Friday, May. 24, 2024

Vallette Goes Into Badminton CCI**** Day 1 Dressage Lead

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South Gloucestershire, England—May 4  

French rider Thibaut Vallette sits on top of the leaderboard at the end of the first day of dressage at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton CCI****.

The four U.S. riders who rode their tests today were all pleased with their rides. Hannah Sue Burnett is in eighth with Harbour Pilot on a 44.9, while Lynn Symansky is in a tie for 14th on a 47.2 with Donner. Lauren Kieffer and Landmark’s Monte Carlo’s score of 50.6 puts them into 24th. The British-based U.S. rider Katherine Coleman is in 28th with Longwood (53.6).

But Vallette was by far the one to beat. He rode a lovely smooth test on the 13-year-old Qing du Briot ENE HN to post a score of 38.7.

Thibaut Vallette on Qing du Briot ENE HN. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors

“I had hoped very much that he would express all his qualities today. He’s quite sensitive and there is plenty of atmosphere in the arena, plus it was his first ‘proper’ four star so I was very happy with his performance,” explained the Frenchman, who is making his first trip to Badminton.

Vallette is an officer and trainer at the French Institute of Riding and Equitation and the Cadre Noir of Saumur (France). He brought Qing du Briot ENE HN up through the levels. The combination was part of the gold medal-winning team at last summer’s Rio Olympic Games, finishing 13th individually, and also claimed the individual bronze medal at the 2015 Blair Castle European Championships (England).

Hard on Thibaut’s heels, 0.4 penalties off the pace, is German rider Bettina Hoy with the very smart Designer 10 who was brimming with energy.

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Bettina Hoy on Designer 10. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors

“I had to contain him a bit in there, he would love to have popped in a buck. He’s definitely ready to go across country,” Hoy laughed. Commenting on the new dressage test she added, “I preferred the old one. Specifically I don’t like the new canter circle—I can see why they have put it in but to get a horse to stretch and relax in that atmosphere is hard.

“Designer was quite fresh and there was a lot of atmosphere here today. But he contained himself; he always tries to do his best in there. He’s the biggest trier and he’s got the biggest heart of any horse I’ve ridden.”

For once the defending champions, Michael Jung and La Biosthetitique Sam FBW, are not at the top of the leaderboard, although they are less than a penalty behind Hoy in third. Jung came close to having a wardrobe malfunction when he almost dropped his hat after the first salute, and Sam looked quite ‘hot’ to handle.

Michael Jung on La Biosthetique Sam FBW. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors

Jung agreed: “He was a bit nervous in the beginning, but then he was concentrated and I’m very happy with him,” he said. “It’s a big atmosphere and I think he knows the atmosphere from last year. It’s good that he had so much energy. I always hope to do better but I’m very happy that Sam is full of energy and power—that is a good sign for Saturday’s cross-country. It’s a tough course and you have to concentrate from the beginning to the finish.”

You can read about U.S. riders Burnett and Kieffer’s reactions to their dressage tests in the coverage of the morning session.

Symansky was happy with Donner’s performance, but knew she left some points behind in the flying changes, which were a bit late. “I usually have to climb my way back from his trotwork, but his trotwork was great and it just took a little in the canter to keep him fully connected,” Symansky said.

Lynn Symansky on Donner. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors

“I think he’s a bit body-tired as I had to ride him a lot this week; he’s been very ‘up.’ He’s a full Thoroughbred ex-racehorse so sometimes you have to compromise the body a little bit to get the mind working with you and we just didn’t quite get the changes. But he tried so hard and I’m really happy with him. If I’d got the changes how I normally get them, I think it would have been his best mark at four-star. But it was most improved from what I had sitting on him this morning!” she said.

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“He’s a very hot horse, and his biggest struggle has been staying cool and relaxed. He’s very hard in atmosphere like this when the crowd is very close to the rail in dressage and showjumping—he’s better in a big stadium like Kentucky. But he’s getting more mature every year and I feel I can just go in and ride him. I’m kicking myself for leaving a few marks in there, but I’m happy,” Symansky continued.

Coleman has been based in England since 2012; she’s now at Julia Norman and Flora Harris’ yard in Marlborough, Wiltshire. You can read more about her in the Chronicle’s One To Watch from 2016. In 2016, Coleman and her Courage Under Fire jumped around cross-country at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** but withdrew before the show jumping. Badminton is the first four-star for Longwood, 15.

Katherine Coleman on Longwood. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors

“Yesterday in the trot-up he was wild!” Coleman said. “So I was really nervous about the atmosphere in there, in terms of whether he was going to get all lit up. He pretty much kept calm and was paying attention to me the whole time. We went out there and did the best we could at this moment, so I’m pleased.”

Coleman got a bit teary when it came time to reflect on her first Badminton appearance. “It’s amazing. To me, what’s really special is the amount of people who come together to help you. It’s all the people behind us who get us here,” she said. “They put in from 6 o’clock in the morning to 7 o’clock at night. They’re there, and it’s the vets and farriers and physios. Everybody works as a team to get you here and it’s so amazing.”

Day 2 of dressage starts at 9:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m. ET) and there are two U.S. riders on the order of go:
10:10 a.m. (5:10 a.m. ET) Friday – Elisa Wallace on Simply Priceless
3:54 p.m. (10:54 a.m. ET) Friday – Lauren Kieffer on Veronica

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