Super silver for team GBR at FEI European Championships
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It’s been a sensational day in Hagen at the FEI European Championships as Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin, our final two riders, secured a hard-fought team silver medal for Great Britain.
This vibrant team, which mixes both experience and youth, brought their Tokyo magic to the Hagen stage to once again achieve a place in the medal zone. After Gareth and Lottie’s masterful rides yesterday, putting Great Britain into the overnight lead, there was everything to ride for today, and ride they certainly did. Carl and En Vogue showed oh-so much class for 74.845% whilst Charlotte and Gio, showing their brilliance, were awarded 79.829% to finish top-three. The British team fought hard to edge ahead of third-placed Denmark, their efforts duly rewarded with a podium place behind the home nation’s gold medal-winning quartet.
There are not many people with as much championship mileage as Carl Hester, experience that is clearly evident in his partnership with En Vogue. The Jazz-sired 11-year-old, who he co-owns with Charlotte Dujardin, Sandra Biddlecombe and Lady Anne Evans, is immensely talented with a great work ethic, but also very sensitive. Cool-headed Carl is his perfect partner, instilling the gelding with confidence to focus and perform. Their test was brimming with quality, though moments of greenness, through Vogue almost trying too hard, were costly and kept their score in check.
“Today it was brilliant in parts, disappointing in others,” said Carl, speaking after his test. “Last night it [the competition] all looked exciting, and as Vogue is capable of the very big scores, I did think it was worth having a good shot. It doesn’t always work like that though, and he’s one month back from the Games where he did three amazing tests. Some of the things he does are so brilliant – his piaffe is like a ten but then he gets a bit stuck and a bit nervous. In between the mistakes, he feels amazing.
“I didn’t deserve any more points, as there were too many mistakes today so the score is absolutely fine,” continued Carl. “I’m just disappointed I made the mistakes! They weren’t huge ones but just in places before the difficult things, which impacts on the mark. But if I look at his experience and what he’s done in one year, he’s come on so much. He’d have never done that test when he came here [Hagen] in April. Today, I just didn’t get the ride I wanted.
“His canter work generally gets his high marks, and today I got my first proper canter zig zag on him so I’m happy,” he added. “He’s certainly one of the best horses I’ve ridden and has so much potential, one day he’ll be phenomenal!”
The small but mighty Gio (Apache Tango), owned by Charlotte, Sandra Biddlecombe, Renai Hart and Carl Hester showed such power and poise. His ground-covering half passes and great ability to collect, with ease in performing the piaffe/passage and canter pirouettes, is a joy to watch. A small error in the two-time changes, when Gio stepped together behind, was costly; however, Charlotte presented a beautiful test and Gio answered every question asked of him.
Talking about her performance today, Charlotte said, “I’m really pleased; with Tokyo that’s only his fifth or sixth Grand Prix so he’s still so inexperienced. He was a little scared of the boards today. I knew that if he hit them and they moved he’d be scared of that and, of course, when he went into canter, he hit them! That made him spook a bit but generally I’m very pleased. He felt a little bit greener than I expected in there but I have to remember what he’s done - he’s done so little. I keep going in the arena with all the pressure and to keep it all together for a silver medal, which was the aim, and we’ve done it.
“He’s so keen to do it – that last centreline he wanted to do his piaffe and I kept saying ‘no, not yet’ – that’s him just getting to know a bit more what he’s doing now. He’s still green but he definitely feels more established and it makes my job a little easier. He’s just a cheeky little pony who goes in there with all the pressure in the world but he just delivers it. He’s such a good boy,” she smiled.
“He’s definitely come on from Tokyo – 100%,” she continued. “There I had to set up everything and there was so much to think about – I had to fast track to make it all happen. Here I felt like I had to do a bit less but did need to keep his attention – he just makes me laugh.
Talking about what it means to win team silver, Charlotte says, “I’m absolutely over the moon and so happy for Gareth getting a medal. The Europeans in 2019 didn’t quite go to plan and he was in Tokyo as travelling reserve but now he has one.”
Germany comfortably took gold and their 25th European team title after phenomenal performances from Isabell Werth and Jessica von Bredow-Werndl. Werth and Weihegold OLD produced a superbly harmonious and balanced test to earn 79.860% whilst her Tokyo teammate and individual gold medallist von Bredow-Werndl with TSF Dalera BB threw down the gauntlet with 84.099%. Once again, this pair’s seamless, balletic way of going made the Grand Prix look seemingly easy.
The individual competition gets underway tomorrow evening with the Grand Prix Special. Times of the British riders: Gareth Hughes and Sintano Van Hof Olympia 19:50 (18:50 BST), Carl Hester and En Vogue 20:10 (19:10 BST), Charlotte Dujardin and Gio 22:00 (21:00 BST), Lottie Fry and Everdale 22:20 (21:20 BST).
Promising team fifth for British U25s
In a close-fought contest, the British U25 team have achieved a creditable fifth place in Hagen, just two percent off a bronze medal. After sterling performances yesterday from Lewis Carrier and Lucy Amy, Alex Harrison and Ellie McCarthy did us proud this afternoon to conclude the U25 team competition with fifth place for Great Britain out of a total of twelve teams from across the Continent.
Germany (225.206), the Netherlands (218.000) and Sweden (207.264) claimed the medals, with Denmark (206.146) and Great Britain (205.354) finishing fourth and fifth.
Alex Harrison (24) and Diamond Hill, his 10-year-old gelding by Don Diamond, were awarded 67.971% whilst Ellie McCarthy and GB Londero Von Worrenberg (by Calypso II), owned by Spencer McCarthy, posted a score of 64.353%.
Alex and Diamond Hill have extensive experience in Young Riders, competing at the Europeans in 2018, and since making the step to U25s have enjoyed international wins at both Keysoe and Wellington CDIs. This established partnership know each other well but Alex felt ‘Damo’ was a little under par today.
“It’s a big atmosphere in there and I felt he tried his hardest,” said Alex, speaking after his test. “But he is not himself. Because of Brexit we had a four-hour delay in Calais; so he had a six-hour drive one day, 18 hours the next and was a little travel sick when he arrived,” he explained.
“It’s been so helpful having the World Class support team here. Andre [Buthe, team vet] has been so helpful in trying to get him on top form, but he wasn’t quite the horse I’d normally have - he wasn’t spooky and I had to ask for more than usual. Even so, I thought for being a bit under the weather, he tried really hard. The bits we know are weak were weak and those we know are good were good.
“His ones are usually really good but they didn’t quite come off today, but such is life,” continued Alex. “He wasn’t quite as active as I’d have liked in the piaffe but his frame was good and I rode for the marks where I knew I could, like the extended walk and the extended canter. He really dug deep down that final centreline today.
Talking about his Hagen experience so far, Alex says, “It’s been nice having the seniors here – watching them do well but also seeing that they make mistakes too – so you think ‘it’s not just me then’!”
The relatively new partnership of Ellie McCarthy (24) and 12-year-old gelding, GB Londero Von Worrenberg, show much potential with a very bright future ahead of them. Ellie has been on British teams at Young Rider and U25 levels previously and, with her grey Sir Lancelot, represented her country last year at the FEI U25 Championships in Hungary. Hagen, however, is a debut team appearance for GB Londero Von Worrenberg and there was huge pressure on the pair for a clear round to keep Britain in medal contention. They produced some super work but, ultimately, a bit of tension and some mistakes proved costly.
Speaking about today’s test, Ellie said, “Obviously I’m disappointed. He’s been going so well in training and even in the warm-up he felt great. I was really hoping for about ten percent more than that.
“I think a bit of tension crept in,” she explained. “The last test I did was the Grand Prix so on the last centreline he thought we were piaffing at X and I was like ‘no, keep going!’. It’s just not quite the mark I wanted unfortunately.
“I knew it needed to be pretty much mistake-free to get us a medal today so that was very much in my mind. I didn’t want to go for too much – just a clean, safe round but that just didn’t happen today. I’m very disappointed but it happens, I’ve got another test to go!”
The U25s have a rest day tomorrow before the individual competition gets underway on Friday with the U25 Grand Prix.
Photo © Kevin Sparrow
Words: British Dressage/Joanna Bowns