British-based Australian eventer Sam Griffiths had an “incredibly eventful” time at Millstreet International Horse Trials last weekend, following up a broken bit on the cross-country by performing a contender for save of the century.
Having had to pull up on Gurtera Cher, his first ride in the CCI3*, when his pelham broke, Sam was caught on camera as Paulank Kings River made an unusual jump on to a bank.
“I think either he got a bit ambitious and thought he could jump the lot, or didn’t quite get his landing gear down,” Sam told H&H. “I had momentum coming into it, then came to a stop, which flung me forward on to his neck but he’s such an honest horse, he just kept on going.”
Although Kings River, a 10-year-old gelding who finished in the top 10 at Saumur CCI3* with Sam in May, went down on his knees, he managed to jump off the bank, then, after a scramble and two strides, cleared the next obstacle while Sam hung on precariously, and horse and rider cantered on in one piece.
“He just landed, pricked his ears and went; I was hanging round his neck and could see we were a long way off the jump but he just did it,” said Sam. “It was good course-designing; the brush made it a bit forgiving, so I can thank the course-designer for that! But the horse was just so honest.
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“It knocked his confidence a bit and we were pretty cautious over the next three fences, but then he got his confidence back and finished full of running.”
Sam had already suffered a disappointment on 13-year-old mare Gurtera Cher, who was some three-quarters round the same course when her tack malfunctioned.
“She was going beautifully,” he said. “It was between fences and luckily, she’s really sensible so I pulled on the reins and just gave her a bit of a pat and she stopped.
“She was going so well, on the time and I’d have been pretty confident she’d finish well. I don’t know what make the bit was, but have been in touch with some good manufacturers to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
All in all, Sam said, it was an “exciting” weekend, with the silver lining that despite the fact he and Kings River had been slightly “cautious” after the save, they still finished in fourth place.
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“At least we came back with that, or it would have been a bit disastrous!” he added.
It was announced this week that Paulank Broackagh, the mare on whom Sam had been selected to represent Australia at the World Equestrian Games would not compete as she had sustained a slight injury. Sam told H&H it had come at the wrong time but was minor, and he hopes his 2014 Badminton-winning ride will be back for the CCI4* next year.
Read the full report from Millstreet in this week’s H&H magazine, out 30 August.