Stuttgart is undoubtedly one of the best international indoor shows and provided a classical as well as a World Cup tour in dressage this year. However it is also stage for the German Piaff Förderpreis Final, which always takes place on Friday afternoon at the show. This series was officially established in 2001 and helps young upcoming Grand Prix riders to make the transition to the international Grand Prix sport.
The Piaff Förderpreis includes several qualification classes at important shows throughout Germany in which riders are allowed to compete after being selected by the national coach in a clinic at the beginning of the season. Sponsored by the Liselott-Schindling-Foundation and named after legendary Olympic champion Piaff, the show circuit Finals entail a short Grand Prix as qualifier and the classic Grand Prix as finale. This series has repeatedly proven to be the springboard for senior team members to be, such as Ellen Schulten-Baumer, Matthias-Alexander Rath and Kristina Sprehe. The latter was last year’s winner aboard her 2012 Olympic team horse Desperado.
Title favourite for this year's Final was Stella-Charlott Roth and her Olympic team silver medal winning Diva Royal. The massive Hanoverian mare (by Don Frederico xWarkant) and her elegant, tall rider have been a pair for a long time. They already werepart of the victorious Young Riders team at the 2010 European Championships and 6th in last year's Piaff Förderpreis Final. In 2011 the Frankfurt based college student Stella Charlott and her trainer Dorothee Schneider both showed the mare successfully with Diva Royal winning the Medien Cup final for young Grand Prix horses in Münster under Schneider, who afterwards took over the mare for the Olympic trials in 2012 thanks to the generosity of the Roth family who owns the mare. Stella-Charlott groomed her mare at the London Olympic Games with her trainer winning a much coveted team silver medal and reaching the kur final.
After London the 23-year-old was back on board and earned her qualification for the Förderpreis final with a win at the 2012 CDI Donaueschingen qualifier in September. While they were the hot favourites, 2010 winner Jenny Lang from Karlsruhe and her Holsteiner Loverboy, as well as Bavarian Victoria Michalke with Dance On and Sanneke Rothenberger on the chestnut mare Wolken Sieben gave them a run for the money.
The competition kicked off Friday afternoon with the former Reserve Bundeschampion of the 6-year-olds, the Hanoverian Pretender (by Prince Thatch xx x Weltmeyer) and his long-time rider, former European Pony Champion Stephanie Jansen. The rider matches the blood-influenced and leggy gelding perfectly. In Stuttgart both showed a polished test with no major flaws. Highlights were the well centred canter pirouettes, in which the horse showed an even rhythm, and the extended walk. The horse stretched and relaxed from the first moment on. The trot extensions were ridden a bit timidly and the piaffe and passage work needs further maturing, but both still scored a deserved 67.021% which placed them 6th in the end with the judges quite in unison about her score.
Annabel Frenzen and her Holsteiner gelding Cristobal have made a swift and successful move from Young Riders to Grand Prix in two years time. Cristobal was the first of three Holsteiner horses in the final with eight horses. While the Holsteiner society mainly focuses on show jumping breeding, Cristobal's sire (Coriander) and dam sire (Caribo) were both successful S-level dressage horses. The bay inherited the typical knee action of many Holsteiners. Annabel, who studies human medicine, rode with a deep quiet seat and was rewarded with four 8s for rider position on the protocol. Cristobal scored throughout the trot and canter tour and also showed a nice extended walk, but in the piaffe and passage he needs to gain even more strength to show proper collection. After their 6th place in 2011, Anabel and Cristobal moved up a rank in the 2012 finals, ending in 5th place this year with 68.596%. While O-judge Dr. Schüle saw the pair at 70.851% in 3rd place, his Polish colleague Dr. Markowski was at 67.022%.
Bigger differences could be observed in the judgement of a well known face to the Piaff Förderpreis Final, Kirsten Sieber and another Holsteiner, Charly (by Chagallo x Calvadur). Third in 2010 and fifth last year year, this experienced pair is trained by Klaus Balkenhol but obviously did not have their best show together. The horse was ridden with a strong contact throughout the test and the pair could not find their rhythm as all movements were executed a bit hasty. They showed very nice flying changes and took risks in the ground covering extended canter. While the judges’ panel saw them either in 7th or 8th place, the percentages differed from 66.596% to 60.851%.
While Sieber landed 8th place, Fabienne Lütkmeier and her chestnut Qui Vincit Dynamis took 7th place. The 13-year-old Oldenburger by Quattro B and his rider, who can be considered as a relatively experienced competitor at Grand Prix level, produced a safe, but not faultless ride. In the trot and canter extensions the horse failed to come in front of the vertical as he was ridden with a rather strong contact. In the piaffe the chestnut did not show sufficient lowering of the haunches and leaned on them instead of pushing-off the ground. The flying changes were nicely ridden and the first very well settled canter pirouette pushed the scores up. Although Fabienne, had to be content with 7th place that day her result of 65.872% was an improvement to her 2011 Finals' ride.
Jenny Lang and her 12-year-old Holsteiner Lorentin I-son Loverboy won in 2010 and were back on form in 2012 after an injury ruled the gelding out in 201. They won the Balve qualifier in June and were second in Donaueschingen. Her rather petite 160 cm standing horse seems to be a real showman who loves to present himself to the crowds. Jenny brought a big fan base to Stuttgart and they cheered their favourite pair on and ecstatically waved a banner after their ride. The 7-year old combination had a bit of a blotchy start with an open halt and a hasty rein-back, but recovered with a good extended walk. In the quite regular piaffe the horse showed much push-off, but he needs to come more off the forehand and lower the croup. The canter work with the horse's very active hind legs was of solid quality with good flying changes and canter pirouettes that were settled and diligent. Though it was a good ride for sure, the horse has the tendency to hollow his back a bit which might be one reason why the marks differed from 67.447% to 71.277%. In the end both ended up as runner-ups.
Close on their heels were Victoria Michalke, who is turning 23 this week, and the 10-year-old Oldenburger gelding Dance On. The elegant mover by Dream of Heidelberg was bought by the Michalke family as a 3-year-old and Victoria has developed her into Grand Prix horse with lots of promise. Considering his age Dance On showed a very regular performance in most of the required movements. Although the trot half passes lacked impulsion and the extended walk was rather mediocre, Dance On scored with the very regular passage which surely will be further improved when the horse gains more strength. The same can be said of the piaffes which are active and quite in place already, but they need more lowering of the hind-legs. The highlights of the canter tour were the flying changes, even in stride and upwards, and the small canter pirouettes. Unfortunately the transition from the last piaffe on the centreline into passage failed. Even though Victoria stayed calm and corrected her horse without any fuss this misunderstanding made their score drop, otherwise even a higher placing could have been possible.
Sanneke Rothenberger and the cute Hanoverian mare Wolke Sieben (by Wolkenstein II x Hitchcock) did very well at Donaueschingen in September and in Stuttgart both confirmed their good form and harmonious partnership. Sanneke, like most of her rivals in Stuttgart, is a very well sitting rider and presented her chestnut with fine style. The mare began on a high note with a good halt and an impulsive trot extension, in which she virtually grew in front and showed lots of suspension. The mare’s piaffe and passage are regular, but in the passage she should step more towards the centre of gravity. The extended walk could have shown even more overtrack, but it was very relaxed and the horse stretched downwards the way one wants to see it. The canter tour was on a relatively high level with nice flying changes and rhythmic settled canter pirouettes. Only in the energetic extended canter the horse should have been more in front of the vertical and in the canter zig-zags the curb contact became quite strong.
The hot favourites, Stella-Charlott Roth and the still only 10-year-old Diva Royal, were the second last pair in the competition. The black mare is a real power house, almost like a stallion in her looks. Maybe not the typical beauty with her big head and floppy long ears, but she owns some kind of inner glow, always expressing pride and happiness in every step she takes. In Stuttgart Stella Charlott rode only her third classical Grand Prix and considering this fact she did really well. After a good halt the horse hesitated a bit with the transition into trot. The first extended trot on the diagonal was regular and the horse stayed exemplary in front of the vertical. After a safe piaffe and passage tour with fine self-carriage the mare immediately caught the rhythm and dropped her head when released into the extended walk. In the canter tour the flying changes, executed with balance and uphill, were a real highlight. In the second pirouette the mare lost her rhythm which cost points, even though only two judges punished the hiccup with a 5. On the final centreline the mare again proved that she can easily hold the rhythm in piaffe, passage and the transitions. Still one has the feeling that the mare can even show more push-off in these movements, but all in all the spectators had seen a very well schooled horse swinging through her whole body. With 70.681% Stella-Charlott and Diva Royal were the deserved winners of the 2012 Förderpreis Final, even though some or the other had expected them to do it with a bigger lead.
The now 12-year-old Piaff Förderpreis Final featured high class competition with several promising pairs. Some riders even have more Grand Prix horses in their stables at home.
The under 25 show circuit works and is proof of a meticulous preparation and programming of the German Equestrian Federation. In the direct lead-up to Stuttgart all Finallists met for three days at Ann-Kathrin Linsenhoff’s Schafhof for a final polish under the tutelage of the national coaches. Monica Theodorescu and Jürgen Koschel both were very pleased with the quality of riding in this year’s final.
Text by Silke Rottermann
Photos © Silke Rottermann - Barbara Schnell
Scores 2012 CDI-W Stuttgart
Stella Charlott Roth Wins 2012 Piaff Forderpreis Finals
Stella Charlott Roth Wins the 2012 Piaff Forderpreis Selection Trial
Sprehe Defeats Favourite Engelen in 2009 Piaff Forderpreis Finals
Matthias Alexander Rath Wins 2006 Piaff Forderpreis
Jessica Werndl wins 2006 Piaff Forderpreis Selection Trial
Ellen Schulten-Baumer Wins First Ever Piaff Forderpreis at 2001 CDI Stuttgart