Zara Phillips made history today in Aachen at the World Equestrian Games. Going one better than her father (twice winner of Badminton) and her mother (herself a former European Champion) she became world champion riding Toytown at the equestrian extravaganza founded by her grandfather — and dedicated the win to her friend, Sherelle Duke, who died a week ago today competing at Brockenhurst horse trials.

Germany were the team champions, to the rapturous approval of the home crowds, with Britain in silver and Australia in bronze positions, having snuck past the reigning world champions, USA, with strong show jumping performances.

“I’m relieved and shocked,” said Zara afterwards. “My good friend died a week ago today and I wanted to do well here — I am dedicating this to her.” The British and Irish teams had competed wearing red and white ribbons — Sherelle’s cross-country colours — as a mark of respect for their friend.


Zara Phillips and Toytown on their way to becoming world champions
Photo by Kit Houghton/FEI

The show jumping phase proved as riveting as the rest of the competition had been. With Bettina Hoy and Frank Ostler of Germany lying a close second and third to Zara going into the jumping, no one would have predicted that an individual medal would not end up in German hands. But so it turned out, with one fence down from Frank, and two from Bettina, proving costly. Gatcombe winner Clayton Fredericks (AUS) moved up with a brilliant clear to take silver on Ben Along Time, with Amy Tryon (USA) and Poggio, who came sixth in Athens, taking bronze.

The British contingent jumped remarkably consistently, all five having jumped cleanly (with just one time fault for Sharon Hunt and two for Oliver Townend) before Zara entered the arena, the last to go. With only one show jump in hand, there were gasps when Toytown pushed out the penultimate fence, the final part of the treble. But they jumped the last cleanly, and the crowds jumped to their feet.

The top three Germans filled places four, five and six but refused to be downcast about the loss of individual medals, their primary focus always having been the team event. Heinrich Romeike (fifth) summarised the result for many when he said: “I think it’s great that the world championship hasn’t been won by a dressage horse or a show jumper.” Cross-country played a proper part in the results. And Britain’s team disappointments of yesterday have been more the appeased by a remarkable achievement from the youngest member of the team.

To read the report in full, look out for this week’s issue of Horse & Hound (August 31)