Riding an astonishing kur to music in the Philipshalle in Dusseldorf, Germany, Anky van Grunsven has won her sixth World Cup title in her career. This unprecedented achievement has virtually transformed Van Grunsven
into a living legend and a true hall of fame personality in the dressage world.
The 2004 World Cup Finals produced no surprises and although the small indoor arena in Dusseldorf created a very intimate atmosphere between rider, horse, judge, and spectator, no-one really experienced an emotional cathartic climax at the end of the freestyle class. Though wonderful kurs were ridden today, the goose bump factor was lamentably absent today and a true exciting, teeth grinding competitive duel between two top riders did not take place. I guess, we'll have to wait either till the CDIO Aachen or the Olympic Games in Athens to be really sitting on the edge of your seat. The 2004 World Cup Finals today were just another beautiful day in la la dressage land. But of course, Anky winning the title should not be taken for granted. The Dutch diva from Erp, The Netherlands, worked really hard to climb out of her 2003 pit of misery, which was filled with human and equine injuries.
Anky van Grunsven deserved the 2004 World Cup title and nobody will deny that. Riding her Hanoverian Gestion Salinero (Salieri x Lungau), Van Grunsven shifted into fifth gear today. While Salinero verged on a 1 Megaton explosion in his Friday Grand Prix test, today the horse was much more relaxed and happy in his work. Riding her "L'Esprit de la Chanson" freestyle, which is based on French chansons, Van Grunsven demonstrated brilliant piaffe-passage reprises, for which she received 9's from most of the judges. Only at the beginning of the tempi's, Salinero tensed up again and pushed the croup high in his eagerness to perform. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful ride which was royally scored 83.450%.
"Ich bin sehr zufrieden," Anky said at the press conference, meaning "I'm very pleased," because "this was the best freestyle I have ever ridden with Salinero." With her 83% score, Van Grunsven has opened the door for an individual medal at the Olympic Games this year. "I haven't been planning ahead," Anky confessed. "I have only been thinking to this day. Now I can start thinking about the next months." Anky will try to qualify both Salinero and Krack C (who was recently injured) for the Dutch Olympic team. "Last year taught me how difficult it is just to bet on one horse and to keep it sound."
Van Grunsven experienced double pleasure in Dusseldorf as her student Edward Gal finished second on the elegant Gestion Lingh. With a very clean and correct test on the most exhilarating music of the day (Gregorian, techno and Indian themes combined!), Gal made his World Cup Finals debut with a second place and a 80.625% score. "Lingh is such a great horse. He's very willing and is always a pleasure to ride," Gal sighed. Although Gal has become Holland's second best rider of the moment, his future with Lingh is unclear. The KWPN stallion by Flemmingh will be for sale after the Olympic Games, so the combination might die a painful death after Athens. "We are trying to get a syndicate together so that the horse can stay with me," Gal stated. "Our performance today will hopefully stimulate people to invest in this horse."
Judge at C, Dr Volker Moritz, explained the three percent point difference between Van Grunsven and Gal as following: "The difference between the two combinations is smaller on the technical level than the artistic one. Lingh does not have such a powerful extended walk, but is much more relaxed and willing than Salinero. On an artistic level, Anky's test shows more creativity and overall Salinero has a bit more power. He's more "breathtaking"."
Hubertus Schmidt, Dusseldorf's Favourite
While Anky van Grunsven and Edward Gal took top honours at the Finals, it were German riders Hubertus Schmidt and Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff who blew the roof off the Philipshalle. The crowds cheered the most for these favorites after their rider.
Aboard Martina Teichert's Wansuela Suerte (by Warkant x Wachmann), Hubertus Schmidt put in a very interesting ride. The chestnut mare is a bit long in the back and has a bit of a phlegmatic hind leg, but she is relaxed, consistent, elegant and happy in her work. She keeps up the same rhythm throughout her test, not loosing impulsion for a minute and shows relaxation in the flying changes, which were the major stumbling point for most riders this weekend. Riding to German pop music, Hubertus Schmidt put in a superb ride that placed him third
"I am very pleased with her, I was no so on Friday when there was more tension and she held herself too much," Schmidt said. Hubertus Schmidt, who runs a training stable near Paderborn, Germany, did not really plan to go to the Olympics, but his third place in the World Cup Finals has opened a window. "First we have to look at the outdoor season and the German Championships, before thinking about Athens," level headed Schmidt said.
Wansuele Suerte is a former Verden auction horse. She was sold at the elite auction in 1997 carrying the name "Wie noch Nie"
Heike Kemmer Takes Risks
Heike Kemmer had nothing to lose in the freestyle and she realised that if she wante to beat Anky van Grunsven she had to risk it all. When her chestnut Hanoverian Bonaparte entered the ring he looked better than ever: frisky, electric and ready to go.
Unfortunately, Kemmer's calculated risk didn't work. In the extended canter on the centerline, the horse took off and judge at C Volker Moritz suddenly feared for his life. Kemmer got her control over her horse back, had to make an emergency flying change, but continued her test at a lower level of aggression and engagement. In the piaffe, Bonaparte twice lost some impulsion.
Despite these two mistakes it was still a brilliant test with divine music. It also showed Kemmer's high level of creativity, for instance when she performed a canter half pass to the right, followed by a double pirouette, continuing in the half pass again and making another double pirouette before reaching the track again. Kemmer scored 78.650% and finished fourth overall.
Judge Volker Moritz said that Kemmer had an extraordinary start. "The horse has sensational basic gaits," Moritz stated, "but she lost points on two technical parts in her test. Of course the unrequested flying change on the centerline was one of the reason and sometimes in the passage, Bonaparte did not keep an equal rhythm with his right hind leg."
Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff On the Rise with Wahajama
What is so great about the World Young Horse Championships is that you get to see youngsters which you are certain of that they will resurface as a Grand Prix horse. At the 1999 World Championships in Arnhem, there were a couple of stars who are still going strong today. Gestion Lingh and Wahajama were two of those youngsters you remember from Arnhem.
Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff purchased Wahajama (by Warkant) as a five year old from Gerd Knoop and the mare disappeared for a while. She returned on the scene as a Prix St Georges horse competing in the Nurnberg Burgpokal and now she's back in the Grand Prix ring looking great.
Performing to Stevie Wonder music, Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff had a great ride, improving her act much more compared to last week's ride at 's Hertogenbosch. It was the first time that no major mistakes were to be retrieved in Linsenhoff's test and Wahajama just excelled in her extensions. The piaffe, which is Wahajama's difficulty at the time, looked much more together and wasn't as peggy in the front leg as before. Linsenhoff was overjoyed and almost lept out of the saddle out of pure happiness after the salute. The pair scored 77.275% and finished fifth.
Elena Sidneva and Artax Condor Worth Mentioning
Winner of the central European League, Russian Elena Sidneva, has been a strong presence on the international show scene. Though this rider has never really posed a threat to the German or Dutch hegemony, Sidneva has been a consistent top fifteen rider these past few years.
At the World Cup Finals, Elena Sidneva finished sixth in the Grand Prix with 69.625%. In the freestyle, Sidneva rode to Russian music, featuring Prokofiev's renowned Peter and the Wolf for the canter work. Sidneva's mount Artax Condor is a 12-year old Latvian bred Hanoverian by Vdumchivy out of Veldre (by Vagner). The horse is well muscled and sturdy built and excels in his consistency. He has gorgeous flying changes and pirouettes and although he's not an electric bolt flashing through the ring, he's always rhythmically moving through the ring.
Sidneva's freestyle had one of the most beautiful canter reprises at the Finals. The soft melodies of Peter and the Wolf fit Condor's canter perfectly and especially the flying changes are breath taking. Every single change is perfectly matched with the music, which makes the whole even more impressing. Not surprisingly, the judges awarded Sidneva eights and nines for that part of her test. Sidneva scored 75.800% for her kur and finished 8th overall.
The Russian born 39-year old Elena Sidneva has been living in Austria for years. She is married to her trainer Dima Polonskiu and is mother to a 15-year old son. Sidneva has been riding horses for 24-years but confessed to love tennis too. She has also trained with Elena Petushkova (1972 Olympic Silver Medal Winner) and Dr. Reiner Klimke. Her sponsor Artax is an international milk production and distribution company in Austria.
Text and Photos © Astrid Appels