History was written today at the CDIO Aachen in Germany. For the first time ever, the Dutch dressage team beat its arch rival Germany in a Grand Prix team competition. Just like at the 2005 European Dressage Championships, the difference between the first and second place was minimal
, but this time the Team L'Orange prevailed. The Dutch riders led the team ranking with a 0.334 percentage point difference to Germany. The United States team finished in bronze medal position.
Anchor rider for Holland was, of course, Anky van Grunsven who won the CDIO Grand Prix class on the Hanoverian gelding Salinero (Salieri x Lungau). Van Grunsven's feel for riding her horse is beyond comparison and she can accentuate her horse's strengths as well as she can cover up its weaknesses. The end result was the piaffe which was brilliantly off the ground in superb self carriage, giving her the high scores needed to build her average over the clear mistakes made in the test.
The horse did not halt at the beginning nor end of the test nervously piaffing, although the judges scored a 4 for the movement. There was an error in the flying changes every single stride. Nevertheless, Anky earned 74.500% for her ride, took the lead and led her team to its first Nations' Cup victory at Aachen.
Jan Brink's Victory "Hacked"?
Second place riding for Sweden was Jan Brink on Bjorsells Briar. The Swedish combination grew to exponential heights in his test starting out very strongly with the trot half passes. In the piaffe and passage he showed harmony, rhythm and relaxation. The canter work was outstanding with a superbly performed zig zag and strong tempi changes. The only mistake in his ride was in the first pirouette where the horse changed behind.
Brink was well on his way riding a winning score when in the canter tour, the running score board crashed. A very unfortunate occurance with a very unfortunate timing, as the audience could no longer follow the judging of Brink's test. It is remarkable that this software crash happened at such critical moment in the CDIO Grand Prix. The same thing happened last year, when Ulla Salzgeber took the victory in the Grand Prix after a so-so test.
Hubertus Schmidt and Wansuele Suerte, the silver medallists at the 2005 European Championships, finished third in the Grand Prix. They had a clean ride with outstanding flying changes. The piaffe and passage were good, but could have had a bit more pizzaz. The walk was the weakest element in the test. No overtrack, and Wansuele broke into a soft passage. With 73.083% they ranked third ahead of Swiss Sylvia Ikle on Salieri, who were also on a high in Aachen with a super ride.
Bronze for the U.S.A
The American team won the bronze medal in the nations' competition in Aachen. Steffen Peters, the winner of the CDIO Grand Prix group 1, remained to be the best performing rider with 71.333%. Leslie Morse and Kingston, the last pair to go in group 2, had the pressure on their shoulders. A 73% could have put them in silver medal position, but Leslie has not accomplished such score before, in Europe.
The 13-year old Kingston (Voltaire x Burggraaf) lacked some oomph in his ride. He showed good trot extensions and a nice piaffe, but the passage could have been more powerfully off the ground. The bay stallion got a bit tight in the neck in the tempi changes every two strides and there was an error in the ones. The final end piaffe was delightful though, but the score of 69.500% was less than Morse had hoped for.
"I'm disappointed," Morse said right after her ride. "He felt great all week and I took him for a walk a couple of hours before my ride but I didn't get a connection in the warm up and he only gave 50% of what he can do. I was quiet and thorough in the warm up. His character just wasn't sterling. You have good days and so so days. If you chalk it up, it wasn't one of those days."
Guenter Seidel and Aragon (by Abydos) finished 19th with 68.792% without having too many hiccups. The piaffe passage tour was smooth and rhythmical, but in the canter work, Aragon could have covered more ground, especially in the one tempi's. In general, Seidel's ride lacked that bit of bravura to hit the 70% marker.
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