Pratoni del Vivaro Cross Country

Pratoni del Vivaro Cross Country

Fun but not fun….thats how I describe cross country day at a World Championship.  It’s so much fun when it’s over and its all gone well and it’s so not fun when its over and the hindsight rocks in.  Today saw the whole gamut as always on a Championship cross country day from broken tack (Kevin McNab who proved himself a true Ozzie  when his rein broke and  he leant forward whilst his horse waited patiently and simply tied it to the bit before galloping off with the occasional check to see that his knot was holding ok.  Greasy leather isn’t the best tie up material!), a miss at Fence 1 and a faceplant ( Lara de Leidekerke-Meier), a couple of run offs on a horse with an exemplary record (Andrew Hoy) and some time for surprisingly good 5 star combinations.

Andrew Nicholson had predicted that as the track was 4 star, not overly big or complicated and with limited open galloping sections that some of the true Badminton/Burghley specialists would struggle to make time with not allot to back their horses off.  And so it proved with even super classy Michi Jung and Chipmunk looking chancey at a few fences, ditto Ollie Townend and Ballaghmor Class and Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser who all looked like they needed some bigger fences to demand their respect.

But we didn’t know any of this when Monica Spencer and Artist (Max) galloped off from the start as 10th out this morning and they blitzed it to come home clear with 4.4 time to lay 12th at the end of the day.  It was a great start and when Clarke Johnstone and Menlo Park ( Jacko) set out as no.2 we were thinking good.  Jacko blazed around the corner to the infamous ‘slide’ and went to take off over the log, decided at the last second maybe he didn’t want to hurl himself down the precipice and put down again. Clarke did well not to go down alone and they optioned and as they galloped on around the rest of the track Clarke dug deep to use all of his experience to guide the very green Jacko home.  Jacko returned the compliment, learnt allot but unfortunately clipped a MIM pin as well for another 11 faults on the way. Not Clarke’s day on one hand but on a positive note Jacko went out a boy and came home a man.

Now needing Clarke to be the drop score meant that it was all on Tim and Jonelle.  Jonelle was our no.3 and  she and McClaren (Mac)  hurtled out of the start box looking for all the world like a superhero combo going to save the day.  Well, a mini superhero combo anyhow.  They ate up the first half and the entire Kiwi camp were glued to the screen as they approached the coffin as one half of the superhero combo isn’t the biggest fan of open ditches and it isn’t Jonelle.  Mac defied his demons and flew through to a great cheer from our camp which mystified the rest of the tent as as far as they were aware the coffin hadn’t caused any particular problems all day.  Mac and Jonelle then ate up the massive open ditch and the huge trakhenner before galloping strongly home.  Jonelle took one slightly longer route  to lessen the likelihood of dropping a pin and they came in some 6 time over for a superb clear.

As part of the 4th team rider rotation Tim had to wait until 4.30 to bring it home for the team.  Well, that was the plan but as Nicolas Touzant fell off and there was a lengthy hold whilst the ute that they sent down didnt seem to fit the bill to drag him off the track and they waited an age for an ambulance which eventually made it down to the site meant a 20 minute hold.  And no sooner had they got going than an unfortunate Spaniard made a total mess of the skinnies at the bottom of the slide and instead of plopping gracefully off to the side decided to do some Cossack riding which didnt quite come off as he ended up clinging to the front of his horse on a black run down the mountain.  Inevitably gravity took over and he went splat, his horse did his best but couldn’t avoid a fair whack on the chest and we were on hold again.

Tim finally set off and he and Falco were sublime.  They meant business from fence 1, were never down on the clock and they ate up every single question not just boldly but with grace and glamour and a solid partnership that comes with some heartbreak along the way.  The eventing equivalent of Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas is a fair way to describe it ( although I haven’t gotten around to allocating parts Falco is poncy enough to be our Mel) and today they came together again in perfect unity. They jumped, galloped, turned, hopped and skipped their way around to finish closer to the optimum time than Ros Canter so slipped into individual 7th on the same score as Boyd Martin. Tim was one second under, Boyd was bang on.  Dammit.

What a day!  Finally, we can hold our head up high for the first time since Rio Olympics as being right in the fight again as we lie in 4th spot.  We are just 3 show jumps off Gold with GB in the lead, Germany and USA just a few points ahead of us and an amazing day behind us.  As Jonelle said, it’s a changing of the guard with some new names coming through and its been a magical team atmosphere this week with everything to play for.

As I write the Horse Health Team are hard at work with the grooms and we, like all the other teams, have the best interests of the horses at heart and they will ensure that they are all comfortable. The jog is the first hurdle then its all about the poles tomorrow.

As I said.  Fun but not Fun!

NZL-Tim Price’s Falco heads out to graze with Kerryn Edmunds. The riders exercise their horses prior to the start of the FEI World Championships for Eventing – Pratoni | Roma. Tuesday 13 September 2022. Copyright Photo: Libby Law Photography