The young riders team championship test became a thriller in the truest sense of the word as Germany and Holland battled it out for team gold in scorching hot temperatures at the 2015 European Young Riders Championships in Vidauban, France on Thursday 2 July 2015. With 67 riders competing, the team test was split into two groups and it wasn't until the final rider for Germany had gone until the final podium places were decided.
After the first day of competition Germany was in a strong lead with Claire Louise Averkorn on the 11-year old Condio B (by Contendro x Willem's As) taking the overnight lead with 72.368%. Averkorn had her gelding nicely at the vertical, rode a very clean trot tour, struggled with a lateral collected walk, but redeemed that with an nice extended walk, to round off a strong canter tour in which only the tempi changes every four strides lacked suppleness. Vivien Niemann and the 9-year old Hanoverian Don Vertino (by Don Frederico x Weltmeyer) became Germany's scratch score with a very proper 71.500% of which most riders can only dream of.
The pressure was full on the shoulders of Germany's Thursday starters Anna Christina Abbelen and Bianca Nowag. As the 2014 European Junior Riders Champion and having made a flawless transition to Young Riders' level, Abbelen was a favourite for one of the top spots. She rode a very strong test on her 10-year old Hanoverian Furst on Tour (by Furst Heinrich x Rubioso N). The black gelding produced smooth trot work in which the extensions were expressive. He lost some suppleness in the volte right and on occasion the head came a bit high for a fraction of a second. A small hesitation in the flying change in between the canter half passes were the only remark in the otherwise strong canter tour, in which Furst on Tour showed off his great shoulder freedom and straightness in the tempi changes. Overall the horse could develop a bit more sit in the canter pirouettes but the test was a pleasure to watch. They scored 73.789% with the judges' marks ranging from 71.447% to 76.579%.
The two Dutch riders contesting the team test on Wednesday had scored the exact same mark: 70.789%. Routinier Jeanine Nieuwenhuis and her 9-year old Baldacci (by Havidoff x Rubiquil) had a minor hiccup in the trot extension whereas the rest of the trot work showed good flow. The rider regularly moved her left hand toward her knee to keep the horse through, but in general Baldacci should have had the nose a bit more out. The walk could have been more ground covering, but the tempi changes were all correct. Jeanine Nekeman and her 13-year old Vlingh (b Flemmingh x Donnerschlag) were not on seasonal best form that day. Jeanine kept her horse in a nice frame with the nose out but the gelding struggled with the regularity in the trot, especially in both lengthenings. Also in walk the lightfooted mover could have generated more overstep. While the tempi changes were all correctly executed, the horse dropped on the forehand in the canter pirouette left and could have been a bit more supple over the back in the extended canter.
To find a golden lining, Holland had reserved its two best riders for Thursday and Denise Nekeman quickly set the tone with a very powerful test in which her little powerhouse machine, Boston (by Johnson x Quattro), shone brightly. The dark bay stallion is naturally up in the bridle and has a real Ferrari engine behind. The trot work was very energetic, expressive and supple. The collected walk was well ridden, the extended walk had good overtrack. There was a mistake in the four tempi's though, and in the pirouettes the stallion tends to double beat behind while turning instead of keeping the canter rhythm in the hind legs. Overall, Nekeman and Boston produced a very nice test, but the horse should be slightly more open in the throatlatch. They scored 73.816% to finish third.
Holland put the pressure really on when Dana van Lierop clocked the winning ride aboard Jochen Arl's Oldenburg mare Equestricons Walkure (by Romanov x Donnerschwee). Van Lierop is the 2012 European Junior Riders Champion and three years later she has finally returned to international competition with a top horse. The elegant bay mare has a fantastic, scopey front leg but today in trot she lost the regularity in the rhythm on both voltes. The half passes showed major cross over, though, and were well balanced. The collected walk did not show enough collection, which led to a loss of impulsion in the left walk pirouette. The extended walk was outstanding and the mare showed the coveted "V" in her stride. Van Lierop professionally steered Walkure through the canter work but the left pirouette proved a challenge as Walkure lost her balance and turned too quickly. The tempi changes were all uphill and straight. The judges rewarded that ride with 76.500% to win the class.
The Dutch team had generated a total score of 221.105 points and it was up to Bianca Nowag to save Germany's bacon if it wanted to return home with gold. The pressure was certainly on and Nowag, who had beaten Jill Mareille Becks and Damon Hill in May, were certainly able to produce 75% scoring tests. The rider fulfilled all expectations. Aboard her 11-year old Westfalian mare Fair Play RB (by Fidermark x Brentano II) she rode a very conservative but accurate round. Their trot work, in which the extensions could have shown more power, brought the score to a 73%. The excellent extended walk made the score climb to 74% and with a faultfree and very impressive canter tour, in which Fair Play outclassed all other horses with her fantastic hind leg usage and sweeping flying changes, the end result was 75.263%. It landed her second in the team test but it brought Germany's team total to 221.420 points, good for gold.
The Swedish team wrote history by capturing a spot on the podium for the first time in fourteen years. The last time the Swedes landed on the podium was at the European YR Championships in 2001. Swedish star rider was Marina Mattsson, who has the clear advantage that she is already a seasoned, professional dressage rider amongst a majority of amateur riders with only one horse to ride. Aboard the 12-year old Swedish warmblood stallion Double Diamond II (by Don Primero x Romadour II), Mattsson executed good trot extensions and half passes but the transition between each movement could have been more flowing. There was a small hesitation in one walk pirouette but the extended walk was massive. The tempi changes were all correct, but the stallion should show more uphill tendency in them. The pair scored 73.579% to finish fifth.
Exceeding the expectations were Alva Lander and the 13-year old Danish bred Herbie Hancock Graftebjerg (by Hertug x Michellino). The not-so-modern looking bright bay gelding probably has the best motor of all competing horses. His trot extensions were jaw-dropping. The horse engages from behind as if powered by a jet engine and covers so much ground with amazing freedom in the shoulder. His extensions remind us of those Nadine Capellmann's Elvis used to score 10s for. His trot has so much cadence. The walk work was solid and in canter he remained consistent though the judges were divided in their marks for the tempi changes (5 - 7). Lander finished eight with 71.421%. Sweden's third contributing score came from the British based Victoria Appleyard on 13-year old black Sir Willy (by Sir Oldenburg x Carprilli) who finished 14th with 70.026%.
More photos coming soon!
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Eurodressage's Astrid Appels took photos of all riders competing in Vidauban. If you are interested in photos, contact us by email with your name and the name of the horse
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2015 European Junior/Young Riders Championships