British Rider earns a FEI Endurance European Championship completion in Ermelo

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Nicki Thorne, who has represented her country six times – more than any other British endurance rider at senior level – has sealed her place on the sport’s highest international stage after earning a completion at an exceptionally tough FEI 3* 160km European Championship at Ermelo in The Netherlands.

Nicki and her Polish Malopolska mare Kamilcia finished the gruelling track over sand dunes, heathland and forest tracks in 25th place, with a total ride time of 10 hr 30min and at a speed of 15.36km/hr. Of 55 starters from 19 countries, there were 28 finishers, with a mixture of gait and metabolic reasons disqualifying the remaining 27 combinations.

The European Championship title went to Spanish rider Angel Soy Coll, who steered British-bred Arabian Warrens Hill Chayze to victory for trainer Angel Luis Alvarez Martin. Their victory in a time of 7hr 37min at an average speed of 20.99km/hr was somewhat unexpected because the pair, previously in the chasing pack, emerged in the lead on the final loop after the race leaders, including other contenders for Spain and France, got lost in the late stages of the course. Despite the setback, Spain still emerged as Team Champions, with France in second place and Italy in third. Spain’s Maria Alvarez Ponton’s JM Elegido, who finished in third place, took the best condition award.

Nicki Thorne, 50, has now represented Great Britain at a World or European Championship six times, having previously ridden at senior level at the European Championships at Samorin (2015), Brussels (2017) and Euston Park (2019) and at the World Championships at Samorin in 2016 and at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon in 2018. The success at Ermelo tops her previous personal best result at Samorin in 2015, where she finished 31st with LR Bold Greyson.

Twelve year old Kamilcia, (Maciwoda/Kabala), whose stable name is Mousey, has been a consistent performer with fourth placings in the FEI 120km class at Royal Windsor Endurance in May and in the FEI 140km class at Lavenham last year.

Nicki Thorne said: “I can’t believe we did it and a massive thank you to my amazing crew, as well as all of the officials and organisers for putting on such a great event. It was fantastic to have such great support from home over social media and everyone’s messages were wonderful to read.  

“Mousey was a star and looks amazing today. She is an incredibly robust mare and has a huge character, so she has kept us all on our toes throughout. I am exceptionally proud of her especially on such a tough course. Ermelo proved to be a challenging track with deep sand and deep mud, and we lost a lot of speed on the last loop, but I’m over the moon. We did it! Thanks to my incredible horse and amazing crew.”

Although small, Kamilcia is tough, strong and athletic. Nicki says: “She is a very sweet and amenable mare, happy with both people and horses, making her easy to handle. She gets a lot more hyped up at a competition and does also have a quite stubborn streak if she chooses to. This robustness of character helps to make her such a reliable endurance horse. She has completed all of the FEI rides entered – with one withdrawal pre-race where we chose not to travel due to outside factors – and is a consistent finisher.

“Mousey may not at first glance look your typical endurance horse, and she may not be the fastest on the course, but her recovery is consistent between the loops, she is a strong and tough sort of mare, and just keeps steadily going.”

Carmine Villani, 56, who is based near Littlehampton in West Sussex, was selected to line up in British colours for the first time with his 12-year-old gelding Vatou De Gargassan (Nabab De Gargassan/ Doushka). He said: “Congratulations to Nicki and her team for a fantastic achievement. Today was not our day. Vatou’s recovery times were more than normal – they are usually 1–2 minutes but were around 5–7mins, so I had slowed to help manage this, but having completed four loops, it was not to be. After the ride, he was drinking and eating well and that is all that matters. Here's to the next time.”

Lindsay Wilson, Chair of International said: “Everyone involved in endurance here was behind both Nicki and Carmine on Saturday, and everyone was thrilled to see Nicki tough it out and get round with such expertise, grit and care. Huge congratulations and well done to her and her whole team. It was not to be for Carmine, but we congratulate him and Vatou for getting so far in the competition.”

Rosemary Attfield, Director of International said: ”The International Management team were in close touch with Nicki and Carmine, and will be conducting a debrief with them as we prepare for international campaigns in 2022 and beyond to learn from their experience and build for the future. Both riders put in inspirational performances and we hope seeing this will help encourage more riders to aim for this level of competition in the coming years.”

Phil Nunnerley said: “Nicki has been somewhat of a talisman for the British team on so many occasions now, and the whole sport was rooting for her and all her team and supporters as she and Kamilcia set out on the last loop on Saturday night. This was obviously an exceptional result and she has done herself and the British team proud as an exemplary ambassador for our sport. The success was all the more remarkable in the face of a particularly challenging period for international endurance in the UK due to COVID restrictions over the past 18 months and difficulties with overseas travel.”

Lesley Dunn, breeder of the new European Champion Warrens Hill Chayze, who is by Chatanz out of Cathy de Boisset, said: “I could hardly believe my eyes to watch on the live stream as Chayze came through the finish in first place. He looked fabulous. It was so exciting. Then there was the dreaded wait watching them prepare him for the final vetting, at which point all the links online to the ride crashed and it took ages before the news came through that he had passed!”

Chayze was initially competed by Harry Ingram to FEI 160km level before being sold to a Spanish trainer. He has won seven FEI rides from 13 starts and came fifth as an individual and was part of the gold medal-winning team at the World Championships in Pisa back in May.

Lesley added: “Chayze was always a very sweet-natured, sensible colt. He has a lovely loose smooth stride. It was such a joy to watch him run around our big fields. I was very tempted to keep him here as an Anglo stallion, but I knew he was too big and powerful for me to ride in my old age. Chayze is the most successful endurance horse bred here at Warrens Hill, but several others have competed successfully at this level, notably Felizja who was fifth at the European Championships in 2005 with Finnish rider Johanna Strang. Others include Delorto Zaranz, Falaina Bint Chatanz, Warrens Hill Rubyn, Warrens Hill Kismet, Franzara and Warrens Hill Chanda.”

Stallions in the past at Warrens Hill have included, Bonanza, Ferdinanz, Chatanz, El Chenz, Warrens Hill Destiny and Warrens Hill Star. Lesley currently has Warrens Hill Zpirit at stud.

A second British-bred horse was in the top five finishers – Echo Falls, ridden to fifth place by Spain’s Jaume Punti Dachs, was bred at Kellane Stud in Hampshire by Bill and Sue Smith.


Copy and image courtesy of Endurance GB