Dujardin and Gio win European Freestyle Bronze
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Charlotte Dujardin and Gio have won bronze in this afternoon’s thrilling Freestyle final at the Longines FEI European Championships in Hagen. With three Team GBR riders on the starting order, it was Charlotte and Gio who reached the podium with an outstanding performance to seal the pair’s fourth championship medal, and Charlotte's 20th.
In front of packed and appreciative stands in the atmospheric arena at Hof Kasselmann, with competitors drawn in groups within the reverse order of merit, this afternoon provided a fantastic opportunity to witness Europe's elite dance off for championship freestyle honours.
Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg and the beautiful Holsteiner mare Annabelle were the first down the centreline, scoring 77.214% from the judging panel of Isabell Judet (FRA), Susanne Baarup (DEN), Mariette Sanders Gansewinkel (NED), Henning Lehrmann (GER), Maria Colliander (FIN), Thomas Lang (AUT) and Isobel Wessels (GBR).
The German team gold medallist was followed by Finland’s Henri Ruoste who set the early standard with Kontestro DB. The athletic bay Kontestro DB shows immense expression and off-the-floor power and their clean test, ridden to music from Top Gun, was duly awarded 82.60%.
Spaniard José Antonio Garcia followed with the lovely chestnut Desperados daughter, Divina Royal. This combination, along with delivering a technically impressive test, were clearly out to enjoy themselves and have a really happy harmony about them. Divina Royal answered every question for 79.361%.
Drawn second to last in the first group was Carl Hester with his own, Sandra Biddlecombe, Lady Anne Evans’ En Vogue, who delivered an incredible Grand Prix Special on Thursday. The black gelding doesn’t yet have much experience under his belt, but he has individual medal horse stamped all over him. Today he was affected by nerves however but Carl, the statesman of dressage, did a masterful job of nursing him round. Despite some hotness and cheeky moments, aspects of the test were super including the one-time changes and pirouettes. They scored 78.375%.
Carl said afterwards, “It was a good learning curve for me because, you know, at the end of a championship you don’t want to work them too hard, and he was very fresh today. He was fresher than he was at the beginning [of the Championships].”
“That’s a difficult test and he has to be relaxed,” he continued. “So he did the best he could considering how he was feeling. The way to get over it is to think of the five tests out of six he’s done in the past weeks [both here and Tokyo] that have been brilliant. I have to think of that.”
The last rider to go before the break was Denmark’s Daniel Bachmann Andersen and the talented Marshall-Bell (Blue Hors Don Romantic x Michellino) – at the age of nine one of the youngest horses in the field. They presented an accomplished, enjoyable freestyle programme for 82.050% to sit just behind Ruoste going into the break.
Sweden’s Therese Nilshagen and Dante Weltino OLD, an attractive stallion son of Danone 4, were next up. They were were awarded 81.325% for a harmonious programme, riding to an Adele and Sia compilation. Dinja Van Liere of the Netherlands and nine-year-old Haute Couture, a mare with a great engine and energy posted 79.66% with a handful of mistakes.
Having narrowly missed a place on the podium in Thursday’s Grand Prix Special, Charlotte Dujardin rode out with the bit between her teeth aboard the wonderful chestnut ‘pocket rocket’ Gio, owned by Renai Hart, Carl Hester and herself. This little horse with the biggest of hearts lit up the arena in Tokyo a few short weeks ago, and today brought back memories of that fantastic Olympic bronze medal-winning moment.
Proving to be quite the showman, this was his first time at a major event in front of a big crowd – the one thing that was lacking in Tokyo because of Covid. Their programme set to music by Tom Hunt had a high degree of difficulty. The piaffe-passage was regular, he executed piaffe pirouettes into expressive passage half pass, two-time changes into canter pirouettes, extended canter into pirouettes, and bold, energetic extensions. The little chestnut puts his heart and soul into his job with an expression of focus and fun, all with lovely control. A new-leader mark of 87.246% flashed up onto the screen.
“I was absolutely delighted with him, he tried his heart out and I couldn’t have asked for much more,” said a delighted Charlotte afterwards. “I made a mistake in the last set of ones on the centre line, which has probably cost me a medal, I’m not sure, but he tried incredibly hard and it was a bit of a rider error rather than him. I think I just got out there, I waited for the music and then I wasn’t ready and I got in a bit of a muddle, but apart from that he was just super.
“He’s only done that floorplan once before and that was at the Olympics. It went so well at the Olympics, it was like he’d done it all his life and to go and pull that off again – I was so nearly there! These things happen, though, and he’s such an inexperienced horse. He’s just brilliant, he’s upped his game and I was absolutely thrilled. He’s never been in an environment like that to compete in, but he just stays with me, you don’t feel him get hot or distracted.
“It’s been great. I haven’t pushed him that hard all week, I thought I’d save him, and we really tried for everything today. I’m so, so happy with him, he’s brilliant.”
Following Charlotte, Danish superstar duo Cathrine Dufour and Bohemian presented a fantastic programme riding to music from Les Misérables to edge ahead on a score of 88.436%, with three left to go – Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl, Isabell Werth and Lottie Fry.
Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera BB for Germany, already with team and Grand Prix Special golds to their name this week, rode a stratospheric freestyle programme to delightful music from La La Land to propel them into the lead on 91.021%. The Trakehner mare’s harmony with her rider, and lightness, is exemplary. In front of their home crowd, they displayed again their Tokyo magic.
The penultimate pair, Isabell Werth and her brilliant black mare Weihegold, are real freestyle specialists as winners of the three consecutive World Cup titles and a long spell as world number ones during their career together. Today they were a little under par with several mistakes, which were costly, but still the quality shone through for a final score 84.846%, opening the door to a medal for Charlotte.
Lottie Fry and Everdale entered the arena as the final pair looking confident and composed. This 25-year-old is proving to have an incredible competition mindset and she thrives on occasions such as this. Riding to Kygo and Whitney Houston’s Higher Love and Rihanna’s Diamonds, they impressed with a very powerful and expressive performance. Everdale, owned by his rider and Van Olst Horses appears to relish the big occasion too and his focus is palpable. They scored 84.721%.
“He was amazing in there – he was really focused and just enjoying his music,” said Lottie afterwards, clearly delighted with her ride. “There was one tiny mistake in the one-tempis, which is a shame, but the rest of the test was incredible and he was just with me the whole way. He was supple and nice and so easy to ride in there, and it was a great feeling.
“I love riding to that music, especially when I come to the extended canter and the lyrics come on, and he knows – I always have to say ‘wait, wait, wait’ as we go because he’s ready for it, and it’s so fun to ride.
“Hagen has been amazing, he’s given me three personal bests and he just keeps getting better and better – now I feel that we’re ready to go to another championships! Bring on next year!”
Lottie now heads to Aachen CHIO to ride in the Nations Cup team with Dark Legend – what are her thoughts? “I’m really looking forward to Aachen, it’ll be a new team there and I can’t wait to get Dark Legend out and put what I’ve learned in these championships onto him. Hopefully we can do our best there,” she said.
With the final scores in and it was confirmed that Charlotte and Gio had taken bronze – a fourth championship medal this year. Jessica von Bredow-Werndl completed a gold medal hat-trick and cemented her place as Germany’s current number one with TSF Dalera BB, and silver belongs to Cathrine Dufour with Bohemian.
Lottie and Everdale finished in a very commendable fifth, while Carl and En Vogue were in 13th place.
UNDER 25 GRAND PRIX
The U25 Grand Prix reached its conclusion this morning with Germany occupying four of the top five positions, including gold and silver.
The first Brit down the centreline on the second day of U25 Grand Prix was Alex Harrison with his own Diamond Hill. In the Inter II ‘Damo’ was slightly under par having been affected a little by travel sickness, though today he was brighter. After a pleasing start, a break into canter in the trot zig-zag and an early change at the end of the extended canter was expensive but their lines of changes came off well. Despite the blips, they achieved a score of 65.282% for 27th place.
“He felt much better in the warm-up today and it was the first day he’s really been awake – he’s been bit poorly [with travel sickness] and felt more himself today,” explained Alex. “He was spooking at the camera and looking at things, so I didn’t really have his full attention at the beginning of the test and he just felt a little more nervous in there today. We had some really big mistakes in our trot work and in the extended canter where we missed the change. You know, 65% with some big mistakes that would be threes or fours means there was some good stuff in there. A good use of the classic half-halt and I got my one- and two-time changes. Another day here and he’d improve more. He’s a young horse at this level, he’s only ten, so there’s lots more to come.”
Lucy Amy and Rudy’s Grand Prix test had much to like, but some expensive errors kept the score in check for this lovely partnership that has a lot more to come. They were awarded 64.667% for 30th place
Lucy said afterwards, “Today it was a much harder test for him. He felt really good in the warm-up and started well, but then just got tight in the piaffe. There were then a few mistakes, but I was really happy that he felt more ‘under’ in the passage, which we struggle with. Normally, the piaffe isn’t a problem, but today it was! He’s got a great walk, which helps get marks, and I was happy with my final line because he was straight. Sometimes he gets a bit tired and wide behind.
“It’s been great here [in Hagen] – a great experience and to see what everyone does, it’s the best of the best here. Gaining experience in the ring has been amazing and as this is my first championship experience, it was great to go in and look all the judges in the eye.”
Lewis Carrier and Diego V, who went yesterday and scored 69.051%, finished 12th overall to qualify for the individual Freestyle on Sunday morning – they’re on at 09:10 BST.
Photo © Kevin Sparrow
Words: British Dressage/Joanna Bowns