Le Pin-au-Haras, France
– The heart of the eventing discipline was on display Saturday at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games with the cross country phase taking center stage at Le Pin National Stud in Le Pin-au-Haras, France. The FEI World Team and Individual Eventing Championship saw 87 combinations set out on a world championship-caliber 5,982m, 33-obstacle cross country course designed by Pierre Michelet (FRA). Due to wet conditions, the course was shortened from 6,500m, with two fences being removed, reducing the optimum time by one minute to 10 minutes and 30 seconds.
It proved to be an influential day, as even the sport’s best riders ran into trouble. Sixty-three combinations completed the course, with none finishing within the time and only 37 pairs jumping clean. Boyd Martin and Shamwari 4 were the shining stars for the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team. Though the U.S. team is out of the running after a rough day, three other combinations will move on in the FEI World Individual Championship: Kim Severson and Fernhill Fearless, Sinead Halpin and Manoir de Carneville, and Lynn Symansky and Donner.
Martin (Cochranville, Pa.) and Shamwari 4 had a spectacular day when the going was tough. On a day when the heavy footing was draining the horses’ energy as they went around the track, Martin and the Shamwari 4 Syndicate LLC’s 2002 Hanoverian gelding prevailed, finishing with 13.6 time penalties and sitting in ninth place heading into the final phase on a score of 59.9.
“I was thrilled with Shamwari 4. He is a new ride for me; he’s a real trier,” Martin explained. “My plan was to set out a little steady and then see how much horse I had at the end. In hindsight, I should’ve gone a lot quicker at the beginning because he was full of running at the end.”
Severson (Charlottesville, Va.) and her own Fernhill Fearless had a great day, other than one mishap. The pair had a run-out at the final water at fence 30 when the 2000 Irish Sport Horse gelding locked on to the wrong part of the combination, but they finished strongly. They sit in 32nd place with a score of 91.2 after adding 20 jump penalties and 20.4 time penalties to their score.
“It was the best ride I’ve ever had,” Severson said enthusiastically. “I mean it really sucks about the water. I thought I could get it done, of course, but he was absolutely brilliant. It was really the best ride of my life; it sounds so stupid, but he was absolutely amazing. That was definitely the horse to be on for today, I mean no two ways about it. He’s as straight as they come, he wants to do it, he’s a little Thoroughbred, and he is amazing.”
Sinead Halpin (Oldwick, N.J.) and Manoir de Carneville had an uncharacteristic run-out at fence four when the horse didn’t lock onto the fence. From then on, Halpin and the Manoir de Carneville Syndicate’s 2000 Selle Francais gelding were on a mission to complete their first World Championship track, and they accomplished just that. The pair sits in 42nd place on a score of 106.4
“It got better and better, but it’s hard work,” Halpin said of her ride after her run-out. “It was gutting [to have the run-out] but the rest of it was just get it done, to get home, because it’s doable.”
Lynn Symansky (Middleburg, Va.) and her own Donner started strongly but didn’t have the day they were hoping for when they had run-outs at 16B at the second water and 27B at the corner after the trakehner. Though an undesirable result, Symansky and the 2003 Thoroughbred gelding finished well. They added 40 jumping penalties and 38.4 time penalties and sit in 50th place with a score of 131.4.
“He was great at the beginning. I had tons of horse, even to the end I had tons of horse, he never necessarily got tired,” Symansky said “I ended with a healthy horse and we made it to the finish, but obviously not the result I was looking for.
Buck Davidson (Ocala, Fla.) and Ballynoe Castle RM were in a tough position being the pathfinders for the World Championship field over a daunting track. The wet and hilly going proved difficult for Ballynoe Castle RM, but Carl and Cassandra Segal’s 2000 Irish Thoroughbred gelding pushed through until the final water when he ran out of steam and Davidson elected to retire after a runout at 30C and a stop at the fence 31 option fence.
“I’m really, really proud of him,” Davidson said. “He jumped perfect, he tried his heart out. In these conditions that’s a lot. I’m disappointed, but somebody had to go first and that’s sort of the thing you take. You’re not really sure and we got a lot of information now. My horse is healthy and happy and he’ll be back for another day.”
Phillip Dutton (West Grove, Pa.) and Trading Aces also struggled with the terrain factor. The horse tired before fence 24, having a stop at fence 25, where Dutton decided to retire. The Trading Aces LLC’s 2004 Irish Sport Horse gelding had jumped well around the tough track until the retirement.
“I think the jumps were all riding fine; it’s more the combination of a wet summer, the new ground, and the hilly terrain, so I think the endurance part of the course is pretty tough,” Dutton explained. “You can only forget about your minute markers and your watch and just go as fast as you can and save a bit for the end.”
Though the U.S. contingent had a tough day, it showed great horsemanship and represented their country well. Martin said it best when commenting on how the day unfolded for the U.S., saying, “It’s heartbreaking because I think we are a team of good riders and good horses. As we saw with a number of other good teams, it was just such a tough day cross country. It was a tough course and even the best riders were having trouble. The guys dug deep, they really tried their hearts out, and they should hold their heads high.”
At the end of the second phase, Germany heads into Sunday in Gold medal position in the FEI World Team Eventing Championship on a score of 177.9. Great Britain is in second place with a 186.8, and Australia lies in third on a score of 226.8. In the FEI World Individual Eventing Championship William Fox-Pitt (GBR) and Chilli Morning sit atop the leaderboard going into the final phase with a score of 50.3. Sandra Auffarth (GER) and Opgun Louvo are in second place with a score of 52.0, while Michael Jung (GER) and fischerRocana are third with a 52.3.