France Takes Centre Stage for Event and World Cup 5 Star Competition
The top echelons of the sport horse world were out in force over the weekend with 5 star competitions in France for eventing, showjumping and dressage. A surprise for the dressage world was the selling by Charlotte Dujardin of her Olympic horse Gio or ‘Pumpkin’ to his friends to 16 year old Annabella Pidgley, a British Junior international rider.
In France, at the Pau 5 star CCI long, the racecourse saw 46 combinations representing 5 nations came to try their luck at this world famous horse trial meeting, most of them from Great Britain. The course in the south west of France was again designed to be integrated with the racecourse. The three judge jury came from Sweden, Christina Klingspor, Andrew Bennie from New Zealand and Emmanuelle Olier from France. All the combinations were accepted in the first ‘trot up’, although Izzy Taylor on her new horse Ringwood Madras were sent to the holding box, but on a represent, she was passed fit to go. Later in the day, the dressage started with the first 12 competitors coming forward, with all the rest riding on day 2. At the end of the first day, William Fox-Pitt riding Oratorio II took the lead with 27.4 penalties. He was joined by first timer at this level by Ailsa Wates riding Woodlands Persuasion; both riders representing Great Britain. Four of the first twelve riders scored under 30 penalties. The dressage started with Oliver Townend as the trail blazer for this event, (for some reason he usually is) riding Ridire Dorcha.
On the second day, the rest of the riders came forward for their dressage tests, and much as expected, the scores rather blew away the top horses from day one. There were ten horses to beat the top score of 27.4, but the Price duo from New Zealand both took the event by the scruff of the neck and ended the day in first and second positions going into the cross country day. Tim Price riding Falco was head of the leader board on 22.1 penalties, with his wife Jonelle riding McClaren in second with 24.4. William Fox-Pitt ended the dressage phase in third, riding his second horse Little Fire on 24.5 penalties. Padraig McCarthey for Ireland was in fourth just behind William FP on 24.6 penalties. Throughout the dressage, there were 20 combinations who had a score lower than 30 penalties.
Designed by Pierre Mechelet of France, this final 5 star CCI of the year had a technical tight feel about it. Built around the contours of the racecourse, (Pau is one of France’s main totting race arenas,) the riders were allowed 11 minutes 50 seconds to negotiate the rather narrow 31 fence twisty course within which there were thirteen combinations. Eleven of the runners completed without getting any further penalties on their dressage scores and ten either were eliminated or retired. Following the dressage, the leader board changed fairly considerably. Tim Price was one of the clear rounds and so he remained at the top.
Jonelle Price, (2nd after the dressage) had 4.4 time faults and being so tight at the top, she slipped down to finish the day in sixth place. William Fox-Pitt on Little Fire relinquished his third place by collecting 20 jumping penalties after a run out and so cruised home slowly but also collecting another 14 for time. He was now in 29th place. Padraig McCarthy was another completely clear and ended the day in second place on his dressage score as did Kevin Mcnab for Australia, who ended in third with 26.2 penalties. The top eight on the leader board after the cross country were all very close to one another, and all with under 30 penalties. In the showjumping, Tim Price as things stood, could not afford any fences down as he was within one fence of the second placed horse.
Before the showjumping, there was as usual the final trot up before the judges where all the riders were passed fit to continue. Only one was sent to the holding box, but was allowed to compete after representing. That was Sophia Sjoborg riding DHI Mighty Dwight from Sweden. Oliver Townend elected to withdraw MHS King Joules before the trot up as the horse lost a shoe and banging himself during the cross country. The pair were in fourth place on the leader board, so this withdrawal meant that Isabelle Upton was promoted into fourth place riding in her first 5 star competition on Cola. This left 35 combinations to take on the traditional tricky showjumping course.
The showjumping phase really sorted everyone out once again as the leader board had another dramatic realignment. Tim Price however, escaped the problems of most of the riders; only five of the 35 starters went completely clear. Tim had no poles down, but was one second over the time allowed which kept him in the top spot. His winning score was just 22.5 penalties. Irishman Padraig McCarthy with Fallulah, who had been so good throughout, took out four poles and had time penalties dropping the pair from second to seventeenth. Isabelle Upton also had two poles down with time penalties and so dropped from fourth to twelfth. Kevin McNab with Scudera A Best Friend also tipped a rail and collected time penalties dropping him from third to finish fourth. Tom McEwan riding CHF Cooliser was one of the few who had a completely fault free round. This propelled him to finish in second place from his overnight standing of seventh on a final score of 29.6. Jonelle Price finished in third after she had only time faults for being over by 2 seconds. By the time Tim Price came in, he had over a fence in hand should he of needed it, so although he left all the fences up, his task was made considerably easier due to the machinations of the 34 riders who went before him. No doubt at all that once again the Price team were coming back after their extraordinary wins in 2018 and 2019.
In Lyon, France, one of the major World Cup qualifying competitions took place for both dressage and showjumping. In the dressage 5 star Grand Prix, Isabel Werth rather stuttered to victory riding Weihegold OLD with a final score of 78.421%. Although she won by a margin of over 2%, she did have several mistakes in the early part of her test which on the ‘running’ score board had her in fourth place, but towards the end of the test in the canter section, the pair didn’t put a foot wrong which gave them several 10s from the judges to secure her top place. Fellow German rider Frederic Wandres was second riding Duke of Britain FRH and third was Nanna Skodborg Merrald from Denmark riding Atterupgaards Orthilia with 75.079%. There were only 16 horses to line up for this Grand Prix which was judged by two from France, and one each from The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. The class was sponsored by Creara.
In the Grand Prix Freestyle to music sponsored by FFE Genrali, fifteen all the same horses presented their tests except Pierre Volla who was just outside the necessary qualification. In the early stages of the class, Netherland’s Thamar Zweistra riding Hexigon’s Double Dutch took a strong lead before the break with 78.785%. The first one to go following the only break was Cathrine Dufour riding Vamos Amigos who quickly deposed Thamar Zweistra’s lead by taking the top place thus far with 81.135%. Fourth from the end, Isabel Werth came in with her 16 year old Oldenburg mare and blew away any dramas of the Grand Prix round, finishing in the lead on a score of 84.910%. With only three more to compete, her finish on the podium looked assured. The next two riders, Nanna Skodborg Marrald and Beatrice Ferrer Salet for Spain could not overtake the top German rider, however, the last to go, another German rider, Frederic Wandres could be a different story, riding his in form 14 year old British bred gelding Duke of Britain? In the end, Frederic was unable to overhaul the scores of either Isabel or Nanna and finished with 81.640%. This gave Isabel Werth a double Grand prix victory and Denmark’s Nanna Skodborg Marrald second and German rider Frederic Wandres in third. Cathrine Dufour, again for Denmark, took fourth place.
Before we discuss the results of the weekend’s World Cup, we must first comment on the disgraceful response to the FEI’s invitation to all 136 national showjumping federations in the world regarding the format of the next Olympic Games in Paris in three years’ time. Following Tokyo, there were numerous complaints about the formula used with only three riders in the team event and the dislike of the individual medals being decided before the teams. Only eight of the national federations responded by the deadline set by the FEI, and all eight want to see the format of the team competition returned to four riders with the worst being discarded, as was the case before Tokyo. As only eight could be bothered to respond to this invitation, one can only assume that the new format, which we think is far better as all the scores counted, is generally accepted as the new norm? Like all Olympic competition, no matter what the athlete is competing at, is dependent on how each performs on a certain day at a certain time, and yes things do go unexpectedly wrong on occasions. Why this should be different for equine athletes, we fail to understand. It seems to us that having a discarded score is illogical, and for the spectator, having all the scores counting, whether three or four in a team makes the competition much more compelling and less of a forgone conclusion, even before the athletes have arrived at the venue. We hope that when the final determination of the rules for Paris is decided upon at the FEI Antwerp convention in the middle of November that the team rules are not changed. There may be some merit however, in changing the format for when the individual and team medals are decided; and return to the old formula of team competition first followed by the individual medals, as is the case for both dressage and eventing. This may be the right decision to make?
In Lyon, as well as the dressage, a 5 star CSI for World Cup qualification and points was held with 40 combinations lining up to take on the Gregory Bodo designed course. The Frenchman designed a twisty course requiring 17 jumping efforts with a time allowed of 77 seconds in the first round. The first clear round came with the first rider, Eduardo Pereira De Menezes riding H5 Chaganus for Brazil. There wasn’t another until Holly Smith for GB riding Denver some 13 horses later. By the time the latter horses took their turn, clears were rather more forthcoming with eleven going clear for the jump off. In the jump off round, there were only three of the eleven who claimed a double clear. The Brazilian rider was the first to go and was one of the clears, and he held the lead for some time on a time of 35.14 seconds. It was not until the penultimate combination came forward, Max Kuhner riding Eletrik Blue P for Austria, was there another clear, but he was slightly slower than Eduardo Pereira de Menezes putting him in second place. The final rider was from Switzerland – Martin Fuchs riding Chaplin took the class with a clear and winning time of 34.50 seconds. The final result therefore, was the Swiss rider as the winner followed by the Brazilian and finally the Austrian in third.
Images courtesy of Tilly Berendt and stock