The sun shone from the start today at Badminton, but a blustery wind continued to affect horses making it difficult for several riders. The leaderboard saw a number of changes throughout the day and the top 10 has a truly international feel with 8 different nations represented.
Starting the day was Ben Way on Galley Light who finished 12th here last year. They unfortunately had problems with changes which is always a weakness for the horse but otherwise produced an obedient test to better their last year’s score of 52 and in doing so also breaking the 50s barrier scoring 49.7. Ben was really pleased saying Galley Light has come on a long way in his dressage work crediting Ruth Edge.Following straight on was Belgian rider Karin Donckers riding Fletcha Van’t Verahof, she threw down the gauntlet to the riders to follow bettering Thibaut’s overnight leading score to move into the lead with 37.3. It was a super smooth test, which although the horse did chew on his bit this was not a sign of tension and more so seemed to be a sign of relaxation in this case. Karin afterwards said he had felt super relaxed and stretched well for her. She was really pleased and he produced some really good uphill work as well. At the end of the day Karin sits in 4th position but is little over 4 penalties behind the leaders.
Local rider Becky Woolven from Tetbury was thrilled to complete her test, it literally made her childhood dreams come true. Socks produced nice changes and good canter work, although did react to the atmosphere a bit. Becky was glad to have the dressage over and done with as not Sock’s strongest phase and now she can concentrate on tomorrow. Canadian Kathryn Robinson with Let It Bee produced a lovely poised test but her mark was pulled down by some of the flying changes, the test was still good enough for 44.4 and 17th overnight.
Badminton and 4* first timer Danielle Dunn was understandably disappointed with her test, and was frustrated with her self for an error of course, but she still enjoyed her experience. Seeing her name on the scoreboard made things very real for her as it is surreal to be here, especially as visited most years since a child. She explained afterwards that the dressage phase is not the mares preference and she coped well considering. She is trying to enjoy every moment and can’t wait to give it a go tomorrow although admitted she was somewhat overwhelmed the first time she walked tomorrow’s cross country course, but it has got better each time she has walked it since. Danielle finished on 59.6 and is currently 77th. Another 4* first timer, James Somerville rode this morning on the 11yo gelding Talent, who he has had from a 4yo. James said it was very satisfying to qualify on a horse he has produced himself, and he was thrilled to be able to finally start at 4* having previously qualified horses but not having the opportunity to enter. James sits in 69th overnight with a score of 56.1.
Now a part time eventer, combining riding with other roles, including being heavily involved with the Event Rider Masters series, Paul Tapner was still able to show his skill riding Bonza King Of The Rouges into 15th position on 43.9. Paul said the test wasn’t quite as smart as he wanted but Bonza is a bad headshaker and today was the worst possible weather for him. Paul had to be conservative with his riding accordingly, so was pretty impressed to get the score he did. Paul also explained he entered the arena as quickly as possible to give Bonza time to settle including taking time to desensitise him to the camera before his test commenced.Warming up prior to his test Japanese rider Yoshiaki Oiwa had The Duke Of Cavan working beautifully and was able to transfer this work into the competition arena. Yoshiaki was very happy with test as he was expecting The Duke Of Cavan to be more tense, so he was pleased that he was so calm and relaxed.They did have a resistant rein back which along with a few moments preventing them achieving a sub 40 score but their score of 42.6 is good enough for 12th overnight.
Today several riders made errors of course with the new 4* test one of them being Alice Naber-Lozeman. Despite her mistake she was so happy with how ACSI Harry Belafonte performed. Her smile was infectious afterwards but she talked about how far Harry has come on so far, and one day he will do a really good test, but a 46.5 is great, and better than a 66 which it could have been not long ago! Another to make an error of course was Sarah Bullimore who missed the shoulder in before moving into half pass. She was annoyed with herself for the mistake, but Reve Du Rouet produced some lovely work near end as he relaxed and started to soften through the neck. 55.8 wasn’t the score she wanted as he is very capable of more, but it is far better than last year, when he tried to exit at C at the beginning of his test! Unfortunately Reve Du Rouet struggles with the atmosphere and it’s hard to recreate that of Badminton.Team GBR rider Gemma Tattersall struggled to get Arctic Soul to settle in the arena, he was visibly tense throughout the test which saw them lose marks to eventually finish on 55.8. Gemma spent the majority of her warm up working Arctic Soul long and low stretching forward, but as soon as he entered the arena he coiled back on her.
Previous winner Sam Griffiths and the ever improving mare Paulank Brockagh produced another solid test marred slightly by jogging in the walk, and some errors in the changes, which she is normally consistent at. Sam said he was happy and she produced some beautiful work but he was annoyed with the mistakes he made. They sit in 11th overnight on 42.5 but was quick to comment that Paulank has always liked when there is a new course designers at Badminton!Irish Olympic team rider Jonty Evans produced a fantastic test with Cooley Rorkes Drift who he describes as his horse of a lifetime. Jonty had been concerned as he had been lit up on Wednesday with Mitsubishi Motors Cup going on, but commented he was great working this morning. He credits Gareth Hughes who helps him at home and Ian Woodhead who assists at competitions, including today, for being able to continuously improve his dressage. Jonty couldn’t believe they had managed a sub 40 score, said it was unbelievable it had happened. He credited his horse saying what a big heart he has, and although he had never seen crowds like it he happily settled and produced some amazing work. Initially Jonty’s score was announced as 37.5 which put him into second but was corrected to 37.2 which was actually good enough to take the lead albeit incredibly briefly. For he was followed into the arena by Ingrid Klimke aboard Horseware Hale Bob OLD. Bobby did a wonderful job for Ingrid producing better and better work as the test went on. Some preferred Jonty’s test to Ingrid’s, including the judge at B, but Ingrid bettered his score achieving 36.4. The youngest rider this year is Irish rider Cathal Daniels riding Rioghan Rua. It is our opinion the 20 year old deserves a medal for his exceptionally tactful riding. Rioghan Rua quickly became unsettled whenever Rioghan applied his left leg which resulted in a number of major resistances. At several points I feared they would leave the arena but Cathal was able to coax Rioghan in the vaguely correct direction and therefore complete their test. There were several 0’s scored and they sit last after dressage on 84.6, but he showed a maturity beyond his years with how he dealt with Rioghan’s behaviour in the arena. We look forward to seeing them go cross country tomorrow, a phase we understand Rioghan much prefers!
Moving into the final session of the day saw the riders with multiple horses make their second appearance. First of those was Mark Todd this time riding NZB Campino. There were a number of mistakes including in the changes, Mark afterwards explained when Campino gets a bit upset or nervous he gets snatchy in the hand and there is not much he can do to ride him. He was somewhat critical that Leonidas who he rode yesterday did a great test but was only one mark better despite all the mistakes! He said he wouldn’t have been surprised to have been given a 55 for Campino’s test which is frustrating as horse very is very capable but was being distracted by the wind. They actually scored 43.6 to leave him in 14th with Leonidas in 13th.On the other end of the spectrum, Lauren Keiffer yesterday had an average test from her trailblazer Landmark’s Monte Carlo, but today produced a beautiful soft and responsive test from Veronica to score 38 to put her in 5th overnight. Lauren was thrilled saying Veronica was wild all week but she is such a professional and knuckled down in test producing a personal best at the level by 4 points. She said she has never felt better, and is like a fine wine now maturing to her best at her now 15 years of age. Last year’s Burghley winner Australian Chris Burton had Graf Liberty in a lovely secure contact, he was powerful and flowing, scoring lots of 7.5s and 8s, and 9s creeping in toward the end, the judges being more in agreement with his scores than they have been with many of the other combinations. Chris is becoming somewhat the man to beat in this phase having produced some exceptional tests in the last few years. The 12yo gelding who finished 4th at Luhmuhlen in 2015 produced a personal best score at 4* level and equalled their international best with a score of 32.9, taking a clear lead infront of the field. Last in Andrew Nicholson with his veteran campaigner Nereo, were clearly determined to eek out every single possible mark, starting with two 9s for the entry and first halt. Their test was secure and accurate for a final mark of 38.0 for equal 5th with Lauren.
Tomorrow though will most certainly be another day, every rider we have spoken to has been blunt to say it will not be a dressage competition. There is potential for the vast majority of competitors to complete but technical combinations and time consuming alternatives will most likely ensure that most combinations will not finish the day on their dressage scores. Best of the British riders is currently Alexander Bragg and Zagreb and Tom McEwan aboard Toledo De Kerser who sit in equal 18th on 44.6 therefore 11.7 penalties behind the leaders.
For a full run down of today’s scores the leaderboard can be viewed here on the Badminton Website.