Fifteen British horses are among the Luhmühlen Horse Trials entries, lining up for Germany’s sole four-star eventing competition on 16-19 June.
Two particularly strong combinations have re-routed after failing to complete Badminton. Izzy Taylor pulled up KBIS Briarlands Matilda, sixth at last year’s European Championships, after problems at the Vicarage Vee.
Oliver Townend brings Black Tie II (pictured top), who was retired at Badminton after he tired late on the course following an impressive dressage test and round to that point. The horse was fourth at Luhmühlen on his last visit two years ago.
Oliver also rides Dromgurrihy Blue, 11th at Burghley last year.
Two other Brits are double handed — Sarah Bullimore (Reve Du Rouet and Valentino V) and Louise Harwood (Mr Potts and Whitson). All four horses ran at Badminton, but only Mr Potts completed, for various reasons.
Luhmühlen represents a last-ditch chance to impress ahead of British selection for the Rio 2016 Olympics, with Bramham the previous week also an important trial. The same applies for several other nations too.
New Zealand’s Tim Price will be looking to put his Badminton fall from Ringwood Sky Boy behind him. Compatriot Andrew Nicholson returns to four-star for the first time since his serious fall last August, riding Perfect Stranger and Qwanza.
Last year’s dressage leader, Belgium’s Julien Despontin, returns to Luhmühlen with Waldano. And Arnaud Boiteau, one of the on-form French riders of the moment, comes forward with Quoriano ENE HN, recent winner of a CIC3* at Chatsworth.
Five Irish pairs will line-up, including Sam Watson with both his old campaigner Horseware Bushman and up-and-coming star Horseware Lukesewell.
Others to watch include Australia’s Andrew Hoy (Rutherglen) and Bill Levett (Alexander NJ and Improvise), Sweden’s Ludwig Svennerstal (King Bob), the USA’s Boyd Martin (Cracker Jack) and Germany’s Bettina Hoy (Seigneur Medicott).
The German might
This year, the might of the home side is concentrated in the CIC3* Meßmer Trophy, which most Germans are choosing as their preparation for the Olympics rather than the more demanding four-star.
Sandra Auffarth rides her world champion Opgun Louvo in this class, while Andreas Dibowski will look to consolidate his solid Badminton with FRH Butts Avedon. Ingrid Klimke and Dirk Schrade line up with last year’s European team gold medallists Hop And Skip and Horseware Hale Bob Old.
Bettina Hoy also has Designer 10 in this class — he was 20th at Badminton and Bettina discovered afterwards he had been suffering from a viral infection during the event, so may not have been on his best form.
There are two Brits in this class, including H&H blogger Coral Keen with Wellshead Fare Opposition, 17th in the CCI4* here last year.
Luhmühlen’s cross-country course
The cross-country course this year will follow the same route as in 2015.
Designer Mark Phillips explained: “Last year’s course went well and if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. The questions are still very different, though. In the four-star competition, the first three fences are the same, after that it’s all new.”
Safety is always a particularly big focus at Luhmühlen because the German media are extremely sensitive in this area. The death of Benjamin Winter at the event two years ago hit the sport hard.
Mark said: “Safety is always our focus and the first thing we think about. I think the course is very fair to the horses.
“As ever it’s a true four-star-test and the riders have to concentrate all the way round. I don’t think there will be one influential fence, but a number of significant questions spread evenly throughout the course.
“Again, we have used frangible devices in every place possible, but the most important safety aspect is the riders’ respect for the jumps. Therefore we are always trying to find the balance between forgiving fences for the horses and questions that are taken seriously by the riders.”