The Netherlands Win Team Gold, Historic Bronze for Belgium at 2013 European Young Riders Championships

Sat, 07/13/2013 - 00:32
2013 European Junior and Young Riders Championships

A strong performing Dutch team led by seasoned young rider Stephanie Kooyman moved into the gold medal position in the team championship competition at the 2013 European Young Riders Championships in Compiegne, France, on Thursday afternoon 11 July 2013. While the Dutch edged out Germany, the Belgian team rose to the occasion and reclaimed a historic bronze team medal after a 10-year medal hiatus.

Stephanie Kooijman spearheaded the Dutch campaign in Compiegne, winning the team championship test with a strongly ridden faultfree ride aboard her 10-year old Dutch warmblood gelding Winston (by OO Seven). The power house black gelding showed a fantastic trot with superb extensions and smooth lateral movements. The collected walk was a bit tense in the back at the start, but improved after several strides. The extended walk was a bit limited with only one hoof overtrack for such a big framed horse. Winston used to struggle with the pirouettes as he has difficulties taking the weight on the hindquarters, but Kooijman camouflaged the problem very professionally. The left pirouette was better than the right one. The flying change in between the canter half passes was not on the marker.

Kooijman received 75.158% from the panel of judges, which consisted of Markowski, Phillips, Sanders, Judet and Myhre. She ranked first with three judges and second with two and her mid seventy percentage score pulled the Dutch team as winners across the finish line with an average score of 72.465%. While the panel set the general trend of the ranking reasonably well, a few riders were thwarted in their scores due to individual discrepancies amongst the judges.

The Netherlands' road to gold was boosted by Anne Meulendijk's 71.421% score (5th place) on the 8-year old Dutch warmblood gelding Avanti (by United x Farrington). Meulendijks rode superb trot extensions, a beautiful collected walk and large extended walk with major overstep. However, the rider had to deal with a few issues in canter. The onset of the left pirouette was difficult and a mistake crept into the tempi changes every three strides. Also, the contact with the bit could be more quiet and light.

The winner on the first day of competition, German Juliette Piotrowski on her 8-year old black Sir Diamond (by Sandro Hit x De Niro), only had to see one rider move in front of her on the ranking. She finished second overall with a generous 73.079% after a very energetic, but hectic test in which the aids were too visible for it to be a harmonious ride. German team mate Charlott Maria Schurmann and the gorgeous 8-year old Hanoverian stallion Edward (by Embassy III) contributed the second best score for the silver German team average of 71.228%. Schurmann earned 71.105% herself which placed her sixth in the ranking. The trot and canter work was expressive but the transitions from extension to collection should have been smoother. The collected walk was a bit too free in the frame, the four tempi changes could have been a bit more uphill and there was a slight balance loss in the pirouette left. Still, Schurmann rode a beautiful test with potential for more.

Belgium's top young rider of the moment, Jorinde Verwimp on her 13-year old Dutch warmblood gelding Tiamo (by Lester x Hemmingway), brought the Belgian team back on the podium, the first time since the 2003 European Young Riders Championships in Saumur where Delphine Meiresonne, Arnaud Reper, Ruth van Campen and Hannelore Volders grabbed team bronze. Trained by Anky van Grunsven, Verwimp has been the one to beat at several CDI-YR competitions this season and her bay gelding has improved immensely in its musculature. The rider, however, leaned slightly back in the saddle yesterday and the reins could have been an inch shorter to improve her seat and overall silhouette. Nevertheless the trot work was well carried and always uphill, also in the lateral movements. The trot extensions, as well as the canter extension, was very ground covering and engaged from behind. The walk was very well regulated and showed good relaxation in the extension. In canter, Tiamo jumped massive four tempi's, the threes were a bit tense in the back.  Verwimp scored 73.053% with room for even more (and an individual medal) in the upcoming days.

Belgium's bronze effort was supported by American born Alexa Fairchild on the bright bay Dutch gelding Timor (by Matterhorn x Indoctro) who finished on a 68.447% (14th place). However judge Phillips considerably pulled her average down as the British judge gave Fairchild's test only 65.658% while the other judges had her at a solid 69%. Fairchild rushed her horse too much in the trot work, especially the lateral movements, even though Timor moved elegantly with good engagement from behind. A break into canter on the short side at C meddled slightly with her score. With no mistakes in the next tests, Fairchild should easily put a seventy percentage score on the board.  Eline de Coninck's 67.632% score (20th place) from Wednesday helped the Belgian average to be 69.711%, good for a bronze medal that was celebrated with tears of joy.

The only rider able to steal away bronze from the Belgians was Swedish Marina Mattsson on her impressive dark grey gelding Cassio, an 8-year old Oldenburg Conteur x Calato offspring. The Swedes were in the running for bronze for quite some time and Mattsson had to ride after Verwimp, so tension certainly built up on the sideline. The experienced Swedish rider, who previously competed Beckham in the youth riders division, now brought Cassio to the Europeans and showed great things in the arena. The trot tour was quite conservative, but the horse was well balanced and rhythmical in the lateral movements and safe trot extensions. The gelding could have shown more bending in the left volte. In canter there was a slight loss of impulsion in the left pirouette, the right one was better. The four tempi's were solid, one change in the threes was short behind. Mattsson had a steady contact with the bit throughout the test. Her score of 71.816% placed her fourth individually but it kept Sweden short of bronze. Their team average was 69.561%.

Belgium broke Denmark's long-time hold on a team podium place. This time the Danes were unable to field a team as strong as the years before. Nanna Skodborg Merrald had to withdraw from the team one week before the start of Compiegne. She was supposed to ride her sister Sandra's Weltliebe. The country's number one Young Rider Cathrine Dufour could have saved the day for Denmark as Dufour's Atterupgaards Cassidy is certainly on form, maybe a bit too much. The pair was unable to ride a faultfree test and dropped to a seventh place with 71.053%. Dufour is Denmark's best-kept and most-prized possession. She is the 2012 European Young Riders Champion but you hardly ever see her at an international show. The rider seems to opt deliberately to only ride one CDI per season and restricts her show starts to national shows in Denmark. She then appears at the Europeans and blows everybody away with her talented riding.

She planned to do the same this year in Compiegne and presented her hot chestnut Cassidy (by Caprimond x Donnerhall) in an admirable way: the nose slightly out, the contact always soft and light (even though the horse sometimes opens the mouth) and Cassidy was well collected and active from behind. Fortunately this time, she rode him a bit more forward than in her usual slow-motion tempo. It made the trot look even better. The trot tour was extremely controlled and expressive, the walk tour was fantastic. Both canter pirouettes, however, were too big with little sit from behind. The four tempi's could have been more ground covering and forward, the diagonal with the threes went completely "kaputt" as Cassidy started doing one tempi's.  Denmark dropped to fifth place in the nations' ranking with an average of 69.509%. 

Denmark's second best rider was the Swedish based Anna Zibrandtsen on the licensed Oldenburg stallion Detroit (by Dimaggio x Lord Liberty G). The black stallion has a jawdropping trot with extensions out of this world. The moment of suspension seems to last forever. Although there was much tension in the flying changes and the horse was constantly showing his tongue on the left side by opening his lips, Zibrandtsen rode a very controlled and focused test sitting quietly in the saddle.

Text and Photos by Astrid Appels - No reproduction allowed

Eurodressage photographer Astrid Appels took photos of all combinations competing at the 2013 European Junior and Young Riders Championships. Contact us if you are interested in prints of your photos!

Related Link
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2013 European Junior/Young Riders Championships