Piggy French Tops Our Roundup of Eventing

Piggy French. Winner of the Badminton Trophy and went on to have such an awesome season

It’s that time of year when the great horse sports that our steeds provide is drawing to a close. It is fitting maybe that this, our fiftieth post takes us back to our first post which was about eventing.  The Eventing season has now ended and now seems like a good time to have our first review of the different disciplines. Like most years, there have been incredible achievements and stories from the world of eventing.

The headline act for us has with no doubt been the success of Great Britain’s Piggy French, who not only won her first Badminton Horse Trials amongst many other wins, but also got married to boot!

In the sport, there was a major change for 2019. The FEI decided that the grades of shows would change. All four star events, like Badminton, Burghley, Kentucky and others would now be known as five star events. Previous, three stars would become four star and so on down the scale.

The first main event of the year was as usual, the Kentucky three day event in late April with contenders for the title from around the globe attending. Sponsored once again by Land Rover.

Oliver Townend. Ended up as world number one and winner of Kentucky

Ollie Townend was looking to retain his crown following his success in the 2018 event. This event is also one of the three which qualify riders for the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, the other two being Badminton and Burghley. If the same rider wins all three events consecutively, then they become a Rolex Grand Slam Champion and win $1 million to boot. It has only been achieved on two occasions, once with Pippa Funnell of Great Britain in 2003 and the second winner was Michael Jung of Germany 2016. Ollie Townend started well in leading the field in the dressage – a lead he was not to give up for the rest of the event. There were forty one starters for the event. Ollie won with a total of 25.3 penalties over the three disciplines riding Cooley Master Class, but it came down to the last jump in the showjumping to ensure his victory. The top three in the show jumping were all clear, so Ollie had to be sure to run clear, otherwise he would have slipped to third place! Second was Boyd Martin from the USA on 27.9 and third was Tim Price for New Zealand.

Piggy French winner of her first Badminton

The next stop Badminton, sponsored for the last time by Mitsubishi Motors. There were rather more runners in the second 5* event. There were 80 starters of which 56 completed all three disciplines. Christopher Burton of Australia held third and fourth at the finish with his two rides. Ollie Townend was champing at the bit once again, and in the showjumping was the final rider on Ballaghmor Class in top position, but he had no room for any faults. He knocked one down giving him a final total of 27.1. Piggy French riding Vanir Kamira, the penultimate rider, had a clear round and so moved from second to winner with 26.8. It was a very emotional Piggy in the interviews afterwards, and only a day or so later, she married her long term partner in secret, so what an amazing spring she had! Her year continued with further success as part of the Silver winning medal team for the European Championships and she also won the World Young Horse Championships riding Cooley Lancer.

From Badminton the third of the six FEI 5 star events moved to Germany for their show piece eventing at Luhmuhlen sponsored by Longines. There were 33 starters, eleven of which withdrew at some stage during the competition.

Tom McEwen – 2nd here and winner at Pau later in the season

The winner was New Zealand’s Tim Price riding Ascona M with 31.4 penalties. In second was Britain’s Tom McEwen riding Figaro Van Het Broekxhof, his best ever result in a 5 star or equivalent event. Also from Britain was Alexander Bragg riding Zagreb, who was third. The top German was Andreas Ostholt, who finished in eleventh place. Although there was a very international line up for the event, the German competitors were a little thin on the ground. Michael Jung, such a prolific rider had gone show jumping and was on some of the German Nations Cup teams and Ingrid Klimke did not compete either.

The fourth 5 star was held at Burghley in the UK. Sponsored by Land Rover.

Pippa Funnell. Winner at Burghley and part of the GBR Silver Medal Team

There were 67 starters of which 34 did not complete the three disciplines in this event. Many people think that the Mark Phillips designed course is the most difficult of all the cross country courses, this is of course a matter of opinion. However with over half the field having to retire or be eliminated on the cross country does suggest that some adjustments of the difficulty may be in order for future years? However, take nothing away from the winner, Pippa Funnell riding MGH Grafton Street with the Badminton Champion just behind her riding Vanir Kamira once again was Piggy French. The show jumping was very close. The top three were within 2 penalties of each other. The third rider was Ollie Townend once again riding Ballaghmor Class. Both Pippa and Ollie had one fence down in the show jumping, but were well enough ahead to keep their places after the dressage. Piggy French though came really well during the cross country and showjumping, where she received no further penalties to add to her dressage score.

The fifth 5 star event is always one of the last major international events for the European eventing calendar, at Pau in France. This can be a wet show, and the cross country course is sort of embedded within the actual race track which is certainly unusual. Pau is set in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountain range, and scenically is quite spectacular. There was a very international feel with the 42 starters coming from countries all over the globe. The winner was Great Britain’s Tom McEwen riding Toledo de Keyser. He was quite well ahead of the two Australians occupying second and third final spots with 25.7 penalties. Christopher Burton riding Quality Purdey was second with 33.8 and fellow Australian Shane Rose riding Quality was third. Of the 42 starters, 15 failed to complete.

The sixth and final 5 star FEI event is held in Australia – when all the Europeans have finished for the season. All the competitors were either Australian or from New Zealand. There were 22 entries for this event. Like the Badminton event, the Australian International was sponsored by Mitsubishi Motors. At the end of the dressage day, Emma Bishop from New South Wales was in the lead with 30.30 penalties with her fellow countryman

Hazel Shannon winner of the final 5 star FEI 3 day event in Australia.

Hazel Shannon in second with 30.70. In the cross country, 19 of the 20 dressage starters went over the Mike Etherington Smith designed course. Dressage leader Emma Bishop was sadly eliminated in the cross country and so on a final score after her cross country, Hazel Shannon riding Willingfordpark Clifford took the lead with 30.70 penalties, her original dressage score. In second came Amanda Pottinger riding Just Kidding moving up from 7th in the dressage. These two were the only two to get round without having any further penalties added to their scores. In third after the cross country was Diane Gilder riding Your Attorney. Amanda and Diane, both from New Zealand finished the second part of this competition on 34.10 and 38.60 respectively.  In the final part, the show jumping, 14 of the original riders jumped. None of them managed a clear round which made for a tense finish to the event. The overnight third, Diane Gilder ended up with 16 faults and finished in sixth place, Hamish Cargill came from 12th to 5th place finishing on 54.95 points, just 05 ahead of Diane. In fourth was Amanda Pottinger from New Zealand riding Just Kidding on 48.10 with Laura Brown going into third on Sky’s Da Limit with 47.40. In second was fellow Australian Stuart Tinney riding Leporis with 54.90 penalties. He rose from 8th after the cross country. Finally Hazel Shannon collected 8 faults in the show jumping, but managed to retain her lead finishing with a total of 38.70 penalties riding Willingapark Clifford riding for Australia.

Ingrid Klimke on Hale Bob OLD. Gold Medallist

Finally, we should mention the European Championships which this year were held in Germany, at Luhmuhlen. All the major players were out in force to try to impress their country’s selectors looking at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. The team winners were Germany, who were well out in front all the way. Their team made up of Ingrid Klimke riding her well known Hales Bob, Michael Jung, back in the fold with fischerChimpmunk FRH, Andreas Dibowski with FHR Corrida and Kai Ruder with Colani Sunrise won with a total penalty of 82.5. The silver medal team went to Great Britain who put up a strong performance with 104.8. Their team was Ollie Townend with Cooley Master Class, Piggy French with Quarrycrest Echo, Pippa Funnell with Magas Hope, called up at the very last minute, and Kristina Cook with Billy the Red. In bronze medal was Sweden with 105.1 just ahead of France with 107.5 penalties. As can be seen from the scores, the minor placing medals were all nip and tuck all the way through. In the individual medals, Germany’s Ingrid Klimke took gold with fellow German Michael Jung taking silver. In bronze, maybe the surprise of the whole event was the success of young Cathiel Daniels from Ireland. He was riding Rioghan Rua, a horse he rode at Badminton a couple of years ago.

All in all, another exciting year’s sport. The final FEI Eventing Rider Rankings were:

  1. Oliver Townend Great Britain with 554 points
  2. Tim Price  New Zealand  with 542 points
  3. Christopher Burton Australia with 515 points

Fourth and fifth places were both from Great Britain, namely Piggy French in fourth with Tom McEwen in fifth. Two riders from the USA occupied sixth and seventh, Lauren Kieffer and Boyd Martin respectively. The eighth top rider was Michael Jung from Germany with Alexander Bragg from Great Britain in ninth and Shane Rose from Ireland in tenth.

Despite her final world ranking, Piggy French for us was the standout athlete of the year in the sport, and congratulations have to go to her, firstly on getting married in such a secret way and of course her winning the Badminton Horse Trials.

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