The Danish warmblood mare Uno Donna Unique won the 6-year old Preliminary Test at the 2010 World Championships for Young Dressage Horses in Verden, Germany, Friday morning 6 August 2010.
Under Danish Olympian Andreas Helgstrand, one of very few international Grand Prix riders who has the guts to present a young horse at such a high profile show, Uno Donna Unique (by Don Schufro x Falkland) appeared more developed and mature in the ring compared to her bronze medal winning round last year as a 5-year old.
Bred and owned by Stutteri Uno in Rönde, Denmark, Donna Unique showed a powerful trot that was well-carried, balanced and up in the frame. The mare was one of very few horses to show proper lengthening in medium and extended trot without getting rushed. In the reinback she dropped her head deep but she reversed diagonally. There was good relaxation and tons of groundcover in the medium and extended walk. The canter had good jump and scope but Helgstrand collected the mare too much for the first flying change, losing all forward impulsion. The second flying change was mediocre and the left extended canter was crooked with the hindquarters collapsing to the left. Nevertheless the black mare showed tremendous progress and real talent for the collected work.
Uno Donna Unique, who was a finalist in the Danish Foal and 2-year old mare Championships and who became Danish Mare of the Year as a 3-year old, was certainly one of the best performing horses of the day but the judging panel, consisting of Markowski (POL), Zang (USA), Colliander (FIN), and Sanders-van Gansewinkel (NED), were in an ecstatically jubilant mood today and threw points at the pair as if there was no tomorrow. The 10 for the trot was nonsensical, 9.5 for walk exaggerated and 9.0 for canter generous. The 9.3 for submission was puzzling considering the two so-so flying changes and the crooked extended trot. With another 9.5 for general impression, Helgstrand averaged 9.46 and ranked far ahead of all competition.
It is exactly this gap between Uno Donna Unique and the other top placed pairs which made a mockery out of the judging today. Helgstrand absolutely had a lovely ride on the Danish mare and there is no problem with her being first of the pack, but the other high ranked horses did not differ so much from her in spite of the point gap, because the quality of horses and riding was very high today.
The entire class was divided into five groups and the judging of the first three groups (up to 24 horses out of 37) went recommendable well. Even horses under lesser known riders from smaller dressage nations got their fair share of points. For instance, the Australian owned Summersby (by Sandro Hit x Davignon), totally unknown on European soil, was presented by Belgian Grand Prix rider Stefan van Ingelgem and got an 8.1 for his elegant trot. However as soon as the fourth group started someone seemed to have switched a miracle button in the judges' boxes because, out of the blue, eight out of fourteen horses scored 8.0 or much higher, whereas only nine had done so in the three groups before.
Scores started to soar after Dutch Theo Hanzon had finished his test on Joop van Uytert's reserve KWPN licensing champion Zhivago (by Krack C x Jazz). The long legged bay is a breath taking horse with three extraordinary gaits and unlimited potential, but Hanzon seemed to have been stuck in the wrong gear the entire ride: the sixth gear, full throttle. The bay stallion could hardly catch his breath (or swing his back) as he was rushed through the lateral movements at cheetah speed 60 kilometers an hour. Of course mistakes in the rhythm arose in the medium trot extension. The rein back was nice as well as the medium and extended walk on the short diagonals. Zhivago's best gait is the canter as it is extremely scopey, uphill and engaged. However, the tempo was much too high and the licensed stallion got hectic. He was late behind in the second flying change.
When Judge Sanders-Van Gansewinkel announced the 8.2 for trot, 8.5 for walk, 9.0 for canter one could understand that the quality and maybe primarily the potential of the gaits was being assessed if shown under natural circumstances, but the 8.2 for submission and 8.8 for general impression made everyone frown except probably the "Zhivago Team". Please shift to the right gear in the finals and then these points are well earned. Zhivago ended up sixth in the final ranking.
Soliere Thrives on Point Extravaganza
As last pair to go in the class, Eva Möller and Natasha van Dyk's Hanoverian stallion Soliere (by Sandro Hit x Donnerhall) thrived on the judges' point extravaganza. The black stallion is a real poster boy with his gorgeous looks and cresty neck and under the petite Möller he started out very well with a superb halt at entry. The trot work was engaged and Möller (née Nolden) kept the black nice in the frame. The stallion could move his hind legs more towards the point of gravity in trot. The rein back was good and the walk had good overtrack but was normal in rhythm. In canter the lengthening were expressive, though Soliere could be more uphill in general. The first flying change went well, the second was late to the aids.
With 9.4 for trot, 8.9 for walk, 9.0 for canter, 9.0 for submission and 9.3 for general impression, Möller totaled 9.12 to finish second. It was a classical case of the regency effect in which the judges are overly affected by that presented last to them in a selection process.
Deja, Swedish Surprise
One of the most talented and best presented horses of the day was Swedish surprise Deja (by Silvano x Don Schufro). The dark bay Swedish warmblood mare, bred and owned by Marie Haward, was a joy to watch. Anne Svanberg rode the big-framed mare with exceptional cadence in trot. She was at all times light in the bridle and executed good traversal movements. The rein back was mediocre and she got a bit unsteady in the contact in the extended walk, even though both walk extensions on the diagonal were nice. The canter work had good collection and Deja carried herself well. The first flying change was fluent, the second a bit croupe high.
Deja was an exemplification of the "Happy Athlete" and the crowds cheered when she finished her ride. Owner Haward explained that Deja has only been in training for two full years. She was a 4-year old champion in Sweden, then was given a year off in the field to be a horse, and Haward then put her back in training with Svanberg, whom she chose as rider based on the fact that Anne has such a soft riding style and hacks her horses regularly in the woods. Deja's dam Donellie is currently in foal to Svanberg's previous World Championship ride, Hermes.
Deja scored 8.9 for trot, 8.7 for walk, 8.9 for canter, 8.8 for submission and 8.9 for general impression. This totaled 8.84 and they placed third.
Redford Enjoys the Ride
Jessica Werndl and the Hanoverian Redford (by Rosentau x Escudo) took advantage of the scoring frenzy to finish fourth. The chestnut gelding, bred by Gisela Franken, is a doll with his cute face and cresty neck making him appealing to the eye. The trot work was solid but the Hanoverian could take more weight on the hindquarters and push harder from behind. The rein back was superb and the walk was very good as Redford actively covered ground with good relaxation. In canter he lost some swing in the back which affected the clear 3-beat rhythm. In general he could have been more uphill. The first flying change was a bit expressionless but the second was obedient.
The 9.4 for trot was jaw dropping to everyone as it was the second highest mark for trot given to any horse. The 8.9 for walk, 8.5 for canter, 8.6 for submission and 8.7 for general impression were more realistic. The charming Werndl averaged 8.82
Last Year's Medallists Place Fifth and Seventh
Last year's gold and bronze medallists in the 5-year old division, Honnerups Driver and Blickpunkt, placed fifth and seventh today. Though the quality of these two horses has not decreased (on the contrary), both had a few technical issues in their test.
Andreas Helgstrand and Anna Kasprzak's Danish warmblood gelding Honnerups Driver (by Romanov x Don Schufro) were the pair to watch in the 6-year old division. Having competed at only one Danish WCYH selection trial in Middelfart, Driver was the best kept secret in Denmark over the year. While the crowds were waiting in anticipation for the ride, Helgstrand provided some comic relief when he halted and mistakenly dropped the reins. He smiled from cheek to cheek, picked up the reins and started his test.
The massive liver chestnut gelding is a true star for the future but today he showed already 'too much' at this point. The trot work was at all times much too passage-like and definitely missed forwardness. The elevation and uphill self carriage were impressive, but it was all too slow, too collected. In the half pass left he was not regular in his crossing over. The extensions were powerful. In the halt for rein back he dived deep with his head and he did that as well in the end halt. Unfortunately in the extended walk, Driver was a bit impressed by his surroundings and got tense. He hardly showed overtrack. The canter started out great with lovely "uberstreichen" (a giving of the reins) in which the horse kept its balance and activity, but he did not show enough lengthening in the medium canter. In preparation of the first and second flying change, Helgstrand collected Driver so much that the horse also stood still. In the extended canter he went off the left track. Honnerups Driver is brimming with FEI talent, but in general the test had too many blurps to be a winner's ride.
The judges, however, were ecstatic about it and scored the passagey trot 9.4. The walk got 6.8, the canter 9.8, submission 8.0 and general impression 8.8. With a total of 8.56, Honnerups Driver finished fifth.
Eva Möller and the Italian owned Blickpunt (by Belissimo M x Weltmeyer) were the sixth pair to go and with 8.50 they kept the lead in the ranking for quite some time. Silvia Rizzo's chestnut with high stockings and big blaze developed really well showing off an improved self carriage and ability to carry more weight on the hindquarters. On a technical level there were a few issues in shoulder in and half passes, because Möller was unable to keep him fluently on the track and she wobbled into the half pass right. The trot extensions were phenomenal. The rein back was super and the walk had good overstep. The canter work was lovely though the flying changes were not as confirmed. The first one was a bit hesitant but went ok, the second one came early on the diagonal but was good.
The judges deservedly gave Blickpunkt a 9.0 for trot. The other notes were 8.6 for walk, 8.2 for trot, 8.0 for submission and 8.7 for general impression. These marks makes one wonder what the points would really have been if 2009 bronze medallist Blickpunkt came at the end of the class instead of all the way at the beginning. They averaged 8.50 to place seventh.
Danish Supremacy in Verden
With five out of ten top 10 placed horses having Don Schufro in their bloodline, the Danish owned Oldenburg stallion by Donnerhall x Pik Bube has certainly made his mark in the 6-year old division. Three of the top 10 horses were Danish branded, one was Swedish registered and one Oldenburg.
Lotte Skaerbak and her beautiful liver chestnut stallion Skovens Rafael (by Romanov x Don Schufro) ranked eight with 8.46. The halt at entry was lovely. The trot work was active and quick from behind but there were some beauty mistakes in the half passes as the hindquarters came in front of the forehand. There could have been more liveliness in the mouth, though it must have been hard for him to move anything with the noseband so tight The walk was really nice and the canter was superb in its groundcover and uphill posture. The changes had a few issues as the horse kicked to the spur in the first one and he was short behind in the second one.
The trot scored 8.1, the walk 8.0, the canter 9.2, the submission 8.3 and the general impression 8.7.
The 2007 Oldenburg Elite Mare Champion Rebelle, who came to Verden on a German wild card, finished ninth. The elegant lady horse, owned by Blue Hors Stud in Randboel, Denmark, had a lovely fluent trot but there could have been more crossing of the legs in the half passes. In walk there was nice overtrack but there was a slight loss of rhythm in the collected walk. Rebelle was one of the few horses showing fantastic lengthening in the extended canter and both her flying changes were lovely.
She scored 8.3 for trot, 7.5 for walk, 8.9 for canter, 8.6 for submission, and 8.7 for general impression which made her finish at 8.40.
The De Niro Hype Continues
2010 has been all about De Niro. The Donnerhall x Akzent II sire has been the producer of some of the most successful FEI horses this season. At Grand Prix level shooting stars Delgado (Beatriz Ferrer-Salat), Dablino (Anabel Balkenhol) and Desperados (Falk Rosenbauer) stormed to the top. At small tour level D'Agostino (Fabienne Lutkemeier) and Deveraux (Sanneke Rothenberger) claimed the medals at the 2010 European Young Riders Championships in Kronberg.
Here in Verden, the 6-year old Du Soleil (by De Niro x Caprimond) was one of the top placed horses with Grand Prix potential written all over his body. Presented by Austrian Saskia Lieben-Seuter and owned by Burkhard Wahler, the liver chestnut gelding has strong activity in the hindlegs but he is still a bit disconnected in the body in trot. Though his movements are expressive and buoyant he wobbles all over the place in the bends. Du Soleil had difficulties with the onset of the half passes, but showed great lateral movement. The medium and extended trot were fantastic with much engagement and suspension. Unfortunately he jogged briefly in the extended walk. In general the canter work was strong, but the first flying change was crooked and the second hesitant.
Du Soleil scored 8.8 for trot, 8.6 for walk, 8.0 for canter and submission and 8.5 for general impression. With 8.38 this future star finished tenth.
Text and Photos © Astrid Appels - No Reproduction Allowed
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