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Ponies Fly at Freudenberg
Freudenberg, Germany
Photo: Dirk Caremans
Nina Stegemann (GER) and Mr.Hale Bob
Saturday was as is customary on Saturdays Cross Country day at the 2007 FEI European Pony Championship at Freudenberg (GER). Forty-eight riders from 12 countries did their very best on the 16-fence 25-jumping effort well built and decorated course.

Great Britain may very well be adding another gold medal to the one conquered in Jumping yesterday. The British team, all four riders of which went clear, keep their Dressage score of 130.30 and are well in the lead. The Brits are followed by home nation Germany (147.90) and Belgium (175.80).

In the Individual competition German rider Nina Stegemann on Mr Hale Bob, a former federal champion, is in the lead (40.50). The Individual final will be a tight one given that the first four riders are exactly one Jumping fence apart: Libby Soley of Great Britain on Noble Springbok finished Cross Country day on a score of 41.00 and is runner-up position; Valeska Haupmann (GER) is, with 42.40, third on Andy 113 and is followed by another British rider Gina Ruck (44.50) on Ice Cool Baileys.

The course, limited by the rules to fences one metre in height and of two-star difficulty, was very fair and asked a good variety of questions expected at a European Championship. It was slightly short in length  2,950m whereas the minimum length required by the rules is 3,000m  and built in a very flat clearing. The optimum time of 5 min 41 did not prove a great difficulty: 26 riders went clear within the time. As expected, there were several refusals but the number of falls remained very limited: no horse fell and there were four ridersb falls; no serious injuries are to be feared.

The main objective of the course was to see all of the riders home and it almost succeeded: only one rider was eliminated and two retired. It was a rider, horse and spectator friendly course, allowing for good visibility and easy access to all the fences and attracting an estimated number of 5,000 supporters. It proved a good team spirit catalyst as the Dressage and Jumping riders were the hearty supporters of their Eventing team mates. The prize for the fittest fan club should definitely go to the French, who wearing their team uniforms, wrapped in their blue, red and white-striped national flag, wearing wigs in the national colours ran to support the French ponies at each fence in the company of a fluffy white dog.

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