Photo Report: A Sunny Training and Jog Day at the 2024 CPEDI Mannheim

Tue, 05/14/2024 - 08:16
2024 CPEDI Mannheim
Roberta Sheffield’s groom Alyssa Carter cuddling with Dr. House Jr. (by Dr. Watson-Rotspon) in the tender evening sunshine at the 2024 CPEDI Mannheim :: Photo © Silke Rottermann

-- text and photos © Silke Rottermann

For more than 20 years the traditional Maimarkt-Show in Mannheim in the south of Germany is considered an "inclusive show" using a nowadays fashionable term.

More than 20 years ago and, therefore, a pioneer in the equestrian world, Maimarkt Show organizer Peter Hoffmannhad opened the doors of „his“ show to the para-dressage riders after some persistent pleading from Hanne Brenner. Para riders also wanted to compete in the same fabulous conditions like the international jumping and dressage riders.

Paralympic Fever

Two decades on the CPEDI Mannheim is a fixed date in the show calendar for many para riders, European and from overseas, who seek team selection. With the Paralympics in Paris in less than four months time, the CPEDIs in the lead-up to this coveted goal are of special importance.

Whereas the US American contingent that arrived at Mannheim had competed on the Florida para show circuit as of the beginning of the year until the end of March, European competitors similarly had their bunch of international shows on European soil to get into the Paralympic season, most recently the CPEDI Waregem in Belgium and just the weekend before Mannheim there was the CPEDI Fontainebleau in France where the French team candidates and the US riders contested.

Full Swing

Volker Eubel and team exercising two Singapore team horses
Whereas the CDI Mannheim was already in full swing on Friday 3 May 2024 the para horses were only just arriving for the first training and the vet-check in the early evening on the same day.

With all three discipline running alongside in the jumping and dressage stadium, the limited parking lot - located between the motorway and the show-grounds, for trucks, trailers and all other officials involved - was at bursting point when I arrived on early Friday afternoon.
But with typical Mannheim efficiency, the parking guards remained friendly and supportive and after a short wait a parking a stone-throw from the action was possible.

Due to my real job obligations I do not cover many shows in a year, it always feels like I cannot waste a second once I’m at the show-grounds and have to spring into action immediately.

This time the show schedule itself slowed me down as the CDI prize-giving for the GPS was just running and no para action yet to be photographed. I used the time to do my annual Mannheim interview (seems like this becomes a tradition…) and met up with German Grade IV rider Noah Kuhlmann and his parents for a refreshing conversation which took longer than I expected, but I loved every minute of it.

Training Day

Mispelkamp patting Bayala
Once we had finished and team Kuhlmann had to go off to the stables to prepare Staatslegende for the upcoming vet-check, the para training had already taken over where an hour before the CDI riders had received their prizes.

To be honest I love watching riders prepare for a show more than the competition itself. To watch para-dressage training is particularly interesting because there are so many different approaches and also different horse-types.

Usually the horses for the lower grades (1-3) are warmed up and loosened by the trainers or accompanying riders, before the para-riders get on, but there are also exceptions who are able or want to do it all by themselves.

What is often striking is the fact that the horses seem to well differentiate who’s the jockey and admiringly adapt to it. That is the fascination you only get in para-dressage and nowhere else. Once you experienced it, you truly get hooked on it!

Vet Check

A bit before 6 pm the warm-up rings and dressage arena emptied as the vet-check approached.

Semperboni’s 19-year-old Paul trotting up
I chatted with German para-dressage legend Hanne Brenner while walking up the jog-strip and when I arrived there a long line of horses was already patiently waiting for their turn on the jog-strip.

There was neither any stress nor this dancing and prancing of horses we sometimes see at vet-checks. I wonder if this can be simply explained with the fact that (breeding) stallions in para-dressage are a true exception. Or if, more likely, the education from the ground is simply valued differently in para sport, in which quite some horses have to be handled from a wheelchair and  have to pay the utmost respect to their riders.

I love to watch vet-checks: Seeing a horse without anything on his back gives an interesting view on the musculature and I enjoy it if horses are brought out to perfection with gleaming coats and plaited manes.

However, the Mannheim jog strip itself cannot be described as a photographer’s dream. It is a rather narrow lane between the fence of the stable area and the fence of the property, just like a tube. It does not allow any standing on the long sides.

Being quite a small person, probably to the dismay of those trying to catch a glimpse behind me, I had to squeeze myself next to the officiating vet and judge Eva-Maria Bachinger from Austria to be able to get some shots.

Nicole Geiger on Donar Weltino
What was striking is that despite the well behaved horses I could see that evening, most of the handlers wore helmets as a reasonable precaution. Why is that not seen more often in the other FEI disciplines as well?

Riding into the Sunset

After the vet-check was done and dusted with all horses being passed, the training continued in the timid evening sunshine, with the arena at times seemingly bursting with riders in- and outside the rectangle. My attempts to get some nice Noah Kuhlmann training shots to illustrate our interview fell pretty short with always another horse crossing my lens the moment Staatslegende appeared best… 

I called it a day and left the show-grounds after 8 pm, looking forward for the first day of para competition on Saturday morning. 

-- text and photos © Silke Rottermann


Related Links
2023 CPEDI Mannheim Welcomes Spring and Top Para Dressage Sport
An Afternoon at the 2022 CPEDI Mannheim
Photo Report: Witnessing Good Sport and Equitation at the 2021 CPEDI Mannheim
Photo Report: Heating Up for the 2012 CDI Mannheim
A Day on the Heels of an International Dressage Rider at the 2011 CDI Mannheim