Yesterday’s cross-country phase at Haras Du Pin in Normandy ensured that the eventing at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games was not going to be dressage competition.

Matter of timing

Just like at Badminton, a challenging course at WEG combined with difficult going saw plenty of changes in the leaderboard.

Heavy rain in the run up to the event led to soft ground, and not one rider came home within the time – even though two fences (fence 20 and the fence 23, the owl hole, aka Le Hibou Du Lion) had been removed and the course shortened. The closest was Jonelle Price for New Zealand, who was just eight seconds over the optimum to move her up from 26thplace to fourth.

Indeed, the time proved very influential, with dressage leader Sandra Auffarth dropping below William Fox-Pitt after picking up four more time penalties than the Brit. Two riders to drop down from the top 10 because of time penalties were Elaine Pen (from seventh to 20th) and Ingrid Klimke (fifth to 21st).

There were 36 clear rounds, the slowest of which was Frederico Mexia De Alm for Portugal, who finished in 13min 48sec to add 79.2 time penalties to his dressage score.

Bogey fence

The most influential fence on the course was the second water complex, the L’Abreuvoir, which came up at number 30 and 31 when the horses were becoming tired.

Eight riders had their only penalties at this point in the course, including Alex Hua Tian, Merel Blom and Cedric Lyard. It also saw the end of many a WEG campaign, with Buck Davidson, Andrew Heffernan, Britain’s Oliver Townend (who had already had a refusal at fence 27 with Black Tie) and Ecuador’s Nicolas Wettstein opting to retire after refusals here.

The water complex also saw Mark Todd fall from Leonidas II, while the same happened to his team mate Lucy Jackson, who had a nasty looking tumble from Willy Do. Joris Van Springel’s horse Lully Des Aulnes fell here, while Hawley Bennett-Awad (USA) and Jacek Jeruzal (POL) were eliminated at this point for culminative refusals.

A number of other riders, including cross-country leader William Fox-Pitt, survived sticky moments at this fence.

Early start

As in most events, the first few fences did not cause any trouble – though Le Lavoir at fence 3 saw Swiss rider Jasmin Gambirasio take an early fall.

The first combination fence at 4/5 did provide a bit of a wake-up call to some riders, with the solid looking double of corners in the direct route causing several run outs. Those to pick up 20pen at this fence included Sinead Halpin, Gabriel Figueiredo Silva Cury, Maria Pinedo, Peter Barry and Alena Tseliapushkina. Belgium’s Constantin Van Rijckevorsel had his first 20pen here, and he opted to retire after a second refusal at fence 25.

Jock Paget, on his return to four-star following his suspension, had a run out at the direct route with Clifton Promise and later retired. He is entered at Burghley and New Zealand’s team chances were also finished after their first two riders were eliminated.

Polish rider Jerzy Krukowski had a refusal at both parts of this combination before he later fell at fence seven. Anna Hilton (SWE) also refused here and later had a horrible fall at fence 27. Harald Siegl had his first refusal here, another at the first water and a final one at fence 24/25.

Fence six – La Barriere Du Parc – did not cause any issues, nor did fence 8, Le Haut Bois, or the picnic table.

First water

A lot of the trouble yesterday stemmed from H20, whether it be rain making the going soft or the tricky water fences.

The first water complex jumped much better than the last one, though it did see the first 20pen for German team rider Dirk Schrade. The final water at 30/31 saw him pick up another 20pen too. Other riders to have difficulties at the first water included Felix Vogg (who later picked up another 20pen at the second water complex), Evelina Bertoli, Albert Hermoso Farras.

Francisco Seabra and Zarthago had their only refusal here.Clare Abbott and Euro Prince, Irish individuals, had a refusal here and a further two at fence 11 and 24, which meant elimination.

This was also the site of Ingrid Klimke’s controversial moment. The German rider scrambled over the first skinny into the water and rode past the element in the water, so embarked on the long route. There was then some discussion about whether she’d presented at the fence, and later whether she’d crossed her tracks after jumping the alternative route, but after some changing around she was given a clean sheet (albeit one with 32.4 time penalties).

The best moment of the day was when Camilla Spiers’ Portersize Just A Jiff banked the rolltop in the water, proving his quick-thinking Irish Sport Horse credentials.

Mid-course

Fence 10, Vers La Ferme – a big, solid fence – jumped well aside for Carlos Diaz Fernandez, who fell here. The next, a four part combination, saw 20pen for Marcelo Tosi (BRA) and Igor Atrokhov (RUS), and a second refusal for Evelina Bertoli. Zara Phillips had an alarming moment here but survived; before nearly falling off a few fences later at the bounces after the second water, but she managed to post a clear round with High Kingdom.

Only Czech rider Martin Maivald had any trouble at fence 12, La Marche Des Chappey, picking up 20pen. Fence 13, called Le Burghley and similar in design (but not quite as frightening) as the famous Cottesmore Leap, caused Denis Mesples to fall but otherwise was penalty-free.

There was a let up at 14 before the second of three water complexes (15, 16, 17 and 18) caused a few issues. Sarah Ennis picked up 20pen here (before incurring another 20pen at fence 24), Lynn Symansky had the first of two refusals (the second came at fence 27), Polish rider Marta Dziak- Gierlicz had their only jumping penalties at this complex. Swiss rider Eveline Bodenmüller fell at fence 18, the final element of this complex, while Ireland’s Joseph Murphy picked up 20pen at 18 and another at fence 25.

Fence 19, another big, solid one, did not cause any problems.

Nearing the end

Fence 20 was taken out, as was fence 23. Finnish rider Elmo Jankari retired after picking up 20pen at fence 21. Phillip Dutton got 20pen at fence 25, then called it a day.

Fence 28 and 29 saw all riders go clear, before the fearsome final water fence caused plenty of mishaps (see above). Fences 32, 33 and 34 were also fine, even as some tired horses came down towards the finish, and everyone managed to jump the final fence except Peter Tersgov Flarup, who had an unfortunate refusal here before clearing it and completing.

We cannot round up the day without mentioning the sad death of Wild Lone. Harry Meade’s horse jumped a lovely clear cross-country before collapsing and dying after the finish line. The British team were the only nation all day to post four clear rounds.