World Young Horse Championships Day Two–Preliminary Finals for Five and Six-Year-Old Dressage Horses
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Editor’s Note: Ilse Schwarz, is an Australian based in Wellington, Florida, training horses and riders or all levels but specializing in training young horses. She currently has four horses at or near Grand Prix that she has developed from foals or unridden young horses. Ilse covers major championships and premier horse shows in Europe and the United States for dressage-news.com.
By ILSE SCHWARZ
ERMELO, Netherlands, Aug. 5, 2017–This is a world championships, and quality horses have been presented by riders from almost all corners of the world. Horses being presented by German and Danish riders are filling the majority of places in the finals but the success of the two Australian girls shows that riders really have no reason to worry that judges will shy away from non-European flags.
Especially with that in mind, it is disappointing not to see any American riders in the young horse divisions. This is the first time since 2009 that the United States has not officially entered horses in the five or six-year-old championship classes.
US Equestrian did not establish selection criteria for the seven-year-old division, being staged for only the second time in the history of the championships. The federation approved the entry of GK Don Cesar ridden by Cesar Parra of Whitehouse Station, New Jersey as the pair met the competition’s qualifying requirements.
The REALLY big story of this competition so far is the sheer dominance of the Helgstrand Dressage juggernaut. They have a huge team of horses and riders here and are medal contenders in each division. Their riders compete under the flags of multiple countries, Denmark, Spain, Australia but they support each other as a team. Helgstrand horses and riders hold the current lead in both the six-year-old and seven-year-old divisions and are standing 3rd, 4th and 5th in the five-year-old division.
I feel that these championships can be watched and enjoyed from multiple aspects: breeding, training and sales. I believe they were started to really showcase breeding, hence the title “World Breeding Dressage Championships for Young Horses,” and it used to be that we saw mostly stallions, some mares and hardly ever a gelding.
Now the championships are staged to showcase the top quality young horses and are of interest to the breeders, the riders… and for sales. I know that several of the highly placed horses are already sold and will be moving to their new owners after this event.
For me personally, I love to watch the mechanics of these horses, picture taking each one to FEI. I imagine sitting on the ones thar look super fun to ride and train and then look at the bloodlines to see if there is any correlation.
It is also possible to view current trends in breeding, what traits are being bred for, what are the judges rewarding when it comes to both movement and presentation. With respect to the last statement, it is very clear that the image many of us have about “Young Horse” classes, where the horses are whirled about, all front legs, artificial frame, tension, and huge gaits is not only no longer rewarded, it is actively discouraged.
The days of these youngsters being lathered in sweat in the warm up arena, their eyes popping out on stalks and not one iota of relaxation visible would seem to be gone. Especially in these championships, the correlation between the young horse division and the development of the FEI horse is very clear to see.
Of course, on the same note, the style of riding is changing, too. So few of the riders are leaning back and driving relentlessly with their seat and legs into rigid hands. In general the riding has been delightful, with a clear effort to ride the hindlegs to the bridle and most horses showing a beautiful uphill way of going.
Five years old
The second half of the five-year-class on Friday presented horses with the same overall quality as we saw Thursday. Don Martillo unquestionably held onto his lead established on day one of competition. Two “10’s” for gaits (trot and walk) makes a rather unassailable final score.
However, Hesselhoef Donkey Boy, a stallion by Era Dancing Hit x Milan drew very high scores across the board: 9.7 for trot, 9.8 for walk, 9.5 for both canter and submission and 9.7 for “perspective” for a final score of 9.64. This stallion was exquisite and drew your attention the moment he entered the arena. He has the most beautiful silhouette and way of covering ground.
He is also a licensed breeding stallion, which I must confess, leaves me somewhat confused. I love this horse but in the trot he swings his left front leg in a fairly wild arc, and the right front paddles somewhat, too. In the walk, when viewed directly from behind he almost appears to cross his front legs. These are just casual observations from someone who has no stake in the breeding world, but I would have to assume it would concern most breeders. I would hope that with correct management this horse could go far in the FEI arena.
Another horse to attract attention Friday was the chestnut stallion D’Avie (Don Juan De Hus x Londonderry) ridden by Severo Jurado Lopez. Here was another stunning animal, owned by Helgstrand Dressage, who had some issues during his test which saw submission score of 8.5; honestly, it could have been lower. When he did his first halt, salute, the wind gusted very strongly and D’Avie performed a spin that would have impressed the western riding world. More serious was the leap and changing leads behind in the medium canter. Nevertheless he richly deserved the scores of 9.5 and 9.7 for the trot and canter and a final score of 9.14.
A horse to really catch my eye was the ever so sweet mare Faviola by Foundation 2 x Weltmeyer and ridden with such softness and delight by her young owner Nadine Husenbath. Nadine’s father rode for Germany in the 2002 WEG in Jerez. She had a hard time with the rein-back which no doubt contributed to the submission score of only 8.2. Final score of 8.68 and I think this could be much higher in the final.
Six Years Old
The second half of the six-year-old class would see the leaderboard totally re-arranged. In all honesty, I was somewhat dissapointed with the quality of this age group after the first day. I can happily say that I was impressed with the quality of the combinations on day two. Nearly all the horses had good flying changes, there were literally NO poor walks–some normal and some extraordinary walks but all had correct rhythm. I have to say that I didn’t always understand the judging of this division. It seemed that the importance of a well ridden, or for that matter a poorly ridden, half pass was neglected. I was also left a little confused as to the importance placed on collection. The test asks for collection in both the trot and canter, but I couldn’t find any consistency in the way this was being judged. Having said that, I think it is a very exciting and competitive group of horses going into the finals. A quick wrap up of some of those horses follows.
Briana Burgess of Australia, riding the gelding Gerion (Jazz x Don Primero) owned by the Australian Mary Hanna, was the first to shake up the leaderboard, moving into second place with a lovely balanced and fluid test. Gerion has a special canter, beautifully uphill and great reach with the hindleg; this was rewarded with a 9.5. The look of delight on Briana’s face as the score of 8.94 came onto the screen was priceless.