Britain almost scooped the pool at the FEI European Pony Championships at the weekend in Malmo, Sweden, winning all the dressage gold medals, and the jumping and eventing team titles.
The pony riders were just pipped at the post in the individual jumping and eventing competitions, and had to settle for silver.
The British victory roll began in Thursday’s dressage team competition in which Phoebe Peters’ fabulous performance with SL Lucci clinched it for her side. At 16 years of age, and in her last year at pony level, Peters looks set to make a big impression over the coming years, and her hat-trick of golden performances at the Swedish fixture were topped by a world record score when claiming the individual title on Saturday before she came out to break her own world record with another sensational result in Sunday’s Freestyle.
The 30th edition of the FEI European Pony Championships attracted dressage teams from 13 countries – Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden. Germany has long dominated the team podium, but this time around they had to settle for silver ahead of Denmark in bronze. It was a close-fought affair, only 0.641 separating the top two countries and the Danes just another 0.872 adrift.
Peters and SL Lucci stole the limelight when taking individual and freestyle gold at Arezzo, Italy two years ago, and last summer claimed team and freestyle silver in Millstreet, Ireland. This time around they were in a class of their own once again.
Team mates Isobel Berrington (DHI Langar), Clare Hole (Rembrandt) and Rebecca Bell (Valido’s Sunshine) all posted scores in the low-70s, leaving the Germans led by Nadine Krause and Cyrill WE – who posted a handsome 75.769 – well on target for yet another team success. But Peters and her 13-year-old German-bred pony was awarded a massive 80.077 to lift her side from bronze medal spot all the way up to the top step of the podium.
Krause, Lana Raumanns (Den Ostriks Dailan), Linda Erbe (Dujardin B) and Helen Erbe (SFs Charly Brown) had to settle for silver while consistently strong scores from Sarah van Deurs Petersen (Farbenfroh), Karoline Rohmann (Adriano B), Louise Christensen (Vegellins Goya) and Sara Aagaard Hyrm (Der Harlekin B) left the Danies well ahead of the Dutch who would normally be expected to make a podium placing.
Veteran German team member, Nadine Krause, took the provisional lead after the first group of riders rode the individual test on Friday, judges Heike Ebert (GER), Kurst Christensen (DEN), Isobel Wessels (GBR), Bo Jena (SWE) and Mariette Sanders (NED) awarding 76.732 for some lovely work with her nine-year-old palomino stallion Cyrill WE while Germany’s Lana Raumanns filled second spot at this stage with Den Ostriks Dailan on 73.659.
But that would all be blown away the following morning when Peters posted a sensational 81.390 with SL Lucci. Going first in the day, she made it all look very easy, but Krause held on firmly for silver while fellow German Helen Erbe won out in a five-way battle for the bronze. And then Peters came out to put the icing on the cake with a massive score of 85.825 to win the Freestyle, Krause again taking silver on 80.550 while Denmark’s Sara van Deurs Petersen clinched the bronze with a mark of 77.825.
The Jumping team title, which dates back to the inaugural event in San Remo, Italy back in 1986, is never an easy one to win. But the British have a formidable record with 14 team and 10 individual gold medals to their credit, and Jodie Hall McAteer, Jack Whitaker, Jessica Hewitt and Charlotte Ash moved that team tally on to 15 last Friday. The Irish claimed silver for the second year running while the defending champions from France were close behind in bronze.
A total of 11 nations fielded teams – Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland – and it was the Belgians and Dutch that finished just outside the podium placings.
Scores from Thursday’s opening individual qualifier were carried through to Friday’s team competition, so the British were off the pace when all four riders on the Belgian, French and Irish sides impressively came through on a zero score, while three of the Germans did likewise to leave them all on level pegging.
But the British had just the single time fault collected by Jessica Hewitt and Ammanvalley Santino on their scoresheet. So when Jack Whitaker made a brilliant recovery from his 18-fault scoreline in Thursday’s opener with Zodianne van de Doevenbree to leave the whole course intact in the first round of the team event, then it was the single error from the last-line partnership of Charlotte Ash and Aughnashammer that was the British drop score, as Hewitt kept a clean sheet and Jodie Hall McAteer and Tixylix went double-clear.
The Irish and French held their advantage with three more clears each, but when Abbie Sweetnam (Spartacus Reape) collected eight faults in the team competition’s second round, the four picked up by Luke Garrigan (Dr Spot) had to be counted despite clears from Olivia Rouston (Ballygawleys Little Ferro) and Mikey Pender (Imagine If One). And the French also lost their grip when having to count the five faults picked up by Charlotte Lebas this time out with Quabar des Monceaux, as pathfinders Victoria Tachet and Rexter d’Or produced the drop-score of eight while Justine Maerte (Shamrock du Gite) and Thomas Scalabre Sligo de Mormal) were foot-perfect. The Germans meanwhile slipped off the radar, collecting a total of 12 faults that allowed the Belgians with eight and the Dutch with a final total of nine to finish ahead of them in fourth and fifth places.
Jack Whitaker, 13-year-old son of British senior team member Michael Whitaker who was competing for his country in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping qualifier in Dublin, Ireland, on the same day, was the only British pony team member to drop a fence in the second round, which left them with team gold in their grasp on a final tally of just one fault, while the Irish claimed the silver with four and the French were close behind in bronze with five.
A total of four riders – Maerte from France, Hall McAteer from Britain, Rowen van de Mheen from The Netherlands and Ireland’s Mikey Pender shared the lead on a zero score going into the individual Jumping final. It turned into a thriller, coming down to a five-way jump-off for silver and bronze when only Maerte and her brilliant nine-year-old gelding Shamrock du Gite managed to keep a clean sheet yet again to clinch the title outright.
When Hall McAteer, Pender and van de Mheen each made a single mistake, they were joined on a four-fault tally by Thibault Philippaerts, 13-year-old son of Belgian star Ludo Philippaerts, and another Belgian Maartje Verberckmoes at the end of the second round, so it would take a jump-off to decide the places on the podium. Only Hall McAteer and Philippaerts managed to stay clear this time out, and the British rider got the edge to clinch silver with Tixylix when racing through the finish in 37.36 seconds while Philippaerts was almost five seconds slower with Okehurst Little Bow Wow when taking the bronze.
A total of 52 combinations competed in the Eventing Championship, with eight countries – Belgium, Britain, France, Germany Ireland, Italy, Netherlands and Sweden – fielding teams.
The outstanding partnership of Calvin Bockmann and Askaban B led the individual leaderboard from the outset and never put a foot wrong over the following two phases to clinch the individual title. And the British made it a hat-trick of 2015 team victories in fine style.
Former international event rider Gary Parsonage was the third British Chef d’Equpe to have plenty to celebrate at the end of the team competition when Phoebe Locke (Quay), Harriet Wright (Foxtown Cufflynx), Saffron Cresswell (Cuffesgrange Little Ric) and Thomas Tulloch (Spirit Vl) came out on top. They headed the silver medallists from France by almost 16 penalty points while Sweden earned the bronze.
Technical Delegate Gaston Bileitczuk (FRA) and Ground Jury members Polyann Huntington (AUS), David Lee (IRL) and Anne Persson (SWE) gave the Germans an early boost when putting Bockmann and team-mate Emma Brussau (Rocky) in first and fourth places respectively after the dressage phase. Bockmann’s score of 33.4 with his chestnut gelding is an indication of the quality of the flatwork now being produced at pony level, and it was another German, individual competitor Brandon Schafer-Gehrau riding Pretty in Black, who lay a close second on a score of 34.3 ahead of French rider, Melissa Prevost with Podeenagh Aluinn, going into Saturday’s cross-country phase.
The addition of 13.2 time penalties saw Schafer-Gehrau drop to eighth however, allowing Prevost to improve to silver medal spot, while Ireland’s Zoe Nelson shot up from seventh into bronze position when the only addition to her good dressage score of 40.9 was 1.6 time penalties. A total of 28 starters completed without cross-country fence penalties, and 16 made it home inside the time while nine were eliminated in this phase.
Ireland’s Nelson kept the pressure on Prevost when jumping clear over the coloured poles on Sunday but the French girl still held on to her lead despite collecting four faults. That left Bockmann with a fence in hand, but he didn’t need it, keeping a very cool head to claim the gold by a margin of just over seven penalty points.
The Germans didn’t challenge for the team medals when both Brussau and Antonia Baumgart (Turn up Trumps) were eliminated at fence 18 on the cross-country track. And the British triumphed when Tulloch lined up fourth ahead of Cresswell in fifth, Locke in ninth and Wright in 12th place, all four sealing the great result with jumping clears on the final day.
The final British tally was 138.7 while Prevost led the French side that also included Vanille Bourgeois (Mustang de Buges), Quentin Gonzalez (Perle du Boisdelanoue) and Camille Lucas (Risketon Maneti) into silver medal spot on a final score of 154.6. Sweden’s Kara Hammastrom (Creemully Melody), Moa Nordfjall (Dimmans Eros), Selma Hammarstrom (Sligo Furtunus) and Michelle Ettwein (Midnight af Lergraven) took the bronze on 160.1.
FEI European Pony Team Dressage Championship: GOLD – Great Britain 222.872: SL Lucci (Phoebe Peters) 80.077, Valido’s Sunshine 9Rebecca Bell) 71.077, Rembrandt (Clare Hole) 71.718, DHI Langar (Isobel Berrington) 70.615; SILVER – Germany 222.231: Cyrill WE (Nadine Krause) 75.769, Den Ostriks Dailan (Lana Raumanns) 73.462, Dujardin B (Linda Erbe) 73.000, SFs Charly Brown (Helen Erbe) 72.487; BRONZE – Denmark 221.359: Farbenfroh (Sara Van Deurs petersen) 74.128, Adriano B (Karoline Rohmann) 73.744, Vegelins Goya (Louise Christensen) 73.487, Der Harlekin B (Sara Aagaard Hyrm) 72.897.
FEI European Pony Individual Dressage Championship: GOLD – SL Lucci (Phoebe Peters) 81.390; SILVER – Cyrill WE (Nadine Krause) GER 76.732; BRONZE – SFs Charly Brown (Helen Erbe) GER 73.756.
FEI European Pony Freestyle Championship: GOLD – SL Lucci (Phoebe Peters) 85.825; SILVER – Cyrill WE (Nadine Krause) GER 80.550; BRONZE – Farbenfroh (Sara van Deurs Petersen) DEN 77.825.
FEI European Pony Team Jumping Championship: GOLD – Great Britain 1 fault: Tixylix (Jodie Hall McAteer) 0/0/0, Zodianne van de Doevenbree (Jack Whitaker) 18/0/4, Ammanvalley Santino (Jessica Hewitt) 1/0/0, Aughnashammer (Charlotte Ash) 0/4/0; SILVER – Ireland 4 faults: Ballygawley’s Little Ferro (Olivia Roulston) 0/5/0, Spartacus Reape (Abbie Sweetnam) 0/08, Dr Spot (Luke Garrigan) 0/0/4, Imagine If One (Michael Pender) 0/0/0; BRONZE – France 5 faults: Rexter d’Or (Victoria Tachet) 0/0/8, Shamrock du Gite (Justin Maerte) 0/0/0, Quabar des Monceaux (Charlotte Lebas) 0/0/5, Sligo de Normal (Thomas Scalabre) 0/4/0.
FEI European Pony Individual Jumping Championship: GOLD – Shamrock du Gite (Justin Maerte) FRA 0; SILVER – Tixylix (Jodie Hall McAteer) GBR 4/0 37.36; BRONZE – Okehurst Little Bow Wow (Thiebault Philippaerts) BEL 4/0 42.24.
FEI European Pony Eventing Team Championship: GOLD – Great Britain 138.7: Quay (Phoebe Locke) 49.1, Foxtown Cufflynx (Harriet Wright) 52.8, Cuffesgrange Little Ric (Saffron Cresswell) 46.2, Spirit lV (Thomas Tulloch) 43.4; SILVER – France 154.6: Mustang de Buges (Vanille Bourgeois) DNS, Podeenagh Aluinn (Melissa Prevost) 40.9, Perle de Boisdelanoue (Quentin Gonzalez) 50.0, Risketou Maneti (Camille Lucas) 63.7; BRONZE – Sweden 160.1: Creemully Melody (Klara Hammerstrom) Elim, Dimmans Eros (Moa Nordfjall) 54.6, Sligo Fortunus (Selma Hammarstrom) 47.4, Midnight of Lergraven (Michelle Ettwein) 58.1.
FEI European Pony Eventing Individual Championship: GOLD – Askaban (Calvin Bockmann) GER 33.4; SILVER – Podeenagh Aluinn (Melissa Prevost) FRA 40.9; BRONZE – Millridge Buachaill Bui (Zoe Nelson) IRL 42.5.