All posts by Associate Editor

Irish Allen Imposes at Hubside Jumping

© Ljuba Buzzola for HUBSIDE JUMPING.

In the major event of the CSI 4 * of the HUBSIDE JUMPING of Grimaud, the Irishman Bertram Allen won after a jump-off at sixteen. Associated with the nine-year-old gelding Lafayette Van Overis, he is ahead of the Tricolores Nicolas Delmotte on Urvoso du Roch, and Pénélope Leprévost on Varennes du Breuil.

“It was an event with many very serious competitors, but we expect nothing less on the HUBSIDE JUMPING. The level is exceptional! We were seventeen couples qualified for the jump-off, and in view of the opponents, I knew we were going to have to go very very fast. We didn’t see any options that such and such would have taken: everything was in the natural speed of the horses and in the turns. I’m lucky: Lafayette Van Overis is particularly successful at this type of course. It doesn’t have a very large amplitude and I can hardly play with strides. The idea was to give everything and not waste time anywhere, a victory in such an event conditions for the Grand Prix. I will race it with a new horse which my brother rode before and which I will launch on this level: Dancing Queen Z. We will see how it behaves, which I found very long, was a rather nice moment for the horses: they were much more relaxed, even if we continued the work. For Grand Prix horses, it was simply a question of keeping them in shape and of maintaining their morale. For the youngest, six and seven-year-old horses, it was cool to be able to give them more time. But of course, it’s even cooler to find your way back to the competition.”

Full results here.

The press kit can be downloaded here.

Daniel Koroloff – E-mail: daniel@blizko-communication.com

Virtual Windsor Returns for Autumn and Winter Online Horse Show Series

Following the success of Virtual Windsor in May, the organisers of Royal Windsor Horse Show are delighted to announce that the online Show will be returning as a new series with two editions taking place in the Autumn and Winter. The Virtual Windsor Autumn Series 2020 will be live-streamed on 25-27 September, and will feature three disciplines in which riders from all over the world can participate from their own homes.

The Show will comprise 22 Showing classes, alongside new additions in the form of International Pony Club Dressage, a Riding for the Disabled Association class and a specially designed ‘Equitation Jumping’ discipline open to all. In addition, the popular shopping section will be bringing visitors new products and offers, and there will be yard tours and masterclasses with first-class riders.

THE PONY CLUB HOME INTERNATIONAL DRESSAGE

Leading the charge for Virtual Windsor in September will be the Pony Club Home International Dressage, featuring teams from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland. Previously held at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, the competition pits up-and-coming riders against each other, and this year will be made even more special with live judging and commentary for the audience to enjoy.

The Pony Club Home International Dressage will be a precursor to a worldwide International Dressage competition, to feature in the Virtual Windsor Winter Series later in the year, where teams from all 18 Pony Club countries will be invited to compete in a never-seen-before worldwide Pony Club event.

Marcus Capel, Pony Club Chief Executive, said: “We are hugely pleased to be able to run our Home International Dressage competition on the Virtual Windsor platform this year. The competition highlights the hard work and talent of our young riders, and we hope that by holding it online we will enable many young riders to enjoy and be inspired by the competition from their own homes.”

VIRTUAL SHOWING CLASSES RETURN

Virtual Windsor’s Showing Series returns to your screens, with Chief Judge Nigel Hollings back by popular demand. The May edition of Virtual Windsor saw over 4,000 entries to the Showing coming from as far afield as South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, included both amateur and professional riders and even Her Majesty The Queen. The Virtual Windsor Autumn Series in September will showcase 26 Showing classes, covering everything from Riding Horses and Hunters, to Show Ponies and Side Saddle, while the Winter Series – planned for later in the year – will have an international flavour including horse breeds from around the world such as Quarter Horses, Iberian Breeds, and Arabians. The classes remain free to enter for all.

Nigel Hollings will be joined on the judging panel for the Autumn Series by Julian White, Anne Leaver, and Pat Pattinson. “I am delighted to be returning as Virtual Windsor’s Chief Judge this September, having hugely enjoyed the May Show,” said Hollings. “The standard of entries was incredibly high at the last event and I really enjoy the Virtual format which gives me the opportunity to share feedback with the audience as I judge. I was particularly impressed with the number of international entries in the May edition. To be a winner at Virtual Windsor against entries from all over the world, you really do have to be the best.”

SHOW JUMPING MAKES ITS DEBUT

In addition to International Dressage and Showing, the organisers of the Virtual Windsor Autumn Series 2020 have created a jumping discipline which allows riders from across the globe to compete. Based on Prix Caprilli, Equitation Jumping requires competitors to submit a video showing a short set test, which includes three fences of any kind with one stride between each at any height. Marks are awarded for the rider’s position, use of aids, and straightness and the technique, shape, and impulsion of the horse. Designed to be accessible to all levels of equestrian, the class is open to all and will have a Championship taking place on the Sunday of the Show.

The competition will be judged by professional judge, show jumper, and event rider Julian White, who said, “During these difficult times that we’re all facing I’ve just had the most amazing ray of light shone onto me by being asked to be a judge on the Virtual Windsor Horse Show Series which is just brilliant, I’m so excited. It is a real honour to be asked and I am looking forward to it hugely. So thank you so much, and I’m judging with Nigel Hollings who I was meant to be judging with in South Africa, so that’s also a joy and a double whammy!”

FURTHER ADDITIONS ADDED TO THE LINE-UP

In addition to the competition, a Masterclass will be streamed on each day of the three days of the Show, featuring world-class riders from around the world. Covering topics from Grand Prix Dressage to training tips, riding international courses and the thrills of top competition, the Masterclasses will be available to all through the live stream.

It has been a tough year for many exhibitors, and Virtual Windsor will continue to support tradestands and shops through its Virtual Shopping Village, where visitors will find a full list of shops selling everything equestrian, plus some “Show Week” discounts.

Royal Windsor’s Show Director, Simon Brooks-Ward, said of Virtual Windsor: “We were so thrilled by the response to the first Virtual Windsor that it wasn’t a difficult decision to build a series of events.  Although 2020 has been a challenging year, Virtual Windsor has shown us that the equestrian community has a really positive outlook and will come together to enjoy competition and celebrate equestrianism. I cannot wait to see how the Series fares and to welcome all the international competitors and visitors to the event.”

The Virtual Windsor Autumn Series 2020 will run from 25-27 September 2020, with entries for Showing and Equitation Jumping opening in August and closing in early September. Schedules and rules for each class will be available at virtual.rwhs.co.uk from Friday 10 July.

For more information, please contact:
Gayle Jenkins / rEvolution / gjenkins@revolutionworld.com / +44 (0)203 176 0355

Amanda Derbyshire and Luibanta BH Leap to $37k Horseware Ireland Welcome Stake CSI 2* Win

Amanda Derbyshire and Luibanta BH ©Sportfot.

Mill Spring, NC – June 25, 2020 – Amanda Derbyshire (GBR) and Luibanta BH bested the $37,000 Horseware Ireland Welcome Stake CSI 2* at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) during Tryon Summer 3 competition, stopping the short-course timers in 37.785 seconds. Eduardo Menezes (BRA) and H5 Elvaro, the 2009 Dutch Warmblood stallion (Calvaro F.C. x Heartbreaker) owned by H5 Sport Horses LLC, earned second place on a short-course time of 38.23 seconds, while Jack Hardin Towell (USA) came in third aboard Rock Ridge Farms’ Gotcha, the 2011 Holsteiner mare (Stakkato x Cassini I), with a time of 38.246 seconds.

The course design by Peter Grant (CAN) saw 61 entries challenge the first-round track, with 19 pairs qualifying for the jump-off round. Derbyshire and the 2008 Irish Sport Horse mare (Luidam x Abantos) owned by herself and Gochman Sport Horse LLC were able to utilize their late standing in the order-of-go to earn the edge, she explained: “The course was nice. There were a lot of entries, so it was a big jump-off. I had the advantage of going right near the end, so I saw what I had to do and just went for it. The footing was perfect!”

Freddie Vazquez and Dontez Claim $6,000 Power & Speed Stake CSI 2*

TIEC’s first international class of 2020 was hosted Wednesday in Tryon Stadium to kick off Tryon Summer 3 CSI 2* competition with the $6,000 Power & Speed Stake. Freddie Vazquez (PUR) and Dontez, a 2008 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Verdi Tn x Wolfgang) owned by himself and G6 Holdings, cleared the speed phase in 38.74 seconds to take the win, as one of 58 entries to test the Peter Grant (CAN) course design and out of 41 pairs qualifying for the speed test. Fernando Cardenas Jr. (COL) and Quincy Too, a 2009 Zangersheide gelding owned by Fernando Cardenas, claimed second with a speed phase time of 39.721 seconds, while Schuyler Riley (USA) and the 2008 Belgian Warmblood stallion (Erco van T Roosakker x For Pleasure) owned by E2 Showjumpers, Iceman de Muze, rounded out the podium on a time of 40.567 seconds.

To learn more, visit www.Tryon.com.

Old Friends Celebrates the Soi Phet Stakes Saturday June 27

Soi Phet at Old Friends (Photo: Laura Battles)

GEORGETOWN, KY – JUNE 25, 2020 – On Saturday June 27, 2020, Los Alamitos Race Course will host the inaugural running of the $125,000 Soi Phet Stakes (Black Type). Previously called the Bertrando Stakes (Black Type), it is a one-mile race on the dirt for California Bred Thoroughbreds 3 years old and up.

Bred by ARCHA Racing Inc. in California, Soi Phet was a son of Tizbud – Summer Jersey, by Siberian Summer. He was owned in his final seasons by the Benowitz Family Trust, Mathilde Powell, and Paul Viskovich, and trained for most of his career by Leonard Powell, who claimed the dark gray gelding at age 5 in 2013 for $16,000.

In his career, Soi Phet raced 64 times and put together a record of 15 wins, 7 seconds, 6 thirds, and $1,023,917 in earnings.

Without question, the track where he had the most success was Los Alamitos, where he raced in 11 black-type or listed stakes races and won five times.

Soi Phet contended in Bertrando Stakes (Black Type) six times and won it twice: 2014 and 2018. He also finished 2nd in 2016. On the same oval, he captured the E. B. Johnston Stakes (Black Type) twice (2016 and 2017) in four runnings, and had one of his most impressive career wins in the inaugural Los Alamitos Mile Stakes (Listed) in 2014, when he won it by 7-1/4 lengths.

In 2018, a then 10-year-old Soi Phet scored an especially memorable victory when he won the Crystal Water Stakes (Black Type) at Santa Anita to become the oldest horse to win a stakes race at the track.

CLICK HERE to see Soi Phet win the 2018 Crystal Water Stakes at Santa Anita at the age of 10.

While he never won a graded-stakes, he did run in a few of them. His best finish was a 3rd in the 2013 Awesome Again Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita, behind Mucho Macho Man, who would go on to win the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Paynter.

Fittingly, Soi Phet’s final race came in the 2019 Bertrando Stakes. At age 11, he ran the race for a sixth time, finished sixth, and was retired. As a final honor to the fan-favorite, Los Alamitos renamed the Bertrando the Soi Phet Stakes.

For more information, please call (502) 863-1775 or visit the website at www.oldfriendsequine.org.

Pre-COVID-19 Community Effort Felt throughout Palm Beach County

Wellington, FL – June 23, 2020 – Every winter, the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) hosts an event that has a year-long impact for Palm Beach County charities. The Great Charity Challenge presented by Fidelity Investments® (GCC), an exciting show jumping competition that blends equestrian sports and philanthropy, has become a highlight of the 12-week Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) and has distributed over $14.8 million to 256 local organizations in 11 years.

While the 2020 WEF season ended early due to COVID-19, the benefiting 49 non-profits from this year’s GCC are putting their collective $1.3 million in donations to use following their participation in the event held on February 1, 2020.

“Non-profit organizations have proven to be nimble and have an ‘optimized way’ of stretching the impact of a dollar,” comments Mark Bellissimo. “Seeing how they have responded and adapted through these unprecedented times is inspiring.”

Organizations benefiting from the GCC continue to serve and support the local community’s well-being. Their outreach and dedicated work span many different sectors within the Palm Beach County region, including food assistance, educational support, veteran aid, foster care, senior citizen care, and family support, to name just a few.

With grants awarded to a grand total of 49 local non-profit organizations, ranging from $1,000 to $150,000, a reported 137,937 lives were impacted in Palm Beach County during their first reporting quarter.

“The GCC was started in 2008, following the economic crisis,” said Paige Bellissimo, co-founder of the event. “The initiative came forward as a way to increase funding to local charities at a time where donations were scarce. The impact of COVID-19 on non-profit organizations replicates the situation of 12 years ago; the community’s need for services/goods provided by these organizations has sky-rocketed while many have had to cancel their major fundraising initiatives and are doing their very best to mobilize resources and donations. We are extremely grateful that the event took place before the start of the pandemic and cannot thank our donors enough for their generous support.”

What exactly does $1.3 million at work look like?

Feed the Hungry Pantry of Palm Beach County was able to react quickly to laid-off and hungry neighbors at the onset of COVID-19. “Within the first few days of the pandemic, we went from feeding 3,000+ families per month to 10,000+ families a week,” commented Executive Director Dan Shorter.

The nonprofit also joined forces with the GCC in applying to be featured in its Emergency Giving Guide as well as participated in the #GivingTuesday movement, in partnership with Equestrian Sport Productions. “Thanks to the GCC, we raised an additional $40,000+ from the western community and acquired dedicated donors that are making sure that we can continue to feed people (as well as their pets)!”

For Wellington Cares, a non-profit organization committed to coordinating volunteers of all ages to assist in enabling persons over the age of 65 to remain in their home with the support of the Wellington community residents and local organizations, funding will not only enable them to replicate their successful model in neighboring cities, but it also enabled them to adequately equip their personal and volunteers with required protective items to ensure that they could continue serving the senior communities.

The Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County provided 414 low-income families with their Education Advocacy Project’s Education Toolkit, assisting them in navigating the often complex federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations governing the services and accommodations that public-school children are entitled to be provided with under current laws.

Other organizations such as the Cultural Council for Palm Beach County and the Equestrian Aid Foundation were able to quick establish Emergency Relief Funds through funding received during the GCC.

These are just a few examples of the 49 benefiting organizations. We invite you to access the full fund use report by visiting HERE.

To provide additional support and to highlight the crucial work of local non-profit organizations during COVID-19, the GCC published an Emergency Giving Guide on April 3, 2020 under the leadership of Executive Director Anne Caroline Valtin. The guide featured 83 non-profits serving immediate needs locally. It was utilized and shared broadly throughout Palm Beach County, giving donors a practical and safe way to identify which efforts they wanted to support during these unprecedented times.

The application process for the 2021 GCC will run from October 15 through November 15, 2020. The GCC board and review committee are on an intentional journey to assess, broaden and understand how they can further commit to diversity, equity and inclusion as organizational values. It has been reviewed and approved that this will also become a requirement for local organizations who wish to apply to benefit from the GCC moving forward. Please note that at this time, the GCC is also actively reviewing other ways to battle social and racial inequality.

For additional information about the event, including donation and sponsorship information, please visit www.greatcharitychallenge.com.

FEI Joins Forces with Black Horse One and SAP to Create Online Dressage Training Platform

The FEI has launched the FEI eDressage™ Online platform in partnership with Black Horse One (BHO) and SAP, to provide a unique environment for FEI registered Dressage and Para Dressage athletes to boost their training and development.

FEI registered athletes can upload videos to the FEI eDressage™ Online platform every week for their FEI Dressage tests to be judged anonymously by a pool of FEI 5* level Dressage and Para Dressage judges. In the first phase, a number of videos will be randomly selected and athletes will then be provided with feedback on their performance and given pointers for improvement.

“This new platform is yet another example of the ways in which technology can be introduced into equestrian sport to transform training techniques,” FEI Commercial Director Ralph Straus said.

“Athletes now have the opportunity to have their tests remotely evaluated by a group of top level judges and to receive key insights that could benefit their performances.

“While the current pandemic highlights the value of a platform like this to athlete training when travel and competition restrictions exist, it can also be particularly useful to athletes residing in remote regions of the world, who would otherwise be unable to avail of the international expertise provided through this platform.”

Although the platform has been designed primarily with the horse and athlete in mind, it has the potential to become a valuable source of content for training FEI Officials in close collaboration with the FEI’s online e-learning platform, FEI Campus. The user-generated content would allow the FEI to improve the video material used in training programmes for FEI Dressage and Para Dressage judges.

The FEI eDressage™ Online platform is not the first time software development company Black Horse One, and the market leader in enterprise application software SAP, have come together with the FEI to create unique technological solutions for the sport.

While previous initiatives have been created to enrich the competition experience for live audiences and judges, the FEI eDressage™ Online platform has been specifically created for a non-competitive environment. Tests will not be judged and no rankings will be provided, but performances will be critiqued by an elite group of judges purely for training purposes.

“It is an absolute pleasure for us to launch the FEI eDressage Online platform together with the FEI and SAP, our close partner for many years now,” CEO of Black Horse One Daniel Göhlen said.

“We at Black Horse One provide innovative, high-performance software solutions specialised in equestrian sports and see this new platform as a fantastic technological development to support athletes all over the world, especially during these current uncertain times. The FEI eDressage Online platform is built on the basis of our paperless judging solution eDressage and benefits from several of our other innovations which have been supported by SAP and established by the FEI.”

SAP Director of Strategic Partnerships in Equestrian, Henrike Paetz, also welcomed the initiative. “The launch of the new FEI eDressage Online platform is another milestone in our partnership with the FEI and long-standing cooperation with Black Horse One,” she said.

“Providing a virtual training and feedback environment for international athletes is an innovative way to stay connected and up-to-speed during these challenging times and beyond and reflects our ambition as the Official Analytics Sponsor of the FEI Dressage World Cup series. We are proud to once more help reinvent the athlete experience based on our SAP Cloud Platform technology.”

Previously, the two companies combined their expert knowledge in technology and fan engagement to create the award-winning Spectator Judging® app in 2017.

The app enables audiences at FEI Dressage World Cup™ events to get into the judge’s seat, with audience scores and rankings created in real-time during the competitions and then placed side-by-side with official results on the arena scoreboards. It’s a dynamic way for live audiences to participate more actively in the sporting action provided by the world’s top Dressage athletes and their horses.

A further collaboration between SAP and Black Horse One in 2018 led to the development of the Dressage Paperless Judging software, a system allowing FEI Dressage and Para Dressage competitions to be scored without a scribe having to write down each mark on an FEI Dressage score sheet. The Paperless Judging system was designed to deliver finished and signed scores and comments to athletes immediately after each test, and also maintain fan engagement by reducing the time between the end of a competition and the awards ceremony.

“The beauty of the FEI eDressage Online platform is that it has the potential to grow and develop over time and become something larger than we initially imagined,” FEI Director Information & Sports Technology Gaspard Dufour explained. “For developments like these to really impact a sport, it is necessary that our technological partners understand equestrian and the needs of our stakeholders. Long-term collaborations like ours show that having the time to grow and develop together can impact the industry in a meaningful way.”

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Director, Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Vanessa Martin Randin
Senior Manager, Media Relations & Communications
vanessa.randin@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 73

The Elite of Show Jumping Reunited with Its Spectators

© Marco Villanti pour HUBSIDE JUMPING.

After a first weekend behind closed doors, where Europe’s best riders and horses found their bearings, this week the HUBSIDE JUMPING is allowing them to reunite with… their spectators! Now the show is open to everyone from Thursday to Sunday and will host an exceptional line-up of stars. Admission to the show is free of charge.

The tracks of the courses of this second week of international competition in Europe will be designed by France’s Grégory Bodo.  Three levels of competition will be on offer (CSI 1, 2, and 4*), boasting prize money totalling 290,000 euros, of which 100,000 euros will be for Sunday’s CSI 4* Grand Prix.

Daniel Koroloff – E-mail: daniel@blizko-communication.com

Longines FEI Endurance World Championships 2020 Postponed to 2021

The Longines FEI Endurance World Championships 2020 have been postponed until May 2021 due to the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on equestrian sport. The decision to postpone comes following agreement between the FEI, the Italian National Federation, and the Organisers in Pisa.

The Championships were due to be held at San Rossore, Pisa in September this year, but the pandemic and the restrictions on both travel and training of horses has meant that is was simply not possible to maintain the original date.

The FEI Executive Board and the Endurance Temporary Committee were in favour of postponement and, following consultation with the Endurance Calendar Task Force and meetings with the Italian National Federation and the Pisa Organisers, the move to May 2021 was agreed. Final approval of the postponement was given by the FEI Board at an extraordinary Board meeting held by videoconference on 19 June.

Qualification for the Championships will be under Article 836 of the FEI Endurance Rules (11th Edition), which come into effect on 1 July 2020.

The FEI Board also agreed to prolong the qualification period for these Championships in order to allow more time for horses and athletes to qualify following the disruption to this year’s FEI Calendar caused by the pandemic. Details will be defined by the Endurance Temporary Committee and FEI Headquarters and communicated later.

Two Continental Championships are already scheduled to run next year – the FEI Endurance Pan American Championships for Seniors & Young Riders in Campinas (BRA) from 28-29 July and the FEI Endurance European Championships in Ermelo (NED) from 6-11 September. The FEI last week proactively reached out to all 51 National Federations that compete in Endurance in order to understand their views on the proposed postponement of the World Championships and its potential impact on next year’s Calendar.

National Federations were asked whether they were in favour of postponing the Longines FEI Endurance World Championships to May 2021 and if they would also participate in their region’s Continental Championships if the Worlds were moved to next year.

A total of 34 National Federations responded to the questionnaire, of which 33 were positive, both to the postponement and their participation, where relevant, in one of the Continental Championships next year.

“Our Endurance community made it very clear to the FEI that they want a World Championships, particularly after losing the last edition at Tryon in 2018, but horse welfare and a level playing field could not have been guaranteed if the Championships had run in September, so it was the best solution to move the Championships to May of next year,” FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said.

“Having consulted with the National Federations that compete in Endurance, we now feel that we have reached a compromise that works for everyone, but especially for our horses, as there will now be time for them to do the necessary preparation work and achieve their qualification for this major event.”

The Secretary General is in charge of the FEI Calendar and, throughout the Covid-19 crisis, has chaired the eight discipline-specific Calendar Task Forces that have been working to minimise the impact of the pandemic on the sport and the fixture list. More than 800 events have already been cancelled and numerous events have been rescheduled.

The FEI Endurance World Championships for Young Horses and the FEI Endurance European Championships for Young Riders & Juniors, which are due to be held in Vic (ESP) from 25-27 September 2020, will be discussed by the FEI Board during this week’s three-day meeting via videoconference (23-25 June).

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 4

Take Action for the Nevada Range Wild Horses

Last week we alerted you to the BLM’s plan to capture and remove all of the wild burros and over half of the wild horses in the Nevada Wild Horse Range (NWHR).

They’re doing this despite the fact that it is a specially designated sanctuary like the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.

If you’ve already taken action, thank you!

If you didn’t have time before, please take a minute today to speak up for the wild horses and burros of the Nevada Range. We’ve made it easy to click and send your comments.

Our government must hear from US, the American people. It’s the only way that things have ever changed.

Tell BLM today that you want our wild herds humanely managed on the range where they belong – not rounded up and imprisoned!

**Comments are due June 29th – don’t delay!**

The Cloud Foundation
www.thecloudfoundation.org

From Wildfire to the World Stage: David Broome

David Broome and Mister Softee on their way to individual bronze at the Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968. (FEI archive)

When I called David Broome last Tuesday, he had been haymaking at Mount Ballan Manor near Chepstow in South Wales which, apart from being the family farm, is also home to the hugely popular Wales and West showgrounds.

The legendary British showjumping rider is deeply rooted in his home place. His parents, Fred and Millie, moved to Mount Ballan in 1947, and all four of their children – David, Liz, Mary, and Frederick – had a passion for horses from an early age. David’s grandfather worked for a veterinary surgeon in Pembroke (Wales) and his father, Fred, was an experienced horseman and a well-known pony dealer. David recalls his introduction to the saddle and his first, very early, retirement.

“Father had me riding when I was about two years old, using a harness out of a pram with a buckle in front, a buckle behind and buckles on both sides. As time went on the buckles were removed and I became number one jockey when he was breaking Welsh Mountain ponies, but I got bucked off so often that I retired from the sport when I was five!”

However, two years later everything changed with the arrival of a pony called Beauty. “I took a fancy to her so I started again, and my career kind of went from there!” he says.

Ponies

Fred was always on the lookout for talented ponies for his children. “The ones we kept were good, like Ballan Lad who had a run of 28 clears. Every one of them cost 60 quid (GB Pounds) and I had a great career in 14.2s. There were about five shows in which I jumped three clear rounds on all three ponies in the same class. We only had one saddle, so I could have a little breather while the saddle was being changed over!”

David told his teachers at Monmouth Grammar School that he wanted to be a veterinary surgeon, but it wasn’t true. Working on the farm and riding horses was what really appealed to him but he knew they wouldn’t approve of that. “I left school when I was 17 and the horses were there and one thing seemed to follow another,” he says.

“My first year in seniors I had a couple of horses my father used to ride. And then we bought one called Wildfire from the Monmouthshire Hunt that was next door to us – also for £60. He was stopping (refusing at fences) but he had competed Eventing. We straightened him out and he was a hunter hireling in the winter and then we started jumping the following spring. I’ll always remember our first show at Glanusk, there was a triple bar away from the collecting ring and we got eliminated. If ever there was a fence to test a stopper that was it. So my father said, ‘that fellow has just one more chance’. We went to Stowell Park the following week and on the second day he won three classes out of three!”

I’m loving how this man still treasures these early achievements in a career that was nothing less than glorious.

Wildfire

I ask him to describe Wildfire. “A 16.1hh bay gelding with a swishy tail, ears pinned back, and a sour look, but he and I had a great relationship and he busted a gut for me,” David says. A rule-change worked to the advantage of the partnership because when time was introduced into the sport then Wildfire really came into his own.

“It used to be that three clear rounds decided the result, but when we started jumping against the clock I was made up. Wildfire was really sharp, a thoroughbred with plenty of speed and a beautiful bouncy canter you could adjust. Against the clock he was just heaven! He put me on the road, he was Leading Horse in Britain in 1959, and then he got me on the Olympic team until Sunsalve came along,” David explains.

His ability to get along with tricky horses is well-documented, and when I ask David about that he says he owed a lot to the experience he gained during his pony-riding years. “I had three ponies and they all went entirely differently. One galloped on and scotched up (shortened) when he got to a fence, he just couldn’t do a one-striding double in one stride so he always took two so I always had to milk my way through a combination. The second one was a very old-fashioned one, you set him up and you had three strides to get your bumph (distance) to it, and the third was a short-tailed cob called Chocolate who just went on an even keel the whole way around. I was so lucky because it trained me to ride three different ways,” he points out.

Big names

So who were the big names in showjumping when David was moving up the ladder in his career? “Pat Smythe, Harry Llewellyn, and Alan Oliver, and then I eventually ran up against Harvey (Smith) when I was 19.”

The tough Yorkshireman Harvey would become one of the most popular and colourful characters in the sport in years to come and the perfect foil to the quiet but determined Welshman. So how was it when they first met at a show in Northampton? “I felt total respect really; he was self-made, hardworking, and we became great friends outside the arena. But inside it was bloody hellfire!”

What was their rivalry like? “He made me better, and hopefully I made him better as well. With a lot of good sportsmen, you need two of them in the game at the same time so they push each other.

“He was one of best losers I ever came across because if he was having a bad time, then five minutes after he left the ring he was absolutely normal again. But when he was a winner it was a very different story because he was the biggest pain you’ve ever come across – he’d say we were all useless and that none of the rest of us could ride!” David says with big laugh.

It was a twist of fate that saw Wildfire being replaced by Sunsalve for the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. “We had one of our Olympic training sessions at Ninian Park Football Club in Cardiff and Pat Smythe had just been given the ride on Sunsalve. She won the class and I think I was second, and on the way home my father said, ‘Pat won today, but that horse will never go for her again.’ It was a strange thing to say after someone has won, but he was a real horseman and he’d seen something and he was right. From there we went on a European tour to Wiesbaden (GER) and Lucerne (SUI), and Sunsalve never did go again for Pat.

Sent it back

“So the Olympic Committee said the horse was useless and sent it back to the owner, Mr Anderson in Norfolk. As it happened, in our pony trade we had a lady in Newmarket called Ann Hammond – we sold her 465 ponies over the years. And when we were at her place a couple of weeks later, my father asked if she knew Mr Anderson and she said she did. She agreed to introduce us; we borrowed her car and set off for his little farm and father and he got on like a house on fire! Mr Anderson had bred the horse and his daughter had ridden it and won the Queen’s Cup with it. In ten minutes, over a cup of tea, he had given Sunsalve to us,” David explains.

It wouldn’t be all plain sailing to begin with. “Ten days later we went to a show and he went well, but at the next event I took both Sunsalve and a little horse called Discutido and they were both eliminated in a £20 class! So my father asked if the organisers would leave the jumps up after the Musical Chairs (a novelty class always staged at the end of horse shows in those days) and we schooled both of them afterwards.

“Four days later Sunsalve won the King’s Cup (King George V Gold Cup) at the White City, the following week Discutido won the National Championship and the next week I won the Grand Prix in Dublin with Sunsalve,” David recalls.

That was followed by the Olympics in Rome where the individual competition was staged at the beautiful Piazza di Siena where David and Sunsalve clinched individual bronze while host-country heroes Raimondo and Piero d’Inzeo took gold and silver.

Team final

The team final took place at the Olympic Stadium a few days later, and Great Britain was among eight countries to be eliminated while Germany, USA, and Italy topped the podium.

David remembers that day well because he learned something he’d never forget. “When I jumped the first round in the morning there were about 8,000 spectators, but when we came back for the second round in the afternoon there were about 120,000 and I couldn’t believe it! When the bell went, I cantered down to the first fence and missed it (got the stride on approach wrong) because I was all nerves. But luckily the horse got me out of it and I pulled myself together and he went clear after that. I decided that day that nerves don’t do you any good, and apart from getting a few butterflies an hour before the King’s Cup or something like that, nerves never affected me again. I decided when you go in the ring the only thing you have to worry about is how your horse is going, nothing else will help you; the occasion has nothing to do with it. That stood with me for the rest of my career,” he says.

The King’s Cup, the Grand Prix trophy in Dublin, and the Olympic bronze medal in Rome were already in the bag when David and Sunsalve headed for the World Championships in Venice (Italy) where they also claimed individual bronze.

“I was so lucky to have Sunsalve when I had him. I was just 20 at the time and when I rode him, I let him gallop on, and the horse thought he was doing it his way. If I’d had him later in my life, I would have tried to change him and he probably wouldn’t have been a tenth of the horse that he turned out to be. I’ve ridden a lot of horses, but he was THE Olympic horse. He jumped like a deer; his jump was unbelievable,” says the Welshman.

Sports Personality

There’s a wonderful YouTube clip of David being presented with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award for his 1960 achievements in which, clearly to David’s astonishment, Sunsalve is brought into the studio and he is legged up onto the horse in front of the equally astonished audience. Showjumping was prime-time viewing in Britain at the time, and this award gave the sport an even bigger boost.

David’s CV is beyond staggering. He claimed individual bronze again at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico riding Mister Softee and World Championships individual gold with Beethoven in 1970, as well as team gold with Philco in 1978. His European Championship record includes a double of golds with Mister Softee in 1967 and 1969, team silver with Philco in 1977, team gold in 1979 riding Queensway Big Q, and team silvers again in 1983 and 1991 riding Mr Ross and Lannegan.

And then there is the coveted King George V Gold Cup which he scooped six times on six different horses. “In the ‘50s and ‘60s, it was the ultimate class to win, and it’s such a beautiful trophy,” David says. The first time he won it with Sunsalve he kept it for six months on a shelf just inside the front door of his house. But as the years went by it became near-priceless so by the time he claimed it for the final time in 1991 he handed it over to his patron, Lord Harris, “because his security was a bit better than mine!” David says.

Then and now

I ask David to compare the sport back then to the way it is now. “Jumps are nowhere near as big nowadays. We had one oxer in Mexico – the front pole was about 5ft 4ins (1.64m), it was a 6ft 6ins (2.1m) spread, and the back pole was 5ft 8ins (1.76). Only two horses jumped it in the whole of the Games. I’ve never seen a fence like it before or since! When Olaf Petersen came along, he changed the sport so it became more technical, and that saved it in a lot of ways. The only thing is we’ve now gone away from testing a horse’s bravery and I think something needs to be done about that. In showjumping the narrowest fence is 8 feet (2.43m) wide, but in eventing it’s four feet (1.2m) so why not have some narrow fences and test riders’ control of their horses,” he suggests.

David was hugely influential in the establishment of the FEI Jumping World Cup™ series. “I won the Grand Prix in ’s-Hertogenbosch (NED) – there were only six or eight indoor shows in those days – and I thought we need to have a final for all these indoor shows.

“We had formed the International Jumping Riders Club around that time and Prince Philip was President of the FEI and thought it was a great idea. He invited us to send two representatives every year to the Bureau Meeting at the General Assembly to air views and make suggestions which was a great breakthrough, so I went along with Eric Wauters. I spoke to Paul Schockemohle and he said I know a man that will sponsor the series, Mr Gyllenhammar from Volvo, and then Max Ammann jumped on the bandwagon and took it over and that’s how it all started,” he says.

Favourites

When asked to name some of his favourite venues and events, David replies, “I always love the day of the Aga Khan Cup (Nations Cups) in Dublin, Rome just because of where it is, Olympia (London) because it’s probably the best indoor show, but Aachen these days is the number one venue in the world. If they had the World Championships there every year, I don’t think anyone would complain!” he answers.

Who were the opponents he most admired during his career? “Well Harvey because he was always the man to try to beat because he never gave up. Alwin Schockemohle because he was the ultimate professional. He would be second-last to go in the jump-off and go into the lead, but when he came out of the ring, he’d give his horse two or three minutes settle-down work while the last horse was jumping. Everyone else would be jumping off their horse to watch the last one go and hope they didn’t beat you. But not Alwin: he’d quietly school his horse ready for tomorrow. He was a real horseman. His technique for having horses leg-to-hand, having them supple, well mannered – he was superb. I always admired him and he is the loveliest man.

“And Rodney Jenkins – I watched him warm up Idle Dice at Madison Square Gardens in New York and he trotted down to a 5ft 6ins rail and the horse just popped it. The Americans’ position in the saddle was always fantastic. We started off in our careers doing acrobatics, but the Americans were always perfectly balanced. Bill Steinkraus – his legs never moved, and you only get that style if you have the horse going correctly,” he points out.

Proudest moment

David’s proudest moment comes as a bit of a surprise, “when I won the Foxhunter (Novice Championship) with Top of the Morning jumping the only the clear round at Wembley,” he says. And what’s his advice to competitors in the sport today? “Remember that you don’t necessarily win more the more often you jump.”

In recent years David’s attention has turned to the Wales and West showground at Mount Ballan Manor which hosts many events throughout the year including a hugely popular Home Pony International. “It has been the second part of my life,” he says. “My father wanted to build the Welsh version of Hickstead, so he started about five years after Hickstead was created and I like to think we’ve been successful. We run a happy show; it’s now organised by my sons James and Matthew and they do a great job and I’m proud of them.”

Reflecting on his sparkling career, David concludes, “I was a farmer’s son and horses have taken me around the world. I’ve been lucky in so many different ways. I was very lucky to meet Lord Harris who supported me from when I was 30 onwards and I’ve had some wonderful horses and some great sporting days. For all that I can only be eternally grateful.”

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46