Tag Archive: showjumping

  1. The sensational show jumpers heading for Rio

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    Did you know that showjumping is one of only four Olympic disciplines where men and women compete against one another? (The other three are dressage, eventing and sailing). Although the showjumping medal board at the London Olympics was an all-male affair, these sensational riders promise to do their countries proud — and give men a run for their money.

    1. Pénélope Leprevost, France

    Pénélope Leprevost
    Currently the highest-ranking lady show jumper in the world (in fourth position), Pénélope Leprevost began riding at three and competing at six. Twenty years later, she won the French National Championships (having placed third the previous year).

    Another national title followed in 2007 and after that came many international triumphs, including team silver at the World Equestrian Games in 2010 and in 2014 and team silver at the European Championships in 2011. Second at the FEI World Cup final in Las Vegas, she also placed fourth at the Europeans.

    Alongside world-number-one rider Simon Delestre, who is also French, Leprevost will now spearhead the French team’s attempt to conquer a showjumpign medal that has eluded them since Alexandra Ledermann took bronze in Atlanta in 1996.

    Image: Pénélope Leprevost competes at the Longines Global Champions Tour, by Stefano Grasso, courtesy of the Longines Global Champions Tour

    2. Beezie Madden, USA

    Beezie Madden
    Part of the American team that won gold at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and at Beijing in 2008, Elizabeth ‘Beezie’ Madden also won individual bronze in 2008. She started riding when she was three and hasn’t looked back ever since.

    Madden’s career is peppered with records: she is the first woman to have broken the $1 million mark in earnings in the sport, the first to rank within the top three in the FEI rankings (she’s currently 11th), and the first to win the King George Gold Cup at Hickstead. She is also the only rider to have won the USEF Equestrian of the Year four times.

    Image: Beezie Madden competes at the Longines Global Champions Tour, by Stefano Grasso, courtesy of the Longines Global Champions Tour

    3. Edwina Tops-Alexander, Australia

    Edwina Tops-Alexander
    Edwina Tops-Alexander doesn’t come from an equestrian family, which makes her successes all the more remarkable. Having begun riding at eight, she had her first major breakthrough in 1995, when she won the Australian Young Rider Championships. She moved to Europe three years later and accolades soon came in fast and furious.

    In 2006, she was the first Australian ever to qualify for the World Championships finals in Aachen and in 2011, at the end of 2009 she became the highest ranking female rider in the FEI rankings (she’s currently 14th) and in 2011 she won her first Longines Global Champions Tour—a feat that she repeated a year later and an especially satisfying triumph for her, seen as she’s married to LGCTA organiser Jan Tops.

    A striking rider with an innate sense of style, Tops-Alexander is a brand ambassador for fashion house Gucci (where stylists designed a riding wardrobe specifically for her) and luxury watchmakers Jaeger-LeCoultre.

    Image: Edwina Tops-Alexander at the Longines Global Champions Tour, by Stefano Grasso, courtesy of the Longines Global Champions Tour

    4. Luciana Diniz, Portugal

    Luciana Diniz
    Brazil-born Portuguese rider Luciana Diniz conquered an individual ticket to Rio a few months ago, after an intense campaign that saw her win competitions across the world in the past couple of years.

    The daughter of polo player Arnaldo Diniz, and Brazilian dressage champion Lica Diniz, and the sister of Brazilian polo champion Andrè Diniz, little Luciana grew up surrounded by horses. She started out in dressage, like her mother, but the death of a beloved horse pushed her to change disciplines, and she switched to show jumping when she was 11.

    A year later, she won her first Championship. At 18, she took the plunge and moved to Europe to train. International victories soon followed and none more so than last year when, having claimed three gold medals, two silvers and one bronze in the Longines Global Tour circuit, she was named Champion of Champions.

    Diniz, who has already taken part in two Olympics (Athens in 2004 and London in 2012) also managed to find time to jog, boxe, Zumba dance, do a spot of archery—and write books.

    Image: Luciana Diniz is named Champions of Champions at the end of the Doha leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour, by Stefano Grasso, courtesy of the Longines Global Champions Tour

    5. Malin Baryard Johnsson, Sweden

    Malin Baryard
    Malin Baryard Johnsson began riding when she was six-and won her first Swedish Championship just eight years later at 14.

    The Swedish show jumper, who is married to a TV presenter and has done a spot of TV work herself, has often represented Sweden at international competitions, winning team silver at the World Equestrian Games in Jerez in 2002 and two years later at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
    Image: Malin Baryard Johnsson competes at the Longines Global Champions Tour, by Stefano Grasso, courtesy of the Longines Global Champions Tour

    6. Lucy Davis, USA

    Lucy Davis
    For a time, American rider Lucy Davis seemed destined to a career in football. An active young girl, she started riding when she was five, but also began football, which she played competitively until she turned 16. But when two sports became too much and she was faced with a choice, she picked show jumping.

    Her career quickly took off. At 24 years of age, she has taken part in the Longines Global Champions Tour (winning the grand prix in the Lausanne leg when she was just 21) and represented the US in many international competitions, including the 2015 World Cup Final in Las vegas, where she placed ninth.

    Earlier this year, she admitted in an interview to American magazine Chronicle of the Horse that competing in Rio was her ambition — and now that she has been selected, she may well aspire to a medal.

    Image: Lucy Davis wins the Lausanne leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour in 2013, by Stefano Grasso, courtesy of the Longines Global Champions Tour

    7. Jessica Mendoza, Britain

    Jessica Mendoza
    One of the world’s most successful young riders, Jessica Mendoza is Britain’s travelling reserve to Rio. But the British team wouldn’t be at the Olympics in the first place if she weren’t for her — she was instrumental in securing Britain’s qualification for Rio at last year’s FEI European Championships in Aachen, where the team placed fourth.

    After a spectacular year in which she was also part of the team that won the Rotterdam Nations Cup in 2015 and secured silver in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup final in Barcelona, Mendoza was named Longines Rising Star of 2015 at the FEI Awards in Puerto Rico.

    This year, too, has started on a good note for Mendoza: she was part of the team that won gold in the Rome leg of the Nations Cup—and is now very close to achieving her dream of riding at the Olympics.

    Image: Jessica Mendoza competes at the Longines Global Champions Tour, by Stefano Grasso, courtesy of the Longines Global Champions Tour

    8. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Germany

    Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum
    American-born German rider Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum is Germany’s travelling reserve. The daughter of film director Richard Michaels and actress Kristina Hansen, Michaels-Beerbaum grew up with horses and, after graduating from Princeton University, decided to go and train in Germany with Paul Schockemöhle during the summer of 1991. What was meant to be a season abroad turned into years, a marriage and a change of nationality.

    Michaels-Beerbaum met and married German show jumper Markus Beerbaum, brother of another Olympian, Ludger. She was part of the team that won a gold medal at the 1999 European Championships in Hickstead and at
    the 2005 World Cup Final in Las Vegas, as well as the one that claimed silver at the 2004 World Cup Final in Milan. She also claimed several Nations Cup wins and ranked first in the FEI rankings in 2008 (currently, she’s 21st).

    Image: Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum competes at the Longines Global Champions Tour, by Stefano Grasso, courtesy of the Longines Global Champions Tour

  2. William Whitaker wins the Hickstead Derby

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    William Whitaker achieved one of his career aims after producing a memorable performance on the aptly-named Glenavadra Brilliant to win the Equestrian.com Hickstead Derby.

    Yorkshireman Whitaker, 26, joined an illustrious list of former Derby champions — his uncles John and Michael, plus the likes of Eddie Macken, Harvey Smith, Nick Skelton, Nelson Pessoa and Paul Schockemohle — in conquering the challenging Derby track.

    One time fault collected for being just over the 180-second limit could not deflect from a superb jumping display, which came 12 months after Whitaker finished second behind Irishman Trevor Breen in the same class.

    Harriet Nuttall, who 24 hours earlier won the Speed Derby, came closest to threatening Whitaker, but she had the final fence down aboard A Touch Imperious and had to settle for equal second alongside Irish pair Richard Howley, who set a strong standard after being drawn first to go on Chinook, and Billy Twomey with the ultra-consistent Diaghilev.

    Whitaker said: “I’m obviously delighted. It’s one of the classes I’ve always really, really wanted to win.

    “I’m pleased with my horse. He has always knocked on the door, being second in numerous other derbies around Europe, so to finally get the win today I’m really, really pleased.

    “The more times you ride the course the better it is because the more experience you get. I’m really pleased for the horse because he deserved to win one. He’s obviously not fazed by natural jumps. He’s strong and scopey and he’s got a lot of stamina. When he jumped the last fence he almost felt as if he could have done it again.

    “I had a lot of faith in him. Every time he’s jumped the Derby and had a fault, there’s been a reason for it — it’s not laziness. Last year, I was just too quick off the bank, and the same in Hamburg, so I made sure I took my time a bit more.

    “I always hoped he’d win a derby. I knew I was slow quite early on, but for a big horse he’s quite hot, so I was having to take my time on the corners to slow him down, whereas at the end when he settled into the course I could let him go on a bit.”

    Nuttall, meanwhile, added: “My horse felt amazing. The last fence was a bit gutting, but there’s not much more we could have done. It was just a tired fault, one of those things. I love Hickstead anyway, all my horses go well here, and with the amount of rain we had, it rode perfect.”

    Howley said: “The only thing really different about going first is the fresh grass on the bank. The ground was absolutely perfect — even Devil’s Dyke held up fantastic.

    And Twomey added: “He (Diaghilev) jumped fantastic in Hamburg, and was second here last year. I feel a bit disappointed with the four faults, but he jumped amazing. William jumped a copybook round, and he deserved to win. It’s my fifth time coming second in this class, so I need to get my act together next year!”

    There was no hat-trick for Breen, whose 2014 and 2015 winners Adventure De Kannan and Loughnatousa WB were both among the field of more than 30 combinations, with three consecutive Derby victories remaining the exclusive feat of just four riders — Eddie Macken, Nick Skelton, Michael Whitaker and Peter Charles.

  3. The 7 show jumpers of a lifetime

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    Some horses are able to stir deep emotions and none more so than elegant, powerful show jumpers. Here is our pick of the seven horses that made a difference to the sport.


    Sir Harry Llewellyn and the 16.3hh bay Foxhunter formed the first great show jumping partnership of the modern era.

    They hit the headlines when winning team bronze at the 1948 London Olympics when Foxhunter was only eight. Then they went on to clinch a longed-for gold medal for Britain at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, elevating the team from its lowly fifth placing following the first round. As a result, they were fêted long before the cult of celebrity was commonplace.

    Purchased by Sir Harry after he had studied every horse listed with the British Show Jumping Association, Foxhunter also won the King George V Gold Cup three times and was on 12 winning Nations Cup teams. When he died, aged 19, many people, not least his rider, mourned.


    One of the most diminutive show jumpers of all time, what the 14.2hh pony Stroller lacked in inches he made up for in courage and ability.

    Purchased by the Coakes family for a 13-year-old Marion (later Mould), Stroller was almost sold when his rider was set to make the transition to horses. Luckily the partnership stayed intact and the pair went on to achieve incredible things, notably winning the Hickstead Derby, the Hamburg Derby, the Queen Elizabeth Cup (twice), gold at the Ladies World Championship and silver at the 1968 Mexico Olympics where the fences were significantly bigger than Stroller was.

    He was retired two years later, already a legend in his own lifetime.


    Irish rider Eddie Macken’s bay, Boomerang, who was invariably ridden in a hackamore, sparked fear into all his rivals throughout the 1970s — everyone knew who was likely to come off best in any contest.

    The incredible pair blazed a trail that saw them capture four Hickstead Derbys in succession, a host of Grands Prix, and individual World Championship silver in 1978, which would — and should — have been gold, had Eddie not notched up a time fault aboard one of his rival’s horses.

    So revered was Boomerang that the Emerald Isle still remembers its most famous Irish Sport Horse by Battleburn.

    Penwood Forge Mill

    A bay of unknown breeding, but likely to have boasted some Irish Draught, Penwood Forge Mill became intrinsically linked with Paddy McMahon, an Englishman despite his Irish sounding name, and together the pair won all around the world.

    Their crowning glory was victory at the 1973 European Championships at Hickstead, a form of compensation for missing the previous year’s Olympics due to Forge Mill’s below par performance at the final trial.

    Boasting a fan club, the thick set bay was ridden for the final two years of his career by Geoff Glazzard, who once said: “Forgie wasn’t built to jump, but he had such a big heart.”


    One of the greatest jumpers of all time, the grey Milton — the first £1m winner in the sport — would have been Caroline Bradley’s horse of a lifetime, had she not tragically died aged just 37 when he was still a young horse.

    It would be two years before he found his way into John Whitaker’s yard where an extraordinary partnership was born.

    Their successes were numerous and Milton’s extraordinarily effortless style captivated all who saw it. But despite individual European gold (1989) and World Games silver (1990), the grey was cruelly denied the Olympic medal he so deserved during a disastrous final round at the 1992 Barcelona Games when deep going caused him to trip and stop.


    Irish army rider John Ledingham’s name will be forever associated with the great Kilbaha, an Irish Sport Horse who gave his rider two Hickstead Derby victories and made 32 appearances on Irish Nation’s Cup teams.

    The chestnut proved incredibly consistent and was renowned as a careful jumper who excelled at outdoor competitions, hence his love of Hickstead.

    “He was the best horse I’ve ever sat on,” Ledingham once said. Kilbaha, by Tudor Rocket, died in 2011 at the ripe old age of 28.


    Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum enjoyed an extraordinary partnership with the incredibly talented but spooky and sensitive Shutterfly, with whom she won three FEI World Cup finals, a first for a female show jumper.

    Additionally, they notched up two bronze medals at the 2006 World Equestrian Games and individual gold and team silver at the Mannheim European Championships and in all banked a cool €3.5m in prize-money.

    Michaels-Beerbaum once described her great horse as an accordion because of his ability to shorten and lengthen his stride, giving him a huge advantage over technical tracks.

    Despite his nervous nature, his zest for jumping was obvious and on his retirement in Aachen in 2011 55,000 spectators gave him a standing ovation.

    Top image: Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Shutterfly — one of the most acclaimed show jumpers of all times — at the FEI World Cup 2007 by Louis via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

  4. Trevor Breen sets his sights on a third Hickstead Derby victory

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    Who will win the Hickstead Derby? All eyes are trained on the West Sussex showground where Irishman Trevor Breen makes a bid to win his third consecutive Derby.

    The Derby is the crowning glory of the Hickstead Derby Meeting, which takes place from June 23 to 26. For the past two years, the title has been Breen’s preserve and the Irishman—who had already come tantalisingly close to victory in 2012, when he finished third, and 2013, when he finished second—is going to do his best to keep it.

    This year, he’s fielding two horses: 2014 winner Adventure De Kannan, who is 16 years old, and 2015 winner Loughnatousa WB, who is 17. Over the course of the past few months, he has worked them lightly.

    “They don’t need experience, they just need to be fit and match sharp,” he says. “It’s all about getting them there fit, healthy and sound to give them the best chance of winning.”

    However, Breen will face stiff competition for the Boomerang Trophy. Among the strongest contenders is Billy Twomey, who finished second in 2015 aboard Diaghilev, and recently won the Hamburg Derby, as is last year’s equal-second Harriett Nuttall aboard A Touch Imperious.

    But many past winners are also throwing their hat in the Derby ring: Guy Williams, who claimed the title in 2010, William Funnell, who won in 2006, 2008 and 2009, and Phillip Miller, who won the 2013 Derby and lost the 2014 edition to Breen by just 0.2sec, are all going to take part in the competition.

    Breen will also have to face his own brother, Shane — husband of Chloe Bunn, daughter of All England Jumping Course’s founder Douglas Bunn — who finished seventh last year.

    “The stage is set for another thrilling Equestrian.com Derby here at the All England Jumping Course,” says Hickstead director Lizzie Bunn. “We’re all excited to see whether Trevor can join the elite ranks of those who have won three times in a row, but there are many other riders who have a very good chance of taking the title, including the three other former Derby winners.”

    The Derby action will begin with the Bunn Leisure Derby Trial, the qualifier for Sunday afternoon’s Derby, on Friday June 24.

    Image: the action at a past edition of the Hickstead Derby Meeting, by George Gunn, courtesy of Hickstead

  5. Holland’s Michel Hendrix claims the Bolesworth grand prix

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    Dutch showjumper Michel Hendrix hailed the “biggest win” of his career after landing the Bolesworth CSI4* International four-star grand prix on Sunday.

    The audience raised a glass to the appropriately-named Baileys after Hendrix guided the 10-year-old gelding to victory by more than three seconds in the jump-off of Bolesworth’s headline class, sponsored by Equerry Horse Feeds.

    Thirteen combinations went through from round one, including the solitary British clear — defending champiom Yazmin Pinchen — and four managed double clears, but no-one threatened Hendrix’s time of 43.88 seconds as he won a top prize of £19,500.

    Colombia’s Roberto Teran came closest, clocking 47.11 seconds aboard Brilliant du Rouet, while Cheshire-based Paul Kennedy was third on Cartown Danger Mouse, with Pinchen claiming fourth on Ashkari.

    “It was an absolutely great win,” Hendrix said.

    “My horse is jumping really well lately. We were very close a few times in past grands prix, and finally today it happened. That would be our biggest win.

    “It was a tough course. When I walked it, I thought it was big enough.

    “The triple combination was quite fair, but the last line was very difficult. In the end, I took seven strides to the last double, and he cleared it very well. There were no issues with the rain — the footing is so great here.

    “I have had the horse about 18 months and built him up from 1.30-metre classes. He is an unbelievable fighter in the ring, very careful and scopey.

    “Baileys has been very consistent here this week. I knew that Laura (Kraut) was to go after me, and she is very fast, so I thought I had better give it a go, and it worked out well.”

    Kennedy, too, was delighted “The horse is a 10-year-old home-bred. My parents were here today, so it was a special day.

    “It is almost a local show for us, with being based only 15 minutes down the road, and once again Nina Barbour and the team here have done an amazing job.”

    Earlier, Gudrun Patteet continued a run of Belgian success at this year’s Bolesworth when she won the speed and handiness four-star class, sponsored by Mumm Champagne.

    Less than 24 hours after her fellow Belgian rider Francois Mathy Jr won two Bolesworth classes, Patteet came up trumps on Sea Coast B52 FZ — and it was Mathy Jr who had to play second fiddle in the International Arena.

    The competition sees time added for fences knocked down, but Patteet jumped clear in a time of 53.65 seconds to take top spot from Mathy Jr, riding Casanova de L’Herse on 54.83 seconds, with Laura Kraut and Andretti S third, just ahead of Sweden’s Angelie von Essen with Cream Sheridan.

    “I know Francois is really fast, so I had to go quickly, but I enjoy these classes with my horse as she is really fast,” said Gudrun, who is based in Flanders and was making her Bolesworth debut this year.

    “She is only eight-years-old, so still a baby, really, and is one of my up and coming horses.

    “I know with her that if I go for it, then she is really fast. She is a small horse, but she has a really big heart and is so careful.”

    Image: Bolesworth International by CLA Midlands via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

  6. Belgium’s Francois Mathy Jr wins twice at Bolesworth

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    Belgium’s Francois Mathy Jr had a day to remember at the Bolesworth CSI4* International as he claimed two notable victories.

    He began Saturday’s action by winning the Young Horse Handicap Final for six- and seven-year-old horses, sponsored by Whitley Neill Gin, in stylish fashion on Diddo van sint Maarden.

    Then he triumphed in the four-star against the clock class, sponsored by Equigrip, when Falco ven der Clehoeve clipped more than a second off the time of Ireland’s Marion Hughes after being drawn last but one to go in a class that had 63 starters, landing a prize of £6,400.

    “The times were getting faster and faster, but my horse was careful enough and everything worked out,” Mathy said of his second International Arena victory that was watched by a bumper Saturday afternoon crowd.

    “My horse has quite a big stride, but I tried to turn tight. I knew that I’d had a good round, but you need to look at that clock just to be sure.

    “He is a very competitive horse in these kind of classes. They are the type of classes where he is most comfortable.”

    The Young Horse jump-off time of 31.42 seconds thwarted the Czech Republic’s Emma Augier de Moussac’s bid for a third Bolesworth victory in 48 hours on Brighton Bay, as she finished second, with Italy’s Luca Maria Moneta third aboard Ambramarie Del Beiro.

    Mathy said of his winning ride: “He is a stallion that we bought as a foal. He is owned by Team Harmony, and as a seven-year-old is still a young horse, but has a great brain, is very attentive and always listens.

    “He coped well with a tight turn from fences one to two, and when I asked him again at the double, he was sharp and quick. The plan is to develop him slowly in young horse classes and let him progress steadily without pushing him.

    “We based him at the Newmarket stables from three to six-year-old, and he was well educated, so had a good start.”

    Hughes, meanwhile, became the latest two-time winner at the 2016 Bolesworth event when she claimed a thrilling victory in the four-star two phase competition, sponsored by Horse & Hound.

    Irish challenger Hughes had already showcased the talent of Heritage HHS Fortuna by dominating a speed class on Thursday, and with time again of the essence, the pair did not disappoint.

    They raced to victory in a time of 22.89 seconds, with the top four finishers separated by just 84 hundredths of a second.

    Britain’s Jay Halim led the chasing pack on Abrisco, clocking 23.53, while last year’s Bolesworth Grand-Prix winner, Yazmin Pinchen, finished third on Con Chilli, with Keith Shore (Zegreanne Z) fourth and Augier de Moussac (Copia) fifth.

    “I thought it would be seven strides to the second last fence in the jump-off, but she got there on course, so that was obviously key,” Hughes said.

    “It was only a short jump-off course, but it was very twisting and turning, and she had a great shot to the last fence.”

    Theo Simpson hailed the quality of his winning ride, Touch of Chilli, after they made their mark in the two-star grand prix, sponsored by Ashford Farm, saw 13 combinations contest the jump-off, and it was the 12-year-old chestnut mare that came out on top.

    A time of 41.89 seconds meant they took the £6,400 winner’s purse in comprehensive fashion, with Anna Wilks – an experienced and successful eventer – finishing second aboard Undicci, and Ireland’s David Quigley third on EIS Isaura.

    “I am over the moon,” Simpson said. “The horse has been on great form, having been second about a month ago in a two-star grand prix.

    “It was a tough enough track out there, and he performed when he needed to, so I am really happy.

    “I have had the horse for two years now. I got him two months before I finished my A levels, and he has been going amazingly during the past few months. We’ve really gelled.

    “He’s fast, agile, and he has got the biggest heart you could ever have in a horse.”

    Image: Bolesworth International by CLA Midlands via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

  7. Ireland has a bumper day at Bolesworth

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    Irish showjumpers dominated Friday’s action at the Bolesworth International CSI4* as they showcased the country’s enviable strength in depth.

    There were victories for Darragh Kenny, Dermott Lennon and David Simpson on a day when the sun shone to set up a thrilling weekend of action.

    Kenny landed the four-star jump-off competition, sponsored by Cazenove Capital Management — and he revealed that his winning ride Go Easy De Muze had only been with him for a few weeks after they dominated a jump-off of more than 20 riders, prevailing by almost two seconds from Joe Whitaker and Lola V, with Brazil’s Felipe Amaral (Premiere Carthoe BZ) third and Victoria Gulliksen (Viego Les Hauts) fourth.

    “It was a really good win. I am very happy with that,” Kenny said.

    “I have only had the horse for about three weeks, and that was only our second class over 1.45 metres. He feels amazing.

    “I think he is going to be a really cool horse for the future. He was the Dutch champion this year with its previous rider, and he also won the grand prix in Eindhoven.

    “It was a testing jump-off. There were only four double-clears. There were big open distances and big verticals, but that suits my horse.

    “I have really big hopes for him. He will jump the grand prix here on Sunday, and he will hopefully go to Rotterdam next week, then jump on the Irish Nations Cup team in Falsterbo, Sweden.

    “Irish showjumping is on such a massive roll at the moment. It’s such a shame for us that we don’t have a team at the Olympics in Rio, because right now we probably have one of the strongest teams around.”

    Lennon, meanwhile, saluted “a horse for all seasons” after he delivered a stylish performance to win Friday’s opening four-star class.

    Lennon, a winner at Bolesworth last year, steered Loughview Lou Lou home in the speed competition, clocking a time of 61.28 seconds.

    Their performance proved almost a second quicker than runner-up Lorenzo de Luca, on Halifax van het Kluizebo. British challengers filled third and fourth spots with William Funnell (Billy Angelo) and Jessica Mendoza (Wan Arcitect) respectively.

    “Lou Lou is a very versatile mare and a horse for all seasons,” Lennon said. “She is very versatile, careful and loves to jump.

    “We had a misunderstanding and a stop yesterday, but she wanted to win today, and after we got fence two out of the way, I was happy to move on in the hope we could be in with a chance.”

    Friday’s two-star action saw a win for Sophie Fawcett and Quite Cadiz in the speed class, sponsored by AC Jackson, with Ireland’s Aisling Byrne (Wellview Classic Dream) second and Paul Barker (U2 II) third.

    And the two-star accumulator, sponsored by Gaskells Waste Management, delivered another Irish victory, with Simpson steering Starfighter home, followed by Mark Armstrong’s Balougio III in second and Robert Murphy on Vogue in third.

    Image: Dermott Lennon and Loughview Lou Lou by Clément Bucco-Lechat, CC BY-SA 3.0

  8. Brazil’s Marlon Modolo Zanotelli takes the 4* two-phase class at Bolesworth

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    Brazil’s Marlon Modolo Zanotelli clearly has an affinity for the Bolesworth CSI4* International. The rider, who who won more classes than any other competitor at the 2015 edition of the event, started off his 2016 Bolesworth campaign with a victory on Thursday.

    Zanotelli took the four-star, two-phase class, sponsored by Equiline/Fearns Farm Partnership, on Rock ‘n Roll Semilly, landing a top prize of £6,400. In doing so, he underlined the rich potential that could easily be converted into an appearance at a home Olympics in Rio later this summer.

    “The team looks good — Brazil has some good horses,” Zanotelli said. “I would say we have about seven riders with a chance of making selection, and they all look good. It is a good group together, and everyone is motivated.

    “Hopefully, I will be selected. An Olympics at home — and my first one — would be special.”

    Reflecting on his latest Bolesworth triumph after edging runner-up American Lillie Keenan (super Sox) into second, with Britain’s Chloe Aston (Kolibri Classic) third, Zanotelli added: “He jumped very well, he is always doing a great job. He can do the tight turns very well.”

    Irish eyes were smiling at Bolesworth when Marion Hughes won the four-star speed class, sponsored by NFU Mutual.

    A bumper field entered the afternoon’s feature event, and Hughes showed all her experience to guide Heritage HHS Fortuna home in a time of 63.93 seconds.

    Britain’s Keith Shore, riding Zegreanne Z, led the chasing pack in second spot with a time of 64.16, and third went to another British rider — Douglas Duffin — on Chiquito Z.

    “I was hoping that I would hold out for the whole class because there were a good few fast ones to go after me,” Hughes said.

    “My mare is very fast. I didn’t do the inside routes — I just decided to just keep nice and flowing, and I think it paid off.”

    Dutch showjumper Stefanie van den Brink, meanwhile, had a Bolesworth debut to savour when she landed the four-star opener — a two-phase competition sponsored by Harthill Stud.

    And Bolesworth’s international appeal was highlighted by the fact that the first five riders represented five different countries — Holland, Egypt, Ireland, Britain and Belgium.

    Riding Merida 8, van den Brink’s time of 24.49 seconds proved just enough to edge out Egypt’s Karim Elzoghby and Colour Girl, with Irish challenger Dermott Lennon (Fleur IV) third, Britain’s Harriett Nuttall (Silver Lift) fourth and Belgium’s Francois Mathy Jr (Falco van der Clehoeve) taking fifth.

    Reflecting on her win, van den Brink said: “I followed my own plan, and it worked out well. We didn’t expect to win, but he went really well.”

    Continuing the overseas feel, the Czech Republic had cause to celebrate when Emma Augier de Moussac took the young horse class on Thursday afternoon.

    De Moussac revealed that her winning ride Brighton Bay had been something of a chance buy when she purchased him at auction.

    The competition, for six and seven-year-old horses and sponsored by Dutch Flower Shop, saw her prevail in a two-phase contest from Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca with Jenny van het Waterblok and third-placed Sussex rider Nicole Pavitt, on Gemmarco 16.

    “I am very pleased with him,” De Moussac said. “I have a lot of hopes for the horse.

    “I bought him at an auction when I’d had a little to drink, so it was not meant to happen! But last year, he knocked only two poles down, and he has been so consistent again this year, so it was a real lucky shot.”

    Image: Marlon Modolo Zanotelli by Philippe Gressien via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

  9. Longines Global Champions Tour: Christian Ahlmann leads, ahead of John Whitaker

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    Showjumping made a splash in Mexico City, which hosted the second leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour for the first time ever. A huge crowd welcomed the world’s best showjumpers to a vast grass arena 2000 metres above sea level.

    It was a massive step-change for both horses and riders, who one week earlier had competed in a smallish sand arena by the ocean in Miami Beach, but they rose to the challenge.

    Designer Uliano Vezzani tested the field with a complex track that saw a shake up between the first and the second round. Kent Farrington, one of the only six clears in the first round of the Grand Prix, had a rail down in the second round and dropped to tenth place, while Steve Guerdat, who carried four penalties from the first round, pulled off a fast, faultless performance in the second go, moving up from eleventh to fifth place.

    Four riders however, went double clear, ensuring a dramatic jump off. They were Germany’s Christian Ahlmann, French veteran Roger-Yves Bost and two twenty year-olds — Belgium’s Jos Verlooy and Ireland’s Bertram Allen.

    First in the arena was Ahlmann, who had finished in third place in the previous leg of the competition. He had one fence down on Epleaser van’t Heike and finished with four faults in 39.72s. Second in was Bost, who was both fast and foot-perfect aboard, finishing in 37.23s.

    It was a tough act to follow for Verlooy and Allen, who nonetheless put in a creditable effort. Verlooy and Caracas jumped clear in 41.63s to claim silver while the impressively fast combination of Allen and Hector van d’Abdijhoeve were caught out by a fence to finish in bronze.

    “Bosty had a really good round, he was fast,” Allen explained. “I knew it was going to be difficult for me to beat that — my horse has only done three 5* Grands Prix so I gave it a bit of a go, and had a bit of an unlucky fence down, but I’m delighted to be sitting here.”

    Ahlmann was relegated to fourth place this time round, but the German rider had good reason to be pleased with himself — he is now at the top of the Longines Global Champions Tour leaderboard with 68 points.

    “I’m really happy with my first two shows,” he said. “Epleaser did a very, very good job; one time on the small sand ring the other week, and then on this big grass field. He’s showing everyone how special he is. Especially the first round, it was a real, proper Grand Prix.

    “For the second time outside in this big ring, it was hard work — I had an unlucky rail in the jump-off, but in general I’m very happy with my horse.”

    Bost too was elated by his success, especially because it came on a horse with whom he has a special relationship. “I’ve won two Global Grand Prix with the father of this horse, one in the final of Abu Dhabi, so to win with the son is a very good feeling,” he said. “The show is so good — my horse felt very good in the class. When I jumped yesterday I felt I had a good chance to win — today is my day! For the first time to jump here, this place is amazing.”

    Best of the Brits in the Grand Prix was John Whitaker, who finished sixth on Argento and is now second in the overall rankings with 60 points, just behind Ahlmann. Scott Brash, who had to retire from the Grand Prix, took the 1.50 metre against the clock Banorte Trophy, beating a hugely competitive class aboard Hello Forever.

    The competition was equally fierce in the second leg of the new Longines Global Champions League, which sees riders from different countries team up and battle it out in a football-style championship.

    The Shanghai Swans team of Edwina Tops-Alexander, Janne-Friederike Meyer, Ben Maher, Jessica Springsteen and Alexandra Thornton (represented on this occasion by Tops-Alexander on Ego van Orti and Maher on Charlotta) triumphed ahead of Cannes Stars (Bost and Kevin Jochems, plus Marco Kutscher and Roosje Brouwer).

    The team rankings now see the Monaco Aces (Leopold Van Asten, Daniel Bluman, Schuyler Riley, Maikel van der Vleuten and Lisa Nooren) in the lead with 48 points, a mere point ahead of the Shanghai Swans, and two ahead of Valkenswaard United (John Whitaker, Bertram Allen, Eduardo Menezes, Alberto Zorzi and Emily Moffitt).

    “The cards are totally shuffled again from last week, which is very exciting,” said organiser Jan Tops. “It was a tough first round, and more demanding than last week. The whole ranking has changed, and that’s what it’s about – it’s exciting to the last moment.”

    But the true winner was the special atmosphere of the Mexico City event, for which both the riders and Tops had plenty of praise. “If you’d wanted to write the perfect script a week ago, you would end up with what you are seeing here in the last couple of days,” Tops said.

    “Not only was it perfect organisation and with great riders, the public here were unique – they are very warm, they know about the sport, and they really appreciate the riders and the performance. This makes it a special place.”

    The Mexico City arena was a huge change from the sand ocean-side venue at Miami Beach
    The Mexico City arena was a huge change from the sand ocean-side venue at Miami Beach
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    All images by Stefano Grasso/LGCT

  10. Christopher Burton wins Belton International

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    Australian Christopher Burton has described his Belton International CIC3* triumph aboard Nobilis 18 as “perfect preparation” for next month’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.

    Nobilis will make his four-star debut at Badminton from May 5 to 8, and Burton could not have asked for more in terms of fine tuning as he dominated the class from a field of 137 challengers to win by an emphatic margin and lift the prestigious Grantham Cup.

    Belton organisers coped admirably with whatever the weather threw at them. A combination of rail, hail, snow and sleet caused some classes to be cancelled on the Saturday, but they got the job done as Burton rounded off a weekend of high-class sport by claiming an emphatic victory.

    Nobilis finished on his dressage score of 34.5 penalties afer delivering one of only two cross-country clears inside the time — ninth-placed Oliver Townend and Cillnabradden Evo were the others — to win by a 4.7 margin from France’s Thomas Carlile, riding Quiro Hoy.

    Germany’s Bettina Hoy was third with Seigneur Medicott, while Carlile also finished fourth aboard Upsilon, with Ireland’s Aoife Clark and Fernhill Adventure fifth, just ahead of British combination Gemma Tattersall and Chico Bella P.

    Burton said: “I am pretty glad we didn’t turn around and go home when it started snowing on Saturday! I am so happy with Nobilis, winning that class out of 137 entries. It was perfect preparation for his four-star debut at Badminton.”

    Burton’s win also gave him the second leg of this season’s new Shearwater Insurance Tri-Star Grand Slam (Townend won the first leg at Burnham Market). The Polly Phillipps Memorial Trophy, awarded to the highest placed British rider in the Grantham Cup not eligible to wear a senior flag, went to Lincolnshire’s Ros Canter for her ride on her mother’s Zenshera, who finished on 57.50, adding just 10.80 cross-country time penalties to their dressage score.

    Sweden’s in-form Ludwig Svennerstal won CIC2* section L on Master Ping, holding an eight-point margin from Flora Harris and Billy Bandit, with Pippa Funnell and Billy Walk On in third, and section K went to Tim Cheffings (Donateur), with Harris in second place on Monart’s Masterpiece) and Burton in third on TS Jamaimo.

    Meanwhile, Townend, who has been in prolific winning form this season, was not to be denied at advanced level, claiming a one-two in section O on Dunbeau and ODT Ghareeb, respectively, with New Zealander Jonelle Price taking section M on the ultra-consistent Classic Moet.

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

  11. When son beats father: Harry Charles pips father Peter to the post

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    Showjumping great David Broome has predicted a “fantastic future” for 16-year-old Harry Charles after the Hampshire teenager claimed the biggest senior win of his career.

    Charles, who last year was part of the Junior team that won bronze at the FEI European Jumping Championship for Children, Juniors and Young Riders at Lake Arena, Austria, beat his father — London 2012 gold medallist Peter Charles — into second place at the Welsh Masters, clinching a £1,500 top prize following a sparking performance aboard the former Laura Collett-ridden eventer Strides Controe.

    And it left Broome, whose equestrian venue near Chepstow in South Wales hosted the event, gushing with praise.

    “He went superbly,” Broome said. “His horse jumped very well, he rode it brilliantly and he beat his dad, which was no mean achievement.

    “We have watched Harry progress over the years, and every time I see him he gets better. He is the right physique, he has a good eye with flair and a very sound head. He has a fantastic future ahead of him in the sport. It was very pleasing to watch him. He rode faultlessly, and he really deserved to win.”

    Charles’s triumph made him the youngest rider to ever win the Welsh Masters, which has been running for 12 years.

    He took the top prize after dominating a five horse jump-off, clocking a time of 35.85 seconds, while Peter and Stapleton Mist posted 37.46 seconds, with Nicholas Benterman (TJ Mullanacross Maliro) third, Matthew Sampson (Perfect Rouge) fourth and Adrian Whiteway (Cojack) fifth.

    Reflecting on his finest career victory at senior level, Alton-based Charles said: “I took what dad did in his jump-off round, and then tried to jump it quicker. It was a very careful (first round) course – definitely bigger than 1.40m. It was tricky, with just five clears from 40 starters, so it took some jumping.

    “The horse is a nine-year-old that used to event with Laura Collett, and showjumped up to 1.30m. I am just going to keep the horse sweet, and keep him ticking along.”

    The senior Charles added: “I said to Harry when I bought the horse that he’s really sharp and quick. He might even jump a Nations Cup one day. He is not short of jump, and he is quick away.”

    Harry Charles also competed a double by winning the Gents Final 24 hours earlier aboard Vivaldi Du Dom, while the Ladies Final saw second and third-placed finishes, respectively, for his younger sisters Sienna, who is only 13 years-old, and 15-year-old Scarlett.

    Image: Harry Charles won team bronze at the FEI European Jumping Championship for Children, Juniors, Young riders at Lake Arena last summer, by Herve Bonnaud, courtesy of the FEI

  12. Celebs, billionaires and top riders kickstart the Longines Global Champions Tour 2016

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    The 2016 edition of the Longines Global Champion Tour 2016 kicked off in style at Miami Beach last weekend.

    America’s rich and famous, including a stylish Elle McPherson and Sir Michael Caine, descended on the stunning Florida venue, which sits right by the ocean, to watch the world’s best riders battle it out in the Grand Prix — the VIP area was full to the brim.

    And the competitors, many of whom are glitterati in their own right, didn’t disappoint. Edwina Tops-Alexander put in a faultless performance aboard Lintea Tequila to win the Grand Prix — and the $500,000 purse that goes with it — in 34.59. “She [Lintea Tequila] has been in really good shape, she was really good in the last show I did in Paris and I had a really super feeling,” said an elated Tops-Alexander. “Honestly, the first round — I never felt I had jumped that good in my life. I have had her for a couple of years and I felt like today was her day.”

    Second- and third-placed riders, America’s McLain Ward, on HH Azur, and Germany’s Christian Ahlmann, on Epleaser van’t Heike, also jumped clear in every round of the course designed by Italy’s Uliano Vezzani, but were marginally slower at 35.68 and 37.38 respectively. “I was thrilled. My horse, I felt, could have gone another couple of rounds. She was getting better at every round. I had a very good start to the jump off and then I checked up across the middle. The last line unfortunately was very slow for me and Edwina was great. It was a whisker but my horse was fantastic and I’m thrilled with that,” said Ward.

    America’s Georgina Bloomberg, who rode Lilli and was cheered on by her two-year-old son, Jasper, Qatar’s Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani, aboard First Devision, and the Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten, riding VDL Groep Arera C, also made it to the jump off, but they each knocked down one rail, finishing fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.

    The best placed Brit was John Whitaker, eighth aboard Argento, while Laura Renwick and MHS Washington finished 19th, Michael Whitaker was 23rd on Viking, Scott Brash 24th on the “mischievous” Hello Guv’Nor and Ben Maher 34th on Sarena.

    The first leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour 2016 also saw the launch of its brand-new team competition, the Global Champions League, and it is here that Whitaker distinguished himself. The League breaks new ground, allowing competitors from different countries to join forces and compete in a football-style team championship. The format, in the words of co-founder Jan Tops, will “transform the experience for millions of fans”, making for some extraordinary battles. Two riders from every team will compete at each event.

    Whitaker partnered Ireland’s Bertram Allen, who alongside Brazil’s Eduardo Menezes, Italy’s Alberto Zorzi and America’s Emily Moffitt makes up the Valkenswaard United team, to win the first leg of the competition and lead the rankings with 30 points.

    Second is Antwerp Diamonds (Holland’s Harrie Smolders and America’s Audrey Coulter, plus Dutch rider Marc Houtzager, Germany’s Katharina Offer and Belgium’s Jos Verlooy) at 27, followed by Miami Glory (America’s Kent Farrington and Georgina Bloomberg competed but the team also includes Scott Brash, Jessica Mendoza and Kimberly Prince) at 24, Monaco Aces (Holland’s Leopold Van Asten and Colombia’s Daniel Bluman, plus America’s Schuyler Riley and Dutch riders Maikel van der Vleuten and Lisa Nooren) at 21 and Madrid in Motion (Brazil’s Doda de Miranda and Pedro Veniss, plus de Miranda’s wife, Athina Onassis, and Spaniards Marta Ortega Perez and Gonzalo Añón Suarez) at 20.

    The next leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour 2016 takes place in Mexico City.

    Few events have better views or a better atmosphere than the Miami Beach leg of the LGCT
    Few events have better views or a better atmosphere than the Miami Beach leg of the LGCT
    « 1 of 16 »

    All images by Stefano Grasso/LGCT

  13. Steve Guerdat keeps his World Cup title

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    Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat has won his second World Cup in a row when he produced two clear rounds aboard Corbinian at the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg on Monday, March 28.

    The Swiss champion jumped clear in the first round of the Longines FEI World Cup Final’s third and last leg, but so did The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders, on Emerald NOP, and Germany’s Daniel Deusser, aboard Cornet d’Amour.
    Steve Guerdat jumped a clear round to nab his second consecutive World Cup victory
    Both Smolders and Deusser, who carried forward three penalties, then jumped clear in the second round so Guerdat — the last to go — knew he had to produce a faultless performance to secure his second World Cup victory. Despite the pressure, he showed nerves of steel and jumped a brilliant, foot-perfect round in 65.73 to claim the €172,500 winner’s purse.

    “It’s really special”, he commented. “I wasn’t really thinking I would stand here in front of you as the Final winner today. I have a really strong team supporting me, people who get up early every morning and work really hard, so I want to thank my whole team, it’s really a team victory.

    “We all have the same goal. It’s me who’s standing here in front of you, but there are many people who should be standing here with me. It’s a team victory more than ever I think.”

    Smolders and Emerald NOP finished second, still three penalties behind Guerdat and with a time of 65.45. Deusser was third with three penalties and a time of 66.17 aboard Cornet d’Amour.

    Germany’s Marcus Ehning, who was lying second in the overall standings after the second leg of the final, made a mistake at the second element of double at fence nine during the first round of the third leg, and finished fourth, just ahead of Ireland’s Denis Lynch. Meanwhile, Britain’s only rider, Laura Renwick, had to withdraw her horse, Bintang II, before the start of the competition.

    Guerdat’s next big challenge is to defend his Olympic title in Rio in the summer.

    Images: top, The World Cup podium, bottom, Steve Guerdat jumps a faultless round to claim his second consecutive World Cup, both courtesy of FEI/Arnd Bronkhorst

  14. How to jump your horse: a beginner’s guide

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    For many riders, jumping provides the ultimate thrill in the saddle. Think of those who pursue a career with horses as show jumpers, event riders and jump jockeys. Most will admit that they love the adrenaline rush jumping a fence provides. But as with walk, trot and canter, you have to master the basics before you can progress out onto a cross-country course or a show jumping competition — be patient, those opportunities will come.

    The safest place to learn how to jump your horse is in a school environment with a qualified instructor. They will know if you are ready to start jumping because there is no point leaving the ground on a horse before you are feeling confident and are proficient in walk, trot and canter.

    So, when you are ready, what are the 10 things you need to know about starting to jump?

    1. Practice makes perfect

    Practise trotting and cantering over poles on the ground before you jump. Keep the pace active but steady. Insist that your horse doesn’t rush.

    2. Shorten your stirrups

    Ask your trainer to recommend the right jumping length for you — but it will usually be a few holes shorter than for flatwork.

    3. Feel the rhythm

    Ride in the same rhythmic, balanced way on the approach to a fence as you have over the trotting or canter poles. Just because you are riding towards a jump doesn’t mean that all that you have learned about riding on the flat should go out of the window.

    4. Aim for the middle

    Steer your horse towards the middle of the jump. If you don’t it’s much easier for him to run out.

    5. Avert your eyes — really

    It’s natural to be nervous as you approach a fence for the first time. If you can feel yourself tensing, don’t look at the fence at all. The horse will be able to work out the jump perfectly well on his own.

    6. Don’t forget your posture

    As the horse gets closer to the fence, sit deep into the saddle and close your legs around the his sides. Push down with your heels. Keep your shoulders forward.

    7. Hold the neckstrap

    You may need to keep a fairly firm hold on the reins to prevent the approach being too fast, but just before take-off ‘give’ with your hands so that the horse isn’t hampered by the reins. For your first few jumps, it is a good idea to hold onto a neckstrap so that if you are jerked out of the saddle you won’t jab the horse in the mouth. He should always be equipped with a neckstrap when you are jumping, even as you gain experience — it could also prevent a fall.

    7. Jump your horse — not yourself

    Resist the urge to ‘jump’, lean too far forward or push your hands high on the horse’s neck as he clears the fence. If you are in balance, provided you ‘give’ with your hands and grip with your knee and lower leg you don’t have to do anything else. Too many riders feel that they have to help the horse when he can negotiate a fence perfectly well unaided. In fact, the less you do the more freedom you will give him to jump athletically.

    8. Keep your balance

    Remain in balance after the horse has jumped and keep your concentration. The horse can easily spook or turn sharply after a fence and if you are out of balance or have your mind on something else you could find yourself on the floor.

    9. Practise grid work

    9, As with anything the key to getting better is practice. Do regular grid work. It will not only help your horse to become more agile, but you will be able to concentrate on perfecting your own position and your horse’s rhythm.

    10. Avoid progressing too far, too fast

    When you start jumping it may be tempting to get the fence raised higher and higher. Taking things slowly is the way to build confidence and a technique that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

  15. Scott Brash loses world-number-one spot to Simon Delestre

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    After the shock of Charlotte Dujardin losing her world number one spot to Kristina Bröring-Sprehe, here comes another bombshell: France’s Simon Delestre has dethroned Scott Brash, jumping to the top of the Longines Showjumping Rankings.

    Brash’s grip on the top spot lasted for an amazing eleven months but Delestre, who competed at his first Olympic Games at London 2012 with Napoli Du Ry, has been on great form since taking individual bronze at last year’s FEI European Jumping Championships in Aachen.

    He now has a 23-point lead over Brash and a more comfortable 128-point lead over the world’s number three, America’s Kent Farrington.

    The French rider, who comes from an equestrian family and won his first national pony showjumping championships at the age of 12 in 1994 (and his second one at 13 in 1995), will now look at consolidating his lead when he competes at the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final in Gothenburg, Sweden, on March 23-28.

    The Final starts exactly 135 before the Olympics—and there’s no doubt that Delestre will have his eyes firmly trained on Rio.

    Image: Simon Delestre aboard Qlassic Bois Margot at the CSI 5* in Bordeaux, by Eric Knoll, courtesy of the FEI

  16. Billy Twomey and Sue Davies retire Tinka’s Serenade

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    Tinka’s Serenade, the brilliant showjumping mare ridden by Irish star Billy Twomey and owned by Sue Davies, has been retired at the age of 19.

    Billy hailed the horse as “unbelievable” following a success-laden career that was highlighted by a stunning victory at the 2011 Rolex Top 10 final in Paris, while multiple five-star grand prix successes included wins at Basel and Zurich. The partnership also enjoyed a 2013 Horse of the Year Show grand prix triumph.

    Tinka’s Serenade represented Ireland in the 2012 London Olympics, 2011 European Championships and 2010 World Equestrian Games, and an outstanding Nations Cup career in Irish colours featured 18 clear rounds, team wins in Aachen and Lummen, in addition to winning a bronze medal at the 2013 Barcelona final.

    In total, the horse gained 21 top-five placings in five-star grands prix and World Cup qualifiers, including appearances at the 2011 and 2014 World Cup finals. Career prize money has been in excess of one million Euros.

    “She has been an unbelievable horse for me since around 2009,” Twomey said. “I am very lucky to have had her, and I am very grateful for what she has done for me. Over the years, she just improved and improved.

    “She was very head-strong when we first got her, spinning around and doing all sorts of naughty things, but she eventually relaxed and really got into her job the older she got.

    “We knew that she was a talented horse. She was second in the Foxhunter final with her previous rider Emma-Jo Slater, so she obviously had some talent.

    “She is a born fighter, a horse that really rose to the occasion. The more atmosphere, noise and things that were going on, the better she was. It really used to lift her. She was very good when the job had to be done, especially in Nations Cups. She jumped a lot of important clear rounds for Ireland, which we are very proud of.

    “The Top 10 final is probably the most memorable. It’s the top 10 riders in the world competing against each other – the best of the best on that day – and she had been in really good form around that time. To win it was really special.”

    The likely plan for Tinka’s Serenade now is to do some more embryo transfers during the Spring at the Davies’ Pewit Stud in Cheshire, before spending the majority of her time based with Twomey.

    “She jumped clear in the Amsterdam Grand Prix three weeks ago, and in modern-day showjumping it is pretty unheard of for a horse of that age to still be competing at five-star level competitively,” Twomey added.

    “She was still winning at 19, and I just thought maybe it was time to not go on any more and finish at the very top with the horse still in really good shape and at the top of her game.

    “I want to thank all the people that have helped me with her along the way, the vets, farriers, physios and everyone that has been associated with her, especially the two grooms — Alana Gamble and Kerry Finch — who have looked after her throughout her career.

    “Most of all, I would like to thank Sue Davies, my long-term owner, for making it all possible. She has been truly outstanding in giving me the freedom to enable me to do what I wanted to with the mare, and wonderfully supportive in all our ventures together.”

    Image: Billy Twomey with Sue and Eddie Davies and Tinka’s Serenade

  17. The nine showjumping events you should attend

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    Bolesworth International, Cheshire, June 16-19

    Going from strength to strength, this relatively new fixture (pictured), which takes place in the grounds of Bolesworth Castle, lends a touch of glamour to showjumping. As well as international classes on each of the four days, there is huge variety of entertainment. Last year’s show included: dressage, an eventing grand prix, camel racing, a fashion show, plenty of shopping, a champagne bar and bistro and rounded off with a concert by Scouting for Girls.

    The Equestrian.com Hickstead Derby Meeting, Hickstead, West Sussex, June 23-26

    Sunday’s Hickstead Derby, with its unique and legendary Derby Bank, is one of the most famous competitions and takes place over one of the world’s most famous courses. Those that can’t make the big day can see Derby hopefuls try to qualify for a place in Saturday’s Hickstead Derby Trial. As well as jumping and scurry driving, there are dozens of showing classes, including the prestigious final of the Tattersalls Racehorse to Riding Championship. Saturday evening is party night, when everyone is invited to stay on the showground for the entertaining Celebrity Polo Match.

    The Great Yorkshire Show, Harrogate, Yorkshire, July 12-14

    Yorkshire is arguably the home of British showjumping and the Great Yorkshire, one of England’s premier agricultural shows, continues to attract Britain’s best riders. Its Cock o’ the North grand prix, a fixture in the schedule since 1968, is the climax of three days’ jumping. John Whitaker has claimed the famous silver cockerel trophy six times including 1975, with Ryans Son, 1991, with Milton, and, more recently, 2013 with Maximillian.

    The Longines Royal International Horse Show, HIckstead, West Sussex, July 26-31

    The second major annual fixture at the All England showground is the official show of the British Horse Society and the only venue in the UK where you can see the British team this year when they contest the Furusiyya Nations Cup. National show jumping includes the British winter finals and Sunday’s finale class is the King George V Gold Cup, one of the oldest competitions in the world. Thursday is host to the Eventers Challenge — a combination of cross country and showjumping held in the famous main arena — while Saturday is Ladies Day in aid of Mark Davies Injured Rider’s fund.

    British Showjumping National Championships, Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, August 9-14

    This event hosts the final of the International Stairway League title, as well as coveted opportunities to qualify for Horse of the Year Show. The prestigious International Stairway League final will take place on Sunday, August 16, crowning a new British Showjumping National Champion.

    British Young Horse Championships, Addington Manor, Buckinghamshire, August 18-21

    A show for young horse talent where the best of British four to seven-year-olds contest age championships, with prizes for the Best British-bred horses in each age group. The show is also a viewing opportunity for those wishing to try for a place for the World Young Horse Championships in Lanaken.

    Alexander Horseboxes Scope Festival, Staffordshire Showground, Staffordshire, August 21-28

    The showjumping world descends on Stafford County showground for this annual festival that crowns champions at every level — from young riders on tiny ponies up to international riders contesting the grand prix.

    Horse of the Year Show, NEC, Birmingham, October 5-9

    HOYS celebrates the end of the competitive season with five days of showing and jumping classes. Leading riders from home and abroad take part in a variety of speed and jump-off classes. Jumping highlights include: the Puissance, featuring the huge red wall that can go to heights of more than seven foot, leading ‘pony jumpier of the year’ and the Horse & Hound senior Foxhunter championship, the long established leading championship for young horses and equine talent spotter.

    Olympia, The London International Horse Show, London, December 13-19

    For many, this long-standing show, with its unique party atmosphere, is the official start of Christmas. Now more than 100 years old, Olympia has become a regular fixture for horsey and non-horsey spectators, as well as leading riders from around the globe. The more serious business of international jumping is interspersed with breath-taking displays and quadrilles and there is huge shopping village, as well as the popular champagne bar, restaurant and ski bar. For a family or friends treat buy a ringside box for one of the ten performances.

    Image: Bolesworth International by CLA Midlands via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

  18. Why the Liverpool International Horse Show was a resounding success

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    William Funnell perhaps summed it up better than anyone when asked to reflect on three spectacularly successful days that comprised the inaugural Equestrian.com Liverpool International Horse Show.

    “You run out of superlatives for this show,” said the 2013-European-team-gold medallist. “We have tried to give entertainment, and you can see with the riders that we really enjoyed the show. The whole thing was fantastic.”

    There were some who said it could not be done — a brand new show in an untried waterfront equestrian venue on the first three days of a New Year. But they figured without Nina Barbour and her dynamic organising team.

    Barbour had already done it more than once through the other jewel in her crown — Bolesworth International — so the doubters really should have known better.

    But even by the soaring standards that equestrian sport has come to expect from Barbour and company, Liverpool was something else.

    It was the show that had everything — brilliant competition highlighted by the performances of Funnell, evergreen John Whitaker, grand prix winner Billy Twomey, plus the Allen sisters Pippa and Millie, who fought out a memorable jump-off in the Under-25 championship; huge crowds, spectacular entertainment and a feelgood factor of remarkable proportions.

    One prominent rider said to me on Sunday evening that in his mind, Barbour is British showjumping’s most visionary figure for 50 years. Not since Douglas Bunn weaved his magic at Hickstead, has anything on this scale been witnessed.

    Bumper crowds thronged the Liverpool Echo Arena throughout, while a bustling shopping village had a major wow factor for sellers and buyers, with the whole spectator experience enhanced by slick presentation, wonderful musical entertainment and a feeling of everyone wanting more.

    “The organisers of this show deserve a serious amount of credit,” said Twomey. “The arena has been nearly full every day. To get a show kicked off in the first year and have big crowds is really impressive. It is an unbelievable show.”

    And Whitaker added: “The facilities, the ring, everything at Liverpool is top-class. It is not easy to organise something like this, but it’s a great new addition to the calendar.”

    Olympic-gold medallist Peter Charles was similarly enthused, stating: “You get treated beautifully, they look after the riders and the public have been fantastic. It is a truly great show. Full marks to Nina Barbour.”

    And Liverpool’s success was not lost on a sizeable foreign rider contingent, including in-form Italians Emanuele Gaudiano and Piergiorgio Bucci, who both won classes.

    “It is a super new show,” Gaudiano said. “It is the first show of the year, and it is an unbelievable event — one that will get bigger and bigger.

    And Bucci added: “I enjoyed the show so much. I must say congratulations to Nina Barbour and all the organisers. This is the first year at Liverpool, and they have done an amazing job. It is so impressive. It is a super arena, and you get a really good, warm feeling in there.”

    The good news for showjumping fans new — there are now many — and old is that Liverpool is here to stay, as is Bolesworth, and perhaps most importantly of all, so is Nina Barbour.

    Image: The Echo Arena, where the Liverpool International Horse Show took place, by Robert Cutts via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

  19. William Funnell triumphs at the Liverpool Horse Show

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    William Funnell and Billy Congo delivered a classy performance on the second day of the Equestrian.com Liverpool International Horse Show.

    The 1.50-metre jump-off class saw Funnell and the 15-year-old stallion at their best with an immaculate display that showcased everything about the horse’s poise and power. Twelve combinations made it through to the jump-off, but Funnell’s time of 35.28 seconds proved too much for the rest of the field. Only Ireland’s Billy Twomey actually went quicker on Diaghilev — but they had the last fence down.

    Peter Charles, who is Liverpool-born, finished second with the promising Dauphin, while Irish challenger Dermott Lennon was third aboard Fleur IV.

    Funnell collected a first prize of £6,000, and he was understandably delighted. “I wasn’t going to do anything daft tonight,” he said. “I kept everything tight and neat, and luckily it forced a few errors.

    “He has won at five-star level, he has won more than £600,000 in his career, and he is a class act.

    “His results speak for themselves. I have won a five-star grand prix with him, and he is a horse of a lifetime. It’s lovely to have a horse of that quality.”

    Funnell also offered high praise for inaugural Liverpool Horse Show. “You run out of superlatives for this show,” he added.

    “We have tried to give entertainment, and you can see with the riders that we are really enjoying the show. The whole thing is just fantastic.”

    Italian Piergiorgio Bucci also lavished praise after claiming an impressive victory aboard his Nations Cup campaigner Casallo Z.

    Bucci made it another successful Italian job following his compatriot Emanuele Gaudiano’s victory on Friday, and there was no doubting his supremacy in the 1.45 metre class against the clock.

    “I have enjoyed this show so much,” he said. “This is the first year at Liverpool, and they have done an amazing job. It is so impressive.”

    Bucci prevailed in a time of 46.44 seconds, after Britain’s Laura Renwick had set a scorching pace aboard Heliodor Hybris, clocking 47.50 seconds, while Twomey challenged strongly with Tin Tin. Ultimately, though, they had to settle for second and third places, respectively.

    Three other combinations — Nicole Pavitt (Victor Blue), John Whitaker (Lord of Arabia) and Johnny Pals (Urjul van Generhese) — all clocked a quicker time than Bucci, but each of them had a fence down.

    Reflecting on his £6,000 triumph, Bucci added: “It was a tough class.

    “Normally, he is my grand prix horse. He has jumped many clear rounds, but it was good for my horse to have the turns to do today. I am very pleased.”

    Image: William Funnell by Clément Bucco-Lechat, CC BY-SA 3.0

  20. Stars flock to the Liverpool International Horse Show

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    British Olympic medallists John Whitaker, Michael Whitaker and Peter Charles will lead a star-studded entry for the inaugural Liverpool International Horse Show. And they are joined at Liverpool Echo Arena from January 1-3 by fellow British stars Laura Renwick, Guy Williams, William Funnell, Robert Whitaker and William Whitaker, in addition to 2015 Bolesworth International grand prix champion Yazmin Pinchen.

    A strong Irish challenge will be led by an in-form Billy Twomey, plus the consistently-successful Breen brothers, Shane and Trevor, former Aachen grand prix champion Denis Lynch, Cameron Hanley and Dermott Lennon.

    And the overseas representation is considerable, including rising Italian force Emanuele Gaudiano, America’s Lucy Davis, exciting Belgian prospect Constant van Paesschen, Sweden’s Peder Fredricson, who was a member of the Swedish 2004 Olympic silver medal-winning team, Norway’s Geir Gulliksen and Dutch rider Johnny Pals.

    Ten of the world’s top 100-ranked riders will be in action as Rio Olympics year 2016 gets underway with a blockbusting new four-star show that has a total prize fund of £160,000.

    It is set to become the latest in a long line of Liverpool sporting success stories — a city renowned for its two Premier League football clubs, staging the Grand National and hosting many Open golf championships.

    The show will mark its debut event by commencing on Friday, January 1 at the 6,000-capacity waterfront Echo Arena following a spectacular New Year’s Eve party the previous night, with two sessions per day across three days and culminating in the Liverpool International grand prix on January 3.

    Twomey, who finished third in the recent Paris Masters grand prix behind French pair Patrice Delaveau and Simon Delestre, is relishing being part of the Liverpool experience, and he said: “It is great that we have another four-star show in Britain.

    “Liverpool Echo Arena is such an amazing venue, and the time of year works well for everyone — owners, sponsors, riders and their families. We will all get the opportunity to watch some amazing sport and get to touch base at the same time.

    “My horses are all on form, and my aim next year is to get back into the top 30 in the FEI rankings. Liverpool has six world-ranking classes, so it’s important that I perform well.”

    Besides top-class showjumping, Liverpool’s slick, eye-catching production will incorporate scintillating performances from the ‘Bootleg Beatles,’ opera singers Bella Voci, theatrical stunt rider Clémence Faivre and the ever-popular Shetland Pony Grand National.

    Show president Nina Barbour said: “We are honoured to be staging this show in the wonderful city of Liverpool on its stunning waterfront in the impressive Liverpool Echo Arena, and we know that three days of gripping action are guaranteed, culminating in Sunday’s headline Equestrian.com grand prix.”

    Image: The Liverpool International Horse Show will take place at the Echo Arena. Photo by Paul via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

  21. The spectator’s guide to British showjumping

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    Showjumping. It’s fast, fun and fantastic to watch — in fact, the perfect spectator sport. If you sat on the edge of your armchair and cheered as Scott Brash, Peter Charles, Ben Maher and Nick Skelton galloped and jumped their way around the Greenwich arena in 2012 to secure GB’s first Olympic team show jumping gold medal since 1952, you’ll know.
    That quartet certainly did a lot to put show jumping back on the agenda for a lot of us after its sad demise from terrestrial TV channels a few decades ago. But if paid TV – where most of today’s showjumping competitions are now located — isn’t your bag, then why not get out and watch it live? You’ll be spoilt for choice — especially now that the fabulous equestrian extravaganza that is the Olympia horse show is coming up.

    How to find a showjumping event near you

    There were an astonishing 2,599 show jumping shows in the affiliated calendar in 2014, which equates to 399,897 starters over 3,453 competition days — and that doesn’t even include all the unaffiliated fixtures held throughout the country. Most of these shows also offer free entry to spectators, so what’s not to like?

    What this bumper number means is that on any one weekend there could be two dozen affiliated fixtures, or more, in venues as far apart as the north of Scotland and the Kent coast, as well as in the numerous British Showjumping Areas (usually divided on a county basis) in between. So you won’t need to drive too far to find one. If you are keen to find one that won’t entail a lengthy trip, log on to the British Showjumping website.

    Must-see British showjumping events

    While you can guarantee plenty of sporting action at a variety of levels, if you go local, you may not be able to spot a famous face. For that you need to head to a major fixture, and there are plenty of these to choose from, too.

    Showjumping at Olympia

    December brings everyone’s favourite — Olympia. As its strapline suggests, this is the best equestrian Christmas party, and the vast indoor arena boasts a great festive feel. However, tickets for the limited number of seats sell out fast and if you don’t want to be disappointed, book early.

    Olympia is a CSI5* competition, so the crème de la crème of the sport as international fixtures affiliated to the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) are coded with a star rating. Five stars is the highest due to these contests’ top level prize-money, while the horses have to negotiate jumps around the 1.60m mark.

    If you feel confident contending with London’s traffic or the underground, Olympia Exhibition Centre in west London is easily accessible and once inside you will be transported into a world of horsey displays and some top level sporting action, including myriad show jumping classes contested by leading names.

    The speed classes and jump offs against the clock always jack up the excitement factor, as does the famous puissance, high jumping for horses. In this class, the winner is the horse who can jump the imposing red wall at its highest level — generally around the 7ft mark — which, by the way, even the riders think is BIG.

    The all-new Liverpool International Horse Show

    In January, a new fixture, the CSI4* Liverpool International Horse Show (January 1-3, 2016) is coming to town. The publicity says it will be ‘world class sport spectacular entertainment’, and if the website (www.liverpoolhorseshow.com) is anything to go by, it looks like it is going to be sensational.

    Royal Windsor Horse Show

    If you are lucky, you may spot celebrities as well as horses at May’s Royal Windsor Horse Show, where a member of the royal family or two are often in attendance.

    Hickstead Derby Meeting

    Hickstead’s June Derby Meeting is a CSI4*, as well as being an iconic event and probably the most famous outdoor show jumping fixture in the world. Little is as exciting as watching horses jump down the terrifying Derby Bank, through Devil’s Dyke and over the unusual Road Jump. The Derby is an extra long course that stays the same year after year and, despite this, it never fails to work its magic on the venue’s live audience, providing thrills and spills and barely one sought after clear round each year.

    Showjumping, zorbing and shopping at Bolesworth

    Also in June, the Bolesworth CSI4* has attractions over and above the showjumping to keep any non-horsey friend happy. They can experience zorbing on the lake, helicopter rides and a zip wire while you watch the stars in action over the coloured poles. And don’t forget the shopping. This venue boasts at least 130 trade stands, so enough to keep any shopaholic entertained.

    The cream of the crop at the Global Champions Tour

    The Global Champions Tour is a relatively new five star event and has its UK leg in July at beautiful Syon Park in west London. This event features top 30 ranked showjumpers from around the world competing in big ticket locations around the world. This is the place to spot World, Olympic and Continental champions battle it out for the top spot.

    Royal International Horse Show

    The Royal International Horse Show is a long running fixture at Hickstead and takes place in July. This venue hosts a leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping Series, an exciting team event which recently saw eight squads jumping for the first prize.

    Horse of the Year Show at the Birmingham NEC

    In October all roads lead to Birmingham — to the NEC to be precise and the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), which is billed as the UK’s biggest indoor equestrian event with a shopping experience to match.

    Showjumping rules

    If you are new to the action, you will soon understand it, as the appeal of showjumping is its simplicity. Riders accrue four penalties for each fence their horse dislodges, or for a foot in the water at a water jump. A fall of horse or rider incurs elimination. The combination must complete the course within the time allowed, or be penalised for every second they exceed the optimum.

    If you attend a blue riband show, you will generally be watching Grade A show jumpers. The grading refers to the horses, not the riders, and it is worked out on the amount of financial winnings that horse has, so a Grade A mount will have banked anything over £2,000 in prize-money.

    So there you have it. An exciting sport held in venues with the wow factor, practised by stunning horses and talented riders, which is also easy to understand. Happy watching!

    Image: Robert Whitaker and USA Today at the London leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour in July 2015, by Stefano Grasso, courtesy of the Longines Global Champions Tour

  22. Luciana Diniz takes the Longines Global Champions Tour crown from Scott Brash

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    World number one showjumper Scott Brash’s reign as king of the Longines Global Champions Tour is over.

    The 29-year-old Scotsman’s bid for a hat-trick of overall GCT titles ended in Doha, when an eighth-placed finish in the series’ final grand prix left him 11 points behind newly-crowned champion Luciana Diniz.

    Diniz, riding Fit For Fun, won the Doha grand prix and the overall crown, securing a bumper pay-day of £305,000, while Brash collected £135,000 for second, just in front of Sweden’s Rolf-Goran Bengtsson.

    Brash and the brilliant Hello Sanctos, the horse on which he memorably completed the Rolex Grand Slam in September, had a fence down in each round, and Portugal’s Diniz seized her opportunity brilliantly.

    “I had a silly fence in the first round, coming out of the double,” Brash said. “Okay, this is showjumping, so we know it can happen. So I started the second round thinking that I had to be the fastest of the four-faulters to have any chance, so I went as fast as I could and it’s the reason I had a fence down. But Sanctos has been wonderful all year.

    “I must say that I think Luciana really deserves it. She has been so consistent the whole year, as has Rolf. I think Fit For Fun jumped unbelievably — it was actually an absolute joy to watch. They jumped fantastic, as did Rolf, so they really deserved it. In the last three legs of the Longines Global Champions Tour they just ran away it, so it’s all credit to both of them.”

    Scott Brash on Hello Sanctos finished second at the Longines Global Champions Tour

    Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum set a scorching jump-off time of 36.55 seconds in Doha, but last-to-go Diniz kept her nerve, crossing the line in 36.10 seconds to claim a scintillating double triumph.

    “I was in a winning mood, and riding Fit For Fun makes my life easier,” Diniz said. “These two boys (Brash and Bengtsson) were gentlemen and let the lady be first, so I am very happy with that!

    “Scott and Rolf are so good, and if I thought about focusing on them and what they were going to do, I would be lost. So I just said I would focus on myself and what my horse can do. My strategy was to focus on me and the horse.”

    Reflecting on the series, Longines Global Champions Tour founder and president Jan Tops said: “Ten years ago, we started with six events. This year, we’ve done 15 events, with two new events in Miami and Rome. We have very much established our events this year.

    “The quality is much higher. If you see what we have achieved in the last 10 years, I think it is amazing. We are not tennis, golf or Formula 1 just yet, but the gap is not what it used to be. We have had constant development for this year, and our sport has a big future.

    “These three riders have been really dominating the sport throughout the whole year. Luciana’s horse was on great form to win, Rolf has been every time so consistent — everybody wanted him to win, he has been second twice — and also Scott, he has won twice. I think they have all, between them, been by far the best of all the riders.”

    Images: Luciana Diniz (top) and Scott Brash (bottom), both by Stefano Grasso/LGCT, courtesy of the Longines Global Champions Tour

  23. Jeroen Dubbeldam bags gold in Aachen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  25. British showjumpers on course for Rio at Aachen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Watch the action in Aachen:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  27. British showjumping stakes it all on Aachen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



  28. British showjumping team ready for Aachen challenge

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    The journey to next week’s FEI European Championships at Aachen in Germany has been far from plain sailing for Great Britain’s team showjumping boss, Di Lampard.

    So there must have been an undoubted sense of relief on Monday when the team entrusted with trying to secure 2016 Rio Olympics qualification was finally made public.

    One phase of the season can already be put away in Lampard’s ‘mission accomplished’ file — three Nations Cup victories and qualification for the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup final in Barcelona next month — but now the hard work really starts.

    It is three years since Britain unforgettably won team gold at the London Olympics, yet their hopes of defending that title in Brazil now hinge totally on what happens across three days of jumping in Aachen.

    The equation is a simple one. Three qualification places remain, with five teams — Britain, Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland and Spain — aiming to fill them and book a trip to Deodoro next summer.

    To say that the heat is on would be an understatement of major proportions, but London 2012 team gold medallist Ben Maher, major championship veteran Michael Whitaker, Belgium-based Joe Clee and 19-year-old Jessica Mendoza, who is believed to be the youngest British showjumper selected for a major championship since an 18-year-old Marion Mould contested the Women’s World Championship at Hickstead in 1965, are now tasked with that job.

    Given that Britain are without world-number-one Scott Brash — his two top horses Hello Sanctos and Hello M’Lady are unavailable for selection — while Ben Maher’s 2013 European team gold- and individual silver-winning ride Cella is injured and John Whitaker’s in-form Argento was not put forward, it would represent a significant feat if Lampard’s quartet pulled it off.

    “We are all entirely focused on the job we have ahead of us,” Lampard said. “Qualifying for Rio is at the forefront of our minds, and we are absolutely committed to giving Great Britain the chance to defend the team gold won at London 2012. We move forward to Aachen as a strong united team.”

    Lampard’s sense of determination is shared by the selected riders — who are backed up by travelling reserve Guy Williams, plus the non-travelling duo Robert Whitaker and William Whitaker — not least of all by 55-year-old multi-medallist Michael Whitaker, who rides Cassionato.

    “Cassionato is a horse that just wants to learn, and learn quickly. His scope is unbelievable, and I honestly don’t think anyone will ever build a course he couldn’t take on. He is a fantastic horse,” Whitaker said.

    “I think we’ve got a very good team — it has been a good selection. We have got five fighters going forward, and there isn’t one that you wouldn’t want on your side. I am looking forward to it and feeling confident.”

    And Mendoza, whose selection was undoubtedly clinched by a fourth-place finish in the Longines King George V Gold Cup at Hickstead two weeks ago, is equally enthused by the challenge that awaits on Spirit T, a horse owned by her mother, Sarah.

    “It (Aachen) was never in my plan at the beginning of the year, but she kind of made it the plan as she just kept getting better and better each time we stepped up a level,” Mendoza said. “We have come up from national to international competition together, and then from CSI 2* to CSIO 5*, and as a result I feel I know her inside out. We trust each other totally.”

    Image: Having secured the top spot at the Rotterdam leg of the Furusiyya Nations’ Cup, Joe Clee, Ben Maher, Jessica Mendoza and Michael Whitaker, pictured here with Di Lampard, will also represent Britain at Aachen’s FEI European Championships. Courtesy of FEI/Arnd Bronkhorst.

  29. 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

  30. Beezie Madden makes history at the Royal International Horse Show

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    American star Beezie Madden confirmed her place among the legends of Hickstead as the Longines Royal International Horse Show reached a thrilling climax on Sunday.

    For the second successive year, 51-year-old Madden was crowned Longines King George V Gold Cup winner, claiming British showjumping’s most prestigious prize aboard the brilliant bay gelding Cortes C.

    Having become the first female rider in more than 100 years to lift the King George 12 months ago, she is now the first woman to claim it two years on the bounce, a feat that was last claimed by anyone in 1961 and 1962, when Italian Piero d’Inzeo triumphed with The Rock.

    Madden’s jump-off time of 43.06 seconds — only six combinations from 42 starters made it through to round two — proved just enough to keep French runner-up Penelope Leprevost and Flora de Mariposa at bay, while Holland’s Jur Vrieling and Vdl Zirocco Blue finished third.

    Jessica Mendoza, the gifted 19-year-old from Wiltshire, was leading British rider in fourth place on Spirit T, and, had it not been for a final fence knock down in the jump-off, she would have prevailed in a time of 42.76 and taken the £46,500 winner’s purse instead of Madden.

    However, she still did enough to keep herself firmly in the selection spotlight for the FEI European Championships in Aachen later this month, when Britain will chase one of three remaining Olympic qualifying places ahead of Rio 2016, alongside rivals like Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland and Spain.

    The top six places were completed by Britain’s William Whitaker and Fandango in fifth, and American Todd Minikus, riding Babalou 41, but it proved to be a disappointing day for many other leading British riders, including Holly Gillott, Joe Clee, Spencer Roe and Guy Williams. Ben Maher had an unlucky four faults on Diva II.

    Reflecting on a fine performance with Spirit T, a horse owned by her mother Sarah, Mendoza said: “My horse is naturally quick, so I thought I would use it to my advantage. She has been jumping amazingly — I wish I could have another one like her.

    “I wasn’t really that nervous, but my dad was more nervous. He kept going on about how this was the most prestigious class and how he would love us to win it. Yes, I have no fear, but I think my horse also has no fear!”

    beezie madden receives a Longines watch after winning the Longines King George V Gold Cup at the Royal International Horse Show

    The day, though, belonged to Madden, who said: “It’s quite an honour to win it back to back.

    “Friday’s (Nations Cup) jump-off was not my finest moment (Madden had two fences down on Cortes C) but I learnt a little from that, as he likes to jump left and I took too sharp of an angle and didn’t compensate. I knew the approach to fence three would be difficult, so I took a little more time than I would have done before.

    “I know he’s amazingly naturally fast, so I knew I could leave strides out, like the right turn to the vertical and at the second last fence, so I really tested him there and I was able to coast home a little. I knew there were a few fast ones behind me, so I had to respect that, but I didn’t want to run the wheels off and have what happened on Friday.”

    Many combinations came to grief at a double of gates immediately after the water jump, and Madden added: “Those gates are always difficult, and when you make them a double combination, then it’s even harder.

    “I think their attention got on the second gate, compounded by the fact it’s after the water. Robert Ridland (United States chef d’equipe) had planned eight strides, but then he said that eight wasn’t jumping that good, so I thought I would ride it off my eye, but I actually did go on eight in the end. I think you had to improvise.

    “Cortes C really prefers grass over sand. He really loves it here — he can gallop and jump.”

    Images: top, Beezie Madden powers to victory in the Longines King George V Gold Cup at Hickstead on Cortes C; bottom,Madden receives a Longines watch as part of her prize for winning the Longines King George V Gold Cup at Hickstead, both by George Gunn, courtesy of Hickstead

  31. Big day for Chloe Winchester at the Royal International Horse Show

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    Chloe Winchester claimed the biggest win of her career after turning the Templant Events Queen Elizabeth II Cup into a procession at the Longines Royal International Horse Show on Saturday.

    The 21-year-old Suffolk rider has been on the radar for a while as one of British showjumping’s brightest young talents, which she had underlined by winning the 2014 Young Rider Championship of Great Britain title at the Horse of the Year Show, but she has now gone up another gear with outstanding 12-year-old mare Avoca Valkyrie.

    Winchester eased home in a six horse jump-off by almost three seconds from former Hickstead Derby champion Phillip Miller, riding Caritiar Z, while three-time Queen-Elizabeth-Cup winner Tina Fletcher finished third on Hello Sailor, with Kerry Brennan (Wellington M) fourth, Trevor Breen (Old Town KC) fifth and Tim Davies (Valentijn O) sixth.

    “I am very surprised – it is a dream come true,” said Winchester, whose Hickstead winner is owned by her mother, Gilly.

    “The plan was to just keep going forward because I knew Phillip was coming after me. We’re off to the Europeans (Young Riders) next week in Austria, so it has set us up really well for that.

    “I got [Avoca Valkyrie] from an eventing yard. She evented previously, and had been jumping 1m 30cms, but she’s done everything for me and has taken me up to 1m 50cms. She has just gone amazingly, better than we ever could have hoped for.

    “We jumped here at the All England Championships last year, but nothing like this. It’s such a prestigious class. It was a very strong track, and I thought it would suit her. There is lots of space out there, and I think I found time on the turns.”

    Saturday’s feature class of the Longines Royal International Horse Show attracted a 26-strong entry, and Winchester became the first female winner since Anna Edwards in 2010. The competition used to be for women only, but it became an open event seven years ago and was subsequently won by male riders like Shane Breen, Daniel Moseley and Keith Doyle.

    Winchester, though, slammed the door firmly shut in pursuit of a £4,000 top prize, and she will now head to the European Young Riders Championship in confident mood on Avoca Valkyrie, alongside her British team-mates Chloe Aston, Alfie Bradstock, Emma O’Dwyer and Jake Saywell.

    Elsewhere on Saturday, it was a story of double success for Italian riders, which came as a timely boost following Italy’s eighth and last-placed finish in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup 24 hours earlier.

    Piergiorgio Bucci set the tone, winning the Bunn Leisure Salver with Casallo Z. The combination clocked a jump-off time of 44.93 seconds, edging German star Christian Ahlmann into second on Caruso 472. Robert Bevis was the highest-placed British rider in fourth with Courtney Z.

    And there was further Italian joy in the one-round British Speed Classic when Lorenzo de Luca claimed a £5,700 top prize on Homer de Reve, clocking 62.00 seconds. Their performance denied Britain’s Guy Williams, who had set a scorching pace aboard Casper de Muze, while the top five was completed by Romain Duguet (Cacharel) in third, fourth-placed Shane Breen (Reconnaissance) and Nicole Pavitt, in fifth, on Victor Blue.

    Attention now turns to Sunday’s Longines King George V Gold Cup, when Great Britain team boss Di Lampard will be an interested spectator as she continues putting the final touches to her five-strong squad that will head to Aachen in Germany next month for the FEI European Championships.

    Britain, despite winning showjumping team gold at London 2012, have yet to qualify for the Rio Games. The Europeans provide a final chance, but other countries also contesting three qualification places include Hickstead Nations Cup winners Belgium, plus Switzerland, Ireland and Spain.

    Image: Chloe Winchester celebrates her victory in the Templant Events Queen Elizabeth II Cup at the Longines Royal International Horse Show, top by George Gunn

  32. Belgium nabs its first Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup at Hickstead

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    Di Lampard made no attempt to hide her disappointment after Britain’s showjumpers finished a disappointing sixth in the Hickstead leg of this season’s Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup series.

    Despite a sizzling double clear from London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Ben Maher on Diva II, Britain could make little impact on the leaderboard as the team fell off the pace set by Belgium, Switzerland and the United States.

    In the end, a jump-off was required to settle matters, and it was Belgium’s Pieter Devos who delivered the goods, guiding Dylano home in a time of 42.60 seconds to give Belgium their first Hickstead Nations Cup win since records began 85 years ago. They also secured qualification for the Nations Cup final in Barcelona later this year.

    Switzerland’s Janika Sprunger finished more than 1.5 seconds behind Devos in second spot on Bonne Chance, while America’s Beezie Madden had two fences down aboard Cortes C. France, meanwhile, were fourth, Germany fifth, Holland seventh and Italy eighth.

    The emphasis for Britain will now switch to next Friday’s Dublin Nations Cup, after which Lampard will finalise her five-strong group to contest the FEI European Championships in Aachen. Just three qualification places remain for the 2016 Rio Olympics, with Britain, Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland and Spain set to battle it out.

    Current world-number-one Scott Brash, his fellow London 2012 Olympic team gold medallist Maher, Michael Whitaker and Guy Williams look set to fill four of those spots, with the fifth rider possibly coming down to a choice between Jessica Mendoza, Joe Clee, Spencer Roe and Robert Whitaker.

    Maher proved the outstanding British rider at Hickstead, while Whitaker and Calcourt Falklund posted a clear in round two, and Williams, aboard Titus, had a total of six faults across both rounds. Leicestershire’s Holly Gillott, though, collected 13 and nine faults with Dougie Douglas.

    “At the end of the day, it’s experience that has shone through with riders like Ben, Guy and Michael,” British team boss Lampard said. “It has definitely made things a lot clearer. When we finish here on Sunday (after the Longines King George V Gold Cup), we will know even more. It has definitely clarified my thoughts.”

    And reflecting on the Hickstead result, which was in stark contrast to Nations Cup victories in La Baule, Rome and Rotterdam this season, Lampard added: “I am very disappointed. All the riders have been in winning teams this season, but this is what happens when the pressure is on for riders who know that we are finalising selection for the European Championships.”

    For Belgium, though, it was a cause for considerable celebration, and their hero Devos said: “I was very disappointed with performance in the second round, so I wanted to make amends in the jump-off.

    “I had a really good feeling about the jump-off, and I was determined to get out there and ride it. I didn’t watch the other riders go, I was only thinking of my team and winning it. I just went for it, and I am very happy and relieved.”

    Earlier in the day, Madden won the Bunn Leisure International Stakes — a one-round speed class — on Breitling. The combination clocked 69.12 seconds to claim a comfortable victory from runner-up Shane Breen (Reconnaissance), with John Whitaker (Castlefield Cristobal 21) third.

    Meanwhile, the Old Lodge Young Breeding Horse Championship was won by William Whitaker and Arkol, with Philip Spivey (Darya-l-Nur) second and Marcus Ehning (Calanda) third, and the Children on Horses grand prix saw Olivia Poole triumph aboard Chinook, with India Bussey (Valerie B) in second, and Jordan Gann (Lakeland Dancer) in third.

    Image: The Belgian team on the podium by George Gunn, courtesy of Hickstead

  33. Michael Whitaker shines at the Royal International Horse Show

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    British star Michael Whitaker hailed a “very brave and very careful” Quelbora Merze after the combination claimed a stylish feature class victory at Hickstead’s Longines Royal International Horse Show on Thursday.

    Whitaker has only been riding the 11-year-old chestnut gelding since March, but they emerged victorious from a 53-strong field to take the Bunn Leisure Trophy and a winner’s purse of £5,650.

    “I don’t think he has ever been in a ring like this before, but he didn’t look at anything and just went straight in,” said Nottinghamshire-based Whitaker.

    “He has been building up to something like this, getting placed a few times, and it has all come right on the day. He is very brave and very careful.

    “I wouldn’t have any doubt about riding him in the King George V Gold Cup on Sunday, but I am going to see how my other horses go first.”

    Whitaker’s jump-off time of 37.69 seconds in the two-phase competition proved just enough to edge out Germany’s Christian Ahlmann and Caruso 472, while Surrey-based William Funnell and Billy Angelo claimed third, with Belgium’s Pieter Devos (Candy) fourth and France’s Simon Delestre (Chesall) fifth.

    Jessica Mendoza, who, along with Whitaker, Ben Maher, Holly Gillott and Guy Williams, will represent Britain at Friday’s Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup, finished eighth with Spirit T.

    Ireland’s Trevor Breen, meanwhile, started where he left off at Hickstead in June by landing the week’s opening international class — the Bunn Leisure Vase. Breen, winner of the Equestrian.com Hickstead Derby aboard Loughnatousa WB last month, tasted immediate success on his return to the International Arena as he guided Georgie D’Auvray EC to a comfortable victory.

    A mammoth field of 82 combinations contested the one-round class, and it was Breen who came up trumps, clocking 69.26 seconds, with a tie for second spot on 70.08 between British Nations Cup rider Gillott (JB’s Hot Stuff) and Dutch challenger Harrie Smolders (Springtime), with William Whitaker and Balibu finishing fourth.

    The Amlin Plus Eventers’ Challenge saw 20 event riders tackle a combination course of cross-country and showjumping fences in the main arena, and it proved to be an exciting affair with top performers like Andrew Nicholson, Gemma Tattersall, Pippa Funnell, Tina Cook, Tim Price and Laura Collett on show.

    And it was former world number one Nicholson who did the business with Cillnabradden Evo, jumping clear in 124.94 seconds to edge out last-to-go Elizabeth Power and Doonaveragh O One, with Britain’s Tom McEwen (Cuarento) third and Nicholson’s fellow New Zealander Price fourth on his 2014 Luhmuhlen four-star winner Wesko.

    Meanwhile, teenager Chelsea Skelton saw off older rivals to win Hickstead’s prestigious Winter Grades B & C Championship, emerging top of a 24-strong class that culminates a lengthy qualification process and regularly highlights rising equestrian talents.

    Teenager Chelsea Skelton wins the Winter B&C Championships at the Royal International Horse Showi

    Skelton, from Lincolnshire, produced an exemplary double clear with the eight-year-old Caramba — then revealed how the horse is something of a reformed character.

    “He was really naughty,” she said. “He used to go up on his back legs and leave the arena. Sometimes, I still have to ride him for two hours first to stop him running off with me. We couldn’t afford to buy a really good horse, so we had to go for something that was a bit quirky. I saw him advertised and begged my mum to go and see him, and we bought him with the money she had saved up to buy a new kitchen!”

    It was the first time that Skelton had competed in Hickstead’s famous International Arena, having last ridden there during the Hurstpierpoint College National Schools and Pony Club Championships a few years ago.

    “It was a bit nerve-wracking, but after the first jump I just thought it’s okay, I know what I’m doing — and he does like a big arena,” added Skelton, who has just finished her A Levels. “Mum and I have come down for the whole week. It’s quite a long way from Lincolnshire, and the shopping here is amazing, so we’re using it like a mini holiday.”

    Images: top, Michael Whitaker wins the Bunn Leisure Trophy, courtesy of Hickstead. Bottom, teenager Chelsea Skelton wins the Winter Grades B & C Championship, by JulianPortch.com, courtesy of Hickstead



  34. Scott Brash takes the lead in the Longines Global Champions Tour

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    British showjumping’s impressive strength in depth came to the fore as this year’s London leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour provided pulsating entertainment.

    Although British riders did not make it a hat-trick of London grand prix wins following victories for Ben Maher in 2013 and Scott Brash last year, they could hardly have gone any closer.

    The remarkable John Whitaker gave himself an early 60th birthday present by finishing second in the grand prix behind Sweden’s Rolf-Goran Bengtsson, while Scott Brash and the brilliant Hello Sanctos were denied possibly a fourth GCT grand prix triumph this season by a final jump-off fence knockdown.

    World number one Brash had to settle for sixth, but it was still good enough for him to replace Portugal’s Luciana Diniz as overall series leader and put him firmly on course for a GCT title hat-trick with four events — Valkenswaard, Rome, Vienna and Doha — remaining.

    “I am pleased to be top at this stage,” Brash said. “I will do all the other venues apart from Rome, so I’ve got a couple of extra chances. We’ve got to keep going. We will keep trying.”

    The London grand prix, centre-stage of an event held this year at Syon Park, in west London, saw 12 combinations contest the jump-off, and it was former European individual champion Bengtsson who came out on top with Casall ASK by just eight hundredths of a second from Whitaker to take the £93,000 winner’s purse. Whitaker collected £56,600, with France’s Simon Delestre finishing third and Holland’s Gerco Schroder fourth.

    “Argento is on very good form, and I think I’m on quite good form!” Whitaker said. “It’s good — I am enjoying it.

    “My horse jumped great today, I just couldn’t catch Rolf. He was too quick. I wasn’t far away, but I think in my second to last fence I was a bit untidy there – I could have done one less stride – but he was a little bit excited by that point, and even going through the finish, if I’d have turned right I would have saved those few hundredths.

    “But I can’t complain. My horse jumped superbly, and it’s nice to win, but I am happy with where I’ve come.”

    Whitaker, meanwhile, confirmed that Argento would not not be available for Great Britain at next month’s European Championships in Germany, as he feels the horse is better suited to smaller arenas and not the sizeable setting of Aachen.

    Bengtsson, while thrilled with his London win, believes 29-year-old Brash has put himself in a strong position to possibly capture another GCT crown.

    “It’s going to be hard to beat Scott,” Bengtsson said. “When there is a jump-off, you know that you have to be very quick, so I did my best, but I knew that Scott and Hello Sanctos were able to go very quickly.

    “John was very very close, Scott was super-fast, but Casall ASK and I were very lucky. It was an arena with good footing and a very good course designer, so we could not have wished for more from a rider’s point of view.”

    Former European individual champion Kevin Staut, Switzerland’s Jane Richard Phillips and Belgian Gregory Wathelet were among the supporting class winners across three days of London action, but the final word on Sunday went to another British rider in the form of Essex-based Laura Renwick.

    Renwick, riding the highly-rated Bintang II, landed the London GCT finale – a 1.50metre against the clock class with jump-off – winning just over £21,000 after posting a time of 37.32 seconds. which edged out Italian Emanuele Bianchi and Irish challenger Denis Lynch.

    A delighted Renwick said: “It means everything to me. We’ve had this horse since he was very young — he’s a real talent, and today he showed just how much talent he has. He’s not a speed horse, but he has a really big stride, which suited the run to the last fence.

    “It’s lovely to be jumping at home, it’s lovely to be at a Longines Global Champions Tour event, and then to win is just the icing on the cake.”

    Images: Stefano Grasso, courtesy of Longines Global Champions Tour

  35. Out and about at the London leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour

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    Discover the best moments of the Longines Global Champions Tour’s London leg, where Scott Brash stormed to the top of the series rankings, or read our report of the action.

    Splending setting

    The Duke of Northumberland’s magnificent London home, Syon House, was the backdrop to the London leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour.

    Syon House was the backdrop of the London leg of teh Longines Global Champions Tour

    Standing sentinel

    The Longines horse presided over the proceedings from the VIP tent.

    the longines horse in the VIP tent at the London leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour

    A ride with a difference

    Guests enjoyed a ride on the Longines carousel.

    Guests at the London leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour enjoy a ride on the longines carousel

    Bentsson’s day

    Rolf-Göran Bentsson won the grand prix aboard Casall Ask.

    Sweden's Rolf-Goran Bengtsson finished first in the London leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour


    All eyes in the VIP section were on the action in the arena.

    riveted by the action at the London leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour

    Happy birthday, John Whitaker

    John Whitaker celebrated his upcoming 60th birthday with a well-deserved grand prix second place on Argento.

    John Whitaker and Argento finished in second place on the London leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour

    Brash stormed to the top

    Scott Brash finished sixth after knocking down one fence but still earned enough points to make it to the top of the series leaderboard.

    Scott Brash finished sixth after knocking down one fence at the the London leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour

    Downward slip

    Former overall series leader Luciana Diniz lost the top spot to Brash.

    Former Longines Global Champions Tour overall series leader Luciana Diniz lost the top spot to Scott Brash

    The podium

    The grand prix winning trio — Bentsson in first, with Whitaker in second place and France’s Simon Delestre in third — takes pride of place on the podium.

    Longines Global Champions Tour London leg winner Rolf-Goran Bentsson with runners up John Whitaker and Simon Delestre

    Champagne celebration

    Bentsson enjoyed a champagne shower courtesy of Delestre.

    Winner Rolf-Goran Bentsson enjoys a champagne shower courtesy of Simon Delestre at the Longines Global Champions Tour in London

    The patroness

    Global London Tour patroness Athina Onassis de Miranda, who is married to Brazilian showjumper Álvaro de Miranda Neto, was 12th in the grand prix aboard AD Rackham’Jo.

    athina onassis de miranda at the London leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour

    Young supporters

    Brash found time to meet some Pony Club fans.

    scott brash and pony club members

    VIP competitor

    Patti and Jessica Springsteen enjoyed lunch in the VIP tent—the younger Springsteen was 31st in grand prix aboard Lisona and 11th in Sunday’s 1.50-metre class on Davendy S.

    patti and jessica springsteen at the London leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour

    Hooray for Laura

    Laura Renwick delighted fans with a great performance aboard Bintang II to take the 1.50-metre against the clock class title.

    laura renwick wins the 1.50-metre class at the Longines Global Champions Tour on bintang II