Five-star first-timers flourished on the opening day of the Pau Horse Trials dressage – despite the continuous downpours.
The Pau entries list is abundant with combinations – and horses – stepping up to the top level, and among them is Irishman Daragh Byrne, 27, and his father James Byrne’s 11-year-old Kilcannon Ramiro. The pair won the Ballindenisk CCI4*-L in 2022, and were fourth there this year.
Daragh could not hide his smile following their test on the first day in tricky weather conditions.
“This is our first five-star so it’s a whole new level, and tougher competition, but he coped really well with the atmosphere and it felt like he presented a good test,” said Daragh.
“There are plenty of places to improve on but overall for his first time at this level, and mine, I’m very happy with how he went. His trot work was very relaxed and his lateral work felt good. He was listening to me in there, which is always helpful.
“We fluffed one of the changes, which was a little disappointing but the other three felt good. I’ve put a lot of time and work into his changes as he struggled with them. We got three out of four today, so hopefully next time we can get four out of four!”
Daragh said it is a “dream come true” to be making his five-star debut.
“I’ve had him since he was a three-year-old and level by level he’s just kept stepping up bit by bit. Every hurdle we’ve thrown at him so far he’s answered, so fingers crossed he can get another hurdle out of the way on Saturday and prove he is a five-star horse.”
“If not now, then when?”
Swiss rider Nadja Minder, 23, made her five-star debut with Toblerone, whom she was 23rd with at the Europeans at Haras du Pin in August. The pair are in fifth on 30.5 following the opening day of proceedings.
“This horse keeps impressing me; he keeps making my dreams come true still. The dressage was never the easiest place for him and we had to work a lot, we really had to make him believe he can do it. Now it’s so cool that he believes in himself in there,” said Nadja following her test.
“It took me some time to really figure out how he ticks. It’s the same in the showjumping, he wants to be careful but didn’t really have the technique to do it, and it’s been a little bit the same in the dressage. As I got to know him better we figured the training out and don’t push him too hard.”
Nadja said entering Pau Horse Trials had been lingering on her mind for some time.
“I had been thinking about Pau since last December, but it takes a lot of good circumstances to get your horse to five-star,” she said.
“The thought process behind the decision was after the Europeans went well, and I always wanted to ride a five-star. I’m lucky to have other horses in my stable which I can think about for Paris 2024, maybe if there was only Toblerone I wouldn’t have had the courage to come here. But I thought it was the time to do it, and if not now, then when?”.
Nadja said she was “so proud” of Toblerone.
“I have to be careful that I don’t start to cry,” she said. “He’s so special. He came to me and we didn’t know he was ‘this’ good.”
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