Fiona Bigwood made her Olympic intentions crystal clear at Saumur CDI in France (28 April-1 May) by winning both the grand prix and the grand prix special with new personal best scores.
Her 11-year old Danish-bred Atterupgaards Orthilia (by Gribaldi x Donnerschlag) posted 77.6% to top the 42-starter grand prix, with the score increasing to an emphatic 79.16% in the special.
“What a ride she [Orthilia] gave me,” said the rider from Sussex. “She was an absolute pleasure and gave me so much in the arena. I feel like I am living in a dream.”
“Anyone who works with horses knows how incredibly tough it can be. We all put in hours of work and we can have our hearts broken so quickly. We reach low points that the average person never gets to see but the highs are so amazing that they keep us going.”
Watch Fiona’s winning grand prix test here.
Fiona’s husband Anders stood second with over 73% in the special on the 12-year-old Selten HW (Sandro Hit x Hohenstein); the horse’s first run-through of this test and his international debut show at grand prix.
Michael Eilberg’s dream season continued. He bagged five wins and a second place at the show with his three rides.
Having been second to Fiona in the grand prix, he opted to ride the freestyle and duly won that with Marakov.
Their 76.05% put them more than 3% clear of second-placed Veronique Henschen from Luxembourg.
Michael had a busy week, piloting the Russian-owned nine-year-old Oldenburg gelding Sa Coeur in his international debut. The striking, big-moving bay won the prix st georges and inter I classes on his international debut, both with 74.9%.
Michael also dominated the middle tour class, topping both the inter A and inter B on the Dimaggio mare Half Moon Dynasty. The 12-year-old mare, who belongs to Jon and Julie Deverill, had not competed internationally since Hickstead in 2014 — and never before off British shores.
A number of pony riders also made the trip across the channel, with Sophie Taylor (Madam’s Miss Maria), Lara Kuropatwa (Le Chiffre), Lara Kuropatwa (Mister Snowman), Charlotte McDowall (BKS Grand Design) and Isobel Lickley (Gigolo) all posting top 10 finishes.
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In the junior ranks, Alexandra Hellings (Uvender V) and Bethany Rose Horobin (Cachet) posted top 10 placings, while the young rider British girls finished third in the Nations Cup.
Alex Hardwick put up storng performances in the under-25 division. She finished third in the inter II with Donauwein, then improved to second with him in the short grand prix and hit the magic 70% marker.
Her other ride, Royal Chester, improved 11% on a dismal inter II to score 69.18% in the grand prix and clinch fourth.