Most Amazing European Championships Start Tuesday with Dressage Vet Check of Totilas & More

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Russia's Inessa Merkulova on Mixter X whose extravagant gaits and showmanship won a big fan following at the World Cup in Las Vegas, warming up at Aachen for the European Championships. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Russia’s Inessa Merkulova on Mixter X whose extravagant gaits and showmanship won a big fan following at the World Cup in Las Vegas, warming up at Aachen for the European Championships. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

AACHEN, Germany, Aug. 10, 2015–The European Championships start Tuesday with the dressage veterinary check and a spectacular opening ceremony ahead of two days of Nations Cup in which 18 countries will compete for medals and three team slots at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro a year from now.

Totilas ridden by Matthias Alexander Rath of Germany will perform in only their second international event in the past year and will compete head to head with Great Britain’s double Olympic gold medal pair of Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro.

It will be the first time since the competition at these same show grounds a year ago but this time will be in the 40,000-seat Main Stadium that is center stage for these continental championships of five disciplines—dressage, driving, jumping, reining and vaulting. An international event will also be staged in what is as close to a World Equestrian Games minus endurance.

Unlike the 2014 CDIO when Charlotte had spent a month in New Zealand before showing up at Aachen to finish sixth in the Grand Prix on a score of 76.900 per cent, uncharacteristic for the pair that hold all three Grand Prix level records, the British world champions are expected to be in top form.

Only the absence of the United States, Canada, Australia and Brazil among others makes this THE competition of the year at the show grounds that are so amazing–the dressage arena in the center of the Main Stadium with 40,000 seats, just like it was at the World Games in 2006.

An organization that simply makes everything work for horses and riders, a media operation that not only welcomes the press from around the world and answers questions: “How can we help?” Oh, and complete video streaming, no lecturing apologies about why you should understand the gobbledegook of rights that kept viewers from seeing what may be the one moment in a career–Canada and everywhere else in the Americas was blacked out for dressage and eventing.

Germany, already qualified for the Olympics based on their team gold at the World Games in Normandy last year, is heavily favored to win the Nations Cup with Totilas and Matthias joined by 2012 Olympic and 2014 World Games medalist Kristina Bröring-Sprehe on Desperados that have been routinely scoring above 80 per cent in the Grand Prix this year, superstar Isabell Werth on Don Johnson FRH and rising star Jessica von Bredow-Werndl on Unee BB.

Great Britain with Charlotte and Valegro is teamed with her trainer and part-owner of the KWPN gelding, Carl Hester on Nip Tuck, Fiona Bigwood returning to international championships with Atterupgaards Orthilia and Michael Eilberg on Marakov, his WEG mount Half Moon Delphi having been sold to the United States.

Netherlans team riders in Aachen's Main Stadium before the start of the competition. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Netherlands team riders in Aachen’s Main Stadium before the start of the competition. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The Netherlands’ team of the Glock pairs Edward Gal on Undercover and Hans Peter Minderhoud on Johnson TN as well as Patrick van der Meer on Uzzo and Diedrik van Silfhout on Arlando are among the podium favorites.

More importantly for the other nations are Olympic dreams.

Sweden’s squad of Tinne Vlehlmsson-Silfvén on Don Auriello with six Olympics on her resume, Patrik Kittel on the fancy Deja, Minna Telde on Santa and Emillie Nyrerod on Miata are given the best shot of earning a Rio start.

Denmark’s top combination of Anna Kasprzak on Donnperignon will be looking to lead her team of Daniel Bachmann on Blue Hors Loxana, the Wellington, Florida-based Mikala Gundersen on My Lady and Rikke Svane in Finckenstein TSF to a high enough place to qualify for Rio.

However, Spain has a strong team with Morgan Barbancon Mestre on Painted Black, Beatriz Ferrer-Salat on Delgado, the Olympic and World Games pair of Jose Daniel Dockx on the American-owned Grandioso and José Antonio Garcia Mena on Norte Lovera.

A surprise could be Russia with the powerful combination of Inessa Merkulova on Mister X whose extravagant gaits wowed the crowd at the World Cup Final in Las Vegas in April, veteran Elena Sidneva on Romeo-Star, Ekaterina Kharchenk on Gulliver and Marine Aframeeva on Vosk.

Spectators will be able to weigh in with their votes.

A sophisticated smartphone/tablet app developed by the German software giant SAP that was tested at Aachen a year ago has been refined to enable spectators to judge every movement of every ride and see how it compares with the way the judges award marks.

The app gives spectators the opportunity to be judges and to see how their opinions stack up with other spectators and the judges in what Carl Hester, the British rider, and others see as the potential to change dressage judging.

The link to iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/en/app/aachen-2015/id1014414655?mt=8

The app provides Eventing fans with a new perspective of the cross-country competition. In collaboration with NetAachen, the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein organizers and SAP are launching a unique pilot project: Data from the current cross-country competition will be displayed in real-time via the so-called “tracking” function. The cross-country course can also be experienced virtually prior to the competition.