World Young Horse Championships, Six-Year-Old Preliminary – by ILSE SCHWARZ
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By ILSE SCHWARZ
VERDEN, Germany, Aug. 25, 2021–I desperately wanted to be able to attend and cover these championships and was constantly checking the travel information into Europe for non-European Union residents. Imagine my delight when travel opened in July. Armed with a negative COVID test, vaccination record, health document filled in and many, many masks I boarded a very empty American Airlines flight from the U.S. to Amsterdam. Upon arrival I was in my rental car in record time. No lines at all in passport control, barely any checked baggage to wait for, as there were barely any passengers, so that was super fast too. No lines for the car rental and I even scored an upgrade. On top of that, everyone was just so happy and helpful! Even the passport control people were cheerful… I think mine may even have cracked a joke: HIM-“Where are you going?” ME-“Verden, Germany.” HIM, puzzled look on his face-“Why would you go there?” ME-“Young horse world championships.” HIM, shake of head, stamp on passport and moving right along!
Arriving in Verden was like pulling on an old comfortable shoe, with a mask of course. It is the home of the Hanoverian horse and their logo is everywhere. The five and six-year-old classes are sponsored by Helgstrand and their logo is prolific too. One of the never-before-seen things about the five and six-year-old classes in 2021 is that, due to the pandemic, these horses were not out competing last year. No-one has seen them compete at a world championship. We have seen some stallions in stallion presentations, and of course a few people made it to the qualifiers, but so few spectators were allowed that basically the audience and judges alike are watching the class with very few pre-conceived ideas. It was wonderful. I asked as many of the other journalists as possible if they had seen many of the horses and the answer was uniformly, “No.” I like to challenge myself and try to have my comments for each ride completed before the scores are announced. In the back of my mind I give each gait a number but I just want my impressions recorded without any influence of the judges’ score. I was only surprised perhaps two or three times over the entire class of 48 horses. It made for very enjoyable viewing, I hope the judges felt the same.
A general observation was that the riders had used the pandemic to their advantage. Maybe the horses aren’t as seasoned in the competition arena as riders would like, but that went hand in hand with most horses exhibiting very little obvious stress and tension. There was not one, I repeat, not one lateral walk. In fact not even one with a dangerous rhythm. I have never been able to say that. That being said, there were some very normal walks, many, many in the realm of 8 to 8.5 and only one scored a 9.0. My comment for that horse, Powerpoint de Tamise, ridden by Andrea Winkeler of Germany, who was third last to go was “best walk of the day.” It was that obvious. Having said that, ALL of those 8+ walks were walks that I could see still being in good rhythm by the time they reach Grand Prix. It makes me wonder if a walk for 8.5 as a six-year-old is more desirable than the much desired “10 for a walk” and perhaps should be scored as such. A couple of other generalizations are that almost all of the horses did clean flying changes. Maybe they were crooked, croup high, a smaller stride, clean and not expressive but the bottom line is that 95% of the class did clean changes, of course some were beautifully uphill and expressive. That was also not in my expectations. The halt before the reinback was another eye-opener. The majority of horses halted square. And balanced. I can’t say the same about the reinback but to see so many square well balanced halts was refreshing.
So what separated the horses if they were doing so much better with so many aspects of the test? Honest forwards energy, steadiness in the contact, staying in soft uphill carriage, the “durchlassigkeit,” or submission, and the elusive presence, expression and harmony. When you see it you know it is there. When it is missing, we see just a nice horse. Overall this was a very pleasing class with much good riding and training. Some wonderful horses that were really very good in all three gaits and then two outstanding stallions. It is also interesting, but completely coincidental, that the top three place-getters, all stallions, went one after another. Escamillo then Kjento then Suarez!
The horse taking the lead after the preliminary finals is the relatively well known KWPN stallion Kjento (Negro x Jazz). Owned and bred by Van Olst Horses and ridden superbly by Charlotte Fry who, like quite a few of the riders, is fresh off the Olympics. The pair had a little buzz around them entering the championships but I, like many, had seen nothing from him other than stallion presentation videos. When he trotted down the centerline it was clear we were watching a horse that was over-the-top talented. All of the adjectives you can think of apply to this horse. Light footed yet powerful, hind legs showing engagement and activity but they are quick in the best possible way. He had a beautiful expression on his face and a wonderfully steady contact, really traveling into the bridle. His half passes, in both directions highlighted his elasticity and suppleness and showed reach that most of us can only dream of in our Grand Prix horses. That he received “10” for trot was no surprise. The walk was good but not outstanding. Clear four-beat, good relaxation and a nice confident overtrack. It’s a walk that you can imagine will look exactly the same by the time he is competing at Grand Prix, it scored 8. The canter is everything you could want and then some. Such perfectly balanced energy, and so very uphill as he engages and lowers behind in every single stride. Another “10.” The whole test looked so very easy and fluid and all I could think of as she left the arena was, “Wow, what must that feel like to sit on?” Hence, it is completely understandable that submission was 9.5 and the “perspective” or “future as a dressage horse” was also 9.5. Overall 94.00 percent.
The stallion who claimed second place was the Rhinelander, Escamillo (Escolar x Rhodiamant), ridden by the Spanish rider Manuel Dominguez Bernal, bred by Gestut Tenterhof and owned by the American, Kimberley Davis-Slous of Wrightstown, New Jersey. Escamillo is a very popular breeding stallion who has had much success in young stallion shows with Helen Langehanenberg. He already has many progeny on the ground and I was very excited to see him “in the flesh” and not just on video. He did not disappoint. This horse knows he is a stallion and has that presence and power and, let’s face it, that “sexiness” that only stallions can have. He is elastic, uphill and striking in his profile. Shows great ground cover whilst remaining in balance. Tremendous engagement in both the canter and the trot; 9.5 for trot, 9.6 for canter. Again a good, but not outstanding, walk for 8.4. Submission was a 9.0, he had some small unsteadiness in the frame and 9.5 for perspective. His rider did a great job on a horse that is very well aware that he is a breeding stallion. Overall 92.00 percent.
Finishing today in third position was the Hanoverian stallion Suarez (Sezuan x Desperados) ridden by Mette Sejbjerg Jenson of Denmark. Bred by Judith and Sönke Schmidt and owned by Helgstrand Dressage. Mette had the daunting task of following both Escamillo and Kjente. She was up to the task. This stallion definitely did not have that “something extra” that the other two stallions have, but what a lovely, lovely horse. His trot was uphill, active, energetic and really pleasing to watch. Fluid half passes and a lovely contact maintained throughout, 8.5. Another walk that was good. Relaxed, nice overtrack and reaching toward the bridle as the reins are released, 8. He had good jump into an uphill frame in the canter, expressive changes for a six-year-old and a wonderful extension. My notes say that it deserved a good score, and he got it–8.5. Both submission and perspective also scored 8.5. Overall 84.00 percent.
In fourth place was another stallion, this one ridden by the Australian Simone Pearce. The Hanoverian stallion Dancier Gold is owned by Gestut Sprehe. Simone was also competing at the Olympics in Tokyo and has three horses competing at these championships. This stallion was very consistent with quality across all three gaits, but I was left wondering if perhaps Simone had the handbrake on a little today. I guess we will find out on Saturday!. The trot was cadenced, the half passes fluid with great reach, 8.5. Really beautiful loose swing through his whole body and out to the contact in the walk, 8.3 and a wonderfully secure canter. You just got the feeling that everything was going to happen when and where it should. Easy clean changes and a striking extension on the long side, 8.4. Submission 8.3 and perspective 8.5. Overall also 84.00 percent. The ranking is decided by the score in the submission when two horses are on the same score.