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Klimke Leads Dressage at Badminton
Badminton, Glos., England
by Amber Heintzberger
Ingrid Klimke and Sleep Late
Photo: Amber Heintzberger
Ingrid Klimke has achieved great things as an event rider and as a dressage rider, but until today she had only ever been a spectator at the Badminton Horse Trials in England. Performing her test in the early afternoon, today she and the German Olympic Committee's gray English thoroughbred gelding Sleep Late (40.4) surpassed the frontrunners to take the lead in the first day of dressage competition at the four-star competition sponsored by Mitsubishi Motors.

But Klimke, of Warendorf, Germany, who has won the bronze medal for Germany at the 2005 European Championships and was a member of the Olympic Team at Athens, has no room for error: she is closely followed by British rider Ruth Edge on Two Thyme (40.6). Edge, from Brampton, Cambria, is only 26 years old and has already won the British Open Championships in 2004 and was third at Saumur in 2005. A member of the US Sport funded World Class Potential program, Edge said that the support provided from veterinarians, farriers and physiotherapists has made sure that she and her horse are ready for the challenge.

"It's a huge help to us budding event riders," she said, adding, "One day when the time comes I would like to represent my country but I'm not in any hurry."

Still less than a point separates the top two from Terry Boon, 32, (GBR) in third place on Foreign Exchange, a flashy chestnut gelding he owns in partnership with Preetha Excell.  A former Young Rider champion, Boon and Foreign Exchange won at Bramham in 2004 and competed at Burghley in the same year.

Foreign Exchange is owned by Boon and Excell as the result of trading him for a show hunter for his former owner. Boon laughed that at the time, he didn't think the big gelding would ever be a four-star horse, and they even considered selling him. Now, he thinks that the original owner may regret the trade!

French rider Pascal Leroy (45.4) is in fourth place riding Glenburny Le Dou and Karin Donckers, of Belgium, is in fifth on Gormley. Donckers had planned on competing at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** but her entry suffered a minor fracture of the coffin bone that will keep him on the sidelines for the next six weeks. "It was very bad timing," she said.

Looking towards cross-country, Klimke said that she has only walked the course once so far, but is heading out shortly for a look with German coach Christoper Bartle and will develop her plan then.

She said that since Bartle, of Great Britain, started coaching the German event team, they have spent much more time focusing on schooling cross-country. Bartle is also the motivating factor in the Germans competing at Badminton instead of watching from the sidelines.

Looking towards cross-country, Klimke said, "The fences look do-able; they need respect but give the rider a good chance."

Edge commented, "The Lake is quite formidable and it's the first time the horses will see the big crowds we get at Badminton. There's so much to jump out there and it doesn't stop until you get to the Normandy Bank."

Event Director and cross-country course designer Hugh Thomas, commenting before Klimke's ride, said that he is pleased with the entries at this year's competition. "There are some really good riders, particularly from Germany and France," he said. "Betting is a dodgy affair but I was tempted to have a go on Ingrid Klimke, who was at 25-1 odds last time I checked!"

Of his course he said, "There are quite a lot of new fences out there – the eternal challenge is to come up with questions they haven't seen before. In my day, an average rider could get around with a good horse. But today you need a very good rider on a very good horse. There is a lot more professionalism in eventing."

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