Camera-shy gelding recovers to shine in Pau five-star dressage for British one-two-three

  • Great Britain holds a one-two-three at the conclusion of the Pau Horse Trials dressage phase.

    Tom McEwen and JL Dublin went into the lead at the halfway point today (27 October) and no one could better their 23.1. They are joined in the top three by Ros Canter and Izilot DHI on 24.3, and Pippa Funnell and MCS Maverick, who are currently third on 26.4.

    Izilot DHI, who Ros co-owns with Alex Moody, looked unsettled as he first entered the arena and Ros had to use all her skills to settle the sensitive 10-year-old when he became visibly spooked by a cameraman before the start of their test.

    The crowd held their breath as the pair made their way down the centre line, and the halt looked a little tense, receiving six, 7.5, and 6.5 from the judges. But Izilot DHI relaxed into the test and they scored eights across the board for their first medium trot. The marks continued to improve throughout, with a number of nines being awarded for the latter movements.

    A relieved Ros explained “Isaac”, who is making his five-star debut off the back of their super Blenheim CCI4*L win last month, spooked before their test when the cameraman started to remove his coat.

    “I wanted to show him the camera but I needed to get a straight approach; the first time as I was coming down the cameraman decided to take his coat off which was not very helpful,” she said, adding that she was “delighted” with the test Isaac went on to produce.

    “I always say there is more to come, and certainly at the beginning I was a little safe because he definitely had his eyes all over the place. Thankfully we didnt have to go too close to the camera – I was really pleased with his eight-metre circle because I thought thats when he might have a whip off. I thought try and breathe, try and let go of the reins, because the moment you tense up with him he goes funny.

    “He’s definitely got demons, and hes definitely a flighty animal by instinct. To go to his flight instinct and then settle back down was a real achievement, he’s an amazing horse. Hes 10 – and he’s a weak 10-year-old, so there’s definitely more to come.”

    Ros added that she has learned a huge amount from Isaac in the past six months.

    “There are times when Isaac doesnt believe me, despite us trying to tell him its all okay. But it is getting better and better,” she said.

    “I’ve learned so, so much from this horse. It’s been a real learning process for me and I’ve learned a huge amount on how to deal with those episodes; to actually drop the reins and hes always got to be allowed to spook, if you try and block the spook from happening, it makes it worse for Isaac.

    “Its trying to relax with that. I try and channel my inner Tim Price, every time I watch him on a sharp horse, he just looks like hes flopping around and I think that’s what I’ve got to try and keep putting my trust in him, as much as he has to put his trust in me.”

    Ahead of the cross-country, Ros said she has “100% faith” in Isaac jumping a five-star track – but added that she does not fully know what to expect.

    “It very much depends on the day with Isaac a little bit,” she said. “In terms of the scope, carefulness and bravery, he’s got all of that. It’s about giving him a good experience.

    “Will I be going for gold? I’m not sure yet. Im very much going to let him tell me what he’s thinking. Equally, theres not a huge amount of thoroughbred in him and I don’t want to knock him in that sense either. I’ll very much go out and try to be competitive, but with his confidence in mind at the same time.”

    Pippa Funnell and MCS Maverick hold third after Pau Horse Trials dressage

    Pippa Funnell said she was “very, very, pleased” following her super test with Sarah Ross’ MCS Maverick.

    “I’m thrilled with him,” she said, adding that a lot of consideration had gone into getting the 10-year-old Bramham CCI4*-L winner in the right frame of mind.

    “It’s not just in the arena, it’s everything. I jumped him this morning, then he’s done three lots of 20 minutes quiet trotting on the lunge, so not long sessions, because for the longevity of a nice horse, you don’t want to have to work them so hard to get the brains.

    “I’m thrilled I got the brain without drilling him. I only got on him 15 minutes before the test, and you think, ‘Oh my God, is that the right thing for one that’s a bit hot?’. But if you pick him up and make him work too soon, he’s still at the stage where he doesn’t find it difficult, but he tries and then gets a bit tense, then it’s difficult to relax him. That is the thing that works for him, and the more he goes in the arena, hopefully the better he’ll get.”

    New Zealand’s Jesse Campbell and Diachello are in fourth following the Pau Horse Trials dressage, and Oliver Townend and Tregilder sit in fifth. The cross-country gets under way tomorrow (28 October) at 11.30am local time (10.30am British time), with times due to be released this evening.

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