European show jumpers prepare for battle

  • With just 11 days until the opening ceremony of the FEI European Show jumping Championships at San Patrignano, Italy, members of the British team are making their final preparations.

    An injection of new talent into Britain’s established show jumping squad should see the team going to the European Championships brimming with confidence. The illustrious duo of Nick Skelton (Arko III) and Michael Whitaker will be joined by Ellen Whitaker and William Funnell who will be making their championship squad debut.

    Ellen Whitaker (pictured), 19, is one of the rising stars of British show jumping. She finished runner-up to her uncle John in last year’s Hickstead Derby, while a stunning Samsung Super League debut in May this year saw Whitaker and AK Locarno 62 finishing with one of the only two double clears in La Baule, France.

    Funnell will be riding the 2001 Horse & Hound Foxhunter champion Cortaflex Mondriaan whom he partnered in the winning British team at the Samsung Super League in Rome earlier this year. “I’ve never seen William riding more confidently,” reports Graham Fletcher after Funnell’s recent double clear in St Gallen.

    Skelton has now won more than 1,500 classes. A potentially fatal neck injury forced him to retire in 2001, but he has made an amazing recovery. “At the time, I already knew Arko would be a fantastic horse,” says Skelton who went on to ride him at the Athens Olympics last year. A win in the World Cup qualifier at Calgary last week indicates that Skelton’s preparation is going well.

    Michael’s elder brother, John will be travelling as reserve. John Whitaker has been enjoying a run of success recently with the stallion Exploit Du Roulard, winning the Lisbon grand prix and finishing third at Rotterdam in June.

    Located just 15km from the beautiful town of Rimini, on the Adriatic sea, and 5km from San Marino, the San Patrignano Championships are destined to be popular with both competitors and spectators. The competition ground has an interesting background; for the last 25 years it has been used as a therapy centre for young drug abusers. Horses are used as part of therapy and members of the centre have gone on to have show jumping victories at the World Championships and Olympic Games.

    San Patrignano is celebrating the Italian FEI’s decision to include Jerry Smith on the team. The grey stallion Nadir, who he will be riding, was bred at the San Patrignano Equestrian Centre.

    For more details visit: www.sanpatrignano2005.org

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