Mark Phillips: ‘I hope Andrew Nicholson is serious about applying for Yogi Breisner’s job’ *H&H VIP*

  • I had no idea what I was about to go through emotionally when I arrived in Luhmühlen from America last week. I thought I had got over the disappointment of finishing the course-design job and was looking forward to new opportunities.

    I have been designing in Luhmühlen for 12 years and when I started there was an ancient grandstand, no all-weather arena, no state-of-the-art office block. Much of the cross-country was down sand tracks and a lot of the fences were tied up with wire rather than rope. Frangible pins were some invention from far away England.

    Now the arena and warm-up areas are on all-weather surfaces, all the cross-country is on grass and the fences are beautifully built by David Evans and clustered in four main areas for spectators and TV.

    At the Saturday night dinner for officials and sponsors, director Julia Otto was effusive in her praise and thanks. When everyone stood and applauded I could not keep the tears back. I had not appreciated how many friends I had made in Germany or how much a part of my life Luhmühlen has become — it’s over 40 years since I first rode there.

    Then I was ambushed on Sunday morning when the team along with coaches and riders toasted my health with champagne. The emotions came flooding back again.

    I am proud of my legacy; Luhmühlen today is a very special place.

    Is 70 too old?

    I had the perfect farewell as course-designer. Out of 28 CCI4* starters, 26 finished, four inside the time and with no falls. From the statistics you would think I’d gone soft. Absolutely not true — this was a real four-star and many said it was as difficult as anything I had ever built in Luhmühlen.

    In the CIC3* there were 32 out of 44 clear, two in the time and just three rider falls. We were lucky with perfect footing and sunshine, but all agreed that this too was the genuine article. When it’s going so well it’s irksome to think that I turn 70, the FEI retirement age for course-designers, at the end of 2018 — or maybe the ageing process is about to creep up on me big time!

    The CCI4* had a popular winner in Andreas Dibowski, and runner-up Maxime Livio really impressed. We will see a lot of more of Julia Krajewski and Samourai Du Thot.

    In the CIC3*, world champion Sandra Auffarth and Ingrid Klimke seemed to be playing a different game to the rest. Michael Jung was absent on showjumping duty, but is in Strzegom, Poland — the venue for next year’s Europeans — this week on two of his possible Olympic rides.

    Gaining respect

    I hope Andrew Nicholson is serious about applying for Yogi Breisner’s job (interview, 26 May) as he would have the riders’ respect. However, I thought he was riding more sympathetically and better than ever in Luhmühlen. Maybe after his Bramham win and two in the top 10 here he is not ready to hang up his boots.

    It’s been on my conscience for a month that I never talked about Emily King after Badminton. It’s sad that Brookleigh is out for two years with an injury, which she feels may have contributed to their fall (news, 16 June) — to my eyes she made a silly green mistake, but up to then she had looked the real deal. At 19, that’s no mean feat.

    For me, it’s now on to Barbury, Gatcombe and Burghley. At the end of one of the most emotional weeks of my life, I can only hope that I can stay half as lucky for the rest of the summer.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 23 June 2016