It was one busy weekend in the dressage world with two important CDIO competitions, as far as the forthcoming European Championships are concerned, at Hagen (Germany) and Falsterbo (Sweden), plus the Pan American Games in Toronto, while much closer to home, Hartpury College hosted the five-day Festival of Dressage, incorporating international, Paralympic international and premier league (PL) classes, as well as the Shearwater Young Horse finals. A huge organisational feat resulted in a great show that was live-streamed for the first time.
The Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin show rolled into Hartpury for their final competitive outing before the European Championships in Aachen next month. The pair thrilled with winning performances; Dujardin took the international grand prix with a huge 85% plus score on Valegro, relegating her trainer and Nip Tuck to second place.It was, however, a personal best international grand prix score for the latter combination, which hopefully bodes well for Aachen.
Dujardin then won the grand prix special with 87.765—an even better score than the gold-medal winning test at the WEG last year. She also had a convincing win in the PL grand prix with her up and coming ride Barolo, while second place in this class went to Sharon Baldwin’s veteran international stallion Pro-Set, now under Amy Woodhead.
The selectors now have to decide on the rest of the team. Fiona Bigwood’s performance with Atterupgaards Orthillia, third in the grand prix and second in the special, means that a team return for Bigwood looks likely. But who will be the fourth member? Michael Eilberg and Marakov have put in good scores this year, Henriette Anderson is knocking on the door with Warlocks Charm, who had a good second place in the gala night international grand prix freestyle, and, while this year is too early, Gareth Hughes looks like a team member in waiting with Classic Briolinca, who scored over 71% in his first international tests.
The international small tour classes — PSG, Inter I and Inter I freestyle — provided Yorkshire-based Becky Moody with three assured wins on Carinsio. It was a first international for the Painted Black gelding since his seventh place in the World Young Horse five-year-old Championships in 2012.
Talking of which, that was the year Woodlander Farouche won the six-year-old World title. She, too, came to Hartpury, where the UK’s favourite chestnut mare continued her winning ways, strolling to the £1,000 first prize in the Elite Stallions young horse championship PSG.
The win was just one of several for her rider, Eilberg; he added to his spoils with a win in the PL Inter II with former small tour winner Half Moon Dynasty, which, like his former team horse, Half Moon Delphi, is by Dimaggio and bred and owned by Jon and Julie Deverill. Eilberg also won a premier league PSG with the former jumper and small tour champion the Corland sired Torino.
His sister, Maria, was not to be outdone; she won the PL Inter I with Royal Concert. The pair was then a marginal second in the first PL Inter II, which was won on collectives by Gareth Hughes and the breeding stallion Samba Hit III, who is one of four full brother stallions by Sandro Hit and a full brother to the ill-fated former world young horse champion Poetin.
Lucy Cartwright, a former apprentice of Hester’s now set up on her own, also had a good show, winning two PL PSG sections; one with Carole Felton’s Fergana and the other with her own Waterloo V.
The show ran three days of international Paralympic competition, which was a final selection trial ahead of the European Championships in Deauville in September and we now await an announcement from the selectors. Sophie Wells (Grade IV) who rode her first senior international grand prix, Nicky Greenhill (Grade III), Natasha Baker (Grade II) and Sophie Christiansen (Grade I) all had multiple wins and look strong contenders. The British team (Baker, Anne Dunham, Lee Pearson and Wells) had a convincing win over Canada in the team competition at Hartpury.
Over in Germany, Hagen — the final selection trial for Germany’s European team — was hosting the German leg of the FEI CDIO international team competition. However, there was an extra big attraction to Hagen as Totilas, dressage super-star before Valegro, was making his second major comeback to competing with Matthias Rath. The black stallion last competed in Aachen last year.
This time, their return was less controversial and the pair had a comfortable win in the CDI4* grand prix with an 80% plus score, subsequently headed the special and was selected for the German European team that was announced before the end of the show. Thus Valegro and Totilas will compete head-to-head in Aachen for the first time at a major championship since the 2011 Europeans in Rotterdam, where the British won team gold although Totilas (and Rath) beat Valegro and Dujardin, then making their team debut.
The CDIO proved a big win for the home-side and team member Kristina Sprehe and the stallion Desperados who scored 81.16, almost 4% more than second placed Isabell Werth with Don Johnson and Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, third with the stallion Unee BB. These three will join Rath and Totilas at the European Championships in an attempt to defend the European team title that Germany won back in Herning in 2013. The special and the freestyle also proved easy victories for Sprehe and Desperados, who achieved three unanimous wins in Hagen and look to be another big threat to Dujardin and Valegro when they defend their European individual title next month.
The British all-girl team of Anna Ross (Die Callas) Lara Griffith (Rubin Al Asad), Hannah Biggs (Weltzin) and Emily Kate Cousins (Solo Bachelorette) was eighth of eight teams, but there is a big difference between a country fielding some of the best in the world and one that sends up-and-coming combinations for experience. Biggs and her stallion Weltzin were the highest placed of the British quartet in the special in 18th place and thus went through to the freestyle where they happily finished with 72.45% and 12th place.
Spencer Wilton (Super Nova II) and Laura Tomlinson (Unique) were the British representatives in the CDI4* grand prix, taking 15th and 27th respectively. Wilton and Super Nova II upped their game in the grand prix special and claimed the best placing possible — fourth behind Germans Rath (Totilas), Annabel Balkenhol (Dablino) and Fabienne Lutkemeier (D’Agostino). Wilton and Jennifer Goodman’s British bred Hanoverian (De Niro-Weltmeyer) scored 73.33, their best international score yet which will give British team selectors some more food for thought.
The Under-25 grand prix was another Rothenberger victory, this time for Sanneke, the eldest of the three Rotherberger offspring, and Wolke Seiben, with whom she won Young Rider European team gold and individual bronze in 2012. The 23-year-old Rotherberger, purportedly the most medalled under-25 rider in the world, was also fourth in the CDI4* grand prix with Deveraux Old, her former team horse, with whom she won Junior and two Young Rider European team gold medals, as well as several individual medals (2009, 2010 and 2011).
Rath also had two small tour wins, with the eight-year-old Danonchen (by Danone), ahead of Tomlinson and her relatively new ride, the stallion Duvals Capri Sonne Jr, who gave his rider second place in both classes, although the Gloucestershire-based 2012 team gold medallist will have been pleased with the Inter I judge that placed her first — thus denying Rath another unanimous win.
In Sweden, team veterans Tinne Vlmhelmson-Silfven (Don Auriello) and Patrik Kittel (Deja) led the Swedish team to victory in the CDIO in Falsterbo, Sweden’s biggest outdoor show, while across the Atlantic, at the Toronto Pan American Games, the American team secured gold and direct qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. The team of Sabine Schut-Kery (Sanceo) and Kimberly Herslow (LLC’s Rosmarin) in the small tour and Laura Graves (Verdades) and Steffen Peters (Legolas 92) in the big tour, claimed top step of the podium ahead of Canada and Brazil.
Images: Kevin Sparrow