Tag Archive: Oliver Townend

  1. Germany takes control at the FEI European Eventing Championships

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    Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Louvo demonstrated the same cool-headedness that has won them six championship medals, including the world title in Normandy last year, to take over pole position at the end of the dressage phase at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships.

    A punchy, flowing and completely mistake-free test earned the pair a mark of 31.4, leaving them 0.3 of a penalty ahead of yesterday’s leaders, Britain’s Holly Woodhead and DHI Lupison.

    “He was perfect and relaxed, and he really enjoyed the test,” said Auffarth, who spearheads Germany’s campaign to retain the European title it won in Malmö two years ago.

    Unsurprisingly, Germany is out in front at the end of the first phase. Its score of 102.7, bolstered by anchorwoman Ingrid Klimke’s mark of 37.8 this afternoon, leaves them almost 10 marks ahead of the second-place British team. The reigning European and Olympic Champion, Michael Jung, is currently lying third individually with FischerTakinou.

    The host nation couldn’t quite reproduce yesterday’s glut of scores in the 30s, but there were nevertheless some exciting performances from squad newcomers and young horses.

    Pippa Funnell’s nine-year-old, Sandman 7, lived up to expectations and a great test left the pair in 19th position on a score of 41.

    “I could feel he was a bit nervous, but he tried very hard and I think his performance shows the quality of horse he is,” said Funnell, who holds the distinction of being the only rider to win back-to-back European titles on the same horse (on Supreme Rock in 1999 and 2001).

    British individual Oliver Townend pulled off a great test on new ride Fenyas Elegance to score 38.7. The chestnut mare, a winner of Blenheim and Bramham with Irish rider Aoife Clark, can be difficult to manage but the Scottish Highlands obviously suits her as she was soft and biddable, stopping to eat grass as she came out of the arena.

    “The place seems to work in her favour as she felt light as though there could be even more improvement,” said Townend.

    Squad debutant Francis Whittington followed Townend’s lead, scoring 37.5 to lie in seventh place. Of tomorrow’s cross-country test, he said: “It helps having ridden round Burghley last week, which was huge and puts this course in perspective.”

    The loudest cheer of the day was reserved for local rider Wills Oakden, the sole Scottish representative at the championship.

    Oakden, who hails from Fife and is trained by Blair course-designer Ian Stark, was given a rousing reception when he left the arena after his test on Greystone Midnight Melody, which earned him a mark of 46.4.

    “I was expecting to be more nervous than I was, but I put myself into a bubble and tried to stay there,” said the 25-year-old. “I’ve always wanted to ride for Great Britain, but if I’m honest I didn’t think I was quite ready yet. The selectors have shown a lot of faith in me and I hope that I can justify that.”

    France currently leads the race for Olympic qualification – there are two spots up for grabs at Blair – and lies third in the team rankings. Its trailblazer, Thibaut Vallette, a 41-year-old lieutenant-colonel in the French army, is currently the best-placed of the quartet, sitting in fifth place on a score of 36.8 on Qing de Briot ENE HN.

    “I’m very proud to be on the team. I don’t mind going first, as I like to concentrate on myself at a competition rather than watching other people,” he said.

    1. Sandra Auffarth (GER) and Opgun Louvo on 31.4
    2. Holly Woodhead (GBR) and DHI Lupison on 31.7
    3. Michael Jung (GER) and FischerTakinou on 33.5
    4. Nicola Wilson (GBR) and One Two Many on 34.6
    5. Thibaut Vallette (FRA) and Qing du Briot on 36.8
    6. Kitty King (GBR) and Persimmon on 36.9
    7. Francis Whittington (GBR) and Easy Target on 37.5
    8. Ingrid Klimke (GER) and Horseware Hale Bob on 37.8
    9. Laura Collett (GBR) and Grand Manoeuvre on 37.8
    10. Niklas Lindback (SWE) and Cendrillon on 38.1

    1. Germany on 102.7
    2. Great Britain on 112.5
    3. France on 115.2
    4. Sweden on 119.4
    5. Italy on 140.9

    Image: Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Louvo take the lead after the dressage phase at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle in Scotland, by Jon Stroud, courtesy of the FEI

  2. Oliver Townend shines at the FEI European Eventing Championships

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    Oliver Townend continued the feelgood factor surrounding Great Britain’s squad at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships on Friday as his ride Fenyas Elegance posted a dressage personal best.

    After the heady heights of day one, when five British riders claimed places among the top seven at Blair Castle, Townend also put himself in contention with a horse he only started competing on earlier this season.

    But the richly promising partnership showed signs of its quality by recording a score of 38.7 penalties.

    “It’s the first time in her life she has been in the 30s, so I couldn’t be happier,” said former Badminton and Burghley winner Townend.

    “It has been written that she couldn’t handle the pressure, but she has gone in there and gone very well.

    “I couldn’t be more pleased with her performance. She has done a very, very nice job, she has scored a personal best and there is still room for improvement.

    “You can always improve – there are still things I need to get to grips with. She is a very new ride — I think this is only my fourth event on her, really — so I am very pleased with her.

    “It was a fantastic crowd reaction. It worked in her favour, she lifted up a little bit and felt happy and relaxed.”

    Townend helped Britain to European team gold at Fontainebleau in 2009, but this time around he is among eight British riders competing as individuals alongside Izzy Taylor, first-day leader Holly Woodhead, Francis Whittington, Wills Oakden, Laura Collett, Sarah Bullimore and Gemma Tattersall.

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

  3. Oliver Townend poised for Gatcombe hat trick

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    Oliver Townend will chase a stunning title hat-trick when the Festival of British Eventing concludes at Gatcombe on Sunday.

    After winning the Dodson and Horrell British Novice Championship on Sonic De Sermentol and landing the Smith and Williamson Intermediate Championship aboard Note Worthy, 32-year-old Townend is also superbly-placed for an assault on the British Open trophy, a class that he has never previously won.

    Going into Sunday’s showjumping and cross-country phases, Australian Andrew Hoy leads on Rutherglen after posting a dressage score of 31.5 penalties, but Townend lies second with Mr Hiho on 32.6 and third aboard his seasoned four-star campaigner Armada, with Nicola Wilson (Beltane Queen) fourth and William Fox-Pitt (Bay My Hero) fifth.

    “I will be giving it my best shot, that’s for sure,” said Townend, assessing the possibility of a Gatcombe clean sweep. “I will never stop trying.”

    Townend led the novice section overnight with Sonic De Sermentol, and a fourth British novice crown of his career was emphatically wrapped up after the combination finished on a score of 27.7 following clear showjumping and cross-country rounds. Townend also finished second aboard Ridire Dorcha, with Polly Stockton (Stanhopes Mr Macoy) third and Piggy French (Morswood) fourth.

    “This is Sonic De Sermentol’s first season eventing,” Townend added. “His owner, Stephanie d’Andrimont, bought him as a three-year-old from an auction in France, but he grew too big for her. I told Stephanie that I thought he would win this class a few months ago.”

    Townend then turned on the style with Note Worthy in the intermediate, winning by a huge 12-point margin from runner-up Vittoria Panizzon (Chequers Play The Game), and third-placed Tom McEwen (Toledeo De Kerser).

    “Note Worthy is a class horse that really gallops and jumps,” he said. “I was drawn early on and I knew I had good ones around me, so I couldn’t afford to hang around in the cross-country.”

    Meanwhile, three-time Olympic gold medallist Hoy was delighted with his dressage performance in the open, a competition that he won 18 years ago on Darien Powers.

    “I am really pleased with where the test is and thrilled with how he went,” said Hoy, of a horse that could take him to next year’s Rio Olympics. “This is the toughest one-day international in the world, and you need an experienced horse. It’s a credit to (course designer) Mark Phillips that it always produces an experienced winner.”

    Former winners William Fox-Pitt (Bay My Hero), Mark Todd (NZB Campino) and Jock Paget (Clifton Lush) are in fifth, sixth and seventh places, while Hoy’s compatriot Sam Griffiths is eighth on his 2014 Badminton winner Paulank Brockagh.

    Griffiths said: “There is a title on offer, and I want to win it. Gatcombe rates highly in my calendar. My main aim is Burghley, but I would love to win this along the way. It’s a tough one to win because of the hills, but if you can go well here, you can go well anywhere.”

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

  4. All eyes on Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials

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    Eventing’s northern lights are set to shine brightly next week with confirmation of a stellar entry for the Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials.

    Reigning world champion Sandra Auffarth and current world number one William Fox-Pitt lead an outstanding cast-list that features six former Bramham winners across the headline CCI and CIC three-star classes.

    It provides further confirmation of Bramham’s high-profile status on the eventing map, with riders flocking to a competition that was founded 41 years ago and takes place in glorious Bramham Park, which is situated between Leeds and Wetherby in West Yorkshire.

    Auffarth is currently spending time in Britain with German eventing team coach Chris Bartle, the Yorkshireman who masterminded recent Olympic, World and European titles, and she will contest the CIC three-star aboard Opgun Louvo.

    German ace Auffarth and Opgun Louvo were individual bronze medallists at London 2012, and then won the world title in Normandy last September. She rarely competes in Britain, so her appearance represents a major coup for Bramham organisers as they put the finishing touches to preparations for this year’s event, which runs from June 11-14.

    Fox-Pitt, who this week reclaimed the world number one spot from Auffarth’s fellow German star Michael Jung, has a remarkable record at Bramham.

    He has won the CCI three-star a record seven times, including back-to-back victories in 2012 and 2013 with his reigning Badminton champion and likely 2016 Rio Olympics ride Chilli Morning, and this year he arrives with a former Bramham CIC three-star for eight and nine-year-olds winner Fernhill Pimms.

    The CCI three-star offers a first prize of just under £6,000, in addition to a year’s use of an Equi-Trek Sonic horse box, and it promises to be eagerly-contested.

    Yorkshireman Oliver Townend, who has never won Bramham’s three-star, will arrive with Skyhills Cavalier, Dunbeau and ODT Ghareeb, while New Zealander Andrew Nicholson – a previous champion on Nereo – has MHS King Joules and Perfect Stranger, while former European individual gold medallist Tina Cook is on Star Witness and Calvino II.

    There are potential winners throughout the entry list, with Pippa Funnell aiming her recently-crowed Chatsworth champion Sandman 7 at the Bramham title, while the chances of Kitty King (Persimmon), Sarah Cohen (Treason) and Francis Whittington (Fernhill Highlight) also cannot be discounted.

    Visitors to Bramham will also have an opportunity to watch some of eventing’s brightest young talent in action, courtesy of the Bishop Burton College Under-25 CCI three-star, with Tom Jackson looking to successfully defend his title amid a strong challenge from riders like Dani Evans, Emily King and Holly Woodhead.

    The action starts at Bramham on Thursday, June 11 with dressage for the CCI and CIC sections, while the under-25s are all day Friday, and Saturday sees riders in all sections tackling Ian Stark’s stunning cross-country challenge, before Sunday’s showjumping finale.

    British Showjumping classes are also on the Bramham schedule, highlighted by the Wetherby Skip Services Grand Prix and the Bramham Classic. Entries include a remarkable seven members of the Whitaker family – Ellen, George, James, William, Joe, Steven and Louise – in addition to Robert Smith, Kerry Brennan and Pippa Allen.

    And Bramham additionally hosts a number of classes in the Hunter Show on Thursday, including Horse of the Year Show qualifiers for light, middle and heavyweight and working Hunters, and a Dubarry Burghley young event horse four and five-year-old qualifier ahead of the prestigious championship final at Burghley in September.

    Image: Pippa Funnell riding Or Noir de la Loge in the CCI*** at Bramham last year

  5. Oliver Townend: FEI is “changing the goalposts”

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    Leading British rider Oliver Townend is concerned that world equestrian sport’s governing body are “changing the goalposts” during an ongoing debate about possible changes in eventing.

    The future competition format for eventing at Olympic Games and other major championships is currently being discussed, together with possible changes of cross-country penalties, covering areas like frangible pins and first refusal at a fence.

    Everybody thinks we need to make the sport safer, but I think they are looking at a lot of wrong directions, in my opinion.

    Yorkshireman Townend, who won Badminton and Burghley in 2009 and was Badminton runner-up last year, is keeping a close eye on developments.

    The world-ranked number five rider said: “I think the sport is in between things at the moment.

    “The FEI (Federation Equestre International) seem to be changing the goalposts.

    “Everybody thinks we need to make the sport safer, but I think they are looking at a lot of wrong directions, in my opinion.

    “I think the sport is constantly changing, and I don’t think particularly for the better with some of the FEI rules.

    “It just seems to be a little bit of a Mickey Mouse situation with a lot of the things they are coming out with, and I think it is taking it away from what the sport is actually meant to be.”

    Townend will launch his quest for a second Badminton title on Friday, when he enters the dressage arena aboard Armada.

  6. Why Oliver Townend deserves more credit

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    He has represented Great Britain in major championships, he has won Badminton and Burghley in the same year on different horses and he is currently eventing’s world-ranked number four rider, but does Oliver Townend really get the credit he deserves?

    Ever since I first interviewed him in the lounge of his stunning Shropshire farmhouse more than five years ago, I have tended to think that Townend receives a raw deal.

    To my mind, he is the finest British eventer since William Fox-Pitt, with potential to become one of the all-time greats.

    To my mind, he is the finest British eventer since William Fox-Pitt, with potential to become one of the all-time greats.

    Townend’s drive and ferocious will-to-win underpin his exceptional talent, and I would have no hesitation mentioning him in the same breath as Fox-Pitt, Andrew Nicholson and Michael Jung. He is that good.

    For the avoidance of doubt, I am not manager of the Oliver Townend cheerleader troupe, just a chronicler and follower of a sport in this country that should feel lucky to have him.

    During our chat in September 2009, Townend told me: “I think there is a certain perception of me within eventing, which upsets me.”

    During our chat in September 2009, Townend told me: “I think there is a certain perception of me within eventing, which upsets me.

    “I’ve never really spoken about it before now, or had the opportunity to speak about it, but I made myself into a person that I really, really didn’t like or want to be.

    “I had to be tough. I knew exactly where I wanted to get to, and if anyone was going to get in the way, they were going to get squashed, trodden on or whatever it would have taken. I didn’t care because I was so, so desperate for whatever reason to prove that I could make a living out of eventing.

    “People used to tell me I should get a proper job, and not just a hobby, all that kind of rubbish. That’s where the drive started from. It’s a reaction to people saying to me ‘no you can’t, no you can’t, no you can’t’.”

    Much has happened since then, of course, with Townend riding at the 2009 European Championships and 2014 World Equestrian Games, making a bid for eventing’s ‘Holy Grail’ – the Rolex Grand Slam – that ended with a crashing fall from Ashdale Cruise Master and Townend being airlifted to hospital, while he continues to win with remarkable regularity.

     This season Townend has already posted more than 30 top three-finishes, including victories at the likes of Burnham Market and Ballindenisk.

    The current eventing season began less than two months ago, yet Townend has already posted more than 30 top three-finishes, including victories at the likes of Burnham Market and Ballindenisk. At Badminton next month Townend and Armada will aim to go one better than last year’s runners-up position.

    I detect, though, via the horse whisperers – those who talk behind their hand, rather than shout it loud in the open – that there are still people who want merely to accept Townend’s achievements, rather than acclaim them. Why is that?

    If he has the horse power, then to me it is a no-brainer that Townend goes to the European Championships at Blair Castle later this year and the 2016 Rio Olympics. Granted, equestrian port is not an exact science, but to win, you need winners, and Townend would be in my team every single time.

    Townend does not waste his words, but that is also one of his endearing qualities. He says what he thinks and he is not afraid to say it.

    A straight-talking Yorkshireman, Townend does not waste his words, but that is also one of his endearing qualities. He says what he thinks and he is not afraid to say it.

    Personally, I have always found him approachable and amenable, while he rarely – if ever – gives a poor interview. How refreshing to deal with a sportsman at the top of his game who will give an honest opinion, rather than hide behind banal cliches.

    Townend is his own man – always has been – and I can only hope that those who refuse to recognise his genius wake up and smell the coffee.

    Better still, go and share a cuppa with him. You might be pleasantly surprised.