Put together a beautiful bunch of young horses, world-class riders, the most stunning backdrop...
...huge crowds of spectators, a genius course designer and the sport of Eventing and you have the recipe for the FEI WBFSH World Breeding Eventing Championship for Young Horses which, once again this year, highlighted the potential of many rising equine stars.
The fixture, staged at the fabulous Haras National at l‘Isle de Briand in Le Lion d’Angers in France, was celebrating its 25th anniversary and, from the outset, was always going to be a thriller.
At just six years old the youngest horses are still in the very early stages of their development, some with a little more experience but very much on the learning curve that will take them to the next level. This year’s champion and vice-champion in this category, Monkeying Around ridden by Britain’s Izzy Taylor and Bob Chaplin with Australia’s Paul Tapner on board, claimed the top two places in the Dressage phase and added nothing more to their scorelines while French rider, Thomas Carlile, moved up from fifth to claim bronze medal position when also keeping a clean sheet with Birmane.
It was a different story in the seven-year-old category, yesterday’s final showjumping phase proving highly influential as New Zealand’s James Avery and Vitali, who had been in the lead from day one, dropped all the way to sixth when collecting nine faults over the coloured poles. It was Frenchman Astier Nicolas and Alertamaib’Or who rose from fourth to take the title ahead of Izzy Taylor, this time partnering Director Casino who was in ninth after both Dressage and Cross-Country. Bronze went to the legendary Kiwi Andrew Nicholson with Yacabo BK, his showjumping clear rocketing him up from 14th position on a day when only eight of the 43 starters in this age group managed to leave all the poles in place.
Avery’s early domination was a bit of a surprise, the relatively unknown 25-year-old and his beautiful bay Holsteiner really captivating the judges in the Seven-Year-Old Dressage phase and then producing a foot-perfect cross-country run over yet another extraordinary course designed by Pierre Michelet whose innovation and imagination seems to know no bounds. His gelding, Vitali, began his career as a four-year-old with Jock Paget, and Avery got the ride last year when he returned to New Zealand. “He has an amazing talent. He is brilliant and moves really well. It is easy to be good at dressage with him!” he said. And it seemed he might just pull off one of the biggest sensations of the season.