The future’s bright for Britain after European Eventing Championships success, says Horse & Hound’s Pippa Roome
BRITAIN last held the Olympic, world and European titles at the same time in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The likes of Richard Meade, Mark Phillips, Mary Gordon-Watson (now Low) and Jane Bullen (now Holderness-Roddam) contributed to a gold run that lasted from the 1967 Punchestown Europeans until the 1972 Munich Olympics, with Britain taking the two European (Haras du Pin 1969 and Burghley 1971), one Olympic (Mexico 1968) and one world (Punchestown 1970) titles in between.
Only one other nation has won the team golds at the three major championships consecutively – Germany’s win at the 2014 worlds in Caen completed the set.
Britain completed the golden trio again last week at the Europeans in Avenches, at a time when, due to Covid delays, the Olympics and Europeans have both run in one year – which increases rather than diminishes the achievement.
It’s worth noting that the Brits also won the team title at the world’s premier short-format event, Aachen, the week before Avenches.
We were chatting about predictions in the press room before the showjumping – I guessed Nicola Wilson would go clear to win, Ingrid Klimke would hold her silver but Maxime Livio would have one down, giving Piggy March individual bronze.
Our photographer Peter Nixon predicted the Brits would take all the individual medals – something I didn’t dare to dream about, but he was right. When Ingrid and Maxime both had a fence, Nicola took the gold, Piggy the silver and Sarah Bullimore the bronze.
Britain last achieved a clean sweep of the individual championship podium at the Punchestown Europeans in 1991, when Ian Stark (Glenburnie) led Richard Walker (Jacana) and Karen Straker (Get Smart).
Again, the Germans are the most recent nation to achieve this – 10 years ago in Luhmühlen, Michael Jung (La Biosthetique-Sam FBW) took gold ahead of Sandra Auffarth (Opgun Louvo) and Frank Ostholt (Little Paint). Frank was an individual rider, so history repeated itself last week in Avenches, as Britain’s bronze medallist Sarah was not on the team.
What a prospect
AVENCHES was a young horse showcase. Most nations had fielded their more experienced, older horses in Tokyo, and the Europeans was awash with rising equine stars. The 17-year-old SAP Hale Bob OLD was the only horse over 12 years old in the top 11.
Bar Allstar B, Britain’s squad horses were all aged 10 to 12 and all five finished in the top 10 individually. That’s an incredibly exciting prospect for the next few years of championships, coupled with the fact none of Britain’s Tokyo team horses were over 14 years old.
A relaxed atmosphere
THE organisers at Avenches did a great job of laying on a championship at six months’ notice. It was obvious from the press operations end that there were a few cracks behind the scenes, but everyone wanted to make it work and found ways to do so. For those seeing only the event’s “front end”, it hopefully appeared pretty seamless.
The event attracted 20,000 spectators over the four days and the compact layout made for great viewing. The grandstand overlooking the racecourse, with a big screen also showing the action, was packed on Saturday.
The atmosphere was relaxed. Everyone had to get a “Covid pass” wristband – a vaccination check or test – on the way in, but I don’t think my accreditation was checked once I was through the main entrance.
We and the British team were based in Murten, just a 10-minute drive from Avenches. It’s a picturesque town on a lake and the weather was good enough to eat outside in the evenings.
Much as owning a horse that goes to the Olympics is a huge honour, I had to think that this year, these owners had more fun, able to attend the event, in a beautiful area, rather than watching on television from afar. The fact the Brits achieved such an incredible result will certainly have helped them enjoy themselves, too!
- This exclusive column will also be available to read in H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 30 September
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