Luhmühlen, Germany—June 16—Towards the end of the dressage on Friday at the Longines Luhmühlen CCI5*-L, no one had come close to Thursday leader Pippa Funnell’s score of 23.1 with MGH Grafton Street.
But when fellow British rider Laura Collett cantered down centerline on London 52, the crowd fell hushed. Throughout their ride, their scores trended as low as 19.0, and by the end, they’d taken the lead on 20.3.
Funnell is now in second place, and Kitty King with Vendredi Biats are now in third on 26.8.
“He felt amazing,” said an elated Collett. “He’s gotten so good in that phase. He was just so with me, and I can really show him off now. He went through a phase of being really fragile, and now he loves it.”
Collett admitted she had a bit of concern as she moved from the first warm-up arena to the final one with the Keith Scott and Karen Bartlett’s 14-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Landos x Quinar Z).
“He started off in the big arena and felt really nice and relaxed, then went over to the final arena, and I totally lost him,” she said. “He hasn’t done that to me for a long time. I was getting a little bit nervous because he just started to tense up, and I lost the connection, so literally, they said, ‘You’ve got three minutes,’ and he just took a deep breath, and [I had him back.] As soon as he went in the arena, he just knows now.”
She credited help from Ian Woodhead and Carl Hester at home, and said once she gets to a competition, she does “very little dressage. He knows the moves, and that’s what we have to trust. It’s basically about getting his brain right. We went through a phase of overworking him, and he just got body-tired, so we just do different things like hacking and keeping him occupied and getting his body worked, doing pole work in the morning. It just really relaxes him so he can go in and do his thing.”
The pair’s last big cross-country test was at the FEI World Eventing Championship (Italy) where they had a blip on cross-country, but overall their recent record has been good. They were the 2022 Badminton Horse Trials (England) winners, and they won their last international outing at Bicton CCI4*-S (England) in May.
Collett said she’ll be keeping her and the gelding’s focus on tomorrow’s cross-country course.
“It’s one of those courses that there could be a silly blip anywhere,” she said. “There’s no margin for error. All the distances are kind of on a three-stride, so you have to get it right. There’s no adding or changing your mind. Once you’re in there you’ve got to make it happen, so fingers crossed!”
U.S. rider Boyd Martin rode the third of his three horses today as the last to go. Luke 140 scored a 30.1 to sit inside the top 10 in a three-way tie.
The Luke 140 Syndicate’s 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Landos x Omega VI) is making his five-star debut.
“It’s his first go at that test, and there was a bit of atmosphere in there, and Luke’s an electric horse, so he lost a little bit of concentration at the beginning,” said Martin. “Unfortunately, he broke in the first medium trot, so a bit of a disaster at the beginning of the test, but to recover and get a score of 30’s not so bad.”
As for tomorrow, Martin has a different plan for Luke and his other rides Fedarman B and Tseterleg TSF.
“I think my biggest challenge with Luke is just being able to slow him down!” he said with a laugh. “He’s pretty aggressive and bold and feisty, and trying to slow him down at the jumps without wasting time is my biggest challenge. I’ll hop on him very early tomorrow morning and canter around and try to take a bit of juice out of him and work on some turns and going forward and back and try and get him adjustable before we start.”
Tamie Smith also has a five-star debutante in Julia and David Guariglia’s Solaguayre California, a 12-year-old Argentinean-bred mare (Casparo x Solaguayre Calandria).
They scored a 31.9 for 15th place. “She’s green. She still has another six to 12 months to be stronger,” said Smith. “I felt like she gave me everything she had, and she was very obedient and listened. I felt like the test was executed well.”
“She’s a bit of a dragon, but in a way that’s good,” she said when asked about “California’s” personality. “She’s a mare, so she has her opinions. We always have to negotiate and come to a compromise, but when it’s time to perform, she always gets to business and gets serious.”
The pair did well at the Land Rover Kentucky CCI4*-S in May, which Smith chose as preparation for Luhmühlen.
“I wasn’t sure how she was going to feel [at Kentucky.] She won Morven Park [CCI4*-L in Virginia] last year, but not the way I would have wanted her to,” she said. “She felt green, and I just wanted to test her [at Kentucky] before. On paper you’d say go do Kentucky, but I’d spoken to her owners, and they’re amazing, supportive people, and I talked about what was best for her. I wasn’t sure I was going to do a five-star in the spring. I always want to go into a five-star feeling like I haven’t left anything on the table.”
After a third-place finish at the Tryon CCI4*-S (North Carolina), Smith knew she’d made the right decision to come to Germany.
Matt Flynn and A. Patrick Flynn, Kathleen Flynn and Merry Go Round Farm’s 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Wizzerd x Amai) Wizzerd also headed down centerline for the U.S. and scored a 34.2 for 21st place.
Dan Kreitl was the first rider down centerline this morning in the CCI4*-S Meßmer Trophy division on Carmango, and they scored a 35.4 to sit in 29th place.
It’s Kreitl’s first trip to Europe ever, and he’s spent the last two weeks at Lara de Liedekerke-Meier and her husband Kai-Steffen Meier facility, Arville Sporthorses, in Belgium.
“It seems like the average quality of rider is maybe a step up, and of course being here at an FEI event, there’s a lot of the best riders and horses. But everybody’s super nice, and it’s fun to be in a competitive environment,” he said of his first impressions of European eventing.
As for his test with Kay Dixon’s 10-year-old Westphalian gelding (Chirivel x Taramanga), he thought it was good overall.
“I was hoping it could be a little bit better,” he said. “I had a couple of mistakes, and I could have done a little better, but overall he’s an awesome horse and tries so hard, and he can generally be pretty steady, so I’m thankful for that. I’m pretty excited to be here.”
He’s looking forward to tomorrow’s course and then heading to Aachen (Germany) in two weeks.
“He’s a beast on the cross-country,” he said. “I think we should handle that course quite well. He knows his job, and it looks like a course that will suit him well. I’ve had him since he was 4, and we’ve shared all our first experiences together. We know each other very well.”
Hallie Coon was the other U.S. representative in the CCI4*-S on Cute Girl, a 9-year-old Holsteiner mare (Coventry x Caligula) that she owns. They scored a 32.1 for 14th place heading into cross-country.
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Registration for the 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention is now open! Join the USEA in St. Louis, Missouri, this Dec. 7-10 for a weekend of mingling with fellow enthusiastic eventers to partake in discussions about the future of the sport. This year’s event will include a keynote address by Dr. Temple Grandin, a world-renowned scientist and author, a celebration of champions at the Annual Awards Dinner, and more! The city of St. Louis also has so many opportunities to sight-see and explore.
The second and final day of competition at the 2023 USEF/USEA Developing Horse Eventing National Championships was all about precision as the 6-year-old CCI2*-S Championship competitors tackled both jumping phases and the 7-year-old CCI3*-S Championship pairs conquered Mogie Bearden-Muller’s cross-country track at Stable View in Aiken, South Carolina.
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It was a busy day at Stable View Oktoberfest in Aiken, South Carolina as all FEI divisions and a few national divisions kicked off their competition weekend, including the 2023 USEF/USEA Developing Horse Eventing National Championships. Both the 6-year-olds and 7-year-olds got their chance to shine down the centerline at the start of the day, with the 7-year-olds also giving their best effort across Michael Vallaincourt’s show jumping track later this afternoon.