WEG cross-country: ‘This is a game-changer’

A fast and influential cross-country day at Tryon saw New Zealand's team fortunes tumble, though both Tim and Jonelle Price are well placed

Tim Price gives a fist pump to celebrate a wonderful clear round with Cekatinka

It certainly wasn’t the team performance that New Zealand was after in the cross-country phase of the 2018 World Equestrian Games at Tryon.

Despite two wonderful clear rounds under time from Tim and Jonelle Price, our team is languishing 10th of 16, and only some kind of disaster taking place to those ahead of us is going to see us with a team medal, and even puts our Tokyo Olympic qualification (available to the top six) in doubt.

Tim, however, is sixth place individually, with less than a rail between the top seven. Jonelle is 12th, and too is poised to pounce should the leading riders allow her to get a toe-hold.

Tim and Cekatinka through the final water (Libby Law)

The course proved to be very influential in the teams competition particularly, but those who did it well made it look extremely easy. And mostly, that was riders from the UK. Great Britain had all four team riders home clear and under the time to now sit in gold medal position. And Ireland, who have been quietly building under the guidance of coach Sally Corscadden, are just 8.2 penalties behind them, having posted three superb clear rounds under the time, plus Cathal Daniels with just 3.6 time faults. Their score is the lowest ever two-phase score for an Irish team at a WEG.

Rio gold medallists France are just behind them in bronze, with their trademark fast and seemingly effortless style producing three good clears, though each had a few time faults. They also have an individual rider, Astier Nicolas, in fifth place. While he is on the same score as Tim, he is ahead due to being bang on the optimum time on the cross country whereas Tim was five seconds under.

Astier Nicholas is in fifth place, riding as an individual for France (FEI)

The biggest surprise is the amazing performance of the fourth-placed Japanese team – though this shouldn’t really be a surprise, as with the upcoming Tokyo Olympics their game has been steadily lifting. They had three riders home clear, one under the time and two with just a few time faults, showing up the supposed powerhouses of the sport including Germany, Australia, the USA and – guttingly – New Zealand.

Our fortunes did not get off to an auspicious start. Blyth Tait and Dassett Courage were sticky at the beginning, had a stop at the influential waterfall bank at the second water, and then struck more problems at the corner combination at fence 14, for elimination.

Blyth, understandably, is devastated. “Look I really don’t know what happened, he’s had a great preparation, jumped nothing but clear rounds all year, he’s a great cross-country horse but he was so switched off today. I couldn’t make the distances even in the first combination, which was a nice, inviting combination.

“I couldn’t get him to concentrate, couldn’t get him to participate really. So I’m gutted obviously, my job as trailblazer was to put a clear round on the board to take the pressure off the other riders, but I’ve just heaped it on their shoulders. They are the best in the game so I don’t think they’ll let my misfortune affect the way they ride, but I just would have liked to have played my role. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.”

Blyth and Dassett Courage over fence six (Libby Law)

Next out for our team was Sir Mark Todd with his inexperienced McClaren. They had a hairy moment at one of the downhill skinnies, with Mark using every bit of his own experience and skill to stay in the saddle, and clocked up 20 penalties at the second water. McClaren spooked at the problematic waterfall even as he was going past it to do the option: “Unfortunately, he went sideways which put me on not a very good line to the fence coming out, and we had a run out. He’s such a gutsy little thing, it’s annoying,” says Mark. “Other than that, I had a very good ride, despite a lucky moment coming down that hill.”

The pair incurred 17.6 time faults on top of the 20 jumping penalties, to sit in 58th place with a total of 69 penalties.

Sir Mark and McClaren into the second water (Libby Law)

Tim Price has had a run of bad fortune at championships – that slip over on the flat at Rio, and having to pull up just a few fences from home at the last WEG in France. But he is in the form of his life, and we were certainly in need of a good round.

Looking as relaxed as can be, Tim and Cekatinka delivered with a foot-perfect performance that the commentators were calling the round of the day.

“She was a cracker wasn’t she? She’s a hot-headed little mare, but not in a way that gets in the way too much. She wants it, so it’s just a matter of channeling it, getting to the start box and getting on with it. She’s not a big scopey mare but boy did she jump number one like she was, and I thought, okay, she’s up for this job.”

Tim Price and Cekatinka, the round of the day (FEI)

Tim says the first big real question was the combination at fence five, which walked really long. “I saw a cracking one in there and it felt short, so that gave me confidence for the downhill skinny and so on for the big tables and the corners. She digs deep, she’s something else, I am so proud of her.”

Having seen his team mates have problems with the waterfall at the second water combination, Tim says he made sure he rode the option carefully. “I made sure I took it completely out of the plan, stayed wide, kept her neck straight, then turned and went around to the skinny… but she didn’t even blink [at the cascading water].”

Tim Price, Cekatinka through the flags and clear!

Team anchor Jonelle had to wait until nearly the end of the day before she and Classic Moet could tackle the course, but if she felt nervous, it didn’t show, with the trademark fast clear we’ve come to expect, an easy 15 seconds under and the fastest round of the day.

“It’s funny, in a way I feel like I go out there with more pressure on me, now because I know how good she is,” she says. “She’s proven it time and time again, and I leave that start box knowing if it’s not a double clear on the scoreboard then it’s my fault. Thankfully, I did my part today!”

Jonelle and Classic Moet burst from the start box (Libby Law)

Jonelle says she found the course easy to ride, from start to finish. “You’d have to question how much of a championship track it is. She would have gone for another two minutes… she’s an incredible athlete and I don’t think I will probably ever sit on another quite like her.”

Classic Moet, a supreme athlete (Libby Law)
Another day, another fast clear in the bag for Jonelle and Classic Moet

However, Jonelle is seriously unimpressed at the decision taken to delay the show jumping by a day, so as to avoid the worse of the impending tropical storm. “I think it’s absurd. it really worries me who is calling these shots. Maybe I will be made to eat my words if it’s absolutely pouring tomorrow but I think it changes the game; the whole point of jumping on the day after cross-country is seeing the horse that can recover the best and come out and be careful. Giving them an extra day is a whole new kettle of fish. I think it’s really sad, so hope it is as bad as they say it is tomorrow, or it’s going to look really stupid.”

New Zealand’s individual rider, Dan Jocelyn, came home clear with 13.2 time faults on Grovine de Reve, to now sit in 43rd place on 46 penalties. He was understandably thrilled with his round: “I couldn’t have asked for more. I just set off like I’d had a stop, I was very positive right from start, I said, this is going to be tough Rev, you’re going to have to dig deep, he was tired, but he kept his jump for me.”

Dan Jocelyn at the corner combination (Libby Law)

Dan says he had “one little moment” jumping into the second water. “But I kind of do that quite often, so it’s just my style, where the rein goes flying one way and the horse’s head the other way! It might have just roughed him up a bit and made him focus on me rather than the cascade, and we burgled our way over that, then he was text-book through the corners.

“He was tired at the end, it was a big ask for him, and I am thrilled.”

The German team fortunes fell apart today; a run-out for dressage leader Julia Krajewski and double-digit time faults for team mates Kai Ruder and Andreas Dibowski saw their team tumble from gold medal position to sixth.

But a superb, gritty round by Ingrid Klimke has seen her seize the individual lead with her much-loved SAP Hale Bob, coming home bang on the optimal time to sit on her dressage score of 23.3.

Ingrid and Bobby, second after dressage, flew round the 5700m course in exactly 10 minutes. “He was just so full of himself today. He was very fast in the beginning and he really wanted to run!” says a delighted Ingrid.

Ingrid Klimke and Hale Bob are the individual leaders after cross country at Tryon (FEI)

Great Britain’s Rosalind Canter and Allstar B improved from third to second, following a swift, flawless round. “It was quite a rollercoaster out there,” she says. “I knew I had to be fast and that’s out of my comfort zone.”

Ros Canter and Allstar B (Libby Law)

Ireland has two riders in the top seven: Sarah Ennis leads the way with a score of 26.30 points in Horseware Stellor Rebound, enough to put her into the bronze medal position for now.

“I can’t believe we are actually here,” Sarah says. “He finds it very easy and he’s very fast. I think there might be a few drinks tonight.”

Sarah Ennis, sitting individually third for Ireland on Horseware Stellor Rebound (FEI)
Lt Col Thibaut Vallette and Qing du Briot, who are now fourth individually for France (FEI)

Now comes the confusing bit! When is the trot-up? Last we heard it will be decided (and hopefully announced) after a chef d’équipe meeting. Apparently the options are either in the morning, or on Monday morning. However the Tryon Equestrian Centre is in lockdown tomorrow, as they are expecting considerable rain overnight and there are warnings there will be flooding.

With the cancellation of the Freestyle dressage altogether, the show’s schedule is now a guessing game.

Maxime Livio, France, being interviewed after his cross country round

Here’s the link to the team standings which has all the riders’ scores as well but basically, this is the deal:

  1. Great Britain – 80.8
  2. Ireland – 89.0
  3. France – 91.8
  4. Japan – 100.9
  5. Australia – 112.2
  6. Germany – 114.2
  7. Sweden – 115.5
  8. United States – 121
  9. Netherlands – 123.6
  10. New Zealand – 126.2
  11. Canada – 131.7
  12. Belgium – 139.6
  13. Spain – 151.8
  14. Italy – 152.3
  15. Brazil – 173.7
  16. Switzerland – 313.7


Place Horse Rider Dressage XC Faults Total after XC
1 SAP Hale Bob OLD Ingrid Klimke GER 23.3 0 23.3
2 Allstar B Rosalind Canter GBR 24.6 0 24.6
3 Horseware Stellor Rebound Sarah Ennis IRL 26.3 0 26.3
4 Qing du Briot Ene HH Thibaut Vallette Lt Col FRA 25.6 1.2 26.8
5 Vinci de la Vigne Astier Nicolas FRA 27.2 0 27.2
6 Cekatinka Tim Price NZL 27.2 0 27.2
7 Mr Chunky Padraig McCarthy IRL 27.2 0 27.2
8 Quarrycrest Echo Piggy French GBR 27.8 0 27.8
9 Donner Lynn Symansky USA 28.3 0 28.3
10 Toledo de Kerser Tom McEwen GBR 28.4 0 28.4
11 Vassily de Lassos Andrew Hoy AUS 29.8 0 29.8
12 Classic Moet Jonelle Price NZL 30 0 30
13 Banderas Pawel Spisak POL 30.6 0.8 31.4
14 Billy the Red Kristina Cook GBR 29.1 2.4 31.5
15 Rumour Has It N.O.P. Merel Blom NED 31.6 0 31.6
16 Opium de Verrieres Maxime Livio FRA 30.1 2 32.1
17 Tacoma d’Horset Kazuma Tomoto JPN 32.2 0 32.2
18 Arctic Soul Gemma Tattersall GBR 32.4 0 32.4
19 Tresor Mail Sidney Dufresne FRA 28.9 4 32.9
20 Fernhill Tabasco Emma McNab AUS 27 6.8 33.8