Holland Perseveres to Win Team Silver After Brutal Selection Trials and Tough Fight in Avenches
The 2008 European Pony Championships have probably been the toughest Championships the Dutch team ever had to get to. Their selection trials were brutal. After Maria van den Dungen's Dino P was withdrawn from the team due to an injury only a few weeks before the Championships, a ridiculous jump-off was organized to decide the replacing pair. Instead of looking at the season's qualification scores, two reserve riders had to ride one test and the winner of it was to be the team member. Anne Meulendijks won that trial and joined Antoinette te Riele, Lotte Jansen, and Danielle Houtvast on the team. So the Dutch pony riders traveled to Switzerland after a lot of commotion and stress in their own country, only to face VERY tough competition from Belgium and Denmark.
The most fun aspect of the dressage nations' cup in Avenches was the tight neck-to-neck race between Holland, Belgium, and Denmark. Belgium was in silver medal position and Holland stood third after day one, but they climbed to the silver medal after day two, thanks to Antoinette van Riele's lovely ride on the 6-year old German bred mare Golden Girl. The Dutch team riders persevered in team spirit and had concentrated rides that earned them the silver medal.
Te Riele is the granddaughter of mogul Adri Gordijn (owner of Stal de Ijzeren Man and father-in-law of Sven Rothenberger) and she made her big international break through by winning her home show, the 2008 CDI Weert in May. Golden Girl is an outstanding dressage pony, but she's young and still shows some weaknesses, though these are hardly down scored by the judges. Antoinette, who is trained by Coby van Baalen and coached on the scene by Johann Hinnemann (as Coby had to stay home due to personal reasons), showed gorgeous movements with her palomino mare. The trot extensions and the extended walk were fantastic and the rhythm in collected trot was very good. The rein back was a problem with some resistance in the mouth at the start. One walk pirouette was too big. In canter, the mare shows her greenness. She has difficulties keeping the collection and tends to loose her 3-beat rhythm. In one simple change she paced in the collected walk. Her score of 72.263 % was quite generous taking the minor imperfections into account, but the pair shows definite potential... and as we all know.. potential shouldn't be judged but what is shown at the moment.
Another judging mishap occurred in Lotte Jansen's ride, which was royally marked. Jansen, who is trained by Dutch chef d'equipe Christa Laarakkers, rode her gorgeous stallion Oosteind's Rocco. The highlights of Jansen's test were the tiny walk pirouettes and the superb extended walk, but the contact with the bit was a big issue. Rocco was constantly bopping his head in trot and was never quietly on the bit. In trot, the pony lost the clarity of rhythm and his balance in the corners and bends. These are important factors on which the Skala of Dressage Training are founded and which were absent in Rocco's team test performance. Jansen placed seventh with 70.263% which was over the top. Judge at B, Jacques van Daele, was much more attentive and on the dot with his 67.895% score.
Anne Meulendijks, the winner of the reserve ride selection trial challenge, must have been thrilled that she was able to ride Holland's third best score. Aboard Boticelli, she scored 68.263 % and produced Holland's best score on day 1 of the team test. Trained by Jenny Schreven, Meulendijks qualified for the individual finals on Sunday. 16-year old Danielle Houtvast and her lovely marked black pony Domino placed 17th with 68.000 %.
Dutch Chef d'equipe Laarakkers were very happy with the silver medal. "They all rode for what they are worth. The scores of Anne and Danielle were a good, safe basis for the last two riders. A few months ago everybody was speculating that gold would be a possibility, but then I said, "just make sure you win silver first." If you look back, there are very strong new countries and we're very happy with the silver."
The overall scores between Holland, Denmark and Belgium were so close together that any of the three countries could have swapped places. Never before has Holland been so unsure of its silver medal at this year. They need to stay watchful if they want to maintain their silver medal subscription!
Holland scored 210,789 percentage points overall (4005 pts)
Text and Photos copyrighted Astrid Appels/Eurodressage - No reproduction allowed without permission