Britain takes the lead on day one of FEI European Championships in Hagen
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On day one in Hagen, we witnessed an outstanding start for the British Equestrian team with our first two senior riders each delivering fantastic performances to put Great Britain in the gold medal position at the halfway stage of the team competition.
Gareth Hughes and Sintano Van Hof Olympia (pictured above), who travelled to Tokyo as reserves, finally got their chance to perform this morning as trailblazers for the British team. Gareth and the super-elastic, 11-year-old gelding who he co-owns with Judy Firmston-Williams, were awarded 74.394% from the judging panel of Susanne Baarup (DEN), Thomas Lang (AUT), Maria Colliander (FIN), Isabelle Judet (FRA), Isobel Wessels (GBR), Henning Lehrmann (GER) and Mariette Sanders van Gansewinkel (NED). It was a majestic performance from Gareth and the talented yet inexperienced Sandro Hit son.
“Do you know what, it’s been a long year!” smiled Gareth. “Sintano is only in his first year of Grand Prix and I honestly didn’t have him in mind for something like this in January. But he started the year and in his first couple of competitions impressed and we ended up going to Tokyo as reserve, which was amazing. But there was disappointment – not the team, they did unbelievably – but I didn’t get to go down the centreline. So we’ve then had the big build-up to here, and we got to go down the centreline!
“Last night I must have woken up about 20 times and rode half passes and transitions, and going through every moment. When he [Sintano] gets nervous, he goes into himself and sucks back, but as such a big-moving horse you need to be able to get your leg on and go forward. But do you know what, he was nervous and I held his hand, but he’s just done a mistake-free test. He stayed with me and I’m over the moon.
“He pulled me into the last centreline passages and it showed. He’s young and immature so another 12 months and he’s going to be fabulous.
“It feels like I’ve been building up to this for three months," continued Gareth. "Tokyo was tough, emotionally it was really difficult and to have to prepare to ride means your adrenaline goes up and down. It was a great experience but you still come home disappointed because you didn’t get to do what you wanted to do and that’s help the team."
Summing up today's Grand Prix, Gareth added, “I’ve not been able to compete since coming back [from Tokyo] and this is only his third international Grand Prix – he hasn’t seen anything like this. What I loved about him today is he cantered in, halted, he walked when needed, he tried, and if I can get him to the point I can ride him and gain some confidence, it’ll be perfect!”
Lottie Fry, who made her phenomenal Olympic debut a few short weeks ago, was the penultimate competitor on day one of the team competition. Everdale, ever the showman, was once again skilfully ridden by Lottie whose ability and maturity belies her 25 years.
The powerful Lord Leatherdale x Negro stallion (pictured above), co-owned by his rider and Van Olst Horses, showed supreme suppleness, adjustability and ease of performing all the Grand Prix movements. A PB score of 77.671% went up on the board as they left the arena putting them squarely at the top of the leaderboard. Her closest competitors being Denmark’s Nanna Skodborg Merrald with former British team horse Atterupgaards Orthilia (75.078%) and Germany’s Dorothee Schneider with Faustus (74.985%).
Whilst Lottie was in Verden partnering six-year-old Kjento to his world championship title, Everdale enjoyed a week off before a few days’ preparation for Hagen.
“He’s been amazing since we got back – so fresh and raring to go,” explained Lottie. “His energy never runs out; he’ll go all day every day, he just loves to work. As soon as I get on, he’s ready for work, focused and wants to do the best job he can.
“Today felt like a really good test but I feel there are so many more marks to come in the future, which is really exciting. It’s inspiring to think what may come in the future but for today I’m really happy with him,” she continued.
“I really trust him and feel I can take a risk with him like in the extended canter. That’s such a fun movement with him – you really feel like you’re flying and then you get to the end and it’s ‘gosh, next movement!
“He’s really grown up through Tokyo, he feels more mature, and he’s not been tired at all! Today we could wait and and enjoy it. I’m happy with today for the rest of the team and fingers crossed for tomorrow.”
On being such a busy lady recently, with Tokyo, Verden, here and on to Aachen Lottie said, “I love it – I just love competing and I’m so lucky that I have so many wonderful horses to ride. I think I’m just running on adrenaline from show to show at the moment. It’s been a great few months.”
The team Grand Prix continues tomorrow with Carl Hester and En Vogue going at 10:51 (09:51 BST) and Charlotte Dujardin with Gio at 14:33 (13.33 BST).
Exciting start for British U25s
Our first two U25 team riders each put up a sterling performance on the Hagen stage this afternoon in the Inter II for the first day of team competition. Championship first-timer Lucy Amy (23) with Rudy, a 12-year-old gelding owned by Richard Amy, did us proud with a score of 66.912% whilst Lewis Carrier and Diego V, his 13-year-old Spielberg gelding, posted a super international PB of 70.471%, putting Great Britain into the bronze medal position overnight.
Lucy, who has specialised in the sport for a mere four years, hails from the Channel Island of Jersey but is now based in Wiltshire and trains with her British compatriot, Gareth Hughes. She acquired Rudy (pictured above) as a two-year-old with the show jumping in mind, but under the recommendation of Roland Tong opted to take the dressage route – a decision that’s sure paid off! Ten years on, and with a Preliminary national title gained along the way, here they are at their first Europeans.
“We started really well,” commented Lucy on evaluating her test. “I was happy with the entry, the trot felt really good but he’s only really just started at this level so when we went into passage he went green. He got a bit wobbly and we broke into canter and had a few more blips but on the whole I was really pleased with him, he just needs a bit more confidence.
Talking about Rudy she says, “He’s a great character and tries really hard – he’s very honest. He seems very confident but is sensitive and really wants to try for you. You can’t over-ride him as he then panics and wonders what he’s doing wrong. I feel like I now know a bit more what to look out for and the Grand Prix test suits him better really.
“I never imagined I’d be here. I always dreamt of jumping 1.30m and doing a Prix St Georges test when I started in dressage.”
Lewis Carrier and Diego (pictured above) are a talented and established duo having competed at the Young Rider Europeans in 2018, where they achieved a top ten place, and at the 2020 U25 Europeans in Hungary.
“I’m thrilled and very happy with 70% and a nice clean test,” commented Lewis. “It’s an international personal best, which is fantastic, and the atmosphere was really good. We only had very minor mistakes, and I’m very happy that we got all the changes and he did everything I asked.
“His expressive changes are a highlight but I’ve got a bit of paranoia about them so I’m really pleased that they came off.
“I have to work on his piaffe and passage as I started that quite late with him so we’re playing catch up a little bit. I got him when I was young, he was young and we were just inexperienced so I didn’t play with any of the Grand Prix movements when he was a youngster, but I’m absolutely thrilled with him – he’s done fantastically well. It’s our third Europeans together and it’s more than I could have hoped for.
Talking about his Hagen experience so far, Lewis says, “Being with the seniors is unbelievable. The arena here is amazing and I’ve never ridden in a ring quite like it, with big grandstands – it just makes the occasion so much better.
I’m glad we have a few days to rest and recoup but I’m feeling confident and looking forward to it. I think we can go out there with a bit more confidence and a bit more fire.
“Amy got us off to a good start and we have a fabulous team. We’re feeling confident, we have great combinations, we couldn’t be in a better competition environment so we’re really looking forward what comes next. Watching the seniors train and compete and to be alongside them just spurs us on to be better!”
The U25s team Inter II continues tomorrow with Alexander Harrison and Diamond Hill going at 16:48 (15:48 BST) and Ellen McCarthy with GB Londero von Worrenberg at 19:02 (18:02 BST)
Photo © Kevin Sparrow
Words: British Dressage/Joanna Bowns