Fry Puts Great Britain in the Lead at 2021 European Dressage Championships

Wed, 09/08/2021 - 00:22
2021 European Dressage Championships
Charlotte Fry and Everdale at the 2021 European Dressage Championships :: Photo © Astrid Appels

Charlotte Fry and the KWPN stallion Everdale rode the high score of the day and put Great Britain in the lead of the team medal competition at the 2021 European Dressage Championships, which started today 7 September 2021 with the first group of Grand Prix riders.

Team Great Britain has taken the overnight lead with a team average of 77.671%, while Denmark is in silver medal position with 75.078%. The Olympic champions, Germany, are currently standing third with an average score of 74.985% after two riders. 

The Stage is Set

Seventy combinations from across Europe are participating in the Grand Prix after Italy’s Nausicaa Maroni and Embajador SG did not pass the re-inspection on Tuesday morning. No less than five horses had to be trotted up again and one was excused from competition.

Hof Kasselmann pulled out all the stops to organize a memorable European Championships in the second year of the corona pandemic, which has reshaped competition life. With two massive VIP lounges, a huge covered grandstand to welcome spectators in all weather conditions and a flower decorated arena with hydrangeas in their last autumn colours, the main stadium has the ingredients befitting a continental championship.

The first 35 combinations competed in the Grand Prix today, which was judged by a panel of seven, including Susanne Baarup (DEN), Thomas Lang (AUT), Maria Colliander (FIN), Isabelle Judet (FRA), Isobel Wessels (NED), Henning Lehrmann (GER), Mariette Sanders van Gansewinkel (NED) and with a Judging Supervisory Panel (Hunt, Matthiesen, Mechlem) at work to smoothen out any potentially judging lapses.

Fry on Fire

The 25-year old British Charlotte Fry is on fire this summer. After her Olympic debut in Tokyo earning team bronze, and a World Young Horse Champion’s title on Kjento two weeks ago, today Fry put Britain in the lead of the nations’ ranking at the European Championship.

Lottie Fry and Everdale
Aboard Gert-Jan van Olst’s 12-year old KWPN stallion Everdale (by Lord Leatherdale x Negro), Fry is finding more relaxation and groove with each competition ride. The sensitive stallion appeared less distracted and fiddling with his rider and produced more harmonious work, although the neck remains too short and tight throughout and the topline too horizontal in the piaffes and tempi changes. Still the trot and canter extensions were powerful and engaged, the piaffes had a clearer balance and the tempi changes were straight. Everdale does not have the greatest overtrack in the extended walk, but the rhythm was good. In the collected walk he got a bit tight in the back. The canter pirouettes were small and could have a bit more lift in the forequarters, but the petite Fry impressed by piloting this strong horse through the programme.

The judges rewarded the test with 77.671% with her individual marks ranging between 76.196 (Lehrmann) and 79.674% (Baarup).

“It’s been a great few months and Everdale has been amazing”, she said. “He came home so fresh from Tokyo, excited and ready to go again. He had a week off last week, I got back on on Sunday and he was feeling great still. His energy never runs out, he goes all day and he loves to work," Fry told the FEI press officer. 

Merrald Rides Personal Best

Denmark’s Nanna Skodborg Merrald is another one of this young generation of dressage riders that is breaking through at the highest echelon of the sport. She made her Olympic debut in Tokyo on Blue Hors Zack, won silver at the 2021 World Young Horse Championships on Blue Hors Touch of Olympic a fortnight ago and today placed provisionally second on Atterupgaards Orthilia with a personal best score of 75.078%.

Nanna Merrald on Orthilia
Merrald took over the ride on the 16-year old Oldenburg bred Orthilia (by Gribaldi x Donnerschlag) from owner Agnete Kirk Thinggaard after the mare had been off for several years due to injury. Now fresh and fit, the bay Danish bred has not lost an inch of the shine and beauty she displayed at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio under previous owner Fiona Bigwood.

Merrald and "Tillie" were on point showing very elegant half passes with good crossing of the legs, expressive trot extensions, although there could have been even more overtrack. The passage was lightfooted and the piaffe in the spot but the horse was unsteady in the contact and bopping her head. The contact was the biggest issue this lovely pair had. While Nanna rode with a curb rein that was hanging in a loop, the mouth was covered in sugar fluff and the mare opened the mouth a lot and regularly flashed her tongue, either sticking it out or licking all the sugar paste. These contact issues were not really reflected in the marks though. The two tempi changes were straight, the ones correct but a bit short in ground covering, finishing right after X on the diagonal. The extended canter was well ridden. Overall the ride was very pleasing to watch but the contact needs to improve.

The duo scored a personal best of 75.078% with marks going from 74.348% to 76.087%.

"I’ve had her for less than a year and this was the best Grand Prix I’ve ever done with her! I’m very happy that I did all I could for the team, and I couldn’t ask for more. It was what I’ve been dreaming about," Merrald told the FEI.

Schneider on Second Horse

Just a few days before the start of the European Championships, Dorothee Schneider announced that she would not be taking her number one, Showtime, to Hagen, but her second option Faustus, a 13-year old Hanoverian gelding by Falsterbi x Forrest xx owned by Gestut Fohlenhof. The combination had a warm-up show at the CDI Crozet two weeks ago, where they finished second, before heading to Hagen. 

Dorothee Schneider on Faustus
The lovely Faustus is only competing in his first major championships and does not have the maturity and reliability of a Showtime yet. His rider had her hands full steering the dappled bay gelding through the test. Schneider's hands were restless, constantly having to manage the mouth, collection and self carriage of the horse, but the experienced rider produced some wonderful elements in her ride. The half passes were nice, the extended trots could have had a bit more ground cover and spring, but showed a nicely lengthening nonetheless. The passage has a nice side silhouette but lacked some engagement from behind today. The piaffes were nicely on the spot, but the horse leaned on the shoulders. Especially in canter there were some great moments with beautiful uphill single tempi changes, a small left pirouette, a superb extended canter. A break into canter in the final passage affected the score. 

The judges gave Schneider and Faustus a 74.985% and were quite unanimous across the board. 

“Sometimes when he’s not confident he tries to come behind me, and then I want to ride to the bit and there’s one or two moments when he’s not directly going to the bit and we have a mistake," Schneider explained. “His highlights were really the canter. It needs a bit of time to close this big canter and to balance him, but he comes more and more in a good balance. I’m proud of him!"

Hughes Fourth

Brit Gareth Hughes rode Judy Firmston Willia's 11-year old Oldenburg gelding Sintano van Hof Olympia (by Sandri Hit) to a provisional fourth place with a generous 74.394%. 

Gareth Hughes on Sintano van Hof Olympia
The bay gelding is in his first year at international Grand Prix and fairly green at the level. He is not always always to show the same consistency in his rides, even though the scores are always high, most likely because Hughes presents the horse in such a quiet, controlled and careful way.  The big horse has the (left) hindleg often out or trailing behind, especially in passage and could really carry himself more from behind. Today this was even more obvious in the unsteady head position. Although light and quiet in the bit, the horse's head consistently bops instead of being steady and up in the poll. Still, Hughes and Sintano showed a wonderful left half pass, while the right one was too passagey and uneven in the rhythm. The collected walk was very well ridden and the second piaffe and second part of the passage were the nicest of the test. In the two tempi changes the horse swings the hindquarters to the left, but the extended canter was meticulously ridden, although the flying change that followed was too early before the marker. 

The judges eagerly rewarded this ride with a 74.394% which helped Britain take the overnight lead in the team ranking.

Langehanenberg Premiers Annabelle on the Team

German 2012 Olympian Helen Langehanenberg returned on the German team with a new horse, the 13-year old Holsteiner mare Annabelle (by Conteur x Linaro), owned by Carsten Thiesing and Günther Fielmann. 

Helen Langehanenberg on Annabelle
The long-legged, show jumping bred mare was the German olympic team reserve for Tokyo and now got her first opportunity to shine on the team in Hagen. The first medium trot had good ground cover but was ridden on three tracks. The half passes had good rhythm. The second extended trot could have been more forward and the transition to passage was not very subtle, Helen using an obvious backwards working hand on quite a long rein. The first piaffe was lovely, the second piaffe very narrow at the base, yet uphill. The mare lost the rhythm in the transition to passage. There was a mistake in the one tempi changes, the extended canter and zig zag could have been a bit more uphill, but the pirouettes were small. The mare still had very good energy on the final centerline and that line bumped their total score with no less than 2% upwards. 

They finished on 73.960% and are provisionally standing fifth. Her score and Faustus' currently puts German in bronze medal position. 

Quick Notes

Victoria Max-Theurer on Abegglen
Austrian Victoria Max-Theurer is in Hagen with a vengeance, missing out on riding at the Olympics as her 11-year old Westfalian Abegglen (by Ampere x Carabas) developed a tooth infection in Tokyo and had to be withdrawn before the Grand Prix. The dark bay gelding is a super talented Grand Prix horse with no weaknesses, the pair just needs to find their groove. The passage work is super expressive, but gets a bit hectic, the piaffe has real sit but he backstepped in the second one. The extended canter was fantastic, but he dropped a bit behind the vertical and there was a mistake in the one tempi changes. Lots of good elements but the pieces still all need to come together. For today it was 73.106% and a sixth place. 

Dutch Marlies van Baalen's 10-year old Dutch warmblood gelding Go Legend (by Totilas x Ferro) is another super talented Grand Prix horse. The black had amazing potential in piaffe and passage but the walk is his weakness and he loses many points on it time and again as he fails to keep the rhythm clean. Van Baalen today rode with a backwards working hand, tightening the neck on occasions, and it would be nice to see a bit more forward energy overall. Nevertheless, the duo showed a very controlled canter tour with a good zig zag and left pirouette. The left half pass was the best one of the two. They posted 72.531% for seventh place. 

Adelinde Cornelissen on Governor
Adelinde Cornelissen is back on the Dutch team after a five year break from Grand Prix level championship participation since the retirement of her 2012 Olympic silver medal winner Parzival after the 2016 Rio Olympics. Now aboard her young star, 10-year old KWPN stallion Governor (by Totilas x Jazz), Cornelissen rode a very safe rode, almost with the handbrake on. The gorgeous black stallion has plenty of talent and ability in all three gaits, but Cornelissan seemed stuck in third gear with a strong curb contact. The trot extensions were uneven in front (more lengthening in the right front leg) and in passage the left hind sometimes got stuck, but the collected walk was very well ridden, the extended canter really lovely and the last extended trot was the best one of the three. A mistake in the one tempi changes reduced the score to 72.484% and an eighth place. 

Swedish Jeanna Hogberg made her return on the Swedish Grand Prix team after a seven year hiatus. She made her debut at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Caen on Darcia and is now back with Charlotte Jorst's 15-year old Bavarian bred Lorenzo (by Lord Loxley x Rubin Royal). They showed good half passes and rein back. The passage is bouncy with a lot of airtime, but sometimes uneven or swinging in the hindquarters. The collected walk was lateral, but the extended canter stood out by its exemplary straightness. The one tempi changes were really nice and the right pirouette the best one, as he changed lead behind in the left one. The final centerline had plenty of energy and spring but needed more straightness. They scored 72.252% to finish 9th so far. 

Emma Kanerva on Greek Air
Finland's Emma Kanerva and Gert Saborowski's 10-year old ZfDp bred Greek Air (by Gribaldi x Florestan) completed the top 10 with a 71.304% score. The trot extensions were great in lengthening of stride, but he could be a bit more open in the throat latch, the one tempi changes very well ridden, but in passage the horse engages more with the left hind and he made an unscripted flying change in the extended canter. 

Tomorrow the second group of Grand Prix riders competes after which the team medals will be decided. The class starts at 8h30.

Photos © Astrid Appels - No Reproduction allowed
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