Saumur, France—May 25
Australian rider Bill Levett took over the Saumur CCI*** lead on three-star first timer Shannondale Titan when dressage winner Kitty King had the misfortune to fall at the last fence on Pierre Michelet’s cross-country course with Zidante.
For the U.S. contingent, Will Faudree maintained the best position, moving up to fourth with Jennifer Mosing’s Andromaque behind French rider Nicolas Touzaint on Lesbos and Great Britain’s Oliver Townend on Black Tie.
“I was very, very happy with her. She cruised around. I didn’t have to kick her once,” said Faudree, Hoffman, N.C. “She came in well inside the time. She’s an experienced horse, but the combinations were very big, and the distances were quite long, so you had to ride forward and really attack each question. She answered everything like it was easy for her, and it was a lot of fun.”
Watch Faudree’s round.
Marilyn Little also moved up several places to eighth after a fault-free round aboard RF Smoke On The Water, a Baden-Wurttemburger gelding (Samos—Rapaula, Rapaulo).
“I was absolutely thrilled with Smoke On The Water. He started out guns blazing and he finished guns blazing,” she said. “He was wise beyond his years. He’s only 8 years old, but he rode around that course like he was a 12-year-old. Obviously the time is very tight. We came nine seconds under because it was one of those rounds where everything was coming up right, the horse was on his day, and I was just really lucky. He read everything great. It was a real feather in his cap to go around a course like this. It gives me a huge amount of confidence in him for the future.”
Hannah Burnett had a runout early in the course at the corner at 6B with Harbour Pilot. “ ‘William’ and I just didn’t really get into a very good rhythm. The first minute and a half of the course was really twisty, and he didn’t really get going,” she said. “He didn’t really draw to the corner at 6B, so we went around and did the option. He got better and better as he went around. He didn’t love the footing, and he was just kind of backed off, which isn’t really like him. But after the course he came back and was wild in the finish box as usual. He’s healthy and happy, and we’re just taking care of him tonight, and we’re going to try for a really good show jumping tomorrow.”
And Buck Davidson had the misfortune to be eliminated after The Apprentice jumped a little too far to the left over a corner at 18B, and Davidson continued on course.
“My day was 6 inches from really good,” he said. “He was really going well, and he got to the corner at the end, and I guess I didn’t get his shoulders inside the flag, even though the flag fell to the other side. It was one of those nip and tuck things. If you stop and go the long way at that point, you’re going to get eliminated for jumping the fence twice. If you keep going, they say you didn’t jump it. I thought if the flag fell on the left side of me that I was OK. But he didn’t get his whole shoulders inside the fence.”
Despite the disappointment, Davidson felt the experience was a positive one for Sherrie Martin’s Irish Sport Horse (Casado—Funny Girl, Fernblick). “He was actually going really well,” said Davidson. “He just needs a little bit more experience. He’s just 9. We jumped basically the whole course. That fence ends my weekend, which is a bummer, but he really did jump well. I had one hairy moment early in the course at fence 6. There was a hedge down to a corner, and he dropped a leg at the first part. We were lucky to keep it all together and be clear through there. But then he got going, and he was going faster and more rideable and jumping better. I just need to get him more trained. It’s a bummer, but he’ll be back.”
All the riders had something to say about how distinctive Pierre Michelet’s courses are.
“I’ve never ridden around a Pierre Michelet track, but I understand the necessity [U.S. Chef d’Equipe David O’Connor] has put on getting riders to ride around his tracks in preparation for the [Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (France)] next year,” said Faudree. “It is a different feel. You’ve got to keep coming. Of course there are options within some of the combinations, but to be up on the time you had to really ride very positive all the way around.”
“It rode very big and technical,” said New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson, who sits 12th with Viscount George. “I was quite surprised to see how many riders have gone around and made it look easy. I think that just shows the standard of riders and horses nowadays is very good at all levels. I think it’s a great course here. It’s good for educating the horses for the future. I think it was very much [a typical Pierre Michelet course.] Twisty in parts to slow you down, a lot of forward distances, but when you actually jump them, they don’t feel that forward. When you walk the course, you think that maybe it’s four strides or maybe three, but you ride it in three for sure. This is the cleverness of Pierre and his understanding of horses and what jumps he puts in to make them jump into the combination bigger or whatever.”
Townend joked that his short-striding Black Tie found the four-stride distance quite comfortable when Nicholson’s horse got three. “He doesn’t have the greatest of stride, but he’s very genuine and loves his job,” he said of the New Zealand Thoroughbred who raced on the flat before turning to eventing.
“I’m a big fan of Pierre’s courses,” Townend continued. “It rode very surprisingly well. I think it was a tough course, a very strong three-star, but very good horses and very good riders. The horses are getting better and better. The riders are obviously are becoming more and more experienced at this type of course. It was very refreshing to walk around the course and have your eyes opened by some of Pierre’s designs and ditches and whatever else, which is possibly what we’ve been short of in England recently.”