It was an action packed second day of The London International Horse Show at ExCeL London. In addition to spectacular international competition in three FEI disciplines, Driving, Dressage, and Jumping, the Show hosted a dedicated Medal Parade to celebrate the achievements of the equestrian Team GB athletes at this summer’s Olympic Games and European Championships.
Additional achievements were acknowledged across the course of the day, with the British Equestrian Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Carl Hester and British Dressage International Champions Trophy awarded to Charlotte Dujardin and her Tokyo 2020 Olympic mount Gio, as the highest placed British combination at this year’s championships.
The Services Jumping Championship was won by Sgt Charlotte Lee from the Police, riding Bermudez BDA, the only competitor to jump clear in the second round, with Dawn Weaver’s Ag Ch Galaxy’s Dream Summer winning the Kennel Club Small Agility Stakes Final.
DUJARDIN MAKES IT A DOUBLE
The FEI Dressage World Cup Grand Prix Freestyle supported by Horse and Hound took centre stage for the evening performance. Great Britain’s Lara Butler set the standard in the first half of the field, producing a solid score of 76.305%. Butler, riding Kristjan, performed a well-executed test, including impeccable flying changes and piaffes, to music which had the crowd clapping along as she completed.
Germany’s Frederic Wandres, runner-up in last night’s FEI Dressage World Cup Grand Prix, riding Duke of Britain FRH was the first to mount a challenge to Butler’s lead. Wandres demonstrated the qualities which have contributed to him being the current leader of the FEI Dressage World Cup Western European League to post an outstanding score of 80.260%.
British Tokyo 2020 team bronze medalist Lottie Fry capped a fantastic year, posting an outstanding score of 81.945 to take over the lead. Riding the 13-year-old gelding, Dark Legend, Fry started strongly with a piaffe passage and despite scoring slightly lower in the middle section, finished well to put the pressure on the final two riders.
Last to go, Charlotte Dujardin, is not one to shy away from pressure, and once again proved why she is Great Britain’s joint most decorated female Olympian. Aboard Gio, her Tokyo mount, Dujardin rode her Olympic Freestyle test for just the third time, demonstrating quality in abundance, with each movement perfectly in time to the music. She was rewarded by a phenomenal score of 89.040 to take her fifth London International Horse Show FEI World Cup Freestyle victory, with teammate Fry in second and Wandres in third.
Watching from the crowd, mentor and British teammate, Carl Hester, said: “It’s an amazing score and he’s an amazing horse who gives his all; they thoroughly deserve it. The programme is extremely difficult as you could see. It’s a little bit disturbing when you watch somebody so good and a horse that’s so good that you don’t realise how difficult the movements that she’s doing are, because she spins together these incredible movements and the horse just responds so beautifully, so I’m not surprised at the score.”
Dujardin added: “I’ve just finished off the most incredible year in the best way possible. He truly is a very special horse; his very first Olympics, his very first Europeans, and now he’s just finished the year off winning the World Cup here at The London International Horse Show – what a legend. There’s nothing like riding in front of your home crowd, having them cheering you on. I’ve really missed everyone and I would like to thank everyone for coming and supporting.”
EXELL EXCELS AT THE EXCEL
The first leg of the FEI Driving World Cup presented by Eurofip International was won by Boyd Exell, a regular winner here in London. The Australian’s masterful display of horsemanship was over seven seconds fast than the runner-up, Koos de Ronde from The Netherlands, in the drive-off, with Dries Degrieck back in third.
The five-time World Four-in-Hand champion and nine-time FEI World Cup Driving Champion was already looking forward to the final leg: “Statistically, Koos [De Ronde] and Ijsbrand [Chardon] are the biggest threats. Ijsbrand was a little bit off the pace today; however, previously he’s been off the pace the first day and much better the second, and often can win the final, so he’s definitely one to watch out for. He does have a little bit more to do than usual, but tomorrow is another day, so let’s wait and see.”
Exell continued, “This new venue is amazing; it’s brilliant for the horses. There’s loads of space, brand new stables, everything for us as competitors is fantastic. Obviously, the Olympia building in the evenings was a lovely setting, but as a sport, we have to evolve and progress, and this facility has the opportunity to do that.”
GREAT BRITAIN DOMINATES ON DAY TWO
The opening CSI5* contest of the day was a two-phase competition whereby all those clear over the first seven fences went on to the second phase against the clock. The first to mount a challenge, Great Britain’s John Whitaker, a legend of the sport, laid down the gauntlet as fifth to go, riding Green Grass. The 66-year-old demonstrated why he is still at the top of the sport, with an extremely tight and fast second phase, jumping clear in 27.16 seconds. Those who followed failed to match Whitaker. Compatriot Sameh El Dahan aboard WKD Toronto came close, posting a time of 28.41 seconds to go into second, and Frenchman Mathieu Billot, as last to go, looked to put Whitaker’s lead under threat, but could only manage enough for third.
The Champagne Taittinger Ivy Stakes was awarded to Great Britain’s Tokyo 2020 Olympian, Harry Charles, riding Borsato. 10 combinations went forward to the jump-off, with Great Britain’s talented young rider Jack Whitaker paving the way. Whitaker meant business from the start, jumping an impressive clear in a time of 35.98 seconds to set the standard. Germany’s Marcus Ehning survived a rub at the penultimate fence to take over pole position at the midway point, shaving 0.83 seconds off Whitaker’s time; however, it was Harry Charles who had the crowd on its feet as he made all the moves to take the lead with just three to go. Charles’ target of 34.07 seconds proved impossible to beat, as those who followed, including dual winner Martin Fuchs, incurred penalties in their attempts to match the pace required.
A delighted Charles said: “I was actually quite shocked when I finished, as I didn’t realise I was that much quicker than him [Marcus Ehning]. It’s not every day you can be that much quicker than Marcus. I thought the jump-off went quite well; in places I thought I was a little bit unsteady, but it all worked out in the end and I’m absolutely delighted.”
EQUESTRIAN TEAM GBR MEDAL PARADE
Ben Maher MBE and his Olympic gold medal-winning partner, Explosion W, led the celebratory medal parade featuring many of Great Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic equestrian heroes. The parade provided fans with an opportunity to celebrate the exceptional performances from the summer, which also included a successful European Championships and Driving World Championship for Ponies. The medalists were joined in the arena by their owners and grooms, all pivotal to the successes achieved over the course of the year.
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