German riders were simply the best on the final day of the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle where, in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen, who presented the medals, they won team gold by more than 50 penalties and the matchless Michael Jung captured the fifth individual title of his career.
All four team members – Jung, Sandra Auffarth, who also took individual silver, Ingrid Klimke and Dirk Schrade – went clear in the Jumping phase to give Germany a fifth successive team title. Their winning run began at the 2011 FEI European Eventing Championship at Luhmühlen (GER) and has included three European titles plus Olympic and world team golds.
Jung confirmed his place in Eventing history as one of the world’s greats when he equalled Ginny Elliot’s (GBR) record, set in the 1980s, of three European titles on three different horses. He has, however, now beaten her record of six consecutive individual medals – this is his seventh since his senior championship debut in 2009.
This third European title was perhaps the hardest fought, as it came on an inexperienced eight-year-old horse and after a Cross Country phase run in the most testing of weather.
“Now I can say I have a champion for the future,” said a visibly thrilled Jung, in a warning to the rest of the world that he is not planning to give anyone else a chance just yet. “fischerTakinou is a really good horse and I think he has the quality for the next championships.”
In a nail-biting finish Great Britain secured team silver after three superb showjumping performances by Kitty King, Nicola Wilson and Pippa Funnell, to see them stand on the podium alongside fellow team-mate William Fox-Pitt. “I feel rather fraudulent sitting here,” joked Fox-Pitt, who was competing at his 10th European Championship and has only once failed to bring home a medal. “But the girls did so well. They really deserved the silver.” Kitty also finished best of the Brits in fourth place, whilst Holly Woodhead was awarded a saddle by The Worshipful Company of Saddlers for finishing the highest placed Under 25 rider.
British team member Nicola Wilson and One Two Many, owned by Gerry & Mary Kemp and Mrs Janine Shewan, got the GBR riders underway this morning in the main arena. With a superb start to the round the combination unfortunately met the distance wrong to fence seven seeing Nicola almost come unseated and the pole fall. A great recovery and faultless finish to the round kept the duo inside the time for a jumping score of four faults, completing on a score of 77.4 penalties.
A slightly disappointed Nicola commented; “I put him in an impossible position, but what a super horse for jumping and very nearly jumping me out of the saddle, going through my head was ‘there’s only three of us, there’s only three of us, you’ve got to stay on’ and we re-grouped and he picked up beautifully and finished the rest of the course really nicely.”
With just one rider in the morning session it was a busy afternoon for the British camp. Kicking the second session off for the Brits was Holly Woodhead with Ian and Heidi Woodhead’s DHI Lupison. Heading in with a look of determination, Holly was unlucky to take the front pole of fence 7 down to add four faults to her score for 73.70 penalties.
“He was jumping amazing up until then, I think I just took a bit of an inside line to the oxer [fence 7] I should have been a little more to the outside and he just clipped it in front which was a real shame. I’m relieved! I finished and I’ve completed my first senior Championships – I’m over the moon! I’m thrilled with the horse and our performance it could have gone better but it also could have gone a lot worse, I’m really looking forward to our future.”
Sarah Bullimore was the next individual rider to come forward for GBR with her own and husband Brett Bullimore’s Lilly Corinne. After a great start, fence 7 proved once again unlucky for the British camp as Sarah also had the pole down and was unlucky to also bring down a further fence at 9a.
Finishing on a total score of 76.60 penalties Sarah commented about what this experience has been like; “She is normally very careful but she just got a little bit excited in there, it’s a bit disappointing but that is horses. It’s been an absolute honour to be here and I’m over the moon, yes I’m a tad disappointed, you have hopes and now its ifs and buts of what could have been, yes we’ve had a couple of disappointing blips but that is horses. She’s a lovely, lovely horse for the future, she’s jumped fantastically well around a championship track, I’m chuffed to bits with her.”
Oliver Townend aboard PJ Hegarty’s Fenyas Elegance produced a stunning round inside the time to come home clear and finish their competition with a total penalty score of 64.70.
Commenting afterwards he said; “It’s nice to jump a clear on the third day, she’s a good jumper and a clear round jumper in general so there’s no excuses. I’m glad that it ended that way. She is a new ride, so we’ll see, but she’ll be aimed at Badminton next year. It’s frustrating that we had a run-out, she’s capable in my mind of being an individual medallist but it was a nice way for her to finish the week with that clear round but hopefully onwards and upwards.”
The second team member into the ring was Pippa Funnell with Mrs Jennifer A Nolan, Miss Ruth McMullen and her own Sandman 7. Having displayed amazing skill yesterday on the cross-country course, Pippa once again showed what the nine year old Sandman is capable of, with a masterful showjumping round, to finish on 50.60 penalties.
An over the moon Pippa commented; “He did feel a little bit green at the beginning, and maybe was a little bit tight and then half way through my round I started to trust him more and more and then he started relaxing and showed the jumping he can do, I’m very excited. He’s been brilliant in all three phases, there are some little nervous mistakes and he’s got to get more experience, but this has given him enormous experience this week.”
After their exuberant clear cross country round the previous day Laura Collett and Mrs Diana Chappell’s Grand Manoeuvre looked set to continue their flying form into the showjumping phase with a beautiful start to the round. It was again fence 7 that was to be the stumbling block for the British combination as Milo appeared to not read the dark red oxer correctly grinding to a halt at the base of the jump, with no problem on the representation they continued their round taking down the plank on fence 8 on their way home. With a three phase total of 59.6 penalties the duo ended their European campaign in 13th place.
Laura said; “Today’s been really frustrating, he was jumping really nicely and then I don’t know what happened, he just didn’t see it as a jump, he never focussed on it but I’m hugely proud of the horse, we’re a really new partnership which is getting better and better so it’s exciting for the future. It’s been amazing to be part of the squad, all the support has been brilliant and hopefully we’ll have another chance.”
After going clear inside the time on the cross-country course Gemma Tattersall with The Soul Syndicate’s Arctic Soul were next to face the showjumping track. After jumping the first two fences, Spike misread the third fence which saw him hit the poles, incurring four faults, after representing they flew over the rest of the course to come home with a total score of 53.30 penalties.
“He just didn’t take off over the fence; I think he must have misread the question as he’s never had a stop in his life. Obviously it’s gutting but overall I’ve got to be pleased with how he composed himself to finish the rest of the course. It’s been an absolutely amazing experience to compete here, I’ve really enjoyed it and the horse has given me a fantastic ride all week; I’m over the moon with how he jumped and dealt with the pressure,” commented Gemma.
As the final team member, Kitty King entered the arena with her partner Persimmon, owned by Jane and Frank Inns, the British camp held their breath as a clear round inside the time would secure team silver. Producing a stunning performance, the pair delivered just that, springing over the fifteen jumping efforts to the delights of the home crowd.
An ecstatic Kitty commented afterwards; “I knew I was going first before I came up here, I wasn’t really thinking of a high individual placing I just wanted to go out and get a good solid start for the team, and just didn’t want to let the team down, so I wasn’t really thinking or focussing on individual placings. To get the silver medal with the team is just absolutely brilliant.”
Lying in the bronze medal position overnight Izzy Taylor with KBIS Briarlands Matilda, owned by Mr Guy Avis, were the last of the British combinations to enter the arena. After getting off to a good start Izzy was unlucky to have a pole down at fence 8, to incur four faults which saw her finish on a score of 48.00 penalties.
Izzy said on her round; “I wouldn’t have done anything any differently in there; she was fantastic so it was a really frustrating rail to have and expensive! It’s a real shame, she’s jumped really well all weekend but that’s the sport, sometimes it plays into your hand and sometimes it doesn’t. Yesterday it did and I was thrilled but I’m a bit grumpy after today. We all have our dreams of winning but Matilda has tried her heart out all week and I can’t be too disappointed with that.”
Yogi Breisner, Chef d’Equipe and World Class Eventing Performance Manager, summed up the championships, commenting; “Blair has been very good, the competition organisers and sponsors have done a great job here. Everyone came through the weather yesterday with flying colours; it was great to have twelve riders here and on the whole, I’m very pleased with the performance and delighted to win silver. It was great to have Kitty as a new member on the team and to finish best of the Brits, but disappointed for Izzy that she couldn’t hang on to her bronze. A lot of positives have come out of this to build on with our preparation for next year.”
Germany took the team honours, with France taking the bronze. Individually it was a Germany one-two as gold went to Michael Jung with Sandra Auffarth taking the silver and France’s Thibaut Vallette, the bronze. The French were a very happy quartet after taking the team bronze medal and securing their Olympic qualification. The icing on the cake was an individual bronze medal for team newcomer Thibaut Vallette.
The French army officer, a Lieutenant-Colonel based at the army equitation school at Saumur (FRA), jumped a superb clear round on Qing du Briot ENE HN, an 11-year-old Selle Francais by Eolien ll.
“I never expected this to happen,” said Vallette. “Our first job was to qualify for the Olympics so to come home with two medals is a real bonus.”
The other Olympic qualifying spot goes to the Swedes, who finished in fifth place behind the Netherlands, who had booked their ticket to Rio last year in Normandy. The magnitude of the German victory will have left the rest of the world wondering what they can do to beat them. “You can see by our smiles how much this means to us,” said Ingrid Klimke. “But we are very aware that we have to keep working to stay here because there are many other nations who want to be standing where we are.”
“The best team has definitely won,” concluded Event Director Alec Lochore. “The Germans did the best job of dealing with Scotch mist!”
Final Individual Results
1 Michael Jung/fischerTakinou (GER)* 33.5 + 0 + 0 = 33.5
2 Sandra Auffarth/Opgun Louvo (GER)* 31.4 + 11.2 + 0 = 42.6
3 Thibaut Vallette/Qing du Briot ENE HN (FRA)* 36.8 + 8.4 + 0 = 45.2
4 Kitty King/Persimmon (GBR)* 36.9 + 8.4 + 0 = 45.3
5 Ingrid Klimke/Horseware Hale Bob (GER)* 37.8 + 8.8 + 0 = 46.6
6 Izzy Taylor/KBIS Briarlands Matilda (GBR) 44.0 + 0 + 4 = 48.0
7 Dirk Schrade/Hop And Skip (GER)* 43.1 + 5.2 + 0 = 48.3
8 Pippa Funnell/Sandman 7 (GBR)* 41.0 + 9.6 + 0 = 50.6
9 Gemma Tattersall/Arctic Soul (GBR) 47.3 + 0 + 6 = 53.3
10 Peter Thomsen/Horseware Barney (GER) 47.3 + 10.4 + 0 = 57.7
*denotes team rider
Final Team Results
1 Germany 122.7; 2 Great Britain 173.3; 3 France 183.7; 4 Netherlands 213.3; 5 Sweden 284.8 Full results on www.blair2015.com
Final British Individual placings:
4th Kitty King / 6th Izzy Taylor / 8th Pippa Funnell / 9th Gemma Tattersall / 13th Laura Collett / 17th Oliver Townend / 21st Holly Woodhead / 26th Sarah Bullimore / 27th Nicola Wilson