Caroline Pratt had completed one round of cross-country yesterday morning on Call Again Cavalier in characteristic fashion: determined, bold and resilient. Accruing just a few time penalties on the steeple chase and cross country course, the combination had finished the phase well placed.
And although her second round on Primitive Streak, with whom she had lain in 13th after the dressage, had never looked totally fluent, the combination seemed to be coping with the gruelling demands of the four star course.
But the course had been taking its toll all day – only 44 of the 90 combinations are going forward to today’s show jumping final – and at the Partnership Crossing, a three element combination involving a sharp turn to the final element, in the water, the horse missed his stride, failing to get his front legs over the fence. Caroline was catapulted out of the saddle, and Primitive Streak fell onto her as he somersaulted over the fence.
Although riders such as Andrew Hoy and Andrew Nicholson had judged the course to be a true four star test, with the New Zealander commenting that he was “pleased see a cross country of this calibre following Athens”, and that “it was a very fair test for this level”, there had been early concerns about just how tough it was.
Riders had asked at a riders’ meeting on Friday evening that the steeplechase should be shortened and that an element of the penultimate fence, the Pedigree Poser, should be taken out as it was considered ‘unforgiving’.
William Fox-Pitt said after his round on Saturday: “Every horse that got that far was exhausted. We were saying yesterday evening that we were unhappy, but the Technical Director and the ground jury didn’t listen.
“Horses are giving their best, and it is nice if at that stage [nearing the end of the course], they are rewarded with a friendly fence.
“Even if I’d had a clear round, I would still be saying that I wish they had listened to us,” he added.
Caroline Pratt was a very familiar and popular face in top-flight eventing, with several top-quality rides, including Primitive Control, Call Again Cavalier, Primitive Streak and Kinsey Control.
The 42-year-old from Cheshire had been long-listed for the Olympics this year after finishing second at the Athens test event last year, and regularly competed on the European and International circuit, including several runs at Badminton and Burghley. She finished seventh here last year with Primitive Control.
Chairman of British Eventing, Jane Holderness-Roddam, expressed her deepest regrets on behalf of the eventing world: “On behalf of the whole sport, I would like to extend our deepest sympathy to Caroline’s family. The thoughts and prayers of eventing people all over the country are with them at this time.”