Britain’s Sophie How has won the individual title at the European Eventing Championships for Juniors at Strzegom in Poland over the weekend.
Riding her 11-year-old gelding Pebbly Aga Khan, the 18-year-old led from the dressage phase and continued her excellent form with clears in the cross country and show jumping, to finish on her dressage score of 35.
Silver went to fellow British rider Emily King, who had 42.50 penalties on Mr Hiho. King’s mother, British Olympic eventer Mary King, missed the Blenheim International Horse Trials to support her daughter in Poland.
After the dressage and cross country King had been in equal second position with Ireland’s Tori Dixon, who ended in ninth place overall after taking a jumping rail.
But Ireland’s hopes stayed alive with Harold Megahey on Chuckelberry, who moved up a place to take bronze with 43.10 penalty points. His team-mate Lucca Stubington was close behind in fourth with the Irish Sport Horse Kilminchy Condor, on 44.0, ahead of Germany’s Pauline Knorr (Abke’s Boy) in fifth and Britain’s Alfie Bradstock and Minimee in sixth.
This was the 18th team and 17th individual gold medal winning success for Great Britain since these Championships first took place at Eridge (GBR) in 1967.
The best result among the Polish riders was Piotr Dąbrowski competing on Pakiet, who finished in 24th place.
In the teams competition, Britain had a narrow win over Ireland, with their four clear rounds sealing gold.
Ireland challenged the hotly-fancied British team all the way, after an inspiring start in the team dressage phase. The Irish riders all went clear within the allotted time on the challenging European cross country course, staying in second place but putting tremendous pressure on leaders Great Britain by narrowing the gap to just 2.5 points.
There were plenty of refusals over the early part of the 25-fence cross-country course designed by Britain’s Ronald Alexander, with seven horse-and-rider combinations collecting 20 penalties at the fourth, and 13 more penalised at the two elements of fence seven where Norway’s Stine Hoff and Korall were eliminated for their third stop and Germany’s Julia Funtmann and Cotina went out of contention following a fall.
All hung in the balance before the show jumping phase, but a superlative British performance managed to keep Ireland at bay and stretch the British lead by one more point at the final bell.
The French side of Justine Bonnet (Newton d’Hericourt), Robin Boulanger (Orpheo des Sablons), Thais Meheust (Quamilha) and Arthur Goncalves (Navarin de Carolles) were already 13 penalty points adrift, and although they were faultless throughout the remaining two phases, they could never make up the deficit as the two leading nations held firm.
Britain’s Chef d’Equipe Ginnie Keen said: “It was so tight at the top going into the show jumping – things were getting extremely close and it really all came down to Sophie How at the last moment! It is a fantastic result for the team and also the riders individually, I am so proud of how they all pulled together as a squad.”
A total of 83 riders from 18 countries – Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland – vied for the honours, while 15 nations lined out in the team competition.