I've just been watching the cross country from Luhmuhlen CCI**** courtesy of Germany's NDR TV (see link below). This event is what most would probably class as the entry level 4 star and I have to say looks to be one of the nicest 4 star tracks to ride. There seems to be plenty of opportunity to keep a nice even pace throughout the course whatever type of horse you have, only the coffin about half way round seems to be forcing a break of stride. You can find a full set of photos of the course on the Luhmuhlen website. There also seems to be plenty of undulation to the course to test the horses fitness and riders' control.
Julia Otto has had a lot to contend with to get this event up and running over the last 6 or 7 years and whilst it's bound to take a lot longer before they start to attract the sort of crowds you see at other 4 star events, she has done a great job on bringing this year's event together. The TV coverage is as good as any other 4 star event, although those used to the enthusiastic style of Mike Tucker might be a little confused with the dull-sic tones of the German commentator, oh and for those of you that don't speak German, listen out for the term 'chicken', where the commentator refers to the 'alternative/long' route. He is at least well versed in the rider biographies. The Germans are clearly still fascinated with our royal family as the Mark Phillips love-in as the start of the program illustrates, our national anthem is even given an airing.
Oliver Townend is the first rider you see on course (Carousel Quest) and right up to his refusal at one of the water complexes you'd have to say they looked pretty foot perfect all the way round. It's pretty difficult to see why he refused but clearly the horse was unhappy to continue. Watching his second round more closely I've just noticed Oliver seems to ride quite long and quite upright across country, a very unusual style, and one that seems to see him peck on landing more than some of the others.
Watching this coverage has also added a new horse to my list of "event horses I'd like to ride", Ruy Fonseca's horse (Tom Bombadill Too). I personally think he over rode the horse slightly causing the 20 penalties and the excessive time faults, but the horse did look fantastic, although the high knee action may mean he'd fair better in the CICs, or softer ground. Andreas Dibowski's horse (Fantasia), would also be on my list, and Lucy Wiegersma's horse (Indigo) is one lovely big galloping horse.
Sharon Hunt went very well and surely the only thing that will leave her off a WEG team is Tanker's Town's age. Joe Meyer also had a superb round on Clifton Lush. I'm not sure what happened to Nick Guantlett (eliminated), but I suspect he really does need to have a long hard look at where he's going wrong if he's going to make it onto a senior team.
Seeing Hans Melzer (the German team trainer) always reminds me of the 2003 Punchestown Euro Championships where I recall seeing the German team sat at a dinner table on the Sunday evening, Hans with head in hands, Chris Bartle with a rather blank expression, and the German riders looking rather nervous as they all try to work out how they are going to qualify for the Athens Olympics.
Any how, a fantastic event, albeit with a small but competitive field, and great TV coverage, top marks to the Germans, now all we need is a few of these 4 stars to get their websites updated in a timely manner. I'll definately be visiting Luhmuhlen before London 2012.