2024 CPEDI Mannheim: A Multitude of Winners in Grade I and II

Sat, 05/25/2024 - 18:52
2024 CPEDI Mannheim
Germany’s Julia Porzelt being led around by Bendix Eichholz before her start with Bruno at the 2024 CPEDI Mannheim :: Photo © Silke Rottermann

-- Text and photos by Silke Rottermann for Eurodressage

Entering the familiar Mannheim show grounds again after one year on Friday afternoon 3 May 2024, it somehow apeared unbelievable to me that another Paralympics are just around the corner. It felt like yesterday that I went to Mannheim before Tokyo

Time seems to fly, but the truth is that these three years have been used extensively by many nations to strengthen their position; and while some long-serving horses are still in fine form, some para nations have upgraded their horse contingent with younger and very promising ones since the Paralympics in Japan.

Eying Paris

The host nation of  this year’s Games remained pretty absent from the CPEDI Mannheim, having had their big contest only a weekend earlier in Fontainebleau, but Germany and the USA appeared at (almost) full force with another strong para nation, Italy, sending two of their Riesenbeck 2023 team members.

The USA have sent top riders over to prepare in Europe and they already did very well in Fontainebleau under the watchful eye of their master trainer Michel Assouline.

Austria, which qualified a team for Paris at the very last minute via the world ranking, also sent their possible Paralympic candidates to the south of Germany as an obligational show, before they will reappear on home soil at the beautiful CPEDI Stadl Paura at the beginning of June.

Grade I: Singapore Dominates

Laurentia Tan on Hickstead
Of course Mannheim is traditionally a main show for the German para riders. It seems the trainer team of Silke Fütterer and Rolf Grebe spearheads a successful attempt to bring Germany back to old force in para-dressage, with the last year Europeans in Riesenbeck being the first proof.

Grade 1 in which the two Grand Prix classes are entirely ridden in medium walk, requires different figures as well as halts and a stretch. Precise and fluent riding is what guarantees success also in this lowest of para-dressage grades.

The medal-decorated pair from last year’s Europeans, Martina Benzinger and Nautika, one of the most consistent performers at many CPEDI over the past years, were among the 11 starters of the first Grade 1 competition who came from six nations. Germany and Singapore had two riders each, while the Czech Republic came to Mannheim with three Grade 1 riders.

The Grand Prix A on Saturday was won by Singapore’s multiple Paralympian Laurentia Tan and her partner of the past years, the 12-year-old Dutch bred Hickstead.  The pair who is trained by German Volker Eubel not only put in a a flawless round. The degree of harmony in which they executed the program entirely composed of medium walk figures was absolutely outstanding and reflected in their result of 76.250%.

Gemma Rose Jen Foo and Mona Lisa
Less than one percent behind Tan’s compatriot, Gemma Rose Jen Foo, placed on Tan’s former ride Banestro, a long legged Hanoverian by Bonifatius ahead of the now 18-year-old Lipizzan mare Nautika (by Pluto Darina) and Germany’s Martina Benzinger.

The youngest in the field, the still only 20-year-old Carola Semperboni from Italy, and the almost identically aged 19-year-old Westfalian gelding Paul (by Polany) confirmed their good form with a 4th place. Despite her young age, Semperboni is a championship veteran with already two European and one World championships under her belt and her partnership with Paul whom she competes on since she embarked on the international para scene as a teenager is apparent.

Austria’s ever-smiling Julia Sciancalepore is in her 7th international season with the black Hanoverian gelding Heinrich IV (by Heinrich Heine x De Niro). Aiming her third and Heinrich’s second Paralympic Games, Julia scored 72.014% for fifth place.

In the Grand Prix B test on Monday Laurentia Tan again scored highest, but this time Gemma Rose Jen Fo gave her a run for the money, being just 0.347  % behind her. Martina Benzinger and her characteristic mare Nautika again came third ahead of Carola Semperboni and Paul with Julia Sciancalepore and Heinrich again placing 4th and 5th. The 6th rider scoring over 70% was Junichiro Okawa from Japan with the sympathetic 12-year-old Totilas-offspring Rh’s Totally Joker.

Martina Benzinger on Nautika
In the freestyle the 62-year-old Martina Benzinger took the upper hand with 75.567%, but she only just stayed ahead of Laurentia Tan (75.555%) by the blink of the eye. Gemma Rose Jen Foo who had also competed a second horse, the gorgeous just 7-year-old Mona Lisa, in the first two classes, placed third with Banestro, scoring  74.544%.

Carola Semperboni and Julia Sciancalepore took their consistent places over the Mannheim weekend also in the freestyle.

Germany’s second rider in the freestyle final, 26-year-old Mara Meyer, achieved 70.278% which was her best result over the days at Mannheim with the tall Westfalian HBS Daily Double (by Daley Thompson).

Grade 2: Three Classes, Three Winners

Some beautiful riding from the talented Fiona
Howard and Diamond Dunes in their second
CPEDI together
Grade 2 in which walk and trot are required saw a field of 14 starters in both Grand Prix, but they were from only 5 different nations. Germany had the biggest contingent with four riders, whereas Japan had two riders who both started two horses each. The USA had two of their strong riders. Canadian Roberta Sheffield who has started in Grade 3 over the past years, is now Grade 2 and competed on two loaned horses at Mannheim.

The Grand Prix A test of Saturday afternoon saw US American Fiona Howard win convincingly on the gorgeous liver chestnut Diamond Dunes. Howard, who was a successful reining junior between 2013 and 2016, embarked on the para scene only in 2022. Whereas her own Westfalian gelding Jagger had won all classes at the CPEDI Fontainebleau just before Mannheim, Diamond Dunes is a comparatively new partner for Fiona. Their short time together didn’t show in the Grand Prix A though. The 26-year-old from Boston matches the 11-year-old Hanoverian by De l’Or x Wolkentanz very well and showed a polished ride with a high degree of harmony to score 75.115% which won them the class well ahead of Austria’s Pepo Puch. The Switzerland based Puch came second with his faithful  championships campaigner Sailor’s Blue.

Roberta Sheffield, who is based in Lincolnshire in England but starts for Canada, showed her riding skills when piloting the good looking 10-year-old Hanoverian Dr. House Jr (by Dr. Watson) to third place. Sheffield got him and her second ride, Bastille, from owners Mrs. Bolz and compatriot Ryan Torkkeli for the show in Mannheim. Having only sat on both a couple of times before, being in the top 6 with both horses is no mean a feat.

Ryan Torkkeli watching Sheffield on Dr. House Jr
Right behind Sheffield in 4th place came Germany’s Gianna Regenbrecht on her new mount which had caught the eyes of some already a few weeks earlier at the CPEDI Waregem in Belgium. The tall and long legged Oldenburg gelding Tomorrowland fits the equally tall and long-legged Warendorf based 30-year-old well and with more ring practice Germany seems to have a promising new pair.

The country’s leading Grade 2 rider of the past years, double European champion Heidemarie Dresing and her 12-year-old Oldenburger Horse24 Dooloop looked stunning in the warm-up arena, however, in the arena the gelding got a bit tense during his ride which showed in a few steps of piaffe. Dresing, despite her MS impairment, is a master in the saddle and got her Dressage Royal-gelding back on her side again, their 69.827% meant 5th rank in that class.

In the Grand Prix B tables turned and Heidemarie Dresing won with Horse 24 Dooloop who impresses with his natural and unconstraint movements. They stayed over a percent ahead of Saturday’s winner Fiona Howard and Diamond Dunes and Pepo Puch with Sailor’s Blue.

Roberta Sheffield again placed both loan horses in the top 6, with Dr. House Jr. she came 4th and with the only 6-year-old Benecio-son Bastille 6th. In between both her rides the USA’s 2021 Paralympic rider Beatrice de Lavalette came in 5th with her experienced Oldenburg gelding Sixth Sense (by Sir Donnerhall x Florencio).

Austria’s para legend Pepo Puch, a former
Olympic eventing rider, and his long-time partner
Sailor’s Blue
The freestyle on Tuesday saw the top trio from the B Grand Prix mixed up again. Pepo Puch, former Olympic eventing rider and one of the most successful Para riders in history, and his now 16-year-old light-footed Hanoverian Sailor’s Blue (by Swarovski x Arogno) had the tip of their noses (0.033%) in front of Heidemarie Dresing and Horse24 Dooloop. Though judges’ verdicts differed from 74.267 to 80.333% (Such) and 75.833 to 80.000% (Dresing).

Grand Prix A winners Fiona Howard and Diamond Dunes were behind this duo with 75.611%, ahead of Roberta Sheffield and Dr. House Jr. (73.000%) and the second US American, Beatrice de Lavalette, not far behind with 72.878% with Sixth Sense.

The two other Germans, 29-year-old Julia Porzelt with the Oldenburger gelding Bruno (by Breitling W) and Stephanie Vollstedt with the Hanoverian mare Fia (by Fürst Nymphenburg) came in 6th and 7th.

-- Text and photos by Silke Rottermann for Eurodressage - No reproduction without permission
This article expresses Silke Rottermann’s eye-witness account and opinion about the competition.

Part 2: 2024 CPEDI Mannheim: The Heat Was on in Grade III to V

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