Herning 2022: Davison and Hughes kick off team medal match
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With the Stutteri Ask Stadium in Herning, Denmark transformed from a football arena to the biggest stage in equestrian sport, Gareth Hughes and Richard Davison kicked off Great Britain's quest for team medals at the 2022 FEI Dressage World Championships.
The ECCO FEI World Championships boast an action packed schedule with three equestrian disciplines in the spotlight but a super Saturday would see dressage declare the event open. From it's conception in 1966 with a starting field of just 24 competitors, today's Grand Prix welcomed forward 46 riders from 28 nations - an apt depiction of the continued growth and success of the sport worldwide.
Three time World Championship team rider Richard Davison returned to the fold today in fine form with his own and Gwendolyn Sontheim's sixteen year old home-bred gelding Bubblingh (Lingh x Picandt), a fitting partner to mark Richard's return to the team at this event as the son of Ballesyr Royale - Richard's last World Games ride at the event in Jerez, 2002. The powerful bay has scope and energy to burn and Richard piloted the powerhouse with admirable skill and sensitivity throughout their opening test, which developed to show class despite some early tension. Their score to get Great Britain off the mark was 68.851%, rewarded by an experienced ground jury, K - Anne Gribbons (USA), E - Susanne Baarup (DEN), H - Peter Storr (GBR), C - Christof Umbach (LUX), M - Elke Ebert, (GER) B - Mariette Sanders - v. Gansewinkel (NED) and F - Raphaël Saleh (FRA).
Following his test Richard commented, “Well, it’s not what I was dreaming about, but I’m also not too surprised because Bubblingh is a delicate character in his brain and his nerves. It wasn’t easy at the beginning and we had a few miscommunications but, equally, he came back and he suddenly received the messages that I wanted him to receive, and he gave me some nice stuff.”
“I’m really enjoying being here and the score hasn’t dampened by enjoyment in the least,” Richard added, reflecting on today's score and what's to come, “frankly, I’ve been around long enough and I know the expectations, and I’m thoroughly relying on these three lovely team mates I’ve got to go out and pull out some very high scores – and now they might have to go and pull out some even higher scores, but I know they can do that, and that’s why I’m loving every moment being here.”
Tokyo 2020 travelling reserve Gareth Hughes showed his class and experience, this time with his own, Rebecca Hughes and Julia Hornig's exquisite mare Classic Briolinca making a welcome return back to the big time and the British team, continuing an impressive come-back year after 18 months away from the international stage. From a winning return to international competition at Compiègne CDI5O5*, the superb form continued in the Grand Prix for Gareth and Briolinca who excelled in front of the seven-strong judges panel to submit 75.978% to the British team total. Their test showcased strengths in the collected movements that are synonymous with this successful combination; with punchy piaffe-passage work and two canter pirouettes that stood out as a true highlight in an all-round treat of a performance, the final pirouette right earning four nines. Carl Hester, watching on in a new role in 2022 with a commentary stint on ClipMyHorse following the final Brit's test, commended Gareth's skill in producing the top marks for the double marked movements. An otherwise immaculate Grand Prix would only be hampered by the enthusiastic crowd, clapping in unison with passage steps on the centre line following the final piaffe at X, with the atmosphere buzzing Briolinca became tense and the final halt was not immobile, an appreciative gesture costly to marks.
“She was good, wasn’t she!” Gareth summarised. “She worked in really well and got a little tense going into the arena, and I could feel it – she bubbled away and a couple of years ago that would have worked against us, but she held it together. All the hard stuff she does so well, it’s just a pity about the easy things. The last halt with everyone clapping – the judge at C just shrugged his shoulders like ‘there’s nothing you can do’. But what do I say about her? She’s amazing.
“When I do the lines – the piaffe/passage lines, the half-pass, the pirouettes – I can feel her lock on, she knows exactly what to do. Those pirouettes I can sit there and feel I have all day. The tempis are like a metronome, so if I have to forgive her for not halting at the end, then I can at least give that to her. She’s 16 years old, but doesn’t have a lot of miles and there are more teams in her. She’s proven herself to be really world class.”
Elsewhere in the rankings the leading score of Saturday's session was posted by Netherlands athlete Dinja van Liere, earning 78.835% with the ten year old stallion Hermes (Easy Game x Flemmingh) - a eye-catching horse sharing the same sire as Jessica von Bredow-Werndl's Olympic heroine Dalera BB. The family affair continued with supreme sire Blue Hors Zack scoring 76.724% for Denmark's Nanna Merrald Rasmussen, the evergreen 18 year old has no less than three offspring lining up across the weekend, an impressive breeding feat. Denmark spring forward into day two of the team competition with another 76% score on the board for provisionally placed third combination Carina Cassøe Krüth and Heiline's Danciera, whilst Germany made an expected strong start with Benjamin Werndl and Famoso OLD continuing the family success whilst sister Jessica takes time away from the team with her second child on the way.
Part two of the Grand Prix competition - taking place tomorrow on Sunday, August 7 – will decide the result and podium places for the Team competition whilst the top 30 finishers will qualify for the Grand Prix Special on Monday. The top 15 here will then go through to the Grand Prix Freestyle in which a maximum of three athletes per country are permitted to participate on Wednesday August 10. With three sets of medals up for grabs, and Great Britain currently holding fifth place with a supreme score on the card, it's all to play for with the conclusion of the Grand Prix imminent.