Wednesday, 01 September 2021
Great Britain’s young quartet got underway today in the first qualifying competition at the LONGINES FEI Jumping European Championship in Reisenbeck, Germany. It was a big occasion for three riders and four horses as they made their senior championship debut, with anchorman William Whitaker the one athlete with previous team appearances, back at the Gothenburg Europeans in 2017 and at the World Equestrian Games the following year.
Pathfinder for the team, and the entire class as first rider in, was 23-year-old Georgia Tame riding the ten year old stallion Z7 Ascot, owned by Breen Equestrian Ltd, Shane Breen and Team Z7. The duo were taking on Frank Rothenbeger’s clever course with great confidence until Z7 Ascot jumped a little left in the double at fence six, which caused the duo to put seven instead of six strides, and the lowered fence seven. That added four seconds on to their time of 87.62 to give a total of 91.62.
After her round Georgia said: “It was really great – I really enjoyed it. I’m a bit annoyed with myself for the fence down, but it’s all learning. It’s a big thing for him and me to be here, so it was a really great experience. I thought it was a great course, the designer has done a good job and he left options everywhere for you to choose. I want to keep my horse happy and consistent throughout the week – he wouldn’t be experienced enough to go in quick and turn tight on the first day, so with him it’s just about teaching him and we hope for the future he’ll be a great horse.”
Second for the team in was Emily Moffitt, also 23, with Poden Farms and Neil and Heidi Moffitt’s Winning Good. The European Championship format, where today is a ‘speed and handiness’ competition, isn’t well suited to ‘Winnie’ because he’s better when kept to a steady rhythm, so Emily know it’d be a challenge. With some helpful advice from mentor and Olympic champion Ben Maher, the duo jumped well and were unlucky to lower three rails when exuberance got the better of the Winningmood-sired gelding. Their time was 75.90 seconds with 12 seconds added to give a final score of 87.90.
“He was very eager to get to the jumps today!” explained Emily. “I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be the easiest day. In fact, today was probably my most difficult day for how to manage him. He can be very difficult when you try and go that bit quicker. We try and keep him ‘in a box’ and the second you allow him to get out of the box, it’s difficult to put him back in! So for me it was a difficult course on the first day. From here, we can manage him easier because I don’t have to think about going quicker. We’ll try our best and hopefully we can get two clear rounds in and do well for the team. Every day at a show he gets a bit easier – today we tried our best and it didn’t go our way, but tomorrow and the following day I can focus on the jumps, not the time, and hopefully we can do what we do best – jump some clear rounds.”
Next up was Joe Stockdale with Joy Cocklin’s Equine America Cacharel. At just 21, Joe is the youngest competitor at the Championship, but under orders from trainer Will Funnell, who’s here in Reisenbeck to support Joe, he rode with an ultra-cool head and the duo were exceptionally unlucky to lower the back rail of the final fence. Joe rode in a good forward rhythm, but not pushing the Cachas mare out of what she was comfortable with to complete in a time of 75.65 seconds, which would have kept them in the top placing, but adding four gave them a total of 79.65.
Joe commented: “Actually, I was chuffed to bits with the round. The mare jumping fantastic and I’m over the moon with how she felt in there. I was quite pleased with how I rode it, there were bits I could have done better a bit better, but you always can. I think for a first round at a championship with the pressure, I’m pleased to get it out of the way and, actually, it was a pretty positive experience. It was a good course there was a few careful fences in there – to ride it went nicely and the lines flowed well. We’re a young team, and this is good experience and we’ll all take a lot from it – I’m really looking forward to the next few days.”
Last to go was William Whitaker who, at just 32, finds himself as the ‘veteran’ of the team. He was riding Philip Tuckwell’s home-bred 11-year-old Galtur. The partnership have been together for just 18 months and COVID has meant they’ve not had as much time in the ring together in preparation. However, William rode positively to give the horse plenty of confidence and they were going well, including the tightest of turns to the water jump to shave valuable seconds off the time. They just clipped the triple bar at fence 11a, but were clear the rest of the way to finish on 77.77 seconds and a final tally of 81.77.
Afterwards, William said: “I was very pleased with the way he jumped – obviously disappointed to have that one near the end but, on the whole, I was pleased. It’s quite an eyeful for the horses in there and he’s not got so much experience. He went in there and got stuck in, and I think he’ll only improve from that. It’s difficult at this level because you don’t get a second in there, it comes so quick and it’s relentless – tricky jumps and lines. Maybe I sat a bit quiet at that fence, but we did the tricky bits. I didn’t want him to rush that double, I wanted to make it easy for him. He had a good pop round yesterday, he’s been in today and he’s generally a horse that gets better through the show. The conditions are brilliant here, plus the support from the World Class Programme staff is second to none – so if you can’t come up with the goods on a weekend like this, you never will! I’m really pleased for his owners – to breed and own a horse at a championship is special, so hats off to them!”
On his young team mates, he commented: “I’ve been in that position before and it’s dauting. You have so many emotions throughout the week and you try to keep everything the same as you always do. You have to think to yourself ‘I’ve got here for a reason’ and what we do is working, but then you arrive, the atmosphere changes – you see all the other teams and when you’ve not done it before, there’s a lot of pressure. For me, it’s what I do it for and I’ll just try and help them where I can.”
The total seconds taken by each rider is then converted to a penalty score with the best rider, David Will from Germany riding C Vier, ending with a score of zero and then each rider having penalties based on how much slower they were. Joe finished best of the Brits on a score of 4 in 26th place, William is on 5.06 in 34th, Emily ends day one in 56th on 8.12 points and Georgia is on 9.98 in 58th.
As a team, we finish on a score of 17.18, which puts us 12th out of 15 teams. Sweden hold the ascendecy on 3.59 after a great collective display – their strong run of form follows on from Tokyo just a few weeks ago – with hosts Germany in second on 4.77 and Switzerland lying in bronze with 5.47.
For full results, running orders and how to watch, click here.