With outstanding, fine riding the four German children team riders captured the top four places in the team championship test and claimed the gold medal at the 2023 European Children Championships in Kronberg, Germany, on Saturday 22 July 2023.
The Development of the European Children Championships
Since 2015 the European Children Championships have been held, first staged at Bernadette Brune's Domaine Equestre des Grands Pins in Vidauban, France. Switzerland, Russia and France were on the team podium there. Initially the stronger dressage nations pledged not to participate as the concept of the U14 championships was for developing nations without strong pony teams have a chance for their children on horses to take part at FEI level competition.
In 2017, however, the Netherlands hosted the European Championships and fielded its first team, which won gold. In 2018 Germany also had a change of heart and joined the battle for more medals, first winning silver and since then team gold ever since.
The Team Balance
This year at Schafhof in Kronberg was no exception. With 248.035 points, the German children's team beat their competitors from Sweden, who followed with 233.559 points. Bronze was secured by the team from Spain with 228.851 points.
It was a close decision for third and fourth place, which was only decided with the last Spanish rider shortly before the end of the test. In the end, the team from the Netherlands had to settle for fourth place with 226.159 points.
The team from Sweden thus celebrated a premiere: for the first time the Swedes took a team medal at the Children's European Dressage Championships. For the Spaniards it was team medal number two after silver in 2016. And for the Oranje team it was the first time since 2017 that they went home without a team medal.
Gold for Germany
The German gold team included: Lilly Marie Heins (Sandbostel/HAN) with Skyline, Vivianne Mercker (Munich/BAY) with Djamalla, Marie Bernhard (Iggingen/BAW) with For Rock G and team chick Therese Billig (Taucha/SAC) with Faro Shen. For all four of them Kronberg was the very first European Championship of their lives
Team captain Cornelia Albrecht beamed. "We are incredibly proud of our four young ladies, who have convinced here with a very consistent performance - both in the first test and today in the team test. This is a great confirmation for the national coaches and of course also the home coaches for the good training of the young people and our good training system in Germany."
Silver for Sweden
The Swedish medal team is also an all-girl team, consisting of Meja Kinde Ljungh with Rondo, Milla Blomqvist with Sandro, Tilda André Hokfelt with Hamilton's I Did It My Way and Ronja Kardos with Holly's Final.
"I think exactly what we have seen today is the future of dressage," emphasized Swedish equipe boss Marianne Esseen-Söderberg. "Of course, these are really great riders with fantastic horses, but what is equally important and must never be forgotten: Above all, we have a lot of fun!" For the evening, however, Esseen-Söderberg announced that there would be no celebrating, but that everyone would go to bed early. "Tomorrow is another important day."
The Spaniards see it a bit more relaxed, they have achieved their dream goal: the bronze medal!
"We have to celebrate," Luz Bella Lendinez-Martinez cheered and added with a mischievous grin: "At least a little bit." Turning to her riders, the young Spaniard declared with downright dignity, "These riders here are the future of Spanish dressage, and let me put it this way: the future looks bright! It fills me with immense pride to accompany this generation of great riders on their way."
For the Spaniards, a large fan community traveled to the event to cheer and, of course, the four riders: Jeanette Vallve Martin with Zanon, Carmen F. Prado Gómez-Jarabo with Bambino, Jessica Gonzalo Aguilera with Juanito X and - the only young man on the team podium - Martin Aragón Martin with Sir Medano.
Getting Ready for the Individual Final
The best 18 riders from today's team test will be allowed to compete for medals in the individual competition on Sunday, but a maximum of three per nation. Germany is the only nation to have four riders positioned in the top 18. Despite her performance with over 80 percent, Lilly Marie will therefore not be able to compete in the final. Sweden and Spain will also be represented by three riders in the final.
"When I judged a Children's European Championships in Vidauban for the first time in 2015, we had 31 starters, today we have almost 50. Tomorrow we will also have ten different nations in the final, so you can see that the sport is broadening. This is a great development," emphasized the chief judge of the team classification Children, Christof Umbach, from Luxembourg.
"In addition, it is really impressive how professionally these young people are already riding and show us once again that it is the correct riding and fair behavior towards the horse that counts. The partnership between horse and rider is what counts in the end, that was really nice to see."
-- Schafhof Press Release - Photos © Stefan Lafrentz and Astrid Appels
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Eurodressage Coverage of the 2023 European Children / Junior Riders Championships