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‘It was a bit scary, however I attempted to not panic’: John Whitaker wins in Hamburg – with just one rein

  • Two legends of the sport, John Whitaker and Marcus Ehning, teamed up to represent the Global Champions League (GCL) team Valkenswaard United in Hamburg last week (25-29 May) and, as you would expect from two such high-calibre horsemen, a tremendous victory was achieved — but it didn’t come without its dramas.

    In round one, Marcus and Stargold had jumped clear and John and his top horse Equine America Unick Du Francport looked to be following suit, producing a vital foot-perfect clear. However, on approach to the final fence — a gaping oxer — John dramatically lost hold of his left rein.

    “It all happened so quickly, but I lost my left rein and he’s a bit sensitive so I was scared that if I made a grab for the rein, I’d put him off,” John explained to H&H. “So I just sat there and I tried to steer him with my legs but at that point he was veering left.”

    Momentarily grasping the right rein with both hands, the quick-thinking John managed to keep the 14-year-old gelding straight and the pair soared over the final oxer to post a valuable clear round.

    “I just pushed him and he went; it was a bit scary but I tried not to panic!” said John. “He jumped it really well in the end, so I think we got away with it. In round two, he also jumped very well — this time with two reins!”

    Other than that heroic save, John said “Frank” loved the big grass arena of Hamburg and while Marcus added four faults in round two, Valkenswaard United secured victory thanks to John’s double clear.

    “It was good teaming up with Marcus,” said John, who will represent Great Britain in the Nations Cup of St. Gallen, Switzerland next.

    “There was probably a bit more pressure on in the second round. Marcus was unlucky to have a fence in the second round so I knew I had to be clear; I didn’t have the exact timings but I knew I couldn’t be too slow either, but I got it just about right, I think I had 2sec in hand in the end.

    “The show was packed out from Thursday onwards – it’s great to have a crowd like that at a good, old, beautiful show like Hamburg.”

    As well as thrilling the crowds in the ring, John and Marcus entertained them with their antics on the podium – Marcus offering his senior counterpart a leg-up on to the stage to collect their silverware.

    Talking about the second round, Marcus said: “The pressure was on because we haven’t done too well over the last stages. But John is used to it so I thought I would put him under some more pressure [by faulting],” he joked. “He pulled it off again. Picking up maximum points for the championship is so important and this gives us a lot of hope for the next shows.”

    Other big winners at the show included Cassandra Orschel, who became the first female rider since 1975 to win the Hamburg Derby.

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