Edward Gal Rides Grand Prix Record Score, The Netherlands Win Team Gold at 2009 European Championships
It was a double Dutch record-breaking day at the 2009 European Dressage Championships in Windsor, Great Britain. The winner of the Grand Prix team championship test, Edward Gal with Tosca Visser's extraordinary black stallion Totilas (by Gribaldi x Glendale), achieved a new World Record score of 84.085% and led The Netherlands to its second European team gold medal; this time, however, with a record team score of 238.595 %. The Netherlands crushed all competition to pieces and outclassed all other European teams with an almost full 17% advantage!!
Gal and Totilas scored twenty-three 10s from the panel of five judges. When Totilas entered the arena traveling the show ring, the crowds were already gasping in disbelief and delight. The elasticity, athleticism and power of this black stallion stunned many, who probably saw Totilas for the first time in their life.
There was hardly anything to remark on Totilas ride. A perfect square, immobile halt, followed by marvelous trot extensions with knees going high up in the air and hind legs tracking up well to create good ground cover. The half passes were supple with legs crossing to the maximum. The horse always stayed nicely on the bit and soft in the hand. Maybe at the end he become a little bit tight in the neck.
There was a loss of clarity in rhythm in the extended walk and the transition from the second piaffe was a bit uneven. In the canter tour, he showed magnificent pirouettes and an uphill power extension. The tempi changes were not flawless. Even though they are huge in scope, Totilas swings a bit to the right in the two tempi's and one change in the ones was short. In the zig zag the horse started breathing and sweating heavily, but he stayed clean and controlled in the movement. The transition from canter to trot was abrupt and he had a bit of a problem finding the rhythm in the final piaffe at X. The performance was stupendous and a prodigy has been revealed to the world.
Gal left the ring in tears and was treated to a standing ovation from the crowds. He couldn't believe his ears when the announcer called out the world record. His record-breaking performance was the talk of the town and contributed to the record team score for The Netherlands.
"It was a wonderful test," Gal commented at the press conference. He stated that before the ride he either felt that it would go really well or totally bad. "After the walk I saw my score and thought, 'Oh this is good' and started to relax more," Gal quipped.
Gal had noticed that his horse was a bit tense at the beginning of the ride. The big ring with dozens of photographers clicking away impressed the 9-year old stallion. "There was tension, but throughout the test, except in walk, I was able to channel that tension into forward movement. I kept talking to Totilas and noticed that it calms him," he told the Dutch press. "The feeling I have on this horse is a new experience to me. It's totally different from all the other horses I've ridden. I feel a certain tension through his skin and it's not wrong tension. It's this explosive power which can be released in small doses. I also rode the sire Gribaldi but he was quite stalliony and could be against the leg. That doesn't bother Totilas. He's more phlegmatic.".
Gal told FEI press officer Olivia Robinson that Totilas' owner Tosca Visser has got "lots of offers for him but he's not for sale - as long as I want to ride him he will not be sold and I want to ride him until we score 100%!" he added. Somehow with Totilas, that doesn't seem altogether impossible...
Fifty-three riders competed in the Grand Prix and Dutch Adelinde Cornelissen finished second on 80.638%. Together with Anky's 73.872% (which ranked her sixth), Holland claimed the gold. A new prize-giving format took place today. The three medal winning teams entered the ring on their horses to ride a lap of honour in walk. Afterwards they dismounted and climbed the podium for the medal ceremony. FEI president Princess Haya handed the medal and flowers to the winners. Holland, Great Britain and Germany then ran of a lap of honour on feet. Definitely less sensational than a victory gallop, but better for the welfare of the horse.
Laura Bechtolsheimer's score of 76.638% ranked her third and was a tremendous boost for the British team ranking. Holland was the clear favourite for the gold this year and everyone knew they would be unbeatable with such a strong team, but it was great for the sport that Great Britain was able to capture not bronze, but silver!! Not only Laura's high score, nor Carl Hester rising above himself on Liebling II with 72.085% were instrumental to Britain's silver lining. Emma Hindle carried all the pressure up as last Brit to go and fulfilled her duty. She had to score at least 71% for silver and went above and beyond.
Hindle and the 15-year old Hanoverian Lancet (by Wenzel x Shogun xx) are having a season of a life time with amazing performances in Aachen two months ago. They were able to keep that standard and even performed above par today. The dark bay stallion looked fantastic! He was calm, collected and attentive to the aids. Always at the vertical and chewing the bit. The trot half passes were astounding, the piaffe-passage was regular and rhythmical, the two tempi's superb, the pirouettes small. It all looked so well regulated. Only the final transition from canter to trot was hesitant. Emma scored 72.936% to finish fifth.
Hindle became the first British rider ever to win two team medals. She was also member of the 2003 bronze team at Hickstead on her former Grand Prix horse Wie Weltmeyer. Virtually a routinist on the British team, Hindle handled the pressure to perform well
"As the last rider in the team I wanted to do a risk-free test, but still do enough to get what we needed for the silver medal," Emma told Horse and Hound reporter Sarah Jenkins. "It was a different situation at Hickstead in 2003, we were a less experienced team — here we had expectations. I'm very happy, but I don't think it's sunk in. Just to ride in front of this home crowd and the castle is amazing."
At the press conference, Bechtolsheimer said that she was "still fairly speechless" from her high score and the team silver medal today." To Robinson, she disclosed that, "I've worked hard with our Sports Psychologist, Joss Brooks, since returning from Hong Kong last year. I've learned that there is only so much you can do and after that its up to your horse and yourself to do your very best on the day - don't get hung up on the mistakes."
Laura is really looking forward to tomorrow's Grand Prix Special and Saturday's Freestyle. "I've done my bit for the team, so now I can take all the risks I want and really go for it," she pointed out.
The German team snatched the bronze and rewarded its endurance and resilience in hard times. German Dressage suffered an uppercut when Isabell Werth's horse tested positive to doping. The German riders were abandoned and crucified by their own federation while at the same time the best combinations dropped out due to injuries during team selection.
The other high quality German combinations had to carry a burden and were doomed to failure by detractors. Even the press release of the German Equestrian Federation on the bronze medal states at the top "who would have thought?" Talk about having confidence in one's own team!
Fortunately, highly experienced Monica Theodorescu was able to guide young guns Rath and Lebek. Schulten-Baumer had already been member of the 2007 German silver team.
Monica Theodorescu finished in tenth place with 72.340%. Aboard Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff's Whisper (by Welt Hit I), Theodorescu showed some outstanding dressage. The chestnut gelding was swinging over the back at all times and light and steady in the contact. The first extended trot was powerful and regular. The half passes were fantastic with legs crossing far. Whisper broke into canter in the second trot extension. The extended walk was superb but the rhythm gets compromised in the collected walk.
There was a slight lack of impulsion in the second piaffe and the one at X. The two tempi's could have been straighter, but the pirouettes were tiny and well jumped. There was a slight hiccup in the zig zag.
"Today I had a good feeling during the ride," Theodorescu commented. "Whisper was really with me in this competition. Unfortunately we were a bit unconcentrated in the trot extension and I was too quick in the zig zag."
Rath and Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff's Sterntaler (by Sion) became the highest scoring German pair with a 75.617% earning ride which ranked him fourth!
"I imagined my first European Championships differently," Rath admitted. "I actually had planned just to 'participate' but because of the good performance of Susanne Lebek and Ellen Schulten-Baumer on the first day I didn't feel so much pressure anymore."
The day was filled with glorious moments: Totilas' ride, Holland's gold medal, the Brits capturing silver on home turf. But probably the biggest surprise of the day was Victoria Max-Theurer's fifth place on Augustin OLD with 74.000%. This sensational achievement was a dream come true for Vici. The 9-year old Oldenburg branded stallion Augustin OLD (by August der Starke) is a star in the making but he seemed to have come of age today. The dark bay stallion is a super powerful mover. He is very muscled and carefully trained to Grand Prix level. He scored 74% today but there is much more in his tank.
The trot work was solid and safe. The stallion has incredible overtrack in the trot extensions and they were hardly ridden to the full. Victoria was aiming for a clean round and the entire ride lacked a bit of oomph. In passage, Augustin bounces well off the ground and is very regular, but his hind legs could move more under the body. He sits beautifully in the piaffe and presents a textbook image of the exercise, but the transition back to passage is still difficult for this young Grand Prix horse. The walk has much overstep and the rhythm stays good in the collection. The canter pirouettes were delightful.
"It really was our day," Max-Theurer stated. "Everything went well. Augustin was well adapted to the Windsor atmosphere. He let me ride him and together we became a top team."
Nathalie Zu Saeyn-Wittgenstein and her Danish bred Digby (by Donnerhall) fulfilled their duty as anchors of the Danish team. They finished 9th with 72.894%. The cadenced piaffe and passage as well the straight tempi changes were the highlights of their test.
What a lovely pair in the making: Swedish Tinne Vilhelmson on Favourit (by Fidermark). The contact with the bit is so light and consistent. Favourit looked extremely relaxed and self confident in the test. The two tempi's and canter extension were impressive.
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