Find out the secret behind training the leading horse, who scored 10s and which up-and-coming British star has been training with Carl Hester…
The Australian leader appeared to be almost riding an exhibition round on Jill Martin and David Webster’s Graf Liberty, such was the accuracy and suppleness of his test, with each movement placed easily onto its marker. One six in his third flying change was the only time Chris’ marks dropped below seven throughout the test.
“He’s just always been a tricky horse to train and makes you work for it, but we know he can do it. I’m super pleased for the owners, Jill and David, who’ve been very patient with him,” said Chris of the 15-year-old, who finished fourth at Badminton last year.
“He’s not your conventional horse in that it all has to be on his terms. We have to be really nice to him – put lots of concentrated training into him, but also give him lots of pats and feed him Polos.
“I’m delighted with him – he gave me a good feeling to the hand. Often he’s either high behind in the changes or not through behind and he just really followed me today.”
Piggy March – who has never ridden at Pau before, despite all her experience – sits second in 22.2, just 0.2 of a penalty behind Chris, following a super test on Brookfield Inocent, last year’s Blenheim Horse Trials CCI4*-L winner who belongs to John and Chloe Perry and Alison Swinburn.
Brookfield Inocent demonstrated a solidly consistent uphill outline, combined with excellent energy and activity. The pair’s marks were only marred by three fours for a mistake in the second flying change. They scored a 10 for the extended canter from the French judge Xavier Le Sauce at H.
“He’s capable of really lovely work, but obviously it’s his first five-star. He can be spooky,” said Piggy, explaining the horse had not been keen on the green carpet used to dress the all-weather surface during arena familiarisation.
“He’s confident in his work, but just needs more occasions to know that he’s with me – and he was. This test was what I knew he could do, but it’s very pleasing he didn’t go green or spooky or uptight at all.
“He’s 11 and just coming up to the level, changing all the time, getting more established and growing up. We’re just trying to get more cadence in the trot and dotting the is and crossing the ts – but he’s a beautiful horse, so you always have the advantage of that in the first place.”
Ros Canter and Zenshera put in their customary tidy, accurate test to score 24.8 and hold third, as they bid for a fourth top-10 placing at Pau in as many runs at the French showcase.
Laura Collett set the standard from fifth draw today with Mr Bass. Her active, consistent test attracted good marks throughout, including three nines from New Zealand’s Andrew Bennie at C, for a final score of 26.2 and fifth overnight.
Nicola Wilson piloted Bulana, the 2017 European individual bronze medallist, into sixth on 26.8 with a harmonious test. A judging discrepancy in the second flying change was corrected – a four and two sevens turning into three sevens – which elevated Nicola a place higher than she appeared on the provisional results.
Five-star debutante impresses
Young rider Mollie Summerland impressed in the second judging block today and holds fourth at the end of the day with a score of 25.5 on her own Charly Van Ter Heiden.
The 23-year-old showed off Charly’s impressive, elevated paces and managed his slight tension with a skill that belied her inexperience for a mistake-free test which garnered three nines from Xavier Le Sauce.
“I’m so pleased – I know he is capable of doing a good test, but we’re both really inexperienced, so I wasn’t expecting that score at all on my five-star debut,” said Mollie.
“You do have to hold his hand a bit in the arena – he does get a bit nervous – but he was really rideable today and did everything I asked of him.”
Mollie was particularly pleased with her flying changes, saying: “They could be straighter and there is still plenty of work to be done, but I have struggled with getting my timing right, so that was a big achievement for me as a rider to get all four of them.”
Mollie has recently moved to be based at Allington Equine, in Hampshire, where she benefits from regular training with dressage rider Olivia Oakeley and she is excited to train with her and Carl Hester through the winter.
“Olivia got me in with Carl – she was based with him previously – for some lessons. That’s been so helpful and I didn’t show him up, anyway,” she said.
Mistake for the defending champions
Last year’s Pau winners, Tom McEwen and Toledo De Kerser, made an excellent start to their test in the trotwork, but the marks started to drop off when the horse wasn’t really drawing forward into the bridle in extended walk. A wrong strike off into canter out of the rein-back resulted in fours from all three judges and even a 10 for extended canter from Xavier Le Sauce couldn’t bring Tom back onto the podium. The pair sit seventh overnight on 27.
Yasmin Ingham was another younger British rider in the spotlight today and she pulled off a smooth test on the workmanlike five-star first-timer Rehy DJ to hold 10th on 28.7.
Sarah Bullimore’s test on Reve Du Rouet was a hotly anticipated one for British fans, but it didn’t get off to the best start when Reve Du Rouet moved off while Sarah was saluting in the first halt. However, they clawed back marks from then on – including a 10 from Xavier Le Sauce for the mid-test halt – to claim 11th on 28.9.
Aside from the leader, the British domination is interrupted by Tim Price in eighth (27.2 on the 2018 Burghley winner Ringwood Sky Boy) for New Zealand – another to draw a 10 from Xavier Le Sauce – and Kevin McNab, who sits ninth for Australia on a mark of 27.6 on Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam.
Australian rider Isabel English withdrew Feldale Mouse before her dressage spot today, leaving 32 horses to appear before the ground jury.
Fifteen pairs come forward tomorrow morning to complete the dressage phase. Oliver Townend is the first to enter the arena, on MHS King Joules, at 9am French time (8am British time).
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“I knew he had the attitude and the will to go all the way”