Jessica von Bredow-Werndl carried Team Germany to another team gold medal at the 2021 European Dressage Championships at Hof Kasselmann in Hagen on Wednesday 8 September 2021.
With a 6.28 percentage point lead in the team ranking, Germany bested Great Britain and Denmark for the team medals, collecting its 25th European team title out of 29 editions !
Tokyo vs Hagen
The 2021 European Dressage Championship make a very interesting competition as never before have their been two major continental championships in one summer. Due to the corona pandemic both the Olympic Games and European Championships were scheduled in the same year. Initially the EDC were staged as a back-up plan in case Tokyo wouldn't happen, but in the end the FEI and the organizers decided that Hagen would happen as well.
Many nations decided to field their A-team and Tokyo horses in Hagen despite the strenuous travel and show schedule to produce peak performances at both events. Only a minority of riders decided that the Olympics were enough and rested their horses. Most - especially those with younger horses - felt that the tank was still full and there was plenty of energy left in their horses to chase glory a second time this year.
However, it must be said, of most horses you noticed that a little bit of that sparkle gone in Hagen. Their best rides were in Tokyo and although they are fit on their legs and have enough energy to motor on until the final centerline, many horses made more mistakes here in the EDC Grand Prix compared to Tokyo. This also showed in the Grand Prix scores! Only one combination was able to score over 80%, while in Tokyo there were four!
A few Olympic riders, such as Charlotte Fry, Henri Ruoste, and Therese Nilshagen, showed improvement in Hagen and boosted their Grand Prix score to a higher level than in Tokyo. And then of course there are a few riders, who brought different horses to Tokyo and got a chance to be the surprise rides of the day. Who they are and what their scores are will read in this article.
Von Bredow-Werndl Propels Team Germany
2021 is the year of Jessica von Bredow-Werndl. The 35-year old is riding on a high with 14-year old Trakehner mare Dalera BB (by Easy Game x Handryk) and not even her team mates are able to come close.... if she rides a fault-free test.
At the Olympics she produced one personal best after another and in Hagen the combination has not lost a bit of the effortlessness for which they stand out. Jessica and Dalera make the Grand Prix look easy. The aids are so minimal and the mare just skips through all the movements as if they are peanuts.
In Hagen they showed big, lofty trot extensions, huge crossing in the half passes although the one to the left was more fluent than the one to the right. The first piaffe was better than the second one, which was on the spot and in rhythm, but dropped on the forehand. The passage is light footed and regular. All horses, even the greatest ones, have a weakness and with Dalera it's the walk. In the collected walk she loses the rhythm and becomes later. The canter strike off was short but the canter work outstanding. The zig zag and extended canter were ground covering, The tempi changes delightful. The striding in the right pirouette was better than in the left one, but both were small. The downward transition to trot was a bit passagey before the final extended trot, but these are all just minor issues as overall the picture was harmonious, light and easy.
The ground jury, consisting of the seven judges Susanne Baarup, Thomas Lang, Maria Colliander, Isabelle Judet, Isobel Wessels, Henning Lehrmann, and Mariette Sanders van Gansewinkel, rewarded Von Bredow-Werndl with an 84,099% - a fraction less than her Tokyo Grand Prix score (84.379 %). All seven were unanimous that she was the winner and their marks ranged from 82.500 (Lehrmann) to 85.870 (Baarup).
For a moment there, Germany's golden ticket did not look a done deal because after group one on Tuesday 6 September, the host nation was only standing third in the team ranking. Helen Langehanenberg (Annabelle) and Dorothee Schneider (Faustus) had good rides but not to the best of their ability and their 73.960% and 74.984% only placed them third provisionally behind Great Britain and Denmark. It almost felt like a deja vu was about to happen when Germany got whooped by The Netherlands on home turf at the 2015 Europeans in Aachen. Holland gloriously won gold in the lion's den and Great Britain had silver there.
Yesterday it was up to Isabell Werth and Jessica von Bredow-Werndl to restore order. The most decorated dressage rider in the world, Isabell Werth, brought her second horse to Hagen, resting her Olympic silver medal winning Bella Rose for her retirement performance at the CDIO Aachen next week. Isabell brought Christine Arns-Krogman's 16-year old Oldenburg mare Weihegold (by Don Schufro x Sandro Hit) to Hagen. Weihegold is Isabell's 2016 Olympic silver medal winning horse and multiple World Cup winner. This year she competed the black in three CDI's: Salzburg, Mannheim and Rotterdam.
Werth and Weihegold's last major championship ride was the 2019 World Cup Finals in Gothenburg and for many spectators it was interesting to see what the now 16-year old horse was able to bring to the table at the Europeans. Werth rode a wonderful test with not so spectacular, but correct trot extensions that had overtrack and lengthening of the frame. The passage was quick off the ground, but the left hind was sometimes more engaged than the right. The first piaffe-passage had a smooth rhythm but the downward transition to walk was via a halt. The extended walk was limited in ground cover with one hoof overstep but the rhythm was good. The collected walk was just slow. The second piaffe-passage was well ridden and one saw with how much feeling and delicacy Isabell was steering this mare, as if in control of each step she takes. The one tempi changes were straight, there was a mistake in the two's, the extended canter was lovely and the zig zag very balanced. The final passage on the centerline was super, but in the piaffe at X the engagement was not always as much there.
Isabell received 79.860% which ranked her second, but four judges were below 80 (77-79%) and three at 81%. Werth wears her heart on her sleeve and was furious with the results. It was the second time since the 2018 World Cup Finals Grand Prix in Paris (78.261%) that Weihegold scored under 80%. Lower 80 percentage marks before that date back to 2016. Although the test was excellently ridden, the less generous scores were probably the more accurate ones. Weihegold simply does not have the same quality of gaits as some of the other top scorers, but then again the technical level of riding the pair showed was absolutely brilliant. Of course the message to riders comes across as confusing if one is first generously scored and then the other day receives stricter results for the same performance. Consistency is key, judges!
Von Bredow and Werth's scores pushed Germany back up at the top of the board in the team ranking and with a total of 238.820% they had gold.
At the press conference after the medal ceremony, Werth stated, "I'm really relaxed again. To be honest I was pleased with Weihe. She was focused, it was a controled ride. I didn't want to make mistakes. In the two tempi's she was quicker than me. I expected a few points more, but that's life. We won gold and that's all that matters."
Great Britain Gets Silver
The British team was the overnight leader in the team ranking, but ended up not rivalled Germany enough with their two flagships riders, Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester, collecting mistakes on Wednesday. However for the sake of the sport, it's good to know that they can breathe down the neck of Germany's elite if all the pieces of the puzzle come together.
Tokyo bronze medal winner Charlotte Dujardin and her own and Renai Hart's 10-year old KWPN gelding Go (by Apache x Tango) ranked third in the Grand Prix. In Tokyo the chestnut gelding really sparkled and showed massive improvement in a short period of time. In the Hagen Grand Prix he looked a bit overpaced.
The half pass right was overasked, the left one much better. The halt for rein back was not square but the reverse steps were good. In the trot extensions the horse lengthens the stride but hurries. The first piaffe was too forward and rather quick in the tempo but the horse tries his heart out. The extended walk had one hoof overstep but showed good relaxation. The first part of the second passage was a bit uneven and the transitions in and out of piaffe could be a bit "lighter". Dujardin rides the horse with full energy, the two tempi changes were straight but there was a blip, the extended canter rushed and he changed behind (score 9 - 7.5). The one tempi's were great. The pirouettes were small but there could be more clearer striding in them and on the final centerline Dujardin had Gio still buzzing with energy, although the balance was not as great as he was swaying in the hindquarters. They scored 79.829% with marks between 78.152% (Lehrmann) and 81.630% (Wessels).
Carl Hester and Dujardin & Anne Evans' 12-year old KWPN gelding En Vogue (by Jazz x Contango) was pure joy to watch, even though there was several small issues that made their score drop to 74.845%. Hester rode textbook trot extensions with proper lengthening of stride AND frame. The halts were square and balanced, there was a hiccup in the first piaffe. The extended walk was not the most convincing as the horse did not fully relax and stretch and in the collected walk he started to amble before the pasasage. The second piaffe was on the spot but the horse almost lost the rhythm in the transition. The tempi changes were brilliant but there were small issues before the ones, as well as before the first pirouette, but the actual movement was great. The final piaffe-passage had a super rhythm but the horse dropped in the poll and leaned more on the shoulders. Nevertheless, it was just delicious to watch Hester give a masterclass of controlled, correct and patient riding. The individual judges marks ranged from 72.283% (Colliander) and the high score 76.413% (Wessels).
Added with the big score Charlotte Fry got (77.671%), Great Britain produced a total of 232.531 points for silver.
"Unfortunately the competition is two days," Hester joked. "Yesterday we were at gold. We are thankful we have horses that can do Tokyo and come back here fresh and do this. Looking at the top, experience carries them to higher scores. We didn't win anything for a long time, we don't want to go back to the old days."
Bronze for Denmark
Denmark's leading lady Cathrine Dufour made it no secret that she was eyeing a medal at her second Olympics in Tokyo and her fourth place felt a little bit bitter.. but the every cheerful Dane has swallowed that pill and now has full focus on glory in Hagen.
Aboard the Zinglersen family's sensitive and sometimes complicated 11-year old Westfalian gelding Bohemian (by Bordeaux x Samarant) she rode the best test seen of her so far, except for a second of rebellion from her liver chestnut after the left pirouette. It all started with elegant trot half passes, a good rein back, careful trot extensions in which the horse could show more elasticity over the back. The passage is active, off the ground, but could be more even in the rhythm in the turns as the right hindleg comes more under the body. The piaffe is getting better at each show, even though the horse stays quite horizontal in the topline and does not truly lower the haunches. The rhythm in the second piaffe-passage was super though. The extended walk had good rhythm, but there needs to be more overtrack. The zig zag was super, as well as the ones. You notice that Bohemian is not equally elastic on both reins and that the bending to the left needs improvement. This showed in the corners and also led to the issue in the first pirouette where he did a good pirouette but then escaped the connection by jumping out and resisting. Dufour had her horse back on track in no time and continued to ride such a flawless test. Looking from behind, one can see that in the piaffe at X Bohemian swings the hindlegs out from under the body instead of taking the weight with centered legs. It was a wonderful test to watch and without that pirouette mishap they would have cracked the 80 marker for sure. They scored 79.720% with marks between 78.261% (Colliander) and 81.522% (Judet).
Denmark's second best score was produced by back-on-the-team rider Daniel Bachmann Andersen on his rising star and 2020 Louisdor Cup finalist Marshall Bell (by Don Romantic x Michellino), owned by Christian Vang Lauridsen. In one year time the horse has matured tremendously and shows such great willingness to work and comfort with the exercises. The trot extensions had much suspension. In the passage the horse is super engaged from behind reaching under the body very far, the piaffes are good in rhythm but still lean on the shoulder and not always suspended on the diagonals. Still they show promise. The tempi changes were uphill, the left pirouette was counter bent, the right one a bit unbalanced. The extended canter was uphill with much power.
They posted 76.366% and finished 8th in the ranking to help drive Denmark's score to a total of 231.165 points for bronze. Denmark's third score came from Nanna Skodborg Merrald on Atterupgaards Orthilia (75.078%) which placed them 10th.
Sweden followed in a distance in fourth place with 225.389 points, while Holland - a first time without its score magnet Edward Gal - was fifth with 222.189 points.
Sweden's best ride came from Therese Nilshagen on the Wespe family's 14-year old Oldenburg stallion Dante Weltino OLD (by Danone x Welt Hit II). The duo was totally underscored with their 76.941% after producing such a wonderful test in which the lightness, harmony and elegance reigned supreme. Judge Lehrmann hit the marker much better with his 78.478%. Nilshagen rode her horse full throttle in the trot extensions to achieve proper overtrack, but it looked rushed. The half passes had massive overtrack, but the horse was a bit inconsistent in the poll. The passage was floaty, the extended walk good, the two tempi changes well ridden, the extended canter out of this world. The horse lost the balance in the second piaffe while snorting though. On the final centerline Dante Weltino still looked fresh and willing, but he lost the regularity after the piaffe at X and there was an early halt. This must have been their best test ever.
Hans Peter Minderhoud and Gaston Glock's 13-year old KWPN stallion Dream Boy (by Vivaldi x Ferro) proved consistency once again and posted 74.503%. It was interesting to see what team new comer, Dutch Olympic reserve Dinja van Liere would do at her first major Grand Prix level Championship. She was entered for Hagen with KWPN stallion Hermes (by Easy Game x Flemmingh), who was not allowed to go to Tokyo due to an administrative error in the ownership with the FEI. The pair would have their "revenge" in Hagen, but just a day before departure to Hagen a switch was announced and Van Liere brought her second horse, Joop van Uytert and J. Drost's 9-year old KWPN mare Haute Couture (by Connaisseur x Krack C).
Van Liere rode a very fascinating test on the talented Haute Couture. The mare is super gifted in all the Grand Prix movements but it was astonishing how she executed the programme almost without mistakes with was so much tension in her body. Despite being very impressed by the atmosphere, holding her head high and tending to hollow the back, she kept on listening to her rider's aids and executed movement after movement, nuclearized. The half passes were elegant, the trot extensions running but big, the passage lightfooted but tense. The piaffes were on the spot and especially the second one super nice. The two tempi changes were super straight. In the zig zag she lost the three beat rhythm in the canter stride and the same seemed to happen in the pirouettes, even though they were small. The mare made an unscripted flying change in the extended canter but Van Liere was quick to correct. They posted a 74.208% for 15th place, with the majority of judges at 73% and one judge going up to 76.087% (Lang).
The Finnish team had a historic high placing in the team ranking, standing sixth with 218.634 points. Leading pair Henri Ruoste and his own and Jochen Arl's 11-year old Belgian warmblood gelding Kontestro DB (by Contendro x Cassini II) redeemed themselves after a disappointing ride in Tokyo where the horse spooked from the white plastic cover of the TV camera and did not find his groove in the test. In Hagen, the horse was back to his usual self and Ruoste rode a personal best score of 77.314% on the talented bay gelding. The trot extensions and half passes were huge. The extended walk had good rhythm but the horse needed to overtrack more. The collected was clear. The second piaffe was well ridden on the spot but a bit tense. The two tempi changes could be straighter in the body but the ones were really nice and uphill. The zig zag was well executed. Overall the horse was too tight in the neck and the overall image would improve if he is more in the throat latch. The passage is mega expressive with Kontestro almost overachieving. If Henri can find even more relaxation and lightness in the frame and contact, he could become one of the top players here in Hagen. They placed sixth in the Grand Prix.
Photos © Astrid Appels - No Reproduction allowed
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