The exciting cross-country phase took place at WEG Tryon, with an accelerated start order that set out on a three-minute schedule instead of four in an effort to conclude the competition before tropical storm Florence moved into the area in the late afternoon. Capt. Mark Phillips of Great Britain set a track where the uniquely designed and beautifully constructed fences were the stars ‒a course featuring 26 fences, 50 jumping efforts, and plenty of options.
For the Canadian Team, Colleen Loach was first out of the gate and had a magnificent round, incurring just 10 time faults aboard Qorry Blue d’Argouges, Peter Barry’s grey 14-year-old Selle Francais gelding. “It felt great; it rode like it walked,” said Loach. “My horse jumped great and I had lots of steam left at the end.
“I had him good and fit. Looking at him you wouldn’t think he’d be much of an endurance horse, but he just keeps on going.”
She commented on the last-minute decision the ground jury had made to remove two fences at the top of the long climb to the finish. “They were worried about the hill being too hard on the horses if it was a bit hotter and also if they got a lot of rain and the going got a little bit deep. My horse had so much run left, I don’t think it would have made a difference.
“It is a beautiful course; I really had fun out there,” she concluded. “My horse is just so honest and we’re such a team, it’s just a pleasure to ride him around any track.”
Next up was Lisa Marie Fergusson and Honor Me, her 12-year-old Welsh Cob/TB-cross gelding. The pair had just 8.4 time faults, taking the direct route at the Mars Sustainability Bay water complex at #10 that caused a lot of problems for riders. The series featured a jump up and out over a little cascading waterfall, which a number of horses took exception to. The workaround was longer and involved three efforts. “He looked at the waterfall, then he jumped up and said ‘yeah, I see my line. I’ve got it.’ I’m so lucky ‒ he hunts flags like nobody’s business.”
Fergusson said it was amazing to be at a world championships with a horse she produced herself. “It’s a great feeling, especially since he was a challenge a little bit as a young horse. He had such a big step, fitting him into the small dressage arena was not fun. But it really works out on cross-county. He’s so fun, I’m sure in all the pictures I’m grinning like an idiot.”
Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jollybo also had small 10.8 time penalty but an otherwise stellar round. “She’s a champion,” Bennett-Awad said of the British-bred 14-year-old mare. “We could have gone a little faster in the beginning, but I just wasn’t sure what I was going to have at the end. I went as fast and safe as I could. She is unbelieveable ‒ you point her at it and she is going to go. She came hauling ass up that hill, way faster than I thought she was going to be! She was trying to kick people in the cooling out area; she’s feeling like a million bucks right now.”
It became apparent early on that some horses were struggling with the terrain and fitness. Bennett-Awad attributes her horse’s fitness to a relatively new program. “The biggest thank-you to San Luis Rey Equine and Dr. Potenza in California. Jolly started using the water treadmill there a year ago today. That has been a game-changer for her. She’s always been fit, but she is so strong now. You don’t have to do all the pounding on them; with the treadmill she’s up to 18 minutes in water up to her chest on an incline, walking.”
Things were looking pretty promising for the Canadian Team, but unfortunately Jessica Phoenix and the 16-year-old Westfalian gelding Pavarotti had a bit of a rocky round, finally parting ways towards the end of the course. This put the pressure on Selena O’Hanlon and John and Judy Rumble’s 15-year-old CSHA gelding Foxwood High, who rose to the challenge with a clear round and just 8 time penalties. “Being in a team situation, you have to get the team through, so it was up to me to take some of the long routes that I wouldn’t normally take with Woody,” explained O’Hanlon. “He felt amazing. He’s getting so much fitter every time I take him out. Woody is the narrowest, straightest, most honest horse you could possibly imagine cross-country. He is just awesome.”
Following the cross-country, the Canadian standings look like this:
Selena O’Hanlon/Foxwood High – 29th (38.70)
Hawley Bennett-Awad/Jollybo – 38th (43.50)
Colleen Loach/Qorry Blue d’Argouges – 40th (44.40)
Lisa Marie Fergusson/Honor Me – 48th (48.60)
As a team, Canada sits in 11th place; Great Britain, France and Ireland dominate the top of the leaderboard with mere points separating them. Directly behind them is the Japanese Team, who managed to sneak past eventing powerhouses Australia and Germany.
Individually, Ingrid Klimke (GER) leads the way aboard SAP Hale Bob OLD (23.30) into Monday’s show jumping phase, followed by Rosalind Canter (GBR) with Allstar B (24.6) and Sarah Ennis (IRL) and Horseware Stellor Rebound (26.30)
The Norwegian horse Euforian, ridden by Heidi Bratlie Larsen as an individual, was pulled up by the Ground Jury after fence 21 and was taken by horse ambulance to the onsite Veterinary Treatment Center. The 13-year-old gelding hd been diagnosed with soft tissue injury and is being cared for in the Treatment Center onsite.
Box Qutie, the Swedish horse that pulled up lame at the finish of the cross-country, was transferred by horse ambulance to the Tryon Equine Hospital four kilometres from the venue for assessment. The 12-year-old mare, ridden by Anna Freskgård on the Swedish team at last year’s FEI European Eventing Championships in Strzegom (POL), has been diagnosed with soft tissue injury and is being treated at Tryon Equine Hospital.