Dutch Hans Peter Minderhoud, Russian Alexandra Korelova and British Emma Hindle exceeded all expectations and placed higher in the final individual rankings than they could have dreamed off.
Minderhoud placed fifth with his kur to music (75.150%) and landed a final fifth place with 73.035%. Aboard Team Exquis' Dutch warmblood mare Nadine (by Partout), Minderhoud entered the ring with much electricity and gusto. The first trot extension was powerful, ground covering, the half passe which followed was active with good crossing of the legs. She then got very tight in the neck before doing another energetic trot extension. The mare looked fresh, active, showed great trot half passes with a lightly swooshing tail. The extended walk was forward with three hooves overtrack but a bit too hurried. The zigzag was good, but both double pirouettes were quite big and lacked collection. At the end of the extended canter, the mare made an unscripted flying change. By the end of the test, Nadine ran out of steam and the piaffes became sloppy. She was pulling her hocks high instead of sitting and she totally fell shut in the second one and reacted with her left hind leg to the leg aids of the rider. The final passage half pass was good, but the mare halted completely parked out. Until after the trotwork, Minderhoud's choreography seemed an identical copy of Anky's Esprit Chanson kur, but then the order of the movements switched in canter and walk. Nevertheless the entire order of movements was incredibly reminiscent of Anky's 2004 Olympic gold medal winning freestyle. The score of 75.150% for the Hans Peter's kur was fairly generous considering the sloppy ending to the fantastic, strong opening.
Russian Alexandra Korelova had a fantastic Olympics leading up to the individual finals and the freestyle to music was as big a success as her previous rides. In the Kur to Music, though, Korelova's 18-year old Orlov Trotter Balagur looked a bit unnerved. He spooked upon entry in passage to emotional Broadway music. The stallion, who has been named "The Pink Pony" on internet forums, had difficulties keeping the rhythm in passage at the beginning of the test, but his piaffe to Sinatra's New York, New York was phenomenal. The rhythm and cadence improved and Balagur was really able to swing in the piaffe, passage and transitions, lightly pushing himself off the ground. The collected walk was a bit quick and in the extended walk he could have stretched more in the body. The double pirouettes followed by super straight two tempi's on the centerline were gorgeous. Korelova had chosen sentimental music that was catchy throughout the ride: I Feel Pretty (West Side Story), Dance all Night (My Fair Lady) and Memory (Cats). The pair scored 73.850% for their kur. The mark landed her on a sixth individual position with a 72.625% overall score.
For British Emma Hindle, the 2008 Olympic Games were an unprecedented emotional roller coaster. Never before, did the Briton ride her Hanoverian stallion Lancet (by Wenzel) so well. Riding a kur to popular 1980s songs such as Staying Alive, Saturday Night Fever, and What a Feeling, Hindle was the first rider in the first rotation to perform to really good music (with Tinne Vilhelmson's kur as lamentable nadir on a musical level, not performance wise). The superb walk to "How Deep is Your Love" was lovely. The highlight of Hindle's test were no doubt the trot half passes, which were huge! One big mistake infected the test, a mistake in the two-tempi's, but the one's were great. Hindle scored a strong 74.250% for her kur, the sixth best score, and landed an overall seventh place with 72.345%,
For Hindle, her seventh individual place is only one place lower than Britain’s highest-ever placing at an Olympics. Christopher Bartle and Wily Trout were equal sixth at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, although it is only fair to point out that the competition had a different format then.
After the competition had finished, Hindle revealed she has not had the best of preparations for the Games: “Six weeks ago I had a major operation for ovarian cancer, so to finish so high in the placings is extra special.” Hindle paid tribute to all the support staff who aided her rapid recovery from having a tumour removed and mentioned the great morale in the British equestrian camp: “I can’t believe how many people believed in me. I’m used to being involved in rivalry, but now I’m proud to be part of such a great team.”
Hindle explained that Danish team bronze medallist Nathalie Zu Saeyn-Wittgenstein traveled four hours a day to ride Hindle's Lancet while Emma was in the hospital. "I could only ride in walk when I arrived in Hong Kong and Lancet was brilliant - usually he's difficult when you are getting on and off him, but he seemed to know I wasn't well and he just stood there for me for a change."
Text by Astrid Appels/Eurodressage - Photos copyrighted: Franz Venhaus