The Australians had a great win in Aachen in the Eventing Nations Cup and it was also great to see Shane Rose announcing his arrival in Europe with a close second to Michael Jung!
Finishing fourth wasn’t what the New Zealanders had wanted, and they certainly attacked the cross-country aggressively, going for the win. The team approach of taking the fastest and hardest options took its toll on two of the horses, though, as both Bango and Xanthus had a run-out at the very tricky angled brushes towards the end of the course.
Blyth and Xanthus had been looking really good around the twisting and turning course which featured so many combinations. Their time was good too, but then they got to the combination which required, for the direct approach, the ultimate honest horse. Unfortunately Xanthus has a bit of history with this type of fence. At Luhmühlen in 2015 he had run-out at a very similar one, and has notched up a 20 here and there as he has learned his trade. Many of us thought that Blyth might therefore elect to take the longer route for this fence which had already caused issues with competitors, but he rode the bold route as per team tactics and the price was paid. For some reason (and we haven’t had the opportunity to ask Blyth), on taking the alternative at this stage, he had a moment, and ended up missing the B element of the question. While he finished the course, the Big E was soon on the scoreboard. Not the start the trailblazer had wanted, or the team had wanted of their trailblazer.
Tim Price was next up on Bango and again the pair looked good, jumping well. At this stage there had been only one competitor home under the time, the marvellous Ingrid Klimke on Escada FRH. There was only one other to join her when all the scores were in, USA’s Phillip Dutton on Indian Mill (who finished 17th eventually).
Bango, too, didn’t quite understand the question at the angled brushes – they really were at a significant angle – and glanced out. Tim wasn’t going to make the second mistake his team mate had made: he negotiated the alternative fences quickly and successfully and finished with 36.4 (20 jumping, 16.4 time penalties). Their total of 89.4 left them 28th overall.
Clifton Signature and Jock Paget were next out for the Kiwis, and did a sterling job. While this horse is listed behind both Tim’s Bango and Ringwood Sky Boy and Blyth’s Bear Necessity as a reserve for the Olympic team, he stepped up to the mark at this event and looked very professional. He finished on a score of 52.2, adding just 4.4 cross-country time faults to his dressage. At the end of the day he finished in ninth place.
While our hopes of a great team result had been somewhat dashed by this stage, we were all hopeful that Jonelle would finish with a flourish and she certainly did, negotiating all fences with ease. She may be in danger of losing her title “the Fastest Woman in the World” to Ingrid Klimke, however, as she had eight time faults. Ingrid had two clear rounds, though one with four time faults (Hale Bob OLD) which was still good enough for her to finish third on him and fifth on the fast Escada. However, there wasn’t the pressure on Jonelle by now to ride fast, so we are sure she will defend her title at the very next opportunity!
Jonelle finished on a total score of 50.10 which was good enough for seventh place and put the Kiwis into fourth spot in the team ranking.
Michael Jung won the class on fischerTakinou, his stylish young (nine-year-old) French Anglo-Arab gelding by Jaguar Mail, who he is taking to Rio rather than his trusty Sam, who finished sixth with 5.2 time faults, after being the first horse out on course.
Shane Rose looked right at home in Germany, and incurred just 1.6 time faults to finish just 0.4 penalties behind Jung. He and CP Qualified only arrived in Europe a couple of weeks ago, along with Sonja Johnston with Parkiarrup Illicit Liaison who had a good clear round with only four time faults. They finished on 65.5 in 21st position. Another Australian team member, Christopher Burton on Nobilis 18 was also very fast, as is to be expected with Chris, incurring just 0.4 time faults. He finished in fifth place. Samantha Birch also had a good outing, with just 3.6 time faults on Hunter Valley, finishing 10th and contributing to the team win.
The Germans had to settle for second in the Nations Cup, 9.5pen behind the Australians, whose finishing score was 145.4. Another good team performance came from the Irish who were third (179.9) after three of their riders had clear and relatively fast cross-country performances. New Zealand was fourth on 191.7 just ahead of the Brits on 194.1.
So, the wonderful Aachen show is all over for our eventers this year. It didn’t go quite as hoped, firstly with Clarke Johnstone redirecting Balmoral Sensation to a UK event after weather affected other parts of their build-up. Clarke was there as a spectator so still got the benefit of the team environment. Sir Mark Todd ended up as a no-show because of issues with his visa, and finally team tactics took their toll in the cross-country. The next competition we will see them in is the big one, the Olympics, and we hope that Aachen gave them the opportunity to fine-tune anything required from a team perspective.