Eventing Felt Like Musical Chairs, But It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

After cross-country in Tokyo, Great Britain's Oliver Townend is back in the lead followed by his teammate Laura Collett and Germany's Julia Krajewski.

“It’s not a show jumping sport, it’s a three-day event,” remarked Oliver Townend after he took back the early lead he had claimed in the dressage phase, until Michael Jung’s score put him in the second position.

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class maintained their dressage score of 23.60 to top the leaderboard following cross-country. © Diana De Rosa

Then on cross-country day when many thought Jung would maintain that lead, the unthinkable happened and between time faults and a few other minor bobbles, Jung moved down in the order to tenth.

In fact, the three-day event is a package deal. You can’t just do well in dressage, or in the cross-country or in show jumping as the final decision is based on combining all of the results together. Had Jung gone clear he would have maintained his dressage score and took the lead, but he didn’t go clear.

If Oliver didn’t cross the finish line within the time allowed that result could have kept him out of the running for gold, silver or bronze. And yet even though after two days he has maintained his dressage score total after cross-country, there is still the third day when you have to come back after negotiating the cross-country phase but must still face-off against the final show jumping test.

It’s not the show jumping that dictates the score even though on that final day it may appear that way. Leave all the fences up and you maintain you score. Knock one fence down and your score gets 4 points added to it.

So, in the words of Townend, “It’s not a show jumping sport, it’s a three-day event and you never know what you’ve got until you are in the ring.”

The Standings After Cross-Country

For now, here is where everything stands without including the final phase.

Oliver Townend is in the lead on his dressage score of 23.60. His British teammate, Laura Collett, who also added no penalty points, is in third with her score of 25.80. And in between the two is Julia Krajewski from Germany. So, while Jung didn’t make the grade following this cross-country course, his teammate did with her score of 25.60, slightly over her dressage score of 25.20.

When their scores were combined with the rest of their teammates totals, it kept Great Britain in the lead on 78.30. However, the day before Germany and New Zealand were in the silver and bronze spots, but instead Australia (96.20) and France (97.10) moved ahead of them. 

For Team USA it was a tough gamble even before the cross-country as all the riders had dressage scores in the low 30s and in order to even have a chance, they all needed to add no points, but they did. However, they all finished the course with very decent goes. Martin’s score went from 31.30 to 34.30. Payne’s 33 score increased to 39.30. And Dutton went from 30.50 to 35.30. As a team they moved from fourth after dressage to fifth after cross-country.

In the end, the course really dictates the results based on your horse’s strengths and weaknesses and how they go on that day. No doubt it was a tough course, but Team USA riders were proud of their horses.

“It was a bit of a relief getting around. Thomas tried his absolute heart out but it wasn’t a course that suits him well,” commented Martin.

“I couldn’t be happier,” remarked Payne about Vandiver. “I thought we would be able to go a bit faster but at the end we were on totally empty. So, that’s all you can ask for.”

Dutton had to get held on the course caused by a problem at a different fence. “That’s not ideal because you have to stop and then start again,” he commented, adding, “He’s a great little horse and he couldn’t have done much better.”

For Townend, Krajewski and Collett, it wasn’t about what’s going to happen after show jumping, it was about enjoying how well they did in cross-country.

“Today was definitely a dream and it was nice to get out there and prove to everybody how good he (London 52) is. I’m very proud to be here,” remarked Collett.

Krajewski had similar feelings about Amande De B’Neville, explaining, “From the day I had her she was special to me. It took me a while to convince the other people. I’m so proud of my horse. The course was quite intense, but she just did her best.”

Townend echoed her comments about the course noting, “The course was hard from beginning to end. I thought Derek Di Grazia did a beautiful job. He doesn’t try to trick horses and riders. He just tries to test them.”

Townend did credit his exceptional team of riders and horses for their post cross-country standing. “There are no other three horses that the British team ever fielded that were this strong. It’s special to be on any team, let alone an Olympic team with horses this powerful.”

As they each enter the show jumping ring it remains to be seen who still has the power and who does not this time around, but then again, it’s not a show jumping sport, it’s a three-day event.

For more exclusive updates with Vita Flex (http://bit.ly/vita-flex-pro_tokyo) leading up to and including the Games, visit practicalhorsemanmag.com/summer-games-2021

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