Mind Blowing Equitana 2007

Mon, 03/19/2007 - 00:00
2007 Equitana

Equitana 2007, the biggest horse fair in the world, took place in Essen, Germany, last week. According to Eurodressage reporter Barbara Schnell, the fair was as mind-blowing -- and bone-numbingly exhausting -- as the 2006 World Equestrian Games.

"There waso much to see and digest (and, often, discard as nonsense or worse), so many gurus, . so many legends and great teachers," Schnell told Eurodressage.

"The thing about Equitana is it is the world's biggest shopping mall for all things equestrian, but it's also the world's greatest riding school. For nine days, the German Equestrian Federation, various publishers, stud farms and stables mobilized just about everyone who has a name in equestrian sports to come to Essen and help promote competence," she said.

Open Judging

One of the most interesting demonstrations was organized by Xenophon, an association founded by people like Christine Stueckelberger and Klaus Balkenhol. Prompted by the "Rollkur" hysteria two years ago, they made it their aim to promote "classical" dressage schooling -- and clarity in judging.

At Equitana, they had three riders presenting horses at M, S and Grand Prix level. Klaus Balkenhol and Ralf Isselhorst commented the rides from inside the ring, while five judges (later joined by Christoph Hess as a sixth) were brave enough to attempt open scoring in front of four thousand highly interested spectators, knowing that they would have to defend their decisions if necessary.

And it did become necessary on several occasions, when the same rider got awarded (for example) a five and an eight for the same movement. In these cases, the mavericks had to explain their findings. Of course a demonstration that lasted for an hour couldn't bring conclusive results, but it became obvious just how often the scores are -- literally -- a matter of perspective, of the point where the judge is seated. Christine Stückelberger awards an 8 where Peter Holler sees a 7.

Better Riding Clinics

The German Equestrian Federation (FN) has been doing a hugely successful series of nationwide "Besser reiten" (Better Riding) clinics for two years now, and they did several of them at Equitana as well, the concept being that inside a riding arena, equestrian celebrities share their knowledge with an audience, and with a few pre-selected test pairs. The auditions for these events alone tend to be huge -- at Equitana, 18-year-old Jana Wolters and her eight-year-old Carpaccio were one of the chosen pairs to enjoy a lesson with Ingrid Klimke. The pair has competed successfully at L-level last year and they want to try M this year. It was fun to watch Ingrid teaching this fairly accomplished pair the subtle nuances between too much laissez-faire and a fresh but harmonious performance.

Of course not all demonstrations involved live performances, there were also many star-studded talk rounds. This one included Reiter-Revue editor-in-chief Sabine Abt, veteran author Christiane Gohl, Jochen Schumacher, manager of the FN-approved "Freizeitreiterzentrum Reken", Christoph Hess, Klaus Balkenhol and host Volker Wiebels.

Another interesting combination of tell-and-show was presented by Klaus Balkenhol and Britta Schoeffmann. Schoeffmann, equestrian journalist and Balkenhol's student, has written her latest book about Balkenhol ("Klaus Balkenhol -- Dressurausbildung nach klassischen Grundsätzen"; an English edition will be published in the U.S. this fall). An interesting combination of practical guide and biography, the book came out right in time for Equitana, where author and "subject" took the opportunity to describe -- and sign -- their work.

Then they changed roles, Schoeffmann climbed into the saddle of her own Grand Prix horse La Picolina, and they did an advanced version of what Ingrid Klimke had shown previously. Nice to see how in this Babel of voices, the truly great minds thought and sounded alike. During his demonstration with Britta, Klaus Balkenhol said, "If you start a young horse with haste, you always lose that time again later on. And once you've taken its grace away, it can never be returned."

Pony Trophy

There were several real competitions in Essen as well. The "Golden Kids" pony trophy is always one of the fair's great highlights, bringing together some of Germany's best pony riders in a freestyle competition with costumes.

This year, team coach Cornelia Endres did some advertizing for the coming European championships in the nearby town of Freudenberg first (Nadine Suhrmann and Deshima were among her pony dressage "ambassadors").

The following competition was star-studded in its own way, presenting, among others, Nicola Krause on Going East (3rd place), Sanneke Rothenberger on Domino Dancing (2nd) and the winning pair Louisa Lüttgen on Dornik B.

Friesians on Display

Of course, dressage and show often go hand in hand at Equitana. Günther Fröhlich, who started the Friesian Renaissance at this very place over twenty years ago, returned this year to present a ring full of "Black Pearls" (Andrea Schmitz did Grand Prix movements without a bridle aboard Ulko) and the world's only white one ( he _is_ a true grey, not an albino).

Text and photos copyrighted: Barbara Schnell

Recent Photo Reports by Barbara Schnell
Photo Report - Rhineland Selection Trial for 2007 Preis der Besten Qualifier
Photo Report - 2007 Rhinelander Pony Talent Search in Hunxe