Watson and Ryan in top 20 as Ireland bows out of European Team Eventing Championships

THREE clear show jumping rounds in the final phase of the FEI European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle, Scotland on Sunday left Ireland with two riders finishing in the top 20 and one in the top 30.

Carlow’s Sam Watson with Horseware Lukeswell (ISH) competed as an individual for Ireland in the championships, and his zero score today left him in 12th place overall, the best of the Irish performances on a total of 59.30 penalties.

Co. Cork’s Michael Ryan, the only team member to complete Saturday’s cross country course without mishap, today finished 14th individually on Ballylynch Adventure (ISH) with a total score of 61.10.

Ireland’s other individual competitor, Kildare’s Camilla Speirs aboard Portersize Just a Jiff (ISH), completed on a score of 79.50, to leave her in 29th place.

Yesterday’s tough cross country course at Blair Castle Scotland led to a total of 19 combinations suffering retirement or elimination, including three of the Irish team.

Heavy rain squalls swept former Olympian Ian Stark’s cross country track as many of the world’s top riders made uncharacteristic mistakes, leading to retirement or elimination. Under FEI rules, a single fall leads to automatic elimination, and this was the fate of first Joseph Murphy and Sportsfield Othello (ISH), then Padraig McCarthy with the gelding Simon Porloe, and finally Austin O’Connor on Balham Houdini (ISH).

The Irish eliminations occurred late in the cross country stage, with riders going well. Clear rounds would have catapulted all three competitors into the top ten overnight, but solace was drawn from the fact that no horses or riders were hurt in the falls.

With championship team status no longer achievable, Ireland’s hopes resided with today’s trio of riders, competing as individuals.

Belgium, Switzerland, Italy and Russia joined Ireland in failing to get the minimum of three riders home yesterday, and all five nations could no longer compete as teams.

Ireland was not challenging for an Olympic slot at the championships this weekend, having already qualified for Rio at last year’s World Equestrian Games in Normandy.

Germany’s Michael Jung was the individual Gold medallist at Blair today, riding fischerTakinou, with Silver also going to a German combination, Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Louvo, while France’s Lt. Col. Thibaut Vallette and Qing du Briot claimed the Bronze.

Germany also took Team Gold, with Great Britain in Silver and France taking Bronze.