Reflecting on a memorable few days in Aachen
There was another fantastic result for Britain last weekend as the all-female team of Kirsty Chabert, Emilie Chandler, Laura Collett, and Zara Tindall produced our first win in Aachen’s team eventing competition for 10 years.
The SAP Cup usually provides some great sport and this year didn’t disappoint, with our British riders finishing just 0.3 of a penalty ahead of the team from the USA. The margin may have been quite a bit larger had it not been for an unlucky run out for Kirsty Chabert and Classic VI in the closing stages of the cross country test. The pair had been leading the competition after superb performances in the dressage and show jumping and were the last combination to take to the course in the reverse order cross country. They had been up on the clock and looked set for the individual honours before the error at the final combination put them out contention – a reminder of the fine lines in sport.
Will Coleman became the first rider from the US to take the individual title, closely followed by Laura Collett in second with her individual ride, Dacapo. Emilie Chandler and Gortfadda Diamond finished best of the British team combinations in third, with Laura and Mr Bass in fourth and Zara and Class Affair in eighteenth.
British chef d’equipe, Philip Surl was delighted with the performance. Here he looks back over a memorable few days for the British riders and shares his thoughts for the rest of the season…
“Our riders grabbed this opportunity with both hands and it’s absolutely great.
“The Americans had a very strong team and it was closer than we would have liked it in the end but sometimes you are half a penalty on the wrong end of a decision and other times half a penalty on the right end of the result. That’s the game. When you think that after three phases [or 12 phases if you count them for all four horses and riders] it comes down to 0.3 of a penalty, it shows you how close the margins are in the sport.
“Zara has been there and done it over the years, Aachen was the scene of one of her major successes in the World Championships. She’s on a bit of a comeback after having children at the moment. Class Affair’s a nice horse and they did a good test. Zara was a little disappointed to have a pole show jumping but they went very well cross country.
“Obviously Laura has achieved great things this year. Both her horses went well over the weekend – Dacapo in the individual competition and Mr Bass for the team. For Emilie and Kirsty, this was their first time at Aachen, but they’ve been on Nations Cups before. Third was a cracking result for Emilie.
“For Kirsty it was nearly a full house, but that’s just one of those things. She will have learnt a lot about the horse on a big stage and certainly the horse will have a learnt a lot and we’ll definitely be seeing them in contention again. Aachen is a very tricky place to get the time, no one got the time all day, and they would have been inside the time – but that’s ifs and maybes. For sure, she was disappointed, but I think she can also take positives from the experience and what the horse delivered. It would have been lovely to complete the clean sweep, with the team as well as an individual win, but that’s how the job goes sometimes.
“Everything looks very promising for the future. The last 18 months have been like nothing anyone has ever known – yes there’s been some collateral damage to the sport, but actually the sport is in a very good place considering what we’ve been through. Our sport compared to a lot has been very robust and we’ve been quite lucky, or you could say we’ve made our own luck a little bit.
“We managed to get the sport going for everyone from July last year and ran right through to the end of October, just before a lockdown. We managed to only lose the first month of the season this year and, from then, we haven’t looked back. When you look at some other sports, especially at grass roots sport, they have really, really struggled – so I think it’s definitely a case of glass half full, from our perspective.
“To send a squad to Tokyo and get that result but then to also have at least another three or four horses that would have probably been knocking on the door for medals also, it’s a good place to be. It is unprecedented to have two Senior Championships in a year and some of those who missed out in Tokyo have got an opportunity now this week in Avenches. The guys that went to Aachen last week took their opportunity too.
“It’s great, and worth noting, that we have been able to prepare these championship horses pretty much all from home. Normally they would be travelling abroad and here, there and everywhere to get the opportunities to compete and gain experience but the restrictions we’ve faced has meant that we’ve had to stay at home. Our eventing family has risen to the occasion and created opportunities at home – and it certainly looks like it’s paid off.
An exciting end to a challenging season!
“All eyes are on Avenches now and hopefully the guys out there can give a good account of themselves and end the season on a really good high. We’ve got the young horse championships at Osberton to look forward to, the Nations Cup at Boekelo, Le Lion d’Angers and finally Pau – so, there’s plenty of rosettes still to be won.”