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French eventing: Part 3

Top: Astier Nicolas riding Piaf de b’Neville (Cap de B’Neville - Homelie III x Rev d’Elle) – Rio 2016

Foreward by Jean Llewellyn: Every sport horse’s life story begins with a breeder’s investment, time, effort and passion. Thereafter, as many offspring are sold as foals or young horses, new chapters are written by owners, trainers, riders and others who define the career path of each competition or breeding prospect. It seemed inevitable, therefore, that we should one day publish an article about the ‘hereafter’ – who and what directs a horse’s career path? In this case we focus on French eventing following the team’s phenominal success in 2016.

In part three of Christopher Hector’s story that takes an in-depth look at French eventing – this final episode looks at the riders and their trainers. Specifically, Chris set out to identify the reasons for French eventing’s remarkable comeback in 2016 – specifically their Olympic dream team. Chris Hector’s conversation began with Babette Schily whom he met at the four-star Pau CCI....

Schily is an acute observer of the French eventing scene – as a rider, as an event organizer, and as a co- ordinator of equestrian ser vices and small businesses for the Chamber of Commerce in her region of South West France. Luckily she was the first person we met as we set out to try and unravel the secrets of the French eventing team’s success, lucky in that after a wonderful de-brief on the French scene, she then rounded up interviewees and acted as an interpreter.

Q Once the French were too far from the lead after the dressage, but at Rio, they were right at the top all the way through, why the change?

The Germans were always known for very academic riding, they are very disciplined. French people are more inventive, creative, and that is how they ride their horses. Horses have more liberty, okay if it is not the right stride, just do something and jump. For the Germans it has to be calculated, not improvised, the French riders leave it to the horse more to take the initiative...