Dutch Esmée Donkers delivered the goods and earned herself the Individual test gold medal at the 2018 European Young Riders Championships in Fontainebleau, France, on Saturday 14 July 2018.
After earning team silver on Thursday, Young Rider auction continued on Fontainebleau with the first class that decided a separate set of medals: the Individual Test. With 59 riders competing in the class, the test was split up into two groups and the order of go was decided by random draw. Esmee Donkers, who was already the top placed rider in the team championship test, drew a fifth starting place on Friday afternoon 13 July, but she didn't let the unfavourable early start mess with her concentration.
Aboard her 11-year old Dutch warmblood mare Chaina (by Sir Donnerhall x Rubioso N), Donkers a very energetic, fresh test. In trot the mare was ground covering and very forward, almost too much in the half pass left and shoulder in right. She almost had the tendency to run away. The extended walk had very good overtrack, but the mare dropped a tiny bit too deep. The canter half passes were well executed but the one to the right could have been even more on the hindquarters. The four tempi changes were lovely and so were the threes although the changes to the right were the prettiest ones. Donkers could have ridden the exit in one period tidier, but in general it was all high quality work. Maybe the contact with the curb should to be lighter, but Donkers produced a very strong round and scored 77.294% for the victory.
The individual test was judged by Eduard de Wolff van Westerrode (NED), Jean-Michel Roudier (FRA), Thomas Lang (AUT), Henning Lehrmann (GER) and Christof Umbach (LUX) and this panel did cause a few severely eye-brow raising moments. With Donkers the majority of the judges were round 76-77%, but Roudier liked it even more and had her at 79.706%.
The last rider of the day was the "late" bird catching the worm. Dutch Febe van Zwambagt is known to be a very brave rider who is willing to take risks in competitions and for the individual test she went all in with her 11-year old Rhinelander bred gelding FS Las Vegas (by Lord Loxley x Louis Le Bon). The temperamental gelding is known to have loose his marbles once in a while, but in Fontainebleau Van Zwambagt had her horse certainly in check. Febe entered the arena in fifth gear and rode a daring trot tour: very high energy, very expressive, very on the edge, especially in the wild last extended trot, and also quite tight in the neck to keep control. Las Vegas has a beautiful silhouette in trot, moving with knee action and a lovely articulation in the legs. The extended walk was hurried though, but in the collected the rhythm was clear. The four tempi changes were correct but could have been more uphill, the left pirouette was a bit laboured, almost losing the canter stride, the right one was much better but counter-bent. The three tempi changes were straight and the extended canter powerful. Van Zwambagt rode with much guts and the judges eagerly rewarded her bravura with the silver medal and a 74.824% score (marks ranging from 73.382% to 76.176% (Roudier)).
Although the Germans won gold in the team championship test, it was a tough battle amongst the four members for that remaining bronze spot on the podium. The last German to go, Lia Welschof and Florine Kienbaum's 16-year old Oldenburg gelding Don Windsor (by Don Cardinale x Waldstar xx) deservedly took that honour. Welschof's professor Don Windsor gave a totally different flavour from the full energy ride that Las Vegas brought to the fore. The gelding shone in his ease, balance, relaxation and textbook delivery of the movements. The trot work flowed smoothly between the lateral movements, the voltes and straight lines. Only in the left volte he slightly dropped in the poll. The extended walk had ok overtrack, but not the greatest clarity in rhythm, but the canter work was high class with straight tempi changes, nice pirouettes, a lovely uphill extended canter, but the flying changes at the end of the diagonal needed to be more uphill. The rider sat beautifully in the saddle with quiet hands. It was a confident ride with softness and accuracy. They scored 74.676% with marks going from 72.059% (Roudier) to 76.471%.
Probably one the prettiest and surprising tests of the day came from Dutch Diana van de Bovenkamp on the 9-year old KWPN mare Evita Ronia (by Westpoint x Oscar). The dark bay is not gifted with the biggest gaits and could not always stay consistent in her self carriage in trot, but Van de Bovenkamp sat lovely in the saddle and kept a very quiet, steady hand on the withers while the mare remained steady up in the bridle. The overall silhouette she produced was outstanding despite the limitations of her horse. The extended trot was a bit hasty and in the extended walk the clarity was not the greatest but the overtrack sufficed. In canter the tempi changes every strides were correct, but the ones to the left needed to be more ground covering. The threes were better and more forward. The pirouettes were lovely. She scored a well earned 73.559% to finish right off the podium in fourth place. Her marks went from 72.059% to 75.441%.
The top five was completed by German Paulina Holzknecht on the 15-year old Hanoverian gelding Wells Fargo (by Welser x Fabriano). A clear medal candidate, Holzknecht could not finish the job today even though her tall chestnut gelding showed great things. The trot work was very well balanced with a smooth flow between the lateral movements, voltes and extended trots. The extended walk had big overtrack and the collected walk was nice. A hiccup in the flying change at E and in the threes, as as well as a clear mistake in the fours pushed them away from a top three spot. They finished fifth with 73.088%.
German team mate Alexa Westendarp and the 7-year old home bred mare Four Seasons (by Furstenball x Fidertanz) were sixth. Westendarp, whose 16-year old brother Matthis is competing for Germany in the European Junior Riders Championships in Fontainebleau the same week, rode a fully focused, quiet test and with the concentration and accuracy were the highlights. The black mare could be more elastic in the contact, but Westendarp kept a very quiet hand. The mare is a bit limited in the canter and not so uphill, but she listened to the rider and made no big mistakes. The walk pirouette right needed more bending and the extended walk could have had more energetic forward striding, but the changes were well executed (though could be straighter). They scored 72.882%
Issues in Semmieke Rothenberger's ride on the 16-year old Danish mare Geisha (by Gribaldi x Weltmeister) brought about an unfortunate experience for the multiple medal winning Championship rider. For the first time, Rothenberger became Germany's fourth team member and is, therefore, not eligible to move on to the freestyle. The highly decorated Semmieke has won 13 medals so far at European Championships and in Fontainebleau she added another team gold to her super impressive collection. Unfortunately the level of riding of her team mates was so high this year, that mistakes in Geisha's test landed her a very respectable 7th place in the individual test. The black mare is very smooth in trot and stays in an outstanding rhythm with forward energy, but she broke into canter in the extended trot. The voltes had good bending. In canter the three tempi changes were dead straight, the fours correct but with a sour expression and the mare lost the canter stride before the left pirouette, while the right one was pretty. The halt at entry was a rolling stop and the end halt not square. They fscored 72.706%.
The biggest judging banana-peel-slip-up came in Dutch Laura Quint's ride on the 9-year old KWPN bred Edison (by Johnson). The combination was the penultimate to go on Thursday. Edison is a very talented, expressive mover with a naturally uphill conformation and typically for a Johnson offspring, he has much knee action to boot. Unfortunately Quint had her hands full with the gelding and rode him extremely collected. The horse tilted the head in the right voltes and the bridle contact was very strong throughout. The halt for rein back was late to the marker and not square. In the extended trots, however, there was huge overtrack . The collected walk was first lateral but then it improved. Edison got very hot and tense in canter and Quint had to pull out all the stops to keep the lid on the cooker. There was a hiccup in the canter strike off, the flying change in between the canter half passes was short, and a mistake in the four tempi's followed. The extended canter was huge but wild. Edison has plenty of quality but the test was almost a roller coaster ride in which Laura Quint had to show all her skills to keep it together. Judge de Wolf noticed the struggle and scored the test 69.118%, while the others were round 70, 71 and one 73%. The experienced French judge, however, was oblivious to what had happened and rewarded the test with 77.794% (a second place).
Russian Aleksandra Maksakova is reaching a peak level on her long time partner, 16-year old Oldenburg gelding Scampalo (by Sandro Hit x Florestan). Coached by Spanish Grand Prix rider Lauro Aguilo, Maksakova showed a super balanced and smooth trot with an obedient Scampalo. The black is a bit lethargic in the mouth though and could foam more. The pirouettes were lovely and the three tempi changes super straight. The test was really nice but there could have been a bit more pezzazz.
Also for Belgian Flore de Vos things came together today in the individual test. Aboard her 11-year old Dutch warmblood bred Catcher (by Dreamcatcher x Jazz) she brought her A-game to the arena and scored 70.794% to finish 10th. This was the first time she ever scored over 70% in a technical test at an international competition.
Text and Photos © Astrid Appels - NO REPRODUCTION ALLOWED
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Scores: 2018 European Children, Junior, Young Riders Championships
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2018 European Junior/Young Riders Championships