If you’ve been counting down to the big guns on the #ERHOTY17 list, we’ve finally arrived. On paper Horseware Hale Bob is the horse to beat when the polls open, as his 2017 season bests the other nominees in nearly every single Key Performance Indicator category. His 2017 dressage average of 32.8 is the best of our nominees, beating next best fischerRocana FST by 3.6 penalties. He jumped clear in all of his international cross country rounds in 2017 and made the time in four of them for a 67% strike rate, the highest of our nominees. He is the only nominee with a finishing score average in the 30s for 2017, which is incredible when you consider that it factors a 62.6 final score at Badminton. His 37.6 average finishing score for 2017 beats next best fischerRocana FST by 6.2 penalties.
He won four internationals in 2017 — two more than Calle 44, our only other nominee with more than one win — including the European Championships to give Ingrid Klimke the first gold medal of her career. His win at Strzegom is the highest rated at three-star level we have seen this decade. His top five finish rate (71.4%) is also higher than any of our other nominees. He is one of four nominees to have an FOD in 2017; the other three had one FOD apiece, while Horseware Hale Bob had four. His seven runs in 2017 are second only to Calle 44’s nine runs. ‘Bobby’ started his season with a pair of back-to-back CIC2* wins at Luhmühlen and Kreuth — both FOD performances, plus a career best finishing score of 30.0 at Luhmühlen. He withdrew before cross country in the Sopot CIC3* before going on to Badminton.
Having finished 2nd at Badminton in 2015 and already a CCI4* winner at Pau in 2014, Horseware Hale Bob started the competition as a strong favorite. Diarm was telling anyone that would listen. A four-star personal best of 36.4 in dressage placed him 2nd after the first phase. Diarm was doing ‘I told you so’ interviews. When overnight leaders Chris Burton and Graf Liberty faulted on cross country, Bobby flew through the open door. Only two pairs made the optimum time, and his 3.2 time penalties boosted him to the overnight lead. More interviews. As the final pair to jump, Ingrid could not afford a single rail in show jumping to win. It was not the Happy Hale Bob Day we anticipated, and disaster ensued with a total of 23 penalties added in the final phase. Horseware Hale Bob finished 9th, and despite the disappointing outcome, he still didn’t finish outside the top 10 in any of his completed runs in the 2017 season. Diarm didn’t speak for a few days.
Ingrid and Bobby went to the German National Championships at Luhmühlen to regain their mojo. One rail down in show jumping prevented them from taking the Reserve Championship, but a 4th place finish amongst Germany’s top horses restored their confidence and set the stage for a big result at Aachen in the Nations Cup. They sat 2nd after dressage at Aachen on 34.5, and when past winners Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Louvo knocked a pole in show jumping, Ingrid seized the opportunity. Bobby took the lead with a clear show jumping round and never relinquished it thanks to one of five rounds inside the optimum time on cross country. They won Aachen on 34.5 to mark Bobby’s third FOD of the season and his third consecutive top-three finish at Aachen.
The best was still to come. Despite his only other CCI run of 2017 going awry at Badminton, Bobby still claimed a spot on the German team for the European Championships at Strzegom. A score of 30.3 placed him 2nd after dressage. Overnight leaders Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott parted ways on cross country, and Bobby stormed around with one of the four clear rounds inside the time to move up to take the overnight lead. Ingrid could not afford a rail with Michael Jung and fischerRocana FST waiting in the wings, and she delivered a clear round under immense pressure. Bobby’s fourth FOD of the season gave him the individual gold medal. Happy Hale Bob Day at last!
Listen to the #ERHOTY17 episode of the Horseware Eventing Podcast to hear how we finalized the list of 12 nominees. Keep checking back to the EquiRatings blog for analysis articles on all 12: fischerRocana FST, Nereo, Arctic Soul, Horseware Hale Bob, Ballaghmor Class, Bulana, Hunter Valley II, Donner, Cekatinka, Calle 44, Ivar Gooden and Foxwood High.