It was a day of two halves at the eventing competition for GBR after a testing cross-country challenge in the picturesque surroundings of Le Pin National Stud. Superlative clears from all but one of the British quintet leave William Fox-Pitt topping the leader board and three Brits in the top fifteen, but mood in camp is sombre following the death of Harry Meade’s horse after finishing his round.
First onto the course for Britain was pathfinder Zara Phillips with the Gleadhill House Stud Ltd’s High Kingdom. Producing a quick, clear across Pierre Michelet’s challenging cross-country course, aboard the honest Trev, Zara sits in 15th place overnight with a total of 68.9 penalties.
Commenting afterwards, she said; “I enjoyed it as you could just go out and ride it. I am happy with him, I know how good he is so getting a clear round in the bag will hopefully make the team feel a bit less pressure, but it is hard work. You have just got to be sensible and get them home but keep jumping.”
Next up was team stalwart William Fox-Pitt with his European bronze medallist, Christopher Stone’s Chilli Morning. Starting out steady, William rode a superb round with the fourteen year old stallion to post GBR’s second clear of the day, just fractionally over the time for a total of 50.3 penalties.
After his test William commented; “Naturally I’m very happy and proud of Chilli Morning. He worked damn hard and never gave up, he can be strong and he can be keen but actually he gave me a lovely ride and he jumped brilliantly. I am really happy the plan worked today, I’ve never ridden a three day 10 and a half minute on that terrain before - there was no let up, every stride was hard work.”
Great Britain’s third rider, and the first individual, was Nicola Wilson with her parent’s Annie Clover. After a storming round from the talented duo, the pair were the third successive British partnership to go clear, just a fraction outside the time for 67.6 penalties and an outstanding 12th position.
Nicola commented; “She was amazing and gave it her all. When I walked the course at the beginning of the week I knew it would suit her but you never know how they are going to cope with everything. I just wanted to get her into a rhythm that she could stick to. This experience is right up there, you had to dig deep and try hard it’s a proper championship challenge.”
Oliver Townend with Black Tie, were the second individuals out for GBR. Producing some lovely jumping at the start of the course, a refusal at the Arcimboldo fence (combination 26 and 27) and a second at the Rolex L’Abreuvoir question saw Oliver decide to call it a day and retire on course.
The afternoon session saw the third team member, Tina Cook with her home bred De Novo News, head out on the hilly course. Riding for a quick time, the pair produced a polished round, yet another clear banked for GBR to see them home for 67.6 penalties and 14th place on the board.
“He gave me a really fabulous ride,” Tina commented afterwards. “He’s a bit of a baby still and was really looking around him on the course. Pierre Michelet has done a fantastic job with a course which has caught out a lot of top combinations. There’s no such thing as a perfect cross country round but he was fabulous; he’s so scopey and he went where I wanted him to go. I can feel that ability in him, that’s such a relief when it’s so much easier for them, he just kept galloping, really dug deep and did me proud.”
At the end of the day it was Britain’s William Fox-Pitt who lead the rankings, with Germany’s Sandra Auffarth second and Michael Jung third.
The day was marred by the death of British horse Wild Lone, ridden by Harry Meade and owned by Charlotte Opperman. After producing a text book clear round, with only 26.4 time penalties, the horse tragically collapsed and died shortly after the rider dismounted.
Speaking tonight, Harry said; “I wanted to make a statement really to say that in view of the ground conditions of this event and also the terrain, I felt that played no part whatsoever in what happened to Wild Lone. This is his sixth four star event; he hadn't missed any work, he was as fit as any horse I have had as a four star and he gave me a wonderful ride cross country.
“My only regret for the whole day was possibly from a competitors point of view he was so well within himself that I could have asked for a little bit more and he felt extremely comfortable the whole way and had plenty of fuel left in the tank at the end. I am obviously devastated about what’s happened and really I wanted to state that the course was a very good course and a very good test and I would be very sad if anybody was to draw any incorrect conclusions and feel that the tough testing nature of the competition in any way contributed towards what happened because from the feel I had on the horse it wasn't connected.
“I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the organisers and the vets on site who were extremely professional and to know although these things are terrible the horse in no way suffered and it was all extremely quick.”
The three remaining team members, William, Zara and Tina and individual, Nicola Wilson, will contest the showjumping in the D’Ornano stadium Sunday 31 August.
The team are currently in silver medal position behind Germany.
Thrilled to make the cut into the final from the consolation rounds, GB’s Josh Collins once again impressed in his final pattern with the pint sized Spook a Little. In front of a sell-out crowd at the Caen Exhibition Centre they posted a 218 that included +1’s for circles and stops to the delight of the GB fans to finish in 15th place.
Commenting on the experience Josh said: “It’s been epic and such great fun. We didn’t quite get our first stop when he got quite excited and I don’t think he heard me say whoa but other than that he was brilliant. He’s usually a huge stopper and he came back on every manoeuvre after that and was right with me. A crowd like this is what you compete for, it makes it so special.
“I was hoping to do better in the finals but this was our first WEG and I’m very happy. He’ll have a rest now and there are some competitions I want to do at the end of the year before we prepare for the Europeans in Aachen next year. I’m going to come back for a medal there!”
Chef d’equipe of the British reining team Adam Heaton put the team’s achievements into perspective; “We knew they were capable of doing well but putting expectation on that is always difficult. To get four through to the consolation and one into the final has more than surpassed this; it’s a beautiful end to a beautiful week. Josh and Jess have both brought young blood into the sport for GB and there are others coming through back at home. If they can grow at the same rate they have then the future looks great.”