Tag Archive: Aachen

  1. Jeroen Dubbeldam bags gold in Aachen

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    Jeroen Dubbeldam completed a spectacularly successful FEI European Showjumping Championships for Holland by being crowned individual gold medallist in Aachen on Sunday. In doing so, the 42-year-old sealed a remarkable title hat trick of reigning European champion and world champion, plus past Olympic champion.

    Dubbeldam became the first rider since Frenchman Eric Navet 24 years ago to hold European and world titles simultaneously, while 15 years ago he won Olympic gold in Sydney, and this latest success came just 48 hours after he combined with colleagues Jur Vrieling, Maikel van der Vleuten and Gerco Schroder to see Holland win the European team title.

    Two clear rounds meant that Dubbeldam finished on a score of 3.68 penalties across five rounds of jumping, which included last Wednesday’s opening speed class.

    Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet, riding Conrad de Hus, took the silver medal, with Frenchman Simon Delestre claiming bronze on Ryan des Hayettes.

    But there was no joy for British pair Joe Clee and Ben Maher, who finished 15th and 23rd, respectively, although the week’s main business — securing team qualification for next year’s Rio Olympics alongside Michael Whitaker and Jessica Mendoza — had already been accomplished.

    Clee had a fence down in each of Sunday’s rounds on Utamaro d’Ecaussines, while Maher withdrew Diva II for round two after collecting eight faults.

    Belgium-based Clee said: “The first round, in hindsight, I probably should have gone on seven strides to the combination and kept the canter a little bit bigger, as it would have made it easier for him to jump in. In the end, I ended up a little bit too short and he slowed himself down. The rest, he jumped fantastic.

    “The second round, if they could build a combination that was difficult for him then that was it — oxer, oxer and two waters, and the water feature on that side.

    “He jumps a little bit to the left anyway, and then, as he jumped in, he was looking at the water and the lake at the side as well. He was spooking off the lake, then, as he was drifting left, the distances were obviously getting longer and longer for him and he couldn’t get out. He tried his best, he really tried to get out, but couldn’t make it in the end. Everything else, one mistake per round, he has done incredibly well. He’s jumped amazingly.”

    And former world number one Maher added: “She lost a stud. She has special shoes, and she lost a bit of the plate off the shoe and I could feel it after the combination. She moved a little to the left on the oxer, and then just coming around down that last line she just lost her balance a couple of times.

    “She jumped a good round, actually. She was a bit keen, but I am very happy with the way she jumped today. She is maybe a little tired — she’s only a 10 year old — but she has done a great job this week helping the team qualify.

    “She’s had a great first championships. It has been a great experience, and hopefully we can use that going forward. She’s certainly proven that she is a championship horse this week. She has done me proud.”

    Individual result: 1 Jeroen Dubbeldam (SFN Zenith) 3.68, 2 Gregory Wathelet (Conrad de Hus) 5.04, 3 Simon Delestre (Ryan des Hayettes) 7.67, 4 Penelope Leprevost (Flora de Mariposa) 8.00, 5 Jur Vrieling (VDL Zirocco Blue) 9.29, 6 Sergio Alvarez Moya (Carlo 273) 9.47, 7 Christian Ahlmann (Taloubet Z) 9.56, 8 Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (Fibonacci 17) 10.09, 9 Andreas Schou (Lenardo der Kleine) 10.98, 10 Kevin Staut (Reveur de Hurtebise) 12.01.

  2. Pictures from the equestrian world: August 15 to 21

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    British showjumpers secure Olympic qualification

    Ben Maher, Jessica Mendoza, Joe Clee and Michael Whitaker brought home the much prized ticket to Rio although they missed on the bronze medal by just 0.760 penalties at the European Championships in Aachen.

    Holland wins driving gold

    The Netherlands dominated the FEI European Driving Championships for Four-in-Hand. On Thursday, four-time world champion IJsbrand Chardon (pictured below) and 2013 European champion Theo Timmerman, who are both Dutch, took first and second place in the dressage test, with Spain’s Juan Antonio Real Garcia in third and another Dutch driver, Koos de Ronde, in fourth. On Friday, Belgium’s Felix Marie Brasseur was first in the cones, followed by Hungary’s József Dobrovitz in second and Chardon in third. A third place for de Ronde and a fifth for Chardon in the marathon clinched the team-gold medal for Holland, but a great marathon performance by Germany’s Michael Brauchle meant he pipped Chardon by a minuscule 0.21 seconds in the individual standings to become the new European champion.

    Dutch drivers rule at Aachen

    Europe’s best vaulters do battle in Aachen

    Hot favourites Jasmin Lindner and Lukas Wacha (pictured below), who hail from Austria, landed the pas-de-deux gold medal at the FEI European Vaulting Championships in Aachen, which started on Thursday, August 20. Germany’s Jannis Drewell bagged the male freestyle gold, while Switzerland’s Simona Jäiser took the female title and Team RSV Neuss-Grimlinghausen won gold for Germany in the squad final.


    Horse put down after assault in Scotland

    A 23-year-old mare was stabbed in the chest and horrifically assaulted near New Pitsligo in Aberdeenshire, on the night between August 16 and 17. The pony had to be put to sleep because of her injuries. Her owner, Zoe Wright, is urging people to be vigilant and check their horses for cuts, while Police Scotland have asked local residents to report any suspicious activity they may have spotted in the area.

    Horse assaulted in Scotland

    Shock win at York

    50-1 filly Arabian Queen ended Golden Horn’s unbeated record at York’s Juddmonte International Stakes, snatching a surprising victory by a neck.

    No Blair for Flora Harris and Bayano

    A disappointing performance at Aachen cost Flora Harris and Bayano their place in the team that will represent Great Britain at the FEI European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle. The British Eventing senior selectors have decided to replace the combination with Tom Jackson and Waltham Fiddlers Find, following Bayano’s “recent lack of form” in Aachen. In another change, Izzy Taylor will now ride KBIS Briarlands Matilda at Blair because Allercombe Ellie was found to be lame in Aachen.

    Main image: Joe Clee’s ride, Utamaro d’Ecaussines, by Hippo Foto – Dirk Caremans, courtesy of the FEI

  3. Holland wins in Aachen but Britain gains a ticket for Rio

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    Great Britain’s showjumpers made it a case of mission accomplished at the FEI European Championships in Aachen by securing prized qualification for next year’s Rio Olympics.

    Although the British team of Ben Maher (Diva II), Jessica Mendoza (Spirit T), Joe Clee (Utamaro d’Ecaussines) and Michael Whitaker (Cassionato) missed out on a bronze medal by just 0.760 penalties, a fourth-place finish still took them to Rio, where they will defend the Olympic title next summer.

    Maher jumped clear, while Mendoza and Clee each had four faults, and Whitaker’s total of nine faults proved to be the discarded team score.

    Switzerland and Spain booked the other two qualifying places, but controversy reigned after Ireland missed out on the Olympics in unexpected circumstances.

    One of the main arena stewards ran in front of Cian O’Connor during his round, and the London 2012 individual bronze medallist had the next fence down. If O’Connor had jumped clear instead of collecting four faults, then Ireland would have overtaken Spain and qualified.

    Irish team officials lodged an immediate protest, but it remains to be seen if anything can be done. Ireland finished a mere 0.380 penalties behind Spain.

    Reigning world champions Holland added European gold to their collection after an imperious display by Jeroen Dubbeldam (pictured), Maikel van der Vleuten, Jur Vrieling and Gerco Schroder, with the German quartet of Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Christian Ahlmann, Ludger Beerbaum and Daniel Duesser finishing second and Switzerland third.

    Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya leads the individual competition heading into Sunday’s final, when the top 25 qualifiers will also include Clee and Maher, together with Irish trio of O’Connor, Bertram Allen and Denis Lynch.

    Clee said: “My horse jumped amazingly. I am so happy with his performance, but I am just kicking myself a little bit. I could have been a bit sharper coming down that distance, and I could have helped him a bit more.

    “We came here to do a job, and that was to qualify for the Olympics, but then when you come so close, it’s gutting when you don’t get a medal.

    “The team performed fantastically. I am really happy for Jess. She pulled it back and she rode a really good round to finish, which is great for her, and it was great for the qualification for the Olympics. She helped us qualify for the Olympics.

    “We all had that on our minds, and we had great team spirit and we all had the same purpose here. I think the team spirit carries us, and we really pulled together.”

    Mendoza, who, at 19, is the youngest British showjumper selected for a senior championship since Debbie Johnsey went to the 1976 Montreal Olympics, added: “I think the first few days I wasn’t used to the ring, and today I knew I had to try and go good, so I gave it all I could.

    “It’s completely different here in Aachen. It wasn’t really suiting my horse on the first few days, then after riding in it for a few days I’ve got used to it.”

    And Whitaker said: ““We were less than one fault away from the bronze medal, so it’s really disappointing actually. The main thing was to qualify, and we did that, but a medal would have been a real bonus.

    “I’m very happy (to help get the team to Rio). I want to stick with this team next year. All these guys have worked really hard, and they deserve a chance. The main thing was to get qualified, and we did.”

    Final team standings: 1 Holland 8.820, 2 Germany 12.400, 3 Switzerland 18.230, 4 Great Britain 18.990, 5 France 21.700, 6 Spain 25.580, 7 Ireland 25.960, 8 Ukraine 32.030, 9 Sweden 44.300, 10 Denmark 47.270.

    Image: Jeroen Dubbeldam led the Dutch team to win team gold at the European Championships in Aachen, by Hippo Foto – Dirk Caremans, courtesy of the FEI

  4. British showjumpers on course for Rio at Aachen

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    Great Britain’s showjumpers dug deep in Aachen to deliver a character-filled display as they stayed on course for an FEI European Championships medal and an all-important place at next year’s Rio Olympics.

    It proved to be an incident-packed penultimate day of team competition action, but Britain ended it in fourth place behind France — led by Penelope Leprevost (pictured above) — in first place, Holland in second and Germany in third.

    Going into Friday’s final team-jumping round, five of the surviving 10 nations — Britain, Switzerland, Spain, Denmark and Ireland — will be chasing three Rio places available for countries that have not yet qualified.

    Britain were indebted to clear rounds from Joe Clee and Utamaro d’Ecaussines (pictured below) — their second in successive days — and Michael Whitaker with Cassionato, after former world number one Ben Maher had four faults on Diva II and 19-year-old Jessica Mendoza saw three fences go down aboard Spirit T.

    Mendoza’s tally proved to be the discarded score, while Clee is currenty third in the individual competition that concludes on Sunday. France’s Leprevost leads, just ahead of German star Ludger Beerbaum.

    “My horse has been jumping great – even a bit too good,” Clee said. “He settled down after about fence four.

    “It is a case of each day as it comes. With success here comes the Olympic qualification, so just one job at a time. I will start to enjoy it after Sunday has been and gone.”

    And 55-year-old Whitaker added: “I got a lot of confidence from my horse. He has never been in this ring, and he’s never been under this kind of pressure. I didn’t know how he would react, but he actually rose to the occasion.

    “I said when I came out, I’ve never felt pressure like it. There is extra pressure to qualify for the Olympics. If I had gone in and not had a good round, that would have been it. Now, we’re still fighting for tomorrow, even for a medal.

    “You couldn’t get it (the course) wrong, you had to ride every fence and think about all the lines and even the last fence — you saw the problems the last fence caused. You had to get it all right, you could not make a mistake.

    “Joe was brilliant and Ben was brilliant. What the mare did was out of his hands. She just took off, and Ben did unbelievably to stay on.”

    Maher was powerless as Diva II went airborne too early going into the last fence, meaning that they ploughed through it, but Maher somehow stayed on and avoided elimination.

    “I don’t really know how it happened,” he said. “She should have picked up two strides, but she picked up on one. I guess it was just quick reaction and instinct from me. I could not afford to fall off — that would have been pretty damaging for the team.

    “She jumped probably as good as any other horse today, but that’s the way it goes.”

    And Great Britain team boss Di Lampard added: “This just shows how focused the team are. To come back from the shock at the start with Ben and Diva, when they had looked home and dry, shows just how tight the team are. Team spirit really couldn’t be better.

    “We came here to qualify for Rio. We are two thirds of the way through, and in a strong position to deliver.”

    Current team standings are: France 5.700, Holland 7.820, Germany 8.400, Great Britain 10.990, Ukraine 13.030, Switzerland 14.230, Spain 16.580, Denmark 17.270, Ireland 17.960, Sweden 19.300.

    Watch the action in Aachen:

  5. British showjumping lays claim to a Rio ticket at Aachen

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    Great Britain’s showjumpers are off and running on the road to next summer’s Rio Olympics after starting well in their qualification quest at the Longines FEI European Championships in Aachen.

    The British quartet of Joe Clee, Ben Maher, Michael Whitaker and Jessica Mendoza occupy third place following the opening day’s one-round speed class in Aachen.

    Six notable nations — Britain, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Belgium and Switzerland — have yet to qualify for Rio, and three places are available in Aachen’s last-chance saloon.

    But Britain made a flying start as Clee (Utamaro d’Ecaussines), Maher (Diva II) and Whitaker (Cassionato) all jumped clear, while 19-year-old Mendoza had two fences down with Spirit T on her senior championship debut.

    Host country Germany are the early leaders, following an imposing performance by their quartet of Ludger Beerbaum, Christian Ahlmann, Daniel Deusser and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, with France second, Britain third, Spain fourth, Holland fifth, Ukraine sixth, Italy seventh, Ireland eighth, Sweden ninth and Belgium 10th.

    There are still two days of team jumping left, though, while the individual competition does not finish until next Sunday.

    France’s Penelope Leprevost is the current individual leader, followed by Beerbaum, Clee, Gregory Wathelet, Bertram Allen, Sergio Alvarez Moya, Maher, Ahlmann, Piergiorgio Bucci and Maikel van der Vleuten.

    Clee was among only five of 94 starters to clock under 70 seconds, and he was understandably delighted with his horse’s performance.

    “I was aware I had to go fast, but he is a great horse to go fast on. The faster you go, the more he tries,” he said.

    “He handled it really well, I felt really confident on him, and the further the round went on the more risks I felt I could take.

    “Ben and Michael were brilliant to start with, which takes the pressure off you a little bit, but it’s still on. Those two rounds put me a little bit more relaxed and motivated me as well, seeing those guys going so fast. There is a great sense of team spirit with everyone, and I think that helps you and motivates you.”

    And Maher, who helped Britain win London Olympic gold and the 2013 European team title, added: “We’ve come here with a good team and a definite strategy.

    “The plan was to set Michael off first, because he has the slowest horse, and I said I had the second-slowest, but actually we sped up today. The plan was to come out and get ahead today if we could on some of the other teams, and then probably change the strategy around tomorrow.

    “Diva jumped incredibly. I took certain risks in some places and played a little safe to one jump there, which probably cost me the individual lead right now, but we are here for one thing only, and that’s what was important today.”

    The action continues on Thursday with another round of team jumping, with the top 10 countries then moving forward to Friday’s finale, when medals will be decided.

    Image: Joe Clee and Utamaro d’Ecaussines by Hippo Foto – Dirk Caremans, courtesy of the FEI

  6. British showjumping stakes it all on Aachen

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    The waiting game will finally end on Wednesday when Great Britain’s showjumping team embark on an FEI European Championships campaign like no other.

    The clock has effectively been ticking since last September’s World Equestrian Games debacle in Normandy, when an 18th-placed finish meant a spectacular case of mission unaccomplished.

    The mission in question is Olympics qualification for Rio next summer, and the London 2012 gold medal-winning nation now finds itself with one last chance to ensure they will at least go to Brazil and defend a title won so spectacularly at Greenwich Park three years ago this month.

    Ben Maher is the sole survivor from London, being joined in Aachen by his fellow 2013 European team-gold medallist Michael Whitaker, Belgium-based Joe Clee and 19-year-old Jessica Mendoza — the youngest British showjumper chosen for a senior championship since Debbie Johnsey gained Montreal Olympics selection in 1976.

    Missing from the Aachen adventure is Britain’s world-number-one showjumper, Scott Brash, whose top two horses Hello Sanctos and Hello M’Lady have not been made available, while an in-form John Whitaker ruled out his premier ride, Argento, some time ago, not wanting to present it in Aachen’s formidable king-sized arena.

    Encouragingly, Maher, Whitaker, Clee and Mendoza have previously shown top form together, being reunited in Germany just two months after they delivered a brilliant collective display to win the Rotterdam Nations Cup.

    Clee went double clear that day, while his three colleagues also left all fences up in either round one or two. Left trailing behind them were a German team containing Christian Ahlmann, Ludger Beerbaum and Daniel Deusser, a Dutch quartet led by reigning world champion Jeroen Dubbeldam and a French combination featuring 2013 European individual gold medallist Roger-Yves Bost.

    Rotterdam was the third Nations Cup triumph of team boss Di Lampard‘s first season in charge, following victories in La Baule and Rome, so there is no doubt that Britain will feature prominently on any current European showjumping form guide, and the feel-good factor has most definitely returned following last year’s crushing WEG disappointment.

    Three Olympic places are available in Aachen, with Britain, Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland and Spain leading the hunt.

    Maher will ride Diva II, the horse on which he jumped double clear at last month’s Hickstead Nations Cup, Whitaker boards the ever-impressive Cassionato, Mendoza will be with Spirit T, a combination that showed star quality through finishing fourth in the recent Longines King George V Gold Cup, and Clee rides the ultra-consistent Utamaro d’Ecaussines.

    Clee said: “I think we’ve got a super team. It is the same team that won at Rotterdam, and a mix of fast horses and big jumpers. You need some luck on the day, but we are all motivated to deliver.”

    Wednesday’s opening round is followed by further action on Thursday, after which the top 10 teams will contest Friday’s final, when medals — and Olympic joy or heartache — take centre-stage.



  7. Eventing debrief: Germany throws down the gauntlet at Aachen

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    At the FEI Nations’ Cup in Aachen, the German riders left no-one in doubt about their intentions at next month’s FEI European Championships.

    Leading rider Ingrid Klimke, who is having the best season of her career so far, led the experienced German team to an assured victory in the fifth leg of the FEI Nations Cup on home ground in Aachen. Klimke not only won the event with her 2013 European-silver-medal partner and this year’s Luhmuhlen winner Escada JS, but for good measure was second with Horseware Hale Bob, with whom she was also second at Badminton this year. It was a first victory at the event for Klimke, who has competed here every year since 2005.

    Her team mates, World Champions Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Louvo and Olympic Champion Michael Jung with Fischertakinou, finished third and fifth respectively. British-based New Zealander Tim Price split the two champions taking fourth place with his Luhmuhlen-2014 winner Wesko. The New Zealand team, which included Tim’s wife, Jonelle Price, and leading veteran Sir Mark Todd, who together were competing in their first Nations Cup, finished second, while team USA, also contesting the Nations Cup for the first time, finished third.

    After dressage, the German team held a strong lead, although British rider Holly Woodhead, a member of last year’s British silver-medal Young Rider team and daughter of dressage trainers Ian and Tracey Woodhead, put in an impressive performance with DHI Lupison on her Nations Cup debut to be just a few marks adrift of Klimke. She then rose to individual second place after a clear round over the coloured poles and put the British team in a close third place at that stage.

    It was not to be, however, and it all fell apart for the Brits on cross-country, when the British team was eliminated. Already one man down, as Flora Harris and her Bramham winner Bayano retired, Woodhead was then, after video footage, declared to have jumped the wrong side of a flag at the corner in the water, which later proved to be the bogey fence; Jock Paget was unseated from Clifton Lush here.

    While the final result was tough, on Woodhead in particular, the British team still has a commanding overall lead on the Nations Cup leader board, having contested all five competitions so far.

    The next FEI Nations Cup takes place at Montelibretti, in Italy, from September 17 to 20 — the same weekend as the Blenheim International Horse Trials.

    See the full results of the FEi Nations’ Cup on the FEI Nations Cup results.

    FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing 2015 Leaderboard (5/8 events)
    1. Great Britain, 47 points
    2. Germany, 29
    3. Australia, 28
    4. France, 27
    5. Netherlands, 21
    6. Ireland, 15
    7. Sweden, 10
    8. New Zealand, 9

    Young Brits win bronze

    A long haul to Bialy Bor in Poland resulted in team bronze for the British team at the FEI Junior European Championships.

    German riders topped the final leader board and claimed three of the six medals on offer, winning team gold while team members Johanna Zantop (Santana’s Boy) and Hanna Knuppel (Carismo 22) claimed individual gold and bronze respectively, leading the team to a huge winning margin of almost 30 penalties.

    Zantop’s leading dressage score allowed the young German enough breathing space for her 2.8 time penalties, as well as a pole down in the showjumping, especially when her nearest rival after the first phase, British team rider Sam Ecroyd, was eliminated after a fall midway round the cross country course.

    This put more pressure on the remaining three British riders, Alex Kennedy (Chocolate Domino), Charlotte Bacon (Sannavalley Justice) and Charlotte East (Clear Dawn), who nonetheless kept their heads down and ended an influential cross country day in the silver-medal position.

    On the final day, the French riders proved the better jumpers and moved ahead to take team silver, with Victor Levecque (Phunambule des Auges) taking the individual silver on his junior team debut. However, the 16-year-old from Montfort l‘Amaury, just to the west of Paris, is no stranger to the podium; he is the current French Junior Champion, was last year’s individual- and team-gold medallist at the Pony Europeans in Millstreet and this year won the CCI1* in Fontainebleau — a name to watch for in the future perhaps?

    British riders were delighted to claim the team bronze in what had been a competition of highs and lows for the 18 teams contesting the event.

    British individual Alex Tordoff (18) from Leicestershire was the highest placed in fifth place — and just the rolled pole away from the bronze medal — with his own Emill, an 11-year-old gelding by the jumping stallion Unbelievable Darco, while team member Kennedy and Chocolate Domino, who finished with a double clear, were seventh of the 61 to finish.

    After the showjumping, Darrell Scaife, the new Chairman of the British Selectors said: “I am genuinely delighted to come home with team bronze; today was a challenging and technical test of skill and all our riders tried incredibly hard and rode well.

    “Alex Tordoff rode a stylish round and had an unlucky pole and Alex Kennedy absolutely rode her socks off and has been outstanding in every phase.”

    “The riders fought from start to finish to ensure that we went home with a team medal and I am hugely proud of them and that their determination was rewarded.”

    See the FEI site for the full results.

    Image: Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob, by Libby Law, courtesy of the FEI

  8. A new rival for Valegro?

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    Their dominance of the dressage world has proved to be unprecedented – but has a major championship rival to Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro finally come forward?

    Dujardin will arrive home from the FEI European Championships in Aachen with another two individual gold medals added to her enviable collection. The 30-year-old can now be called a double-double European champion, in addition to world champion, Olympic gold medallist and triple world-record holder.

    No-one has seriously threatened Dujardin’s reign since those unforgettable scenes at Greenwich Park three years ago, but events in Aachen over the past few days provided more than their fair share of interest.

    Dressage history books will forever show that Germany’s Kristina Bröring-Sprehe and Desperados FRH finished second in the 2015 European freestyle final — but that does not tell anywhere near the full story of an occasion when Dujardin’s remarkable gold medal sequence almost came to an end.

    Ultimately, they were separated by just 0.25% as Dujardin and Valegro prevailed on a score of 89.054 per cent. Bröring-Sprehe did not so much send a warning signal 12 months before the Rio Olympics — she practically wrote a letter of intent and hand-delivered it.

    Speaking on television, British Olympian and world-renowned dressage coach Richard Davison said he felt it was good for the sport that the freestyle title race had been so closely-fought, and many will agree with him after seeing Dujardin challenged like never before when stakes were at their highest.

    It was the opening chapter in what could prove to be a dressage best-seller, and there were many in Aachen’s main stadium who felt that home favourite Bröring-Sprehe had done enough for gold. While it was not to be this time around, one wonders whether it might be a different story in Brazil next August?

    Dujardin’s brilliance was showcased during Saturday’s grand prix special, which she won by an emphatic margin, but performances in the team grand prix test and freestyle contained uncharacteristic mistakes, although it says everything about the combination’s brilliance that they still topped all three sections in Aachen.

    What Bröring-Sprehe did on an overcast Sunday afternoon in Aachen was to plant the tiniest seed of doubt that Dujardin will continue to reign into next year, at Rio and then beyond the 2016 Olympics, and there are not many followers of equestrian sport who genuinely believed that was possible.

    “They (Bröring-Sprehe and Desperados) have gone within a minute percentage of actually being able to beat Valegro,” Dujardin’s mentor, trainer and Valegro co-owner Carl Hester said. “Desperados is not an old horse either, so it looks like Valegro suddenly has a new rival.

    Olympia in December — a happy hunting ground for Dujardin and — is likely to be the next port of call on their Rio journey, and no-one should be in the least bit surprised if world records are once again threatened or surpassed.

    Now, though, it might just be a two-horse race.

    Image: Kristina Bröring-Sprehe and Desperados look set to rival Charlotte Dujardin and Desperados, by Hippo Foto – Dirk Caremans, courtesy of FEI

  9. The best moments of the European Dressage Championships at Aachen

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    Didn’t manage to make it to Aachen? Don’t worry, we have gathered all the best moments of the championships for you.

    Beautifully attired, German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen kicked off the proceedings at Aachen.

    ….while Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Jon Lansink swapped their horses for a carriage.

    Jade Jagger also made an appearance.

    Michael Eilberg was the first British rider to compete with his championship debutant Marakov on Wednesday.

    Then Fiona Bigwood set the pace for Britain aboard Atterupgaards Orthilia.

    Germany’s veteran Isabell Werth and Don Johnson FRH closed the first day of the dressage competition with a competent test…

    …while Werth’s historic rival, Dutch three-time Olympic-gold-medallist Anky Van Grunsven, showed off her reining skills.

    Thursday saw the much–awaited return of Totilas, now ridden by Matthias Rath for Germany.

    Carl Hester vanquished his Aachen bad luck with a very good test on Nip Tuck….

    …and Charlotte Dujardin scored 83.029% aboard Valegro.

    She was just ahead of Edward Gal and Undercover, but the Dutch pair still clinched the gold medal for the Netherlands with an excellent test.

    Despite finishing second by just 1.4%, Britain celebrated its team silver medal — and is now one step closer to securing a medal at next year’s Olympics.

    Then, on the eve of the grand prix special, Totilas was unexpectedly withdrawn due to health concerns. UPDATE: Totilas has now been retired from competitive dressage after having been diagnosed with bone edema. Read the owners’ official statement.

    On Saturday, a sound performance gained Hester and Nip Tuck fifth place.

    Meanwhile, Dujardin wowed the crowds…

    …to win the grand prix special title, with Germany’s Kristina Broering-Sprehe in silver and Holland’s Hans Peter Minderhout in bronze.

    On the last day of the competition, German fans pulled out all the stops to support their riders.

    A superb test by Broering-Sprehe and Desperados saw the pair score an excellent 88.804% just before Dujardin was due in the arena.

    It was a tense moment for Dujardin but, in a nail-biting finale, she and Valegro managed to score 89.054%, beating Broering-Sprehe and Desperados by a minuscule 0.25%, with Spain’s Beatriz Ferrer Salat in third.

    Dujardin retained her European titles and Britain went back home with two gold medals and one silver. Well done!

    Main image: Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, by Hippo Foto – Dirk Caremans, courtesy of the FEI

  10. Charlotte Dujardin nabs the Aachen freestyle gold by a whisker

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    Charlotte Dujardin added another major championship gold medal to her stunning collection on Sunday — but only after being pushed all the way in a gripping European dressage freestyle final.

    Germany’s Kristina Broring-Sprehe went within less than 0.3% of inflicting a first major championship defeat on Dujardin since 2011, but the British star — as she has done so many times in the past — came up trumps on Valegro amid intense pressure to edge home on 89.054%.

    Broring-Sprehe’s freestyle personal best on Desperados FRH of 88.804%, though, gave Dujardin plenty of food for thought just 12 months out from the Rio Olympics.

    “I knew what was going to come,” said Dujardin, who was drawn last to go immediately after Sprehe’s electric performance created an incredible buzz in Aachen’s main stadium. “Being in Aachen with Kristina being with her home crowd, I was expecting it, just like I had in London three years ago. Following Kristina, you could feel how much the crowd were behind her.

    “When I walked in, there was a huge atmosphere and they were applauding her score. There was a lot to deal with at the very beginning, but overall, I am thrilled.

    “I was really happy with the start of the test, then there was a mistake in my one-time changes. I knew it was going to be a tough call here, but I am not going to moan. I am going away with two gold medals and a silver, and I am really happy with that.”

    Spanish rider Beatriz Ferrer-Salat took the bronze medal on Delgado, scoring 82.714%, with Carl Hester and Nip Tuck finishing eighth. Fiona Bigwood, an integral part of Britain’s team silver medal success on Thursday, withdrew Atterupgaards Orthilia before the freestyle because of a reaction in its back following the grand prix special 24 hours earlier.

    Reflecting on a dramatic conclusion to the European dressage schedule, Dujardin’s mentor Hester said: “He (Valegro) was a little bit tired today and a little bit empty, and I felt it would be difficult to get the ones.

    “They (Broring-Sprehe and Desperados) have gone within a minute percentage today of actually being able to beat Valegro. Desperados is not an old horse either, so it looks like Valegro suddenly has a new rival.

    “Valegro set the standard a while ago of high percentage scores, and people are creeping closer. It is five years now that he has been winning gold medals, and this has been a great week again.”

    The British quartet of Dujardin, Hester, Bigwood and Michael Eilberg will head home from Germany after finishing just 1.4% away from team gold, with Dujardin now a double-double European champion, in addition to holding Olympic and World gold, plus the sport’s three world records.

    Attention in Aachen now turns to the FEI European Showjumping Championships, which begin on Wednesday, with the British team of Ben Maher, Michael Whitaker, Joe Clee and Jessica Mendoza, not only defending the title won in Denmark two years ago, but also striving for one of three Olympic qualification places on offer alongside rivals like Ireland, Switzerland, Belgium and Spain.

    Image: Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro by Hippo Foto – Dirk Caremans, courtesy of the FEI

  11. Charlotte Dujardin wins the grand prix special at Aachen

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    Charlotte Dujardin put her Aachen demons behind her to retain the European grand prix special title on Saturday after an emphatic gold-medal performance.

    The world number one suffered a rare defeat in Aachen last year, and her display on Valegro in Thursday’s team competition was slightly below-par — but they made amends spectacularly.

    Their score of 87.577% was just short of the grand-prix-special world record they set in Hagen more than three years ago, but it set much too hot a pace for the rest to handle.

    Germany’s Kristina Broring-Sprehe, riding Desperados FRH, took the silver medal on 83.067%, while Holland’s Hans Peter Minderhoud claimed bronze aboard Glock’s Johnson. His team-mate Edward Gal was eliminated with Glock’s Undercover and Swedish star Patrik Kittel retired, meaning both riders are out of Sunday’s freestyle final, when Dujardin will be joined by her British colleagues Carl Hester and Fiona Bigwood.

    Hester, riding the richly-promising Nip Tuck, finished fifth, while Bigwood filled ninth spot on Atterupgaards Orthilia, but Michael Eilberg and Marakov bowed out in 19th spot.

    There will, though, be no European showdown between Valegro and former world record-breaking stallion Totilas after the ride of Germany’s Matthias Rath was withdrawn prior to the grand prix special.

    Dujardin said: “On Thursday, I think I was maybe a little too laid-back and just rode for a clear round. But today, because of my mistakes, I thought ‘right, I’m sick of this,’ and I wanted to go in and better my performance as I know Valegro can do much better than that.

    “Last year, coming here wasn’t that great. It’s not a place I get the nicest vibes from, should I say. Today he felt on great form, and I knew I just had to go in and ride him. I had a good ride from start to finish.

    “It’s tough with a German crowd. They really get behind their riders — a bit like we had in London. Coming here and doing it is amazing. The crowd are fantastic and know what they’re watching, and it’s such a great feeling to come out and know that they appreciate what they are seeing and applauding what I’ve done.

    “It’s tough, but I have to remember that this is my passion and what I love, and that’s how I keep the nerves from kicking in. I know I have to go in there, nail it and do my best, but today I really did enjoy it.”

    While 30-year-old Dujardin added another title to her enviable collection, Hester’s score of 77.003% on Nip Tuck served further notice that this is a combination with serious designs on next year’s Rio Olympics, and Hester was suitably thrilled.

    “That’s my gold medal in the bag for me,” he said, reflecting on Nip Tuck’s fine showing. “If someone could make me a little one out of plastic, I would feel like I had the real thing!

    “He was brilliant. For such a big horse, I have to be able to make quite a lot of adjustments to keep him balanced. He absolutely did everything I asked. I love riding him. He has the perfect balance that you want in a dressage horse, and he wants to go, he really wants to work, he is a little bit nervous and he’s on my side. I have such a great relationship with him, and it just keeps growing.

    “I am smiling from ear to ear — it’s like having a pack of fruit pastilles all in one go! For me, it was amazing. I mean, he’s never going to beat Valegro, but he’s ended up fifth in a European Championships, which is just great. I am so proud to bring it out of him, and he offers it. It’s a great moment for me today.”

    Hester, meanwhile, also paid tribute to Dujardin, whose imperious major championship record features Olympic, World and European crowns, plus all three dressage world records — grand prix, grand prix special and freestyle — currently being in her possession.

    “I am really happy for Charlotte,” he added. “I want people to love the horse (Valegro) as we love him at home. Today, he was back at his best. The weather suited him more, as it was a bit cooler. He loves the atmosphere, and today he was back to full power.

    “Charlotte is happy, and I am relieved that she has put her Aachen demons to bed.”

    Watch an interview with Charlotte Dujardin:

    Main image: Charlotte Dujardin by FEI / Arnd Bronkhorst / Pool Pic

  12. British dressage team lies third at Aachen

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    Fiona Bigwood produced a sparkling performance in Aachen on Wednesday as Great Britain’s dressage team made a strong start to their medal quest at the FEI European Championships.

    Bigwood marked her first major championship appearance since 2010 by posting a score of 75.800 per cent on the 10-year-old mare Atterupgaards Othilia as Britain held third place overnight behind leaders and gold-medal favourites Germany, with Holland second.

    With Michael Eilberg having scored 69.943 per cent on Marakov, Britain’s total of 145.743 means they are in decent shape ahead of Thursday’s action, when reigning Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin and her London 2012 gold-medal-winning colleague Carl Hester perform their tests.

    Bigwood’s display was all the more remarkable given that she suffered a hairline fracture of her skull in a riding accident last year. She now wears an eye patch to ride because she’s experiencing double vision.

    “I am on cloud nine. She was amazing to ride in there,” Bigwood said. “I knew I had to pull out a mark to be in with a chance of getting a medal. I knew I had to produce something. The pressure is not on from them (the rest of the team), but it is on from myself.

    “It is her sixth international, so she isn’t that experienced. Obviously, she is talented enough, but it is how much you ask. The goal was not to make mistakes, and then at the end I could ask for the extended trot and just let her go.

    “To go in there and do what she did, everyone in the yard is over the moon. You do not get much bigger than Aachen.”

    Eilberg kicked off Britain’s campaign earlier in the day, and although there were a couple of obvious mistakes in his test on 15-year-old major championship debutant Marakov, the Worcestershire-based rider could feel satisfied with a solid effort.

    “I am really pleased with him. It was a daunting atmosphere,” he said. “Perhaps I could have let go of him a bit more, but that can go either way, so, overall, I am happy.

    “I still feel like I have to go in and hold his hand, but it is pleasing that, even having to help him out, he can still score like that.

    “When he was new to Grand Prix, he was nervous and spooky and we would get 59 per cent, but now he copes with his nerves.”

    Thursday’s action will undoubtedly be highlighted not only by Dujardin’s entry on Valegro, but also the return of iconic stallion Totilas, previously ridden in brilliant world-record-breaking and major medal-winning fashion by Holland’s Edward Gal, and now in the hands of German rider Matthias Rath.
    Saturday’s Grand Prix special final and the Grand Prix freestyle on Sunday also look set to be close calls. Hester, for one, is relishing seeing Valegro and Totilas at the same major championship.

    “Everyone has been waiting for it,” he said. “They are both on form, and it looks like they will have a good head to head.”

    Image: Fiona Bigwood and Atterupgaards Orthilia by Hippo Foto – Dirk Caremans, courtesy of FEI.

  13. Dressage debrief: Predictions for Aachen’s European Championships

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    Just two weeks before the European Dressage Championships in Aachen — the last major championship for British contenders before the Olympic Games in Rio next year. How the time has flown by since London 2012!

    London marked a major milestone in dressage history when the British team won gold — an extraordinary feat that, just a few years previously, seemed the stuff of dreams. That high was followed by team bronze at the 2013 European Championships in Herning and team silver at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Caen last year. How things change; within the space of a few years the Brits have become major players on the World dressage stage and now there is a high expectation of the team, although at least the pressure is off as qualification for Rio 2016 was achieved last year.

    Only one combination, our ace in the pack Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro — the reigning Olympic, World and European Champions and World record holders — remains the constant throughout the past three successes. And they are the World’s highest scoring combination this year — scoring over 85% in each of their grand prix tests. At Aachen, Dujardin will be joined by three experienced players: Carl Hester, Fiona Bigwood and Michael Eilberg.

    British dressage stalwart and team prop Hester, who rode in his first major championship — the very first WEG in Stockholm — 25 years ago, this year rides Nip Tuck, who, despite helping to win team silver last year, is still relatively inexperienced. His scores, however, are improving all the time.

    Bigwood, who first rode for the British senior team in 1996, this year rides the mare Atterupguaards Orthilia at her championship debut. She is the least experienced of the horse quartet, with just five international grand prix on her CV, but is an eye-catching mover with a seemingly level head and is more than capable of a good score.

    Eilberg, a member of the team for the last two championships, this year rides Marakov. The eldest of the four horses is also a championship debutant, although the pair has five seasons of grand prix experience together and Eilberg is a cool customer.

    Who is the opposition?

    Germany are the major contenders are far as team gold is concerned, even despite losing the lovely Helen Langehanenberg and the equally lovely stallion Damon Hill, winners of individual silver at WEG.

    Kristina Sprehe is their current leader of the pack with the stallion Desperados. The pair, winners of all their international starts this year, also looks to be the biggest threat to Dujardin and Valegro for individual honours.

    The former world record holder Totilas, who lost the crown to Valegro, is back with Matthias Rath — their last team appearance was the 2011 European Championships in Rotterdam. The pair scored marginally over 80% in Hagen recently but that is the only show on their card this year.

    Isabell Werth, Germany’s skilled team veteran, rides Don Johnson, as her WEG team gold medal mare Bella Rose has not been fit to compete this year, but Don Johnson is more than capable of decent scores.

    Meanwhile, Jessica Bredow-Werndl, a former Young Rider European Champion, makes her senior team debut with the stallion Unee BB (like Totilas by Gribaldi) with whom she recently was just a few marks off 80% in the grand prix special in Hagen.

    The Dutch have also lost their major player of recent times, Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival, who have been the backbone and high-scorers of the team for the last six years. They do, however, still have Edward Gal, Hans Peter Minderhoud (and the breeding stallion Glocks Johnson) and Diederik van Silfhout (Arlando), who were all members of the team that won World team bronze last year. Gal now rides Glocks Undercover, with whom he won his seventh national championship recently — the pair are likely to be their high scorers. Patrick van de Meer and Uzzo have the fourth place.

    Sweden also looks to have a strong team. Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven (Don Aureillo) Patrik Kittel (Deja) and Minne Telde (Santana) are all experienced championship riders who have been putting in good consistent grand prix scores recently and they are joined by team rookie Emilie Nyrerod (Miata) who has impressed this season.

    And the winners are?….

    One thing is for certain: it will be a closely contested championship that in all likelihood will be determined by the final riders. Based on grand prix personal best this year, the gold medal will be an extremely close battle between Germany and Britain. On paper, the Brits have it but we will need a high-scoring, team boosting test from Dujardin and Valegro, with good back-up from Hester and Bigwood. No pressure then. A team silver is the alternative but even if not all goes to plan — and with horses, who knows — team bronze is well within reach.

    On current form, Dujardin and Valegro should retain their European title. The silver looks set to be won by Sprehe and Desperados and the bronze will be a close tussle between Rath and Totilas and and Undercover, although Hester and Nip Tuck could surprise and give them a run for their money.

    Image: Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro by Judy Sharrock on FlickR.