The Irish claimed the team title while Germany’s Charlotte Hachmeister clinched individual gold at the FEI European Eventing Championships for Young Riders 2014 which drew to a close at Vale Sabroso in Portugal on Sunday.
This year’s fixture was a test of grit and nerve as well as horsemanship, with very testing conditions for some on cross-country day. But the next generation of Eventing stars showed they are made of the right stuff when rising to the challenge to produce spectacular sport.
For the Irish in particular this was a particularly rewarding result, as three of their four winning team members were in last year’s gold medal-winning Junior squad at Jardy in France. All of these Championships are about development and preparation for the future, and the Irish are showing great potential and progress thanks to superb back-up from coaches and management.
Hachmeister was always in contention for individual honours with her 10-year-old Trekehner gelding Kassio after posting a Dressage score of 36.90 which placed her second after the opening phase. And having moved to the top of the leaderboard following Saturday’s cross-country she was so far ahead of the rest that she could still secure the win despite having two fences down in the final Jumping phase.
Led the way
It was David Doel, a member of last year’s silver-medal-winning British side, who led the way after Dressage on a mark of 34.00 with the 14-year-old Dutch mare, Miss Caruso, who was placed first by judge at C, Andrew Bennie (NZL) and also by judge at B, Ciska van Meggelen-Peek (NED), while judge at H, Wolf Muller (AUT), put the pair in second spot. Lying third at this early stage, behind the eventual champion Hachmeister, was Alexis Gomes from France with the Selle Francais mare Rien qu’un Crack who posted 39.20, while Germany’s Gregor Bensmann and Nick Quick were lying fourth with 41.20.
The French team were in the lead after dressage followed by the British in second and Germany in third, but there were big changes to the scoreboard on Saturday, and by that evening the Irish had taken control.
The French lost their grip following stops on the cross-country track for team members Gomes, Stephane Landois (Klan de Cheyllac) and Eurydice Schauly (Kiwi d’Auton) which dropped them to fourth going into the final day.
Eric Winter’s cross-country course proved extremely influential, and, for safety reasons, action was halted for just over 30 minutes in the middle of the day due to a passing storm that brought monsoon-like rain and spectacular thunder and lightning.
Fortunately the sandy soil at Vale Sabroso could handle the downpour and things got underway again quickly after the break, but some riders got a real soaking.
A perfect start
The British didn’t fare much better than the French despite a perfect start when Woodhead and DHI Lupison were flawless. Alexandra Liddle had a run out with Romeo Z at the second part of fence 11, a big double of corners, but it seemed all was not lost when another of last year’s team silver medallists, Tom Jackson with Waltham Fiddlers Find, collected just 9.2 time penalties. However Dressage leader, David Doel, also fell victim to the double of corners at 11 and picked up a massive 24 time penalties to plummet down the leaderboard, so Germany improved to silver medal spot before the Jumping phase.
Germany’s Christopher Wahler and his Irish horse Green Mount Flight produced one of just four cross-country clears, and when his team-mates Leonie Kuhlmann (Cascora), Jule Wewer (Lasse 730), and Lisa-Marie Forster (Columbo) collected only time faults there were only 2.2 penalties separating the Germans from the Irish going into the last day.
By then Ireland had lost one team member because Jodie O’Keeffe had a fall from Kachemire le Beau late on the cross-country track. Her colleagues however handled themselves brilliantly, Elizabeth Hayden steering the aptly-name Miracle home for one of those elusive cross-country clear rounds while Harold Megahey and Chuckelberry picked up just 4.8 time penalties and Joshua Pim and The Irish Minstrel collected 8.
With all three scores to count, the pressure on the Irish was immense as the Jumping phase got underway, but when Hayden and Megahey each kept a clean sheet and Pim left just one fence on the floor they had gold in their grasp. These three were all on last year’s winning Junior side, so it was another very satisfactory result for Irish Chef d’Equipe, Sally Corscadden.
Hachmeister had a lead 0f 10.2 points over Britain’s Woodhead on the individual leaderboard going into the final jumping phase, and the 21-year-old rider used up a lot of her luck when posting an eight-fault result with Kassio. But she still finished more than two points clear of Woodhead who took the silver with a lovely clear. And when Germany’s Leonie Kuhlmann picked up four faults then Ireland’s Elizabeth Hayden moved up from overnight fourth to add individual Young Riders bronze to the Junior individual silver she claimed last year.
Technical Delegate at Vale Sabroso was Ireland’s Gillian Kyle, and she praised the organising committee for a job well done. “The whole team put their hearts and souls into providing the best possible event, and they succeeded brilliantly. The riders were presented with a proper championship cross-country track and they all came away from the event having learned a great deal and having thoroughly enjoyed themselves” she said.