Laura Collett’s score reviewed as Britain battles Germany for Europeans cross-country lead

  • The British team’s grasp on pole position is under threat as the European Eventing Championships cross-country unfolds at Haras du Pin, France. The third team rider, Laura Collett (London 52), made it to the finish with a relatively quick 9.2 time-faults, but their round was reviewed after she knocked a flag at the corner (fence 20b), the Bivouac combination. Assuming the 15 penalties stand, Britain is likely to fall below Germany in the team standings if the final combinations for each country can go clear.

    Laura set out to challenge for the podium in fourth place after dressage on 22.4, and keep Britain’s hopes of maintaining their gold-medal position alive. However, she had to draw on all her experience, skill and strength to nurse London 52 home.

    The Landos gelding was careful through the first water at fence 7abc, paddling his way down the bank, which put him on an off stride to the triple brush final element, and thereafter looked a little sticky. The treble five-star winner seemed super fit, but didn’t seem to be loving the ground and Laura was urging him on verbally throughout. But he kept jumping beautifully at the fences, just not taking Laura into them as she would want. It was a brave effort from both horse and rider to get the job done when the conditions clearly didn’t suit them.

    “It was tough,” said Laura. “Right from the beginning the ground is seriously testing. The jumps feel very, very big. He’s a really scopey horse and even he felt like he had to make a big jump everywhere. The combinations come up thick and fast and there’s just nowhere to let them have a breather.

    “I couldn’t be prouder of him, he’s never dug as deep as he dug round there. He kept trying and was so honest. I normally love riding him cross-country but he’s just not used to that kind of ground. The fences are dimensionally very big, but on good ground it would have felt completely different. Normally you can freewheel a bit but you just can’t in this ground.

    “You just have to forget about the clock, ride how you feel and get home as good as you can. I think the ones that have gone out to chase the clock have paid the penalty later. They are recovering super well, but it’s just the continuous effort in that ground which is sapping the energy, but he’s already looking perky and pleased with himself. For him to keep jumping and trusting me today makes me insanely proud. He is my horse of a lifetime.

    “The flag – it was a combination on three strides and it comes up very quickly. I didn’t even look back to check because it was never in my mind that I should turn round and jump the alternative.”

    Britain’s lead from the dressage phase had taken a knock when world champions Yasmin Ingham and Banzai Du Loir had a late run-out at an angled brush at the Fischer coffin. However, Kitty King’s fast clear for 3.6 time-faults on Vendredi Biats kept the team on top, after Germany’s first two riders clocked up double-figure time-faults.

    Sandra Auffarth knows her way round Haras du Pin, having won world gold in 2014 on Opgun Louvo. This time, she piloted Viamant Du Matz, who burst out of the start box in his usual dynamic style and hardly let up even after eight minutes on stamina-sapping ground. They were 11th after dressage on 28.6 and this clever chestnut pinged round for arguably the round of the day – and 5.6 time-faults.

    “The ground was really deep at the beginning, it was hard for the horses,” said Sandra, who added that the ground jury’s decision to cut out a loop before the cross-country started was “necessary”. “At the end it was getting better but the first half of the course was not so nice, so I decided to ride a little bit slower and then when the ground was getting better I started fighting as he’s super fit. I think he could have made the time, but I didn’t want to risk too much.

    “I knew there were some combinations you cannot really plan. My horse has so much experience and he’s so safe and looking for the next fence that he makes it really easy for me. We have a super partnership.”

    France make up ground on home turf in Eventing European Championships cross-country

    France is creeping up the order after the third rotation of riders, moving into the bronze medal position previously occupied by Belgium, who have dropped to eighth.

    Frenchman Nicolas Touzaint was joint 11th with Sandra after dressage when he set out the startbox on Absolut Gold HDC to tremendous cheers from the local fans. He rode a strong, positive round, and although the Grafenstolz gelding started to feel the pace four from home, he clocked a decent time for 11.2 time-faults.

    French individual Gireg le Coz survived some hairy moments but Aisprit De La Loge kept running and jumping to come home with 16 time-faults to add to their 28.8 dressage score.

    End of day update: Laura Collett is now in 15th place, with Sandra Auffarth in individual bronze, Nicolas Touzaint ninth and Gireg Le Coz 12th. Britain holds team gold. Full individual results

    Horse & Hound has a team of reporters covering all the action at the Europeans in Haras du Pin. To keep reading on our website after five articles, readers will need to buy a subscription. Visit horseandhound.co.uk/join to buy a Horse & Hound website unlimited subscription or, for great value, visit magazinesdirect.com/XHH-brandsite for a combined magazine and website subscription. If you are already a magazine subscriber, the cost to upgrade your subscription to include full website access is minimal – call 0330 333 1113 to find out more.

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