On Saturday, Equita Lyon hosted the $153,234-Added National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) European Derby Open Finals in Lyon, France. In the evening, 64 Open Finalists met to compete for the Championship titles, 19 of which competed for the most prestigious division: The $61,294-Added Level (L)4 in front of a packed audience. The high level of competition in all the divisions kept the public glued to their seats until the last set of horses where most Champions were determined.
$61,294-Added Level 4
Two of Europe’s most competitive professionals opted to share the L4 Open Championship: NRHA Two Million Dollar Rider Bernard Fonck of Belgium and Grischa Ludwig of Germany. With five horse-and-rider combinations left to go, Fonck and Shines Like Spook (NRHA Seven Million Dollar Sire Smart Spook x NRHA Million Dollar Dam Ebony Shines), a 6-year-old gelding owned and nominated by Rosanne Sternberg, performed to a 228 after laying down an electrifying run.
Three horses later, Ludwig stormed into the arena with M Snow Pearl (NRHA Million Dollar Sire SG Frozen Entrerprize x Spooks Pearl), a 5-year-old mare owned by Fabian Strebel and nominated by La Maqueline, between the reins. Determined to give it all they had, the duo repeated Fonck’s score, tying for the Championship.
“I think my wife [NRHA Million Dollar Rider Ann Fonck], who has always ridden this horse, did a super job with him,” said Fonck. “We actually switched horses for this event, I showed him and she showed GP A Spook In Town as I thought he would work better with her after my competing with him for four years. I did a few schooling rides with Shines Like Spook and today was the first time I rode him asking for more and he was really good. When I went in the arena tonight I was really relaxed: I felt good and my horse felt relaxed also. Before going in, my wife told me to trust him, ‘if you speed him up he’s going to be there for you; put your hand down and just go.’ I did exactly that and it worked out.”
Ludwig was just as happy with his two mounts. “It was one hell of an evening,” he commented. “I felt it was my arena. I knew that I could completely trust my horses and the level of competition was so high that I could not afford to think about how to show. I just put the hammer down, hand on the neck, and went. I wanted to finish my runs with a high score, I knew I had the horses—even though they are two completely different horses—and they were both good in the qualifier. To top it all off, here in France the people are with me even if I am not French. I must say that 2022 has been a great year!”
Ludwig also went on to clinch the $45,970-Added L3 Open Championship aboard the talented mare and also took the Reserve Championship riding Gunnit In Hollywood (NRHA Seven Million Dollar Sire Gunnatrashya x Buffy In Hollywood). The 6-year-old stallion, owned by Alexandra Schmitz and nominated by Giulio Trevisan, performed to a 227.