Great Britain scoops silver at Dressage FEI European Championships
It is was a day to remember at the Dressage FEI European Championships in Hagen, with a close contest for the medal honours. Overnight leaders Great Britain couldn’t quite keep their grip on the gold as the stonewall of German experience and talent moved in for the win.
As written by equestrian journalist Louise Parkes, Germany’s win meant the team who are not only known for their strengths in eventing field but the dressage arena too, took their 25th European Championship title. Team Denmark put up a real battle for the silver, however it was Great Britain’s Tokyo heroes who shone through taking the second spot on the podium.
Carl Hester is no stranger to riding under pressure for a medal, but the demands were multiplied by the fact he was partnering the relative Grand Prix newcomer En Vogue, owned by Charlotte Dujardin, Lady Anne Evans and Sandra Biddlecombe. However, Tokyo proved a great learning experience for Vogue and after a week in the field, Carl felt he’d bounced back sufficiently from his travels and the decision was made to come to Hagen in search of medals.
The Jazz x Contango gelding initially looked a bit nervy in the sun-soaked Hagen arena. He got a bit stuck in his first piaffe, almost trying to give too much, and there were a number of very small errors that mounted up. Many of the more taxing movements were well executed, including a collective 8.2 for the canter zig-zag, but each mistake added up to peg the score at 74.845% – short of what he’d perhaps hoped for.
Today it was brilliant in parts, disappointing in others,”
Last night it [the competition] all looked exciting and he’s capable of the very big scores, so I did think it was worth having a good shot. It doesn’t always work like that and he’s one month back from the Games where he did three amazing tests. Some of the things he does are so brilliant – his piaffe is like a ten, but then he gets a bit stuck and a bit nervous. In between all the things he does, he feels amazing.
I didn’t deserve any more points – there were too many mistakes, so the score is absolutely fine. I’m disappointed I made the mistakes! They weren’t huge mistakes, but just in places before the difficult things, which impact on the mark – but, if I look at his experience and what he’s done in one year, he’s come on so much. He’d have never done that test when he came here [Hagen] in April. Today, I just didn’t get the ride I wanted.
His canter work generally gets his high marks and today I got my first proper canter zig-zag on him, so I’m happy. He’s certainly one of the best horses I’ve ridden and has so much potential – one day he’ll be phenomenal!”
The performances that Charlotte Dujardin and her pocket rocket Gio, who she jointly owns with Renai Hart and Carl Hester, pulled off in Tokyo captivated hearts across the world – the little horse who gave his all for a rider who believed in his huge talent despite his small stature. In Hagen, Charlotte had a few ghosts to put to rest after the nightmare of the 2019 Europeans in Rotterdam, when she was eliminated with Mount St John Freestyle, and today ‘Pumpkin’ helped her do just that.
The start wasn’t perfect after Pumpkin took fright at the board, which he accidentally kicked when going into canter, but after an unsteady first centreline, they were soon in their groove. The diminutive chestnut gelding is a real passage machine, making it look effortless, and the seven-strong judging panel agreed. Some trademark transition riding also brought the marks in and the one-time changes, pirouettes and extended canter were real highlights. It wasn’t quite the personal best performance of Tokyo, but the duo produced the necessary score – something over 8.649%, the calculators told us – to secure the silver. The announcer declared a final score of 79.829% and the silver belonged to Britain.
I’m really pleased – with Tokyo, that’s only his fifth or sixth Grand Prix, so he’s still so inexperienced. He was a little scared of the boards today. I knew that if he hit them and they moved, he’d be scared of that and, of course, when he went it to canter, he hit them! That made him spook a bit, but generally I’m very pleased. He felt a little bit greener than I expected in there, but I have to remember what he’s done – he’d done so little. I keep going in the arena with all the pressure and to keep it all together for a silver medal, which was the aim, and we’ve done it.
He’s so keen to do it – that last centreline he wanted to do his piaffe and I kept saying ‘no, not yet’ – that’s him just getting to know a bit more what he’s doing now. He’s still green, but definitely feels more established and it makes my job a little easier. He’s just a cheeky little pony who goes in there with all the pressure in the world, but he delivers it. He’s such a good boy.
He’s definitely come on from Tokyo – 100%. There, I had to set up everything and there was so much to think about – I had to fast-track to make it all happen. Here, I felt like I had to do a bit less, but did need to keep his attention – he just makes me laugh.
I’m absolutely over the moon and so happy for Gareth getting a medal. The Europeans in 2019 didn’t quite go to plan and then Tokyo as travelling reserve, but now he has one.”
The home team had their anchor combination as Olympic gold medallists Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera BB, so it was always going to be a huge task for Great Britain, despite the confidence boost of lying in gold overnight. Germany finished on 238.944%, Great Britain 232.345% and Denmark secured bronze with 231.165%.
Individually, our riders all finished in the money at the Dressage FEI European Championships – Charlotte and Gio finished third, Lottie Fry and Everdale in fifth, Carl and En Vogue were 12th and Gareth and Sinatno Van Hof Olympia rounded the quartet out in 14th. This sees all four combinations qualified for the individual competition, which gets underway today (9th September) with the Grand Prix Special.
The winning team’s average horse age is 14, compared to the 11.25 of Great Britain – these horses are only just building up to their prime, with so much more to come. With the World Championships held in Denmark next year and some exiting rides today from the host nation-to-be, particularly the +76% from Daniel Bachmann Andersen and the nine-year-old Marshall-Bell, that promises to be quite a showdown – and, of course, the Paris Games is just three years away.
For information on how to follow, visit the British Equestrian Hagen European Championship page – https://www.britishequestrian.org.uk/teams/fei-european-championships-2021/dressage
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