I went to Haras du Pin last weekend for the first time since the fiasco of the World Equestrian Games there in 2014. Before that, I had been many times and loved the event, and it was great to see it back to its friendly, charming, slightly chaotic, French self.
In 2014, the place was a bombsite because of the terrible weather. This time they had heavy rain again, but it had been very dry in the build-up so the ground needed it and conditions underfoot were near-perfect.
The courses were good and challenging, with great all-weather arenas and facilities. The organisers put on the event for riders, and are rewarded by great turn-outs, both in the competition and in the hospitality areas.
I took one very inexperienced horse at his first CIC3* and another more experienced one and one had a run-out and one a stop at the first water, so it wasn’t a great weekend, but in hindsight I wasn’t riding at anywhere near full-steam. I had a bizarre experience on cross-country day when I woke up and couldn’t move my head off the pillow — my neck had gone into full spasm and it didn’t look as though I would be able to ride.
I visited three different chiropractors or physios before I found one who could make a difference and get me comfortable enough to ride, but I probably didn’t set off across country as confidently as usual.
Jung could win a medal on a donkey
The European Championships are looming and will be interesting to watch. Realistically, it is between three teams — the Germans, the French and the British — and any other result would be something of a surprise.
If I was a betting man, I’d have them in that order for the trifecta, but Tom Carlile’s stallion Upsilon, who was so impressive at Blenheim last year in the Event Rider Masters final and again this year at Barbury, is well in contention for individual gold and could push the French up into the gold medal position. He’ll have to beat Michael Jung, though, who could probably steer a three-legged donkey round and win a medal!
Looking back to Gatcombe, the cross-country course there is probably the last of the old-fashioned tracks. It is unique in its terrain and threw up a unique result — and clearly showed up why thoroughbreds always shine round those sorts of courses.
Variety of this kind is a great thing in cross-country, but the more modern, popular type of event horse isn’t built to cope with terrain like that. Nevertheless, it was good to see a competition where both jumping phases had a strong influence.
As a footnote, I don’t think Mark Phillips quite got the point in my last column about course-designers asking riders for their opinions. Yes, I was invited to the Amsterdam conference in the winter but I wasn’t able to attend. And what I meant was that I thought it was a missed opportunity when, in Jardy, there was a course-designers’ FEI course at an event where lots of the world’s top riders were there on site and it would have been easy to get their views. It wasn’t a personal dig at you, Mark!
Ref Horse & Hound; 17 August 2017