The 5-year old finals at the 2021 World Young Horse Championships in Verden, Germany, on Sunday 29 August, were an open range for a group of youngsters that had equal opportunity to steal the show and capture the title. In the end it was Swedish Jeanna Hogberg and the Danish warmblood stallion Hesselhoj Down Town who rather surprisingly hit bull's eye and coaxed the highest scores out of the judges.
The show organisation in Verden had built a clever programme throughout the week, by starting the competition a day earlier on Wednesday and allowing each preliminary test to take centre stage instead of scheduling parallel classes in two arenas. Spectators could dedicate their time fully to watching every single horse compete, at least once, instead of having to sprint from one arena to the next, like in Ermelo.
The last day of competition at the 2021 WCYH in Verden was one for the early birds with the 5-year old finals beginning at 8h30. Although it was dry the weather was a bit dreary with a dark overcast sky, but everyone felt blessed that it wasn't raining (yet) despite horrendous rainy weather forecasts for the entire weekend. Only Friday ended up being a day of total wetness with torrential downpours, a flooded arena and drenched horses and riders and grooms.
It was hard to predict a winner for the 5-year old finals, especially as the judging of the preliminary test day appeared quite random at the top with 9s, 9.5s and 10s flying all over the place.
German Eva Möller held the strongest cards with two candidates under saddle, amongst them the 2021 Bundeschampionate silver medal winner of last week, Danciero. The black Hanoverian stallion posted the highest score of 96.60 points in the preliminary round and appeared to be the one to beat, battling it out with Dutch duo Kirsten Brouwer on Lightning Star, which were second on Friday, and Möller on her second horse Global Player OLD, who was third. However, no less than seven horses have scored over 90 points and each of them seemed to have a chance.
In the end it was opportunity that made the thief of this open range. Outsider Jeanna Hogberg surfaced at the top of the board in the Finals. Riding the Danish warmblood licensed stallion Hesselhøj Down Town (by Hesselhøj Donkey Boy x Blue Hors Zack) she literally flew to the title with the highest score of 9.70 points, a considerable improvement from her fourth place in the preliminary test on 92.40 points.
Hesselhøj Down Town World Champion
The sympathetic dark bay with white nose was ridden in a very high tempo in trot: the collected trot was a medium trot and the medium an extended one. It was full speed on the voltes and serpentines, flying through the corners. Down Town always moved with engagement from behind, with much elasticity and ground cover. The bending to the left was missing though and the horse paddles with the left front leg. The walk had much overstep and good rhythm. In canter the stallion moved off the ground, with much airtime. The counter canter lacked a bit of elasticity but the horse was always willing and did not hollow the back as much as he did in the preliminary test.
The judges' panel included Elke Ebert (GER), Thomas Lang (AUT), and Isabelle Judet (FRA), with Susanne Baarup providing the public commentary after each test. They remarked that he could be "collected a bit more" and praised the horse for having "a lot of activity with huge ground cover." They said he was "very relaxed", had good "straightness" and performed a "good turn on the haunches. He is a happy horse." They gave him 9.5 for walk, 10 for trot, 9.5 for canter and submission and 10 for general impression.
Two years after sire Hesselhøj Donkey Boy won silver at the 2019 WCYH (and a fifth place in 2018 and bronze in 2017) under Jan Möller Christensen, son Down Town made it a golden triumph in Verden for this bloodline and his breeder. The bay gelding is bred by the same breeders of the sire, Dorthe and Hans Jørgen Hoeck of stud farm Hesselhøj in Denmark, but owned by Hogberg's employer, Andreas Helgstrand.
"He's so cute. He really is. He's a really fantastic horse and I have a great team behind me and I get a lot of support from Andreas," Hogberg gushed at the al fresco speedy press conference next to the show ring, held in the 15 minutes between the 5 and 7-year old finals. "Today it was a matter of riding a really solid test without faults and at the same time showing the best of the horse. He was really with me. He was a bit surprised by the environment the first day but today he really relaxed and was with me the whole time."
Hogberg did add the fun fact that, "he is also the only horse at Helgstrand that I have fallen off." When asked what her future with Down Town will be, so she explained that all horses at Helgstrand are for sale but that "you never know if they get sold. I think I will get the opportunity to continue with him."
As penultimate rider to go Eva Möller and Danciero had a favourable starting place at the end of the class, but when the points came it was clear that the judges' panel favoured Down Town today.
The black Hanoverian stallion (by Dancier x Floriscount) is the horse with probably the best rideability and character of the pack. Cool as a cucumber, quiet and relaxed yet with energy and engagement, the compact Danciero looks like an exquisite ride. In the finals he looked a little more tired though and that could have made the difference in the end. The trot was willing, flowing on all the bent lines without being rushed and with a good rhythm on the voltes. He did occasionally drop in the poll and overall could have had a bit more uphill tendency like he showed on Friday. The extended walk was excellent and in canter he was balanced and ground covering. He really showed proper lengthening in the medium canter, but in the left counter canter dropped a bit on the forehand.
The judges praised Danciero for being a "nice, willing horse". In walk "he nicely stretched to the bit" but could have been "slightly more uphill in the counter canter." Baarup concluded that "he is a beautiful horse with a lot of expression." They scored him 9.4 for walk, 9.6 for trot, 9.8 for canter, 9.5 for submission and 10 for persective to finish second with 9.66 points.
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.
Möller has been riding the horse since he was three and as Danciero is a busy breeding stallion for his owners, the chances are greater that she will retain the ride for the future. "I'm always happy to compete the horses as long as I can," she said at the press conference."
Bronze for Brouwer
Dutch Kirsten Brouwer is one of Holland's biggest medal magnets when it comes to World Young Horse Championships. She has won five medals in total so far: aboard Dancer she got gold in 2014, with Eye Catcher she had bronze in 2014 and 2015, with Five Star she had silver in 2016, and on Sultan des Paluds there was silver in 2017. Only in 2019 she did not make it to the finals, for the first time landing 6th place in the consolation with Cesar de Massa. With Lightning Star she added her sixth WCYH medal to her tally.
In 2021 she was back to medal business and got lucky with the generous points from the judges for her test on the super feminine and gorgeous KWPN mare Lightning Star (by Ferguson x De Niro). The mare is a real beauty with her lightfooted trot, freedom in the shoulder and pretty face. She does hollow the back a bit and in the Finals was too passagey and holding back in the body. She showcased a lot of spring and elasticity with her quick hindleg. There were small miscommunications when she broke into canter after the turn on the haunches and executed the downward transition from canter to trot via the walk. There was a lot of overtrack in the medium walk with an ok rhythm, but she remained a bit tense in her back. In the canter the tightness did not entirely disappear, especially in the right counter canter in which she became short. The right extended canter, however, was very nice though. At the end of the test, when given the reins in trot, she nicely stretched into the contact.
Lightning Star is a fabulous mare with high quality gaits and a good hindleg, but needs to develop more back usage in the future. The judges were thrilled with the horse and commended her as a "light footed, active horse, but the trot was too passagey for the age of the horse. "The canter was "powerful with a steady rhythm", but "a bit too collected" and "a little tense."
As last horse to go in the class, she got 9 for walk, 9.2 for trot, 9.5 for canter, 9.2 for submission (?) and 9.5 for perspective to finish third with bronze on 9.28 points.
Lightning Star is KWPN registered but German bred, sired by Ferguson (by Floriscount) out of a De Niro dam. She is bred by Indonesian entrepreneur Titan Wilaras in The Netherlands for whom Brouwer used to work. The mare is now owned by Rosanne and Robert van Stuivenberg in partnership with the rider. The pair were also the reserve champions in the 2021 Pavo Cup a week ago.
"I've been riding Lilly since she was saddle broken. I know her well. She makes me happy every day," said a beaming Brouwer at the press conference. "She's always willing to work, but was a bit hot today. I had a bit more tension today when she heard the applause in the warm-up."
Global Player OLD Fourth
Eva Möller just landed off the podium with her second ride, the Oldenburg stallion Global Player OLD (by Grand Galaxy Win x Don Schufro).
Bred by Henrik Hansen in Denmark and owned by Paul Schockemöhle in partnership with Andreas Helgstrand, this black stallion has three outstanding basic gaits and Möller rode him with a lot of ambition. In trot Global Player was a bit overpaced and could have shown a bit more collection so that the back could come up more and the hindlegs under the body. The medium trot was an extended trot with a lot of ground cover. In the walk pirouette the stallion lost some impulsion. The medium walk was very good with two hooves overstep and a good V-moment in the rhythm. The canter was very fluent with a good balance and uphill striding, but in the counter canter he could stay a bit more supple over the back. Unfortunately the stallion made an unwanted flying change and when given the reins in trot the nose needed to come more out. Still, Global Player showed himself as a horse with much forward-go and energy.
The judges commented that he was "a wonderful horse" with a "powerful and active trot", a "big, clear walk" with "a good turn on the haunches." They rewarded him with 9.5 for walk and trot, 9.2 for canter 8.6 for submission and 9.5 for perspective to rank fourth with 9.26 points.
Global Player was the champion of the 2018 Oldenburg Stallion Licensing and has been trained by Möller for his competitive show career as a young horse. She commented on Danciero and Global Player that "both are top level horses. Both are busy with breeding so I hope they will stay a little longer (and not be sold)."
Las Vegas Fifth
One of the most talked about horses was the gigantic, 1.80m + standing KWPN stallion Las Vegas, presented by Franka Loos for owners Nol Gerritsen and Nico Witte. The 2021 Pavo Cup champion arrived in Verden as KWPN's top ticket in the 5-year old division, but despite a fantastic ride in the preliminary test he "only" landed sixth place with 91.80 points. It was interesting to see if in the Finals he would be re-appreciated as Las Vegas was probably one of the biggest movers in the class with a clear future for the upper level sport written all over his body.
Las Vegas is super stunning: naturally uphill in the frame, incredible scope and ground cover in his trot. He moved with rhythm, balance and superb cadence on the straight and bent lines. He was super steady with is head position and the rider had quiet hands, although the horse was clearly less elastic on the left rein. The noseband was pulled super tight and still a part of his tongue showed through the opened lips. Still the trot was mega. In the medium walk he had two hooves overtrack, but the 4-beat rhythm could have been more pronounced. In canter the horse bounces off the ground and is uphill, but at times gets stiff in the back, thereby losing the ideal 3-beat striding quality. This tightness in the back showed in the simple change in which the walk became lateral.
The judges remarkably considered the canter higher quality than the trot, in which he left nothing to the imagination. They said that Las Vegas is "a really powerful horse with a lot of potential." He is an "obedient and attentive horse" and showed a "good difference between the collected and the medium trot."
They rewarded the horse with 7.8 for walk, 9.5 for trot, 10 for canter, and 9.5 for submission and perspective. The pair lost a few points by going off course on the walk diagonal, riding the H-B line instead of the H-P line. They totalled 9.21 points for fifth place.
Two of the most beautifully ridden horses placed sixth and seventh. Hannah Laser and the Wahler family's Hanoverian stallion Damaschino (by Danone x Fidertanz) placed sixth with 9.10 points, while Stefanie Wolf and Isabelle Nowak's Westfalian stallion Belvedere DB (by Belissimo M x Danone) placed seventh with 8.76 points.
Photos © Astrid Appels - No Reproduction allowed
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Eurodressage Coverage of the 2021 World Championships Young Dressage Horses