Charlotte Dujardin made sure that her being beaten by Jessica von Bredow-Werndl was just a one-time thing at the 2021 CDI 4* Hagen. Riding with gusto in the pilot project Grand Prix Special to Music, the British Olympian secured the victory in this "special" class on Saturday evening 24 April 2021.
Sports Edition with Tokyo Test
The 2021 Horses and Dreams at Hof Kasselmann was named a "sports edition" as the show was stripped down to an "essential" version: no spectators allowed, no trade fair, and a slightly trimmed show jumping programme.
The field of competitors was stellar as always and this year not only the German, Swedish and Danish elite gathered, but also Britain's best came to Germany as COVID-19 stripped the FEI show calendar from a plethora of show options. The CDI's that are left standing on the calendar are now highly sought after and show organizers fill the starters' field with great ease. And of course, everyone wants to compete at the impeccably run Hof Kasselmann in Hagen
Special to Music
Hagen also staged the first "Grand Prix Special to Music" on European soil. Riders now have the options to bring custom made music for the Special as this will be required at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Those who do not bring their own music, will get a background tune chosen by the music engineer behind the scenes.
Fifteen riders competed in the Hagen Grand Prix Special to Music and with some it was very clear they brought their own soundtrack. With others it was not clear if this was standard background music or their own choice. Several pairs gave it their best effort and brought wonderfully produced background music. Especially Victoria Max-Theurer, Benjamin and Jessica Werndl and Carl Hester presented very well fitting music. Charlotte Fry rode to a Robbie Williams' soundtrack that came across as quite loud and more fitting for a stallion show than a dressage competition.
Dujardin vs Von Bredow-Werndl
It must be said, double Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin is no longer used to "not winning". In Great Britain she consistently sweeps the board at every single national and international show and only rarely does she face the world's best for a duel on the European mainland. The last time she placed second with her top horse, Mount St. John Freestyle, was at the 2020 CDI-W Amsterdam. There she was beaten by Werth on Weihegold.
In Hagen, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and her top mare Dalera BB rose like cream to the top in the Grand Prix and referred the Briton to a second place, but only with a fraction of a point more (81.652% Werndl - 81.457% Dujardin). Just like Isabell Werth, Charlotte Dujardin can never be ruled out. These two riders have that exceptional fighter mentality and rarely (maybe never truly) cave to the pressure, befitting a real competitive athlete. Charlotte certainly gave it her all in the Special and persevered.
Charlotte and the 12-year old Hanoverian mare Mount St. John Freestyle (by Fidermark x Donnerhall) started their ride with a big trot extension that showcased the mare's incredible freedom in the shoulder. The half pass to the left did not really flow in the rhythm and the first passage was not regular behind, with more hind leg activity, but the regularity improved after the second trot extension. The mare produced a very nice extended walk, with good overtrack and a nice v-moment in the rhythm. In the collected walk the anticipation for the piaffe showed in the trembling lower lip. Also in the beginning of the test the mouth was not very quiet. An excessive amount of foam on her lips can not mask the restlessness in her mouth. The first piaffe was really well ridden though. She sat well behind and stayed on the spot. The second piaffe was not as secure and she leaned on the shoulders. The canter tour was strongly ridden with very even half passes, good two tempi changes and superb single tempi. The extended canter could have been a bit more elastic in the back and there was a slight loss of balance in the exit from the left pirouette. The line of 9 one tempi changes on the centerline was outstanding. The canter became almost four beat before the right pirouette, but Charlotte rode that pirouette very cleverly. Freestyle bubbles with energy and never seems to tire in the test. She was still going full throttle on the final line. Even though the last bit of passage had her swaying more to the left, the piaffe at X at a good rhythm. Dujardin wrapped up a very strong ride that raises promise for the Olympics in the summer!
The judges panel, consisting of Sanders-Van Gansewinkel, Eisenhardt, Ebert, Tissot and Foy, scored the test 82.872% but they were not unanimous. Sanders-Van Gansewinkel and Tissot clearly tipped the balance in favour of Dujardin with their two 85% scores, while the other three judges had them solidly at 80-81%.
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl rode her best test so far in the Grand Prix Special to music. While Freestyle stands out with her power, expression and energy, Werndl's 14-year old Trakehner mare Dalera (by Easy Game x Handryk) excels with her elegance, ligthfootedness and ease. The pair made the test look like a piece of cake, riding seamlessly through the movements, virtually without a drop of sweat shed.
Supported by clever music with violins and castanets, the pair showcased wonderful trot extensions, a very lightfooted, regular and springy passage. The entire trot-passage tour was outstanding. Dalera was nicely relaxed in the extended walk with good overtrack, but maybe there could have been more v-moment in the rhythm. In the collected walk, however, she became lateral before the piaffe. The first piaffe was on the spot with good lowering of the haunches. The second piaffe travelled a bit forward and the croup needed to lower more. There was a booboo in the canter strike off. The canter work was outstanding: good two tempi changes that were ridden quite conservatively, superb ones, a solid extension. The victory was lost in the line of 9 one tempi's were the first two didn't come through. The pirouettes were good and the final centerline was exceptional.
The pair scored 82.553% for second place. Three judges had her first, one second and one third. Her marks ranged from 81.064% to 84.681%.
Work in Progress
The world number one, Isabell Werth, left her two top horses Bella Rose and Weihegold at home and brought rising star Quantaz (by Quaterback x Hohenstein) to Hagen. The 11-year old DSP stallion was bought by Werth's sponsor Madeleine Winter-Schulze from Sissy Max-Theurer, who had originally acquired it for her daughter Victoria, but Werth showed keen interest in the stallion and secured it for herself.
Werth rode to very dramatic, filmic music which featured the theme song of Game of Thrones. Young Quantaz is in his second year at international Grand Prix but still a work in progress. The talent and potential are there, but it's still rough on the edges. He tilted in the half pass left and in passage he stayed croup high and hollow in the back. The transition from passage to walk was via a halt. The young stallion was clearly impressed by his surroundings and the energy of the show; he did not fully relax in the extended walk, nor achieve overstep. While for some riders see Hagen as one of the high points of their competition career, for Isabell it's a "schooling" show. It was very interesting to see her masterly skill how she, in fact, trained her horse in this test and patted him regularly for good moments. In the piaffe the rhythm was ok, but he leaned on the shoulders, not really taking the weight behind. The passage in between the piaffes was really nice. The tempi changes were all correct, but very laboured with the rider swinging in the saddle. The right pirouette was the best one of the two. The final piaffe at X was well ridden on the marker. Quantaz has plenty of talent, but Isabell is still chiselling away.
The judges were unanimous and ranked them third with a generous 80.340%. The mark at C, 78.404%, was probably the more realistic one for what was shown in the test.
Benjamin Werndl and the 17-year old Westfalian gelding Daily Mirror (by Damon Hill x Florestan) could easily have finished on a higher score than 76.468% and a fourth place.
Werndl rode to very well composed, bombastic orchestral music with a lot of drums and violins, that fit Daily Mirror perfectly. Flora Keller's black gelding showed nice trot extensions, smooth half passes and overall a wonderful trot-passage tour. The extended walk had huge overstep. The first piaffe was a bit laboured but OK in the rhythm, the second ridden after the marker but good in rhythm. The passage lost a bit of engagement. The flying change in between the canter half passes was a bit sloppy. The one tempi changes were super, the extended canter had good uphill strides and the pirouettes were very nice, but both quite big. Benjamin rode ahead of his music towards the end of the test, but overall it was a very strong ride.
British Charlotte Fry and her 2018 World Young Champion "Glamourdale" made their international Grand Prix show debut in Hagen with a bang ! The 10-year old KWPN stallion by Lord Leatherdale x Negro is definitely one to watch for the future and will potentially put Great Britain in the running for team medals at the Olympics.
It is impressive to see how the petite Lottie Fry steers this massive, powerful breeding stallion with so much power through the test. Her Robin Williams arranged music underlined that power and dynamic, but was a bit too "stallion show" like. Glamourdale pumped out big trot extensions with a lot of show in front and shoulder freedom, but not real overtrack. The left half pass was huge, but he ran away a bit. The passage was strong and springy. Fry rode the trot-passage tour with a lot of forward energy. The extended walk had two hooves overstep, but was tense. There was no real relaxation and elasticity in the back. The first piaffe was the best one, the second one was on the forehand. The tempi changes are impressive: so ground covering and uphill, but also a bit hectic. The extended canter was outstanding. The pirouettes show that Glamourdale can really collect but the balance was lost in the exit of both. At the end of the last extended trot he broke into canter. The stallion was still full of energy in the final passage, although he swung a bit more with the hindquarters.
They placed fifth with 76.404%.
Best of the Rest
The Grand Prix Special to Music featured a star-filled field and there were so many more interesting tests to be seen.
Danish Carina Cassoe Kruth and her 10-year old Danish mare Heiline's Danciera (by Furstenball x De Niro) truly needed that one year delay of the Olympics as last year she was the shooting star in Denmark, but looked green and was not always consistent. In Hagen, she really showed more maturity with exceptional passage work (so lightfooted and regular) and super walk and trot extensions. The problem point is the piaffe in which she drops on the forehand and crosses behind, almost stepping on her own coronet bands. Also in canter, she became too tight in the neck and lowered the poll. Her tempi changes have plenty of potential though. They scored 75.787% for 6th place.
Austrian Victoria Max-Theurer and the 11-year old Wesfalian gelding Abegglen (by Ampere x Carabas) stood out with springy and quick passage work, a very good right half pass, and a wonderful first and third piaffe. The dark bay did not achieve much overstep in the trot extensions and also in the walk extension there was no real relaxation. Victoria was working quite a lot in the bridle, which made him tight in the neck in the tempi changes, even though they are big and ground covering. The pirouettes were lovely. Max-Theurer's wonderfully composed piano music supported the horse in a very clever way. They scored 75.021% for seventh place.
Text by Astrid Appels - Photos © Petra Kerschbaum / LL-foto
Scores: 2021 CDI Hagen
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