They swept all before them at the 2021 edition in Avenches (SUI), and once again Team Great Britain sends a world-class squad of riders and horses to the 36th edition of the FEI Eventing European Championship which kicks off at Haras du Pin in Normandy (FRA) next Wednesday, 9 August 2023.
However this event won’t all be about places on the podium.
There are also two Olympic qualifying spots on offer to countries that have not already booked their tickets to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, and the battle between the four nations competing for those two places is expected to be intense.
A total of 58 athletes from 14 countries will line out at the French venue including teams from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland along with individuals from Denmark, Finland, Hungary and Poland.
In the race for the two Olympic team slots are Austria, Belgium, Italy and The Netherlands.
This will be the 70th anniversary of this championship which dates all the way back to Badminton (GBR) in 1953 where the hosts took individual gold and silver and fielded the only side to finish the team competition.
The sport has come a long way since then, but British dominance has remained a constant theme with 19 individual and 23 European team titles under their belts. And the defending champions are back out in force once more this time around.
For Germany the dream of a seventh team victory didn’t come true last time around as they had to settle for silver.
German riders have taken the individual title six times and three of those victories were posted back-to-back by Michael Jung in 2011, 2013 and 2015. The only other three-in-a-row individual champion is Great Britain’s Ginny Elliott who reigned supreme in 1985, 1987 and 1989.
The phenomenal Jung is back on the German side again this year with Fischerchipmunk FRH along with longtime team-mate and 2014 double World Champion Sandra Auffarth (Viamant du Matz), Christoph Wahler (Carjatan S), Jerome Robine (Black Ice) and Nicolai Aldinger (Timmo).
Sweden took bronze in 2021, and, partnering Dynamite Jack, four-time Olympian Sara Algotsson Ostholt heads this year’s Swedish contingent which includes Frida Andersen (Box Leo), Lina Forsberg (Kaizen), Sofia Sjöborg (Bryjamolga vh Marienshof Z) and Amanda Staam (Corpoubet At).
After six of the eight legs of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ 2023 series Belgium, Italy and The Netherlands hold the top three placings and Austria lies seventh of the 14 competing countries. The stage is set for a right royal battle between these four nations for the two tickets to Paris next summer as the week progresses.
The French have never won the team title but have taken team silver eight times. And on the last four occasions when they stood on the second step of the podium - in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2011 - Nicolas Touzaint was a team member each time.
The 43-year-old five-time Olympian is one of just two French riders to win individual European gold in Eventing. Jean-Lou Bigot and Twist La Beige came out on top in 1993 and Touzaint steered Galan de Sauvagère to victory in both in 2003 and 2007. This year he competes Absolut Gold HDC with which he helped claim team bronze at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games two years ago.
The quality host nation squad also includes Karim Florent Laghouag (Triton Fontaine), Stephane Landois (Ride for Thais Chaman Dumontceau), Gaspard Maksud (Zaragoza), Gireg Le Coz (Aisprit de la Loge) and Heloise Le Guern (Canakine du Sudre Z). They’ll have their eyes firmly focused on the podium, especially ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games on their home soil.
Haras du Pin
The Haras National du Pin is located in Le Pin-au-Haras district in the Orne department of the southern Normandy region. It is the oldest of the French national studs and, known as the “Versailles for horses”, it was established by King Louis XIV in 1715 and stretches over more than 2,471 acres.
Many major events have been staged at the stud including the Grand Complet which was established 25 years ago by the family of Pierre Le Goupil who is cross-country course designer for the European Championship, and who has also been chosen to fill the same role at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
However it has only played host to the FEI Eventing European Championship on one previous occasion, in 1969 when Great Britain claimed all-gold and individual silver.
Everything they have
The British are throwing everything they have at retaining the European titles and look like tough nuts to crack.
Ros Canter is listed with her sensational Badminton 2023 winner Lordships Graffalo, while Kitty King will line out again with Vendredi Biats, better known as Froggy, who finished second at CCI5*-L in Luhmühlen (GER) in June.
In fact the six-strong British selection includes four of the top eleven and six of the top 25 in the current World Athlete Rankings as well as the reigning world championship partnership of Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir.
Tom McEwen (JL Dublin) holds the world number two slot, Canter is number three, Ingham is number six and Tom Jackson (Capels Hollow Drift) is number 11. Laura Collett (London 52) lies 20th in the rankings and King holds 25th place. They are a formidable bunch.
The action will get underway on 9 August with the Draw, First Horse Inspection and the Opening Ceremony followed by two days of Dressage on 10 and 11, the thrilling Cross-Country on Saturday 12 and the deciding Jumping phase on Sunday 13.
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