Another Incredible Year Under the Glass Dome of Olympia

The London International Horse Show, Olympia - View of main arena ©Kit Houghton

Another Incredible Year Under the Glass Dome of Olympia

written by Amy Powell

As the curtains close for the 2017 London International Horse Show – Olympia, the British public should garner confidence from the display of talent ahead of the forthcoming journey to the 2018 World Equestrian Games.

Starting off the week, crowds that gathered to watch the Grand Prix dressage were treated to a stronger field than they were expecting, given the absence of Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester. Spectators were allowed the opportunity to watch new, up and coming partnerships that will no doubt be responsible for shaping the future of dressage.

FEI World Cup Dressage Freestyle to Music

Leading the way in Wednesday evening’s freestyle, with a polished performance containing the highest degree of difficulty in the class, was Sweden’s Patrik Kittel riding the classy Delaunay OLD to a score of 80.56%. The pair gave a faultless test as the 11 year old Oldenburg danced to a medley of rock tunes, delighting the packed crowds of the great Olympia hall.

With a 13 year absence from the Olympia Grand Prix Freestyle class, Kittel certainly made his presence known when he entered the arena as the penultimate rider in the section.  Confident of his chances Kittel commented “He [Delaunay] finds the test so easy, he really plays with it and so I thought “if you ride fault free tonight then you could make it [to first place], but you never know.””

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Patrik Kittel riding Delaunay OLD swe
Patrik Kittel riding Delaunay OLD SWE Image ©Kit Houghton/Horsepower

The win was a real culmination of years of determination for the Swedish team member, “it was three years ago [I last came here] and when I went home back then I was really sad because I didn’t make the freestyle, I was dead last and I drove home in my little truck without a shower and was washing with bottles of water from Adli,” he laughed. “But now you come back and you win, and that I think is why I got so emotional because you actually feel like if you work really hard and you want something, then you also are going to achieve it someday. I don’t think anyone can tell you how that feels, you just have to experience yourself.”

Patrik Kittel riding Delaunay OLD swe ©Kit Houghton/Horsepower
Patrik Kittel riding Delaunay OLD swe
Image ©Kit Houghton/Horsepower

A mere 10th of a percent separated Kittel from second placed rider, Emile Faurie (GBR) riding the 13 year old stallion Delatio, “It hasn’t quite sunk in yet. It doesn’t feel like a surprise, it feels like a bloody miracle!” Emile laughed. This was also the best score that this combination has achieved internationally, posting a final mark of 80.406%.

Emile Faurie riding Delatio gbr ©Kit Houghton/Horsepower
Emile Faurie riding Delatio gbr
Image ©Kit Houghton/Horsepower

What’s even more exciting is the striking bay stallion has even more to offer, “He hasn’t got a lot of competition experience, I haven’t been riding him for that long, I think there is a few more percent in there, I hope.” Emile said of their performance, “there are a few things that need to get better, last night [in the Grand Prix Special] I played it safe because I don’t know him in the arena that well yet, but he’s such an awesome horse, such a trier, he really wants to do it and I think the quality speaks for itself.”

Taking third place was Tuesday night’s Grand Prix Special leader, Edward Gal riding the extremely promising young stallion Glock’s Zonik. The 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood showed the most free flowing trot of all competitors with a huge range of movement, but unfortunately inexperience prevailed when tension started to creep in towards the end, during the collected movements and an error in the one time tempi-changes. “Tonight, I had too many mistakes.” Commented Gal, “but I was really pleased with Zonik, for him it was a really good learning experience as he’s not used to such a big crowd and you don’t have this atmosphere anywhere.”

Edward Gal riding Glock's Zonik ned ©Kit Houghton/Horsepower
Edward Gal riding Glock’s Zonik ned
Image©Kit Houghton/Horsepower

The Cayenne Puissance

Thursday night saw the age-old tradition of The Cayenne Puissance class at Olympia. With a field of 11 riders, the Brits were well represented with five riders. The class made it the usual five rounds, which saw the monumental red brick wall rise in stature from 1m 90 to 2m20 (7ft 3 in old money!) in 10cm increments each round. Last year’s joint winners, Ireland’s Christopher Megahey and Britain’s Holly Smith, unfortunately didn’t make it to the top of the podium. Christopher’s explosive ride Seapatrick Cruise Cavalier, knocked down the triple bar in round three and Holly’s 9-year-old stallion Quality Old Joker, took out a red brick in the final round.

Laura RENWICK riding Top Dollar v. GBR Winners of the Cayenne Puissance ©Kit Houghton/Horsepower
Laura RENWICK riding Top Dollar v. GBR
Winners of the Cayenne Puissance
Image ©Kit Houghton/Horsepower

With three other riders joining Holly in round five, it took until the final combination to enter the arena to give the crowd the clear that they wanted, crowning the winner for 2018. Belgium’s Karline De Brabander and Ireland’s Padraig Judge both fell by the wayside, leaving the door open for Britain’s Laura Renwick riding the incredibly scopey Top Dollar VI. The 8-year-old chestnut stallion gave the imposing wall a foot of room each round, but just touched a brick on his final jump, luckily leaving it in place for Laura to claim the top spot.

Laura RENWICK riding Top Dollar v. GBR Winners of the Cayenne Puissance ©Kit Houghton/Horsepower
Laura RENWICK riding Top Dollar v. GBR
Winners of the Cayenne Puissance
©Kit Houghton/Horsepower

“It’s the one round that you want to get the perfect distance, and it was the one round where I didn’t,” Laura remarked. “He had to use himself but somehow the brick stayed.” One thing is for certain, the best is definitely yet to come with this exceedingly talented young stallion.

Longines FEI World Cup grand Prix

Arguably the most important class of the show, for the show jumpers at least, was the Longines FEI World Cup grand Prix that took place on Sunday afternoon. The capacity crowd was treated to a momentous occasion when, for the first time in 32 years, a French rider took the top spot in the World Cup leg at Olympia. It was Julien Epaillard who rode the blistering clear round in the jump off with Toupie de la Roque, to be crowned the winner alongside collecting the FEI world ranking points.  “It’s a fantastic victory for me today, English people are very hospitable and to finish the year with a victory here is very special,” Julien said.

Class 20 The Longines FEI World Cup  Winner Julien EPAILLARD riding Toupie de la Roque FRA ©Kit Houghton/Horsepower
The Longines FEI World Cup
Winner Julien EPAILLARD riding Toupie de la Roque FRA
Image ©Kit Houghton/Horsepower

With only 4 clear rounds out of 36 in the first leg of the class, The Frenchman was the last to enter the arena for the jump off and was left no choice but to attempt a fast clear. First to enter was Sweden’s Peder Fredricson riding H&M Christian K, who posted a steady time of 41.34 seconds over the twisting track of 8 jumping efforts, which was swiftly beaten by Edwina Tops-Alexander, of Australia riding the exciting young gelding Inca Boy van T Vianhof with a time of 41.05 seconds.

Edwina TOPS-ALEXANDER riding Inca Boy van't Vianahof AUS ©Kit Houghton/Horsepower
Edwina TOPS-ALEXANDER riding Inca Boy van’t Vianahof AUS
Image ©Kit Houghton/Horsepower

Next out was Great Britain’s Scott Brash, riding the indomitable 16 year old mare and last year’s winner, Ursula XII. The pair scorched round the track to take almost four seconds off Edwina’s round, posting a seemingly unbeatable time of 37.34 seconds. “I hoped I’d done enough but to be honest I know Julien very well, and he wins classes week in week out.” Scott said of his fellow horseman, “so I know how fast he is and I was kind of hoping he’d have a jump down! But it wasn’t to be and fair play to him, he rode a fantastic round.”

Scott BRASH riding Ursula XII GBR ©Kit Houghton/Horsepower
Scott BRASH riding Ursula XII GBR
©Kit Houghton/Horsepower

Scott also quashed any ideas of Ursula retiring to stud any time soon, “[she will] in time but I think a horse tells you when they’re ready and she certainly isn’t ready,” Scott said of the British bred mare, “she’s enjoying the sport and I’d love to give her a foal one day, it would be a nice end to her career, but while she’s jumping like this and happy then we’ll take it a show at a time.”

Olympia Grand Prix

The final class of the 7-day show was the Olympia Grand Prix show jumping competition, which saw the stands packed to their limit once again to watch history being made as it crowned it’s first Italian winner.

View of main arena ©Kit Houghton
View of main arena
©Kit Houghton

The less technical Grand Prix track saw 12 combinations make it through to the jump off. Great Britain’s Michael Whitaker set an early example riding the young mare JB’s Hot Stuff and lead the way with a time of 34.3 seconds, which looked to be enough to give the popular show jumper yet another win at Olympia.

Turkish Airlines Grand Prix Class26  3rd place Michael WHITAKER riding JB's Hot Stuff GBR ©Kit Houghton
3rd place Michael WHITAKER riding JB’s Hot Stuff GBR
©Kit Houghton

“I didn’t think I had quite done enough to win, but I was hopeful,” Michael said of his round. “The mare is on great form and jumped really well, but I could have done with a flyer to the last.”

Five rounds later, The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders entered the arena riding Zinius and produced a customary speedy round to nudge himself into the lead with a time of 34.24 but the horse stumbled after jumping the wall, which cost him dearly.

Turkish Airlines Grand Prix Class26  2nd place Harrie SMOLDERS riding Zinius NED ©Kit Houghton
2nd place Harrie SMOLDERS riding Zinius NED
Image ©Kit Houghton

The crowd, whipped into a frenzy by Harrie’s ride, was murmuring…”surely that had to be the winning round?”. But immediately after Harrie exited, in rode Italy’s Alberto Zorzi on board the 13-year-old mare, Contanga. Zorzi, had to put his foot to the floor to get ahead of Smolders, luckily the Italian saw a stride in which to do so coming round the corner from the penultimate fence stopping the clock in 34.04 seconds, snatching the title from Harrie.

Turkish Airlines Grand Prix Class26  Winner Alberto ZORZI riding Contanga 3 ITA ©Kit Houghton
Winner Alberto ZORZI riding Contanga 3 ITA
Image ©Kit Houghton

“I knew I needed to go faster in the turns as there weren’t many other places where you could make up time,” Alberto said, “I had a very good distance to the last fence which meant I could keep travelling to it.” The Italian has only been riding Contanga since July, and this victory was not only his first win at Olympia on his first ever visit to the show, but also his first win with this mare, this combination is surely one we will be seeing in the future.

After another incredible year under the glass dome of Olympia, although we didn’t see many Brits stand between the winning podiums, we can be sure that British Show Jumping and British Dressage are clawing their way back to the podiums in time for the World Equestrian Games in 2018, and that they are slowly but surely gaining more depth in talent ready for the beginning of their campaign next year. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for them!

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