ON the dashboard of Mollie Summerland’s lorry is a stuffed unicorn. This kitsch fantasy toy is somehow symbolic of her fairy-tale summer. Mollie bought “Sprinkles” on her tortuous trip to Luhmühlen, conquering the challenges of Covid, quarantine, Brexit, not to mention the second CCI5* of her life. As in all good fairy stories, there was a happy ending – she steered Charly Van Ter Heiden to victory; the youngest-ever winner at just 23.
“We bought Sprinkles on the ferry, and he was destined for the bonfire if it didn’t go well,” laughs Mollie. “Now he will be with me for life.”
As you walk into the Wiltshire farm where Mollie is based with a handful of other riders, the utopian impression continues. Set against a backdrop of the North Wessex Downs, smart horses are grazing in grassy fields, a clutch of floppy Andrex puppies paw for attention and Mollie’s three Chihuahuas yap delightedly. Mollie is bathing two striking horses – her superstar Charly (Chazzle) and the taller but very similar-looking Flow 7, a new ride owned by Paula and Adrian Cloke.
“I do have a type – maybe dark with four white socks,” she admits. “And I like them to be pretty.”
The yard radio is blaring out The Proclaimers’ I would walk 500 miles, which seems apt given Mollie’s Luhmühlen odyssey. After Germany mandated all arrivals from the UK to quarantine for 14 days, Mollie enlisted the help of journalist Tilly Berendt and together the pair navigated the convoluted logistics to arrive at Luhmühlen via a spell with Dutch eventer Tim Lips. After all the stress of the two-week journey, any result was a bonus.
“Friends had made jokes, ‘Go and win Luhmühlen,’ but it was light-hearted,” says Mollie, who led throughout. “I’d have been happy with top 10, the win was a shock. Every day I was in the lead, I’d say at the press conference, ‘This is nice talking to you, but I won’t be here tomorrow.’”
Mollie was probably more ambitious than she let on. She was “disappointed” with her leading dressage test – “I missed a flying change, and he can do them for a nine or 10” – and she knew in her heart the horse was capable of a big result.
“I fluctuated between two emotions: I knew he could win, but it was only my second five star so I told myself to be realistic,” she says.
Showjumping is Mollie’s least favourite phase – “I’d rather do dressage and cross-country twice” – and after Germany’s Christoph Wahler jumped clear to tumultuous applause, she couldn’t afford a rail down. But having talked through each fence with her trainer Jay Halim via a video of her course walk, she felt “surprisingly relaxed”.
“I felt at that point Charly had done enough, and I was happy with just another five-star completion, even if he had three down,” she says. “The crowd had gone mad with Christoph being a home rider, and I thought the odds were so small of me going clear that I didn’t feel too much pressure.”
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