The 2013 CDI-W 's Hertogenbosch is traditionally the scene for the World Cup Finals but every other year the Finals are allocated to a different venue and Den Bosch serves as final station for the Western European League. This means that the elite Dutch riders gather for a home show alongside several European riders who want to score their last points for the final World Cup ranking.
2012 World Cup Final winner Adelinde Cornelissen has not been saving her 16-year old Dutch warmblood Parzival this indoor season. She has been going full blast, competing at no less than four out of eight qualifiers, winning Odense and Lyon but being beating in Amsterdam by her biggest World Cup rival of the moment, Helen Langehanenberg. At Den Bosch Cornelissen hoped to set the record straight again, but she barely won the Grand Prix with Edward Gal dangerously closing in on her aboard Undercover, which seemed to have reached his best form ever at the top of his capabilities.
The Den Bosch Grand Prix kicked off at 9.30 AM on Friday morning 15 March 2013 with the stands almost empty and the show ring poorly lit compared to the fabulous lighting Den Bosch used to boast in previous years. Cornelissen was the penultimate rider to go round noon and she was expected to be the highlight of the class.
Aboard her long legged, athletic Parzival (by Jazz x Ulft) Cornelissen produced a test without major mistakes but one clearly ridden with the handbrake on. The trot extensions had overtrack but were conservative and safe as the rider was afraid to risk it. In the half passes the rhythm could have been more even, especially to the right, despite the good ground cover and crossing over. Parzival opened his mouth and pulled up his tongue in that movement. The passage and piaffe were both regular but in passage the horse pushed the croup high instead of moving the hind legs under the body towards the centre of gravity. The piaffe was bouncy, well suspended but the first one was slightly forward. In the extended walk Parzival could stretch his neck more and obtain more ground cover. The tempi changes are the horse's forté as usual: super straight, huge in ground cover and uphill all the time. The zig zag was big but the horse opened the frame too much to keep up a good balance. The pirouettes were lovely. On the final centerline the piaffe was so-so, with the hindquarters swaying from left to right and in the final stretch of passage, Cornelissen lost the balance and collection so that a big hiccup arose before the end halt. While it was still a high class test, it certainly wasn't Adelinde's best ride, even though the overall score did not necessarily reflect that. The Dutch judges, who both ranked her second, were on target with their 77 - 79% assessment, the others three judges stuck to routine and scored the test above 80%. The total was 79.979% to place the pair first.
Edward Gal presented the Austrian owned 12-year old Dutch warmblood Undercover (by Ferro x Donnerhall) at the top of its capabilities. The short necked black gelding, which usually is very tense in the topline, was on relaxed form and Gal was able to apply his master skills on the horse, steering him meticulously through the Grand Prix test. The trot extensions were relaxed and though they still do not produce sufficient ground cover to fulfil the criteria of the movement, it looked much better. The half passes were wonderful, floating, good cross over, with the half pass to the right being much better than the one to the left. The horse should have picked up his feet more in the rein back. The first passage was a bit more open in the frame and could have been slightly more active behind but the piaffe was lovely in rhythm and on the spot. The extended walk was ok, but in the collected walk the horse lost the clarity in rhythm in the corner at M and paced before the transition to passage. Undercover was very consistent in the contact, finally with his nose more out for the most part of the test. The tempi changes remain to be a weakpoint. The two's were nice but needed to cover more ground, the ones were already executed on the diagonal 1 m after X. Gal rode the zig zag strategically, not asking to travel much ground in them. In the pirouettes Undercover remains very earthbound, with little lift in the frontquarters but both pirouettes were clean and small. Gal's popularity has not changed since the Totilas-days as the crowds cheered the most when he finished his ride as last to go in the class. Judges Verbeek and Hamoen awarded the test with 78.723% and 79.787%, Wust, Matthiesen and Van Daele were close with their scores, totalling 78.617% to finish second.
I arrived early in Den Bosch on Friday morning to watch some of the warm up. I saw Imke Schellekens-Bartels walk Toots in one of the smaller warm up rings. She would later withdraw her horse from competing because of an allergic reaction. "He has an itchy nose and constantly want to scratch it with his leg," Tineke Bartels explained. "We decided it was best to withdraw." Hans Peter Minderhoud also scratched Tango due to fitness issues. In the main arena, Isabell Werth was having her usual argument with the 12-year old Hanoverian Don Johnson (by Don Frederico x Warkant). The bay gelding is notorious for his fiesty temperament and cheeky behaviour and it is certainly "interesting" to see Isabell train him. It's a 30-minute fight between quarrelling lovers. Isabell asking for total expression and obedience and Don Johnson in his "Terrible Two's" saying no to everything. Riding him in a snaffle with quite a soft contact, but with her arms 20 centimeters above the whithers and her hands at least 20 cm apart from each other, Werth regularly put Johnny's head deep behind the vertical while he bucked, jumped around, reared and leapt before showing a wonderful movement. It is intruiguing to witness this style of riding, which she has developed over the past few years for a few horses, including her rising star Bella Rose. The major difference with some rollkur/hyperflexion riders is that this horse is ridden in a snaffle and not constantly strained in a double bridle (with or without draw reins). Her horse has no gaping mouth, blue tongue nor is he literally man-handled with muscle strength chin to chest. Still Werth's style of training paints a different picture from other riders who strive for lightness and harmony -- also in th warm-up -- to present a friendly image of agreement and partnership overall.
In the Grand Prix test Werth did accomplish her mission though. Don Johnson looked good, elastic, vibrant and expressive, yet his eyes were still beaming with mischief. The trot extensions were very nice though the right front leg reached further than the left. The half passes were huge. The first piaffe and passage were rhythmical and supple. The extended walk was good in ground cover but Don Johnson could have dropped the poll a bit more. The second piaffe and passage were very lightfooted but the piaffe was ridden 2 meters before the marker. The canter work was solid with a strongly ridden zig zag, good two tempi's, correct ones which need to increase in ground cover. Don Johnson doesn't have the prettiest stride in the pirouettes but they were tiny. Werth produced a beautiful test and there was little to argue about her 75.872% score.
Swedish Patrik Kittel and the Dutch owned stallion Scandic (by Solos Carex x Amiral) finished fourth with 75.298%.
The pair rode trot extensions that were world class. The half passes were bouncy but the hindquarters trailed on both sides. The rein back was slightly tense. The first piaffe and passage were rock steady in rhythm though Scandic travelled a bit forward in the piaffe. The extended walk had one to two hooves overtrack, but in the collected the chestnut became tense and lateral. The second piaffe and passage were nice, though the impulsion forward in the piaffe wavered slightly. The tempi changes showed improvement in straightness, but there was a slight miscommunication at the beginning of the zig zag. Both pirouettes were good and the final centerline was neat.
Dutch Stephanie Peters and the 12-year old Dutch warmblood Unlimited (by Jazz x Winckenburg) slotted in fifth with 71.617%. The chestnut gelding did not hide his Jazz roots and was spooky and alert throughout the ride, but especially at the start of the test. Unfortunately the rider therefore held quite a strong contact throughout the test. The half passes were tense but very nice. Overall the passage was beautiful. In the extended walk there was not sufficient stretch forward-downward. The tempi changes were the highlight of the test. The first pirouette was good but the rider lost control over the strides in the one to the right. Peters' 71.617% score will qualify her for the Dutch A-team.
Text and Photos © Astrid Appels - No Reproduction Allowed
Scores 2013 CDI-W 's Hertogenbosch
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2013 World Cup Season