Ingrid Klimke of Germany and FRH Butts Abraxxas thrilled the excited crowd at the Land Rover Burghley CCI**** (England) and now hold the overnight lead after the first day of dressage, Sept. 5.
They scored 39 penalties and are 3 points clear of the two riders currently holding joint-second place: Andreas Dibowski of Germany on FRH Butts Leon and Jock Paget of New Zealand on Clifton Lush. Rebecca Howard of Canada is in a tie for 13th aboard Riddle Master, while the sole U.S. representative, Buck Davidson, does dressage tomorrow.
Surprisingly, Klimke, the newly crowned European team gold and individual silver medalist, has never been to Burghley before. She explained that she is usually at the national championships in Germany, but as “Braxxy” is now 16, it was a case of “now or never.”
The son of the famed Thoroughbred sire Heraldik (also the sire of Michael Jung’s European Champion Halunke, FRH Butts Leon and Sam Griffiths’s Burghley ride, Happy Times) is so established, soft and “through” in the dressage arena that the crowd knew they were watching something special. There was a gasp as Ground Jury President Nick Burton of Great Britain awarded the only 10 of the day, for the halt in the middle of the test.
“He is so sweet and relaxed,” said Klimke of her six-time team horse. “When we come into the arena, he says: ‘What do you want me to do and I will do it.’ But this isn’t going to be a dressage competition. The cross country is one of the biggest tracks I’ve seen.”
Dibowski’s horse, FRH Butts Leon, another 16-year-old (both horses are bred by Friedrich Butt) has also been a great servant to the German team and won the Luhmühlen CCI**** in 2011, but was ridden at last year’s London Olympic Games by Thailand’s Nina Ligon.
“It’s an exciting story that we have been reunited,” said Dibowski, who has not competed at Burghley since the European Championships in 1987.
Andrew Nicholson of New Zealand, the first rider to compete three horses at Burghley, is in fourth place on 42.3 with his 2012 winner, Avebury, and in eighth on Calico Joe. He still has his Pau CCI**** (France) 2012 winner Nereo to come tomorrow.
Sarah Cohen, who gave birth to her second child earlier this year, is best of the British riders in seventh place on Treason; six-time Burghley winner William Fox-Pitt is ninth on the first of his two rides Neuf des Coeurs and Piggy French, who is back riding at CCI4* level after a two-year gap, is 10th on new ride Westwood Mariner with 49.2.
Riders are impressed with Mark Phillips’s revamped cross-country track, where the most demanding fences come in the first half. Klimke says that three courses stick in her mind as being big and imposing: the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games track, and this one at Burghley.
Nicholson added that he thought Captain Phillips had been “very clever.” He explained: “The new FEI rule that asks designers to use less jumping efforts within the same distance is quite a challenge for them, but Mark has managed to slow us down without making it twisty. I don’t think many riders will get the optimum time.”
The dressage phase resumes tomorrow (Friday) with leading riders Kevin McNab of Australia, Bettina Hoy of Germany and Kristina Cook of Great Britain to come, as well as Fox-Pitt and Paget on their second horses.