Herning 2022: Silver secured in scintillating showdown
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British hopes and expectations were far exceeded on the second day of team competition at the ECCO FEI World Championships, with team silver secured by two horses making their championship debuts and two exceptional Charlottes.
Day two of the Grand Prix competition in Herning produced a standard worthy of the greatest equestrian challenge outside of the Olympic Games, with all to play for by the riders stepping forward to vie for team triumph.
Charlotte Dujardin far from needs to evidence her immaculate record with 66% of wins from her 173 international starts, yet every time the Gloucestershire-based starlet sets foot in the sand she proves how invaluable she is to Great Britain and how her talent touches every horse she trains. Today, with Coral Ingham and Carl Hester's Dutch-bred nine year old Imhotep, Charlotte rode with all her ability to guide the Everdale son through an astonishing major championship debut. 'Pete', as he is known at home, appeared unfazed by the cosmic atmosphere in the Stutteri Ask Stadium and produced a test brimming with quality; the piaffe-passage tour, canter pirouettes and tempi-changes stood out, which when coupled with his powerful frame and four white socks, parallels could easily be drawn to a young Valegro. Much to the delight of the British Equestrian support team watching on, a final mark of 77.407% was rewarded, with the high score - 78.261% - delivered in unison by Anna Gribbons (USA) at K and Peter Storr at H (GBR), and the lowest of the panel a 75.978% from the judge at M, Germany's Elke Ebert. A provisional second place on the individual leaderboard for Charlotte and Pete rocketed Great Britain to the top of the team standings at the mid-way point in the third rotation of team riders.
“He’s come here, he’s done three grands prix before arriving – he’s a very inexperienced horse," Charlotte praised her latest international superstar, "I had no idea how he was going to be in there. I’ve done shows at home and one show abroad at Compiegne which had no real spectators as such, so for him to go in there and have the crowd and the buzz, I was just so proud of him. I had the one little blip, but it was just a miscommunication more than anything.
“I absolutely love that horse. He has so much power, so much expression. He wants to work every day, he just wants to please you. He never runs out of energy which I absolutely love. I know by day three he’ll still be going!” she enthused. “He’ll get better and better and more and more confident. I trust him and he trusts me. In a year or two when he can manage all that power he’s going to be spectacular. I think he’s just an incredible horse and I’m so excited for the future.”
A secure performance from 2019 National Convention host Daniel Bachmann Andersen took Denmark's team total to 153.587 just a fraction in front of Britain's two rider total of 153.385 at the close of the third session, with a new-look German team boosted to a provisional gold medal position on 154.130 after an ever-assured ride by the multi-medalled Isabell Werth (Quantaz DSP).
At just 26 years old, Charlotte Fry already has an impressive CV on the biggest of international stages but her role today developed from team newcomer to anchor - and her job with Van Olst Horses 11 year old stallion Glamourdale was clear, deliver a top test and secure a leading team total for Great Britain. And just as diamonds form under pressure, this combination came of age and sparkled under the Herning lights with a performance that blew the preceding competition out of the water. Glamourdale, a former World Breeding Championships for Young Horses champion, showed his class with highlights in the trot and canter half passes, enormous flying changes and stratospheric extended paces - including the extended canter which earned six 10s from the ground jury. In the saddle Fry never falters, an immaculate position and sensitive way of controlling an enormous amount of power, poetry in motion. The score flashed on the board - 80.838% - the gauntlet well and truly thrown on the ground with the remaining group of challengers to come forward from Denmark, Sweden, Germany and the USA. The final team total for Great Britain 234.223, the standard set for the pack to chase.
“I don’t think it’s really sunk in," Lottie commented after her test, "I’m a little bit numb and speechless. I still need to take a look at that scoreboard and check that it’s mine! From the second we left the warm-up he heard the crowd and he was just ready for it. He was just taking me and his test felt incredible. There was small moments in the pirouettes which hopefully i can fix for tomorrow [for the grand prix special] for even more marks, but apart from that he was just on fire and loving it.”
Speaking about her talented partner the Yorkshire born Dutch-based star continued, “He’s been such a pro. This is the furthest he’s ever travelled, the longest he’s been away in competition. It’s a lot of firsts for him. He’s still only 11, and a stallion, which makes everything more difficult but he’s taken it all in his stride. I need to do Glamourdale justice because everyone knows he’s amazing, so I have to show that I can let him be amazing. There is a lot of pressure riding him but it’s great. It’s a great team and partnership, and hopefully he loves me as much as I love him.”
With the big-hitters taking to the stadium late in the day, Herning held it's breath and applause for home-favourite Cathrine Dufour who drove home a superb ride on Sarah Pidgley's 10 year old Vamos Amigos (by Blue Hors Hotline). The electric bay has been in a winning mood in 2022, with a trio of victories at the prestigious CHIO Aachen earlier this summer, and the high form continued with the judges rewarding a table topping mark of 81.864% - enough to deliver the Danes a provisional place on the top of the team podium by just 1.22. Patrick Kittel lay down a polished test with the Quarterback son Touchdown, giving strong Scandivian nation Sweden fourth place, leaving just Frederic Wandres and Duke of Britain (GER) to take their turn at team medal glory. An error in the two tempi changes for the experienced duo held the score back today, their 76.661% would be enough to give the defending champions a bronze medal podium position, but not enough to steal Britain's silver. And so the flags raised at the conclusion of the class, gold for host nation Denmark, silver for Great Britain and bronze for Germany, the narrowest of margins separating the hottest of contests.
With Paris 2024 qualification banked and four super individual performances to toast, Lottie Fry, Charlotte Dujardin, Gareth Hughes and Richard Davison looked resplendent celebrating their success on the second step of the podium - a position favoured by Great Britain at World Championships, with Caen 2014 delivering the same result. Individual medal glory beckons for those accepting the challenge in the Grand Prix Special on Monday 8 August, next up for the 30 top placed riders from the weekend's Grand Prix. Lottie Fry, Charlotte Dujardin and Gareth Hughes all progress and will look to capitalise on their confident performances contributing to argent accolades - from home, we'll watch on in full voice, full support and with fingers fully crossed. The future looks bright, for the short and long term.
1. Denmark, 235.451
2. Great Britain, 234.223
3. Germany, 230.791
4. Sweden, 227.142
5. The Netherlands, 225.621
Individual top three and British rider placings
1. Cathrine Dufour with Vamos Amigos, 81.864% (DEN)
2. Lottie Fry with Glamourdale, 80.838% (GBR)
3. Dinja van Liere with Hermes, 78.835% (NED)
4. Charlotte Dujardin with Imhotep, 77.407% (GBR)
13. Gareth Hughes with Classic Briolinca, 75.978% (GBR)
55. Richard Davison with Bubblingh, 68.851% (GBR)
© Photo by Kevin Sparrow Photography