Gemma Tattersall Wins at Bicton and Collects a Husband – Swiss Win in Europe
The last week has certainly been a busy one with the European Championships for showjumping coming so quickly on the heels of the Olympics; and the 5 star horse trial eventing, which took place at Bicton in Devon The first of the big time shows at Calgary in Canada were staged after a long absence due to the pandemic;. The FEI released the rider rankings which for dressage has brought a whole new look to the top table!
The Bicton 5 Star Horse Trial event was a first for the Devon venue. The event was set up to make a replacement for the Burghley Horse Trials which were cancelled in the early summer, rather for the same reason as Badminton – insurance or should we say the lack of its availability? Bicton is the South West of England top equestrian venue. They hold competitions for dressage, showjumping and especially three or four top horse trials each year. It has been built up over the past few years and the venue lends itself very well to eventing with the rolling Devon countryside and its easy accessibility to the main network of roads going into and out of Devon.,
There were only 32 forward for the 5 star event, which was a shame, but with the top horses still recovering from their Tokyo excursion, that may not have been a complete surprise? In the first trot up, there were no surprises, all the riders got through the veterinary scrutiny. As there was a low level of entries, all the dressage took place on the Friday over one day with the cross country on the Saturday and finally the showjumping on the final day. The top score of the day was Pippa Funnell riding Billy Walk On with 23.9 penalties. Piggy March on Vanir Kamira was in second place with 25.5 and third was Will Rawlin riding VIP Vinnie, a hairs breadth behind with 25.6 penalties.
The cross country course was designed by Mark Phillips, who is the usual course designer for Burghley. He gave the riders some really inviting fences throughout the course including several tables of one sort or another, some large upright brush type fences and of course the Mark Phillips trade mark of a few skinnys! Set in lovely parkland with plenty of undulations, (again like Burghley). The first main questions come at the house at fence 4 after the riders have had to come up a long and steep Devon hill. After the white rail combination at fence 6, the horses then have to drop down another steep incline towards the arena itself. A wonderful looking gallop down to a brush fence, but the designer put a sharp turn at fence 7 going towards fence 8 a simple house and then down a hideously steep hill into fence 9, a pair of corners round another sharp bend, and big at that, asking several questions through the this section of the course. Fence 14 is another three part fence with rails at A then a sheer drop of several feet at B then out across a large skinney at C. A horse which is not well balanced will certainly come a cropper at this combination. Another three fence combination comes at you at fence 16. A roll top going for the first part followed by the coffin, a large chasm for horses to jump followed by a bush fence at C. The difference with this fence is that it was a double bounce fence, not seen in eventing for some years. In other words, the horse has to take off immediately after jumping each part of the fence with no strides in between. A tricky combination but to be fair, at this level they should be able to do with some comfort. Going on a jump or two to fence 20, a two part effort, starting with a huge Oxa followed by an equally large corner. Then onward bound towards fence 22, the water, a four jump combination; a big jump over a brush fence into the rather shallow pond followed by a couple of skinneys to get out. Finally the course ends with fence 26, a large but inviting roll top. The results were disappointing in that only 19 of the cross country athletes managed to complete the course. The leader board changed with Piggy March going clear and taking the lead on her dressage score of 25.5 penalties. The second spot was held by another clear on cross country, Gemma Tattersall riding Chilli Knight, finishing on 27.9 penalties, also her dressage score. The third on the leader board was Pippa Funnell, leader at the dressage stage with Billy Walk On. Will Rawlin, third after the dressage and Izzy Taylor just 0.1 behind him in the dressage, both retired in the cross country.
The showjumping phase was rather depleted with only 18 of the original 32 actually taking part. In a quick round, Pippa Funnell went clear to stay in current third spot. Gemma Tattersall then took over, and she too went clear, so she kept her current second place with just one more to go. Piggy March came in and knocked two fences down and went over the time allowed, so she dropped down the leader board from winning to third. She ended with 33.9 penalties, leaving the top two to finish on their dressage scores. Pippa Funnell took second spot while Gemma Tattersall took the win with Chilli Knight finishing on a score of 27.9 and taking her first 5 Star ever.
Gemma’s joy didn’t end there either. Her long-time partner proposed to her after her victory, to which she said “yes”; so winning her first 5 star and with wedding bells in the air, this will surely be a day Gemma will never forget!
Five days of showjumping for the European Championships at Riesenbeck in Germany was arguably an unnecessary event, coming just days after the Olympics. When the Olympics had to be re-scheduled, the FEI announced that the European Championships, for all the equestrian disciplines, would be cancelled due to the re-scheduling. If the rest of the Europeans are similar to this one, we think they were right. The championships should be with the best horses at the time with the best riders, and this time, that certainly was not the case. Most of the top riders were there, but not necessarily with their top horses. Some countries sent young riders to give them experience and others sent top riders, so the whole championships became a little unbalanced.
There was the usual format of team and individual competition with various qualifying rounds for each during the process. There were at total of 65 athletes riding from 18 different nations in the mix. There were two qualifying rounds to find the top ten teams who would compete in the final team round. The two qualifying rounds also acted as qualifiers for the individual championship as well. Unlike the Olympic format, each country had four members to its team with the worst scoring member of the team having their score disregarded. The course designer was Germany’s Frank Rothenberger, who set a challenging course for each of the qualifiers as well as the finals. Every inch of the arena was used and several of the fences were up to the full allowed height of 1.60m.
The team Gold Medal was won by Switzerland who actually had no poles down at all from any of their riders, but collected 9.47 time faults between them. Their team was Martin Fuchs, Steve Guerdat, Bryan Balsiger and Elian Baumann. The Silver medal was won by the team from Germany, who also fell foul of the time allowed of 81 seconds. Their team was Marcus Ehning, Andre Thieme, David Will and Christian Kukuk. They did also have a couple of poles down between them to end of a score of 12.77 faults. The Bronze team awardwent to Belgium, again with a team of top riders: Pieter Devos, Jos Verlooy, Olivier Philippaerts and Nicola Philippaerts, who finished on 17.34 faults between them.
The individual Gold Medal was won by Germany’s Andre Thieme riding DSP Chakaria, winning on a total fault score of 6.84. The silver went to Martin Fuchs riding Leone Jei on a total of 9.31 faults. The bronze was secured by Peder Fredricson riding Catch Me Not S, just behind with 9.46 faults. The fourth place went to Germany’s Christian Kukuk, the only other rider to get less than 10 faults throughout the championships.
In Canada, at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, the Rolex 5 star showjumping took place but still behind closed doors. This was another big 1.60m course designed by Anthony D’Ambrosio from the USA. Riders from ten nations took part making up the 25 athletes to start. The winner was Kent Farrington from the United States riding Gazelle with two clears and a time of 40.91 seconds. The second went to Brazil, Eduardo Menezes riding H5 Quintol, again with a double clear but just behind the winner with 41.88 seconds. The third was from Canada, Erynn Ballard in 44.89 on the clock with no faults. Seven riders went through to the jump off having gone clear in the first round.
Still no major CDI 5 star competitions to talk about, but the world athlete rankings for dressage certainly had a major jolt. Isabel Werth from Germany had been the world ranked number one effectively since April 2019. Now the FEI have made fellow German rider and Olympic Gold medallist Jessica Von Bredow Werndl number one with 2999 points. Isabel Werth, who was previously number one with Bella Rose 2 has been dropped to number 11 but she has retained the second highest ranked spot with another of her rides – Weihegold. Isabel has already announced that Bella Rose will be retired after the dressage European Championships. Denmark’s Catherin Defour, has for the first time got herself into the top three. She stand at number 3 with 2754 points. Charlotte Dujardin, who has been out of the rankings since Valegro retired, is back knocking at the door, very closely behind Catherin on 2736 points riding Mount St John Freestyle. It will only take one more decent win for this pairing and we will see Charlotte back in the top three rankings.