British Charlotte Dujardin topped off an amazing weekend with a third consecutive victory and a kur gold medal at the 2013 European Dressage Championships in Herning, Denmark. The Championships came to a conclusion with the kur finals on Sunday afternoon 25 August 2013 in a sold out stadium with a capacity of 10,000. Helen Langehanenberg finished in silver medal position and Adelinde Cornelissen got bronze.
With the lowest score being 74.232% out of fifteen riders, this year's Kur to Music finals was of an unprecedented high level and interesting to watch from start to finish. While it was really hard to predict the results after each ride and the general trend was a high one, the overall ranking could not really be faulted. As the freestyle judging system is still disfunctional with too much room for personal taste and interpretation, one can look with excitement to the freestyle judging system trials in September which should redefine a new way of marking the kur. It doesn't matter if the production is tailormade to the movements of the horse, a pot pourri of songs or just background music, the highest technical scoring rider also seems to get the highest artistic score anyway. However at the moment the judges have to work with what they are given and today they did an ok job when it comes to sorting out the ranking.
Charlotte Dujardin rode Roly Luard and Carl Hester's Dutch warmblood gelding Valegro (by Negro x Gershwin) to victory with an unbelievable score of 91.250%, just a percent shy from breaking Edward Gal's world record score of 92,300% achieved at the 2009 CDI-W London. The reigning Olympic champion opted to ride her London freestyle with its patriottic music of Land of Hope and Glory and The Great Escape. The pair showed top extended trots, piaffes that were nicely on the spot and a lovely combination of passage and trot half passes. In the passage the hind leg could still step under more, even though it was an improvement from the Grand Prix Special. The extended canter was beautifully uphill and the final piaffe pirouette, which had caused a glitch in London, was now clear. The only small blemish in the ride was a difficult exit out of a left pirouette. (click here for video)
"I had a fantastic ride today," Dujardin commented. "Yesterday I gave him a complete day off, normally I would hack him and it worked. He came out on form. I was so relaxed and this was the best I have keyed with the music." When asked what happened in that one pirouette, Charlotte said that "I caught him with my spur and he jumped out." Charlotte admitted that she has a new freestyle ready, but decided to opt for the London one last minute as she had only ridden it three times before. "People asked me why I would not ride to the Olympic music. I didn't want to ride it again but everybody loves it, the judges love it and technically it's very difficult."
Helen Langehanenberg and Christian Becks' Westfalian stallion Damon Hill (by Donnerhall x Rubinstein) finished in second place with 87.286%. The duo was on excellent form and Damon Hill's elasticity, eagerness to work and bounce in trot and canter did not wane a bit throughout the five day competition. The passage was incredibly supple, the extended trots ground covering and the piaffe nicely on the spot. One of them was slightly on the forehand and a hiccup in the rhythm in the passage were minor bobbles. The two tempi on the curved line were beautiful but a mistake happened in the ones and that tampered with her score. Damon Hill was one of the few horses that did two perfect, immobile halts at the beginning and end of the test. (click here for video)
"He gave me a great feeling," Helen said after the test. "I'm so proud of him and thankful that he gave everything. I had two slight mistakes but he had a brilliant week here. I even enjoyed the freestyle." Langehanenberg was quite modest when she said that not her two individual silver medals meant the most to her. "The most emotional moment was in the Grand P¨rix. I didn't expect gold. Everyone clapped and cried and first I didn't get why."
Talking about emotions, the ambitious Adelinde Cornelissen, who usually only goes for gold, now looked extremely satisfied with her double bronze as her horse Parzival suffered a health scare in June. Cornelissen rode her 16-year old Dutch warmblood Parzival (by Jazz x Ulft) a bit more than in the first two tests, which did result in a harder contact at times, but the piaffes were beautifully on the spot, the trot extensions were big and the tempi changes brilliant. The trot half passes were slightly less elastic and regular than normal and the weak point of the ride were the left pirouettes in which the horse bopped his head and struggled with each jump. The right ones were much better. The final piaffe pirouette was croup high and right before the halt there were several double beats. They scored 86.393%. (click here for video)
"He has been doing so well with only a few weeks of training," Cornelissen explained. Adelinde's availability for the team was not a given this year, but she was able to get her horse fit on time. "I did it for the team and still took two individual medals."
Edward Gal and the 12-year old Dutch warmblood Undercover (by Ferro x Donnerhall) finished fourth again today. His black gelding was in far superior form compared to the Grand Prix Special. The horse executed superb piaffe and passage, but the trot extensions were still much leg flash and little overtrack. The collected walk was very short, the extended could even be more generous in overtrack. It was remarkable that the extended canter on the right lead was remarkably better in the clarity of the 3-beat rhythm than the left one. The double pirouettes were small but need more airtime. The two tempi changes were good, the ones engaged but fixed in the back. The end halt was not immobile. They scored 84.911%. (click here for video)
"Now I was prepared for the moment that I entered the ring there coul be applause," Gal commented. "Undercover was the entire test super relaxed. Because of the optimal control that I had and the fact that he stayed so calm, he wanted to stay with me. This showed in the half passes and also the walk. In the small grey areas in between certain movements, he sometimes dropped me a bit, so that has to be better."
German Kristina Sprehe and her 12-year old Hanoverian licensed stallion Desperados (by De Niro x Wolkenstein II) made it into the top five with an 81.875% earning test. The black stallion was not as switched on as in the Special but still executed nice piaffes, big trot extensions and half passes. Especially the trot and piaffe and passage work was very flowing with much differentiation in the tempo. In the collected walk the horse got slightly tense and quick. In the two tempi changes the hind legs could have jumped under more.. The first extended canter was a bit conservative. Sprehe rode nice one tempi followed by a pirouette but the exit was sloppy. Also in the end, Kristina lost the accuracy and neatness in her test with a few hiccups in the exit of a piaffe, a few uneven passage steps and an end halt in two phases. (click here for video)
The 2013 European Dressage Championships were a huge success. The event was impeccably organized, the facilities for horse and rider were more than decent and the atmosphere was outstanding. Topped off with gorgeous weather, these Championships are certainly an event to remember.
Text and Photos © Astrid Appels - No Reproduction Allowed
Eurodressage photographer Astrid Appels took photos of all combinations competing at the 2013 European Dressage Championships. Contact us if you are interested in prints of your photos!
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2013 European Dressage Championships