Posted on 13th May 2019
“You can’t train a horse with emotion, which is hard to remember as this sport is full of so much of it…” Angus Smales
After a lengthy discussion with Diarm (EquiRatings) about who might actually win this thing now that the dressage was done, we pretty much came to the conclusion that it was still wide open!
With an average Chatsworth ERM Show Jumping clear rate of 31% and a tough Di Boddy track to come, the door was being left open for the few in the field who had a good reputation for leaving the coloured poles in their cups.
Cathal Daniels (IRL) and his feisty little mare, Rioghan Rua, were the first to catch my eye and the young Irishman gave his chestnut partner one hell of a ride to bank a speedy clear round. Rocketing up the leaderboard they moved from 28th to sit in 18th place going into the cross country – the phase they clearly love the best!
Now completely selfishly, I was thrilled to see that Flora Harris (GBR) was bringing her mare Amazing (Maizie to her friends) to contest the ERM at Chatsworth. Maizie has been one of my absolute favourites for years and after a bit of time off following an injury, to see her back with such an infectiously eager expression on her face was an absolute joy. Lowering just one rail in her excitement the pair rose 4 places before the cross country and Maizie clearly thought she’d won the big one as she came out of the arena!
With poles falling left, right and centre Oliver Townend (GBR), Izzy Taylor (GBR), Piggy French (GBR) and Chris Burton (AUS) all fell foul of Di’s tricky track.
Perhaps one of the nicest surprises of the weekend came from Lucy Jackson (NZL) and her boy Superstition who gave us the most immaculate clear round to jump themselves into the top 5 before the Cross Country.
Young Brits Yasmin Ingham and Bubby Upton posted two more of the seven clear rounds with the other three coming from Holland’s Tim Lips and his exciting young horse Eclips, Ireland’s Sam Watson and Tullabeg Flamenco who made Sam really work for his incredible climb to 2nd place and, laying last year’s expensive pole with Mr Bass to rest, overnight leader Laura Collett and London 52 produced a foot perfect round to hold their lead going into the final phase.
This year, I have joined the SCG Visual team to help with the on-screen graphics (ERM couldn’t get rid of me that easily!). While this probably gives me one of the best seats in the house as it allows me to watch every single bit of the action on multiple screens from multiple view points, it does also require an enormous amount of concentration and professionalism. Having been a part of the ERM since its second ever leg at Bramham in 2016, I find myself incredibly emotional invested in the athletes highs and lows. Watching the Cross Country unfold is one of the best and most stressful parts of my new job – I saw Pippa Funnell’s fall (both her and MGH Grafton Street were fine) before most, but I also had the benefit of knowing exactly what my wonderful friend Laura had to do to hold her lead. Can you imagine what it took not to lose my mind when she crossed the finish line?
With a quick turnaround from the Show Jumping to the Cross Country, there wasn’t really any time to catch our breath (or remember what on earth I was doing – it had been two years since I’d been involved with the on-screen Cross Country graphics and believe me it is fast, complicated and very easy to get wrong!)
With 10 of the original 30 combinations either withdrawn pre-Cross Country or being eliminated out on course the final leaderboard looked VERY different to the one the preceded the final phase.
First out on course was the formidable Izzy Taylor and another of my favourites, the 5* fit Springpower. Having had an issue on the Cross Country at Badminton just a week before it was good to see the pair back to their best and making Ian Stark’s course look easy.
Another combination to re-route from Badminton, Alex Bragg (GBR) and Zagreb were travelling and jumping well until a crashing fall (both walked away fine), at the final combination on course put pay to their podium chances.
Julia Krawejski (GER) and the inexperienced Amande de B’Neville, hit 4-wheel drive and cruised around the course to finish eventual 4th adding just 9.8 time faults on the horse’s UK 4* debut.
“Being German, we are not used to jumping on sticky grass but she didn’t mind the hills or the going, she is very exciting for the future!”
Referring back to Angus’ quote (top of page), Sam Watson’s performance gave us all the rollercoaster of emotions that we have come to expect in this Sport. Having jumped an immaculate clear Show Jumping round to head into the Cross Country as the penultimate pair in second place, Sam and Tullabeg Flamenco, had a heart-breaking run-out at fence 14 which cruelly took away their chances of retaining a podium spot at the end of the day. What a low.
However, our day and Laura Collett’s difficult week, ended on one of the highest of highs when, together with the incredible London 52, she skipped her way around the tough Chatsworth Cross Country course to retain the lead they had held from the start. Bagging the win and along with it a £16,000 cheque, the Monart Elite Event Horse Sale Owners’ prize and her first ERM Leg win Laura said,
“That horse is unbelievable. He has finished second so any times. I only got him 3 years ago and he’d never even done a Cross Country jump. I am the luckiest girl in the world to get to sit on a horse like London 52. I have a huge thank you to say to Lucy Jackson (3rd place), no-one at home rides him and she hacked him all last week while I was at Badminton. I’d say the pub is going to get it, we only live 5 minutes away from each other “.
What a weekend – highs and lows, thrills and spills. I couldn’t be more pleased for Laura and her team after a very tough week post-Badminton where her stable superstar Mr Bass picked up an injury which puts him off games for a while.
You can watch the whole of the Event Rider Masters LEG 1 again here…
I can’t wait for the ERM machine to roll on to Leg 2 at the stunningly beautiful Biebrich Palace in Wiesbaden Germany (7th & 8th June), if you’ve never been before – it’s not too late to book your ticket, you won’t be disappointed!