The 2024 CDI Hagen - The June Edition - Brings Zepter Back and American Fire to the Floor

Sat, 06/08/2024 - 21:11
2024 CDI Hagen
Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Blue Hors Zepter at the 2024 CDI Hagen - the June Edition :: Photo © Astrid Appels

- Text © Eurodressage (this article expresses Eurodressage's' eye-witness account and opinion about the competition)

Although a rather late entry into FEI calendar, the 2024 CDI Hagen on 6 - 9 June 2024 became an all-important competition in the race for Olympic team selection. While the gaze of the Germans turned to their national championships in Balve scheduled on the same dates, Hagen proved that dressage sport is not just about the Germans.

The June Edition where Olympic Tension was Felt

The big tour at the CDI Hagen - the June edition, as we call it - corralled riders from 16 (!) different nations and brought 49 at the starting line. This meant that the class  had to be split up over two days as judges are only allowed to judge 40 pairs per day. 

For the first time this 2024 outdoor show season, the weather was not grimly grey and wet but there was actually sunshine spilling over the beautiful property of the Kasselmann family. This made the show very pleasant.

The American horde in Hagen
A horde of Americans has landed in Europe, not for the 80th anniversary of D-day in Normandy, but for a sportive D-day of the sorts. The U.S. Short Listed riders went head-to-head for the first time (out of two) before the U.S. Olympic team is announced. Other countries, such as Finland, Australia, Portugal, and even Sweden sent riders over to produce scores that will put them amongst three potential candidates for their country's Paris team.

The U.S. presence was much felt with 8 short listed riders and 3 on their own expense (Seidel, Holzer, Dutta) good for 13 rides out of 49. By the way, an interesting side note is that 6 of the 8 short-listed U.S. horses were bought ready Grand Prix in Europe, only two were produced from young horse level to Grand Prix. Their cheering for their own is legendary and fun, boosting the atmosphere, and generating a tangibility of the importance of this show.

Realistic Judging, for the Most Part, Reveals Neck-to-Neck Race

East and West coast riders met for the first time and were no longer battling it out in their own bubble. Here on European soil judging is often a bit less generous with more riders to compare. Especially on Thursday in the Grand Prix the experienced panel produced scores that felt realistic and correct, for most rides...

Early Friday morning warm-up for the second group of GP riders
The judges panel (Maarten Van der Heijden, Kurt Christensen, Monique Peutz, Carlos Lopes, and Alice Schwab) were mostly on point. Six Americans scored 70% or higher with 72.869 as the "team" high score (Steffen Peters) while Lyle, Ots, Buffini (and the not short-listed) Holzer were all within 71.9 and 71.4% of each other.

Finnish Henri Ruoste has two horses in the running, Quentano and the higher scoring Tiffany's Diamond, but she still lacks on MER. Swedish Sofie Lexner is chasing points and seemingly battling it out against Maria von Essen on Invoice, although team routinier Juliette Ramel is also given a chance with 18-year old Buriel KH (they have only one score this year, 71.630% in Compiegne) as she will be on the Swedish nations cup team in Rotterdam alongside Von Essen.

Also for Portugal team selection is coming to a close. Maria Caetano and Hit Plus found solid form (Las Cadenas, Le Mans) and Rita Ralao has also been scoring in the 71 -73% bracket, but that third spot seems wide open between Joao Moreira, Nuno Palma e Santos, and Joao Torrao.

For Australia only Simone Pearce and Jayden Brown are producing consistent scores round 70%. For the third spot there is Matthew William, Jessica Dertell and Mary Hanna with Lyndal Oatley having dropped out.

Scandinavian One-Two-Four

The prize giving ceremony
While Hagen felt all about the Americans it was a Scandinavian one-two at the top of the leadboard. 

Danish Nanna Skodborg Merrald made her awaited return with the 16-year old Oldenburg Blue Hors Zepter (by Zack x Wolkentanz II) who has not shown this 2024 season yet due to injury. He made his come back in Hagen and turned it into a winning one with a whopping and very generous 78.739%.  The tall chestnut easily slipped back into his routine and show cased his lovely piaffe-passage work, straight tempi changes, and good pirouettes, but overall the trot part looked tired and none of the trot extensions were correctly executed (yet judges rewarded all three of them with 7.0). The extended walk was very nice and the mouth more closed. In the final passage after X he ran out of steam and lost impulsion (6.0 - 8.0!). Their total score sufficed for Nanna to pull Zepter immediately out of the Special. When Eurodressage asked if one score is sufficient for Danish Olympic team selection, team captain Anne-Mette Binder explained that "in principle all eight Danish riders from our OG potential group are selectable with their qualified horses up until our final selection on the 8th of July."

Patrik Kittel on Jovian
Swedish Patrik Kittel rode his fourth show aboard Andreas Helgstrand and Cathrine Rasmussen's 10-year old KWPN stallion Jovian (by Apache x Tango) and was rewarded with another 74.783%. As last starter to go on Thursday he was put in the most favourable starting position. The dark bay stallion brings his troupe of fans to the sidelines, who gasp as they see the stallion do the extended trot. He also has huge ground cover in the half passes, but they are ridden in medium trot instead of collected trot. Kittel rides the piaffes with more patience and fine-tuning than Jovian's previous rider, but for the horse to unlearn the wrong way he was trained the piaffe is a task that needs a couple more years. For now he does the handstand: leaning on the forehand and bopping the hind legs up. The first passage was no passage but a slowed down trot. The extended walk was nice, the two tempi changes swung too much in the hindquarters, the extended canter was powerful, the pirouettes small and sitting, but the flying change at X forced. The zig zag very laboured and crooked. Plenty of highlights, but several points where he lost points. 

Ruoste patting Tiffanys Diamond
Finnish Henri Ruoste place fourth on his own and Victoria Schonhofen's 12-year old Danish warmblood mare Tiffanys Diamond (by Temptation x His Highness). The pair only did its second international Grand Prix after their debut at the non-MER Aachen Dressage Days in May (72.391%). The mare is not yet experienced at Grand Prix and it shows as the passage is not very well carried yet but shows plenty of expression and promise. The piaffe is on the spot with lots of lift in the legs, but she relies heavily on the rider. The trot extensions and half passes were big, the extended walk and small pirouettes well ridden. They scored 72.239% and got their first MER score before the June 25 deadline.

The American Horde

And then there was the American invasion. 

Steffen Peter on Suppenkasper
The highest placed rider was 2021 Olympic pair Steffen Peters and Akiko Yamazaki's 16-year old KWPN gelding Suppenkasper (by Spielberg x Krack C), who finished third with 72.69%. The rider rode his horse with a lot of patience and finesse and carefully waited for his horse to execute the movements. It was clever riding from his part as Suppenkasper has a very expressive piaffe-passage from the side view but in front you notice that the horse struggles with the balance by going wide in front and dropping in the poll. The extended trots and tempi changes were well ridden, the flying change after the extended canter was crooked and the collected walk was rather slow. The pirouettes were a highlight.

The second best American was Adrienne Lyle in fifth place aboard Zen Elite's 12-year old KWPN gelding Helix (by Apache x Jazz) with 71.956%. With this pair the judges ranged 5% individually (69.891% up to 74.348%). The liver chestnut Helix is a very talented horse, but gets too tight in the neck throughout the test. At the start of the ride, Lyle regularly gave him the reins to open the throat latch, but half way through the test the neck got tighter again, especially on the final centerline, and the half-halting need to be more subtle. There were plenty of highlights in the ride: the passage can be lovely and he stays well on the spot in piaffe but is not so secure in the rhythm yet. The extended walk put 6.5-7 on the board, the collected walk was rather short and slow. The two tempi changes were big and the extended canter uphill. A mistake in the ones happened, but the pirouettes were small. 

Adrienne Lyle on Helix
Lyle brought two horses to Europe, her second being Zen Elite's 13-year old Belgian warmblood gelding Lars van de Hoenderheide (by Negro x Layout). Lars was Lyle's first ride on Thursday, but they could not present the right form. The half pass right was not regular, the left one better but the horse tossed his head. The trot extension was good, but he was uneven behind in the first passage. the piaffe was nice. The extended walk had two hooves overtrack, but the nose could have come more out, the collected was not crisp regular in the 4-beat. She lost the rhythm again in the second passage and when mistakes happened on the two-tempi diagonal she stopped at X and excused herself from the rest of the ride. Does this leave Lyle only with one horse in the running for team selection? It seemed a big decision at that point. 

The third best ranked American rider was Endel Ots on Zen Elite's 14-year old Westfalian gelding Bohemian (by Bordeaux x Samarant). For Ots its his first ever season at Grand Prix level, for Bohemian it's his seventh at international GP level. The Wellingtonian rode the gelding in a very measured way: careful, precise and quiet, never over-asking or over-pushing the horse as he looked a bit fragile if more would be demanded. The hindlegs trailed a bit in the half pass right. The passage was nie and lightfooted, the piaffe on the spot but with the left hindleg he backstepped a bit. The horse was often slightly flexed to the right in the pi-pa work. In the extended walk there was barely any overtrack (5 - 7). The tempi changes were clean, the zig zag correct but dropped in the poll. The right pirouette was the better one as there was a double beat behind in the left one. The entire test was clean and correct, but not really sparkling. Nevertheless it was more than mission accomplished for the duo who had to prove reliability and consistency in scoring over 70%. He finished sixth with 71.891%

Anna Buffini on Fiontini
Anna Buffini and her own 14-year old Danish warmblood mare Fiontini (by Fassbinder x Romanov) were seventh with 71.783%. They showed a very nice first trot extension, but in the half pass right the hindlegs trailer and the contact was strong. The left one was better. The first pi-pa was nice but  she gaped. The extended walk was very good, but in the collected she got tight in the back. The tempi changes were straight, the zig zag good but a bit laboured in the exit. The left pirouette was the best one. The pair is certainly promising but it would be nice to see her in a lighter contact.

More Interesting American Rides

All American rides were interesting to watch. The non-short listed Ashley Holzer ended up scoring higher than three other short listed riders. Her young Grand Prix horse Hansel, an 11-year old KWPN gelding by Don Olymbrio x Metall, was very spooky and tense during the 2024 Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, but here in Hagen he surprised with a focused ride. The horse excels in the piaffe-passage work with a very regular and secure rhythm. The collected walk was short (no instep), the tempi changes straight, the pirouettes small. The extended trots were problematic as Hansel moves his legs up (the Dutch way) instead of lengthening the stride and frame. Overall the contact could also be lighter so the horse can learn to move in more self carriage. They scored 71.456% to rank 8th.

Katherine Bateson on Haute Couture
Katherine Bateson-Chandler has Jennifer Huber's 12-year old KWPN mare Haute Couture (by Connaisseur x Krack C) in an upward trend. The temperamental bay mare seems to have found her groove with her rider and seems more concentrated and less hectic. The passage had significantly improved in straightness, but she still hurried in the trot extensions. The mare crosses the jaws visibly. The highlight of the test were the pirouettes and the dead straight centerline with flying change at X. They posted 70.674% for 11th place.

Marcus Orlob and Alice Tarjan's 10-year old KWPN mare Jane (by Desperado x Metall) are the rookies on the short list and finished 15th with 69.957%. The elegant mare was seemingly impressed by the surrounding and task and loudly ground her teeth, but the passage was sweet, the extended walk had good overtrack and the canter work was cleanly ridden. 

Anna Marek on Fire Fly
Anna Marek and Janet Simile's 14-year old Dutch bred Fire Fly (by Briar Junior x OO Seven) showcased good trot and canter extensions, but the rhythm in the half pass right was not crisp. The two's were straight, the ones could be more ground covering. The passage is expressive but on the final centerline not all steps were as even. They posted 69.848% for 17th place. 

Kasey Perry-Glass and her own 12-year old KWPN gelding Heartbeat WP (by Charmeur x Ferro) scored points in the canter work with a nice zig zag and straight two's, but he gaped in the trot half passes and did not find the rhythm well in the piaffes that day. In passage he picks up his feet but the extended walk lacked overtrack. They got 68.848% for 20th place.

Ashley Holzer on Hawtins San Floriana
Holzer also rode Diane Fellows' newest acquisition, the 12-year old Hanoverian mare Hawtins San Floriana (by San Amour x Florestan) but they were stuck at 67.196% and a 26th place. The horse regularly had the tongue out or grinded its teeth. The canter was sometimes 4-beat. The rather long-backed mare does not move the hindlegs under enough in passage, but shows good ability to sit in the piaffe. She crosses the legs well in the trot half passes.

Guenter Seidel and Louise Leatherdale's 12-year old Rhinelander gelding Jack (by Johnson x Dimension) were 37th with 65.391%. They lost points with their late entry after the 45 second clock. The piaffe in principle can be very nice, but was ridden very forward and looked more like a slowed down passage on a 2 meter line. The one tempi changes were straight. 

Not all U.S.A.

Schooling in the garden at Hof Kasselmann
Of course the Grand Prix in Hagen was not all about the Americans. Check out the photo gallery for more impressions...

- Text and Photos © Eurodressage - No reproduction allowed - NO SCREENSHOTS !!

Eurodressage took photos of all small and big tour CDI riders, and all CPEDI para riders in Hagen.  If you are interested in photos for social media use or print, send us an email and you can BUY our photos. 

Related Links
Scores: 2024 CDI Hagen
Merrald and Blue Hors Zepter Holds Interim Lead in 2024 CDI Hagen Grand Prix