The eventing season may be over in the UK. But 2015 has provided eventing fans all over the world with an unbeatable season of sport. So Eventing Worldwide thought it was time to reflect on the top class performances, picking out those who made this year one to remember.
Having been the first rider to represent Great Britain at every level of eventing – from Ponies to Seniors – 2015 is certainly a year to remember for Kitty King. Ten years after her debut on a senior team, Kitty was once again chosen to represent her country at the FEI European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle. With Jane and Frank Inns Persimmon, Kitty was the British team path finder and was the highest placed rider, finishing fourth individually – just 0.1 penalties off the Bronze medal. Kitty has a string of exciting horses, including Ceylor Lan (who won the CCI*** at Tattersalls and was third in the CCI*** at Blenheim) she will undoubtedly be in the frame for selection for Rio next summer.
For the second year running Oliver Townend was the overall leading rider in the British Eventing points standings, amassing an incredible 2,086 points over the course of the year. Amongst his many victories were Burnham Market International CIC*** (Mr Hiho), Dodson & Horrell British Novice Championship (Sonic De Sermentol), Smith & Williamson British Intermediate Championship (Note Worthy) and Ballindenisk CCI*** (Cooley SRS). With new ride Fenyas Elegance he represented Great Britain at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle, where they finished 17th. Oliver has a strong sting of horses and should never be discounted from being there fighting for the win at any event. A contender for Great Britain’s Olympic team? You wouldn’t bet against it.
At the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, William Fox-Pitt rode to his second victory on the hallowed turf on board Chilli Morning, the first stallion to win the event. He has represented his country consistently over the past 16 years and was part of the Silver medal winning team at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle. He is one of the most successful British event riders of all time and continues to make his mark on the world stage. Sadly William suffered a head trauma following a fall at Lion D’Angers. He continues to make steady progress and we wish him, and his family all the best as he recovers.
There are not enough superlatives which can be used to describe Michael Jung. The German has had an amazing year, and even injury could not stop him. Back in May he won the Rolex Kentucky Four Star with fischerRocana FST. And then he set his sights on taking victory on British soil. He made his Burghley debut in September, although things did not quite go to plan. He was joint leader after the dressage with fischerRocana at Fence Four. However, he came back stronger with La Biosthetique Sam FBW and went on to claim victory.
And so to the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle. Coming just a week after his Burghley victory, he was part of a strong German team who, as reigning champions were looking to win their first European Team title on British soil. Riding the fairly inexperienced fischerTakinou, the combination were third after dressage. But it was on the cross country where Michael showed he was in a class of his own. In wet and windy conditions, he produced a masterful performance and never faltered. He had such a margin going into the show jumping that he could have afforded fences down but he proved his and his horse’s talent with a clear round to retain his title. His victory at Blair Castle made him only the second rider in history to win three consecutive European Individual titles on three different horses, the other being Ginny Leng.
It was later revealed that Michael had in fact won both Burghley and the European Eventing Championships with a broken ankle, having chipped a little piece off his shin above his right ankle as a result of his fall at Burghley and resulted in two screws being put into his ankle. However, this did not stop him as he then went on to win at Le Lion and came second with fischerRocana at Pau in October. With a string of extremely talented horses, what is the betting against him reclaiming his Olympic title in Rio next year? Such is the strength of his horses, it led to jokes that he alone could provide horsepower for the German squad and still win Gold.
The World’s second ranked rider has quietly made his way into the spotlight, and his place behind Michael Jung in the rankings is certainly deserved. Australian Christopher Burton is one of the many Southern Hemisphere riders who has reaped success in 2015. His biggest win of the year was with TS Jamaimo with whom – to his surprise – he was victorious in the British Open Championship at The Festival of British Eventing. At Burghley the combination took third place, and he was also fourth with Haruzac. Other successes came at Blenheim where he was second with Nobilis 18 in the CCI*** (they also won the CIC*** at Camphire) and fourth at Luhmuhlen CCI**** with Graf Liberty. Chris is a regular member of the Australian team representing them on five occasions for the FEI Nations Cup this year helping the team to third overall in the standings. He has already won the CCI**** in Adelaide but surely it can’t be long before he wins a Four Star in the northern hemisphere and could be in the running for an Olympic medal.
Eventing’s power couple have continued their ascension and are now firmly on the riders to watch list at any event. Tim and Jonelle Price have both had stellar seasons with Tim continuing his rise up the FEI rankings. He is now number three in the world, a position Jonelle held earlier this year. Tim’s most recent success was at Pau CCI****, where he was third with Wesko – who also topped the British Eventing rankings as the leading horse in 2015 – following up their second place at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** earlier in the year. He was also second at Burghley with another of his successful campaigners Ringwood Sky Boy. Jonelle’s triumphs include the CIC*** FOR 8 and Nine Year olds at Blenheim Horse Trials, fifth at Burghley on Classic Moet, who was also second in the British Open at The Festival of British Eventing, second at Luhmuhlen CCI**** with Faerie Dianimo. Both riders were part of the team at Military Boekelo Horse Trials – and FEI Nations Cup Event – where New Zealand secured qualification for The Rio Olympics. With a large amount of horse power behind them, the pair will surely be in the line-up for selection for the New Zealand team next summer.
There have been so many fantastic performances by the future face of Eventing in 2015 showing that the future of senior teams will be in very capable hands. The Askham Bryan British Young Rider squad had a strong hold on Gold at the FEI European Eventing Championships for Young Riders claiming both the team title and individual titles, whilst the Racesafe Junior Team picked up silver in Baily Bor and the Charles Owen Pony Team won Gold in Malmo.
But there were some standout performances from British Young Riders who will are making their mark within the senior ranks.
Will Furlong, riding his own Livingstone, led from the outset to claim the individual title at the YoungRider Championships in Poland. The 20 year old was the first male Young Rider to win Gold since Terry Boon held the accolade in 1993, and follows on from the individual bronze medal he won at the Junior European championships in Jardy (FRA) two years ago. His good results and potential to win medals in future has seen him selected for the Lottery funded World Class Development Programme for 2015/16. He was also this year’s recipient of the Under 25’s Star of the Future Award at the Animal Health Trust UK Equestrian Awards.
As well as picking up Gold at the Young Rider championships, Emily King has had a fantastic year in the saddle. Her achievements were topped off with her four star debut at Pau where she was the best of the British riders in fourth with Brookleigh. The daughter of eventing royalty, Emily has a string of exciting horses – Charlemagne, Dargun, Loxley and Walitze F Vejgard to name a few – that are allowing to make a name for herself and follow in Mary’s successful footsteps. As well as finishing the season as the British Eventing leading rider under 21, Emily was also ranked 16th in the British Eventing Rider rankings whilst her four star partner Brookleigh was ranked 6th in the Top Horses league. Whilst she is still eligible for Young Riders, as we look towards 2016 Emily will surely have her sights set on moving into the senior ranks.
Holly Woodhead has burst on to the international stage with a bang in 2015. Having won Team Silver on the Young Rider squad in 2013, and followed it up with Team Bronze and Individual Silver in 2014, Holly made her mark in the senior ranks this year. The winner of the Under 25 CCI*** at Bramham with DHI Lupison, she made her senior team debut for Great Britain at the Nations Cup in Aachen and was an individual at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle, where she finished 21st having been second after the dressage. It was an impressive performance and Holly will surely have her eyes firmly fixed on Rio.
The OMG Moment
Spectators at all top class events around the world are used to seeing hair-raising moments where perhaps horse and rider aren’t on the same page. But there was one moment in 2015 which stood out from them all. The German, who was in the joint lead after the dressage, had an uncharacteristic fall at Fence 4 – The Lion Bridge – from fischerRocana when the mare stumbled going into the water after the fence throwing him clear of the saddle. However, it didn’t stop him from claiming his first win at a British Four Star. It goes to prove that even World, Olympic and European champions are just like the rest of us and have days where things don’t go quite as they were planned.
Above all the achievements and accolades, there is there is one thing that stood out in the Eventing world in 2015 – its community spirit. It highlighted how close those involved in the sport are, and how willingly everybody pulls together in times of need. Event riders really do care about the welfare of others, and just one glimpse of this could be seen when Christopher Burton was being interviewed in the mixed zone at Burghley after his cross country round when Michael Jung fell in the water. His first concern was to go and check that Michael was OK, and at the end of the day after his second round he wanted to support his fellow countrymen and see that they tackled the course safely. His first thought was not of himself but for others. And this resonates throughout the eventing community. From the support shown to Ben Hobday when he announced he was suffering from non–Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Hannah Francis who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma to the Eventing Family, which set out to raise money for causes which had touch the lives of eventers including Spinal Research, Cancer Research UK, Teenage Cancer Trust and Motor Neuron Disease Association. Thousands of pounds have been raised for these worth causes and it is heartening to see. Beyond all doubt, the eventing world is a community which cares and is there when people are in need.
Sarah Carless Reporter at Large