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A Perfect Cross Country for Nicolas Touzaint
Pratoni, Italy
Photo: Kit Houghton

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Nicolas Touzaint (FRA) and Galan de Sauvagère
At the end of a spectacular Cross Country day, which proved a genuine test of horsemanship and riding ability, France's Nicolas Touzaint on Galan de Sauvagère took the lead of the 2007 FEI European Eventing Championship. The only combination to make the optimum time, they finished on their Dressage score of 29.4. Zara Phillips (GBR) and Toytown picked up 2.8 penalties on the way and are in second place (32.6). Bettina Hoy (GER) and Ringwood Cockatoo are third (38.3).

It certainly was a memorable day. The hilly terrain of Pratoni, described by British team member Daisy Dick as ‘the Himalayas', had been cleverly used by Course Dessigner Giuseppe Delle Chiesa, who after years of thought and effort, produced a remarkably testing yet safe course.

Only Nicolas Touzaint and Galan, who were unanimously applauded by their peers, managed to make the optimum time of 10min34 (time for Touzaint 10min31). They were the last pair on the track and had had time to evaluate the difficulties the course presented and the mistakes the other riders had made. A heavy blow for the French team was the elimination of Arnaud Boiteau and Expo du Moulin, who after a very speedy and efficient beginning, were eliminated three fences before the end. Team orders were then modified by chef d'quipe Thierry Touzaint. The initial strategy of straight routes for everyone had been modified to limit the risks while still aiming for individual leadership. "We went for the direct route at fence nine but took the alternative option at 11. Both these fences were going to be tough – but you had to take a risk if you wanted to beat the clock. In the end it proved to be a really wise move," Nicolas Touzaint said.

In the team competition, Great Britain is well in the lead (119), followed by Germany (183.1) and France (208.9).

Team orders had also applied to the British riders. Daisy Dick was the pathfinder and despite finding the track ‘long and hard', she had only 2.8 time penalties (score for Daisy after the Cross Country 45.10). "I lost the odd second here and there as there were questions all over the place," she commented upon arrival.

Zara Phillips was the next team rider and had a fantastic round, which she qualified as ‘hard work'. "The ground was hard going for the horses. Mary and I had long route instructions, so it was hard to get the time back. Toytown was a bit keen to start off with – but he held it together and wwas great," Zara commented.

It was a first for Oliver Townend on the British team and despite 20 jumping and 4 time faults (total of 68.2 – drop score), he was proud not only oof his participation but also of being on the same team as "Europe's three most beautiful girls."

Mary King was the last rider and, being vastly experienced and team member at a European championship since 1991, took the options decided upon by the chef d'quipe to finish on 41.3 with only 4.8 time faults.

Olympic qualification is the other subject on many participants' minds. But as Nicolas Touzaint says, "we can't start celebrating just yet – there's a big day ahead of us tomoorrow, so we've got to stay focused."

Today's Cross Country was also interesting in that a new concept of a yellow warning flag on the course was implemented on a trial basis. Stewards were positioned at stopping points or sector points on the Cross Country course with a large yellow flag where on the instruction from the Ground Jury they could ask Cross Country control to implement the waving of the yellow flag to a rider who had been identified as riding dangerously or riding an over-tired horse.

The yellow flag acted as a warning to riders that they were being observed. In the cases where the situation continued, riders were stopped from proceeding further on the Cross Country by the waving of a red flag. This system was used on several occasions.

Credit for today's success should of course go to the Course Designer, but also to Albino Garbari, who had designed at Pratoni since 1960 and built this year's elegant course. But most of all, tribute should be paid to the horses who were brave and carried their riders with honesty. "I take my hat off to my horse," Daisy Dick said. "Why do they do it? I have no idea…"


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