The riders said that this was the toughest cross-country course they’d seen at a European Championship, and Rudiger Schwarz’s 30-fence track certainly caused all sorts of problems.
There were some brilliant performances, however, and none better than Michael Jung’s. We have run out of ways of describing this man’s sheer brilliance, and to watch him storm around the course on his mare fisherRoccana was a real treat . The pair made it look easy every step of the way and are now poised to pounce on Michael’s fourth European Championship, if overnight leader, Ingrid Klimke should falter on the last day.
Ingrid, too, was so very accomplished, as were the other riders at the top of the leaderboard, particularly the British women: they were on fire! As a result, Great Britain has swept into the lead after cross-country with three brilliant clear rounds – including one from team rookie Ros Canter on Allstar B, who was second out for the team. Despite having two run-outs on the inexperienced Cooley SRS, pathfinder Oliver Townend completed with only 1.2 time penalties – one of the fastest times of the day. He really is a master of the clock.
Christopher Bartle, who was with the German team until recently, but is now training Team GB, says, “Oliver did a great job because he never gave up, and the team was fantastic. It’s where preparation meets opportunity. I get a lot of teasing from my German friends, but I’m thrilled to be working with the British team again.”
Tina Cook (Billy the Red) and anchorwoman Nicola Wilson (Bulana) then followed with two more good clear rounds. Tina was within the time, and Nicola was just one second over, incurring 0.4pen as a result. “Bulana is so honest and good on a line,” she says. “She was in a rhythm from start to finish. It’s very exciting, we had a team-hug and a jump around.” Of course, we claim the Kiwi connection with Bulana, as New Zealander Lizzie Brown produced the mare and sold her to Nicola.
The British team, sitting on a score of 113.9, have two fences in hand over the defending champions, Germany, who are on 123. Sweden is third on 128.5 and Italy fourth on 177.5. The Olympic team gold medallists, France, are effectively out of the competition as Gwendoline Fer on Traumprinz was eliminated after a fall, and and the superstar stallion, Upsilon, ridden by Thomas Carlile, was eliminated after three run-outs at various places – the first at fence four. The young horse just didn’t cope with the questions, and by the 13th fence, his competition was over.
Fence four was the first big challenge on course: the first three jumps were nice, bold ones in a quiet and separate area. The course then took a sharp change, and horses were suddenly confronted with a huge crowd and a very difficult combination. Seventeen competitors incurred faults here, including the overnight leader, Bettina Hoy. Seigneur Medicott may have been a star in the dressage phase, but he looked completely out of sorts in the cross-country, and fell at the 10th fence after a run-out at the fourth. Bettina later tweeted: “Poor Micky lost a shoe very early on the course and got insecure when he started slipping, but we are both OK to fight another day.”
Ingrid Klimke didn’t need to report any excuses afterwards, as she gave a masterclass in fast, accurate riding on her beloved Horseware Hale Bob OLD. While it never looked that way, she said she felt under pressure, for sure, but had a blast. “Bobby was in such good form that I was nearly laughing and really had to concentrate. We had such fun out there.”
Sweden was the only nation to achieve four clear rounds and is in bronze-medal position, with Sara Algotsson Ostholt and Reality 39 in individual third place.
Ten nations completed as teams, with the hosts, Poland, in sixth place behind Italy and Belgium. The French, who were second after dressage, finished with only two riders after Gwendolen Fer had a fall with Traumprinz and Thomas Carlile, lying sixth, was eliminated .
There were 63 completions, 35 clear rounds and four inside the optimum time of 10 minutes.
The day finished on a very sad note, however, when it was announced that the Polish horse ridden by Michal Knap, Bob the Builder, had been euthanised after breaking his leg during a fall at Fence 15 in the main arena. The horse received immediate treatment and was taken to the on-site veterinary clinic for further assessment. Sadly, x-rays revealed an irreparable fracture of the front right long pastern bone (lower leg) and, on humane grounds and with the agreement of the owners and rider, the decision was taken to put the horse to sleep.
Additional reporting thanks to FEI (Kate Green)