Sarah Carless reports ..
Kitty King and Cathal Daniels came out on top during the final nail-biting day of action at the Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials. In our event report we take a look back on the action from the Yourkshire event.
Day 1 & 2: Brits lead the way at Bramham
Two days of dressage have been completed at the Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials with British riders leading the way in all three classes.
The Equi-Trek CCI4*-L saw 62 combinations come before the Ground Jury of Angela Tucker (President), Ernst Topp and Tim Downes after the first horse inspection.
Drama began before the dressage when the field was whittled down at the first horse inspection. Two horses were sent to the holding box – Alex Postolowsky’s Howick Freedom and Richard Skelt’s Man Hunt, with both deciding to withdraw before being re-inspected. And Alex Whewall didn’t present Ellfield Voyager. Dennis Pragnell withdrew DHI Beaunesse before the dressage started.
After the first day of dressage, there was a truly international flavour to the leader board. Swedish visitor Jonna Britse riding her own Quattrino held the advantage for much of the day with 29.9. Then in the final session it was all change as North Somerset rider Selina Milnes produced a polished performance with William Rucker’s Iron IV, know at home as Bentley, to edge ahead on 29.2. Then it was the last rider of the day Camilla Kruger from Zimbabwe who slotted neatly into second with Biarritz II on 29.4.
Selina, who was fourth with Bentley at Blenhiem CCI last September, said; “I’m really pleased; he did a super test. He keeps his head [in the atmosphere] and I’d actually even like him a bit sharper now! He was a bit fresh this morning but I knew before we went in he’d do a good test. We’re a bit short of runs this year but I think Bramham will suit him. He’s got it in him to be right up there.”
By the end of the second day of dressage action it was a British one, two, three with the top spots taken by a trio of the home nation’s best women riders.
Overnight leader going into the cross country will be Pippa Funnell and the 10-year-old Billy Walk On, with the pair coming into the arena during an afternoon downpour. Homebred at the Billy Stud, by Billy Mexico, Billy Walk On has always been destined for great things having won the British Eventing Young Horse Championships CIC YH* back in 2015, and placing second at Le Lion CH** in 2016. The combination recently contested their first CCI-L5* at Badminton but retired on the cross country.
Their polished test scored 26.6 to narrowly go ahead of the morning’s top score, from fellow Brit Kitty King and Vendredi Biats, of 26.8. Completing a female British 1, 2, 3, Gemma Tattersall and the 11-year-old Jalapeño III, sired by William Fox-Pitt’s Olympic ride Chilli Morning, also battled through the afternoon rain. They were still able to secure a very competitive score of 26.9 leaving it all to play for as we head into cross country day tomorrow.
“We’re used to working in all weathers!” said Funnell. Speaking of the cross-country course ahead of them tomorrow, “The ground is fantastic, so hopefully the ground will take a bit more rain, the park is in immaculate condition and they do such a first-rate job at preparing the course,” said Pippa. “It’s big, it’s very much an Ian Stark ‘Scotty’ course all the way, plenty to jump out there, particularly the new combination into the wood, which is a tough fence this year, after a long run and gallop, it’s a difficult fence. Hopefully the rain will stay away!”
The British Horse Feeds CCI4*-L Under 25 had 27 entries but again there was drama when Indie Vaughan-Jones‘ Quob Dynamic was sent to the holding box, and subsequently passed upon re-inspection. However, the mount of Thomas Piejos, Rebelle de Neuville, was spun and therefore 26 combinations came before the ground jury for the dressage.
After the first day of dressage, it was former Junior European Team medallist Richard Coney who held the edge with the only sub 30 score in a British top five. Riding Kananaskis, who he co-owns with Wendy Coney, 20-year-old Richard stole the lead from Yasmin Ingham who went just before him with a score of 29.8.
Ingham, riding the former Pippa Funnell ride Sandman 7, swept into the lead with 30.1 but it was sadly short lived for the Cheshire-based rider.
Coney, who is enjoying his first visit to Bramham, commented; “It wasn’t perfect but he performed will. It’s a very tight section so it will be all to play for on Saturday. I was pleased with his mark, he deserved it. Hopefully we can make a good round of it [the cross country] – it’s big and bold!”
There was no change to the top two on the second day but Sam Ecroyd was able to get into a podium position. Riding Davinci III, Ecroyd rode a confident test to score 30.4. The combination are relatively new, having only competed together since the end of last season, but they’re on fine form having ridden two double clears for two top ten finishes in both the 4* level competitions they’ve competed at this year.
A capacity entry of 86 combinations came forward for the Land Rover CCI4*-S. On day one, local rider Nicola Wilson sat atop the leader board with JL Dublin, with a score of 25.1. It was a score which couldn’t be bettered but late challenges came from Ben Hobday riding Shadow Man II, and Nini French riding Time for Harry who lie second and third on 26.0 and 28.1 respectively.
Wilson said after her test; “He’s just stepped up to this level and to go into the arena with an atmosphere like Bramham…well, I’m just so proud of him, he’s phenomenal. He’s been a super horse to work with, he’ trainable and has a super brain. There were a few tiny mistakes but I felt the whole test was solid. He’s a young horse just gaining experience and it’ll be a hugely educational week for him!”
First day leader Wilson found herself in fifth after a busy day at the top of the leaderboard.
Laura Collett with Dacapo swept into the lead with a new international personal best of 23.3. Next, reigning under 25 champion Emily King came close with Brookleigh, just 0.3 penalties adrift on 23.6. Aoife Clarke, who won at Bramham in 2014, put in a great performance with Fernhill Adventure, to score 24.2 for a top five spot.
However it was the final combination of the day who whisked into the lead. Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V performed a polished test scoring a perfect 10 from German judge Martin Plewa for the halt, for a final score of 21.6. This was a new international best at the level.
Tattersall commented: “She genuinely just loves showing off! She’s normally a complete princess and likes sunshine and a beautiful surface. Chatsworth was not her event and she just felt wrong from the moment we got there but she got here and has been amazing. I love riding her and I just enjoyed it. I’m hoping it won’t rain too much for tomorrow and we can run her.”
Day 3: King and Ingham take lead at Bramham
Following an action packed day of cross country action at the Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials there are two new leaders atop the tables in the CCI4*-L and CCI-L4* Under 25.
Kitty King takes the top spot going into the last phase of the Equi-Trek CCI-L4* class. Putting in a strong cross-country performance, she rode clear inside the time on Vendredi Biats, owned by while dressage leaders Pippa Funnell and Billy Walk On had a run out on course. King was lucky to avoid the on/off rain showers that were making conditions tricky around Ian Stark’s challenging track which saw 43 finishers, 20 penalty free rounds and 17 riders inside the optimum time.
“It’s a great position to be in,” said Kitty, “but obviously tomorrow’s another day and there’s lots to jump in the show jumping ring so we’ve got to make sure they’re all happy and sound for the trot up. As a competitor you always want to be at the top to give you the best chance for the next day. We stayed dryer than I thought we were going to, when I looked at the forecast this morning I was thinking it was going to be grim, but it held off and we got round in the dry which was a real added bonus.”
Right behind King, separated by only 0.1 of a penalty, is Gemma Tattersall on Jalapeno III, Completing the top three is Selina Milnes and Iron IV, who added just 1.2 time penalties to sit on 30.4 penalties overnight. Just 3.6 penalties separate the top three going into the final phase.
The cross country proved a tough track for the British Horse Feeds CCI-L4* U25 field with just over half of the competitors completing. The leader, 22-year-old Yasmin Ingham, was originally given penalties for jumping the wrong side of a flag aboard Sandman 7 but after an appeal it was taken off and nothing was added to her dressage score of 30.1. The news of the penalties was a real shock to Yasmin and her team and an appeal was submitted.
“At the final water, he jumped in nicely but a bit off the skinny, we committed to the three strides, he lept into the air and I think he took the flag with his right hind. I thought nothing of it and had a great round. We put a query in to say I would like it to be reviewed by the ground jury. I rewatched the footage and reread the rules loads of times. He did take the flag so it was 50/50, but today luck was on my side.”
Will Rawlin is in second on a score of 32.9 with V.I.P. Vinnie, an 11 year old gelding by Valentino, who he has owned since he was 4 and brought up the levels. Speaking of their round, “He went very well, he really dug deep around a tough course. It was messy, but sometimes you just have to get over the bloody things in between the red and white flags!”
Lying in third is Ireland’s Cathal Daniels with Rioghan Rua, who he rode at the World Equestrian Games last Autumn. The pair climbed five places up the leader board with the only round inside the time to finish the day on a score of 33.7. Less than a fence covers the top three going into the show jumping phase.
A fault free performance from Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V meant they took the top spot on the podium in the CCI4*S
With the top 15 running in reverse order adding to an already close climax, the pressure was on the Olympic duo as a number of combinations who sat in the club house having put in foot perfect rounds and left almost no margin for error.
Local rider Nicola Wilson gave the crowd much to cheer about with JL Dublin who jumped a classy clear to take the lead on 25.1. Emily King and Brookleigh showed their talent and experience with another crowd-pleasing round, adding noting to their dressage and show jumping tally of 24.0.
Then it was the turn of Laura Collett and Dacapo to impress with a truly class round to finish on a dressage of 23.3, meaning Gemma had just 1.7 time penalties in hand.
But the Olympic duo needed none of their reserve as their experience and partnership shone through. There was a slight sticky moment at fence 11, the Bramham Park fences where Pebbles just left a leg on the second element but Gemma never moved and they never looked back and sailed home, Gemma jubilantly punching the air through the finish as her stop watch told her she’d made the time.
Afterwards she said; “Bramham is definitely one of my favourite events and Quicklook is definitely one of my favourite ever horses. She’s not run at this level since the 2017 European Championships as she had an injury so to come here and finish on my dressage score is brilliant. I definitely couldn’t afford to do anything wrong; she probably jumped one of her best ever rounds this morning, she just felt on springs. I had two great rides around the long format so was feeling confident ahead of cross country but I must admit I did get the jitters before I went! I have had a bit of practice of this going last or near the end with the ERM classes but I thought ‘I’m on a good horse, we’ve got a good partnership, just enjoy it’.”
Day 4: King and Daniels come out on top in exciting Bramham finale
It went right down to the wire in an exciting finale to the Equi-Trek CCI4*-L but it was British rider Kitty King who came out on top with a near perfect show jumping performance. The show jumping was proving a challenge on the final day with only seven clear rounds out of the 43 who came forward for the final phase.
Riding Vendredi Biats, the Wiltshire rider cantered into the arena knowing the rider before her, Gemma Tattersall riding Jalapeno III, had lowered a fence which gave her a further four penalty cushion to add to the 0.1 she had in hand. The pair jumped effortlessly around the technical track coming home for a clear round but adding 0.4 of a time penalty for a finishing score of 27.2.
King re-routed ‘Froggy’ to Bramham following a fall at Badminton Horse Trials. Having finished fourth here last year, she thought Bramham would be a good alternative.
King commented: “It’s been a wonderful week. I’m a believer that everything happens for a reason. After Badminton didn’t go to plan, Bramham was my first thought and driving up, I was just like please let me be right and I can put it all behind me. I always really believed in him so it’s nice that it’s all really come together. He came here this year with so much more experience and he cruised around the cross country and felt fantastic. He is a very good jumper. In the ring he felt good and was really listening but I’m a bit annoyed with myself with my 0.4 time penalty but I got a bit hooky! He didn’t really ever feel like touching a fence and generally as long as I get the canter right, he jumps beautifully.”
Tattersall topped off an outstanding week after her short format win on Saturday to finish second on 11-year-old mare Jalapeno III and sixth on nine-year-old Chilli Knight.
Tattersall commented: “To finish second on new ride Jalapeno for Chris and Lisa Stone, I couldn’t be happier for them for such a good result. Jalapeno has been renowned for not being the best show jumper in the world, it’s my strongest phase, so there’s still work to be done.”
Her strong results at Bramham have put an end to her poor start to the season where injuries had really affected Gemma; “Thank god Miss Tattersall has finally found some form! I was so close to booking a summer holiday and having a month off. But I thought ‘no, let’s got to Bramham it’s one of your favourite events, let’s go see if you can get a result’.”
Selina Milnes has had a super time at Bramham with 11-year-old gelding Iron IV. They went clear in the show jumping with just 1.2 time penalties. Such was the result she is now rethinking her plans for the rest of the season.
Milnes commented: “I’m absolutely delighted, he jumped really well. He was so full of it at the trot up, I thought I might have to take him for a hack! So I had to really ride him today. I didn’t notice the atmosphere, I told myself I’m not at Bramham, just jumping round a local show. He’s a big open horse, and with this course you were always turning, so I had to get him focused. It’s been a really good week. The aim originally wasn’t Burghley, but I think if you jump well round here, you’ve got a Burghley horse, so who knows.”
CCI4*-L Under 25
The Under 25 field had been whittled down following cross country with only 14 combinations presenting in front of the ground jury on the final day. Sadly, one horse was spun during the inspection. Charlotte East and King Albert – who were fifth overnight – were sent to the hold box and did not represent.
Going into the show jumping there was less than a pole between the top three riders. But it was Ireland’s Cathal Daniels who came out on top.
Securing one of only two clear rounds, Daniels put the pressure on the final two riders. And when Will Rawlins and Yasmin Ingham both dropped a rail it handed victory to the Irish rider and Rioghan Rua, with the pair finishing on their dressage score of 33.7. Their experience shone throughout the competition – the pair were part of the Irish Silver medal winning team at last year’s World Equestrian Games – and Daniels has high hopes for the partnership’s upcoming future at Senior team level.
Speaking of his winning round Daniels commented; “She felt great. Fortunately neither of us feel the pressure and she felt really confident. She can be opinionated but we had her relaxed today. It’s a big atmosphere here but she felt fresh and sharp. Sure we had a few breath holding moments in the round but in the end she jumped clean and careful. We’ll aim her for the European Championships this year and then keep her bubble wrapped for Tokyo.”
Runner-up and finishing best of the Brits to become National Under 25 champion was Yasmin Ingham with Sandman 7, previously a ride of Pippa Funnell, finishing on a score of 34.1. Claiming the British Under 25 title completed the set for Ingham who has previously claimed the Under 16, Under 18 and Under 21 national titles.
Ingham commented: “I was delighted with him, the fence was a rider error, I couldn’t fault his performance he jumped out of his skin and he really lifted to the atmosphere out there. It’s crazy when you come up the shoot into the big open arena with all eyes on you, there is so much pressure. I really wanted to get that clear round it just wasn’t meant to be, but I’m delighted to come second and be the new Under 25 National Champion.”
Finishing third, having also rolled a pole in the final phase, was Will Rawlin and his own V.I.P Vinnie, they finish their Bramham debut on a score of 36.9.
Rawlin commented: “I’m really chuffed. Luck wasn’t on my side with the pole but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I couldn’t fault him all week.”
James Stocker and Rudy Valentino were the only other pair to jump clear on the final day.
Images courtesy of Hannah Cole Photography