Denmark’s Rookies & Veterans Gearing Up for Olympics

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Denmark's Anna Kasprzak and Donnperignon second to world record setting Valegro and Charlotte Dujardin in the awards ceremony. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

What a difference a couple of weeks has made in the perception of Denmark as a medal prospect for the Olympic Games with twenty-somethings performing as well as veterans to give the nation at least six combinations able to score well above 70 per cent heading to London in three months.

The newest star is Anna Kasprzak, a 22-year-old, who last weekend rode the former German team horse Donnperignon that she has been partnered with only since last October to 75.419 per cent in the Grand Prix and 79.844 per cent in the Olympic Grand Prix Special at Horses & Dreams meets Great Britain CDI4* in Hagen, Germany.

A week earlier, Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein and Digby, entering their sixth years as an elite partnership, won both the Grand Prix with a score of 75.085 per cent and the Freestyle on 80.900 per cent at the CDI4* during the World Cup Final in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands.

Another five Danish combinations, Andreas Helgstrand the sole male rider, competed at ‘s-Hertogenbosch or Hagen and all scored above 70 per cent in the Grand Prix.

Between both competitions, many of the world’s top horses and riders performed in preparations leading up to the Olympics in London with dressage beginning Aug. 2-3 with the Grand Prix and then the Olympic Grand Prix Special on Aug. 7 that will be the second and deciding phase for the team medals. Individual medals will be decided by the Freestyle on Aug. 9.

Rudolf Zeillinger, coach of the Danish team since 1997, was clearly happy not only with the latest results, but for the long term with some of the top riders aged 30 and younger.

Danish team coach Rudolf Zeillinger (right) with Andreas Helgstrand who trains Anna Kasprzak, happy with the Grand Prix Special result. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

To put the latest results in perspective, Denmark finished sixth at the European Championships eight months ago with Princess Nathalie and Digby the only pair above 70 per cent at Grand Prix.

The combinations from Denmark’s long list who competed at Den Bosch and Hagen:

Anna Kasprzak rode Donnperignon in only the second CDI since her family bought the 13-year old Finnish warmblood (Donnerhall x Montserrat x Mozart) last October from Christoph Koschel, who had trained the horse and rode it on Germany’s team at the 2010 World Equestrian Games and the 2011 European Championships. The former Young Rider produced world class performances at Hagen wth a fourth place in the Grand Prix and 79.844 per cent for second place in the Grand Prix Special behind Charlotte Dujardin and her world record-setting ride on Valegro.

Sidsel Johansen, 30, and Schianto, a 13-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Gribaldi x Schimonn Enshoej x Schwadroneur) were competing at Hagen in their ninth show since the pair started their CDI Grand Prix career two years ago. Although facing a lineup that included Totilas and Matthias Alexander Rath, Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris and Katrina Sprehe and Desperados, the pair finished fourth in both the Grand Prix with a score of 74.085 per cent and the Freestyle on 79.375 per cent.

Sidsel Johansen and Schianto in the Freestyle at Hagen. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Lisbeth Seierskilde, who will be 27 years old later this month, began riding Jonstrupgärdens Raneur at CDI Grand Prix a year ago. She and the 13-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Ragazzo x Samantha x Schwadroneur)y scored a personal best with 73.787 per cent in the Grand Prix and 78.450 per cent in the Freestyle at Hagen.

Anne van Olst is making another run at Olympic glory with Exquis Clearwater, on whom she won team bronze at the Beijing Games in 2008. Anne and the 14-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Carpaccio x Abigirl x Limebrand) have partnered since 2007 in events on both sides of the Atlantic and, in addition to the Olympics, their record includes the 2010 World Equestrian Games, the 2009 and 2011 European Championships and the 2008 World Cup Final. The pair posted scores of 73.340 per cent in the Grand Prix and 77.550 in the Freestyle at Hagen.

The latest mount for Andreas Helgstrand is Laetare, at eight years old making his CDI Grand Prix debut at Hagen, scoring 70.213 per cent in the Grand Prix and 73.950 per cent in the Freestyle. Laetare is a Rhinelander stallion (Lord Loxley x Linan x Lancer II). As one of Denmark’s most successful riders–a long string of top mounts from Blue Hors, including Don Schufro and Matine, the gray mare that was a star of the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany.

Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein and Digby at the s'Hertogenbosch CDI4*. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

At ‘s-Hertogenbosch the week before Hagen:

Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein and Digby, won both the Grand Prix and the Freestyle in the CDI4* with scores of 75.085 per cent and 80.900 per cent, respectively. A year earlier, the pair were reserve World Cup champions. The partnership of Princess Nathalie and the 15-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Donnerhall x Oxenholm Pamina x Sandro) is entering its sixth year at Grand Prix. The record is impressive–2008 World Cup Final, team bronze at the 2008 Olympics, 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, 2008 and 2010 World Cup Final as well as the reserve title in 2011, Europrean Championships in 2009 and 2011 and most of the top shows in Europe.

Lone Jørgensen and FBW De Vito competed in the World Cup Final, placing seventh in the Grand Prix with 71.337 per cent and 10th on 73.589 per cent in the Freestyle. Lone trained and competed FBW Kennedy that she competed at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and then sold for Robert Dover to ride for the U.S. team at the 2004 Athens Games. De Vito, a 10-year-old Württemberger gelding (De Niro x Daisy x Disco-Stern) has been a consistent 70 per cent performer since starting Grand Prix last October.