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Germany Makes Winning Twice as Nice at Falsterbo

Team Germany: Evelyn Eger / Tabledance 3, Helen Langehanenberg / Facilone FRH, Carina Scholz / Tarantino 5, Team trainer Johhny Hilberath (Photo ©FEI/Kim C Lundin)

It was a narrow race for the 2024 FEI Dressage Nations Cup™ title heading into the final leg at Falsterbo (SWE), with Germany and Denmark separated by just two points.

But when it came time for the CDIO4* FEI Grand Prix test at the Falsterbo Horse Show, Germany didn’t let the Danish get within 10 points of them. It was a convincing victory for the Germans on the day, which secured them a second consecutive series title.

Led by Chef d’Equipe Jonny Hilberath, the trio of Evelyn Eger (Tabledance 3), Helen Langehanenberg (Facilone FRH), and Carina Scholz (Tarantino 5) finished on a total score of 215.261. Denmark finished with a total score of 204.174, followed by The Netherlands (202.478).

“The result is very impressive. As a trainer and team captain, I’m very happy with the performance of my riders and of the horses, and for sure the results,” Hilberath said. “Everybody was riding in top form and with a lot of quality.”

Germany was the only team to have all three of its riders score above 70%, and in fact only one rider outside of Germany reached that threshold in the home nation’s Tinne Vilhelmson Silfven (SWE), whose 70.000% was not quite enough to push Sweden up the leaderboard from fifth.

“It wasn’t that easy [to select this team], because we had last week at Aachen (GER), and we are in preparation also for [the Olympic Games in] Paris,” Hilberath shared. “Carina has been here already, last year with the team, and I was trying to collect riders which I could feature more with younger or newer horses. For example, Helen is riding a new horse, and I thought it was a very good show for her to perform internationally.”

Langehanenberg and Facilone FRH finished the class on top with their 73.674% — a personal best for the combination. The 12-year-old was making just his second start at the FEI Grand Prix level.

“I was super happy. I’ve only been riding him since the beginning of this year, and we have not so many competitions together,” Langehanenberg shared. “I think the horse has a lot of potential for the future. There’s maybe no weak side, but we have to improve and grow together.

“The test today felt like a big step forward. I was super happy, even without seeing the results. It felt great and maybe the beginning of some nice shows together,” she said.

The youngest rider on the team, Eger also brought forward the youngest horse in 11-year-old Tabledance 3. The pair also recorded a personal best score in the Grand Prix with their 70.413%. Scholz, meanwhile, performed as strongly as ever with her 17-year-old partner Tarantino 5, who has successfully returned to top-level sport after sitting out nearly two years from international competition between July 2022 and April 2024.

“Carina had a very good ride. The horse is not a spring chicken anymore, and he’s very sensitive. He’s rather sharp, and she managed so well,” Hilberath said. “The horse was doing wonderful, and he had a break. It’s so nice to see the horse coming back better into the sport, and [Carina] is such a hard-working rider.”

The weather wasn’t ideal either, with significant rainfall impacting the event. The event schedule was moved forward as a result, but competition forged forward in inclement weather.

“We are very grateful that we had such good conditions for the weather. I think the performances of the riders and the horses have been very good today because of [the efforts of the staff at the show] and of the good footing,” Hilberath said.

Germany ultimately finished the Nations Cup series how they started it, having also won the opening leg at Wellington (USA) in February, with three different riders. The nation’s final point tally from the four events is 42. Denmark and Sweden also replicated their finishes from last season, finishing second (38 points) and third (33), respectively.

by Catie Staszak

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Rosalind Canter Reclaims Top Spot on the FEI Eventing World Athlete Rankings

Photo caption: Rosalind Canter and Lordships Graffalo at the FEI Eventing European Championship 2023 in Haras du Pin (FRA) – FEI/Libby Law

Nine months after losing the lead in the FEI Eventing World Athlete Rankings, Rosalind Canter (GBR) has reclaimed the number one position. She replaces Olympic gold medallist and compatriot Oliver Townend, who had held the top spot since October 2023.

Canter’s rise to the top is marked by her impressive ascent from third place last month. As the reigning European Champion, she stands out as the only athlete to surpass the 500-point mark, boasting 519 points. Townend follows in second place with 492 points, while fellow Brit Tom McEwen secures third with 454 points.

“I was quite shocked to hear I’m world number one, as it was something that wasn’t on my radar. It’s really exciting news, and I’m thrilled for my whole team because this is a joint effort. I’ve been really lucky to have some fantastic horses in my team,” Rosalind Canter said.

The latest FEI Eventing World Athlete Rankings also highlight other notable performances. Belgium’s Lara De Liedekerke-Meier has climbed ten places to fourth position with 406 points, thanks to her victory at the CCI5*-L in Luhmühlen (GER) with Hooney d’Arville. World Champion Yasmin Ingham (GBR) rounds out the top five with 389 points.

British athletes have dominated the rankings in recent months, occupying eight positions within the Top 10. However, their dominance has waned just weeks before the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Currently, five British athletes remain in the Top 10, with Wills Oakden (370 points) in seventh place.

Among the other top-ranked athletes, Boyd Martin (USA) holds sixth place, while New Zealand’s Jonelle and Tim Price occupy the eighth and ninth spots, respectively. Maxime Livio (FRA) completes the Top 10.

FULL RANKING HERE

FEI Contact:

Didier Montes Kienle
Manager, Sport Communications and Media Relations
didier.montes@fei.org

CAS Upholds FEI Tribunal Decision Imposing 10-Year Suspension for Horse Abuse Case

Following lengthy appeal proceedings, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has confirmed and upheld the FEI Tribunal’s decision in the case against Andrew Kocher delivered in June 2021, which saw the US Athlete suspended for 10 years for the use of electric spurs on several horses throughout a prolonged period of time.

Other sanctions in the FEI Tribunal decision rendered two years ago also included the disqualification of results from eight FEI events between June 2018 and November 2019 where evidence supported the athlete’s use of electric spurs on horses, alongside a CHF 10,000 fine and legal costs to the amount of CHF 7,500. Kocher appealed the said FEI Tribunal decision on 1 July 2021, seeking to eliminate or otherwise reduce the sanctions imposed.

The FEI Tribunal decision was the result of a lengthy investigation by the FEI, starting in June 2020 following allegations of electric spur use reported to the independent Equestrian Community Integrity Unit (ECIU). It was alleged that Kocher had used electric spurs on a number of FEI registered and national horses in international and national events, as well as during training.

Upon the conclusion of the investigation, the FEI formally opened disciplinary proceedings against Kocher in October 2020. During the proceeding before the FEI Tribunal, it was also discovered that Kocher instructed his employees to use the electric spurs on specific horses. For that purpose, Kocher provided to his employees several electric spurs devices which he manufactured himself.

In its decision, the CAS Panel reached the same conclusion as the FEI Tribunal, to the effect that a ten-year suspension was merited, during which Kocher is barred from participating in or attending, in any capacity, including as a spectator, any competition or event that is authorised or organised by the FEI or any National Federation. The provisional suspension served by Kocher since 28 October 2020 shall be credited against this period of suspension, which will therefore come to an end on 27 October 2030. The CHF 10,000 fine was also upheld, and Kocher is furthermore ordered to pay costs of CHF 7,500.

“We are extremely satisfied with this outcome and that the sanctions the FEI Tribunal imposed, to reflect the severity of the offenses committed by Mr Kocher, have been upheld by CAS,” said FEI Legal Director Mikael Rentsch.

“It may have taken two years to complete this process, but it confirms that we had the right decision to start with, and that there is no room for leniency when it comes to cases of horse abuse.

“We have rules and regulations in place to protect the integrity of our competitions and the wellbeing of our horses, and when these rules are breached and their welfare is jeopardised, we will continue to seek to impose maximum sentences.”

The full CAS decision is available here.

The FEI Tribunal Decision is available here.

Media contact:

Olivia Robinson
Director, FEI Communications
olivia.robinson@fei.org

FEI Issues Decision Regarding Eric Lamaze (CAN) Tampering Violation

The FEI has suspended Eric Lamaze (FEI ID 10000439) for a period of four years (12/09/2023 – 11/09/2027) following an anti-doping rule violation under the Anti-Doping Rules for Human Athletes ADRHA Article 2.5 (Tampering), due to the submission of fabricated medical documents during an ongoing CAS proceeding.

A summary statement has been published here explaining the FEI decision in relation to the tampering violation within the ongoing CAS proceeding. Therefore, because the CAS proceedings are still ongoing, the FEI will not be providing any further details at this moment.

Media contact:

Olivia Robinson
Director, FEI Communications
olivia.robinson@fei.org

Titles Shared between Nations at the FEI Driving World Championship for Young Horses

Fabrice Martin (FRA) & Idromel Noir – FEI/FFE/Mélanie Guillamot

Venturing outside Hungary for the first time since the event was established in 2016, the 7th FEI Driving World Championship for Young Horses was held at the superb equestrian centre Parc Equestre Fédéral at Lamotte-Beuvron, south of Orleans (FRA).  It has been a busy time for the French as the event followed the FEI World Pairs Championship in Haras-du-Pin in Normandy last weekend.

First to be crowned World Champion on a bright Sunday morning was Swiss singles supremo Mario Gandolfo in the 6-year-old class with the Franches-Montagnes Lemmy-K, owned by Lisby Bastin.  Maintaining the winning momentum he showed last year to win the 5-year-old title in Szilvásvárad (HUN), the powerful Swiss bred gelding was in front at each stage of the competition to end on 15.93. Mario is currently ranked number two in FEI Singles.  Runner-up was Lars Krüger (GER) with the German Sathu mare Salome on 14.80, and in third was Sabrina Melotti (NED) driving the KWPN mare Melotti Texel with 13.67.

The next class to find a new champion was for the youngest category, the 5-year-olds.  Fabrice Martin (FRA), driving for the host nation, also led at each stage with the stunning black Selle Français mare Idromel Noir, owned by the IFCE, and they topped the leaderboard with 15.30.  Matching his position from the previous class, runner-up once again was Lars Krüger with the Sathu stallion Valentino on 14.12.  Trading a first for third, Mario Gandolfo drove his own Franches-Montagnes gelding Johnson Du Signal to take the remaining podium place with 12.98.

Despite a slight delay to the start of Sunday’s competition due to water problems in the arena, by late lunchtime, the third title of the weekend had been awarded in the 7-year-old category to Marie Schiltz (LUX).  Currently ranked number three in FEI Singles, Marie was another to lead throughout the competition, driving her father Franz’s Oldenburg mare Freaky Friday 12 to end on 14.53, who impressed the judges with her supple and uphill movement.  Franz drove the mare two years ago in the 5-year-old category, but he is also a previous world title winner in the 7-year-old category, which he took at the first World Championship in 2016 with his Oldenburg stallion Frodo, who Marie now drives.

Placed second was Wilbrord Van Den Broek (NED) with his own KWPN gelding Love to Dance with a total of 12.46, marginally ahead of Agnes Paulovics (HUN) with Józef Vida’s KWPN stallion L-Grappa-WK on 12.31.  As well as appearing at the last two Young Horse World Championships, where he was third last year in the 6-year-old class, this versatile horse also drives in Józef’s Four-in-Hand, and with Agnes competes in Horse Singles classes.

The competition, like other championships, takes place over four days, after the initial ‘fit to compete’ inspection.  However, in all other areas the format is different.  On Thursday, athletes and horses enter a qualifying ‘Aptitude Test’ which combines a series of Dressage movements and a sequence of Cones. The top 50% proceed to the Dressage on Saturday, but on Friday, the lower 50% drive again to try again to gain a place in the final phases.  The number permitted to through after the second qualification is determined by the officials, but there is a maximum of ten athletes in the final rounds for each class.

Sunday’s Combined Marathon takes place in one arena and consists of two Marathon type obstacles plus Cones, but the course varies between the classes to alter the complexity depending on the age category, for example in the 5-year-old class, only one of the Marathon obstacles was used.  The course designer was Josef Middendorf, who also designed at the Four-in-Hand World Championships in Pratoni (ITA) last year.

The marking system is also different from most Driving competitions, which are penalty based, so the lowest overall score wins.  Here it is the highest score which wins and marks are awarded together by the four judges, who decide collaboratively what mark out of 10 will be given, which is then averaged to give a single mark at the end of each phase.  For the final placings, two marks count, which are from the Dressage and the Combined Marathon.  Penalties are deducted from the total and can be for a knocked ball, which is 0.3, or for time and other errors, such as a groom down.

“Having the judges sit together allows for really good discussion around the way of going expected from the age range.  The key point is this is judged around the performance of the horse, not a series of Dressage movements. It is refreshing to look at the horse according to age and have a good discussion between colleagues. It is also important to understand how we train horses correctly, giving them time to develop and mature. It’s such a special event, being able to look at some amazing horses and really getting into the movement, training scale, and minds of some wonderful equines,” said Andrew Counsell, President of the Ground Jury.

In total, 50 athletes and 50 horses came forward from 10 nations.  Athletes compete as individuals and there is no team competition.  Each athlete can enter two horses per age category.  Throughout the event, the emphasis is on the performance of the horse. Marks are given in accordance with the scales of training in the context of the age and stage of its development.

FULL RESULTS

by Sarah Dance

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Oliver Townend Soars to the Top of FEI Eventing World Athlete Rankings

Photo: Oliver Townend at the FEI Eventing World Championship 2022 in Pratoni del Vivaro (ITA). FEI – Massimo Argenziano

British equestrian athlete Oliver Townend has claimed the top spot in the FEI Eventing World Athlete Rankings with 504 points, a spot he takes from his fellow countrywoman, Rosalind Canter, who held the coveted position for just one month.

Townend’s ascent to the summit of the rankings comes as no surprise for the Olympic gold medalist, who previously held the world’s number one ranking over a year ago. He temporarily relinquished his position to New Zealand’s Tim Price, who enjoyed an 11-month reign before being surpassed by Canter.

“It is and always will be an honour to be at number one in your sport and it’s great to be back in that spot. The horses are incredible – they’re improving every day, have been so consistent, and will always be my ultimate teammates. I also want to thank the massive amount of people behind me that make this happen, including the team at both yards,” Townend explained.

Townend’s career has seen him hold the top position in the FEI Eventing World Athlete Rankings for a total of 50 months, with a streak of 37 consecutive months at number one.

Rosalind Canter now stands at second place with 467 points, while American athlete Martin Boyd has made a remarkable jump from eighth to third place with 436 points. Meanwhile, Tim Price (NZL) continues to slip in the rankings, currently occupying the fourth spot with 434 points, closely followed by Tom McEwen (GBR) in fifth place with 431 points.

Great Britain’s stronghold in the top end of the Rankings is unequivocal, with three out of the top five in British hands; they also have back up and can count on Harry Meade (408 points), David Doel (393 points), William Oakden (383 points), and Laura Collet (371 points) in 6th to 9th respectively, making that a total of seven British athletes within the Top 10 rankings. Coming in tenth place is USA athlete Philipp Dutton with 367 points.

FULL RANKING HERE

FEI Contact:

Didier Montes Kienle
Manager, Sport Communications and Media Relations
didier.montes@fei.org

British Are Best on Opening Day

Robert Whitaker and Vermento. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

Team Great Britain got off to a flying start when topping the first round of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final 2023 at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, Spain with the only zero scoreline of the afternoon.

Foot-perfect runs from pathfinder Tim Gredley (Medoc de Toxandria), Robert Whitaker (Vermento), and anchorman Harry Charles (Aralyn Blue) meant that the 12 faults collected by Lily Attwood (Cor-Leon VD Vlierbeek Z) would be their discard. They finished a full fence ahead of Brazil, Germany, and Switzerland, who filled second, third, and fourth places with four faults apiece and separated only by their combined times.

The top eight nations have qualified for Sunday’s title-decider in which they will all start again on a clean sheet, and the remaining countries that have made the cut are the defending champions from Belgium and Team USA, who each posted eight-fault results, and Ireland and France who finished with 12.

Team Mexico just missed out when also putting 12 on the board but in a slower time, and on Saturday night they will once again defend the Challenge Cup trophy they won so memorably 12 months ago.

Meanwhile, the battle for the single qualifying spot on offer for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games has been whittled down to a two-way contest between Brazil and the USA, because the other contenders from Mexico, Argentina, Italy, and Australia didn’t make it to Sunday’s second round, which already looks set to be another cracking contest.

Think about

Spanish course designer Santiago Varela gave them lots to think about with a 14-fence track with plenty of height and curving lines that tested power and accuracy. The vertical with a yellow plank on top at fence nine and the penultimate double of verticals were the bogeys of the day.

Harry Charles clinched top spot for the British with a superb clear with the 12-year-old mare Aralyn Blue. Talking about the challenges of the course, he said fence nine, which followed the beefy Longines triple combination, “was on an unusual line and angle; you were coming straight out of the corner. You could see at the start of the class the horses weren’t jumping it well. I just made sure to give myself a bit more room there.

“Coming to the double of verticals (fence 13) it was either five or six (strides) and on the six you take away a bit of the power, slowing down so much to jump it. For me it was a waiting five and my mare was able to have a bit of room and kept the power, so not too many problems there for me,” he explained.

Like all the British, he was delighted with the result. “I’m really proud of us today actually!” he said. “My horse is pretty new at this level; she’s only done one Nations Cup prior to this, and it was a tough enough course, not overly big but delicate with some fun lines in there! The other guys did a good job; there were two clears already (for the British team) so I luckily could go in and do the clear.”

When asked if he felt under pressure, he replied, “Today probably wasn’t the most pressure I’ve ridden under, but we wanted to be in there on Sunday, so there was that to it.” He admitted that the result for his team was a bit of a surprise. “Probably an unexpected result if you told us at the start of the day, but we’ll take it and hopefully we can do something similar on Sunday!

“We will go back to a blank slate unfortunately (in Sunday’s final round), it would be nice if we carried it through, but it’s been really good and hopefully we will be in good enough nick for Sunday,” he added.

Anticipation

There’s a lot of anticipation of a great final day. The Swiss have never won the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ title, but their fourth-place finish gives them another opportunity to clinch it. However, it hasn’t been plain sailing ahead of this year’s event.

“We’ve always been a bit unlucky with this Final, and this year the horse from Edouard is injured and Bryan (Balsiger) lost his horses and the horse of Pius (Schwizer) was injured, so we don’t have our ‘A’ team. But still our horses jumped good today and we’ll see if Elian (Baumann) goes on Sunday. We won’t be the favourites on Sunday, but we’ll try!” said Steve Guerdat who, just a few short weeks ago, added the individual European title to the Olympic gold he won back in 2012.

“We’ve had a very good year and it would be a great way to finish, and for the horses to finish as well. My horse (Venard de Cerisy) didn’t have a rail down in the whole Nations Cup season – St Gallen double-clear, Aachen double-clear, Dublin double-clear, and now clear today, so I hope I can do a clear again! We are here, we will try, the sport is great, and we are looking forward to Sunday now!” said the man who sits third in the current world rankings.

Focus

In contrast, the focus for Brazil is fully on that Olympic qualification and the battle against the USA. Pathfinder Marlon Modolo Zanotell and Grand Slam VDL produced a perfect clear and team veteran, Rodrigo Pessoa, did likewise. Pessoa has won Olympic and World titles and is as hungry as ever to help take his country to Paris next summer. His top ride, the 10-year-old gelding Major Tom, made nothing of the course.

“It’s a freak of a horse – the intelligence, the ability to jump, the whole package. He’s very straightforward and has a lot of blood, a lot of temperament, but at the end he wants to jump clear; that’s all he wants to do,” Pessoa said.

When asked about the recent addition of former Portuguese rider Diniz to the Brazilian side, he said she is a real asset. “Yes, she’s super-experienced and her horse is really good and it’s always good to have one more – the more soldiers the better!”

As for Sunday, “It’s just about us, the USA!” he said. “They are a big nation with a very strong team as well. Today was just a warm-up and we have to go again. I think it went well today; the two mistakes that we had (a fence down each for Stephan de Freitas Barcha and Chevaux Primavera Imperio Egipcio and Luciana Diniz with Vertigo du Desert) were silly mistakes that I think we can get rid of, but better to do those little ones today than on Sunday!”

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

press@fei.org
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High Excitement in the Final Day of Para Dressage Team Competition

Charlotte Cundall (GBR) riding FJ Veyron in the team test Grade V © FEI/Leanjo de Koster

Sweden Qualifies for Paris

The excitement for the team rankings has been high at the FEI Para Dressage European Championships in Riesenbeck. Not only were the evident glory of team medals at stake, but for one team, a good result meant a nation spot for the Paralympic Games in Paris next year.

As the top placed team not already qualified for the Games would earn that spot, the stakes were high for countries such as Ireland, Austria, and Sweden. The last Austrian rider Bernd Brugger was also the last rider of the day, so tension was drawn out to the very end. It was therefore a happy and relieved Swedish team that found themselves in possession of a nation’s qualification for Paris 2024.

Mette Ubbesen, Swedish team trainer, says: “I am so excited! I think the riders have been doing a great job. For the last 10 months I have worked with them, they have just been getting better and better and they have worked so hard. Our plan for these championships was to qualify the team for Paris, but we didn’t quite believe in it. But we actually succeeded!”

The Netherlands takes Team Gold once again

The defending European Championship team from 2019 in Rotterdam has just reclaimed their title here at the FEI Para Dressage European Championships in Riesenbeck. For a long time, it looked like it could be German gold, but then the European championship debutant Demi Haerkens (Grade IV) and her super mare EHL Daula entered the arena. The pair absolutely smashed it in the Grand Prix B and were rewarded with outstanding 79.730%.

Not only did they have the highest score of the day, but more importantly, they put the Netherlands in gold position. Before her, Frank Hosmar (Grade V) riding Alphaville N.O.P. and Lotte Krijnsen (Grade III) on Rosenstolz N.O.P. had laid a strong fundament for the gold. Finally, Sanne Voets (Grade IV) and Demantur RS2 N.O.P. sealed the deal and brought the team score up to an impressive 232.637%.

In the end, the German team consisting of Heidemarie Dresing (Grade II) on Horse24 Dooloop, Melanie Wienand (III) on Lemony’s Loverboy, Martina Benzinger (Grade I) on Nautika, and Regine Mispelkamp (Grade V) on Highlander Delight’s took the silver medal with a total score of 226.979%.

On bronze, we have the super ladies from Great Britain, Georgia Wilson (Grade II) riding Sakura, Gabby Blake (Grade I) on Strong Beau, Charlotte Cundall (Grade V) on FJ Veyron, and Sophie Wells (Grade V) on LJT Egebjerggards Samoa finishing with a total score of 222.663%.

National trainer for the Netherlands, Joyce Heuitink, speaking after the final result: “I am incredibly happy, and I am more than proud. I think from most of them, it was a pure masterclass! It gave me goosebumps and tears during the test already, because it was so nice and effortless and beautiful and mistake-free. I have riders that perform under pressure and they have to show it every show, which is never a guarantee, but once again they have proven that they can perform under pressure, which also makes me extremely proud that you can rely on such good riding.”

Find out more HERE.

by Stinne Tange

press@fei.org
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Great Britain Takes the Lead on Opening Day at Riesenbeck

Carl Hester and Fame. (FEI/Leanjo de Koster)

Great Britain took the early lead in the team standings on the opening day of the FEI Dressage European Championship 2023 in Riesenbeck, Germany.

A breathtaking Grand Prix performance from 56-year-old veteran Carl Hester with his relatively new ride, the 13-year-old gelding Fame, earned 78.540 for the biggest score of the day, giving his country a narrow advantage over Germany in second place, while Denmark slotted into third.

Austria and Spain, both fighting for one of the three team spots on offer for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, are in overnight fourth and fifth places. France and The Netherlands share that fifth place with the Spanish after all three sides finished on exactly the same scoreline.

The team medals are decided over two days, so another 33 horse-and-rider combinations will compete in the Grand Prix tomorrow before the podium places are confirmed.

Strong target

Mathias Alexander Rath set the first strong target when putting 74.845 on the board with the stallion Thiago GS. “He felt really fresh yesterday at the vet-check; you could see he had a lot of energy and a lot of power. Today I was super-happy how he behaved in the arena; you have to remember that he’s just ten years old and still developing and still at the beginning of his career,” the German team pathfinder pointed out.

Daniel Bachmann Andersen and the 12-year-old stallion Vayron then put Denmark on the map when slotting in behind the German pair on a score of 74.146, despite losing a shoe in the corner of the arena at the end of the final extended trot.

“Going down the centreline he was fine, but then I went outside and I felt he wasn’t lame, but he felt different. The shoe came clear off and the hoof is perfect, so we just have to get it back on!” he said afterwards.

He described Vayron as “a very green horse; he’s in his very first Grand Prix season – I think this was his eighth Grand Prix in his life.” He said he’s been riding the horse for just over a year, “and we’ve grown together; we had to find each other. He was educated by a top rider (Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg), but with a complete other length of body and body strength, so I had to get to know him and we had to do some things differently. And I had to give him some show experience, as he hasn’t been going to many shows,” the tall Dane explained.

Then Gareth Hughes got even closer to Rath’s score with a lovely performance from the mare Classic Briolinca. After putting 74.565 on the board, the British rider said, “I’m over the moon with her. I thought it was one of the best tests she’s done! Very clean, no real mistakes; I was slightly disappointed with the mark but so happy with the mare.” The horse has been a much-loved member of the Hughes family since she was three years of age.

“She’s 17 now and has done several championships and she’s been amazing for me and amazing for the team,” he added.

Leaderboard

As the first day was drawing to a close, the legend that is Isabell Werth produced a new leading score of 77.174 from DSP Qantaz. “I think it was his best competition this year! He was more relaxed and not fighting; it was easy-going, so that was really nice to feel.”

The 13-year-old gelding competed in the FEI Dressage World Cup™ series over the winter months to give him more experience, “and I think that was quite helpful. And then we had a little break… and the next was Aachen,” she explained.

She is really enjoying the facilities at Riesenbeck. “The venue is very super; it’s so professional in the infrastructure, so great, especially now in this temperature and with this weather. When the horses are in the stables, it is cool and the air is fresh, so the conditions are perfect.” It has been extremely hot all week, with temperatures reaching over 30 degrees C.

Werth was followed into the ring by Andreas Helgstrand and the extravagant young stallion Jovian who slotted into fifth behind Hughes and pushed Bachmann Andersen down to sixth when posting 74.410.

The Danish pair was late into the warm-up arena because Jovian lost a shoe, but neither horse nor rider lost their cool.

“He’s a horse you need a big driving licence for!” Helgstrand said. Jovian was very full of himself this morning, so he took him for a walk.

“My strategy was to get him to calm down so I could show that walk (in the test) and the walk was there. I couldn’t make it as good as I wanted in piaffe and passage, but at the end of the day I’m happy. He’s a dream horse, and in one more year he will be very, very nice!” he added.

Master-class

Third-last to go, Carl Hester then put Great Britain out in front with a master-class in the art of horsemanship. “If I never did another test again, it would be a lovely one to finish on!” said the six-time Olympian, after putting 78.540 on the board with Fame for the biggest score of the opening day, and with a test that had the crowd roaring in appreciation as the pair moved into their final halt.

“I absolutely love this horse. I worship riding him. I look forward to riding him every day!” he said of the 13-year-old gelding that was formerly competed by team-mate Fiona Bigwood, but who was offered to Hester at the end of last year due to her busy life full of family commitments. “She always said this one’s for you when she was riding him, and she was right; it was love at first ride!” Hester said.

He described Fame as “very spicy and hot” and “a full-time job. It’s not just a case of get on him. He’s in the field all day, he’s a stallion, he goes out all day in his paddock, and you have to manage him so he relaxes.

“He’s the kind of horse I love, a bit quirky and hot but wonderful and kind. You need someone who has time to ride a horse like that… he wants to go, but he’s the kindest person in the stable and with children and other horses… there’s not been a morning since January when I haven’t thought I can’t wait to get on him!” he said.

Stands tallest

Meanwhile, in the race for Olympic qualification, it is Team Austria that stands tallest, their top score of 71.724 from Florian Bacher and Fidertraum OLD giving them the edge over the Spanish who also posted two 70 percent scores, the best of which came from Alejandro Sánchez del Barco with the charming PRE stallion Quincallo de Indalo, who earned a mark of 71.584.

It will be quite something if Austria can succeed in taking one of the Olympic slots in Dressage this week, just days after their Jumping team earned their ticket to Paris next year against all the odds at the FEI Jumping European Championship 2023 in Milan (ITA).

Florian Bacher believes they can do it. “It’s looking quite good!” he said after his impressive ride with the 14-year-old Fidertraum, who is competing in his fifth championship.

Startlists and Results here.

by Louise Parkes

press@fei.org
www.fei.org

It’s Individual Gold for Super-Swiss Guerdat and His Special Mare Dynamix

Steve Guerdat and Dynamix de Belheme. (FEI/Leanjo de Koster)

Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat has ridden many great horses during his sparkling career, but after winning individual gold at the FEI Jumping European Championship 2023 in Milan (ITA), he said his mare, Dynamix de Belheme, is simply the best.

With a flawless run over four days of tough competition, as Italian course designer Uliano Vezzani tested Europe’s best riders as only he can, the 41-year-old rider and his 10-year-old mare were the only combination to finish the week without fault from the field of 85, who started out in the quest for European glory last Wednesday.

Germany’s Philipp Weishaupt claimed silver with the exciting nine-year-old Zineday, while Julien Epaillard and the 10-year-old Dubai du Cedre finished in bronze medal spot for France.

“I’ve been very, very lucky, even blessed, since the beginning of my career. I’m for sure no better rider that this guy that sits beside me (Weishaupt), but he didn’t always have the same luck with his horses at a championship as I had. So for me to say that this is the best horse I’ve ever had – it takes a lot!” Guerdat said.

In the balance

The final day more than lived up to expectations, with the result hanging in the balance until the very last fence was jumped.

One pole down from Guerdat in the second round and Weishaupt would have overtaken the 2012 Olympic champion for the coveted title. But once the Swiss star overtook team gold medallists Jens Fredricson and Markan Cosmopolit for the lead, when the Swedish pair faulted in the first of the two rounds to drop to fifth in the final analysis, Guerdat had the look of a man who wasn’t going to let anything get in his way.

As he rode into the ring, last to go in the second and last round, he was holding the lead, but with Weishaupt snapping at his heels and Epaillard just a whisper further behind, so he needed to muster all the experience he has gathered down the years. With the horse of his dreams under him, he calmly brought home the gold that has only been held in Swiss hands twice before, by Willi Melliger partnering Quinta in Gijon (ESP) in 1993 and by Martin Fuchs and Clooney in Rotterdam (NED) in 2019.

He’s now making no secret of the fact that his next big target with his mare is the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

So cool

When asked how he managed to keep so cool under pressure, he said he just tried to make that final round like any other.

“I didn’t do anything different because it’s my job to go clear every week, every Sunday, every championship, every day this week. My mare was in great form, so I just try to keep her fresh, because it’s her first championship and she was a little bit tired today after the first round, so I tried to save the jumps, just do five or six jumps before the last round and try to stay focused on what I have to do and I knew she wouldn’t let me down.

“She’s a very, very special horse, so I just try to focus on my job so she can express herself at her best, and that’s what she did and I’m delighted with her and the result!” he said.

It is clear he has thought the world of Dynamix for a very long time. “I have had so many special horses throughout my career, but I didn’t want to put pressure on her by telling everybody I have a new superstar, but we knew it, or we hoped for it. And we were just trying to let her develop the way she had to develop.

“Basically, she has all the qualities that all my superstars have had, and she has it all in the one horse, and that’s why she’s very, very special!

“I don’t want to rush things. I just listen to her and what she wants to do. She only did her first 5-Star a year ago,” he pointed out.

When Dynamix gets home to Switzerland, she’ll get a nice surprise. “Up to today, she still wasn’t allowed to have her own big picture in my indoor; there are a lot of very special horses in there. We have a lot of amazing pictures of Dynamix, and I’ve had a bit of a fight with my wife because she thinks she should already be up there. But today she did something great, so her picture will be up there tomorrow!” he said.

Careful

Weishaupt said he has also been careful not to pressurise his young horse either. “It wasn’t in my plan at the beginning of the year to come here, because Zineday is only nine years old, a year younger than Steve’s horse – quality-wise not far away, these two horses – but I need to listen to him to know how he is and go step-by-step, show-by-show. I also tried to keep him a bit in the background and make sure not too many people ask me how good he is.

“But after Aachen (where the pair finished third in the Grand Prix) there was no more chance to hide it – even blind ones could see how good he is by then! He did it so easy in Aachen, so I took him to a show in Riesenbeck and he came back very strong. So I thought OK, he’s only nine but he’s ready for the championship and he will learn and get experience during those five days. I went day-by-day this week; I didn’t have any expectation. I know the horse is super, but I need to ride well and keep him calm,” he explained.

It worked out really nicely. “The first day Speed class, he did a very good round. The first round of the Nations Cup was really good; unfortunately, I made a stupid mistake on the team final day. Then I go for the final – he was super-fresh yesterday, which was a bit surprising.

“And today I did two rounds and he jumped fantastic, and I’m more than delighted with the result. At the end Steve was the only one jumping all days clear, and I wasn’t!”

Fantastic week

Epaillard said he had a fantastic week with Dubai du Cedre. He also jumped double-clear to move up from overnight fourth into that bronze medal position. It was Great Britain’s Ben Maher who finished just off the podium in fourth place with Faltic HB at the end of the day.

“My mare is only 10 years old, and it was my first championship with her, and she doesn’t have that much experience. She had two down during the week, both my fault because I don’t know her well enough,” Epaillard explained. He has been riding her since last November.

“The course designer created a fantastic show this week,” he continued. “I think Uliano did a very nice job. Every day there were very technical rounds; today, the final was perfect, I think. The first round very strong and difficult, the second a little bit easier, but with the pressure, everyone, including the horses, were a little bit tired.”

There was no sign of tiredness when the medallists rode their victory lap to bring a truly thrilling week of sport to a close, with Guerdat adding individual gold to the European team gold medals he won in 2009 and 2021.

“I have the horse that everyone is looking for,” he said, “so we do our best for her and bring her in the best of form for Paris! This has been a great week!”

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

press@fei.org
www.fei.org