Britain “on target” in Aachen

  • Will Connell, chef de mission for the British team says we are “on target” so far in the World Equestrian Games.

    “In dressage we were aiming to be in the top six or possibly fourth if we did really well. It’s a developing team, and there’s very little between the teams that were fourth and sixth. Laura has a very good horse at home, and Carl Hester has another, it’s still developing,” said Will.

    “There are three things that made the eventing so special for TeamGB. The first is Zara’s individual gold, and the professional job that she did, the second is team silver — yes William and Mary are annoyed at the mistakes they had and of course we wish we’d got gold but second in the world isn’t bad! But thirdly, and most importantly, is the fact that we did it with a new team. It’s the first time we’ve brought out a team which didn’t include Pippa Funnell or Jeanette Brakewell and they did fantastically. It shows eventing is moving forward.

    “The vaulters’ success was a result of a very professional build up and hopefully that will energise the sport. For the team to be fifth was brilliant. We now have to extend best practice across England and Scotland, and we need the sport to grow in England so we can also grow some financial backing.”

    But he said: “Endurance has been right back to the drawing board, and will have learnt a lot in terms of management, selection, strategy and so on. But we’re not professional on an equal footing with other teams yet. It’s not enough to just complete at this level — we need to compete. But it is important to realise that we’re better than we were two years ago, and we need constructive comment from now on, no more criticism.”

    Two days into the show jumping here in Aachen, the British team is one fence behind fifth place — and Olympic qualification, the driving dressage is in full swing and the reining team has just arrived.

    Much has been made of the team atmosphere out here — riders across all disciplines are supporting each other and the teams are eating together each night — but there’s no time for celebrations.

    “We had a few glasses of champagne in the stables with the owners after the eventing result on sunday, and then most departed for the UK,” said Will. “And we’ve looked immediately to Pratoni next year.”

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