Watson, Butler and Higgins on song at Le Mans CDI
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British riders were on form at Le Mans in France (10 – 13 February 2022). Daniel Watson and Aster Berlin chalked up their first international win, Sarah Higgins and Geniaal impressed at Small Tour and Lara Butler and Kristjan placed second in the Grand Prix Special.
Dan Watson and his home-bred 11-year-old Aster Berlin (Breitling W x Dimaggio) achieved success in the Medium Tour, a level introduced by the FEI in 2014 to bridge the gap between Small and Big Tour. In both classes, it was a jostle for top spot between Dan and Dutch duo Dominique D’Hoore-van der Horst with Excel, but it was the turn of the British pair (pictured at Vale View Equestrian) to take command on Saturday winning the Inter II on a solid 67.794%.
“This was Berlin’s third test at the level and I only took him because I had a space on the lorry,” said a delighted Dan after returning home to Kent. “It was simply an experience trip for him - an opportunity to get some experience under his belt - so I was gobsmacked. I wasn’t expecting it [the win] at all.
“He was brilliant,” he continued. “Berlin can get a little nervous in the warm-up so was a little tight outside, but once in the arena, he really lit up. He is a lovely competition horse.”
Dan was also competing in the Big Tour with Aster Berlin’s full sister, Butterfly IV. “In a lot of ways, they are very similar,” he explained. “They are sturdy, work horses with a leg at each corner and are really trainable.
“Butterfly had a couple of blips in the Grand Prix, it was silly things, but she felt much better in the Special when she much more up for it… more powerful, confirmed and up to the snaffle. We just had a couple of mistakes in the changes which was very costly but her way of going was better.”
With the impact of Covid, competing internationally has been a bit on the backburner for many including Dan who was keen to get out for some match practise. “I wanted to crack on a bit and go to a CDI, and it was a really nice show. It was lovely to have Caroline [Griffith] and Carl [Cuypers] there and there was great support for each other.”
A harmonious test from fellow Brit Sarah Higgins with Geniaal (pictured at Keysoe) showed much quality for 72.618% and second place in Friday’s Prix St Georges behind Denmark’s Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Blue Hors Znickers (73.353%).
Sarah and the 11-year-old Vivaldi x Biotop gelding, who is owned by Sarah Rao, had a couple of costly mistakes to drop them down the leaderboard in the Inter I and Inter I Freestyle, but there’s no doubt a bright future ahead for this pair.
Following tenth place on just shy of 70% in the Grand Prix, Lara Butler rode Laura Tomlinson and Ursula Bechtolsheimer’s Kristjan (pictured at Keysoe CDI) to a super second place on 70.170% in Sunday’s Grand Prix Special behind Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Blue Hors Zatchmo on 75.391%. The Danish Olympian enjoyed a clean sweep all week, not only Zatchmo but also with Blue Hors Znickers in the Small Tour.
Lara took to social media afterwards to say; “Second in the GP Special! Today was much better… Kristjan was so good today and no major mistakes. Always things we can work on but overall I had a different horse in there with me today and if you ask Carl Cuypers (Lara’s trainer) I probably rode better too!
“It’s been a great show and we’ve learnt lots again so now we travel home and start thinking about the next one!”
Top-three and British placings
CDI3* - Big Tour
1. Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Blue Hors Zatchmo, 75.456% (DEN)
2. Marieke van der Putten and Torveslettens Titanium, 73.348% (NED)
3. Marlies Van Baalen and Go Legend, 72.978% (NED)
10. Lara Butler and Kristjan, 69.978% (GBR)
30. Daniel Watson and Butterfly IV, 65.804% (GBR)
Grand Prix Freestyle
1. Anne Troensegaard and Kipling TSF, 76.250% (DEN)
2. Semmieke Rothenberger and Flanell, 76.180% (GER)
3. Larissa Pauluis and Flambeau, 75.000% (BEL)
Grand Prix Special
1. Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Blue Hors Zatchmo, 75.391% (DEN)
2. Lara Butler and Kristjan, 70.170% (GBR)
3. Karen Nijvelt and Elysias, 69.191% (NED)
14. Daniel Watson and Butterfly, 65.404% (GBR)
CDI2* - Medium Tour
1. Dominique D’Hoore - van der Horst and Excel, 70.304% (NED)
2. Daniel Watson and Aster Berlin, 69.020% (GBR)
3. Lena Thouvenin and Diamondgio, 67.939% (FRA)
1. Daniel Watson and Aster Berlin, 67.794% (GBR)
2. Dominique D’Hoore - van der Horst and Excel, 67.598% (NED)
3. Philine Brunner and Straight Horse Don Tamino, 67.598% (SUI)
CDI2* - Small Tour
Prix St Georges
1. Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Blue Hors Znickers, 73.353% (DEN)
2. Sarah Higgins and Geniaal, 72.618% (GBR)
3. Corinda Luttjeboer and Endyrava, 70.853% (NED)
13. Sarah Higgins and Samuel, 65.471% (GBR)
1. Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Blue Hors Znickers, 73.765% (DEN)
2. Marlies Van Baalen and Jacky Kennedy DVB, 73.765% (DEN)
3. Brecht D’Hoore and W-Horseland Inverness, 69.147% (BEL)
7. Sarah Higgins and Geniaal, 67.588% (GBR)
10. Sarah Higgins and Samuel, 65.618% (GBR)
Intermediate I Freestyle
1. Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Blue Hors Znickers, 78.365% (DEN)
2. Jorinde Verwimp and Golddream VD Kempenhoeve, 73.585% (BEL)
3. Marieke van der Putten and Amphitryon RS2, 72.965% (NED)
6. Sarah Higgins and Geniaal, 71.540% (GBR)
Photo © Kevin Sparrow