Judges for today were
- E Mary Seefried of Australia
- H Ghislain Fouarge of Netherlands
- C Dr Dieter Schule of Germany
- M Dr Wojciech Markowski of Poland
- B Stephen Clarke of Great Britain
Due to the ruling that only three competitors from each nation may compete. Laurens van Lieren is the fourth qualifier for the Dutch team, therefore she loses a ride in the Kur, this allows Emma Hindle to take part for Great Britain. The fourth team member for Germany, Hubertus Schmidt was also denied a start under this rule and Swiss rider Christian Plage was moved up to take a place in the all fun event of the Dressage Championship.
This audience really now their dressage. Aachen audience is known as the most appreciative in the world and they are living up to the expectation. They are so enthusiastic and clap every horse out of the arena, the atmosphere is quite electric and it feels more like a football game than a dressage competition. The horses are very good to cope with this atmosphere, when they come out of the arena their eyes are wide open and they look amazed at the environment. The standing room area is like a cattle crush, I overheard some Australians saying it is awful in there, they push and shove and are very rude to other people. Luckily Mel had seats in the stadium.
Emma Hindle for Great Britain and Lancet. scored 69.900% for her 'bubble and squeak' music - it did nothing for me and the themes were confused and did not flow to music or patterns. Technically there were weaknesses and the horse had kick ups in the piaffe work. Freestyle music is a difficult decision for the rider as they must choose an interesting accompaniment for their test and yet the music must be popular and to suit the wide variety of tastes of judges from all over the world and from very different age groups.
Edward Gal and Group 4 Securicor Lingh by Flemmingh for the Netherlands. Felt like we were in a rave at Berlin not the WEG at Aachen, waiting for the strobe lights to start flashing to the modern sounds of 'techno music'. The beat was excellent for extensions, and Edward paid attention to set the horse up for every movement. The walk music was fitting for the pace but kept on the techno theme. This was a subtle and clever choice and may well have been lost on some. Good techno music has changes of rhythm, and includes peaks and troughs which make it an ideal choice for dressage for those who have the courage to present it to the older judges - or do it well enough that the music does not matter. I felt that Edward fitted into the latter category, for sure. The test was very well prepared and it was clear that Edward knew every note in his music and rode to the beats very well. Lingh's extended canter to 1 ½ pirouettes made a good impression, but mistakes in the one times change would have been costly. Passage better than piaffe. They scored 74.850%
For the USA, the elegant Bavarian gelding Aragorn and Guenter Seidel. The test was ridden to the themes of Evita – Don’t Cry for me Argentina and his Kűr kept to this music, changing the mix and rhythm to fit in with the pace and enhance the colour of his performance - very clever. Aragorn really sits and carries weight with his hind legs in the piaffe which is light and expressive. Guenter included double canter pirouettes which do not fulfil any aspect of the technical requirements but they are considered in the artistic mark and add to the degree of difficulty. The right pirouette tended more to a rotation on his axis rather than a correct and centred pirouette which shows the horse's ability to sit and carry. Light and entertaining music for a score of 72.900%.
Kyra Kyrklund riding for Finland on the 11yo Swedish gelding Max - son of Master 850. An entertaining vaudeville flavour of tunes and themes from Cabaret which was a very fitting choice for a WEG in Germany. I found this performance really entertaining and loved the way the music punctuated the steps and smoothed over the little technical flaws in the performance. Kyra's walk music was very good and well suited to the pace. Excellent preparation for the pirouette and Kyra's skills was demonstrated as she rode pirouette to pirouette. In the piaffe Max gets too deep and under himself and then finds it a little difficult to get out. Kyra always stops outside the arena and gives her horses sugar to say "thankyou for trying your best for me". 77.300%.
Christian Plage for Switzerland and Regent. Christian always halts and salutes very slowly as if to say ‘I can train my horse to stop’. He entered in passage to New York, New York and this fantastic music makes the statement he would have hoped for. The trot half pass lacks the flow of some. The music chops and changes too frequently and I found it difficult to get into and very distracting. Double pirouettes have been the theme of the night. Regent's two times changes are clean but lack expression. The accompaniment for the canter started out matching the one time changes beautifully, then the horse lost rhythm and the music highlighted the loss of harmony. It was Interesting to see the affect that this can have on the perception of perfect timing. The piaffe is modest a little stuck. Faltering steps in the extended trot are always penalised and a kick up in paiffe will also lose marks on the technical side of the test. To finish the test, Christian made a statement with an impressive extended trot up the centre line for a score of 71.100%.
A great test from Vincent, the 14yo chestnut Hanoverian stallion by Weltmeyer and Spanish born Bernadette Pujals, who rides as an individual for Mexico. This freestyle ride is another outstanding result for this combination over the course of this competition - it seems that they 'peaked' at just the right time. Vincent is a stunning horse and if I were asked to find one fault, it would be the action of his front legs in the piaffe and passage. These movements lack elevation and the front legs tend to hang loose, with little lift in the knee. The one times changes performed on a half circle and completely in time to the music were a highlight of the test. At times this combination got a little bit behind the music and I felt that the horse rushed to halt. 75.000%. This is the combination that everyone is talking about, the little Mexican woman on the big chestnut stallion, such a nice combination and for me a new face to watch out for as I am sure Bernadette will have some podium finishes in the near future.
Heike Kemmer for Germany riding her own 13yo Hanoverian gelding Bonaparte by Bon Bonaparte. Now this lady produced a polished test and it was very obvious that she knew her music and her work. Bonaparte is so light and expressive, and such a pleasure to watch. It is time for her to get the recognition that she deserves when the Any and Isabelle factor are taken out of the equation. A nice sixties medley, Entered to ‘Monday Monday’ and flowed on to ‘Good Vibrations’, ‘Sleep in the Subway’, and a beautiful extended walk to ‘He Aint Heavy’ . Passage and Piaffe to ‘Puppet on a String’. ‘Those Were the Days’ excellent music for changes. Extended canter up centre line. Fantastic. 78.850%
Imke Schellekens-Bartels and the 12yo Dutch-bred Hanoverian mare Sunrise for the Netherlands. A mix of classical and more modern music that did not really do it for me. I felt that the choice detracted from the performance of this beautiful mare and was not always suited to the movements. There were mistake in changes and the loss of balance in the extended trot will be costly at this level. 76.400% It is important to realise, that music to dressage is as personal as a choice of dance styles - it is a matter of personal preference and the judges may not have had exactly the same opinion as me.
For Switzerland, Silvia Ikle riding the 12yo Swiss gelding Salieri CH by Sinclair, The music seemed well mixed with suitable choice to enhance the performance. This combination produced great passage and piaffe sequences, however, the final piaffe pirouette was difficult to pull off and the music finished early leaving Silvia riding to no accompaniment. Sitting on the side lines the solution seemed simple – had she simply piaffed on the spot until the music stopped it would have given a much better impression. They received a score of 74.750% so the judges thought there was a lot to like.
Jan Brink and the stallion Bjorsells Briar 899 (by Magini) riding for Sweden. Tonight Briar looked very tight in the hindquarters, especially in the canter. The extended trot looks very busy with his front legs but the movement doesn’t seem develop the energy that this amount of movement should deliver. The canter improved and the extended canter is big and ground covering. 75.800% It was a good performance, but in this company it needs to be excellent.
Andreas Helgstrand riding Blue Hors Matine, a 9yo Danish mare by Blue Hors Silver Moon. This mare is surely the horse of WEG 2006 and without a doubt, a crowd favourite which is quite an achievement considering the huge patriotic Germans audience. But this crowd knows dressage and appreciates a good horse - particularly a 9 yo which a huge future ahead. Rumours floating around the Games are that the mare has been sold for millions of euros, but Andreas keeps the ride on her, I guess we will have to wait and see if it is just speculation or truth. It might be just rumour, but we all like to dream of having such a beautiful mare - a horse that the whole world has come to love. Matine's dam is by the great stallion Matador - who partnered Kyra Kyrklund to some unforgettable performances - and who could forget their 1992 World Cup win in Paris - it was 'goose bump' material.
A modern medley is the choice for Andreas and he enters to Grace Jones ‘Slave to the Rhythm’ then into ‘Blue Jeans’ for walk to 'Hello' by Lionel Ritchie and 'Lady Marmalade' for passage……….. enough to put the cast of Moulin Rouge to shame. This mare can passage and boy does Andreas show us how to do it. The only pity is that Matine swishes her tail – but she looks like she could passage all day. As her foot steps into the final halt the crowd go absolutely wild. Andreas throws his arms around the beautiful grey mare's neck and the cheers lift the stadium. What a horse, what a crowd – what a show. 81.500% and into first position. A great achievement for a rider who commenced International dressage competition only two years ago.
The third German to ride today is Isabelle Werth on her 'second string' gelding Satchmo by Sao Paolo. It is not a good start, as the horse steps out of the halt. 'Rule Brittania' seems to be a popular choice tonight. Isabelle included the well known piece into her musical repertoire - ironically so did her gold medal rival Anky.
Satchmo gets very deep with his head and neck in passage and piaffe. He gets strong and anticipates some movements, especially extensions at trot and canter. The horse showed some nice moments and the expert riding and preparation by one of the world's best, ensures that the high scoring movements are done well. It is a very good result 80.750%. But now that the score is revealed, the best she can hope for a is the silver medal.
Anky van Grunsven for the Netherlands and Keltec Salinero, a 12yo gelding by Salieri. A polished performance if ever there was one. The music was perfect for the choreography and it further confirms the strength in the partnership with the musical genius of Viktor Kerhof and Cees Slings - the men behind Anky's music for well over a decade. If you have not seen the DVD chase it up it is excellent. The canter music was in perfect rhythm with the changes and it would be hard to find fault with this inspiring performance. The marks go up 86.100% - the crowd goes wild. Anky managed something of a halt to end her test although there was a hint of piaffe mingled in it. It was obvious that the test was of such good quality that the judges were prepared to overlook this and Anky runs away with the lead.
The final competitor for the Germany is local rider and Dressage Consultant to the WEG Committee Nadine Capellmann, riding her own 10yo chestnut Hanoverian gelding Elvis VA by Espri. Nadine is the reigning World Champion and won the title in Jerez 2002 on the fantastic moving Farbenfroh. The crowd love their local girl, but their ride was disappointing. The music was Elvis Presley, surprise surprise! However, it became repetitive and it might have been better without the words. Return to Sender, Now or Never, Are you Lonesome tonight were the numbers chosen, and there was far too much Return to Sender. From a technical viewpoint, Elvis showed nice passage but a modest piaffe, The flying changes were hurried and this did not allow the expression to develop. The horse did not always look soft in the hand and Nadine appeared to be against her horse at times. It is probably fair to add that much of this could have been due to the downpour that 'rained on her parade' and most horses would have found the heavy rain distracting ... but this is the World Championships and these combinations have to take a professional approach and just do it. A score of 79.000% and the crowd boos at the judges. Could you imagine the crowd booing the judges in Australia, there would be a Royal Commission Enquiry if they did!
Steffen Peters for the USA and the 16yo gelding Floriano by Florestan. Another modern medley including Fleetwood Mac, which makes very easy listening. But this was another test that seemed to chop and change which made it difficult to get with the flow of the performance,. The technical work was of good quality and this horse has a great walk. However, for me, the artistic expression was the weak link. 78.600%
This is the hardest test to write about as so much of the freestyle depends on personal preferences. Every test would have had fans and I hope that you find my observations interesting even if you do not agree.
The final placings are
- Anky van Grunsven and Salinero for Netherlands – Gold Medal
- Andreas Helgstrand and Blue Horse Matine for Denmark take the Silver Medal
- Isabelle Werth and Satchmo for Germany - Bronze Medal.