In Europe, May has been the real kick-off of the outdoor season with two legs of the Top League and three Global Champions Tour shows. Germany and Belgium have so far been strong in the Top League while Ireland and France have struggled a bit. But as we all know, things can change fast in this sport.
Rolf-Göran Bengtsson has maintained his position as No. 1 in the world on the Rolex Ranking—for the fifth month in a row—and he continued his good results when he took a strong second place in the Global Champions Tour on May 16-20 in Hamburg, Germany, with Casall La Silla. Nick Skelton won the class on Big Star with three clear rounds that were so good that we have barely seen anything like it. With two horses in top form, Big Star and Carlo 273, Skelton is without any doubt one of the biggest favorites to take an Olympic medal on home soil in two months.
Two other British riders were top two at the Global Tour in Valencia, Spain, May 4-6, as Ben Maher and Michael Whitaker were the only two riders with three clear rounds riding Viking and Tripple X III.
However, Edwina Tops-Alexander is the queen of the Global Champions Tour. The winner of last year’s GCT series, she again tops the overall standings after four legs even though she didn’t make it to start in Wiesbaden, Germany, which was won by Olivier Guillon. At Wiesbaden, May 25-28, Tops-Alexander suffered from a concussion caused by a fall from her horse Ceve Socrates earlier in the day and was held in hospital overnight for observation.
May saw more than one bad fall for top riders. During the lap of honor in La Baule, France, on May 12, Irish rider Denis Lynch fell of his horse Night Train and ended up with two broken ribs, bruises and several swellings, as well as some stitches in the arm and the head. Due to his injuries Lynch wasn’t able to compete during the Global Champions Tour in Hamburg and he was not seen in Wiesbaden the weekend after either. Hopefully he will be back competing within a couple of weeks.
The French team has once again seen several changes in horses. Rumors concerning the future cooperation between Kevin Staut and Haras de Hus had been circulating after the departure of several of his horses to different other riders. In May it became known that Le Prestige St. Lois de Hus was leaving Staut’s yard to go to Martin Fuchs’ to be sold. With this followed the news that Staut’s last show riding the Haras de Hus horses was in La Baule the second weekend in May. A week later it became public that Michel Robert was the new top rider at Haras du Hus.
One of the horses Staut used to ride, Nagaye de Kergane, was sold to Edouard de Rotschild in May for Luciana Diniz to use as a second horse to support Winningmood and Lennox. Their first show will probably be the Global Champions Tour in Cannes in June.
Haras de Coudrettes in France has really stepped up for French team the last year by supporting several riders with great horses. They saved the successful partnership of Staut and Silvana by buying the gray mare last December when several foreign offers threatened to take her away from France. In May they bought Marquis de la Lande so that his rider Franck Schillewaert could keep the ride. They also gave Olivier Guillon a new ride in Courtney 6, a promising 11-year-old gelding showed good results at international grand prix level with British rider Robert Bevis.
At the end of May, Michel Robert’s former ride Kellemoi de Pepita tragically died at the age of 14 due to colic. The fantastic mare was sold to Qatar last fall after a very successful career with Robert. The combination helped France win team silver at the 2011 European Championships in Madrid last year and they won the 2009 Global Champions Tour Final in Doha, as well as the FEI Top Ten Final in Brussels in 2008.
Farfelu de Muze will in the future be seen under Irish rider Cian O’Connor. The half-brother of Mylord Carthago had been ridden by Penelope Leprevost since October, but now he has a new home in Ireland. The horse is a very exciting prospect for O’Connor.
Some good European horses have been shipped to the American continent this month. Sterrehof’s Valdato, Julia Kayser’s former ride, has been sold to American show jumper Cara Raether, while High Yummy, the horse of the young Swedish rider Alexander Zetterman is now in Canada to be competed by Nicole Walker. Another young Swedish rider, Angelica Augustsson, has been very successful in the last year but has lost one of her top horses Walter 61 in a sale to Venezuela. Walter and Augustsson were second in the Gothenburg CSI-W last year.
Gregory Wathelet’s Olympic prospect Cadjanine Z was secured for Wathelet as Alain Van Campenhout has bought the mare for the Belgian rider. Toward the end of May, Marco Kutscher took over the ride on the 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion Spartacus, which had been with Eric van der Vleuten. Titus, who had been sold to Tops-Alexander and competed with her at the Rolex FEI World Cup Final in April, was reunited with his former rider Guy Williams after Tops-Alexander decided her relationship with the horse wasn’t developing the way she’d like.