It’s a first medal for Team GBR in Tryon
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It was mission accomplished for the Equestrian Team GBR dressage quartet today when the achieved their primary aim of qualification for Tokyo 2020 Olympics, picking a bronze medal up as a well-deserved bonus.
After Spencer Wilton and Emile Faurie put us in with a fighting chance on day one of the Helgstrand Dressage FEI World Team Championship, it was down to our two familiar faces, Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin to produce a piece of riding brilliance with their two young charges, Hawtins Delicato and Mount St John Freestyle respectively, who had less than a dozen Grand Prix performances between them. But if any riders in field could do it, it would be these two.
Carl has made no secret that ‘Del’ has been on his toes this week and has been unpredictable. An early morning ride in the arena ‘on the buckle end’ gave Carl confidence that the British bred Diamond Hit gelding was relaxed enough to deliver the goods.
He came into the sweltering arena with the ten year old he jointly owns with Lady Anne Evans and Ann Cory and looked like they were seasoned Championship regulars. ‘Del’ was confident in his work, the only noticeable blip being a missed change in the zig zag and Carl was clearly delighted – along with a welcoming crowd who were well behind the British rider. 77.28% was the score and a new personal best for the exciting duo.
Afterwards, he said; “I knew I’d have to have the ride of my life today and I did. I had 77% in my mind as my target, not that I told anyone that, so I couldn’t be more pleased but I’m surprised! Earlier in the week I didn’t think he’d cope but I rode him this morning in the area in walk and he felt relaxed so I thought I might have a good ride. He absolutely put his heart into that test.
“I had a mistake in my zig zag which is usually his party piece so that was annoying and then I could feel myself over-riding so I said ‘sit still, sit still’ to myself.
He’s held the horse in high regard and today, that potential was realised on the world stage; “I’ve had him since he was five; I saw him canter by at a show and just saw his hind leg and thought ‘I have to have that horse!’ I then found he was bred and owned by a small stud just three miles from home. The last person I saw as I went in was his breeder Judith (Davis) and I was proud that she was able to come and see him compete,” he said.
After three riders, the Germans held a commanding lead but it was then a race between Britain, the USA, Sweden and the Netherlands for the remaining medals.
Charlotte was the first of the chasing pack to go with Mount St John Equestrian’s Mount St John Freestyle. At just nine, she was one of the youngest in the field but cantered into the arena like it was the school at home in Gloucestershire, totally at ease with her surroundings. The first piaffe was a bit green with some travel but the passage before and after was spectacular. A mistake in the one-time changes proved costly for what was approaching 80% but when the final score was added, it was 77.67% to give Team GBR a final score of 229.45 for the others to match.
Afterwards, Charlotte told the world’s media; “What an amazing horse to come here and do that! To cope with the environment and produce a test like that, I’m over the moon with her. There’s a lot of expectation on her and I’m so proud that she didn’t bother with anything, she’s so exciting for the future. There were a couple of mistakes but easy to fix and I couldn’t really have asked for more from her, she’s a real trier.” There was a tinge of disappointment from the young lady who is competitive to the core but she knew her young mare had done the job and was delighted to be back at a Championship after a year’s gap.
So the audience, bathed in the North Carolina September sunshine, settled in for a battle royal in the final session where it would go to the wire for the medals.
Germany’s Isabel Werth was the first contender with the mare she holds most dear, who had the luxury of knowing that her team had secured gold even without her score so it was just down to securing qualification for tomorrow’s Grand Prix Special. A spectacular 84.82% was the score to take the lead. Then it was the most crucial for Team GBR, Patrik Kittel for Sweden with Well Done de la Roche CMG as they were the closest to us for a medal. His mare is just ten and also lacks mileage and experience and they were looking for over 78.3% to go ahead of Britain. A shaky start built to a confident finish and the score climbed and climbed…78.19% was the confirmed score and Britain was all but guaranteed a medal but which colour?
Edward Gal was the final Dutch rider and he needed every bit of his experience with the stallion Glock’s Zonik as they needed over 83% to trouble the team medals. 77.18% was his final score which meant Britain had bronze with a small, outside chance of going one better.
The fate of the home team, the USA, rested with seasoned duo Laura Graves and Verdades, possibly no better combination for the task of securing silver. Their mission was a score of at least 78.3%. The 16 year old was really lifted by the home support and danced his way to a +81% score which secured a well-deserved silver much to the delight of the crowd waving their stars and stripes.
So for the third FEI championship in succession, Germany stood atop the podium to cement their current domination of dressage with a reversal of the Rio places below with the USA in silver and Team GBR in bronze.
Chef d’Equipe Caroline Griffith commented; “This performance is truly exciting for the future. These young horses and the way the our riders have produced them is just incredible. I’m proud of them; it was a great atmosphere today which gave them all great confidence. To come here and secure our Tokyo qualification and come away with a medal just shows the quality of horses and riders we have. Watch out world!”
All four British riders finished in the top 30 so are through to Friday’s Grand Prix Special when the first individual medals will be decided. Coverage will be available on the BBC red button - for the otherways to view, click here.
For full team results - click here
For full individual results - click here
For times for the Grand Prix Special - will appear here