Team Germany Makes it a One-Two-Three in the 2024 CDIO Aachen 5* Grand Prix

Fri, 07/05/2024 - 01:17
2024 CDIO Aachen
Isabell Werth wins the 5* Grand Prix on Wendy but rides the prize giving ceremony with Quantaz :: Photo © Astrid Appels

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

Team Germany made it a success on home turf by going for a one-two-three on the leader board and claiming victory in the nations' ranking at the 2024 CDIO Aachen. Isabell Werth, Ingrid Klimke and Frederic Wandres captured the top three places in the 5* Grand Prix class on Thursday 4 July 2024. 

The Stakes are High

The 2024 CDIO Aachen is the final, big competition before the Olympic Games in Paris and for Germany the stakes are ultra high. In the absence of reigning Olympic champion Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, who received a bye, the other German team candidates are going all-in this weekend to snatch a highly coveted spot on the team. 

At the first German Olympic trial in Balve Frederic Wandres became the solid second, while Ingrid Klimke was third. Isabell Werth skipped Balve with Wendy because of a "paddock accident" and finished fifth with Quantaz. Sönke Rothenberger and Katharina Hemmer were on their heels. Based on scores Wendy is Werth's upward trending horse so she replaced Quantaz on the 5* team. Hemmer was picked as fourth team member, while Sönke had to give the ride of a life-time in the 4* Grand Prix in order to stay in team contention.  

Alas, Sönke's score got stuck at 73.891% and it was Werth and Wendy that rose to the top in the 5* class today. 

"A Pleasure and A Present"

Werth and Wendy win
The CDIO Aachen show grounds were already buzzing since Tuesday's opening ceremony and the first jumper classes. For Thursday's big Grand Prix class the Deutsche Bank stadium was sold out (between 5000 - 7,000 spectators approx.) and one had to crowd surf to make it on time to your seat.  While the morning session was set in rather cool, overcast weather, in the afternoon the sun came out and there was a hint of summer in the air. 

In a class of 35 riders, Isabell Werth was fourth to go, an early starting place which she admitted annoyed her ("I don't like the starting time at the beginning," she said at the press conference). Used to perpetually being the last one to go (or nearly last one) Werth had to be all business early in the morning and, of course, she delivered.  Aboard Andreas Helgstrand, Bolette Wandt and Madeleine Winter-Schulze's 10-year old Danish mare Queenparks Wendy (the original name she was given) she put spectators and judges at the edge of their seat.  Werth has only been riding Wendy since January and received her fully produced at Grand Prix level. She is now fine-tuning the buttons and the horse shows massive improvement compared to a year ago, when she was still very hectic. 

Werth and Wendy
Wendy's Grand Prix had many highlights but she also got a lot of scores that were eye-browraising to say the least! The half passes had good crossing and were smooth in the rhythm. The passage was soft-footed and energetic with good piaffes on the spot, although the rhythm is not secure and she has a bit of an a-typical articulation in her legs. She is also consistently bent to the right in pi-pa. The extended walk was a bit limited in overtrack but had good relaxation and rhythm (7 - 8). The collected walk was mediocre and short (5 - 6.5). The two tempi changes were lovely, as well as the extended canter, but in the ones several of the changes were not jumped through to the left (she still got a 6.6 for that line). The pirouettes were small, but the right one was not as elastic as the left one.  The biggest eye sore was the non-execution of the three extended trot diagonals. Not once did Wendy achieve overtrack; not even in-step. She threw her frontlegs out but a proper lengthening of stride and frame was not achieved. The experienced panel seemingly did not notice that once and consistently rewarded those with 7 and 7.5 !! The extended canter was much better and also on the final centerline Wendy still had pep in her step. 

The officiating judges (Lehrmann, Osinski, Baarup, Sanders-van Gansewinkel, and Saleh) rewarded the ride with a winning 76.500%. Their marks ranged from 75% (judges on the short side) to 77% (judges on the long side).

"We are growing together more and more," Werth said at the press conference. "Each competition brings me closer to the details. She's so honest, wants to try her best. She is a pleasure and present."

Applause Meter Goes Tilt for Klimke

While the queen of dressage, Isabell Werth, always elicits a thunderous applause from the home crowd in Aachen, the applause meter reached equal heights  or even more when Ingrid Klimke finished her test on Wilhelm Holkenbrink's 16-year old Hanoverian stallion Franziskus (by Fidertanz x Alabaster). 

Ingrid Klimke and Franziskus
After a period of injury in 2023, Franziskus came back in March and achieved new levels in his training, focus, and scoring ability. After Balve Ingrid even pushed her (more) successful eventing career to the side to go full speed in the Olympic race for a dressage team spot. In Aachen she had to prove consistency and high scores, which she did. 

Klimke probably presented the best and most correctly trained horse of them all. There was proper bending and flexion: in the corners, on the bent lines, in the traversal movements. The horse was supple on both reins and was soft in the bridle. He had the nose at the right spot on the vertical. Ingrid really rode her corners, the horse truly crossed the legs in the half passes and the extensions were very well ridden. The extended walk had good activity and marching, maybe not the greatest overtrack and stretch over the topline, the collected walk was clear. The second piaffe stayed a bit small and at times the passage lacks engagement from behind, given a "flatter" overall impression. The two tempi changes were straight, the ones finished quite early at X. The zig zag was well ridden. In the final piaffe at X he got wide behind but the rhythm was ok. 

It was a clear ride. Her stallion is maybe a little less flashy than some of the other top placed horses today, but Klimke once again embodied correct, classical dressage training.  She scored 76.043% and ranked second. Her individual scores wen from 75.000% to 77.500%

The experienced rider knew what she had to say at the press conference with the team selectors listening in: "Franz was so reliable. He was totally focused and with me." And that's all she said !

Wandres Close On Their Heels

Less than 0.4% behind Klimke was German Championship double silver medalist Frederic Wandres aboard the 14-year old Oldenburg gelding Bluetooth OLD (by Bordeaux x Riccione). It would have been fascinating to know what his score would have been if there were no issues with the flying changes today! He probably would have been on top.

Frederic Wandres on Bluetooth
Bluetooth looked fit and athletic and even threw in a buck while travelling the ring. All that energy lead to a halt that was not immobile  (6 - 7), but correct, forward and engaged trot extensions followed as well as fluent half passes and a good rein back. The passage had good collection, but in the first piaffe he was a little wide behind, yet the rhythm was secure. The extended walk was good (7.5). The second piaffe-passage was probably the highlight of the test with super smooth transitions in and out. A mistake followed in the two tempi changes, but the extended canter was powerful and uphill, the zig zag had good overtrack with lines sweeping far from left to right (high technical difficulty). A few changes in it were shorter behind. Tension was rising in the arena and the pressure of this important Olympic ride was palpable. The nail-biting crowd empathised with the rider and voices oohs and aahs. Bluetooth changed lead before the pirouette left, but Wandres was quick and rode a good pirouette. The right pirouette also had a double beat. The nerves seemed to calm down in the final trot part with another very expressive extended trot and a rhythmical and engaged final centerline. 

Wandres scored 75.630% to complete the German trio in the prize giving ceremony. The judges were in unison and scored him between 75.109% and 76.304%.

"My horse feels better than ever," Frederic said in the press conference. "He even gave an explosive kick while going round the arena. Normally it is our strength to ride without mistakes. I'm happy that the judges wrote the comments that they liked the shape he is in. I will try to present that on Saturday.

Team Germany won the Nations' cup, followed by Holland and Denmark.

A Few Ponderations

German team trainer Monica Theodorescu and chef d'equipe Klaus Roeser were asked when the German Olympic team will be announced and Monica firmly replied Sunday.  This means that the results achieved in the Grand Prix Special will carry equal weight for team consideration.

Dinja van Liere on Vita di Lusso
For the German riders aspiring the Olympic dream, new cards will be dealt on Saturday for the CDIO 5* GP Special and the nerve-wracking battle will start all over again. 

Werth and Wendy posted a winning 76.500% but I could not help but wonder when the last time was that such a - pardon my French - "low" score won the 5* Grand Prix?! This year's Aachen only brought heavy hitter Glamourdale afoot, but in the 4* tour (80.978%). Dalera, Blue Hors Zepter, Mount St. John Freestyle, Imhotep (the horse's expected to run for the medals in Paris) all strategically stayed home. The last time a score of 76.500% (or lower) won a 5* Grand Prix in Aachen was in 2006 (Nadine Capellmann on Elvis with 75.833%). 

Best of the Rest

It was a wildly interesting class to follow today. 

The fourth place went to Dutch Dinja van Liere aboard Eugene Reesink's 9-year old Hanoverian Vita di Lusso (by Vitalis x Weltano) with 74.696%. The bay gelding was much more focused in Aachen compared to two months ago in Compiegne and Van Liere certainly scored with the very well ridden piaffe work. The passage could show more carriage from behind. In the canter the young GP horse still regularly dropped behind the vertical and the rider at times was standing in her stirrups to half halt the spicy gelding. The two tempi changes were straight, the ones rather short (still 7.0). A horse that needs more time to mature but certainly one to watch.

Patrik KIttel on Jovian
I'm curious which horse Swedish Patrik Kittel will choose for the Olympics: Sommarkvarn AB's 12-year old Touchdown, with whom he won the 2024 World Cup Finals, or Andreas Helgstrand and Cathrine Rasmussen's 10-year old KWPN stallion Jovian (by Apache x Tango). He brought Jovian to Aachen. The humongous stallion is wowza in the trot and canter extensions. The half passes are ridden in medium trot. He halts square but often with the hindlegs out instead of tucked under. The extended walk was fine. He swayed in the hindquarters in the two's, the ones are straighter. In piaffe the horse gets very narrow behind and creeps forward, but Kittel does his best to get a soft, regular rhythm in those handstand steps (5.0 - 7.0). The flying changes to the right are consistently shorter behind. The passage is floating, but not truly collected and carried, just a slower, loftier trot. Jovian does attempt to sit in the pirouettes and they are small, but it's tricky to turn such a giant on a small platter. They finished fifth with 74.652% (73.696% - 75.978%).

Nanna Merrald on Blue Hors St. Schufro
Danish Nanna Skodborg Merrald has four Grand Prix horses to ride at the moment and tacked up the 13-year old Hanoverian Blue Hors St. Schufro (by St. Moritz x Don Schufro) for the 5*. The beautiful black gets wide behind in piaffe and could move the hindlegs more under the body in the passage, but the uphill two tempi changes were super nice as well as the extended canter. They got  73.674%.

Nadja Aaboe Sloth has been Denmark's underdog for two years now, but in Aachen today she rode a personal best of 72.348% aboard her own 11-year old Danish bred Favour Gersdorf (by Foundation x Leandro). Although she rides with rather flat piano hands at times (often a sign of pulling), Nadja kept good length in the horse's neck. The half pass left lost some suppleness, but the trot extensions were ground coverings, maybe a fraction hurried. The transition out of the first piaffe lost some power from behind, but the piaffes themselves were on the spot and rhythmical. There was very nice marching in the extended walk and they showed a bold extended canter. No mistakes in the tempi lines with particularly nice ones pushed the score up. The elasticity and bending in the zig zag could be more correct.

Fourth of July

Marcus Orlob on Jane, living the dream
On this significant day for Americans, all eyes were on the U.S. riders in Aachen. While officially the Olympic team has been selected last weeks, emotions went into overdrive yesterday after team anchor Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper had a below-par ride and placed 19th (!) with 68.131%. Murmurs of changes in the team went through the grapevine but let's not forget that as a five-time Olympian Peters has more experience than any other rider on the team and will certainly do his best to restore confidence.

The American sensation of Kronberg - Marcus Orlob on Alice Tarjan's 10-year old KWPN mare Jane (by Depserado x Metall) had to prove in Aachen today that Kronberg was not a fluke. While his scores did not come close to his marks at Schafhof, his 73.326% in the 5* Grand Prix was hope giving (7th).  The very elegant, long legged mare Jane is a very talented horse with three high quality basic gaits. She has all the ingredients for a top horse, but in her first season at international GP level, one can clearly see that it's a big ask for her right now. With her mouth dipped in a sugar jar, she keeps it closed by as soon as the first passage comes along in the test, she loudly started grinding her teeth and did not stop until the final halt. The athletic horse shines in the trot work and does the piaffe on the spot, but does not yet take enough weight behind and move the hindlegs under the body.. The hocks rather go high and out. Still Orlob produced nice, straight two tempi changes, a correct but tense zig zag, small pirouettes but the bending to the right needs to be better. The extended walk had plenty of overtrack and the final centerline was in good rhythm. Most judges had him at 72-73%, Lehrmann went all the way up to 75.2%. Orlob is training with Johan Zagers during his Euro tour.

Endel Ots on Bohemian
Endel Ots and Heidi Humphries' 14-year old Westfalian gelding Bohemian (by Bordeaux x Samarant) seemed to be a very reliable pair that correctly executes all the movements in a steady frame. Ots keeps his hands very quiet, but there is a clear lack of bending and flexion in the corners. In the half passes the silhouette is much better. The trot extensions are rather underwhelming as the horse does not even achieve instep and the third one was not even in the rhythm. The passage, on the other hand, is energetic and off the ground. In the zig zag Bohemian dropped behind the vertical. The extended canter was very nice, but only really became extended after X. There was plenty of energy and activity on the final centerline. The horse twice halted very well. They got 71.435% for 11th place. 

Anna Marek and Janet Simile's 14-year old Fire Fly (by Briar Junior x OO Seven) are into their third European CDI and have been scoring 69.848 (Hagen), 70.826% (Kronberg) and 69.522% (Aachen). The horse sits nicely in the piaffe, but today gave a rather compressed look in the frame. A bit more lightness and length will tip the score back over 70%.

Anna Buffini on Fiontini
Anna Buffini and her 14-year old Danish mare Fiontini (by Fassbinder x Romanov) have been a pair for two years, but are only in their fourth month out competing. The World Young Horse Champion has always been ridden by strong, male riders in the past (Severo Jurado, Andreas Helgstrand and Patrik Kittel) and now Buffini tries to achieve a lighter contact, which is proving to be a challenge. She often gapes and plays with the tongue. There were moments when Buffini had her on fine aids, especially in the second piaffe, but overall she still has her hands full with the mare who needs to be converted from hand-held riding into one with self carriage and lightness. More time is needed. She got 68.130% today, a big improvement from the troubled ride in Kronberg (56.326%) but still a little away from the 71.783% achieved in Hagen.

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

Eurodressage is taking photos of all competitors in Aachen.  If you are interested in photos for social media use or print, send us an email and you can BUY our photos. No reproduction allowed - NO SCREENSHOtS!

Related Links
Scores: 2024 CDIO Aachen
Wendy To Replace Quantaz on German Team for 2024 CDIO Aachen
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl Receives Bye - German Team for 2024 CDIO Aachen Named
U.S. Team Announced for 2024 CDIO Aachen
KNHS Announces Dutch Teams for 2024 CDIO Aachen and Falsterbo
Belgian Team Announced for 2024 CDIO Rotterdam, Two Individuals to 2024 CDIO Aachen
Danish Teams Announced for 2024 CDIO Rotterdam and Aachen