Tim Price and Pippa Funnell vie for British open lead after Gatcombe dressage

  • Tim Price steered his Olympic ride Vitali into the lead of the Gatcombe Horse Trials British open championship at the Magic Millions Festival of British Eventing.

    They scored 23 (79.58%) to nudge Pippa Funnell into second, in the Magic Millions-sponsored class. Always smart in the first phase, this wasn’t quite a personal best for Vitali at international level – he posted 21.2 at Houghton in May.

    “He’s a super athlete, but we’ve still got to get the full package,” said Tim, referring to the Contender gelding’s slightly inconsistent record showjumping. “Because his dressage is so smart, we’re going to be in a good position quite regularly and then we’ve got to find a way to hold on to it, but I believe in him. We just have to learn a bit more and bring it out of him. I think he’ll jump a lot of clear rounds in the future.”

    Tim has been riding Joe and Alex Giannamore’s 12-year-old for a year and a half and describes him as a “fabulous cross-country horse”.

    “So hopefully we’ll jump round and have some fun. The ground’s good enough and I think it will be a great fitness and conditioning run ahead of Burghley Horse Trials as his second five-star.”

    Gatcombe Horse Trials: Pippa Funnell in double contention

    Pippa produced two excellent tests to take second and third spots, riding Billy Walk On and Majas Hope respectively. As best-placed Brit, she has put herself in line for the national title.

    Billy Walk On confirmed his return to form after a lacklustre trip to Badminton Horse Trials – he has finished second at five-star but also twice retired across country at CCI5*. Today (6 August), he showed his wellbeing with a little buck in the extended canter, still posting a good score of 24.4.

    “It was just him being happy,” said Pippa of the Walkinshaws’ 13-year-old. “That’s actually really nice from him because he lost a little bit of spark at Badminton. He wasn’t his normal self there from day one, and I don’t know what it was about. But I was happy enough with his test here – he had a little buck but I don’t mind that.”

    Pippa was almost more pleased with third-placed Majas Hope’s performance, after scoring 29.2.

    “It’s nice to do a good test on Hope because he has been my difficult one,” she said. “Not because he blows up but he finds dressage really difficult. Mentally he starts giving up on you, saying, ‘I find this hard,’ so you have to do things to make him have fun, and feel as though he’s not doing dressage. If you don’t do enough he’s too fresh, but you can’t drill him or he goes behind the leg.”

    Pippa was encouraged that even at 15, the horse – owned by herself and Marek Sebastak – is still learning.

    “Every time I do a test I try something different,” she said. “The difference today was that for the warm-up we just lunged him and then I cantered around off his back as if we were going cross-country. It worked really well – by his standard that was a good test. We missed one change because he was a bit too forward, but the highlight for me was that he didn’t drop behind the leg.”

    McEwen and Townend press the dressage leaders at Gatcombe Horse Trials

    Just one showjumping rail covers third to 13th ahead of showjumping tomorrow (Sunday, 7 August).

    Tom McEwen and Oliver Townend continued their run of form at this Gloucestershire event to take fourth and fifth after their respective Evelyn Partners British Intermediate and Dodson & Horrell British Novice Championship victories earlier in the day.

    Tom filled fourth spot on Barbara Cooper’s Braveheart B on 29.6, while Oliver sits in fifth with the Chamberlaynes’ Dreamliner on 30.1. Helen Wilson and My Ernie round off the top six on a score of 30.6.

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