Felicitas Hendricks Leads the Way to German Team Gold at 2023 European Under 25 Championships

Thu, 07/13/2023 - 23:27
2023 European Under 25 Championships
Team Gold for Germany at the 2023 European Under 25 Championships in Pilisjaszfalu :: Photos © Petra Kerschbaum

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

German team newcomer Felicitas Hendricks led the way for Germany to win team gold at the 2023 European Under 25 Championships in Pilisjaszfalu, Hungary on Thursday afternoon 13 July 2023.  

Hungarian entrepreneur Arie Yom-Tov is hosting the 2023 European Under 25 Championships at Stable Unikornis for the third time in four years (2000, 2022, 2023); this year in combination with young riders

The Big Leap to Grand Prix

The Intermediaire II serves as the Under 25 team championship competition class and the group of 36 riders was split into two with the strongest team riders competing on day two. Temperatures are hot and balmy at Stable Unikornis in the outskirts of Budapest, even though this morning heavy rain showers caused a 3-hour delay in the show schedule. While the young riders had to rearrange their timing, the Under 25 competitors seemed less effected by the change. 

Felicitas Hendricks on Drombusch
While the Young Riders Team Championship competition was a nail-biting thriller, the Under 25 division delivered far less surprises and did not feel like a battle on the edge of a knife. Only 8 riders out of 36 were able to score 70% or more. Often riders have trained their junior/young riders horses to U25 Grand Prix level to continue the upward trajectory along the levels, but what ones sees are horses who are not gifted at Grand Prix doing their best effort in the highly collected work.

Furthermore one often notices poorly trained piaffes, most often due to the lack of skill and expertise in the intricate training process. They are taught the wrong way and end up forgetting their hind legs with hocks out and hollow backs, or they are taught the "handstand" (which you regrettably see even at experienced senior Grand Prix level), a horse rhythmically bopping on its hindlegs and leaning on the forehand. We all have to learn, one way or another, and horses are forgiven animals.  A true piaffe is the epitome of "collection," the preparation to the levade. You need to see an uphill motion with the weight being taken on the hindlegs. As soon as you see that intention in a piaffe, you are on the right track, no matter if the steps are small. 

Anyway... let's talk show.

Team Gold for Germany

The 2023 European Under 25 Championships were first hosted in 2016 in Hagen and in eight years time, Germany has won team gold  seven times. Only once did they lose to The Netherlands in 2020... in Pilisjaszfalu. 

The Under 25 Team Podium
So it was no surprise that Germany won team gold with 218.117%, an almost 5% point advantage to silver medalist Denmark (213.323%) and The Netherlands (210.324%). What did come as a surprise was that their second team member to go turned out to be the spearhead of the Germany campaign, team rookie Felicitas Hendricks on the 12-year old Oldenburg gelding Drombusch (by Destano x Dimaggio). As second rider to go for her team, Hendricks took the overnight lead in the class on Wednesday with her personal best score of 73.059% and this result carried her through on Thursday. No other rider beat that mark and Felicitas led Germany to team gold. 

She produced a very clean Intermediaire II test with no major mistakes. There could have been more bending in the corners on the left lead, but there was good ground cover in the half passes. In the first piaffe Drombusch became quite narrow behind, but the passage was regular and floaty. The second piaffe had a very sweet rhythm. The extended walk had decent in overtrack, although the clarity of rhythm could be more pronounced. The collected walk was good. The canter pirouettes were nice and they rode beautifully straight tempi changes. The horse was very consistent in the contact and head/neck position, and they finished with a regular final passage and square halt. 

Semmieke Rothenberger on Farrington
Germany's second best score came from reigning German U25 champion Semmieke Rothenberger on the incredibly talented 13-year old Dutch warmblood gelding Farrington (by Jazz x Samba Hit). This horse already showed its skill and quality under former American owner Michael Pineo in Wellington, Florida, and although for sale was completely ignored by U.S. shoppers. The chestnut came to Europe and was polished by Belgian U25 rider Nico Nyssen who showed him in Pilisjaszfalu at the 2022 European Under 25 Championships. He sold to Rothenberger - rumour has it untried - in December 2022. The chestnut is a wonderful Grand Prix horse who could easily compete on the senior circuit, but for now it's U25. Rothenberger won Balve convincingly but against her European peers it was a different match. Even though the horse showed flashed of greatness, there were quite a few issues in today's ride. He appeared quite hand held, especially in the trot work. In the first trot extension there was only overtrack after X (7.4), but the half passes were really beautiful. The first passage was lovely: off the ground with much airtime, but the first piaffe was hesitant and after that the passage became expressive but uneven in the rhythm with more right hind engagement.  The extended walk was ok with max 2 hooves overstep. There was a small left pirouette, and finally a flying change on the marker after the canter extension (see report young riders who all avoided that technical difficulty). the canter half passes were good, the two tempi straight, but there were mistakes in the ones (3.6) and the transition to trot came early. Also the passage on the final centerline was not entirely regular. Many highlight, a few issues that are work in progress. 

Helen Erbe on Carlos
The judges' panel, consisting of Henning Lehrmann, Elisabeth Max-Theurer, Clive Halsall, Alban Tissot, and Annette Fransén Iacobaéus, rewarded Rothenberger 72.970%, which ranked them second in the InterII . Germany's Helen Erbe and the 16-year old Rhinelander bred Carlos (by Carabas x Weltmeyer) were fourth with 72.088%. The tall dark bay gelding lacked a bit of power and push from behind today, especially in the passage and piaffe, but the left pirouette and one tempi changes were true highlights. 

Germany's drop score was 70.470% ridden by team newcomer Selina Söder on the 19-year old Dutch bred Zaire E (by Son de Niro x Jazz). Their passage was elegant and lightfooted, but the piaffe was not very even and issues in the one tempi changes pushed the score down.

Denmark Takes Silver

Karoline Rohmann on Jakas Don Louvre
The Danish young riders won gold earlier in the day and this fuelled their motivates to aim high. Team routinier Karoline Rohmann was last to go in the Intermediaire II and ended up receiving the highest score for the team, 72.382%, which ranked them third.  Her horse, the 14-year old Danish bred Jakas Don Louvre (by Don Romantic x Lauries Crusador xx which she co-owns with American Kyle Kuvalenka, was actually listed as her reserve to Aagaardens Lianne, but she ended up taking him.

A choice seemingly for the better it seemed as Don Louvre proved his worth. He showed passage work with lots of power, although not always even behind. In the piaffes he gets wide in front, but the walk part was good and the extended canter with flying change at X well ridden. The left pirouette was big but the two tempi changes were lovely. 

Sara Aagaard Hyrm on Atterupgaards Cooper
Sara Aagaard Hyrm and her 9-year old Danish bred Atterupgaards Cooper (by Charmeur x Grinaldi) landed fifth place with a personal best of 71.088%. The halt at entry was not so polished but the trot extensions and half passes were delightful. The passage had good airtime and is very elegant, but in piaffe he did not truly sits and moves the right hind leg out from under the body while creeping forward. The extended walk was active. In caner he stays a bit straight legged behind instead of really flexing the hocks, but he produced smooth canter work with solid half passes and small pirouettes. The one tempi changes were effortless and lovely. Cooper had plenty of energy left in the passage on the final ceterline. 

Denmark's team score was further boosted by Caroline Elsner on the 16-year old Danish bred Alskenz Firfod (by Zardin Firfod x Zalmiak Firfod) on 69.853%. Last year's Europen Championship individual medal winner Thea Bech performed below their standards with issues in the collected walk and canter strike off. They were the drop score with 69.559% (12th). 

Dutch Bronze

Team The Netherlands landed the bronze medal with 2021 European Young Riders Champion Marten Luiten on the 13-year old KWPN mare Fynona (by Ampere x Gribaldi) as high scorer of their foursome. 

Marten Luiten on Fynona
Luiten trained Willeke Bos' Fynona to Grand Prix level through 2022 and actively began campaigning her at U25 level in the spring of 2022. This year they showed in five CDI's, four of them in The Netherlands, and won every single class bar one. Their last Inter II score, on home turf in Geesteren, was 76.667% but their performance today stayed far away from that high mark. Fynona appeared tired and although Luiten did his best to present a harmonious picture with minimal aids, the mare looked deflated. She couldn't find a steady rhythm in the first extension and was stiff in the last one, the half passed were very sweet though. The passage was, alas, no passage but a slowed down trot. The hindlegs were out and not really pushing nor carrying. In piaffe Fynona made a good effort to sit though, which was lovely to watch and if her nose was let out more there would be more room for lift in front. The extended and collected walk were good, the canter pirouettes small. The two tempi changes were straight, but there was a hiccup in the ones. t<heir score got stuck at 70.882%, while the individual judges had them between 68.971% and 72.353%

Daphne van Peperstraten on Cupido
Thalia Rockx and her 2021 European Young Riders Championships medal winning Golden Dancer de la Fazenda (by Bretton Woods x Florestan) placed seventh with 70.765%. Her long legged liver chestnut showed good crossing of the legs in the half passes, but in passage they stayed far out and he did not sit and flex the hocks in the piaffe. The one tempi changes were very good. 

Daphne van Peperstraten, the 2020 European Young Riders Champion aboard 16-year old Cupido (by Johnson x Duko) landed 14th place with 68.677%, while Zoe Kuintjes and her Cupido (by Rhodium x San Remo) had a drop score of 68.618%. 

Worth Noting

The highest ranked rider from a nation that didn't end up on the team podium was Portuguese Sebastiao Lucas Lopes on the grey 10-year old Lusitano Inquieto Lezirias (by Quixote x Fandango). He scored a personal best of 69.824%.

Lauranne Lammens on Hilcara
Italian Beatrice Arturi probably rode one of the highest quality horses in the field, the 14-year old Oldenburg bred Destiny OLD (by Desperados x Sandro Hit) and finished 11th with a personal best of 69.735% but she left so many points just lying there because she flew through the canter programme. The extended walk was super nice, The horse has real sit in the piaffe, but could be a bit quicker off the ground. She raced into the one tempi changes and missed most of them, chasing her horse forward. The pirouettes have so much potential but were far too big. Of course Arturi is new at this level. Let's see if she recovers in the short Grand Prix. 

Belgium's best was Lauranne Livens on Hilcara van het Vijverbos (by Don Renoir x Feinschnitt). Riding her third consecutive European Under 25 Championship, Lammens really unlocked a new level with her marish mare Hilcara. Trained by Philippe Jorissen, Lauranne has scored higher before (e.g at the CDIO Aachen Festival 4 Dressage where she had 71.154% in the short Grand Prix) but the 68.794% at these Europeans ranked her 13th in the pack.

On Friday the individual competition kicks off with the Short Grand Prix. The group of riders is again split into two with one group going on Friday and the other on Saturday after which the individual medals are decided. 

Photos © Petra Kerschbaum

Related Links
Scores: 2023 European Young Rider / Under 25 Championships
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2023 European Young Riders/Under 25 Championships