Hong Kong Wednesday 13th August. Team Dressage Day 1
It is very exciting for us to be here in Hong Kong to enjoy the best Dressage horses in the world in a city that has opened its heart to staging this very special competition. The backdrop of tall buildings and mountains is quite surreal and I doubt that dressage has ever had this contrast of scenery to give the sport a 'new-age' zest!
Dressage Arena View
The first day of the Grand Prix Dressage competition was an evening event and commenced at 7.15. This is the hottest part of the year in Hong Kong and the daily temperatures are anything between 28 and 35 degrees. It is the very high humidity that is the big factor to the welfare and recovery of horses and riders and most people have felt the heat and feel exhausted.
As mentioned in our Eventing report for cross country day, Dr Leo Jeffcott has worked for almost 3 years developing strategies and procedures to ensure that the problems of welfare and recovery are under control for the horses taking part at these Olympics. I understand that the weather in Beijing is very similar, but this was the time decided to hold the Olympic Games as the Chinese believe that the number 8 is the lucky one and so this is what determined that the Chinese Olympic Games would commence on the 8th of the 8th of the 8th. The success of the event thus far, would suggest that there is a little more to this superstition than perhaps most westerners had imagined!
The dressage judges have been drawn from the most experienced and respected "O" level representatives from around the world and at C (and also President of the Ground Jury) is Ghislain Gourage from The Netherlands. At E is Dr. Barnabas Mandi, who has visited Australia on several occasions. Sitting at the H box is Leif Tornblad from Denmark. He too has been to Australia and has judged the Sydney CDI. Lief is the husband of Ann-Grethe who stole the hearts of all dressage fans when she partnered the wonderful horse Marzog in the mid 80's. At M is Gotthilf Reixinger from Germany - another judge that has been down under and at B was Gary Rockwell from the USA. Perhaps he will visit us soon!
The first leg of the team dressage gets off to a good start with a wonderful test by the Dutch rider Hans Peter Minderhoud riding Nadine, the elegant liver chestnut, Dutch bred mare by Partout, a stallion formerly ridden by Anky. It is a super test and high hopes for the Dutch team are riding on this performance. They have the strength of Anky van Grunsven and Salinero, the reigning Olympic and World Champions standing behind the team performance, but the Dutch would love to come out on top of the Germans in this sport which has been so dominated by the latter. Hans rode really well and perhaps the only comment could be that at times Nadine became a little tight in the neck, but there were no real errors and a score of ..... kept them in the lead for quite a while.
Dutch rider Hans Peter Minderhoud riding Nadine
Next to go was Galopin De La Font and Daniel Pinto for Portugal and this powerfully built Lusitano stallion by Espanto. This horse showed great willingness and loads of ability in the carrying work and the extended paces lacked the reach and suppleness. The unbalanced steps in the passage and piaffe created a swaying action and this was quite costly ... but many of the horses struggled in this part of the test. This horse seemed to be looking at something in the stand and affected his concentration and attention to the rider's aids. Even though, it was a nice test and Daniel finished on a score of ...
Daniel Pinto for Portugal riding Galopin De La Font
Samba was the third horse out and he was ridden by Luiza Almeida from Brazil who was also riding a Lusitano stallion. I am sure that the announcer said that she was just 16 years of and of course the youngest competitor at the Games. Luiza did a pretty good job but at times the horse seemed to resist the contact and lose the roundness which is critical to softness and bend. The horse was delightfully compliant and seemed to work with his rider with the a minimum of fuss about the big atmosphere. They scored .... and I am sure that Luiza is one to watch.
Luiza Almeida from Brazil riding Samba
Patrick Kittel from Sweden, who partnered Floresco a stallion by the respected sire Florestan who has risen to prominence in Australia. This elegant horse gives his rider his positive attention and the polished entry and first trot segments of the test are expressive and up to the best standard in terms of the quality of this horse's paces. The trot half passes, like most horses we saw, lacked a little bit of bend and flow and the one to the right was better than the left.
Patrick Kittel from Sweden riding Floresco
British competitor Jane Gregory riding the Danish Warmblood gelding Lucky Star (by Lucky Strike) were next to go and this performance left Jane feeling a little unhappy. She said after her ride, "the test was disappointing and it was definitely not my best. The horse did not make any glaring mistakes, but he made some minor ones" Jane was asked about the United Kingdom's team chances at this event and said, "The other rider would have to get the best score ever to pull me out of the mud." Jane said about the weather, "I could feel the sweat coming down my face and I had to try to remember to breathe." Jane finished on a score of ...
Jane Gregory (Britian) riding Lucky Star
The Japanese rider Yuko Kitai was the next rider in this section of 8 and she rode the very elegant black/brown, Swedish Warmblood gelding Rambo by Nactus. Japan do not have a long history as a strong Dressage nation and I felt that this was a great test. It probably packed the polish of the more experienced riders and the horse got a little lost in the passage/piaffe tour and so the transition marks were also affected. This is the difference between the top scores and the middle marks. Yuko earned ... and finished the first days competition in ... place.
Japanese rider Yuko Kitai on Rambo
Next to go was Heath Ryan and the many Aussies in the crowd gave him the 'big' Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi, ...I am sure that this sparked a super human effort from Heath who was riding his long standing partner Greenoaks Dundee. If good wishes and having many fans means anything at this level, Heath was a winner on the day. Dundee entered the ring and looked a hand taller than he does at home and the test starts really well and the halt was obedient with only the slightest lack of alignment with the back legs. The trot work looks great and it is pretty special extended trot. Even so, the judges seem to be holding marks back and I am surprised that the early average is not a little higher. Perhaps the trot half passes are a little tight, but no major faults to this point. In the first sequence of passage and piaffe Dundee decided to drop the contact and draw back behind the bit. It was not really bad, but the judges at the Olympic Games do not forgive this and the scoreboard reflected a drop in the average of a few percentage points. The walk transition and the extended walk were well done and into the passage and piaffe and this is the problem spot in this test. The canter depart at B was great and the half passes, changes and extended canter work was pleasing. For top marks the judges would have liked to see more expression and lift in the canter pirouettes but Heath did a great job in the 2 and 1 times changes. We should all be proud of our inaugural independently qualified Olympic Dressage team and acknowledge the huge considerations for each of them to be here. It was terrific for all the Aussies in the audience not to be just watching good international dressage, but watching an Australian doing it. Heath's score would have been disappointing .... but he was not the only one to score well below their personal best.
Aussie Heath Ryan and Greenoaks Dundee
Last before the first arena break is the Canadian rider Leslie Reid on the magnificent Danish gelding Orion by Jazz. I am sure Leslie will be thankful that a serious disobedience occurred just before she entered the ring and she was able to curb the horses tendency to question her again. Orion showed that he is true to the reputation of the offspring of his talented dad - brilliant but reactionary - and I am sure Leslie is a fantastic and tactful rider to have measured the balance of a forward and flamboyant test with the need to stay calm. Leslie gets off to quite a nice start, but the trot half passes lack softness and flow and the horse is behind the vertical, which will not go unnoticed by this judging panel. The canter work and a counter changes of hand at the half pass are nicely done - even though they could cover more ground. The extended canter is of good quality and Leslie presents two time changes with correct footfalls, but a tight neck and nose behind the vertical will bring the marks down ... at this level everything needs to be near-perfect. The one time changes are neat and clean, perhaps for top marks they could cover more ground and have a little more expression. As with most to movements in this test, the canter was a little tight and the pirouettes lacked the soft flowing jump that bring the top marks. I am sure that there would have been a little disappointment from the Canadians as the score went up as this horse has great potential.
Canadian rider Leslie Reid on Orion
An arena break and we are treated to a demonstration of martial arts and this has been a learning experience for many. Hong Kong has a strong Chinese community and they practise many different forms of martial arts which range from personal protection techniques through to graceful forms of movement which are almost like dance. At the same time the tractor is out preparing the arena for the next group and the first to go is a stunning Danish combination.
Anne Van Olst rides the elegant gelding Clearwater and the strong Danish contingent give her their support. This horse is bred in Denmark and is by Carpaccio. He was one to come to the notice of everyone at the trot up. He is a beautiful dapple brown and with white sox he makes a striking picture. The entry and trot work is lovely with the first extended trot showing all the qualities that we want to see. It is ground covering, expressive and off the ground and Clearwater is one of the few to continue to cover ground in the half pass segments. He would have lost some marks as he progressed into the extended walk as he did not lower when first asked but the walk did develop to showing good quality ground covering. The two times changes are big and correct but the horse gets a little tight in the ones. The first canter pirouette is well executed and it's a lovely clean change up to the second pirouette. The horse seems distracted or resistant at the final piaffe at X but continues on to the halt. It seems like a lovely test and perhaps my perspective on the sideline is not quite the same as down on the arena. Anne and Clearwater have aroused differing opinions from the judges and the marks here ranged from 65 to 70%. I felt that the 65 was quite harsh and it is disconcerting to have such a big difference at this level.
Danish rider Anne Van Olst on Clearwater
From France is Marc Boblet riding Whitini Star, a warmblood bred in Belgium and by Pik Solo. The test begins well and moves forward to a balanced extended trot then round the corner and into the half pass which appeared to lack the ideal bend and flow. As has been the case with a number of the previous combinations, this horse is tight in the neck and judging from the progressive percentage mark on the scoreboard, the judges have not overlooked this. It is a nice regular passage and piaffe the moves nicely into an obedient walk transition. The extended walk could cover more ground and stretch more, but the horse is looking to the stand and is, perhaps, slightly distracted by the atmosphere. A highlight of the test was the big loose flying changes, this horse is a really beautiful fellow and there is a lot to like about the test The final centre line of passage and piaffe is showing lovely expression and lift and brings to an end a very pleasant test. The score is ...
Marc Boblet (France) riding Whitini Star
Next to go is one of the strong German team and a chance at an individual medal - Heike Kemmer riding the gloriously elegant Bonaparte. Heike ensures that the horse is on show from the moment he enters the ring and his warm-up and familiarisation around the ring are as impressive as we expect to see in competition. Bonaparte is a Hanoverian, the breed with more winners at Olympic and World Championship level and he is by Bon Bonaparte. It is an beautiful entry and perfectly square halt to start this test - this is dressage at the highest level this horse comes into the competition with a wonderful pedigree and many high-class competition is to his credit. The trot half passes are the best we have seen so far and the extended trot and half passes cover the ground. Where Heike picks up marks is in the well prepared and well ridden transitions from extended trot to collected. This is where many riders give marks away - even at Olympic level. The first passage is nicely done and I am sitting right behind D and have been able to observe many faults in balance and straightness. Heike keeps Bonaparte right under her with a just one or two swinging steps to spoil a perfect mark. The transition into the extended walk is very nicely done and the horse really stretches and covers ground in the extended walk which is just what these judges will be looking for. The canter depart is very nice and well prepares for the counter changes of hand on the centre line. I felt that this part of the test was a little tight but Heike kept the losses to a minimum.. It's a big ground covering extended canter with a nice flying change at F. The two time changes are of very good quality in regular rhythm and big ground covering steps which will bring the big marks onboard.. The one time changes are also good this horse has maintained a very nice frame, up in front and light in the shoulders. The canter pirouette is well centred and around the rider's inside league. The final extended trot is really beautifully done. On the final centre line there were a few snatching strides in the piaffe but Heike and Bonaparte shoot to the lead and make the first statement for the German team. .....
Heike Kemmer (germany) riding Bonaparte
The next combination is the Russians Tatiana Miloserdova riding the huge brown gelding, Wat a Feeling. He makes Tatiana looks tiny aboard this horse but I suspect that he is 18 hands or more. Again we have Hanoverian breeding, and the stallion Warkant is listed as the sire. Tatiana has a hard act to follow as Wat a Feeling lacks the looseness of Bonaparte. The first part of the test is quite nicely ridden but the horse has a little trip in the extended trot. The piaffe lacks expression and lift but the passage improves and shows more expression. The canter at B self lacks balance and a glimpse up on the big screen confirms this. The two time changes are obedient and correct but again, the flow of the canter detracts from the top quality movement that command the top marks. The sequence of one time changes are tight and there's a mistake with the horse surging forward in the middle near X. The canter work lacks balance and lift and this affects the overall quality. Tatiana will gain lots of experience from her appearance here and I am sure that she will be a contender for Russia again. She scored ....
Russians Tatiana Miloserdova riding Wat a Feeling
Iryna Lis from Belarus riding the bay gelding Redford is next to ride. There are no breeding details about Redford and he is quite a heavy set horse with a big baldy face. Iryna is no stranger to top level dressage she has had a number of horses at top international level, so we can expect a pretty good test from her. It all starts well and a nicely balanced extended trot but the horse could let go just a little more to add to the beauty and add marks. The passage is not 100% regular but I rather like the transition to walk and stretch which makes the extended walk ground covering full of enthusiasm. The canter work after that the first passage is nicely balanced but at times the horse gets a little deep to earn top scores. He is obediently into the counter changes but I feel that they could have a little more swing and looseness. The one time changes are of very good quality, correct and clean, and well balanced across the diagonal line between K and M. The horse is a master at the changes and the one time changes have the same quality and just sits there and pops off, one after another. They nicely ridden and nicely performed by the horse. Unfortunately Redford tightens into the canter pirouette he almost stops after the first. Iryna does a good job to keep him going and the disruption seems to have upset him and there is some resistance and loss of the true canter jump in the second canter pirouette.. The final extended trot is expressive and there are some magical steps out of the piaffe/passage sequence on the centre line. Unfortunately the horse cannot maintain this and some snatching with the hind legs confirms an underlying resistance so she will not achieve an increase the percentage that she was hoping to achieve. An overall percentage of ...
Iryna Lis from Belarus riding Redford
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© Cyberhorse 2008 Berni Saunders