Blyth Tait is the best of the Kiwi eventers at the end of the first day of dressage at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in the United States, sitting in eighth place with Sir Mark Todd in 14thand the team in fifth spot.
Julia Krajewski (GER) and Chipmunk FRH lead the field on 19.9 penalty points with Boyd Martin (USA) on Tsetserleg in second on 27.1 and Piggy French (GBR) aboard Quarry Echo third on 27.8.
Germany also top the team standings, on 50.1 for their two riders, with Australia second on 58.4, France third on 59.4 and New Zealand fifth on 61.1.
Fifty-seven-year-old Blyth has made no secret about just how happy he is to be back in an elite national team at a pinnacle event. His record at world champs is impressive though – in 1990 he won individual gold aboard Messiah and was part of the gold medal-winning team too. WEG didn’t go so well for him in the Hague in 1994 where he was eliminated but he bounced right back in 1998 at Rome with Ready Teddy to take both team and individual gold again.
So, he’s figures things could work in his favour if his pattern continues – all things going well.
“I’m either in or out!”
He was chuffed with the efforts of his 14-year-old bay in his first-ever 4* test. “I am thrilled to bits,” he said. “He is not that experienced at this level and it was a good solid first score for the team. I am now kicking myself I didn’t push him more.”
His “fantastic” team-mates had urged him to be brave, but he thought it sensible “not to rock the boat too much” as the first rider out. “You need strength in numbers for a good team result.”
The horse tends to be a little spooky and a bit distracted but showed none of that today. “It was a big ask for this horse, but he let me really ride him. That was basically a clear round.”
Eventing team dressage coach Isobel Wessels said Blyth had done a super job with Dassett Courage. “It was full of running with lovely canter and walk work,” she said. “All his flying changes were superb, and he came out smiling.”
Blyth felt the cross country was a good galloping course, but it would be the luck of the draw as to what the weather was like on the day. He says the whole team is keen and eager to get on with the competition. “If we play our cards right we could be in with a shot.”
Sir Mark Todd got a huge welcome into the arena aboard his 11-year-old Holsteiner McClaren. The horse is often likened to his superstar, double gold medal Olympian Charisma. While McClaren is only in his second “proper” season of eventing, Mark is attending his sixth WEG.
Together they produced a test that featured lovely moments of harmony and energy, showing the horse is most certainly one to watch for the future.
“He tried hard,” said Mark. “He is very much a horse in the making but his greenness showed through in places. We came here knowing he was a bit green in this phase.”
Mark felt McClaren had excelled at the moves he did well. “We know he can do better – he has such amazing presence and movement. He has never seen anything like that and he felt a little distracted in there, and that is when the mistakes sneak in.”
He was pleased to come out with 31.4. “He is a very brave and super jumper.”
This was the first year the cross country had been a 3* instead of a 4* but Mark warned any rider would be wrong to underestimate it. “We certainly won’t be taking it lightly. Who knows what the weather will be doing. There’s a lot of hoping going on.”
He was feeling his age as he was interviewed by journalists, adding he was “too old to be riding in this heat”.
Eventing chef d’equipe Graeme Thom felt it was a great start to the competition for the Kiwis. “Blyth opened us up with a stellar effort aboard Dassett Courage. His sub-30 score was extremely competitive,” said Graeme. “Mark showed his talent and experience guiding McClaren through his paces to produce a very good result in the blistering heat of the day.”
The team were looking forward to unearthing more about the Captain Mark Phillips subtleties in their second cross country walk later today.
Tomorrow the remainder of the New Zealand will be in action. Individual rider Dan Jocelyn aboard Grovine de Reve is in at 9.08am (EST) with team members Tim and Jonelle Price at 10.59am and 3.37pm respectively aboard Cekatinka and Classic Moet.
The horse details:
Vom Feinsten – owned by Julie and David Brougham
McClaren – owned by David and Katherine Thomson
Cekatinka – owned by Joanne Pullan
Classic Moet – owned by Trisha Rickards and Jonelle Price
Grovine de Reve – owned by Therese Miller, Jo Preston-Hunt Philip Hunt and Dan Jocelyn
Dassett Courage – owned by Thomas Barr, Sally Grant and Blyth Tait
For full results, head to –
by Diana Dobson, New Zealand team media liaison
Photos by Libby Law Photography