European Dressage Championships begin Tuesday with seeming invincibility of Dutch team and hopes for home side beating Germany for first time

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Windsor Castle the site of the European Dressage Championships
Windsor Castle the site of the European Dressage Championships

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WINDSOR. England, Aug. 24–The Alltech FEI European Dressage Championships begin Tuesday with unprecedented excitement at the seeming invincibility of the Dutch team and hopes for the home side beating Germany for the first time in history.

The incredibly high quality of the competition will have 56 horse and rider combinations from 19 nation–The Netherlands looking to repeat their first ever victory over Germany two years ago is the standout team.

But the strength of the teams from Great Britain and Denmark have created a hope among many enthusiasts that it is not the business as usual of Germany and Holland taking gold and silver with the rest of the world fighting for bronze. Only the United States, led by Steffen Peters and Ravel, 2009 World Cup and Aachen, Germany, CDIO champion, are absent what would be showdown at the top level of the sport.

Edward Gal and Moorlands-Totilas receiving a standing ovation after winning the Exquis World Dressage Masters Grand Prix Freestyle with a record score of 89.400 per cent. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Edward Gal and Moorlands-Totilas. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

All eyes will be on the newest superstar of the sport, the 10-year-old Moorlands Totilas ridden by Edward Gal who created a world record freestyle score at Hickstead, England, just a month ago while team mates Parzival and Adelinde Cornelissen showed they were back in top form at the same event. Salinero, ridden by the queen of the freestyle, Anky van Grunsven, is determined to be back at the level that has won the pair a fortune in gold at Olympics, World Championships and World Cups. Hunter Douglas Sunrise ridden by Imke Schellekens.

Great Britain’s squad that includes 2008 Olympians Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris and Emma Hindle and Lancet with the addition of Carl Hester and Liebling II and Maria Eilberg and Two Sox is given a good chance of being in contention for the silver medal.

Laura Bechtolsheimeron Mistral Hojris U.S. national coach. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Laura Bechtolsheimeron Mistral Hojris U.S. national coach. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

So, too, is Denmark’s experienced squad of Andreas Helgstrand on Tannenhof’s Carabas, Nathalie zu Sayn- Wittgenstein on Digby, Anne van Olst on Exquis Clearwater and Sune Hansen on Gredstedgårds Casmir.

Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein on Digby. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein on Digby. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

No one is ruling out Germany’s chances, despite a series of events bedeviling the team. None of the 2008 Olympic gold medal team of Isabell Werth and Satchmo, Heike Kemmer and Bonaparte and Nadine Capellmann and Elvis VA were available, and neither was Ulla Salzgeber and her exciting Herzruf’s Erbe.

However, the team of Susanne Lebek and Potomac, Matthias Alexander Rath and Sterntaler-Unicef, Ellen Schulten-Baumer and Donatha S and Monica Theodorescu and Whisper, who were the 2008 Olympic reserve combination, are all capable of producing 70+ per cent rides that would give them a shot at the team silver but may not be good enough for individual honors.

The team competition at Grand Prix level, in which the nations with four riders can count the top three scores, is schedule for Tuesday and Wednesday, when the medals will be presented.

The top 30 competitors will move on to the Grand Prix Special–they will be starting from zero as their scores from the Grand Prix will not count–and medals will be awarded after the competition.

The Grand Prix Freestyle to Music (Kür) takes place as the final Individual competition on Saturday evening. The top 15 placed individuals from the Grand Prix Special will compete in the Freestyle. The medals will be presented immediately after the competition.

The championships are being held simultaneously with the jumping finals for the first time and are being held in Great Britain’s most famous backyard, that of historic Windsor Castle.

And as if the dressage and jumping competitions are not enough, a dazzling array of extra sports and entertainment, including the first ever event held at the castle, an appearance by the legendary Muhammed Ali and other sports icons.

The six-day championships that are being staged by one of the world’s most innovative equestrian impresarios, Simon Brooks-Ward who also organizes the famous London Olympia Christmas horse show.

Dressage-news.com will provide extensive news, photo and video coverage throughout the championships.