European Championships Grand Prix Special
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
Adelinde Cornelissen made a superhuman effort to overcome a mistake as a result of a laser-like focus on showing Jerich Parzival at his best, enough to claim a second gold medal in the Grand Prix Special at successive European Championships.
Australia’s Mary Seefried, president of the ground jury, said the seven judges came to the conclusion beforehand that it was a wide open contest–any of at least a half dozen combinations could have won the first individual medal of these 2011 championship in Rotterdam. This historic port city is hosting two horsepower competitions this weekend–a Formula One that is expected to draw one million spectators and the European Championship musical freestye that will be watched by 7,000 spectators if all the tickets that have been sold are used.
The Grand Prix Special on Saturday had an anticlimactic feel to it after the excitement of the new kids on the block, Great Britain, claimed their first ever team victory at the Grand Prix level two days earlier.
That the victors were Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival, her 14-year-old gelding that she earned half ownership by training and competing a horse that no one could ride and the other half with a €400,000 (US$575,000) loan to pay the breeder that she has since paid back, was no surprise. The 32-year-old former schoolteacher is ranked No. 1 in the world with Parzival. They were the only pair to beat Totilas when he was ridden by Edward Gal, one of the occasions being the Grand Prix Special at the Europeans in Windsor.
Uthopia who had been brilliant for Great Britain in winnng their first ever team gold two days earlier, was out of gas in the Special and rider Carl Hester said he squeezed everything he could out of the 10-year-old KWPN black stallion by Metall. It worked. They placed second on 81.682 per cent, just 0.431 per cent behind Adelinde and Parzival.
For many riders, the Special was not so special.
But one of the most harmonious performances with few mistakes was by Sweden’s Patrik Kittel on Watermill Scandic H.B.C., the 12-year-old KWPN stallion by Solos Carex that he competed at the Europeans in Windsor two years ago.
At this championship, the pair led Sweden’s successful effort to qualify a team for next year’s Olympics in London.
And it was the fourth Grand Prix Special in the two years that Patrik and Scandic have been competing at the top level, as they have focused on World Cup events which center around the freestyle.
Great Britain’s Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris have been the face of Brtish dressage since their first championship appearance at the 2008 Olympics and led the team to unprecedented silver medals at the 2009 Europeans and the 2010 World Equestrian Games as well as picking up two individual silvers there.
The combination scored 79.256 per cent for third place, joining Carl to put two Britons on the medals podium.
Their performance was not the same quality as in 2010, but “Alf” as she calls the horse, was better than the “disappointing” ride in the Grand Prix. The horse is very sensitive to noise and does not react well to the sounds of closed-in stadiums, such as at Aachen, Germany and now here where a new grand stand has put spectator seating on all four sides. Plus, spectators come to these shows for a day’s outing that produces a lot of hustle and bustle in the stands, cutlery clanking on plates and other disturbances. It’s all part of the atmosphere.
Her comment: “In the first half of the test he felt perfect–on the button, and it was feeling like it was one of our best tests. But when I picked up piaffe after the walk he realized he was a bit tired. When a horse loses impulsion you start to have mistakes.”
Canadian Ashley Holzer and Pop Art, the guinea pig of the championship.