Longines FEI European Eventing Championships; The contenders
The best riders from around Europe will soon descend on Luhmühlen for the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships. Eventing Worldwide takes a look at the main contenders, some outsiders to watch out for and the British team.
As the host nation, Germany can send 12 combinations for the European Championships. The squad is full of experienced riders and up and coming talent. The last time the championships were held at Luhmühlen in 2011, Germany swept the individual podium as well as taking team Gold. Since 1953, Germany has won 38 European medals, including 10 Gold. The German team originally won a Silver two years but following a positive controlled medication case involving Julia Krajewski and Samourai du Thot, the team were disqualified.
This year, as the team seeks to make amends for this, its top contenders come in the form of Michael Jung, Ingride Klimke and Sandra Auffarth.
Michael Jung was the individual winner of three consecutive European championships – 2011, 2013 and 2013 which he won with three different horses (La Biosthetique Sam FBW, Halunke and fisherTakinou), having also won individual bronze in 2009 and individual Silver in 2017. As well as his individual success Jung has three European team medals, all of which are Gold, also from 2011, 2013 and 2015. Jung will contest this year’s championships with fischerChipmunk FRH, a horse he took the ride on earlier this year, and has had considerable success with; finishing second at Aachen and first at Strzegorm as well as second at Baborowko in the CCI4*-L. Can Jung claim his fourth individual title whilst helping Germany to win on home soil? You wouldn’t bet against it.
Ingrid Klimke needs no introduction as the reigning European individual Champion. Since her first appearance at European championships in 1991 (where she was 39thwith Sleep Late), she has won three team Gold medals and as well as taking the individual title two years ago, she has won a Silver and Bronze individual medal (2013 and 2005 respectively). She will once again campaign SAP Hale Bob OLD – their third European championship together. Having won at Aachen recently (and placing third individually at last year’s World Equestrian Games) they cannot be discounted to be in contention for a medal.
Sandra Auffarth made her senior championship debut for Germany at the 2011 European championships when she took team Gold and individual Silver. She repeated this at the 2015 European Championships at Blair Castle. She will partner the lesser experience Viamant Du Matz at this year’s championships but a good performance cannot be ruled out.
As the current Olympic team champions, it is hard to believe that France has never won a European team Gold medal. It has three European gold medals, all of which have been won by individuals, and by riders who are representing the country at this year’s championships.
Nicolas Touzaint – the only French rider to win Badminton – has twice been the individual winner of the European title; in 2003 at Punchestown, 2007 at Pratoni, on both occasions riding Galan de Sauvagere.He has been on five European medal winning teams takin Silver in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2011 and won team Bronze in 2013. His last appearance at Europeans was in 2015 when he was 11th with Radijague. This year he will ride Absolut Gold HDC, a horse with whom he has picked up some solid results in the run up to the championships.
Jean Lou Bigot took individual honours at the European Championships in 1993 with Twist La Biege and won team Silver that year as well as team Silver in 1995. He was also part of the Bronze medal French team at Burghley in 1997.
Thibault Vallette is perhaps one of France’s best chances for an individual medal. He was part of the French team which took the team Olympic title in 2016, and in 2015, with Qing du Briot , he won individual and team bronze at the European Championships at Blair Castle. In 2017, the pair were 10thindividually.
Ireland fields a team of five riders for this year’s European championships. The last individual medal for Ireland came in 1995 at Pratoni when Lucy Thompson took Gold with Welton Romance. The strongest combinations in its team probably come in the form of Sam Watson and Cathal Daniels, although Ciaran Glynn, Sarah Ennis and Tony Kennedy also have strong form.
Watson, who will be competing at his Fifth European championships and has a best individual finish of 12th(with Lukeswell in 2015), was part of the Silver medal winning team at last year’s World Equestrian Games and at these championships is partnered with Tullabeg Flamenco. The pair were 12that Luhmuhlen’s CCI5*-L in June and have a string of solid results. His father John was on the Bronze medal winning Irish team in 1997 and the Gold medal winning team in 1979.
For Daniels, it will be his first senior European championships, and he will partner Rioghan Rua, who were also part of the Irish team at Tryon. The pair were winners of the Under 25 Championships at Bramham in June and finished seventh at Luhmuhlen CCI5*-L in 2018.
The outsiders? Everybody loves it when an outsider takes victory. It is often the stuff of fairytales. And there are some riders in the field who may spring a surprise and put in the performance of a lifetime that upsets the apple cart.
Pawel Spisak is a four-time Polish Olympian. At Baborówko earlier this year he led his team as they secured their place at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. Riding his Rio 2016 horse Banderas, he beat Michael Jung – his mentor. He made his first senior European championship appearance at Blenheim in 2005, and has competed at the championships on three other occasion. His best finish was in 2007 at Pratoni when he was 13th.
Ludwig Svennerstal was on the Swedish team that took the team Silver medal behind Great Britain at the last European championship following Germany’s disqualification from the team standings. It was his second team Silver medal, having been on the podium on home soil at Malmo in 2013. The Swede will be partnered at these championships by El Kazir SP.
The last time Switzerland won a team medal at a European Championships was in 1981 when they took Silver. It was the same year Hansueli Schmutz won individual Gold with Oran. This year the Swiss team’s strongest contender probably comes in the form of Felix Voggwho will partner Colero. The pair made waves at the CCI5*-L at Kentucky this spring, eventually finishing in sixth. Vogg probably hasn’t had the best of luck at previous European championships (2013 and 2017), both of which he rode On Fire where he retired and was eliminated. And as another rider menotored by three-time champion Jung, he could be an outsider who causes an upset.
Eddie Stibbe won The Netherlands last individual European medal in 1993 with Bahlua. But Tim Lips could be the Dutch rider who changes that. This year he’ll partner Bayro and the pair come into this championship with some fine form behind them. The finished fourth individually when the FEI Nations Cup of Eventing was held at Strzegorm and also won the CCI4*-L at Sopot and the CCI4*-S at Strzegorm in the spring. And at the end of 2018 the were third at the Nations Cup in Boekelo (having finished second in the same competition the previous year). Their dressage is usually impressive so will definitely be ones to watch. Lips best performance at European championships was seventh in Malmo in 2017 (riding Keyflow).
The Brits are coming…..
Great Britain sits on top of the all-time medal table with 82 European medals including 40 Gold medals. More importantly, Great Britain are the defending team champions. In the words of Richard Waygood, the British team has a range of experienced and not so experienced horses who have potential to excel. However, the riders all have championship credentials. Can they reclaim the team Gold medal they won in Poland two years ago?
Sadly, with just days to go before the event, Tom McEwen withdrew Toledo de Kerser – a partnership who were strong contenders – after a minor incident during routine work at home.
Pippa Funnell has been brought in to replace McEwen, riding her own and Marek Sebastak’s Majas Hope. Despite the late call up, Funnell has plenty of championship experience. It is 20 years since her first European championships call up when she won individual Gold with Supreme Rock – a title they won again two years later. Funnell has competed in ten championship teams and has represented Great Britain at three Olympic Games. Her last individual medal came at Punchestown in 2003, when she won Bronze with Walk On Star. With Majas Hope, Funnell had a convincing win in the Advanced class at the Festival of British Eventing and were 16th at this year’s Badminton Horse Trials. This followed on from their 13th place at last year’s Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.
Laura Collett, like two of her team mates, has represented Great Britain at Pony, Junior, Young Rider and Senior level. Collett made her senior debut at the 2011 European Championships, held at Luhmuhlen, with Rayef, albeit the pair were eliminated on the cross-country. She represented Great Britain as an individual at the European championships at Blair Castle in 2015 (finishing 13thwith Grand Manoeuvre). Collett will be partnering 10-year-old London 52 at this year’s championships. Winners of the CCI4*-S at Chatsworth in May as well as taking second in the CCI4*-S at both Burnham Market and Belton, last year they also won the CCI4*-S for eight and nine-year-olds at Blenheim and were second at the CCI4*-L at Boekelo. The pair had been leading a world-class field at the 2019 World Equestrian Festival at CHIO Aachen but an unfortunate glance off at the Stawag Complex put paid to their chances of a much-deserved win. But the selectors have shown faith in their ability in choosing them for the strong British squad.
Tina Cook is a stalwart of the British team and has great form at the European championships. In 2009 she was a double Gold medallist, helping the team to top spot as well as clinching the individual title with Miners Frolic. On top of this she has been on a Gold medal winning team on three other occasions and took individual Bronze in 1997 with General Jock and individual Silver with Song and Dance Mann in 1993. Cook narrowly missed out on an individual medal two years ago when she finished fourth with Billy The Red having finished on their dressage score. The pair competed as individuals at the World Equestrian Games last year, finishing ninth. Cook is never one to be discounted.
Piggy French has won two medals at European championships – team Bronze in 2011 (when the event was held at Luhmuhlen) and individual Silver in 2009 behind team-mate Cook with Some Day soon. Her chosen mount for the championships is Quarrycrest Echo who she rode as part of the British Gold medal winning team at the World Equestrian Games (where they finished tenth individually). Fourth at Kentucky CCI5*-L in the Spring, the pair recently won the CCI4*-S at Hartpury having finished best of the Brits at the 2019 World Equestrian Festival at CHIO Aachen where they were sixth.
Kitty King was the first British rider to win championship medals at all levels: Ponies, Juniors, Young Riders and Seniors. With Persimmon, she was part of the Great British team that won silver at Blair Castle in 2015 where she came within in 0.1 penalty of winning an individual medal finishing in fourth. Her other appearance at European Championships was in 2005 with Five Boys but the pair retired on the cross country. This year she is partnered by 10-year-old Vendredi Biats, with whom she won the CCI4*-L at the Equi-Trek Bramham Horse Trials in June and more recently the CCI4*-S at Burgham International and come to the Europeans in good form.
Oliver Townend is a three-time team Gold medallist at European Championships (2017, 2009 and 2007) but has yet to take an individual medal. His best individual result was in 2007 when he was 12thwith Flint Curtis. Riding the oldest horse on the British team – 14-yer-old Cooley Master Class, the pair are double winners of the CCI5*-L at Kentucky (2018 and 2019) and have the experience to put in a good performance at these championships.
As well as taking European honours, this year’s championships offers the chance to two teams to book their ticket to next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
With Great Britain, Ireland, France, Germany and Poland already booking their places via the World Equestrian Games and Group C Qualification event at Baborowko, competition between Austria, Belgium, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and Sweden for one of the two coveted tickets to Tokyo will be fierce.
After this, there will be only one opportunity left to qualify via the FEI Nations Cup of Eventing Series, which offers one team the chance to book their place. Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands have heavily focused on this route to Olympic qualification, competing in all five FEI Nations Cup events so far. Italy leads the way with 345 points but a good performance at the Europeans could take two of these teams out of the running leaving the other two to battle it out.
It all makes for one exciting competition!