The host nation’s Martin Dimitrov and Whanyano emerged to take individual gold at the FEI Balkan Eventing Championship 2014 at Shumen in Bulgaria last weekend where the freak weather conditions affecting the Balkan region led to disruption during Saturday’s cross-country phase.
A lightning strike resulted in several people being rushed to hospital, but all were discharged the following day. And 17-year-old Dimitrov, who led the Championship class from the outset, won despite the addition of 12 faults in Sunday’s jumping phase.
Just five competitors from three nations lined up in this year’s Championship and only two completed. Bulgaria also clinched the silver when Mitko Dalakov steered Pasians into runner-up spot.
The event was staged at the Kabiuk National Stud, the oldest stud farm in Bulgaria which was founded in 1864 to provide mounts for the cavalry of the Imperial army and which is this year celebrating its 150th anniversary. Today the State-owned farm has a busy breeding programme, producing Arabians, Anglo-Arabians, Thoroughbreds and Shagyas from its herd of more than 500 horses.
And in a unique style of management, the majority of them run free across the 30,000 hectares of pasture land which is also grazed by cattle and sheep. “It is lovely to see,” said cross-country course designer Andrew Fell from Ireland.
“All the animals live a very natural life here in the open countryside and the horses really enjoy their freedom,” he explained.
Fell has been course designing in the Balkan region for some years now and had the task of designing tracks for a CCI 2*, CCI 1* and the Balkan Championship which was also pitched at 1* level. “Shumen is possibly the best place in the world for a cross-country course,” he said. “It is the most beautiful parkland with amazing ground that can cope with anything”.
As it happened, the ground conditions were certainly put to the test.
Saturday’s cross-country got under way in ideal conditions and Dimitrov maintained the lead he had established in the dressage arena the previous day when adding nothing to his scoreline of 61.04 with his 13-year-old hanoverian mare. His considerably more experienced fellow-countryman, 22-year-old Svetlin Krastanov, was lying second with the eight-year-old Karina as the cross-country action began, but a fall at the water complex put paid to their chances, while Turkey’s sole representative, Singe Ozaltindere, was eliminated for missing out a fence with her 15-year-old mare Zambo.
It was Romania’s Viorel Bubau and the eight-year-old mare Arcitic who were lying in runner-up spot at the end of the day when adding nothing to their dressage mark of 69.79 while Bulgaria’s Dalakov and Pasians lay third, having added just six time penalties during an otherwise uneventful tour of the track.
The Championship runners were not long finished when the weather, which had been fine and sunny, suddenly changed and the storm rolled in, bringing thunder, lightning and very heavy rain. A bolt of lightning struck a tree under which people were taking shelter, but the ambulance crews went into action right away and four people were taken to hospital, none having suffered life-threatening injury. They were released the following day.
With the land now seriously flooded, the Ground Jury decided to amend the programme and call a halt to proceedings for the rest of the day. As a result the remainder of the CCI* entrants competed under the short format on Sunday when Svetlin Krastanov was compensated for his unscheduled dismount in the water the previous afternoon by adding the CIC 1* honours to his first and second placings in the 2* competition.
Overnight the ground made a remarkable recovery, but when Bubau withdrew his horse before the second horse inspection on Sunday morning it was left to the Bulgarian duo to battle it out for the 2014 FEI Balkan Eventing Championship individual title in the jumping arena. And despite collecting an additional 12 faults, Dimitrov won through when Dalakov accumulated 20.
It was an excellent result for the newly-crowned Balkan champion who represented his country at the FEI European Eventing Championships for Juniors in Jardy, France, last year.
The event was certainly one neither the riders nor officials are ever likely to forget.
“It was an extraordinary series of events that no-one could have predicted on cross-country day,” said Teodor Sheytanov, Secretary General of the Bulgarian Federation.
“Andrew Fell did a fantastic job with the course, and I want to thank the Ground Jury and the Technical Delegate because they also did a great job in a very difficult situation,” he said.
Result -FEI Balkan Eventing Championship:
GOLD - Whanyano (Martin Dimitrov) BUL 73.04;
SILVER - Pasians (Mitko Dalakov) BUL 92.42.