Pippa Funnell and Billy Beware are at the head of a strong British contingent after dressage in the CCI4* at Luhmühlen. Their fourth-placed score of 25.8 — including a 10 for their final halt from the judge at M, Sandy Phillips — is 1.7 penalties behind the leaders, Dutch pair Tim Lips and Bayro.
“I’m actually a tiny bit disappointed with the mark, compared to Badminton [where they were awarded 25.7] — this was what I call a proper ‘clear round’, which thrilled me,” Pippa said. “The changes and the transitions were nailed, and we went for it in the extended canter. Perhaps I just played a little safe in the first part of the trot-work.
“Tomorrow, I want to try to have fun [across country]. We’ve worked hard since Badminton [where they retired across country] and played around with the bitting, although that isn’t the problem — he’s a big horse and he can be hard to keep through his shoulder.”
Tim Lips and the supple, loose-moving Bayro’s mark of 24.1 is half a mark ahead of New Zealand’s Jesse Campbell (Cleveland, 24.6).
“I know Bayro can do a great test. He went well at Wiesbaden [in May] and I came here with confidence. But I did lose my stirrup when we went into canter after the rein-back, so I felt a bit of an idiot!”
Jesse Campbell trialled a new approach to 11-year-old Cleveland’s dressage test, and it paid off.
“He’s a bit of a wild beast, and I have probably overworked him [before his test] in the past,” explained Jesse. “Here, I tried to trust that my training at home was good and that he would peak in the ring, and I think that worked. He tried very, very hard for me, and it was a good first four-star performance.”
Australia’s Shane Rose is third with 25.5 aboard CP Qualified, who hasn’t competed since Pau CCI4* last autumn.
“I only flew in from Australia two days ago, but he has been got fit by [Shane’s friend and fellow Australian rider] Sam Griffiths and I know him [CP Qualified] very well,” said Shane. “Given our lack of match practice, I’m very pleased.”
Shane echoed the majority of riders when saying that the Mike Etherington Smith-designed cross-country track was “a big step up from last year”. There has been very little rain at Luhmühlen for the past three months and the sandy ground remains on the good to firm side, although course-builder David Evans’ team have worked hard on it.
“My horse loves ‘top of the ground’ — this is probably the best ground I will ever get for him in Europe, although a few of my fellow riders might be hoping it rains tonight,” commented Shane.
Another Australian, Emma McNab, lies in fifth place on Fernhill Tabasco, while Britain’s Ros Canter (Zenshera) shares sixth place with Badminton winner Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianamo on 27.1.
Thursday’s joint-leaders, Kitty King for Britain on Ceylor LAN and the US’s Boyd Martin and Shamwari, are in eighth place with 27.4.
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Team GBR’s Nicola Wilson and Bulana are in 10th on 27.5. Their early marks were good enough to take the lead, but the 12-year-old black mare broke into trot from walk just before the halt and rein-back, which upset her and she became tense and a little strong thereafter.
There was major disappointment for another much-fancied British combination — Tina Cook and Billy The Red. They have had a seriously interrupted season as Tina dislocated her shoulder at Burnham Market at the end of March and has only ridden in two competitions since, and the lovely chestnut misbehaved in both the first halt and the halt before the rein-back. Tina sensibly went straight into canter and missed out the rein-back, but their mark of 39.9 left them in 45th place.
More updates from Luhmühlen online over the weekend and full report in next week’s magazine (issue dated 21 June).