I had hoped very much that he would express all his qualities today...
Thibaut Vallette tops the leaderboard at the end of the first day of dressage at Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. He rode a lovely smooth test on the 13-year-old Qing du Briot ENE HN to post a score of 38.7.
“I had hoped very much that he would express all his qualities today. He’s quite sensitive and there is plenty of atmosphere in the arena, plus it was his first ‘proper’ four star so I was very happy with his performance,” explained the Frenchman, who is making his first trip to Badminton.
The combination was part of the gold medal winning team at last summer’s Rio Olympics, finishing 13th individually, and also claimed the individual bronze medal at the 2015 Blair Castle European Championships.
Hard on Thibaut’s heels, 0.4 penalties off the pace, is Badminton blogger Bettina Hoy with the very smart Designer 10 who was brimming with energy.
“I had to contain him a bit in there, he would love to have popped in a buck. He’s definitely ready to go across country,” Bettina laughed. Commenting on the new dressage test she added, “I prefered the old one. Specifically I don’t like the new canter circle – I can see why they have put it in but to get a horse to stretch and relax in that atmosphere is hard.
“Designer tries so hard to please me and has possibly the biggest heart of all the horses I’ve ridden.”
For once the defending champions, Michael Jung and La Biosthetitique Sam FBW are not at the top of the leaderboard, although they are less than a penalty behind Bettina. Michael came close to having a wardrobe malfunction when he almost dropped his hat after the first salute, and Sam looked quite ‘hot’ to handle.
Michael agreed: “It’s a very special arena and he knows the atmosphere in there. I always hope to do better but I’m very happy that Sam is full of energy and power – that is a good sign for Saturday’s cross country.”
Dressage resumes tomorrow at 9.30am when Ben Way and Galley Light will be first in front of the Grand Jury.