I hate to say it, I really do, but this morning’s session was uninspiring. I can usually happily watch dressage for hours, but with the cream of the world’s 3* and 4* horses having strutted their stuff at the Olympics recently, it was perhaps unsurprising that the dressage phase may lack some of the normal more polished tests. The dressage at the Olympics, both in the eventing and the pure dressage, spoilt me without doubt but some tests lacked the accuracy you would hope for at this level!
The second to go in the first morning session, Paul Sims with Glengarnock, proved to be the highlight of the morning, with him conjuring up a 46.6 in a very neat and pleasing test. The last to go before lunch, Elisa Wallace for the USA with Simply Priceless, performed an elegant, smooth test to score 46.8 and slot into 2nd place at that stage.
The afternoon sessions looked more promising, with Shane Rose, Paul Tapner, Bettina Hoy and Jonelle Price, Bill Levett, Pippa Funnell and Denis Mesples all lined up, and did not disappoint. Inspiring dressage again, phew!
Dressage überdiva Bettina was in a different class to the rest today. She has Designer 10 going in beautiful balance, attentive and flowing, and racked up some stunning marks, including at least one 10, for a final score of 34.5, to lead by over 8 penalties overnight, which sounds like a first to me at a 4*! The fact that he showed his mettle the moment the final halt was finished showed what a tactful job she had done, and how carefully obedient he was being.
Shortly after, a very determined looking Bill Levett scored 42.5 on the very smart Improvise, 15th here last year and 6th the year before, to slot into second place at this stage. Paul Sims held onto his third place, and was visibly delighted to be at the Press Conference for the top 3 riders overnight.
Paul Sims said, of being there to be interviewed: “It’s fantastic, more than I ever thought… I always knew he was capable of a test like this but being here [at the Press Conference] is incredible.” and that his horse has “been really relaxed all week.” Of the XC course, he said it looks “as strong as it always does here.”
Bill Levett, lying second, said that it has been “a year of nearly-s for this horse” (nearly pulled off a good result at Luhmühlen, nearly went to Rio) and that you need a horse with a good engine and stamina for Burghley, you must have a horse that keeps galloping here, because of the undulations and the fence dimensions. There is “so much out there to do” because of the terrain. It should be possible to get the time but he doesn’t expect many to do that, and it’s “a hard track to ride”. About Improvise, he said “he’s quite a tricky ride, he wouldn’t be for everybody… he gets strong” but that he “has good form here, has lots of stamina and engine, and the track here suits him.”
He said it is “healthy to get nervous before the XC” and “if you haven’t got that, there’s something wrong with you!” He stressed that it’s “not panicking” and that it’s about “having the skill set to cope” with the questions out there.
Bettina was clearly delighted (although probably not surprised!) to be in the lead, and said that Designer 10 is “still quite weak in his back… because of how he’s built” and that she has changed her warm up quite a lot, working with her trainer in Germany, German National Coach Sebastian Langehanenberg. She “spent the last 5 minutes before her test in rising trot before going in”, because the horse finds that easier even though she is not heavy. He goes better in the double bridle, not that she needs the curb at all, but “perhaps because of the weight of the bits, he stretches more to the hand”, he is more comfortable in it.
photos © Katie Neat Photography