Jessica von Bredow-Werndl is the new golden girl. After claiming double gold at the most prestigious sports event in the world - the Olympic Games - at the end July, the 35-year old German raked in triple gold at the 2021 European Dressage Championships in Hagen, Germany.
The Aubenhausen based rider concluded her intensive summer show season with kur gold on Saturday afternoon 11 September 2021, scoring 91.021 scoring. It's the pair's second time to score over ninety percent, her kur personal best being 91.731% achieved in Tokyo.
The silver medal went to Danish Cathrine Dufour, who produced peak performances in Hagen, while Britain's Charlotte Dujardin ended up, slightly surprisingly, with bronze after Isabell Werth landed off the podium the first time in six years in fourth place.
Von Bredow-Werndl Banks Gold
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl has been banking gold medals this year with Beatrice Burchler-Keller's 14-year old Trakekhner mare Dalera BB (by Easy Game x Handryk) in stellar form.
In Hagen they performed their much beloved LaLa Land freestyle with whimsical music from the eponymous Hollywood love story movie. The music is made to measure and Dalera dances to the light, feminine and elegant tunes, always in rhythm, always with ease. The mare entered the ring with not a drop of sweat on her body and left the arena in the same impeccable form, a fitness that is exemplary for other horses. Even when she pooped in the trot half pass left - everyone held their breath and anticipated a halt - the mare kept moving, albeit not so supple. The passage was regular, the trot extensions floated, even the collected walk was fairly clear in rhythm.
In the extended walk she could march a bit more. The extended canter was lovely, the two's were ok, the ones ground covering. The pirouettes small, there was a particularly lovely double pirouette right and a strong final trot extension. Jessica finished her clearly golden ride with a one-handed passage, but the end halt was not totally balanced and slightly after the music.
Jessica's kur looked easy and light and was a pleasure to watch. The one in Tokyo sparkled a tiny bit more though. It could have been that the uniqueness of the venue and the grandeur of the Olympics made more magic happen, or maybe Dalera was a tiny speck fresher than today. Either way the difference was minimal.
The ground jury included Isabelle Judet (FRA), Susanne Baarup (DEN), Mariette Sanders Gansewinkel (NED), Henning Lehrmann (GER), Maria Colliander (FIN), Thomas Lang (AUT), and Isobel Wessels (GBR). They rewarded the ride with 91.021% and all seven had the pair first.
“It’s like a fairytale, the ride today was the best I ever felt," said Jessica. “It may not have been the highest points ever, but for me it was the best feeling I ever had with Dalera. I was very emotional after finishing. No matter what points or what place I got I was so happy!
Talking about Dalera’s Freestyle performance, von Bredow-Werndl said “she was 100 percent focused, she was light, she was on fire but not too much. Two days ago (in the Grand Prix Special) she was a bit too hot so I couldn’t ride for example the extensions fully, and then it looked a little bit tense sometimes, but today it was a perfect, perfect kind of energy. She loves what she does, and I feel it in every second and every movement. Even my collected walk felt super today. The feeling was the best I’ve ever had so far, in my whole life, on any horse!"
She continued, "That’s why I was pretty emotional when I finished because this is not normal - that a horse improves during a competition. Today she had no wet hair, either in the warm-up or after the competition and that’s crazy!"
Dufour Climbs to Silver
After team and Grand Prix Special bronze, Dufour climbed one step higher on the podium today to a freestyle silver.
For the 29-year old Dane the 2021 show season has been a bit of a rollercoaster with ride Bohemian (by Bordeaux x Samarant) crushing her confidence after an elimination at the CDIO Compiegne where the 11-year old Westfalian gelding refused to enter the arena and reared. The rider went back to the drawing board, sat down with her mental coach and two trainers (Kyra Kyrklund, Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein) and worked on the issues at hand. In Tokyo the pair landed a fourth place and in Hagen the right dice were thrown for triple medals.
The pair performed their Les Miserables freestyle for the second time. While in Tokyo it had more an emotional impact (on me), the music still carried weight, especially half way through in the canter work and final piaffe-passage. The duo started with a good first trot extension, while the second one was stiffer in the back. The piaffe-passage and trot work were all very smooth, on command but overall the nose needs to come more out. The extended walk was limited in overtrack and the collected tense but clear in rhythm. Also the canter on the left sometimes lost quality in stride and elasticity, but Bohemian was on the aids and Dufour made it all look light and easy. One right double pirouette could have had more bending, but the tempi changes were obedient. Only at the end of the ones there was a small blemish. The entire test was fluent and with horse and rider in unison. They finished with a confident end halt.
The judges rewarded the ride with 88.436%, good for a second place. Five judges had them second, two third.
"I’m really happy, first because I had a super ride - almost flawless - we had a tiny mistake in the ones at the end and that was totally my mistake. We have grown a lot since Wednesday this week and today he felt so happy, so ready to deliver. It was just so super-easy going. I was back to no pushing, no forcing, just enjoying and dancing with him!”
Dufour feels connected to the music of Boublil and Schönberg's Les Miserables. “It expresses something about where I am in my life. It delivers a kind of message - that I’m really enjoying life and I’m in a good place now and that my horse and I have found our path together. I feel really comfortable with what I’m doing with my team, with the people I have around me, I have a super family, an extra family and it feels fantastic!”
Dujardin on Bronze
Since the retirement of her double Olympic champion Valegro, British Charlotte Dujardin seems to have a magnetic connection to bronze medals. At the 2018 World Equestrian Games she won bronze on Mount St. John Freestyle and at the 2021 Olympics it was bronze with Gio. She repeated that feat at the 2021 European Championships in Hagen with another bronze medal on Gio in the freestyle.
Dujardin and her own and Renai Hart's 10-year old Gio (by Apache x Tango) rode their brand new Tokyo freestyle for the second time. It's a "japanized" musical arrangement which includes tunes of Phil Collins' You’ll Be in My Heart. While the music is up tempo it's hard to find a storyline in it that carries you to the end. The piaffe passage work was quick, energetic but at a point crooked to the right. The extended trot on the centerline was hurried. The left half pass was more ground covering than the right one, the extended walk had good stretch, relaxation and overtrack. The collected was also too quick. The horse looked a bit tired and less accurate in the execution of the canter movements. He had a short change in the two tempi series and made mistakes in the ones. There was a loss of the three beat rhythm in the canter half pass left and although the pirouettes are small and engaged, the horse could slow down the tempo and sit a bit more. The cute chestnut never stopped giving his all, even when in the final piaffe turn the hindlegs swung out.
The pair was rewarded with 87.246%. Two judges, British Isobel Wessels and Danish Susanne Baarup, had them second, the others third and Austrian judge Thomas Lang saw them fourth.
The award ceremony right after the class was a very interesting one in which the medalists got champagne bottle that were shaken so that the riders could showered each other for fun. What seemed like a friendly celebration turned out into a tussle between Von Bredow and Dujardin, who ended up arm-wrestling over a bottle. Fortunately the little cat fight ended in good laughs and some more posing for the medals.
Surprisingly Dujardin did not attend the press conference, citing the doping control and a flight home as reasons for her absence. Werndl and Dufour, who are also doping tested as medallists, were there.
In an interview with Horse & Hound, Dujardin explained that, “I made a mistake in the second set of one-time tempi-changes, which was a bit of a rider error – I waited for the music and then I was like ‘oh no, I’m not ready’ and then I went and got in a bit of a muddle. But apart from that, it was just super, so I’m absolutely thrilled,” Charlotte continued. “He’s only done that freestyle floorplan once before at the Olympics, where it went so well, and we were so nearly there. But things happen and he’s such an inexperienced horse – the crowd were clapping when I went in and he just upped his game and was ready for it, so I’m thrilled.”
Werth Off the Podium
Germany's medal magnet Isabell Werth landed off the podium in fourth place aboard Christine Arns-Krogman's 16-year old Oldenburg mare Weihegold (by Don Schufro x Sandro Hit). The last time Isabell did not end up on the (individual) podium was in 2015 at the European in Aachen, where she placed fourth as well with Don Johnson.
Isabell pulled Weihegold's Samba freestyle from the Rio Olympics out of the drawer and rode with her game face on. Unfortunately, this time her horse did not reciprocate with the same amount of eagerness and battle mentality. Weihegold looked splendid in passage, but her piaffe was weak today with the hindlegs not properly engaging from behind and especially the left hind sometimes trailing. In the first piaffe the impulsion was lost due to a poo, but the other piaffes also lacked that energy and electricity from behind. The extended walk was limited in overtrack and not so clear in rhythm, the collected was ridden short and slowly. The two tempi changes were good, there were mistakes in the ones, the pirouettes were small but quite flat. Weihegold did not bring her usually sprightliness to the table and what was truly great horsemanship was that Isabell Werth respected that !! She never overasked the horse, knowing that today was not her day. She regularly patted and rewarded her mare for well executed movements and never tampered with the horse's confidence. At all times the mare was good in the connection.
The test scored 84.896% and placed them fourth. One judge had them third (Wessels)n the majority fifth. German judge Lehrmann saw them sixth.
Charlotte Fry captured three times the fifth place at the 2021 European Dressage Championships in Hagen. Also on kur day it was back on fifth place, an extraordinary performance for the 25-year old rider, who works as head rider at Gert-jan van Olst's stallion station in The Netherlands.
Coached by Anne van Olst, "Lottie" piloted the 12-year old powerful KWPN stallion Everdale (by Lord Leatherdale x Negro) with much ability through their kur based on Higher Love (by Kygo and Whitney Houston) and Shine Bright Like a Diamond (Rihanna). The black stallion looked a bit less switched on in the passage today, with the hindlegs sometimes out, and in piaffe the croup stays high. Still the piaffe and passage looked more in control today. The passage half pass left was gorgeous, the trot extensions ground covering, and canter work very strong. They rode an interesting floorplan with a special combination of canter half passes - piaffe - canter half passes. The pirouettes were small, but the horse could sit more behind and one change in the one tempi series did not come through. The extended walk had good ground cover.
As penultimate riders to go today, they scored 84.721% for fifth place. Three judges had thel fourth, two fifth, one sixth and one seventh.
Ruoste and Kontestro are Top Guns
The biggest sensation of the 2021 European Dressage Championships was the Top Gun freestyle of Finnish rider Henri Ruoste on Kontestro DB. Aside from the Lala Land and Les Miserables kur, Ruoste's music was a real crowd pleaser, working towards a proper crescendo at the end.
Henri had his own and Jochen Arl's highly sensitive and hot Belgian warmblood (by Contendro x Cassini) in the best form of the year to produce the best test they have ridden so far. The horse was much more relaxed, more consistent in all three basic gaits and Ruoste stayed much more quiet in the saddle, allowing his horse to strut his stuff. Overall the neck needs to lengthen more so that the hindleg can move even more towards the point of gravity, but today the duo showed excellent work with uphill flying changes, very collected pirouettes, slightly tense piaffes that were on the spot and passage work with amazing airtime. In the flying changes the horse could cover more ground instead of achieving height in each change.
The pair scored 82.600% and achieved a personal record. The judges were still divided on the horse as the short neck and self carriage could improve, but there were plenty of highlights in the ride. They ranked him between fourth (84.300% - Colliander) and 10th place (82.100 - Wessels) although the individual marks were fairly close (low score 81.475 - high score 84.300).
The Kur to Music finals at the 2021 European Championships took place in front of a sell-out crowd of around 5000 people, that for the first time clapped and cheered at a major continental dressage championship since the corona pandemic. Once again Hof Kasselmann came to the rescue to stage a superb event that celebrated dressage sport at the highest level.
The FEI still needs to allocate the venue for the 2023 European Dressage Championships but two locations are in the running: Cascais (Portugal) and Riesenback (Germany).
Photos © Astrid Appels - No Reproduction allowed
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