NEWs

British take control on day one of the FEI European Eventing Championships

 

With the first day of dressage complete, it was a case of a job well done for the two British combinations in action for the team. Pathfinders Kitty King and Vendredi Biats expertly did the job required, providing a solid start for the team with a score of 27.2, while World Champion pairing Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir are overnight leaders with a polished 23.4.  

The early pace was set by Andrew Heffernan and Gideon for The Netherlands, who put up 29.0 as the score to beat. First up as trailblazer for the British team was birthday girl Kitty King and her ever-faithful partner Vendredi Biats, who she rides for Diana Bown, Samantha Wilson, Sally Lloyd-Baker and the late Sally Eyre. As the duo entered the main arena from the ten-minute box, the clouds parted, and the sun shone down as if to announce their entrance.

They started well with eights from two of the three judges, and two more for the halt into rein-back. The rein-back itself showed a little tension, which was given two sixes, but it was quickly put behind them as the moved off into a relaxed, flowing rhythm. The 14-year-old gelding, bred locally to the Haras du Pin site, stayed relaxed through the walk tour, with largely sevens awarded. A bold extended canter was duly rewarded with two eights, which was repeated for the flying change that followed. The consistent spring, activity and relaxation continued right up to the end for the final halt and salute. A big pat from Kitty for the grey gelding after a very pleasing performance heading into the first break of the day.

All three members of the ground jury, Judy Hancock (GBR), Katrin Eichinger-Kniely (AUT) and Seppo Laine (FIN), awarded the mistake-free test with a +71% score, with Hancock, the president sat at the C position, going highest on 74.52%. The final aggregate score was 27.2 – a great birthday present for the Wiltshire-based rider and a strong start to the British team’s defence of the European Championship title.

After her test, Kitty told the awaiting media; “I was really, really proud of ‘Froggy’ [Vendredi Biats], he really stayed with me and was good in the contact. It was a very solid test, but I’m a bit disappointed with the mark, it’s a little bit off what he can score – I just hope they [the judges] don’t get too generous after a nice long lunch! He was really on side and didn’t really make any mistakes – the rein-back was a bit of a shame because he’s really good at those, but just a bit of miscommunication between us both. He was really super and he tried the whole time.”

She was then asked about her role as pathfinder for the British team, a role she did at the European Championship at Blair in 2015, where the British team took silver and she was fourth individually with Persimmon: “I’ve got a job to do going first, hopefully we’ll go out and put in a good score to get us all going, and do a good job for them all to fill them with confidence. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it [going first], but it’s not as bad as it seems. A good friend reminded me that some of my best rides have been when I haven’t had to sit and watch, so I’ve got to think about that and replicate those performances,” she said.

Kitty has had a quick preliminary walk with the team around Pierre Le GoupilIt’s cross-country course. “It’s a tough track, really twisty and hilly and the ground is fairly soft, so it’s going to be a good stamina test,” was her assessment. “There are questions right to the end, so you’re going to have to stay on your game. I’d say it’s a cross between Bramham and Luhümulen – Bramham dimensions and terrain with Luhmühlen’s twistiness – and he’s gone well at both, so I’m hoping that sets us in good stead. It’s a good track and I’m looking forward to Saturday.”

The next in the British team rotation was our reigning World Champion duo, Yasmin Ingham and the second of the French-bred horses in the squad, Banzai du Loir – who thought the whoops and cheers of the crowd for the French rider who preceded them were all for him and simply he grew to the added attention. With a number of supporters from her native Isle of Man and Janette Chinn representing the ownership of The Sue Davies Fund watching on, as well as a sizable British contingent, the elegant pairing entered the area and delivered a lovely square halt.

The preliminary trot work was very pleasing, with the chestnut by Nouma D’Auzay looking light on his feet in a good, forward rhythm with great activity. The halt into rein-back was good and the rein-back regular, earning a nine from Katrin Eichernger-Kniely – the first of the day. The walk work was also relaxed, but the canter movements which followed really got the marks flowing, with plenty of eights coming from the president, Judy Hancock.

The extended canter was bravely ridden by Yasmin and the stride really ate up the ground, while her final extended trot was a picture that the judges scored the highest of the test, two eight-point fives and an eight. The final halt brought a bright smile across Yasmin’s face – and a wave of applause from her large fan club, many adorned in floppy Union flag top hats. The overall impression mark, which is worth double, yielded two eights and an eight point five to give the mark a final push – 23.4 was announced and the crowd went wild. Final percentages were 75.2% from E, 77.62% from C and 76.90% from M, with a final aggregate of 76.59%. It was plenty good enough to take a commanding lead over Kitty and a great boost for the team in the standings.

“He was amazing. It was very atmospheric, and he didn’t put a foot wrong. He did everything I asked him to do, and I’m delighted, so pleased,” beamed Yasmin after her test.

“We seem to have got a nice system that works for him, and he felt really extravagant in there. He was floating round the boards and he really is such a pleasure to ride in every phase. His trot work was beautiful, he was just so floaty and very accurate into the markers, so that was great and his trot at the end, he’s always got a nice reach in his shoulder and carries himself so well and so much cadence, so hopefully the judges liked it!” she explained.

“We rode the same test at Aachen, so I’ve been trying to get better at that four-star test, I’m pretty sure we came out with the same mark, which is slightly frustrating, but I couldn’t fault him, he was brilliant, so I’m delighted with the score,” she concluded.

Her early thoughts on the cross-country question are; “It’s a very interesting track, it’s very well built and designed and absolutely beautifully presented so I’m really looking forward to riding round it. There’s some serious questions and I think the ground is the same sort of ground we’ve been dealing with in England, they’ve had a lot of rain here so I’m really hoping that the next few days of dry weather will help with that, so looking forward to Saturday.

“I think there’s questions throughout the whole course, which obviously at a championship is what we expect, but definitely a big shock at fence seven  – you’re jumping off quite a large step, sort of Burghley ‘Leaf Pit’ vibes and then you’re rolling down the hill to quite a large drop into the water on a nice distance to the skinny. That’s quite an intense part of the course very early on. So, I think once we get it behind us and we can really get going and get us in a rhythm. It’s undulating and twisty, but it’s very big and bold out there, there’s lots of big ditches and brushes and everything dimensionally is quite big so, very lucky to be sat on an excellent jumping horse, so that is definitely a good thing,” she said.

The media asked about arriving in Haras du Pin as World Champion; “It’s really funny actually, I still look back and can’t believe that happened, Actually, today before my dressage, I watched my Pratoni test and I just tried to channel the same sort of  feeling I had before then, and it’s still amazing to look back on that, but I still put just as much pressure on myself and nothing really has changed in that fact. I’m just very competitive and want to make sure I do my best and make sure I ride Banzai to the best and show him off, and make everyone see how good he is.

“It’s definitely very positive. I’ve had some great results leading up to this and I think it’s important to gain as much experience as possible, I’m still very young in the sport and every time out I’m learning, so to have had two really good runs on two different horses at a five-star and probably the best four-star short in the world is definitely filling me full of confidence, which is good and I definitely won’t be taking it for granted. There’s lots to do and I’ll definitely be working hard to have some good results here. It’s incredible [in Haras du Pin], the atmosphere round our camp is electric. With the grooms, the support team, the riders and everybody that’s come out to watch, it’s just so lovely and I appreciate the support, so thank you to everybody that’s behind us and getting us out on the big stage so it’s brilliant,” she summed up.

As the day neared its end, it was looking like a British one-two, right up until the final competitor of the day, Jerome Robine, riding the Irish-bred Black Ice as an individual for Germany who posted 26.0 to sit neatly between the two Brits. In the team standings, Yasmin’s score puts her first individually. but also, the team with two riders gone from each of the ten nations. Germany is second and the Netherlands in third.

Tomorrow, it’s the turn of the third and fourth team riders, where we start to see more movement in the team leaderboard as the all-important scores come in and the remaining individual riders where the battles within the order hot up.

The action resumes at 09.00 BST tomorrow and British combination times (all BST) are:

  • Tom McEwen and JL Dublin – 09.18
  • Laura Collett and London 52 – 13.57
  • Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift – 14.42
  • Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo – 16.32

All the action will be available to stream live with English commentary on FEI.TV via a subscription to ClipMyHorse.TV. Click here for the full schedule.

Running orders and results – WST | FEI Eventing European Championship (worldsporttiming.com)

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The funding that the British Equestrian World Class Programme receives from the National Lottery and UK Sport is pivotal in preparing our teams for senior championships and supporting them on the ground.

British Equestrian is also extremely grateful for the support we enjoy from our partners – Bates Saddles, Dodson & Horrell, Fairfax & Favor, Haygain, NAF, SEIB and Toggi – and team suppliers – Equi-Trek, Horseware, Lotus Romeo, Marksway Horsehage and Point Two. We’re indebted for the year-round support they provide to the World Class Programme and British teams.

Image – Yasmin Ingham  (credit:  Peter Nixon)

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