Kitty King puts in bold bid for the Badminton title with ‘brilliant’ dressage test

  • Kitty King conjured a personal best performance from Vendredi Biats in the Badminton Horse Trials dressage phase, at the event presented by Mars Equestrian. The European team gold medallist looked tearful as she left the arena, knowing her partner had given his all.

    “He was brilliant! He was quite tricky yesterday and kept breaking in all his medium trots, so I was a bit stressed, but he was much more with me this morning,” said Kitty. “I gave myself too much time to warm up today so did a lot of walk as he was so focused and practised our halts.”

    This warm-up technique paid off. Their halts earned nines and 10 from Christian Landolt.

    “I heard a gasp and thought I must have gone wrong – I’m not used to getting 10s!” she said.

    Kitty eked out every mark from “Froggy”, as the grey is known at home, to score 24.8 and sit second. He was engaged and submissive, while showing plenty of impulsion, for a mistake-free test.

    “His eyes can pop out of his head, and his stride can go short, so I was worried when they were clapping the previous rider,” Kitty added. “But I did a quick flexion and leg yield and he was straight back with me.”

    Badminton horse trials dressage: Luhmühlen winner makes dream debut

    Mollie Summerland and Charly Van Ter Heiden

    The Luhmühlen winners Mollie Summerland and Charly Van Ter Heiden made an exciting Badminton debut. The pair produced a dream test with no major mistakes, the highlight being the extended canter, which earned a nine from Christian Landolt, the judge at C.

    “I feel shell-shocked; I didn’t really expect that,” said Mollie. “I have never ridden in front of crowds like that and I’m just so proud of him. He deserves that result and I’m just glad I didn’t let him down.”

    Having scored 29 at Luhmühlen, she trumped that with 24.9 to move briefly into second spot behind Tom McEwen and Toledo De Kerser – until Kitty King moved ahead of her – in the middle of the afternoon session on day one. The 13-year-old by Contendros Bube is a flashy mover with four white socks and showed off his cadenced yet fluid paces to impress the judges.

    “I couldn’t believe my score when I came out as he was quite excited in the atmosphere outside so I couldn’t practise my flying changes,” she added. “He’s my best friend so to ride in that arena was such a privilege.”

    Mollie admitted that the pressure since winning a five-star last summer has been tough.

    “There’s a lot of expectation and I’ve found it hard to get the balance right and enjoy the sport,” said Mollie, 23, who chatted with her sports psychologist before the test. “I was introverted and emotional and worried yesterday, so I’m just so relieved today.”

    German rider “disappointed” by sub-standard display

    Germany’s sole starter Christoph Wahler looked set for an eye-catching debut after finishing runner-up to Mollie at Luhmühlen last year, riding the striking grey Carjatan S,  by Clearway. The 13-year-old looked ready to burst outside the ring, but Christoph managed to settle him initially so that he understood his job between the boards and he showed off his expressive paces. He just about held it together for the first half of the test, while looking as if he really wanted to take on the cross-country fences in the main arena. However, the halt and rein-back seemed to frustrate him – scoring twos – which affected the subsequent flying changes.

    “Really disappointing,” was Christoph’s verdict. “He had seemed really relaxed over the past few days, though he can be quite sharp. But I know what kind of test he can do when he is calm and relaxed and listening to me and today he was absolutely not. When he competed at Luhmühlen, there were no spectators so obviously the arena atmosphere got to him a little bit.”

    So far, no one has been able to catch Tom McEwen, fourth into the arena on this first day of dressage. However, Kitty and Mollie are now breathing down his neck within 1.5 penalties to the leader.

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