German showjumper Philipp Weishaupt was lucky to escape with only severe bruising after having to jump off his nine-year-old mare Che Fantastica when the bit broke while they were jumping in the CHIO Aachen on Friday (19 July).
The pair were competing in the first round of the RWE Prize, a qualifier for Sunday’s prestigious Rolex Grand Prix, which Philipp won in 2016 with LB Convall, when the bridle appeared to fall away on the approach to a maximum-dimension oxer.
“Everything was OK until we were heading towards jump number six,” Philipp told H&H. “I wanted to add a stride to the oxer so I took a slight pull, but after the second or third stride I felt something break.
“I didn’t realise in that moment that it was the bit — I just knew that something had broken — and then it was scary to see the distance coming, a really bad distance, too, towards a big, 1.60m oxer. But I had no control and I had to jump it off no stride at all. It was pretty scary.”
Despite clearing the fence in one piece, Philipp had to make the terrifying decision to jump off the mare when she bolted on landing. The mare was unharmed in the incident, but the 34-year-old has suffered a severe bone bruise on his coccyx.
“It’s really painful and I’ve been told that it will take a while before I’m back in the saddle,” said Philipp, who has been ruled out of a place on the German team at the European Championships in Rotterdam next month as a result. “It’s OK to stand up and lie down, but it’s super painful to sit. It will be over two weeks until I can ride again.
“This is life! But the main thing is that Che Fantastica is absolutely fine and nothing happened to her.”
The manufacturer of the broken bit got in touch with Paul soon after the incident
The rider praised his ‘very honest’ horse after the save, the video of which has been viewed more than 230,000
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It turned out that the metal link in the horse’s rubber pelham had rusted away, causing the bit to break apart “at the worst possible time”.
“It was an old bit, about 10 years old, and nowadays they’re made of stainless steel but the metal piece that goes through inside the rubber had become rusty and of course we had no way of knowing until it was too late,” said Philipp, whose birthday came the day after the incident. “It had rusted right through.
“It’s very unusual and nothing like that has ever happened to me before. You sometimes see it happen with a hackamore bridle, but I’ve never seen the actual bit break before,” added Philipp, who also suffered a tack malfunction in the 2017 Hamburg Derby when his stirrup broke.
“So I’m feeling really disappointed right now because the horse was in such super shape and I think she’d have had a great chance in the grand prix.
“But on the other hand, I’m just really glad that nothing worse happened because it could have been a really bad accident for me and the horse.”
Read Horse & Hound’s full report from Aachen CHIO in this week’s magazine, on sale Thursday 25 July