Hong Kong Saturday 16th August. Team Dressage Day 2
It is a capacity crowd that attends day 2 of the team dressage and witness the first medal ceremony for the equestrian events here in Hong Kong. The promotion of this event has been fantastic and the organisers have engaged a very comprehensive TV campaign to explain about the various elements of the Olympic disciplines which include some very cute animated graphics which play during the breaks on the big screen and tell people what they can expect to see. It is difficult to imagine that there will not be some interest in equestrian sport emerging from this exercise. The Chinese people have spared nothing to make this event the best ever and the stables are said to be "6 Star"! I will be visiting them and will take pictures.
I feel that it is necessary to explain that my report is written from an A Level Dressage Judges perspective and so everyone comes into the arena with a 10 and I am sharing with you the moments in their ride that resulted in a loss from the perfect score. I must say that I am always reluctant to seem critical as it is this group of riders that are the best in the world and put their reputations on the line to make their country proud - in no way do I wish to deny them this and trust that you accept the critique for what it is.
Fuego Xll ridden by Juan Manuel Munoz for Spain is the first horse to go on day 2. The heavy set Pura Raza Espaòol (formerly knows as Andalusian) is by the stallion Utrerano and is a very powerful mover and really sets a good pace for the evening. He gets a little too flamboyant in the extended trot and loses rhythm and flow and there are also irregular steps in the piaffe and passage. It is a nice transition to walk but the walk could cover more ground. The second passage could be a little more engaged behind but the transition to canter was well done. The counter changes of hand are well ridden even if a little tight and it is a lovely extended canter. The rider will be pleased with the two times changes but the ones were not perfect. Although they came in correct sequence, there were some climbing steps which spoiled the flow. The canter pirouettes were both of good quality. The final extended trot was balanced and they finish well with the demanding piaffe/passage tour on the centre line. The score is 66.083% and this will not give the Spanish a medal, it is a very solid performance from the country that has made huge inroads and won a medal at the 2002 World Equestrian Games when it was in Jerez.
Juan Manuel Munoz from Spain riding Fuego Xll
Jacqueline Brookes from Canada steps out on Gran Gesto, an elegant Oldenberg gelding by Grannox. This is a very nice horse, but he does not look completely relaxed into the bridle and from time to time this effects the flow and steadiness of the work and sees Jacqueline powerless to take control of his posture and prevent the quarters from trailing. In the piaffe there is not enough energy to give the lift and expression that would be the aim. A similar lack of engagement spoilt the second piaffe passage tour also. The horse showed rather nice flow and bend in the counter changes but Jacqueline lost the quarters in a few steps. It is an enthusiastic extended canter but still lacking perfect steadiness. The two times are good and so too are the one times changes, for a high mark the self carriage and collection could be better. The horse was a little hollow in the canter pirouettes and they lacked jump and expression. The final extended trot was great and this horse appears to have a lovely nature but a little nervous and possibly overwhelmed by the bit atmosphere. They scored 63.75)% which was 29th place.
Jacqueline Brookes from Canada on Gran Gesto
Natalie Zu Sayne - Wittgenstein and Digby are now in and riding for Denmark. Digby oozes elegance and is the type that commands attention and is easy to mark high - No wonder he was bred in Denmark but by the immortal Donnerhall! Unfortunately the start was not perfect and the horse fell into the halt - this is not a what Natalie would have hoped for. Digby demonstrates a lovely frame and self carriage which well sets up the first extended trot, but Digby drops the bit before the trot half pass and loses the flow. He is very powerful and accomplished in the passage and the piaffe which is also well done. This high scoring work will push the scores up for Natalie. The transition into the walk is lovely and the quality and relaxation of the walk is pleasing. The horse steps nicely into the second passage. Perhaps for top marks, he came a little too far under in the piaffe and this "base narrow" fault confirms less than perfect balance. Digby has a superb canter, but the counter changes of hand lost a little energy and this spoilt the flow. It is a great extended canter that prepares the flying changes and the two times finish in fine style. The one times changes are big and correct. Digby's canter pirouettes lacked energy so the co-joining centre line was a little wobbly. It was a good quality test and scored 70.417% and this reflects the good basic training and willingness of the horse to try - it was a pleasing result for Denmark and sees them threatening the USA as bronze medal contenders.. After her ride Natalie was asked about her nationality and she said "I am riding for Denmark, I have a Danish Heart. I am living in Germany and training there, but riding for my Motherland, and I am proud of it." She said of her performance, "I think I did well. It was like a big stone has fallen off my heart. When you come up with a score like that it is a relief." About her horse ... Digby Natalie said, "The heat is getting to him a bit, but he keeps fighting until the end. I am very proud of him."
Natalie Zu Sayne - Wittgenstein and Digby from Denmark
Calimucho (Hanoverian by Cavalier) and Julia Chevanne are France's representatives and this is a beautiful bay with loose flowing movement. Unfortunately the announcer introduced this combination as Nadine Capelman riding Elvis - but for those who know that Elvis is Chestnut, the mistake was obvious. I felt that this test was very well prepared and flowing and Telemucho sits beautifully in the piaffe and the passage segments of the test. The walk is of very good quality with a clear marching rhythm and over-rack. Julia asks for ... and gets .... a wonderful canter depart at B. The canter half passes are nicely forward and maintain the bend. Both sequences of flying changes are nicely done and the horse maintains his posture and balance. The canter pirouettes are expressive but perhaps he lost his roundness for a few stride. Julia and Calimucho score 63.250% and finish this event in 32nd place.
Julia Chevanne riding Calimucho from France
Nadine Capellmann and Elvis VA (Hanoverian by Espri) are the first combination riding for Germany this evening. I felt that Elvis looked tight and for quite a few short moments, not soft into the bridle or in light self carriage. The trot half pass to the left looked to be a little quarters trailing ... but not so to the right! It was a good quality extended trot and Nadine rode for top scores. Nadine's family come from Aachen in Germany and she was a key equestrian adviser and personality at the World Equestrian Games in 2002 which was held in her home town. I felt that the passage and piaffe were just a little disappointing as he did not really carry his forehand lightly. There was quite a bit of resistance and a head shake in the second piaffe and this is not what the Germans would be looking for. The canter counter changes were nicely ridden and Nadine kept Elvis "singing a song"! The two times changes were of good quality big and through. The one times changes were also good. The final sequences of passage were well ridden but resistance and an open mouth spoilt the piaffe. This was confirmed in my view of the monitor next to my lap top. For me Elvis lacks some fluency but it is hard to criticise a horse who has achieved so much. He lost the frame again a little in the canter pirouettes and I felt that it was a generous mark. They are awarded 70.083% and this is a great start for the German team.
German Nadine Capellmann and Elvis VA
The imposing liver chestnut Vincent, a Hanoverian stallion (no more detail in the program) is next with Bernadette Pujals from Mexico. This combination stole the show in Aachen and even though Bernadette is based in Germany, her success has put Mexico on the map as a dressage nation. Vincent is a powerful and talented horse and the test starts in an impressive way. The half passes at the trot are glorious - even if the one to the right allowed the quarters to train just a little. The expression and strength are very nice in the passage but I felt that Vincent dropped the bit, just slightly in the piaffe and this caused a loss of balance that will be reflected in the score. The walk is really good and marches positive across the short diagonal line. There were some 'legs together' in the transition to piaffe and this will be penalised. The counter changes at the canter were of very good quality and Bernadette kept the rhythm and energy available to protect the self carriage. The two times changes were great and so too the one times, which were nicely placed on the diagonal line. Vincent got a little deep in the canter pirouettes and lost the bend in the second one to the left. In the final extended trot I believe we saw this horse at his best, it was a very balanced well prepared trot that commanded attention. The final piaffe was again too deep and I am not so sure that this will be forgiven by the judges. But it was still a great test and she received the crowd's approval. .The score is 69.250% and this gives Bernadette 12th place at an Olympic Games.
Bernadette Pujals from Mexico riding Vincent
Prestige is a lovely type of stallion by the former international champion Olympic Ferro. He was bred in Holland and is ridden by Jordi Domingo who is an independent representative for Spain. Prestige seems to be on edge and he starts with some resistance and tension into the bridle. The horse gets a little stuck in the first piaffe but the rider get this magnificent stallion back into the bridle and on the job for an improvement in the quality of the work. Tension denies the horse the opportunity to show his looseness and this affects the second piaffe. The quality of the canter is very nice but he gets too low in the canter zig zag and this affects the lightness, bend and flow. The two times changes are nicely ridden and correct and the rider sits very quietly for these - the ones times are also nice. I very much liked the way the horse 'sits' in the canter pirouettes and it appeared that the one to the left was better than the one to the right as the horse maintained a more even bend. The Spanish give him a rousing send off from the Olympic arena. They score 64.042%
Jordi Domingo representing Spain riding Prestige
Brentina is next to go and this powerfully built mare and her tiny jockey have nothing to prove. But, Olympic Games are Olympic Games ... and previous form should mean nothing as they ride into the ring. Brentina looks magnificent and, in her illustrious career she has raised the profile of her German sire Brentano, considerably. The mare appeared a little flat and not in form that saw her on the Silver Medal USA team in Jerez 2002 and part of the team who collected bronze at the last Olympic Games in Athens in 2004.
The opening extended trot could have a little more energy but the crossing was nice in the trot half passes. I felt that the one to the right was ever-so-slightly irregular and with the benefit of hindsight this probably was the same criticism that the judges had. The piaffe/passage tour was a highlight and showed the power, rhythm and obedience. I think it would be fair to say that the movement lacked the flair and flamboyance of some, but the obedience and regularity made Brentina's work special, in my opinion. The walk is long and stretching and just what you would like to see from an Olympic level horse. Again the piaffe and passage right in front of the judges seems sure to impress and they set off in to the canter segment of the test. Debbie rides the half pass counter changes nicely and looks after the straightness as she gets back on the centre line - this is difficult, even at this high standard of training. Brentina is perfectly correct in the two times changes, but I would have like to see more fluency and expression. The ones are lovely overall, but a little loss of balance out of the second canter pirouette showed that she was not quite underneath the rider with enough energy to maintain the jump. The final passage/piaffe is really regular and on the spot but needed more expression for top marks. Brentina has a slight loss of balance into the halt. 63.000% was a shock score and would be a disappointment for the USA team who would be relying on Debbie as a key player in their medal campaign.
Debbie McDonald (USA) riding Brentina
Anky van Grunsven riding Salinero (Hanoverian gelding by Salter) is first after the break and for many, this is the opportunity to see the queen of the sport as she defends her dual Olympic crown. Anky rides a perfect entry and halt, and it is a beautiful extended trot to grab everyone's attention. The huge reaching strides in the trot half passes seem to be a specialty for Anky and demonstrate her outstanding test riding ability. The piaffe and passage are very regular - minus the snatching steps that were often there when Salinero was a young horse, coming up the ranks. The walk is a little restrained and tension prevents the reach and overt-rack that is required for top scores. The big black horse steps nicely into the next passage/piaffe and shows his strength in the high scoring aspects of the test. There are a couple of faulty steps in the second piaffe and the horse had a loss of self carriage in the first canter step. The canter changes of hand are beautiful. Sweat is dripping down the horse's shoulder but still is a nice obedient sequence of changes at two times. The ones are perfect and Anky acknowledges Salinero's effort with a pat on his neck. The pirouette to the right is beautifully balanced and almost on the spot. To the left there is only one forward step to concern the judges. It is hard to get much better and that is why most people fail to beat Anky and Salinero. What a test -Anky punches the air - she knows that it was good and the score comes up ... 74.750%
Anky van Grunsven (Netherlands) riding Salinero
Miguel Ralao Duarte riding Oxalis (Lusitano mare by Xaquiro) the test starts with a serious resistance and plunge through the air. I seem to remember this happening in Aachen at WEG 2006. He just did not settle and the poor rider had no option but to retire. This is a great shame but it would seem to me that it was not unexpected.
Miguel Ralao Duarte (Portugal) riding Oxalis
Jan Brink on the gorgeous liver chestnut, Swedish stallion, Briar (by Magini) who made his international debut as a very young horse with a highlight being his appearance at the 2002 WEG in Jerez, Spain, where he surprised everyone with his composure and maturity to gain some good makes and respect as sure star of the future. Today this combination ride for Sweden but a little resistance into the bridle spoils the flow of the half passes in trot and there is some unsteadiness to the contact in many parts of the test and was evidence that the horse was not 100% with his rider Jan seemed to have to work very hard to keep the horse up and into the bridle. The quality of the paces was very nice with high knee action and expression earns high scores. But for me, the hind legs did not come under enough and this detracted the piaffe and passage. The canter half passes were very nice and this part of the test is a highlight for me. The first extended canter and change were well done and the two times changes are big and expressive. The ones start with an error and then get tight so this will be a costly mistake. The canter pirouette to the right was well centred but I felt that the one to the left could have had more bend around the rider's leg. The final extended trot was Briar at his best - the front legs are very special and add to the expression of the test - this is artistry! 68.875% with pretty consistent marks from all of the judges puts Jan into 13th place for Sweden.
Jan Brink (Sweden) riding Briar
Laura Bechtolscheimer riding Mistral Hojris - a Danish Warmblood by Michellino) This is a very impressive type of horse and the opening extended trot is wonderful. For me the trot half passes did not maintain quite the correct bend and I feel that this brought the marks down. The piaffe and passage are very nice and the walk of high quality with loads of energy and expression. The horse is starting to get spooky and is threatening to "lose it"! I think Laura did very well to keep him on track and she gets him into the passage and piaffe at L but there are tense steps and contact issues. The canter depart is well executed and the counter changes of hand are quite nicely presented. The quality of the extended canter is there and Laura does a truly good job to get two rows of clean sequence changes considering the horse looks so concerned by the atmosphere. The canter pirouettes are also a credit to this talented young rider. She was very fortunate that she had put in the hard yards and knew how to react to his sensitive nature! 65.917% is a commendable effort and deserves special congratulations.
Laura Bechtolscheimer (Great Britian) riding Mistral Hojris
Hiroshi Hoketsu from Japan is riding the Hanoverian mare Whisper (by Wolkestein ll) This is the oldest competitor in the competition at 67. He truly looks 20 years younger and holds his age well. Whisper is a lovely type and shows some high quality work. There is a degree of tension which causes some head tilting in the half pass to the left, but it improved to the right. The piaffe was a bit "double beating" but the walk transition is nicely done. The horse has a big shy and spins on his way back to the stables. From this point there is tension/resistance which affects the self carriage and lightness into the bridle. Hiroshi gets his sensitive mare back on track and this is a really a good effort. The canter changes were rather nice, but tension and tightness through the body causes mistakes in the flying changes . Whisper loses her bend in the canter pirouettes. The rider mustered all the resolutions mapped out in the long preparation that are required to do well ... and kept his horse on the job. This enabled the return to the centre line to be very straight with no swinging. The final piaffe and passage is spoiled by tension. I believe that the mark of 62.542% confirms that the overall quality of the paces even though today's test was hot and cold. What was good, was very good ... and the faults and resistances took the scores down from this high point. Interestingly, 62.542% is exactly the same score as our own Heath Ryan and Greenoaks Dundee who did a calm and foot perfect test that would probably have looked a little 'safe'! Heath was looking for a more 'electric' performance and this the Japanese rider's test proves that he would have gained marks had this happened for him.
Hiroshi Hoketsu from Japan riding Whisper
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© Cyberhorse 2008 Berni Saunders