Mark Todd: counting down to WEG with New Zealand and Brazil [H&H VIP]

  • After the desperately sad events at Luhmühlen [where a rider was killed], I flew from Germany to Brazil. Not to watch the football, but in my role as technical adviser to the Brazilian eventing team.

    Although their World Equestrian Games [WEG] squad are based in Europe, I went to give some of the other riders a hand and to check on their progress ahead of the South American Championships in Brazil in November.

    Eventing in Brazil reminds me of the sport in New Zealand 30 years ago. The big disadvantage is that it is a vast country with a history of showjumping and rodeo — eventing is very low on their list of activities.

    There are a handful of serious riders — a 3-star event would probably only have 4starters. But more people are getting involved at the lower levels now and there might be 25 competitors at a 1-star.

    The cross-country courses tend to be up to standard and quite difficult. The Brazilians lack materials and some finesse at course-building, and some of the European horses would struggle to get round their tracks.

    I remember Brazilian eventers at the World Equestrian Games in Stockholm in 1990 and at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. It’s up to me, their dressage trainer Anna Ross Davies and their Brazilian showjumping trainer to put together and implement a plan to get them to perform better at championships.

    As host nation for the South American Championships this year, they can send quite a few riders. As it is held at 2-star level, it’s a great opportunity for some of the younger ones to get experience. The aim is to be competitive at the Pan-Am Games next year.
    A squad of five riders has been named for WEG — Marcelo Tosi, Marcio Jorge, Gabriel Cury, Gustavo Pagotto and Ruy Fonseca.

    Gabriel got the call-up after finishing fifth in the under-25 CCI3* at Bramham (above) He has struck up a great partnership with my old horse Grass Valley and they are on a roll — but it’s still a very big call for someone who only did his first CCI* at Hartpury last August.

    Hats off to Price

    I flew home from Brazil and went straight to Salperton. The huge contrast makes you realise how lucky we are in Britain with our venues, facilities and organisation.

    We really are on the countdown to WEG and Leonidas II is now my number one hope for selection. Lots of countries announced their teams last week, but the New Zealand squad won’t be revealed until around 14 July.

    1 man likely to have booked his place is Tim Price. He’s been at the job a while now and it was brilliant for him to win his first 4-star in Luhmühlen.

    Wesko has always looked like a lovely horse with a great attitude and has been unlucky a couple of times — at Badminton this year and Boekelo in 2012, when he fell in the water.

    But his results in the past 12 months — a CCI3* win at Blair, a CIC3* win at Tattersalls and then Luhmühlen — have proven how hard Tim has worked to up his game. They have reaped the rewards.

    Everyone is saying that WEG will be a proper 4-star track. I think it’s Pierre Michelet’s first 4-star championship course. He designs a lot of tracks, so it will be interesting to see what inspiration he has had to make WEG different to what we have seen from him before.

    Why the slow scores?

    Gripe of the week: why can’t events put up the scores on the scoreboard quicker? It isn’t that the results aren’t available, as you can jump half an hour after your dressage and they announce your mark, but it seems to take an age to reach the board.

    It’s frustrating for owners and hangers-on — is there a reason I don’t know that explains the delay?

    And why can’t Britain adopt the brilliant European scoring system that comes up on www.rechenstelle.de? It keeps us immediately informed at every stage of a foreign event. People expect instant information these days and, as the technology is available, why not adopt it?