Carl Hester: Learning curves and new superstars *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Although tinged with disappointment, there were a lot of positives from the European Championships. But how unlucky can one person be? Gareth Hughes had to drop out of the Rio shortlist when Classic Briolinca sustained an injury five minutes before their test at Rotterdam CHIO last year. Then, after three days travelling to Gothenburg, and working well in the arena, what terrible luck for Don Carissimo to injure himself and force their withdrawal.

    With new management in place the start was a bit rocky. When you’re down to a team of three it can put huge pressure on the first starter, but Emile provided a really good platform. Lollipop is a quality horse and Emile used all his expertise to bring in a solid score.

    Without doubt the judges want to see Supernova at the top of the tree where he should be. “Neville” has incredible hindleg action in all three paces and he can do some pretty impressive movements. We’d hoped to let him and Spencer bring in the big score, but he was slightly overwhelmed and on that single centre line featuring the pirouettes his score dropped from 77% to 70%. These situations, however, can be brilliant learning curves on how to prepare a horse at championship level. Spencer and I were ready for Neville with a different warm-up for the special.

    Riding Nip Tuck into the arena knowing we’d have to score 79% — which we haven’t achieved at grand prix before — did make me smile. Although I was delighted with his test, it has to be said the grand prix with three extended trots is not our strong point.

    It was the first time Britain have not been in the medals since 2009 — who would have thought three plus-70% tests would result in no medal — but we have to see the positives in fourth.

    For Denmark and Sweden to move into medal places has to be healthy for the sport. The judging was mostly fair throughout, although it did appear that the Scandinavians were at the Eurovision Song Contest rather than the European Championships, with a lot of friendly marks going back and forth.

    Carl’s crystal ball

    In the individual tests the pressure is off as you’re just riding for yourself. Supernova’s sixth in the special moved him closer to the medal zone while Nip Tuck gave me my best ride of three to finish fifth.

    In the music, although it’s bad sportsmanship, when you’re up against three such quality horses as Isabell, Sönke and Cathrine’s, all I could hope for was for something to go wrong.

    But, as Gareth Hughes said, Isabell was going to win unless she fell off, which she wouldn’t. Fourth for Nip Tuck exceeded my expectations.

    My own predictions for the medals were right. Maybe I can man the crystal ball stand at the World Equestrian Games next year? But seriously, Sönke and Cosmo are going to take over the world with a bit more experience. That horse has the presence of a superstar and Sönke’s riding at the tender age of 22 is so professional.

    I cannot find the rules on travelling reserves for major championships, but I can’t help but wonder whether with a bit of forward planning this might have been a good idea, especially for championships held in Europe. If not, maybe the rules need to be looked at.

    Congratulations eventers!

    What a tremendous result for Team GB, winning gold at the European Eventing Championships in Poland. It appears Chris Bartle and Dickie Waygood had taken their golden touch and sprinkled it over the eventers. Dickie, as one of “ours”, if you have any spare do sprinkle some our way!

    Ref Horse & Hound; 7 September 2017