This year Germany came to Holland with a junior and young riders' team that has been outclassing all competition in the nations' cup of the 2017 European Junior and Young Riders Championships held in Roosendaal (NED) on 9 - 13 August 2017. After the juniors claimed gold with overpowering force, the German Under 21 riders did the same in the Young Riders' division. Germany got team gold with 8% advantage to the silver medal winning Dutch team. Sweden produced the surprise conquest of the show and got bronze ahead of Norway!
The Young Riders team championship test was also divided into two groups and already after day one, Wednesday 9 August, Germany led in a convincing way. On Thursday 10 August, team anchor Hannah Erbe and Carlos put the icing on the cake, with a cherry on top, after scoring 77.342% to win the class. Team mate Anna-Christina Abbelen and First Lady, who ruled on day one, ended in second place. The second ground of riders had to compete in conditions far from the ideal. It was an evening class and the majority had to ride in the dark as the floodlight in the main ring was turned on, but barely brought light to the ground, not to mention that there was no lighting at all in the warm up arena!
Riding at dusk, Hannah Erbe and her 10-year old Rhinelander gelding Carlos (by Carabas x Weltmeyer) are the ruling 2016 European Junior Riders Championships and the pair has made a seamless transition to young riders level. Erbe's powerhouse gelding Carlos is an absolute stunner in the show ring with impeccable training to boot. Many young riders brought well moving and talented horses to these European Championships, but the difference between them lay in the level of correct, classic training. Carlos was always up in the bridle, light in the contact and extremely consistent. The trot work was balanced and the extensions powerful without getting quick. At the beginning of the diagonal for the extended walk the horse shook the head a bit but two hooves overstep was achieved. The left turn on the haunches was small, there was some loss in the quality of the collected walk before the right turn. The canter work looked effortless, even though the onset of the left pirouette was crooked. The right one was good, the canter extensions and tempi changes all straight and uphill. In the extended canter Erbe began to collect her horse quite early on the diagonal, but it was a marvelous ride that deserved a top score.
Judges Thomas Lang (AUT), Henning Lehrmann (GER), Mariette Sanders-Van Gansewinkel (NED), Leif Tornblad (DEN) and Alban Tissot (FRA) thought the same and rewarded Erbe's ride with fairly unanimous scores that averaged 77.342%.
Team mate Anna Christina Abbelen and her strong mare First Lady, an 11-year old German Sport Horse bred Florencio x Donnerhall offspring, were second with 74.026%, riding the highest day score on Wednesday. The black showed much crossing of the legs in the well balanced half passes but the medium trot was ridden a bit safely, while in the extended trot the mare really climbed, even though the ground cover can be bigger. The collected walk was well controlled but a bit quick in the tempo. However the walk pirouettes were good and the walk extensions was very nice. The mare got crooked in the preparation for the left pirouette and in the right one there was a loss of impulsion. The tempi changes were really nice.
Abbelen's 74.026% added to Erbe's impressive 77.342% already created a massive gap for Germany on the road to team gold. Semmieke Rothenberger and Geisha produced the third contributing score for the team (which finished on 222.421 points), but their 71.053% was below the combination's standard. Rothenberger struggled to present her 15-year old mare Geisha (by Gribaldi x Weltmeister) on form. The black was grumpy and angry in canter, with the ears flat in the tempi changes and extensions, and she bopped her head throughout the test, both in trot and canter. Neverheless, Geisha has a very nice, flowing trot and is balanced in the half passes. The extended walk had good relaxation but in the collected walk she became stiff in the top line and prancy. The biggest issue in the ride were both canter pirouettes, losing impulsion in the left one and balance in the right one. Pity as the tempi changes were dead straight. Team new comers Luca Michels and Rendezvous (by Riccione x Weltmeyer) were right behind Semmieke with 71.026% and a ninth place.
Dutch Esmee Donkers was the last Dutch rider to go and much pressure rested on her shoulders as Holland was not yet in a medal position at the time she went into the ring, in the dark! Donkers did not plan her start properly and entered the arena past the 45 second limits, which cost her almost a full percentage point in her final score! Aboard her 10-year old Dutch mare Chaina (by Sir Donnerhall x Rubioso N), she rode a very forward, up tempo trot in which the mare's bounce and elasticity stood out. The high tempo creates a very dynamic trot, but overall it was too rushed with the trot lengthenings both very hurried and the mare leaning on the bit for support. Also in canter, the lack of collection resulted in pirouettes that were too large, although Chaina visibly has potential to collect and sit. The canter half pass to the right was better carried than the left one. Chaina produces lovely flying changes in the tempi series but they were a bit too "on the go". The pair scored 72.763% to place third.
Donkers' score boosted Holland straight into the silver medal seat. The second contributing score for The Netherlands came from routinier Jasmien de Koeyer on the 8-year old Dutch mare Esperanza (by Desperados x Krack C). The bay mare is a very gifted mover with massive scope in trot and great lift in the forearm. De Koeyer also rode a test on red bull, like her colleague Donkers, but Esperanza did not show enough differentiation between medium and extended trot. The half passes were scopey and lightfooted. The extended walk had good relaxation and overtrack, but the mare needs to march more. In the collected there was not enough shortening of the gait and Esperanza still had two hooves overtrack. Esperanza has a nice uphill canter, but the young mare struggled with the pirouettes. The left one was not balanced enough, the right one was too quick. The mare's youthfulness started to show and she dropped the tongue out of her mouth in front at that point. The tempi changes were still nicely uphill. Overall the contact with the bridle needs to be even more quiet and lighter. They scored 72.263% for fourth place.
The Dutch team scored a 214.184 point total for silver with Lisanne Zoutendijk and her 14-year old seasoned competitor Ringo Star (by Riccione x Laredo) contributing 69.158% to that overall mark.
Denmark has been holding a year-long subscription to the bronze, but this year team trainer Ulrik Sorensen took a risk in bringing two very inexperienced, but highly talented combinations out of four. His gamble did not pay off. Josefine Hoffmann could not keep the lid on the cooker of Anna Kasprzak's massive mover Honnerups Driver. The horse brims with talent and is a world star, but the refined and tall liver chestnut gelding was too tense and not forward enough. Pernille Pilborg's Hoelgaard's Armani (by Sir Donnerhall x Florestan) is another gifted mover with very strong, engaged hindlegs but there simply was too much tension. At the end of the ride this horse even refused to go out of the arena, spooking incessantly from a ghost at A. The biscuit had to be saved by the more experienced team rider Celine Rorbaek Silfen on another top quality horse, Romio Hojris (by Romanov x Don Schufro). They were last to go for Denmark as their strongest combination. The combination definitely lucked out on the goodwill of the judge at C, who decided not to ring the bell for a horse that was completely irregular in the medium and extended trot, whereas the Turkish rider got eliminated straight away when her horse showed signs of unlevel trotting It gave a sour taste in the mouth. Romio Hojris is a very impressive horse, uphill in the bridle, lots of suspension in trot and he was well ridden in the traversal movements in trot, but as soon as he had to lengthen his gait he could not longer show a pure rhythm. There was a loss of impulsion in both walk pirouettes. Silfen collected points with her safe and accurate riding in canter. The tempi changes were straight and the pirouettes were nice. They scored 71.184% with marks ranging from 69.211 to 73.899%. The fact that Romio Hojris was withdrawn from competing in the individual test says enough!
So with Denmark out of the medal picture, neighbouring Scandinavian countries Sweden and Norway were given a chance to shine. In the end it was Sweden that prevailed with a team score of 211.159%, just ahead of Norway which finished fourth on 210.315 points. Determining the best Swedish riders on their team was a coin toss as they finished 11th, 12th and 13th with 70.579 (Sofie Andersson), 70.553% (Cecilia Bergakra Berglund) and 70.027% (Emilie Aldenfalk). Ludwig Wilken's decent 68.026% was the scratch score. Sofie Andersson was the first rider to go on Thursday afternoon and with her 10-year old Dutch warmblood gelding CSI (by United x Gribaldi) she rode a very prim and proper test, clean, and accurate. Only in the tempi changes the chestnut got tight in the neck. Bergakra Berglund and the 14-year old Swedish mare Primavera (by Don Primero x Figaro L) showed much balance and flow in the trot, but lost some impulsion in the turns on the haunches. The tempi changes were uphill and big but needed to be straighter in the body.
The Norwegian campaign was led by team routinier Alexandra Andresen on yet another super star, Empire B, an 8-year old Dutch warmblood gelding by Sting x OO Seven. Year after year Andresen is bringing some of the most impressive horses to the European Championships. Aboard the accurate Belamour she won bronze at the 2014 European Junior Riders Championships. In 2016 she took the movement super star Borencio to Oliva Nova and this year it was Empire B that came along. The pair scored 71.184%, definitely getting rewarded on the quality her horse has to offer as there still were bobbles in the test, here and there. The trot work had so much power and lift in the legs, but was tense and got hectic at times. Also in the walk the horse was tense, not showing enough overtrack in the extension. In canter Empire showed great ability to collect in the pirouettes but the horse got a bit stuck in the left one. The right one was small. The tempi changes all worked. Andresen and Empire B definitely showed there was much in the tank, but it all needed polishing.
British Charlotte Fry and the 9-year old Dutch bred gelding Dark Legend (by Zucchero x Tango) finished fifth with 71.553%. The Dutch based Brit rode in the dark almost at the end of the class. Her horse has much knee action and is naturally up in the frame, which impresses in trot, but in the extensions he gets too quick in the tempo and rushes on the diagonal. The collected walk and pirouettes were very well ridden, the extended walk was active and ground covering. In canter the horse has an engaged hindleg and is uphill in the tempi changes, but a clear difference can be noticed in the changes to the right which were shorted and choppier. In the tempi changes every three strides Dark Legend swung in the hindquarters. Also in the extended canter, the horse rushes instead of slowly and powerfully lengthening the gait and frame. Dark Legend has tons of quality but there needed to be more relaxation and swing in the topline for an even higher score.
The Young Riders team championship test has set the stage for the individual competition. The Individual test medals will be decided on Saturday noon.
Text and Photos by Astrid Appels - No reproduction allowed
Scores 2017 European Children, Junior and Young Riders Championships
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2017 European Children, Junior & Young Riders Championships