Dana van Lierop Takes Provisional Lead in Team Competition
Dutch rider Dana van Lierop has taken the provisional lead in the team championship test at the 2009 European Pony Championships held today at Het Zilveren Spoor in Moorsele, Belgium.
The show started at 8 AM this morning with the official measurement of all ponies, following by a vet inspection outdoors. It was smooth sailing for all ponies. Though many of the ponies ended up being measured at 150 cm and even 151 cm, all of them passed the strange European Championships limit of 152 cm (which only applies at the EC and not at CDI-P where the limit it 149 cm).
None of the ponies showed stress or above average excitement during the measurement and they stood quietly in their secluded boxes while two independent veterinarians checked their height. Only one chef d'equipe was panting heavily and disrespectfully barking like a bulldog at a quiet bystander witnessing the measuring as her team ponies were being measured.
Never before has there been so much security in the stables as this year. Several pony riders installed cameras filming the pony's stall 24/7 to avoid fraud or hired a full time bodyguard to safekeep the stables of their ponies.
The vet inspection seemed to be a formality this year with all ponies appearing sound and level on the hard surface. President of the ground jury, O-judge Stephen Clarke, confirmed he thoroughly enjoyed this trouble-free start at the Europeans. The draw followed round noon and the first group of riders in the team championship test appeared at the starters' line at 4 PM.
Thirteen-year old Dutch rider Dana van Lierop steered her 8-year old Thuringian branded Equestricons Lord Champion (by Le Champion) to the provisional winning score of 72%. Van Lierop rode an extremely solid and attractive test. The trot tour had lots of swing in all movements and the trot extensions were well controlled. There was a minor loss of impulsion in the walk pirouette right, but the left one was fine. In the extended walk, Lord Champion showed very good overtrack. The pony showed great balance in the counter canter and the simple change at X in the serpentine was lovely. Only the final change was a bit abrupt, though Van Lierop stayed calm and waited for the collected walk to develop before the strike off in canter. Her test was undeniably the best of the day and the pair deserved the number one spot.
The Dutch have a very strong team at the Europeans this year and it seems like they can finally breach the decade-long German stranglehold on the gold team medal. Holland's fourth team member rose above the expectations and put down a fantastic test. Julia van Schaijk and Den Ostriks Dailan. The combination entered the ring far beyond the 45 second rule (according to judge Mariette Withages, the rider got -2 points from all five judges for this). Dailan's highlight is his cadanced, energetic trot. Dailan showed much suppleness in the shoulder ins and never lost the rhythm nor his balance in the traversal movements. In the half passes, though, this chestnut pony could have crossed over more. The trot extensions showed much suspension. The collected walk was a bit too forward with too much freedom in the frame which caused the left pirouette to be too big. Dailan is quite short in the back so an extended trot with much overstep is a piece of cake for him. All canter work showed great relaxation and Van Schaijk maintained an exemplary soft contact with the bit. They scored 71.111% to finish second.
The highest ranked German was Katharina Weychert on Golden Derano C. The pony was nicely on the bit and fluent in trot, although mileage is starting to show on this 14-year old palomino gelding. He lacks a bit of push and suspension in trot despite the fact that he executed all movements very nicely. The extended trot was very regular and the pirouette left was great. Weychert and Golden Derano C were very smooth in canter and the entire test looked very clean and well controlled. They scored 70.722%
Newcomer on the German team, Grete Linnemann and her 6-year old German reitpony mare Cinderella, fulfilled the expectations but did not rose above it. Cinderella is probably the prettiest pony on the scene but her young age shows. In trot, she has superb knee action and moves uphill but she can not maintain flawless self carriage at all times. She lost the rhythm in trot in some of the bends. The rein back was a bit resistant, but the second extended trot that followed was awesome.
Cinderella lost quite a few points in walk. Her collected walk was not alway clear in the rhythm and in the extended walk she had good overtrack, but she could have moved more over the back to keep the rhythm purer. The extended canter had great power and engagement, but in counter canter on the serpentine she got a tiny bit wobbly. The pair scored 70.000%.
Britain's best pony rider of the season, Claire Gallimore, stayed below her standard and finished sixth with 66,398%
Danish Sabrina Barnekow entered the ring with the Swedish bred Vermont (by Master). The dark bay stallion has an amazing trot with much freedom in the shoulder. Barnekow started off really well and was clearly beating the score of the provisional number one rider in trot. The pony has phenomenal trot extensions, but in walk the quality of the ride started to go down. The extended walk was ok, but not impressive and tension arose in the collected canter. The strike off from walk to canter was rough and the simple changes were mediocre. The change at X in the serpentine was conservative. The second canter extension was not uphill enough but the third on the left hand was better.
It was interesting to witness the running score board which displayed the percentage after each movement. The board is visible to the riders (and could be a distraction). Barnekow's score started at 73% in the trot, dropped to 68% in walk and ended up at 65% after the canter. While four judges on the panel agreed on the ride, the Danish judge Karin Kruger was in for a pre-emptive strike, enforcing a high score for the Danish team result on day one. She scored Barnekow 69.722% despite the many mistakes in the ride which the other judges marked between 63 - 65%. Yet another piece of political judging. Sad but true.
(Editor's note: A remarkable fact in the team champion competition, Danish judge Kruger scored every single Danish rider the highest of all five judges. She provided the high score for all four Danish team riders, but Barnekow's example was hitting you in the face).
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