Isabell Werth and her World Champion mare Bella Rose won the fantastic 5* Grand Prix at the 2019 CDIO Aachen on Thursday 18 July 2019, but it was Dorothee Schneider on her come back kid Showtime that absolutely the stole the show today.
Thirty-one combinations competed in this stellar Grand Prix class which included the world's best horses, aside for home stayers Verdades, Dublet and Mount St. John Freestyle. If they had been in the mix, the 2019 edition of the CDIO Aachen would have had the character and features of a World Championship. Furthermore, five of the seven judges that will officiate at the 2019 European Dressage Championships in Rotterdam at the end of August were judging in Aachen today: Janet Foy (USA), Clive Halsall (GBR), Irina Maknami (RUS), Susanne Baarup (DEN) and Evi Eisenhardt (GER).
Werth and Bella Rose have been competing on a light show schedule this 2019 season with just two starts so far: in Balve at the Nationals and three weeks ago at the intimate CDI Fritzens in the Tyrolean Alps in Austria. Since winning team and individual gold at the 2018 World Equestrian Games, Werth and Madeleine Winter-Schulze's 15-year old Westfalian mare (by Belissimo M x Cacir AA) have progressed in their work and it is seemed like they were a step higher on the ladder of their training. While the mare is still slender in her musculature compared to most seasoned Grand Prix horses, she has several major highlights that work tremendously in her favour: the trot half passes, the uphill tempi changes and the effortless transitions from piaffe and passage. But the mare is not flawless: the ground quality of the extended trot and walk is completely underwhelming, the neck is broken at the third vertebrae and the mouth opens often during the test. Still Werth showed many wonderful things today and the pair certainly piques one's interest. The mare showed better engagement from behind in the piaffe and passage, the extended canter and the two tempi changes were beautifully uphill. In the canter work there was a leading contact with the right curb though and the mare dropped on the forehand in the left pirouette. The right one was better. Werth finished it off with outstanding regularity in the rhythm on the final centerline.
The pair scored 82.783% with the judges unanimously putting the pair on first place. The marks ranged between 81.196% and 83.478%.
Werth is a brilliant competition rider and really pulled out all the stops in the Grand Prix on Bella Rose, but she literally had to work in the saddle to steer her mare to highest spot on the ranking. Maybe it's a matter of personal taste but second placed pair Dorothee Schneider and Gabriele Kippert's 13-year old Hanoverian Showtime (by Sandro Hit x Rotspon) were the true embodiment of harmony and grace today and they answered the most to the ideals and standards of dressage.
After the 2016 Rio Olympics, Showtime competed at just five CDI's in the past three years due to injury. Last year he did only the 4* Grand Prix in Aachen and was pulled from the Special. Today he came bigger, better and stronger than ever before. The gelding is far better muscled with a stronger top-line than Bella Rose and his acceptance of the bit is from another order. The chestnut and the dark bay are two totally different horses with each their highlights and strengths. And maybe Showtime scores less because he still underwhelms in his timid piaffes, but at least he lowers the haunches and his trot is a real elastic one over the back. He has a clear 4-beat, ground covering extended walk and his passage has regularity and airtime that are impressive. Maybe the hindlegs could reach a bit more under, but it's so elegant. Furthermore Schneider's entry and halt were textbook. The tempi changes are straight but the changes to the left could have more shoulder freedom. In the zig zag the horse needs to have the nose more at the vertical and the left pirouette was the better one, but overall Showtime's test was finger licking good: soft, light, harmonious and controlled.
The duo scored 80.609% with 70.565% as low score and 81.630% as high score.
British double Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin made her come back in Aachen after a five year break. Dujardin competed Valegro in 2014 and since then has not returned to the event, avoiding the arena where titans meet. This year Dujardin brought catch ride Erlentanz, a 12-year old Trakehner gelding by Latimer x Benz which she took over from Sonnar Murray-Brown after he broke his leg at the beginning of March. So far they competed at three CDi's, all in Britain (Keysoe, Windsor, Bolesworth) and had nothing to loose in Aachen.
Dujardin and Erlentanz rode a very appealing test although the halt at entry was not square. The trot extensions were elegant and lightfooted and the passage was very cadenced though there could have been more power from behind The transitions into piaffe were difficult and in the first piaffe he struggled with the rhythm. The extended walk was lovely but in the collected the Trakehner got tense in the back. Still, Dujardin finally proved again to a European audience how good a test rider she is. The two tempi changes were sweet and the zig zag secure, but in the ones the horse swayed too much in the body. In the final passage at X the horse got hectic and in the last stretch of passage he became uneven.
They scored 79.152% with marks going from 77.283% to 80.652%.
Erlentanz made a statement that he is now the world's highest scoring Trakehner at Grand Prix level. The flagship horse before him is Beatrice Burchler-Keller's 12-year old mare Dalera BB (by Easy Game x Handryk), which finished fourth today under Jessica von Bredow-Werndl. The pair showed big extensions and sweeping half passes, but the ones to the right were the most fluent. The tall mare achieves much airtime in passage, but the piaffes are not always as secure. In the first one she leaned on the forehand and travelled forward a bit. There was much overtrack in the extended walk. The mare has great flying changes. The two's were straight but could even be more uphill, in the one's she swings too much. The pirouettes were tiny but flat. The mare is soft and elastic in the bridle and very steady in the contact. They earned 79.000% .
While Schneider and Showtime were the thrill of the day, Danish Cathrine Dufour and the Zinglersen family's 9-year old Westfalian gelding Bohemian (by Bordeaux x Samarant) were certainly the surprise of the day. Dufour has been preparing the liver chestnut to succeed Cassidy as her 2020 Tokyo Olympic hopeful. The horse did its seventh CDI in the past two years but in the electric atmosphere in the Deutsche Bank stadium he was truly put to the test for the first time. And he passed with flying colours! Dufour is a master at presenting her horses in an effortless, soft and sympathetic way. While she had Bohemian a bit tighter in the neck than ideal, the hand was quiet and the contact light and steady. They showed nice half passes and the trot extensions had much overtrack but could have shown more bounce. The horse has a lovely, active passage, but in the piaffe he still has some backward tendency and could have more suspension off the ground. The two tempi changes were nice, the extended canter good, the zig zag well ridden even though Bohemian tilted the head a bit. The pirouettes were beautiful. There was so much quality and promise in this test and it was rewarded with 78.413% (scores between 77.174 - 79.935%).
Danish Daniel Bachmann Andersen and the 11-year old Dutch warmblood stallion Blue Hors Don Olymbrio (by Jazz x Ferro) followed right in Dufour's wake in sixth place on 78.348% (marks ranging from 76.630 to 81.739%). The liver chestnut has big trot half passes but could achieve more suspension. The horse is very willing and works hard, even though he does not have the biggest engagement from behind. The passage has a nice side silhouette but was not always as even and the piaffe is on the spot but needed more fire in the engine. The extended walk lovely. The two tempi changes uphill and the zig zag well executed. In the single changes he loses his balance and swings, but the pirouettes were great.
Leader of the Swedish pack was Therese Nilshagen on the 12-year old Oldenburg stallion Dante Weltino (by Danone I x Welt Hit II). The handsome black stallion was more up in the bridle and carried himself much better today. He was a bit rushed in the trot extensions, but the half passes were ground covering and the passage elegant. The horse really sits behind in the piaffe, but could have more diagonal jump and suspension off the ground. The extended walk had two hooves overtrack but lacked some V-moment in the rhythm. The collected walk was short. The stallion has real strengths in canter: the uphill extended canter, the smashing pirouettes and the sweeping zig zag. The two tempi changes were big but crooked to the left just like the final passage on the centerline. They finished seventh on 76.957%.
Adrienne Lyle had a super convincing ride on her second Grand Prix horse Harmony's Duval in the 4* Grand Prix on Wednesday, but her top horse Salvino (by Sandro Hit x Donnerhall) did not live up to the expectations today, although their big score of 76.870% did not reflect that. Betsy Juliano's 12-year old black stallion scored a double 77% at the CDI Leudelange three weeks ago, but in Aachen Lyle could not reproduce that accuracy. The horse is very expressive in piaffe and passage, but today he was uneven in the passage with more right hind activity. Salvino also has a big piaffe with much scope in front, but he wasn't always even in the steps behind or back-stepped. The extended walk was very good. Overall it lacked polish, with a crooked flying change after a big extended canter, and the contact was light but slightly unsteady. The two tempi's were nice, but there was a hiccup in the ones and the pirouettes were a bit flat. The piaffe at X certainly was the best of the three, but Salvino dropped out of the passage before the end halt.
American team mate Steffen Peters landed ninth place. With Akiko Yamazaki's 11-year old Dutch warmblood gelding Suppenkasper (by Spielberg x Krack C) Peters has another super star to ride, but so far the pair has not yet truly found their groove. The big bay gelding was not immobile in the halt at entry, but produced big, uphill trot extensions and scopey half passes. The horse is super engaged in the passage with a hindleg that goes far under the body, but this over-achieving leads to a loss of balance both in passage and piaffe. On the final centerline the horse swayed so much in the fore and hindquarters and got wide both in front and behind in piaffe. The horse has everything in the tank for mega execution of the movements, but the balance and self carriage issues still stand in the way. They posted 75.848%.
Germany has taken a solid lead in the Nations' Cup competition with Denmark in second place and the U.S.A. third. The CDIO tour continues on Saturday with the Grand Prix Special.
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Text and photos © Astrid Appels - NO REPRODUCTION ALLOWED
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Eurodressage Coverage of the 2019 CDIO Aachen