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Germans Establish Authority ahead of Dressage Team Medals Finale

Charlotte Dujardin and Gio. (FEI/Christophe Taniere)

Team Germany continued to build up a head of steam when moving to the top of the Dressage Grand Prix leaderboard at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Two great rides, from Dorothee Schneider with Showtime and the living legend that is Isabell Werth with Bella Rose, secured pole position at the end of the competition which decided the eight best nations that will go through to Tuesday’s medal-decider, the Grand Prix Special in which all teams start from scratch.

Joining the defending champions will be Great Britain, who finished second, followed by Denmark, USA, Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal, and Spain.

Meanwhile, the 18 individuals that have made the cut to Wednesday’s Individual medal decider are also confirmed. The two best from each of the six qualifying groups – Charlotte Fry and Charlotte Dujardin (GBR), Therese Nilshagen and Juliette Ramel (SWE), Cathrine Dufour and Carina Cassoe Kruth (DEN), Edward Gal (NED), Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, Dorothee Schneider and Isabell Werth (GER), Sabine Schut-Kery and Adrienne Lyle (USA) – are through. Also qualified are the six next-best individuals, Nanna Skodborg Merrald (DEN), Beatriz Ferrer-Salat (ESP), Hans Peter Minderhoud (NED), Carl Hester (GBR), Rodrigo Torees (POR), and Steffen Peters (USA).

Top two spots

Denmark’s Cassoe Kruth and America’s Lyle claimed the top two spots in Group D when the action resumed, and then Germany’s Schneider headed up Group E after a lovely test. Schneider said her horse was “a little bit tense but it’s normal for him on first day.” She’s had a late return to top competition for a range of reasons.

“Showtime competed at the European Championships in 2019 and then he was at home, because I wanted to keep him safe for the Olympic Games in 2020, and then there were no Games! I wanted to start early in 2021 but then I had an accident in April. But he’s an experienced horse and once he gets out to compete three or four times, he’s fine,” she said of the gelding who carried her to team gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and who she has ridden since he was a three-year-old.

A fall when a horse she was competing dropped dead during a prizegiving ceremony left her with a broken collarbone, “but it’s all good now!” she said. “It took a little time to come back and it wasn’t so easy mentally, but we are back now and I’m happy again,” she explained.

Solidity

Compatriot Werth headed up the final group of 10 horse-and-athlete combinations and, last to go, underpinned the solidity of the German challenge. With her beloved Bella Rose who scored 82.500 she pinned Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin and the charming little chestnut gelding Gio into second place in that group. However, both of these ladies look to have a lot more in store for the coming days. And Dujardin, whose reign of supremacy with the great Valegro changed a lot about the sport of Dressage in recent years, is clearly super-excited about her latest rising star. You could feel that rivalry between her and the evergreen queen, Werth, filling the air once again.

Talking about Gio, Dujardin said, “I was so happy; he’s a very green inexperienced horse, so it was a bit of the unknown what to expect. Hagen (Germany in April this year) is the biggest show he’s done and he delivered there. I couldn’t ask for any more today; he went in there and he tried his heart out. He’s just unbelievable; he keeps giving. I felt emotional on the last centreline because when you have a ride like that, win or lose, that’s what it’s all about for me.

“He’s like a little powerhouse: he’s small but definitely mighty;for where he is at his training, I know he can give even more and I’m so happy with him,” she said.

Rivalry

Werth clearly enjoys the renewed rivalry with her British counterpart because it feeds her competitive edge. “It’s always very important that you have strong field of competitors because then you push each other to top performances and that’s the spirit of competition,” she pointed out.

She described the 17-year-old Bella Rose as “my dream horse and when she’s in top shape she is the best – her way of moving, her character, her charisma, her piaffe/passage down the centreline – of course Weihe (her other mare Weihegold) is super and the younger ones too, but with Bella you have the feeling there is always something more possible!”

Talking about these “Games like no other” in Tokyo, the multiple Olympic champion said the lack of an audience could be influential. “Mostly you will see it in the medal decisions, especially in the Freestyle. There will be music but no crowd to carry the horses and riders – it makes a big difference – but on the other hand we are so happy that we can be here, can compete that we have an Olympic Games. We are in a discipline that is really depending on Games, because then we are more in the focus of the media and the world and it gives the younger riders at home the motivation and support, so it’s a big package we have, and we are very thankful to be here.”

Facts and Figures:

If Isabell Werth wins double-gold she will become the most decorated female German Olympic athlete of all times.

The IOC and FEI have given special permission to Irish athletes across all equestrian disciplines at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to wear a yellow ribbon in memory of young rising star, Tiggy Hancock, who tragically suffered a fatal fall last month. Dressage rider Heike Holstein was the first to compete with hers. She said, “We are very proud to wear it, and grateful to the IOC and FEI for allowing us to do it.”

The judges awarded the maximum score of 10 on 14 occasions during the second half of the Grand Prix, which is the Team and Individual qualifying competition, and 13 of them were earned by Isabelle Werth’s Bella Rose (GER) – 7 for piaffe, 5 for passage/piaffe transitions, and one for halt. A single 10 was awarded to Charlotte Dujardin’s Gio (GBR) for two-tempi changes.

Quotes:

Christian Schumach (AUT) who scored 70.900 with Te Quiero SF: “I’m super happy with my horse and super happy with my riding. Overall, there was one mistake in the twos and that was clearly my mistake. I was enjoying the surroundings and the Olympic experience too much so it wasn’t his fault; he did a super job! he’s really young (10 years old) and this was only his seventh Grand Prix.”

Heike Holstein (IRL): “It’s special when you breed a foal that you know from when it is running around in your fields as a baby, breaking it, competing it, and taking it all the way to the Olympic Games!”

Steffen Peters (USA), talking about his ride on Suppenkasper: “He’s a hot horse so to do a relaxed clean test was a very good start. This was not the test to go crazy in; we’ll do that in the Special! It’s been four years of a complete love affair with him; he’s such a big, kind teddy bear. He’s 18.2 hands tall but there’s not a mean bone in his body; he always tries and I’m one of the fortunate riders who gets to ride him!”

He complimented the judges on the scores they gave his team-mate Sabine Schut-Kery, whose pathfinding ride got the US off to a great start.

“Sabine is a cool, calm competitor with a helluva horse. Not too many people know her that well, but I appreciate that some of the judges who had never seen her before gave her a very good score.”

Results

by Louise Parkes

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Executive Advisor
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Olivia Robinson
Director, Communications
olivia.robinson@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 35

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

Sensational Start to Race for Olympic Dressage Titles

Jessica von Bredow-Werndl. (FEI/Shannon Brinkman)

It may have been a long time coming, but the opening day of Equestrian Dressage at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games more than lived up to expectations. Emotions ran high and so did the scores as superb individual performances saw The Netherlands take the early lead in the battle for the Team title, while Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl set a personal-best when posting the biggest mark of the evening with TSF Dalera.

Groups

With the competition divided into six groups in total, and three of those groups taking their turn, it was Great Britain’s Charlotte Fry and Everdale who set the early target score when posting 77.096 to top Group A. But only two athletes earned marks over 80%, and Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour was the first of these when putting 81.056 on the board with Bohemian to take complete command of Group B.

“It was important for me to give him a really great feeling in the ring today,” Dufour said. “I didn’t want to push too much because I wanted him to be comfortable in there. And even though there’s no audience there’s a vibe in the arena and they can feel it!”

Much of her previous success has been achieved with the diminutive Cassidy, who carried her through Junior and Young Rider level to triple-bronze at the Senior European Championships in Gothenburg (SWE) in 2017 and bronze again in the Grand Prix Special at the Europeans in Rotterdam (NED) in 2019. She admitted she felt a bit guilty about leaving the 18-year-old gelding at home and bringing the 11-year-old Bohemian to Tokyo instead.

“Cassidy has been my partner in crime for 11 years, so I felt a little bit like I was cheating on him!” But she feels Bohemian is “one of the best horses in the world! He doesn’t have any weaknesses.”

Firm basis

Meanwhile, Edward Gal’s score of 78.649 left him second in Group B and gave The Netherlands a firm basis on which to build their team challenge. His black stallion, Total US, is only nine years old, and a son of the great Totilas who, with Gal onboard, set the world of Dressage on fire a decade ago.

“You feel so much comparison, the same feeling when you give your leg, the same reaction. Totilas was more confident at his age – he (Total US) is a bit shy but I’ve done some more competitions with him now and I feel him getting more confident,” said the Dutchman who was sporting an eye-catching new tailcoat.

Previously Dressage riders were only permitted to dress in modest colours, but following a change to those rules the Dutch Dressage team have joined their Jumping counterparts in wearing the brightest of bright orange jackets so they stand out in every sense.

Show-stopper

A show-stopper in the final group of riders was America’s Sabine Schut-Kery who steered the 15-year-old stallion Sanceo to a superb mark of 78.416. The German-born rider who lives in California’s Napa Valley produced a test filled with lightness and energy. This is a lady with a fascinating background, as she began her equestrian career performing in exhibitions across Europe with Friesian and Andalusian horses.

She’s had Sanceo since he was three years old, “and it’s so special to have him now at the pinnacle of the Olympics representing my country!” she said. “In my past I’ve done a lot of entertainment with horses. The passion for Dressage was always there so we taught them to lie down, bow, or sit or rear on command. But with that we were always very passionate about correct Dressage and training the horse correctly and making it look beautiful,” said the lady who has performed with her exhibition horses at top venues including Aachen and Stuttgart in Germany.

Second-last into the arena, Hans-Peter Minderhoud bolstered the Dutch position with a score of 76.817 with Dream Boy, giving his country the lead going into the second half of the Grand Prix ahead of Denmark in second and Great Britain in third. But some shuffling of positions can well be expected by the end of the second day.

Thrilling test

And that was made clear by the thrilling test produced by von Bredow-Werndl for the biggest score of the evening, despite a big spook from Dalera before entering the ring following a rain shower.

“She wasn’t scared; she was just excited by the atmosphere. She didn’t expect it because it was so silent every day here!” said the German star after posting a massive 84.379.

Talking about how testing it was for the riders as well as the horses in the conditions at Baji Koen Equestrian Park, she added, “To be honest I’m very fit, but at the centreline where I started the pirouettes I thought ‘Gosh, it’s so exhausting!’ It was so hot in there and the humidity is extreme after the rain. It was tough,” she said.

Quotes:

Brazil’s Joao Victor Marcari Oliva, who is based in Portugal, first rider into the arena with Escorial: “I knew this horse for a long time because he is a famous Lusitano breeding stallion, but I never thought I would be riding him. It’s a pleasure to open the Olympics. How do I cope with the heat here? Portugal is warm; I am Brazilian so it’s fine; it’s like home!”

Great Britain’s Charlotte Fry: “At the end he got a shock that there were people watching; he was so concentrating on my ride! He knew it was a big occasion; he was so concentrated all day; he knew it was coming; he is so intelligent. I’ve been riding him since he was 7 and he’s now 12. I’ve done Young Riders with him and U25 Grand Prix and he’s moved up to Senior Grand Prix in 2019, so we’ve really grown up together and built a really good partnership. He’s fun to ride and I love every day riding him.”

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Executive Advisor
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Olivia Robinson
Director, Communications
olivia.robinson@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 35

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

Jumping Looks Set to Be a Testing Thriller

Nick Skelton (GBR) celebrates his gold medal win at the Rio 2016 Games with Big Star.  FEI/Eric Knoll.

Tokyo 2020 is one of the most talked-about Olympic Games of all time, and as it arrives on our doorsteps a year late and filled with challenges, for the stars of international Jumping, the questions are clear.

How will the three-rider no-drop-score format play out in the battle for the Team medals? And is there anyone to get in the way of the pair who claimed individual silver at the World Equestrian Games in 2018 and the individual European title a year later – Martin Fuchs and his super-horse Clooney – when it comes to glorious individual gold?

With so few team competition opportunities in the lead-up to these Games, it’s difficult to make any predictions. However, if the Division 1 Nations Cups that took place last month are anything to go by, then the on-form countries are Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, and The Netherlands.

A total of 75 athletes will be chasing down their individual dreams when the action begins at Baji Koen on 3 August, and athletes from 19 countries will be giving it everything they’ve got when the team contest gets underway on 6 August. It will be a fascinating four days of Olympic equestrian sport.

Defending champions

Team France are the defending champions having clinched gold for only the second time in Olympic history at the Rio 2016 Games, and Penelope Leprevost is the only member of that victorious team to line out again at Tokyo 2020 where she will be joined by Mathieu Billot and Nicolas Delmotte. Silver went to the USA five years ago, while Germany won out in a thrilling jump-off against Canada for the bronze.

Comeback king Nick Skelton won Britain’s first Olympic Individual title in Rio with Big Star, a phenomenal and emotional achievement for the 58-year-old athlete who had broken his neck in a fall 16 years earlier. Silver went to Sweden’s Peder Fredricson and the brilliant All In, and this pair – who won the individual European title in 2017 – will be joined by Malin Baryard-Johnson and her feisty mare Indiana and Henrik von Eckermann with King Edward in Tokyo.

The British have two of the team that secured Olympic gold for their country for the first time in 60 years in London in 2012, and both Scott Brash (Hello Jefferson) and Ben Maher (Explosion W) also look well set to challenge strongly for the individual medals.

But the Team and Individual line-ups are crammed full of winners, the Americans buoyed up by their victory at the FEI World Equestrian Games™, Belgium bolstered by their success at the 2019 European Championships and the Irish full of determination after clinching both Olympic qualification and the series title at the FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final later that year.

Record

Germany holds the record for the greatest number of Olympic gold medals, with five Individual and eight team titles since Jumping joined the Olympic programme in 1900. And with world number one Daniel Deusser (Killer Queen), Christian Kukuk (Mumbai), and Andre Thieme (DSP Chakaria) showing fantastic form, they are going to be mighty competitive once again.

Meanwhile, with world number two Fuchs, world number three Steve Guerdat, who claimed the individual title in London nine years ago, and FEI World Cup Final 2007 winner Beat Mandli in their mix, the Swiss also look fairly unstoppable.

But the hosts from Japan can’t be overlooked. They finished sixth in Olympic-level company at the last of the four legs of the FEI Nations Cup series in Rotterdam just two weeks ago and under the stewardship of German legend Paul Schockemohle, and mounted on some fabulous horses, Daisuke Fukushima (Chanyon), Koki Saito (Chilensky), and Eiken Sato (Saphyr des Lacs) will be giving it more than their all on home soil when the Games begin.

They’ve only ever taken one Olympic medal, when Takeichi Nishi came out on top with Uranus in Los Angeles in 1932. That was an interesting Games because, staged in the throes of a world-wide depression, only three teams showed up – Mexico, the USA, who were considered big favourites, and a Swedish side made up of their Eventing squad. And not one of them finished.

There were three riders on each team and American chances were dashed when Lt John Wofford was eliminated. So when Sweden’s Lt Arne Francke suffered the same fate along with all of the Mexicans, no team medals were awarded. But Japanese Baron, Takeichi Nishi, produced a brilliant ride with his French-bred horse to take the Individual honours.

There will be three riders per team this time around as well, so just like back in 1932 when mistakes proved more than costly, there will be no room for error in the team competition, and Individual glory will go to only the best of the best.

How it will play out…

There will be two Individual Competitions and two Team Competitions, taking place on different days.

The first Individual competition takes place on Tuesday 3 August and is a qualifier for the Individual Final the following day. It will be Table A not against the clock and without a jump-off. Athletes will place according to their penalties and in case of a tie they will be separated by the time of their round. If still tied, they will be placed equal.

The Individual Final is open to the 30 best-placed athletes from the first Individual competition and will be Table A, one round against the clock, with a jump-off for the medal placings if there is a tie on penalties. All athletes start on a zero score in the Individual Final and starting order will be in reverse order of merit following the first Individual competition.

The first Team competition is open to 19 teams of three athletes and all teams will start on a zero score. It will take place on 6 August and is a qualifier for the Team Final on 7 August. It will be Table A not against the clock and without a jump-off in the event of equality of penalties for first place. Disqualification of one athlete will result in the disqualification of their entire team.

Team scores will be decided by adding the penalties incurred by all three team members. Athletes who withdraw, are eliminated, or retire from the competition will not be given a score and their team will be placed according to the combined scores of the remaining two team-members. Three-member teams will be placed ahead of teams of two.

The best 10 teams, including those tied for 10th place, will qualify for the Team Final which will be Table A not against the clock over one round with a jump-off in the event of equality of penalties for the medal placings. Starting order will be in reverse order of merit from the first Team competition.

After the first two athletes from each team have competed there will be a compulsory 20-minute break. An intermediate classification of the teams will decide the starting order of each team’s third athlete.

One substitution of an athlete/horse combination is permitted per team. Substitutes are not permitted to compete in a jump-off.

THE FULL LIST here.

FEI Olympic Hub HERE.

by Louise Parkes

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Executive Advisor
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Olivia Robinson
Director, Communications
olivia.robinson@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 35

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

Jung Aims to Make More History with a Hat-Trick of Gold

Germany’s Michael Jung rides his 2019 European Championship horse fischerChipmunk FRH in Luhmuhlen, (GER) and is aiming to make history with a hat-trick gold in Tokyo (JPN). FEI/ Oliver Hardt/Getty Images.

After Germany’s Michael Jung won the second of his two consecutive Individual Olympic Equestrian Eventing titles at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, he was asked what he had next in his sights. “Tokyo 2020 of course, and the Europeans and maybe the world title along the way!” he replied.

He wasn’t joking of course, because the 38-year-old who made Eventing history by becoming the first to hold the European, Olympic, and World Championship titles at the same time is one of the most formidable athletes in all of equestrian sport.

He didn’t make it to the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in 2018 when his horse had an injury, but at the FEI European Championships the following year, he took team gold and was just pipped at the post for the individual title by team-mate Ingrid Klimke.

This is a man who sets the bar really high for everyone else, and if he can do the individual hat-trick in Tokyo, then he will set a new Olympic record. Charles Pahud de Mortanges from The Netherlands came out on top in Amsterdam in 1928 and again at the following Olympics in Los Angeles in 1932, and New Zealand’s Mark Todd won in Los Angeles in 1984 and again in Seoul in 1988. Both riders partnered the same horse on each occasion, the Dutchman riding Marcroix and the Kiwi riding the legendary Charisma.

Jung was also riding the same horse, the mighty Sam, when coming out on top at London 2012 and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. This time around he will partner his 2019 European Championship horse Chipmunk, and the world waits to see what more magic he can bring.

Team silver

He’ll be joined on the German team by two of the three athletes who helped clinch team silver in Rio, Sandra Auffarth (Viamant du Matz) and Julia Krajewski (Armande de B’Neville). However, it is the French who line out as defending team champions, with Thomas Carlile (Birmane), Nicolas Touzaint (Absolut Gold HDC), and Christopher Six (Totem de Brecey) flying the flag for Les Bleus.

The British arrive as reigning world champions with the world number one, Oliver Townend (Ballaghmore Class), number five Tom McEwen (Toledo de Kerser), and number 22 Laura Collet (London 52) in their side, backed up last-minute replacement reserve Ros Canter with Allstar B, the horse she rode to individual gold at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018. There’s great strength in depth in this selection, while the Irish world silver medallists, and the Kiwi side that includes husband-and-wife Tim and Jonelle Price, also look highly competitive.

But there are further Olympic records hanging in the balance. Australia’s Andrew Hoy, Shane Rose, and Stuart Tinney have 166 years of life experience and eight Olympic medals between them. And 62-year-old Hoy could make Olympic history by becoming the first athlete to win gold medals an incredible 29 years apart. He won his first team gold in Barcelona in 1992 and if he could do it again, he’d break the all-time record set by Hungarian fencer Aladár Gerevich, who triumphed in 1932 and 1960.

Hoy went on to win two more team golds, at Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000, and just by turning up in Tokyo he will set an Australian record with his eighth Olympic appearance since his debut in Los Angeles in 1984 at the age of 25.

Changes

The sport of Eventing has been subject to many changes down the years, and at the Tokyo 2020 Games there will be a new and shorter Dressage test, which will take just under four minutes to complete. The Dressage and Jumping phases will be staged at Baji Koen Equestrian Centre in the city, while the Cross Country action will be held at Sea Forest Park in Tokyo Bay.

Following the Ready Steady Tokyo Equestrian Test event staged at Sea Forest in August 2019, during which an FEI official climate impact study and horse monitoring project took place, the Cross Country course was shortened to approximately eight minutes.

It’s all a long way from the first time Eventing was included in the Olympic programme back in 1912 in Stockholm when the competition began with Phase A, “an Endurance ride over 55km in four hours,” and Phase B, “Cross-country over 5km in 15 minutes with 12 obstacles.”

After a rest day, the all-military competitors then set out to tackle “Steeplechase over 3,500m in 5 minutes and 50 seconds with 10 obstacles,” while on day four there was “Jumping over 15 obstacles up to 1.30m high and 3.00m wide,” before finally finishing up on day five with “Dressage.” From seven starting teams, four completed and Sweden took both Team and Individual gold.

Times have indeed moved on, but the partnership between horse and athlete remains at the heart of equestrian sport, and in Olympic Eventing that partnership is at its zenith.

How it will play out….

The Team and Individual competitions will run concurrently on consecutive days as follows: Dressage test (over two days, 30/31 July), Cross Country test (1 August), and First Jumping Competition (2 August) to determine the Team classification.

The Individual Final Jumping test will take place after the Team Jumping Final on the same day (2 August), with the top 25 battling it out for the medals.

Eventing Dressage and Jumping will both be staged at Baji Koen Equestrian Centre, with horses travelling to Sea Forest Park for Cross Country day.

To enable a finish by just after 11.00, the start time on Cross Country day will be 07.45 JST.

Horses can be substituted for the team competition, and a horse/athlete combination may be substituted by a reserve combination for medical/veterinarian reasons in any of the three tests after the start of the competition.

The top 25 horse/athlete combinations go through to the Individual Final.

The athlete rides the same horse throughout for the Individual classification.

There will be two horse inspections – on 29 July, the day before the Dressage phase begins, and on 2 August before the final Jumping phase takes place.

A drawn starting order will be used for the Dressage and Cross-Country tests but in the final Jumping test horse/athlete combinations will go in reverse order of merit.

The full list HERE.

FEI Olympic Hub HERE.

by Louise Parkes

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Executive Advisor
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Olivia Robinson
Director, Communications
olivia.robinson@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 35

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

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – Equestrian Dressage Preview

Celebrating Germany’s 13th Olympic Dressage team gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games: (L to R) Isabell Werth, Dorothee Schneider, Sönke Rothenberger, and Kristina Bröring-Sprehe. (FEI/Richard Juilliart)

Can Germany make it a fabulous 14?

Germany has a long and formidable record in Olympic Equestrian Dressage. Since the team competition was first introduced in Amsterdam (NED) in 1928, when the German side pinned Sweden into silver and The Netherlands into bronze, they have won 13 of the 20 Olympic team contests. And it’s looking very much like gold number 14 is just around the corner.

The loss to Great Britain at London in 2012 was the only blip in an otherwise seamless run that began in Los Angeles in 1984 when the great Reiner Klimke and Ahlerich led the victory gallop. Despite all the disruption of the last 18 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) outbreak in mainland Europe, Team Germany arrive at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games as defending champions and strong favourites to do it all over again.

Isabell Werth heads the line-up with the mare Bella Rose and holding the World number one slot. And underpinning the sheer strength of the German challenge, she will be joined by World numbers two and four4, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl with TSF Dalera BB and Dorothee Schneider with Showtime FRH. With Helen Langehanenberg and her mare Annabelle in reserve, they seem like an unstoppable force.

However, the three-per team format introduced for this year’s Games could prove highly influential. One off day for just one team member and the story could be very different indeed, because every ride will be critical.

Dynamic duo

At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Great Britain claimed silver and The Netherlands took team bronze and this time around the British send the dynamic duo of Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester once again, but both on relatively unexposed horses.

Dujardin’s decision to take the 10-year-old Gio instead of her considerably more experienced 12-year-old mare Mount St John Freestyle, who was in great form at Hagen (GER) in April and who swept all before her at the home international at Wellington (GBR) in May, came as a surprise. But the athlete, whose record-breaking partnership with the now-retired Valegro has helped popularise this sport like few before her, is backed up by the evergreen Hester and Charlotte Fry with Everdale, and she’s always going to be highly competitive.

Edward Gal with Total US and Hans Peter Minderhoud with Dream Boy headline the Dutch team, Patrik Kittel (Well Done de la Roche) leads the Swedish contingent, and Steffen Peters (Suppenkasper) will be a strong anchor for Team USA. Meanwhile, Team Belgium will be making a little bit of Olympic history as they make their first appearance since 1928.

When it comes to the individual honours all eyes will be on Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour and her fabulous horse Bohemian. The pair posted a back-to-back double of wins at the first leg of the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2020/2021 series on home ground in Aarhus (DEN), pinning Germany’s Werth and von Bredow-Werndl into second and third.

But when the Covid cloud broke long enough for another leg to take place in Salzburg (AUT) in January, von Bredow-Werndl showed a whole new level of performance with her 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™ gold-medal partner TSF Dalera BB, who has gone from strength to strength ever since. Now this pair looks a real threat to all the rest in the battle for individual Olympic glory.

Less obvious

However, at Olympic Games, the show-stealers are often the less obvious. Australia’s Mary Hanna, whose horse Calanta was the very first to arrive into the stables at Baji Koen Equestrian Park in Tokyo earlier this week, is a case in point. Because equestrian fans all around the world are already putting their hearts behind this mother of two and grandmother of four who, at the age of 66, is tackling her sixth Olympics.

Apart from the Beijing Games in 2008, she has been a member of every Australian Olympic Dressage team since 1996, and that’s quite some record. She’s as proud as ever to be flying her country’s flag alongside Kelly Layne riding Samhitas and Simone Pearce with Destano.

The last time Olympic Games were staged in Tokyo in 1964, Baji Koen was the venue for Dressage, which was a very different sport back then.

In the Grand Prix, the scores were announced after each ride and after the ride-off – which was filmed and then mulled over by judges Frantisek Jandl, Gustaf Nyblaeus, and Georges Margot; the public, the teams, and the media had to wait for two hours before the final results were announced. It should be a bit quicker this time around!

Swiss supremo Henri Chammartin with Woerman was eventually deemed the Individual champion, and the team title went to Germany’s Harry Boldt with Remus, Josef Neckermann with Antoinette, and Reiner Klimke with Dux.

How it will play out….

The FEI Grand Prix test, in which all athletes must participate, will take place on 24 and 25 July and is a qualifier for both the team and individual competitions. The qualification ranking will be decided by the results of all three team members.

Athletes compete in six groups, with three groups competing on each day. The composition of the groups is based on the FEI World Ranking list position of the athlete/horse combination on the date of definite entries (5 July 2021).

The top eight teams in the Grand Prix (and those tied for eighth place) will qualify for the FEI Grand Prix Special on 27 July.

During the period between the Team Qualifier (Grand Prix) and up to two hours before the start of the Team Final (Grand Prix Special), the Chef d’Equipe may substitute an athlete/horse combination. However, the substitute combination will not be entitled to compete in the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle.

The FEI Grand Prix Freestyle test is the Individual Final Competition which is open to 18 combinations qualified from the FEI Grand Prix. The qualified athletes will be the top two combinations from each of the six groups and the combinations with the six next highest scores.

The Dressage Tests are the FEI Grand Prix, the FEI Grand Prix Special, and the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle.

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Executive Advisor
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Olivia Robinson
Director, Communications
olivia.robinson@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 35

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

Dutch Do Themselves Proud in Rotterdam

Maikel van der Vleuten and Beauville Z. (FEI/Leanjo de Koster)

In the presence of the former Queen of the Netherlands, Princess Beatrix, Rob Ehrens’ Dutch team did themselves proud when coming out on top in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ in Rotterdam (NED).

There was a super-sharp edge to this fourth and last leg of the 2021 series as the 10 teams took on the 12-fence track set by Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games course designer Santiago Varela. Just three days ahead of the Olympic Definite Entries deadline, every rider was out to impress, and it was the home side that proved most equal to the challenge.

A final tally of seven faults gave Maikel van der Vleuten (Beauville Z), Willem Greve (Zypria S NOP), Marc Houtzager (Sterrehof’s Dante NOP), and Frank Schuttert (Lyonel D) a narrow victory over Swedish runners-up Douglas Lindelow, Angelie von Essen, Rolf-Goran Bengtsson, and Peder Fredricson who completed with nine faults on the board. It was only a foot in the open water for Fredricson’s Catch Me Not S that prevented the Swedes from making it a double in this year’s shortened series following their win at the opening leg at St Gallen, Switzerland just four weeks ago.

France pipped Germany for third place when combined times separated the two teams that finished on 12 faults apiece, while Ireland was close behind in fifth with 13. And the Tokyo Olympic hosts from Japan gave a great account of themselves. Reduced to a three-man side when Taizo Sugitani withdrew before the competition began, Daisuke Fukushima, Koki Saito, and Eiken Sato racked up just 14 faults for sixth place, and Sato and his fabulous Saphy des Lacs produced one of the five double-clear rounds posted on the day.

Close-run thing

It was a close-run thing at the halfway stage when France, Sweden, Germany, and the USA all shared the lead on a zero score, followed by Ireland and the eventual Dutch winners carrying just a single time penalty each.

But when the course was raised and the fences widened for the second round, and the evening light drew long shadows across the arena, then the competition took on a completely different complexion.

The Americans lost their grip when Beezie Madden withdrew and they had to count 16 faults, while the Germans and French also slipped when adding 12 to their scorelines.

French pathfinders Penelope Leprevost and GFE Excalibur de la Tour Vidal produced a superb double-clear and it seemed possible their side might stay in front if anchorman Kevin Staut could bring Visconti du Telman home clear for a second time. But the pair was one of many to fault at the open water in the fading light and when they also lowered the oxer at fence seven, then that had to be added to the four picked up by Gregory Cottard’s mare Bibici who, also like many before her, clipped the oxer at the end of the penultimate line this time out.

Strong

The Dutch also kicked off the second round with a double-clear from Van der Vleuten, and when Greve added just a single time fault to his first-round foot-perfect run, then they began to look strong. Houtzager and Sterrehof’s Dante faulted at the narrow vertical at fence 10 and also collected a time fault, and when Schuttert’s Lyonel D racked up the discard score of 12 faults, then they had to add six second-round faults to the single first-round time penalty for a total of seven.

As Sweden’s Peder Fredricson set off it seemed that might not be good enough. Because a clear from the World No. 7 would mean one of the four-fault results racked up by Lindelow and Von Essen could be dropped, because Bengtsson and the hugely impressive Ermindo W, who clinched that St Gallen win in a thrilling jump-off, had collected just a single second-round time fault, so they could finish with just five faults in the final analysis.

But Catch Me Not S put a foot in the water in an otherwise effortless round, so it would a Dutch celebration.

Happy

Talking after the prizegiving, Van der Vleuten pointed out, “A water jump is always difficult, but I was happy with my horse because he jumped it nice and stretched well over it both times today.”

He was really pleased with the 11-year-old Beauville Z. “He jumped fresh and it’s always nice to be double-clear. He jumped even easier in the second round.”

Talking about the increased level of faults in the second half of the competition, he said, “We started late (17.00 local time) so the shadows were maybe a factor, but also the course was bigger – the middle of the combination (fence 8) was taller and the triple bar (fence 9) went up one hole and was 10cms wider, and the next vertical went up and the last oxer was wider too – all that makes a big difference.”

Chef d’Equipe Rob Ehrens said he hadn’t had much sleep. The Dutch last won in Rotterdam in 2016, but they were waiting a long time for that to happen.

“I tried to win here so many times, so I was a bit angry with the course designer after the first round because they were so many clears! But of course you win a Nations Cup over two rounds,” he said with a smile. And course designer Santiago Varela agreed. “More mistakes in the second round is typical in a Nations Cup.”

Meanwhile, Ehrens has to be feeling positive after this great result because, as Varela added, “This was a perfect Nations Cup to get a good feeling before the Olympic Games.”

The Dutch should indeed be feeling good not just about Tokyo, but also about their chances at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final 2021 which will take place in Barcelona (ESP) in October where all 10 teams from Division 1 will be eligible to compete.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

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

Germans Win on Dramatic Day at Sunny Sopot

Christian Kukuk and Mumbai. (FEI/Lukasz Kowalski)

The weather was hot and the excitement was intense as Team Germany won through at the third leg of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2021 series at Sopot in Poland.

The 1,200 spectators permitted to attend the event at the sun-soaked Baltic seaside venue enjoyed a great day of sport in which the result was undecided until the last man rode into the ring. A clear from Belgium’s Niels Bruynseels would force a jump-off with the eventual winners, but it wasn’t to be as poles down saw his side having to settle for runner-up spot, leaving Maurice Tebbel, Marcus Ehning, Christian Kukuk, and Andre Thieme standing on the top step of the podium.

German Chef d’Equipe, Otto Becker, was well pleased with his side’s performance. “I’m a very happy man because we were the only team to stay clear today, and to have three double-clears is amazing!”

On the cards

At the halfway stage it seemed likely that a jump-off could be on the cards, because Germany, Ireland, Norway, and Belgium were all on a zero scoreline. But this competition really was a game of two halves, and the Irish and Norwegians lost their grip when each added 16 faults second time out.

The course designed by Poland’s Szymon Tarant was big but relatively uncomplicated, and although some riders suspected the yellow wall at fence eight would prove daunting, it went almost unnoticed until the USA’s second-line rider, Bliss Heers, took a flying fall there when Antidote de Mars tumbled through it. Horse and rider seemed none the worse afterwards, but the Americans finished on a total of 20 faults along with the French and had to settle for seventh place in the line-up of 10 teams at the end of the day.

The British proved competitive to the very last. Carrying just four faults into the second round their prospects dramatically improved when Alexandra Thornton (Cornetto K) and Harry Charles (Romeo) both delivered lovely clears. And although Joseph Stockdale (Equine America Cacharel) had three fences down, they looked set to stay well in the frame if anchorman William Funnell (Equine America Billy Diamo) could leave the fences up and keep them on that four-fault tally.

But his big chestnut gelding had already hit the opening vertical and the middle element of the triple combination at fence four before knocking the following oxer at five and unseating his rider who was stretchered out of the arena with an ankle injury. So the British would finish fifth behind Norway in fourth and Ireland in third when all three sides completed with 16 faults on the board and were separated only by their combined times in the second round.

Slogged it out

Meanwhile, the Germans and Belgians slogged it out at the sharp end.

Germany’s Tebbel and Don Diarado kicked off round two with a second fabulous clear, but Ehning added four to the eight faults he picked up in the first round with Funky Fred. He competed wearing a yellow armband in memory of young Irish Eventing athlete Tiggy Hancock, whose tragic death at a training session in Ireland last Wednesday has deeply saddened the equestrian community. Marcus was Tiggy’s hero, and all the Irish team also wore a similar armband.

Then Kukuk set off with the stunning grey stallion Mumbai who, for the second time, made the course look very elementary indeed, and when Thieme’s mare, DSP Chakaria, was fault-free once again this kept his side on a zero scoreline and all the pressure was now piled onto Belgium’s Niels Bruynseels.

His team-mates Jos Verlooy with Varoune and Nicola Philippaerts riding Katanga v/h Dingeshof hadn’t put a foot wrong all day, and although Pieter Devos’ mare, Claire Z, hit the final vertical second time out, the Belgians could also finish on a zero and force a jump-off if Bruynseels and Delux van T&L could leave the course intact when last to go.

It wasn’t to be when the oxer at fence two and the first element of the double at six, which became quite a bogey in the second round, both hit the floor. Now the four picked up by Devos would have to be counted and the German win would be clear-cut.

Weather conditions

Christian Kukuk was thrilled with the performance of his nine-year-old stallion Mumbai and said the weather conditions were highly influential in deciding the result. “In general, this was a fair course as you could see when four teams were clear at the end of the first round. But we were competing at the hottest time of the day; it was over 30 degrees, and you could see how that affected horses at the end of the course in the second round when there were many mistakes.

“I wasn’t worried for myself and Mumbai though because he has a lot of power and I knew he wouldn’t get tired. The more he jumps the better he gets!” Kukuk said of the grey stallion who, although still only nine, shows maturity well beyond his years. He has high hopes that Mumbai will take him to the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer but admits that qualifying for the German team is never easy because the competition for places is so strong.

Sopot Show Director, Kaja Koczurowska Wawrzkiewicz, congratulated the German team on their victory. “After two wins for Belgium, we have a change this year! This show is very important for the Polish Equestrian Federation and it’s great to have the riders back in Sopot after the difficult year we have all experienced,” she said.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

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

Swiss Are Superb Winners at Beautiful La Baule

Steve Guerdat and Albfuehrens Maddox. (FEI/Martin Dokoupil)

Team Jumping lived up to its reputation for edge-of-the-seat excitement when Switzerland won through in a thriller at the second leg of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2021 Division 1 series at La Baule in France.

The Swiss were returning to the scene of their triumph at the last event to be staged in the French seaside town in 2019, and it fell to Beat Mandli to clinch it for them with one final run. The double-Olympian and 2007 FEI Jumping World Cup™ champion didn’t flinch, producing a copybook tour of Frederic Cottier’s course that proved plenty challenging during a brilliant day of sport.

His side finished on a four-fault tally to pip the exciting second-placed Italian team who posted a total of seven, while Belgium lined up in third on a total of eight, just one fault ahead of Great Britain with nine.

The 2019 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ champions from Ireland were sharing pole position with the Swiss on a zero score at the halfway stage, but had to settle for fifth place with 12 faults in the final analysis while Mexico, The Netherlands, Brazil, France, and Sweden lined up behind them.

Clean sheet

There was no let-up on Cottier’s unforgiving track, but 15 horse-and-rider partnerships managed to keep a clean sheet first time out and when the Irish and Swiss produced six of those between them, they jointly led the way into the second round.

Great Britain and Italy were stalking them closely with just single time faults on the board, but while the British lost their grip when adding eight more second time out the Italians challenged to the very end. Out of the 10 nations that competed, Italy is the only one not qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, yet they finished ahead of all but one of their rival countries, so this was an afternoon for Chef d’Equipe Duccio Bartalucci and his side to relish.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, little went right for Sweden. They produced a fabulous victory in the first leg of the new season at St Gallen, Switzerland last Sunday where the hosts finished third. But Henrik Ankarcrona fielded a different team, and when pathfinders Angelica Augustsson Zanotelli had a second-round fall, following which her horse, Kalinka van de Nachtegaele, jumped out of the arena, they ended up with a big score of 31 faults.

Raised

As the last-line riders took their turn it seemed the Belgians might finish with just four on the board to stay well in contention, until a mistake from Niels Brynseels’ Jenson van’t Meulenhof raised that to eight. Over in the Italian camp, Ricardo Pisani and Chaclot produced one of the five double-clears of the day before Fabio Brotto and Vanita delle Roane collected five faults. But Filippo Bologni and Quilazio, who left two on the floor first time out, really rose to the occasion this time out when picking up just a single time fault. So if Luca Marziani and Lightning could be fault-free again, they would be the clear winners on just two time faults because the Irish were out of it and the Swiss couldn’t do better than four in the closing stages.

But Lightning struck both the tricky white planks at fence 10 and the first element of the final double, so they would have to settle for runner-up position.

Second-last to go, Mandli had all the weight on his shoulders as he set off for Switzerland. Newcomer Eilian Baumann had followed his opening clear with Campari Z with a mistake at the dreaded final double, while Steve Guerdat’s Albfuehren’s Maddox faulted at both elements of the same fence.

Martin Fuchs and Conner 70 produced a second spectacular clear, however, so if Mandli could leave all the poles in place they would deny their Italian rivals. And he did it with such ease with his lovely 13-year-old mare.

Big day

It was a big day for Michel Sorg, because this was his first win since taking over the role of Swiss Chef d’Equipe: “I first came to La Baule as a spectator many years ago, and for me it’s a dream to come here for the first time as Chef d’Equipe and get my first win with my team!

“Beat had a lot of pressure because he had to be clear and he hadn’t jumped the first round, but he was fantastic! He was already very good in St Gallen last week where he was double-clear with Dsarie in the Grand Prix and had just a fence down in each round in the Nations Cup.

“For Martin it was the first time Conner jumped such a big course. He was double-clear with Leone last weekend so he’s in great form. Elian had never ridden in a Nations Cup 5-Star so to get a clear and four faults is amazing too, and for Steve’s Maddox, it was also a first top Nations Cup and with a clear and eight faults I’m happy, because all riders could bring something to the team today,” he said.

His decision to include the relatively unexposed Baumann was made because the 32-year-old rider “has achieved many great things in Grand Prix at national level, and last week in St Gallen he jumped double-clear in the Grand Prix and finished in sixth place. He’s a fantastic rider and partner for the other riders, and his horse is fantastic also. I was very happy he was with us today and I know this has been very special for him. I’m proud of every one of them!” Sorg concluded.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

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

Taking It to the Max

At the draw for the FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final in Paris in 1987 (L to R): Leslie Burr-Lenehan (USA), World Cup Director Max E Ammann, and Nick Skelton (GBR). (FEI Archive)

As the FEI celebrates its centenary, one man’s name stands out when it comes to the development of equestrian sport over the last 100 Years – journalist, historian, art collector, and creator of the FEI World Cup™ Jumping series, Mr. Max Ammann.

There are people who talk, and people who do, and Switzerland’s Max Ammann is very definitely one of the latter. Over a 30-year period from 1978 to 2008, he drove equestrian sport out of a culture of conservative complacency and into an era of energy and progress that has brought us to where we are today.

He didn’t do it alone. He had the support of the three FEI Presidents of his era, and in particular the late Prince Philip who championed many of his innovative ideas.

And the story began in the fishing, farming, and wine growing lakeside village of Ermatingen in Switzerland where his father kept horses on the family farm.

Two businesses

“For over 100 years our family had two businesses. One was local transport and the other was buying fruit and vegetables from farmers and delivering to big shops in Zurich and St Gallen. So we had five horses, and in 1945 my father decided to compete with them. At that time, we had Driving competitions on a local and national level, and he competed from 1946 until 1955. He was quite successful and I was his groom,” Max says.

That led to father and son travelling to many big horse shows over the following years, and when Max moved to New York in 1964 as Foreign Correspondent for Swiss, German, and Austrian newspapers he decided to drop in on the National Horse Show which, at the time, was staged in Madison Square Garden. “I met a lot of people including Bill Steinkraus, Frank Chapot, Kathy Kusner, and Bert de Nemethy. So I started writing about horses and horse shows for (Swiss magazines) Cavallo and Reiter Revue and (American publication) Chronicle of the Horse,” he explains.

He returned to Europe for the FEI World Championships in Jumping at La Baule (FRA) in 1970 and the Olympic Games in Munich (GER) in 1972, and then in 1973 relocated to Switzerland once again when taking up the job of Chief Editor at Luzerner Tagblatt, the daily newspaper in Lucerne.

Agreement

“I had an agreement that I would go to 10 or 15 horses shows every year, so I started with the CSIOs, which were the dominant events at the time, and then began going to indoor shows which were practically unknown. I was the only foreign journalist at s’Hertogenbosch (NED), Amsterdam (NED), Berlin (GER), or Dortmund (GER), but I wrote about the competitions and I could feel that there was something happening in the sport,” Max says.

What he was feeling was the change of mood brought about by the success of those World Championships in La Baule. The 1960s had been very difficult.

“Most international events in showjumping were held outside Europe at the time. The ’64 Olympics were in Tokyo (JPN), in ’68 they were in Montreal (CAN), and in ’66 the World Championships in Jumping were in Argentina. Also that year the big Swamp Fever (Equine Infectious Anaemia) crisis happened, and as a result no continental Europeans competed at the Eventing World Championships in Burghley (GBR) and no Irish or British competed at the European Jumping Championships in Lucerne (SUI).”

Change for the better

But there was a major change for the better in the 1970s in a number of different ways. Jumping grew in popularity after the thrilling World Championships at La Baule in 1970 and the size and scale of the Munich Olympic Games in 1972, which will forever be remembered for the devastating terrorist attack, but which were also the largest yet, setting records in all categories with 195 events and 7,134 athletes from 121 National Olympic Committees.

That led to a coming together of journalists and riders alike, and during the FEI World Championships at Hickstead (GBR) in 1974 the International Alliance of Equestrian Journalists was formed.

The riders then decided they wanted the same kind of representative body, and at a meeting in Geneva in 1977 they established the International Jumping Riders Club of which Max was Secretary for a few years.

With the sport clearly moving in a more positive direction, TV broadcasters became increasingly interested in it. “When we were in Aachen or Hickstead we went to dinner together each evening and of course we talked a lot. We discussed the binding together of shows to create more interest, and that’s how the World Cup idea was born,” Max says.

Indoor shows became the main focus, and originally the plan was to create a Formula 1 motor-racing-style series, “in other words one worldwide tour.” However, Bill Steinkraus felt it was too complicated, in part due to the cost and stress of transporting horses all round the world. So the League system, that still remains to this day, was considered.

Presented

In 1978 Max presented the idea to then FEI Secretary General Fritz Widmer who advised him to take it to a Jumping Committee meeting in Brussels, Belgium where the FEI had its headquarters at the time. They liked it and made a favourable report to FEI President, the late Prince Philip, who invited Max to Windsor to discuss it.

“I had already written the rules and he liked it very much and said two things – ‘First, if we do it, then you have to run it!’ and ‘Now I’m going to translate it from American English into proper English!’”

Then there was the question of who should pay for it. Max spoke with Mark McCormack, manager and founder of IMG group which managed top sports figures and celebrities, but they weren’t interested, instead offering to sign up the world’s top riders. When that didn’t materialise, Max turned to an old friend, former Olympic rider Anders Gernandt, who was now a commentator on Swedish TV. And that was the turning point in the story.

“He put me together with the President of Volvo, Pehr Gyllenhammar, who invited me to dinner with a group including his friend Ulf Bergqvist, a Director of a bank and the Director of the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg. They listened to my presentation and I said I’d need 480,000 Swiss Francs which at the time was quite some money! After dinner we sat down and had some Cognac, and Gyllenhammar put out his hand and said, ‘It’s a deal!’ So now I had the agreement of Prince Philip and the President of Volvo and that was sufficient,” Max says.

Concept

So what was it about the concept of the Jumping World Cup that they found so appealing?

“I think it just had to come. I’m not a gambler; I only take calculated risks and I was absolutely sure it would succeed because there were precedents in skiing and football and other sports. And in the meantime, I had talked to many horse shows in New York, Washington, to Gene Mische in Florida, to people in Toronto, Berlin, Dortmund, and Vienna and they were all interested.”

And where did Max get the confidence and skills to put it all together?

“I come from a little village on Lake Constance, and my father had a business so the logical thing when I left Secondary School was to make an apprenticeship in business. So I worked with an international transport company and travelled all around Europe for five years learning the job. Then I worked in shipping companies in Hamburg and Basel, so I had a business education before I switched to journalism in the early 60s. I knew how to make an offer, how to write letters, how to calculate, how to read figures in an annual report, and I spoke English, French, and German and all of that helped,” he explains.

In an obituary after the death of Prince Philip, Max wrote that when HRH was elected FEI President in 1964, words like sponsorship, communications, doping control, marketing and public relations were unknown at the FEI. “It was Prince Philip who brought the FEI forward; he was a visionary but also a very practical man,” he says.

FEI

Max left his job at Luzerner Tagblatt and, with a contract created by the Prince, worked from FEI HQ when it moved from Brussels to Berne. And as the years rolled on, he was involved in the early stages of the creation of the Dressage and Driving World Cups which were based on similar lines.

“The Dressage people became jealous of the Jumpers because they were getting a lot more media attention and there was a lot of discussion about how the Dressage World Cup should be, including some wild ideas. Prince Philip was annoyed by some of the proposals made at a Board meeting, so he told the Dressage Committee to sit with me to sort it out and I told them ‘Gentlemen, I don’t know anything about Dressage or how to develop or promote it, but I can help sell it!’ And a member of the Dressage Committee saved it when suggesting we have a Grand Prix with the best going into the Kur which is the World Cup competition. So through the Grand Prix you preserve the tradition of Dressage and with the Kur you have what people like to see!”

The next discipline that wanted a World Cup was Eventing. “At the Olympics in Seoul in ’88, the Americans wanted it and Roger Haller came to me asking for help to make it happen. Princess Anne was then President and I discussed it with her, but she rightly thought it would be too difficult because Eventing horses don’t compete every week, so nothing came of it,” Max says. However, the FEI Driving World Cup would become a reality.

Seminar

At the FEI Driving World Championships in Hungary in 1989, Max heard the Driving Committee discussing the details of a seminar the following day. “I said to them, what you are talking about is of no importance for the future of the sport; you need to discuss finance, how to create interest, and how to get journalists to cover the sport!”

The following morning, he got a call from Committee President Jack Pemberton asking him to address the seminar, and it went so well he was invited to create an ad hoc Committee of which he would be Chairman. Instead of inviting insiders, however, Max opted to bring in non-specialists including the marketing manager of the Winter Olympics and, after two meetings, they put a proposal to a seminar in Wolfsburg in 2002. Not everyone was initially impressed by the new formula, but a week later the organisers at Aachen expressed an interest and the series began in earnest a year later.

In the lead-in, however, and much to Max’s amusement, a test-run in Gothenburg didn’t meet with everyone’s approval. “I invited all the World Champions of the previous 20 years and they were allowed to train from 11pm to midnight before their event. It was their first experience at a big indoor show, so they drove like maniacs for an hour! Olaf Petersen was course building for the Jumping World Cup and he came racing into my office the following morning and shouted, ‘It looks like a battlefield out there; don’t let those mad Drivers in my arena again!'” Max relates with a laugh.

The FEI Driving World Cup™ survived, however, and went on to become another major success.

Overview

Max’s involvement in equestrianism has given him a great overview. He’s passionate about recording the history of the sport and the two books he wrote for the FEI – “Equestrian Sport in the Olympic Games” and “The History of the FEI Championships” – have become a valued resource.

Looking back on that history, he recalls that not everyone played by the rules down the years. He talks about the Nations Cups staged in Harrisburg, Washington, New York, and Toronto where they ran the classes with just three team-members instead of four, “because they felt four riders with one drop-score was too complicated.” And they broke the rules even further when permitting women onto those teams.

“In the summer of 1950 they had trials for New York and Toronto, and the three riders who qualified were Arthur McCashin, Norma Matthews, and Carol Durant, even though, officially, women were not allowed to compete in Nations Cups at the time – but I think the FEI were half-asleep in Brussels!” Max says with a chuckle.

Talking about his relationship with the three Presidents of his era, he describes Prince Philip as “the best the FEI ever had, an absolute leader and a thinker.” Max learned that HRH didn’t always mean what he said, however.

“He had his specialities when you talked with him. When he said ‘I see,’ he didn’t see at all, so you had to explain more. And when he said ‘I don’t understand,’ you knew he understood perfectly well, but didn’t like what you just said!”

Men’s Club

Max constantly describes the FEI as “a Men’s Club” during those years, and says when Prince Philip’s daughter, Princess Anne, took over the Presidential role, she did a great job but had a much tougher time than her father, simply because she was a woman.

HRH the Infanta Doña Pilar de Borbon was also a good President. “She had a less competitive background than Anne, who was an Olympian and a European champion and was from a horse family. But Doña Pilar loved horses and worked very hard at the FEI,” Max says.

Back on the subject of three-rider Nations Cup Jumping teams, Max says he’s a big advocate of the formula which will be used at this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. “Because we have to make our sport understood by the ordinary people, not just the specialists,” he says earnestly. “I sat for 30 years in press stands at Aachen and Rome and even there you have to watch and make calculations, and that shouldn’t be necessary.”

Reasoning

“I understand the reasoning of riders and Chefs because of course it’s nice to give young riders their first experience and share the responsibility more. But you could do that by having three riders in Superleague teams and allow the lower developing level teams to have four,” he says.

And what if the three-rider format produces strange results? “Well, that’s sport, and sport doesn’t produce justice; it produces winners!” he insists.

Max retired from the FEI in 2008 but he never sits still. As editor of L’Annee Hippique for 30 years, during which time he also produced “about 30” Media Guides and two books on the World Cup, he has continued writing and recently published an extensive history of the Swiss Equestrian Federation. As an art collector and art lover, he is involved in the work of the Foundation for Naive and Outsider Art in St Gallen, which supports lesser-known artists who are “not in the mainstream.”

Speaking about the philosophy behind his successful career, Max says it was built on engaging everyone in conversations, and on his belief that “you shouldn’t hide and you shouldn’t lie! When you make decisions, you have to stand over them and be prepared to explain why you made them.”

Max Ammann made a lot of good ones, and equestrian sport today owes him a great debt of gratitude.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

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

Brilliant Bengtsson Seals Swedish Victory at St Gallen

Rolf-Goran Bengtsson and Ermindo W. (FEI/Richard Juillart)

Sweden pipped Germany in a third-round showdown against the clock to win the opening leg of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2021 Division 1 series at St Gallen in Switzerland.

On a dramatic day of top sport in the Grundenmoos Arena where the tradition of wet weather conditions once again played its part, it came down to a face-off between Sweden’s Rolf-Goran Bengtsson and Germany’s Christian Kukuk. And super-cool Bengtsson sealed it with a brilliant run on his 12-year-old stallion Ermindo W.

From a starting field of 10 nations, only nine returned for the second round when the British opted to withdraw. And on a tough afternoon, when many of the teams finished with big scores, the closing stages turned into a cliff-hanger.

Testing track

Swiss course designers Gerard Lachat and Reto Ruflin set them a testing track on which nothing could be taken for granted. Looping turns and dog-leg distances had to be accurately ridden, and the triple combination at fence four claimed plenty of victims. The bending line from the vertical at seven to the triple-bar at eight and the following water-tray oxer at nine also saw plenty of action, while the penultimate double at fence 11 was highly influential, with the flimsy white plank on top of the vertical second element falling time and again.

Team Egypt sprang a surprise when tying for the lead with Germany going into the second round with just five faults on the board, while the Swiss were in third carrying eight and the Swedes were close behind with nine at the halfway point.

Brazil, Britain, Israel, The Netherlands, Mexico, and Italy were lying in that order as round two began, but the serious business of the day was played out between the leading four countries, and it went right down to the wire.

Out of contention

The Egyptians slipped out of contention when adding 20 faults despite very smart performances from Mohamed Talaat and his lovely stallion Darshan and just four in the second round for Friday’s Longines Grand Prix winner Nayel Nassar who brought out Darry Lou, the gelding originally competed by American star Beezie Madden.

The unrelenting rain led to several breaks in the competition to attend to the grass footing in the arena, but the horses coped well and the tension increased as Germany, Switzerland, and Sweden continued to slog it out.

Christian Kukuk and Mumbai matched their first-round score of eight, but German hopes were bolstered by a brilliant clear from Maurice Tebbel and Don Diarado. However, the troublesome water-tray oxer at nine hit for the floor for Andre Thieme and DSP Chakaria and when Philipp Weishaupt’s Asathir clipped the second element of the penultimate double then Germany had to add eight more to their scoreline for a total of 13.

That left them on level pegging with the Swedes who added just four, thanks to superb double-clears from both pathfinder Douglas Lindelow and Casquo Blue and anchor rider Malin Baryard-Johnsson with the feisty mare H&M Indiana. Both Evelina Tovek and Winnetou de la Hamente Z and Bengtsson and Ermindo had a pole down, but just one of those four-fault results had to be added when taking the best three scores into account.

Delight

Meanwhile, the Swiss crowd, small in numbers due to pandemic restrictions but full of voice for their home runners, screamed with delight when their hero and individual European champion Martin Fuchs returned a double-clear with his exciting gelding Leone Jei.

Luck played its part, however, the fabulous grey clearing the open water at fence five with another spectacular leap but creating heart-stopping moments along the way when hitting the back bar of the water-tray oxer at nine very hard, and also tapping the top of the plank at the second-last which had fallen so easily for many others.

When compatriot, Steve Guerdat, retired Venard de Cerisy after having two down, then the four faults collected by both Bryan Balsiger and Twentytwo des Biches and Beat Mandli with Dsarie had to be counted bringing their scoreline to 16. Assured of third place, the home team would now sit back and watch Germany and Sweden decide the final result.

Jump-Off

First into the third-round jump-off, Bengtsson didn’t flinch, setting off with a determined run that saw him take a risky right-hand turn to the vertical second-last and clearing the final Longines oxer in a fast 43.50 seconds. It was vintage stuff from the man whose career highlights include the individual European title in 2011, team and individual silver at separate Olympic Games and fourth individually at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games™ with brilliant horses like Ninja la Silla and Casall ASK. And the 12-year-old stallion Ermindo W certainly gave his all.

Germany’s Kukuk also set off with fire in his belly, but when Mumbai hit the third fence then he took his foot off the gas to complete the course with an additional time fault. Second place would have to be good enough for his country on.

The right man

Talking about the choice of Bengtsson for the jump-off, team-mate Douglas Lindelow said he was the right man for the job. “Rolf is very experienced and always very calm, and he performed splendidly and put plenty of pressure on Christian,” he said.

Swedish Chef d’Equipe, Henrik Ankarcrona, was thrilled with his team. “We have never won the Nations Cup here and my riders were fantastic today. The Organising Committee did a great job for the second round, taking the time to have a longer break to take care of the footing and it turned out very well.”

Meanwhile, the hosts were also very happy.

“My horse is still inexperienced at that level, but he showed all his potential today. Sometimes it is not easy to handle his temperament, but today we managed it,” said Martin Fuchs. “I rode him here two years ago in the young horses classes at St Gallen, so it’s special to come back and jump a double-clear in the Nations Cup with him today!” he added.

And it was a special day for Swiss team manager Michel Sorg too. “This was my first time as Chef d Equipe at a 5* show, and being at home made it even more special.

“We are so grateful that the sport could take place, and with some public it was even nicer and we are happy with our results this week. Next week we are going to La Baule and we will have Martin, Steve, Beat, and Elian Bauman as Elian was so good here in the Grand Prix,” he said.

However, they’ll have to face the Swedes again at the French fixture. And on current form, they’ll prove tough nuts to crack.

FULL RESULTS

By Louise Parkes

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