‘He hates umbrellas!’– Laura Collett strengthens British dressage lead despite unwelcome showers

  • It perhaps wasn’t quite the record-breaking mark Laura Collett was dreaming of, but London 52 yet again delivered a brilliant performance between the white boards to slot into second spot on 22.4 at the European Eventing Championships dressage.

    Laura was the third of the British team riders to go, and London 52 looked fit to burst as he trotted outside the arena in the rain, but he kept his cool in the ring to produce the extravagant, powerful and elastic performance for which he has become renowned. However, from Laura’s perspective, their test was a disappointment and she had to use all her horsemanship skills to keep the horse on side after he was spooked by the umbrellas.

    “He was a bit fragile – he absolutely hates umbrellas,” said Laura. “It started raining and as I went in he noticed the umbrellas. So he felt like he was very aware of that, whereas normally he is 100% with me in the arena. I had to try and coax him into remembering to listen to me and not think about the umbrellas. So it wasn’t the best test he’s ever done, but I’m just glad it was good enough to be close enough.”

    The pressure was on this fabulous pairing, as although they can count Olympic team gold, and Badminton, Pau and Luhmühlen victories, among their illustrious accolades, they have yet to take home an individual championship medal.

    The 14-year-old Landos gelding made a super entry and first halt, and his test was peppered with nines – and even a 10 for their final halt from the judge at M, Seppo Laine. His extensions in trot and canter were beautiful, and it was just the extended walk that dropped a few marks.

    “With him, he doesn’t have too much of a weakness other than when I lose his mind, so it felt fragile, perhaps felt more fragile than it looked,” Laura said. “But the last time there were umbrellas he totally lost the plot so we are getting there.”

    Laura added that the cross-country will prove a tough challenge, particularly on rain-softened going.

    “It’s a proper track – more like a five-star than a four-star championship track,” she said. “Dimensionally it’s really big and square; there’s no let-up for the horses and the ground is going to play a massive part. We were expecting lots of angles, arrowheads and skinnies here, but it’s more like a Bramham or Bicton, so hopefully our horses are used to that and can go out and do the job. It’s going to be a serious test.”

    Laura’s excellent dressage score has further strengthened Britain’s position at the head of the team competition. The team pathfinder Kitty King is now lying fifth on Vendredi Biats, while the overnight leader Yasmin Ingham is third on Banzai Du Loir. Tom McEwen’s leading score of 22 on JL Dublin will not count for the team as he is riding as an individual.

    European Eventing Championships: day two

    Nadja Minder of Switzerland kicked off the afternoon dressage session on day two with the appealingly named Toblerone. The 23-year-old rider was 11th at the young rider Europeans on this now 16-year-old – by the great Yarland Summersong – two years ago and produced a calm and rhythmic test here for 31.7. This was good enough to go into 14th towards the end of the dressage phase and improve the Swiss team score.

    Double European champion Nicolas Touzaint kept France’s podium hopes alive on his championship stalwart Absolut Gold HDC. The pair finished sixth at the Tokyo Olympics and having under-performed at the World Championships last autumn, gave the French supporters something to cheer about here with a true-to-form score of 32.1. Absolut Gold, who wore a nose net, stumbled into the first halt and later fluffed one of the flying changes, which earned him fours. But the overall look was pleasing and delivered the best of the French team members’ scores so far.

    End of day update: Laura Collett now holds fourth place. Full results here.

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