Germany Imperious at Europeans with Great Britain Winning Silver
This weekend saw the final European Championships take place for three day eventing at Luhmuhlen in Germany. 670 miles away from Badminton not far from Hamburg, Luhmuhlen has hosted the European Championships for eventing on no less than six occasions. The first was in 1975. This year there were twelve teams taking part. The rules are the same as the other FEI Championships, where the worst score of the four team members can be disregarded. This is the same for each of the parts of the competition. In other words, the worst dressage score for the team is lost and the same goes for the cross country and showjumping sections. All the teams had four riders in each except Finland, Spain and Austria, all of whom had only three in their teams. This meant that all their scores counted and they had no disregard score. It is worth noting at this point that if a rider is eliminated for any reason, they carry 1000 penalty points for the team. Therefore if one team member from a team of three collects 1000 penalties, the team’s chance of any success or recognition is doomed.
The European Championships, under FEI rules compete at CCI 4* level under the new classification introduced in 2019. (The top level now being CCI 5*.) As usual the first two days are devoted to dressage. Half of the riders go on the first day, and the other half on the second. Forty five riders rode for their team and there were a further 28 riders riding as individuals.
Day One. Dressage
Merel Blom from the Netherlands kicked off proceedings in front of judges Martin Plewa from Germany, Anne Mette Binder from Denmark and Peter Shaw from Australia. The fourth horse in, Belgium’s Laura Loge soon set the day’s levels in scoring 28.8 penalties riding Absolut Allegro. The first if the British riders, Pippa Funnel riding Majas Hope
(who were only called up to ride for the team a couple of days before the start of the competition) had a difficult test and ended up being the GRB disregard score. The test of the day went to GBR’s Laura Collett riding as an individual, on London 52. She ended the day as leading rider with a score of 25.5. Piggy French rode a decent test for team GBR on Quarrycrest Echo getting 29.8. Second leading rider at the end of day one was Frenchman Thibaut Vallette and in third was Germany’s Kai Ruder.
Day Two. Dressage
As was usual on day two of the dressage when the rest of the 38 competitors rode, the stronger riders came to the fore. Anna Siemer from Germany started proceedings and got 31,9. She was riding as an individual. The tenth horse in was Michael Jung riding fischerChipmunk FRH from Germany who cruised into the lead with 20.9. It was another ten horses, before Kitty King riding for the GBR as an individual appeared and left with a score of 27.9 riding Vendredi Biats. The other two runners for team GBR, Tina Cook riding Billy The Red scored 28.3 and Oliver Townend riding Cooley Master Class also scored
well with 27.6. The day ended with the Brit riders coming 7th, 8th and 9th which was good enough to leave the GRB team in Silver medal position after the dressage. Ingrid Klimke riding SAP Hale Bob OLD ended the day behind her German team mate Michael Jung on 22.2 which meant that day one leader Laura Collett was pushed into individual bronze medal position. The day ended with everything to play for, but Germany ended the dressage in both team and Individual gold medal position. Belgium were in bronze. Karin Donkers and Laura Loge from Belgium both scored the same mark of 28.8 and were in 11th equal position.
Day Three. Cross Country
Always the most exciting part of a three day event, this one was no exception. The 26 fence course was designed by Mike Ethrington-Smith from Great Britain. As the event is at CCI4* level, none of the jumps were huge, but with the winding geography at Luhmuhlen, it was a twisty and quite technical track with four water features and several arrow head jumps. One of the jumps, coming out of the last water feature created quite a stir as it was a very colourful fence replicating a song bird. The second water, known in the past for fooling horses to think that the landing side was bare earth rather than water, due it being so still and uniform, was cleverly changed by Mike Etherington-Smith to have a spray of water just waterside of the entry hanging log, which made it easier for a horse to realize that it was in fact jumping into water.
There were 73 combinations came forward from seventeen countries to include those with teams as well as individual competitors. The first Brit to go was Pippa Funnell on Majas Hope, who had a difficult day in the dressage arena, but today made amends and went clear with no time faults.
The second, also for the team was Piggy French, who despite her mount Quarrycrest Echo giving her a most awkward round also got a clear with no time faults. By the time, Laura Collett riding London 52 as an individual took their turn, the colourful bird had started to take its toll as several combinations fell or ran out. It seemed that some horses were having difficulty in locking onto the fence for some reason. Unfortunately, Laura succumbed to this group – particular disappointing as she was in bronze medal position after the dressage. The fourth Brit to ride was Tina Cook – so dependable in British teams, but although going really well, for some extraordinary reason, she ran out at an easy fence after the second water.
Everything looked fine, and the expected jump just never came – a runout instead and 20 penalties collected. With things so tight at the top, the British team had to hope that Oliver Townend riding Cooley Master Class would jump a clear with no time faults. He obliged, thus preserving the team silver medal position as Tina’s penalties could be disregarded. In future, it is worth pointing out, it has been decided that from next year, teams will have only three members in each team and that there will be no disregarded score. The last British rider, Kitty King riding Vendredi Biats as an individual added only 2.4 time faults to her overnight score of 27.90.
As for the rest, Germany’s Michael Jung and Ingrid Klimke both went clear with no time added which kept them very comfortably in team gold position with them being individually in gold and silver medal positions respectively. Riders from Belgium and The Netherlands both had really bad days in the office as Belgium dropped from a medal position after the dressage down to 7th place following Laura Loge being eliminated, again at the pesky colourful bird fence! The whole Dutch team were also eliminated as two of their riders failed to finish. The lead after the cross country, as said was Germany with Great Britain in second and France coming up the leader board to hold third spot. Individual bronze medal position after the cross country was Frenchman Lt Col Thibaut Vallette riding Qing du Briot ENE HN
Day Four. Showjumping Day
With the Germans well out in front, they were odds on to win and also win the individual medals to boot, but with only 2 penalties between Great Britain and France, not even a fence, placings could change very quickly. With only another 6 to 10 penalties behind in total, Sweden, Italy and Ireland could also lay claim to the lesser medals in the team competition. However, before the showjumping even started, two horses were spun by the vets in the trot up. One of the French team horses, Alexis Goury’s ride Trompe l’Oeil d’Emery and Ireland’s November Night ridden by Ciaran Glynn. There were also three other withdrawals. This left 54 to compete over the 15 jumping efforts over the 12 jump course with a time allowed of 84 seconds designed by Marco Behrens from Germany.
The first British rider to go was Tina Cook, and although the team was still intact after the cross country, clear rounds would be essential if the silver medal was to be retained. Tina dually obliged. The second half of the jump off with the final 25 riders going was to be thrilling with the minor medal positions toing and froing between Teams, Great Britain, France, Sweden, and Italy. Jumping for Italy, Giovanni Ugolotti had a terrible time with five fences down which removed the Italian threat of a medal. Louise Romeike for Sweden followed and got a clear which meant that if the last Frenchman Tibaut Vallett had no room for a fence, otherwise, Sweden would take bronze and France would drop out of the medals. Tibaut Vallett did have a fence down, so Sweden got team bronze. Both Piggy French and Oliver Townend had a small margin for a mistake and both had one fence down. However, despite this Great Britain managed to hold onto their team silver. Germany were assured of team gold. The final chapter to be written, was whether Ingrid Klimke or Micheal Jung would earn individual gold. Ingrid Klimke on Hales Bob OLD was first in of the pair and went clear which meant that Michael Jung would have to go clear to keep his gold medal position. In the event he dropped one pole against all expectations so Ingrid retained her European crown which she won two years ago.
Another rider who needs to be mentioned in dispatches is Cathal Daniels, riding Rioghan Rua for Ireland, who as one of the youngest competitors, and in his first championship event rode a decent dressage getting a score of 29.9 and never incurred any further penalties. This gave him the individual bronze medal.
The final tally was Germany ended with 82.5 for team a full five fences ahead of Great Britain who ended with 104.8 for silver and Sweden who were just behind for bronze with a score of 105.1. France, who were always threatening to enjoy a medal finally came fourth with 107.8 penalties.
It was an exciting championship, but one thing must be very clear is that with the strength a depth to the German team, they must already be odds on to win Olympic Gold in Tokyo next year.