World Championship 5-Year-Old Qualifier by ILSE Schwarz at Verden, Germany
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By ILSE SCHWARZ
VERDEN, Germany- Aug. 26, 2021–You all know by now that Eva Möller of Germany won the World Championship five-year-old qualifier on Danciero 7 (Dancier x Fuechtel’s Floriscount) so instead of telling you all about him at the start of my story, you can experience my morning just as I did.
The early bird gets the worm is a familiar saying in my world, in this case the early bird got to watch some sublime five-year-old dressage horses strut their stuff. The first ride was at 9 a.m., which is actually really LATE in the world of horses, but jet lag sometimes makes it seem AWFULLY early. Thursday was one of those days. We are conditioned to believe that the earlier rides in any class at a championship are likely to be less proficient than those toward the end of the class. Fortunately, I am well aware that the draw for these championships is totally random so, even if the first ride is an unknown rider and horse, you just never know what they will do. That proved 100% the case. I reported Wednesday that the pandemic and the different demands of training when not going to competitions, was very beneficial for the six-year-old horses. The same holds true for most of the five-year-old horses, too. It has to be said, that there really was a significant tail end in this class. The typical five-year-old horse is so difficult to plan ahead with. When they qualify they often feel like entirely different creatures by the time championships arrive. It’s no-one’s fault, it’s just the way they develop.
A quick look at the start list showed that Eva Möller was riding Global Player at 9.08 a.m., second to go. I knew I had to be there for that. The first horse, Las Vegas (Ferdeaux x Wynton) ridden by Franka Loos from the Netherlands didn’t ring a bell but I figured I would be ready for that ride, too. My hotel is a massive 10-minute stroll to the facility. On arrival at the grounds I had to plug in the computer, make coffee, all that time-consuming stuff… and then make the five-minute trek to the show arena. Turns out that I literally only just got there in time. The coffee had barely started to seep into my jet lagged brain when I started taking photos thinking, “Is this really as good as I think it is?” Las Vegas is a big loose, elastic stallion that had top quality in all three gaits. He was engaged and active, lovely in the connection, uphill and the best part about it was that none of us expected it. The judges were generous for what was the first horse of the day. Trot 9.2, walk 8.8, canter 9.5, submission 8.9 and perspective 9.5. Overall 91.800 and ended up sixth. Honestly, if he had gone even a few horses later he would likely have scored a touch higher. It will be one to watch in the finals, no question about it.
So as those around me were all still going, “Wow! Where did that come from?” In comes Eva Möller on the stallion Global Player (Grand Galaxy Win x Blue Hors Don Schufro). I was expecting to see real quality but was still somewhat blown away. My notes on his trot read “All of the quality of the first horse but in a smaller package.” I guess the judges agreed as his trot also scored 9.2. He showed a very good effort for the reinback. The walk was next level good though. I swear everything in his body moved in synchrony, deliberate forwards energy, good overtrack and just the most correct use of his back, 9.5. In the canter he showed balance, power, elasticity a steady frame and an almost impossibly beautiful connection and sublime transitions; 9.6 for canter, 9.5 for submission, 9.7 for perspective and 95.000 overall for third.
What a way to start the day!
I then had a chance to study the start list again as I knew there were a few horses by newer sires that had caught my interest. The stallion Franklin (Ampere x Ferro) has been making some very interesting riding horses. I have seen a couple in the flesh and some interesting ones on video. I also loved Hesselhoej Donkey Boy (Dancing Hit x Milan) when he competed in these championships and have been itching to see some ridden progeny. I have also heard good things about Ferguson (Floriscount x Lauries Crusader), it was clear the first group of horses were going to keep my attention.
The Oldenburg gelding, Francis Drake (Franklin x Blue Hors Don Schufro) ridden by Leonie Richter was the fourth to go. This horse also had a trot filled with positive energy and a good amount of cadence. He has just a hint more knee than some others, but nothing even close to extreme. Just enough to add expression. Very clear difference between the collection and extension. In the walk he had a beautiful reach to the bridle, really good freedom in his shoulder, so the hind leg has plenty of room for overtrack. The canter was just so very uphill and balanced through all the transitions. The transitions I am talking about are not just the walk to canter, or canter to walk but also from the extended trot to collected trot and then halt and reinback. Also, from the medium canter on the circle back to collected canter on the long side at E. The horses that did it well truly achieved that transition in one or two fluid strides, with zero loss of balance or change in the frame. From my point of view, that transition is almost impossible on most five-year-old horses. Just a reminder that we are at World Championships! Francis Drake scored overall 89.400 to end in 8th place.
The next one to give me goosebumps was the Danish stallion, Hesselhoej Down Town, the son of Hesselhoej Donkey Boy x Blue Hors Zack. Skillfully ridden by Jeanna Hogberg for Sweden. His trot is just so light footed it barely seems to touch the ground. I think it may be my favorite trot of the day, score 9.5… although it’s a pretty close competition. He has the most sweet engaged expression on his face through the test. His canter is well engaged, with great power and quick with the hind leg without ever sacrificing ground cover. Score 9.5 There was the occasional lack of attention and unsteadiness in the frame and a less than perfect reinback which brought the submission down to 8.7. Overall 92.400 and 4th place
This particular test has a half circle of stretching trot, posting. It proved quite illuminating for some horses. Eva is the absolute master of this movement and both stallions she rode gave textbook examples. There were quite a few horses that come well behind the vertical when asked to stretch. This was nearly always reflected with the submission score. Just a couple of horses had that overdone man-made cadence that used to epitomize the young horse classes, their trots fell to pieces when asked to stretch… or they simply didn’t stretch! The mare, La Traviata, (For Romance x Lord Sinclair) ridden by Sandra Kötter for Germany had a very powerful trot with tons of cadence and an almost crazy active hind leg, but the tempo, rhythm and mechanics were the same throughout. I was really interested to see her in the stretch circle. She maintained the same mechanics with slightly less height every stride, but literally never missing a beat. Her trot was good enough for a 9.8. Sandra was working quite hard to maintain the frame here and there and her submission score was 8.8, overall 90.400 and 7th place.
My absolute favorite of the day was the rather petite KWPN mare, Lightning Star (Ferguson x De Niro) ridden so very beautifully by Kirsten Brouwer for the Netherlands. This pair are an absolute team. The mare is somewhat petite and feminine, but she also has substance. Her hind leg in the trot was outstanding, the connection so very honest. Beautiful clear definition between the collected and extended trots. Absolute balance maintained through the 10-meter half circles. She showed an almost perfect reinback. One of the few to not go crooked or wide behind and then she went into one of those “slinky” walks that you could sit on all day. She demonstrated a perfect stretching trot and I was completely, totally in love. For brief moment a MARE was in the lead with an overall score of 95.200. Kirsten could be seen wiping the tears away as she left the arena after seeing her scores. It’s possible I got a little teary too.
I truly thought we had seen the winner, but I had forgotten just what a competition rider Eva is. She made sure the stallion Danciero 7 (Dancier x Fuechtel’s Floriscount) didn’t throw away a single point. I thought the trot was ridden fractionally over tempo, the judges disagreed with a 9.5. The frame was perfection, the test could not have been more accurate but I just felt a little breathless by the time she arrived at her, almost perfect, reinback. The walk was just amazing. Eva made a point of showing how beautifully the stallion reached for the contact. He showed true relaxation and freedom, and such dependable rhythm, 9.5. The highlight was unequivocally the canter. Another one to use all the words! Uphill, powerful, expressive, engaged, balanced–I think you get it. The transitions were so very fluid but clear. I can’t imagine it was possible to ride it better. The judges agreed with the only “10” of the day. Danciero 7 whinnied throughout the trot tour, but his frame and rhythm never changed so the submission score was high, 9.5, which just goes to show that some horses are allowed to talk through their tests without penalty (couldn’t resist a small joke). Overall 96.600 and first place.
All of this happened within the first 18 rides. The remainder of the class had flashes of brilliance. Hannah Laser of Germany had a good ride on the stallion Damaschino (Danone x Fidertanz) to finish unequal fourth place with 92.400 but the test didn’t excite me. It was beautifully ridden and he is an uphill elegant stallion and no doubt the highlight of his group.
It will be an incredibly exciting final. I think that any one of the top six could finish at the top.