With secure performances from its team riders, Germany recaptured team gold at the 2018 European Young Riders Championships in Fontainebleau, France, on 12 July 2018. Esmee Donkers sealed the deal for The Netherlands and with her whopping high score of 77.265% which put her and her team mates on the podium for silver. Sweden jumped from a provisional fifth team place to bronze as Denmark failed to deliver, yet Russia was particularly strong and ended with a fourth team spot.
The 2018 European Young Riders Championships in Fontainebleau are a true youth rider extravaganza. Blessed with gorgeous weather which feels burning hot in the sun, and quite chilly in fact in the shade, the show has ideal temperatures for equestrian competition. The Young Riders Team Championship test was split into two groups with the first one going on Wednesday and the second on Thursday morning in a bright, sunny stadium. In the morning the footing was quite wet but solid, whereas towards noon time small gnats began to plague a few of the horses.
Germany's path to gold was secured by three strong rides that landed them second, third and fourth place on the board. Not perpetual team anchor Semmieke Rothenberger, but Paulina Holzknecht became the torch bearer for her country as best scoring rider for her team. Aboard the 15-year old Hanoverian gelding Wells Fargo (by Welser x Fabriano), petite Paulina rode a trot tour with good power, nice bending and lovely extensions. She did lean a bit too much back in the saddle and overall the contact with the bit needed to be quieter, so that the horse will close its mouth. The tempi changes were straight and correct and the pirouettes well ridden. Only the flying change at X after the left canter half pass was short behind. The pair scored 74.941% for second place.
Semmieke Rothenberger surprisingly decided to bring the 16-year old Danish mare Geisha (by Gribaldi x Weltmeister) to France instead of her higher scoring option Dissertation. The experienced black mare looked less grumpy in the canter work and was well on her way to a top score, when two big mistakes happened in the canter. The trot was nice and smooth, with good bending in the lateral movements and voltes. The contact with the curb should be lighter. The turns on the haunches were good, though one could have been a bit more active, and the extended walk was well regulated. The left canter pirouette was well executed despite a slightly crooked onset. Then a big mistake happened in the four tempi changes and in the extended canter the mare anticipated the flying change at the end of the diagonal and changed herself too early. Rothenberger scored 74.588% for third place.
Germany's team total of 222.529% was further built up with Lia Welschof's score of 73.000% on Florine Kienbaum's 16-year old Oldenburg Don Windsor OLD (by Don Cardinale x Waldstar xx). Welschof qualified on the German Young Rider team with Don Windsor and not her 2017 European Junior Riders individual test gold medal winning Linus K. The gorgeous Don Windsor is always a reliable performer and he proved his worth by being the overnight leader after group 1 on Wednesday. Germany's scratch score came from Alexa Westendarp on the very young, home bred 7-year old Oldenburg mare Four Seasons (by Furstenball x Fidertanz), who finished 16th with 70.235%.
While Germany's claim for gold was obvious, Dutch Esmee Donkers delivered the surprise ride of the day and aced the class with a big 77.265%. The judges for the YR team test were Jean-Michel Roudier (FRA), Christof Umbach (LUX), Magnus Ringmark (SWE), Elizabeth Mc Mullen (CAN), and Jo Graham (GBR) and they were certainly not on the same wavelength with their score. Four judges placed the pair first, one fifth, but the score difference was disturbing. The low score was 74.559% for Graham, while Roudier was in high spirits and rewarded the test with a banging 80.147%.
Donkers and her 11-year old Dutch warmblood mare Chaina (by Sir Donnerhall I x Rubioso N) rode a beautiful test, without a doubt. The black mare showed a very dynamic trot tour with much energy and forwardness, even so much that collected was almost missing. The left half pass needed more bending in the ribcage. The collected walk was quite free, and the walk pirouettes were ok, although in the right one she dragged behind a bit. The extended walk had a good, clear rhythm and plenty of overtrack. Also in canter, Chaina was strong. The right half pirouette was the better ones and the uphill and straight tempi changes the highlight of the test.
Donkers' top score pulled the Dutch overall team score to a secure silver medal position with 221.410 points in total. The second highest scoring Dutch rider was Febe van Zwambagt on FS Las Vegas, an 11-year old Rhinelander gelding by Lord Loxley x Louis Le Bon, whose fiesty temperament resulted in a non-team selection because the gelding is not entirely reliable. Today Van Zwambagt was able to keep the chestnut focused for 6 minutes in the all-counting Prix St Georges test, but he was ridden in a very hand-held way with the rider's hand parked on the withers. The trot had much elasticity and expression, but could have been more collected. There was little difference to be noted between the medium and extended trot. The collected walk was slightly tense and hurried, but became better after the first turn on the haunches, the extended walk had two hooves overtrack, but the nose was not enough out. The right pirouette was the better one of the two and there was a mistake in the four tempi changes, yet the threes were good and straight. They scored 72.588% for sixth place, but their individual marks ranged from 70.588% to 74.412%.
Sweden's bronze medal was their third in four years time and their push for a place on the podium was led by Lina Dolk on Anna Edling's 15-year old Westfalian Languedoc (by Laomedon x Francisco). Dolk has been riding Under 25 Grand Prix with the Grand Prix schoolmaster Biggles, which she took over from coach Kristian von Krusenstierna. For her Young Riders' campaign, she borrowed Von Krustenstierna's Languedoc. The trot tour was very energetic and forward, almost to the extent that it got a bit hectic with no corners being ridden and hardly any bending shown. The onset of the half pass right was unbalanced. Dolk rode with long reins and her hands could have been positioned quieter, but she had the dark bay gelding fresh, forward and obedient. The rhythm in the collected and extended walk was good. Only a hiccup in the three tempi changes meddled with their score. They finished on 72.588% and a 6th place.
Sofie Andersson and her 11-year old Dutch warmblood gelding CSI (by United x Gribaldi) were Sweden's second highest scoring pair with a 70.353% and 14th place. Eveline Soderstrom and the 20-year old Swedish gelding Weihenstephaner (by Warsteiner x Dwight) added 69.853% to that, which brought Sweden's team total to 212.792% and the bronze.
Young Rider action continues in Fontainebleau on Friday afternoon with the first group of riders in the Individual test.
Text and Photos © Astrid Appels - NO REPRODUCTION ALLOWED
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Scores: 2018 European Children, Junior, Young Riders Championships
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2018 European Junior/Young Riders Championships