Rath and Totilas Snag Grand Prix Special at 2014 CDIO Aachen

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 20:23
2014 World Equestrian Games

Matthias Rath and his 14-year old Dutch warmblood stallion Totilas once again proved that they are a force to be reckoned with, snagging the Grand Prix Special victory at the 2014 CDIO Aachen on Saturday 19 July 2014. In broiling hot temperatures they logged their second Aachen win beating the world's top two horses - Valegro and Damon Hill - once more.

While spectators, horses, riders and judges were puffing and panting on this scorching Saturday, the competition was equally hot as well and absolute joy to watch. No less than four horses were scoring over 80% and were a promise of the excitement in store at the 2014 World Equestrian Games as it is no longer a given which horse will win!

All four of them - Totilas, Valegro, Damon Hill and newcomer Bella Rose -- are stars with incredible strong points and some weaknesses and in the end it seems to come down to personal flavour. At least that is what the scoring revealed as none of the judges fully agreed on the test of the top four horses.

The panel consisted of Stephen Clarke (GBR), Isabelle Judet (FRA), Susan Hoevenaars (AUS), Dietrich Plewa (GER) and Francis Verbeek-van Rooy. Four of them ranked Totilas first, but Hoevenaars saw him second. She preferred Valegro in the top place, while the others scored him between second and fourth place. Damon Hill ranked from second to fourth place and Bella Rose from second to sixth.  The trend to be noticed is that good work rightfully gets rewarded and mistakes are definite deal-breakers, but poorly executed baisc work hardly gets down scored when it comes to the diva's of the sport. While the Special did produce top tests that were finger-licking good, basic issues such as crookedness, open mouths, tight necks with heads going below the vertical, or mediocre overtrack are all brushed aside if the rest is brilliant.

Rath has Totilas (by Gribaldi x Glendale) on excellent form. Their start might have been rocky back in May with irregularities in the trot extensions, but those have gone. Only the strong curb contact and the regular opening mouth were an eye sore in the otherwise beautiful Grand Prix Special test Matthias produced on the black stallion. The trot extensions have much leg flash in front and just enough overtrack, the passage was energetic and expressive but at the start of the test he did hollow the back a bit and the horse held the head high. The extended walk was very nice with good overstep but Totilas was shaking his head and neck and could have stretched more into the contact. The piaffe-passage combination was very light footed with the stallion displaying excellent willingness to work. He was a fraction more active with his left hind leg. The canter half passes were good but the two tempi changes were swaying very much from left to right (still earns him scores from 7.5 to 9!). The one tempi changes were big and uphill but the horse came behind the vertical. The pirouettes were very good, the last extended trot could have  achieved more overtrack (still an average of 7.7). The final centerline showed gorgeous piaffe-passage and seamless transitions but the end halt was bad. The horse stood square, but stretched with the hindlegs (so not balanced) and the head sunk deep almost between the front legs (see photo below). This halt scored one 7, three 8s and even a 9. Totilas scored 84.529% in total with marks ranging from 81.863 (Hoevenaars) to 86.275 (Clarke).

After an atypical fault-festered ride in the Grand Prix, Dujardin and Valegro (by Negro x Gerschwin) had a wake up call and were more sharp in the Special despite the hot weather. They began with a good halt, and a big half pass left. The passage was regular but the hindlegs could move more under the body. At occasions he dragged a bit behind despite the good lift in the front leg. The extended trots were excellent. The extended walk did not have the biggest overtrack but was nicely regular and relaxed. The piaffe-passage combi was lovely with Valegro showing good sit behind but there was a slight loss of impulsion. The canter half pass left was slightly laboured, the two tempi's were scopy, but there was a mistake in the ones (score 5.9) on the diagonal as well as on the centerline (one change in two phases). The pirouettes were wonderful and the final centerline was elegant but the horse slightly stalled in the transition to and from piaffe. The pair scored 83.157% to finish second with 80.588 (Verbeek) as low score and 85.098 (Hoevenaars) as high score.

Helen Langehanenberg also needed to have her horse, the 14-year old Westfalian stallion Damon Hill (by Donnerhall x Rubinstein), more on the ball after mistakes in the Grand Prix. The bubbly stallion, who stands out with his elasticity and bounce, was still not as sharp as a razor. The passage could have been more active behind, the half pass left was not as energetic as usual but the half pass right was great and the extended trots were text book. The liver chestnut stallion does open his mouth a lot despite the soft contact. The extended walk is brilliant, the collected pure in rhythm. In the first piaffe the stallion came a bit on the forehand, the second piaffe was rhythmical but also behind the vertical. The horse was crooked in the body on the passage serpentine. The strike off to canter was hesitant, but Helen had her horse working well in the canter tour. The two and one tempi changes were good with nice ground cover, the pirouette left was superb, the one's on the centerline was slightly laboured but correct. On the final centerline the horse was quite crooked to the left in the passage to prevent him from stalling like in the Grand Prix. Langehanenberg rode him successfully through the transitions and kept him on the aids by bending him more in the body. The pair scored 82.078% with the judges quite in unison, marks ranging from 81.373 (Judet) to 82.745 (Plewa, Verbeek).

The break-out star from the show is without a doubt Isabell Werth and her 10-year old Westfalian mare Bella Rose (by Belissimo M x Cacir AA). Ride after ride the pair is improving and with some extra muscle strength, she will be the one to beat in the future. This promise of absolutely greatness is already sufficient to put scores over 80% on the board. The extended trots and pirouettes are the working points, the piaffe keeps improving. The mare gets hasty and unbalanced in the trot extensions. Even though there is much flash in front she can't generate proper overstep. The trot half passes are to die for. The passage is buoyant but the hind legs could push a bit more from behind. The mare still regularly drops in the poll and can't stay consistently at the vertical. The extended walk was ground covering but the neck could have stretched more. Bella Rose got a bit deep in the first piaffe, the second was active and rhythmical. In the passage the legs were more up than under the body despite the impressive lightfootedness. There was a mistake in the two tempi changes (4.7), the ones were powerful but could be more forward instead of upward. The pirouette left was flat and the pirouette right needed more bending. The final centerline was delightful. Bella Rose earned an 81.471% with her low score being 79.706 (Judet) and her high score 83.627 (Plewa).

The Grand Prix Special test at the 2014 CDIO Aachen heralded the rise of a new star, Bella Rose, and the sad decline of another, Parzival. Adelinde Cornelissen's long legged chestnut gelding has for years been one of the best dressage horses in the world; athletic, powerful, supple and gifted, but what the 17-year old showed in the Special was only a shadow of former greatness. The Dutch warmblood most likely suffered from the hot weather, but it was painful to watch such a bright star lose its spark in the show ring. Parzival has a shaking lower lip and is nodding his head in the trot work, something he's never done before. The entry in canter was lovely but the halt was ridden with the hands. The half pass left was not as scopy and regular, the one to the right better. In passage the horse was crooked in the hindquarters to the right. The extended trots were good with decent overtrack. In the bouncy passage on the left lead the horse got croup high. The extended walk had enough overtrack but the horse has lost quality in the clarity of rhyhtm. The first piaffe totally failed. Parzival began to hop and canter on the spot and couldn't find the the rhythm, the second was again like normal, on the spot, off the ground and rhythmical. The straight tempi changes were correct but not as sparkly and big as before. The balance in the pirouette left could have been batter. In the final passage on the centerline he was crooked and not swinging through the body. The end halt was not square. Cornelissen scored 76.216% and finished seventh. Her marks ranged from 75.000 (Verbeek) to 78.922 (Hoevenaars). Let's hope it was just the weather that caused the horse to look so fatigued and tired.

Text and photos © Astrid Appels / Eurodressage - - NO REPRODUCTION ALLOWED

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.

Related Link
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2014 CDIO Aachen