Spanish Alexandra Barbançon Mestre kicked off the new competition year with a victory in the junior riders team championship test at the international dressage competition in Zwolle, The Netherlands, on Thursday 7 January 2011. Aboard her Hanoverian gelding Mr Q (by Matcho AA), Barbançon received 71.036% from the judges and topped the leader board.
Sixteen junior riders gathered in Zwolle for the competition and two were able to pass the 70% barrier in the team test. The 15-year old Alexandra rode very meticulously and had her black gelding moving with more energy and swing than usually. The contact with the bit, however, was still a bit heavy in order to have true lightness and throughness, but in general the ride was fault-free and clean.
The biggest opposition came from Dutch 2009 EC junior team member Stephanie Kooijman on the 7-year old black gelding Winston (by OO Seven x Cocktail). This horse is without a doubt one of the most gifted movers in Europe and has unlimited potential. Kooijman did an excellent job showing off the elasticity and bounce of her horse in the trot work. Winston has improved tremendously since last year's European Championships and gained in balance, strength and self-carriage. Only in canter a few hiccups appeared. Two flying changes were tense and the onset of the half pass right was sloppy. Kooijman scored 70.855% to finish second.
The new combination Denise Nekeman and the 12-year old Dutch warmblood gelding Ridderkerk (by Kennedy x Glendale) slotted in third on their international show debut. This beautiful and elegant combination showed lovely trot movements but lost valuable points in the walk tour. The collected walk was tense and also the extended walk needed more relaxation. They scored 68.423%.
Former pony rider Michèle Thill made her international debut as well on the experienced small tour horse, the 13-year old Oldenburg stallion Don Cardinale (by Donnerhall x Feinbrand). The Luxembourg rider was not entirely on the same wavelength with her gorgeous black stallion and missed fine tuning in the execution of the movements. The quality is certainly there, but Don Cardinale pushed himself high in the bridle and Thill had to work on hard on stringing the movements smoothly together. The flying changes were on the aid but short. She eanred 67.973%.
Another "combination" which was not yet in unison with each other was the panel of judges. Especially the junior team test proved to be a challenge. Jan Peeters (NED), Peter Engel (GER) and Mariette Sanders-van Gansewinkel (NED) sadly struggled to find unison in their assessment of the rides, which led to some dramatic scoring for several riders.
Thill's test was scored 71.756% by judge Engel, but only got 64.054% from Sanders-van Gansewinkel. Swedish Marina Mattson got 70.810% from Peeters, but only 63% from Engel and Sanders-Van Gansewinkel. Italian Chiara Prijs got 63.919 from Engel and 68.783 from Sanders-Van Gansewinkel and finally German Marie Sophie Ehlen got 68.108% from the judge at C and 64.054% from the judge at B. Fortunately the quality of judging was more acceptable in the other four classes and the disparaties were not so enormous.
German Michelle Budde completed the top five. Aboard the pretty 13-year old Hanoverian gelding Welcome Forever (by Welt Hit II x Eklatant) the German junior stood out with her nice execution of each movement, but the test lacked spark and energy to score truly high. 67.567% sufficed for the fifth place.
Text and Photos © Astrid Appels/Eurodressage - No Reproduction Allowed