Duke of Beaufort’s home of horse trials, and the one every event rider wants to win? Book tickets now to ensure seats to watch the world’s best riders fight it out in the final day’s showjumping — always a cliff-hanger — and reserve your space for the tent or caravan.

    Chatsworth International, Derbyshire, May 14-15

    Set in the fabulous surroundings of Chatsworth House, this fantastic event offers much more than just horses as the Duke of Devonshire’s famous house, garden, farmyard and adventure playground are open as usual during the three days of competition.

    Bramham International, West Yorkshire, June 9-12

    Yorkshire’s leading event and horsey social, hosted by the Lane Fox family at Bramham Park, is just a stone’s throw off the AI. Ian Stark’s challenging cross country course attracts all the top riders for the CCI3* and decides who will be the year’s Under-25 champion.

    Hopetoun International, West Lothian, June 17-19

    Two miles from the Forth Road Bridge and eight miles from Edinburgh, this event, which runs international novice, intermediate and advanced classes, is set against the backdrop of Hopetoun House, a magnificent 17th-century stately home.

    Barbury International, Wiltshire, July 7-10

    If you want to watch cross country without too much effort then Barbury, which runs international CIC 2&3*, is the place to go. Such is the terrain of the Marlborough Downs that the whole course can be seen from one place. It has also become a must-go event for riders.

    Blair Castle, Perthshire, Aug 25-28

    Last year’s successful European Championships and stunning location on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park put this Highland venue well and truly on the map. It might be the longest drive ever to a horse trials but the scenery alone makes the journey worthwhile.

    The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, Lincolnshire, Sep 1-4

    Capability Brown’s park at Burghley, with the backdrop of the famous house, is arguably the best setting of all horse trials. It is not for nothing that this four-star international has been awarded L’Annee Hippique’s ‘best event’ award a record seven times. A major East of England social, it has shopping to die for, courtesy of more than 600 trade stands.

    Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, Oxfordshire, Sep 8-11

    Hot on the heels of Burghley, Blenheim Palace, the home of the Duke of Marlborough, provides another superb location and Capability Brown park to enjoy. The CCI3* attracts major international competition and the event runs a CIC3* for 8/9 year-old horses, which is proving to be a real equine talent spotting competition for future four-star horses.

    Osberton International, Nottinghamshire, Sep 29-Oct 2

    The Nottinghamshire event attracts and accommodates whopping numbers of riders for the CCI 1 & 2* three-days and is the host for the BE KBIS Young Horse Championships for four, five, six and seven-year-old horses.

    Image: a past edition of the Badminton horse Trials, by Adam Blake via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

  21. Farewell to Tina Cook’s De Novo News

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    Tina Cook lost her World Equestrian Games 2014 companion, De Novo News. As reported by Horse & Hound, the horse developed a serious lung condition called shipping fever on the way back from competing at Strzegom, in Poland, last June. Despite showing some encouraging signs of recovery in September, he had to be put down on Tuesday, October 13.

    Also known as travel sickness or pleuro-pneumonia, shipping fever is an inflammation of the lungs and the pleural cavity around them. It is caused by upper airways germs making their way and colonising a horse’s lower respiratory tract. Long-distance journeys, during which a horse has fewer opportunities to lower his head and get rid of mucus, make it easier for bacteria to move further down inside the chest, triggering the infection. Other contributing factors, along with a pre-existing chest condition, are limited ventilation, exposure to dust and debris, dehydration, and stress, which can lower a horse’s immune defences.

    Although Cook carefully managed her horses’ return trip from Strzegom, taking long breaks, De Novo News still came down with the disease. He fought it for nearly four months, but eventually suffered from complications that led to him being put down.

    The horse, by Last News out of Douce de Longvaut, had been produced by Cook, who had previously ridden his dame, in her West Sussex yard. Together, the pair won team silver at the 2014 World Equestrian Games and, more recently, first place at the Burnham Market Advanced class before finishing 15th at the Bramham CIC3*. Cook once said that she felt De Novo News had potential for Rio.

    “We are extremely sad to learn of this news,” commented BE Chief Executive David Holmes. “Our thoughts are with Tina, owner Jim Chromiak and everyone connected to this horse.”

    Image: Tina Cook and De Novo news by Adam Fanthorpe, courtesy of British Eventing

  22. The beginner’s guide to eventing

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    Will Furlong, dual gold medallist at the recent Young Rider European Championships, shares with Julie Harding his top tips for preparing for your first horse trials

    1. The right horse

    Success in eventing is all about loaning or buying the right horse for the job. When you start out in eventing ensure that you are not over-horsed both in terms of size and temperament. When you view a horse, take along a knowledgeable friend or trainer, research the horse’s history and ask for references to ensure that he is a safe bet. Plump for an older, wiser mount who will help you to learn and gain confidence.

    2. The right equipment

    Both horse and rider need the correct equipment, which in the rider’s case includes a properly fitting hat and a body protector of the right standard. As standards change — hat standards have received extensive coverage in the equestrian press recently — find out what is required on the internet or ask at your local tack shop. Staff there will also ensure that your hat fits correctly. Helmets should be worn at all times at a competition, no matter how well you know your horse.

    Ensure that your horse’s saddle and bridle fit properly, and have a few bits in your tackroom so that you can find out what works when you go cross-country schooling. Horses can get more onward bound across country and you will probably find that you need a stronger bit. Generally only snaffles are allowed for the dressage, but check the rules before you go.

    If you wish to use studs, tell your farrier during your horse’s final shoeing so that he can leave stud holes. I recommend them for the jumping phases as they give the horse added stability. If you aren’t going to use them, practice on grass as much as possible beforehand.

    The majority of riders use boots or wraps to warm up for the dressage, but remember to take them off five minutes before you are due in the arena. For the showjumping a pair of front tendon boots is ideal, while back boots are not essential, unless your horse has a tendency to tap the rails. I use front and back boots for the cross-country, as well as overreach boots, to minimise the possibility of injury.

    3. A good trainer

    Working with a trainer in the lead up to a competition is advisable, even if you take part in group lessons. They will be able to give you some invaluable pointers. Take that trainer or an experienced friend to your first competition. You will be nervous and won’t know what to expect.

    4. Getting a horse fit

    How you get your horse fit for its first event depends on its breeding. Bear in mind that your first couple of unaffiliated events are not going to be that physically demanding, so your day-to-day work will probably suffice as a ‘get fitter’ regime. You certainly don’t need to take your horse up the gallops two times a week or he will become over-fit, hard to control and fizzy.

    Take him cross-country schooling to gauge his fitness. Note his breathing and that will give you an idea of how he will cope at a competition. For the more stocky type, trotting up hills is a good fittening method, or consider going to the gallops occasionally.

    5. Where do you start?

    I kicked off my riding career in the show ring, which was a wonderful grounding, but the hunting field is equally beneficial. Pony Club and riding club events give you a great foundation before you try affiliated, and, these days, I regularly attend unaffiliated horse trials with my younger horses. I would definitely recommend them for a first-time event rider. The atmosphere is calm, fun, friendly and relaxed and these events are the perfect stepping stone following on from general training.

    6. Get set for your first event

    Load the lorry the day before, using a checklist to ensure that nothing gets left behind. Time really does fly on the day itself and, if you are nervous, it is reassuring that you have everything ready in advance. Always take a few extras, such as a spare pair of breeches and a waterproof coat for yourself, as well as a rug for your horse in case the weather deteriorates.

    7. What to expect

    Give your horse a haynet to keep him occupied and tie him securely outside the lorry where he can see other horses. Ask one of your helpers to stay with him while you get used to your surroundings. Locate the dressage arenas, collect your number from the secretary’s tent and walk the cross-country course.

    8. Preparing for the dressage

    Work out a warm-up routine for all phases at home, write it down and consult it before you mount. Everything won’t go exactly to plan, but stick to it as closely as you can. At the competition an excitable horse will need a bit more working in than a chilled one. Trot your horse around the warm up for five minutes to give him a chance to get used to his surroundings. After that push him into canter and do some transitions. Try and stay relaxed, remember not to overwork your horse and give him little breaks, too, during your 20-minute warm up. Watch a couple of competitors riding their test before you go into the arena.

    9. Preparing for the show jumping

    Jump a cross pole and then a small upright a couple of times. Raise the height slightly before you pop over it again. Move on to the spread. Jump no more than eight times during your warm up. Don’t over jump your horse or jump bigger than you need to. This part is all about confidence.

    10. The cross-country

    I walk a course once at the lower levels. Switch off your phone, concentrate and note all the elements you will face, such as uneven terrain, steep hills, sharp turns and jumping from light into dark — and ride accordingly. Just before I go across country I run through all the fences in my head with the programme pictures in front of me.
    In the cross-country warm up give your horse one short gallop, and jump about three to five of the rustic fences. Don’t cook your horse. The aim here is to get him going forward and feeling confident.

    11. Countdown to ‘go’

    Leave the startbox as you mean to go on — in a smooth, rhythmic canter. During a rider’s first couple of cross-country experiences I wouldn’t recommend aiming for the optimum time. Build your confidence as a partnership then kick on when you feel ready.

    12. Aftercare

    Your horse will be hot after the cross-country, so walk him around the lorry park in hand to allow him to regain his breath and then wash him down on your return to the lorry. Later on, relive the three phases on video and learn from your mistakes. Practice and work on the weak elements, but give yourself and your horse plenty of praise for the things that went well.

    Image: cross-country fence by Pieter GeertsCC BY-SA 3.0

  23. Why it’s worth paying for eventing

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    How lucky are we? The sport we love to follow takes part in such iconic British venues. I reflected and appreciated this while driving to Blenheim through the beautiful British countryside on lovely autumn mornings to arrive at a magnificent venue — especially when there is so much unrest in the world at the moment.

    Not for eventing the grey, functional and crowded stadiums that all look pretty much the same. No, we get to arrive at the most wonderful parklands of great British houses: Burghley, Badminton, Blair Castle, Burgham, Belton, Bramham and Blenheim (not sure why so many begin with B) plus Houghton Hall, Gatcombe, Osberton, Weston Park, and Floors Castle are just some of the bigger parks that host eventing. And they all have a unique feel and atmosphere, in part thanks to the organisation but also thanks to the time of the year they happen coupled with their location. Badminton is the vivid green of spring, new leaves on trees, cow parsley and blustery skies to Burghley’s end-of-summer mood, soft colours and the memorable back drop of the house, golden at the end of the day as the sunsets.

    And so here we are at Blenheim free to wander – even if we are following a cross-country course – through the most amazing park and landscape carefully crafted, planted and built over the centuries so that we can now admire the great trees, plantations and water features.

    Blenheim Palace grounds

    But oh how often at every event do we hear people complaining about the cost? Yes, on face value. the entry fee does seem expensive but you only have to stop and think for a moment where that cost has come from – it is not a random figure.

    Often, for the the owners of these stately homes, eventing is part of a greater plan to bring in money to offset huge maintenance costs. Organisers, on their part, face the huge task of having to attract large numbers of people in order to make the event viable and the costs involved must make them weep, especially these days, when everyone wants everything just like they have at home – flushing loos, instant wi-fi, hot food, cold food, bars, ice in drinks and lots of shopping — even though they are in the middle of what is essentially a large field.

    Getting people to events then depends on them being prepared to pay entry fees and thankfully many of them do. Because the consequences of people not paying are huge. Not only will the sport as we know it struggle – arena eventing, anyone? – but all these historic houses will have to find other ways to help them pay their bills, the size of which don’t even bear thinking about.

    It is only by paying entry fees that we can continue to enjoy not only eventing, in the manner that we are used to, but also help preserve the houses and parks of the British Isles for now and future generations. Ultimately, that is priceless.

    Images copyright of, and courtesy of, Carole Mortimer

  24. Britain wins team gold at the FEI Young Rider European Championships

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    Another week, another championship and another team medal for British riders, this time at the FEI Young Rider European Championships at Strzegom in Poland (August 27-30). Not only did the British team secure gold but individual gold and silver as well — a great result for these up and coming riders.

    And they dominated from the start; the team went into pole-position after dressage while team member Will Furlong, who was Junior individual bronze medallist in 2013, took the overall lead on Livingstone II, with individual rider Sophie Beaty (Stanly), a former Pony and Junior team member, in second.

    All four British team riders—Furlong, Ella Hitchman (Rocky Rockstar), Isabella Innes Ker (Carolyn) and Emily King (Loxley)—as well as the two individuals, Beaty and Katie Bleloch (Bulano), jumped clear round the cross country, with four of them finishing in the top six and ensuring the team stayed at the top of the leader board. Five of them then jumped clear in the showjumping, with King the sole British casualty of the coloured poles, which dropped her out of individual medal contention.

    Will Furlong and Sophie Beaty took individual gold and silver at the fei young rider eventing championshipsIt was a convincing win for the British team, who finished 12 penalties ahead of Germany and over 36 penalties ahead of the Irish bronze-medal team.

    Twenty-year-old Furlong, who is based near Battle, in East Sussex, becomes the first British male individual gold medallist since Terry Boon in 1993. His ride, Livingstone, a 12-year-old Holstein by Lavall II, was initially produced by British-based Swede Ludwig Svennerstal and acquired by Furlong in the middle of 2012. At the end of that season, the combination won the CCI1* at Weston Park and in 2014 was crowned National U21 Champions after winning the championship class at Houghton Hall.

    At 19, Beaty, from Finedon in Northamptonshire, is already virtually a veteran of British teams; she won Pony European team gold in 2010 and team bronze in 2011, was a member of the 2013 Junior team and, last year, with the Dutch-bred Stanly rode as an individual at the YR Europeans.

    Chairman of the Askham Bryan GB Young Rider Selection Committee, Alex Colquhoun commented: “We are all so incredibly proud of our riders and horses this week, everyone has gelled so well and worked well together as a team. We have been unlucky in the past so to lead from the start and have everything come together as it did is just fantastic.”

    A silver for the Rural Riders

    A week earlier, another British team added another two medals to this year’s haul. The British Rural Riders won team silver at their CCI2* Championship held at Helvoit in The Netherlands, with team member Frankie Reid-Warrilow winning the individual title and gold medal.

    The competition is for Riding Club members and is for teams of six. It is based on the usual format but the main difference is that for the team championship, all six team members perform the dressage test together in a sort of follow-my-leader style, which certainly makes for an interesting challenge and literally requires team-work. They then also each do an individual dressage tests.

    The British team of Reid-Warrilow (Dolley Whisper), Tyler Cassells (Grandslam), Zoe Wilkinson (GHS Calvaruise), Danielle Dunn (Zocarla BLH), Sarah Holmes (Lowhill Clover) and Emily Pragnell (DHI Beauness) took the lead after the team dressage test and Reid-Warrilow, a member of the Vale of Arrow Riding Club in Powys, held the lead in the individual competition.

    The twenty-five-year-old, who was the inaugural winner of the ‘Mark Todd Bridging the Gap’ scholarship in 2013, then rode a double clear adding nothing to her dressage score of 40.7pen to secure a seven-penalty margin and claim the top step of the podium and the gold medal.

    After cross-country, the team dropped to third but bounced back with the showjumping to win the silver medal, sandwiched between gold-medal Germany and the bronze-winning Belgians.

    British teams have so far yielded an impressive tally of championship medals this year: two team golds (pony and young rider), one team silver (rural riders) and one team bronze (juniors) as well as two individual golds (young rider and rural riders) and an individual silver (young rider), meaning the seniors have a lot to live up at their European Championships set to take place at Blair Castle in just over 10 days. No pressure, guys…..

    Pennyz bounces back

    At home, at the KBIS Wellington International Horse Trials in Hook, Hampshire, the major class, the CIC3*, was won by Borough Pennyz and her British-based Italian rider Vittoria Panizzon.

    It was a bit of a comeback for the popular gazelle-like mare, the leading mare at the London 2012 Olympic Games, as it was the first international class for the combination since the British Open at Gatcombe last year. The pair has been through an unlucky on-off phase; Pennyz was withdrawn from Badminton 2014 with a bruised foot and then had to be withdrawn literally just before her dressage test at the WEG in Caen.

    Although 2015 got off to a promising start for the pair, with a quiet OI at Rockingham, things then went awry for Panizzon when, at the beginning of June, she broke her collar bone in a fall from a young horse, which resulted in several weeks out of the saddle meaning plans to compete Pennyz at the European Championships slipped away. So welcome back Pennyz and Panizzon, who for good measure was also second in the CIC3* with Merlots Magic, a 14-year-old gelding by Welton Chardonnay and a half-brother to the stallion Up With the Lark, both bred by Sarah Taylor.

    Wellington also proved fruitful for Pippa Funnell and Billy the Biz, who headed their OI section. It was some recompense for Funnell after an unlucky ‘unseated rider’ episode at Hartpury from the 10-year-old, who, like Borough Pennyz, is also by Cevin Z.

    Images: main, the gold-medal winning British team; smaller, individual gold medallist Will Furlong, silver medallist Sophie Beaty and bronze medallist Christoph Wahler. Both by Leszek Wójcik, courtesy of the FEI.

  25. Eventing debrief: Germany throws down the gauntlet at Aachen

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    At the FEI Nations’ Cup in Aachen, the German riders left no-one in doubt about their intentions at next month’s FEI European Championships.

    Leading rider Ingrid Klimke, who is having the best season of her career so far, led the experienced German team to an assured victory in the fifth leg of the FEI Nations Cup on home ground in Aachen. Klimke not only won the event with her 2013 European-silver-medal partner and this year’s Luhmuhlen winner Escada JS, but for good measure was second with Horseware Hale Bob, with whom she was also second at Badminton this year. It was a first victory at the event for Klimke, who has competed here every year since 2005.

    Her team mates, World Champions Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Louvo and Olympic Champion Michael Jung with Fischertakinou, finished third and fifth respectively. British-based New Zealander Tim Price split the two champions taking fourth place with his Luhmuhlen-2014 winner Wesko. The New Zealand team, which included Tim’s wife, Jonelle Price, and leading veteran Sir Mark Todd, who together were competing in their first Nations Cup, finished second, while team USA, also contesting the Nations Cup for the first time, finished third.

    After dressage, the German team held a strong lead, although British rider Holly Woodhead, a member of last year’s British silver-medal Young Rider team and daughter of dressage trainers Ian and Tracey Woodhead, put in an impressive performance with DHI Lupison on her Nations Cup debut to be just a few marks adrift of Klimke. She then rose to individual second place after a clear round over the coloured poles and put the British team in a close third place at that stage.

    It was not to be, however, and it all fell apart for the Brits on cross-country, when the British team was eliminated. Already one man down, as Flora Harris and her Bramham winner Bayano retired, Woodhead was then, after video footage, declared to have jumped the wrong side of a flag at the corner in the water, which later proved to be the bogey fence; Jock Paget was unseated from Clifton Lush here.

    While the final result was tough, on Woodhead in particular, the British team still has a commanding overall lead on the Nations Cup leader board, having contested all five competitions so far.

    The next FEI Nations Cup takes place at Montelibretti, in Italy, from September 17 to 20 — the same weekend as the Blenheim International Horse Trials.

    See the full results of the FEi Nations’ Cup on the FEI Nations Cup results.

    FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing 2015 Leaderboard (5/8 events)
    1. Great Britain, 47 points
    2. Germany, 29
    3. Australia, 28
    4. France, 27
    5. Netherlands, 21
    6. Ireland, 15
    7. Sweden, 10
    8. New Zealand, 9

    Young Brits win bronze

    A long haul to Bialy Bor in Poland resulted in team bronze for the British team at the FEI Junior European Championships.

    German riders topped the final leader board and claimed three of the six medals on offer, winning team gold while team members Johanna Zantop (Santana’s Boy) and Hanna Knuppel (Carismo 22) claimed individual gold and bronze respectively, leading the team to a huge winning margin of almost 30 penalties.

    Zantop’s leading dressage score allowed the young German enough breathing space for her 2.8 time penalties, as well as a pole down in the showjumping, especially when her nearest rival after the first phase, British team rider Sam Ecroyd, was eliminated after a fall midway round the cross country course.

    This put more pressure on the remaining three British riders, Alex Kennedy (Chocolate Domino), Charlotte Bacon (Sannavalley Justice) and Charlotte East (Clear Dawn), who nonetheless kept their heads down and ended an influential cross country day in the silver-medal position.

    On the final day, the French riders proved the better jumpers and moved ahead to take team silver, with Victor Levecque (Phunambule des Auges) taking the individual silver on his junior team debut. However, the 16-year-old from Montfort l‘Amaury, just to the west of Paris, is no stranger to the podium; he is the current French Junior Champion, was last year’s individual- and team-gold medallist at the Pony Europeans in Millstreet and this year won the CCI1* in Fontainebleau — a name to watch for in the future perhaps?

    British riders were delighted to claim the team bronze in what had been a competition of highs and lows for the 18 teams contesting the event.

    British individual Alex Tordoff (18) from Leicestershire was the highest placed in fifth place — and just the rolled pole away from the bronze medal — with his own Emill, an 11-year-old gelding by the jumping stallion Unbelievable Darco, while team member Kennedy and Chocolate Domino, who finished with a double clear, were seventh of the 61 to finish.

    After the showjumping, Darrell Scaife, the new Chairman of the British Selectors said: “I am genuinely delighted to come home with team bronze; today was a challenging and technical test of skill and all our riders tried incredibly hard and rode well.

    “Alex Tordoff rode a stylish round and had an unlucky pole and Alex Kennedy absolutely rode her socks off and has been outstanding in every phase.”

    “The riders fought from start to finish to ensure that we went home with a team medal and I am hugely proud of them and that their determination was rewarded.”

    See the FEI site for the full results.

    Image: Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob, by Libby Law, courtesy of the FEI

  26. William Fox-Pitt shines at Hartpury Horse Trials

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    It’s been another corkingly full-on week for equestrians; for eventers, in particular, the big one at home was the NAF International at Hartpury College (Gloucestershire) and the really big one in Europe was the FEI Nations Cup running alongside the European dressage championships in Aachen (Germany) while in Bialy Bor, Poland British Juniors battled it out in their annual big one, the FEI Junior European Championships.

    It was a full four days of competition for the organisers at Hartpury College who ran three large international sections — two three-day (CCI) at one and two-star level and a one-day (CIC) three star.

    World number two, William Fox-Pitt, cruised to victory in the Superflex CIC3*, with Catherine Witt’s Bay My Hero. The former Lexington winner (2014) was having his first real run since Barbury in July — the pair did dressage practice only at Gatcombe — this time with rather more intention, collecting just 0.8pen for being just 2 seconds over the time.

    A clear over the coloured poles gave the combination a comfortable victory and they were the only ones to finish with a sub 40pen score. They now head to the European Championships as part of the 12-rider squad for the European Championships at Blair Castle (September 10-13), although the team has yet to be decided.

    Reve de Rouet was second for Bedfordshire-based Sarah Bullimore. It was a good prep and confidence-boosting result for the Burghley-bound 11-year-old who produced a double clear to finish on his dressage score. Former Junior team member Ibby Macpherson, from Northamptonshire produced her best result to date, taking third in the class of 90 starters with 11-year-old Ballingowan Diamond, who also produced a double clear. It was also a good day for Sarah ‘Cutty’ Cohen who was back at the top with the Preci-Spark owned and bred Treason who finished in fourth place.

    Pippa Funnell was one to fall foul of Eric Winter’s three-star cross-country course and finished at the wrong end of the scoreboard after an ‘unseating of rider’ from the talented grey Billy the Biz, who had led the dressage on the first day. Billy Cuckoo however made up for the misdemeanour of her stable-mate providing Funnell with second place in the Magic CCI2*—the mare’s first two-star completion.

    The class was won by Thomas Carlile. The Frenchman from Toulouse — who is of British parentage and fast becoming a renowned producer of young horses — claimed the class with the Anglo-Arab cross Upsilon who led from day one, although he used up his final-day leading margin with a rare refusal in the showjumping. The grey stallion, fifth in the world six-year-old championships at Le Lions last year, nonetheless now has the impressive record of four wins from five international starts.

    The Optimum CCI1* provided a first three-day win for 25-year-old Caroline Harris, as well as another success for the Billy stud. Harris, who runs a yard in Somerset, headed the class from start to finish with the seven-year-old mare Billy Bumble, who is by the world’s number one jumping sire Kannan.

    It was a fitting win for the pair who last year at Osberton won the Welton Romance trophy, presented to the highest mare in the six-year-old Young Horse Championship. The trophy was originally donated by the late Sam Barr, whose famous ‘Welton’ horses were bred just down the road from Hartpury College at Barr’s famous Limbury Stud.

    Former Young Rider team gold medallist Tom Jackson, who makes his four-star debut at Burghley in two weeks, finished second, just 1penalty behind, with the Dutch-bred Dowalda, and also collected collecting the Denis Ivan trophy for the highest placed Pony Club rider, while Leicestershire-based Willa Newton took third with Caja 20.

    Event Director, Phillip Cheetham, said: “This has been another amazing display of world-class eventing right across the whole week and everyone involved has worked incredibly hard to pull off one of the biggest events of our equestrian calendar.”

    Image: William Fox-Pitt on Bay My Hero, courtesy of Hartpury College

  27. Nicola Wilson crowned National Champion at Gatcombe

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    Nicola Wilson was crowned national champion for the first time as this year’s Festival of British Eventing reached a dramatic conclusion at Gatcombe on Sunday. North Yorkshire-based Wilson finished third aboard Beltane Queen in the headline British Open class, but took the national title as highest-placed home rider behind Australia’s Christopher Burton (TS Jamaimo) and New Zealand’s Jonelle Price (Classic Moet).

    Oliver Townend, winner of the British Novice and British Intermediate sections on Saturday, finished fourth on Armada after withdrawing his other challenger Mr Hiho, who is only just back in work following a lay-off and was never intended to run cross-country.

    Surrey-based Burton triumphed on a score of 43.7 penalties, but his fellow Australian Sam Griffiths fell from his 2014 Badminton champion Paulank Brockagh when in pole position to challenge for silverware, while New Zealand’s former world-number-one Andrew Nicholson ended his afternoon in hospital.

    Nicholson fell from Cillnabradden Evo at the final cross-country fence and was unable to compete on his other ride Perfect Stranger. He was later taken to hospital in Swindon for further checks.

    Wilson looks set to be a pivotal member of the Great Britain team at next month’s Longines FEI European Championships in Scotland, and her outstanding form shone on the Gatcombe terrain, with her other ride Bulana finishing ninth.

    “My horse was phenomenal,” said Wilson, who added her name to a roll of honour that also includes William Fox-Pitt, Ginny Leng, Mary King and Pippa Funnell.

    “I am really pinching myself, and I am so incredibly proud of her. She just keeps getting better and better. Her dressage on Saturday was mistake-free, and she just gave her all again. She is a pleasure to ride.

    “I was incredibly grateful to her at the double of corners on cross-country. I just slightly overshot my turn, but she is such an honest, brave horse. She is a horse that just keeps giving. She is so kind and willing and such a tryer. I am totally thrilled.”

    Burton, though, took the £5,000 winner’s purse, with the top 10 completed by fifth-placed Louise Harwood (Whitson), Georgie Strang (Cooley Business Time) in sixth, seventh-placed Olivia Wilmot (Cool Dancer), Paul Tapner in eighth with Vanir Kamira, Wilson again in ninth and 10th-placed Alex Postolowsky (Islanmore Ginger).

    “I was a little bit cross when I had a rail down in the showjumping, but he is a fast horse and we had a real go today across the country,” Burton said. “It is very exciting to win here, and something that I have always wanted to do at some stage in my career.”

    It was also a highly-satisfying weekend for 32-year-old Townend, who was the only rider of 30 starters to go clear inside the time, giving brilliant cross-country exponent Armada another stunning ride.

    “I had hoped we would have a winner here this weekend, and it has been a big team effort behind it,” Townend said.

    “It is special to win here at Gatcombe. It is the British Chammpionships, and Britain is the place to be to event. It is like National Hunt racing, and to a certain extent this is our Cheltenham.”

    Image by Kit Houghton, courtesy of Gatcombe.

  28. Oliver Townend leads at Gatcombe

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    Oliver Townend set a scorching pace on day one of the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe.

    The 32-year-old Yorkshireman has been in outstanding form this season, with his consistent performances being highlighted by his selection for the Longines FEI European Championships at Blair Castle next month.

    And he served further reminders of his class by dominating a busy day’s dressage action in both the Dodson and Horrell British Novice Championship and Smith and Williamson British Intermediate Championship.

    Shropshire-based Townend has already claimed three novice titles during his career, winning at Gatcombe in 2005 (Best of Spirits), 2010 (Jeepers Creepers) and 2011 (Brucester Rooster), and he leads the way going into Saturday’s showjumping and cross-country phases.

    Riding Sonic De Sermentol, Townend posted a score of 27.7 penalties for a narrow advantage over Lizzie Baugh and Quarry Man, while Welsh challenger Sara Squires lies third aboard Clara M, with Polly Stockton (Stanhopes Mr Macoy) fourth, William Fox-Pitt (Reinstated) fifth and Townend (Ridire Dorcha) and Fox-Pitt (The Soapdodger) sharing sixth.

    Townend is also chasing a third intermediate crown, following victories in 2007 and 2008, and this year’s class is already developing into a thrilling battle between himself and Fox-Pitt, who is bidding for a title hat-trick.

    The Yorkshire rider led the way overnight with Note Worthy on a brilliant score of 23.3, but Fox-Pitt and Ramdam De Mons are second on 23.5 and Italian Vittoria Panizzon holds third with 23.8 aboard Borough Free Flight. Just behind the top three are Tom McEwen (Toledo De Keeser) in fourth, while Panizzon is fifth on Chequers Play The Game and Townend sixth aboard Power Drive.

    Both the novice and intermediate championships reach their conclusion on Saturday with showjumping and cross-country phases, while Sunday’s attention focuses on the British Open Championship showjumping and cross-country.

    The open title was won last year by four-time Barbury champions and three-time Burghley title holders Andrew Nicholson and Avebury, and another great competition looks guaranteed with entries like Nicholson and Avebury, Gemma Tattersall (Arctic Soul), Townend (Armada) and Fox-Pitt (Bay My Hero).

    “It is a big weekend,” Fox-Pitt said. “It is an event I would target, and it is a great experience for the horses with a real international feel.

    “The British Open will be very hotly contested on Sunday, and there is no doubt that Gatcombe is a real focus for the riders and owners. There is always a terrific atmosphere there.”

    Image: Oliver Townend by Smudge 9000, CC-BY 2.0

  29. Tamarillo remembered

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    William Fox-Pitt’s former ride, Tamarillo, was put down on July 28 at age 23.

    It was aboard Tamarillo that Fox-Pitt won Badminton in 2004 and Burghley in 2008. The combination first impressed in the Blarney CCI2*, which they won in 2000. After finishing second at Badminton in 2002, they earned a spot in the squad that contested the Jerez World Equestrian game—and promptly won team bronze.

    After winning Badminton in 2004, the pair went on to shine at the Athens Olympics, where they won team silver and at the Blenheim Europeans in 2005, where the landed team gold and individual silver, before representing Britain at the 2006 WEG in Aachen, where they got team silver. Tamarillo ended his career with the 2008 victory at Burghley, having earned a total of 1636 British Eventing points.

    “He had an incredible presence, “ Fox-Pitt wrote in a statement, published on his website. “He was one in a million and I feel very lucky to have partnered him for all those special years.”

    His words were echoed by Yogi Breisner, Chef d’Equipe to the British Eventing, who said: “Tamarillo was a great character and one of the most talented horses I was fortunate enough to come across. He had a fantastic record and was a major contributor to several medals for the British Team. I know he had a very happy retirement and will be sorely missed, but we all have the wonderful memories of his incredible career. “

    Owned by MW and Finn Guinness, Tamarillo enjoyed his last few years at Fox-Pitt’s yard “under the watchful eye of Jackie Potts. The horse, who was by Tarnik out of Mellita, has a clone, Tomatillo, born in 2013.

    Cross-country star

    Fox-Pitt and Tamarillo at Badminton in 2004.

    Going for it

    The pair at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

    A winning streak

    Fox-Pitt and Tamarillo at the 2005 Badminton Horse Trials, where they placed second.

    Strutting his stuff

    Tamarillo looking handsome at the Blenheim Horse Trials in 2005.

    His last victory

    The pair dazzled at the Burghley Horse Trials in 2008.

    Farewell, Tamarillo

    Main image: Tamarillo and William Fox-Pitt at the Athens Olympics, by Sipa Press / Rex Shutterstock

  30. Equestrian icons: Pippa Funnell

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    The Queen of British eventing looks set to make her bid for the European crown. After a stroke of bad luck kept her out of the 2012 London Olympics and the 2014 World Equestrian Games — her top horses got injured in the run-up to both events — Pippa Funnell has been selected for the European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle with Sandman (and Second Supreme as a reserve).

    Few riders can rival Funnell’s achievements. She was the first rider to win the Rolex Grand Slam when she bagged victories at Rolex Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley in 2003. A year later, she became the first rider to win four Blenheim titles — while also landing team and individual medals at the Athens Olympics, after having bagged the team silver at Sydney in 2000.

    Named Sportswoman of the Year in 2003, she was then awarded an MBE in 2005. Now she returns to the European team, with whom she has already won several medals.

    But Funnell is not just an accomplished competitor. She also helps produce horses at the Billy Stud, the joint venture between her husband, international showjumper William Funnell, and breeder Donal Barnwell, stars in her very own Pippa Funnell video games and has written a delightful series of books for children, Tilly’s Pony Tails.
    Here are some of Funnell’s best moments:

    At this year’s Badminton

    Funnell rides across country at Badminton 2015 with her European Championship reserve, Second Supreme. She was 12th with Redesigned at 23rd with Second Supreme.

    Bronze at the Olympics warm-up in 2011

    Although she had to give the London 2012 Olympics a miss, Funnell won bronze at the warm up competition, the LOCOG Test Events, aboard Billy Shannon.

    Silver at the 2008 Eventing World Cup

    Funnell finished in second place at the HSBC FEI World Cup Eventing final in 2008 behind Clayton Fredericks and ahead of Frank Ostholt.

    Riding Primmore’s Pride to victory in 2005

    The partnership with Primmore’s Pride brought Funnell many triumphs, including at Badminton in 2005.

    At the 2004 Athens Olympics

    Funnell was part of silver-medal-winning Team GB at the Athens Olympics, along with William Fox-Pitt, Leslie Law and Mary King. She also won an individual bronze.

    The Supreme pair in 2003

    One of the greatest equestrian partnerships of all times: Funnell with Supreme Rock.

    Sportswoman of the Year in 2003

    Funnell, shown here at her nomination for the Sportswoman of the Year, won the award in 2003.

    Silver at the Sydney Olympics in 2000

    Funnell, with Leslie Law, Jeanette Brakewell and Ian Stark, won team silver at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

    With Sir Barnaby in 1990

    Sir Barnaby, pictured here with Funnell in 1990, was the first horse that the Sussex-born eventer rode to victory when she earned the title of European Young Rider Champion at Bialy Bor, in Poland, in 1987.

    Relaxing at the yard

    Funnell is fond of dogs, as well as horses.

    See how Funnell landed to Rolex Grand Slam:

    Main image: Funnell at the Malmö City Horse Show in 2013 by L.E Daniel Larsson, CC BY 2.0

  31. Paying the price of someone else’s warm-up ring mistakes

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    Whatever the sport, whatever the level, accidents can unfortunately happen. But when blatant recklessness costs a rider the chance to jump cross-country at one of British eventing’s most prestigious competitions, it leaves a sour taste.

    I know this to be painfully true, because my daughter was directly affected at the recent St James’ Place Wealth Management Barbury International Horse Trials. Now, before anyone starts to make sour grapes accusations in my direction, I say here and now that Barbury is one of the most attractive events knocking around, providing great sport, challenging courses and terrific facilities. So much so, that whether competing there or working on the media side, it is always a must-attend date, however busy the diary might be.

    This time around, though, my feelings were compounded by acute frustration and extreme anger once I found out that my daughter’s top horse would be sidelined for a minimum of three weeks, which means a withdrawal from her next scheduled competition and leaves it 50-50 as to whether the one after that might need scrapping too.

    All because a girl ran straight in front of a fence that my daughter and her horse were about to jump in the warm-up ring, causing a major fall. The girl ran off muttering some kind of meaningless apology while daughter and horse began untangling themselves from the poles, their CIC2* adventure over before it had barely started.

    They went into the main arena, but after safely negotiating the first three obstacles, it was clear that a horse that has had just 10 fences down in 70 rounds of showjumping at British Eventing-sanctioned competitions was not right, and Barbury 2015 ended there and then.

    All kinds of mishaps can take place in eventing, whether a one-day or three-day competition, a BE90 or a CCI4*, but it makes things so much harder to bear when something goes so wrong and it is just not your fault.

    Warm-up rings have to be self-policing, especially when there are so many riders in there at one time. From my observations on that Saturday morning, most behaved immaculately, although a few were impatient and rude. Far more significantly, though, there were way too many people in there who should not have been.

    A warm-up ring should be exactly that — riders, horses and a connection raising or lowering practice poles. No-one else should be in there, or, if they need to be, then they should at least have total awareness of what is going on around them at all times. We paid a very hefty price on this occasion for the careless behaviour of one girl.

    Yes, it was unintentional, but that is simply not good enough when so much effort had been put in by rider and horse to prepare for this event, only to see those hours of honest endeavour evaporate during three seconds of mayhem.

    We did not make an official complaint — we probably should have done, and many people advised us to do exactly that — but we could not have changed anything. The damage was done. It was not a pleasant experience, and even now, more than a week on, it still grates.

    Physiotherapy bills — for horse and rider — have been received and paid, and fortunately, everyone is still in one piece, mentally and physically. It is far more difficult, though, to work out the cost to a young rider’s confidence and that of a richly-promising horse. Only time will tell.

  32. European Eventing Championships team named

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    Squad announcements, whatever the sport, can sometimes be bland and predictable affairs — but that mould was well and truly cracked when Great Britain’s Blair Castle-bound European Eventing Championships group became public knowledge this week.

    Rumours had been flying around the lorry parks for a while that the chosen dozen would contain a number of exciting newcomers, but very few followers of the sport could genuinely have predicted the final make-up.

    Because Britain are hosts for this year’s Europeans, it means their regulation team of four can be supplemented by a higher-than-normal contingent of eight riders, who will compete in Scotland as individuals. Even then, the selectors could have played safe, but not a bit of it.

    Alongside established international performers like William Fox-Pitt, Pippa Funnell and Oliver Townend will be five senior squad debutants, with three riders — Dani Evans, Holly Woodhead and Laura Collett — aged 25 or under. The squad’s average age is barely 30.

    Evans, from Bristol, and Wiltshire-based Woodhead both produced outstanding performances in the Bramham CCI3* under-25 competition last month, where another European team member, Flora Harris, won the headline CCI3* class.

    Collett, meanwhile, is rewarded for impressive consistency on the Nick Gauntlett-produced Grand Manoeuvre, and there are also opportunities for Kitty King (Persimmon), Gemma Tattersall and last year’s Blenheim three-star champion Francis Whittington.

    The experienced major medal-winning duo of Fox-Pitt and Nicola Wilson appear to be certainties for the British team in Scotland, with Funnell and Townend enhancing the ‘been there and done it’ brigade, and the overall result is a squad bristling with talent that could make a considerable impression a year out from the Rio Olympics.

    And a youthful feel also dominates the reserves list, with 22-year-old Tom Jackson and 25-year-old Wills Oakden first and second among that contingent. Such is the busy eventing season, that it is extremely rare for a selected squad to remain intact all the way through to a major championship, especially with Blair being still two months away.

    Reflecting on her selection, Evans said: “I just feel very, very lucky at my age to have this level of horse-power, support team, owners and family behind me to get to me to my first senior championships aged 23. I just can’t wait to get out there and do my country proud.

    “I really enjoyed Blair when I was there as part of the British Young Rider team in 2011, when we won team gold. It was an amazing experience to have the home crowd cheering you on around the cross-country.”

    And Woodhead added: “It’s crazy! I am overwhelmed. It’s not sunk in yet, and I don’t think it will until I am there with all the seniors. I’ve heard so many great things about Blair, and I love Ian Stark-designed courses. I can’t wait to see what he has built, and I just want to get there and ride it now!”

    The mood, meanwhile, was perhaps best summed up this week by Sussex-based Tattersall, who has been one of the most consistent performers on the British circuit, and who many feel should be among the team quartet at Blair.

    “When I saw Yogi’s (GB eventing team chef d’equipe Yogi Breisner) call, my heart missed a beat. It was a massive relief to hear from him. I was speechless, in fact, which, as Yogi pointed out, is rare!

    “I have been to Blair a few times, and I absolutely love it there, I hope Spike (Arctic Soul) will shine through when he gets there, and he will enjoy those big hills. The cross-country is a bit old-fashioned in the way that it’s a real rider’s course.

    “It is the ultimate in eventing in that it’s a proper tough track that will sort the men from the boys!”

    Image: Flora Harris, courtesy of Flora Harris

  33. Revealed! The 2016 Olympics eventing champions

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    Amid the jubilation over Avebury’s fourth successive CIC3* title success at Barbury International Horse Trials, it was easy to overlook what was arguably an even more staggering feat.

    Not even the wind and rain that swept across the picturesque Wiltshire venue as Avebury powered home under Andrew Nicholson‘s genial guidance could dampen celebrations for a brilliant rider, an exceptional horse and his delightful owners Rosemary and Mark Barlow.

    But barely a year out from the 2016 Olympics, the really startling coup was achieved by a group of New Zealand riders that look set to mount a major gold medal challenge in Brazil.

    The CIC3* results were impressive enough, with Nicholson finishing first and second on Avebury and Nereo, double Olympic individual champion Mark Todd taking third aboard Leonidas II and Tim Price — last year’s Luhmühlen 4* winner — finishing fifth with Ringwood Sky Boy.

    But the three fiercely-competitive CIC2* sections at Barbury really confirmed why New Zealand eventing is perhaps set to enjoy a spell of championship success that their impressive rider ability and enviable horse-power would seemingly warrant.

    Nicholson won Section B on Loughnatousa Joey, a horse he had never competed before, while Price and The Court Jester triumphed in Section C ahead of third-placed Todd (Amacuzzi) and Lucy Jackson, in fifth, on Mercury Bay.

    And young prospect Jesse Campbell completed a spectacular hat-trick by taking Section D honours on Cleveland, with Todd and Oloa finishing fourth, Caroline Powell (Stellor Seaurchin) occupying ninth spot and Lizzie Brown (Princeton II) 10th. As a collective show of strength, it was hard to imagine how the Kiwis could have made a bigger statement.

    One look at the FEI’s current world eventing rankings also confirms New Zealand’s rich resources, with five riders — Nicholson, Todd, Jonelle Price, Tim Price and Jock Paget — all currently among the top 22. Only Britain can match that number — William Fox-Pitt, Oliver Townend, Nicola Wilson, Pippa Funnell and Gemma Tattersall — which is one more than reigning Olympic, World and European champions Germany and the United States, and two more than Australia, can muster.

    Olympic qualification for the Kiwis should be a formality later this year, with the only cloud, it would appear, being Wiltshire-based Nicholson’s ongoing absence from the New Zealand High Performance Squad.

    A disagreement with a team vet at last September’s World Equestrian Games in Normandy kick-started an unfortunate situation between Nicholson and Equestrian Sports New Zealand, and there remains no obvious sign of matters being resolved. In the event that they are, though, the 53-year-old’s presence in Rio would unquestionably enhance team and individual gold medal credentials.

    This September’s FEI European Championships at Blair Castle will give a strong indicator of where some leading nations lie as the Rio countdown continues gathering pace.

    Germany, seeking a hat-trick of European titles, must start as clear favourites, given the probable presence of riders like the much-decorated pair Michael Jung and Ingrid Klimke, while Britain’s bid for a first European crown since Fontainebleau 2009 will undoubtedly be spearheaded by Fox-Pitt, although not aboard his Rio near-certainty and recent Badminton winner Chilli Morning.

    In terms of major team events, once Blair Castle is done and dusted that will be effectively be it before Rio, but Barbury 2015 might just have been more significant than anyone might have imagined.

    New Zealand — 2016 Olympic champions? You read it here first!

    Image: The Olympic Equestrian Centre at Deodoro, in Rio, taken at the beginning of July prior to completion of the venue in time for the Test Event, the Aquece Rio (“Warm Up Rio”) International Horse Trials, which get underway on 6 August, by Renato Sette Camara / City Hall of Rio de Janeiro / FEI

  34. Nicholson and Avebury bag fourth Barbury Horse Trials win

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    Andrew Nicholson and Avebury made history at the St James’ Place Wealth Management Barbury International Horse Trials on Sunday, completing a remarkable success story for New Zealand riders.

    Nicholson guided the gifted 15-year-old grey gelding to a fourth successive Barbury title — a feat that has never been achieved by any combination at any competition in the history of eventing — after an immaculate cross-country performance in pouring rain.

    Avebury, also a triple Burghley champion, finished on a dressage score of 33.9 penalties to retain a trophy that has been in the hands of his owners, Rosemary and Mark Barlow, since 2012. Nicholson, meanwhile, was also second aboard the Olympic- and World Games-medallist Nereo, while New Zealand’s double Olympic individual champion, Mark Todd, took third on Leonidas II.

    The New Zealand one-two-three came 24 hours after three Kiwi riders — Nicholson (Loughnatousa Joey), Tim Price (The Court Jester) and Jesse Campbell (Cleveland) — won all three CIC2* sections at Barbury Horse Trials in a staggering display of strength barely a year out from the Rio Olympic Games.

    North Yorkshire-based Nicola Wilson, who looks set to be named in the Great Britain team for September’s European Championships at Blair Castle in Scotland, was the leading British finisher in fourth spot on Beltane Queen, with Price and Ringwood Sky Boy fifth, just ahead of Britain’s Laura Collett and Grand Manoeuvre.

    China’s Alex Hua Tian had held second place overnight, but 18 time faults on three-star debutant Don Geniro saw him to drop to 16th on a day when just eight combinations jumped clear inside the time. So wet were the conditions that Nicholson went around the course on Avebury without wearing his trademark glasses.

    Nicholson’s first and second-placed finishers apart, the other clears inside the time came from Todd, Wilson, Price and his wife Jonelle (Classic Moet), Australian Paul Tapner (Indian Mill) and Britain’s Becky Woolven (Charlton Down Riverdance).

    Avebury had already been crowned the undisputed king of Barbury,  and had a fence named in his honour this year, as well as the hospitality marquee. Named after the nearby ancient earthworks, he is something of a character and is known to be fond of competing at Barbury, his most local event.

    “He definitely knows where he is when he comes here,” said Marlborough-based Nicholson, who often works his horses on gallops situated close to Barbury. He is now set to aim Avebury at a fourth successive Burghley crown in September.

    Image: Adam Dale

  35. Nicholson retains lead at Barbury Horse Trials

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    Andrew Nicholson and Avebury are closing in on a fourth successive CIC3* title at the St James’s Place Wealth Management Barbury International Horse Trials following another immaculate display in the Wiltshire sunshine.

    New Zealander Nicholson has an advantage of 3.4 penalties heading into Sunday’s cross-country finale after 15-year-old triple Barbury and Burghley champion Avebury delivered a foot-perfect showjumping performance to claim one of less than 30 clear rounds from 96 starters.

    Nicholson’s two-phase score of 33.9 penalties suggests he has one hand on the trophy, especially given Avebury’s consistent cross-country excellence, but behind them, the chasing pack from second to sixth are separated by just 2.3 penalties.

    Leading the other contenders is China’s Alex Hua Tian and Don Geniro, a horse making its three-star debut, on 37.3, while Nicholson holds third with his London 2012 Olympics ride Nereo on 38.3, just ahead of Mark Todd (Leonidas II) and leading British challenger Sarah Bullimore (Lilly Corinne).

    Pippa Funnell and Billy Landretti were the last combination to win Barbury Horse Trials before Nicholson and Avebury set off on a stellar run of success, and it will now be a major surprise if they do not make another notable entry to a burgeoning career portfolio.

    “Avebury is always a pleasure to ride,” said Nicholson, who has been commuting to Barbury each day from his home in nearby Marlborough. “When I got on him today, he actually squealed, because he knew he was about to go jumping, and hopefully he will remember what he has got to do tomorrow.

    “Yes, there is pressure, but this format suits him. I enjoy riding him at speed, and that is really when he is at his best.

    “It is a very good cross-country course, but there is a tricky new combination near the end this year, which is at a stage of the course when horses can potentially switch off. Mark (Phillips) hasn’t changed much on the cross-country, but it looks like it could be quite intense near the end of it.”

    The CIC2* Section B leaderboard changed dramatically during cross-country on Saturday, with the top three riders after showjumping — Sophie How, Todd and Harry Meade — all disappearing from contention.

    Former European Junior team and individual gold medallist How retired Bojangles HRS, while Todd (Brownsville Bertie) and Meade (Vrolijk) accrued jumping and time faults, which opened the door for other challengers.

    And it was Nicholson, not for the first time in his glittering career, who seized the moment as he steered home a horse — Loughnatousa Joey — that he had never previously competed before, jumping clear inside the time to finish on a score of 42.7 and begin a day of New Zealand dominance.

    Young Gloucestershire prospect Ella Hitchman ran Nicholson closest, collecting just 1.6 time faults aboard Rocky Rockstar to finish second, with Gemma Tattersall — who looks set to be named in the senior Great Britain team next Wednesday for September’s European Championships — third on Santiago Bay and Bella Innes Kerr fourth, riding Carolyn.

    Only three combinations went clear inside the time, including George Coe and La Contadina, who were 98th after dressage, but climbed 47 places on the back of immaculate showjumping and cross-country rounds.

    There was more success for New Zealand in two-star Section C as Tim Price comfortably preserved the lead he forged after dressage with The Court Jester. They finished on 36.1 penalties, with Australian Christopher Burton and Santano II second, Todd and Amacuzzi third and Franky Reid-Warrilow top British rider in fourth aboard Dolley Whisper.

    And a Kiwi hat-trick was completed in Section D when Jesse Campbell, who has trained with Nicholson and is based in  Marlborough, conjured showjumping and cross-country clears with Cleveland to finish on 39.5 penalties. Britain’s Oliver Townend, second after dressage, saw his victory hopes vanish through two showjumping fences down, while William Fox-Pitt and Randam De Mons were eliminated on cross-country.

    Image: Andrew Nicholson and Avebury by Katy Vincent