World Five-Year-Old Championships–Quality of Horses, Riders and Judges

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Beatrice Buchwald and Victoria's Secret in the World Breeding Dressage Championships for Young Horses final. © 2016 DigiShots
Beatrice Buchwald and Victoria’s Secret in the World Breeding Dressage Championships for Young Horses final. © 2016 DigiShots

By ILSE SCHWARZ, an Australian trainer based in Wellington, Florida and a frequent contributor to dressage-news.com

As everyone settles in for the finals of the five year old championships at the World Young Horse Championships the judges welcome everyone. I absolutely love the opening comments about what the judges are looking for from the judging panel spokeswoman, Isobel Wessels of Great Britain.  She is very clear. Quality in the basic gaits and then “the perspective,” formerly general impression, which is stated as the potential to move forwards in international sport.

As a trainer of young horses, one thing is clear to me every single year–ALL judges and competitors in the young horse classes should be required to watch this show, preferably live, but if that isn’t available then watch the total coverage. And I mean the TOTAL coverage.

Listen where points are given and subtracted in the scoring. Hear how crookedness affects not only the score for the gait and the submission but also the perspective, as it is a reflection on the training.

Understand that if the horse makes a big mistake, such as a huge break in one trot extension, if the quality of the trot is basically without question, the score is still high for the gait but the subtraction will be seen in the submission. The fact that the submission score can be much higher for a horse that is beautifully trained and presented than the basic scores for the gaits, the judges are consistently rewarding, again and again, work that looks easy and light-footed.

Finally, it became apparent very quickly that the connection is becoming more and more influential in the score for the submission. There is no tolerance for a strong or busy contact. In this group of very high quality five-year-old horses, all with better than good basic gaits, the submission score was going to be a significant contributing factor in the final rankings.

Heiline”s Danciera ridden by Carina Cassøe Krüth . © 2016 DigiShots
Heiline’s Danciera ridden by Carina Cassøe Krüth. © 2016 DigiShots

First to go was the Danish combination of Carina Cassøe Krüth on Heiline’s Danciera (Furstenball x De Niro). This combination was the second place-getter in the small final on a score of 8.36, after a qualification ride that achieved a mere 7.64, with submission score of only 6.7.  This horse and rider clearly built confidence over the rides, one of the wonderful things about this competition that allows youngsters clearly overwhelmed by their surroundings a second chance to shine. And shine this pair did!

The comments from the judges set the overall tone of this very high quality class–“Wow, what a start to this competition,” “Such a beautiful light-footed, elegant, supple horse. Beautifully ridden with such nice transitions, and everything we want to see in good riding. Congratulations on your super horse.”

Comments on the basic gaits were on the ability shown to collect, softness into the contact and beautiful transitions. Trot 9.2, walk 8.3 and canter 8.8.  Then a score of 9.5 for submission showed that the judges were quite willing to score this category higher than the basic scores for gaits, and then the comment, ”We all want to take this one home, please,” and a 9.5 for general perspective. This combination finished in fourth place. Quite an improvement from their qualification ranking of 23rd!

The class continued with a collection of beautiful horses with the judges commenting with such consistency on what they liked and what they would like to see improved. I have just picked out a few to comment on.

Simone Pearce of Australia and Fine Time, an Oldenburg mare (Fürstenball x Sandro Hit x Donnerhall). I paid special attention to this one, as I own a Sandro Hit x De Niro mare and have decided that when it is time, Fürstenball and her will make great babies. If they produce another Fine Time, I will be very happy. Also, Simone is Australian, although she has been based in Holland for some years now. This mare caught my eye in the qualification class. I simply loved the harmony with her rider, her way of covering the ground and her three basic gaits. The comments were interesting, as again we got to see how the judges were so picky on details that were really a reflection of the basic scale of training and affecting the potential of the horse to progress in training.

“For sure I am going to run out of words to say how beautiful these horses are. Another very elegant elastic horse in a beautiful frame and going so nicely forwards with enormous amounts of elasticity”

However, the judges commented on loss of balance and rhythm in the trot in the corners and the strength of connection (on the rider’s hand) in the extensions in trot… this affected the trot score despite the obvious quality of the basic gait, 8.2. In the canter they loved the jump, the elasticity and the ability to collect but were concerned with the crookedness in the second extension that carried into the counter canter so the simple change was on two tracks,  8.3.

The submission score took into account the problems with the self carriage in the canter and the judges on the long side also noticed that the halts were often behind the leg and needed to be more engaged up into the outside rein. Isobel then said, ”transitions, transitions, transitions.” As trainers, how often do we think this? How often do we think this on our five-year-olds? Such a training moment for all of us young horse trainers–7.7. General perspective score of 8.4 indicated that the judges really believed in this combination and a final placing of 11th.

Sascha Schulz and Quel Filou in the  World Breeding Dressage Championships for Young Horses. © 2016 DigiShots
Sascha Schulz and Quel Filou in the World Breeding Dressage Championships for Young Horses. © 2016 DigiShots

Sasha Schulz and the gelding Quel Filou OLD (Quarterback x Stedinger) riding for Luxembourg had placed sixth in the qualification round. This horse had a huge score for the walk (9.3) in the qualification round, but not a great score for submission, 7.9, My impression was that in this competition, the combination was obviously more relaxed with a huge walk that used every part of the topline in both the extended and medium walk. There was an overall softness and roundness in the work that was simply pleasing to watch. The judges apparently agreed.

“This was a treat to watch and a treat to judge.” “The trot was full of expression, controlled energy, really working over the back and energetic. Occasionally dropping the poll and losing energy on the tighter lines which made the score 9. The walk. I don’t know what else we could ask. Absolutely clear rhythm, active, following the hand, totally relaxed, a 10.”

This brought wild applause from the absurdly knowledgeable crowd. In the canter again there is the occasional tendency to go low in the poll, but there is a clear willingness to collect and good balance before the simple changes, although they were not quite straight (there are those picky judges again!), 9.1. Submission. There was a little bit of tilting sometimes, but the horse was completely willing and relaxed, 9.0. Perspective 9.5, no extra comments required and final placing of reserve champion.

Beatrice Buchwald and Victoria's Secret celebrating gold medal in World Breeding Dressage Championships for five-year-old horses. © 2016 DigiShots
Beatrice Buchwald and Victoria’s Secret celebrating gold medal in World Breeding Dressage Championships for five-year-old horses. © 2016 DigiShots

The final combination of the class, Victoria’s Secret (Vitalis x Fidermark) and Beatrice Buchwald were the ones everyone was waiting for.

This combination was the standout winner of the qualification round, being the only pair to score over 90 per cent (9.34). The spectator stands are absolutely packed for this ride with barely even standing room available.

Beatrice, the assistant trainer at Isabell Werth’s barn, is leaving nothing on the table with this extraordinary leggy elastic mare. Those of you who, like me, try to follow the European young horse scene are familiar with the beautiful and sympathetic riding of  Beatrice. She reached true international recognition with her rides in previous young horse world championships on the now seven-year-old stallion Belantis.

Not surprisingly, the judges are as enthusiastic as the crowd after the breathtaking ride.

“You don’t need us to tell you that it was very good” “The trot was super balanced, elastic, controlled. Totally natural with lovely transitions, 9.5. The walk was regular, stretching, totally relaxed. Maybe there could be a tiny bit more ground cover, 9.3. The canter was very powerful. We were on a very high mark for the medium canters and true canters but the counter canter lost some jump so only 8.9.”

Surprisingly the crowd did not boo at this score as throughout the class it became apparent that the quality of the canter in the counter-canter was very important to these judges. It was not enough that the geometry was correct and that the horse maintained good balance. In order to get truly top marks, even top place-getter Victoria’s Secret had to show good reach and jump in the counter canter loop. It was yet another training moment for riders, trainers and judges.

Isobel Wessels then announced, with sheer delight in her voice, 9.8 for submission and a 10 for perspective as the judges are “not sure what else they would possibly like to see.” The crowd went berserk and Beatrice Buchwald and Victoria’s Secret became the five-year-old champions  with a final score of 9.5.