Barbancon Wins 2023 CDIO 4* Grand Prix in Rotterdam, France in the Lead of Nations Cup

Thu, 06/22/2023 - 21:50
2023 CDIO Rotterdam
Morgan Barbançon and Habana Libre A win the 2023 CDIO Rotterdam Grand Prix :: Photo © Digishots

French Morgan Barbançon Mestre and Habana Libre A won the CDIO 4* Grand Prix at the 2023 CHIO Rotterdam on Thursday 22 June 2023 and put Team France in the lead of the FEI Nations Cup competition which concludes on Saturday with the Grand Prix Special and Freestyle. 

The 2023 CDIO Rotterdam is the fourth out of six FEI nations cup legs this 2023 show season, which kicked off in Wellington (USA), followed by Compiegne (FRA), Pilisjaszfalu (HUN), now Rotterdam (NED) and Aachen (GER). The series concludes in Falsterbo (SWE) in three weeks.

Getting Ready for Paris

In Rotterdam France is making a powerful statement in the year before the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. They have been preparing, progressing, and improving and now shown to have a solid base of three riders able to score 72% or more. And there's more potential knocking at the door. 

Morgan Barbançon and her 11-year old KWPN gelding Habana Libre A (by Zizi Top x United) began a winning streak this year in Wellington, Florida, and continued it on European soil in Lipica (SLO) two weeks ago. Now in Rotterdam, the produced a solid ride showcasing their routine and experience. Only a bobble in the one tempi changes kept the score from climbing over 73%. They won the class of 28 riders with 72.696%.

French Pauline Basquin an the 13-year old Zangersheide registered Sertorius de Rima Z (by Sandro Hit x Voltaire) have really matured over the last year and although the Sandro Hit still struggles to properly sit in the piaffe, the passage was light footed and overall the very quiet, harmonious picture they painted with a quiet contact was a pleasure to watch. They were second with a personal best of 72.500%. 

French Corentin Pottier and his talented Totilas offspring Gotilas landed fourth place with 72.326%, underlining France's very strong form in Rotterdam. The country is standing first on the leader board for the nations' cup and is on track to write history.

"I have to pinch myself," said Morgan Barbançon, who credits the major progress in her riding to the regular lessons with Brit Gareth Hughes. "Habana just won the CDIO4* Grand Prix of Rotterdam and to top it off France is in the lead!" Morgan has not chosen her senior Sir Donnerhall II as her hopeful for Paris but is aiming Habana Libre A for Olympic team selection. "He's the most amazing horse."

Germany and Sweden

Raphael Netz and Great Escape Camelot
Germany, which won the Nations' Cup in Pilisjaszfalu at the start of June as well as the season opener in the USA in March, are currently standing second in Rotterdam. Their best performance came from 2021 and 2022 European Under 25 champion Raphael Netz who has successfully taken over the ride on Great Escape Camelot (by Johnson x Turbo Magic) and is now campaigning in the senior division. Produced and competed at Grand Prix level by Swiss Estelle Wettstein, the 12-year old Camelot finished fifth with 71.826%, while Evelyn Eger and the 18-year old Westminster (by Weltissimo x Davignon) were seventh with 71.326% and Anna Christina Abbelen and Sam Donnerhall (by Samarant x Donnerhall) 12th with 70.217%.

Nations' Cup team newcomer Marina Mattsson and the 11-year old KWPN bred Helix (by Apache x Jazz) turned out to be the Swedish team's stronghold with a personal best score of 71.761%, while Caroline Darcourt and the 13-year old Hanoverian Lord Django (by Stalypso x Londonderry) landed 11th place with 70.391%. Supported by another team rookie, Emma Jonsson on Gerion (by Jazz x Don Primero), with 69.869% Sweden is currently standing third and can consolidate a place on the podium on Saturday

Lewis Carrer, a Brit to Watch

Team rookies and young stars have been wielding the axe of power in Rotterdam today and it was no different from Team GB. Great Britain has positioned itself in fourth place thanks to a personal best performance of Lewis Carrier on the 15-year old Diego V (by Spielberg x Welt Hit II), the horse which took him to the 2018 European Young Riders Championships and 2020 and 2021 European Under 25 Championships. He moved into senior ranks in 2022, but the young professional really gained traction in 2023 with strong rides at the CDI Addington and Windsor. The Carl Hester student put himself in eye-sight of the selectors and he has made his senior team debut here in Rotterdam. 

Lewis Carrier on Diego
Carrier and Diego stood out with their exemplary frame. This is what real dressage looks like! The horse was always open in the throat latch, light in the contact and looked incredibly harmonious and in tune with his rider. The passage was uphill, the first piaffe great, the second a bit on the shoulders though. The one tempi changes were an absolute highlight. They scored a personal best of 71.196% and became Britain's best today.  

"Our first senior Nations Cup test completed and what a time to pull out a PB in the Grand Prix," Carrier took to Instagram. "Diego felt the best he ever has to score 71%+ and finish 8th amongst some of the worlds best riders. Diego is such a pleasure to ride and the way he embraces the bigger atmospheres and shines is very special. It’s always an honour to represent your country, but this show is a particular milestone moment for us. This is our first year at solely senior level and I am so proud of Diego and the work we are producing on the big stages!"

Just behind them in 9th place were Andrew Gould and the 10-year old KWPn bred Indigro (by Negro x Jazz) who were also members of the British team in Compiegne. They clocked 71.087%, while Anna Ross and Habouche (by Ampere x Ustinov) finished on 69.478%.

Dutch Off-Day

Today the Dutch team underwhelmed on home turf, a first after winning the Rotterdam Nations Cup for years in a row.

The CDIO Rotterdam and CDIO Aachen are always scheduled back to back and it used to be the Dutch federation's strategy to field the strongest team in Rotterdam and a B-team in Aachen, but this year team trainer Alex van Silfhout decided otherwise. He will be sending his potential Riesenbeck team to Aachen and  made room for rookies and young horses to prove their mettle.  In Van Silfhout's own words, it was a "big disappointment."

The first to go for Holland was Diederik van Silfhout on the 13-year old Dutch warmblood Filius Apache (by Apache x Tietse D) who cracked the seventy marker at the Dutch Championships and came into team selection spotlight there. With Dinja van Liere taking Hartsuijker to Aachen (after the withdrawal of her Nr 1 Hermes), a spot opened on the Rotterdam team with Diederik filled. They scored 69.565% and placed 17th. There was too much tension in this green duo, which led to difficulties in the halt, rein back and walk part as well as the two tempi changes. 

Hans Peter Minderhoud on Invictus
Hans Peter Minderhoud is probably riding the most talented and powerful horse he's ever had in his career. Edward Gal's 10-year old Invictus (by Jack Sparrow x Voice) has very little show experience and has been struggling with the electric atmosphere at competitions this year. He had to retire at the Dutch Championships (but then won the consolation class) and also in Geesteren and Exloo the horse gave a very green impression. Van Silfhout's decision to put this talented but inexperienced horse on the Dutch team at such a major international event was therefore surprising. Unfortunately, the gamble did not pay off. Minderhoud could not filter the huge amount of tension and held on the bridle with a tight grip. In piaffe the horse yanked into contact and escaped. This diamond in the rough just needs more time to mature and exposure, but maybe first at smaller (national) shows until he settles into the environment? In this day and age when equestrian sport is under so much scrutiny for a social licence to operate, these are situations you want to avoid at big public shows. They scored 62.370% and were last. 

Minderhoud took to Facebook after his test. "Invictus is a stallion with a lot of potential. He is wonderful to ride, he is ambitious himself and he is strong and elegant. But he is also still young and has little experience. You could see and feel all that today. He was already completely overwhelmed by the impressive arena and the backdrop of the audience when he entered. But our horses are living beings, they need time and many experiences to grow and learn. For Invictus and me, today was not the performance we dreamed of, but an important step in the right direction."

Marlies van Baalen recently returned with her 12-year old Go Legend (by Totilas x Ferro) after a long period of injury (lymphadenitis in the girth area) and the black, who was her Tokyo Olympic hopeful, produced good scores at the Dutch Nationals and CDI Exloo (72.522%) in May. In Rotterdam, however, the talented gelding had a clear off day. He did not look crisp in the rhythm in the trot extensions and was very unsettled in the contact, leaning into the bit and opening the mouth. The piaffes were lovely, but overall there were too many mistakes. During her ride the background music stopped playing, which made the noise from the crowds coming into the arena more audible; it was not really from spectators, but more from the catering areas and VIP tables where business meetings were taking place with dressage just happening to be in the background. Marlies later stated that her horse got distracted by that noise. According to CHIO sport director Patrick van der Meer, Van Baalen had deliberately requested that the background music would be turned down for her horse. They were second to last with  64.413%

With both Minderhoud and Van Baalen scoring under 65%, they are not eligible to ride in the Special/Freestyle on Saturday and The Netherlands has been eliminated from the team competition.

Scholtens Saves the Biscuit

Emmelie Scholtens on Indian Rock
Fortunately Emmelie Scholtens saved Holland's biscuit in Rotterdam with her come back performance on the sympathetic stallion Indian Rock (by Apache x Vivaldi). In February Scholtens injured her knee and required surgery. She's only been back in the saddle for three weeks and this was her first show. The pair produced a solid round in which the passage could have been more regular and the piaffe more balanced, but there was a very nice extended walk, a great right pirouette and very big one tempi changes. They scored 72.478% to place third. 

"I really wanted to ride Rotterdam but wasn't sure if it would work out," said Emmelie. "It was a difficult injury and it will still take a lot of time to fully heal, but I was thinking, "if I can ride at home, I can also ride at a show.' It wasn't perfect, but I'm very happy to be back in the ring."

Dutch team trainer Alex van Silfhout was less happy at the end of the day. "It was a big disappointment, nothing worked out for us. Emmelie rode well of course and with Diederik's 69.565% I can live. Marlies and Go Legend are always stabile, her result today was disappointing for everyone. Hans Peter with Invictus was a small risk beforehand. This horse sometimes struggles with tension, but in the last few shows it went better and the warming-up went very well. In the test it went wrong. Those things can happen in the sport; but this is of course a terrible set back. Right in front of your own audience."

Text © Eurodressage (this article expresses Eurodressage's' eye-witness account and opinion of the competition). 

Photos © Leanjo de Koster - Digishots

Related Links
Scores: 2023 CDIO Rotterdam
Dutch Teams for 2023 CDIO Nations Cup Legs in Rotterdam and Aachen
British and French Team Announced for 2023 CDIO Rotterdam