Britain secure eighth spot and a place in the final

Thursday, 02 September 2021

Britain’s young team for the LONGINES FEI Jumping European Championships all had rounds that improved on yesterday in their approach and outlook, but luck just wasn’t on their side with three four-fault rounds and one with nine. While there was initial frustration due to the lack of clears, their fortunes changed as the day unfolded and a place in the final was secured.

Georgia Tame and Z7 Ascot

Georgia Tame was British pathfinder once again on the crucial day two second qualifier in Riesenbeck. Partnering Breen Equestrian Ltd, Shane Breen and Team Z7’s Z7 Ascot, she looked more at home in the spectacular main arena and the duo set off in a great rhythm. They were going well, but touched the tape at the edge of the water by the narrowest of margins before going on to lower the second part of the double at 13. Factoring in their single time fault, this gave a total of nine to add to the team total and Georgia’s own, giving 18.98. However, it was certainly a much better round than the scoreboard would suggest.

After her round, Georgia said: “It was more relaxed now that I’ve been in and jumped one round. He  warmed up great and felt really good. I thought the course suited him, it was careful and he’s really careful. At the water I didn’t realise I was in it, then to the second to last oxer coming out of the double, I just probably held him a bit too much and he just chipped it behind, but he jumped unreal and I’m so happy with him. He’s been knocking on the door for a while and deserves to be recognized.

“He’s been really good, and I’m happy with him. All the horses on the team jumped great today, everyone deserved to go clear, everyone was unlucky but I hope that we get in tomorrow and we can – fingers crossed – get the clears we deserve.

“This first championship experience has been amazing, really great. The horse has only done one four-star, never seen a jump that big. At home we only jump 1.10, so it’s a bit of a shock but it’s great, the atmosphere is great and to have such a supportive team behind you is great. The whole team is young and we’re learning together, so it’s a great experience.”

Emily Moffitt and Winning Good

Then came Emily Moffitt, who was determined to get an improved performance from Poden Farms and Neil and Heidi Moffitt’s Winning Good. Last-minute orders from trainer Ben Maher sent them into the ring ready, and they cruised round with a more consistent rhythm and at a pace they’re better suited to – yesterday’s speed class certainly didn’t suit them on day one of a big show. ‘Winnie’ took hold of the bit to fence six, but they stayed clear and he flew the water in spectacular style. However, this gave them a bit too much forward momentum, so they lowered the oxer at eight, their only fault, to end day two on a total of 12.12.

Emily explained: “There’s never a day in his life when he isn’t strong. We’d got into such a great system at the past few shows and for some reason he’s come here and gone ‘party time!’. He’s a bit how he used to be, so we’re having to manage what we have and make good out of a not-so-ideal situation, but I think we did that today.

“Right from the start, I could just focus on the jumps and I didn’t have to think about the time, and that made such a difference. He’s already so forward that if you have to ask him to go more forward – I haven’t cracked that side of him yet. Maybe one day!“

“He throw such extravagant jumps at the water that that was definitely going to be our difficult line and I probably should have spoken to him a bit or held him off a bit, and I thought I’d done enough but I didn’t.

“Of course, I obviously hoped for better than yesterday, but the team is great – we laugh and we have fun and we’re supportive. I couldn’t ask for a better team, so that aspect of things has made it so much more fun.

When asked what it was like being on a first Senior Championship team, Emily said: “I was actually speaking to my mum about this – I’ve almost always been on a team, with the Global Champions format and things like that, so I think I’m a bit more used to it and I actually really enjoy it. You can lean on each other, like yesterday when I didn’t have such a good day, and I like that aspect of it – ever since I was younger, I always preferred being on a team.”

Joe Stockdale and Equine America Cacharel

Third in was Joe Stockdale riding Joy Cocklin’s 10-year-old bay mare Equine America Cacharel. This duo impressed yesterday and were looking for a clear to boost both the team and their individual hopes. Joe walked the course with William Funnell, who’s come out to support. Frank Rothenberger had set yet another great course – the fences were big enough, not quite maximum, but it was certainly technical.

Joe and ‘Cash’ looked fantastic, each fence coming naturally and easily, but then at the final double, unlucky 13, both fences came down – despite no sign of error, no mistake or wrong stride. It was a cruel score of eight for a round that made good watching, bringing their two day total to 12.

A clearly disappointed Joe said: “I’m gutted, but it was one of those where it wasn’t an eight-fault round. I think she jumped a lot better than that, but it is what it is. It’s been a big learning curve for all of us and the horses, certainly for me. There’s a lot I can take away from it so far, we’ll see what happens if we get through to the next stage. Coming here isn’t like a normal competition – it’s a long course, for starters, it’s bigger again, it’s tougher again. It’s harder on the horses in every single way, so I think maybe it’s a fitness thing for her. She’s not unfit, but this is a very different environment – the stresses of it and the intensity of the jumping.

“I think there is some extra fitness needed in these big grass rings, you’re always trying to keep them active and light in the course and it’s a long course with big jumping everywhere – big, careful jumps and I think the course builders been very clever about where he’s put the fences, having the short lines then the big double of oxers, and that’s obviously caught me out and a couple of others, too. There’s maybe one opportunity in the course for you to breath and the rest is bang, bang, bang. It’s just that next level up again.

“I think you’re coming towards the end, there’s a bit of fatigue. I think I got there with a bit of a space and gap and gave her time, I think it was more that tough line before to the wall to the stile on the four strides, it’s very tough on a big horse like her to then have to pick up again and get that spark to throw one of the biggest fences of the course in the double. I think the combination of that line itself was the factor.”

William Whitaker and Galtur

So the pressure fell to William Whitaker to produce a round good enough to keep Britain in the hunt for a top-10 place and a spot in tomorrow’s team finale. Riding his partner of just 18 months, Galtur, owned and bred by Philip Tuckwell, he produced a stylish round that looked effortless but for the slightest of rubs at the final upright element of the treble at four. They were clear the remainder of the way, so finish on 9.06.

William summed up his round in saying: “He deserved a clear round. I’m the oldest on the team at 32 and it’s the first championship for the other three guys, so it takes time. He’s so new to me, too, and we’re finding our rhythm. It’s one thing to do it round a 1.40 track but another to do it round something like this where if you make one slight mistake, the fence falls. To be honest, I was absolutely thrilled with the way my lad jumped, he was so unlucky. He did his best to jump it, I think he made such an effort over the middle part, then the next one was upon him and he did everything he could to get out of the way and just clipped it with his back leg. Like I say, it’s one of the biggest courses he’s jumped in this sort of environment. It’s right up there – 1.55, 1.60 – but the whole atmosphere adds to that. It’s thick and fast.

 “I liked the way he jumped and I thought he felt as good at the end as he did at the beginning, which I like. It felt like a good, solid round, so I’m obviously sick about the fault, but pleased with the way he jumped. We’ve come such a long way in such a short period of time as a combination, I think sometimes it’s easy to overlook that we’re still learning about each other as a partnership. I’m obviously still trying to find out the tiny little details just to get that final product that we’re looking for, but it feels like he’s got all the right ingredients there and I’ve been delighted with him.”

He was asked about his experience here and as part of such a young team: “In Britain, we’ve never struggled for quality of riders, that’s something we’ve always had in abundance. We’ve struggled in the past with getting those riders on good enough horses, but we’re starting to get it now and we’ve got some great owners, and obviously we get great support from British Equestrian and the World Class Programme. I think, putting all these together as well as getting the experience for the younger riders that are coming up, it’s all very exciting. What Ben, Scott, Nick, Michael have done in the last ten, twenty years has been fantastic so we need to look at them and carry that on, really.

“It was a chance sending such a young team, but I think that if you don’t take that chance and keep going with the safe option all the time, then you never give that next generation a chance to come through and have a go at this level. There’s not been a combination who you think shouldn’t be here, in my opinion and they’ve all earned the spot to be on the team. Taking all that into consideration, it all looks promising.”

Team qualification secured

At the end of the first group, which contained those teams placed outside of the top 10 after round one,  Britain had climbed one place up the order and now lay 11th – just out of a qualification place. Having done all they could, it was now down to what the other nations produced. The teams to watch were Denmark, Italy and Spain because there wasn’t much breathing space between them and our score of 33.18.

Denmark held their nerve and added 13 to their day one total, which kept them ahead of us, but Spain, Italy and the Netherlands all didn’t quite fare so well and faults piled up, meaning the plucky Brits ended the day in eight overall – our place in the final was secured.

The Swiss team now sit atop the leaderboard on 5.47, hosts Germany are in second on 8.77 and Sweden drop to third on 11.59.

Individually our riders are:

26. William Whitaker and Galtur – 9.06
37. Joe Stockdale and Equine America Cacharel – 12.00
39. Emily Moffitt and Winning Good – 12.12
52. Georgia Tame and Z7 Ascot – 18.98

The top 25 individuals after tomorrow’s team final go forward to the medal round on Sunday.

For information on how to follow all the action, go to our FEI Jumping European Championship page.