Photo via Japan Business Group Equestrian Federation on Facebook.
Equestrian Park, the venue for the dressage and stadium jumping portions of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is nearing completion and will be utilized soon enough as the Olympic test event, a CCI3*S which is part of the larger “Ready Steady Tokyo” series of Olympics test events, will take place next month. Last weekend the venue opened for a local preview event featuring demonstrations of the Olympic disciplines.
The Eventing at @CHIO Aachen couldn’t be more exciting!! After a personal best Dressage score and a great showjumping round Laura Collett Eventing is in the lead ahead of Tim Price and Ingrid Klimke. ❤️▶️ Tune in tomorrow to follow the Cross Country LIVE: watch.clipmyhorse.tv/CHIOAachen2019_en
Laura Collett and London 52 lead the way as we head into the final phase. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
There’s one thing that’s absolutely undeniable about Laura Collett: she’s tough as nails. She proved it six years ago, when she was back on a horse just six days after emerging from a weeklong induced coma following a crashing fall at a one-day event. She proved it when she lost the ride on one of her top horses the same year, and she’s proven it time and time again since then in ways both large and small. This week is just another showcase of her resilience, albeit in a psychological way – she brings her current top horse London 52 to Aachen following a disastrous Bramham, and she’s been riding at her very best since touching down at the German event.
It’s all too easy to write a combination out after a week like Bramham. After all, it was new territory for the eleven-year-old gelding – although he’d notched up an incredibly consistent record at CCI4*-S, it was to be his first attempt at a CCI4*-L. His first-phase score of 31.7 was disappointing, after a long string of scores in the 20s, and he was ultimately retired on course after a shock refusal at the influential coffin. Had he reached his limit?
“To be honest, it was me,” says Laura. “I wasn’t riding, really. He needs help – he’s still young, but I was riding him there like he was too good, and I should just leave him alone. I didn’t want to mess it up, and in doing so, I messed it up.
“It was really difficult because he’d had really good results, but I felt like there was something missing in his rounds, and I just couldn’t put my finger on it. It took it going really wrong for me to kind of pull myself together and remember that I have to ride them. I went through slightly the same phase with Mr Bass; I’m so lucky that these horses are so unbelievable, but it’s difficult when they’re so high-profile. You spend so much time trying not to mess up that you can get a bit defensive.”
Former showjumper London 52 makes easy work of the Aachen course. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
A pep talk from one of eventing’s most legendary fairy godmothers helped to shift Laura’s mindset in the hours after the retirement.
“Pippa Funnell came up to me after my round, and I had a serious meltdown to her. She said, ‘I totally get it’, and she told me that I need to remember that the reason they’ve got here, and why they’re as good as they are, is because I’ve ridden them. So she said to go back to it – to take away everything that everyone said and just go back to riding by feel. That was a real lightbulb moment for me, because I was so busy trying to ride like people were telling me to, rather than just riding. She’s been amazing. It was easy to talk to her, because I knew she knew, and I knew she got it – I was finding it difficult to talk to anyone else because they’d just turn around and say, ‘but the results are really good!’ Yeah, but something doesn’t feel right. She’s been there. But she’s like, my absolute hero, and there I am sobbing on her shoulder! She didn’t need to; she didn’t need to come to my lorry, but the link was Zanie [King, Laura’s head girl, who used to work for Pippa].”
Since then, Laura has been hard at work to get London 52 back to his formidable best.
“I had a serious kick up the arse from [dressage trainer] Ian Woodhead on Monday and that worked,” she says, referring to the horse’s personal best score of 22.9 this morning. “I’ve always said, too, that if he ever has a rail then that’s my fault – he was strong in there, but he’s still so careful. Tomorrow, I’ll just need to ride properly! I know I’ve ticked every box, and mentally, he’s put Bramham behind him – now I need to do the same, learn from it, and move on.”
Though Laura had every faith in the horse, she never quite dared to imagine that they’d lead the way going into the final phase. But after Ingrid Klimke and Michael Jung pulled a rail each, that’s exactly where she found herself.
“The plan was to jump a clear round – I never thought that he would have rails,” she says. “It’s a nice position to be in, but equally it’s a lot of pressure. But he’s here to put things right from Bramham, and so far, he’s done that.”
Tim Price and Wesko. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
World Number One Tim Price moves from fourth to second with his Luhmühlen winner Wesko, who returned to competition last season after an extensive period of time off. Since then he’s been on flying form, winning an ERM leg at Arville and finishing in the top ten in two others. The sixteen-year-old Dutch Warmblood has been in the top five in two five-stars beyond his win, and as one of the most experienced horses in the field – partnered with a very on-form Tim – he’ll be a horse to keep a very close eye on tomorrow.
Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
Just thirteen of the 43 competitors managed to finish clear and inside the time over the tough course in Aachen’s cavernous main arena, and there were certainly some high-profile victims to its questions. Dressage leaders Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD knocked the penultimate fence, losing the top spot but only slipping as far as third. It’s amazing what a 20.7 dressage score will do for you, folks.
Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH also tipped a single rail, moving them from second to fourth overnight in what will likely be the horse’s final run before a potential call-up for the European Championships next month.
Kai Rüder and Colani Sunrise. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
The exceptionally experienced Colani Sunrise produced a clear round, but stopped the clock a second over the time, for German individual rider Kai Rüder. This makes it his best Aachen showjumping round yet – in two previous appearances he’s jumped clear, but added two or three seconds.
Dirk Schrade and Unteam de la Cense. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
Also riding as an individual, Dirk Schrade produced yet another clear round for the home nation. He rode the eleven-year-old Unteam de la Cense, who was third in the German National Championship CCI4*-S at Luhmühlen last month.
Michael Jung and Star Connection. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
He may have dropped down two places on Chipmunk, but it certainly wasn’t a wasted day at the office for Michael Jung, who snuck two spots up the leaderboard with his team mount, the eleven-year-old Star Connection. They jumped a quick clear early in the class, helping to protect the home nation’s claim to the title.
Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
Jonelle Price added her own Luhmühlen winner to the top ten, jumping clear on Faerie Dianimo to climb three places into eighth. Despite her somewhat unconventional jumping style – she tends to jump higher to compensate for her reaching front end – the mare didn’t come close to any of the fences, giving the Price family another chance to dominate a prestigious leaderboard.
Chris Burton and Quality Purdey. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
A single rail dropped Chris Burton and Polystar I out of the top ten – they’d been seventh after the first phase, but now sit in thirteenth overnight. But a classy clear moved his other ride, the thirteen-year-old Oldenburg mare Quality Purdey, from fourteenth to ninth. The mare finished second in this competition last year, and though there’s still plenty of ground to make up, she’s certainly off to a promising start.
Andrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
Australia’s Andrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos stepped up eight places to round out the top ten, with the ten-year-old son of Jaguar Mail showing his enormous scope and acrobatic bascule throughout the course.
Caroline Martin introduces yet another exciting horse to team competition. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
It’s been an evening of ups and downs for the US team. Caroline Martin and the inexperienced but talented Islandwood Captain Jack produced one of the small handful of double-clear rounds, moving them from 40th position up to 26th overnight.
Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z had an unfortunate pair of rails, slipping from their spot in the top ten to overnight 23rd, while Phillip Dutton and the ordinarily consistent Z pulled three to drop nine places. They’ll go into cross-country in 37th place.
Phillip Dutton and Z. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
Germany remains in the lead in the team competition on an aggregate score of 80.5, with New Zealand stepping up to second place on 83.1. They swap places with Great Britain, now third on 87.2, while the US team drops into seventh on 115.60.
The cross-country finale begins tomorrow at 9.30 a.m./8.30 a.m. BST/3.30 a.m. EST, and as usual, will be available to stream on ClipMyHorse.tv. You can also follow the riders live with analytics company SAP‘s trackers.
Until then – go Laura, and Go Eventing!
The top ten heading into tomorrow’s cross-country.
CHIO Aachen is more than a competition — it’s a wonderland of equestrian entertainment that at times borders on the surreal. This year’s partner country is France and the Francophile theme permeated several of the exhibitions, including a performance by the famed Cadre Noir. This video is a medley of 2019 highlights … enjoy!
Photo credit: A great horse show dad named Boyd Mercer.
I look normal, right? I mean, as normal as any horse-crazed eventer can be… Well, it’s been anything BUT a normal summer. Or really a normal past few months. In fact, I’m starting to doubt the actual existence of that word. Webster defines normal as “the usual, typical, average state or condition.” Hmmm… Maybe my “normal” is everyone else’s crazy or stressful or dramatic. Melodramatic really, almost like I’m living in a reality show NOT of my choosing. Sigh. But I digress.
It’s been a summer of learning how to just keep swimming, to persevere, to roll with the punches and simply not quit. Not just in my riding, but in life in general. Let me preface this by saying that my husband and I both work in the service industry. He’s a hairdresser, and I’m a server/bartender at a high-volume restaurant, both of which bring with them their own amount of drama. It’s just the nature of the industries we work in. I usually find my peace and my recharge at the barn. My stalwart, tried and true, best friend of a gelding has been with me for 13 years (he’s 17 now) and I literally trust him with my life. We have one of those partnerships that can easily be taken for granted. Syd is truly my heart horse.
Enter Mother Nature. This past spring in Area V (where I live) has been a mess of rain, wetness and storms. (Ironically, we’re in the throes of hurricane Barry as I write this.) At least two events in Area V were canceled with others continuing in the deluge. My home state of Arkansas had one of the wettest seasons on record, and my hometown of Little Rock had hundred-year floods and federal disasters. Ride time became a premium. Mud and rain rot a staple. And don’t even get me started on the mosquitos! My happy place was hard to find right when I needed it the most.
Back when the rain was really getting started, the rental house my family was living in became its own disaster area, and we decided it was time to find a new place to live. Rental property in Little Rock pretty much falls into two categories, undesirable or too expensive. Factor in the fact that we have three Great Pyrenees dogs and a second grader that needs a good school and well, it’s been tough to find a place to live. In an effort to save money and keep looking on our own terms, my husband and I decided that this would be the summer of endless camping. We parked our camper on my brother-in-law’s property, and moved in. As with any life-altering decision, there have been pros and there have been cons. The pros: it’s like living in a tiny house, so I don’t have a lot to clean (!), and we are saving money. The cons: it’s like living in a tiny house with three humans and three human-sized dogs. And have I mentioned that I’m a bit OCD about clutter and cleanliness? Um. Yeah, do the math. It’s been months of really needing my ride time, but not getting much of it.
Photo credit: Lisa Phillips of Roland Eventing.
In spite of all the craziness, somehow my “endlessly stuck at Beginner Novice” self found the hutzpah to pick itself up by the boot straps and really get down to business with the jumping. I am very blessed to board at a private farm that has an awesome arena and even more awesome cross country schooling. When it wasn’t too wet, Syd and I actually started successfully schooling some big stuff (Training level, which is big to me; Syd’s ready to hit Land Rover.) and really making progress in our quest to end our run at BN (totally all my issue, not his!) A switch within me finally got flipped, and the whole eventing world changed colors.
Then the theory of convergence took over, and it happened. I was schooling cross country with a friend when Syd refused a small, very friendly roll top that we’d jumped with no issues in the past. What the heck?! It took me three tries to get him over a jump he could have walked over! My adult amateur mind immediately defaulted to its “happy” place and began to overanalyze. Is he sore? Does he need to be shod? Is he overdue for hock injections? Did I send him “refuse” vibes? Is it a full moon? Did I not hold my face right? What?!
I decided to give him the day off and try jumping in the arena when I rode again. At first, he was fine and then it happened again. He refused. This time just a normal, not scary stadium fence. Syd has refused probably less than 15 times in all the time he’s been jumping. It just isn’t like him. At all. In fact, when I told my trainer her response was, “WHAT?!” This time I was in tears. The dam broke, and it was as if all the frustrations of the past few months came flooding out at that moment. And in that moment, I had two choices: give up or get it done. The Beginner Novice me wanted to call it a day, get in my truck and continue the cry fest. The schooling Training level me said, “Find a way to get him over the fence and then figure out why this is happening.”
Eventers are a persistent, hard-headed, wonderful, get it done group of folks. I am very proud to be one. That day, I lowered the fence and jumped it. Then I raised it a tad and jumped it again. THEN I quit for the day.
As it turns out, Syd was a little foot sore from all the wetness and had a bit of thrush. After some time off and new shoes, he’s fine. And so am I.
I’m still camping, but I’m still swimming (no pun intended.) And after a little mental schooling for me on the power of persistence, I will continue to swim my way to my first Novice this fall.
This is one side of one story of an incredibly difficult journey with EPM.
Photo courtesy of Laura Reiman.
Last year, at my very first event, I was hand-grazing my leased horse by the volunteer table eagerly waiting for scores to be tallied. The girl next to me mentioned she was just happy to be out competing at elementary level after her horse had been diagnosed with EPM. I immediately pulled my horse back, wracking my brain to try and recall if EPM was contagious and what it entailed. It seems like there are always a handful of scary-sounding equine infections floating around Area 2, so I was concerned not for her horse, but my own. Had I known then what I know now about the devastation and cost of EPM, I would have given that girl a giant hug and her horse a pat on the nose, because it is a brutal diagnosis.
A few months later, I found myself buying what I thought was the perfect young event horse project, and my first horse as an adult without parental financial help. I was all in, getting a truck, trailer, and fitted cross-country and dressage saddles. I was hungry to jump right into low level events, clinics, schoolings and hunter paces. You might remember a fun clinic I did just weeks after buying my horse, called Wine & Ride Summer Camps.
My new mount had been off the track for only a few months but had been restarted by a well-known pro and was already prepping for recognized novice events. I was fully committed to creating a strong foundation for our partnership with two lessons a week, lunging, and trainer rides when I could swing them. But something was never right. He wasn’t building a topline or working with his back well. He was desperately trying to please, but started hitting rails and moving poorly. He had never tracked up in his hind, which I figured was a weakness/fitness issue, but now he was tripping a lot and dropping consistently in his stifles. He had shown issues with back soreness in his PPE but no other indications of illness, and I believed a chiropractic adjustment had helped his back and had forgotten about it. During my first vet visit, with let’s say “Vet 1,” I was told he had weak stifles and to work him on hills and get him moving.
Next, I hired a bodyworker who specializes in Ttouch and Masterson Method work, who believed he had a pulled groin muscle and needed rest. My trainer, who I stayed with despite her saying after roughly a month of work that he would never amount to much past novice level eventing, kept pushing that he seemed in pain. I agreed, but couldn’t pinpoint the issue.
About four months after buying my new, precious horse, I put him on full training board. Perhaps my amateur riding wasn’t doing my horse any favors and he needed some better workouts. I was out of town when I got videos and messages that my trainer did not feel comfortable ever jumping my horse again. She had tried riding him over small cross rails on a circle and he had plowed them as if he didn’t know how to jump. When I got back and had a lesson we tried again and he was trying his heart out, but was obviously having issues. From then on, my trainer started tell me I had to come to terms with the fact that I was either keeping my horse for trail riding, or moving on – which I refused to believe were my only options. I was committed to finding out what was going on with my guy.
By this time, I was also on my second round of cellulitis. When Vet 1 came out to treat him, I asked her if we could run tests for EPM based on a forum post I read. Vet 1 said she didn’t run EPM tests in Maryland without absolute certain clinical signs because there are too many false positives. I said ok, and forgot about it. After the cellulitis was gone, I called a lameness specialist.
“Vet 2,” a well-regarded FEI vet in the area, came out and used lameness sensors to try and pinpoint the issue. She noticed the horse had back soreness and clearly had something wrong, but couldn’t figure out exactly what. We tested him for Lyme and ran some bloodwork to check levels for anemia etc., and gave him back injections. She told me to ride him and keep working to see how he went. The back injections didn’t work, so she recommended I take him to a clinic for a bone scan – even she was curious to get a definitive diagnosis.
Thankful I had my own trailer, I left for the clinic and “Vet 3.” Bone scans didn’t show much out of the ordinary other than somewhat severe back pain due to a sore ligament that ran the length of the spine. The vet recommended I simply give him a lot of time off in a field somewhere to be a horse, and then once he was ready I could work him back up with physical therapy exercises and some alternative treatments like shockwave. Meanwhile, I continued to keep my horse at an eventer competition barn and take lessons on other horses because I didn’t want to give up the feeling of being part of a team. I was hopeful that if I kept my horse in that atmosphere, I’d be able to work back up and manifest a recovery. If I put him in a rehabilitation barn, I was worried he would just naturally end up in retirement.
So I went all in again. I went to the barn six days a week and did carrot stretches, hand walks, lunging, and everything the vet recommended aside from leaving him out in a field. I became an expert on ground core conditioning work. I called “Vet 4” to give shockwave treatments to my horse’s back in order to break the cycle of pain. When she looked at his scans, she said his back looked better than a lot she had seen and I should get back on him and work him from the saddle. I started riding again with light work, feeling relieved to have an advocate on my side. The shockwave had helped with back soreness and we were cantering, doing some lateral work, and even getting a nice frame. But there was still some foot drag and tripping. On a follow-up shockwave treatment, the vet mentioned EPM. I wanted to cover all my bases, so we took bloodwork just to be safe. The bloodwork came back highly positive. According to the lab, he had most likely been infected for at minimum six months prior to testing (which was six and a half months after I got him).
EPM, or Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis, is a neurological disease horses can get when they’ve ingested the protozoa Sarcocystis neurona. This is likely caused by possum feces infecting their food or water. The protozoa attack the brain and spinal cord, creating different degrees of neurological deficiencies as it kills nerves. According to vets, the internet, and popular opinion, about 85% of horses in my area (Area 2) have had contact with the disease but most can naturally create antibodies. Only about 1% actually get sick and show symptoms. I call foul on this since every random person I come into contact now seems to have had some experience with EPM. How is this possible??
Ironically, I felt relief that we had a diagnosis. I called Vet 2 to let her know, and her response was to not forget that there are many false positives in this area. But that didn’t deter me. Vet 4 recommended I try a medicine called Orogin. She believed it was effective, and since I’d spent…a lot of money… on diagnosis, this would be kinder to my pocket. I actually didn’t know at the time that it wasn’t FDA approved, but I did know that people either love or hate the medicine. Within a few days, the drug was clearly working because the protozoa were dying off and causing a “crisis of treatment,” which caused my horse to move like he was drunk. Terrified, I called Vet 4, who told me to give him Banamine for a few days because the die-off was creating inflammation. I called Vet 1 for confirmation, and she agreed that the die-off was a common occurrence. I was thrilled the medicine was working.
Orogin is a 10-day treatment that encourages the immune system to kill the protozoa. It is controversial because the gold standard of treatment is 30-90 days (in order to kill all life cycles of the parasite) of another drug that can cost roughly $1000 a month, but I wanted to follow vet recommendation. She also had us add large amounts of Vitamin E to help boost immunities. Throughout the entire ordeal, the vet recommended riding to keep my horse’s muscles from deteriorating and to keep working his brain. My trainer and barn owner felt he needed rest, but I was listening to my vet and proceeding on what I thought was the cautious side.
As I started to ramp up work, my horse started lightly tripping again. My vet mentioned that it was common to do a second round of Orogin, which I planned to do until I realized my horse had undeniable ulcers. He showed symptoms like aggression during meal times, crankiness with pasturenmates and excess, although solid, poops. We gave him some Omniprazole paste, but he got a nose bleed the following day. I was terrified I’d misdiagnosed his ulcers so took him in for scoping. With confirmed ulcers, we did a month of ulcer medication and waited on the EPM treatment. I continued to lightly work my horse with hand walks on trails and lunging for 10-20 minutes. We had also dropped his feed down because he was getting a bulbous belly and wasn’t in work.
I started to get texts from my trainer about strange behaviors like digging holes in the field, chewing on wood in the field, cloudy eyes and my horse acting like he didn’t know where he was occasionally. Several people at the barn continued to mention perhaps he didn’t have EPM, or perhaps I should start thinking about euthanasia. I continued on, because I had bought this horse and he was my responsibility. If I didn’t think my horse had the slightest chance at rehabilitation or was in pain, I would certainly consider euthanasia but there was never a point the vet said he was untreatable.
The second round of Orogin I made sure to personally hand feed my horse to make sure he was getting every bit of the pills. I could tell my trainer had written me off for not following her advice to rest him or give up on him. I was getting charged an extra $100 for double shavings because my horse was going to the bathroom excessively and when I asked my trainer to give me an easy, 20 minute walking lesson to help me with walking muscle-building exercises, she set up an intricate gridwork exercise that both my horse and I struggled with. While I sat on him, both of us trying our hardest and failing, she told me my horse was lazy…. that my horse recovering from a neurologic disease, was lazy. I got off and we called it a day.
It was clear the second round of Orogin hadn’t worked, so I was waiting for Vet 5 to come check him out. By this time, my trainer had banned Vet 3 from returning to the barn because she did not agree with her methods or advice. Vet 5 cancelled due to an emergency so I was forced to wait a few more days, but before we could reschedule, I got texts from the barn that my horse had bit the girl who feeds him and then proceeded to fall head-over-tail down the hill when he got turned out. She said he was dangerous, he needed rest that I refused to give him, and that I had to leave immediately. She told me to take him to “Vet 6” barn where he could get the help he needed and until I did, I was not allowed to have him anywhere but the field or his stall, and probably just his stall because he was a danger to other horses.
I have never been anything but an advocate for the well-being of my horse. I have poured my heart and my money into this horse not to prolong his life for my sake. I would LOVE to cut my losses and get a horse I could actually ride. No. I do this because it is what I have been dealt. This animal’s life is in my hands and if there is a chance, and I’ve always believed there to be a chance, I owe it to him to give him that time.
I took him my own vet’s clinics to ride out the time between getting kicked out, and moving to a new boarding barn. I swallowed a daily fee and started him on ulcer prevention to minimize the stress of moving. They were horrified at how much weight he had lost and immediately switched him to a higher quality feed and double his rations. For two weeks of constant supervision he never once exhibited aggression, digging, chewing on wood or any behaviors mentioned at the previous barn. Maybe it was the energy, maybe it was the nutrition, it could be anything.
After an examination by Vet 5, we agreed to put my horse on Protazil. This is one of those $900+ month-long medicines that’s a bit more aggressive than Orogin, and more widely accepted as a treatment. He is now on the other side of treatment and we have been given the green light to start working again. I’ve moved to a new barn and have even started taking dressage lessons. He is moving beautifully and as of now, looks like a normal, healthy 6-year-old horse. After my first lesson, my new trainer said my horse was lovely and I went home and cried. There is always the fear of relapse, but for now we are doing well.
I have my horse on all sorts of immune-boosting and ulcer-fighting supplements, and even hired a nutritionist to help create an inflammation-fighting diet. I can tell that other boarders think I’m high maintenance and crazy. I can tell I confuse my trainer when I ask to call it a day early. But that is EPM. It’s a rollercoaster. Emotions, health, time, money, opinions. Medicines are only increasing in price, and people reach out to each other in forums desperate for support and advice. I’ve become an obsessive advocate for the health of my horse, which is why getting asked to leave for “over-working” and “abusing” him at my last barn was so painful.
Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD take the lead at Aachen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
“He’s really such a wonderful horse,” says Ingrid Klimke, a broad smile lighting up her face as she talks about longtime partner SAP Hale Bob OLD. There’s no denying the veracity of her claim, either – the fifteen-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Helikon xx Goldige) has had a remarkable career thus far. He’s the reigning European Champion, after all, but to focus on that would be to barely scrape the tip of an iceberg big enough to sink a fair few ships. He’s been a five-star champion, at Pau in 2014, and a Badminton runner-up in 2015. He’s an Olympian, a veteran of the World Equestrian Games, and thrice the Reserve National Champion, and in 28 runs at the four- and five-star levels, he’s finished in the top ten 21 times. In short, he’s a national hero – and when he makes his way into a stadium like Aachen’s, his very presence is a spectacle. When he performs like he did today, producing a score of 20.7 and taking the lead in the CCIO4*-S, it’s nothing short of magical.
Home-grown heroes: Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
“He loves the crowds – he grows when he sees them,” Ingrid says. It’s a good thing, too – with the enormous atmosphere and reverberating sound, we’ve seen otherwise relaxed horses bubble over as a result of the crowd’s applause at the end of the test. But when Ingrid and Bobby entered the arena, they were met a roar – and Bobby, true to form, pricked his ears and strode boldly into it.
“I think he’s very proud of himself, he likes to come in and say that he’s the biggest horse,” laughs Ingrid, who is making her sixteenth appearance at the venue this week. Although her score is remarkable by any standard, it’s also a venue PB for the enormously experienced German rider, and one of two results today to move into the top ten best-ever tests at Aachen.
A taste of the top. Courtesy of our great pals at EquiRatings and SAP.
So what makes a test that good? Well, good old-fashioned accuracy certainly comes into it, and with his wealth of experience and his rider’s impeccable dressage pedigree, Bobby isn’t lacking that.
“He knows these tests inside out by now – he knows that he sets himself up for the next movement and where it will come, so I’m able to just enjoy myself in there,” explains Ingrid. “I can sit and think about things like, ‘am I sitting straight? Are my hands even?’ He’s always 100% with me.'”
Happy Hale Bob Day! Ingrid redirects the enthusiastic crowds’ adulation to her horse after producing the leading test. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
Accuracy and extra polish become two essential points in a triad completed by a little something special – sheer fun and joy in the job. We can’t all be rockstars in the ring, but one thing was plainly apparent in Ingrid’s performance today: if you can enjoy the process and own the electricity, you might just stumble upon the music in the movements.
Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
21.5 might not have been quite low enough for the lead, but Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH still join Ingrid in reshaping the landscape of the all-time top ten here at Aachen. Though it rarely comes as much of a surprise to see either Ze Terminator or Chipmunk atop a dressage leaderboard, this is still very much a partnership in its fledgling stages. Produced by fellow German dynamo Julia Krajewski, the eleven-year-old Hanoverian changed hands over the winter, prompting a tumult of public discussion about whether the horse would continue on his exceptional career trajectory when piloted by another rider for the first time.
Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
Today’s test – their most public and prestigious as a pair – certainly seems to indicate so. But as Michael explains, it’s not always as simple as hopping on a proven performer and hitting the buttons.
“He’s a super quality horse and has been very well ridden, and he’s very clever, too. But in the beginning, we had a few misunderstandings, because every rider, no matter how good they are, gives a few different signals and at slightly different times,” he says. “So this is what we have to learn together. I have to learn most how best to prepare him, and how to create the right warm up, and he has to learn to be ridden by me, too. It just takes some time, but he’s an amazing horse, and it’s great that we’ve been able to keep him in Germany.”
Refining their communication: Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH make great headway in their young partnership. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
Michael has two rides in this class – Chipmunk, who has been tipped as his choice for the Europeans, comes forward as an individual competitor, while stablemate Star Connection, sitting in joint eleventh place on a score of 26.9, is part of the formidable German team.
“We are working to find a solution [for the Europeans] together,” says Michael of the decision. “I will try to win for Star Connection too, and of course for the team, but this means that with Chipmunk, I can decide what he needs. If it’s better for him to go fast, I will, and if I think I would go slow for a few fences and give him a bit more time, then that’s okay too. This will probably be his last competition before the Championships, so it’s better to learn what we need to.”
Though they’re inarguably exceptional horses and very capable jumpers, both Hale Bob and Chipmunk carry a question mark with them into the showjumping phase. The former memorably – and heartbreakingly – lost out on the Badminton win in 2017 after an uncharacteristic stop and subsequent rails, and in his most recent run at Wiesbaden, he toppled three poles – considerably higher than his usual one or none. The latter, for his part, has been as capable of a two-pole round as a clear, but knocked four in his most recent outing with Michael.
“He’s a very good jumper, but he’s just sometimes a little bit too forward, and then he can get tense and spooky,” he explains. “Obviously in the showjumping it’s everything coming up very quickly anyway. But this is part of forming that partnership – we learn together how to make the right warm-up and preparation, and then he can start to give that same great feeling that he gives me at home.”
Laura Collett and London 52: back at their best at Aachen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
Laura Collett and her ten-year-old prodigy London 52 showed off their best work between the boards, scoring 22.9 to sit third after this phase. This is a best-ever international score for the pair, who come here after an extraordinarily exciting spring season was somewhat blemished by an out-of-character performance at Bramham in the horse’s first long-format four-star. Last year’s Blenheim eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S winner, though, has amassed a remarkable record in his three-and-a-bit years of eventing – a very good finish here is absolutely not out of his grasp.
Tim Price and Wesko. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
Dutch national champions Tim Lips and Bayro sit in fourth place on 23.2, while Tim Price and his 2015 Luhmühlen winner Wesko hold onto fifth on 23.8 – a best-ever international test in the World Number One’s enviable career.
Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z join an illustrious top ten. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z lead the way for Team USA in eighth place on a 26.5, after producing a mature and polished test – “the changes were clean, just a little bit scruffy,” laughs Liz, who has been working tirelessly with top dressage trainer Pammy Hutton to master her horse’s weak spot and push his scores towards the low-20s marks they’ll become.
Phillip Dutton and Z. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
Phillip Dutton and Z occupy 29th position on a score of 32.8 after moments of tension in the walk pulled their mark down, while Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack lie 40th on 36.3 in their Aachen debut.
“He’s getting way better – physically, it’s hard for him,” she says of the rangy ten-year-old. “Erik Duvander has worked really hard with us since January; he’s a very weak horse because he’s so young and so big, so holding himself is difficult. But he’s very sweet, and he tries so hard, and he’s able to cope with the atmosphere, too – it doesn’t affect him at all.”
Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack. Photo by Tilly Berendt.
Islandwood Captain Jack may be young, but he’s holding onto an exciting advantage in the next phase – he spent the winter jumping 1.40m classes, including a Grand Prix at Wellington’s Winter Equestrian Festival.
“He’s also the strongest cross-country horse I’ve ever had, in a mental capacity,” says Caroline. “He’ll never be a Danger Mouse in the first phase, but I hope he’ll be a Badminton or Burghley horse.”
Germany heads the team competition on a score of 75.7, while Great Britain sits just behind on 78.8. New Zealand rounds out the top three on 79.1, while Team USA are fifth with 95.6. There’s no room for anyone to get comfortable, certainly: this evening’s showjumping competition moves our field into the colossal main stadium, and with only a pole between the top five and two between the top 21, we could be about to see a significant reshuffle. And a fun fact for you to take into your afternoon of live-streaming? EquiRatings provides us with this snippet: nobody has ever gone on to win this class after knocking a rail.
It all kicks off at 5.45 p.m./4.45 p.m. BST/11.45 a.m. EST – we’ll see you on the other side.
The top ten as we head into this evening’s showjumping phase.
For 673 accepted trainers, the 2019 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover is fast approaching! From the beginning of the year until the Makeover, to take place Oct. 2-5 at the Kentucky Horse Park, four of those trainers have been blogging their journeys, including their triumphs and their heartbreaks, successes and failures, for Eventing Nation readers. Read more from EN’s 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover Bloggers: Lindsey Burns, Hillary McMichael, Clare Mansmann, Jennifer Reisenbichler.
The start of a friendship. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Burns.
If you follow my social media you’ll already know that Crash is perfect. In every way. Well, I guess first you have to overlook the disfiguring scars on his hip and front leg. Yeah, that’s right, he’s beat up. Story has it that he crashed through a fence as a baby. He raced six times though and was never put on the vet’s list (any horse that pulls up lame after a race is placed on that list and has to earn the right to race again). I figured he was worth the gamble.
There are a lot of horses that fit that description. Some scar, some lump, some bit of history that makes potential purchasers pass them over. It breaks my heart. I know I know, there is a very large chance that an old bow is not going to hold up to gallop around Kentucky or Fair Hill. I also know that there is a very large chance that most of us riders are also not going to gallop around Kentucky or Fair Hill. I’ve seen a lot of horses with lumps and bumps gallop around Training or even Prelim, or dance their way to USDF bronze medals, or bring home division champion in the hunter ring. Those beat up horses can also rock it on the trail or riding fence lines at a ranch.
Enjoying the view of the north Georgia mountains on a 3-year-old OTTB — he’s the calmest horse on the farm. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Burns.
I’m not saying skip the pre-purchase; I’m not saying pretend a lame horse is sound. What I am saying is be realistic about your goals for riding and for what you want in an equine partner. Don’t let an ugly but serviceable scar make you pass on an otherwise lovely horse. Don’t let a trainer being honest about an old injury that has healed make you run for the hills. Chat with them about it — chances are if you are up front about what you are needing a horse to do they will also be up front about what they think their horse will be able to do. And listen. Many race trainers are extremely good at spotting lameness and injuries, they know a lot about rehab, and they are well versed in what type of injuries usually stay away and what type keep coming back. If the horse is everything you are looking for, except with the addition of a lump/bump, talk with the trainer and the vet, figure out if that particular injury could be a non issue with your goals.
Our not-so-wild-west early days of the relationship. Note the beat-up hip. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Burns.
Sometimes after all that, the decision still needs to be made to pass on the horse, but other times you may have found your dream horse who just has a little extra character. When I decided to work with Crash I knew he had an amazing brain, so I knew if he couldn’t hold up to the rigors of what I wanted to ask of him I would be able to place him in an appropriate home with more low key goals. So far though he has exceeded every one of my expectations. Sometimes he takes a tight step with that hip, but hill work and long and low arena work continue to make those tight steps fade into the past. He is like a sure footed mountain goat on the trails — I call him my man from snowy river horse. I don’t even have to touch the reins going down steep hills, he picks the best path and pace and delivers us safely to the bottom every time.
Crossing creeks like a boss. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Burns.
The most awesome part of that last paragraph is me talking about enjoying trails. I may have started my riding addiction with the sport of endurance, but bravery on the trails has been elusive over the years. I’ve had many fun trail rides, but historically the first twenty minutes are spent wondering if I might have a heart attack. A while back I was trail riding with a friend who was wondering why I kept saying trail rides stressed me out, and in an effort to not freak out the young horse I was on I recounted my history of hitting the open range. The more I chat and distract myself from the frantic beating of my heart, the sooner the enjoyment can start.
After several minutes of stories about frankly dangerous moments on the trails due to years filled with riding lunatic horses, my friend stopped me. She told me I had every right to be stressed about trail rides, that maybe I just hadn’t been on horses that made them enjoyable. It was such a simple statement, but it somehow gave me permission to quit judging myself for not feeling brave out in wide open spaces. I quit trying to ride horses on trails that made for harrowing experiences and instead only took out horses that I believed would be fun. Fast forward a few years, now I’m loving trail rides. Sometimes the stress sneaks up and I chat with my horse or a friend or even myself until the moment passes.
A post shared by Lindsey Burns (@redheadlins) on Jun 7, 2019 at 8:54pm PDT
This journey has carried over into cross country as well. I am far braver than I used to be, and I am far pickier about the horses I ride on cross country than I used to be. Learn your strengths and weaknesses and learn how to work with them instead of judging yourself for them.
How does this apply to horses with lumps and bumps? Maybe the best horse to learn how to enjoy cross country on isn’t the majestic fire breathing dragon that passes every extensive vet check and makes you dream of jumping clean at Burghley. Maybe the best horse for right now is the one with kind eyes that is happy with its head being level with its withers that had a chip removed from its knee last year and has come back sound to racing but is too slow to win. Or maybe the horse has an old bow that has healed up nice and hard and handled being back in race training, but the trainer would rather retire before the strains of racing take their toll again, that horse could probably canter around Beginner Novice for years.
Again, I’m not saying buy the most beat-up horse you can find and then come yelling to me when it doesn’t hold up. I’m just saying to be realistic about your riding goals and what you need from a horse. Talk with the vet, talk with the trainer, maybe your unicorn has a big old scar on his hip that matches those on your heart and together you will be unstoppable.
Dream horses come in every shape package. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Burns.
Keeping our equine athletes/ best friends happy, healthy and comfortable is always at the forefront of our minds — that’s why we’re extra excited to welcome MediVet Equine as our newest sponsor!
MediVet Equine is a leader in scientifically-based preventative and regenerative therapies for horses. Their products, all of which are all-natural and drug-free, help the horse’s body to heal and strengthen itself. Partnerships with research teams at the University of Sidney and the University of Kentucky, along with over three years of research and development before launching their products to the veterinary community and nine years now on the market, ensure that their biological therapies are second to none.
A few riders you may have heard of (like, you know, Boyd Martin and Marcia Kulak) trust MediVet Equine to help their top horses perform their best. We’ll hear more about them and which products they use in the coming weeks. Each Friday, courtesy of MediVet Equine, we’ll be bringing you the top equine health headlines from around the world right here in an easy to read manner. Ready to educate yourself? Let’s get started!
This Week in Horse Health News:
US Equestrian Federation Announces Transition of Laboratory to the University of Kentucky: The USEF Equine Drug Testing and Research Laboratory now becomes the UK Equine Regulatory Testing Laboratory and will be led by Dr. Scott Stanley, an equine toxicologist and UK faculty member. The new lab will be responsible for analyzing the random samples collected at competitions across the country and will also provide opportunities for research in equine pharmacology and toxicology [US Equestrian]
Research on racehorses can help our sport horses as well: Injuries to racehorses tend to be high profile and can be catastrophic. As a result, industry organizations have increased their funding to support research on injury prevention and risk factor identification. The sport horse world can utilize much of this information as well, to the benefit of our own equine athlete’s health and longevity. Here are some recent highlights:
Research from the University of Kentucky suggests that breakdowns are the result of a chronic injury pattern, rather than an acute event. Blood work may reveal biomarkers that indicate a predisposition to injury.
Researchers from the University of Guelph in Ontario analyzed data regarding racehorse deaths in Ontario from 2003 to 2015. According to the researchers, the most notable finding was that death rate was highest among two-year-old intact male Thoroughbreds.
All-weather surfaces may increase fatality risk in flat races, according to a study from the Royal Veterinary College in the U.K. which analyzed data from Thoroughbreds in Great Britain from 2000 to 2013. Other risk factors identified included firmer (turf) or faster (all-weather) tracks and increased racing distance.
Research from the University of California at Davis has already led to a number of changes to the racing industry in the state including dragging the tracks for frequently during training sessions in order to help prevent injury. UC Davis is also also planning future research on how riding surfaces affect dressage and show jumping horses.
You probably know what an overgrown hoof looks like, but do you know what makes them grow that way? It’s that abnormal, dished shape where the hoof curls upward from the coronary band to the toe. A collaborative team of veterinarians, physicists, mathematicians and stem cell biologists from the University of Nottingham and the Royal Veterinary College set out find an answer as to why hooves grow in the shape that they do.
Amongst their findings were that the rate of hoof growth from the coronary band tended to be faster from the quarters than from the toe region, leading to a curved shape over time. Interestingly, they also found that hoof growth from more obese horses may be straighter due to promoted hoof growth, compared to underweight horses. However, they also hypothesize that the outermost layer of cells on the hoof wall may be stimulated to grow by the presence of insulin – which can generally be elevated in obese horses prone to metabolic syndrome – also leading to the curved hoof shape. Hoof biology … it’s tricky! [HorseTalk]
About MediVet Equine:
MediVet Equine‘s mission is to bring state-of-the-art science, and principled stewardship, to performance horses, their owners and the equine industry. Following the medical model of “do no harm,” MediVet Equine, the original creators of the breakthrough MediVet Autologous Conditioned Serum (MediVet ACS), develops scientifically based biological therapeutics, enabling the horse to call on its own healing ability to achieve its full performance potential.
Specializing in regenerative treatments that help the body heal and regain strength, MediVet Equine’s products are designed to activate specific cells and growth factors within horses to encourage and enhance healing. As a result, their products are safe and suitable for all performance horses.
Honestly I still do this. Photo courtesy of Horse Humor FB.
Ok outside workers here is my pro-tip for surviving what is turning out to be the worst season of 2019: electrolyte capsules. You know that feeling when you’ve literally had so much to drink and you still feel dehydrated but also super full and kinda sick from chugging water? Get yourself some electrolyte pills online, and take them when you wake up, in the middle of the day, and even right before bed. This will change your life, I promise. Sincerely, a person who has had heat stroke a few too many times and had to learn the hard way.
Are you a mare person? If you have had the honor of being owned by a mare, you’ll know that it’s not quite like other equine relationships. Mares don’t tolerate ego in the saddle, and they have an innate sense of intuition about who is on their back. There are certainly people who swear off all mares, and personally I think they’re just afraid of a girlfriend holding them accountable for their mistakes, but a good mare is hard to beat. [I Am a Mare Person]
Speaking of heat survival, it’s not just about you! Even if you think you can cut it during the worst temperatures, it’s important to think about your horse’s heat tolerance as well, and provide him with an environment and post-ride rituals to help him feel his best. Even the most enthusiastic horse can feel unwell when it’s terribly hot, and longterm exposure to heat without respite can really sap them of their will to live. [How to Help Your Horse Beat The Heat]
Can my horse read my mind?? Yeah, I’m pretty sure mine can. A rider’s intentions are telegraphed from mind to muscle, even when the rider isn’t consciously aware of it. From the moment the rider’s brain thinks about changing speed or direction, that message is automatically transmitted through the nervous system to the muscles in preparation for action. Small changes in the position and tension of the rider’s muscles anywhere in the body—legs, hands, arms, seat, rhythm, and breathing—can get the horse’s attention and foreshadow a specific action. The more experienced the rider is, the more automatic the unconscious the intention movement will be. [Telepathic Horses]
It’s HOT out there, and nobody wants to come home from the barn feeling like burnt toast. In the spirit of beating the heat, EN is teaming up with SmartPak to hook one lucky reader up with the new and improved Sunshield Long Sleeve 1/4 Zip.
Just in time for the dog days of summer, this shirt will keep you cool, dry, and protected from the sun. Designed for all day wear, it will be appropriate for schooling on hot days or even during your other favorite outdoor activities — with UPF 50 sun protection you’ll always be covered! In addition, moisture wicking and cooling technology keeps you dry and an added antimicrobial treatment help keeps things fresh between washes. You’ll also love how it moves with you while wearing so you’ll have free range of movement with whatever you’re doing.
The shirts, which retail for $59.95, are available in XS through XXL sizes and eight different colors: White, Black, Navy, Wedgwood, Ombre Blue, Indigo Blue, Hyacinth and Feather Grey.
Sunshield Long Sleeve 1/4 Zip by SmartPak Review - YouTube
Enter to win using the Rafflecopter widget below. Entries will close at midnight EST on Sunday, and we will announce the winner in News & Notes on Monday. Good luck! Go Eventing.