One of the great thrills of eventing is its unpredictability — success can turn to disaster in a heartbeat. And riders can go from zero to hero (or the other way round) in moments.
On the last weekend of the 2019 British eventing season, we look back at 12 of the biggest surprises of the year…
1. Year of the Pig. It would be insulting to say we didn’t expect Piggy French to do well this year. Of course we expected her to do well, but the British rider has truly taken eventing by storm in 2019, winning Badminton and then going on to set a new record of 15 international wins in one season.
2. Second place in the Event Rider Masters series for Gireg le Coz. At the start of 2019, only the most dedicated fan would have been aware of the French rider, but a win in Jardy and three other top-10 placings with Aisprit De La Loge catapulted him up among the world’s elite competitors.
3. Eliza Stoddart topping the day one leaderboard at Burghley. The first-timer scored 28.7 on Priorspark Opposition Free in the dressage to take first place spot overnight.
4. A man running out into the path of Michael Jung while he was on the cross-country at the European Championships. We still don’t really know what happened, but after a couple of dodgy jumps, the master put things back on track to take individual silver and team gold on FischerChipmunk FRH.
5. Tom McEwen being denied a Badminton win by breaking a frangible device across country — it’s not exactly that we expected Tom to win, but for him to lose his chance in this way, while riding one of the most careful horses in the sport, Toledo De Kerser, seems bizarre. We’re sure his time will come.
6. A British top eight after dressage at Badminton. The leaders were Oliver Townend (first and second with Cillnabradden Evo and Ballaghmor Class), Tom McEwen (Toledo De Kerser), Piggy French (Vanir Kamira), Pippa Funnell (Billy Walk On), Kitty King (Venderedi Biats), Millie Dumas (Artistic) and Laura Collett (Mr Bass).
7. Majas Hope being selected for the European Championships and helping to bring home team silver. Pippa Funnell’s ride was pretty under the radar coming into this year and will never find dressage easy, but he seriously proved his worth on Saturday in Luhmühlen.
8. Vanir Kamira having 20 penalties across country at an open intermediate just before Burghley. In fairness, Piggy always says she doesn’t feel like much at one-day events but seriously comes into her own at five-stars, but we still don’t really expect five-star winners to refuse in open intermediates. Piggy revealed at Burghley that when she walked the mare out to the field the next day, she knew she was ever so slightly not quite right — “She has difficult feet, so we put some rim pads between her shoes and soles.” The pair went on to finish second at Burghley.
9. Pippa Funnell winning Burghley. We all know Pippa is wonderful, but did we really expect her to win another five-star, 14 years after her last top-level triumph?
10. Gemma Tattersall falling from Arctic Soul, a horse with an incredible cross-country record, at Burghley. She was furious with herself for letting him down, but proved her mettle when she went out again on the young Santiago Bay and recorded a clear at the end of the day. The Burghley course proved extremely strong, with only 52% of the field completing.
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11. Cathal Daniels and Rioghan Rua taking individual bronze at the European Championships. Yes, the Irish pair were team silver medallists at the World Equestrian Games last year, but it’s a big leap from being the discard score on that team to finishing just behind Ingrid Klimke and Michael Jung.
12. Tina Cook’s run-out at the European Championships. Billy The Red has been a model of consistency across country until now, but British hearts sank when the chestnut inexplicably nipped out to the side of a triple brush arrowhead. Happily, other three members of Team GB — Oliver Townend on Cooley Master Class, Piggy French on Quarrycrest Echo and Pippa Funnell on Majas Hope — were able to battle through to claim a hard-fought team silver.
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