In January 2012 we finally gave birth to Eurodressage's weekly newsletter. It was an elephant pregnancy as I had brainstormed and planned the newsletter for months but it never came to fruition because of other priorities. We have received tremendous feedback to our free weekly letters from our subscribers and are grateful for their positive comments.
I don't write that many editorials each year, simply because pretty much every single story on Eurodressage is written by me and I always seem to run out of time for a new critical piece unless something is truly boiling up inside of me which needs to be said, like the editorial on the Olympic Typhoid Fever.
In the newsletters I write a short intro piece each week of the happenings at Eurodressage headquarters. If you haven't subscribed to our mailing list you might now have read these little ramblings, so I gathered them on this page for you to catch up on.
I always keep saying that June, July and August are the busiest months of the year for Eurodressage with so many competitions going on, but this year seems to be even uncontrolled. I simply can't keep up with work. The past week there were so many announcements of teams for the European Pony, Junior, Young Riders Championships, the CDIO's in Rotterdam and Aachen as well as the Olympic Games. The Bundeschampionate qualification circuit is in full swing, there are so many foal shows going on and many countries are holding their national championships in June. I keep telling everyone around me I wish I had eight arms to type and the day was 48 hours long instead of 24.
I travelled to the CDIO Rotterdam on Wednesday and Thursday for the Dutch Olympic selection trial there. Several countries, like Sweden, were testing their potential Olympic teams at the event so it was exciting to see in which form they all were. The Belgian team put in three stellar rides and finished third in the Nations' Cup behind The Netherlands and Sweden, yet Belgium doesn't even have a team qualified for the Games !!
Belgium willl have to do with one individual at the Olympics and initially it would be Jeroen Devroe, but now his other three country mates are outclassing him. This puts the selectors in a tough position to choose. It proves how strenuous the current Olympic selection process is. Devroe unlocked the individual slot for Belgium by consistently scoring 70% during the winter months, but tired his horse so much that it needs a break now. The other horses are now reaching top form and they are producing higher scores. So who deserves the spot? The one who unlocked it, or the one with the best form the closest to the Games. Sometimes the sport can be hard on the athletes!
This weekend I seem to have done nothing else but type scores! There were the U.S. Dressage Championships in Gladstone, Dutch Championships in Hoofddorp, the Nordic Baltic Championships in Stromsholm and then the CDI Fritzens and CDI Lingen. With classes filled to the brim at all five shows, it was an endless processing of scores. Fortunately both Lingen and Fritzens were streamed live so I could tune into both events at the same time and watch British top duo's Carl Hester on Uthopia and Laura Bechtolsheimer on Mistral Hojris compete.
Taking a quick break from my key board I visited my mom for Sunday lunch and discovered that my Olympic press accreditation and press pass had arrived in the mail. Yippie !! I just can't wait for that experience! At the Dutch Championships, which turned topsy-turvy due to extremely windy weather conditions, the first Dutch Olympic observation trial took place but the show did not produce the expected results. Toots and Salinero disappointed, Gal exceeded the expectations and rumours have it that Cornelissen will not even appear at the second Olympic trial with Parzival due to lasting fitness problems and might have to show form in Aachen. Seems like team coach Sjef Janssen is sending a bigger delegation of the Dutch to Aachen after all as an additional, im promptu selection trial.
There are so many exciting shows coming up in the next few weeks -- Rotterdam, Aachen, Berne, Fontainebleau -- before the Olympics and I already seem out of breath. Last weekend I photographed at the gorgeous CDI Compiegne where the final Australian Olympic selection trial was being held (one week later the team is still not announced!). I took so many gorgeous photos but I haven't found the time yet to post them on the website! I'll make sure I'll catch up this week.
The week started off amazingly with greatsummer weather which is going to persist this upcoming week as well. We had Belgian CAP-magazine journalist Pieter-Jan Depijpere and equestrian photographer Dirk Caremans over at Eurodressage Headquarters in Belgium for an interview about the origins and rise of the website Eurodressage.com. It was totally weird to be sitting at the other side of the table, for a change, getting interviewed on why I started the website back in 1997 as one of the equestrian website pioneers.
We caught up on our photos of the CDIO Moorsele and posted three extensive articles and photo reports of this event. With the CDI Compiegne coming up on Friday 1 June 2012 I had to get Moorsele done and dealt with.
I will be attending the show in Compiegne for the first time ever and am looking forward to photographing a top field of Grand Prix competitors (including the Australian Olympic Shadow team) as well as some of Europe's best youth riders at this picturesque event in France. The weather forecast is splendid with summer temperatures so my hopes are high that this show will be a wonderful one!
This week I had a fun two days photographing at the 2012 CDIO-PJYR Moorsele. I have been attending this shows since its inauguration in 2009. Hosted at the Van Geenberghe family's equestrian centre Zilveren Spoor in the small rural town of Moorsele, near Courtrai, Belgium, the show is known for its top facilities and quiet, serene atmosphere while parachutes are dropping from the sky each day. A parachute club is
located right behind the property and the horses are totally undisturbed from the batches of jumpers that fly the sky each day.
On Thursday the weather was cold and windy but I managed to get my face burnt anyway. In the evening Belgian pony, junior and young rider Chef d'equipe Laurence van Doorslaer was treated to a surprise 60th birthday party in the bar of the centre. Friday was quite sunny in the morning but small rain showers pleagued the afternoon sessions.
The outdoor show season is hitting third gear and I have scheduled to attend the CDI Compiegne in two weeks. The Australian Olympic team candidates are having their last selection trial there, so it will be interesting to see the outcome.
The next few weeks I will be photographing quite a lot at interational youth riders competitions in Holland, Belgium and maybe France. Last Friday I had planned on attending the CDIO-PJYR Roosendaal, where a huge field of Dutch riders would contest several British, Belgian and German riders. I had planned an early start with a wake-up call at 6 AM on Friday morning to get to Roosendaal on time.
Unfortunately, but luckily, my night was cut even shorter when the Birth Alarm rung at 1.30 AM to call in that my mare was giving birth to her foal. I was downstairs and in her paddock in two minutes and by the time I aimed the flash light on her tail, I saw two legs already sticking out. There definitely was no time to waste. Within 10 minutes the foal was out and after one hour a large black filly by Furstenball was standing wobbly on her legs.
The birth went super smooth and the foal is the mirror image of her one year old full sister, but her personality is something different. Now 6 days old "Faye" is turning out to be a feisty little lady with already a big opinion and not so keen on cuddling and trusting me. It's high maintenance time to groom this ladette into a lady.
By the way, my mare and foal are featured in the three header photos at the top of each Eurodressage page this week.
There's no rest for the weary. Right after the 2012 World Cup Finals in Den Bosch it was straight back to the grindstone with two very important outdoor season openers in Saumur and Hagen the following weekend. For the first time in seven years I did not attend the CDI Hagen in person but of course had several freelancers helping me out with photos and articles, while I was glued to the screen to watch the
live streaming of both events.
"Horses and Dreams" is the the correct motto for the CDI Hagen because this shows turned out to be a mini-Olympics with a world record broken and dreamlike scores handed out to the top contenders for the Olympics. Totilas made a successful comeback to the show ring after a disappointing winter due to injury and a disastrous stallion show appereance. The black stallion still has the magic factor going on as the judges swoon at his sight and hand out 10s under hypnosis.
The biggest controversy of the weekend was not Totilas' return to the ring, but Matthias Rath's new direction in life which appears to be Low, Deep and Round (aka rollkur, hyperflexion, LDR. A rose is a rose is a rose). In a warm up ring exclusively reserved for the stallion, Rath displayed his new training techniques which he picked up in Holland in January and upset the German classical establishment. Come to think of it, maybe the training method shouldn't be the most upsetting thing, but actually the
fact that Totilas continues to get preferantial treatment, especially in Germany. The best stall in the building at the 2011 German Championships, his own warm up ring at the 2012 CDI Hagen. I can't believe the FEI endoreses such an unlevel field of play. This is noy
fairplay and proof of very unsportsmanlike behaviour.
It's been quite an eventful two weeks. On Easter Monday, I cracked my elbow in a silly accident, tripping while carying a garbage bag. After five hours my arm became really achy so I decided to go to the emergency room where they took X-rays and put me in a cast for 10 days. It was the first time in my life that I went to the E.R. myself and ended up with a cast. Although it wasn't painful I was limited in my motion and abilities and typing articles with one hand became a challenge.
Right before the start of the World Cup Finals in Den Bosch the cast fortunately got removed and I was able to attend the show almost back at full force. The competition in Den Bosch is only an hour's drive from my home so I was able to commute daily. On Friday during the Grand Prix press conference I got a phone call that my mare was about to give birth to a foal. I rushed home and by the time I got there it turned out to be false alarm. I have been on foal watch since Friday, waking up on hourly intervals as I have no video camera at my availability. I prefer to have my mare foal outside in a lush field instead of a stall for hygienic reasons. On Saturday I raced over to the show to cover the Kur Finals and returned straight away. It's now late Sunday evening and still no signs of contractions despite an udder with waxing teats about to explode.
I'm crossing my fingers it will happen tomorrow or on Tuesday as I hope to attend the 2012 CDI Hagen where the big battle of month is going to take place: Totilas vs. Uthopia vs. Desperados. I wouldn't want to miss that!
I have this growing, jittery feeling in my stomach as the month April goes by day by day. The moment of the birth of my second foal is approaching! My mare is scheduled for 5 May but she was 11 days early last year so I expect her to be early again now. This means that I'm on red alert as of 23 April, the day after 2012 World Cup Finals in 's Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands. It will be very exciting as I should be going to the CDI Hagen as well but that show is right when my mare should foal. Not sure how I'm going to handle that one!
This weekend I seem to have been processing scores non-stop. It's a time consuming business but a service I'm very happy to provide to the Eurodressage readers. The 2012 CDI Addington was the international Grand Prix debut of Imke Schellekens and Madeleine Witte-Vrees. At the CDI Stadl Paura, the classes seemed never-ending and it's always a challenge to type all those Spanish names when I did the CDI Toledo scores. Please be gentle with me when you see typing mistakes but always feel free to report them!
It's unbelievable but true. This week I traveled to the KWPN and Dutch Equestrian Federation headquarters in Ermelo, The Netherlands, for the very first time in my life. So many events are hosted there annually -- national championships in dressage and breeding, european junior and young riders championships, training sessions, etc -- but for some reason I never made it there in person.
On Tuesday 27 March the sun was shining brightly and with much enthusiasm I drove to Ermelo for the Wild Card Day where Dutch horses were able to get selected for the observation trials during which the Dutch representatives for the 2012 World Young Horse Championships are picked. I had a fabulous morning in Ermelo, taking great pictures and warching a very nice group of talented young stars. Not all of them were Verden material, but most horses were ridden in a very appealing way without being pressured or stressed. Some of the younglings were still struggling with the contact but that didn't mean they were less gifted for dressage.
Two horses earned a wild card and those were Vitalis and Bordeaux. Both are stabled at highly professional dressage barns which showed in their training level, steady contact and balance.
On 10 April the first official Dutch observation trial for Verden will take place in Ermelo and, if it doesn't rain, you can be sure I'll be there!
This week I've busied myself with writing a few very important articles which should shed light on the current unfair level of play for smaller dressage countries in their quest for an Olympic berth. I wrote an elaborate editorial called "Olympic Typhoid Fever" which scrapes only the surface of several problem areas concerning the Olympic qualification process, including the organisation of "private" CDI's in order to manipulate the show circumstances to the advantage of certain riders.
The editorial was prompted by a protest which was lodged by the national federation of the Dominican Republic against the Brazilian NF, which hosted a series of CDI's in Sao Paulo, which did not live up to FEI regulations, though were considered legitimate to earn points for the FEI Olympic Riders Ranking.
Meanwhile, IDRC president Kyra Kyrklund also issued a very important statement on the position of the IDRC in the FEI-IDRC controversy and the importance of proper Rider Representation in the FEI Dressage Committee. Please take to heart the message Kyra is sending across as it is essential for the future of our dressage sport!
With the first couple of glorious spring days having arrived, I did venture out more into the field, grooming the long winter coats of my horses and planting some flowers to brighten and colourize my momentarily grim looking garden. It was a relief to be out and about again instead of being holed up indoors.
My vet came over for an additional vaccination of my
foal, a soon to be yearling. It's curious to see how her personality is developing. Initially she was the sweetest, kindest, gentlest foal but now she's growing into an opinionated young lady (still kind and polite though). She's not the bravest soul on the planet and though she is not a spooker, she does shy away from the new and strange. The appearance of my veterinarian made an alarm bell go off and while she is all sugar and spice with me around, she didn't feel like offering herself up for treatment by the vet. She leisurely walked away from him, but her eyes said it all: "no thank you, not today."
On Wednesday I popped over to the Belgian Warmblood Stallion Licensing of which the third phase took place at De Warre in Neeroeteren, Belgium. Only two dressage horses came into the arena and they were very disappointing. Neither the 5-year old nor the 3-year old had a proper walk, the 3-year old looked so green and skimpy that it seemed like a 2-year old from the race track (he did have a nice hindleg in canter) and the 5-year old paced in collected walk and did not have a clear rhythm in canter. Am I happy that I didn't blow a tank of gas driving to that licensing.
We had a glorious time last week at the 2012 CDI Vidauban. Hosted at Bernadette Brune's gigantic Domaine Equestre des Grands Pins, this last European based Olympic qualifier was such a magnificent show for the horses and riders. With warm up arenas everywhere, big quiet competition rings and of course 25° C sunshine during the day, the conditions for competiting were simply ideal.
I was very pleased with the photos I took because the light is just marvellous down there! I posted three blogs as well as two major articles with image galleries and there is more to come the next few days.
Spring is in the air here at the Belgian headquarters of Eurodressage and our horses are starting to discard their hay for fresh growing grass. Our next show is only in one month, the 2012 World Cup Finals, and then we'll be attending the CDI Hagen where Totilas as well as Uthopia will be making their outdoor show debut! We don't want to miss that!
With huge lists ofscores pooring in from the Spring Tour CDI in Vidauban, my fingers are itching just to book a last minute flight to the South of France and photograph the competition down there. With 305 horses registered to compete, the CDI Vidauban will be one of the biggest dressage competitions of the year and next week's show will be the last European competition where riders can improve their FEI Ranking before the Olympic cut-off date on 1 March 2012.
We really enjoyed seeing Carl Hester win the Prix St Georges in Vidauban aboard Aram Gregory's 10-year old Oldenburg Dances with Wolves. The massive Donnerschwee offspring was trained and competed by the late Jane Gregory-Bredin and Carl took over a few of her horses after Jane's sad passing. Carl describes Dances with Wolves as "a star of the
future". The British rider is enjoying his stay in France: "Nothing like top dressage in the sun: 25 degrees." Hmmm, think I have to go for that Last Minute flight.
The Totilas hysteria, which was caused by a disappointing come back of Matthias Rath and Totilas to the public arena, waned this week as the pair was on improved form at the second Paul Schockemohle stallion show last Sunday. This left much room to get back to business and report on the more interesting stories which all revolve around Olympic individual qualification.
With the cut-off date of 1 March 2012 approaching rapidly, riders are hastily competing all over the world to boost their position on the FEI Riders' Ranking, which is the basis for individual Olympic nomination. A team of Australians, as well as Japanese, Malaysian and Moroccan riders, travelled to -20° C Poland for two cycles of big tour classes in one week time at the CDI Wroclaw. At the Sunshine Tour brand new Palestinian Christian Brühe (ex-German) was joined by a league of South Africans in their race to London. Last week we reported that New Zealand Louisa Hil is the first individual rider to have officially qualified for the Games.
Quite a few horses dealt with health issues this week. Patrik Kittel's Scandic has been sidelined with a strained left hind leg, Sanna Nilsson's Don Dorn fractured either his femur or pelvis and is at the Stromsholm equine clinic in a sling and despite a successful operation the Danish Oldenburg Licensing champion ERA Dancing Hit was euthanized. Roger Fitzhardinge's Berkeley Castle passed away due to colic. However, Imke Schellekens-Bartels' Sunrise is on the road to recovery but it is highly unlikely that she'll be up for Dutch Olympic team contention.
It's been a very busy week online with all the commotion going on which was spurred by the mediocre public comeback of Matthias Rath and Totilas at the 2012 Paul Schockemohle stallion show in Vechta. The internet and equestrian publications were buzzing with articles about the performance as well as with speculation generated by a rumoured sale of Totilas to Austrian Gaston Glock.
While emotional outcry and hysterical reactions flooded Facebook, Eurodressage tried to keep the focus on the more important stories and featured the long planned for "Noseband Special". The International Society of Equitation Society made a very powerful public statement in which they urged to empower FEI stewards to check the use of restrictive nosebands BEFORE a horse would enter the dressage ring for judging. We totally embrace this suggestion and followed up on the ISES statement with a series of articles on the noseband. This important contribution was provided by our German correspondent Silke Rottermann who researched and wrote the articles.
Good riding starts with a soft hand and the correct noseband matching the horse's anatomy. With lightness and harmony as ultimate goals in dressage, the 2012 Classical Sales Warendorf auction aims to present for sale horses correctly trained according to the classical principles of dressage. Check out this unique auction. If you are a North or Latin American buyer, you can get in touch with Elizabeth Monaghan to assist you at this auction.
Wow, talk about a switch in seasons. While most people in Western Europe were enjoying the mildest winter ever, three days ago it all changed dramatically. In Northern Belgium it snowed for one whole day and the Eurodressage headquarters got buried in 7 centimers of snow (which is a lot for around here). Since then the temperatures have been dropping to -5° during the day and -10° at night. All of a sudden my life style changed with our horses being turned in at night for extra feeding and hauling water buckets in the morning because the automatic waterers are frozen and the barrels in the field are now ice sculptures.
My original plan is to attend the 2012 KWPN Stallion Licensing in 's Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, tomorrow, but the weather forecast I just heard was very ominous. A snow blizzard will hit Holland as of tomorrow afternoon and I'm not sure I'm brave enough to drive my car over the ice roads in order to see the stallions. While motorways might be open, the road to them via the country side is an adventurious thrill-seeking voyage I'm not sure I want to undertake.
Just like the weather was smooth sailing in January and the flow of news for Eurodressage had been going steadily, suddenly on 1 February a storm came out of nowhere when Matthias Rath announced that he's seeking training from Sjef Janssen. The whole internet was buzzing with excitement, both positive and negative.
It is remarkable to notice that so many show jumping horses were sold in December right before the Olympic cut-off date of 31 December 2011 but for dressage the action seems to have started in January 2012. This entire week I have been busy writing articles about famous horses switching ownership, mostly as hopefuls for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. While the sale of Donna Unique was the news of the week, on Friday 27 January we are going to announce the switch in ownership of four more well known dressage horses. Continue to tune into Eurodressage for the latest scoops!
The 2012 World Dressage Masters in Palm Beach are about to kick off this weekend and the most exciting aspect about that event is that it will be the venue for the first head-to-head challenge
between Steffen Peters' Ravel and Charlotte Dujardin's Valegro. This
heavy-weight duel could be an indicator for the Olympic Games in little
over six months.
While it's raining cats and dogs outside, I am feeling great in my decision to stay bundled up inside with the fire place roaring, indulging in the wonderful comforts of home while working away from my office.While the outdoor show season has started in Florida and California last weekend, dressage riders in Europe are forced to compete indoors. With the CDI-W Amsterdam kicking off tomorrow the weekend will be filled with dressage action as the Western League World Cup circuit continues.
Even though it is just the start of the new year and we've barely recovered from two weeks of holiday celebrations with an overload of food, drinks and social gatherings, dressage kicked back into action with the first CDI of the year, the 2012 CDI Drachten. With 101 entered combinations, we considered it a great idea to drive to the North of Holland for the day and do a photography marathon in order to fill our archive with recent photos of new horses and riders. Our first articles and photo reports from Drachten are linked below.
The launch of our first free newsletter last week was a major success. We got a massive response from readers who enjoyed the brief update of news articles and top stories directly in their mailbox. Consequently we received a huge number of new subscribers to our mailing list and want to thank everyone for their interest in our endeavours!
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