Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival crushed Edward Gal and Totilas' Grand Prix Special world record score that the combination had set ten minutes before in the Special at the 2009 European Dressage Championship.
This extraordinary feat doesn't even start to summarize the unbelievable competition at his been here in Windsor today.
Adelinde won the Special gold medal, Gal the silver and Laura Bechtolsheimer edged out Anky van Grunsven to claim the bronze on home turf.
The afternoon session of the Grand Prix featured fifteen riders and it was one great ride after another. Sixteen riders scored over 70%, twelve were marked higher than 72% a score which in years before could give you a place on the podium. The bar has been raised, for sure, as now 80% is the criterion to medal. "I have judged a few of these championships, but I've never seen this," said Stephen Clarke, president of the ground jury. "This is the greatest moment in dressage history. I've never seen riders perform at this high level. They have the courage to go in because there must be considerable pressure. Congratulations to them all."
Cornelissen was the last rider to go and entered the Windsor arena when it was filled with electricity after two phenomenal rides from Gal and Bechtolsheimer. Adelinde's 12-year old Dutch warmblood gelding Parzival is one of the best dressage horses in the world and certainly has the ability to challenge Totilas. However, an extraordinary, flawless test was necessary to nail the gold. And that's what she did!
Parzival was quick to the aids, attentive and willing to work. He looked great. The trot extensions were huge, even though his hind legs sometimes seem a bit out, but the transitions to and from passage were flawless. Cornelissen keeps her hands very steady and the position of Parzival's head hardly ever changes, but in the future more lightness in the contact is desirable. The passage between K-A-F was outstanding and the piaffe was always supple, rhythmical and suspended. In the second piaffe he became a bit crooked to the right. The walk was very good.
By the time Adelinde started the canter work, she was already beating Gal's score but the rider was unaware of it. The two tempi changes were astonishing. The pirouettes were great and the final centerline had a perfect piaffe at X. Adelinde didn't halt at G so she lost a few extra points due to this inaccuracy.
"Before I went in, I had no idea what the others had scored. I always just go in and ride my own test," Cornelissen explained. "When I came out I looked at the wrong marks on the score board," she admitted. it was Edward who told her that she had beaten him.
As brand new European (Grand Prix Special) champion Cornelissen's Parzival became the catch of the day for wealthy dressage horse owners. Parzival is owned for 50% by Cornelissen and for 50% by Henk Koers, who initially gave the ride on Parzival to the 29-year old in order to sell the horse. But Adelinde liked him and bought one half. Koers now realizes that his chestnut gelding is probably worth more than one million euro and wants to sell his half. Cornelissen reciprocated: "I'm not selling my half. Never. If Mr Koers wants to sell his he should do so. I'm not doing it," she told Dutch journalist Wendy Scholten.
For the team test, the bleachers were not even filled by half but today about 3/4 of seats in the grand stand had sold. The audience "oohed" and "aahed" when Edward Gal and Tosca and Kees Visser's black stallion Totilas (by Gribaldi/T) entered. They showed their signature piaffe, passage and extended trot before entering the ring for the ride and virtually had people fainting from amazement. The first halt was not square nor immobile as Totilas backed up. No problem, two judges still scored it a 7. Totilas looked a bit more tense and it showed in the extended trot, which was very flashy but lacked some understep. The half passes were huge but a bit tight in the neck. This tightness remained in the two tempi changes as well as the extended walk in which the stallion did not fully stretch the neck but curled it up downwards.
The piaffe and passage were awe-inspiring though and it earned them solid 10s. The second piaffe was a bit crooked to the left. Small mistakes slowly crept into the ride. The change at K after the half pass was short and a big mistake in the one tempi's arose. The pirouettes were superb. On the final centerline Totilas showed brilliant piaffe and passage but was a bit over-enthusiastic in the transition from piaffe to passage. The judges had problems scoring the final halt as points differed from 6 to 9.
At the press conference Gal admitted that Totilas was more tense today than yesterday. "Also in the warm up," he said. "He was a little more excited than yesterday. I built up too much tension in the canter." Gal also explained that "he goes faster and faster and I try not to do anything."
Gracious in defeat Edward added that "being second to Adelinde today was not bad - what happened was good for the sport, good for the riders, good for our horses - I'm delighted!".
Totilas ratcheted up a total of 32 perfect 10 scores thanks to fabulous passage and piaffe and wrested the world record for the Special from Germany's Martin Schaudt and Weltall who set the standard at 82.50% in 2005.
British Laura Bechtolsheimer and her huge chestnut gelding Mistral Hojris (by Michellino) rose to the occasion and snatched that long desired individual medal. She is only second British rider ever to accomplish this feat. While the crowds loved to watch the Dutch, the anticipation and excitement for Laura to score high was so tangible. When her final score of 80.083% flashed on the leaderboard the crowds erupted into uncontrolled roaring. Her dream had come true.
Precision and power marked Bechtolsheimer's test. The powerful gelding showed strong trot extensions of which Laura seemed to have control over each single stride. Fluent half passes followed and their passage outshone others in its regularity. The extended walk was totally relaxed and over the back. The tempi changes were the only exercise that should have looked more light and carefree. Especially in the one tempi's Laura was trying hard to complete them. Mistral lacked impulsion there and lost a bit of the uphill tendency. The pirouettes were superb. With the final transition to trot, Laura's score was beating Anky's. The 25-year old Brit kept the last extended trot clear in the rhythm and displayed a brilliant final pi-pa centerline.
Laura's face expressed pure delight and amazement. Even at the press conference she seemed shell shocked over what had happened to her. "I'm still feeling a bit shaken up" she said, "but I was more determined than I've ever been going in today and my horse is extremely generous to me" she pointed out.
Laura acknowledged she surprised herself in this accomplishment. "I knew I had a chance. I have a talented horse and managed to pull it off."
As predicted Anky van Grunsven returned to her standard form and presented a fantastic Salinero. Right before her entry, Anky trained the immobile halt once more and it worked but as soon as the 15-year gelding hit X, he started to fiddle again.
The trot half passes were majestic as well as the passage, piaffe and the transition which were imposing in their expression and power. The muscled Hanoverian had much suspension in the trot extensions but lacked understep. Also in extended walk, Salinero did not fully relax himself to cover more ground.
Van Grunsven executed a very solid canter tour with nice uphill one and two tempi's and super small, well jumped pirouettes. The final pi-pa centerline was marked by much expression and spring, though the regularity was lost in the final passage from X to G with Salinero pulling up his left hind leg more than the right one. Salinero fidgeted again in the final halt. While the Hanoverian often gets quite hot and Anky needs a firm grip on the reins to steer him through the test, today the contact with the bit was perfect. There was real lightness between the horse's mouth and the rider's hand, which made Anky's test even more so a pleasure to watch.
Van Grunsven scored 77.917% and finished fourth. It is the first time in her career since 1994 that Van Grunsven has been out of the individual medals. But on Saturday's there is a new day and new chances for a podium place. As the Kur is her specialty, Van Grunsven should not be counted out.
"He concentrated very hard today, we did have two little mistakes with the halt but I go day by day" she pointed out
Talk about another rider surprising herself! Austrian Victoria Max-Theurer landed a fifth place in the Special with 75.958%. Aboard the 9-year old Oldenburg stallion Augustin (by August der Starke x Rohdiamant), Victoria delivered a strong ride with room for improvement. What was so striking in their test is that this pair is one of the very few combinations that show true bending in the corners. The trot extensions were powerful and much suspension, but can be even more forward. The passage was lofty and the transitions to and from trot went smoothly. In piaffe this massive stallion really shifts the weight on the hind quarters and sits. Victoria hurried Augustin too much in the collected walk but kept a good rhythm going in piaffe.
The horse lost his balance in the canter pirouette right, but the left one was outstanding. Only in the one tempi changes the pictures gets less pretty as the rider's aids become to visible as she guides her bay stallion through the fifteen changes.
"Reaching the Kur to Music Finals has exceeded my wildest dreams," Max-Theurer revealed. "I'm extremely happy and I want to thank everyone who believed in us and helped me accomplish this."
Highest ranked German was Matthias Alexander Rath on stepmom Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff's Sterntaler Unicef. They finished sixth with 75.458%. The sensitive bay gelding showed a few uneven steps in the half pass left but found the right rhythm in the half pass right. The trot extensions were dynamic and ground covering, but the horse was wobbly in the contact. They showed the best extended walk of all and should have scored straight 10s for that. The judges kept it at 8s and 9s. The piaffe can sometimes be problematic but the first one went well and the one was wide behind with Sterntaler opening up with his right hind leg.
The canter work was the point-scoring part of the test. The half passes were delightful and the tempi changes were huge and uphill. Also in extended canter, Sterntaler stretches frame and legs to rocket forward. At that point, Rath was beating Anky's score but the 25-year old rider got scared in the final piaffe at X and didn't ride the required amount of steps, The final passage towards the halt also became irregular in the rhythm which made him drop two places in the ranking.
"In general I'm happy," Rath told the German Equestrian Federation. "I could have ridden 78%, which is something I've never accomplished before."
"In the Grand prix I already finished fourth and that exceeded all my expectations. I only wanted to just ride at my first European Championships. Next year I'll definitely go for it!"
Imke Schellekens-Bartels placed seventh with 74.083%, which became the "lowest" Dutch score and excluded her from qualification for the Kur to Music. Schellekens had a very strong ride on her Hanoverian mare Sunrise, with the one tempi changes as highlight of the test. A stumble in the two tempi's made the score drop though.
Swedish Patrik Kittel and the Dutch bred Scandic (by Solos Carex x Amiral) finished eighth with 73.958%. The piaffe and passage is their scoring X-factor, but the horse goes downhill especially in the canter work. The 10-year old licensed stallion is a very promising mount with a real future ahead of him.
Finnish Kyra Kyrklund and the Swedish bred Max (by Master) landed ninth place with 73.917%. Though the horse shuffles a bit too much forward in piaffe, the rhythm has improved a lot by becoming quicker. The contact with the bit is fantastic and Max excelled on his regularity in piaffe and passage.
German Susanne Lebek and the Hanoverian branded Potomac (by Prince Orac xx) finished tenth with 72.250%. The dark bay gelding has amazing spring in the passage and can stay suspended for seconds. Makes on wonder why this horse is not scoring 10s for the passage and others do. His flying changes are also a league of their own. A mistake in the one tempi's on the centerline and hurried trot extensions reduced their score.
Carl Hester and Liebling II (by Lorentin x Königspark xx) finished tenth with 72.250% "I'm absolutely delighted with him today" commented Carl "he tries so hard and after a season of ups and downs its all really come together for us here. Championship medals have somehow passed me by so yesterday has to be the highlight of my career. To do it here in Windsor is extra special with so many good friends around me."
Swedish Tinne Vilhelmson and Favourit (by Fidermark x Worldchamp) were the eleventh placegetters.
Emma Hindle and Lancet finished in a below par sixteenth position with 70.750%. The stallion looked tired and became a bit dull to the aids which resulted in some mistakes. As Imke Schellekens drops out of the kur because she is the fourth Dutch team rider, Hindle will get the chance to compete on Saturday evening.
British team captain Richard Davison said: "Emma will be disappointed with the final result, there's no doubt about that, but her drive to succeed and always give her best performance is what makes her a top class athlete. Lots of the work today was super quality and there were some very strong highlights in the test. top marks from the judges throughout and lots to like, but the horse lost throughness in places and there were errors as a result."
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