‘He has the fight – he gave it his all’: Ben Maher on Faltic HB’s final round at the World Showjumping Championships

  • Olympic champion Ben Maher has missed out on an individual medal after finishing fourth in the Agria FEI World Showjumping Championships results. Ben and Oakingham Stud’s stallion Faltic HB came agonisingly close to the bronze medal, with only a handful of clears in the second round of the individual final.

    A clear round from the Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten on Beauville Z N.O.P really put the pressure on Ben and Faltic HB, who were the eighth combination to jump and lying in fifth. The pair started out looking cool and collected as they navigated Louis Konickx’s 1.65m track, which included a treble combination at fence five and an influential double at fence 10 – a Liverpool leading to a big oxer with a water tray. Faltic HB really showed off his athleticism, but just tapped fence seven – a vertical leading to a related distance at fence eight – with his front hooves and the pole fell, to add four faults to their 5.72 score – to finish on 9.72.

    Next to jump Max Kuhner went on to have a pole and a time-penalty on Elektric Blue P, which pushed Ben into fourth place. Belgium’s Jerome Guery delivered an expert clear on Quel Homme De Hus, but Swede Jens Fredricson fell victim to the third part of the treble combination, and took both parts of the double at fence 10 down, dropping him right down the leaderboard on 15.71. This moved Ben momentarily up into third, but last to go Henrik von Eckermann – who had led the competition from the start – delivered the goods on King Edward and claimed gold in the World Showjumping Championships results. Jerome Guery won silver, and Maikel van der Vlueeten took bronze.

    The World Showjumping Championships was 12-year-old Faltic HB’s first championship, and he only got the call up after it was announced Explosion W had been ruled out owing to not being at his “peak” fitness.

    Faltic HB had an exciting first few days, providing solid performances and vital clear rounds on Wednesday and Thursday. The pair added just four faults to their score during Friday evening’s team medal-decider.

    Although Ben had to settle for individual fourth, he was still positive about the outcome and he leaves Herning with the team bronze.

    “I’m happy, I mean I would have taken that [result] probably last week before leaving – the first priority was the team and to get qualified [for Paris 2024] – and to get a medal was a bonus on top of that,” he said.

    “I knew on Friday evening the first fence down was going to be costly this weekend for an individual [medal], but for him to come out when he was a little bit tired today probably – for the horses it’s been hot this week – he jumped incredible all day. Again [it was] a very silly mistake; I feel like I rode well all week – you can always do something better, but in the end it just didn’t go our way.”

    Ben only took on the ride of Faltic HB in October last year and the stallion was produced by the team at Oakingham Stud before then.

    “He’s had a great upbringing, my job was just to bring him to that next level and we’ve been preparing him slowly, building him up through the year. This wasn’t the first idea to bring him here obviously, but he stepped in just nicely and he’s proved he’s a great horse. A lot of people have been a part of this horse’s career and they’ve done a good job with him,” said Ben, adding back in October if someone had suggested Faltic HB would be at the World Championships this year he would have said “it wasn’t possible”.

    “It’s our job to train and build them up and get them fit and produce them over months. It’s not a two-month thing, it takes years to produce horses to this level.”

    Ben said the stallion has been feeling good all week.

    “The one thing I learnt about him is he has the fight, he tries, he gave it his all this week. They were big jumps for a small horse,” he said.

    “It’s been a great week. To get the team qualified; I have an absolutely amazing team of horses and owners behind me. This gives us the push towards Paris 2024 now and we can start to plan. It’s very exciting, we have an incredible team of good young riders and horses.

    “Everyone says how great Sweden is with their team of horses, but we could also have won this week. We had a lot of silly mistakes among us that we will all learn from. We can take out from this week that we have a team capable of winning a medal at these championships for the next few years now and it’s exciting times.”

    Ben added championships are “always tough” but he uses his experience to his advantage now.

    “I try to use that a little bit to help Joe [Stockdale] and Harry [Charles] as well. It’s my job and Scott’s [Brash] job to help them where we see they need that – especially on Friday after not a great day the day before,” he said.

    “It’s a great team environment, I’ve been on a lot of teams now and there was one team that stuck out years ago that was not necessarily the strongest on paper, but we were as a team – and this felt very much like that this week.”

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