German Eva Möller dominated the 5-year old preliminary test at the 2021 World Young Horse Championships in Verden, Germany, winning the class aboard Danciero and sandwiching Dutch Kirsten Brouwer on Lightning Star in the top three of the ranking. Möller had a dream day in Verden as she also ranked third aboard Global Player. The long-time professional rider, who is a seasoned medalist in Verden, is now a favourite for the title on Sunday.
Primus Inter Pares
Year after year the 5-year old age category at the World Championships for Young Dressage Horses is the most spectacular one. Fancy breeding stallions, well trained geldings and top mares are cherry-picked by national selectors for this parade of quality horses. The judges have to do the difficult job of sorting out the "Primus inter Pares," the first amongst equals.
Year after year the quality of the horses presented in this 5-year old division is rising and the sky seems to be the limit. The division is the ultimate showcase of modern dressage horse breeding (and a highly used platform for horse dealers to add a zero to the asking price of their horses). While a decade ago, the training was unable to keep up with the speed of improvement in horse breeding and some not-so-pretty riding was to be seen at the WCYH, the judges systematically began to re-appreciate submission and lightness in the young horses classes, in line with the trend of preferring "harmony and lightness" at Grand Prix level.
This year in Verden the 5-year old preliminary test started with a bang when brand new Pavo cup champion Las Vegas entered the arena as first horse out of 48 to go at 9 AM in the morning. The combination immediately set the tone for the day with his 9.18 total score and as one mega star after another entered the arena, higher and higher scores were given. It felt like confetti was being thrown at a birthday party and a real red line in the judging of the super stars was hard to trace.
So many good horses were presented and the riding was really outstanding. Midway through the class it seemed like the judges were turning a bingo wheel to see if an 8, 9 or 10 would fall out when it came to scoring the best of the best. Never before have the scores been this high in a preliminary class. To make it directly into the final, one had to score 8.62 or higher and no less than seven horses scored over 9.0 points!
The Möller Sandwich
It cannot have been easy to judge this class and in the end, the panel of judges, consisting of Elke Ebert, Susanne Baarup, Sharon Rhode and Maria Colliander, choose the Möller sandwich from the menu as piece de resistance. Based at the former Gestut Famos, now the German headquarters of Helgstrand dressage, the title sponsor of these WCYH, Eva Möller brought two power horses to Verden, Danciero and Global Player.
Coming freshly off earning silver at the 2021 Bundeschampionate last week, Möller and the Hanoverian stallion Danciero (by Dancier x Floriscount) continued on the same form in Verden and produced an outstanding test. The trot was energetic, bouncy and flowing with the horse always being quiet in the contact, even though here and there he bopped the head a little. Still he appeared equally supple on both reins. The walk was very good with superb clarity in the rhythm and good relaxation. The compact black stallion showed incredible rideability and willingness to work with his rider without ever getting tense or restless. The canter strike off was excellent and the horse showcased good balance in the counter canter. The judges rewarded the horse with a mega score of 9.66 points, rewarding the pocket rocket stallion with 9.5 for walk and trot, 10 for canter, 9.5 for submission and 9.8 for general impression. Bred by H Broers and J. Weber, Danciero is owned by Paul Schockemöhle and Andreas Helgstrand who officially purchased him at auction for 700,000 euro after he became the 2018 Westfalian Licensing Champion in Munster. There he was presented by then owners Matthieu Beckmann and Pascal Kandziora.
Möller first rode the Oldenburg stallion Global Player (by Grand Galaxy Win x Don Schufro) as second horse to go on the day and was the leader for almost half the day with a 9.50 total score. This black stallion, bred by Henrik Hansen and owned by Paul Schockemöhle and Andreas Helgstrand, required a bit more piloting from Möller although the horse displayed the same amount of energy, elasticity and cadence as his stable mate Danciero. Global Player was equally springy in trot, but could have carried himself a little more on the serpentines. The walk was large, relaxed, but could also have a fraction more V-moment in the rhythm. The canter had really nice self carriage, but overall could be a little more uphill. On both horses Eva rode outstanding halts at X. The Oldenburg stallion received 9.5 for walk, 9.2 for trot, 9.6 for canter, 9.5 for submission and 9.7 for general impression.
Lightning Star Runner-Up
Möller had sandwiched Dutch duo Kirsten Brouwer and KWPN mare Lightning Star in the top three. The combination finished second with 9.52 points.
Brouwer and Lightning Star were twelfth to go and the scores at that time kept going up and up. The very elegant horse showcased a hindleg that was quick and engaged, but overall could move a bit more forward in trot. She is not the strongest in the loins, but was soft-footed and cadenced. The walk was very good and in canter the hindleg always reached under, even though the strides could have been more uphill. Her higher marks compared to Global Player were probably justified by the fact that she appeared more open in the throatlatch and longer in the frame, making it all look a bit more effortless.
The liver chestnut mare is KWPN registered but in fact German bred, sired by Ferguson (by Floriscount) out of a De Niro dam. She is bred by Indonesian entrepreneur Titan Wilaras in The Netherlands and owned by Rosanne and Robert van Stuivenberg in partnership with the rider. The pair had just become the reserve champions in the 2021 Pavo Cup (Dutch KWPN young horse championships) and clearly stood their ground amongst their peers from other breed societies.
Damaschino and Hesselhoj Downtown
The fourth placed pair was Hannah Laser on the Wahler family's home bred Hanoverian stallion Damaschino (by Danone x Fidertanz). The chestnut was very lightfooted and balanced in the trot work, floating off the ground in the medium trot. He chewed on the bit, was supple on both reins, but not yet as super strong behind to sustain himself in a steady head-neck position; once in a while he dropped a bit in the pole. In the rein back he came a bit deep. The walk was exceptional with huge overtrack and clarity of rhythm. In the canter the horse could flex the hocks even a bit more and there was an abrupt downward transition to trot. When given the long reins in the posting trot, he curled himself instead of stretching the nose out. Nevertheless Laser beautifully presented this talented horse. Let's hope this one continues to be developed for sport in the future instead of disappearing from the scene as a breeding stallion. He scored 9.24 points and got 9 for walk, 9.2 for trot, 9.5 for canter, 9 for submission and 9.5 for general impression.
Tying in fourth place with 9.24 was Swedish Jeanna Hogberg on the Danish warmblood stallion Hesselhoj Down Town (by Hesselhoj Donkey Boy x Blue Hors Zack), bred by Dorthe and Hans Jorgen Hoeck couple and owned by Helgstrand Dressage. The sympathetic bay with white nose was clearly impressed by the arena and pushed the neck high and hollowed the back. The experienced Grand Prix rider tried to keep the horse through in the connection, but had to captain that ship carefully. Down Town has lots of knee action in front and his hindleg is well engaged. The walk was slightly tense at the start but improved on the diagonal with good overtrack and rhythm. In canter he continued to be tense, jogged in the simple change and sometimes lost the 3-beat rhythm. The transition to trot was via walk. Down Town was clearly affected by the electric atmosphere, but still able to show his quality gaits. He got 9 for walk, 9.5 for trot and canter. The judges were very forgiving with their 8.7 for submission and topped it off with 9.5 for general impression/perspective.
Giant Las Vegas
The first horse of the day was the KWPN stallion Las Vegas (by Ferdeaux x Wynton). Bred by J. Deenen, owned by Nol Gerritsen and ridden by Franka Loos, the gigantic stallion officially stands at 1.80 m but looks even bigger than that. He had to be escorted by his groom all the way to A before he mustered the courage to continue onwards by himself, but then presented himself like a king.
Seldom has there been a greater "Big Bang" opening of a World Young Horse Championships than today with Las Vegas! What a horse! Tall, uphill, and majestic. The trot was massive and never did he loose his balance nor the rhythm even though he could have shown more bending on the curved lines. The hindleg always moved towards the point of gravity. The walk was very good even though he dropped quite deep with his head when given the rein in the medium walk. In the canter he also tilted to the left but always moved with big strides and good balance. At times he lost a bit the 100% pure 3-beat rhythm though. Remarkably the judges scored the canter higher than the trot. Loos did a lovely job bolstering the energy of such a giant who left the impression of being a potential champion for a long time. He scored 9.18 in total with 8.8 for walk, 9.2 for trot, 9.5 for canter, 8.9 for submission and 9.5 for general impression.
The happiest rider of the day must have been Sandra Kötter who spontaneously burst into tears when she saw her scores on the leader board. She scored the highest mark of the day for trot.
Kötter presented the Swiss warmblood mare La Traviata (by For Romance x Lord Sinclair), who is bred by Daniel Steinmann and owned by the German based and Dutch born Lilian Sanktjohansen. The dark bay mare is a super elegant, lightfooted mare with incredible articulation in the hindlegs. Her walk was huge although a bit slow in the marching. While the canter strike off was tense, she always moved with uphill orientation and was engaged from behind.
Kötter scored 9.04 points in total for 7th place and her mare received 8.5 for walk, 9.8 for trot, 8.8 for canter and submission and 9.3 for general impression.
More Super Stars
One great horse after another came into the arena and it never ended.
The fourth pair to enter the arena was Leonie Richter on Helgstrand's Oldenburg gelding Francis Drake (by Franklin x Don Schufro). The bay is one of the few offspring by the popular breeding stallion Franklin finally making his way into the highest echelons of sport. The sympathetic bay showed an elastic trot with a strong hind leg. He was tense and spooky at the start and crooked to the right in the hindquarters but moved with much spring. The walk had lots of overtrack and in canter he got more relaxed and worked well with his rider, even though the overall tendency could have been more carrying from behind and uphill. He scored 9 for walk, 8.7 for trot, and 9 for canter, submission and general impression. He placed 8th with 8.94 points.
Lena Stegemann and Frank Becker's Hanoverian stallion Rod Laver (by Rock Forever x Fidertanz), bred by Simone and Frank Visser, were the penultimate pair to compete in the class today. They had a few small miscommunications. First he hesitated in the transition from halt to trot but Stegemann handled it carefully. However he twice hiccuped in the bending to the left, first on the half volte, then again on the serpentine, and once more on the left counter canter in which he got behind the aids. Nevertheless the chunky bay has a lovely trot, a superb walk, and an uphill canter in which he never loses the uphill tendency, even in counter canter. He also did not loose a bit of rhythm in trot when he was given the long rein. He scored 9.5 for walk, 8.8 for trot, 9.0 for canter, 7.8 for submission and 9.0 for general impression.
Spanish Eric Guardia Martinez and the Danish warmblood mare Tophojs Diadora (by Hesselhoj Donkey Boy x Blue Hors Don Romantic) completed the top 10. The powerful bay mare is not the most modern type and supple mover but there is so much strength and potential in this horse. The hindlegs move under the body in trot, even though the mare was crooked to the left on the diagonals. The walk was huge with superb rhythm and the canter uphill. They scored 8.76 points to place 10th and got 9 for walk, 8.5 for trot and canter, 8.8 for submission and 9 for general impression. Diadora is still owned by her breeders, Anette Nilausen and Niels Jorgen Johansen.
OK, time for another Good Riding paragraph, like I did with the 6-year olds report. There were several stand-out combinations when it comes to exemplary riding and correct dressage training, I'll quickly talk about two today.
Time and again German Stefanie Wolf presents her horses in Verden in such an exemplary frame, with the right contact, soft and supple in the bridle, horses chewing on the bit, foaming as if white lipstick has been applied (so no excessive frothing like sea foam washed ashore or dead dry mouths). This year she brought Isabell Nowak's Westfalian stallion Belvedere DB (by Belissimo M x Danone), bred by Jurgen de Baey. The trot was supple and bouncy, the horse was supple on the bent lines, in the medium trot the gorgeous liver chestnut stallion climbed in front. The walk had huge overtrack and relaxation, even though the frontleg could have a more elegant articulation in its footfall. The canter was nicely uphill, although the horse could carry himself a bit more. At all times he was soft and relaxed in the bridle and the presentation was overall such a smooth one. The pair scored 7.5 for walk, 9.3 for trot, 8.8 for canter, 9.0 for submission and 8.3 for general impression. They finished with 8.63 points and got 0.05 point deduction for going off course.
Another rider who displayed phenomenal training and equitation was Nicole Casper on her husband Thomas Casper's Oldenburg stallion Bohemian (by Bon Coeur x Rotspon). Bred by ZG Schmitz-May, the black Bohemian was maybe not the most flashy mover, but their presentation was absolute textbook. The horse was so beautiful and stable in the contact. The trot was well regulated, balanced and steady like clockwork. The walk was cleverly ridden, giving the horse the exact amount of length in the neck for the medium walk, which was not massive but funcational. In canter the horse was relaxed, super balanced, also in the counter canter, but there could have been a bit more 'roundness' in the strides. Bohemian is not spectacular, but he was oh so correct and could easily have scored higher marks. Today he got 8 for walk, 8.5 for trot, 8.7 for canter, and 8.5 for submission (??) and general impression. He totalled 8.44 points and will have to do the consolation finals to get a new chance for a ticket to the finals.
Photos © Astrid Appels - No Reproduction allowed
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Eurodressage Coverage of the 2021 World Championships Young Dressage Horses