Jun 15, 2023

Funnell and MGH Grafton Street Lay Down Their Best Test to Take the Lead at Longines Luhmühlen CCI5*-L

By Lindsay Berreth - USEA Staff
Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street. USEA/Lindsay Berreth photos

Luhmühlen, Germany—June 15—Pippa Funnell has been riding the high of a big Bramham CCI4*-L (England) win just days ago with her up-and-comer MCS Maverick, and she kept that positive energy going into the Longines Luhmühlen CCI5*-L on today’s first day of dressage with Jonathan and Jane Clarke’s MGH Grafton Street, scoring a 23.1 to take the early lead.

“Delighted—really chuffed,” she said of her ride on the 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding by OBOS Quality. “I think it just goes to show that it does these older horses so much good when their jockeys can go away the week before at Bramham so he didn’t have me drilling him! I’m always one for trying not to overwork them, and same thing here actually. I didn’t overdo the training, and you see everyone taking it very seriously—I try to keep myself in a jumping saddle and keep him happy because he gets bored if I do too much sitting trot. I think he was with me all the way. I personally think it’s one of the best, if not the best tests he’s ever done. I can’t complain.”

Funnell took over the ride on the gelding in 2015 after Andrew Nicholson had taken him to the CCI3* level.

Their biggest accomplishment to date was winning the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in 2019, but they’ve had a few blips on their cross-country record since then, including a fall at Badminton in 2022, which was their last five-star start.

Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street.

“He’s known as ‘Squirrel,’ and he can be a naughty little squirrel,” said Funnell. “On his day he can be really good, like he’s shown when he won Burghley. But he also can be a little bit cheeky, so I have to be with him every step of them way. It’s not that he’s cheeky because he wants to run out. It’s more that he’s quite difficult in his ride in his balance, and where I struggle with him is sometimes getting his eyes locked on a focused. If I get the eyes on where he’s gotta go, he’s normally very good, but it’s trying to get the eyes between the flags.”

Funnell’s already had a look at Mike Etherington-Smith’s cross-country course, and says there will be plenty to do on Saturday.

“Plenty of arrowheads, plenty of corners, plenty of lines. It’s certainly not as big as we have at Badminton and Burghley, but it’s twistier through the woods. It’s technical, with lots to do,” she said.

Fellow British rider Kitty King slotted into second place (26.8) on Vendredi Biats, a 14-year-old Selle Français gelding (Winningmood x Liane Normande) owned by Diane Brown, Sally Lloyd Baker, Sally Eyre, and Samantha Wilson.

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF.

Boyd Martin brought three horses to Luhmühlen, and after day 1, he’s the best of the U.S. bunch with Christine Turner, Thomas Turner, and Tommie Turner’s Tsetserleg TSF (Windfall 2 x Thabana).

Martin is rerouting the 16-year-old Trakehner gelding from an early runout at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event in May.

They scored a 31.1 to lie in sixth place. Martin also rode the Annie Goodwin Syndicate’s Fedarman B, a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Eurocommerce Washington x Paulien B) to eighth on 32.4 in the gelding’s first five-star appearance. Martin still has five-star debutante Luke 140 to start tomorrow.

“Thomas did really well,” said Martin. “It’s hard going really early, but I thought he put in a good test. Both horses, I wish I had my time over again and did one or two things a bit differently, but all in all it wasn’t a disaster, and we’re sort of within striking distance.”

Boyd Martin and Fedarman B.

“[Fedarman B] went well,” he continued. “I was very pleased with him. It’s his first attempt at this five-star test, and we’ve been practicing it like mad. We got about 80 percent of what we’ve been getting at home, which is pretty good for the first time. Bettina [Hoy] and [wife] Silva have been training me trying to get the canter a bit shorter, and then I did the exact opposite and let him rip. But he’s still good. He’s a little bit inexperienced in the ring, but all in all I’m very pleased. If he could finish on that, that’d be fantastic.”

Martin’s walked the course already, but said he’s still getting a feel for it and deciding on a plan for each of his horses. “It’s very twisty with a lot of accuracy questions with narrows and corners, so I’ve got to make sure I go as fast as I can but then really have them balanced and thinking when they need to slow down and turn at the corners and narrows,” he said. “I think it’s an accumulation. There’s not one jump where I’m sick to my stomach, but it’s a bit relentless where it’s combination after combination. The last three jumps look nice, so if I get to there, I’ll be just holding them together and making sure I finish the job well.”

Sydney Elliott is making her Luhmühlen debut on longtime partner QC Diamantaire, a 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Diarado x Lantana) owned by Carol Stephens. They scored a 37.8 for 15th place.

“Two years ago at Aachen [Germany] he had a complete meltdown, so this is such a big step for him,” she said of her test, attributing much of the gelding’s relaxation to exposure to big venues over their career. “The last few years he’s been doing better and better. He’s 13 now, so we’re an old married couple at this point.”

Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire.

Elliott’s spent 12 days with Lara de Liedekerke-Meier and her husband Kai-Steffen Meier at their facility, Arville Sporthorses, in Belgium.

“They’re family at this point,” she said. “I came early so I could spend some time with him and have a little bootcamp before I came here. He is so great, but he does get nervous, so to have a few extra days [is good].”

Of the cross-country course she said, “I love it. It looks great. I think it will be very testing on time, so we just have to be strategic on where we can go fast in tight turns. For this horse, it’s always the water, and that’s quite a big jump in at the first one, so that’s always on my mind no matter if it’s a three-star or a five-star with this one.”

Katherine Coleman and RLE Limbo Kaiser.

Katherine Coleman rode her test on her own RLE Limbo Kaiser, a 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Abdullah xx xAn Cailin Donn). They scored a 36.0 for 13th place.

“He was a good boy. This is my first five-star with him, and he gets a bit tense, so it’s just keeping him calm. I’m pleased,” she said.

“Kaiser’s” completed the Pau CCI5*-L with his former rider, Rosa Onslow, and Coleman’s had him for two seasons.

“He was meant to do Pau last season and had a good season, but he pulled a shoe [at Chatsworth] on cross-country, and had a bit of trauma laminitis, so he missed the rest of that season,” she explained. “He had glue-on shoes over the winter, now he’s come back out. We haven’t got much eventing under our belts this spring, so he’s just done a couple and come here.”

Hallie Coon and Global EX.

The final U.S. rider, Hallie Coon and Global EX, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Contador x Wesely Wonderfly) scored a 38.4 for 16th place.

U.S. riders Matt Flynn (Wizzerd) and Tamie Smith (Solaguayre California) will complete their dressage tests tomorrow.

Dressage gets underway tomorrow at 1:45 p.m. CEST.

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