British eventers on top at Pony European Championships

  • By Helen Scott

    Great Britain triumphed in a thrilling finale to the eventing competition at the FEI Pony European Championships at Bishop Burton College, winning team gold, individual gold and individual bronze.

    Saffy Osborne and Lord and Lady Blythe’s Little Indian Feather took gold, Daisy Procter and her own Holiday Chase bronze with team members Hattie Grace riding Vin Jones and Simon Grace’s Noble Superman and Ellie Healy on Midnight Dancer finishing in 15th and 27th.

    Connie Gill and Movie Star II and Georgia King with Drop The Subject, riding as individuals finished eighth and 21st, with Connie completing on her dressage score.

    Team Ireland took the silver and France the bronze.

    Team GB were lying second to Germany going into cross-country after producing a set of solid dressage performances.

    Ellie Healy was the pathfinder and picked up an unfortunate 20 penalties at fence 12b having slipped on the turn while trying to save valuable seconds, but brought home essential info to her team members – that the time was gettable without risking the direct route at the penultimate fence, the offset truck brushes. Team instructions were to go long.

    Noble Superman added just four-time penalties and Holiday Chase 0.8pen, while Little Indian Feather came home 17 seconds inside the time after a barnstorming round.

    After the cross-country, the Irish team moved up from fourth to second with three clears within the time, and France remained in bronze.

    Adrian Ditcham’s track was a true championship course, but had plenty of alternatives for the more tricky combinations. Only two ponies took all the direct routes, including Sophie Foyle on Carol Gee’s Little Miss Fernhill, who were riding for Ireland as individuals and pulled up from 14th to silver as a result of her double clear.

    Continued below…

    Going into showjumping only a fence separated the top three teams, with GB having just 2.5 penalties in hand over Ireland, who were one penalty in front of France.

    It required a cool head with the leaderboard chopping and changing all the way to the last handful of riders. Hattie Grace had an unlucky rail in the first part of the treble, but Daisy and Saffy produced immaculate clears.

    Saffy, who had remained composed throughout, was sobbing as she left the ring having clinched gold for the team.

    “You dream of riding last because you are in the lead, but in fact it’s horrible,” she joked. “But I knew my horse was a good jumper, so I was able to keep the nerves under control.”

    Full report from the Pony Europeans in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 16 August

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