When 23-year-old Mollie Summerland entered the arena at the Longines Luhmühlen CCI5*-L, the atmosphere was sizzling despite the lack of spectators. The British rider kept her cool over the show jumping course, but after crossing the finish line, she hugged Charly van ter Heiden and was still visibly moved during the award ceremony.
“I don’t ever want this day to end,” she said. “It’s been the most amazing experience. The first people I want to thank are the organizers. With all the things going on in the world right now, it’s amazing what you have achieved. It’s hard to sum up how I feel right now, but this horse has changed my life.”
The young Brit bought “Charly,” now 12, as a 5-year-old, trained him herself and could hardly believe the joint success. She came to the event without a coach and navigated huge logistical hurdles to get there because of a German ban on travelers from the U.K. due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would rather have ridden dressage or cross-country again today,” she said. “I don’t feel so experienced in show jumping and was a little nervous today, but my horse is simply amazing. I’ve never won three-day-event, that’s something I used to dream about.”
Local rider Christoph Wahler made the weekend look easy with Carjatan S and finished the five-star second place: “I tried to ride as if it was a training course,” he said. “I know that my horse can jump very well, and it is indescribable how he jumped today. You can’t ask for a better finish to a five-star premiere.”
The U.S. contingent had whittled down to two riders from the original four—Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan and Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois were the two pairs to make the trip.
Brannigan parted ways from Stella Artois early on over Mike Etherington-Smith’s cross-country course at fence 8, but Grald worked her way up from eleventh to third place.
Grald’s most recent five-star finish was at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in 2019 where she and “Simon” finished 10th. Brannigan was hoping for a five-star completion with Stella Artois after a fall at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event in April.
“I am very happy to be here,” Grald said. “This event is simply fantastic. Luhmühlen’s cross-country course is different to anything I have ridden before, so I came here to gain experience. My horse gave me a beautiful ride, and we both gained confidence on the course.”
Etherington-Smith’s cross-country proved to be very influential. Fifteen of 24 starters completed. (The original entry list of more than 70 was decimated by a mass withdrawal of British riders due to the German travel restrictions.) Four riders finished clear within the time allowed. Summerland was one of them, hanging onto her dressage lead.
She was emotional after her cross-country round.
“Charly’s such an exceptional horse,” she said. “I’m still so inexperienced, and he goes above and beyond for me. I don’t know what I’ve ever done to deserve a horse like this. I’m so happy.”
The hotly contested CCI4*-S also served as the German National Championship, and Michael Jung took home the Meßmer Trophy with fischerChipmunk FRH on his dressage score of 21.4 points.
Second place was secured by Sandra Auffarth of Germany and Viamant du Matz (27.1). Australian Andrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos moved up to third place (27.6).
Julia Krajewski of Germany won bronze in the German Championships with Amande de B’Néville (27.9).
“I am overjoyed,” Jung said. “fischerChipmunk jumped so well today. When you compete here, of course you want stay clear. Nevertheless, it’s important to relax so that the horse can stay relaxed, too. The title means a lot to me. For my horse and me, it was probably even a bit lucky that the Olympics were postponed. It gave us an extra year to grow together as a team.”
Jung, Auffarth and Krajewski have since been named as the German team for the Tokyo Olympics.