Brilliant Brits bring home bronze at FEI Junior European Championships
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Great Britain has captured the team bronze medal at the FEI Dressage European Championships for Juniors, taking place this week in the beautiful setting of Gestüt Schafhof in Kronberg, Germany (18 – 23 July 2023). A young British team has produced consistently impressive tests over the past two days to achieve a place on the podium, and back-to-back team bronze medals for GBR Juniors.
After the Championships ribbon was cut at a spectacular opening ceremony on Tuesday, the first two days of the 2023 FEI Dressage Junior European Championships witnessed an outstanding race for the team medals, with Europe’s leading Juniors stepping forward in pursuit of top honours; though the result of the team competition wasn’t without debate as, unfortunately, an error of course for one of the Austrian riders was not recognised during the test by the Judge at C. Following an appeal by the Austrian Federation, the scores were subsequently amended.
As a compromise, to ensure no nation was disadvantaged, and in the spirit of fair play, two silver medals were awarded, with the British team retaining the bronze position on a team total of 214.030. The home nation gained gold on 221.060, followed by Austria and Denmark, both in silver on team totals of 214.469 and 214.243 respectively.
Isla Sully, competing at her first ever FEI European Championships, rode with a maturity that belied her 14 years as she stepped into the role of team pathfinder as first of the Brits down the centreline yesterday morning. Riding Cassandra Sully’s noble Lusitano gelding, Vagabond de Massa (Rieto x Xaquiro), pictured above, she helped put GBR in a strong position at the early stage of the team competition with a thrilling personal best score of 71.121%.
Vagabond, also 14, was bred in the South of France by Sylvain Massa, and with Anna Dalrymple was on last year’s British team at the Young Rider Europeans, prior to him joining the Sully family last August. The duo, who’ve achieved a series of top-three placings and wins at Addington, Le Mans and Wellington CDIs in their debut season, presented a Team Test full of expression and style on the opening day of competition putting them second after the first rotation of riders.
Next forward for Great Britain was Junior team debutant Ruby Hughes (15) with Classic Goldstrike, pictured above, who she co-owns with her parents Gareth and Rebecca Hughes and Julia Horning. Ruby and the elegant Dutch gelding produced an impressive, fluent test in front of judges Hans Voser (SUI), Marietta Almasy (FRA), Alice Schwab (AUS), Agnieszka Majewska (POL) and Katrina Wüst (GER) to earn a fantastic final score of 70.455%.
Classic Goldstrike (Tango x Krack C), 13, can only be described as the ultimate family horse. Owned by the family since he was three years old, he was produced through the levels by Rebecca, and has competed at international Grand Prix with Gareth, before recently joining forces with the couple’s daughter, Ruby. As a pony rider, Ruby represented GBR twice at European Championships, this being her first-time appearance on the Junior team.
As day two dawned, and with Great Britain lying third, there was much anticipation going into part two of the Junior team medal competition. Sixth to go this afternoon, 16-year-old Mette Dahl stepped forward with her exciting new ride, Caporal de Massa, a beautiful French-bred Lusitano stallion who interestingly shares the same parentage as his full brother, Vagabond de Massa.
A well-presented performance by Mette and ‘Capo’, pictured above, showing lovely rhythm in the trot components of the test, along with uphill, expressive canter work, was awarded a super score of 70.879% to help bolster the team total. This is Mette’s third European Championship appearance, and Caporal de Massa has been on the French Junior team for the past three years under Mathilde Juglaret; however, this was a debut Championships as a combination for this brand-new pairing.
With the British side in the running for a medal, British anchorman, Myles Graham showed great mettle with a superb ride under pressure this afternoon. Aboard his 2022 Junior team bronze medal partner, Nibeley Union Hit (Nibeley Union Jack x Sandro Hit), the 16-year-old from Wiltshire stepped up to the challenge with immense focus and maturity.
Quickly putting a couple glitches behind them, Myles presented Caroline Bell’s 16-year-old British-bred mare in a model balance and frame to post a fabulous score of 72.030% - enough to put GBR, temporarily, into the silver medal position behind Germany until the afternoon saw the Danish combination of Sophia Boje Obel Jørgensen and Askari Pilekaer do just enough to help squeeze Denmark ahead of the British four.
Myles and ‘Una’ have achieved great form all season with a double win at Le Mans CDI at the beginning of the year, and they also enjoyed wins at Addington CDI. This affirmed partnership showed this afternoon, with an impressive team test performance to conclude the British team medal campaign.
“We are extremely proud of the team’s achievements this week,” commented Chef d’Equipe Nina Boex. “Isla set that standard – that was phenomenal, then Ruby and Mette kept that 70%+ standard, which left Myles to go and do his job.
“Their team spirit has been phenomenal, and they’re such a young team of riders who have all performed brilliantly,” continued Nina. “The hope was there, and then it started dawning on them that it could become a reality, and they delivered. They’re so young and it will be interesting to see what the future holds for them.”
The Junior Individual Test occupies the next two days of competition, with a set of individual FEI medals awarded on Saturday plus the chance to make the top-18 who qualify for Sunday’s freestyle.
British Dressage congratulates Myles, Ruby, Isla and Mette, and all the horses’ owners, as well as Chef d’Equipe Nina Boex, Coach Advisor Peter Storr, Performance Manager Caroline Bell and all the dedicated teams behind the scenes, including grooms Sally Williams (Caporal de Massa), Angharad Harries (Classic Goldstrike), Tammy Thornton (Nibeley Union Hit) and Tegan Jones (Vagabond de Massa).
1. Germany, 221.060
2. Austria, 214.469
2. Denmark, 214.243
3. Great Britain, 214.030
5. Sweden, 211.365
6. Switzerland, 210.333
7. France, 209.515
8. Belgium, 206.364
9. Hungary, 205.182
10. Netherlands, 203.818
11. Poland, 203.745
12. Spain, 203.001
13. Italy, 202.484
14. Finland, 201.424
15. Ukraine, 195.061
16. Ireland, 193.455
Individual top ten and British rider placings
1. Rose Oatley and Sommernacht, 74.424% (GER)
2. Lana-Pinou Baumgürtel and Zinq Emma FH, 73.394% (GER)
3. Josephine Ruppert and Bella Donna 149, 73.242% (GER)
4. Annabelle Rehn and Vestervangs Garson, 73.212% (DEN)
5. Anna Dupay Pelardy and Jarina des Vallees, 73.212% (FRA)
6. Allegra Schmitz-Morkramer and Libertad, 73.152% (GER)
7. Florentina Jöbstl and Bodyguard 49, 72.636% (AUS)
8. Myles Graham and Nibeley Union Hit, 72.030% (GBR)
9. Sophia Boje Obel Jørgensen and Askari Pilekaer, 71.879% (DEN)
10. Fanny Jöbstl and Simsalabim, 71.803% (AUS)
12. Isla Sully and Vagabond de Massa, 71.121% (GBR)
14. Mette Dahl and Caporal de Massa, 70.879% (GBR)
17. Ruby Hughes and Classic Goldstrike, 70.455% (GBR)
Photo © Łukasz Kowalski