I was struggling to predict which way the selectors would jump with the British eventing team for the HSBC FEI European Eventing Championships in Malmo, Sweden (29 August-1 September), after recent results.
Now that the squad’s been announced, it’s fantastic to see so much young blood there. This European year is an ideal opportunity for Britain to try new combinations out for the future, alongside William Fox-Pitt (Lionheart) and Tina Cook (Miners Frolic).
I’m surprised to see Mary King left out. I thought that despite her recent falls at Salperton and Barbury she would still find a space in the squad — perhaps as an individual because she and Imperial Cavalier certainly have the capability to turn in an individual medal-winning performance, even if her current form isn’t reliable enough for the team.
The two senior squad debutants are Izzy Taylor and Tom McEwen: Izzy was certainly on my radar after her fabulous Burghley (pictured), but I wondered if her run-out in Aachen would count against her, after KBIS Briarlands Matilda was also below par at Badminton. I thought the selectors might consider her on Orlando, but she has only had him a couple of months and maybe they felt the partnership was still too new.
I thought Tom had a chance of a spot — but with Dry Old Party who went so well at Badminton, rather than Diesel. But Dry Old Party must have burnt his bridges with his average dressage and cross-country problems at Aachen, while Diesel impressed with his under-25 win at Bramham. He is undoubtedly a class horse and Tom knows him well having produced him from through the grades. This pair have little mileage, but it will be fascinating to see if they are ready for the championship challenge.
Piggy French’s inclusion is no surprise after her Barbury win with Tinkas Time, but it’s a long time since a British squad included a horse so inexperienced. We’ve had horses at recent championships without four-star experience — such as Pippa Funnell’s 2010 World Equestrian Games ride Redesigned and Tina Cook’s Miners Frolic at the 2008 Olympics — and of course Diesel is also in this category, but I think you have to look back to Rodney Powell’s ride Langarth Darcy in 2007 to find a horse who had had only one CCI3* run (comment below if you disagree!). But with Piggy’s brilliance, this fun little horse could be seriously top class.
Lucy Wiegersma was first reserve for last year’s Olympics with Simon Porloe, so her inclusion shouldn’t be a surprise, but I admit her costly time-faults at Badminton had made me rather forget her. But her Barbury third place was well timed and I’m delighted to see a rider who has so often been a reserve get another shot at a championship.
Apart from Mary, who has missed out? Poor Nicola Wilson had no hope after her Badminton showjumping and fall at Luhmühlen with Opposition Buzz. I thought Charlotte Agnew had an outside chance with Out Of Africa Two (fourth at Luhmühlen last year) until her showjumping nightmare at Badminton.
Gemma Tattersall has had high profile results recently with Chico Bella P but she was never in contention for selection because the mare has not yet done a CCI3*, so is not qualified for a three-star championship.
Short of fielding William Fox-Pitt on four different horses, I’m not quite sure where there was to go this year beyond the current squad.
Who will be on the British eventing team?
The next question will be who is on the team and who rides as an individual. Again, I’m finding it hard to predict. My definites for the team are Tina and William, my definite individual is Tom. Beyond that, who knows? If you asked me to choose today, my team would be Tina, William, Piggy and Lucy, with Tom and Izzy the individuals.
But much can change between now and the first horse inspection, plus selectors and team officials are privy to information which we don’t know. We must put our faith in them now and wish the whole squad best of luck. I can’t wait to cheer them on in Malmo.
Full report on Barbury, plus more on the squad and Zara Phillips’ pregnancy in H&H this week (out Thursday, 11 July).