Day one of the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships got off to a superb start for the British camp, with four Personal Bests recorded and stunning tests produced by all six combinations against the backdrop of Blair Castle, Scotland.
Today was a particularly special day for three athletes, who stepped-up to make their senior Championship debut, including Britain’s Holly Woodhead who heads the overnight leaderboard after a sterling display with DHI Lupison, whilst Nicola Wilson currently occupies third place at the end of the first day of the four day competition (10-13 September 2015).
First to go was Great Britain’s team pathfinder Kitty King. Aboard Jane and Frank Inns’s Persimmon, also known as Percy, Kitty produced a stunning test to see a score of 36.9 penalties awarded.
Kitty, who first represented Great Britain on a senior team at Blenheim in 2005, commented on today’s test saying; “He was fantastic, he tried his heart out for me and was really on side, he really let me ride him through the entire test. He got a bit tight before his last change and we missed that which was a shame but that was the only time he got a bit tight against me otherwise he was really listening and working well for me.”
Gemma Tattersall with The Soul Syndicate’s and her own Arctic Soul were next into the Perthshire arena to make her senior debut for Great Britain. Showing some lovely work aboard Spike, with just some slight tension creeping in during the walk, Gemma was delighted with her score of 47.30 penalties.
“He [Arctic Soul] was really nervous but he tried his heart out not to explode, unfortunately we would have lost hundreds of marks in the walk which he’s normally really good at and today he just couldn’t walk. We’ll forgive him for that it’s quite a serious atmosphere in here today, he really tried hard for the rest of it,” Gemma said.
With four athletes riding back to back for Great Britain in the morning’s session, next in was Sarah Bullimore, who only arrived on site at the Championships on Wednesday morning – to then receive her first senior call-up. Aboard Brett Bullimore and her own Lilly Corinne, the pair produced a great test to see a score of 38.20 penalties awarded.
“I’m chuffed with her, she is a hot mare but she can deliver a stunning test, it was a shame she was just slightly on the wobble in the walk but I’m really, really pleased with her. She literally has only had 24 hours to settle in and see the sights, but she was fantastic, she was absolutely lovely to ride in there, really soft and amenable,” said Sarah of Lilly.
“It’s all my dreams come true, I’ve waited 20 odd years for this and to get my flag is just fantastic! It’s been a whirlwind and an emotional few days. It feels fantastic [to be in team colours] it’s just sad that my gain is someone else’s misfortune, all I can say is that Dani [Evans] has been the upmost professional and I know she will have her day and we wish her all the best.”
Next in for the Brits was the youngest member of the squad, Holly Woodhead, who took to the arena with DHI Lupison, owned by Ian and Heidi Woodhead. After producing a stunning dressage test at Aachen, the talented combination produced yet another flawless test to be rewarded with a score of 31.70 penalties and the lead.
A delighted Holly spoke afterwards; “Absolutely over the moon with him, I actually can’t believe it! He was amazing out in Aachen and I wanted to go in there and do the same, today he was a little bit different to ride in there but I just kept my cool and remembered what we had been working on at home and it paid off. It is hard work to get him like that - but when it comes off he’s amazing and I can’t fault him. I’m really excited about Saturday, I’ve got all day tomorrow to walk the course and get my head in cross country mode so I’m really, really excited.”
Laura Collett with Mrs Diana Chappell’s Grand Manoeuvre entered the arena just as Holly exited. With the sun shining, they showcased some great movements for a score of 37.80 penalties.
“Chuffed to bits,” commented Laura after her ride, “he’s done his personal best and that was his best test yet – and what a time to do it! He tries so hard I can’t really fault him to be honest. I’ve never done a home Championship before it’s a really buzz; I knew following Holly in was going to be tough, the crowd got behind her so I waited for them to quieten down when they read her score out! He coped really well, he’s a real trier.”
The final rider in – and the second team rider – for GBR was Nicola Wilson with One Two Many, owned by Gerry and Mary Kemp and Mrs Janine Shewan. Affectionately known as Coco, who took to the terrain with Nicola at last year’s Blair Horse Trials, the pair produced a further stunning test to collect high scores throughout for a total of 34.60 penalties and third place.
“I’m just delighted with him, he is such a talented horse but sometimes he can be a little bit cheeky but just these last six weeks he’s just got better and stronger and we’ve just been working so well together, I’m just so delighted that it showed in the ring. He was just lovely to ride and I’m just so, so proud of him,” commented Nicola.
“Kitty was amazing this morning she did a super, super job and it was so exciting for us to all be there to watch. She kicked the team performance off really, really well and it’s just such an honour to be a part of the British team again.”
At the end of the first day of dressage, Holly sits just ahead of Germany’s Michael Jung who finished on 33.50 penalties, with Nicola third. Kitty sits overnight in fifth place with Laura Collett sixth and Sarah Bullimore in seventh; Gemma Tattersall currently lies in seventeenth place. The standings leave the Great Britain team in a strong position heading into day two of the dressage.
The dressage phase concludes tomorrow, as the remaining British squad (Izzy Taylor, Oliver Townend, Pippa Funnell, Wills Oakden, Francis Whittington and William Fox-Pitt) get their European campaigns underway.
Part of UK Sport’s National Lottery funded #EveryRoadtoRio series, supporting British athletes’ preparation and qualification for Rio 2016, this summer’s event is the last major Championship before the Olympic Games, where GBR will be represented having already qualified a team spot after the World Equestrian Games last year.
All six British athletes competing today are members of the UK Sport National Lottery funded World Class Programme. Equestrian Team GBR is supported by the UK Sport National Lottery funded World Class Programme; the British teams are very grateful to the support they receive from official Team GBR suppliers Dodson & Horrell, Equi-Trek, Equiline, Land Rover, NAF, NuuMed, Point Two Equine, Tagg Equestrian and Toggi.