Tag Archives: FEI

All Glory for Great Britain’s Golden Girls at Avenches

L to R – Sarah Bullimore (bronze), Nicola Wilson (gold), and Piggy March (silver). (FEI/Richard Juilliart)

British riders have long had a phenomenal record in the sport of Eventing, and they proved untouchable once again when not only clinching the team title but taking all the individual medals at the FEI Eventing European Championships 2021 in Avenches, Switzerland.

In the lead from day one they held on tight, and when this result is added to double-gold at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018 and the team title along with individual silver at this summer’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, they clearly reign supreme in every sense.

It was a tough day for the defending champions from Germany as the dream of a seventh victory for the team and a third consecutive individual gold medal for Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD didn’t come true, as they had to settle for silver. But in true sporting fashion the German team “elder,” Andreas Dibowski, said, “We won the silver, but we didn’t lose the gold. The Brits did an amazing job, and we just couldn’t beat them!”

Team Sweden stood on the third step of the podium.

First

Ros Canter and Allstar B were first of the British into the ring as the final showjumping phase got underway. Theirs was not a counting score for the team standings that left her side still out in front last night, but the pair who claimed double-gold at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018 were back to their classy selves when producing a quality clear, and that proved a good omen for the rest of their team.

A total of 52 horse-and-athlete combinations made it through to this final test, with 13 nations still in the mix, and by the time it came down to the last ten riders the tension was palpable. As the action began, the Germans were just under 10 penalty points behind the British at the head of affairs, with France lying in bronze medal position another 18 points further adrift but with only three team members left after the elimination of Gwendolen Fer. So when Stanislas de Zuchowicz and Covadys de Triaval hit the first element of the double at fence nine and Jean Lou Bigot’s Utrillo du Halage left three fences on the floor, then French chances were slipping away.

Andreas Dibowski and FRH Corrida produced an opening clear for Germany before Anna Siemer and FRH Butts Avondale also fell victim to the first element of the triple combination. But Michael Jung steered fischerWild Wave home with nothing to add, and then only Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD were left to go.

However, it was only an individual medal Klimke was chasing by the time she took her turn, because as Dibowski said later, the British were just too good for the rest. Team member Kitty King’s Vendredi Biats hit the second fence, but Piggy March’s Brookfield Inocent was foot-perfect. And when Nicola Wilson’s JL Dublin went clear, she not only finalised the British tally at 73.1 for the winning team score, but she also had individual gold in her grasp while, lying fourth as the action began, March had the silver and British individual Sarah Bullimore had the bronze. It was a staggering result.

Pressure

Fifth-last to go, Bullimore piled the pressure on the remaining four with a fabulous clear from Corouet. And when Frenchman Maxime Livio, lying in bronze medal spot, faulted in the middle of the combination and then Klimke, holding silver, hit the vertical three from home, it would be an all-British individual podium for the seventh time in the history of these Championships. The last British threesome to do the same were Ian Stark (Glenburnie), Richard Walker (Jacana), and Karen Straker (Get Smart) at Punchestown (IRL) in 1991.

Meanwhile, Sweden also had plenty to celebrate when clears from both Malin Jesefsson (Golden Midnight) and Malin Petersen (Charly Brown) and a single error from Sara Algotsson Ostholt (Chicuelo) saw the team, that also included Christoffer Forsberg (Hippo’s Sapporo), rise from overnight sixth place to take bronze.

“I’m back in the team for first time in ten years and it’s great to be with the girls!” Forsberg said. “I’ve been really happy with the team spirit, and I want to thank the organisers very much for putting on this show.” And that was echoed by everyone else at the end of this extraordinary event that was put together so successfully in a few short months.

Trainer

At the post-competition press conference, Germany’s Ingrid Klimke said with a laugh, “I have one thing to say to the Brits – they stole our trainer!” referring to Britain’s Eventing High Performance coach Chris Bartle, who helped her country to many successes in previous years. “But I’m very happy for them; they did a wonderful job!” she added.

Her compatriot, the effusive Anna Meier, was thrilled to earn her first medal at Senior Championship level. “I feel like I’m always in a team with my horse, but to be in a team with these guys is wonderful; they’ve won millions of medals between them but this is my first!” she said, looking around at Dibowski, Klimke, and Jung.

Bullimore described her 10-year-old gelding Corouet as “just a freak of nature! He’s phenomenal in all phases; he could do pure show jumping and pure dressage; he’s unique,” she said. “He has a huge attitude in a small package, he knows how cool he is, and he’s been fantastic all week,” she added. Her individual bronze was an especially precious result because she bred the horse and also competed his dam at the FEI European Championships in Blair Castle (GBR) in 2015.

March, team gold medallist at the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2018 and team silver medallist at the last FEI European Eventing Championships two years ago, described her individual silver medal winning ride Brookfield Inocent as “definitely one of the best I’ve ever ridden – in all three phases he couldn’t have done any more!” And she added, “Personally, I think that if we’re ahead of Ingrid Klimke and Micky Jung then that’s a medal in itself, wherever we’d finish! This has just been a fabulous week!”

Reflected

Meanwhile, newly crowned individual European champion Wilson reflected on the enormity of it all with her trademark modesty. “This has been very very special, being with this fantastic group of girls who all get along really well. It’s been fun all the way and the horses have been phenomenal.

“It’s a first championship for Dublin; he missed a bit of time when I injured my neck (two years ago) and then Covid came long, but now I’m so proud for my owners. I was delighted with his dressage; it just felt very solid and good and then he stormed around the cross-country and produced a beautiful round in the show jumping. How lovely it is to have had him since he was a young horse and to build that lovely partnership and trust between us,” she said with quiet pride, adding, “Thank you to Switzerland for putting on these Championships!”

Gratitude

Everyone expressed their gratitude to the Organising Committee headed up by Jean-Pierre Kratzer, President of the Institut Equestre National d’Avenches, where this week’s event has taken place. A total of 21,000 spectators came through the gates of the fabulous venue, including over 10,000 on cross-country day.

“I built this place 20 years ago for racing, and to expand our business we then built a training centre for 150 horses. Last year during Covid, we were asked to help riders in preparation for Tokyo and we took the opportunity to plan for the future and help develop Eventing here,” he explained.

“When we got the opportunity to organise these Championships I talked with Mike Etherington-Smith in July about how to make it the best, and he asked if he could work with Martin Plewa. It was one opportunity for a lot of people and we took it and put it together in a few weeks with good team spirit. So I’m delighted to see all the teams happy and hear them say they want to come back; that’s the best thank you we could get!”

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Mixed Cross-Country Fortunes, but British Hold Fast Going into Final Day

Nicola Wilson and JL Dublin. (FEI/Richard Juillart)

When asked what she thought of the cross-country course after completing her Dressage test with JL Dublin at the FEI Eventing European Championships 2021 in Avenches, Switzerland on Thursday, Great Britain’s Nicola Wilson described it as “positively terrifying!” But on a day of mixed fortunes for the British side who still managed to maintain the lead they established on the opening day, the pair rose from third to the very top of the Individual rankings after a spectacular run that further stretched the gap between her team and the defending champions from Germany.

And it was a very exciting afternoon for France. An unfortunate tip-up for Gwendolen Fer and Romantic Love in the water at fence 23 piled plenty of pressure on her compatriots who, however, rose gallantly to the challenge to hold on to bronze medal spot going into the final Jumping phase.

The British tally of 69.1 leaves them just over nine penalty points ahead of Germany, while on 96.8 the French are a good distance behind. Team Switzerland shot up from ninth to fourth while the Irish climbed from eleventh to fifth, and the stage is set for a sizzling conclusion to the 35th edition of these Championships, which are taking place against the odds during these troubling Covid times.

It’s only six short weeks since course designer, Great Britain’s Mike Etherington-Smith, started work on the track that embraces the beautiful racing venue at Avenches, but the horses, riders, and the enthusiastic crowd that turned up to see Europe’s best battle it out were treated to a great day of sport.

And the British maintained their supremacy despite a disappointing performance from the reigning World Championship partnership of Ros Canter and Allstar B. Sitting in Individual silver medal spot as the day began, the pair plummeted to 55th with two run-outs late in the course.

Set things up

Piggy March and Brookfield Inocent produced one of just seven fault-free rounds to set things up for the British side.

“Everything is easy when you have a horse like him. The time was tight enough but he’s a real cruiser. What a horse and how lucky am I to have him!” she said.

And when Wilson followed suit, they were already looking very secure. Despite her earlier reservations, Wilson admitted that “the course rode beautifully, and my horse was very honest.” So when Kitty King and Vendredi Biats added just 0.8 time penalties to her dressage mark, then Canter’s additional 56 penalties could be dropped as they were comfortably in control.

German pathfinder Anna Siemer also had a great day, adding just 1.6 to her scoreline with FRH Butts Avondale. She was over the moon after her ride. “It was so much fun!” she said. “For her the dressage was done and now this is what we are here for! She’s like a pony; I know her for 10 years now, and from the moment she jumped her first cross-country fence, she was a cross-country machine!” said the rider who walked the track seven times in order to ensure she met with no surprises.

Andreas Dibowski was next out for the German side, adding 15.2 penalties to his scoreline with FRH Corrida. But Michael Jung pulled it back with a classic clear with the nine-year-old fischerWild Wave, demonstrating the skill that has earned the German superstar the title “The Terminator.”

“He’s a young horse but amazing, with a lot of talent in all three disciplines. Today he showed how light and easy he can gallop, and he has super endurance, he’s fast, and has a lot of scope for the bigger, tougher courses. Right now, all he needs is just more experience – to learn to be clever and to think. I’m really happy with him,” Jung said.

Weight of expectation

Now only the individual leader, Ingrid Klimke, was left to go for the German side, with a huge weight of expectation on her shoulders. If she can take the individual title she will be the first athlete in the long history of the FEI Eventing European Championships to do so with the same horse on three consecutive occasions. But 1.2 time penalties saw her lose her grip on pole position and she goes into the final phase just 0.5 penalties behind Wilson at the head of affairs.

“He was bold and brave, like he always is,” Klimke said of her beloved Bobby. “I had lots of time at the 7-minute mark, and then in the end there were two seconds (added) because I just couldn’t go any faster, especially in the turns. I had to take my time so I didn’t have a run-out. I had to be precise to the end and I felt it was the fastest I would like to go through the corners and the deeper ground. I thought I would make it, but unfortunately we didn’t – but he did a lovely job really and he finished full of himself!” she said.

Meanwhile, Jean Lou Bigot got the French off to a great start when delivering a fault-free run with Utrillo du Halage, but Gwendolen Fer’s fall left them looking very vulnerable. However, when Stanislas de Zuchowicz and the lovely grey Covadys de Triaval added only 14 time penalties to their score, the French situation began to stabilise. And he was thrilled with his result, produced under pressure.

“It was his first time at 4-Star level and my Chef d’Equipe told me I had to be clear, but my horse was fantastic! My job was to be careful about his balance because his jump is always fantastic, and his canter is always very good. We had a slip on the turn after fence 15 and that was a tricky moment, but I had the face of my coach in my head, and I knew we had to stay on our feet!” said the man from Fontainebleau who first rode for the French team in 2009.

Great round

And then Maxime Livio secured that bronze medal position definitively with a great round from Api du Libaire.

“The trainer told me to be quick enough to secure the bronze medal place but not to take any stupid risk like I might if I was only an individual rider, but the plan was not to take too big risk with that horse because he’s not really experienced. So I was quite comfortable with that. He (the horse) allowed me to take the straight route at 6/7, because he’s very straight. So I took that risk and he answered very well, but I just felt when I jumped the water when I came back on the race-track that his jumping was not as energetic at the beginning. So I decided okay, now we try to hold it together. He was a bit tired in the body but not in the mind. He was listening to me, looking at the fences, fully focused, and I’m very pleased because he fought with me to the very end for the French team. And also, his score is really good, so I am very happy!” Livio said.

It’s all so very close, and the result could go any which way on the exciting final day.

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Super-Tight Contest Going into Cross-Country Day

Maxime Livio with Api du Libaire. (FEI/Richard Juilliart)

Great Britain maintained the lead in the Dressage phase, but there will only be a hair’s breadth between them and the defending team champions from Germany when the cross-country phase of the FEI Eventing European Championships 2021 gets underway.

A margin of 4.9 penalty points is all that separates the two sides as the best horse-and-athlete combinations from all across Europe continue to battle it out for the prestigious team and individual medals at these 35th bi-annual Championships.

Germany’s Ingrid Klimke took another step towards an historic first-ever three-in-a-row individual title with the same horse, when steering the brilliant SAP Hale Bob OLD into pole position in the Dressage arena. But Great Britain’s Ros Canter and Allstar B, who took double-gold at the FEI World Equestrian Games two years ago, came dangerously close to toppling them when third-last to go.

Scoring 20.6, Canter lies just 0.4 behind Klimke when the horses set out to take on the challenging cross-country track designed by Great Britain’s Mike Etherington-Smith, which consists of 40 jumping efforts and 32 fences over a distance of 5,678 metres that must be covered in 10 minutes 7 seconds to avoid time penalties.

And lying third, only 0.3 further behind, is Canter’s team-mate and first-day Dressage leader Nicola Wilson with JL Dublin, while a super test from Maxime Livio and his attractive 11-year-old grey gelding Api du Libraire leaves him individually fourth and secured third place for Team France.

Reshuffle

Klimke was always expected to reshuffle the order with her 17-year-old gelding whose career record includes Olympic team silver, individual World Championship bronze, and four European gold medals, the last two of the latter clinched on home ground in Luhmuehlen two years ago. He certainly didn’t disappoint again, but Bobby was full of beans before starting his test.

“Maybe he thought we were in cross-country already! I didn’t warm up for long because he knows all the movements and I thought it would be good if he was a bit fresh, because the ground is a bit deep (in the arena), but I didn’t know he was that fresh! I should have cantered a few more rounds outside!

“I had to take an extra loop to calm him down, but the moment I entered the ring, I knew exactly that he knows his job inside out and I could really enjoy it and I could ride very precisely from point to point. After so many years now, it is really a pleasure to ride through the test knowing he is absolutely focused and there is so much trust between us,” she pointed out.

She says the cross-country course reminds her of the track at Wiesbaden in Germany, “which feels like seven minutes in a jump-off – you can’t breathe very much!” But Bobby is a past-master over fences. “The good thing is that he has a very handy canter for the turns, and he doesn’t mind the ground,” she explained.

His lazy self

Canter gave the German star a real run for her money when third-last to go. Albie, as her 16-year-old horse is known to his friends, didn’t make it entirely easy for her though because, as she explained, “He was his usual lazy self! I wanted everyone to clap and cheer as we came in and he pricked his ears for about half a second but then he went ahhh… he’s always listening to me, and in a way it’s a benefit, but I was possibly sweating more than he was!” she said.

“But honestly, he’s just the most rideable horse I’ve ever had in a dressage test. He doesn’t change, regardless of the atmosphere or anything else; he just lets me ride for every mark, and that’s where his heart shines really and always has done. Time and again, he does mistake-free tests. It’s a lot of pressure coming out on him again (after their World Championship success), but I want to try and enjoy every minute because I know I haven’t got many left with him,” she added.

Impressive

While both Klimke and Canter’s horses are super-experienced, Livio’s fourth-place ride with Api du Libaire was all the more impressive because it’s this pair’s first Championship together, and you’d never have guessed it.

“We knew since the beginning this horse’s talent for the three phases is really nice; he can fight with the best horses in the world. This is his first Championship so it’s good to be where we are today and it’s a good score for the team, but it’s a three-day event also so we take it day by day,” said the 34-year-old Frenchman.

He described his handsome and characterful gelding as “a strange horse; he’s like a kid but not a bad kid, just someone who is pleased to be here and wants to see everything! My job is to show him a lot, and I’m pleased because he was totally connected to me, and when he is like that, he is a super student because he tries all the time,” he added.

Challenging

Meanwhile, looking ahead to the cross-country test, Canter said, “It’s a really challenging course in terms of the full circles we do and all the accuracy questions and the difference in surfaces which will affect horse’s balance. We’ll need to prepare for every fence, riding and planning the bits in between. Albie gets very wound up at the start but he’s a wise old man, so I’ll keep his warm-up limited and keep his energy and adrenaline for the course.”

Klimke said the most important thing will be to maintain the horse’s rhythm and “not lose any stride, just keep a wonderful flow,” all very possible perhaps when you are partnering a creature of the calibre of SAP Hale Bob OLD who she affectionately calls “the professor.”

Livio agreed. “The rider who can be fluent in their riding will do the best. This course is a good test of the ability of the rider to be fluent – if we manage to do that it will go well,” he said.

Team France lies only 7.6 penalty points behind the Germans who currently hold silver medal spot. But the French will need to be on the button because fantastic tests from Harald Ambros (Lexikon 2), Robert Mandl (Sacre-Coeur), and Lea Siegl (van Helsing P) moved Austria up into fourth, less than two points behind.

The Dutch team is in fifth place, Italy in sixth, Sweden in seventh, and Belgium in eighth, while the hosts from Switzerland lie ninth. Spain, Ireland, Russia, and Czech Republic fill the last four places.

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Hard Work, Dedication, and Perseverance at the Heart of Time to Beat Campaign

The FEI has set in motion the Time to Beat campaign which highlights the hard work, dedication, and perseverance of equestrian athletes who dedicate their lives to reaching World level sporting success.

Launched at the start of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2021-2022 season, the cross-media campaign brings together the FEI, its Top Partner Longines, and the Organising Committees of the North American League and Western European League to celebrate the human and equine athlete journey to the elite levels of the sport.

“The Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ competitions are full of edge-of-your-seat moments where winners can be determined by fractions of a second and it is this sporting drama which engages fans and keeps them coming back for more each season,” FEI Commercial Director Ralph Straus said.

“But these moments of brilliance are the culmination of years of hard work, patience, and endless repetition. And when it comes down to that critical moment in a competition, it is the communication between the athlete and horse that is often the determining factor for a win. This horse-human connection takes years to create, and it is this journey in time that we want to celebrate through the Time to Beat campaign.”

The video, released to mark the start of the campaign, connects the in-competition performance of the human and equine athletes with powerful images of the daily dedication and perseverance that athletes need to cultivate over time to reach their sporting goals.

“The values of the Time to Beat campaign resonate strongly with Longines, as we know from first-hand experience that excellence can only come from years of commitment,” Longines Vice President Marketing Matthieu Baumgartner said.

“Perfection does take time, and with our experience in creating digital engagement campaigns with the FEI over the past year, we can now tell this story in a more authentic way and deliver a message that people from diverse backgrounds, not just equestrian, can identify with.

“The Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ has inspired large numbers of fans and we believe that by adding powerful initiatives like the Time to Beat campaign, we can take equestrian sport to another level.”

The FEI’s partnership with Longines has come a long way since it became the International Federation’s Top Partner in 2012. The initial collaboration included a number of major rights packages including the Longines Jumping Rankings, the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™, FEI World Equestrian Games™, and the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™.

Over the years, the partnership has grown to include Longines as Partner of the FEI Solidarity project on the retraining of racehorses, as well as Title Partner of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ series and Presenting Partner of the FEI Awards Gala. In early 2019, Longines extended its agreement as Title Partner of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup North American League series.

The Time to Beat campaign has found strong support with the Organising Committees of the North American League and Western European League where Longines is the Title Partner. The first leg of the North American League for the 2021-2022 season will kick off in Langley, British Columbia (CAN) on 26 September while Oslo (NOR) will host the first leg of the Western European League on 17 October.

“The pandemic situation has brought home to the sports world that our lives can also change dramatically from one minute to the next,” said Chris Pack, President and Operations Director at the Thunderbird Show Park in Langley.

“While this campaign is meant to highlight the hard work that goes into the making of a sports star, it is also a celebration for our community who have worked hard to find solutions and ways to ensure that our athletes and fans have the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ competitions to enjoy.

“The Time to Beat campaign messages of persistence, tenacity, and dedication are universal and we are looking forward to communicating these values to our local communities to bring them closer to the action and emotion that the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ competitions have to offer.”

Time to Beat will be a three-year campaign that will see a number of activations around the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ competitions to boost fan engagement and involvement.

“We are looking forward to working on this campaign, not just to increase the visibility of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ series, but also to create a meaningful conversation around the power of equestrian sport,” said Tomas Torgersen, Show Director Gothenburg Horse Show.

“Both the human and equine athlete require a strong mental connection and it is this special bond that always shines through during the Longines FEI World Cup competitions. It’s always a magical moment when an athlete gets the best out of their horse at that crucial moment of the competition. It’s in those few seconds that World champions are created and we want the world to see and experience this with us.”

The Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ was created in 1978 and is currently made up of 12 leagues across all continents. The top placed athlete-horse combinations from all Leagues are invited to attend the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final™ which will be held in Leipzig (GER) in April 2022.

Media contact:

Vanessa Martin Randin
Senior Manager, Media Relations & Communications
vanessa.randin@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 73

Germany Takes All Gold in U25, and a New Dutch Star Shines

Semmieke Rothenberger and Flanell. (FEI/Lukasz Kowalski)

German U25 riders matched their Senior counterparts when claiming all the gold medals in the FEI Dressage European Championship U25 at Hagen (GER) where a new Dutch star was born.

Semmieke Rothenberger (Flanell), Raphael Netz (Elastico), Ellen Richter (Vinay NRW), and Ann-Kathrin Lindner (FBW Sunfire) grabbed Team gold, pinning The Netherlands’ Devendra Dijkstra (Hero), Febe van Zwambagt (Edson), Jessica Poelman (Chocolate Cookie RDP), and Jasmien de Koeyer (Esperanza) into silver medal spot.

Sweden took the bronze when Nathalie Wahlund (Cerano Gold), Jennifer Lindvall (Midt West Casino), Elin Mattson (Beckham), and Lina Dolk (Languedoc) pipped Denmark by a narrow margin.

Germany’s Rothenberger and Netz and The Netherlands’ Poelman posted the three highest scores in the team competition and continued to be locked in battle for the individual and Freestyle titles over the last two days.

Grand Prix

In Saturday’s Grand Prix which decided the Individual medals, Netz squeezed Rothenberger off the top step of the podium by just 0.052%. This a young man with a remarkable story. His family had no connection with horses, but he was born with a passion to ride.

“When I was four, I was allowed to get on a horse for lunging lessons; they lunged me for over one year and then my father said if he’s tough enough to do it for a year without reins, then he really wants to do it! So we rented horses a lot and when I was nine they bought me my first pony. They had no idea what they were doing and neither did I, so they bought a three-year-old Haflinger! We grew together, we learned together, and then when he was seven and I was 13, we did our first Small Tour together and got our first Prix St George placement,” Netz explained.

He was talent-spotted by Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl when he was just 17. “She sent me an email asking if I wanted to ride for her – I thought it was a fake! But we ended up having a call and I took the train to Bavaria and stayed there for four days. And I just fitted in perfectly. So I finished school, packed my things, and moved,” said the young rider who has been working for the German star for the last five years.

Partnered with Elastico, who is owned by Japanese rider Akane Kuroki, Netz’ career is blossoming. He describes the stallion as “a cool dude! It’s a great feeling just to enter the arena on a beautiful horse like this. Growing together with him wasn’t that easy because he was used to different training, but we did our first competition one year ago and we finished third,” he explained. Kuroki saw the special relationship the young German was building with her horse and generously offered to let him ride it.  “I’m very thankful to her. She said go for it and we went for it and here we are!” Netz said.

Freestyle

Rothenberger had her day to shine when taking Freestyle gold. Netz’s end result was a score of 81.210 while Rothenberger’s mare Flannel posted 81.955 for a brilliant performance.

This 22-year-old rider, who hails from a family steeped in the Dressage world, already has a lifetime of Championship experience, winning multiple titles over the last decade at Pony, Junior, and Young Rider level and she is continuing in the same vein in U25.

“This has been such a perfect Championship; it’s super organised here and the Kasselmann family did an amazing job!” Rothenberger said.

She was thrilled with her mare. “I’ve always believed that Flanell has no limits and I still do. This horse is absolutely incredible. I’ve never had anything like her and it’s such a blessing to go in there with such a horse knowing that as long as I, the rider, don’t make a mistake, this horse can go for it. She’s shown it in this Championship; yesterday we had a rider mistake, but I’m incredibly happy with how she’s done at her first European Championship.

“I got her in May last year and due to Corona, we had a lot of time to get to know each other. But the show season didn’t quite get going, so this is only her fourth competition with me, and she just keeps getting better!” she added.

Bronze went to Poelman whose Freestyle ride was a pleasure to watch, filled with lightness and harmony.

A big surprise

“I never expected a medal – it’s a big surprise even to ride here!” said the 20-year-old who hails from close to Amsterdam. “I have this horse only since November last year and we only went to one international show together before. I rode international in Ponies and Juniors but never at a really high level; this is my very first Championship,” Poelman explained.

She says her sudden rise to stardom is all due to the lovely gelding Chocolate Cookie RDP, which was previously competed by Dutch counterpart Dana van Lierop. Poelman’s trainer Lotje Schoots put the pair together and it’s clearly the perfect partnership.

“He is really nice and very easy to ride, and I have a great connection with him. He is always very willing,” said the young rider who produced wonderful piaffe and passage from the 14-year-old gelding.

She only competed for fun until last year when she was invited to ride in an observation trial by Chef d’Equipe Monique Peutz. “We had winter training for riders and Jessica told me she had Chocolate Cookie and I said bring him along, and it looked so nice. First she was thinking she’d start slowly, but I said no, there’s an international competition in Exloo, so just give it a try, and she did and she did very well – now she has one silver and two bronze European U25 medals!” said the Dutch team manager.

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Fairytale Finish in Freestyle for von Bredow-Werndl and Dalera

(L to R): Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour (silver), Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (gold), and Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin (bronze). (FEI/Liz Gregg)

Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl was filled with emotion after clinching her third gold medal of the week when topping the Freestyle at the FEI Dressage European Championship 2021 in Hagen (GER).

“It’s like a fairytale; the ride today was the best I ever felt!” said the 35-year-old athlete who also swept all before her at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games this summer. “It may not have been the highest points ever, but for me it was the best feeling I ever had with Dalera. I was very emotional after finishing. No matter what points or what place I got, I was so happy!” she added.

Scoring 91.021 when third-last to go, she finished almost three percentage points ahead of Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour who took silver with Bohemian, and it was Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin and Gio who grabbed the bronze.

Going fifth from last, Dujardin put 87.246 on the board, and she might have expected that would not be enough for a podium placing with the final German partnership of Isabell Werth and Weihegold OLD still to come. But second-last into the arena, Werth’s multiple medal-winning mare was clearly lacking energy and power, and their score of 84.896 left them in fourth place.

Pleased

Dujardin was hugely pleased with her result. At only 10 years of age, Gio is still very much on a learning curve, with little exposure to top sport other than his sensational results at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games where he won double-bronze. This performance was even more impressive.

“I’m so proud of him; it’s only his second time through that music and as you could see the degree of difficulty is immense. The Olympics was the first time I rode it and it was mistake-free there; unfortunately I made a mistake in the ones on the centre line today – rider error, not horse error – and I thought that would have cost me a medal. It’s still frustrating that I made that mistake and I’m so cross with myself because he tried so hard – but obviously we have medalled!” said the 35-year-old athlete.

She really pulled out all the stops, including taking all the risk in extended canter. “All week I hadn’t pushed him full out because he is a young horse and I want him for the future and he did the Olympics. He tried for me every day here; he did a great Special (on Thursday where the pair finished fourth). I was so proud of him, and we just missed out on a medal. So I thought today, I’ll just put that extra bit in,” she said.

Competitiveness is in Dujardin’s DNA. “I went in there wanting a medal for sure. I wasn’t going down without a fight! And being the first of the last five combinations, you know you have to give it a good go, set the standard. I felt we did that, even with a mistake. We got 87 percent with those mistakes; without those mistakes, who knows what it might have been? I asked him to step up and he sure did! she added.

And having finished his test, the little horse, whose rider calls him Pumpkin, was completely relaxed as he left the ring.

“That’s the thing with him: he just gets more and more confident and that’s his first time in an arena with that atmosphere; he’s not used to crowds. He’s just brilliant; he switches on and does his job, and then he switches off and off he goes home!” she said.

A joy

Dufour was equally pleased with Bohemian, whose test was a joy to watch, filled with energy and power.

‘I’m really happy, first because I had a super ride – almost flawless – we had a tiny mistake in the ones at the end and that was totally my mistake. We have grown a lot since Wednesday this week and today he felt so happy, so ready to deliver. It was just so super-easy going. I was back to no pushing, no forcing, just enjoying and dancing with him!” said the dynamic 29-year-old Dane.

Her emotional music from Les Miserables added a poignancy to her performance. “It expresses something about where I am in my life. It delivers a kind of message – that I’m really enjoying life and I’m in a good place now and that my horse and I have found our path together. I feel really comfortable with what I’m doing with my team, with the people I have around me. I have a super family, an extra family, and it feels fantastic!” she pointed out.

But the new European Freestyle gold medallist was happiest of all.

Talking about Dalera’s magical Freestyle performance, von Bredow-Werndl said, “She was 100 percent focused, she was light, she was on fire, but not too much. Two days ago (in the Grand Prix Special) she was a bit too hot so I couldn’t ride for example the extensions fully, and then it looked a little bit tense sometimes, but today it was a perfect, perfect kind of energy.

“She loves what she does, and I feel it in every second and every movement. Even my collected walk felt super today. The feeling was the best I’ve ever had so far, in my whole life, on any horse!

“That’s why I was pretty emotional when I finished because this is not normal – that a horse improves during a competition. Today she had no wet hair (sweat), either in the warm-up or after the competition, and that’s crazy!” she said.

Atmosphere

The spectators at Hagen certainly added to the great atmosphere and the new European triple champion, who also has two Olympic gold medals in her trophy cabinet after this extraordinary summer, commented on the difference it makes to have them there.

“It’s so great to ride in front of an audience again; it feels completely different; we were carried by them I think, and they were so supportive of all the riders during the week. I hope it will stay like this; it’s so good to have this back!”

Von Bredow-Werndl has led Germany to a glorious summer of gold, and now has next year’s FEI World Equestrian Games in her sights. However, Dufour gave her fair warning that she and her Danish compatriots will be ready and waiting when the action begins on their home ground in front of their home crowd in Herning next August.

She intends narrowing the gap between herself and the German star over the next 11 months.

“Right now, we can only aim at Jessica’s marks, and congratulations to her on a great season this year. It’s exciting with the WEG next year in Denmark. I’m sure the Danish audience will put pressure on the Germans!”

For now, however, the Hagen hosts can continue to bask in a golden glow.

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

Media Scontact:

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Von Bredow-Werndl Untouchable for Special Gold

(L to R): Germany’s Isabell Werth (silver), Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (gold), and Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour (bronze). (FEI/Liz Gregg)

Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl scooped her second gold medal of the week when coming out on top with TSF Dalera BB in the Grand Prix Special at the FEI Dressage European Championships 2021 in Hagen (GER).

Firm favourites after their spectacular performances at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games this summer, the 35-year-old rider and her 14-year-old mare produced the highest score to help their country claim the team title for the 25th time. And they won again, this time pinning team-mates Isabell Werth and Weihegold into silver while Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour and Bohemian took the bronze.

Team silver medallist, Britain’s Carl Hester, set the early target score when posting 77.310 with En Vogue. “That was as good as Tokyo, if not maybe a little bit better – I got the ride I really wanted to get,” said the man who also took team bronze in Japan a few weeks ago.

“He was steady, relaxed, and calm. I always know that if he’s going to be funny, it will be in the piaffes. That’s what he did yesterday (in the team competition) and he gets wilder and wilder. But tonight he was fine. All you want in a championship really is for the horse to grow. I don’t expect to win when he’s this young, but I do it in the hope that he gets better every day.

“The changes tonight were spot on; the piaffes were showing the future of what he can do, because I think there’s a 10 in there for those – not tonight, but they were going the right way, so I was just pleased they are progressing. And the pirouettes,” he pointed out.

In front

Hester was still in front when Werth set off with her mare, fifth-last to go. It was clear from the outset that the German pair who took European Special and Freestyle gold in Gothenburg (SWE) four years ago meant business again. Before starting, Werth made sure Weihegold was listening, practically galloping down the long side of the arena before beginning her test.

“It gives her the fire, and me too!” she said. “I knew I had to fight and take all the risk I could; she’s so experienced in this business, more in the Freestyle than the Special, but this was one of her best Specials, no big mistakes, and I’m very happy with her,” said the lady who won her first European Grand Prix Special title with the great Gigolo back in 1991 in Donaueschingen (GER).

Big marks for piaffe, passage, and pirouettes put her on a score of 81.702 for a strong lead going into the closing stages.

Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin followed with 79.787 from her sweet little 10-year-old chestnut Gio, slotting temporarily into bronze medal spot. “It’s only his third Special and I couldn’t ask for much more. He needs more time to strengthen up; he’s getting better and better at every show, and he went in there and tried and did his best, and that’s enough for me,” said the rider who took all the European Individual titles in both 2013 and 2015 with the record-breaking Valegro. However, Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour immediately overtook her with a cracking test from Bohemian that was filled with power, energy, and excitement.

Dufour looked well set to oust Werth from pole position but, although quickly rectified, a mistake on the final centreline proved costly. The quality of the performance was so strong, it still earned a healthy mark of 81.079.

Reflecting

The 29-year-old Dane has been reflecting over the last few weeks. “What I felt in the last few tests was that I had to push him a bit too much in Tokyo, and that’s not at all the way I want to ride him. Today I wanted to build more trust so he doesn’t feel that I push him one thousand percent every time he goes in the ring, because I had the feeling he might not continue to perform with me if I continue to ask for more. But today he was so confident. I could have asked for more, but I want to rebuild that trust and show him that it’s super-nice to be in the ring.

“What Tokyo has taught me is that less is more,” Dufour said. “He will give me the moon as long as I offer trust and space for him to grow, which I feel I forgot the last few times. Yesterday I had a nice feeling but today was even better,” she added.

Britain’s Charlotte Fry was second-last to go with Everdale whose 78.146 slotted them in behind Dujardin, and then only von Bredow-Werndl and Dalera stood between Werth and the tenth Individual European title of her long and illustrious career. But the new world number one was placed first by all seven judges. With marks ranging from 81.277 to 86.596, their final tally was 84.271 for victory.

“Winning in front of the home crowd was great; we’re not used to it anymore.

“When we entered the arena, Dalera became even bigger, put her ears up; she was really excited and when I did the trot extensions, I tried not to move because it could have brought her out of balance, because she was so on fire! It’s a great feeling, especially after the Olympics, that she’s so fit and so happy again,” said von Bredow-Werndl, who seems to have the world at her feet right now.

Leading combinations

While the leading 15 horse/athlete combinations go through to Saturday’s Freestyle, only three can represent each country. However, the new Grand Prix Special champion certainly won’t miss the cut. Von Bredow-Werndl looks set to make it a golden hat-trick, with Werth chasing her all the way.

Werth admitted that the last couple of days have been a huge strain for a different reason entirely. Her beloved mare Bella Rose, who took triple-gold at the European Championships in Rotterdam two years ago, has taken ill. But fortunately, there’s good news.

“I’m glad to say she’s fine,” Werth said, when asked about the mare who was due to be officially retired at the CHIO Aachen next week. “Yesterday I got a call from my vet to say she had a colic, so I was really worried. Yesterday evening we had to take her to the clinic because this kind of colic meant you have to operate, because something is in the wrong position. It’s just bad luck; it’s not a typical colic situation. So I’m really happy and very thankful to the vets. She woke up yesterday evening and this morning she ate some grass and looked really good and like normal. She will stay at the clinic a few days and if everything is normal, we will then bring her home. I didn’t get much sleep last night!” Werth admitted.

She should rest well in the knowledge that Bella is fine. And she and Weihegold are likely to come out with all guns blazing when the Freestyle begins.

Result here.

by Louise Parkes

Media Scontact:

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Germany Grabs Team Gold Yet Again

(l to r) Isabell Werth, Helen Langehanenberg, Dorothee Schneider, and Jessica von Bredow-Werndl. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

In the history of the FEI Dressage European Championships, Team Germany has a formidable record. There have been 29 editions, and they clinched the team title for the 25th time.

Dorothee Schneider (Faustus), Helen Langehanenberg (Annabelle), Isabell Werth (Weihegold OLD), and Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (TSF Dalera BB) joined forces to pin Great Britain into silver and Denmark into bronze. It was the same side that took team gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games less than two months ago, but Langehanenberg was an alternate there and didn’t get to compete. Only von Bredow-Werndl was riding the same horse, and she posted the biggest mark in this Grand Prix to put the result beyond doubt.

The British were in the lead as the action resumed, and Carl Hester was first into the ring for them, partnering En Vogue who earned a score of 74.845.

Brilliant in parts

“The test was brilliant in parts and disappointing in others,” he said. “Last night (leading the scoreboard) it actually looked quite exciting! That horse gets very big scores, so we did think it would be good to have a really good shot at it; it doesn’t always work like that and it didn’t work like that today, but he’s come right back from the Games where he did three amazing tests with no experience. Some of the things he does are so brilliant that he makes himself a bit nervous,” the British rider explained.

“I didn’t deserve more points; there were too many mistakes, and I’m just disappointed I made mistakes because they weren’t huge mistakes,” he added, but he sees great development in the 12-year-old bay gelding now that he is getting more competition exposure. “What he’s done in one year – he’d never have gone into that arena a year ago!”

It might have been a nervous night for some teams in Germany’s situation, lying third after Schneider and Langehanenberg took their turn when Denmark slotted into silver medal spot. Daniel Bachmann Andersen was the first Dane to go, producing a lovely test for a score of 76.366 with the gelding Marshall-Bell who is only nine years old.

But then Werth and her mare Weihegold came into the ring, and you could feel the changing tide even though the German legend clearly wasn’t happy with her score. She had ridden a technically brilliant test for a mark of 79.860.

Superb

“We had just a little mistake at the end of the two-tempis where she was bit quick at the end, but the last centreline was superb, so I was really happy. But a score under 80 percent. In the last three years I had just one competition with her under 80 percent and that was in Paris at the World Cup Final. But of course, you have to take it sportingly,” she pointed out.

Denmark’s Cathrin Dufour and Bohemian came really close to Werth’s leading score, always forward and brave and chasing every mark. A blip in the first canter pirouette held them back from an even bigger result, however.

Dufour was a bit like Britain’s Hester, happy and frustrated all at the same time. “It might be the best warm-up I’ve ever had; he felt fantastic, and it was almost hotter than Tokyo, but he felt really super!” she said. Several riders commented on the incredible heat that descended on the showgrounds at Hof Kasselmann.

“We had a little misunderstanding earlier and I just managed to save it, and then in the canter pirouette left, he wanted to turn a tiny bit too much and I tried to correct him, maybe a little bit too roughly – he’s a hot horse so he reacts really quickly, but I think I managed to sort it quickly and we had a really nice second pirouette,” she explained. The mark for the first was 3.6, but she was awarded a whopping 8.9 when the second pirouette came off really nicely.

“Overall, I’m really happy, of course a bit annoyed with that big mistake, but we always have to try something new every time we go into the ring because we always want to develop. If you do the same you get the same so we have to try to push ourselves,” she pointed out wisely, adding, “My team-mates have been great here; it’s been a pleasure to watch them and it’s a pleasure to have three of our riders above 75 percent – I can’t remember when that happened last time for Denmark!”

Brilliant mark

Germany’s von Bredow-Werndl was fourth-last to go in the final group and sealed the German deal with a brilliant mark of 84.099 for a test that oozed the kind of class that spectators have come to expect from her 14-year-old Olympic double-gold mare.

“She is amazing! She was on fire but still so focused and concentrated that I couldn’t have asked for more. From the very first second to the very last second she didn’t give me any doubt!” said the lady who has recently been named world number one.

When asked if she felt under pressure because her team really needed a good score, especially with Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin yet to start, she admitted she did, because the margins were still a little too close for comfort.

“It was not as easy as it was in Tokyo because in Tokyo, I only had to achieve 72 percent to win gold for the team. Today was a little bit more, but anyway I’m always giving my best and so is Dalera!” she said.

Like so many of the other horses competing at the Championships this week, Dalera returned from Tokyo full of beans and still rearing to go, so much so that von Bredow-Werndl had to sit tight when starting her back in work after a short break.

“I had to make her keep walking for a few days because she was really bucking when we were hacking out!” she said. As Hester explained earlier in the day, the trip to Japan certainly didn’t seem to take much out of the Tokyo equine athletes. Peden International got permission for the horses to fly over Russia, so their travel time was reduced by almost seven hours. “It made it so much easier for them,” he said.

A huge pleasure

Last of the British to go, Charlotte Dujardin and her super sweet little 10-year-old, Gio, produced a lovely test that put 79.829 on the board. It slotted her into third individually, behind Werth in second and von Bredow-Werndl at the top of the order. Germany finished on a final tally of 238.944 and Britain’s closing score was 232.345, while Denmark finished a very close third in bronze on 231.165.

Britain’s Hester insisted his silver medal finish was “a huge pleasure for all of us. Last night Charlotte did talk about the gold and hopefully it will happen again one day, but looking at the top you can see how experience carries the horses. Our team (of horses) at this age – we are thinking of the World Games in 2022 and Paris (Olympics in 2024) and we are just feeling so lucky to be winning medals!” he said.

With the team medals now out of the way, attention turns to the Grand Prix Special. The rivalry is going to be really intense again, especially since the horses are now much more familiar with the lovely Hagen arena. There’s lots more history to be made, and while von Bredow-Werndl and Dalera look set to sweep all before them, you could sense her senior compatriot’s trademark determination to continue in her role as the Queen of international Dressage.

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

Media Scontact:

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

British Lead the Teams after Exciting Opening Day

Charlotte Fry and Everdale. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

On a day full of fascinating stories and great sport, Great Britain took the early lead in the Team Competition at the FEI Dressage European Championship 2021 in Hagen, Germany. Gareth Hughes was first to go for the British side, posting 74.394 with Sintano van Hof Olympia, but it was their second-line rider, Charlotte Fry, who boosted them to pole position when producing a brilliant test with her Olympic bronze medal winning ride, Everdale, when second-last to go.

Judges Susanna Baarup (DEN), Thomas Lang (AUT), Maria Colliander (FIN), Isabelle Judet (FRA), Isobel Wessels (NED), Henning Lehrmann (GER), and Mariette Sanders van Gansewinkel (NED) awarded the pair a mark of 77.671 to leave them over two percentage points ahead of next-best horse/athlete partnership, Denmark’s Nanna Skodberg Merrald and Atterupgaards Orthilia, who put 75.078 on the board. To the surprise of many, it is the Danes who lie second going into the second half of the Team event ahead of the defending champions from Germany in third.

Skodberg Merrald was delighted with the result she produced with the 16-year-old mare formerly ridden by both Britain’s Fiona Bigwood and Danish star Agnete Kirk Thinggaard. “I’ve had her for less than a year and this was the best Grand Prix I’ve ever done with her! I’m very happy that I did all I could for the team, and I couldn’t ask for more. It was what I’ve been dreaming about!” she said.

For Germany, however, things didn’t quite start as expected, although Dorothee Schneider set the early target with a nice performance with Faustus for a mark of 74.965. “It’s the first championship for him and I think it was a good start for the team,” she said.

Mistakes

Her score might have been higher but for two mistakes in passage. “Sometimes when he’s not confident he tries to come behind me, and then I want to ride to the bit and there’s one or two moments when he’s not directly going to the bit and we have a mistake,” she explained. “His highlights were really the canter. It needs a bit of time to close this big canter and to balance him, but he comes more and more in a good balance. I’m proud of him!” Schneider added.

However, compatriot, Helen Langehanenberg, followed with a score of 73.960 with Annabelle.

“She started super good but then there were some expensive mistakes, so it is different than we hoped, but that’s OK – this is the sport!” said Langehanenberg’s team-mate, double-Olympic gold medallist and new world number one Jessica von Bredow-Werndl.

Hughes, who slotted into individual fourth place at the end of the day, was happy to have given the British a solid start. He travelled all the way to Tokyo as team alternate but didn’t get to ride, so entering the ring was a big relief.

“I woke up 30 times last night; it feels like we have been building up to this for three months. It was great to be in Tokyo but emotionally it was really difficult because you have to prepare to ride and then you don’t ride. Your adrenalin goes up and down. It’s weird because you didn’t get what you want to do which is help the team. And then we had the build-up to this,” he explained.

Running on adrenalin

Fellow-Briton Fry admitted that she’s just running on adrenalin right now. After Tokyo she travelled to Verden in Germany, where she claimed the Six-Year-Old title at the FEI WBFSH Dressage World Breeding Championship with Kjento, posting incredible scores. Just over a week later, she is making the headlines at the European Championships.

“It’s been a great few months and Everdale has been amazing,” she said. “He came home so fresh from Tokyo, excited and ready to go again. He had a week off last week. I got back on Sunday and he was feeling great still. His energy never runs out; he goes all day and he loves to work,” she pointed out.

She said he has definitely grown up since travelling to Tokyo and that he has grown more secure in the arena. “He hasn’t been tired at all, and today it really felt like we could just wait and enjoy it. I could take my time a bit more. It was a really nice feeling,” she said.

There is still another whole day of sport ahead before the Team medals are decided, and with the incredible Isabell Werth yet to go for the host country with Weihegold and British stars Carl Hester (En Vogue) and Charlotte Dujardin (Gio) also yet to strut their stuff, there’s a lot more to look forward to.

But some athletes achieved something great just by competing at Hagen.

Mixed emotions

For Sweden’s Jacob Noerby Soerensen, there were mixed emotions. Just two months ago a terrible fire destroyed his farm, and he’s still shocked from the experience.

“I was in Denmark qualifying two horses for Verden, and on my way home I got a call from the stable that there was a fire. They didn’t think it would get so big but the whole stallion stable and the apartments and the Rehab Centre with a spa and gym for the horses were burned down. It was awful. In half an hour everything was gone. No horses were killed and the staff were super; they rescued 26 horses in half an hour, but it was a horrible, awful day,” he recalled.

So posting 68.431 and lying individually 20th. he was hugely happy with his 11-year-old stallion Moegelbejergs Romeo. “He’s a big horse; he’s only 10 and it’s my first championship, so I was really, really nervous. But today made everything feel good again!” he said.

Also feeling good was Ireland’s Carolyn Mellor, who steered Gouverneur M to a score of 64.395. She’s 59 years old, groomed for some of Ireland’s top riders, grooms her own horse, lives in Comber in Northern Ireland, has competed mainly on the relatively modest Irish circuit throughout her career, and is riding a 10-year-old horse who she bought as a three-year-old and who, like her, is competing in his very first championship. And she became a granny last month.

“It’s very surreal. I never thought I’d make it to this stage but it’s brilliant and I think with this horse there is much more to come!” she said.

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

Media Scontact:

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Individual Gold for Thieme on a Magnificent Day of Sport

Andre Thieme. (FEI/Christophe Taniere)

Individual glory for Germany’s Andre Thieme and his lovely mare DSP Chakaria brought the Longines FEI Jumping European Championship 2021 to the perfect close at Riesenbeck (GER). On an afternoon of spectacular sport, the 46-year-old rider rose from overnight silver into gold medal position in the first of two final rounds. Once there, he held on tight, pinning Friday’s team gold medallists, Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs and Leone Jei, into silver while Sweden’s Olympic team gold and individual silver medallist Peder Fredricson and Catch Me Not took bronze.

And the new champion wasn’t holding back. At a press conference filled with joy, relief, reflection, and laughter, Thieme said, “I’m just as much in love with that horse as I am with my wife – and she accepts that!” before turning his attention to Fuchs.

The Swiss rider had teased him by calling Thieme “one of the happy ones!” when he met him in the aftermath of Friday’s team competition, in which the hosts had to settle for silver. But the German rider pointed out that the result had been very close. “And he looked at me and said, ‘Did you really think you guys could beat us? He really said that!” Thieme said with a laugh, very pleased that he had managed to turn the tables on the 29-year-old defending champion, who had to settle for runner-up spot this time around.

Vintage

It was vintage stuff from start to finish and course designer, Germany’s Frank Rothenberger, played a big part in ensuring drama and excitement all the way.

Fuchs was in the lead as the action began, but there was less than a fence between the first seven and less than two fences between the top 12 in the opening round in which the top-24 started. And when the Swiss rider’s fabulous nine-year-old, Leone Jei, hit the oxer after the water at fence nine, then he opened the door for his German rival whose mare made it look pretty easy as she posted a clear to take the lead.

Only the top 12 returned for the second-round medal-decider, and Fuchs was lying fourth on a score of 5.31 this time out, with the sensational partnership of Ioli Mytillneou and Levis de Muze from Greece in third on 4.64 and Sweden’s Fredricson now in silver medal spot, just over two points behind Thieme.

So when the Swiss star lowered the first element of the triple combination in the final round, it seemed his chance was gone. But that fence caused multiple problems and when Mytillneou and her brilliant stallion met it all wrong, she decided to retire. At 24 years old, and with relatively little experience compared to those she was competing against, it was a mature decision as Show President Ludger Beerbaum pointed out later in the day.

So that let Fuchs into bronze medal spot, and when Fredricson’s grey gelding hit the second fence, Fuchs moved up into silver. Thieme could now afford one fence down but no more, and at the bogey triple combination he used up all his luck. But he kept his nerve to bring it home to the delight of the home crowd who roared their approval.

Challenge

The new champion talked about the challenge of that second course: “Walking it you could see that triple combination was going to be very difficult for everybody. The course designer was just very smart.

“From fence three to four he gave us a floating forward six strides to a big oxer with bushes underneath, so you arrived with a lot of impulsion and then it was a bit downhill coming into those two tall verticals. So you had to ride it perfect, and even then there was a chance to have it down,” he explained.

“I got there (to the first part of the triple combination) exactly the way I wanted to, and then boom! I hit the front rail and I thought we have a long way to go. So I tried to stay calm, and she stayed calm with me and I don’t know how many times I can say it, but I’m very blessed with that horse! It’s something very special. Tokyo (Olympic Games) came too early for us; we thought we could do it and then we paid our price, but she learned something in Tokyo and I learned something in Tokyo and I’m glad it came out this way!” he added.

Show President, Ludger Beerbaum, paid tribute to Mytillneou, whose copybook clear rounds throughout the week put her well in contention until things didn’t go right for her. “She showed us how a trusting relationship between a rider and horse can make such difficult courses look easy. And the way her horse jumps, your heart starts smiling by watching it…. I’m absolutely sure we will see this pair again in the top classes, and some day probably on the podium!” he said.

Fuchs admitted that playing second fiddle doesn’t come easy for him. “For the first few minutes I was disappointed about the result, that it wasn’t good enough for gold, but now I’m really happy with silver! I’ll go home with two medals, one gold (team) one silver (individual). Andre was just better than me today and I hope one day I’ll be better than him!” said the 2019 champion.

Fredricson blamed himself for the mistake with Catch Me Not made at the second fence, after he changed his original plan on how to ride that line. And as he said, his time fault was also expensive. “But I think the course designer built in a really clever way: questions all the way around, time just tight enough. Like Martin, at first I was really disappointed with the choice I made, but 45 minutes later I feel happy for my bronze medal,” he said.

Huge task

Multiple champion Ludger Beerbaum admitted that he took on a huge task when he offered to step in and run this Championship at Riesenbeck after it was cancelled last year. But he was happy and relieved.

“I couldn’t be more happy or grateful for having the opportunity to host such an event. It was a brave decision, and the whole team knows what we had to deal with, and it was a tough job, no question. But once we decided to go ahead with it, we had a lot of support and positive energy from everyone. You have to be fortunate to get two weeks weather like this and we are thankful. We’ve seen great, great sport, a super podium, and an unbelievable winner – and I’m also really pleased with number 4 Christian Kukuk who was really close. I’m delighted and well done to everyone!” he said.

He wasn’t the only one feeling grateful after an amazing week at his fabulous venue surrounded by the Surenberg Forest.

Speaking on behalf of all the riders who competed at the Longines FEI Jumping European Championship 2021, silver medallist Martin Fuchs said, “Ludger, thank you very much for organising this. We have seen many shows that have years and years of putting on a show; you didn’t have that and for all of us riders, you are one of the most inspiring people in the sport. We call you the legend behind your back!

“And now that you start to do even more for our sport and that you hold this European Championship during these difficult times, everybody really appreciates it. Everyone has great things to say about the whole organisation and the competition, and I think this deserves a big and warm thank you from all of us!”

No-one was disagreeing with that.

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46