As day two of the competition got underway at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games we saw the first of the medals with GBR riders out in force and rising to the occasion that a World Championships brings.
It was a superb day for Great Britain in the dressage arena, as Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin, Michael Eilberg, Carl Hester and Gareth Hughes produced the goods out at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy to win the silver medal and thus achieve qualification for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
After Gareth Hughes and Carl Hester’s performances yesterday, which left GBR in the bronze medal position overnight, the pressure was on for Michael Eilberg and Charlotte Dujardin to deliver on the spectacular D’Ornano stage.
Entering the arena for his world championship debut, Michael produced a vital test for the team, marred only by a couple of expensive mistakes aboard a slightly unsettled Half Moon Delphi (owned by Jon and Julie Deverill) to post 71.886%, which sees him through to tomorrow’s Grand Prix Special.
The second half of today’s competition saw Olympic and European champion Charlotte Dujardin take to the floor. With Roly Luard and Carl Hester’s Valegro the familiar duo wowed the judges to take the top spot. Their test, which included some impressive piaffe and pirouettes, posted a stunning 85.271% to stand nearly four percent ahead of their nearest rivals, Germany’s Isabell Werth and Bella Rose.
Commenting after her world class performance Charlotte said; “I had such fun. I went out there to do my very best and wanted to try to get us [the team] into a medal position. He did his best and I’m so lucky, as he has just felt fantastic all week. He did try to stop on the centre line but apart from that I was really, really happy. To go out there and get the welcome I got was fantastic. It’s such a great feeling to have that many people behind you.”
Will Connell, Chef de Mission for GBR out at the WEG summed up today’s performance; “As a team they only have two occasions to qualify for the Rio Olympics. This is absolutely what we wanted and means that they have a two year run in to the Olympics, during which time they can bring on young horses and don’t have to worry about qualification. What Charlotte did today was truly outstanding, and along with her team mates, they have made the paving stones for the road to Rio.”
Three British reiners took to the arena at the Caen Exhibition Centre today for the conclusion of the team competition which saw GB finish in eight position out of a total of 16 teams.
The top fifteen individuals now go through to the final to be held on the evening of Saturday 30 August. A second individual qualifying round – the consolation final - takes place on Thursday for those placed 16-35 with the top five competitors from this also gaining a place in Saturday’s competition.
Husband and wife, Doug Allen and Francesca Sternberg, posted ‘his and hers’ scores to end the day equal 23rd on 214.5 while Shane Borland, competing as an individual, had a more difficult day at the office to finish on 196 in 73rd place.
Doug Allen riding Chris and Roger Brazeau’s Hangten Shiner commented; “It’s really exciting, the crowd really got me cooked in there, there’s nothing else like it in the world, this is as big as it gets! He’s a young horse, this is the biggest thing he’s ever done so I’m extremely happy. We had a few minor wobbles which kept our score down but he’s not as experienced as most of the horses here so I’m happy he held it together in there. This pattern maybe doesn’t suit him as well as some of the others because the spins come up first and he could do with the adrenaline of the runs to pep him up but that’s where he lacks maturity.”
Shane Borland on Chex N Flashy, said after his test; “My horse felt great outside; he’s been to some big events but this is extreme. The atmosphere here just didn’t work for him today. He was running scared of the crowd and the noise, I tried things slow and I tried things fast but nothing was working, he just panicked. He’s capable of so much more but it’s the way it goes sometime. Still, it’s just phenomenal being here and to be part of Team GBR; it’s the first time I’ve been part of something like this. All the support and backing we receive and the benefit of lottery funding and all the suppliers it’s really great.”
Francesca Sternberg, said afterwards; “The horse is called Ten Reasons and when we went to look at the horse I said ‘I can think of ten reasons we shouldn’t buy this horse’ and Doug said ‘well I can think of ten reasons why we should’. I think he’s just added an 11th reason to why we should. There are few exceptional horses who will pick up the slack for you and he is one of them. Due to a horse swop last week this is the first time I’ve shown him and he was a superstar.”
Josh Collins ends round one best of the Brits in 20th place on a score of 216.0 and Jessica Sternberg winds up 35th on her score of 213.0. Josh, Doug, Francesca and Jessica all go forward to Thursday’s individual competition.
The remaining three team members, Sophie Wells, Natasha Baker and Sophie Christiansen, faced the music at La Prairie Racecourse today as the final day of the Team tests took place, signifying the half-way mark in the team competition.
First into the arena was Grade IV para-dressage rider Sophie Wells with Valerius. Showcasing some lovely movements, she was rewarded with a score of 74.548%, and the win, ahead of Belgium’s Michele George and Holland’s Frank Hosmar.
“I’m pleased. It’s his biggest competition so far, having done two Europeans before but not a Worlds or a Paralympics, and we’ve been working hard at home on the different parts of the test. He’s shown improvement and we can now build on that for the rest of the competition. I know him so well as I’ve produced him but you can’t control what the other riders or judges are doing. On the first day you just try and get in the swing of it and build from there,” commented Sophie.
Next to go for the GBR contingent was Natasha Baker in the Grade II test. With some lovely, expressive work, a score of 73.647% on Mr & Mrs P Baker, Mrs D Alder and Mr C Landolt’s Cabral, was enough to seal the win for the twenty-four year old.
“He (Cabral) warmed up really well but I probably did too much so I knew I’d really have to work in there,” said Natasha, “he just found energy from nowhere as he usually does! It’s our fourth championships together so I know just what to do when he’s like that. He was totally with me and listening; just a good boy.”
The afternoon session saw the Grade Ia’s begin their campaign. For GBR, it was the turn of final team rider Sophie Christiansen with her own Janiero 6.
After producing a solid test for a final score of 74.261% for third behind Italy’s Sara Morganti and Laurentia Yen-Yi Tan, Sophie commented; “It wasn’t easy in there today. While I was walking round, before we went down the centre line, a fly started following us and it followed us right up the centre line! He tried to shake it off; these things happen! I like to watch my test on video before commenting but I’ll say he felt like he went up a gear in there. He was relaxed and rhythmical but maybe lacked the consistency for a better score. But I’m happy that way, it gives me something to work on for Thursday which helps me to focus.”
It was venue familiarisation day for the eventers today, as the squad of six got their first sight of the dressage arena. Tomorrow is trot-up day, with the eventers on parade at 3pm (local time) in Haras du Pin, and our endurance horses having their horse inspection later in the afternoon (local time) in Sartilly.
Chef de Mission Will Connell blogged this morning about yesterday’s first day of competition, minibuses and bling, amongst other things: Read his blog online now
10.30 Dressage: Michael Eilberg
14.05 Dressage: Carl Hester
15.24 Para-Dressage: Lee Pearson
15.55 Dressage: Charlotte Dujardin
17.44 Para-Dressage: Ricky Balshaw
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