Another 'Werthy' Triumph at the 2011 Stuttgart German Masters CDI
Since its induction in 1986 the Stuttgart German Masters have attracted the best European and sometimes even overseas dressage riders. Meeting in the Schleyerhalle in the south of Germany these riders annually contest each other again for the first time after the main championships held in the summer.
When Nicole Uphoff and Rembrandt won the Stuttgart German Masters for the 7th time in 1995, it seemed unlikely that anybody would be able to equal or even outclass this record at what has become one of the most prestigious indoor dressage competitions. However her former team mate Isabell Werth put in a most impressive series of wins in the classical tour of Stuttgart, winning 4 times on the great Gigolo and another 3 times on Satchmo before El Santo NRW followed in his hoofprints in the 2010 edition of the German Masters.
For 2011 she brought the only 10-year-old Westfalian to defend his title and competed in a field of 15 starters from 6 nations in Saturday’s Grand Prix for Special. The class was filled with talented horses in their first season at the highest level as well as experienced campaigners.
The Early Bird
As the class kicked off at an early 8 am after it was pushed forward from 7.30 am to this slightly more humane time on Saturday morning the stands were still quite empty when Heike Kemmer's student Pia Fortmüller opened the competition on the Jazz-offspring Orion.
Brigitte Wittig was the first of 8 German riders on the typical Breitling daughter Blind Date, which had been tremendously successful at small tour level by winning it at Aachen as well as the Nürnberger Burgpokal final in 2009. In Stuttgart the compact chestnut mare showed lots of potential and didn’t reveal any real weak spots. She just that needs to become more mature in the movements to score even higher than her 72.34%, which at the end left her in a respectable 4th place.
The reliable Holsteiner stallion Le Noir, who had a very successful and long outdoor season in 2011, appeared a bit timid. Though he did not make any major mistakes his ride could have had more expression and been more forward. The beautifully presented black with Uta Gräf in the saddle finished on a score of 69.31% in 9th place, just out of the placings.
Dane Löne Jörgensen, who together with her partner Uli Eggers lives very close to Stuttgart, has trained quite a few international Grand Prix horses in the past 15 years, such as FBW Kennedy, Donna Asana and Ludewig G. With the bay Württemberger gelding De Vito FBW, a leggy De Niro-son out of a Disco-Star dam, the Danish rider has another very good horse in the starting blocks. The horse had already been very successful nationally in the young Grand Prix horses’ classes.
In Stuttgart the sympathetic gelding had to compete against some of the best for the first time and he did well. No doubt De Vito FBW has an excellent trot, one step as rhythmical as the other, and this makes the extended trot to be a prominent highlight in the test earning him 9s on the score sheets. The passage is regular, but in the piaffes the horse still isn’t balanced enough. He comes too deep with the neck and logically too much on the forehand.
The extended walk could have shown more overtrack, but the horse stayed relaxed and showed honest stretching forward-downwards. The flying changes were solid and faultfree, whereas the first canter pirouette was a bit hasty, even though the forehand came expressively high and moved in slow-motion. There’s lots of potential in this horse and it might enable Lone to return to the Danish team, but there's still some work ahead on the contact which wasn’t always as light as desired.
70.53% meant an 8th place.
German professional Hubertus Schmidt had taken Valentino to Stuttgart, a 9-year old bay Ferro-son which had placed 2nd in the Grand Prix at the CDI Wiesbaden this spring. In Stuttgart the young horse couldn’t convince me in the same way it did last summer and sometimes became too tight in the neck. The trot half passes at the beginning of the programme were the highlights with the horse floating powerfully and crossing widely, showing enough bend. With 71,66% he came a solid 5th and left Olympic champion Nadine Capellmann and Elvis VA behind him.
The now 15-year old huge Hanoverian Elvis VA executed an obedient ride, but lacked the sparkle he once had when he was on the German team some years ago. The extended trots and the passage remain his highlights and the piaffe his weak spot, even though at Stuttgart it seemed to have improved as Elvis was more rhythmical. In the passage the horse looked very light in the bridle, but still opened his mouth.
Austrian Renate Voglsang probably had one of her best ride’s ever on her 12-year old Westfalian Fabriano. The bay stallion with enormous topline has excellent bloodlines, sired by Florestan I out of a dam by Angelo xx, the sire of Dr. Klimke’s Ahlerich among other Grand Prix horses and dam-sire to Rembrandt.
Voglsang had previously been successful with her horse Davidoff with whom she rode on the national team in the mid 2000s. With Fabriano the German born who works in Bavaria not only forms a more than pleasant picture in the arena, but has had remarkable success throughout the season and a 7th place in the Stuttgart Grand Prix appeared to be the icing on the cake. In the extended trots the bay stallion’s straight forelegs came extraordinarily high while the hind legs should catch up a bit more. He was always nicely in front of the vertical with the poll of his quite heavy neck as the highest point. While the extended walk was with enough overtrack the Westfalian’s topline needs to drop down more to get even higher marks than the 8s and 7s awarded. The passage has enough suspension, but the horse’s hind legs could step under more towards the centre of gravity. It was amazing to see that this stallion had his ears pricked almost during the entire ride, but still was responsive and with his rider. They are an interesting partnership to watch in the future!
The second and more well known Austrian in the field was her country's flagship Victoria Max-Theurer on her best Grand Prix-horse, Augustin OLD. After having had some reported discrepancies in their warm-up both were in harmony again for the competition itself. The massive Oldenburger, bred by Victoria’s mum Sissy, by their former Grand Prix horse August der Starke, was on form after he hadn’t made the kur final at the European championships in Holland earlier. There were no major flaws in their ride, but in the extended trot there should be more overtrack and apart from that powerful impressive passage Augustin now and then puts in some uneven steps behind. The piaffe was settled and in place with the neck up. The zig-zag half passes in canter, which several horses apparently found difficult, were executed beautifully. With 74.42% Augustin didn’t quite catch the clear winner of the class, but managed to stay ahead of 3- times Olympic champion Monica Theodorescu by approximately 0.2%.
Theodorescu's 13-year old Whisper is a cute chestnut bred in Württemberg and owned by Theodorescu’s former team mate Ann-Kathrin Linsenhoff. The pair was on more than good form. Unable to secure a spot on the 2010 German team, Whisper returned to form in 2011 and had a solid season with good results. However in the Stuttgart Grand Prix he proved he still knows the job very well. In the energetic first extended trot the horse did not change much in his frame, but the trot half passes were a real highlight in the ride: much impulsion, cross-over and good bending which is not guaranteed with every horse at this level. She even got two 9s. The piaffe had never been the chestnut’s “cream puff” and probably will never become, but at least the horse tried his hardest: there’s a bit more activity behind and the front legs show slightly more push-off than in former years. The one time flying changes were not so good, which resulted in Theodorescu and her horse not being able to overtake the popular Austrian pair, but nevertheless it was a very good result for them.
When he bucked while going around the ring before his start it caused a slight uproar in the crowds, which started to fill the stadium more and more towards the end of the class. Isabell Werth's El Santo NRW is no longer the newcomer he used to be after he won at Stuttgart a year ago.
With an extra year of experience in the bag and after having been on the German team at the 2011 European championships the Westfalian was more or less expected to win. He did this with an athletic ride which started off with an impulsive first extended trot. The bay had so much overtrack that one could hear the shoes touching each other in the silence of the Schleyerhalle. In the trot half passes “Ernie” continued his athleticism by floating almost in the same way as his predecessor Satchmo did in his prime. The two tempi's were straight, uphill and forward whereas in the ones the gelding made a mistake at the beginning which made the marks drop. The pirouettes were both almost copybook, although the first one was slightly better than the second one. The much talked about piaffes of Werth’s top horse were a bit improved compared to those in his summer appearances. Werth allowed her gelding to travel more forward which helped her horse to keep a better rhythm.
With the many highlights making up for this weak spot Werth’s victory was never in serious danger and that was confirmed by the result of 76.78%. While there wasn’t much to criticise in many of the Grand Prix movements, it would be nice to see El Santo NRW more light in the bridle with a less strong curb contact.
The day after the Grand Prix class Werth secured her 9th German Master title in the Special, improving her own record. With a strong armada of young Grand Prix hopefuls behind, El Santo most likely will not be her last horse standing in the flood lights of Stuttgart.
Text and Photos © Silke Rottermann / Barbara Schnell - More photos of the Freestyle tour in the Image Gallery below