‘A privilege to sit on him’: Ros Canter and Izilot DHI step closer to second five-star title after changes to preparations pay off

  • Ros Canter and 11-year-old Izilot DHI are aiming for their second five-star victory having maintained their lead after the Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials CCI5* cross-country today (15 June).

    “I’m absolutely thrilled with him,” said Ros, who jumped clear round course-designer Mike Etherington Smith’s track, collecting just two-time faults, to go into tomorrow’s final phase on a score of 26.9.

    “I know he’s brave and honest, I never doubt the fact he’s genuine when he gets to a fence – it’s just whether he sees something as a fence, or something to run away from.”

    Of the 41 combinations that started the cross-country, there were 21 clears, four of which were inside the 11 minute seven second optimum time.

    Ros, who owns Izilot with Alex Moody, took all the direct routes across country and said the course “rode pretty much to plan”.

    “I was hopeful today because it was a nice start that I might get Izilot going, but he was actually really spooky at fence four (Picknick Tisch), which was a table. I think he saw the fence judges and shot forwards – I thought for a minute I was going to bypass fence four which would have been highly embarrassing,” she laughed.

    “But we survived it, on quite an acute angle, then he really settled down. He was just amazing all through the tricky fences. The brush corners early on (fences 5abc Heckenkombination) I had in my mind I wanted to go one less, but nobody else had done it, so I slightly wimped out when I got there and thought ‘Don’t be a fool, just get through this bit and then crack on’.

    “Everything else I think was great. I was really proud of the way he jumped into the first water (fences 13 and 14 LeMieux Lagune). Sometimes he’s so good at jumping in front it almost kind of stops him mid-air, but he was super through there.”

    Putting in the preparation

    Ros won the Pau five-star in October 2023, but retired during the cross-country phase at Badminton last month, and she said she had done things at Luhmühlen “a little bit differently” from Badminton.

    “You never quite know with Izilot how he’s going to be. I put a lot of thought into his preparation running up to the event and day by day when we were here,” she said.

    “As a young horse he was so flighty and tricky even to stay on. He used to get quite a lot of work at a competition so that when I went out the start box he was quite settled in his mind. At Badminton we did a little bit less of that because he’d been so settled over the winter, and obviously there was a bit of a stamina question mark as he’d never gone that distance over a course like that before, so I was really wary of tiring him out before he went out the start box.

    “But I’ve really analysed that and told myself horses are used to doing roads and tracks and steeplechase and things like that. So he did a bit of work this morning, nothing to tire him physically or make him blow, but just being out and about in this environment – and getting used to the umbrellas. Sarah (Charnley: Ros’s groom) grazed him and walked him out, I rode him earlier, and just really tried to familiarise him with everything so he went out the start box settled. If he’s settled and looking for the fences, he’s easy.”

    Ros goes into tomorrow’s showjumping phase with two fences in hand.

    “If anything it puts the pressure on me to try and get the job done,” she said, but added that she believes Izilot should be “quite settled” tomorrow after today’s test.

    “He’s super careful at the jumps. It’s a privilege to sit on him and hopefully I can do him justice tomorrow,” she said.

    A dream day for a five-star debutant

    Young Irish rider Jennifer Kuehnle climbed from 22nd after the dressage to sit in second overnight following a superb round in the Luhmühlen Horse Trials CCI5* cross-country, with her own Polly Blue Eyes. She is also 12th on Sammy Davis Junior, in what is becoming a memorable weekend for the 22-year-old rider.

    Jennifer was fourth to go aboard “Polly”, and produced the second fastest clear of the day, to stop the clock at 11 minutes and a second. The fastest round came from David Doel and his Burghley runner-up Galileo Niuewmoed, who flew round clear in 10 minutes 50 seconds, to sit in overnight fifth.

    This year’s German event marks Jennifer’s five-star debut, but she is no stranger to success, having won individual gold in Children on Horses showjumping at the 2015 Europeans, and multiple team medals at junior and young rider eventing Europeans.

    Jennifer said she “set out on a good pace” today with 16-year-old full thoroughbred Polly, who was bred locally to Luhmühlen by Dagmar Hayessen. Jennifer has owned Polly for six years and has brought her up the ranks.

    “She’s quite easy to set up for the fences so I can do a stride less than everyone else in some places,” said Jennifer.

    “Everything rode perfectly apart from fence 7abc (Ecken CKombination) – I squeezed in a fifth stride there. The first corner I jumped a bit too much going out, so I ended up a fraction too much on the outside, but where she chipped in the stride she was so good.”

    Jennifer said she never considered that she would be going into the final phase lying in second.

    “She’s very good at dressage but doesn’t always get the marks, but she always fights her way back up. I couldn’t be prouder today, our first five-star and second after cross-country, what can you say?”

    An emotional journey for an owner-breeder

    Belgian rider Lara de Liedekerke-Meier and her home-bred mare Hooney D’Arville moved up from sixth place to third following a clear jumping round across country, with four time-faults.

    Lara could be heard celebrating as she jumped the final fence – and afterwards an emotional Lara explained that it had been “a long journey” with “Hooney”. Lara formerly competed Hooney’s mother, Nooney Blue, and their final event together was at Luhmühlen in 2011.

    “That meant a lot to me,” she said. “I had a lot of silly mistakes with Hooney [over the years], and everyone said to me you have to hang tight because she’s good. I wasn’t sure if she had the heart, and I was close to giving up a couple of times.

    “But I didn’t, and I’m really proud of her today for proving me wrong. I think sometimes it’s important with horses that we don’t forget that we have to do them justice. Our round today was good but not the most fluid, and here and there I could have been better. But she was fantastic, and she’s a five-star horse now for real – like her mummy.”.

    Laura Collett, who set off aboard Lucy Nelson’s Hester just as the heavens opened this morning, had been lying in third ahead of the Luhmühlen Horse Trials CCI5* cross-country. The pair had been jumping well despite the torrential downpour, but had a miscommunication at fence 14a at the water combination (fences 13 and 14abc), for 20 penalties.

    “All in all I’m absolutely delighted with her,” said Laura. “Obviously it’s a little disappointing having a 20, but I couldn’t fault her. She had a real scare at Badminton (when Hester went green across country and the pair ultimately retired) and she’s come back and got better and better.

    “I think doing a circle (at fence 14a) maybe confused her slightly, to then come and represent at the fence I had just turned away from, so that was a bit unlucky and maybe I should have just gone the proper long route straight off, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. For me the most important thing is there were two more waters and she was brilliant through those. She really is honest and wants to do the job, and any mistake she makes is just a genuine misunderstanding.”

    Pathfinders produce in Luhmühlen Horse Trials CCI5* cross-country

    Pathfinders Tom McEwen and 14-year-old mare CHF Cooliser jumped a confident clear, with 5.2 time-penalties, and go into the showjumping in overnight fourth.

    Tom said Vicky Bates and David Myers’ “Eliza” was “excellent”.

    “There were some skinny skinnies out there, and proper lines, but if you could find your way round then it rode really well,” he said.

    “I had a really good plan with her, and it worked perfectly. I just had to take a little bit of time as she had some time off after Badminton after kicking the wall and not presenting at the trot-up. I’m delighted with her today, it’s another five-star box ticked.”

    Tom had been in overnight second ahead of the cross-country phase with Brookfield Quality, but the pair had a less than ideal round, when the wind picked up and heavy rain turned into a brief thunderstorm.

    Tom and John and Chloe Perry and Alison Swinburn’s 15-year-old gelding were stopped on course at fence 19 (Reiterbar) owing to the weather, as stewards battled to secure fence dressing and flags on a number of jumps around the course. When the pair resumed around 15 minutes later, Tom retired before jumping fence 25 (Longines Wasser) – owing to “Norris” bleeding from the nose.

    “It had been a fantastic round, but some insanely incredible weather. I was starting to think the trees were going to come over!” said Tom. “He had restarted really well, and we don’t know why the bleeding happened. It’s never happened to him before and hopefully it doesn’t happen again, but we’ll look into it.

    “The main thing is he’s alright, he had a great round until then and I was delighted with him. It’s a shame for him and his owners and everyone involved, but he’s fine, looks brilliant, and he’s going home.”

    The final showjumping phase will get under way tomorrow morning after the final trot-up.

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