World 6-Year-Old Championship Wrapup Commentary by Ilse Schwarz
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By ILSE SCHWARZ
ERMELO, Netherlands, Sept. 12, 2022–I thought this was going to be my favorite class of the championships. I couldn’t wait to see the top two finishers from the qualifications do this test. We know that everyone keeps a little in reserve for the finals.
Hesselhoej Down Town (Hesselhoej Donkey Boy x Blue Hors Zack) was one of my absolute favorites from the five year olds in 2021 and Las Vegas (Ferdeaux x Wynton) looked to have developed in a very positive way over the last year. In reality there is a reason I generally come into these championships blind–I have no expectations, no pre-conceived ideas abut the horses. This served me well in the five-year-old class and I should have remembered for the six-year-old class, too!
From the first horse down the centerline, it was clear that the judges were not holding anything back. They were aware this was a world championship and the gloves were off. Any irregularity in use of the front legs, usually from over-riding, was noted and penalized, tilting in the corners, in the small circles wanted and penalized, changes in tempo, tightness over the top line and so I could continue, all are noted and penalized, if not in the scores for the gait, then in the submission.
One thing I am 100% sure of, if I was coming to these championships and saw any of the judging panel participating, I would would make sure that my walk pirouettes were unequivocally brilliant. This movement seemed to be a huge influence on the score for submission. Understandably so as it demonstrates the ability to come into collection, maintain bend, maintain tempo and a pure rhythm. In short, if you messed up even one walk pirouette you were going to hear about it in your submission score. Also, they may be six years old, but if you are here, the judges panel expects confident, clean CORRECT flying changes. They missed NOTHING.
So, after all this preamble, what happened in the class? The preliminary final was held in the small arena, which has a very low atmosphere, not much to feel stressed about. The final was in the big arena, the final class of the entire championship, with a crowd who had been enjoying themselves all day. They were not your typical quiet dressage crowd. They were having fun, as they should, but some of the youngsters found it unsettling. Also, perhaps the desire to add expression led some of the riders to ask too much, perhaps. The judges were very enthusiastic when they saw a horse presented in “a natural” way. This takes very clever riding to present expression without tension.
The first horse to go, Denton Rmb, a gorgeous stallion by Dream Boy x Don Shufro, ridden by Bart Veeze had caught my attention in the preliminary finals. I am currently riding a wonderful mare by Dream Boy so I was extra interested. This stallion showed a nice elastic trot, always clear in rhythm and balance. He needed to show a little more for the extensions, but he kept the same rhythm and balance, and also in the lateral work, 8.0. He was relaxed in the walk, with good overtrack and good shoulder freedom. Rhythm was was well maintained into the collection and the walk pirouettes and earned 8.8. The canter could have been more uphill, but the transitions into and out of extensions were good, 8.3. He showed tilting in the half passes but all changes were convincing. 8.3 for submission and 8.5 for perspective. Overall 8.38, significantly up from his preliminary score of 8.16. I thought to myself, “Yes! We are in for some amazing rides today.” Unfortunately, this ride actually didn’t set the tone. Denton Rmb finished in 9th place out of 16 horses.
Mani’s Endeavor (Morricone x Foundation 2) and American Jennifer Hoffmann had impressed in trot in the qualifications with a score of 9.0. As they entered the arena, it was obvious things weren’t going so smoothly. He is an enormous gelding. Very uphill in his build and way of going in the trot but in the Final was almost too forwards. Nothing looked easy and Jennifer was working every stride to keep his mind on the job. He was tense in the walk and not easy in the canter. The overall score was 7.36, nothing like their 8.16 in the qualifications.
The next ride was the German Lena Waldmann on the Hannoverian mare Belinda (Bon Coeur x Royal Blend). This combination qualified with a strong win in the small final with a score of 8.6. In the actual final they showed one of the better walks for the day (9.0), relaxed, good overtrack, good maintenance of rhythm into the collection. The trot was clockwork regular with good forward purpose but slightly wide behind in extensions (8.2). The canter had a clear jump but could have been more uphill in the extensions and the judges wanted to see better collection (8.5), the changes had one croup high and two that were a little crooked (I told you the judges noted everything), submission 8.6, overall score 8.58. This combination ultimately finished in 6th place. They held the lead throughout most of the class.
The following combinations had tension in the pirouettes, croup high, late behind, badly executed changes, tilting in the lateral work, tension in the walk, not clear rhythm in canter etc etc. You get the point. Not the best rides for these wonderful horses. They all came in with such promise but just a little thing here, a little thing there.
This essentially continued until the much anticipated Las Vegas (Ferdeaux x Wynton) entered the arena. I don’t mind admitting that, with such an experienced rider as Emmelie Scholtens in the saddle, I thought this combination would be hard to beat. Unfortunately, the whole finals experience got to him, too. The amazing “10” trot we saw in the preliminary competition was just not there. Don’t get me wrong, the trot was still incredible, but it lost its unshakeable self carriage and easy but impressive way of covering the ground, even though she maintained an impressive trot throughout the lateral work. So it was “only” 9.5”. The walk was really affected by the tension, not really relaxed and as such the rhythm was affected in the collected walk, 7.9. The canter was completely impressive, with enormous freedom of shoulders, easy transitions into the collection, 9.6. However, there were problems with all 4 changes. The hands were together in some, the changes weren’t through in any so that plus the losses of rhythm in walk led submission to 7.9. Overall score of 8.74 and this combination finished 4th.
Swedish rider Jeanna Hogberg and the Danish Warmblood Hesselhoej Down Town (Hesselhoej Donkey Boy x Blue Hors Zack) put in a beautiful test but there was just that little “something” missing. A touch less relaxation, a touch less expression? The scores were still amazing but I didn’t feel goose bumps.
“The trot was very active, light footed. In both extensions he tended to be a little wide behind and the hocks could have been moving more under. You kept the cadence, activity and forwards tendency through the lateral work and we decided on a 9.3 for the trot,” was the view of the judges. For the walk, it was very clear and really adjustable with a nice overtrack and freedom of the shoulders. Also 9.3. The canter was active, clear jump, sometimes a little high in the croup but nice adjustability, 9.0. The changes could have been a little more uphill, but what was appreciated was the nice contact, the ease of bend in suppleness and the willingness to work for his rider, 9.5. Then 9.8 for perspective. Overall score of 9.38. On my notes I wrote, “I don’t think anyone is beating that.”
The extraordinary combination of the KWPN stallion Lennox US (Grand Galaxy Win x Rousseau) and his 17-year-old rider Jill Bogers came next. This young rider competed with Lennox in the junior European Championships as part of the Dutch team, so they are a seasoned combination. The horse was super confident in all the work and an absolute to delight to watch. What a partnership they will have as they develop together through the levels. Their overall score of 8.9 put them in 3rd place and Jill was in a state of disbelief as she left the arena.
The last horse to go was the Oldenburg stallion Global Player (Grand Galaxy Win x Blue Hors Don Schufro) ridden by Eva Möller. I had been fairly clear in my thoughts that this stallion didn’t have the scope to win this class. Well, never tell Eva that she can’t win.
For all those out there who saw the results and thought that the name won, let me say that Eva rode this test in a way that left no points unturned. I watched this stallion also as a five year old and I did not think he could move like this. Also Eva is such a talented rider. The judges truly appreciated that she truly rode a medium walk in between the two walk pirouettes. That the horse’s trot rhythm was absolute clockwork, that the frame never wavered. In short, I don’t think it was possible for the test to have been ridden any better. They got a 10 for submission, I didn’t 100% agree with this, a 10 for perspective and a final score of 9.76. Clearly well deserved winners.
Editor’s Note: The sale of Hesselhoej Down Town to Kristy Oatley for her 15-year-old daughter, Rose, to develop and compete was announced Monday by Helgstrand Dressage. Kristy, a four-time Olympian for Australia and based in Germany, said after Rose, who rides for Germany, tried Down Town, “It was a perfect fit. There was instant chemistry between the two and Down Town was a dream come true.” Rose is a junior rider who was European pony champion on Daddy Moon with team gold medals in 2020 and 2021 and individual and freestyle golds in 2021, as well as team gold as a junior on Veneno this year. She has also been successful in juniors on Rock Revolution with 12 victories in 18 starts.