Second Leg of Pilot Dressage Nations Cup Series at Rotterdam Thursday

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Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro Olympic team and individual gold medal winners at the London Olympics. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro Olympic team and individual gold medal winners at the London Olympics. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

ROTTERDAM. Netherlands, June 18–The second leg of the dressage Nations Cup pilot series is held Thursday with a record seven teams but bickering involving Europe’s biggest competition has cast a cloud over International Equestrian Federation (FEI) hopes to generate excitement of riders and fans as well as financial support from sponsors.

Both the Netherlands, for which this CHIO is the premier event in their homeland, and Great Britain have fielded powerful teams. Britain’s double Olympic gold medal partnership of Charlotte Dujardin and Dutch star Edward Gal and Glock’s Undercover that he rode at the London Games headline their squads.

In addition to Great Britain and the Netherlands, Sweden’s team will be led by Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfvén and her Olympic mount Don Auriello on which she is ranked No. 6 in the world.

Denmark includes the American-based Lars Petersen on Mariett and Mikala Gundersen and My Lady while the other teams are Belgium, France and Germany.

The Netherlands has made the strongest commitment to the experimental series that began in Vidauban, France two months ago and after Rotterdam and Aachen moves to the finale at Hickstead, England.

The Dutch won the Vidauban event and is the only nation committed to all four events in the belief, Netherlands coach Wim Ernes says, is to show support for the series as well “if you want your voice heard you need to be in it.”

And Hickstead has already created special interest as the Nations Cup team competition will be decided solely by the Freestyle for the first time in history instead of the traditional Grand Prix.

Dane Rawlins, the creator and organizer of Hickstead, admits the Freestyle Nations Cup is a bold new direction but told dressage-news.com, “It’s an effort worth making because the musical freestyles are what brings in the crowds and to marry national pride with music could bring life and new fans to the sport.”

Aachen, the epitome of big sport in Europe with its CHIO of team competitios in dressage, eventing, jumping, driving and vaulting, has nine teams in the dressage, including the United States for the first time in this year’s series.

Edward Gal and Glock's Undercover. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Edward Gal and Glock’s Undercover. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

But the Netherlands’ team at Aachen does not include any of the big stars as it comes just a week after Rotterdam where all the top names are competing.

That sparked a sharp rebuke from Frank Kemperman, who runs the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, who was quoted by a Dutch newspaper as saying he would have to think twice before deciding whether to invite the Netherlands to the 2014 Nations Cup.

Many point out that Germany is fielding an equally less powerful team at Rotterdam–where the withdrawal of Ellen Schulten-Baumer and Grosso’s Gentle reduced the squad to the required minimum of three.

The highest ranked German team combination is Stephan Köberle and Darjeeling at No. 65 in the world while his two team mates are 114 and 267, respectively, in the standings.

Wim Ernes, the Dutch coach, said that Rotterdam is the premier show for Holland and his team’s riders are competing their top horses here.

“We cannot show the horses two weeks in a row,” he said. “We are not complaining that Germany does not have a top team here.

“Great Britain also does not have their top horses in Aachen. Why are we being singled out?”

Despite the tiff over participation, Wim said, “I think we have to take the series seriously as a possibiity to build up a new formula for dressage, to bring some more excitement to the sport especially the possibilities with the Freestyle.

“If we are not involved in the test series then our opinion does not matter. It’s important for us as a country to be in it and to have the opportunity to give our opinion.”

Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfvén who competed in the Vidauban Nations Cup and at Rotterdam said she believes the series is “really good for the sport.”

Sweden, she said, has difficulty filling team slots because of the travel required.

“Maybe we need this pilot series to see if it works due to all the distance and travel involved.”

“In the long run I think this really good. I hope we can get it to work. It’s always nice to have new thinking and it’s important to try new things.”