Helen Langehanenberg and her 2013 World Cup winning stallion Damon Hill led Team Germany to victory by winning the CDIO Grand Prix class with 81.128% at the 2013 CDIO Aachen on Thursday afternoon 27 June 2013. Probably one of the top three highest scoring dressage riders in the world at the moment, Langehanenberg presented her horse on outstanding but not brilliant form.
Three weeks ago Langehanenberg reigned at the 2013 German Championships in Balve and today in Aachen she returned to the show ring with a fit, fresh and energetic Damon Hill (by Donnerhall x Rubinstein). The liver chestnut stallion bounced through the arena like a rubber ball, but was not always consistently up in the frame and should have closed his lips more in the test. The trot extensions were fantastic as well as the ground covering half passes, but Damon Hill dropped behind the vertical in them. There was a tiny loss of rhythm in the first piaffe and a big step out into the high-tempo passage. The extended walk was relaxed with long strides, the collected clear in rhythm but slightly quick. The second passage was superb but in the piaffe the horse went deep, travelled forward, and leaned on the forehand despite the major bounce off the ground. The canter work was excellent: super two tempi changes, a top class zig zag with lots of ground cover and big one tempi's. The pirouettes were ok. The third trot extension put 9s on the board and the final centerline was very rhythmical.
The judges' panel, consisting of Francis Verbeek-van Rooij (NED), Andrew Gardner (GBR), Leif Törnblad (DEN), Isabelle Judet (FRA) and Dietrich Plewa, ranked Helen first and was quite unanimous with their scores. "I had a great feeling today. He was very fresh and moving forward," said the modest Langehanenberg at the press conference. German team trainer Monica Theodorescu was more glowing: "Damon Hill was prepared really well. He was very precise, elastic. She's on point that the horse is fit, supple, harmonious."
German Olympic individual rider Anabel Balkenhol has always had the feeling she had to rider harder for her point than other star riders, but today in Aachen it all came together for her. Her Hanoverian gelding Dablino (by De Niro x Wanderbusch II) was focused on her and not his surroundings and the pair owned the arena! They rode fantastic trot extensions, big half passes and very regular and well suspended and lightfooted passage. Despite his fifth year at Grand Prix (he started in the young horse GP series in 2009), Dablino unfortunately still travels forward in the piaffe although the rhythm is steady. Dablino's normally limited extended walk was quite alright today. The canter work was very confident with a very secure zig zag and huge uphill tempi changes. The pirouette left was small, the one to the right started a bit off point. The final centerline was lovely. The duo posted a score of 77.043% with marks ranging from 74.787% (Verbeek) and 79.149% (Tornblad).
"Anabel got to show what is in the horse," Theodorescu commented proudly. "He got to show it today. We always believed in this wonderful horse." Anabel was very happy with her ride. "I was very precise, without mistakes and he showed his quality. I hope to make that happen again on Saturday. I will try for two good rides."
Danish Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein made experience count with her 16-year old home bred Digby (by Donnerhall x Sandro). The duo has so much mileage on its record and while it does show a bit in the normal trot work, the piaffe and passage are still amongst the best executed in the international dressage world. With a rhythm ticking like a metronome, Digby springs off the ground like a frolicky foal. The trot half passes had tremendous cross over but could have been more buoyant. The walk was relaxed and pure in rhythm, the canter work was without blemishes: super secure, clean and proper, textbook. They posted a score of 75.638% to finish third.
Danish team mate Anna Kasprzak followed in fourth place, helping secure Team Denmark's silver position in the Nations' Cup behind Germany. Aboard the Finnish warmblood Donnperignon (by Donnerhall x Mozart), Kasprzak rode her horse with much energy and forward tendency through the test. The tempo was high in trot with ground covering extensions and big half passes, the passage was off the ground and regular but the piaffes still are the weak point. Donnperignon remains earth bound and loses impulsion in them. The walk was ok, the canter work very good: super tempi changes and a canter extension, one pirouette was a bit big. Anna received 75.426% from the judges.
"I'm very happy," Anna commented after her ride. "The break after the Danish Championships was quite short now but he was fresh and I had a very good feeling in the canter work. I know him better now and the piaffe, we're working on that," she smiled. Danish team trainer Rudolf Zeilinger added, "the transitions are already better and hopefully we can surprise in Herning."
For the second time in three months, number one American duo Steffen Peters and Akiko Yamazaki's Westfalian gelding Legolas (by Laomedon x Florestan II) jumped the Atlantic to compete amongst the best in Europe. Since three months ago in Hagen, Peters has put valuable work on the now sleeker less bulkier looking, long legged gelding which showed off more relaxation and balance. In Hagen the Grand Prix task appeared to be a work in progress with them but in Aachen it was all much more defined and Peters seems to be able to - slowly - put the horse to his hand. Riding Legolas with a very soft and friendly contact, Peters was able to achieve a better self carriage in the trot extensions. The piaffe and passage were very expressive and more even. The extended walk could have been more ground covering, the second piaffe-passage was very rhythmical although some steps were slightly croup high. The zig zag was nice and the pirouettes OK, though Legalos should generate more lift in the frontquarters. The final centerline was elegant.
Peters' 75.298% score propelled Team USA back into a top three place in a nations' cup event for the first time since 2006. “Our Nations Cup riders came here for a medal and they did not disappoint. Each of them showed why they are among the best in the world,” said American chef d'equipe Robert Dover. “Led by Steffen Peters who is, in my opinion, one of the greatest show ring riders of all time; Legolas was simply fantastic, placing 5th overall, a great feat for such a young horse. Tina Konyot and Calecto V looked elegant and composed and are one hundred percent on the road toward a huge score, very soon. The same must be said for both Jan Ebeling riding the great mare, Rafalca and Shelly Francis on her Doktor.”
The other American riders all produced very controlled and focused tests. Tina Konyot and her 15-year old Danish bred Calecto V (by Come Back II x Rastell) finished 16th with 71.064%. The combination showed some powerful work but numerous breaks in the rhythm meddled with the overall harmony. There was a break at the end of centerline upon entry, there never was proper overtrack in the trot extensions despite lots of flash in the gait. The half passes were very nice. The extended and collected walk were well executed. There were a few uneven steps in the piaffe and passage as Calecto T tends to overpush behind and get croup high. The uphill one and two tempi changes, zig zag, extended canter and small pirouettes were outstanding. The transition from canter to trot was difficult and the horse got crooked and there was another break into canter on the final centerline. Jan Ebeling and the 15-year old mare Rafalca (by Argentinus x Rubinstein) ranked right behind Konyot in 17th place with 70.936%. The Californian pair rode a very prim and proper test with no major mistakes, but also no real highlights. In every movement one expected a tiny bit more in order for the mare to truly shine and put the big scores on the board. The half passes could have had more activity from behind, the passage could have been more closed in the frame, the trot and walk extensions needed more understep from behind, but overall it was a very clean and faultfree test with especially the well ridden zig zag standing out. Fourth U.S. team rider Shelly Francis was the first to go on the day aboard Pet Stempel's 10-year old Oldenburg Doktor (by Diamond Hit x Renoir I). The duo showed a lot of potential, especially in the piaffe but the horse sometimes became tense and quick in the rhythm. The extended walk was good but Doktor paced in the collected. The rein back was wonderful and the one tempi changes were nice. Overall, Doktor lacked relaxation in the body and was often fixed in the back preventing him from showing more elasticity and bounce throughout the test.
Austrian Victoria Max-Theurer came to Aachen without a team but was backed up by fellow individual Austrian Renate Voglsang. Max-Theurer presented her number one horse, the 13-year old Oldenburg stallion Augustin (by August der Starke x Rohdiamant) and finished sixth with 74.702%. Victoria started her test in a steady rhythm with nice activity from behind. The extended trot and half passes were well ridden, but already on the second diagonal the horse lost some spark and performed a tame second and third extended trot and conservative extended canter. The passage was very strong but the piaffe posed a problem each time: either it was hard for Augustin to find the rhythm, or he lifted the frontlegs unevenly. The pirouettes were good, as well as the zig zag, but the two tempi's were not straight enough and the ones not ground covering enough, though Max-Theurer rode no mistakes.
Isabell Werth and her fiesty Hanoverian Don Johnson (by Don Frederico x Warkant) are always interesting to watch as you never know what you are going to get. While travelling round the ring, Don Johnson violently kicked to the spur but Isabell shot a vicious, killing look into the audience, blaming an innocent photographer for that moment instead of looking into her own heart. The bright bay gelding showed super trot extensions but bobbed his head in the half passes. The first passage was beautiful, the transition from piaffe to passage hesitant. The extended walk had two hooves overtrack but the rhythm could have been clearer. Don Johnson struggled to find the rhythm in the second piaffe. Isabell had to use all her skill to steer her horse faultfree through the test. The horse opened its mouth regularly, lost impulsion in the left pirouette but the right one was good, as well as the two tempi changes. The ones could have covered more ground.
At the press conference, Werth blamed her long warm up for the lack of higher scores. "I prepared him ten minutes too early and he was a bit over the point," Werth stated. "I couldn't bring him in on the highest level coming from the warm-up." Theodorescu joked that this can happen, "especially when you don't do many shows and don't have much experience."
The best Dutch rider in Aachen was Danielle Heijkoop on the 14-year old Dutch bred Siro (by Gribaldi x Hemmingway). Last week the duo outscored almost every single A-team rider in Rotterdam and this week she finished 8th with 72.149%. The young duo rode a nice half pass to the right, but the horse lost elasticity in the one to the left. Siro dragged his feet in the rein back and the extended walk was limited in scope. The highlights were the extremely rhythmical and smooth piaffe, passage and transitions although the overall image and silhouette could vastly improve if Siro wouldn't have been consistently behind the vertical throughout the test. No matter in trot, canter, piaffe or passage, the nose was always behind the vertical which made the horse lose its uphill tendency in several movements.
A combination many people were looking forward to was Andreas Helgstrand on his (at least) two million euro horse Akeem Foldager (by Akinos x Loran). The impressive dark bay gelding was terrified to enter the arena and had to be led in by a handler. The horse looked spooky and tense travelling round the ring and this feeling of fright and anxiety never left him. Helgstrand started with an expressive trot extension but went off the diagonal. The half passes were huge but too passagey and there could have had more cross behind. The first passage was fantastic, the first piaffe stellar and it put big 9s on the score board. However, the horse did not walk for a second. He jogged on the diagonal in the extended walk and the same happened in the collected walk. That put 1s on the board and the score plummeted. Andreas visibly half halted a lot and the horse's head regularly moved from left to right in an attempt to keep him through. In canter the horse loudly ground his teeth but he showed a very nice extended canter. The two's were not straight in the body, the ones were good but Akeem dropped behind the vertical. The pirouettes were nice with much potential but the onset of the right one was crooked. Akeem Foldager is such a fantastic horse and surely one of the nicest in the high performance world at the moment, but with him "less is more" and in the CDIO Grand Prix it was obviously all too much for him. They scored 68.426% to finish 24th.
Text and Photos by Astrid Appels - No Reproduction Allowed
Eurodressage photographer Astrid Appels took photos of all combinations competing at the CDIO Aachen. Contact us if you are interested in prints of your photos!