Day One round-up from the FEI Eventing World Championship

“Oh my God, what a horse!” said Laura Collett after putting the British Equestrian Eventing team firmly into gold medal position at the FEI World Championships in Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy, with a personal-best score of 19.3 aboard her own, Karen Bartlett and Keith Scott’s London 52.

“He definitely loves a crowd. He went into that arena and said yes, everyone is here to see me. He’s just a pleasure to ride when he’s like that. He was pretty good at Badminton [where the pair won, finishing on their dressage score of 21] but there were bits that weren’t quite good enough, and we’ve just been working on those, and I think once I got that first centre line out of the way, I thought, ‘Carl [Hester, who helps train Laura] will be happy with that!’ From then on it felt like he got better and better and I could have a lovely time, basically.”

Laura Collett and London 52 receive a dressage score of 19.3 (Image, British Equestrian/Jon Stroud Media)

Laura is in first place individually, and her score combined with that of Britain’s trailblazer Ros Canter and Michele Saul’s Lordships Graffalo (26.2, fourth place at this stage) means that our team have an 7.5-penalty advantage over second-placed New Zealand. Half a mark behind them in bronze position currently are the US team.

Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo are lying fourth individually with a score of 26.2 (Image, British Equestrian/Jon Stroud Media)

Ros – the individual gold medal winner at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon four years ago – was equally pleased with 10-year-old Lordships Graffalo, for whom this is a first championship.

“I’m absolutely delighted with Walter – he’s only a 10-year-old, so coming here is a big occasion for him,” she said. “We were lucky enough to practise our tests at Burghley, and I was saying how every day is still a school day for him – we are only just scratching the surface at this level, and I truly believe that in the next few years you are going to see a bigger and better Walter. I’m just delighted he went in there and was a complete professional – I don’t think he acted his age! He’s a very self-confident horse, he’s very happy in his own skin, adores attention – when I was practising outside, Ian Woodhead said, ‘don’t do a halt too close to the crowds because they are going to clap’; Walter doesn’t give a monkey’s. He’s in his element when people clap because they think it is all for him.

“As soon as I went in there I knew he was with me. We got the preparation right today, I think, and when he’s like that he’s very easy and has beautiful balance, so I can sit  up and he comes back to me, which is what makes him a lovely cross-country horse as well.”

And Britain’s individual rider, Yasmin Ingham, making her senior squad debut, is in individual silver medal position after posting a superb test on Sue Davies and Janette Chin’s Banzai Du Loir for a mark of 22.

A fabulous score of 22 for Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir (Image, British Equestrian/Jon Stroud Media)

Yasmin said: “Honestly, it’s the first time we’ve gone in the boards at an event and he’s felt completely listening and with me. I’m just so proud of him – he’s a really special horse and I still think there’s plenty more in there, which is even more exciting. He probably could have been a bit more sprightly, but I’d rather him do a test like that than have a little break in a movement somewhere or something like that. I couldn’t really fault him today at all.

“It’s so special [to make her first senior championship appearance]. I’ve worked towards this since I started riding; it’s always been one of my goals, and to achieve that has been a dream come true. Obviously the team behind the scenes is what has helped me get there – my owners, Sue Davies and Janette Chin, my family, all my trainers, the World Class team – there’s an army behind every rider, and they’ve all helped me get there, so it’s a big moment.”

New Zealand-based Kiwi Monica Spencer is in bronze medal position individually with the thoroughbred Artist after scoring 25.6.

The third and fourth riders for Team GB – Tom McEwen (Toledo De Kerser) and Oliver Townend (Ballaghmor Class) are due to do their dressage tests at 12.16pm and 16.54pm respectively Italian time.

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