2010 CDI Donauschingen: A Walk in the Park for Augustin OLD

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 13:20
2010 CDI Donaueschingen

The CHI Donaueschingen is a traditional autumn show, anually held mid September in the beautiful castle park of the Fürstenberg dynasty at the outskirts of the idyllic Black Forest.

 For more than 40 years international dressage riders use the opportunity to attend one of the last outdoor shows of the season, which unfortunately is no longer in front of the wonderful Fürstenberg castle that provided a  picturesque background for a long time. The last time was for the 1991 European Dressage Championships.

Golden Autumn

After a series of cold, windy and rainy days in South Germany wonderful autumn weather came back just in time for the show. As I was arriving early on Saturday morning the fog has just lifted and given way for wonderful sunshine, putting a golden touch on the huge trees, the grass and the white fencing of the fields.

To get to the new dressage location I had to cross the show ground and it is like having a recreational walk in the park, passing the huge tribune of the jumping stadium towards the small river Brigach which crosses the whole castle park. The atmosphere is very relaxed, spectators are mixing with top class jumping riders at the warm up arena, Markus Beerbaum is cuddling his little baby daughter Brianne while I headed straight to the river.

A shrill whistle stopped me and others on our way: The marathon of the four-in-hand drivers was underway and soon a team of beautiful chestnuts thundered past us. Over a provosional wooden bridge which swayed with every step I reached the new dressage area.

It was located at the edge of the park without much space around. The arena is surrounded by spectator tents and on one short side by the judges' boxes. Though itis still quite beautiful the charm of the old arena with the facade of the castle behind is sadly missing.


At the warm- up arena right behind the dressage arena and next to the stable tents of the dressage horses Junior riders are warming up their horses for the competition which is already underway.

Like with the senior Grand Prix riders later that day, the way of warming up differed a lot.
Some take much time to properly loosen their horses and take care not to put too much tension on them to get more elevated movements. Others push their mounts through their paces which made me wonder whether the tank would be empty before they entered the arena.
Only very few of these young ladies wore helmets which is a pity even more so after all that has happened this year.

Between all these teenagers Olympic veteran Christilot Boylen from Canada was in the warm-up ring and worked her young horse Degas, an elegant 8-year old Hanoverian by De Niro x Reggazoni, who was intended to start in the Nürnberger Burgpokal qualification on Sunday.
Christilot displayed a textbook warm-up, allowing the horse to stretch for a while at the beginning and also later in between more serious exercises. Wirh her the steward was able to relax and enjoy the sunshine!

The Junior's competition was over soon and the lap of honour took place in which the daughter of international dressage judge Dr. Dietrich Plewa,  Tara Annabelle Plewa, led on a handsome chestnut. Rero displayed his joie de vivre by throwing in some cheeky bucks which Tara accepted with a smile, but this time wearing a safety helmet.

The Grand Prix start was approaching and more and more spectators were entering the dressage show ground. Like always one could hear many Swiss voices as Donaueschingen is not far from the Swiss border. Dogs of all sizes and breeds exchanged cordialities and as a dog lover I enjoyed them being there, but this was to change soon.

I go to the spectator tents and look for a nice place where I can stand and take photos and find next to a judge's hut. The floor of the spectator tents are wooden planks and cause quite some noise as soon as somebody is walking on them.

And there is quite some „traffic“ behind me, even when the first starter, Germany's Frank Freund is already in the arena which is close by the tents. I am wondering how the sensitive dressage horses will be coping with it.

Two Talented Chestnuts

Frank Freund is the son of Germany's former world class four-in- hand driver Fred Freund and nephew of Michael Freund. He has been  a long time Bereiter for Ulla Salzgeber. The young man with his nice seat rode Don Dior, a 10-year old Hanoverian chestnut which boss Ulla found in England and is now owned by Frank himself.

This gelding by Don Gregory out of a Matcho AA dam is a horse with lots of quality and was beautifully presented with very nice flying changes, good trot extensions and an even passage. The piaffe still lacked the same brilliance and should have been  more elevated, but I wasreally impressed by this ride. Not only because of the single exercises, but by Frank's style and the rideability his hopeful had shown.

Renowned announcer Stefan Krawczyk presented the next starter and stressed that the Baden- Württemberg based visitors would know her very well: The gorgeous chestnut mare Donna Asana, who was the shooting star of the 2008 season with Dane Lone Jörgensen, is now ridden by her now owner, Austrian Evelyn Haim-Swarovski.

This Danish bred mare by Blue Hors Don Schufro is still an impressive appearance with outstanding piaffe and passage. Even Totilas would have problems bringing his forelegs as high as Donna Asana, but dressage is not about forelegs only and unfortunately some mistakes in the flying changes and a loss of rhythm in the trot half passes brought their score down.

Dog Terror

The next starter was Italian based Anna Merveld for Ireland on the dark Bavarian gelding Corylano (by Coriolan). This combination could have been several thousand feet high in the air instead of at Donaueschingen, but Anna had withdrawn from competing in Kentucky earlier. Her nicely muscled gelding seemed a bit on the edge today, the contact with the curb was quite strong, but Anna still managed to present him beautifully with lots of impulsion in the extensions. She definitely has the talent to bring out the best of all her horses, which are not always the most extraordinary types. A fifth place in such a strong field was the reward.

A very pleasant horse appeared right after Coryolano: Susanne Lebek's Baudolino.
This bay always looked  happy and content with himself. Already very successful this outdoor season Baudolino seemed to have improved in some parts. His piaffe is one of the best and can really be called classical. The Hanoverian shows elevated rhythmical steps, sits on his hind legs and has his neck where it should be! His collection is also displayed in the good canter pirouettes later. Unfortunately he appeared a bit hot at the beginning which could explain why not all exercises were marked highly. They placed 8th in the end.

While waiting for Swiss Christian Pläge to enter the ring with his new Grand Prix mount Lambadero, two dogs right behind me started barking like hell, immediately followed by even louder „barks“ from their annoyed owners. Unfortunately the woman with the greyhound took a seat not far away from the frizzy bitch and both dogs continued their growling, always followed by a „pssst!“ from their owners.
I got a bit unnerved by this „concert“ and glanced disapprovingly behind me, with not much success!

Lambadero, who passed us two times, luckily didnot make a fuss of the noisy background. The 12-year old Holsteiner by Lothringer is the successor of Christian Pläge's recently retired star Regent. Even though he is a good and obviously reliable horse he lacks Regents ponyesque charm and presence. Everything appears solid. They bay Holsteiner, who matches Pläge really well, showed a rather hesitant piaffe with not much push-off from the ground, but executed a nice canter tour.

German born trainer Pläge, married to Swiss dressage rider Birgit Wientzek-Pläge, had obviously saved the real highlight of his test until the very end. Pläge highlighted the speciality of all his horses, the absolutely immobile straight halt, in front of the judges on the short side. Lambadero doesn't mind the dog terror starting again or the squeaking wooden planks of visitors constantly coming and leaving at that time (later it stopped). The bay stood there like a statue even when his rider had given him the reins and the crowds clapped frantically because of it.

Next on the starter list was young Marion Engelen with her highly elegant Oldenburg gelding Diego. Unfortunately I was not able to witness her obviously very good ride (6th place), because a dear old friend from Switzerland caught me from behind and we celebrated our reunion after more than a year. A little break before the next starters gave us the chance to have a drink in a stand nearby and to watch the warm-up again.

Famous Boys

Christilot Boylen from Canada, who lives in Germany with her partner Udo Lange, was the next on her new Grand Prix horse Famous Boy, an elegant Oldenburg gelding by Feiner Stern x Landadel which was discovered by a Canadian syndicate at the Kasselmann family earlier the year. Both make a very attractive pair to watch and the overall impression in Donaueschingen was one of elegance and beauty. Famous Boy obviously did not like the rather noisy and packed stands. His extended trot was very expressive as was his passage, but his piaffe still needed more balance and collection. What a pity the horse got wound up before the canter pirouettes and reared before Christilot had him on her side again. Small discrepancies followed and they affeced the result. Nevertheless this pair seems to be one for the future.

The next two starters were in fact already famous boys in sport and breeding alike.
Harli Seifert's 14-year old Oldenburg stallion Rubin Royal (by Rohdiamant- Grundstein II) is stabled in Silvia Iklè's barn in Switzerland and ridden by German Hendrik Lochthowe. The horse has an impressive type and has won several Grand Prixs so far. He has  a gifted style in the trot, but obviously it wasn't his day today. Several mistakes like breaking into canter before the rein back and kicking with his hind legs in the piaffe lowered the overall result to an unusual 14th place, though the flying changes were fine and really uphill.

A horse, whose sire I have always liked as a teenager, entered the arena. Dorothee Schneider's most beautiful former Bundeschampion Kaiserkult TSF is a real eye catcher. The bay Trakehner is by Van Deyk, Dorothee's former Grand Prix mount, and has already been extremely successful. In 2004 he was the Bundeschampion of the 6-year old dressage horses and was 2nd in the Nürnberger Burgpokal finals only two years later. The stallion is a very nice type of dressage horse and has lots of expression, but he did not manage to stay faultless when he offered one-time-changes at the beginning of the two tempi's.

After Kaiserkult I rushed off to catch some urgently needed food after several hours of taking photos and with breakfast hours behind me. I made it back just in time to see Sabine Becker's reliable Oldenburger Lamarc and intended to enter the stands from the entrance next to the warm-up. But the gatekeeper surprisingly wouldn't let me in after I had passed him several times before. I show him my press pass, but he seemed to have received  new orders and told me he could not let me in. Apparently I had to enter through the entrance on the very opposite. I could not believe this, but what else could I do than start running to the other entrance 100 metres away? There I found out that I also couldn't enter because the ride was already underway. Quite upset I patiently had to wait until the ride was over. Sabine Becker ended up with an excellent 4th place behind the last three horses to come.

Augustin Reigns

Three time Olympic gold medalist Anky van Grunsven drew a lot of attention, people squeezed themselves in the spectator tents or stood behind the white fences to watch the Dutch present the KWPN stallion Painted Black, whom she had sold not long ago to Spanish Morgan Barbancon. The ride had already started when I found a space to watch. IPS Painted Black, a beautiful Gribaldi x Ferro offspring, was on good form and showed a reliable performance, scoring over 74%.

After Anky had left the arena I discovered a befriended Swiss dressage judge next to the judge's box in which Leif Törnblad was sitting. Happily I hasten edthere and positioned myself next to her to get a chance of taking pictures of a real star to come: Augustin.

As much as I would have liked seeing this horse compete against the world's very best at the World Equestrian Games,  I enjoyed having the opportunity to see him live once again in Donaueschingen. The Oldenburger stallion resembles his sire August der Starke. H is a real „machine“ of a horse, but with lots of charm and hardly any weak spots.

Victoria Max- Theurer went for the victory. Though the only 10-year old Augustin could show more impulsion in the extended trot the rest was high class and Victoria was ecstatic at the end, waving to the crowds after the halt and hugging Augustin as if he were a cuddly Shetland pony.

The crowds loved the cheerful Austrian as much as they had her mother 30 years earlier.
Her 75.23% score looked like victory, but one very good horse was still to come, the identically aged Thuringian mare Wakana with Olympic team gold medallist Ulla Salzgeber. This chestnut lady has already won 11 Grand Prix and Special competitions this season and is a very strong second ride following Ulla's top horse Herzruf's Erbe. Wakana continued to show reliable top performances also in Donaueschingen. Her canter tour was really good, especially the settled and slowly executed canter pirouettes. The piaffe lacked the brilliance of Herzruf's, but the passage was powerful and the last one very expressive. Wakana eye-balled Leif Törnblad, watching him in his box with wide open  eyes, while obediently finishing her test. The crowds were amused and applauded Ulla Salzgeber who allowed Wakana to take a look at the supposed „danger“. She pated her reassuringly. The scoreboard showed 71,36% which meant a good third place.

The Grand Prix was over and masses of people streamed to the exit while I waited for the prize giving. All placed riders were mounted, but not all on their own horses. The first two ladies rode different horses probably with reason. Some horses were quite upset by the razzmatazz, but in the end exhaled and jumped into a brisk canter around the arena.

My day at Donaueschingen was over and I headed to my car to tackle the 2,5 hour drive home. Walking back over the jumping show ground, passing the various trade stands, I watched a little boy begging for an autograph of a German jumping rider who bent down from his horse to sign the programme. I had to smile, remembering my first visit in Donaueschingen almost 20 years back, when I asked for an autograph of my heroes.

Good old Donaueschingen, it has nice memories for me, of the past and recent ones.

Text and Photos by Silke Rottermann for Eurodressage.com

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Related Links
Scores 2010 CDI Donaueschingen
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2010 World Equestrian Games