The title favourites, Dorothee Schneider and the Danish warmblood stallion Sezuan, swept the thrilling 5-year old finals at the 2014 World Championships for Young Dressage Horses in Verden, Germany, on a sunny Saturday afternoon 9 August 2014. The level of competition this year was extremely high with one fantastic horse coming after another. Top horses spiced the class to the right amount of flavour as Samoura M won silver and Eye Catcher bronze.
The 5-year old preliminary test already painted a good picture that the finals of the 5-year olds would be suspenseful and fun to watch. A group of five top horses all had a chance at a medal but it was the form of the day and the amount of mistakes that would sort the ranking. The judging panel included Ghislain Fouarge (NED), Jacques van Daele (BEL), Annette Fransen-Iacobaeus (SWE) and Liselotte Fore (USA) and they did a very good job in assessing the horses and properly marking them. There were very few issues with the scoring and in the end one could have swapped spots for a few horses, but in general the assessment was quite spot on.
After winning the preliminary test, Dorothee Schneider and Arlette and Edwin Kohl's Sezuan (by Zack x Don Schufro) were the hot favourites for the title. They lived up to their reputation with an improved ride in the finals test. The black stallion was narrow in front in the halt, but he proceeded with a very rhythmical, balance trot, also on the curved lines. Both the medium and extended trot were ridden too conservatively and lacked swing over the back. At the end of the first diagonal the horse pulled on the bit and Schneider had to half halt in the corner to get him back on the vertical. The contact in the mouth with the right rein was less elastic in general. Sezuan's trot was very supple in the body, but it stopped in his mouth. The extended walk was outstanding with huge overtrack and clear in the rhythm. The canter work was uphill in every single stride with an engaged hindleg. The counter canter was ground covering but the balance could improve as the horse crept behind the vertical. In the final trot on the long rein, Sezuan became slightly flat in the movement but he did stretch into the contact.
The judges awarded Sezuan a 9.6 for trot, 9.6 for walk, 10 for canter, 9.7 for submission and 9.9 for general impression, which brought the average to a winning 9.76. The panel praised the stallion for its "powerful and collectable" canter but surprisingly made no mention of the contact with the bit. They did say that the trot lengthenings were "on the conservative side".
At the press conference, Schneider said the following about winning gold. "It was an amazing feeling because it's an amazing horse. I've never had such a good horse before. I'm not so long with him. We are growing every day more and more together. Now we are here and it's a first place," she said fighting her tears. Schneider got the ride on Sezuan last March and has taken her time reschooling the horse. "I'm riding a little bit in another way and we have to grow together. For me it's a long way for me to come together with him. He was very impressive at first. I want to have him a little bit calmer. I'm happy that it has been possible in such a short time. I'm a woman and he's a man (referring to Sezuan's previous rider Andreas Helgstrand), so I ride in another way. I try to stretch the horse more and make him think in another way. Now it's a very good basic to look forward to develop him for the 6-year old targets. Now I have a good rapport with him."
The silver medal went to a favorably scored, but very well performing Ann Christin Wienkamp on Heinrich Mussmann's Westfalian mare Samoura M (by San Amour x Ferragamo). The tall bay mare is very ground covering in all three gaits and stayed faultfree throughout. The halt at entry was narrow in front and in the medium trot the mare became hasty but she has wonderful freedom in the shoulder and can really stretch the frame. The walk was good but the horse lost clarity in the rhythm at the end of the diagonal. The canter was uphill oriented with good self carriage. Samoura stayed very attentive to her rider, also in the counter canter, but she could have stayed more supple in it. Overall the contact with the bridle needs to even out more as the left rein is less elastic.
The judges awarded Samoura 9.6 for trot, 9.2 for walk, 9.4 for canter, 9.0 for submission and 9.5 for general impression to average 9.34. They praised the mare for having "a lot of expression and a free round moving shoulder. She tracks up behind." Wienkamp has only been riding the horse since January, taking over from Matthias Bouten, who presented the mare at the 2013 Bundeschampionate. She knew the mare could accomplish much in the finals and went for it. "In the qualification my riding was close to the horse and now in the final 'I said okay, let's do everything we can'," Wienkamp commented. "Our next goal is the German Championships and then the 6-year old classes."
Another rider who gave it her all and was rewarded for it was the Dutch Kirsten Brouwer, who did an admirable job on Titan Wilaras and Joop van Uytert's KWPN stallion Eye Catcher (by Vivaldi x Partout). Her chestnut stallion was active, engaged, expressive in trot, moving in a much more forward fashion compared to the Dutch roundness he showed in the preliminary test. He trotted actively and was always engaged from behind, sometimes appeared almost too hasty. There was hardly any bending to the right on the curved lines though and the horse did lose its suppleness on the right lead. In the ground covering extended walk he had huge overtrack and a good, clear rhythm. He failed in the strike off to canter and did the transition via trot. In canter Eye Catcher was engaged and uphill but he made a flying change in the counter canter right and then picked up the canter on the wrong lead so that were three big mistakes in the canter part. The simple change was crooked. In the left counter canter he got flat and leaned on the forehand.
Eye Catcher is an incredibly beautiful stallion and a real show stopper. He has world class quality in all three basic gaits, but made quite a few mistakes in his test, which were hardly weighed in the submission score by the judges. The pair won bronze after receiving 10 for trot, 9.8 for walk, 8.9 for canter, 8.5 for submission (?!) and 9.3 for general impression. He averaged 9.30. The judges praised the horse for its "amazing quality. The trot is elastic and he has a wonderful hindleg." They did note that the horse "had a hard time finding the balance, especially in the counter canter." They also critically added that "a serpentine needs to be bent."
Brouwer was over the moon with her bronze medal and admitted she had only been riding the horse for four weeks, after having done the KWPN Stallion Competition with him for two months last winter. "He is a great horse to ride," Brouwer explained. "He's sharp but also very relaxed. When I go to the walk, he's relaxed and easy to ride. I'm very happy that I can ride a horse like this. It's a young horse. Four weeks ago Joop van Uytert asked me to ride him again. He did what he could. He's so easy to ride. You sit and he goes and he wants to relax. Everything is good. He always wants to work." Brouwer confessed that she hopes to keep the ride on the talented stallion. "We were a good team in the winter for the Stallion Competition. That's why he (Joop) asked me again. I hope now that I have proven that I can ride him for the coming year."
Just missing out on a medal were Isabell Werth's assistant trainer Beatrice Buchwald on the Brandenburg state stud's stallion and probably one of the best horses at the show, Belantis (by Benetton Dream x Expose). Werth's long-time sponsor Madeleine Winter-Schulze has invested in a share in the ownership of the gorgeous grey sire, which says enough about his potential future. Mistakes in the canter work kept the pair from stepping onto the podium. The horse tilted his head on the centerline at the start and finish of the test. The trot was very scopy and Buchwald actually showed a proper distinction between the medium and extended trot. He needed more bending on the right volte but the horse was soft in the contact the entire ride. The walk was outstanding with a clear rhythm and huge overtrack. In canter he has uphill and powerful strides, but the horse made a flying change in the counter canter right. The simple change was well ridden. Overall Belantis could not sustain good self carriage and balance in the canter, which showed in the fact that he came behind the vertical. The left counter canter which was slightly overbent, to prevent him from changing again.
The judges awarded the talented Belantis a 9.5 for trot, 9.6 for walk, 9.2 for canter, 8.6 for submission and 9.4 for general impression. They praised the horse for being "an elegant horse, powerful in the hindleg, nice and uphill and a beautiful way of moving through the body." They added that "the balance in the counter canter is not so secure yet."
The fifth placed pair, Kira Wulferding on Birgit Kalvelage's Oldenburg mare Soiree d'Amour (by San Amour x Latimer) became the crowd favourite and received the most applause as well as whistling and booing when the judges' marks appeared. The black mare is drop dead gorgeous, but the panel was on the ball in their assessment and even fairly generous. Soiree has a very heady paddle in front in trot, even though she is incredibly graceful and elegant in her movement mechanism. In the medium trot she became hasty and dropped behind the vertical. Wulferding rode a very energetic and rhythmical trot tour with good bending on the curved lines. The walk had two hooves overtrack but could have been more active. In the turn on the haunches she should have been a bit quicker from behind. The mare is constantly licking her lips and flashing her tongue. The canter was nicely uphill but there should have been more lengthening in the frame in the medium canter. In the counter canter right she dropped behind the vertical. The extended canter left she dropped on the forehand and the hind legs moved out which are signs that the balance and power from behind in this young horse will improve as she gaints more strength in the hindquarters.
The judges scored Soiree d'Amour a 9.9 for trot, 8.0 for walk, 9.0 for canter, 9.0 for submission and 9.6 for general impression. The combination averaged 9.10 to finish fifth. The judges praised Soiree for her "expressive trot." The walk could have been "more ground covering" and in canter there was a "slight unbalance in the counter canter. The judges made no comment on the tongue issue going on.
For the first time ever the top five horses in the 5-year old division all scored above 9.0 at the World Young Horse Championships. This is a true testament to the improved quality of horses as well as of the riding. Judge Ghislain Fouarge stated that "I must tell you it was not an easy job, especially today. Kirsten gave us a tough show to judge. We saw all fantastic horses, of super quality. It's seldom that we saw a final like this for the 5-year olds. It also depends on the day, and if they make mistakes. The ground quality of the top seven was really fantastic. The last few years the way of training and presenting the horses has improved tremendously. The riding has become much nicer. You no longer see horses that are unhappy and not willing to do the work. We are on the right track. I give a big compliment to the riders that they show us the horses in this way."
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Eurodressage's Astrid Appels was on the scene taking photos of all WCYH riders and several Grand Prix riders in Verden. Contact us if you are interested in photo prints, digital images, collages or albums.
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2014 World Young Horse Championships