By CHRISTOPHER HECTOR/The Horse Magazine Photo: KENNETH J. BRADDICK
The Frankfurt hall was packed with more than 5,000 spectators as Christoph Hess warms up the crowd with a commentary on the ‘test’ rider, he’s explaining exactly what the judges will be looking for in the actual tests–or at least what they are supposed to look for, which, as we will find, are not always one and the same thing.
It does explain, however, why the German show organizers are able to draw these crowds year after year. They know how to package their events, how to educate the crowd so they will be excited by high class horse work, and won’t need tacky gimmicks like shortened tests to keep their attention, and as we will see, most of the time, the crowd has learned its lessons well and the spectator judging is–mostly–spot on.
Kira and Bohemian Rhapsodie – worth the flight…
Earlier, out the back, I was reflecting that it was worth the long haul to get here, just to see Kira Wulferding warming up the first horse in the class, Bohemian Rhapsodie. Nothing was rushed, nothing forced, let’s play with walk pirouettes for a while, let’s go for a breeze round the arena in canter, try that in counter canter, time to walk and think, half pass left, half pass right, it is no wonder that the chestnut mare was totally prepared when she stepped onto the big stage, seemingly oblivious to the crowd who could practically touch her, so total was her concentration on the rider.
There is a wonderful deliberate quality to Bohemian Rhapsodie’s trot, the hind legs perfectly engaged the whole time. The walk is absolutely clear, and she just melts into the canter, the flying change is similarly seamless. The test just unfolds, and at the end, when Kira drops the rein, the mare just wanders around surveying the crowd calmly as Christoph gives his commentary. 73.78, and I wonder if Kira has got it wrong electing to go first on the older horse when later in the draw the marks will certainly be higher regardless of the quality of the work.
Second to go, Benjamin Werndl and Sagami. They finished 12th on 67.976%
At a time when horse sports are becoming increasingly the property of professional elites, it is great to see Annabel Frenzen, a full-time emergency doctor in her real life competing at this level.
Annabel Frenzen and SilberStern
The horse, SilberStern (Silbermond / Raphael) is very attractive and to complete this ideal picture, was bred by Annabel’s father. She has brought him on all the way to this final in Frankfurt. An elegant tactful rider, and an obliging scopey horse. They finish on 72.341%, which is perhaps a little mean.
Dorothee and Lionella vom Rosencarree
When Dorothee Schneider rides into the arena on Lionella von Rosencarree (Londontime / Corradino) it is the 14th horse this absolute master of the art has qualified for the Nürnberger. Lionella is a Plain Jane, and while her trot work is very fine, the walk is a bit dodgy and the canter very normal. They score 71.805 and will finish the day in 10th, although Peter Holler at B saw something we all missed and has the mare in his eventual second spot!
Nicole Kirschnick and Dr Best
Nicole Kirschnick and Dr Best (Dr Jackson / Roy Black) demonstrate yet again what depth the Germans have. Okay the work gets a bit hurried at times, but the horse has a wonderful airborne canter and looks fun to ride. 73.122% and they will finish seventh.
Isabell and Descolari
Descolari is proving what an exciting sire Desparados is shaping as, and what a valuable sire of broodmares, Weltmeyer has proven, and it doesn’t hurt at all having Isabell in the saddle. Ms Werth will never die wondering what would have happened if I gave it a try, they are up and firing. The halt is a bit messy, but the trot diagonal makes up for that, truly wonderful half passes, big, powerful walk and a great canter. As they halt, the crowd goes wild. Was it as good as the first test? Probably not, but that is just a distant memory for the ground jury. 75.268 and they will finish in second place, although two of the judges thought them the best, one fourth, one second, and Peter Holler was still listening to the beat of a different drum, has them sixth.
Ingrid and Bluetooth
Ingrid Klimke and Bluetooth (Bordeaux / Riccione) looks a little more rhythmic in the big trot today, but the walk in the pirouette sequence is absolutely, glaringly, lateral–but obviously the judges weren’t listening when Christoph stressed the importance of pure gaits in his warm up lecture, since they score the gelding right up, ignoring the protesting tail at every request from the rider, and the pair move into second place on 74.122%, the crowd must have forgotten, too–they score a 76.175 and are not happy that their hero is not first. We see once again how important ‘boring’ bits of the test really are. The walk pirouettes really show up any problems and it is no wonder the riders don’t like them. Apparently Hubertus Schmidt promised Escolar after last year’s Burg-Pokal that he would never have to do a walk pirouette again.
Hubertus and Bonamour
This year, Hubertus is riding the very plain chestnut, Bonamour (Bonifatius / Rousseau) but he is demonstrating once again how correct, harmonious work can make even the plainest creature look handsome. Lovely half passes, and even though the canter is a bit ordinary, the changes are super. They score 73.732 and will finish the day in fifth.
The champions – Dorothee and First Romance
I finished my report on the warm up class with the test from Dorothee Schneider and First Romance (Fürst Romancier / Day Dream) with the words ‘watch out for them when it counts in the final’ and wow, watch them go when it counts. This trot is so engaged, the walk is so clean, there is a little moment in the first canter pirouette when the weight shifts to the outside leg, and the second is a little tense, but the rest of the test is sublime. Dorothee Schneider has won the Burg-Pokal for the second time with three out of five judges having them in first, while two still prefer Isabell and Descolari.
Brianna and Kira
Sweet Brianna (Bvlgari / Rhodiamant) tries her baby heart out for Kira Wulfurding, and once again we see a rider who absorbs the movement into her body, a rider in total harmony with the horse. A glorious big walk as the tail gently sways to show how loose the back is, perfect walk pirouettes. Sure there are a couple of little mistakes in the threes and the change at the end of the diagonal, but the final placing of sixth on 73.634% was very mean…
And so say all of us…