Tag Archives: dressage

Her Majesty The Queen Wins at Virtual Windsor Horse Show

After the cancellation of Royal Windsor Horse Show which was to run in the private grounds of Windsor Castle, ‘The Queen’s Back Garden’, from 13-17 May, organisers moved the Show online to create Virtual Windsor 2020. More than 4,200 entries were received for the online Showing competitions, including several from HM The Queen.

A ‘usual’ Royal Windsor Horse Show would receive around 2,800 entries, illustrating how the equestrian community has come together to make Virtual Windsor 2020 a larger success than ever envisioned.

A huge number of viewers watched the Show online with more than 250,000 tuning in to enjoy the event over its five days, while the social media reach soared past the million mark.

The numbers surpassed all expectations and organisers were particularly delighted by the number of viewers from overseas with more than 90 countries getting involved.

24 Showing classes were run over the five-day virtual Show, mixed with streaming of 5* Jumping and Dressage classes from previous live events, along with displays and competitions that you can only see at Royal Windsor Horse Show.

HM The Queen had six entries in the Showing Classes and was the outright winner in two — Class 2 for Cleveland Bays which she won with Wyevale Harry ridden by Matthew Powers and Class 19 the Side Saddle which she won with Stardust ridden by Katie Jerram-Hunnable.

Over the course of the five days, many stars of the equestrian world joined the virtual Show in interviews and commentary. Their Royal Highnesses, The Earl and Countess of Wessex, also participated in a video interview showing their support for the event.

As a first-time event for Royal Windsor Horse Show, organisers expressed it was more than they could have ever wished for. Simon Brooks-Ward, Show Director, ended the Show by thanking all involved and hoping to see everyone again – in the flesh – next year.

Brooks-Ward said: “We’ve been delighted by the response we’ve had to Virtual Windsor 2020. It’s been fantastic to see the Show’s community getting together to keep the Show going – whether they are competitors, shop holders, sponsors, stewards, judges and officials, or visitors – everyone has been engaged. I think it demonstrates how important the Show is for all and how close it is to their hearts.”

Details of the virtual Show can be found by visiting virtual.rwhs.co.uk. The site will be constantly updated and will remain in place throughout the year.

Support the Future of Para Equestrian Sport

Photo (c) United States Para-Equestrian Association.

United States Para-Equestrian Association Mission Statement  

To Help Develop, Promote, Support, and Sustain all USA Para Equestrian Athletes for Regional, National, and International Competition with a focus on Paralympic Equestrian Sport.

United States Para-Equestrian Association Vision Statement  

The vision of the United States Para Equestrian Association (USPEA) is to provide leadership for equestrian sport in the United States of America for athletes with an eligible physical impairment, promoting the pursuit of excellence from the grass roots to the Paralympic Games, based on a foundation of fair, safe competition and the welfare of its horses, and embracing this vision, to be the best national Para Equestrian Association in the world.

About USPEA

The United States Para-Equestrian Association (USPEA) includes every recognized equestrian discipline that is practiced by athletes with an eligible physical impairment with a focus on Paralympic Equestrian Sports. The USPEA is a network of current and past athletes, owners, officials, event organizers, and equestrian enthusiasts. The Association assists athletes to get involved and expand their knowledge and experience in the Disciplines of Para-Equestrian.

USPEA was created to fill a need to assist Para Equestrian disciplines when they came under the governance of the FEI. While Para Equestrian disciplines were originally segregated, they now are integrated in international sport. As each individual Para Equestrian discipline develops, it is USPEA’s mission to always serve as an advisory resource with the ultimate goal that the established able-bodied discipline affiliate will integrate within their organization.

In 2010, the USPEA earned its 501 (c)(3) status and became a recognized International affiliate association of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) working together to grow the FEI recognized disciplines by helping to provide press, educational information, symposiums, and competition opportunities for athletes with eligible physical impairments.

For more information about the USPEA, please visit www.USPEA.org or contact USPEA President: Hope Hand by e-mail: hope@uspea.org or by phone: (610)356-6481.

The USPEA is a USEF Recognized National Affiliate. The USEF International High Performance Programs are generously supported by the USET Foundation, USOC, and USEF Sponsors and Members. For more information please visit US Equestrian at https://www.usef.org/compete/disciplines/para-equestrian.

Laura Graves Talks All Things SenSation HW

Laura Graves and SenSation HW. Photo by Emmalie Clapp.

Geneva, Florida – May 13, 2020 – Former world ranked no. 1 rider Laura Graves announced she has welcomed two-time national young horse champion, SenSation HW, to her program. Bred in Germany by Alfons Bergjohann, the 7-year-old Westphalian gelding SenSation HW (Sunday—Donata, Dancier) has made quite a name for himself with Hilltop Farm’s Michael Bragdell.

The gelding owned by Carol and Scott McPhee has had an impressive career as a young horse thus far, earning back-to-back champion titles in the 5-Year-Old and 6-Year-Old Championships at the Markel/USEF Young Horse National Championships for the last two years with Bragdell in the saddle, earning an impressive score 9.6 for his trot and a 9 for overall impression. The pair also earned consecutive titles at the US Dressage Finals the last two years, taking the First Level Open National Championship in 2018 and the Third Level Open National Championship in 2019. Prior to the finals in Lexington, Kentucky, the pair earned the Third Level Championship at the GAIG/United States Equestrian Federation Region 8 Championships with scores over 74%.

Following the retirement of her Olympic partner Verdades, Graves had a quieter season this year, competing in the national ring aboard two developing horses. In February, she rode Bellarini, a 5-year-old Hanoverian mare into the ring for the first time at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival to win their First Level class with a 73.276%, and Fizau, an 11-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by Susan Shattuck, earned a top-five placing in the Intermediate II. With the addition of SenSation HW to her string, Graves has her eyes set once again on international success in the near future.

PS Dressage caught up with Graves to discuss her exciting new partnership and her competition career post-Diddy.

Let’s talk about how your partnership with SenSation’s owners, the McPhees, developed.

“Carol and her husband, Scott, originally contacted me. Michael has had such great success with him and has done such a great job with this horse in the Young Horse classes. It’s common practice in Europe that another trainer may take over the ride to do different things. So far I am really enjoying the opportunity of getting to know the McPhees. They seem to really love and care for their horses and I’m hoping it’s the beginning of a really long-term relationship.”

Michael [Bragdell] always spoke so highly of SenSation’s quality with his elasticity and work ethic. Do you recall watching them compete together?

“It’s funny because I follow the sport very closely whether it is here in the US or in Europe. I think we all try to keep eyes on the winning horses and hope for the best for everybody. When I would watch SenSation with Michael it was clear what a talented horse he was, but I never thought I would one day have him in my barn. I’m very grateful for that.”

When did SenSation arrive at your farm? What qualities about him have you noticed so far as you are getting to know him?

“It’s easy to lose track of time in this quarantine, but I think he arrived in late March. The McPhees live in Pennsylvania and with all the Coronavirus restrictions, they haven’t had the opportunity to visit him at my farm yet, but we are hoping they will be able to travel to visit him soon!

“SenSation is such a cool horse. He has honestly been one of the easiest horses to start to get to know. He has a very straight forward character with an excellent personality and work ethic. Michael has done a super job with him! He is safe to hack and it’s a real joy to have him in the barn. The girls who work for me love to take care of him — he’s very friendly.”

With the retirement of your long-time partner Diddy, I’m sure you are ecstatic to have a high-caliber horse in your string again. Any goals on your radar with him for next year? 

“I do have some very nice young horses developing but there is a big difference in the two-year age gap between them and SenSation. Even though SenSation is only seven, he is actually one of my more advanced horses and I feel really confident on him. I’m really excited to have a horse of this age and caliber in my barn!

“To sit in the saddle every day and feel like the future is not too far away with him — there are glimpses of the whole grand prix already in this horse. It’s a very motivating thing for me. I’m not riding horses right now that I don’t think have the quality to make a team — whether it is for Pan Am Games, Nations Cups, World Cup Finals, World Equestrian Games, maybe even an Olympic Games. There are a lot of different things that may fit into his schedule depending on his development and when we meet specific mile markers. But that is certainly a goal with SenSation now. Right now I would consider we are in a two-year chunk of time where I think he will be something really special to see.”

With the coronavirus shaking up the competition season and with all that uncertainty, do you have an ideal plan for next year?

“Hopefully, things can get back to some sort of normal by next season and then we can travel a bit and take some real lessons as opposed to videos. My horses will be ready next year so hopefully I have somewhere to take them!”

Speaking about taking lessons — Has Debbie [McDonald] been involved so far and what are her thoughts about this new addition to your string?

“Debbie has been working with me a little bit. It’s exciting for both of us! What we have as a coach-student relationship is really awesome and we work together really well. It ends up in the best interest of the horse when there is a relationship like that between a coach and their student. I’m thrilled she is supportive and excited about the horses in my barn. Deb and I are both in different places in our lives. With the Olympics that were supposed to be this year, her life has changed a lot, and my life, with the retirement of Diddy, is very different too. For us, it is a new chapter in our relationship. It’s exciting to start over again and it’s very motivating. All the places Diddy took us and the thought we may have that opportunity again is really special.”

You have made a name for yourself with a horse you solely owned. What does it feel like to have other owners involved that are now part of your team?

“I have a deep gratitude to these owners who think of me and give me such exceptional horses to ride. They trust me. It’s an amazing thing to have that trust from complete strangers. I am very very lucky and I’ve always said it is no one’s responsibility to do this for me. So every time I have an opportunity like this, I just think of how lucky I am to have people believe in me and that we share the same dreams. I just hope I can do my best. It’s a lot of pressure but I am looking forward to it.”

Even though you were not present in the CDI-ring this season, you did ride down centerline a few times at AGDF this winter on Fizau, a horse you competed at the 2017 US Developing Prix St. Georges National Championship and a new youngster. How did you think your season went with them? 

“It was a good developing season. I had entered Fizau in an I2 and unfortunately we had some things go wrong in the barn and he didn’t have a great show, which is really too bad because we had to scratch the second day. He is schooling really well and he is for sale — I know he will make someone very, very happy. I’ve had him since he was 5 years old and it will be hard to see him go. But he deserves to be the light of someone’s life. He will be the ‘SenSation’ in someone’s barn! I think every horse deserves that. It’s a special situation where he must go to the right forever home. He’s a one-of-a-kind horse.

“The other horse I competed is a 5-year-old named Bellarini that I have really big dreams for. I’ve had her less than a year and I brought her to her first show to see how she would be off the farm. She was fresh, but she settled in well and was a very good girl. She scored quite well in her First Level test and I was having a blast riding her around. It’s these partnerships with horses that put smiles on your face that makes it worth it. It has been a little bit lacking in my life since Diddy retired and so it’s exciting to ride horses you feel yourself bonding with. It makes it easy to be patient and to wait for these great things that I think are going to happen. It’s exciting.”

We would certainly be remiss if we didn’t check in on the one and only Diddy. How is retirement treating him so far?

“It suits him very well! I’m still riding him a few days a week — I had to! We finally have him exercised enough where he is behaving himself in turnout with my other retired horse, who is a 27-year-old, 15-hand Quarter Horse. At first Diddy was so wild and I couldn’t have him running my Quarter Horse too much. Now they are behaving and enjoying turnout together. It’s such a small thing, but Diddy hasn’t been in a field with another horse in 12 years. It’s such a nice thing for them and it’s how it should be. Even though my farm is set up where they can touch noses across the fence, it’s different that he can be with another horse.”

PS Dressage
info@psdressage.com

2020 National Dressage Pony Cup & Small Horse Championships Canceled Due to COVID-19

Lake St. Louis, Mo. – May 7, 2020 – The organizers of the National Dressage Pony Cup (NDPC) and Small Horse Championship Show regret to announce the cancellation of the 2020 event, which was scheduled for July 17-19 at the National Equestrian Center in Lake St. Louis, Mo., due to ongoing uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year’s NDPC show was a record-setting event, with 250 entries representing more than 25 U.S. states and Canadian provinces as well as 35 different breeds of ponies and small horses, all competing for top honors across 51 championship divisions from the Intro Level to Grand Prix.

Founded in 2007 by Jenny Carol in order to showcase and promote ponies competing in dressage, the NDPC has continued to grow in size and enthusiasm each year. With the addition of small horse championship divisions in 2018, the NDPC has become a destination event for pony and small horse dressage enthusiasts of all ages and backgrounds from across North America. But that widespread appeal is also a big part of the reason why Carol has made the tough decision to cancel this year’s competition in light of the ongoing effects of COVID-19.

“I have agonized over this because I realize that the Pony Cup is something that so many people look forward to every year,” said Carol. “But as much as we want to see everyone this summer, we have come to the conclusion that in light of all that’s happening with the COVID-19 pandemic, cancelling the show is the most responsible thing to do.

“We realize that there is still so much uncertainty about COVID-19, and it is a very fluid situation. Travel restrictions may remain in place for some time, and on top of that we feel like we simply cannot in good conscience ask people to drive across the country and Canada to gather at a large horse show like ours and possibly endanger their health,” Carol continued. “Also, many people are impacted financially, and some haven’t even been able to go ride their ponies and prepare for competition due to stay-at-home orders and barn closures. And last but not least, the Pony Cup is about so much more than just riding tests in the arena – it’s a fun, social event for everyone. We feel like if we were to try to hold the show this year, it would have to be with so many precautions and restrictions that it just wouldn’t be the same experience our competitors have come to expect.”

Although heartbroken at the decision to cancel this year’s event, Carol encouraged competitors to look forward to coming back to the National Dressage Pony Cup & Small Horse Championship Show in Lake St. Louis, Mo. in 2021. Also, at this time, the Dressage Sport Horse Breeding divisions of the National Dressage Pony Cup Championships are still scheduled to run as originally planned at Dressage at Devon, from September 22-29, 2020 in Devon, Pa.

PS Dressage
info@psdressage.com

FEI European Championships in Olympic & Paralympic Disciplines Cancelled for 2021

The FEI European Championships in the Olympic and Paralympic disciplines of Jumping, Eventing, Dressage, and Para Dressage will not be held in 2021 due to the revised dates for the Tokyo Games next year. European Championships in the non-Olympic disciplines will still be organised in 2021.

The Hungarian capital of Budapest had been due to play host to five disciplines next summer – Jumping, Dressage, Para Dressage, Driving, and Vaulting – from 23 August to 5 September. However, the proximity of the Championships to the rescheduled Olympic and Paralympic Games has meant that it is no longer feasible to run Jumping, Dressage, and Para Dressage. As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations of the first FEI European Driving Championships in Budapest back in 1971, the Organisers will maintain both Driving and Vaulting next year.

The FEI European Eventing Championships 2021 were scheduled to take place from 11-15 August at Haras du Pin (FRA), venue for the Eventing test of the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014, but the decision has been made to cancel the Championships following the postponement of Tokyo 2020.

The new dates for the Tokyo Olympic Games are 23 July to 8 August 2021 and the Paralympic Games will run from 24 August through to 5 September 2021.

The FEI Board has agreed that the bid process for the European Championships 2021 in these four disciplines will not be reopened, as all organisers would face the same challenges of trying to host major Championships so close to the Tokyo Games.

“Together with the Organising Committees of both Budapest and Haras du Pin, as well as the Hungarian and French National Federations, we have examined every possible option to try and save the Championships in 2021,” FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said, “but we have reached the regrettable decision that it simply is not possible to have these important events so close to the Olympic and Paralympic Games next year.

“While there are some nations that have enough horsepower to send strong teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games and also to the European Championships across the four disciplines, we have to offer a level playing field to all eligible countries and we simply cannot do that in this case, so we have agreed that the focus should be on Tokyo next year.

“Of course, it is desperately disappointing to lose these Championships from the 2021 Calendar, but we will continue to support Budapest with their double Europeans for Driving and Vaulting.”

The FEI Secretary General has overall responsibility for the FEI Calendar and is currently chairing the eight discipline-specific Task Forces that have been set up to seek ways of mitigating the effect of the current Covid-19 pandemic on the FEI Calendar, including the knock-on effects into 2021.

“It was the very first time that a Central European country had won the opportunity to organise the prestigious FEI multidiscipline European Championships, Dorottya Stróbl, Member of the Managing Board of the Budapest Organising Committee and Secretary General of the Hungarian National Federation, said. “We strongly believed that the event would serve as a high motivation for the owners and sponsors in Hungary and in the neighbouring countries and promote the sport towards the elite level, but we understand that the significant challenges of holding major FEI Championships in the Olympic and Paralympic disciplines in the year of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, has meant that unfortunately cancellation was inevitable. However, we will continue to work to ensure the very highest level of FEI Driving and Vaulting European sport in Budapest next year.”

Valérie Moulin, President of the Ustica Organising Committee at Haras du Pin, also expressed her disappointment: “We are very disappointed that the rescheduling of Tokyo 2020 has led to the cancellation of the Championships in Haras du Pin, but unfortunately we were unable to find alternative dates outside August 2021. We had gathered a lot of local partners and we were financially invested. All riders counted on this date; nevertheless, we understand that the situation has changed over the last months with the postponement of the Olympic Games. We have made a proposal to the FEI about potentially hosting the Championships in 2023 and we look forward to hearing about that.”

Discussions around other FEI Championships, including the Europeans in 2023, will be held during next month’s FEI Board videoconference meeting, which is set for 23-25 June.

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 4

Dressage4Kids Tips: Ride Better with Christoph Hess

Straightness – A Challenge

Practically every horse has a natural asymmetry. Eliminating this asymmetry and thus straightening the horse is a central task of basic training.

Every rider must realize there is no such thing as an “absolutely” straight horse. This means that all riders, regardless of discipline or level, must rise daily to the challenge of straightening their horses.

The Corner – A Bending Line

It sounds counterintuitive, but what really helps is riding correctly through the corners. Every corner that the rider travels helps her straighten the horse. A corner is a quarter-volte, provided that it is ridden through correctly. How deeply you ride into the corners will depend on your horse’s age and, above all, level of training.

This means you won’t ride quite as deeply into the corners with a five-year-old (picture a 10-meter volte) as you would with an older and/or more highly trained horse. In this case, you could imagine a volte with a six-meter radius. What does experience tell us? Perhaps you are not riding the corners as quarter-voltes. The horse is not being positioned and bent through the corner. Often, the corners are ridden very flat and the horse does not come through with his hindquarters in the direction of his forehand. Often, the hindquarters fall out.

Therefore, you must give the task of riding bend through the corners special attention. When you can get successful “straight bending work” in the corners, it helps you correct the horse’s asymmetry and improve his straightness. At the same time, you are improving the horse’s obedience to your leg aids, which is especially important for the horse’s durchlässigkeit. This should apply regardless of how deeply you are riding through the corners.

If the rider goes large around the whole arena and rides through every single corner correctly – that is, her inside leg is driving the horse to the outside rein and she has the feeling that the horse is bending around this leg – she is on the correct path. Every time she rides through a corner, she must be able to feel forward with her inside rein, without this changing the horse’s connection and balance.

Thank you to Martha Cook and Trafalgar Square Books for providing this excerpt. Ride Better with Christoph Hess is available at Trafalgar Square Books. D4K friends can use the code D4K2020 and receive 25% off.

Dressage4Kids | graydressage@gmail.com | dressage4kidsorg.presencehost.net

We All Have More Strength Than We Think We Have: Rodolpho Riskalla

Rodolpho Riskalla with Don Henrico. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

“Some people think they can’t change, but we can all see now that when we are forced to change then we can do it.” This is coming from a man who knows what he’s talking about, 35-year-old Brazilian Dressage and Para-Dressage athlete Rodolpho Riskalla. He’s as disappointed as everyone else that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games have been postponed until next summer, and that equestrian sport in general has ground to a standstill due to the pandemic.

But he has learned to take life, and everything it throws at him, in his stride. He knows what it is to have the world turned upside-down and the best-laid plans swept away in an instant. But he also knows what it is to grit your teeth and get back on your feet – in his case two new prosthetic ones – without ever taking your eyes off the prize. And right now his eyes are fully focused on nothing less than a gold medal at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2021.

Rodolpho is sitting beside the “camping car” (I’m imagining it’s a pretty smart RV) he’s sharing with his mother, Rosangele, and sister, Victoria, close to the stables at Haras de Champcueil, about 60km south of Paris, as we begin our chat. He has a long connection with Ecurie Marina Caplain Saint Andre at Champcueil, so when the French lockdown was about to begin he quickly closed up his Paris home and moved his two horses from their usual lodgings at the Polo Club in the heart of the capital city so that he could continue to be close to them in the countryside. “We didn’t know at the time if the Olympics were going ahead this year or not,” he says. “It was chaos!”

Dior

He works as an Events Manager for the Paris fashion house Christian Dior, and normally exercises his two competition horses at 7.30am every day before heading to the office. “The Polo Club is normally open to the public, but we were told it would be closing from March 16th (due to the pandemic lockdown) so we brought them here right away. Everything is closed in France until May 11th at least,” he explains.

Adapting to new situations has long been a way of life for Rodolpho who travelled over and back from his family home in Sao Paolo in Brazil to France and elsewhere in Europe during his early teens. “I spent a few months with Mariette Witthages in Belgium, and I went to Germany when I was about 20 and spent two years with Norbert van Laak. Then I went back to Brazil for about five years before deciding to leave again for Europe so I would be close to horses and shows and training, and that brought me here to work with Marina, who I already knew from when I was younger, for about two-and-a-half years as a manager and trainer before I started at Dior,” he says. He’s been based in France ever since.

Rodolpho, whose mother is a Dressage judge and trainer, always showed potential. He claimed gold in the South American Young Rider Dressage Championships in Buenos Aires (BRA) in 2004 and won the Grand Prix Special, finished third in the Grand Prix and fourth in the Freestyle at the CDI3* in Sao Paolo (BRA) in February 2012. He produced a series of strong results in Young Horse classes on the French circuit the following year and was hoping to move his horse, Divertimento, up to Big Tour level, and take a shot at a place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, when tragedy struck in the summer of 2015. He had to return urgently to Brazil.

Very Suddenly

“My dad got sick and he died; it happened very suddenly and by the time I got there he was already gone. I had to look after all the paperwork for that, and I needed to be with my family for a while. But then two weeks later I got sick,” he says. It was bacterial meningitis. “It’s a bit like Coronavirus; some people can get it and are not affected by it, but they can infect someone else. It came out of nowhere. I was good in the morning; I went to see the lawyer and then on to teach one of my friends. In the afternoon I felt like I was getting a flu and I had a high fever, and the next day my mother took me to hospital. I was very sick. They put me in a coma a couple of days later so I could breathe – my heart and everything was shutting down.

“I was in the coma for almost three weeks. Somehow, I managed to survive; they said probably because I was in good health and fit. But my hands and my legs – the extremities – suffered a lot. My (medical) insurance was here in Europe, so Dior managed to fly me back, and I had the amputations in Paris,” he says quite practically.

In June he had been competing at the CDI2* in Compiegne and chasing an Olympic dream. By October he had lost both feet, all the fingers on his right hand and some from the left. And then in November, although he was still very weak, he had to be transferred to a rehabilitation centre much sooner than expected because his hospital bed was needed for victims of the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks.

I ask Rodolpho how he coped with all this, mentally as well as physically.

No time to think

“I didn’t have time to think too much; that’s the good thing, and I was really lucky to have my family and friends with me all the time; that was so important,” he replies. And he’s clearly a rule-breaker. On 2nd January 2016, less than five months after falling ill, he went to the stable where one of the horses he had been riding was kept and was lifted into the saddle. He didn’t have his prosthetics fitted at this stage.

“We could get out every weekend from rehab and yes it was crazy to get on the horse that day, but this moment changed something in my head. I suddenly realised I could manage!

“When you have everything (all your limbs) you think you could never do without them. I was one of those people who would look at a person in a wheelchair thinking I could never be like them.”

He’d lost 30kgs, and with his amputation scars still raw he had to wait until March before his prosthetics could be fitted. However, by the time he was discharged from rehab on 1 May he’d already competed at his first two Para-Dressage shows on a horse borrowed from a friend. His doctors let him sneak out of the rehab facility, saying, “Go! but don’t tell anyone at the hospital!” he tells me with a laugh.

He has now mastered his movement so well that he has a separate set of prosthetics so he can go running a few times a week as well. He’s back competing in both Dressage and Para-Dressage. There’s just no holding this man down.

Transition to Para

Having competed up to Grand Prix Dressage level, he found the transition to Para a bit bewildering at first. He says you get away with nothing in a Para test. There are five grades of competition and Rodolpho competes in Grade lV. “There are a lot of transitions and small turns and the judges look at every little thing! When you ride Prix St George or Grand Prix, it’s one movement after another; in Para it’s about straightness, suppleness, contact, good transitions, and it has really improved my horses because you have to be right on point; everything has to be fluid. Sometimes at the higher level, riders produce a flashy half-pass but forget about the basics. I feel now that my PSG horse is much more on the aids,” Rodolpho explains.

It’s hard to believe that he made it to the Paralympics in his home country just four months after leaving hospital in 2016, finishing individually 10th with Warenne. His extraordinary story earned him the FEI “Against All Odds” award that year, and there was hardly a dry eye in the house when he walked to the stage at the Park Tower Hotel in Tokyo to accept his trophy in November. And then, two years later, he claimed individual double-silver in Para-Dressage at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018 in Tryon, USA riding Don Henrico.

He’s had Don Henrico, which is owned by Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff of Gestüt Schafhof, since 2017. “He’s a stallion and sensitive, but right away we got along together. Some horses don’t adapt too well to Para riders; you can’t have a horse that’s too lazy or too big. In my case the disability is my legs and the reins (Rodolpho uses looped reins), but Don Henrico really played the game. He’s super fun!”

Don Frederic

Then along came Don Henrico’s brother, the stallion Don Frederic. “I needed a second horse and my sister was working for Ann Kathrin at the time and told me about him. She said he was a better mover and would suit me well.” However, Ann Kathrin wasn’t ready to sell, so Rodolpho continued his search for a back-up ride until, in a phone call with Ann Kathrin’s stepson Matthias Alexander Rath on the way home from last summer’s FEI European Championships in Rotterdam, he got an invitation to come and try the horse. They really clicked and, thanks to Brazilian friend Tania Loeb Wald who purchased him, Don Frederic joined Rodolpho’s team in November 2019.

“It took a few months for him to adapt and be a little more on my aids but he’s really great, a bit less sensitive than Don Henrico who sometimes has a little too much character! We started this year doing both Dressage and Para-Dressage and I took him to Doha (CPEDI3* in February 2020) where he was super and got three really nice scores (winning all three classes).”

Earlier in February Rodolpho competed Don Henrico at the CDI1* in Neumünster (GER), finishing fourth in the Intermediate Freestyle and fifth in the Prix St Georges, both won by German superstar Helen Langehanenberg. In Para-Dressage and in Dressage, the Brazilian rider is very competitive.

The postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games to summer 2021 means he has even more time to really cement his partnership with Don Frederic. “So I’m in the lucky position of having two championship horses and now we don’t want to just go to Tokyo for a medal – we want gold!” he says with another laugh.

Adaptability

But I know it’s not a joke. This is a man with colossal inner strength and steely determination. I can sense he’s grinning when he confirms, “Yes, I always want more. I want to win; I want to be better. I’ve always been like that! That’s how I got through what I’ve been through because I was able to adapt. Adaptability is the key word, and pushing your own boundaries a bit. We all have more strength than we think we have!” he insists.

As we conclude our time together I ask him if he has a message for people worried about the instability in the world right now due the pandemic, and he replies, “It’s not an easy time for anyone because we don’t know what the future holds. We need to get past this and we’ll get there, but we can’t rush time and we’ve got to be patient.”

He concludes, “If there is one thing I have learned from my own experience over the last few years, it is that when people care about each other, then everything is easier.”

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

FEI Board Approves Resolutions Based on Calendar Task Forces Proposals

The FEI Board held an extraordinary meeting 27 April 2020 to review proposals from six of the discipline-specific Calendar Task Forces. Discussions at the meeting, which was held via videoconference, were on Jumping, Dressage, Eventing, Driving, Vaulting, and Reining.

During the meeting, the FEI Board agreed that discussions and decisions on FEI Championships for all age categories and disciplines, and potential initiatives to help Organisers, will be deferred to its June meeting.

National Federations and Organisers whose Calendar date applications/modifications have been approved by the FEI during the Covid-19 period have been informed that no guarantee of exclusivity will be provided to them for the new Calendar dates and that equal consideration of all future Calendar date applications/modifications will be given by the relevant Calendar Task Force and by the FEI Board.

Other key takeaways from the meeting are:

Jumping: Due to the uncertainty about the organisation of Competitions worldwide during July and August 2020, the Board has approved all Calendar date applications/modifications for Jumping Events that take place up to and including 30 August 2020. No date clash rules will apply for this period.

Dressage: date applications and/or modifications for high level events (CDI5*/CDI4*/CDI3* and CDI-W) must reach the FEI eight weeks prior to the event. Date clash rules will not apply to CDI3*.

Eventing: date applications and/or modifications for CCI5* & CCI4* Long Format must reach the FEI six weeks prior to the event; date applications and/or modifications for CCI4* Short Format and all other Events must reach the FEI four weeks prior to the Event.

Driving: date applications and/or modifications must reach the FEI four weeks prior to the Event.

Vaulting: date applications and/or modifications must reach the FEI four weeks prior to the Event.

Reining: date applications and/or modifications must reach the FEI four weeks prior to the Event.

Detailed information on resolutions for each discipline are available here.

The Dressage Calendar Task Force held its second meeting 28 April to review applications received for higher-level events. The Jumping Calendar Task Force will hold its third meeting on 4 May 2020, followed by Eventing’s second meeting on 14 May when its Task Force will review applications for higher-level event date changes.

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 4

Nothing Is Worth More Than Our Health: Isabell Werth

Isabell Werth and Satchmo. (FEI/Kit Houghton)

She’s fun, focused, fabulous, and sometimes a little formidable. The most medalled athlete in the history of equestrian sport, Germany’s Isabell Werth looked set to add yet another title to her very long list at the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2020 Final in Las Vegas, USA before that was cancelled due to the pandemic.

“I try to take the good things out of all this,” Isabell said when we spoke recently (Saturday 18 April). “I have more time to concentrate on my young horses, more time for the family, for all the horses, for the whole stables, especially now that spring is here and there is so much to do.”

Like everyone else she’s had to adapt in order to keep everyone safe at home. “We have three generations living here on our farm (near Dusseldorf), and my parents are still really well and I hope we can keep the virus away. We try to go on like normal but keep a distance. At the beginning it was quite hard for my son (10-year-old Frederik) not to visit my parents, but now he’s a bit more used to it and so it’s fine.”

My Q&A plan goes a bit astray from the outset. I’m taken aback when I find out that the great Isabell Werth, known in the sport as “The Queen,” is just like so many of the rest of us – girls in particular – who are so passionate about horses and horse sport.

She too was a pony-mad kid, and in a way she’s still just living that dream….

Heroes

When I ask “Who were your childhood heroes?” she tells me, “Well, it all started with the Bille and Zuttel books about a little girl and her pony. I loved to read, and Bille was my first hero and I wanted to be like her! Today my son (10-year-old Frederik) is playing with an iPhone and an iPad, but when I was his age, I was reading those books,” she explains. “It’s a different world now,” I comment, and Isabell replies, “Yes – although for sure it’s not better!

She continues: ”When I got more serious about my riding I looked up to all the big names like Reiner Klimke and Margot Otto-Crepin (sadly, 1989 FEI Dressage World Cup™ winner Margit passed away on Sunday 19 April), and when I started with Dr Schulten-Baumer then Nicole (Olympic gold medallist Nicole Uphoff) was in the stable. It was the time of Christine Stuckelberger and Anne-Grethe Jensen – so many great riders,” she says.

So how does it feel to be the hero for others now? “To be honest I don’t think about it. It’s lovely when kids come up and ask me questions – I’m really touched by that, but I don’t think about why they are doing it!”

Influences

The person who influenced you most? “During my career for sure it was Dr Schulten-Baumer (world-famous dressage trainer and coach, nicknamed Der Doktor). He taught me how to build up a horse and about management. He was always thinking about the future and how to deal with unexpected things, so I was quite well-prepared for what happened later in my career. When I eventually had my own stable all this gave me a strong basis.

“And then of course the second person is Madeleine Winter-Schulze (a great patron of German equestrian athletes including Isabell). These two people were, and are, the most important during my riding career next to my parents, my partner (Wolfgang Urban), and my family.”

Who is in your back-up crew? “My family, my life-partner, and my parents always have my back. I can discuss everything with them in and around the sport, and even though he’s not experienced with horses, Wolfgang has management experience because of his business and profession so he has helped me a lot. When we come to the daily work in the stables first of all it’s Steffi (Steffi Weigard), my groom – she’s really close to me when it comes to what happens with our show horses; she has a very good eye and feeling. The stable staff, my riders, and then Mary (her right-hand woman) of course. I’ve been working with most of these people for more than 10 years and it’s a close partnership,” Isabell explains.

Horses

What do you like best about being around horses? “Being in the middle of them, working with them, just sitting on them and being in my own world. I love it!”

Anything you don’t like about being around horses? “No, only in the horse business sometimes it’s difficult to deal with the people! You have to learn not to say everything you want to say, to know when it’s better to keep your mouth shut! Sometimes that’s hard for me and sometimes I can’t do it, but I have learned to be better at it!” she says with a laugh.

The horse you liked the most? “Gigolo, Satchmo, and now Bella Rose have been the most important horses in my life. At the moment I have Weihegold, and of course I love her and we’ve had great success together, but it is something different with Satchmo for instance.” There is real emotion in her voice now.

“Today he was in the field when I was riding back from the racetrack with Weihegold. I was talking to her about the fact that we should actually be in Las Vegas doing our Freestyle today when Satchmo walked up to remind me that he was there with me 11 years ago (finishing second in the 2009 FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final).

“To see him grazing with the little pony Kelly, coming over for a chat and then going down to eat more grass without a care in the world, and to feel Weihe passaging under me because she was so awake and so keen, that’s something special for me personally. She is still enjoying the sport; he is so happy in his retirement, and nobody else sees that moment but it makes me feel so good!”

Have you retired many of your top horses at your farm? “Yes, all of them! Satchmo is the oldest now; he is close to 26; he will have his birthday in May so we will celebrate – maybe have a Corona-party for him! First Class is still here, and Fabienne and Anthony and Gigolo were with us for such a long time, until they were 25, 26, 29 years old and it was really great to have them. Also, to keep them until the day they died, that was, and is, for me also important – they were much more than just successful Grand Prix horses.

“Most of them had about 10 years in the field after 10 years of top sport. Also Whisper – everyone knew him as my ‘doping horse’ (Isabell was suspended in 2009 when Whisper tested positive for a prohibited substance) – but nobody asked later if he’s still alive, and he is still alive (now aged 21) and he is also with my retired horses in the field and we take great care of him in the same way as all the rest. And that’s also something that’s in my heart but nobody sees it!” she says.

Outstanding

Are there some other top horses you would have liked to ride? “Margit Otto-Crepin’s Corlandus. He was such an outstanding horse, and Totilas – it would have been great to feel how he was to ride – and of course Valegro and Mistral Hojris too. They were all fantastic!”

The best horse you have ever ridden? This answer comes as no surprise…. “Bella Rose! She’s the best I’ve ever had, the one able to do everything, and you can feel always there is something more possible – that makes her so outstanding!”

When you are competing you have a gift for working up a crowd – do you think you could have been an actress in another life? “Not really! To be an actress you must be flexible so you can jump into different kinds of roles. But my role is simple: it’s riding dressage, it’s horses, and I love what I do!”

How do you like working with the media? “You learn to have confidence in answering questions, sometimes with more humour; it depends a bit on the emotion at the time. But (and I think I know what’s coming here), when you are asked for the 120,000th time when are you going to stop riding because now you are 50… and you know they are still writing about 10 other riders who are 60 and older but they never ask them when they are going to stop….”

A bit of a joker

If Johnny (Don Johnson), Emilio, Weihe, and Bella were talking about you in the stables, what would they say? “Johnny is a bit like my son; he would say let her tell me what to do but I’ll still do what I want! But when it comes down to it, we are a team. He’s a bit of a joker, but in the end we really love each other!

“Emilio would always be a bit more like a little boy: a little less confident but trying to give his best. Weihe – she would always be saying, ‘Okat, just tell me what I should do and I’ll do it!’ No horse is like her; she can be so quiet, but she can switch from being a nice little mare to a serious competition horse in an instant.

“Bella is proud; she’s a real lady. She knows how good she is and how much I love her. The only thing is that she always wants to do more. She might say, ‘Why won’t she let me run like I want to run, because I could go so much faster!’ You take her out for a hack and go for a little canter but it’s never enough; after a few metres she wants to gallop!”

How do you handle your emotions under pressure? “It’s a question of discipline in the moment, and I had a really good teacher in Dr Schulten-Baumer. You’ll find a lot of photos of me crying in successful moments, but I’m sure you won’t find any of me crying from disappointment. When I’m really disappointed, I work it out on my own. And it’s not because I’m older now. I’ve been like this since I was 20.”

A hard time

What do you say to people when they tell you how worried they are about the pandemic and the effect it’s having on us all? “I think it’s a hard time but I’m sure we will get through it and it won’t be as much of a disaster as some people think right now. But for sure it seems to open the gap more, even in our little horse world, between the rich and the people who are not so wealthy. I think everyone is going to lose in some way, and this puts more responsibility on those in the driving seat.

“Maybe we will go back to some kind of competition life in September or October, but that will depend on how quickly a vaccination can be found. This is a very infective virus and it’s making everyone very scared. I’m hoping that by the end of year we will see light at end of tunnel.

“For the first time in 30 years the Himalayas are visible from a long way. It seems the earth is taking a bit back from us; nature is telling us something important. So for now we have to calm down and know that life is possible without planes, without cars, without a lot of business. Life will go on – with the virus, without the virus – it’s just a question of how we get through it.”

Tokyo

How do you feel about the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games? “For a lot of athletes who wanted to end their career in 2020, it’s huge. In my personal case I say it’s bad luck; maybe the horses were in top shape this year but OK now we have to adjust and prepare for 2021. All three of mine are young and fit enough to go next year, but I’m long enough in sport to know anything can happen between now and then.

“In the end I hold onto my dream of going with Bella to the Olympics, but we have all learned something very important over the last few months. We can have our hopes and dreams… but nothing is worth more than our health.”

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Dressage4Kids Tips, by Lendon Gray

I recommend spending a little time staring at the picture and thinking about where all the joints are and how they move. Check out the website: www.horsesinsideout.com. There is some wonderful educational content there.

One excellent exercise that I think many people do not use enough is the turn on the forehand. For beginners this is a wonderful exercise for learning coordination of the aids – how much leg, where to put the leg, and just enough hand to discourage the horse from moving forward, but not hanging on the mouth. For the green horse, it’s a wonderful way to introduce moving away from the leg as opposed to going faster to the leg. For the advanced horse it can be an excellent tune-up.

Dressage4Kids | graydressage@gmail.com | dressage4kidsorg.presencehost.net