After collecting team silver and individual test gold, Dutch Esmee Donkers danced to a second gold medal in the Kur to Music finals on the final day of competition at the 2018 European Young Riders Championships in Fontainebleau, France, on Sunday 15 July 2018.
The Young Riders Kur to Music was the last class of the Championships and with hot 32° c temperatures hitting the show grounds, the majority of the horses looked slightly fatigued after six days of travel and competition that Sunday afternoon.
Esmee Donkers and the 11-year old KWPN mare Chaina (by Sir Donnerhall I x Rubioso N) fulfilled their role as favourites for gold. Riding to a mix of music including Beauty and the Beast and with Martin Luther King's" "I have a Dream" as opening line, the pair executed a floor plan with good technical difficulty. The energy was good in the trot work and the left half pass was lovely. The four tempi changes were performed on the half circle. Overall the canter sparkled a bit less, with the horse losing balance in the left pirouette and the three tempi changes lacking some collection. The extended walk had good overtrack, but the mare dropped too deep in the contact. The collected walk was well ridden but slightly bent to the left. Overall, Donkers continued to thrive in Fontainebleau and rode of her wave of success as the winner of the team and individual test.
The judges' panel, which included Trond Asmyr (NOR), Leif Toernblad (DEN), Jean-Michel Roudier (FRA), Jo Graham (GBR), and Elizabeth McMullen (CAN), rewarded the test with 80.500% but were not entirely unanymous. Three judges had the pair first, two second.
As last starter to go in the freestyle (which has proven to be even more advantageous in the freestyle for a positive judging verdict), German Paulina Holzknecht ensured that she would not anymore drop off the podium like she had in the individual test after mistakes. Still her ride on the 15-year old Hanoverian gelding Wells Fargo (by Welser x Fabriano) was not faultfree, but the horse showed stamina and looked fresh and willing despite the heat. Riding to hip and modern music, Holzknecht brought funk to the arena. The extended trots had the horse swinging over the back and the lateral movements were smooth, even though Wells Fargo sometimes got a bit deep in the poll or just a bit too tight in the neck. The collected walk was well regulated but the back was a bit tight. The first line of three tempi's were good, but in the second line a mistake happened. The four tempi's on a serpentine line went well and the extended canter that followed was big. There was a slight hiccup before a right pirouette. Holzknecht's performance resulted in a 78.000% on the board for silver, but the judges had her ranked between first and fifth place.
The winner of the silver medal in the Individual Test, Dutch Febe van Zwambagt and FS Las Vegas (by Lord Loxley x Louis Le Bon), completed their 2018 Young Riders Championships with a bronze. Van Zwambagt rode to instrumental versions of Pharell Williams' Happy and music by Maroon 5. Her red head gelding showed big trot extensions and a shoulder-in left, but he got very strong in the contact and tight in the neck in the ground covering trot half passes. Febe continued to ride her horse with much energy and power, but in canter that resulted in a hurried look in the extensions and four tempi changes. The right pirouette was counter bent. The walk was the least part of the ride with the collected being tense and not enough stretch in the extended. Still, their freestyle had a dynamic vibe, which the judges rewarded with 77.600 for bronze. Van Zwambagt got scores that ranked her between first and fourth place.
Dutch Diana van de Bovenkamp and her 9-year old KWPN mare Evita Ronia (by Westpoint x Oscar) landed the "unfortunate" fourth place with a score coming very close to the bronze one (77.200%). Although her music was nondescript, Van de Bovenkamp rode a solid choreography. Her horse stayed in a very consistent frame but in the freestyle she was stronger in the contact compared to the individual test. The long competition left the mare slightly less fresh even though she gave it her all. The half pass left was not entirely regular and in the collected walk the mare paced. The combination of extended canter and pirouettes was very well executed, but there was a mistake in the flying change after the left canter half pass. Van de Bovenkamp finished her test with a final extended trot. The judges ranked her between second and fifth place.
German Lia Welschof completed the top five. After winning bronze in the individual test, Welschof and the 16-year old Oldenburg Don Windsor (by Don Cardinale x Waldstar xx) once more produced a very immaculate test to music from Avatar. The handsome black gelding was very consistent in the trot work with a flawless rhythm in the lateral movements and secure trot extensions. The left half pass could have been more elastic. The walk was well ridden. Welschof rode with much concentration and focused on accuracy. The pirouettes were nice but in the four tempi changes the horse swung to the right with the hindquarters. They finished fifth with 76.100%.
The 2018 European Junior/Young Riders Championships were a massive success for the Dutch team, who took five out of six gold medals home. While Germany was strong in the junior classes, the German riders did not succeed at dominating the podium. Team Denmark was not in form this year with many combinations struggling with tension, which left room for Sweden and some Russian combinations to move to the fore. The 2019 European JR/YR Championships are supposed to take place in Roosendaal, The Netherlands, but the venue is struggling with financial issues and already cancelled its June CDI and hosting the 2018 European Under 25 Championships (which moved to Exloo). It is unsure whether Roosendaal will be next year's Junior-Young Rider hot spot.
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