The 2016 Olympic Games in dressage kicked off today, Wednesday 10 August 2016, with the first group of riders contesting the Grand Prix. German Dorothee Schneider and Showtime led the pack by posting a score of 80.986% on the board. German Sönke Rothenberger proved his worth with a provisional second place, while British Fiona Bigwood slots in third so far.
The first dressage day was set in untypical Brazilian weather. Even though it is winter in Rio, the climate is normally quite tropical but today it was chilly with regular drizzle coming down from the overcast sky. No blue skies, sunshine and mountains in the background, but the typical dreary weather brought the spirits down for the majority of the audience, which is Brazilian. The afternoon session had pretty much empty seats aside from pockets with die hard fans from various countries.
Still the sport was great with several beautiful tests produced today at the Deodoro Equestrian Centre in Rio. The panel of judges officiating in the Grand Prix included Peter Holler (GER), Susanne Baarup (DEN), Gary Rockwell (USA), Stephen Clarke (GBR), Maribel Alonso (MEX), Thomas Lang (AUT) and Eddy De Wolff (NED).
Germany on Gold Medal Course
Dorothee Schneider and Gabriele Kippert's 10-year old Hanoverian Showtime (by Sandro Hit x Rotspon) stood out in the field with high quality passage work and tempi changes. The dark bay gelding covered huge ground in the trot extensions, but the horse never truly stretched over the back nor lengthened the frame. The half passes were big. In passage the horse is extremely regular with very nice suspension, the piaffe is quite well on the spot and rhythmical. The extended walk had good overtrack and was clear in the rhythm but in the collected he gets prancy and loses swing over the back. There was a small hesitation in the rhythm in the second piaffe. The lack of stretch in the topl line can be seen throughout. The canter extensions are beautifully uphill but the nose needs to come a bit more out, seeking the contact. The zig zag was super, but in the left pirouette the horse stalled and changed lead. The final centerline was brilliant though. They posted a score of 80.986% getting away well with the big mistake in the pirouette. Their marks ranked from 79.200% to 83.300%.
Germany made it clear that they are on team gold medal course as their second rider of the day, the young 21-year old Sönke Rothenberger, proved to be a safe and solid option for the team on his still temperamental and green 9-year old Dutch warmblood Cosmo (by Van Gogh x Landjonker). The young rider and his bright bay gelding are one of the most exciting pairs on the scene right now with still room for growth. The trot extensions were fabulous, the half passes sweeping, but the rein back crooked. The piaffes were all too much forward, as the horse drops too much in the poll, but the rhythm was nice. There was a slight hesitation in the second piaffe though. The passage was top class. Throughout the contact with the bridle was soft and light, with the horse foaming well, but overall the bay could seek the bit a little bit more. The extended walk was well ridden but gain a bit more overstep. The canter work was very solid, with an uphill, quiet extension, big two tempi changes and super ones. In the zig zag the hindquarters stayed a bit too much behind to the left. The left pirouette was slightly big at the onset, the right one was better but needed more bending. The final centerline was soft and nice with the piaffe well in rhythm but a bit crooked to the right. They scored 77.329% with marks ranging from 76.500% to 80.200%.
Brits in the Chase
The British team is now chasing the German with Fiona Bigwood and her 11-year old Danish warmblood mare Atterupgaards Orthilia (by Gribaldi x Donnerschlag) in third place. The combination has grown much this year with the mare more muscled and more on the spot in the piaffe. She is always light in the contact, but opens the mouth regularly. The trot extensions are super flashy with a front leg flying through the air, but the hind leg is not properly tracking up and not enough ground cover is achieved. The half passes were lovely. The mare had good relaxation in the extended walk but could gain more ground cover. In the collected walk she became totally lateral after C. The passage on the other hand is world class. It's so bouncy, rhythmical and regular. It is elegant and off the ground. In piaffe she still needs to move more off the forehand and onto the hindquarters. She is still a bit too forward, even though the rhythm is good. In the strike off to canter she picked up the wrong lead. The extended canter needed to be more uphill oriented and swinging through the back. The two's were good, but in the ones Orthilia got short. The final centerline stood out with its regularlity and bounce. They scored 77.157% with marks going from 74.700% to 79.200%.
The second British rider of the day, Spencer Wilton on the 13-year old British Hanoverian Super Nova (by De Niro) placed seventh provisionally. While Wilton put in a strong effort, Super Nova did not seem to find his stride in the Deodoro arena. The trot extensions were conservative, the half passes lacked tempo and the rein back did not have enough steps. It felt like Wilton had the handbrake on. The passage was elegant, but the first piaffe early on the marker and the last slightly crooked to the right. The extended walk could use more stretch over the topline, the collected was beautifully ridden and clear in the rhythm. The second piaffe-passage was really lovely. The canter extension appeared safe and the onset of the zig zag was a bit sloppy. A mistake in the one tempi changes certainly pressed the score. More is certainly in the tank and hopefully this can come to expression in the Special. They scored 72.686% with marks ranging between 70.200% and 74.400%.
Gal Leads the Way for Holland
With only one part of the Grand Prix ridden and two tests working for the team championship competition, the provisional team ranking is still very vague. Germany is currently in the lead with an average of 79.157%, followed by The Netherlands with 75.271% and Great Britain with 74.921%. Holland's average score is based on only one results as Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival retired from their ride (more about that later). The Dutch can no longer rely on a scratch score and all riders have to give it their all if they want to grab a team medal. Edward Gal and the 14-year old Dutch warmblood Voice (by De Niro) were Holland's second pair of the day.
The experienced rider and his 2014 WEG team ride Voice had a little bit of an argument going on during their ride. Edward constantly had to half halt and delicately work with his hands to keep the muscled black stallion through on the bit. The stallion had his mouth open almost the entire ride and regularly flashed his tongue lathered in foam. Gal began the test riding very safely with conservative trot extensions. The left half pass was more elastic than the right one. The rein back was good. The first piaffe was nicely on the spot, but the horse hollowed the back. The extended walk had good overtep, but the stallion could stretch more over the back. The collected walk became lateral after C. In the second piaffe Voice had the hind legs out, the second passage was energetic but could have been more regular. The strike off to canter was very messy, first crooked, then in the wrong lead. In the extended canter, Gal asked for power but the horse barely opened the frame and lost swing over the back. The two tempi's were ok, the ones lacked ground cover. Also in the zig zag the hindquarters led to the right. The final centerline was the best piaffe-passage combo of the test. They got 75.271% from the judges with quite unanimous marks from the panel (74-76%).
U.S.A Prove Form
The American dressage team is currently standing in fourth place in the nations' ranking with an average score of 73.957% but they have already proven form. Kasey Perry-Glass and her 13-year old Danish warmblood Gorklintgaards Dublet (by Diamond Hit) were back on top of their game in Rio. After riding a phenomenal test in Compiegne in June, the newcomer Perry could not keep the bar as high in Rotterdam, and seemed to have got stage fright as she did not show up for Aachen. In Rio it was a must-show and fortunately she brought a mix of Compiegne and Rotterdam to the floor.
Alongside Rothenberger and Cosmo, Perry and Dublet are the ones-to-watch this year as rising stars on the Grand Prix firmament. In Rio, Perry and her dark bay gelding showed top trot extensions with much power and bounce, although the first one was slightly tense. The half passes were fluent and well suspended but the rein back was hesitant. The first piaffe - passage was lovely. The extended walk was decent but in the collected the horse paced. In the second passage Dublet was slightly bent to the right but he bounced with regularity like a rubber ball. While Perry does her best to keep a steady, light contact Dublet is quite restless in the mouth and plays peekaboo with his tongue. In the canter work he became more relaxed in the bridle and showed a good zig zag, and lovely two tempi changes. One change in the ones was short. The pirouettes were well ridden and the third trot extension was the best one. Perry topped it off with a strong final centerline. They scored 75.229% with huge fluctations in their scores: 73.100 to 79.200%.
Hawaiian groom-turned-rider Allison Brock and Fritz Kundrun's 14-year old Hanoverian stallion Rosevelt (by Rotspon) tied in seventh place with Brit Spencer Wilton. The chunky dark bay stallion produced big trot extensions but was a bit counter bent in the half pass right. The passage was regular but needed more electricity and engagement from behind. The piaffe was nicely on the spot but the top line could be rounder. The extended walk was very nice and the collected clear in the 4-beat rhythm. The extended canter was uphill, the two tempi changes very straight, but the zig zag appeared laboured. In the ones Rosevelt lacked ground cover. The final centerline was a clean one. They earned 72.686% with scored from 70.400% to 74.800%.
Swedish Juliette Ramel and her 10-year old Dutch warmblood Buriel KH (by Osmium) have also earned their spot amongst the "ones-to-watch". Juliette's sensitive and often high strung bay gelding is a world class horse but needs to mature more in his head to put the really big whopping scores on the board. However, all the assets are there for greatness if he learns to keep his cool.
Today Buriel KH executed huge trot extensions with massive overtrack but all three times he was uneven in stride length in front. The half passes were bouncy, the passage absolutely brilliant with smooth transitions in and out of the piaffe. The piaffe was rhythmical. There was also much quality in the canter work with big tempi changes and an uphill extension, but the left pirouette was quick and the horse lost his balance and self carriage. In the zig zag there could be more ground cover. The horse stayed up in the bridle especially at the start, but the mouth was restless and towards the end of the ride he began running into the bit. The pair scored 74.943% with notes between 72.800 and 77.500%.
Sweden's alternate rider Mads Hendeliowitz and his 12-year old Oldenburg bred Jimmie Choo (by Sandro Hit) experienced their Olympic debut after Therese Nilshagen's Dante Weltino did not pass the reinspection. Jimmie Choo had a good flow in trot and showed a very nice extended walk. The piaffe is quite croup high with a swooshing tail and it crept forward, but the rhythm was good. The extended canter was powerful, the zig zag well ridden. In the one tempi changes the rider swings way too much in the saddle to paint a pretty picture. In the pirouette right the horse dropped on the forehand. The horse had his mouth open almost constantly and did not appear happy in the bridle though. They scored 71.771% for 10th place.
Dose of Drama on Day One
The first day was also filled with a dose of drama as the senior horses in the field both underwhelmed. It unfortunately began with Italian individual Valentina Truppa's Chablis. The 19-year old Danish warmblood barely passed the horse inspection and couldn't present better fitness in the show ring. While Truppa did her best to produce a sweet ride, her sympathetic chestnut gelding was irregular in the trot extensions and failed to use the hind legs in the piaffe. They scored 65.971% with the rider leaving the ring highly emotional.
It was also a very sad and undeserved swan song for Adelinde Cornelissen's 19-year old Parzival. This stellar horse who has had such an impressive medal winning career, was flown across the world for his third Olympics (he was reserve in 2008), but the phoenix did not rise from the ashes. Cornelissen was unable to ride the trot extensions, which were irregular, and her athletic gelding struggled in the half passes. Right before the first passage he tilted his head and began sticking his tongue out (he was also lolling his tongue at the vet inspection on Monday). The piaffe and passage have always been the horse's absolute highlights but there was nothing in the tank today. In the extended walk the rider retired from the test.
In an interview after the ride, Cornelissen stated that her horse had 40.5 ° c fever on Tuesday because of an infected jaw. “It started yesterday morning, I came to the stable and his cheek was completely swollen and it appeared he was bitten by a spider or a mosquito or whatever….he had a fever, so we managed to get that down yesterday, eight or nine hours on liquids and everything was good, his temperature was down again, and this morning also. So I discussed it with the team vet and he said go ahead, give it a try, but then he felt totally empty in the ring, and I didn’t want to push him through this - he didn’t deserve that,” Cornelissen explained.
More Grand Prix Action to Determine GP Special Field
The second group of riders for the Grand Prix go tomorrow, Thursday 11 August 2016. The Grand Prix is the first leg of the team competition. Results from the Grand Prix Special are added to those of the Grand Prix to determine the team medals. The Grand Prix Special is the final team competition and the second individual qualifying competition. The Grand Prix Special is limited to and compulsory for the best six (6) placed teams of the Grand Prix, including those tied for sixth (6th) place, as well as the eight (8) highest placed Athletes of the Grand Prix not otherwise participating as qualified team members, including those tied for eighth (8th) place.
The second part of the Grand Prix begins on Thursday 11 August at 10 AM Rio time.
Text and Photos © Astrid Appels - No Reproduction allowed
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2016 Olympic Games