So the first medals have been awarded at this my first Championships as Performance Director. And what a start! Team Silver for the Team GBR Dressage squad, pipped at the post by the Dutch and beating the hot favourites, Germany, into Bronze.
Ever since their arrival out here the Team GBR Dressage squad has been in a good place. Under Performance Manager Richard Waygood, they arrived in Aachen comfortable with themselves, the ability of their horses and in each other’s company. They were also full of quiet determination in what had to be achieved; and boy have they delivered so far!
On Wednesday Michael Eilberg and Marakov’s workmanlike test in the daunting Aachen arena provided the firm platform the rest of the team needed to perform at their best.
Fiona Bigwood’s test, only her and ‘Tilly’s’ sixth at this level, and at her first major Championship for 5 years, wowed both crowd and judges alike. Given where Fiona was a year ago after falling from a young horse, and still wearing an eye patch to counteract the double-vision she still suffers, her 75.8% to put Team GBR into the bronze medal position overnight was a remarkable achievement.
On Thursday both the heat and the pressure ramped up considerably. To the delight of owner Jane de la Mare, Carl produced his usual polished performance on ‘Barney’ to finish on 75.4% and the stage was set for the much-hyped showdown everyone had been waiting for Matthias Alexander Rath on Totilas and Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro. Totilas finished with a score of 75.971%, close to their all-time lowest mark, although a mystery technical fault on the electronic scoreboard meant the huge crowd could not see the marks being given. In the final analysis two of the seven judges placed him first and two had him eleventh, including the German judge. This meant the German team dropped to bronze after their last to go, Kristina Bröring-Sprehe, also failed to score above 80%.
Fiona Bigwood and Tillie Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro
Meanwhile Edward Gal on Glock’s Undercover recovered his composure after their poor showing in Rotterdam last month to go fault free for 82.229%. This left too much for Charlotte and ‘Blueberry’ to do, so despite an excellent test of 83.029% Team GBR stayed in the silver medal position. However Charlotte leads the individual rankings and all four members of the team have qualified for the Grand Prix Special so there is still a lot to play for over the weekend. Roly Luard and Anne Barrott who co-own Valegro with Carl will be hopeful for Valegro’s chances in the individual medals, although as was shown the other day, at this level the tiniest mistakes can be extremely costly.
Today Team GBR’s Reining team narrowly missed out on a bronze medal after finishing an impressive fourth in the team competition. Congratulations to Shane Borland, Francesca Sternberg and Doug Allen for their performances as we look ahead to the weekend and next week’s Jumping championships where we will hopefully see an increase in our medal tally.