The German dressage pony team dominated the team championship competition at the 2021 European Pony Championships in Strzegom, Poland, which was held on Wednesday 11 and Thursday 12 August 2021, with the final results and prize giving ceremony on the 12th.
The point gap between Germany and the silver winning team (Denmark) was huge. Germany had all four riders in the top 5 (the riders placed 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th respectively) in the final leaderboard and left Team Denmark a huge 15% behind them in the point calculations. The Netherlands got the bronze medal and were 3% behind Denmark in the end. Team Italy came in an impressive fourth place 3% behind the Netherlands, a couple of well deserved extra points for the riders would have put them in serious contention for bronze but it was not meant to be this year.
The Pony Team competition concluded Thursday afternoon at the Equestrian Centre Stragona in Strzegom, Poland. Despite a couple of rain showers over the last few days, notably one during the area familiarisation, the weather was quite sunny with some clouds and lower temperatures. The tests ran from 10 am to around 4 pm in the afternoon with regular 15 minute breaks between every 8 riders.
Uncontested Gold for Germany
The German team posted a very impressive final 236,172 points that earned them a well deserved gold medal. Already in a very favourable position by the end of Wednesday's competition with two 75% scores and German riders taking up the top two slots, Germany further proved quite how unbeatable they are this year with two even higher scores from their last two riders, widening the points gap even more between Germany and everybody else.
The German campaign for Gold was spearheaded by individual medal favourite and world number 1 ranked pony rider, Rose Oatley, already individual bronze freestyle and team gold medalist in the 2020 European Pony Championships in Pilisjazfalu, Hungary last year, then only 13.
Rose Oatley and her and Rosalind Oatley's 11-year old gelding Daddy Moon (by FS Daddy Cool x Capri Moon) started as penultimate pair out of the 64 rider and pony combinations competing and immediately topped the leaderboard of the class with an outstanding ride and a new world record score of 82,629%. Judges Agnieska Majewksa (POL), Paula Nysten (FIN), Eduard de Wolff Van Westerrode (NED), Marietta Almasy (FRA), and Ulrike Nivelle (GER) unanimously placed the pair first with scores ranging from 80,857 (Nysten) to 84,000 (Almasy).
Oatley and Daddy Moon showed all that was expected of them and more. Not much criticism can be said of the test, Rose piloted beautifully the big moving palomino Daddy Moon. It started with a picture perfect first halt, beautiful trot extensions and transitions, sof-footed very smooth looking trot work and canter work, beautiful lateral work, a very good extended walk, good balance in the half voltes and riding some of the best rhythmical, correct and straight transitions of the day - all for a well earned first place in the overall ranking. That said despite an overall very good test with great self carriage and contact, there where a couple of small discrepancies creeping in today which are not there usually: the pony could have had a more consistent head position in the trot half passes, the turns on the haunches were not as good and clear as they usually are, and the rein back had a drop in the head behind the vertical. The halt was square but not on the marker. Despite painting a very correct picture it would have been nice to see the rider's hand going more forward and a slightly softer contact than we saw on Thursday. The pair finished with an upbeat and energetic centerline and a wonderful halt, which even earned them a 10 from one of the judges.
Germany's second best score came from Antonia Roth on Martin Roth's 10-year old chestnut stallion Daily Pleasure WE (by HB Daylight x Dressman). The duo competed on the second today and topped the board for most of the day, only outscored by compatriot Rose Oatley and her pony Daddy Moon which were penultimate to go out of the riders. Their 78,114% was good enough for second place overall by the end of Thursday.
Antonia Roth and Daily Pleasure WE started their test with a nice entrance and smooth transition to halt although it was not perfectly square. The first shoulder in was good but it started a bit late. The turn on the haunches had a small hesitation and could have had more activity, in the extended walk the pony did not properly lower his poll or achieve much relaxation. The second shoulder-in right had a very clear three beat rhythm and was one of the best ones of the day, but the half pass which followed could have been a bit more parallel. The canter work was well ridden with good balance, and had very relaxed and seamless canter walk canter transitions, but some of the transitions particularly the one at C could have had more forward energy through the walk. The test was accurate and nicely ridden with no mistakes, except there was a spontaneous flying change during the medium canter at the end of the test which brought the score down a bit. The pair finished with a straight simple change on the centerline and square halt.
Germany's third best score came from team newcomer Julie Sofie Schitz-Heinen riding Carleo Go, who finished on a 75,429 which was good enough for a fourth place in the end. Julie Sofie Schmitz-Heinen outscored her teammate Antonia Busch-Kuffner by a small margin to top the ranking board of the first day with 75.429%, although all judges but one placed her first the score varied from 74,429 (Majewksa, POL) to 77,429 (Almasy, FRA). Her score was good enough for a 4th place in the final results table.
Schmitz-Heinen rode a solid test with her 11-year old bay gelding Carleo Go (by Constantin x Weltmeyer) in which the light footed trot half passes, half voltes, and trot shoulder ins were the highlight of the test. The combination gave a good impression, but there was some tension in the contact throughout the ride, especially in the trot where the pony opened his mouth and sometimes visibly pulled on the reins instead of carrying himself. The trot lateral movements were all very rhythmical and consistent but a more relaxed and supple frame would have been nice to see. Also, the pony does not have a correct extended trot and tends to flick his legs out instead of lengthening in his body, working through his back, and achieving overtrack but there was a clear difference between the medium and extended trots and good transitions in between the trot as well. The halt to reign back was not square or perfectly on the marker but the transition out in the canter was good. The pony did not achieve much overtrack in the extended walk, did not completely relax, and also pulled on the reins; this was one of the lowest scoring movements. The give and retake of reins was correct and rhythmical throughout. The turn on the haunches and walk transition were very clear. They finished in an uphill canter and not very immobile or square halt. Overall a nice test, but more relaxation and suppleness would be nice to see.
Germany's scratch score came from Antonia Busch-Kuffner who finished a fraction behind Jule Sofie Schmitz-Heinen on 75,286 for a fifth place overall despite a big miscommunication in the pirouettes.
Silver Again for Denmark
Despite achieving a historical team gold at the 2019 Europeans here in Strzegom, Poland Denmark is yet to repeat that feat and will have to settle for silver for the second year in a row at these years Euros. The Danish team medal campaign was spearheaded by Sofia Boje Obel Jorgensen and the 2019 Triple European Champion pony, Adriano B (then ridden by Alexander Helgstrand), who finished third in the overall rankings with 77,914 score. Denmark finished in the silver medal spot with 221,714 points.
Obel Jorgensen and Helgstrand's 15-year old chestnut gelding Adriano B (by De Angelo x Flying Dream) produced a solid test. The big moving pony showed a very energetic and forwards going test which was nice to see but was maybe even rushed at times. They started off with an energetic uphill entrance and ground covering medium trot. The shoulder in was clear but lasted shorter than it should have, the 2 half voltes could have been more balanced, but the half pass was nice though the ending could have been slightly clearer. The transition from trot to walk was very good and there was no loss of rhythm, both turns on the haunches were good but in the first one there was a slight hesitation on the third and fourth steps, the second one was good. The medium walk was very good, the rhythm remained the same throughout, the extended walk was exceptional, one of the best of the competition with true relaxation and overtrack which even earned the pair a 10 from one of the judges. The second trot half volte combination was much better and the half pass was very nice. In the extended trot the pony uncharacteristically bobbed his head, did not maintain a clear rhythm, and the transition out was unclear. The rein back that followed featured a very sudden halt, even more sudden start of the rein back, and a refusal, the pair reattempted the rein back which was quite good on its own, but the transition out was also not ideal so this brought down the score but they still managed to get scores ranging from 6 to 7. The canter tour was energetic and had some nice and straight canter walk canter transitions, though the first one had a loss of rhythm, the rest were good. The extended canter was ground covering and had a clear transition in and out. The pair finished on a slightly crooked centerline and abrupt halt.
Denmark' second best score came from Cornelia Munch Sinding on her father Michael Sinding's 12-year old bay gelding Terbofens Charico (by Charivari x Contendro) who finished thirteenth on 72,286.
The pair started on an energetic entrance with a halt that was not square, followed by a rhythmical medium trot which was on the conservative side. The shoulder in left was not on three tracks, and the half pass right started with the quarters leading. In the walk the pony was frequently opening his mouth and produced a rushed first turn on the haunches, the second turn was very sudden. The medium walk that followed could have had more contrast to the collected walk, in the extended walk there could have been a lot more overtrack and there was a loss of contact. The shoulder in left started off correctly, but ended on almost four tracks, the half voltes were good, and so was the half pass left. The extended trot was rhythmical and consistent with a nice outro but the pony started to flick out his feet and could have had more overtrack. In the reinback the halt was square but far from immobille and the pony had a long hesitation and then dropped behind the vertical and bobbed his head in when taking steps back, the transition was very jumpy and initially from the wrong lead. The canter tour was good with clear transitions, but the give and retake of the reigns had the rider leaning forward a lot which is not completely correct. The pair finished on a simple change with a small hesitation and crooked centerline with a very collected canter and transitioned out by mistake in the middle of it which marked down the movement. Overall a nice test with lots of potential which would have gotten a lot more marks had the mistakes not been there.
Denmark's third contributing score came from Karla Marillo Skov and Mash Holding's 9-year old chestnut gelding Steendieks Diamond De Dali (by FS Dali x FS Chambertin), who rode on the first day and posted 71,154 for a seventeenth place in the final rankings.
Karla Marillo Skov and Diamond De Dali started off with an energetic uphill canter, but no square halt. The first shoulder in, which was the left one went off the track. During the first medium trot the pony was constantly swishing his tail, which was a recurring problem throughout the test especially in the trot and in transitions between the gaits. The turn on the haunches was clear but the pony lost the rhythm in between them. In the extended walk the pony pulled down on the rein and opened the mouth, this was one of the lowest scoring parts of the test. The half pass right started off the track and was not completely accurate. In the extended trot he dropped in the poll, but the transition was good. Throughout the test the pony has a tendency to drop in the poll and go behind the vertical. In the rein back the halt was not square and the rein back had some uneven steps. The second canter walk canter transition was through a couple of steps of tort, the rest were good. The pony could have stretched more in the give and retake of the reins. Overall a nice test with lots of potential, the extended canter and lateral work being the highlight, but it would be nice to see the nose go in front of the vertical more and less tail swishing for the higher marks.
Denmark's scratch score came from the second rider on Wednesday - Selma Ludvigsen and Egelykkes Perfetto who finished twentieth on 71,286, just a fraction behind Karla marillo Skov.
Bronze for the Netherlands
The Dutch team slotted in third with 218,428 which earned them the bronze team medal, although they felt the heat from team Italy which at one point overtook them in the team ranking.
The campaign to bronze was spearheaded by team newcomer Ilse de Wilde and her mom Tineke De Wilde-Van Bruggen’s 8-year old palomino gelding Falco (by Leuns Veld’s Winston x Hagelkruis Valentijn). The pair finished 7th in the team test ranking on 73,943%. The pair produced a nice test in which their starting order provided them an advantage - they were last to go out of all of the riders and that typically means higher scores. They began with a crooked halt, and a beautiful medium trot with a lot of ground cover, the first shoulder in was inconsistent in the angle, but the half pass was very nice. The first turn on haunches was more of a turnaround in one place rather than turning around the haunches but the second one was better; it still had some issues though. The extended trot was good and the rein back was correct. The canter work was well balanced and accurate, the transitions between the paces being the highlights. The pair finished on a straight centerline and square halt.
The second placed Dutch rider was Jill Kempens on her own 13-year old black gelding Next Black Magic (by Nabucco R x FS Pour L’amour) who finished on 72,571 and a twelfth place in the team test. The pair started with an abrupt halt and a conservative medium trot, they followed it by nice shoulder ins; though the first one went off the track and the second ones saw a struggle in the contact and angle. The turns on the haunches were not properly around the hind legs but more of a turn in one place, the extended walk was one of the highlights. The extended trot lacked some energy, but the rein back was quite good, albeit not square. The canter tour had the higher scores compared to the trot with good counter canter, and mostly good transitions. The end halt was not square, but there was a good transition into it.
The third Dutch score was contributed by Veerle Van Hof on Romy Bemelmans and the Van Hof family's 10-year old bay Vinkenhove Xander (by Orchard Boginov x Pionier’s Baltazar) who finished fifteenth on a score of 71,914%.
The Dutch scratch score came from team newcomer Bridget Lock on Rijk-Jan Pleijter’s 9-year old palomino stallion Don Davino (by Don Carino Du Bois x FS Don’t Worry) who finished on 70,286 to place twenty fifth.
Other Top rides
Some great rides from riders of countries that did not medal.
Belgian Liezel Everars on FS Capelli De Niro making her third Europeans count with a superb ride and a score of 74,114 to place her sixth individually
Polish Veronica Pawluk on ex-Dansih Team Pony and medalist at the 2019 Europeans D’Artagan produced a great ride to place eighth with 73,857
Italian Virginia Sponle spearheading the Italian campaign to place ninth on 73,829 with Coer Noble
Austrian Fanny Jobstl produced a great ride on Dynasty to place tenth on 72,194
Another wonderful test came from Norwegian Emma Lokken on Vercingetorix VB to place right out of the top 10 on 72,629%
Bonus mention: Historical moment for Lithuania as they are represented for the first time ever at the Pony European Championships by Rinel Libman and Mayami. Always great to see more international representation at the big shows.
by Fevroniya Barinova for Eurodressage - Photos © Lukasz Kowalski