WIDE OPEN EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS BEGIN WEDNESDAY

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Carl Hester and Uthopia in veterinary check for European Championships. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J, BRADDICK

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands, Aug. 16–The much-awaited showdown between the relatively new dressage power Great Britain and long dominant Germany for Nations Cup supremacy begins Wednesday, but the battle for individual medals is wide open.

The addition to the German squad of Matthias Alexander Rath as the rider of Totilas–Freestyle champion as well as leader of the team that won gold for The Netherlands at the last Europeans two years ago–has been a big boost to the powerhouse that includes multi Olympic gold medalist Isabell Werth and El Santo NRW and team relative newcomers Christoph Koschel on Donnperignon and Helen Lamgehanenberg on Damon ill NRW.

Carl Hester has helped raise Britain possibly to the top of the medals podium with two horses that he bought and trained over the years, Uthopia that he will ride and Valegro that his student Charlotte Du Jardn will compete.

Charlotte Du Jardin and Valegro. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

With superstar Laura Bechtolsheimer on Mistral Hojris, triple silver medalist from the World Equestrian Games last year and ranked No. 2 in the world, Britain is given a serious shot at winning their first team gold that they hope will presage gold at the Olympics when they are held on their home turf next summer.

Emile Faurie on Elmegardens Marquis, the fourth combination for the British team–only the three top scores from each team count, is under additional pressure to perform well to justify his selection. Veteran British rider Richard Davison who has competed on Artemis at Grand Prix for four years has filed a lawsuit appealing the selection of Emile.

Matthias Alexander Rath and Totilas. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Sixteen on the grounds that the lowest score is has developed performed traditionhad the effect of helping strengthening to Both Germany and Great Britain as well as host The Netherlands have already qualified for the Olympic Games in London next year so the battle so many individual  a powerful The European Championships

At the veterinary check Tuesday in the main competition arena, the British and German teams drew equal attention from spectators.

Although the Netherlands is tipped to finish in the bronze medal position, Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival as the top ranked combination in the world and the gold medal pair in the Grand Special at the last Europeans are likely to be battling for a place on the podium when the individual medals are decided.

This year’s Europeans, a qualifier for the 2012 Olympics–The Netherlands and Germany as well as Games host Great Britain are already qualified (so, too is the U.S.)–has drawn 65 combinations from a record 21 nations with an unprecedented lineup of 16 countries competing for national honors.

Look beyond Edward Gal and Sisther de Jeu to the scoreboard that was being tested in readiness for the European Championships. A new career for the recently retired great. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The previous greatest number of teams to participate in European Dressage Championships was 14 at Hickstead, England, in 2003 and at Hagen, Germany, in 2005.

The European Championships are held every two years and this year will be the 25th edition.

Current title holders are The Netherlands for team, Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas individual Freestyle and Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival individual Grand Prix Special. Edward and Totilas set a new Freestyle record score at the last championships in Windsor, England of 90.70 per cent, including 29 perfect scores of 10.

For 21 consecutive championships–1965 to 2005 (no team title awarded in 1963–Germany held the European title, but the last two championships were won by the Netherlands. At Windsor in 2009, the Dutch won five of six individual medals up for grabs, the sixth going to British rider Laura Bechtolsheimer.

Germany’s Dr. Reiner Klimke won three individual titles–at Aachen in 1967 riding Dux and in 1973 riding Mehmed, and at Copenhagen in 1985 riding Ahlerich. With Gigolo, Germany’s Isabell Werth took the individual title in 1995 and 1997 and won the Grand Prix Special at Donaueschingen, Germany in 1991 and at Lipica, Slovenia in 1993. Anky van Grunsven has three wins to her name – in 1999 with Bonfire followed by the back to back wins with Salinero in 2005 and 2007.

The maple leaf pocket patch gives away Ashley Holzer as a Canadian at the EUROPEAN Championships. She will be the test ride. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com