Langehanenberg Triumphs in Kur to Music at 2012 CDIO Aachen
Good will come to those who persist. After an imperfect Grand Prix test and a great recovery in the Special, Germany's Helen Langehanenberg triumphed in the Kur to Music victory at the 2012 CDIO Aachen ahead of Kristina Sprehe and Desperados on Sunday morning 8 July 2012. The 30-year old rider scored 85.150% to top off her Aachen weekend with a glorious victory in the sell-out stadium.
Helen Langehanenberg and Christian Becks' Damon Hill (by Donnerhall x Rubinstein) continued their great form from Saturday and produced a world class-level ride with no mistakes. Riding to Michael Erdmann's arranged music, the duo started off with very strong piaffe-passage followed by passage half passes which switched to collected trot half passes. The collected walk was clear, the extended relaxed, the two tempi's were big, the ones straight. One pirouette right was a bit big but the overall control of the rider over her horse was exemplary. The horse stayed up in the bridle as the combination radiated softness, elegance and harmony.
The panel of judges, which consisted of Alonso, Rockwell, Eisenhardt, Roudier, and Tornblad, scored the test 85.150%. Only two judges had her first, the other three ranked her second. Helen's high score was 87.875% (Eisenhardt) and her low score was 82.875% (Rockwell).
Time and time again the major differences in freestyle judging stand proof that the system is still highly questionable, in particular for the artistic level. That part of the scoring is often a shot in the dark as marks can be pulled or dropped to discretion. The fact that the 2012 Olympic individual medal this year will only be based on a Kur performance regrettably underlines how totally ridiculous the new Olympic format is. No longer will the overall dressage champion be honored - the best over three tests - but the one with the form of the day and judges' luck on their side.
The demure Helen was very pleased with her win. "Yesterday I had a really good feeling and already got very good points. I was very happy. Today was brilliant," she said at the press conference. "I tried to have fun and enjoy it and I tried to stay relaxed. Yes this is possible in front of 6,500 people."
Rising star Kristina Sprehe finished in second place aboard her father's Hanoverian stallion Desperados (by De Niro x Wolkenstein II). Sprehe rode to a fun and fresh mix of recognizable and attractive nineties songs (Tainted Love, Fade to Grey, Shout) but the tempo of the music is not at all syncrhronized to the horse's gaits and Kristina rode ahead of her music. Only the one tempi's were clearly marked by the music. Desperados executed fantastic extended trots, the half pass to the left was wonderful, the one to the right a bit quick. The collected and extended walk were both very good, the double pirouettes were nicely on the spot. The canter half passes had very good balance and ground cover. The passage was also in the kur the major problem point. Despite all its bounce and expression, the horse is irregular in that movement with the right hind leg trailing. In the end passage the stallion lost freshness and evenness. The piaffes had tremendous sit with good lift in the legs. Sprehe charmingly revealed her youth and inexperience at top level when she immediately looked at her coach for approval after the end halt before even patting her horse.
Sprehe scored 84.700% with three judges ranking her first. Her scores ranged between 80.625% (Tornblad) and 87.250% (Eisenhardt). Sprehe stated that she was "very content because Desperados worked well with me. It was fun. It was the perfect weekend."
The revelation of the 2012 CDIO Aachen was not shooting star Sprehe but seasoned competitor Dorothee Schneider who rode herself onto the German Olympic Team after only eight months of international competition with her student Stella Charlott Roth's Hanoverian mare Diva Royal (by Don Frederico x Warkant). The combination chose Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan as musical score for their freestyle which was arranged by Nicole Penzig. The classical Swan Lake music, which reminds too much of Adelinde's kur for Parzival, fortunately has a bit of a modern touch to it so any hint of old-fashioned Spanish Riding School style is brushed away. The heavy violin tunes in Diva Royal's canter tour do not entirely fit to the powerful black mare nor are they supporting the 3-beat gait. Diva Royal is not really a ballerina, she is a powerhouse of a mare which stampedes through the ring with power and expression. She is a fantastic horse ridden to perfection.
The entire test was incredibly flowing with superb transitions to and from piaffe. The mare has rhythm like clock work and her hindlegs pounce on the footing with incredible power and regularity. The walk was very good. The one tempis were executed on the curved line and had very good groundcover. The test was flawless, except for the end halt which was behind the vertical and not square.
Schneider scored 81.100% to finish third, but if she were second with Sprehe behind her, few people would have complained! Schneider's scores ranged between 77.750% (Tornblad) and 84.875% (Eisenhardt).
The 43-year old Schneider has been a regular on the German show scene for more than 20 years but she had to wait until now to play with the big boys. For the first time in her career she has been nominated on a German championship team. "I had so much fun. I want to thank the selectors for letting me start here," Schneider said. "I tried to concentrate and she went better test after test. The feeling was sensational. I had so much fun." Dorothee has reason to celebrate with her Olympic nomination. "I'm sure a few extra corks will pop tonight."
Austrian Victoria Max-Theurer and her home bred Oldenburg stallion Augustin (by August der Starke x Rohdiamant) finished fourth. She premiered her new Michael Erdmann freestyle based on songs by Phil Collins at the CDI Achleiten but only presented it to the big public for the first time in Aachen. Her kur is a medley of Phil Collins song with the entire strings of lyrics kept intact. In 2007 Isabell Werth was snubbed by judge Withages for too much vocalization in her Montserrat Caballé kur. Max-Theurer now does the same with Phil Collins, but five years later the judges no longer seem to object it. The music is entertaining and accessible to a large part of the audience, but it could have been more tailor-made especially in the transitions.
Augustin showed impressive work in Aachen this week, but his freestyle performance was probably the least of the three tests. His passage was irregular on several occasions and the impulsion failed in some piaffes, even though the horse sat beautifully. In the extended walk the nose could have been out more, but the horse has nice overtrack. The extended canter was very powerful but a mistake in the one tempi's was the main cause for Max-Theurer's drop from the top three. She redid the one's on the centerline and they were correct but tense. The stallion has much scope in the forehand in the pirouettes. Max-Theurer finished her ride with a high degree of technical difficulty. A double pirouette with a transition to piaffe, following by passage half passes.
The Austrian scored 80.975% with 78.875% as low score (Roudier) and 83.500% as high score (Eisenhardt). "I'm overjoyed," Max-Theurer said. "We improved from day to day. I had a super feeling and the (kur) ride was so much fun."
Danish Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein swapped her old West Side Story freestyle for a brand new Cees Slings' composition titled "Dansez Maintenant" based on French songs from the 1950s, including Apres Toi, L'Amour est Blue, and Les Moulins de mon coeur. The freestyle started with Gilbert Becaud's 'Nathalie' vocalizing the rider's name upon entering the arena. This prompted the audience to laugh. Digby's trot work was less impressive in the kur as he lacked some suppleness and bounce but the piaffe and passage were up to standard, as always: rhythmical, off the ground with the horse in a content frame. The trot and piaffe music fits the horse incredibly but for the canter there is some choppiness with lots of musical variations for each canter movement. Nevertheless the music slows down nicely for Digby's great on-the-spot pirouettes and a fun drum beat supports the canter strides and tempi changes despite a mistake in the ones.
The degree of technical difficulty of the floorplan is adequate. There were two single and two double pirouettes, flying changes on a curved line, a fanning 180° piaffe pirouette and a very interesting walk part between a series of canter half passes. While Slings is stuck on using "old" music (1920s - 1960s), which is less appealing to a younger crowd, his freestyles are always syncrhonized to the horse's gaits and wonderfully tailored. They seem to grow on you the more you listen to them.
Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein scored 79.750% to finish fifth with an 77.375% from Tornblad and an 82.500% from Alonso.
Text and Photos © Astrid Appels - NO reproduction Allowed