Michael Jung once again demonstrated his dominance by setting the standard during the first day of dressage at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. He scored 34.4pen with Le Biosthetique-Sam FBW to lead the field by 3.8pen overnight.
The German partnership produced a typically polished and consistent performance to earn the highest possible marks from the judges, despite the horse not being the biggest natural mover nor having quite his normal preparation.
Michael explained: “We had a lot of snow the past week at home, so Sam was lacking work before he travelled here. He likes to gallop or do some cross-country training, then he’s more relaxed when he’s travelling.
“He arrived full of energy and I had planned to gallop him on Tuesday, but the ground was soft so I was worried he might lose a shoe or something. But he felt very good this morning and gave me a wonderful feeling in the test.”
Michael was also keen to thank his backup team, who had kept everything ticking over while he was ‘on holiday’ in Kentucky. “Having just one horse to ride is like a holiday for me,” he explained.
Former Badminton winner Andrew Hoy, who was providing expert commentary through H&H Live, said: “Michael just doesn’t give any marks away. He has total harmony with his horse and maintains the balance and rhythm to allow Sam to produce his best possible performance. We saw better movers than Sam today, but no-one was more consistently correct in the way of going.
“All of the top three riders had harmony and rode accurately while allowing their horse to breathe and use their paces to the maximum of their ability.”
Michael’s compatriot Andreas Ostholt sits in second overnight on 38.2pen with So Is Et. Looking incredibly stylish in his German uniform, he impressed the judges with a test in which the fluidly and consistency shone through.
Andreas said: “My expectations were not that good. Our dressage was only scoring around middle 40s last year, so it’s great to be back to where we were three years ago now.”
In third overnight is a delighted Francis Whittington with a score of 40pen on 12-year-old Hasty Imp, who is by Master Imp and owned by Margaret Smith. Their test was a masterclass of how to ride a horse to produce the best possible work for the horse’s current stage of training without asking for too much and unbalancing the horse as a result.
A very relaxed Francis explained: “I came to Badminton with no expectations. Hasty Imp has to work hard at this level so it was a case of getting him warmed up and relaxed so he could try to do the best he could do and thankfully he did.”
While there is another day of dressage to come, Michael has put himself in the best possible position to strengthen his claim on the Rolex Grand Slam after winning Rolex Kentucky last week and Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials last year.
Make sure you buy H&H magazine next week (12 May issue) for our full 24-page report including columns from Carl Hester, William Fox-Pitt and Mark Phillips.