The War of the Roses, Sort Of. Langehanenberg Wins 2013 World Cup Grand Prix

Fri, 04/26/2013 - 00:36
2013 World Cup Finals

German Helen Langehanenberg made a mountain of a statement by winning the warm up Grand Prix class at the 2013 World Cup Finals in Gothenburg, Sweden on Thursday afternoon 25 April 2013 defeating long-time rival Adelinde Cornelissen. The beautifully decorated ring with gorgeous flower arrangements in the Scandinavium arena in Gothenburg put uber-sensitive horses to the test and only those with nerves of steel were able to climb to the top of the ranking.

As first competitor to go Helen Langehanenberg had the odds working against her, but the challenges that the ring would present to other combinations left her unfazed and enabled her to win comfortably with a 79.863% earning test. Christian Becks' 13-year old liver chestnut stallion Damon Hill (by Donnerhall x Rubinstein) looked fresh and fruity, was obedient to the rider's aids and embodied what modern dressage is all about: harmony, lightness, naturalness.

The pair started their test with a nice supple, cadenced extended trot, a beautiful right half pass and a smooth one to the left. The extended trots were not exaggerated but still impressive in cadence and ground cover. The first passage was big, the piaffe nice with food sit and rhythm and smooth transitions. The extended walk was active, energetic and had super overtrack and rhythm, following by a nice transition to collected walk with losing the activity and clarity of the gait. The second passage was superb, but the transition into piaffe was a bit rolling and the one out could have been more marked but the silhouette was flawless. Also the canter work was high standard: confident and big two tempi changes and an accurate zig zag. In the one tempi the horse built up tension and made a mistake. The pirouette left was very nice but there could have been a bit more bending round the rider's leg in the right one. The final extended trot was safe. Langehanenberg finished her test with a fantastic passage, a piaffe three meters before the marker and a bit too much travelling forward but in an absolutely beautiful rhythm and suspension. Another highlight in her test is that always soft and subtle contact with the mouth and Damon Hill kept his mouth more closed than usual.

The panel of judges, which included Andrew Gardner (GBR), Gotthilf Riexinger (GER), Wojtek Markowski, Jean-Michel Roudier, Elizabeth McMullen (CAN), Gustaf Svalling (SWE), and Maria Colliander (FIN), scored her test 79.863%. Riexinger's 82.340% was the high score and Svalling's 76.170% was the low score. 

Dutch Edward Gal and the Austrian owned 12-year old Undercover (by Ferro x Donnerhall) finished second with 78.465%. Since the 2012 Olympic Games Undercover has dramatically transformed into a much more relaxed horse and produced well earned highlight performances in 's Hertogenbosch in March. In Gothenburg the pair was again on strong form but did not achieve the same level as in Den Bosch, so far, though the Edward Gal halo effect did its magic on the score.

The duo started out with very controled, lightfooted trot work. In the corners and on the short side Gal reduced the tempo so much that the horse almost came into a passage before being positioned onto the diagonals for each upcoming movement. None of the extended trots fulfiled the criteria. The horse never lengthens the frame and is only able to achieve some overtrack only at the end of the diagonal. The trot half passes were gorgeous but a bit passagey. The halt before reinback was not square but the rein back itself was good.  It was obvious that Gal was going for total control over each step and in the first passage the horse could have moved a bit more energetically off the ground, but the transition into the piaffe was very smooth. The first few piaffe steps Undercover lost a bit of tendency forward. In the extended walk there was not enough overtrack and the clarity of rhythm was not ideal either. The collected walk was more a slowed-down walk than one collected in the frame. A very nice transition to passage followed. The passage was too slow and the horse got slightly irregular behind with alternating activity in the hindlegs, but the piaffe was lovely. In canter Gal rode very confident two tempi changes which needed to be straighter in the horse's body. The biggest improvement of all was to be seen in the one tempi's which finally were ground covering! The pirouettes were small but lack lift in the forehand and sit behind. The extended canter was super energetic. Overall Gal rode a very meticulous, composed test but in Den Bosch he was able to have the nose more out and the horse more flexible in the frame. The duo received 78.465% from the judges with Markowski's 80.851% as high score and Riexinger's 76.809% as low score.

"I have a good feeling about my test," Gal commented. "This is because Undercover felt really relaxed and I'm very happy with that. At Indoor Brabant I was able to carry that relaxed feeling from the Grand Prix into the kur for the very first time. I hope I'll be able to do that again here."

Local favourite Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven was the last rider to go and finished third in the ranking. Aboard Antonia Ax:son Johnson's 11-year old Hanoverian gelding Don Auriello (by Don Davidoff x White Star), Tinne painted a gorgeous picture of harmony and friendship between rider and horse. The contact was soft throughout the test and the horse was nicely up in the bridle most of the time. The half passes floated, but in the rein back "Anton" did too many steps. The trot extensions were all very expressive and ground covering. The horse's weakness lies in the passage. Even though the silhouette is elegant and regular, the dark bay gelding is weak behind, almost drags the toes, and shows little push or engagement from behind. However, in piaffe he's able to sit beautifully on the hind quarters and stay on the spot. There could have been more stretching of the neck in the extended walk and Don Auriello became quite tense in the collected walk.  In the zig zag the rider got long reins and was visibly steering a bit too much with the hands; still  she controlled the exercise. The one tempi were nice as well as the small pirouettes.  She scored 77.432% with Markowski's 79.468% as high score and Colliander's 74.787% as low score.

It showed that title defender Adelinde Cornelissen has the sympathy of the judges when she finished fourth with a 75.410%. The tunnel-focused rider came close to elimination when her sensitive 16-year old Dutch gelding Parzival (by Jazz x Ulft) made a triple spin, a rear and a reverse in his refusal to piaffe. Two judges nevertheless gave her a 7.0 for submission in the collective marks, whereas the others were at 4s and 5s. This major disobedience was not the first moment of drama in the World Cup Grand Prix competition today as the flower arrangements and clicking photographers rattled several top horses. However dressage is all about obedience (and gymnastics) and that means that especially experienced dressage horses should already be desensitized to these recurrent factors on competition grounds. Cornelissen is a no nonsense girl and she will never blame external factors or list excuses in case of failure. Always picking herself up and moving forward we're sure that the Dutch rider will be back with a vengeance on Saturday. She's lucky because she will be the last rider to go in the freestyle!

Back training with her old coach Johan Hamminga, Adelinde started her test with a big extended trot, one of the best she ever rode as Parzival's hind legs were tracking under. The half pass to the right was ok, but the hindlegs trailed a bit and in the one to the left the rhythm could have been more regular as the horse became unsteady with the head and in the contact. Throughout the test Parzival was quite fidgety in the bridle, fumbling about with his mouth and lips. In the trot extensions the mouth is wide open as the rider hangs into the contact. The second extension was ridden a bit more safely than the first one. In the passage the hings legs were out and in the first piaffe the activity with the right hind leg was greater, but the piaffe was high off the ground and nicely on the spot.  The extended walk had very good ground cover but a tiny bit more relaxation over the back would have been nice. The collected walk was very good. The second passage started out a bit uneven and then all of a sudden major resistance followed. Cornelissen kept her cool and picked up the test calm and collected. The canter work was ridden a bit more conservatively but the tempi changes were outstanding as always. The zig zag appeared a bit labourered but the pirouettes were really nice. On the final centerline Parzival travelled forward in the piaffe at X and the hind legs came out in the final bit of passage. Adelinde was unable to keep the passage in a closed frame up until the end halt. She scored 75.410% with Riexinger's 78.191% (2nd place!) as high score and Markowski's 73.298% as low score.

"I don't know what happened," Cornelissen commented after her test. "All of a sudden Parzival was facing the other direction. Normally, in the past, I felt something like this coming.  Parzival would get tense and then I knew an explosion was about to happen or I could filter the tension away. Now it was there all of a sudden, like an explosion. It must have cost me 4% but fortunately I didn't get distracted by it. I was even able to passage ten steps."

German Isabell Werth completed the top five aboard Madeleine Winter-Schulze's Hanoverian gelding Don Johnson (by Don Frederico x Warkant). Werth is such a master at test riding and finding the edges to which she can push her horse. Yet, she did overpush him in the first extended trot as the bay gelding broke into canter, but the rest of her ride was very controled. The pair executed very nice half passes. The second trot extension could have had more overstep even though Don Johnson is flashy in front. In the passage "Johnny" is a bit of a leg-shaker with his frontlegs and was not really tracking up behind but he stayed regular in the rhythm. The first piaffe was a bit small. The second piaffe-passage was much better with more elevation and cadence. Werth did some very solid and confident riding in canter, producing lovely two-tempi changes. In the ones her horse got a bit downhill and croup high. Werth also rode 17 ones instead of 15. On the final centerline the piaffe at X was quite forward. The passage was nice even though the engagement from behind got slightly lost towards the end of the line. Werth scored 75.015% with Markowski's 77.340% as high score and Colliander's 71.915% as low score.

With a Hop, Skip and a Spook into the Top 10

Aboard the Finnish warmblood Donnperignon (by Donnerhall x Mozart) Danish Anna Kasprzak finished sixth. The  duo executed lovely trot work with big half passes and good extensions. The passage was nice and smooth but the piaffes were laboured. In canter the pirouettes were good as well as the secure one tempi changes. The contact, however, needs improvement. In the extended walk the horse rolled the neck instead of stretching into the contact and Donnperignon often creeps behind the vertical.  The pair scored a wonderful 74.894%.

Swedish Minna Telde and her own Hanoverian stallion Santana (by Sandro Hit x Rubinstein) were an image of dynamics, energy and expression. The pitch black stallion bounces off the ground in trot and passage as if he has springs in his legs but at the same time, he could have show a bit more collection with the hind legs moving more under the body instead of becoming croup high. The trot was very forward and needed a bit more collection. In the first piaffe he shuffled forward a bit, but the other two were nice. The collected walk was too free in the frame. The one tempi were super straight but Telde lost the canter right before the pirouette to the right. A little bobble in the final stretch of passage before the end halt reduced the score to a 72.097%.

Italian Valentina Truppa was the third placed rider at the 2012 World Cup Finals in 's Hertogenbosch last year, but today she couldn't find her groove on her 12-year old Italian bred Eremo del Castegno (by Rohdiamant x Weltmeyer). The chubby Eremo would look a bit more athletic if he were to shed a few pounds; now he came into the ring profusely sweating and unsettled. The bay gelding is very powerful in the trot extensions, but could have more overtrack. Throughout the test the piaffe and passage were very bouncy and engaged, but Truppa struggled to get the rhythm regular as the horse got tense. The collected walk was very good. The final passage on the centerline was the best one. They earned 71.778%

Danish Sidsel Johansen and her 14-year old Danish bred Schianto (by Gribaldi x Schwadroneur) slotted in 9th posting a score of 69.878%. The cute black gelding is always ridden with much brio: forward into the contact, in a good tempo and with lots of engagement from behind. The horse produces very buoyant, regular passage but has no sit in piaffe. Schianto has an excellent extended walk and is very accurate in the tempi changes.

Swedish duo Patrik Kittel and Jan Greve's 14-year old Dutch stallion Scandic (by Solos Carex x Amiral) was one of several casualities in the War of the Roses, or let's say flower pots (Marlies van Baalen's Miciano spooked the hardest). The chestnut stallion spooked regularly at F as well as on both short sides, compromising the first extended trot, the half pass to the left and a passage. The horse became tense and it also showed in the rein back. Kittel was unable to ride Scandic to full potential. Their extended trot usually earns them top scores but Patrik now stepped on the brake and rode them more conservatively. The extended walk had good overtrack but the horse paced in the collected walk. The pair finished on a 69.559% end score to place 10th.

After the Grand Prix was over, Kittel filed an official protest over the flower arrangements as he claimed they were different from those during the warm up. The president of the ground jury, Gustav Svalling, decided that all decorations were placed in the legitimate spots and that the conditions for competition were equal for all 17 competing riders. However, the Ground Jury did urge the FEI to revise their rules so that any decorations in the warm up are identical to those during the test.

Text by Astrid Appels
Photos © Dirk Caremans - Dirk is on the scene in Gothenburg taking photos of the World Cup Finals in Dressage and Show jumping. Contact Dirk directly for your photo requests.

Related Link
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2013 World Cup Finals