Myles motors to Freestyle bronze at Junior European Championships
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Myles Graham has concluded his 2023 FEI Dressage Junior European Championships with a bronze medal in today’s Freestyle final at Gestüt Schafhof in Kronberg, Germany (18 – 23 July 2023). Isla Sully and Vagabond de Massa also excelled to land eighth place, while Mette Dahl and Caporal de Massa finished 16th amongst Europe’s best.
The stunning tiered gardens at Ann-Kathrin Linsenhoff’s Gestüt Schafhof once again provided the perfect backdrop to a day of elite dressage as the final day’s race for Individual Freestyle medals unfolded this afternoon at the beautiful Kronberg venue, situated on the outskirts of Frankfurt.
The competition opened with a competitive ride by the Czech Republic combination of Johana Vasaryova and Bona Dea, who set the early standard. The judges panel, comprised of Alice Schwab (AUT), Agnieszka Majewska (POL), Katrina Wüst (GER), Marietta Almasy (FRA) and Hans Voser (SUI), awarded 74.290% - a benchmark held until the turn of the British, European Championship first-timer Isla Sully.
All week, Isla has proven to have a cool head on young shoulders. From helping Great Britain to team bronze to taking 13th place in the Junior Individual at the tender age of just 14, each performance has been assured and intelligently ridden. Her perfect partner is the powerful Lusitano gelding Vagabond de Massa (Rieto x Xaquiro), pictured above, owned by her mother Cassandra Sully. Drawn as the penultimate combination in the first of two groups, Isla presented a freestyle beyond her years, riding to a James Bond-inspired collection produced by Tom Hunt.
Rhythmic, cadenced and powerful trot elements were the order of the day, combined with super canter work and changes, all in a textbook frame. The resulting final score of 75.950% propelled them to the top of the leaderboard approaching the halfway stage.
Pathfinder in the second group of riders was Isla’s fellow team bronze medallist, Mette Dahl with the beautiful Lusitano stallion, Caporal de Massa (Rieto x Xaquiro), pictured above, who interestingly is a full brother to Isla’s ride. The athletic, light-footed grey was skilfully piloted by Mette to an outstanding top-ten place in the Individual and showed much of that class in their freestyle today, albeit with some costly overexuberance in the extended canter, for a final score of 71.980% and ultimately 16th place amongst Europe's leading Juniors. This relatively new, capable partnership has certainly made an impression this week with plenty of promise for the future.
Germany’s Lana-Pinou Baumgürtel and the Escolar daughter, Zinq Emma FH later laid down a solid claim to a podium place with a score 79.165%, making themselves the ones to catch. Her team compatriot Rose Oatley, who has enjoyed a phenomenal week with Sommernacht 7, taking both team and individual gold, had a couple of costly miscommunications this afternoon for a final score on the board of 77.185%.
Next up for Great Britain was Myles Graham with Caroline Bell’s Nibeley Union Hit (Nibeley Union Jack x Sandro Hit), pictured above. Having already risen to the challenge of his role as team anchor, and as highest placed Brit in the Individual when finishing top-five, there was no question that a medal for Myles was more than just a possibility.
From the first halt to the final centre line, the 16-year-old from Swindon showed masterful, smart riding as he placed and balanced the mare for every movement, riding an updated version of the brilliant Johnny English and F1-themed programme they performed at last year’s European Championships. Myles cultivates a combination of relaxation and expression in the British-bred mare, allowing her to perform the moves with apparent ease and flow. They create a harmonious, connected picture with the horse in a super frame.
A thrilling personal best score of 77.885% lit up on the screen, propelling them into the silver medal position at the latter stages of the competition, with just two left to go.
Austria’s Florentina Jöbstl and Bodyguard 49, a stallion who was in the individual medals with Florentina's brother, Paul Jöbstl, at both the 2021 Junior Europeans and last year’s Young Rider European Championships, posted 76.975% - a strong score - though not enough to catch Myles, and so guaranteeing the Brit a medal with just one combination remaining.
The Individual silver medal combination of Allegra Schmitz-Morkramer and Libertad, the final combination down the centre line, continued the German stronghold of these Championships with a sublime performance earning 82.665% to secure gold, joined on the podium by Lana-Pinou Baumgürtel in silver and Myles Graham in bronze.
“77.885% and individual bronze in the freestyle today at the European Championships,” commented an elated Myles on social media. “Thank you so much Rebecca Bell and Caroline Bell for giving me this opportunity with this special, one in a million mare.”
British Dressage congratulates Myles, Mette, Ruby and Isla together with all the horses’ owners, as well as Chef d’Equipe Nina Boex, Team Vet Rob Oulton, Coach Advisor Peter Storr, Performance Manager Caroline Bell and all the dedicated teams behind the scenes, including grooms Sally Williams (Caporal de Massa), Angharad Harries (Classic Goldstrike), Tammy Thornton (Nibeley Union Hit) and Tegan Jones (Vagabond de Massa).
Freestyle top ten and British rider placings
1. Allegra Schmitz-Morkramer and Libertad, 82.665% (GER)
2. Lana-Pinou Baumgürtel and Zinq Emma FH, 79.165% (GER)
3. Myles Graham and Nibeley Union Hit, 77.885% (GBR)
4. Rose Oatley and Sommernacht 7, 77.185% (GER)
5. Florentina Jöbstl and Bodyguard 49, 76.975% (AUS)
6. Annabelle Rehn and Vestervangs Garson, 76.955% (DEN)
7. Robynne Graf and Domino, 76.320% (SUI)
8. Isla Sully and Vagabond de Massa, 75.950% (GBR)
9. Fanny Jöbstl and Simsalabim OLD, 75.640% (AUS)
10. Johana Vasaryova and Bona Dea, 74.290% (CZE)
16. Mette Dahl and Caporal de Massa, 71.980%
Photo © Łukasz Kowalski