‘He has learnt how to dance’: British rider and former showjumper hold provisional Luhmühlen five-star lead

  • Britain’s Bubby Upton and Cannavaro head the Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials dressage results on the opening day of competition at the German five-star (16 to 19 June).

    Bubby, 23, and the former showjumper produced a fault-free test – nailing the left-to-right flying change in the arena for the first time ever – to top the results after day one of dressage at Luhmühlen Horse Trials. Their score of 24.9 is an international personal best for the combination at any level.

    “I’m so proud of him. Everyone knows how much he means to me. He’s come so far from the tense showjumper he was, and today he really showed that he has learnt to dance,” said Bubby.

    “We don’t have favourites, but my mum [owner Rachel Upton] really loves him – I think it’s because he’s always been like the underdog. In our eyes he’s never been in anyone’s shadow, but technically on paper he was in Eros DHI’s shadow for juniors and then he was in Cola’s shadow for young riders and he’s always exceeded expectations.”

    The first four places on the Luhmühlen leaderboard are all filled by women, with three different nationalities represented in the podium spots.

    The USA’s Lauren Nicholson and her experienced campaigner Vermiculus were joyful to watch, and are in second place overnight on 26.7. The 15-year-old gelding, owned by Jacqueline Badger Mars, can be cheeky in this phase. At Aachen, he added an extra “salute” to the judges. But today that expression came through instead as the gloss on a polished test.

    “He was super, he’s been very cheeky for the last 18 months – I feel like that happens a lot when they kind of get to that 14-, 15-year-old stage and have been and done a lot. So it was nice to pull back the test he knows how to do and not have any pony moments kicking out at the judges!

    “I was very happy because he feels very fresh and so I was super happy to just get in and do our job and feel like he’s consistent again. I’ve promised him that he can stick his head straight in the air for the rest of this weekend.”

    Five-star debutants Lea Siegl and Cupido P, who Lea has produced from a three-year-old, hold provisional third on 30.8.

    “It’s a special relationship. I’ve produced all my horses by myself, but of course, moving up to a new [level] is always a special feeling. It’s a different connection between the horse and the rider if you have known each other for such a long time,” said Lea, adding that the five-star “B” test suits the 13-year-old Cyrano gelding.

    “He was a bit spooky in the trot, but I’m very happy with the canter.”

    While this is Lea’s first five-star, the Austrian rider already has two senior championships under her belt. The 23-year-old was the youngest competitor at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, where she partnered DSP Fighting Line to 15th place individually, and she finished 16th individually and was part of the sixth placed team at the 2021 European Championships later that year with Van Helsing P.

    Britain’s Kirsty Chabert and Classic VI hold fourth on 31.1. A return to consistent competition after the two strange Covid years is proving beneficial for this mare, owned by Carole Somers and John Johnston.

    “She was very good, very serious – she has been known to be a bit flamboyant. She’s now done three [good] tests on the trot and is becoming much more reliable,” said Kirsty.

    “She’s just been out a bit more this year and we’ve had a bit more of a consistent year – we haven’t had to stop start, as we did during Covid. It’s about getting their heads back in the game, the same as us riders.”

    New Zealand’s Tim Price, the five-star winner here in 2014 and 2019, was in action with the first of his two rides, the elegant grey five-star first-timer Spartaco, who he owns with his wife, Jonelle. The pair are in fifth overnight on 31.4, scoring sevens and eights consistently with the exception of their changes, which proved costly.

    “He’s really coming out of his shell and the quality of everything else is coming up,” said Tim. “So in the past, I would have been really honing in on those changes and then you sort of lose everything else a bit. Because he’s a bit under pressure, I’ve decided to work on the quality and have him with me everywhere, hoping that’ll bring the changes on a bit.

    “Getting one out of four [changes] is okay. I could have easily got none out of four.”

    Pathfinders Tom McEwen and Braveheart B, owned by Barbara Cooper, are in provisional sixth and within touching distance of the leaders on a score of 31.6. Tom’s Tokyo Olympic team gold medal-winning team mate, world number one Oliver Townend and new ride Lukas, owned by John Peace, are in seventh on 34.

    “He is a new horse and a work in progress,” said Oliver. “We are here to learn about him. and we’re a long way off being competitive at a major five-star, but he’s here for good mileage.”

    Ireland’s Cathal Daniels admitted he was disappointed after his test with Rioghan Rua, with whom he won individual European bronze at this venue in 2019. Frank and Margaret Kinsella’s spicy chestnut mare showed some lovely work, but her preference for canter over walk proved expensive.

    “There’s nothing you can do – if she doesn’t want to walk, I can’t force her to walk. Then the rein-back was a bit tense and the strike off into canter was just completely muddled. So it was very expensive,” said Cathal.

    “The sport is so competitive that it’s very disappointing; she’s on the back-foot now unfortunately. She’s fought from the back many times, but she’s capable of doing a lot better than that.

    “She’s at the stage now where she can be very competitive at five-star, if not win one, and they don’t come around very often in the year. So it’s annoying, but what can you do?”

    Elite British amateur Max Gordon, who balances eventing with working as a barrister, and family horse Redwood Clover are in ninth overnight at their first five-star on 36.6. Ireland’s Sarah Dowely and Rubix Cube, owned by Ivan Doweley, round out the top 10 at this stage on 38.4.

    The remaining 21 combinations will start their Luhmühlen campaign tomorrow (Friday, 17 June), with the five-star dressage starting at 1.45pm local time (12.45pm UK time).

    • View the full results from the first day of CCI5* competition

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