The Irish team were closing in on the medals at the end of the first day of the Nations Cup team competition at the European Showjumping Championships in Riesenbeck on Thursday (2 September), having climbed from overnight seventh to fifth place.
Impressive clears from Daniel Coyle, riding the 11-year-old mare Legacy, and Eoin McMahon, riding the 15-year-old gelding Chacon 2, enabled them to overtake both France and the Netherlands on the leaderboard.
Team mates Michael Duffy (Zilton SL) and Mark McAuley (Jasco vd Bisschop) both delivered eight-fault rounds to leave the team with eight to add to their 12.73pen performance during Wednesday’s (1 Sept) opening qualifying round.
They sit just 0.42pen ahead of France going into tomorrow’s team final and 9.14pen behind Sweden, who are currently occupying the lowest podium spot on 11.59pen.
Daniel’s clear in both the first and second rounds has left him lying in 12th individually, while Eoin is sitting in 20th place, meaning both riders are also in line to pick up a spot in the individual final.
“There was a lot of pressure on today,” said team pathfinder Daniel, who is usually based in Florida. “My horse jumped great yesterday but when you’re first to go, sometimes there’s as much pressure as last to go because you need to start good. So I am delighted with another zero.”
Wednesday’s opening round at the European Showjumping Championships was against the clock, but today riders had to steady back down for some tough jumping round Frank Rothenberger’s 1.60m track, which caused a bit of a shake up on the leaderboard.
“I think different riders had different horses and different strategies — some horses are able to go fast the first day and it doesn’t make a difference the rest of the week, some horses you go fast the first day, and that sets them off on the wrong foot the rest of the week,” Daniel said.
“[Ariel Grange, the horse’s owner] said to me that you don’t need to be crazy the first day and when someone with that experience says that, then OK.”
Daniel has been riding the mare since she was eight years old, but had their early partnership interrupted by Covid and is only just getting to test her form at this level.
“I know her well, I’d love to know her better but I didn’t get to ride her that much last year,” he said. “We always knew she was special though, so it’s good to have her at a major championship and have her going well.”
Eoin didn’t get off to quite as strong a start as his team mate in the previous day’s opening leg, lodging his team’s discard score of 6.67pen, but left all the fences standing on his second trip after making some adjustments, including switching to a softer bit.
“Probably myself and the horse were a bit tense yesterday, but we made small changes and I had a much better feeling in the warm up today. It went to plan and I think the horse jumped great,” he said.
“I tried to ride him with a little bit of a longer neck and a bit of a longer rein and I think that made a big difference. I think he’s going to get better round by round.”
Eoin, 26, is on his championship debut but has the advantage of jumping on “home” turf, having been based with Ludger Beerbaum at Riesenbeck since 2018.
“The showground didn’t look anything like this back then,” Eoin said. “Ludger and the event director have had a lot of sleepless nights and work to get everything ready, but we’re really proud of how it’s turned out.”
Michael Duffy was unlucky to add eight faults, taking down the second element of the second double and the plank with the 10-year-old Zirocco Blue VDL x Indoctro gelding, in what was an otherwise beautiful round.
“It’s the sport isn’t it,” he said. “He’s still quite inexperienced at this level, he learned from it, and onto [the team final] tomorrow now isn’t it. Pressure is for tyres!”
Last to jump for the team, Mark also collected eight faults but his team mates had already done enough to climb to fifth, more than guaranteeing them the top 10 position necessary to qualify for Friday’s final team round at the European Showjumping Championships.
“I’m quite disappointed with two down — we had a foot in the water yesterday and I didn’t want to do that again today so may be I over-rode the water a little bit and then it was hard to get it back,” he said. “I just got him flustered so he was pulling a bit too hard and it took away from the shape of the jump.
“We’ve moved up two spots from yesterday though, so that’s a positive. I thought the other guys’ horses all jumped great – we’ll keep fighting and tomorrow is another day.”
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