World 6-Year-Old Championship at Verden, Germany, Commentary by Ilse Schwarz
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By ILSE SCHWARZ
VERDEN, Germany, Aug. 28, 2021–Despite being a drizzly dreary day weather-wise, the quality of horses, training and judging continued in the World Young Horse Championships on the very high level seen for the duration so far. Saturday came with heavy misty drizzle and a cheeky breeze that found ways to blow rain all over you. Still much preferable to the heavy tropical-style rain of Friday, nevertheless, the chill has a way of seeping into your bones even when well equipped with layers of clothing topped by a waterproof jacket, scarf and really good boots! Hence, I write this story as I am seated at a COVID-Safe bar with a very large beer (when in Germany….) and awaiting some good hot soup!
To be completely honest, I was not sure how much I would enjoy the show Saturday. It was a given that the gold and silver would be between Kjento and Escamillo. I had a vague idea who would battle it out for the bronze but I was expecting mid-80’s at best for that placing. Don’t get me wrong, I would be beside myself to achieve such a score and anything scoring in the 80s is already better than good. However, I just wasn’t sure where the excitement would come from. I should not have had even the slightest concern as we all know, horses will be horses and they delight in surprising us for better or for worse. It was a true final with a standout winner and absolutely no tail end.
Escamillo (Escolar x Rhodiamant) is a truly special stallion. His foals are seeming to have his stamp of quality, too. Escamillo knows that he is a pretty special stallion and tried a few times to tell everyone exactly HOW special he really was, but rider Manuel Dominguez Bernal of Spain quietly kept him focused on the test. Manuel was given the ride on the stallion by Helen Langehanenberg, who continues to train them. For the time being, Manuel tells us, he will keep the ride on the stallion but he doesn’t know the long-term future. My impressions of his ride was controlled power, plenty of energy, truly world class walk and obedience to his rider every step of the way . The judges’ report stated: “Really well ridden in the trot, nice balance, but could stay a little more engaged in the extensions, 9.2” (silence from the 500-strong crowd who had expected more). “The walk, clear ground cover, clear four-beat obviously, we really liked it, 9.5” Crowd shows approval with applause. “The canter, again, beautifully ridden, beautifully executed flying changes, maybe a tiny bit more uphill tendency at times… we are being picky, we are judges, that’s what we do best, is pick on the riders, (chuckle), but a great job for 9.0. Submission, great job, 9.5. Overall we think not just the horse but the combination is very good, we gave it a 9.5.”
The scores of 9.2 for trot and 9.0 for canter for an overall score of 9.34 left the door open for Kjento.
Kjento (Negro x Jazz) ridden by the Britain’s Charlotte Fry, but for the Netherlands for the ownership of the horse, chose to make a rather relaxed familiarization around the arena. Even halting and letting Kjento take in the spectators… in the drizzle. Then she picked up the reins and was in competition mode. They morphed from big quiet black stallion with cute, petite blonde rider into a team that quickly made it clear, were unbeatable. I had the accidental opportunity on Thursday to watch them train. Unbraided, no fancy wraps on his legs. I ALMOST walked straight by but I was enjoying the training of the walk pirouette, and throughness and correct footfalls and then I put two and two together. They went on to school changes. Not interested in making the biggest fanciest moves, just quietly training the aids, the obedience, the suppleness. It is incredible to think how the combination I watched training transforms when they go down the centerline. This suggests that this horse will have longevity in the sport. That he is not trained at maximum power at home and it is just drawn on when needed for performance. Their test was flawless, the trot was breathtaking. I KNEW before I turned to look at the score that it had to be a 10. It was. Kjento is not a horse with a “10” walk but is good, it is adjustable, it will be a good walk at Grand Prix, 8. The canter is everything you could dream to have in a canter. I think I used up all my adjectives in my report on the preliminary final. His changes are big and confident. He doesn’t miss a beat until the crowd breaks into early applause on the centerline startling Kjento out of his focus. It doesn’t matter. There is no question that he has the gold. Ten for trot, canter, submission and perspective and we have our new world champion six-year-old. The judges had nothing more revealing to add. Their scores told us how they thought. Every single person watching agreed.
So, how about the rest of the class?
Some had better rides than the preliminary final, some didn’t. There was consistency with the judging, though. They were openly and clearly rewarding good training. If your horse performed an accurate test, with equal bend in each direction and a happy willingness through their body, chances were that the submission score would be good. Even better if the changes were big and confident. If the rider looked like they were “making the horse” get the job done it affected both the score for the gait and the submission. Crookedness was heavily penalized as was a lack of activity and lack of connection in the medium walk and pirouettes. Many of the horses were left a little long for the pirouettes which reduces the chance of changing the rhythm but also creates a lack of activity. The perspective score was a vote of confidence for virtually every horse. As it should have been. All were good horses with a clear direction towards good FEI.
The bronze medal went to the Polish rider, Beata Stremler on the absolutely gorgeous stallion, For Magic Equesta (For Romance x A Jungle Prince). This elegant, liver chestnut appears full of character and was a favorite of mine in the preliminary final where they placed in fifth. Saturday the horse was loose, elastic and powerful with high quality half passes. Judges comments: “The trot was lovely and light footed, very balanced with a beautiful topline, the walk lovely steps in the extended, also shows a clear ability to collect, we gave 9 again” Rider Beata is grinning broadly at this stage. “Throughout the test was a slight suggestion that he wasn’t always accepting the contact, it just varied subtly and I think this came out in the canter. So the canter was a little tight at times although he performed all the work correctly, but we gave an 8 as he just could have stayed a little more supple through his topline. Submission, 8.2. Overall beautiful horse, nice presentation and a 9 for perspective.” You could see Beata being shocked, delighted and then a look of disbelief as the overall score of 8.64 came up and she realized that she had bronze. I asked her later, what her hopes had been for this competition? She was totally honest: “ I only hoped that I would not make a mess.”
Probably the biggest disappointment of the day was for Simone Pearce, riding for Australia, on the Hanoverian stallion Dancier Gold (Dancier x Weltmeyer). They came into the final with a seriously good chance for bronze. This stallion has a very cadenced impressive trot, Simone knows how to ride good shoulder-in and half pass. The extensions were not as easy as we have seen but still good enough for 8.8. The walk is a highlight. He has a good ability to relax and show good overtrack in the extension and then collects well for the pirouettes. In the canter he started to look like he was losing forwards desire. His ears were going back and Simone was obviously working much harder than expected. The reason became abundantly clear when half way through the canter tour he literally stopped and manured. There was no moving him until this was done. The crowd gasped and then you could hear their hearts going out to her. He went right back to canter but the damage was done. The first thing the judges said was that “stallions will be stallions and when you have to go, you have to go.” No-one could have seen it coming but it affected both the canter score, 8.4 and the submission, as the work never really settled back into a rhythm, was only 7.7. The overall score of 8.44 left them in sixth place.
The horse that really changed rankings was the Westfalen gelding Briatore (Belissimo x Dresemann) ridden for Switzerland by Andrina Suter. The pair finished 12th in the preliminary class. This combination rode a textbook test in Saturday’s final. So accurate and well ridden, beautiful half passes, transitions ridden to their best potential and four big confident changes. He was not particularly exciting to watch but soft, engaged gaits that were very easy and enjoyable to watch. A submission score of 9.0 helped with their overall score of 8.56 and 4th place.