We had quite a wait on Friday morning till a rider troubled the top end of the Leaderboard, but Oliver Townend had Armada going very well to slip into 5th place, best of the Brits so far, on 43.7. His halts were very hit and miss, and the rein-back did not show sufficient steps, which all dragged his mark down, otherwise he’d have been even closer to the leaders.
Jonelle Richards had The Deputy going well, but mistakes here and there kept them at 46.2 in 7th place. Pippa Funnell’s Redesigned did some very good movements for high marks, but threw many away elsewhere – her rueful grimace at the end said it all. They were in 8th on 46.3 at lunchtime, which she looked disappointed with.
After lunch the volatile Lanfranco and Bettina Hoy restarted proceedings. This is a horse who can be near the very top (they scored 46.3 at Badminton this year) or, as at Luhmuhlen, the very bottom of the leaderboard, on 80.8. He looked unsettled and difficult before the test, rearing as he came into the main arena, but she got him going and, with the very briefest of halts, kept him thinking forwards. The extensions showed how breathtaking this horse can be, but his walk was very tense and the halt, although she settled for it being a few strides early, was the beginning of the end… the very first thought of a rein-back aid had him rearing and spinning. Bettina tried a couple of times to straighten him but that was it, and she put her hand up to retire as it was obviously going from bad to worse. My heart absolutely bled for her at this point… so sad and disappointing after all the hard work to get him here.
William Fox-Pitt had Parklane Hawk beautifully settled and in a lovely rhythm, the mistake in the rein-back and a bit of a skip behind before the final change being the only errors, to score 41.7 into 2nd place.
Nicola Wilson and Opposition Buzz, crowd favourites, rose to the occasion. She had him beautifully settled and flowing forwards, and nailed every change perfectly for a super score of 43.3, their best ever to date at 3* or 4* level, into 6th place at the moment.
The final group was very hot. Sir Mark Todd and Oloa, who went wrong in the first movement having scored 8s and 9s for their entry, continued blithely down the long side when they should have been going across the diagonal. There were excellent moments and a few shakier moments, the changes in particular look like a work still in progress, even with the Master aboard!
Kristina Cook’s enviable big bay De Novo News, her first ever homebred out of the mare Douce de Longvaut (who she rode at Burghley some years ago), did three perfect square halts, most unusual, the second scoring two 10s. His test was completely settled, flowing and energetic, beautiful to watch, for a well-deserved 43.2. It is a measure of Kristina’s horsemanship and of this horse’s temperament & training that as she left the arena he was obviously boggling at something ahead of him, but she kept him on a totally loose rein and just patted him and talked to him, and he continued to walk forward straight, boggling more but trusting her completely. Impressive throughout.
Jock Paget and Clifton Promise, looking to repeat his Badminton win, showed why Jock considers him “the best horse in the world.” They did a stunning test, with one 10 and lots of 9s, to take the lead on 36.7.
Buck Davidson and Park Trader came into an electric arena after that performance, and although a lot of the work was very pleasing, tension showed in places. The second half-pass really did not happen, and the changes were increasingly stroppy, going from ‘flying buck’ to ‘I am going to bounce up and down if you move your leg’ to score 57.8 in 48th place, disappointingly for the American contingent, whose Sinead Halpin and Manoir de Carneville led the dressage here last year.
Last of all we had Andrew Nicholson and the always impressive Spanish-bred Nereo. He had him going beautifully, a slightly unsteady head in the shoulder-in marring it very slightly, but still scored 41.3 for 3rd place.
Overnight leaderboard: http://www.bdwp.co.uk/bur/13/
The course is HUGE and very technical though, there are loads of places for a costly glance-off, so I predict that this will not be a dressage competition at all!