FEI Eventing European Championship 2023, Haras du Pin (FRA). Written by Louise Parkes
At the end of day one at the FEI Eventing European Championship 2023, defending champions Great Britain are already flexing their not-inconsiderable muscles. It’s only halfway through the Dressage phase, but with the reigning individual world championship partnership of Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir lying first and team-mate Kitty King in third place with Vendredi Biats they already have a strong grip on the team and individual leaderboards.
However, heading into the afternoon, Germany’s Jerome Robine produced a super test from his 13-year-old Irish-bred gelding, Black Ice to separate the two British ladies by slotting into second. Competing as an individual the 25-year-old rider and the horse he steered into tenth place at Luhmuehlen (GER) in June look set to present a serious challenge.
As it stands this evening, Team Germany sits in second followed by The Netherlands, France, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria and Ireland in that order.
Ingham leads the individual standings on a score of 23.4 and Robine is next with 26.0 ahead of King on a mark of 27.2 and Wahler on 28.3.
Belgium’s Andrew Heffernan and Gideon took the early lead and held on for some time. Their impressive score of 29.00 leaves them in fifth overnight ahead of Sweden’s Lina Forsberg (Kaizen) in sixth and Frenchman Karim Florent Laghouag (Triton Fontaine) in seventh. Completing the line-up of the top 10 so far are two Italians, Giovannii Ugolotti (Swirly Temptress) and Evelina Bertoli (Fidjy des Melezes) in eighth and ninth followed by Hansen-Hotopp in tenth.
Britain’s King was the first to overtake Heffernan but wasn’t entirely happy with her performance.
Froggy (Vendredi Biats) did a solid test but I’m a bit disappointed with the mark, it’s quite a bit off what he can score. He was really onside, didn’t really make any mistakes, the rein-back was a shame because he’s usually very good at those but there was a bit of a miscommunication between us, but otherwise he was super and tried the whole time so I’m really proud of him”,
she said after putting her good score on the board.
She was already thinking ahead to Saturday’s cross-country course which has all the riders talking.
Obviously I’ve got a job to do going first and hopefully put in a good score for the team. It’s going to be a tough track, very twisty and hilly and the ground is fairly soft so it’s going to be a good stamina test, and there are lots of questions right to the very end so you are going to have to stay on your game”,
she pointed out.
She described the 29-fence test as “a cross between Bramham and Luhmuehlen – Bramham dimensions and terrain and Luhmuehlen twistiness. But he’s done well in both so I hope that will stand us in good stead. It’s a great track and I look forward to Saturday!”, she said.
Banzai was light, elegant and expressive today when cruising to the top of the dressage scoreboard. The day got warmer as it went along but she said,
Ingham spoke of her take on the cross-country test:
It’s a very interesting track, very well built and designed and beautifully presented so I’m really looking forward to riding around it. There are some serious questions and the ground is the same kind of ground we’ve been dealing with in England. There’s been a lot of rain here so I’m hoping this next few days drying weather will help that. I’m looking forward to Saturday but I won’t be taking anything for granted, there’s lots to do and I’ll be working hard to have a good result”.
Asked to compare the course at Haras du Pin to Pratoni (Italy) where she won the world title she said:
Pratoni was very undulating and twisty and this brings similar vibes to that. But it’s very big and bold out there, quite a lot of big ditches and brushes and everything dimensionally is quite big so I’m very lucky to be sat on an excellent jumping horse”.
And does holding the title of world champion put more pressure on her?
I still can’t believe that actually happened! I still put just as much pressure on myself and nothing really has changed in that regard. I’m still very competitive and want to do my best and make sure I ride Banzai to the best and show him off!”, she explained.
Ingham was only 25 when she scooped the world title a year ago, and second-placed Robine is only that age this year. Robine’s excellent test today was not unexpected as he has regularly scored in the early 20s and he has been on the German team radar for quite some time. Today’s result has confirmed the wisdom of his selection for his very first senior championship.
He said this evening that he is lucky to be in a position to share feedback from German team members Hansen-Hotopp and Wahler before heading out onto Saturday’s cross-country track. He feels quite confident about it but he knows it won’t be easy.
It starts with the first water and you have from the beginning to the end questions all the way, so and there will be mistakes everywhere”,
he said. He’ll be hoping he won’t be making any of them however.
Cross-country course designer, Pierre Le Goupil, explained today that it has been a challenging time preparing the ground for this year’s event at Haras du Pin.
We probably had more than 250mm of water in two weeks which is a lot on a natural clay ground. In fact Le Pin is more easy to prepare when it is dry”, he said.
This puts a little bit more pressure on the (horse and rider) combinations…it is already a demanding venue because of the topography, it is never flat. The only fences that can be on the flat are in the water jump. The strategy of the riders, the knowledge, the commitment between the combinations is going to be part of the game and they will need to have a strategy to know their horse and not to ride flat so they have enough petrol in the tank to finish.”
Before Saturday’s excitement, there is another day of dressage tomorrow and the leaderboard could likely get another good shake-up.
Italy’s Federico Sacchetti (GRC Shiraz) will be first into the ring Friday morning, followed by Ireland’s Jennifer Kuehnle (Polly Blue Eyes), Great Britain’s Tom McEwen (JL Dublin) and Gireg Le Coz (Aisprit de al Loge) from France. Then the team rotation begins again with some of the biggest names in the sport going later in the day including Germany’s Michael Jung (Fischerchipmunk FRH) and Great Britain’s Ros Canter (Lordships Graffalo).
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