In Dutch there is a proverb which accurately describes the exciting sport and unbelievable competition that occurred in the 2014 CDIO Aachen Grand Prix on Thursday 17 July 2014. When two dogs fight over a bone, an unsuspecting dog will creep up and carry the bone away. This is exactly what happened when Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin and German rival Helen Langehanenberg battled it out for the top two spots in the ranking, but made too many mistakes. Matthias Rath and Totilas benefited from this fault-fest and finished at the top of the leader board.
The 2014 CDIO Aachen 5*-tour had a mini-World Equestrian Games in store with the world's best horses competing against each other in a early season show highlight. After winning the European Championships, Olympic Games and World Cup Finals, Dujardin still has two titles to add to her list to complete the "Quintuple Slam". Still missing are the Aachen Grand Championship and World Champion title which she can both achieve in one month time. Dujardin and her coach Carl Hester have set out to compete in Aachen with this mission but the fight turned out to be more difficult than anticipated.
For Matthias Rath his return to the Aachen show ring was an emotional one since winning the Grand Championship there in 2011. After a long period of injury Totilas has made a successful come back in May 2014 but had not yet faced the biggest titans in the world. Aachen would be the first Battle of the bulge. The 14-year old Dutch stallion started his Grand Prix with a square but slightly stretched halt, followed by a good extended trot and scopy trot half passes. In the left one the hindquarters should have been more parallel. The halt for rein back was not square, the second trot lengthening was good. The first passage was a bit jerky in all its exuberance but a very relaxed and good extended walk followed. The second piaffe slightly travelled forward and the horse bopped his head in the regular, expressive passage. The two tempi changes were ground covering but the horse sways to the right with the hindquarters. The extended canter was lovely but Rath started the collection too early. One change in the one tempi's was short behind (left leg). The final trot extension was expressive with just enough overtrack and the final centerline was accurate and energetic.
The Aachen judges panel boasts experience and it resulted in mostly uncontroversial and quite accurate judging. O-judges Dietrich Plewa (GER), Isabelle Judet (FRA), Francis Verbeek-van Rooy (NED), Stephen Clarke (GBR) anf Susan Hoevenaars (AUS) awarded Rath an 82.300% with 80.600 (Judet) as low score and 84.00 (Clarke) as high score.
Helen Langehanenberg has spared her horse this spring show season, keeping him home from two important German WEG observation trials, and returned to the ring in Aachen. The 14-year old Westfalian stallion (by Donnerhall x Rubinstein) excelled in his usual strongpoints: his super supple and bouncy passage, the half passes, trot extensions and phenomenal extended walk, but in the Grand Prix he opened his mouth much more than usual, despite the soft contact, and in the second piaffe he came a bit on the forehand. The horse lost the impulsion before the strike off to canter. The two tempi changes were good, the zig zag well ridden but in the ones the horse got deep and the changes to the left were shorter than to the right. The pirouettes were small, the last extended trot superb. On the final centerline a major booboo happened as Damon Hill completely stalled in the final bit of passage, anticipating the halt. Helen had to spur him forwards and then the end halt was so so as well.
On the running score board Helen and Damon Hill were well in the lead, ahead of Totilas, until that final bit in their test which twice put a 3.9 on the board and made their score plummet. They finished on second place with 80.980% with marks ranging from 78.600 (Hoevenaars) to 83.000 (Clarke).
Charlotte Dujardin was the last big gun to go into the arena and her test began at the pair's usual world class level with brilliant trot extensions, super balanced, lightfooted half passes. The first passage was soft and velvety, the piaffe had good sit but was a tiny bit forward. The extended walk could have more overtrack. In the second passage Valegro started to drag his hindlegs a bit and could have been more engaged from behind. Up to the canter, Dujardin was far in the lead but in the canter work the train wreck started. There was a mistake in the two tempi changes, one change seemed early in the zig zag, two big mistakes in the one tempi's followed, the horse tripped in the pirouette left, ran out of steam in the pirouette right and failed in the transition from canter to trot. The final centerline was nice but the damage had been done. Dujardin still finished on 76.900 and a sixth place despite the pile-up of mistakes.
Dujardin's atypical performance left room for two other top combinations to move to the front of the class. Dutch Adelinde Cornelissen and her 17-year old Dutch warmblood Parzival (by Jazz x Ulft) moved into third place with 80.980% and her marks ranged from 78.600 (Hoevenaars) to 83.000 (Clarke). The long legged chestnut has big trot extensions but is hard in the mouth in them and could move the hindlegs more under. The piaffes were on the spot. The half passes were nice, but the right one was less supple. Parzival appeared overall more relaxed in the ring, despite his shaking lower lip. In passage as well as in the transitions from piaffe and passage the hindlegs moved out a bit. In the extended walk the overtrack could improve even more despite good relaxation. The collected walk was well ridden. In the second piaffe, Parzival showed more hindleg activity with his right hind leg. The tempi changes were outstanding. The right pirouette was the better one of the two. The final centerline was good.
Isabell Werth and the new love of her life, 10-year old Westfalian mare Bella Rose (by Belissimo M x Cacir AA),will be a top three force to reckon with once Isabell can avoid mistakes. The long legged chestnut mare is of exceptional quality and already scores 79.580% despite a string of issues in her test. The mare has a fantastic, far reaching front leg but does not generate decent overtrack in any of the trot extensions. The half passes were superb but in the second extension the mare lost the regularity in the rhythm. The passage is lightfooted and bouncy, the piaffe has an amazing rhythm despite a lack of sit in the hindquarters. The extended walk was well ridden but the mare should achieve more overstep. The second piaffe-passage was super elegant. A mistake crept into the two tempi changes and the extended canter was lovely. In the zig zag the changes to the right were better and bigger. The one tempi changes lacked ground cover and were already finished 5 meters after X on the diagonal. The pirouette left was tiny, the right one not so convincing. In the third extension the mare made another mistake in the rhythm. The final centerline was great.
The Grand Prix Special is scheduled for Saturday 19 July and it will certainly be a highlight class in which Dujardin and Langehanenberg will be seeking revenge and Werth an improvement to her perfomance! The action will be sizzling, literally, in forecast 35° temperatures!
Text and Photos © Astrid Appels / Eurodressage - - NO REPRODUCTION ALLOWED (NO FACEBOOK!! If you want to use the photo, buy it)
Eurodressage's Astrid Appels was on the scene taking photos of all CDIO Riders in Aachen. Contact us if you are interested in photo prints, collages or albums.
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2014 CDIO Aachen