At the 2022 CDI-W London International Horse Show, reigning World Champions Charlotte Fry and the 11-year old KWPN stallion Glamourdale easily picked up where they left off, winning another Grand Prix on grandiose form.
The pair dominated the short Grand Prix on Thursday afternoon 15 December, a warm-up class for the Freestyle to Music on Friday 16 December, which actually counts for World Cup points.
It is unclear whether Fry is actively pursuing a ticket to the World Cup Finals in Omaha (USA) in spring, but she certainly wanted to treat and reward the British home crowd with a taste of Glamourdale in the flesh for Christmas time.
No Room for Nostalgia
The 2022 CDI-W London is part of the Western European League World Cup qualification circuit and just like in 2021, the event is taking place in the ExCel exhibition halls on the outskirts of London instead of in its traditional venue, the sublime Victorian halls at Olympia.
Those craving the nostalgic days at Olympia can better pack up their dreams as it is highly unlikely the horse show will ever return there: a rumoured much lower rental fee, more space for parking horse boxes, stabling area, warm-up, etc make ExCel more convenient for the competitors and with the newly opened Elizabeth Line, the London underground can bring fans straight from the heart of London to the ExCel's doorstep.
Still, this reporter is old school and misses the heritage, atmosphere, and historic class Olympia brought to the table, but from an organisational perspective ExCel makes sense.
Fifteen for the Short Grand Prix
A group of fifteen international competitors travelled to London for the World Cup qualifier. Since Brexit, shipping horses to the U.K. and back to the European mainland makes no-one jump for joy with all the costs and paper work, but for this occasion nine mainlanders did it nonetheless. And they were able to combine it with some Christmas holiday shopping.
As of 2022 show organizers can decide for themselves if they want to use the short of long Grand Prix as their warm-up round for the Kur to Music and as the highly debated short Grand Prix was primarily an initiative from several British riders, it was no surprise that this test was ridden at ExCel. Many debate that the test is too exerting for the horses because of the speed at which the exercises follow each other, but in the end the test provides a welcome change from the programme.
It's nice to see horses and riders think as the zig zag, pirouettes and trot half passes are ridden in the opposite/mirrored direction. It brings a whole bunch of new challenges to the fore as they are not used to approaching the movements from a different lead. This reporter likes the change, once in a while...
Spell-binding Display of Power
All eyes were on one combination, the double world champions, Lottie Fry and Gert-Jan van Olst's black stallion Glamourdale (by Lord Leatherdale x Negro). The unique atmosphere of anticipation - to see Glamourdale "for real" for the first time on British soil - was palpable and lifted spirits.
With her nerves of steel Fry delivered: nice bouncy trot half passes, and springy passage work. The one extended trot only started to achieve proper overtrack at the end of the diagonal and while the first piaffe was ridden better on the spot, the horse still leaned on the shoulders. But then came the canter; superb two tempi changes and an excellent zig zag. The exit of the right pirouette was a bit sloppy, the left pirouette was tidier. Their last diagonal featured Glamourdale's trademark movement: an explosive extended canter which makes him seem airborne.
The judges' panel for the CDI-W included Peter Storr (GBR), Markus Ringmark (SWE), Susanne Baarup (DEN), Stephen Clarke (GBR) and Jacques van Daele (BEL) and they certainly felt the festive atmosphere as they generously distributed soaring scores that afternoon to several riders, and for Fry they unanimously agreed to place her first with 84.026%. British judges Storr and Clarke had her between 84. and 85%, the Belgian jumped on the bandwagon and even took it to 86.5%, while the Scandinavian judges remained with their feet on the ground and awarded the test and 81.7-8.1.8%
Even the musical technician on the job couldn't contain his excitement for Glamourdale. While he provided the typical, patriotic and unimaginative background tunes for each rider (the Spanish riders ALWAYS ride to Spanish music, the Irish to Irish, so repetitive and predictable....), with Lottie Fry he started to become the DJ at a rave party and let the lyrics of the dance tunes blow through the speaker as if it were the freestyle already.
Fry said on her win: “There was pressure coming to London as world champions, but I was so excited to bring him here and to show him to the British public. The arena here is incredible, and he loved it – he was amazing and had so much presence, it is an incredible feeling riding him!”
Prima Donna Briolinca
The second place went to British World Championship team rider Gareth Hughes on the 16-year old KWPN mare Briolinca (by Trento B x Royal Dance). As much as Glamourdale is an image of power and combustion, does Briolinca represent the total opposite: calm and collected, elegant, precise.
Freshly clipped, the mare looked almost translucent. She started out carefully with a trot extension that lacked swing and elasticity in the back, but the half passes were smooth. The passage was floaty with a very nice transition into the first piaffe, which was good in the rhythm but there needed to be more sit. While the extended walk was accurately ridden, in the collected the rhythm became compromised. The zig zag was lovely, the tempi changes easy-going and the pirouettes were clean.
The British judges were again much higher with their scores than the others: 81.3 from Storr and 79.868 from Clarke, while the three others stayed round 76-77%. The final result was 78.263%
Franziskus on Edge
Germany’s Ingrid Klimke arrived in London fresh from a win in the FEI Dressage World Cup™ in Stuttgart just a few weeks ago. Aboard Wilhelm Holkenbrink's 14-year old stallion Franzikus FRH (by Fidertanz x Alabaster), Klimke had to do a bit more riding as the Hanoverian was clearly a bit more impressed by the surroundings than in Stuttgart.
The trot extension was slightly hurried, but there was good crossing of the legs in the half passes. The halt for rein back was great, but the steps backwards were tense. The stallion struggled with the transition into piaffe and did not come to full relaxation in the extended walk with the nose stretching out. Klimke however piloted the horse is an expert way and in canter showed a very nice zig zag, good two tempi changes although the ones to the left could be straighter in the hindquarters. There was a bobble in the ones, but they finished with a correct final centerline.
The pair scored 75.421% for third place and had all five judges in unison.
The starters' field in London had many ringing names.
Former World Cup champion Helen Langehanenberg brought the 14-year old Holsteiner mare Annabelle (by Conteur x Linaro) and finished fourth with 74.816%. The passage was expressive, the piaffe on the spot but leaning on the forehand with a lack of balance. The bay mare works hard for her rider, but overall could be more elastic (in the trot extension) and take more weight (in the pirouettes). Nevertheless they are a pleasant pair to watch.
Dutch Hans Peter Minderhoud made his long-awaited international come back on the 14-year old KWPN stallion Dream Boy (by Vivaldi x Ferro), which he last competed in a CDI in February 2022 in Doha. The black looked fit and fresh, moving with much ground cover and expression, but his facial expression was not always the happiest with a mouth gaping. The tempi changes were very uphill and forward, but the ones to the left are clearly more under than the ones the right (behind). The highlight of the test were the sweeping trot half passes. They finished fifth with 73.447%.
Australia's Simone Pearce and Gestut Bonhomme's 13-year old Oldenburg stallion Fiderdance (by Fidertanz x Don Schufro) scored 72.632%. They rode a very nice rein back, but there was some resistance in the two tempi changes which affected the final score. Ireland's Abigail Lyle had her ExCel debut on the 11-year old Giraldo (by Rousseau x Flemmingh) and posted 70.395%% for seventh place.
The festive atmosphere was already felt during the short Grand Prix and Friday's freestyle class is promising to be an early Christmas party. Looking at the current scoring trend the judges adopted here, it would be no surprise if a World record is broken on Friday. After all, "Olympia" was always where Valergro set new records. Let's see if Glamourdale takes over that baton.
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Scores: 2022 CDI-W London
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