‘A truly amazing horse’: the best is yet to come for Britain’s top scorer at eventing Euros

  • Ros Canter posted Britain’s best test as the penultimate rider in the European Eventing Championships dressage phase in Haras du Pin. Ros was riding Lordships Graffalo, and slotted into second, in between the leader Michael Jung (Fischerchipmunk FRH) and Britain’s individual rider Tom McEwen (JL Dublin).

    “Walter”, the reigning Badminton champion, is still on an upward trajectory at the age of 11, and their score of 21.3 easily surpassed his previous championship dressage score (26.2) from Pratoni last autumn. They were fourth in Pratoni on an identical score to the bronze medallists Tim Price and Falco, but lost out on the podium spot owing to a faster time across country, so Ros is out to make amends here. As the final rider for Britain, Ros was relieved to get her score on the board.

    “It’s been a very long wait for me these last two days, I don’t think I’ve been easy with my trainer Ian Woodhead!” Ros said. “But today when I got on I felt much better that I actually had a job to do. I had so much time on my hands that I was looking at old videos from the spring when we were building up to Badminton, and I can’t believe how much Walter has come on. He’s a truly amazing horse and I am so lucky to have him.”

    Their test was flowing and relaxed, a joy to watch. Ros started with nines for her early halt before the rein-back, and scarcely wasted any marks. She posted plenty of eights throughout, and the judges appreciated Walter’s big, open trot. Ros was brave in asking for expressive extensions and was rewarded with a nine for the trot and 8.5 for canter. The half-passes were also highlights, scoring eights on both sides across the board.

    Overall, this was an impressively consistent performance, especially for a horse with so little championship experience, and leaves her rivals wondering how much more there is still to come.

    “Physically he’s a lot weaker than the horses that are hitting their teens and I did have to give myself a reminder not to have too high an expectation, but he gets stronger all the time,” Ros said. “His changes are getting better and better; his halt and rein-back were a real weakness, and now they’re really getting consistent.

    “But he can still improve his right-to-left change, which is not always regular. There are little tweaks I can make for next time, but our training is gradually going in the right direction.”

    ‘The Brits are used to this ground’

    Ros won Badminton on rain-sodden going on this horse, and that experience gives her plenty of confidence for Saturday’s challenge.

    “[That experience] is very important, not just for the horse but the rider and their mentality,” she said. “The Brits have had to cope with that a lot this year, so we’ve been able to override the talk on the ground as we’ve ridden in it so many times, so we have been extremely positive, and that’s really good for team spirit.

    “But with Walter we are still coming across questions that he hasn’t seen before because of his age. The drop into the first water is very, very big, so it will be interesting to see how they read that. But I think it’s more the undulations, the twists and turns that are going to create the challenges.”

    In the meantime, Walter is very much enjoying his moment in the spotlight – something he is getting used to rapidly.

    “Walter does love being centre of attention so to have Sarah Charnley [groom] as his sole provider does float his boat,” Ros added. “He’s been enjoying his grazing and loves to roll. He does occasionally have an episode where he decides he doesn’t like his stable, but he’s very tolerant of his surroundings here; he likes being in France.”

    Home nation on back foot after dressage

    France’s final rider Gaspard Maksud and the 10-year-old Zaragoza, who burst on to the championship stage last year with sixth in Pratoni, scored 33.1. It wasn’t close to their best mark, but they executed an energetic and largely correct test with a few anomalies. Gaspard asked for the max in both extended canter and trot – although the latter came off with two eights, the canter was slightly on the wild side and lost balance as Gaspard tried to collect the mare again.

    They may be France’s drop score after dressage, but this speedy pairing will be one to watch in the jumping phases as they have established a habit of rocketing up the order, and the mare looks extremely fit.

    Austria’s Lea Siegl, 24, and Van Helsing P rounded off the dressage action with an eye-catching test to score 28.9 and into 14th, easily the best of her nation.

    European Eventing Championships dressage standings

    Michael Jung holds the lead with FisherChipmunk FRH for Germany on 19.4, ahead of Ros and Lordships Graffalo on 21.3.

    Tom McEwen lies third on JL Dublin, riding as an individual for Britain, on 22, while his compatriot individual rider Tom Jackson is sixth with Capels Hollow Drift.

    Of Britain’s team riders, Laura Collett and London 52 lie fourth on 22.4; Yasmin Ingham is fifth on 23.4 with Banzai Du Loir and Kitty King (Vendredi Biats) is ninth on 27.2. This gives Britain a lead on 67.1 of 9.2pen over Germany. Belgium lies third on 90.9, owing predominantly to Karin Donckers’ excellent test on the veteran Fletcha Van’T Verahof for 26.5, for eighth spot individually.

    British riders hold six of the top 10 places.

    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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