Last year, the title of my article for the first day of the 2022 CDI Opglabbeek was Cruel Weather Gods Spoil the Party. This year, the Belgian organized show moved from Sentower Park in Opglabbeek, Belgium, to the holy show grounds of Aachen in Germany. The change in venue did not bring about a change in weather at my first outdoor competition in Europe of the new year.
Rain Rain Go Away
While last year it was freezing cold and snow fell from the sky during the Grand Prix, this year the Deutsche Bank stadium and its outdoor arenas got trashed by rain storms that twice swept over the show grounds in 15 minute bursts.
During the first burst, Laura Strobel aborted her Prix St Georges ride on Villeneuve and pony riders had to run for shelter under the walkway bridge as their ponies turned their butts to the rain and froze like statues --- except one pony - a British one - of course. Myles Graham and Dresscode Cocktail just kept on "warming up" in a curtain of rain that almost looked like a snow storm, a haze of white. It gushed for 10 minutes and rained for another 20 or so and then the sun came out again. The temperature was around 10 C°.
In the afternoon, the Zeus, Jupiter, Dyaus or whichever god you want to make accountable for the weather, returned with a vengeance and ruined Swedish Malin Wahlkamp-Nilsson's Grand Prix ride in the main feature class of the day. Her Swedish bred Bergsjöholm's Valbonne was a saint though and bravely motored on, listening to her rider's aids. Not once did the rider seem on the verge of lifting her hand to retire from the test. She is the hero of the day!
I always wonder what mental game goes on their head when something like this happened. It teleported me back to the 2012 London Olympic Games where Anna Kasprzak and Donnperignon suffered a similar fate.
Rath and Destacado Win Grand Prix for Special
Matthias Rath and the 10-year old Hanoverian stallion Destacado (by Desperados x Londonderry) became the winners of the Grand Prix for Special, just days after announcing that his stallion would not be standing up for stud in order to be focused exclusively on sport this year with Riesenbeck as goal. The Grand Prix was judged by Adriaan Hamoen, Jean-Michel Roudier, Katrina Wüst, Jacques van Daele, and Lars Andersson and counted 23 participants.
Gestut Schafhof's imposing Destacado is a very elastic and expansive mover in the trot extensions and half passes. His passage is lofty but in the piaffe he keeps the hindlegs quite straight instead of sitting. The extended canter was powerful. Overall the horse needs to be more up in the poll. They scored 73.913% for the victory.
Patrik Kittel and Arlette Jasper Kohl's 11-year old Westfalian mare Forever Young HRH (by Furst Fugger x Don Bosco) were the runners-up with 73.326%. The one tempi changes and the pirouettes were really nice and the mare has a very electric passage. The rhythm in the trot half pass right was better than to the left. In piaffe the mare gets wide in front and unbalanced. Overall one wishes to see her more adjustable in the frame. She is very steady in the bridle and head position (but grinds). One wishes to see the nose come out a little more in the lengthenings.
Fabienne Müller-Lütkemeier and her 12-year old Westfalian mare Valencia As (by Vitalis x Hotline) showed a passage with much airtime and a piaffe in which the mare takes the weight behind, approaching a bit more the correct classical frame you hardly see in competitive dressage sport nowadays. In canter she gets a bit wobbly in the rhythm at time. The left pirouette lacked some collection. There was a mistake in the rhythm in the third trot extension but the passage on the final centerline was great. They scored 72.783%/
Belgian Larissa Pauluis and the 11-year old Westfalian First Step Valentin (by Vitalis x Fidermark) are really finding their stride along the way and getting more established with each ride. The transitions in and out of piaffe need to be more solidified though. Today they were fourth with 71.174%
Laura Strobel rode Sissy Max-Theurer's 12-year old Westfalian Valparaiso (by Vitalis x Furst Piccolo) to fifth place with 70.957. the rein back, a bobble in the zig zag and the last piaffe lacked polish and pushed the score down. Strobel is the fourth rider to compete the stallion internationally. He was first started by Wibke Bruns, then Wolfgang Himsl and Victoria Max-Theurer before Strobel took over. She is based at Max-Theurer's German stallion station Gestut Vorwerk.
Strobel won the Prix St Georges on another Vitalis, the 11-year old Rhinelander Villeneuve (by Vitalis x Dancier), also owned by Max-Theurer. The chestnut stallion won silver at the 2018 World Young Horse Championships as a 6-year old under Strobel. Then Dorothee Schneider took over the ride and she competed him only once internationally, at the 2020 CDI Achleiten. Now Strobel is back on board and made a come back with the cute stallion, who had to perform the PSG twice and a massive downpour and strong winds blew the fences and decorative trees out of their pots in the morning. They posted a winning 72.549% for their two-phased PSG test.
Winner Winner Chicken Dinner
On the first day of competition at the Festival 4 Dressage CDI, five classes were ridden.
There were three further winners. German Greta Louise Wagner won the Children preliminary test on her 10-year old Furst Deluxe (by Furstenball x Rosario) with 77.750%.
German Mia Allegra Lohe reigned in the pony team championship test with her European championship individual medal winning Tovdal's Golden Future Imperial (by CJ Chargon Bredager x Rytterbjergets Imperial). They edged out Lilly Collin on Cosmo Callidus with 75.143%.
German routinier and European Championship team rider Carolina Miesner piloted the 12-year old chestnut Exclusiv (by Edward x Wolkenstein) to victory in the junior team test with 74.091%.
- Text and Photos © Eurodressage (this article expresses Eurodressage's' eye-witness account and opinion about the competition).
Photos © Eurodressage - No Reproduction ALLOWED / NO SCREEN SHOTS ! - Eurodressage took photos of (almost) all competitors. If you are interested in photos for social media use, send us an email.