The traditional Dortmund indoor show had been an international affair for several decades and the Westfalenhalle had seen some of the very greatest riders in the sport so far. The CDI Dortmund has recently been stagings the final of the Meggle's Champion's tour which in 2013 became a triumph for Germany's Kristina Sprehe and her black power-house of a horse Desperados.
Desperados, a 12-year-old Hanoverian who is also building a reputation as a breeding stallion, was in top form in the Grand Prix Friday afternoon. The first extended trot was more closed than it sometimes has been in the past with the hind-legs now significantly moving under, but the overtrack could have been a bit more. The judges awarded it from 7 to 9. The trot half passes were nice with the De Niro-offspring floating with good bending and full of impulsion. In the passage Desperados is also more closed, but now and then the hind-legs are not 100% regular. Though the first piaffe looked impressive, the horse was slightly forward and lacked energy behind. He got a bit deep and on the forehand. The passage before the transition to walk was very expressive and elevated. The extension in walk was relaxed and long striding, though Desperados could have shown more stretching downwards. The transition from the collected walk to passage was very smooth. In the second piaffe the stallion started very well, but then a break in rhythm happend and he braced his hind-legs, influencing the transition to passage. The canter tour outclasses the already good trot tour. The flying changes were both outstanding. Desperados executed the changes very uphill and in complete balance, every stride forwards at the same length and the nose always in front of the vertical. Sprehe rode the best canter half-passes of all riders. In this movement many horses struggle to find the rhythm, but Desperados did them with ease, well settled and with even strides on both leads. The pirouettes were of the same quality: the black stallion in very good balance, sitting deep on his haunches and turning in an even rhythm. Desperados displayed his best extended trot at the end smoothly lenghtening his strides, earning him up to 9 on the score-sheets. On the final centre-line the passage was very powerful and elevated. The last piaffe was the best of all, no fading of power like so many horses deal with. The Hanoverian piaffed in place, totally in rhythm and very active behind. With a better self-carriage in this movement he neared perfection. After a very good transition transition the last passage was the best of the ride. Marks from 8 to 9 were the justified reward.
Sprehe's 78.487% meant a clear victory over Kristina Sprehe's Olympic mate, Anabel Balkenhol who saddled her top-horse Dablino. The Hanoverian is regarded as one of the best horses world-wide, if he stays relaxed and focused on his rider. At Dortmund the now 13-year-old De Niro son, presented himself from his very best side. A small hiccup at the end of the first extended trot could not paper over the fact that Dablino's extension was of excellent quality: the horse pushing from behind and swinging through its whole body, creating good over-track and a stretched topline. Fortunately the chestnut calmed down after his short spook before the trot half-passes. They were very fluent, supple, in excellent rhythm, with the correct bending and with the horse in good self-carriage. The second extended trot was of the same high quality, but now without the spook influencing the marks. The judges went up to 9. The passage is very regular, but could be even more elevated to gain in expression. Dablino has improved in his piaffe, which was in place, very calm and in rhythm. There could be more over-track in the extended walk, but the horse was quite relaxed and showed good stretching. The transition from the collected walk to passage was very smooth and the same can be said about the transition into piaffe. The piaffe was elastic and with significant activity of the hind-legs. The horse slightly opened its mouth, but it was definitely due to active chewing and in no way an escape from the (non-existing) bit pressure. The 2-times flying changes were wonderfully straight and uphill, but regrettably Dablino made an error. The extended canter was kicked off by riding deep into the corner. Dablino showed loose uphill strides and opened his frame as required in this movement. The canter half-passes were not settled enough, but the one-time changes made up for it. They were not only faultless, but absolutely easy-going, even and uphill, scoring between 8 and 9. The huge Hanoverian had a somewhat unhappy first pirouette which was not settled enough with a too slow inside hind-leg. The marks varied from 6,5 to 8. The second pirouette was much better. After another very good extended trot Dablino executed his best passage with lots of expression on the final centre-line. The halt was square, but a bit short. 74.957% ranker her second.
As shooting star when she was aged 9, the Baden Württemberger liver chestnut mare Girasol (by Gribaldi x Landioso) had her first success with Martin Schaudt's wife Jasmin who discovered the mare as a foal. Nadine Capellmann secured the extraordinarily talented horse in May 2010, but needed some time to direct the sparkling mare's exuberance into the right channels. After convincing rides at the end of the 2012 season, Capellmann and Girasol confirmed their good form in Dortmund. Both started with a rather timid first trot extension in which the mare could have been more in front of the vertical. Girasol plays with the trot half-passes, crossing widely in an even rhythm and with lots of impulsion, but the mare's neck came a bit deep. The horse has an incredible bounce in the passage in which she really lowers the haunches. Still there was a slight break in rhythm before the first piaffe. The piaffe was very diligent, elastic and with visibly lowered croup, but the mare was too tight and low in the neck to score higher. In the extended walk the 11-year-old showed sufficient stretching, but lacked big overtrack. She broke in canter in the transition from collected walk to passage. The second piaffe was slightly forwards at the end, but otherwise very good, even though the rider had to work for it. The overall score was brought down by a mistake in the 2-time changes which could have been more forwards. The canter half passes were faultless as were the one tempi. Girasol's first pirouette was very centered and settled, but a short break in rhythm happened at the end. The second was not so good as it was not settled enough and flatly executed. The final centre line was good: the piaffe extremely diligent until the last step and the passage expressive, even though the mare appeared to become a bit excited. Rome wasn't built in one day and it seems like Germany might have another very competitive pair for the 2013 season aiming for the Europeans in Denmark.
The third De Niro-offspring in the class finished in fourth position. Germany's Olympic reserve pair, former European Young Riders Champion, D'Agostino. Presented by his long-time partner Fabienne Lütkemeier, at age 23 the youngest member of the curernt German A-team, this light-footed mover as always impressed with his first extended trot. The horse continued with very cadenced and impulsive trot half-passes. The second extended trot showed even more over-track, which the judges' rewarded with marks betwen 7,5 and 9. The reason for the differentiation might have the reason the fact that „Daggi“ as he is nick-named did not come in front of the vertical. Even though the passage is light-footed the horse is not swinging through the body and moves with a dangling front-leg. The piaffe remains to be the horse's achilles' heel as the liver-chestnut does not take a lot of weight on its hind-legs. There was a lot of overtrack in the good extended walk. The 2-times as well as the 1-times were very safe and ridden forwards. Marks between 7 and 9 were awarded for the very dynamic and uphill extended canter. Points might have been lost in both canter pirouettes. The first was too flat, too big and not much settled but the second was better, yet still the horse should take more weight behind. The last extended trot had much lengthening of the stride and was brimming with expression, but again more stretching of the topline would surely bring the marks up (now between 7,5 and 8). No doubt, the leggy Hanoverian and his sympathetic similarly leggy rider match each other perfectly and create a pleasant picture in the arena, but the horse just needs to improve further in piaffe and passage to bring the overall score up. In Dortmund it got stuck at 71.894%.
Dutch Madeleine Witte-Vrees finished fifth with 71.149% on the licensed stallion Wynton. The black stallion was already well placed at the World Young Horse Championships at Verden a few years ago. The shining stallion is another Jazz on the international dressage circuit and won the Grand Prix Special at the CDI Frankfurt mid December last year. He started his performance with a halt which was too wide behind, followed by an extended trot in which the horse did not lengthen, but only quickened the strides, so the movements lacked true impulsion and looked hasty, which is a pity as Wynton has an active hind leg. In the trot half-passes Wynton was not entirely regular in the length of his strides and crossed his jaws visibly. The passage is quite even, but the movement does not swing through the whole body. In the first piaffe the stallion travelled slightly forwards and became tense, resulting in a break of rhythm. Wynton clearly came on the forehand and rolled his neck. The extended walk was very diligent and with a bit more stretching the marks might have been higher. After the collected walk the passage was not 100% even in rhythm and the horse showed a rather nervous mouth. The second piaffe was stamped by the eagerness of the young Grand Prix horse, but it is still too much on the forehand. In the canter tour the 2-times were faultless and the extended canter as such was very good, if the horse had been in front of the vertical. The same counted for the 1-time-changes which were without mistakes and ridden forwards, but the horse got too tight in the neck. With more strength enabling him to carry more weight on the hind-legs Wynton might be a very promising horse for the Dutch team.
Dutch Olympic individual combination Patrick van der Meer and his highly elegant KWPN gelding Uzzo (by Lancet) drew attention at Verden years ago when the pair became World Champions. A few years later and now an established Grand Prix-horse, his looks have not significantly changed, still looking almost like a thoroughbred. Uzzo started with a regular first extended trot which was expressive, but lacked sufficient opening of the frame. Both extensions scored up to 9. The trot half-passes were good and exactly ridden from point to point. The rein-back was calm, though slightly hesitant. In the first passage the gelding broke into canter. The bright bay is – due to his light-footedness – very elegant in the piaffe, but he could not hold a clear rhythm in this first one and came too deep and tight in the neck. This influenced the transition to passage. The extended walk was satisfying and the horse stretched enough, but became too tight again in passage. Uzzo failed to find the rhythm immediately at the beginning of the second piaffe and his neck again was too deep. The 2-time- flying-changes were executed safely, although Uzzo swayed a bit behind. In the one-tempi has was better, but the 12-year-old gradually leaned on the hand on the diagonal. On the final centre-line the passage was not 100% even. The transition to piaffe worked out smoothly, the piaffe itself did not have enough steps. No doubt the Lancet x Indoctro-offspring is a real eyecatcher for the public and fascinates with his refined appearance. His tendency to come behind the bit cost him valuable points. He scored 70.407%.
Austria's Victoria Max-Theurer and her stallion Eichendorff tied with Van der Meer. The almost 15-year-old Westfalian is a long-time campaigner with the blonde from Achleiten and has won the freestyle at the CDI Aachen last year. The bay by Ehrentusch out of a Ferragamo dam is one of three full-brothers trained at Grand Prix level (alongside Estobar NRW and Ehrendorf). Eichendorff started his ride with an expressive extended trot that could have more over-track. The trot half pass to the right was quite good, but the horse became slightly hasty at the end. The one to the left was better. The horse, which has a high-set topline, carried himself exemplarily and crossed widely without losing the clear rhythm for a moment. In the passage Eichendorff does not step enough under and instead trails with his hind-legs, resulting in a not very prounced suspension phase. The first piaffe had enough steps and was quite active with the horse in self-carriage, but the stallion did sway a bit behind. The Westfalian struggled finding an even rhythm in the extended walk which tended to be a bit hasty in between. The canter tour kicked off with the flying changes every second stride ridden forwards, but with a mistake at the end of the diagonal. The extended canter was ground covering and with an opened neck. Unfortunately Eichendorff shook his head at the end. The one-time-changes were faultless, but the horse did not remain 100% straight. The first canter pirouette was quite good, in rhythm and with the will to carry weight behind, in the second Eichendorff missed a beat at the end. The final centre-line remained faultfree, even though the stallion stood narrow in front and behind at the halt. Throughout their ride Max-Theurer presented the licensed Westfalian stallion with a fine self-carriage and good bit contact, always in front of the vertical which was honoured by the judges with 8s for seat and position.
Forward Looking and Dorothee Schneider finished eighth in the Dortmund Grand Prix. The big framed and well muscled Westfalian mare by Fidermark x Dinard L had already been much noticed in 2011, but she really established herself after her rider's Olympic mare Diva Royal went back to her owner and Forward Looking moved into the number 1 slot. Showing promise at the end of the 2012 season, the mare showed better form in Dortmund than her placing might suggest. The first extended trot was very energetic with the hind legs moving visibly under the centre of gravity, each step swinging. As one of a few riders Schneider really rides each corner very correctly as a quarter volte. The trot half-passes were both well bent, but in the first the impulsion faded in the last few steps whereas the one to the right was exemplary with lots of impulsion and even strides, resulting in marks up to 8,5. The rein-back was a bit hasty and not 100% straight. The passage showed a clear moment of suspension and the hind legs coming under, but the mare could move with a touch more energy from behind. This could explain why the judges differed in their mark between 6,5 and 8. In the piaffe Forward Looking is very diligent and eager to make it right, sitting on her haunches, but she was still slightly travelling forwards and the front-leg a bit back. In the extended walk the mare immediately stretched forwards-downwards and moved diligently, but at the same time not showing the most ground-covering walk. Schneider very smoothly brought her back to the collected walk. The second piaffe was again diligent and better in place. The two-time-changes were safely ridden, but could be more uphill and ground-covering to score higher. In the one-times there was slight tension right from the beginning resulting in a mistake and more tension, but Schneider masterfully corrected it and instilled calmness in her mare again, so both pirouettes were well settled and in rhythm. The last extended trot could have shown more engagement from behind. The piaffe on the final line had many steps and was very cadenced. Though the mistakes were costly for her placing, Schneider could be happy about the marks of 8 and 9 for her efficient and elegant seat and position.
Not all German top riders were in Dortmund, but the ones that did show proved that there will be a very interesting run for the team places during the upcoming outdoor season. Also the two Dutch riders can be considered serious contestants for a team place for the 2013 Europeans in Herning.
Text by Silke Rottermann
Photos © Barbara Schnell