Andreas Helgstrand and the KWPN stallion Jovian rode to the 7-year old World Champion's title with aplomb on the final day of competition at the 2021 World Championships for young dressage horses in Verden, Germany, Sunday 29 August 2021.
Rain and Medals
While torrential downpours dampened the spirits at the WCYH competition on Friday, the weather stayed decent on the weekend despite horrendous forecasts of rain on both Saturday and Sunday. Only the final two riders in the afternoon 7-year old Finals had to deal with rain in their face.
Unfortunately also the prize giving was a bit lacklustre. Not only was there a drizzle wetting the 7-year olds, the breeders, officials and everyone involved in this "ceremony protocolaire", but also the fact that for neither of the three World Championship prize givings the FEI medals were available was astonishing.
The organizers reported that the FEI had sent the medals to Germany a week before the Championship but that all nine of them were stuck at customs. So aside from a ribbon, there were no medals, no champion sashes, not even a small bouquet of flowers to hold during the ceremony and lap of honour. Add a bucket of rain to that for the 7-year olds and the shine of the moment was totally gone. Fortunately the breeders did get celebrated with a WBFSH plaque and a bouquet, but this year very few of the breeders made the trip to the WCYH and on several occasions a stand-in person from the breed society had to cover for the breeder. For instance the breeders of Eternity (bronze 7-yo), nor World Champion Hesselhoj Down Town (gold 5-yo) were a no show at the event.
That is a pity as the FEI and WBFSH want to celebrate the breeding of top level dressage horses and insist on calling the show the "FEI World Breeding Championships for young dressage horses". To avoid confusion with all these nationalities for the breeds, the riders and horse owners, Eurodressage persists in just calling the event "World Championships for young dressage horses."
Jovian, Emperor of the Day
While as a 5-year old his victory at the 2019 World Championships was up for debate, two years later Jovian's title as the 7-year old champion was crystal clear.
The 185 cm KWPN powerhouse (by Apache x Tango) was a league of his own in the preliminary test and continued his winning streak in the finals. Bred by E. Ten Bosch in The Netherlands and co-owned by Helgstrand and Norwegian Grand Prix rider Cathrine Rasmussen, Jovian showed a ground covering, powerful trot, also in the lateral movements. He produced huge trot extensions and only lost the rhythm a bit in the right half volte. The horse could have stretched a bit more into the contact when given the reins. The walk is not Jovian's strong suit. Although he is clear in the rhythm, he does not cover much ground for his size. In canter the horse shows great scope and airtime in each stride, although the left hock does not flex as as well as his right hock. Jovian is such a scopey, powerful mover looking like a Grand Prix horse already. His youthful age is revealed in the half pirouettes in which he gets a bit behind the vertical and on the forehand. Overall the horse is still ridden with a heavy contact but hopefully he'll become lighter in the future as the horse's balance and self-carriage improve on the road to the highest level. Helgstrand finished with a square halt and knew the title was his.
The 7-year old finals were judged by Sharon Rhode (RSA), Maria Colliander (FIN), Mariette Sanders van Gansewinkel, and Kurt Christensen (DEN), with Ulrike Nivelle (GER) providing the public commentary. Nivelle said that she "has tears in my eyes" and that Jovian is "to die for. He is the emperor of the day." The judges praised the horse for his "exceptional balance and self carriage in trot." In walk "the ground cover could be more," but the canter is "clear in rhythm, huge strides, and jumping under to the centre of gravity."
They scored the KWPN stallion a generous 8 for walk, an undisputed 10 for trot, 9.8 for canter, also 9.8 for submission and 10 for perspective. The technical scores for the test were 83.143% and 83.000% which all totalled 89.136% for the victory.
"Jovian is something really special," said a beaming Helgstrand at the press conference. "In his sport test the three test riders gave him a 10. He is always good in the head. He's my favourite."
The Danish Olympic rider is a serial winner of WCYH titles, having achieved his first one on Honnerups Driver in 2009 after which UNO Donna Unique (2010), Revolution (2018) and Jovian (2019) followed. "The first time was special with Driver. He's a very spectacular horse. You never know who wins, look at the 5-year olds this year. There are six horses that could win. You have to go full power and do a clear round. There will be even better ones in the future, but right now it's Jovian."
While all of Helgstrand's horses are for sale, Andreas makes it no secret that he prefers to keep Jovian and already seems to be dreaming of Paris 2024. "Jovian is a PR thing for Helgstrand," Andreas explained. "He is also breeding."
Silver for Blue Hors Touch of Olympic
The 7-year old podium at the 2021 WCYH was a Danish affair with all three top spots covered by Danish riders, on three different breeds: KWPN, Danish warmblood and Westfalian.
Danish Olympic Nanna Skodborg Merrald had only been back from Tokyo less than a month, but exceeded all expectations with Blue Hors Touch of Olympic (by Don Olymbrio x Fidermark), bred in Denmark by Anja and Jan Petersen. The liver chestnut is not the most flashy mover and could be more accepting and elastic in the bridle contact - which showed in himself curling instead of stretching into the contact when he was given the rein - but he is very correct and very confirmed and balanced in the movements required of the 7-year olds at this level. His trot was calm, collected and carried. The extended walk was good with small turns on the haunches and in canter work he looked very stable, although there was a loss of impulsion in the left half pirouette. The changes are uphill although the ones to the right are not the same as the ones to the left.
The judges praised the liver chestnut for "using his body really well." The extended walk had "huge ground cover" and in canter he is "well balanced with nice airtime but he could bend the joints a bit more."
He scored 9.6 for walk, 8.8 for trot, 8.9 for canter, 9.6 for submission and perspective. The technical scores were 74.429% and 75.429% to finish second for silver with 83.965%.
Merrald has been riding Touch of Olympic since he was four. It was one of the first horses Blue Hors stud allocated to her when they put Merrald under contract. "He was first sent to my own place, the half year I was still at home before I moved to Blue Hors," Nanna explained. "We have really good horses at home in Denmark. Danish warmblood does a lot for the sport."
Nanna will retain the ride on Touch of Olympic, who was presented at the DWB stallion licensing as a 3-year old but not accepted. He was gelded to be focused on sport. "I will develop him in a Grand Prix horse. He has everything to do Grand Prix. On the way there are a lot of competitions. I hope he's a future Grand Prix horse."
Bronze for Eternity at First Show
Helgstrand Dressage's team rider, 2020 European U25 kur gold medal winner Anne-Mette Strandby Hansen was thrilled with bronze on the Westfalian gelding Eternity (by Escolar x Sir Donnerhall), bred in Germany by Franz Remmersman and owned by Helgstrand.
Eternity was scouted by Helgstrand in Germany in 2017. The bay gelding won the Bundeschampionate under Eva Möller and then sold to Denmark. Under Hannes Lütt he got bronze at the 2018 Bundeschampionate. As he did not sell immediately, Helgstrand sent the horse to Cathrine Dufour in November 2018 and she has trained him to small tour level. Strandby only took on the ride a few months ago when Dufour needed more time to prepare for the Olympics.
Strandby benefits from Dufour's light and harmonious training of Eternity, who moves in such an elegant and lightfooted way through the arena. The trot was a bit hurried though and he sometimes lost the balance, but he was super expressive with much freedom of the shoulder and showed good crossing in the half passes. In walk he ground his teeth loudly and lost the clear 4-beat rhythm, but the extended walk had much overtrack although the rhythm could have been better. The canter work was uphill and springy, there was a late flying change at E. Eternity showed very good ability to collect in the half pirouettes. In the four tempi changes he swung to the right.
The judges said that "we fell in love with your horse. The trot is very lightfooted and active with lots of natural balance. The canter is outstanding."
They rewarded Eternity with 7.2 for walk, 9.6 for trot, 9.8 for canter, 9.7 for submission and 9.5 for perspective. The technical scores were 73.714% (7th) and 76.714% (2nd) to finish third overall on 83.407%.
"I've been riding him close to two months," said Strandby at the press conference. "I have been lucky to get him in my hands. We only did the qualifier and this was my first show with him."
When Eurodressage asked if Eternity would be returned to Dufour, owner Andreas replied "Eternity is ready as a sales horse so he'll stay and I'll send another to Cathrine."
Quando Unico Fourth
Australian Simone Pearce brought no less than three horses to the World Young Horse Championships and Quando Unico became her top scorer. The Hanoverian stallion by Quantensprung x Fidertanz placed fourth in the 7-year old finals
Sprehe and State Stud Moritzburg acquired the premium colt for 280,000 euro at the 2016 Hanoverian Stallion Licensing, but then he twice failed the stallion performance test, only passing it by being shipped to the Czech Republic to get his scores there. The ride was allocated to Pearce in 2019.
Pearce and the black Quando Unico rode very elastic trot work, but as soon as he was given the rein, he sped up the tempo and did not really stretch into the contact. The extended walk was mega! In the medium walk he stayed clear in the rhythm, the turns on the haunches could have been more supple. The flying changes were super straight but there was a blip in them. There was a slight hesitation before the right pirouette, with the horse dropping into walk, but Pearce recovered quickly and rode an ok pirouette.
The judges called Quando Unico "so handsome" but remarked that he goes "wide behind in the extended trot." The walk had "nice stretch" and the canter "could be a bit more uphill but there was a mistake in the flying changes."
He scored 9.7 for walk, 9 for trot, 9.2 for canter, 7.9 for submission and 9.4 for perspective. The technical score was 74.714% and 74.286% to finish on a total of 82.450% for fourth place.
Elverhojs Raccolto Completes Top Five
The top 5 in the 7-year old finals was completed by Marianne Yde Helgstrand on the Danish bred Elverhøjs Raccolto (by Sezuan out of Polka Hit Nexen, by Sandro Hit). Bred by Berith Nielsen out of Andreas' former international Grand Prix horse, Raccolto is a very talented horse for the future and his presentation in the Finals was much better compared to the preliminary test.
Raccolto is a gifted mover, but in Verden he was not very secure in the trot rhythm. In the Finals Yde Helgstrand barely rode the medium and extended trots in order for the horse not to risk going unlevel, but he easily gained ground even when ridden conservatively. The left half pass was more elastic than the right one. Yde Helgstrand held her hands more quiet for a steadier bridle contact, compared to the preliminary test, which improved the overall silhouette. The horse had two hooves overtrack in the extended walk, but in the medium he got slightly tense and became lateral in the turns on the haunches. The horse's canter is absolutely brilliant: uphill in each stride and engaged from behind. The left pirouette was the best one of the two.
The horse scored 7.9 for walk, 9 for trot, 9.7 for canter, 9 for submission and 9.6 for general impression. With 73.857% and 74.429% as technical marks, Raccolto totalled 82.272% for fifth place.
As the biggest buyer and developer of young dressage horses in the world, Helgstrand Dressage wielded the axe of power in the 7-year old division with no less than 7 horses out of 15 finalists from his stable. And five of them were in the top 6! In the 6-year old Finals their two finalists were not really able to impress though. However in the 5-year old finals there was another gold and silver medal for Hesselhoj Down Town and Danciero, as well as a fourth place for Global Player. Not too shabby a result.
"It's a long way to bring all these horses to the World Championships. The whole team made me proud," Andreas said. "You can buy a horse, but it also needs the right management. It's great to see my system work. We take a risk to buy these extremely expensive horses."
After four years being hosted in Ermelo, The Netherlands, and one year break due to Covid, the WCYH returned to the Verden show grounds, where the event was staged from 2001 till 2015. The Hanoverian society revamped the show grounds and created more space for the championship arena so horses felt less spooky. The improvements were appreciated by all.
"The stabling here is super," Andreas commented. "That is most important to us. We don't want tents anymore with 40 ° C and grass underneath. The footing is important too. The venue here is super good."
Jan Pedersen, president of the World Breeding Federation of Sport Horses, is a clear supporter of the Verden venue. "The riders were satisfied with the whole venue. There's more space, the horses feel more comfortable. It's a beautiful venue, we would love to come back," Pedersen stating, but also added, "we are for the principle of rotation."
Next year the WCYH returns to Ermelo for one year after which the bidding is open to host it again. Wilken Treu, managing director of the Hanoverian verband, confirmed that Verden wants the WCYH back in 2023, but Helgstrand has made it no secret that he also wants to bring the show to his home turf in Uggerhalne, Denmark. Rumours are also going round that ANCCE, the PRE studbook in Spain, is thinking of bidding for the show to be hosted at the beautiful facility in Oliva Nova, Spain, which would guarantee better weather.
Photos © Astrid Appels - No Reproduction allowed
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Eurodressage Coverage of the 2021 World Championships Young Dressage Horses