Category Archives: Show Jumping

Champion Jockeys to Jump at London International Horse Show

Sir Anthony ‘AP’ McCoy at London International Horse Show 2022 (London International Horse Show/Peter Nixon)

The ever-popular Markel Jockeys Jumping in aid of The Injured Jockeys Fund class returns to London International Horse Show on the evening of Monday 18 December. The Show, which takes place from 13-18 December at its new home of ExCeL London, is a true equestrian Christmas extravaganza filled with top-level competition and entertainment.

This unique class sees two teams of five world-class jockeys each put their Show Jumping skills to the test in the prestigious International Arena – all in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund.

This year’s class comes with exciting additions: Great Britain’s Eventing Chef d’Equipe, Dickie Waygood, will be responsible for setting the height of the course, having watched the jockeys warm up, and a Markel Joker fence will be included as the last obstacle in the course, which, if cleared successfully, will subtract four seconds off the jockey’s time – making the competition even more exciting. In addition, Team Trainers Pippa Funnell and Nick Skelton CBE will be on hand prior to and throughout the competition, offering the jockeys guidance and Show Jumping tactics.

The 2023 teams, who have over 16,000 winners between them, will be captained by the legendary Sir Anthony ‘AP’ McCoy and Tom Scudamore. McCoy is a 20-time Champion Jump Jockey and has ridden 4,358 winners, making him the most successful jump jockey of all time. McCoy is also the President of the Injured Jockeys Fund, and a regular at London International Horse Show having led his team to victory in last year’s competition.

His rival captain, Tom Scudamore, is one of the UK’s most successful jump jockeys and is the third generation of the famous Scudamore Racing dynasty. Whilst he retired in February of this year, Scudamore rode an impressive 1,499 winners over jumps and 12 on the flat throughout his career.

Full teams will be decided in the run-up to the Show and released in due course; however, fans will be excited to learn that Harry Skelton, son of Olympic gold medallist show jumper, Nick Skelton CBE, will join the line-up. Harry will also be looking to retain his title from last year, and with a Show Jumping background, he will be one to watch.

Jim Crowley, who names London International Horse Show as his ‘favourite event of the year,’ will also be seen in action. Crowley used to be a jump jockey before he switched paths to become a flat jockey, becoming Champion Flat Jockey in 2016. The three-time and current Champion Jump Jockey, Brian Hughes, is another of the headline names set to fly around the International Arena at the Show.

Representing the women are Joanna Mason and Saffie Osborne. Mason rode as an amateur for many seasons before turning professional on the flat in 2020 and has an impressive tally of over 100 winners already. Meanwhile, Osborne is the daughter of famous jockey turned trainer, Jamie Osborne; having turned professional this year, she is undoubtedly one of the rising stars of the weighing room. Currently recovering from a knee injury, she hopes to make a return to the saddle for the class.

Rounding off this stellar line-up are James Doyle, Ryan Moore, and Harry Cobden. Doyle rides for the mighty Team Godolphin and has just announced a new retainer as a jockey to the Wathan Racing operation for 2024. Moore is a three-time Champion flat jockey, who has ridden over 3,000 winners and won at all the major Classics, including the recent Breeders’ Cup on the Derby winner, August Rodin. Finally, Cobden is one of the UK’s leading jump jockeys as stable jockey to Champion Trainer, Paul Nicholls. With over 750 winners to date, Cobden is undoubtedly a superstar jockey; however, he has stated he has ‘never jumped a course of Show Jumps in his life!’ and so will be looking for expert guidance from the Team Trainers.

Juliet Redfern, Head of Equine Insurance at Markel, added: “Markel is delighted to be sponsoring this fabulous event again and supporting a charity that looks after its own so well. As a specialist equine insurer, we are committed to supporting the wider equine industry through such charitable initiatives, and this is one of our favourite events!”

The Markel Jockeys Jumping in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund will be part of the Show’s thrilling final performance, which also includes the 5* London Grand Prix, featuring the finest international Show Jumping horse and rider combinations.

For more information, including how to purchase tickets to watch the jockeys at London International Horse Show, visit www.londonhorseshow.com.

For more information, please contact:
Niki McEwen / rEvolution / nmcewen@revolutionworld.com

Oh No, It Doesn’t; Oh Yes, It Does – Pantomime Comes to London International Horse Show

Manuel Fernández Saro dressed as Olaf at London International Horse Show 2022 (London International Horse Show/Peter Nixon)

London International Horse Show, which takes place at ExCeL London from 13-18 December 2023, is excited to announce that following last year’s successful reintroduction of the fan favourite Fancy Dress Relay, the class will return on Sunday 17 December, this time with a Christmas Pantomime twist!

2022 Fancy Dress Relay competitors at London International Horse Show (London International Horse Show/Peter Nixon)

The evening class promises to be a highly entertaining festive celebration and is not to be missed. The competition will see nine pairs of riders from all disciplines of the equestrian community, including top international Show Jumpers such as John Whitaker and Harry Charles, compete against each other wearing ingenious fancy dress costumes, with prizes awarded to the fastest partnership and the most entertaining pair.

Last year saw characters such as Buzz Lightyear from the Toy Story franchise and Olaf from the Frozen movies fly around the International Arena at London International Horse Show to the sheer delight of the packed-out crowds. This year, fans will be treated to an evening of merriment as family favourite pantomime duos, including Peter Pan & Captain Hook, Snow White & the Wicked Queen, and Robin Hood & Friar Tuck, race against each other to claim the top spot.

The whole evening will be rounded off in the Champagne Taittinger Bar and Brasserie with a ticketed After Party, where you can join in the fun and dance the night away with your favourite riders and celebrities to a sensational live band from 22:30 until 00:30. Additionally, anyone attending the evening’s performance wearing Fancy Dress will receive free entry to the fabulous After Party.

Looking ahead to party night, Show Organiser Simon Brooks Ward said: “The Fancy Dress Relay is always such a high-energy class, which has been a highlight of the Show for spectators and riders alike over the years. We are thrilled to have reintroduced the class last year, and following its huge success, the class will be back with some of the sport’s most successful stars, in even better costumes.”

Tickets to watch the Fancy Dress Relay and the After Party can be found here.

For more information, please contact:
Niki McEwen / rEvolution / nmcewen@revolutionworld.com

CAS Upholds FEI Tribunal Decision Imposing 10-Year Suspension for Horse Abuse Case

Following lengthy appeal proceedings, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has confirmed and upheld the FEI Tribunal’s decision in the case against Andrew Kocher delivered in June 2021, which saw the US Athlete suspended for 10 years for the use of electric spurs on several horses throughout a prolonged period of time.

Other sanctions in the FEI Tribunal decision rendered two years ago also included the disqualification of results from eight FEI events between June 2018 and November 2019 where evidence supported the athlete’s use of electric spurs on horses, alongside a CHF 10,000 fine and legal costs to the amount of CHF 7,500. Kocher appealed the said FEI Tribunal decision on 1 July 2021, seeking to eliminate or otherwise reduce the sanctions imposed.

The FEI Tribunal decision was the result of a lengthy investigation by the FEI, starting in June 2020 following allegations of electric spur use reported to the independent Equestrian Community Integrity Unit (ECIU). It was alleged that Kocher had used electric spurs on a number of FEI registered and national horses in international and national events, as well as during training.

Upon the conclusion of the investigation, the FEI formally opened disciplinary proceedings against Kocher in October 2020. During the proceeding before the FEI Tribunal, it was also discovered that Kocher instructed his employees to use the electric spurs on specific horses. For that purpose, Kocher provided to his employees several electric spurs devices which he manufactured himself.

In its decision, the CAS Panel reached the same conclusion as the FEI Tribunal, to the effect that a ten-year suspension was merited, during which Kocher is barred from participating in or attending, in any capacity, including as a spectator, any competition or event that is authorised or organised by the FEI or any National Federation. The provisional suspension served by Kocher since 28 October 2020 shall be credited against this period of suspension, which will therefore come to an end on 27 October 2030. The CHF 10,000 fine was also upheld, and Kocher is furthermore ordered to pay costs of CHF 7,500.

“We are extremely satisfied with this outcome and that the sanctions the FEI Tribunal imposed, to reflect the severity of the offenses committed by Mr Kocher, have been upheld by CAS,” said FEI Legal Director Mikael Rentsch.

“It may have taken two years to complete this process, but it confirms that we had the right decision to start with, and that there is no room for leniency when it comes to cases of horse abuse.

“We have rules and regulations in place to protect the integrity of our competitions and the wellbeing of our horses, and when these rules are breached and their welfare is jeopardised, we will continue to seek to impose maximum sentences.”

The full CAS decision is available here.

The FEI Tribunal Decision is available here.

Media contact:

Olivia Robinson
Director, FEI Communications
olivia.robinson@fei.org

FEI Issues Decision Regarding Eric Lamaze (CAN) Tampering Violation

The FEI has suspended Eric Lamaze (FEI ID 10000439) for a period of four years (12/09/2023 – 11/09/2027) following an anti-doping rule violation under the Anti-Doping Rules for Human Athletes ADRHA Article 2.5 (Tampering), due to the submission of fabricated medical documents during an ongoing CAS proceeding.

A summary statement has been published here explaining the FEI decision in relation to the tampering violation within the ongoing CAS proceeding. Therefore, because the CAS proceedings are still ongoing, the FEI will not be providing any further details at this moment.

Media contact:

Olivia Robinson
Director, FEI Communications
olivia.robinson@fei.org

British Are Best on Opening Day

Robert Whitaker and Vermento. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

Team Great Britain got off to a flying start when topping the first round of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final 2023 at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, Spain with the only zero scoreline of the afternoon.

Foot-perfect runs from pathfinder Tim Gredley (Medoc de Toxandria), Robert Whitaker (Vermento), and anchorman Harry Charles (Aralyn Blue) meant that the 12 faults collected by Lily Attwood (Cor-Leon VD Vlierbeek Z) would be their discard. They finished a full fence ahead of Brazil, Germany, and Switzerland, who filled second, third, and fourth places with four faults apiece and separated only by their combined times.

The top eight nations have qualified for Sunday’s title-decider in which they will all start again on a clean sheet, and the remaining countries that have made the cut are the defending champions from Belgium and Team USA, who each posted eight-fault results, and Ireland and France who finished with 12.

Team Mexico just missed out when also putting 12 on the board but in a slower time, and on Saturday night they will once again defend the Challenge Cup trophy they won so memorably 12 months ago.

Meanwhile, the battle for the single qualifying spot on offer for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games has been whittled down to a two-way contest between Brazil and the USA, because the other contenders from Mexico, Argentina, Italy, and Australia didn’t make it to Sunday’s second round, which already looks set to be another cracking contest.

Think about

Spanish course designer Santiago Varela gave them lots to think about with a 14-fence track with plenty of height and curving lines that tested power and accuracy. The vertical with a yellow plank on top at fence nine and the penultimate double of verticals were the bogeys of the day.

Harry Charles clinched top spot for the British with a superb clear with the 12-year-old mare Aralyn Blue. Talking about the challenges of the course, he said fence nine, which followed the beefy Longines triple combination, “was on an unusual line and angle; you were coming straight out of the corner. You could see at the start of the class the horses weren’t jumping it well. I just made sure to give myself a bit more room there.

“Coming to the double of verticals (fence 13) it was either five or six (strides) and on the six you take away a bit of the power, slowing down so much to jump it. For me it was a waiting five and my mare was able to have a bit of room and kept the power, so not too many problems there for me,” he explained.

Like all the British, he was delighted with the result. “I’m really proud of us today actually!” he said. “My horse is pretty new at this level; she’s only done one Nations Cup prior to this, and it was a tough enough course, not overly big but delicate with some fun lines in there! The other guys did a good job; there were two clears already (for the British team) so I luckily could go in and do the clear.”

When asked if he felt under pressure, he replied, “Today probably wasn’t the most pressure I’ve ridden under, but we wanted to be in there on Sunday, so there was that to it.” He admitted that the result for his team was a bit of a surprise. “Probably an unexpected result if you told us at the start of the day, but we’ll take it and hopefully we can do something similar on Sunday!

“We will go back to a blank slate unfortunately (in Sunday’s final round), it would be nice if we carried it through, but it’s been really good and hopefully we will be in good enough nick for Sunday,” he added.

Anticipation

There’s a lot of anticipation of a great final day. The Swiss have never won the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ title, but their fourth-place finish gives them another opportunity to clinch it. However, it hasn’t been plain sailing ahead of this year’s event.

“We’ve always been a bit unlucky with this Final, and this year the horse from Edouard is injured and Bryan (Balsiger) lost his horses and the horse of Pius (Schwizer) was injured, so we don’t have our ‘A’ team. But still our horses jumped good today and we’ll see if Elian (Baumann) goes on Sunday. We won’t be the favourites on Sunday, but we’ll try!” said Steve Guerdat who, just a few short weeks ago, added the individual European title to the Olympic gold he won back in 2012.

“We’ve had a very good year and it would be a great way to finish, and for the horses to finish as well. My horse (Venard de Cerisy) didn’t have a rail down in the whole Nations Cup season – St Gallen double-clear, Aachen double-clear, Dublin double-clear, and now clear today, so I hope I can do a clear again! We are here, we will try, the sport is great, and we are looking forward to Sunday now!” said the man who sits third in the current world rankings.

Focus

In contrast, the focus for Brazil is fully on that Olympic qualification and the battle against the USA. Pathfinder Marlon Modolo Zanotell and Grand Slam VDL produced a perfect clear and team veteran, Rodrigo Pessoa, did likewise. Pessoa has won Olympic and World titles and is as hungry as ever to help take his country to Paris next summer. His top ride, the 10-year-old gelding Major Tom, made nothing of the course.

“It’s a freak of a horse – the intelligence, the ability to jump, the whole package. He’s very straightforward and has a lot of blood, a lot of temperament, but at the end he wants to jump clear; that’s all he wants to do,” Pessoa said.

When asked about the recent addition of former Portuguese rider Diniz to the Brazilian side, he said she is a real asset. “Yes, she’s super-experienced and her horse is really good and it’s always good to have one more – the more soldiers the better!”

As for Sunday, “It’s just about us, the USA!” he said. “They are a big nation with a very strong team as well. Today was just a warm-up and we have to go again. I think it went well today; the two mistakes that we had (a fence down each for Stephan de Freitas Barcha and Chevaux Primavera Imperio Egipcio and Luciana Diniz with Vertigo du Desert) were silly mistakes that I think we can get rid of, but better to do those little ones today than on Sunday!”

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

press@fei.org
www.fei.org

Vogel Untouchable in the CANA Cup

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

On the second day of the 2023 edition of the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament, 42 of the world’s best horse and rider combinations took on Leopoldo Palacios’ stunningly designed course in the hopes of securing their place in the pinnacle class of the show, the CPKC ‘International’ Grand Prix, presented by Rolex.

The iconic International Arena, which has played host to numerous historic moments in the sport, including Scott Brash’s incredible Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping victory in 2015, was beautifully bathed in the late summer sun. First to enter the arena, Ireland’s Conor Swail, who claimed this class last year, set the standard for the remaining combinations with a perfectly judged clear round. It was only five horses later that the newly crowned FEI European Champion, Steve Guerdat, ensured that there would be a jump-off as he mastered the technical course aboard the impressive gelding Albfuehren’s Maddox.

The world-class field truly impressed the knowledgeable Canadian crowd with a total of 15 riders clearing the 1.55m, 12 combination course faultlessly. The elite list of riders included the winner of the ATCO Cup earlier in the day, Martin Fuchs, and Britain’s Matthew Sampson, a regular winner at the venue. The crowd also were thrilled to see Canadian riders Mario Deslauriers and Erynn Ballard finish the first-round fault-free.

Three combinations elected not to return to the jump-off, meaning that 12 combinations proceeded to the jump-off. Entering the ring in the same order that they jumped in the first round, it was second to go, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat, who jumped the first double clear of the class in a time of 44.27 seconds and set the pace for those to follow. However, fourth into the arena, Richard Vogel with the big striding stallion, United Touch S, eclipsed Guerdat’s lead with a time of 43.07 seconds.

Read more here.

© 2023 Rolex – Rolex Grand Slam

It’s Individual Gold for Super-Swiss Guerdat and His Special Mare Dynamix

Steve Guerdat and Dynamix de Belheme. (FEI/Leanjo de Koster)

Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat has ridden many great horses during his sparkling career, but after winning individual gold at the FEI Jumping European Championship 2023 in Milan (ITA), he said his mare, Dynamix de Belheme, is simply the best.

With a flawless run over four days of tough competition, as Italian course designer Uliano Vezzani tested Europe’s best riders as only he can, the 41-year-old rider and his 10-year-old mare were the only combination to finish the week without fault from the field of 85, who started out in the quest for European glory last Wednesday.

Germany’s Philipp Weishaupt claimed silver with the exciting nine-year-old Zineday, while Julien Epaillard and the 10-year-old Dubai du Cedre finished in bronze medal spot for France.

“I’ve been very, very lucky, even blessed, since the beginning of my career. I’m for sure no better rider that this guy that sits beside me (Weishaupt), but he didn’t always have the same luck with his horses at a championship as I had. So for me to say that this is the best horse I’ve ever had – it takes a lot!” Guerdat said.

In the balance

The final day more than lived up to expectations, with the result hanging in the balance until the very last fence was jumped.

One pole down from Guerdat in the second round and Weishaupt would have overtaken the 2012 Olympic champion for the coveted title. But once the Swiss star overtook team gold medallists Jens Fredricson and Markan Cosmopolit for the lead, when the Swedish pair faulted in the first of the two rounds to drop to fifth in the final analysis, Guerdat had the look of a man who wasn’t going to let anything get in his way.

As he rode into the ring, last to go in the second and last round, he was holding the lead, but with Weishaupt snapping at his heels and Epaillard just a whisper further behind, so he needed to muster all the experience he has gathered down the years. With the horse of his dreams under him, he calmly brought home the gold that has only been held in Swiss hands twice before, by Willi Melliger partnering Quinta in Gijon (ESP) in 1993 and by Martin Fuchs and Clooney in Rotterdam (NED) in 2019.

He’s now making no secret of the fact that his next big target with his mare is the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

So cool

When asked how he managed to keep so cool under pressure, he said he just tried to make that final round like any other.

“I didn’t do anything different because it’s my job to go clear every week, every Sunday, every championship, every day this week. My mare was in great form, so I just try to keep her fresh, because it’s her first championship and she was a little bit tired today after the first round, so I tried to save the jumps, just do five or six jumps before the last round and try to stay focused on what I have to do and I knew she wouldn’t let me down.

“She’s a very, very special horse, so I just try to focus on my job so she can express herself at her best, and that’s what she did and I’m delighted with her and the result!” he said.

It is clear he has thought the world of Dynamix for a very long time. “I have had so many special horses throughout my career, but I didn’t want to put pressure on her by telling everybody I have a new superstar, but we knew it, or we hoped for it. And we were just trying to let her develop the way she had to develop.

“Basically, she has all the qualities that all my superstars have had, and she has it all in the one horse, and that’s why she’s very, very special!

“I don’t want to rush things. I just listen to her and what she wants to do. She only did her first 5-Star a year ago,” he pointed out.

When Dynamix gets home to Switzerland, she’ll get a nice surprise. “Up to today, she still wasn’t allowed to have her own big picture in my indoor; there are a lot of very special horses in there. We have a lot of amazing pictures of Dynamix, and I’ve had a bit of a fight with my wife because she thinks she should already be up there. But today she did something great, so her picture will be up there tomorrow!” he said.

Careful

Weishaupt said he has also been careful not to pressurise his young horse either. “It wasn’t in my plan at the beginning of the year to come here, because Zineday is only nine years old, a year younger than Steve’s horse – quality-wise not far away, these two horses – but I need to listen to him to know how he is and go step-by-step, show-by-show. I also tried to keep him a bit in the background and make sure not too many people ask me how good he is.

“But after Aachen (where the pair finished third in the Grand Prix) there was no more chance to hide it – even blind ones could see how good he is by then! He did it so easy in Aachen, so I took him to a show in Riesenbeck and he came back very strong. So I thought OK, he’s only nine but he’s ready for the championship and he will learn and get experience during those five days. I went day-by-day this week; I didn’t have any expectation. I know the horse is super, but I need to ride well and keep him calm,” he explained.

It worked out really nicely. “The first day Speed class, he did a very good round. The first round of the Nations Cup was really good; unfortunately, I made a stupid mistake on the team final day. Then I go for the final – he was super-fresh yesterday, which was a bit surprising.

“And today I did two rounds and he jumped fantastic, and I’m more than delighted with the result. At the end Steve was the only one jumping all days clear, and I wasn’t!”

Fantastic week

Epaillard said he had a fantastic week with Dubai du Cedre. He also jumped double-clear to move up from overnight fourth into that bronze medal position. It was Great Britain’s Ben Maher who finished just off the podium in fourth place with Faltic HB at the end of the day.

“My mare is only 10 years old, and it was my first championship with her, and she doesn’t have that much experience. She had two down during the week, both my fault because I don’t know her well enough,” Epaillard explained. He has been riding her since last November.

“The course designer created a fantastic show this week,” he continued. “I think Uliano did a very nice job. Every day there were very technical rounds; today, the final was perfect, I think. The first round very strong and difficult, the second a little bit easier, but with the pressure, everyone, including the horses, were a little bit tired.”

There was no sign of tiredness when the medallists rode their victory lap to bring a truly thrilling week of sport to a close, with Guerdat adding individual gold to the European team gold medals he won in 2009 and 2021.

“I have the horse that everyone is looking for,” he said, “so we do our best for her and bring her in the best of form for Paris! This has been a great week!”

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

press@fei.org
www.fei.org

It’s Golden Glory for Team Sweden Once Again

Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, Jens Fredricson, Chef d’Equipe Henrik Ankarcrona, Wilma Hellström, and Henrik von Eckermann. (FEI/Leanjo de Koster)

History was made when Team Sweden clinched gold for the very first time at the FEI Jumping European Championship 2023 in Milan (ITA). The country that already holds both the Olympic and World team titles proved that, when it comes to staying the distance, they simply have no match right now.

They started the medal-decider trailing Germany and just ahead of the defending champions from Switzerland. But on an afternoon full of surprises, it was Team Ireland that settled comfortably into silver medal spot while Team Austria took the bronze.

As the action began, only fractions separated the leading pack, but when Henrik Ankarcrona’s Swedish side added nothing to complete on a total of 9.51 penalties for the win, they were well clear of the Irish on a final tally of 18.00 and the Austrians who finished with 22.77 on the board.

No-one could have predicted that Germany would lose the pathfinding partnership of Marcus Ehning and Stargold which would always leave them vulnerable, or that the Swiss, who have been all but unbeatable this year, would finish sixth behind Spain.

But anyone who has followed the path taken by the Swedes in recent years would know that a team consisting of Henrik von Eckermann and Iliana, Wilma Hellström and Cicci BJN, Jens Fredricson and Markan Cosmopolit, and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson with Zuccero would be difficult to overturn.

As Fredricson, who goes into Sunday’s individual medal-decider still out in front after three tough days of sport, said, there was never any discussion about the Swedish mission coming to Milan. “We came here to take the gold medal; that was always the plan, and sitting here now is just fine! We know how this can go, with many ups and downs, and we are really super happy with the whole thing!”

News

There was a bit of a shockwave when the last-minute news came through that Ehning wouldn’t compete because he felt his stallion wasn’t quite right.

“I don’t know what happened really. We got ready for the class, and I don’t know if he heard something, but he nearly flipped over in the box, and I don’t know if he over-reached a muscle or whatever. When I got on, he wasn’t lame, but he doesn’t want to open up his back or stretch, and I didn’t have the feeling that he was normal,” the multiple champion explained.

So when Philipp Weishaupt’s Zineday knocked the oxer at fence two, Jana Wargers and Limbridge double-faulted, and Gerrit Nieberg came home with one down, the German total of 25.31 would leave them just off the podium in fourth place.

Meanwhile, only Steve Guerdat and Dynamix de Belheme lived up to expectations on the Swiss side who had to add 16 to their scoreline. But the Austrians, sixth overnight, rocketed up the leaderboard when Gerfried Puck and Equitron Naxcel V came home with just two time penalties, Max Kuhner and Elektric Blue P jumped clear, and Alessandra Reich and Oeli R lowered only the tricky water-tray vertical at fence six that proved a bit of a bogey all day. That meant they could drop the 12 racked up by Katharine Rhomberg and Cuma 5.

The Irish opened up with another fabulous clear from Michael Duffy and the 14-year-old mare Cinca. Although they had to add eight to the scoreline when Trevor Breen and Highland President, Shane Sweetnam and James Kann Cruz, and Eoin McMahon and Mila all returned four-fault results, they reaped the benefit of a good run earlier in the week that had left them stalking the leading pack and ready to pounce if their rivals showed any weakness.

It was three classic clears that clinched it for Sweden, Henrik von Eckermann providing their only mistake of the day, when hitting the last in his pathfinding round. Annoyed with himself, he explained, “I got the six (strides) nice, but I didn’t sit up enough. I followed with her and I was through the finish line in my mind before I was over the finish line!” But the double world champion and world number one rider didn’t need to worry. His team-mates would wrap it up very nicely indeed, Hellström confidently bringing her one-eyed wonder-mare home without incident, and Fredricson doing likewise with his 12-year-old gelding.

Bengtsson already knew he had a gold medal around his neck before he set off, and he said that was a very nice feeling. His foot-perfect run was just the icing on the cake, ensuring the distance between gold and silver was as wide as possible.

Nice to be back

“For me, it’s very nice to be back again in the team!” Bengtsson said. “I’ve been on the side for a while, but that was also an interesting position to have. Now I have a really good horse again and to get a medal here today… it was 22 years ago I had my first one, so thanks guys! The team spirit we have is something very important and very special. We know each other very well and that helps. We can talk to each other in whatever language, and nobody takes it badly if you tell them straight what you mean.”

Hellström pointed out that “there’s a reason why Sweden has been so successful…. t’s not only the riding; it’s the full plan and the organisation around us and the respect everyone has for each other.”

Von Eckermann was delighted to add yet another championship medal to his already very extensive collection. “I really wanted the gold for the last team medal in my pocket, so I’m happy the guys helped me with that!” he said.

Fredricson said forward planning is the recipe for Swedish success. “I have a very early plan for my horse. In November I knew what I had to do. I did Rome, La Baule, Aachen – all fantastic shows – and I knew I was going to have my horse in the best form now. If you don’t know that and you are picking the team in the last month… I think that’s what we do right,” he pointed out.

Contrast

In contrast, the Irish had to make some very late changes to their side leading into the championship

“But the thing we are most proud of is whatever changes we have to make we have in excess of 30 riders competing in 5-Star Nations Cups this year, and I think that’s a phenomenal figure!” said Chef d’Equipe Michael Blake. “I’m so proud to be involved with people who are that good and love the sport that much. They put the country first and they make my job easy,” he added.

There was no hiding the surprise and delight on the faces of the Austrian bronze medallists. As their Chef d’Equipe Angelika May said with a laugh, “If there had been a bet on Austria, I think you would have made a fortune!”

But they earned their place fair and square, on top of Olympic qualification along with Spain and Switzerland.

“We came here for the Olympic ticket, and we would have been super-happy with that!” said Katharina Rhomberg. Team-mate Max Kuhner said they would like to build on this result now. “I hope it will also bring some support for the future for the country, like these big horse nations, to get more owners, to get more horse power, to get more ambition for the whole sport. The Olympic qualification is probably the best thing to make this happen. It was a fantastic feeling with a great team. We had a really good time here together, supported each other, and it makes me very happy!” he said.

11 out of 10

Talking about his horse Markan Cosmopolit, Sweden’s Fredricson said that his jumping round “wasn’t a 10 out of 10; it was an 11 out of 10!” and he reflected on how his victory came about.

“You try to do your best and you can do nothing about the other riders – if they were better than us, then they would have won, but this time we were the best. The only thing you can focus on is your own thing. Always in championships there are unpredictable things happening!” he pointed out.

All four Swedes now go into the individual finale inside the top 18, with Fredricson in pole position ahead of Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat in second and Ireland’s young star Michael Duffy in third, ahead of Frenchman Olivier Perreau in fourth. There is less than a fence between the top five and less than two between the top 11, so there’s no room for error, which promises one more day of spectacular sport.

But for now, it’s Swedish party time, as they celebrate their first team title in the 66-year history of the FEI Jumping European Championship.

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

press@fei.org
www.fei.org

Team Germany Overtakes Sweden, Fredricson Maintains Individual Lead

Philipp Weishaupt and Zineday. (FEI/Leanjo de Koster)

Team Germany overtook Sweden to rise to the top of the leaderboard on the second day of the FEI Jumping European Championship 2023 in Milan (ITA), but the difference between the top three sides is only fractional going into the team medal decider.

A tally of 9.31 gives Germany just 0.2 penalty points of an advantage over Sweden with 9.51, while the defending champions from Switzerland lie third with 9.92, followed closely by Ireland on a 10-point scoreline.

It could hardly be tighter, and it’s a recipe for a thriller right to the end.

Meanwhile, another superb performance from Sweden’s Jens Fredricson and Markan Cosmopolit has maintained their place at the top of the individual leaderboard.

A costly mistake at the very last fence saw Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs and Leone Jei drop from overnight second spot to 15th place, so another super-smooth performance from Germany’s Philipp Weishaupt and Zineday has moved them up from third up to second, while Fuchs’ team-mate Steve Guerdat is now lying third with Dynamix de Belheme.

There are still four nations left in the race for one of the three qualifying spots on offer for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games – Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and Spain. The Netherlands, France, and Great Britain will complete the line-up when only the top 10 countries will do battle in the final round of the team competition along with the top 50 individuals in the rankings so far.

Lost their grip

The Swedes lost their grip on pole position when, despite superb clears from both Fredricson and Henrik von Eckermann riding Iliana, they had to count one of the eight-fault results posted by both Wilma Hellström and Cicci BJN and their anchor partnership of Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Zuccero.

In contrast, Germany only had to add the four picked up by pathfinders Marcus Ehning and Stargold when both Weishaupt and Jana Wargers were foot-perfect over the considerably more testing 14-fence track. German anchor, Gerrit Nieberg, racked up 12 faults with Ben, but that would be their discard when the best three results per team were counted.

Only Guerdat jumped clear for Switzerland, so they had to add both of the four faults picked up by Fuchs and Bryan Balsiger partnering Dubai du Bois Pinchet, while Edouard Schmitz’s double-error with Gamin van’t Naastveldhof was their drop-score.

After clears for both Michael Duffy with Cinca 3 and Shane Sweetnam with James Kann Cruz, the Irish looked set to threaten the Swiss, but last-line rider Eoin McMahon and the mare Mila were one of many partnerships to fall victim to the big oxer three from home that followed the open water. Those four faults had to be counted, because Trevor Breen and Highland President left two on the floor. But there is only a whisper between the top four.

Clear

A total of 14 horse-and-rider combinations jumped clear and they were all full of praise for the tracks set for them so far this week.

“The course was super; all compliments to him (course designer Uliano Vezzani) also from yesterday,” said world number one Henrik von Eckermann after finishing his fault-free run.

“Today there are some big jumps out there, but they are not completely demanding on the horse. But you need to be able to ride accurately, to have all the gears to go forward, backwards for the last line, to the water, to the triple combination,” he said. “So it’s asking a lot from the rider and I think that’s how it should be. If you ride good you have good chances, and not only that it’s the last hole on the jump.

“I felt a little bit of pressure after Germany’s clear and Steve’s clear, and I wanted to give them (the rest of the Swedish team) a good feeling and I think I did. We still have the drop score in our pocket and I hope we don’t need to use it,” he said after coming out of the ring. Unfortunately, however, they did.

Flawless

Weishaupt’s rides with Zineday have been flawless, and he’s clearly already eyeing up not just a team medal, but an individual one as well.

“So far, it’s only two days of competition but Zineday felt very good in the warm-up. I had an amazing feeling yesterday in the speed class; he was really relaxed and focused. And today he continued what he showed yesterday, his great performance, his great talent, and it was a pleasure to ride him and I hope we can keep that form for the next three rounds!” he said.

Talking about the nine-year-old Oldenburg gelding, he said his expectations were always high coming to Milan. “He was third in the Grand Prix of Aachen, and if you are selected for the German team, they expect you are capable of jumping that level so I was expecting this.”

He described Italy’s Uliano Vezzani as “a fantastic course designer!

“We had a fantastic speed class yesterday; it wasn’t the biggest jumps but he showed all his experience with the beautiful way he built. The footing was great and today; it was a great course again, very tricky and long; you needed control and scope but he did a great job!”

He described Zineday as “a bit special; he has his own head, so you have to leave him a little bit like he is, but he has just tremendous qualities.”

Jana Wargers’ clear was also copybook. “I’m very happy with my round and very happy that I was able to jump clear for the team. Limbridge is just fantastic,” she said of the 14-year-old gelding with which she finished ninth individually at the FEI Jumping World Championship 2022 last summer.

“He makes it so easy, and he lets me shine in every round and he never gives up. Today he showed again how special he is, and I’m very proud of him!” she said.

Dream week

Meanwhile, Jens Fredricson’s dream week continues. He’s on a zero score, but Weishaupt is only 0.31 behind, followed by Guerdat, the flying Frenchman Julien Epaillard with Dubai du Cedre, von Eckermann in fifth, and Italy’s Emanuele Camille in sixth with Odense Odeveld. In the individual standings, there is less than a fence between the top 14, but there is a long way to go before the new individual champion is crowned.

It’s still pretty extraordinary to be leading the posse with a horse that was originally bought for the Swedish riding school in Strömsholm, but who proved too naughty to do his job there. So he eventually found Jens in the saddle, and together they finished third at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final 2022 in Leipzig (GER) before helping to take the team world title in Herning (DEN) a few months later.

“I’m enjoying myself; it’s a fantastic show and my horse is in great form!” Fredricson said. To find himself in individual contention at a championship is a first-time experience, and he is relishing it.

“I’ve been around, I’ve been in some finals, but I’ve never really been up there. So to have a horse like this when you are 55 is special. He’s like a cat now; he can lengthen and shorten and he’s self-confident — he’s just a great horse!” he pointed out.

He didn’t have to listen to any rock music before he went in the ring.  “Yesterday I needed to get in in a better mood so I was listening to Iron Maiden, but not today because I had almost too much energy, I was almost jumping around, so I think Beethoven would have been better!”

All Startlists and Results here.

by Louise Parkes

press@fei.org
www.fei.org

Swedes Forge Early Lead in Milan, Swiss in Hot Pursuit

Jens Fredricson and Markan Cosmopolit. (FEI/Leanjo de Koster)

The reigning Olympic and World team gold medallists from Sweden flexed their not-inconsiderable muscles when taking the lead on the opening day of the FEI Jumping European Championship 2023 at San Siro racecourse in Milan, Italy. With scores converted into points, they go into the first round of the second competition with only a narrow advantage over the defending European champions from Switzerland, while Germany lies in overnight third, fractionally ahead of Ireland in fourth place.

The edge

Super performances from all four Swedish team members gave them the edge, Wilma Hellström setting out their stall with a great clear round from the one-eyed Cicci BJN, before Rolf-Göran Bengtsson steered the grey stallion Zuccero into temporary pole position when also foot-perfect in 73.60 seconds.

Fredricson blew that target out of the water when galloping through the timers in 71.98 seconds with Markan Cosmopolit, and that would prove unbeatable at the end of the day. Others might be quicker, but they wouldn’t leave all the timber in place and would therefore be penalised with expensive seconds to add.

One of those would be the last Swedish team member and world number one Henrik von Eckermann, who broke the beam in the super-fast time of 69.38, but who clipped the first element of the double at fence three with the mare Iliana to add four more seconds to their tally. Despite that, Team Sweden’s finishing total, when converted into points, leaves them with 1.51 penalties, just 0.41 ahead of the chasing Swiss.

First rider

The very first rider into the arena, Switzerland’s Bryan Balsiger, showed nerves of steel when bringing Dubai du Bois Pinchet home clear. Although team-mate Edouard Schmitz and Gamin van’t Naastveldhof had two down, both Martin Fuchs with Leone Jei and Steve Guerdat with Dynamix de Belheme produced spectacular clears.

Germany got off to an edgy start when Gerrit Nieberg and Ben 432 picked up 16 faults, but although Jana Wargers and Limbridge had one down, they were fast. So when Philipp Weishaupt was clear and super-quick with Zineday and Marcus Ehning and Stargold left just one on the floor, it was enough to secure third spot on the team leaderboard at this early stage. Their tally of 5.31 points leaves the Germans just 0.69 ahead of the Irish, who were quietly impressive, Eoin McMahon sealing a good day for the Boys in Green with a great run from the former Ludger Beerbaum ride, the mare Mila.

His clear in 73.88 seconds would be good enough to settle him in overnight eighth place on the individual leaderboard, just behind Sweden’s Bengtsson in seventh and von Eckermann in sixth.

The fastest man of the day, Julien Epaillard, lies fifth for France with Dubai du Cedre, and this pair would hold the lead but for a mistake at the second element of the last of the three doubles, all of which proved very influential. Switzerland’s Guerdat lies fourth, Germany’s Weishaupt is in third, Switzerland’s Fuchs holds second spot, while Sweden’s Fredricson will be out in front when the action resumes.

Winning ride

Talking about the winning ride, Fredricson said he found a good rhythm the whole way around the course and that both he and his 12-year-old gelding felt motivated and relaxed. The Swedes are clearly confident about their prospects.

“We have a lot of experience now in championships and we have learned a lot over the years,” Fredricson pointed out. They are not getting too carried away about being in the early lead on both the team and individual leaderboards.

“I don’t think anyone on the team is surprised; we had a very good feeling, but we know this is just the start. These Championships are a bit like a slalom, and today was only the first downhill run!” he added.

Von Eckermann was surprised by his mistake with the relatively inexperienced Iliana, but was still well-pleased with his result. “I had a great feeling with the mare; she was very calm, and I don’t know why I had the fence down… but otherwise everything went according to plan, and I was still quick enough so I could help the team. We have three really good scores. I think we are in the lead and that’s what we wanted for today – now only six more clear rounds and it’s done!” he said with a laugh.

Performance

Guerdat described Switzerland’s day as “a good team performance. The Swedish were even better but it’s looking quite good; we are on form but it’s still a very long way, so we have to stay calm, keep the form and ride good,” he pointed out.

Despite bringing Dynamix home in the fourth-quickest time of the day, he wasn’t happy with his own performance. “I didn’t give her a good ride, but she’s amazing and she helped me today, so I hope I can keep her form and improve mine – then we will be good!” he said.

He really liked the course, which proved the perfect first-day test. “It didn’t ride as nice as it walked; it was a much more difficult course than what we walked first.

“There were a lot of mistakes, and you didn’t have to go crazy fast to be in front, which is what you want for a Speed class in a Championship – so hats off to the course designer; it was good sport today!” he said.

Team-mate Fuchs was also pleased with how things worked out. Talking about his thrilling round which held the lead until Fredricson overtook him. he said, “Leone Jei was fantastic. I had a good plan going in, leaving out a few strides without taking too much risk. He has such a big stride and has the experience at this level so I can do my course as I planned.”

Ease

The Longines oxer at fence eight – 1.50m high by 1.60m wide and on a left-bending line after the open water – was one of the main bogey fences of the day, and the world number four athlete who took team gold and individual silver with the same horse at the last European Championship in 2021 described how he tackled it with such ease.

“I left out a stride to the water and after the water jump, which is only possible with a horse with such a big canter as Leone. He always over-jumps the water so that helped me a lot in that line because I didn’t have to add. Pulling back, it would have been difficult, but like this I could give him some space and let him use the canter that he has,” Fuchs explained.

The Swiss have their eyes firmly fixed on team gold. “Our main focus is on the Nations Cup; we have a very strong team and we want to defend our title. We had a great season so we want to keep it up, and everyone will try this week to defend the title and then we will see on Sunday where it brings us (in the battle for individual medals). The goal is also to win a spot for Paris, but if we defend our title we will be in Paris for sure, so we try to medal here and not worry about Paris just yet!” he pointed out.

Tickets

There are three tickets for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games up for grabs this week and, following this opening competition, fifth-placed Austria and sixth-placed Italy are right in the hunt. But there are two more days of jumping to go before that piece of the puzzle falls into place.

Individual leader, Jens Fredricson, is a happy man. Before he went in the ring, he psyched himself up by listening to his favourite rock music, and after his ride the 55-year-old rider got a phone call from his father, Ingvar Fredricson – a call that any son would like to get.

“He told me he’d watched me on TV today and that this was the best round I have ever ridden. He’s been watching me for 42 years, so that’s a bit special!” Jens said. Even more reason for the Swedish jumping star to want to hold onto that precious lead over the coming days. But the story of the FEI Jumping European Championship 2023 is only beginning to play itself out.

All Startlists and Results here.

by Louise Parkes

press@fei.org
www.fei.org