So the 2018 eventing season in Britain has come to a close and eventing fans are feeling bereft and lost. But alongside contemplating what eventing gear we’re putting on our Christmas lists, starting our winter training regime and clipping our woolly ponies, let’s take a look back at some of the big surprises of this eventing season…
1. Mark Todd falling at a seemingly straightforward fence when in the lead after dressage at Land Rover Burghley on Kiltubrid Rhapsody. The Gurkha Kukri at fence 10 didn’t look like it would cause problems, but when the horse chipped in an extra stride, dreams of a sixth Burghley title were over.
2. The new scoring system not affecting the top three at Mitsubishi Motors Badminton or Burghley. This was the year the co-efficient was stripped out of eventing dressage, bringing all the scores closer together. But at both British four-stars, the top three placings would have gone to exactly the same horses and riders under either system.
3. Oliver Townend not being selected for the British squad for the World Equestrian Games (WEG), This decision remains a mystery to 95% of the eventing world after the world number one’s wins at Burghley 2017 and Kentucky 2018, not to mention second at Badminton this spring, with rumour rife about the reason. But the selectors’ choices did prove justified when Team GBR brought home team and individual gold from Tryon.
4. Talking of WEG, did anyone really expect Ingrid Klimke to have the last showjump down and lose the individual title? Although SAP Hale Bob OLD rattled a few rails on the way round, the German pair looked to have the gold in the bag. Brits turned to each other in total disbelief as the final fence fell… and Ros Canter became world champion.
5. Ireland’s double silver medals at WEG. The Irish quartet all performed solidly at or above their expected level and stuck to their plan, with Padraig McCarthy and Mr Chunky leading the effort and claimed individual silver.
6. Germany and New Zealand both finishing outside the WEG team medals. They started as the favourites but cross-country day did not go the way of either of these major nations.
7. Japan taking fourth and Olympic qualification at WEG. The team really raised their game in Tryon and proved they could be serious contenders for medals before long.
8. A hurricane disrupting the WEG schedule so that the showjumping was held on Monday rather than Sunday. Enough said.
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9. Clear showjumping rounds for Jonelle and Tim Price to win Badminton and Burghley. The Prices were certainly not surprise winners — both are serious top-level contenders — but neither Classic Moet nor Ringwood Sky Boy have the best record in the final phase. But both rose to the occasion brilliantly when they entered the ring in the lead at the British four-stars this year. Fault-free rounds meant the Prices both won their four-star titles with a fence in hand.
10. A four-star result being decided on a close call about a flag penalty. Had dressage leader Tim Lips’ appeal against his 50 penalties at Luhmühlen been successful, he and Bayro would have taken the title.
11. A 23-year-old four-star debutant winning Pau. Thibault Fournier was at the French event to see how he and Siniani De Lathus would cope with the level, but ended up taking top honours.
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