Antoinette te Riele Wins Kur to Music Gold Medal

Mon, 08/03/2009 - 00:00
2009 European Pony Championships

Dutch Antoinette te Riele won the kur to music gold medal at the 2009 European Pony Championships in Moorsele, Belgium, today. It was her second individual gold medal of the weekend added to the silver one which she won with the Dutch pony team. German Katharina Weychert won the silver and Dana van Lierop won bronze. The absolute favourite for the gold, Sönke Rothenberger, finished last as his pony spooked constantly from a commercial banner. The biggest loser of the day, however, is not a rider, but the concept of "submissiveness." Unbelievably but true: a pony kicking out to the spur and one rearing in his test ended up winning the medals.

Without a doubt, Te Riele rides one of the highest quality ponies at this year's Europeans, which automatically makes her score a bit higher due to the beautiful movement mechanism of Golden Girl. Te Riele had a good start in her Abba kur. The trot work was outstanding with great shoulder ins and superb half passes. The extended walk was ground covering, but the mare's nose could have been a bit more out. While collecting the walk for the pirouettes, Golden Girl got tense, kicked out hard to the spur and this made the pirouette right not so great. She got totally tense, did not show collected walk but was pattering. The left pirouette was not over the back and she continued to patter before the strike off to canter. The whole collected walk section was poor. This also affected the quality of the simple changes. Most of them were too short, too few steps or tense.

One of the highlights of their test was the extended canter, which was uphill and engaged. In preparation of a left counter canter, the mare got very crooked in the body and her hindquarters collapsed to the left. By the end of her ride, Te Riele seemed to be behind on her music. When the generous score of 75,90% flashed on the board, most people gasped and did not understand that a test with so many mistakes got such a high mark. Can a judge come to the fore and please explain this? Te Riele is a very able rider and she has one of the best ponies on the scene. She had a fantastic trot tour with her mare always nicely at the vertical and soft in the contact with the bit, but it is unthinkable that a test with a kick-out to the spur, tension in walk, crookedness in canter and mediocre simple changes produces such a high score. What about submission and harmony? (a naughty thought: would a rider from a different country than Holland/Germany have got such a high score too?)

In our reports on the team championship and individual test we tackled some peculiar singularities in the judging of Danish Karin Kruger, but overall it has to be said that the judging for those two tests was outstanding! While the judging was totally erratic at last year's Europeans, this year the judges were on the same wavelength almost all the time and between them there were hardly any discrepancies bigger than 4 or 5% . This is absolute applaudable!

The judges were not generous with their points for the "middle class" riders, but they weren't ridiculously strict either and one could hardly debate on the overall ranking of the riders which looked very correct. In the freestyle, however, hardly any of the five judges agreed on the rides. They were almost of one mind on the gold medallist, but disagreed on the others.

In the freestyle, however, hardly any of the five judges agreed on the rides. They were almost unanimous on the gold medallist, but disagreed on the others.


There was almost a 6% score difference between Kruger (69.75%) and Clarke (75.50%) on second placed Katharina Weychert and more strikingly an 8% disagreement between Leyman (67,00%) and Clarke (75.25%) on fifth placed Anne Tange. Or what about Bianca Nowag's case: 67% from Kruger and 75,25% from Leyman? The list goes on: Sofie Hougaard got 66.50% from Eddie de Wolff van Westerrode and 73.75% from Clarke. And with Sönke's unfortunate ride the judges seemed oblivious what to do: De Wolff van Westerrode scored it 50.75% and Engel 61,500%. 

German Katharina Weychert probably had one of the best rides technically. Her experienced 14-year old Golden Derano C is not the flashiest mover, but he is such a great routinist. Riding to Shania Twain music, Weychert excelled with fantastic trot half passes zig zagging over the centerline. The walk pirouette right was a bit big, the left one was better. In extended canter, Golden Derano got quick instead of opening the frame and truly lengthening the strides, but the simple changes were well controlled. The pony gelding was at all times soft in the hand and submissive to the aids of his rider.

Weychert scored 73,600% which proved to be good for the kur silver medal.

Sönke Rothenberger rode right before Dutch Dana van Lierop, who had to wait quite a while before she could enter the ring as the judges had come out of their box to discuss the Rothenberger case. 13-year old Van Lierop must have entered the ring knowing there was a chance for a medal. Her 8-year old Lord Champion is a very talented pony but undoubtedly seemed to have peaked in the team test as went a bit down from there. In the kur, he was not completely through the neck and tough in the mouth. Van Lierop was constantly busy keeping him through and you saw the pony's head go from left to right especially at the beginning of the ride. Her freestyle was composed with music by Nellie Furtado, U2 and Natalie Imbruglia.

The trot extensions were solid but could have been more engaged from behind. The half passes were very good. There was a loss of impulsion in the collected walk, but Van Lierop was able to save the pirouettes. The pony was pushing his head high, even in the good extended walk. In canter the combination seemed to come in its own with balanced canter and counter canter, but the contact still was not ideal. Almost at the end of her ride, Lord Champion took the wrong lead in the simple change which Van Lierop wanted to correct, but the pony tossed up his head and reared as reaction. A big case of resistance which seemed to have been boiling the entire test. Fortunately, Van Lierop kept her cool and finished the ride in style. She still scored 72.050%, even though throughness ("durchlässigkeit") and submission were far from ideal.

So what happened to Sönke? His pony spooked tremendously from a commercial banner which had been placed on the side of the ring right before the kur to music.

Sönke's Deinhard was not the only pony looking at it. There were many which reacted to it. Several ponies were tense and glanced at it, Julia van Schaijk was able to ride an observant Dailan passed it, but Bianca Nowag's Der Feine Lord was afraid and Deinhard was simply terrified. The palomino pony would not go in the vicinity of the banner (near E) even though Sonke tried everything to finish his kur.

Rothenberger had to improvise on his freestyle. He was hardly able to execute any trot movements, the walk was tense and even in canter the pony was totally distracted by it. It was such a pity that this happened and everyone felt for Sönke. The 14-year old rider got the biggest applause from the crowds for hanging in there and finishing his test. Father Sven Rothenberger went to the judges to discuss this banner, which was illegitimately hung after the final morning training session in the main ring. The FEI does not allow the surroundings of a competition ring to be changed after the final training session.

Dutch fourth team rider Julia van Schaijk selected some Glenn Miller 1940s and 1950s music to support the swinging and cadenced gaits of her 7-year old pony gelding. The trot work was very rhythmical and forward and the collected walk was well regulated in its rhythm. For her walk pirouette, van Schaijk was walking straight towards the demonized banner and Dailan started fixating on it. Fortunately, his rider steered him away from it by making the pirouette but in the left pirouette he blocked and stopped. In canter, Van Schaijk was able to ride through the spookiness of her pony and Dailan kept performing to standard. They scored 71.400% to finish fourth.

Anne Tanghe and Tim: they finished fifth with 70.800%. They danced to "YMCA" in trot. What a great schoolmaster. This pony is a professor. He knows the movements and makes it look so simple.

Belgian Noemie Goris and Alexandre Dumas. With their Spanish flavoured freestyle, they ranked sixth (70.55%). This probably was Noemie's last pony year. She's already competing Wunderbar at junior rider's level.

Marina Mattson's Verdi RP. They switched from a dropped noseband to a flash noseband! Bye bye tongue problem. This time, Verdi kept his tongue in his mouth and it looked so much better. Their highlight were the trot traversal movements: shoulder in and half passes from one lead into the other without losing balance! They finished 7th with 70.5%

Bianca Nowag on Der Feine Lord. Their entry was heralded with the Stars Wars theme of Darth Vader. Very impressive. The pony was spooky and Nowag had to work to keep the contact steady. An unscripted flying change pushed the score down. They slotted in 8th with 70.05%

Alexa Fairchild on Neervelds Blamoer was tenth with 68.55%. Fairchild rode to Queen music and her freestyle had the most interesting choreography of all kurs of the day! The symmetry in her test, the original lines, the use of the entire arena and music fitting the movements of her pony were exemplary.

Two major conclusions can be made at the end of the day:

Number one: submissiveness and throughness were totally undervalued in the judging of the Kur to Music finals. A pony which kicks to the spur or rears still gets seven and eights on submission and harmony and can still win a medal at the most important international pony competition of the year.

Number two: it is the most ridiculous idea to use the kur to music as a finals for a European pony championships. Pony riders doing a Kur to Music is like Formula 1 racers driving in the rain: You never know how the race will finish and the best driver/rider does not always win.

Isn't it the goal of FEI pony sport to give children a solid basis in dressage riding? Ponies prepare young riders for the big league, for huge warmblood horses that can take them all the way to Grand Prix. In their pony period children get educated to sit properly and give correct aids on a pony, which fits their young age and size. Horses are too powerful and big for children to ride. The individual test should be the finals of the European Championships (as it used to be!!!!!) because it measures the rider's TECHNICAL ability, instead of their ability to handle spooky, tense ponies which overreact to poor squeaking sound systems. The kur generates an atmosphere which is too electric and tense for pony riders to handle! So FEI: here is the message: Change the rule again! Go back to the individual test and the preliminary test as a warm up class for children to adapt to the European Championship atmosphere! Amen.

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