Cundall and Wells top-six in thrilling Grade V opener at Riesenbeck 2023

  • Written By: British Dressage | Joanna Bowns
  • Published: Wed, 06 Sep 2023 16:50

The stars shone bright in Riesenbeck on day two of the FEI Para Dressage European Championships, with new British team members Charlotte Cundall and FJ Veyron reaching new heights for a top-five place, while experienced team campaigner Sophie Wells OBE displayed LJT Egebjerggards Samoa’s immense potential on the young mare’s Championship debut to finish sixth.

Starting this afternoon at 12:30 local time, the 18-strong Grade V Grand Prix A promised a thrilling contest in the race for Grade V individual medals, and it met every expectation, with British team new faces finishing well and gaining invaluable experience on the European stage.

Charlotte Cundall (38), a former 3* eventer and point-to-point jockey, made an impression on her team debut with The Veyron Partnership’s FJ Veyron (by Vivaldi), pictured above. Charlotte presented a confident test with the 13-year-old chestnut gelding, showing impressive work including fluent, balanced simple changes and bold, ground-covering extensions – all in a textbook frame – finishing to appreciative cheers from the crowd after her final centre line. The judges panel of Ineke Jansen (NED) at E, Elke Ebert (GER) at H, Eva Andersson (SWE) at C, Sarah Leitch (GBR) at M and Anne Prain (FRA) at B rewarded their performance with a score of 72.308% - their best Grade V Grand Prix A score to date.

“Wow… just such a dream come true to be in there!” enthused Charlotte after her test. “I’m so grateful to everybody that’s got me and him here. There’s the National Lottery, UK Sport, the World Class Programme, my home team, and Mum who sadly can’t be here for health reasons, but she’s with me all the way."

About her test with ‘Duke’, as FJ Veyron is known at home, Charlotte said; “We used to have a phrase when I was eventing that once you get in the start box, you’re on the rollercoaster; so once I came out my halt, I settled down, started breathing, then we’re on the rollercoaster and off we go! He (Duke) loves his extensions – that’s his party piece. He’s a great big horse and he loves to go so I try and go for as maximum points as I can in the extensions because I know we can do those.

“The facilities here are absolutely phenomenal,” she continued. “The stables are incredible, and nice and cool, and the horses’ welfare is a top priority at this venue. Duke’s been so settled from the day he walked in."

In an incredible story of coincidence, team vet Rob Oulton was actually involved in the AI procedure of the mare that created Duke. “I think it is quite an amazing feat actually that the team vet 'made' one of the horses that’s here,” smiled Charlotte. “So he’s been walking round very proudly saying, ‘I made him, I made him!’.

Looking ahead to the team medal competition, Charlotte said; “I’m just going to go for more and do the best I possibly can for the other three girls, you know, they have been a massive support. It’s a dream to be here with Sophie Wells - she’s been an inspiration from the moment I started in paras, quite a few years ago now, and we had a dream to get two Grade Vs here. I’m not sure it’s been done before, so to be standing here with her is amazing.”

With British team stalwart Sophie Wells’ top ride, Don Cara M with whom she won team gold and individual silver at Tokyo 2020, withdrawn from selection contention for Riesenbeck, Sophie’s rising star LJT Egebjerggards Samoa (St Schufro x Gribaldi), pictured above, stepped up to the plate in impressive style.

The Lady Joseph Trust's exquisitely beautiful black mare, at just seven years old and in her first year of international competition, coped admirably with the Championship environment of Riesenbeck. In the expert hands of Sophie, who tactfully channelled the mare’s exuberance, she showed super-exciting work to finish on a score of 71.846% for eventual sixth place.

Known at home as ‘Diana’, LJT Egebjerggards Samoa has so much quality and ability that was evident throughout the performance. A loss of balance in the medium trot was costly, but the remainder of the test showed fantastic energy, lightness and power. Without doubt a horse with a bright future.

“To be honest, I am absolutely thrilled with her because she kept a lid on it – she can be a really hot horse. She has such amazing ability,” commented Sophie reflecting on her test. “She obviously went in, and, as probably anybody would expect, she got a little bit tight and tense, and I had the mistake in the medium trot, but then we got it back. In the walk, the rein-back, the simple changes and counter canter – all the things that she’s not particularly a fan of – she kept it together, so I was like ‘this is good!’.

“You know, she’s seven,” continued Sophie. “She’s not going to be world-beating at the moment, but I obviously love riding her and coming here I just wanted to give her the most positive experience for her to grow and to be happy, and I feel like today, yeah, that’s taken a massive step in the right direction. It’s not her best test at all, but she kept it together and I’m very proud of her.

“She did the Nationals last year, and the year before, and she did lose the plot both times. She’s just one of those horses. She’s going to be amazing when she’s ten and she’s doing Grand Prix, but this is a massive part of her education and it’s not all about winning medals. I had no intention of doing that this year as I didn’t have my top horse, but it doesn’t take away from how proud I am of her.

“She’s very talented for all the Grand Prix work, but yes, she has motivation for the entire British team!” smiled Sophie. “She always tries 150% and that’s what’s the hardest thing, to be like, ‘you don’t need to, it’s fine, you can do less!’. She’s like, ‘I can’t, we’ve got stuff to do, come on, we’re busy!’ So yes, I’m proud of her.”

About the prospect of Paris next year, Sophie said; “You know, Carl (Hester) said, literally as I came out [of the arena]; “You know she’ll be a different horse in a year”. And she’s a different horse to what she was a year ago. To be honest, the first two competitions of this year I had to retire from because she tried too hard. It's never that she’s being naughty, she just tries too hard, and in a year’s time she’s going to be eight which is still relatively young for a Games, but yeah – I love her and have absolute complete faith and belief in her. She’s going to be amazing.”

The reigning double World Champion combination of Michèle George and Best of 8, for Belgium, ruled the roost for gold on 76.308%, followed closely by the Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar and Alphaville N.O.P. (76.000%), with the host nation’s Regine Mispelkamp and Highlander Delight’s firmly on the podium in third (74.205%).

British Dressage congratulates Charlotte and Sophie on getting their Riesenbeck campaign off to a fantastic start, as well as the team behind the scenes, including the dedicated group of grooms, owners and the wider support network.

The first day of team medal competition gets underway tomorrow, Thursday 7 September, when the Grade I, II and III riders will each ride their respective Grand Prix B test, with the team medals decided on Friday.

Results – top ten
FEI Para Dressage European Championship – Individual Grade V
Grand Prix A Grade V
1. Michèle George and Best of 8, 76.308% (BEL)
2. Frank Hosmar and Alphaville N.O.P., 76.000% (NED)
3. Regine Mispelkamp and Highlander Delight’s, 74.205% (GER)
4. Lena Malmström and Fabulous Fidelie, 72.897% (SWE)
5. Charlotte Cundall and FJ Veyron, 72.308% (GBR)
6. Sophie Wells and LJT Egebjerggards Samoa, 71.846% (GBR)
7. Lotta Wallin and Enebro SB, 71.692% (SWE)
8. Kevin van Ham and Eros van Ons Heem, 71.231% (BEL)
9. Ildikó Fonyódi and Bojengel, 71.461% (HUN)
10. Lisa Cez and Stallone de Hus, 70.128% (FRA)


Photo © Kevin Sparrow Photography