Rotterdam Europeans highlights: tears, shock and kisses — what a week…

As the dust settles on an eventful multi-discipline European championships in Rotterdam, which was packed with incredible highs and some painful disappointments along the way, our reporters Lucy Elder and Polly Bryan look back at the emotional moments they experienced…

Jumping team bronze and a ticket to Tokyo

What a performance from the brilliant British side of Amanda Derbyshire (Luibanta BH), individual silver medallists Ben Maher (Explosion W), Scott Brash (Hello M’Lady) and the break-through partnership of Holly Smith and Hearts Destiny, 10th individually, to take home not only Olympic qualification but a medal to go with it — congratulations!

Britain Olympic showjumping qualification

Explosion W… just wow

Five spectacular rounds, just a single pole and a silver medal from a partnership that is out of this world — thank you, Ben and Explosion, it’s a privilege to watch you jump.

European showjumping championships individual final

Martin Fuch’s tears of joy on the podium…

It would take a hard-hearted soul not to be warmed by seeing just how much the gold medal meant to the Swiss rider. If you weren’t already shedding a small tear, the sight of him showing Clooney 51 the medal may well have set you off (it did us).

… and his heart-warming shout out to his girlfriend

“My girlfiend Paris couldn’t be here this week as she’s in California, but she’s been up all night supporting me and watching,” he told the press conference. “I had a little chat with her before my second round and she just said ‘don’t worry, you will win it’ . She’s been saying this for the last three days and when she said it today I said ‘don’t jinx it!’”.

A kiss for a champion…

Reigning individual world champions Simone Blum and DSP Alice were on song in Rotterdam, finishing just outside the medals in fourth. Simone’s kiss on the neck of her long-eared wonder mare showed how much the horse means to her.

Jos Verlooy never stopping smiling

Who can blame him? The 23-year-old rode out of his skin to go home with team gold and individual bronze for Belgium after a phenomenal week with the Emerald Van ‘T Ruytershof gelding Igor.

Jos Verlooy wins individual bronze riding Igor

Britain’s fabulous para dressage gold

The moment it was revealed championship first-timer Georgia Wilson had taken gold in the grade II para dressage freestyle  will stick in the heads of everyone lucky enough to be present. Her test was good, but was it good enough to overtake that of the multi-medalled Austrian Pepo Puch? The British camp emitted huge whoops of joy when her huge score was finally unveiled, and tears streamed down Georgia’s face, but it was the sheer emotion on the face of her trainer and mentor Sophie Wells that nobody will forget.

Georgia Wilson takes grade II freestyle gold in Rotterdam.

Gareth Hughes’ astonishment at his own success

Three brilliant tests, three new personal bests. After the elimination of Charlotte Dujardin in the grand prix, it was Gareth Hughes who provided the best results for Britain in the subsequent grand prix special and freestyle. Leaving the arena after the special to roars of appreciation from the crowd, he turned to look as his score flashed up, clapping a hand over his mouth as he could not believe what he had achieved.

THUMBNAIL IMAGE

Gareth Hughes and Classic Briolinca achieve three personal bests in Rotterdam

Dodging the birds

Quiet groans could be heard from British supporters as two crows decided to take up residence in the dressage arena just as Carl Hester and the unpredictable Hawtins Delicato began their grand prix. But luckily Carl’s yard is also home to a substantial number of birds, and the 11-year-old gelding remained totally unfazed — it was the crows that panicked as Carl unleashed Del’s extended trot straight between them.

Carl Hester and Hawtins Delicato at the European Dressage Championships

“There’s often 24 guinea fowl and five hens in the ring with him at my place — I think it helped Del feel at home in there!” laughed Carl.

Additional reporting by Polly Bryan. Don’t miss the full in-depth special report covering all disciplines from Rotterdam in this Thursday’s Horse & Hound (29 August, 2019)