The eventing world’s plans for the forthcoming World Equestrian Games (WEG) in September in Tryon, North Caroline are beginning to take shape, and riders are officially on the hunt. Everyone wants a spot - so who will it be? I’d say it’s anyone’s game, but let’s be real - we’re talking about the best in the world, here.
The USA is the only major nation to have announced an actual team - Philip Dutton (Z), Lauren Kieffer (Vermiculus), Marilyn Little (RF Scandalous), Boyd Martin (Tsetserleg), and Lynn Symansky (Donner).
Way to overachieve, America. But who’s in contention for a spot elsewhere in the world?
Team Great Britain
The Brits, who have to be among the favorites for a medal, especially given their gold at last year’s European Championships and their cracking form at the spring CCI4*s in 2018, released a long-list today.
It doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t know - there are no surprises and it is a fairly lengthy list. But who is really going to get those air tickets?
If I ruled the world (or at least selected the British team), these are the five horse-and-rider combinations I would take:
- Oliver Townend (on Cooley Master Class, whose Kentucky win proves he travels well, and he is slightly easier to manage and ride than the ultra-talented but ultra-sharp Ballaghmor Class, who will probably be his direct reserve)
- Ros Canter (Allstar B; direct reserve Zenshera)
- Laura Collett (Mr Bass)
- Tom McEwen (Toledo De Kerser)
- Piggy French (Quarrycrest Echo)
Having missed a lot of the spring because of a shoulder injury at Burnham Market, Tina Cook and Billy The Red will have to go exceptionally well at Barbury and Aachen, but I expect them to be named as reserves along with Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul. The latter is an awesome CCI4* horse, but a three-star WEG with a 10-minute cross-country track doesn’t completely play to his strengths.
It could be from hero to zero for the French, who won team gold and individual silver at the Rio Olympics. It’s all fallen apart somewhat since then, though - although the French do have form for springing a sneaky surprise and going way better than expected at a championship.
I imagine their team will look similar to this:
- Gwendolen Fer (Romantic Love - 2017 CCI4* Pau winner)
- Astier Nicolas (Vinci De La Vigne or Molakai)
- Maxime Livio (Pica d’Or)
- Matthieu Vanlandeghem (Trouble Fete ENE HN)
- Thibaut Vallette (Qing Du Briot ENE HN)
- Cedric Lyard (Qatar Du Puech Rouget)
Team New Zealand
The Kiwis are in the hunt for gold, and they are desperate for it after a very disappointing performance at Rio in 2016. It could be Sir Mark Todd’s last championship, and his teammates want him to go out on a high.
I predict the following:
- Jonelle Price (Faerie Dianimo but with Classic Moet as direct reserve)
- Tim Price (Cekatinka)
- Sir Mark Todd (Mcclaren, with Kiltubrid Rhapsody as direct reserve)
- Clarke Johnstone (Balmoral Sensation)
- Dan Jocelyn (Grovine De Reve)
Padraig McCarthy’s 8th place at Badminton makes him top of the tree on Mr Chunky. Cathal Daniels and the tiny, hot-headed mare Rioghan Rua should get a place, as well as Sam Watson and Ardagh Highlight. Sarah Ennis didn’t have a good showing at Luhmühlen, but her European Championships performance and 2nd place at Chatsworth should be enough on the experienced, Horseware Stellor Rebound. I’d give the fifth spot to Aoife Clark and Fernhill Adventure, but Joseph Murphy (Sportsfield Othello) and Austin O’Connor (Kilpatrick Knight) have claims, too.
The Germans are vying for gold alongside the Brits and the Kiwis. They never have a huge amount of strength in depth, but three outstanding individual performances could mean a team medal.
Michael Jung has one top contender in his string - triple Kentucky CCI 4* winner FischerRocana FST, but you can only ride one, after all… Julia Krajewski is in incredible form and will go on Samourai Du Thot and Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob OLD are the reigning European Champions. It is likely that the remaining pair will be Andreas Dibowski (either FRH Corrida or FRH Butts Avedon) and Kai Rüder (Colani Sunrise).
Vittoria Panizzon and Chequers Play The Game must get the call-up after a strong first CCI4* performance at Luhmühlen. Pietro Roman and Barraduff should join them, along with Pietro Sandi (Rubis De Prere), Giovanni Ugolotti (Cult Rewind) and national champions Arianna Schivo and Quefira De L’Ormeau.
The Japanese are going to be a real force to be reckoned with at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, and should put in a strong effort at WEG this time in preparation.
Yoshiaki Oiwa has his Rio Olympics mount, The Duke Of Cavan, or 2017 Bramham CCI3* winner Calle 44 to choose from. Ryuzo Kitajima has both Just Chocolate and Queen Mary qualified, while Kazuma Tomoto, who is based with William Fox-Pitt, is likely to go with his Blenheim CIC3* runner-up Brookpark Vikenti. Toshiuki Tanaka will make up the foursome with Talma D’Allou.
Chris Burton and his Saumur CCI3* winner Quality Purdey and Sam Griffiths (Paulank Brockagh) are shoe-ins, while Shane Rose (CP Qualified or Virgil) is likely to go, too. Their Aachen team suggests that Andrew Hoy has a shout with Vassily De Lassos, 40 years after Andrew rode at his first World Championships in Kentucky - and that the Australian selectors are considering the Australian-based Robert Palm (Koko Story) and Christine Bates (Adelaide Hill). Emma McNab’s 11th place at Luhmuhlen CCI4* gives her a squeak with Fernhill Tabasco.
Selena O’Hanlon (Foxwood High) and Colleen Loach (Qorry Blue D’Argouges) top the prospective list, along with Lisa Marie Fergusson (Honor Me) and Jessica Phoenix (Bogue Sound or Pavarotti). Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jollybo may get the final spot.
Team Sweden are the silver medalists at the 2017 European Championships. These look to be their top candidates: Ludwig Svennerstal (El Kazir SP or Stinger); Anna Freskgård (Box Qutie), Louise Svensson Jähde (Wieloch’s Utah Sun or Waikiki 207), Johan Lundin (Johnny Cash), Anna Nilsson (Candy Girl), and Sara Algotsson Ostholt (Wega).
Photos by Event Rider Masters, Erin Gilmore, and Thomas Reiner. Feature photo by Event Rider Masters.
Written by Amber Heintzberger
Freelance writer and photographer Amber Heintzberger lives outside New York City with her husband and children. She grew up riding and is a graduate "H-A" member of the Greenville Foothills Pony Club. As often as possible, she loves to spend time on her parents' horse farm in Upstate South Carolina.