Dorothee Schneider and Showtime have set in what looks like a German whitewash in the team competition at the 2019 European Dressage Championships in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, on Monday 19 August 2019.
The 2019 Euros kicked off today with the first tranche of riders in the Grand Prix, which serves as team championship class. The second tranche will compete tomorrow, Tuesday 20 August 2019, followed by the team medal ceremony in the late afternoon.
Germany arrived in Rotterdam as the hot favourites for team gold and after all first two riders today, they are in a strong lead with 157.127% points, so far. Germany is followed by Great Britain with 150.668% points and with Sweden right on their heels with 149.690% points. Tomorrow the last two riders will go and the lowest of the four scores will be scratched. Nothing is set in stone yet and Championships are always known for a few jack-in-the-box situations, which makes these events so thrilling to attend.
Beautiful, Harmonious Riding is the Standard and Goal, Germany Leads the Way
The 2012 London Olympic were probably the turning point in modern dressage sport, where it was the beginning of an end of an era of the push and pull riding and the arrival and rewarding of light harmonious, riding. This trend has slowly developed in the sport as judges began to realize and have a eureka moment of what true dressage should look like. The road is long and winding - we are not there yet - but more often are the right riders getting rewarded for beautiful dressage.
Dorothee Schneider and Showtime were members of the German Olympic team in Rio but injuries kept the Hanoverian sidelined since then. This year he made a true stellar come back and at last month's CDIO Aachen he should have at least won two classes. Schneider and Gabriele Kippert's 13-year old Hanoverian (by Sandro Hit x Rotspon) were in command of today's Grand Prix.
The class was judged by a panel of 7 which included Maknami, Eisenhardt, Foy, Judet, Sanders, Baarup and Halsall. They unanimously placed Schneider first with an 80.23"% but their individual marks went from 76.957% to a whopping 83.043%. Schneider rode a beautiful halt at entry, big trot extensions of which the first one was slightly hurried, floaty half passes and the steps in the rein back were diagonal. In the first passage there were two double beats and there was some loss of rhythm in the first piaffe. The extended walk had massive overtrack but the horse looked a bit distracted and was peeking round arena. The second passage could have been a bit snappier but it was still nicely soft footed. The second piaffe had a good rhythm. The two tempi changes were correct but could have flowed more forward, the extended canter was nice, the zig zag neat, the ones lacked some ground cover. The pirouette left was clearly counter bent, the right one better but big. The passage on the final centerline was fabulous!
"Showtime was two years out, but at the beginning of this year we started him again and he’s getting better and better - in his concentration he was very good at the German Championships (in June) and he was very, very good in Aachen (in July) so it’s very emotional for me to have this horse under me again, and to feel how motivated he is," said Schneider. "I’m very happy to be in this team, I’m proud to be here and I’m very happy with my test." Talking about her horse’s performance she said there were “some very, very good parts, and in other parts he was a bit nervous, but altogether I am happy to have this result for the team and to be here and to have a fit horse."
Germany's Jessica von Bredow-Werndl put on a brave face while leaving the arena, but as soon she was out of the main stadium, tears began to flow. She and Beatrice Burchler-Keller's 12-year old Trakehner mare Dalera BB (by Easy Game x Handryk) were in such an upward arc getting better and better each show and it was a dejection that today, when it really mattered, the pieces did not full come together. They pair began with a spectacular trot extension and huge crossing in the half pass to the right, but the mare needed to poo in the half pass to the left and completely went against the leg and lost the rhythm. She broke stalled, then broke into canter and the rider lost her flow. The first passage was crisp and electric with a smooth transition into piaffe. The first piaffe was nicely on the spot but leaning on the forehand. In the extended walk, Dalera achieved two hooves overstep but could have dropped a bit more in the poll. The collected walk was too free and hardly collected. The second piaffe-passage was fluent with effortless transitions. Unfortunately as soon as the canter work starter, the look of effortless was gone. Dalera became rigid in the back which showed in the two tempi changes, canter extensions and the ones that were croup high and with a swooshing tail. Also the pirouette left was laboured. Fortunately, Werndl picked it up again with a very good third trot extensions. They finished on a 76.894% with marks going from 75.435% to 78.370%. This ranked them second provisionally.
With 80.23% and 76.894%, Germany is standing in first place in the nations' ranking.
Hughes and Briolinca Put Brits in Second Place
British Gareth Hughes and his wife Rebecca and Julia Hornig's 13-year old Dutch mare Briolinca (by Trento B x Royal Dance) slotted in third for now on 76.351%. At the CDIO Compiegne in May the combination rode a Grand Prix Special that was finger licking good and today, back in front of a European audience, it was eager awaiting if they could equal that ride. Hughes had a very strong test, but the Compiegne magic was not yet there today. The trot half passes were smooth, though the rhythm in the ones to the left was delicate. The trot extensions had good overtrack but there could even be more swing in the back. The passage was superb. While the first piaffe was not yet entirely secure in the rhythm, the second was lovely and in good balance. Unfortunately the walk was the weak point. There was barely a hoof overstep and the mare did not march through the body. In canter she was very consistent, on the other hand. The canter strides are not the most spectacular and uphill, but she is balanced and secure. The one tempi changes were delightful, the extended canter rather conservative, the pirouettes tiny. Throughout the test the contact with the bridle was very steady and unforced. The mare truly foamed. There was no dry mouth from a too hand held contact, nor excessive foaming from a compressed neck. The mare was accepting and chewing the bit.
“I couldn’t be happier," Hughes said at this evening’s press conference. “She’s had her injuries as well, she’s had a stop-start career at Grand Prix so she’s still quite inexperienced, but we’ve had a good season up to this. She suffers sometimes from nerves, she’s usually not very good at halting or walking, but today she was excellent, she was focused so I just had to point, keep her head up and use my leg when I needed to, and she took care of the rest!”
While Hughes' ride was an example of harmony and effortlessness, team mate Charlotte Fry had her hands full with a very tense Dark Legend. The 11-year old Dutch warmblood gelding (by Zucchero x Tango) initially refused to go into the arena. Team debutant Fry kept her cool though and made the best out of a difficult situation. Out of three halts the long legged black did not halt perfectly once. The horse remained tight as a wire throughout the test and had the mouth open often. Nonetheless they showed half passes that were ground covering and the passage was lovely with much airtime. Unfortunately the piaffe is just not classically correct. While Dark Legend can stay well on the spot and in rhythm, he does not take any weight on the hindlegs, nor move them under the body and crosses the legs. Fry meticulously steered him through the canter work with straight one tempi changes and small pirouettes. The extended canter was powerful and uphill, but the back needed to swing more so that the 3-beat rhythm is maintained in each stride. The judges were very unanimous about this test and all gave them a score in the 74% range, so they finished 6th on 74.317%.
"Lottie did a great job, her first championship and she’s so young, she has nerves of steel….she’s another Charlotte (Dujardin)," team mate Gareth Hughes said of Fry. "She laid down a really good score to start with, and that always gives the second rider confidence. It’s a long day to hang around and wait, it’s a big build-up to going into the arena but we’re in a good position, and now it’s up to the two famous Brits to come out tomorrow and show what they can do!” he pointed out, referring to the remaining two British team members Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester."
Sweden on Bronze Medal Course, but Down to the Wire
After the first day of Grand Prix riding, Sweden is currently in the bronze medal position, but it will be down to the wire tomorrow for bronze with The Netherlands, Denmark, and Portugal all knocking on the door for that step on the podium.
Therese Nilshagen and the Wespe family's 12-year old Oldenburg stallion Dante Weltino (by Danone I x Welt Hit II) landed fourth place today with 75.466%. Their marks ranged between 73.696% and 78.370%. The black stallion has truly come of age this year and is finally mature enough to stay up in the frame with the poll higher than ever before. The first trot extensions had much ground cover but was hurried. The left half pass has more crossing than the right one and in the rein back the horse dragged its feet. The passage was floaty. In the first piaffe there could have been more suspension and the transition out was difficult, but the second was in a better rhythm and with proper lowering of the hindquarters. The extended walk was mediocre, but Dante Weltino made up for that with a spectacular extended canter. The two tempi changes were big, but there was a blip in the final change of the zig zag and a mistake in the one tempi changes. The left pirouette was gorgeous, the right one superb.
I’m not super-happy with my own ride today because I made a very big mistake in the one-tempis," said Nilshagen. “I think I must have done something wrong, and that cost us a lot of points and that’s a pity….but the rest was quite good and I hope that my team-mates will be much better than I was so we’ll see!”
Sweden's second score today came from Antonia Ramel on the 13-year old Dutch warmblood gelding Brother de Jeu (by Voice x Jazz). The tall, sleek black gelding has a very lightfooted passage and is energetic and active from behind throughout the test. The walk is a bit limited and overall the horse is not elastic in the contact, opening his mouth often and not really foaming. The piaffes were nicely on the spot. They scored 74.224% for seventh place.
The Dutch in Pursuit
The home side heroes, the Dutch team, is in pursuit of a team medal and currently standing fourth . Their top rider of the day was Hans Peter Minderhoud on the 11-year old Dutch warmblood stallion Dream Boy (by Vivaldi x Ferro). They scored 75.295% with marks going from 73.804% to 77.391%.
Minderhoud always rides high energy tests with much forward go and bravura. His black stallion has great stamina and even on the final centerline he is still giving it his all. However, in all that exuberance, the flashy stallion becomes hectic and the self carriage throughout is lacking. The pair began with a very nice halt at entry and the trot extensions were expressive. The horse was more supple in the half pass to the right. In the left one the rider lifted the hand high to sustain the bend and balance. The passage were very engaged and expressive, but it was an effort for the horse who showed in his tail swoosh much. The piaffes are well ridden on the spot, but Dream Boy leans a bit on the forehand and gets wide in front. The extended walk had nice overtrack, but in the collected he came close to being lateral. Dream Boy showed uphill tempi changes but the changes to the left are significantly bigger than to the right. The extended canter was powerful and uphill, the one tempi changes were straight, the zig zag ground covering.
Dutch team mate and debutant Anne Meulendijks landed a provisional tenth place on her 14-year old Dutch gelding Avanti (by United x Farrington). The tall bright bay gelding is a wonderful Grand Prix. He's powerful, naturally uphill and has a great work ethic. Two big mistakes on both diagonals with the tempi changes pushed the score down to 71.801%.
The Grand Prix continues tomorrow, Tuesday 20 August 2019, at 9h00.
Text and Photos © Astrid Appels - NO REPRODUCTION ALLOWED
Eurodressage was on the scene photographing all dressage riders in Rotterdam. If you are interested in photos for print or social media, send us an email.
Eurodressage coverage of the 2019 European Dressage Championships