Photo Report: Past Peak Performance Grand Prix Rides at 2017 European Dressage Championships

Fri, 08/25/2017 - 08:05
2017 European Dressage Championships

The 2017 European Dressage Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, are in full swing with the Grand Prix class and team championships competition concluded. The individual classes - the Grand Prix Special and Kur to Music - will be ridden on Friday and Saturday. A first balance of the quality of riding at this year's competition highlight can be made.

Sixty-five Grand Prix test were ridden, two riders dropped out (Gareth Hughes, Mikaela Lindh) and three were eliminated (one for refusal, one for blood during the test and one for an undisclosed issue at the tack inspection).

While the big Ullevi sports stadium in Gothenburg certainly creates a Championship feel and atmosphere and turns horse sport into a big celebration, the overall feeling at the end of the Grand Prix class was that numerous horses were already past peak performance. Overall it felt that the CDIO Aachen in July was the better competition with many horses at the top of their game there. In Gothenburg, however, numerous riders made faults, some horses looked tender on the legs, and others were just not into the zone. 

The Dutch and British team suffered the most. Edward Gal could not bring his A-game to Sweden on Voice and Madeleine Witte-Vrees made a string of uncharacteristic mistakes on Cennin. Great Britain lost one team horse due to injury. Faurie and Hester performed up to par but Spencer Wilton could not live up to the expectations with a high strung Super Nova cooking over. 

Although not really running for the medals, but the team that impressed the most this year was without a doubt Portugal. All four riders presented beautifully trained horses, soft in the contact with riders sitting quietly in the saddle and not disturbing their horses. Daniel Pinto, Maria Caetano, Boaventura Freire and Vasco Mira Godinho definitely can be proud of their effort. Along with the Russians they probably travelled the farthest (Freire is based in Germany though).

Russian team comer Tatyana Kosterina and her 9-year old Hanoverian mare Diavolessa VA (by Don Frederico x Londonderry) impressed and became her country's strongest scoring rider with a 70.686% and 24th place. The black mare is a very elegant femine looking horse with a lovely piaffe and passage. The young Grand Prix horse still needs to get straighter in the body in the tempi changes and often became behind the vertical, but there is much potential there. Kosterina had been the best scoring Russian this 2017 show season but was sorted as third rider going for her team in Gothenburg.

Russia's Inessa Merkulova was able to execute a more focused test on her brilliant Mister X and she kept her hands more quiet, but overall the horse dropped too much on the forehand and the tempi changes remain a problem. The piaffe-passage was stellar though. The combination finished the ride on 70.714% but they got eliminated at the tack inspection as the horse had blood in the mouth.

Spanish Claudio Castilla Ruiz and the 12-year old PRE stallion Alcaide (by Lobito) caused a small sensation in Aachen, but in Gothenburg the chestnut stallion with his phenomenal suspension and scope in piaffe and passage was not able to reduplicate that performance. The horse was uneven in his stride length in the passage and could not find a smooth rhythm in the piaffe. Such a shame.

Austria's Victoria Max-Theurer who was a force to be reckoned with in the days she rode Augustin, made her Championship come back on Blind Date (by Breitling x Donnerhall). At the 2015 European Championships in Aachen, the liver chestnut mare showed incredible promise and was absolutely one to watch, but in Gothenburg it just did not look right. The mare was long in the frame, uncollected and dropped on the forehand throughout the test. What a pity.

Swiss Charlotte Lenherr made a great impression at the 2017 CDIO Compiegne in France back in May and the combination looked ready for their Championship debut. Unfortunately on a few occasions the 13-year old Swiss bred Darko of De Niro (by De Niro x Gagneur) was distracted and threw his head up.. Half way in the test his foam started to turn red as she must have bit his lip or tongue. Judge Evi Eisenhardt rung the bell for elimination, but Lenherr continued to ride the extended canter and zig zag before realizing what happened.  She looked surprised as her horse's foam was not very clearly red, nor the swipe Eisenhardt took from his mouth, but on photos the red foam can be seen. Very unfortunate for this rider.

The thirty highest scoring riders in the Grand Prix qualified for the Special on Friday when the riders will battle it out for an individual medal. Isabell Werth, Sönke Rothenberger and Cathrine Dufour are the hot favourites.

Text and Photos by Astrid Appels - No reproduction allowed

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Related Link
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2017 European Dressage Championships