After such a promising start in Friday’s team competition, the British team fell from silver medal position to finish sixth in the European championships at Windsor. Even Ben Maher (Robin Hood W), who had been clear throughout, fell foul of a troublesome treble combination in the second round to finish on four faults.
“It was disappointing it came down to one fence,” said Ben, who also pointed out how costly the team’s five time penalties were in the standings — without them Britain would have won silver.
Listen to Ben Maher’s interview
But hindsight is a wonderful thing and nothing can be taken away from the Swiss team’s superb final performance which landed them the 2009 title. After looking so strong earlier in the week, the team lost its way in Friday’s first round. However, a brace of clears in the final round, courtesy of Daniel Etter (Peu A Peu) and Steve Guerdat (Jalisca Solier) shot them back up on to the podium for team gold.
“I rode really badly in the first round [for eight faults] but I knew we had to fight to the end,” said Steve Guerdat. “Our horses were jumping well and I had to help my friends.”
Listen to interview with Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat and Clarissa Crotta
Switzerland last won European gold at St Gallan in 1995 when Markus Fuchs was part of the winning team. And it was this Swiss rider-turned-Italian chef d’equipe who was the talk of the championships for his remarkable transformation of the Italian team.
In the space of little more than two weeks, the Italians have gone from Meydan FEI Nations Cup also-rans to winners in Dublin and silver medallists at Windsor.
“I am full of emotions,” said Markus. “Maybe I’m a better motivator than I was ever a rider.”
Italian rider Natale Chiaudani, who has overtaken Britain’s Ben Maher in the ongoing battle for the individual championship, added: “He is not a very nice trainer during the day — but perhaps the Italians needed someone to crack the whip.”
Germany finished 0.75pen behind the Italians to take bronze. Commenting on the mountainous course that produced only nine clears over the course of the day, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (Checkmate) said: “It’s one of the toughest championship courses I’ve jumped.”
Twenty-five riders go through to Sunday’s individual final and as well as second-placed Ben, Great Britain will be represented by Tim Stockdale, who scrapes through in 24th position.
Windsor Europeans live results
Don’t miss the full report, pictures, comment and analysis of the entire championships in Horse & Hound 28 August issue.