Day one of competition got underway in Caen today, as GBR took to the arenas of the D’Ornano Stadium, La Prairie Racecourse and at the Caen Exhibition Centre, when even the wet weather could not dampen the mood in the GB camp.
After venue familiarisation yesterday, the GBR dressage came out strongly for the first day of the team competition at WEG. First into the impressive ‘footie’ stadium for the Brits was Gareth Hughes, aboard Jane Brewin’s Nadonna. After a slightly nervous start by the fifteen year old mare, she soon warmed to the arena and gave Gareth everything for a score of 69.714%.
Speaking after his test Gareth said; “I’m really proud of her, she was nervous on the centre line and the first halt; it was a couple of per cent lower than what we’ve been scoring but from a horsemanship point of view I couldn’t have been prouder. You don’t know what you’re going to get once you go in there and sometimes you can’t ride the test you planned in your head.”
The afternoon saw team stalwart Carl Hester face the music, with his Championship debutant horse Nip Tuck, owned by Jane De La Mare. With the striking ten year old bay gelding, the pair produced a stunning test to see a final score of 74.186% flash up on the scoreboard, which sees them lying in third place overnight.
“I’m delighted with his test, at his age [ten years old] I couldn’t have asked for more and for both my owner [Jane De La Mare] and myself it’s very exciting. He cost me 1000 Euros, so to me, the fact he’s done so well is like my gold medal to be honest; I know he did his absolute best in there for me and did everything I asked. You don’t really know what to expect with this crowd, they’re very enthusiastic and it was such a nice reception going in. It's 24 years since I first rode in my first World Equestrian Games (in Stockholm in 1990) so I'm really happy to come here and get that result."
Great Britain head into day two of the team dressage test lying in third place; with Michael Eilberg (with Jon and Julie Deverill’s Half Moon Delphi) and Charlotte Dujardin (with Roly Luard and Carl Hester’s Valegro).
Two GBR reiners, Josh Collins and Jessica Sternberg, made their Games debuts today at the Caen Exhibition Centre for part one of the team competition. Both banked solid scores to put Team GBR in fifth place in the team competition ahead of its conclusion tomorrow on a score of 429,0.
Josh Collins stood up to the pressure of being first out for the Brits to nail a super tidy performance with Spook A Little for 216. The pair sit tenth in the individual leader board overnight.
Commenting on his test Josh said: “My horse was fantastic; I went out to be nice and correct and try to get a clear round for the team and he felt great in there. I couldn’t be happier, this is a perfect start. My horse is a cool little guy, I might have wanted a slightly higher score but this is just the beginning. I’m hoping it’s enough to make the finals.
“This is by far the biggest stage we’ve ever competed on, the scale is something else, it’s what you dream of. The organisation and everything has been fantastic and the ground is as good as any you’ll find. It’s great to be here!”
Second up for GB, Jessica Sternberg rode every ounce out of the Sterling Quarter Horses’ Smart Like Valentino to score a very respectable 213 to slot into 16th place in the overnight standings.
Commenting on her performance she said: “It’s been a tough ride to get here; Smart Like Valentino is an old show horse who has been there and done that and he gave me a challenging time in there today. I haven’t shown him since he was a four year old so I didn’t really know what to expect. It’s just been brilliant to ride at WEG though, the atmosphere, the crowd, it’s all been amazing.”
Brits Doug Allen, Shane Borland and Francesca Sternberg all compete tomorrow.
The team (four riders compete in the team competition, with the fifth rider contesting the individual events) contesting the Championships has been named as: Natasha Baker, Sophie Christiansen, Lee Pearson and Sophie Wells.
British riders only featured in the Grade Ib class today; Lee Pearson, with his parents, Gillian Chinn’s and his own Zion followed an impressive test by Pepo Puch in the second half of the afternoon’s competition, with the Austrian throwing down the gauntlet with a score of 76.52%.
After a superb test by the Staffordshire rider, showcasing a powerful and expressive trot, he was rewarded with a score of 77.96%, to eventually win the team test.
“His trot work felt phenomenal and really off the ground; I had him (Pepo Puch, fellow competitor) on the trot work but Zion’s walk can be a weak point but I’ve worked really hard to improve it. He’s still only ten and has so much more to learn. The individual test and freestyle have much more trot work so I’ll use that to my advantage. I’m pleased with the score; it’s great for the team - its days like this that you wish it was a medal day though!”
Ricky Balshaw, riding the Lady Joseph Trust’s LJT Engaards Solitaire as an individual produced a strong test for a score 71% for eighth place.
“We started well but a mistake in the middle where he jogged was costly to be honest. I felt it was very accurate but the test sheets may say different! I’m hoping I can use today’s experience to my advantage as the individual test (on Wednesday) suits me and him better. Hopefully we can put the mistakes behind us and they don’t stay in the judges’ minds.
“I’m grateful for my UK Sport World Class funding as it helps me train with such a top coach. Michele has helped us so much. I just hope that as the competition goes on we can show in the arena what we can do in training.”
The remaining team members, Sophie Wells, Natasha Baker and Sophie Christiansen, all take to the arena for their first day of competition tomorrow.
OTHER GBR NEWS
Elsewhere in Normandy, the endurance stables have been set-up in true Team GBR decking and are ready to welcome our five equine contestants.
Eventing horses are arrived and safely installed in their newly decorated stables in Haras du Pin. The GBR eventing riders arrive in town tomorrow, ahead of Wednesday’s trot-up, with the eventing competition getting underway on Thursday morning.
Equestrian Team GBR is supported by the UK Sport Lottery funded World Class Programme; the British teams are very grateful to the support they receive from official Team GBR suppliers Dodson and Horrell, Land Rover, Mears Country Jackets, NAF, NuuMed, Point Two Equine, Tagg Equestrian and Toggi.
08.48 Para-Dressage: Sophie Wells, Valerius
09.30 (approx.) Reining: Doug Allen, Hangten Shiner
11.33 Dressage: Michael Eilberg, Half Moon Delphi
15.00 (approx.) Reining: Shane Borland, Chex N Flashy
15.10 (approx.) Reining: Francesca Sternberg, Ten Reasons
15.45 Para-Dressage: Natasha Baker, Cabral
16.37 Para-Dressage: Sophie Christiansen, Janeiro 6
17.00 Dressage: Charlotte Dujardin, Valegro
Please note that all timings are provided in CET (France is one hour ahead of UK time).
Coverage of tomorrow's events is available via FEI TV . You can watch highlights from all the action today via Horse & Country TV’s special highlights programme tonight at 9pm - www.horseandcountry.tv