Nieuwenhuis Makes it a Double and Wins Kur Gold at 2016 European Young Riders Championships

Tue, 07/26/2016 - 18:10
2016 European Children Junior Young Riders Championships

Dutch Jeanine Nieuwenhuis made it a double and won her second gold medal of the weekend after topping the board in the Kur to Music finals at the 2016 European Young Riders Championships in Oliva Nova, Spain, on Sunday 24 July 2016. After winning team silver and individual test gold, Nieuwenhuis added kur gold to her tally. Leonie Richter moved into silver medal position and Jil Marielle Becks got bronze.

The final day of competition at the 2016 European Championships was a wonderful one. Set under a bright blue sky and hot 30° + temperatures, the children, junior and young riders freestyle files took place in the morning to prevent exposing the horses to the brutal afternoon heat. The Young Riders Kur to Music was the final class and the heat, the long travel to the south of Spain and four days of competition were starting to take their toll on numerous horses which appeared less sparkling in their final round. More mistakes crept into the tests and it almost turned out to be  a battle of the fittest.

Dutch Jeanine Nieuwenhuis and her powerhouse giant, the 11-year old KWPN gelding TC Athene (by United x Jazz) were still as bubbly as at the start even though a few miscommunications in the transition took place. The highlight of their freestyle ride where the huge, uphill three and four tempi changes on the circle between E and B. The canter half pass left lacked collection and in the extended walk the horse strides wide in front. The music was quite nondescript with a lot of bells ringing in each transition. The pair ended their test with four tempi's on the centerline and a very abrupt halt at the end.

The Young Riders Kur to Music was judged by Francis Verbeek (NED), Clive Halsall (GBR), Katrina Wüst (GER), Freddy Leyman (BEL) and Christoph Umbach (LUX). They gave 81.000% for Nieuwenhuis' freestyle and four judges had her first.

"It went as well as yesterday," said Nieuwenhuis after getting her second gold medal. "I rode at noon, so it was hot. My kur is really difficult and I really had to ride for it. The judges complimented on the fact that I didn't ride on safe mode. This is so indescribably. It's so so cool."

German Leonie Richter, who surprising snatched the bronze in the individual test after her team mates made some mistakes, climbed up on the ladder and ended in silver medal position in the freestyle. Aboard her 10-year old Westfalian Babylon (by Belissimo M x Florestan) she rode to Avatar music. The pair had a good flow and tempo in the trot work showing a very long series of half passes to both sides. Richter kept her chestnut gelding fresh and active, rode clean extensions although the transition down from trot to extended walk was mediocre. The collected walk was good but slow, the extended walk was lovely but could have been more active. Richter did not have any major mistakes and rode strong lines in canter such as tempi changes - pirouette - extended canter combinations. The pair scored 78.675% with marks ranging from 76.875% to 81.375%.

"With this freestyle Leonie had also won Hagen," said German co-team trainer Oliver Oelrich. "Today everything went faultfree and music and movements fitted well together." 

At the end of the show, Richter said, "it was an incredible week in Oliva Nova. Team gold, individual bronze and kur silver. I still can't believe it."

German team mate Jil Marielle Becks and her 8-year old Westfalian gelding Damon's Satelite (by Damon Hill x Rubin Royal) got silver in the individual test and earned bronze in the freestyle. Her gorgeous liver chestnut gelding is a very supple, elegant horse with much lightfootedness in trot. The halt at entry was not entirely balanced and the horse briefly spooked near C. There were many spaghetti lines in trot with combinations of half passes and shoulders in. In the collected walk the rider was able to keep the rhythm clear, the extended walk was huge. One right half pirouette was a bit big, but the canter half passes and extended canter were beautifully uphill. The end halt was a rolling stop. Overall the contact with the bridle was the best in the freestyle, with a quieter hand and a head position more consistently at the vertical. The duo scored 78.425% for bronze with marks  going from 76.375% to 79.625%.

The most sensational ranking was for Swiss Estelle Wettstein on the 8-year old Oldenburg mare West Side Story (by San Amour x Donnerhall). The pair finished fourth with 76.100%. There was no surprise that Wettstein rode to music from the musical West Side Story. Her black mare was always very much up in the bridle even though in canter she got a bit tight in the neck. The horse has a very active canter with a super engaged hindleg but in the tempi changes and extensions she gets croup high being very active from behind but lacking stretch in the ribcage and top line in the straight, lengthened canter work. The pirouettes were very strong, with the horse taking the weight on the hindquarters.

"We never expected that it would work out this well," said Wettstein after her sensational fourth place. "We actually just wanted to get good experiences here because she is still such a young horse."

Anna Lisa Theile and her 10-year old Oldenburg gelding Ducati K (by Damon Hill x Rosenkavalier) completed the top five in the kur to music finals. The pair entered in collected walk, which is one of the horse's weakest points as he easily loses clarity in the rhythm. Theile rode a very focused test with relaxed trot extensions and good crossing of the legs in the half passes. There was a break into canter in the left half pass. The extended walk had two hooves overtrack which is the maximum Ducati seems to achieve. The second collected walk was better in rhythm. The flying changes were confirmed even though one got a bit flat. Theile's freestyle is dominated by piano music with an occasional fun beat in trot, but overall there was very little difference between the trot and canter music. They scored 74.000% for a very decent fifth place.

The 2016 European Children, Junior and Young Riders Championships came to a close with a lovely, concise prize giving ceremony. For 2017 the FEI has not yet received any bids from candidates who want to host the 2017 edition of these Championships.

Photos © Astrid Appels - No reproduction allowed

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Eurodressage coverage of the 2016 European Children, Junior and Young Riders Championships