Hans Peter Minderhoud and Johnson shone in the CDIO 5* Grand Prix class at the 2016 CDIO Rotterdam on Thursday 23 June 2016 making a winning show come back after a 10 month break from competition. After a holiday and recovery from injury, Johnson returned to best form and produced an faultfree, expressive Grand Prix to win the class which put Holland in the provisional lead of the Nations' Cup.
Minderhoud presented a fit and fresh Johnson in Rotterdam. The 14-year old Dutch warmblood stallion Johnson (by Jazz x Flemmingh) showed nice trot half passes, although the hindquarters could have been more parallell in the ones to the right. The passage was very lightfooted, energetic and regular. In piaffe Johnson gets very narrow behind and crosses the hind legs. He tends to get slightly crooked to the left, but maintains a good rhyhtm and activity. In the extended walk the bay stallion should generate more overstep. The tempi changes were nice and straight, the extended canter uphill, the zig zag well ridden. In the pirouette right the horse dropped a bit behind the vertical. The final centerline was expressive, but the horse crossed the hind legs in the piaffe at X. They scored a winning 79.240% from the panel of judges which included Saleh, Lang, Baarup, Holler and De Wolff van Westerrode.
"It was indeed a long time ago that Johnson ran a test," said Minderhoud. "His last show was the European Championships in Aachen. Afterwards he got some time off and then he was used as a breeding stallion. After Amsterdam he injured himself and he was off for a while. It's been a while since he last went to a show, but that did him well. He was focused on me and did very much his best. There still needs to be some fine-tuning, but we have a few weeks left and it will definitely be alright."
American Laura Graves and her Dutch warmblood gelding Verdades (by Floret As) led the American campaign in Rotterdam, which is the last of three designated observation events as part of the selection process for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Dressage Team. Trained by Debbie McDonald, Graves produced an improved performance compared to Compiegne but still needs a bit more of tinkering to put the really big marks on the European score boards. Her beautifully muscled Guelderlander crossbred rushed in the trot extensions, but the rein back was excellent. The half passes cover much ground, but Verades could have more uphill tendency in them in front. The passage is lightfooted and very elegant, but in the piaffe he alos gets very narrow behind and never really puts the hindlegs under the body, despite a decent rhythm. The extended walk could have had more stretch over the top line and stride length but the relaxation was good. The collected walk was very clear. There was a hiccup in the canter strike off, but the zig zag was beautiful, the tempi changes very straight. The horse broke into canter in the last trot extensions, which tampered with the final score. They finished second on 76.300% but the judges were not on the same wavelength. She had 78.400 as high score (Lang) and 72.900 (De Wolff) as low score.
Diederik van Silfhout and his 11-year old Dutch warmblood stallion Arlando (by Paddox) were in sync and finished third. The gorgeous bay stallion has very flashy trot extensions but is snatchy in front and the regularity in stride length and the required overtrack were not always there. The extended walk also lacked proper overtrack (still a 6.5 average score!). Arlando is a gifted horse and extremely appealing to look at in piaffe and passage. In those movements he is scopey, bouncy and rhythmical, but he moves a bit too much like a puppet-on-a-string instead of a natural dancer. Van Silfhout, however, has a lovely, steady contact with the bridle. The nose is dead steady at the vertical and even sometimes slightly in front of it which create a nice side silhouette. The stallion gets short and choppy in the collected canter and in the two tempi's the hindquarters sway to the right, but the ones were fantastic. The left pirouette was the best one of the two and the final trot extension had the most ground cover of the three. The sympathetic duo scored 76.240% to finish third.
"Arlando felt comfortable and relaxed today. The piaffe and passage were very good. There still are a few small things that can be better, but for now in the build-up phase to Saturday it went super," said Van Silfhout.
Adelinde Cornelissen and her 19-year old Parzival (by Jazz x Ulft) are securing their spot on the Dutch Olympic team with a renewed consistent performance in Rotterdam after showing well in Compiegne in May. Her chestnut gelding has certainly lost his sparkle but can still produce numerous hightlights: the piaffe was world class in Rotterdam! Great sit, super rhythm, legs high and regular. Also his tempi changes remain to be a fantastic strong point of the long legged athlete. Unfortunately, there are several low points: the passage was very irregular with the left hind dragging on numerous occasions and in the left pirouette the horse can not sustain the weight on the hindquarters and rocks on the forehand. The trot extensions were not entirely pure in regularity either and the rider hung on the bit, pulling the horse in a very tight frame with Parzival gaping with his mouth. The judges' scoring is quite puzzling though. They do not seem to differentiate between the highlights and low points. Everything seems to get a 7.5 flatline, instead of boldly marking up the best movements and honestly marking down to low points. In Rotterdam, Cornelissen, who is now being coached by Aris van Manen, scored 76.140% to finish fourth.
American Steffen Peters and the 14-year old Westfalian gelding Legolas (by Laomedon x Florestan II) landed fifth place. The bay gelding was not entirely in balance in the halt at entry. The first trot extension was more supple than usual, but he got tense in the topline in the right half pass. The left half pass was better, but then Legolas lost the swing in the back again in the second extension. The piaffe and passage were delightful though; great rhythm, lots of airtime and good collection. In the extended walk Legolas needed to achieve more overtrack. The second piaffe had much sit but could have been more forward-thinking. The canter work was solid with no major mistakes, although again the horse could open the frame more in the canter extension. The pirouettes were small. The final centerline was expressive. They scored 76.040%.
For the Americans Rotterdam is their final Olympic selection trial. The winner of the CDIO Compiegne, Kasey Perry-Glass and Gorklintgards Dublet, were not as much on point in Rotterdam though. The first trot extension was a bit conservative. The passage was very strong, but in the piaffe the dark bay gelding got behind the vertical and moved slightly forward. The collected walk was lateral, the transition to canter was difficult and the left pirouette was a bit big. Dublet just appeared fresher and sharper in Compiegne, even though in Rotterdam he did show fantastic tempi changes, superb passage, a good extended walk and a very neat zig zag. They scored 74.580% for 7th place.
Dutch former team rider Danielle Heijkoop and the 17-year old Siro (by Gribaldi) are aiming for a Dutch team spot and Rotterdam is the first official Dutch Olympic observation event, but the pair was not able to shine enough and catch the attention of the selectors. Siro was too tense in the stadium. He reared in the first halt, the trot extensions were not entirely even and there was no extended walk. The passage was very bouncy, though and the second piaffe-passage part was outstanding. They scored 70.780% for 17th place.
For Belgian riders Jorinde Verwimp and Jeroen Devroe Rotterdam was their final Olympic head-to-head for Belgium's individual Olympic spot and Jorinde Verwimp became the higher scoring rider. Aboard her 16-year old Dutch gelding Tiamo (by Lester) she finished 12th with 72.100%, while Devroe was close with 71.220% and a 16th spot.
For Great Britain, Rotterdam would be the key event to determine the fourth spot on the British team for Rio. Spencer Wilton and Super Nova II were the strongest contenders until Laura Tomlinson-Bechtolsheimer surprised all in Rotterdam by scoring 72.660%. Laura has only been riding the 10-year old Westfalian mare Rosalie B (by Rubin Royal) for a few months and has not yet received any stellar scores as the partnership was so brand new and not yet in sync. In Compiegne they began climbing the board and in Rotterdam the judges were willing to give more points. The black mare is a very gifted mover, but she flies through the trot part in sixth gear. The passage is very graceful but the piaffe on the forehand, although Laura was able to keep a better rhythm going. It will be interesting to see if the pair can capture that British team spot by confirming that score level in the Grand Prix Special. Tomlinson's assistant trainer Lara Griffith was very solid in her ride on the Bechtolsheimer family's 14-year old Hanoverian Rubin al Asad (by Rubin Royal) and scored 71.360%.
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