Sönke Saves the Day - Germany Wins Team Gold Thanks to Rothenberger

Fri, 07/31/2009 - 00:00
2009 European Pony Championships

Soon to be 15-year old Sönke Rothenberger saved the day and secured Germany the team gold thanks to his phenomenal, winning ride on Deinhard.

The Dutch were very consistent throughout the team competition with all four riders scoring above 70% and the Germans had never felt such competition breathing down their necks as this year.

Rothenberger was the fourth last rider to go and the Dutch team had taken a strong lead in the team competition. Only by putting down a super high scoring ride would Rothenberger be able to rescue Germany from a silver "demise".

Rothenberger and the 10-year old German Reitpony stallion Deinhard (by Dornik) have surpassed their previous level of excellence. They were last year's European Champions but his gold medal ride in Avenches still had a few minor "issues". Today Sönke's ride was flawless! His perfect tempo control in trot was exemplary. The palomino moved with balance, lightness and relaxation at all times. Each halt was perfectly square, though the reinback could have been a bit smoother. A bit of impulsion lacked in the walk pirouettes but the collected and extended walk was clear in their rhythm. Deinhard has two hooves overtrack but that seems to be his limit. The canter work was perfectly controlled, super simple changes. The only comment to be made is that Deinhard looks a bit hard in the mouth and never really foams. The pair scored 75.055% and he absolutely deserved the mark and his first place.

The second best contribution to the German team gold medal came from Bianca Nowag on Der Feine Lord. This combination placed third in the final ranking with 71.889%, behind Dana van Lierop on Equestricons Lord Champion and right in front of the three other Dutch team riders. Nowag's gorgeous 9-year old stallion excelled in trot with his lightfootedness and buoyancy. Nowag rode him with much control from one movement to the other without loss of balance. The rein back was outstanding. Only few ponies have such great lengthening of stride and opening of the frame in the extended trot. Der Feine Lord's major problem is the walk. Though he can show decent overstep in the extended walk, he has difficulties maintaining clarity of rhythm, especially in the collected walk. One of the simple changes was too much forward. The final halt was not immediately square. A lovely ride from a very talented pair.

Adding Katharina Weychert's score to Rothenbergher's and Nowag's, Germany totaled 217,67 points and stayed two percent ahead of Holland. Never before has Germany had such a tough time keeping its golden subscription. This team victory is the 20th consecutive team gold medal Germany has won.

"Katharina rode a bit with the hand break one and Grete had a few problems in walk," Endres commented. "The judges were right with their points. Sönke was super cool. I'm very proud of my kids."

Another reason why Germany grabbed the gold was because Antoinette te Riele had a few minor mistakes in her ride. Te Riele is the 2008 individual silver medallist, but finished fourth in this year's European team championship test. Te Riele and her 7-year old palomino mare Golden Girl performed slight below par. The trot, which is usually her strong side, was fluent but quite hurried, especially in the shoulder in. In the rein back, there was some resistance and Golden Girl did not reverse diagonally. The mare has an outstanding walk but she was hasted in the pirouettes. The extended walk was excellent. Nerves probably affected Te Riele's riding style, because also in canter, the simple changes were too quick. Te Riele did not allow time for the mare to develop a good walk, but was quickly asked to proceed in canter. The final change was much better. In the extended canter there was good ground cover. The combination scored 71.722%.

The third Dutch rider to go and the first on Thursday was Maria van den Dungen with De Havikerwaard's 8-year old German Reitpony stallion Rembrandt DDH (by Renoir x Viktoria's Chirac). This black pony stallion is super refined and very elegant. He has a fantastic front leg usage in canter and is a real eye catcher. A big mistake in the pirouette left and a hesitant strike off from walk to canter made the score drop considerably, but Van den Dungen recovered by riding a good canter tour. They scored 70.944%, good to place sixth out of 48, but they were the scratch ride for Holland.

So, The Netherlands won the silver medal after all with a 214.83 percentage total. Chef d'Equipe Christa Laarakkers had mixed feelings about the silver: "Dana and Julie rode fantastically, we were 2,5% ahead. Maybe it was tension? Maria and Antoinette both could have scored a few percentage points higher. They rode good tests, but there were a few mistakes which cost a lot of points. Of course I'm very happy. Our lowest score was 70,9% and they were all in the top six. That's unique. But we were very close to a historic victory and then you just want more."

Just like last year, the bronze medal was a highly contested by Denmark and Belgium. The Danes edged out Belgium for team bronze. Anne Tanghe put in the key ride for Denmark by scoring 70.555% and placing eighth. The Danes did get quite a bit of help from Danish judge Karin Kruger who was pro-actively scoring each Danish ride the highest of all five judges (and giving Sabrina Barnekow an almost 6% point difference).

This does not mean that the Danish girls didn't give it their all. Anne Tange and the Swedish bred Tim (by Heleiks Timjan) were the key riders to Denmark. They finished 8th with 70.555%.

Tim has superb trot extensions but he could show more push from behind in the collected trot. In the extended walk he has much overtrack but he was a bit rushed. The canter extensions showed super engagement from behind and much ground cover. Tanghe had Tim nicely on the bit at all times and the chestnut gelding always appeared to be light and submissive. Well done.

Tim's 70% score, added to the 65% marks of Sabrina Barnekow and Sofie Hougaard totaled 202.06%, which meant 2,11% ahead of the home country team Belgium.

The Belgian pony team had hoped for a bronze medal at home, but it wasn't meant to be. All four riders stayed below their normal performance level and were not able to peak in the team test.

The best Belgian ride came from Noemie Goris and Alexandre Dumas, a combination which has proven to score in the seventies this show season. Goris was the second before last rider to go and there was much pressure on her shoulder. She rode a safe, clean but too conservative test. The trot was well regulated and Dumas always stayed light in the hand and uphill. In the collected walk there was a slight loss in the clarity of rhythm but the extended walk had much overstep and relaxation. The canter work was very controlled and with total relaxation and obedience from the pony. The pony could have easily scored in the 70% range if there were not a few small mistakes, as for instance, he did not halt squarely twice. But Goris and Dumas are known to grow in a competition and they probably have a lot in store for the individual test and kur.

What a fantastic pony! Marina Mattsson and 8-year old Verdi RP (by Vermont) probably showed the best trot work of the day and had a super canter tour, but the pony is not really accepting the bit. The noseband is very tight to prevent the tongue from coming out, but it didn't work. His pink tongue still showed in the right corner of his mouth and that's the reason why Verdi lost many points. They finished 11th with 68.556%

All photos copyrighted Astrid Appels/Eurodressage
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