Riesenbeck 2023: Britain ascend to first post-London 2012 team gold
- Written By:
Following two personal best performances by Britain's leading ladies on day two of team competition in Riesenbeck, Charlotte Dujardin, Charlotte Fry, Carl Hester and Gareth Hughes have claimed Britain's first team gold medal since London 2012.
With the scene set after a gripping opening round to the 2023 FEI European Championships, 32 of Europe's top combinations stepped forward to represent 16 nations in the team medal showdown in Riesenbeck. Great Britain held a healthy lead overnight after the stately efforts by consummate team professionals Carl Hester and Gareth Hughes, and would hold on to the top step of the podium to make history, as Charlotte Dujardin and Lottie Fry gave a masterclass in how to deliver for crown and country.
Charlotte Dujardin proved the ultimate competitor as the penultimate rider for Great Britain on the final day of team competition; presenting Carl Hester and Coral Ingham’s 10 year old KWPN Imhotep, the former Olympic, World and European Champion showed every bit of her class to tighten the team’s hold on the gold medal. ‘Pete’ packs plenty of power and showed this in abundance throughout his five minutes inside the white boards; the passage and explosive two-tempi changes were great showcases of his strength, whilst there was great regularity and rhythm in the piaffe bringing in plenty of high marks. In the saddle, Dujardin rarely drops a mark, and gained plenty of praise in strong scores from the judges for the canter pirouettes in particular – both earned nines, and the pirouette right saw the first tens fall. A convincing centre line and final display of Pete’s ability closed a superb performance, one that would earn a new personal best Grand Prix score for the combination of 82.422%.
For Charlotte the perfection was in the preparation, and despite not knowing if the Europeans were her goal, the 38 year old made the journey to Riesenbeck really count: “It’s all about going in there and having fun, especially now that I’ve got a baby it’s a very different mindset – there's always another day.
“I wasn’t really planning on being here this year after having Isabella only six months ago and it’s been a rollercoaster - I started at Royal Windsor very shortly after everything and just thought why not give it a go! I had such an amazing support team at home that kept him ticking over whilst I was off. We went up against the best of the best in Aachen as a pre-European Championship run, Pete hasn’t done an awful lot of competitions and he’s only ever been thrown in the deep end and done big shows. It was brilliant preparation for coming here. He has been on top form, he came here and felt amazing. I felt like I’ve worked on so much from Aachen, knowing what I needed to improve and where I needed to pick up more marks.”
“Pete is an unbelievable horse,” Charlotte continued about her latest medallist, who made a relieved recovery from travel-sickness after a complicated 19 hour journey, “he has so much power, so much ability. His brain is phenomenal and he tries so hard, he’s gone out there today and done his absolute best – win or lose, when you’ve done a test like that you can’t ask anymore.”
“There’s still more, I’m still riding on half power – I can do everything bigger but I lose the balance, the frame and the contact. He still needs to get physically stronger to manage all of that. You don’t realise how difficult it is to do it with full power and no mistakes, you ask a horse to do it in that environment and it’s tough!”
Finally Charlotte was full of praise for her team mates and her home team: “I couldn’t do it without Carl and the whole team we have, the support we have is phenomenal and we can’t do any of this without that team at home. Carl’s help, support and training as eyes on the ground, we’ve worked together and looked at the detail, and the results have paid off for all the work. For all of us riders, Gareth did a lovely test, Carl is a master and watching him yesterday was so inspiring – watching somebody with his experience go time and time again on different horses is incredible. Overnight Lottie and I had a good positive start to go into today. For once we’re sat thinking we can go in and do a clear round, Lottie is a phenomenal test rider and I’m sure she’ll go in there and do a great job too.”
With a mighty leading score of 84.612% posted by Tokyo 2020 Olympic Champions Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Dalera BB, reigning World Champions Lottie Fry and Glamourdale still had to cope with palpable pressure as the final combination to go for Great Britain, with a score upwards of 78.800% required to secure the gold. The twelve year old son of Lord Leatherdale, owned by Gertjan and Anne Van Olst, glistened in the golden rays of the late afternoon as the temperatures rose to above 30 degrees, reflecting the heat of the contest and challenge ahead. Always cool under pressure, 28 year old Lottie Fry presented her stallion’s highlights to their absolute best; sweeping lateral work in both trot and canter, 10-earning tempi-changes and a trademark stratospheric extended canter...the Glamourdale showpiece. It was nip and tuck with leader Von Bredow-Werndl until the final centre line, where a small interruption in rhythm in the final piaffe lowered the score in the closing moments of an otherwise spellbinding test. Under the highest of demands, the anchor combination achieved a new personal best score of 81.258%, enough to confirm Britain’s historic placing at the top of the podium.
“He felt amazing in there,” Lottie added after her test, reflecting on a new Grand Prix high score, “he had a few small distractions, noises from outside that caught his attention which was a shame, but to still score a personal best shows how much he’s improved from last year and I’m really happy with it! I’m excited to get back in there this weekend.”
Lottie, who made her championship debut with the same team at the FEI European Championships in Rotterdam in 2019, was delighted to share the moment with valued peers as well as her outstanding horse: “It’s so special to win a team gold, especially with a team that have been together for quite a few championships now – which makes it even more special. It’s really incredible. Glammy is complete amazing, I know he’s capable of helping them to gold but we need four of us on the team and four amazing horses.”
“He went in there today feeling on fire,” she concluded on Glamourdale’s opening performance in Riesenbeck, “I’m really excited for the next few days, especially now that he’s been in there once. I have him a nice ride and he gave me a really good feeling, he was very hot and gave everything he can today.”
With Great Britain standing tall on the top step of the podium, host nation Germany placed second following the standout performance of the day by home favourites Jessica and Dalera BB, alongside strong efforts by Isabel Werth and Frederic Wandres, whilst last year’s reigning team World Champions Denmark claimed bronze this time around, spearheaded by Nanna Skodborg Merrald and the impressive chestnut Blue Hors Zepter (Blue Hors Zack x Wolkentanz II).
British Dressage congratulates Charlotte, Lottie, Carl and Gareth for their magnificent medal effort, as well as Chef d’Equipe Caroline Griffiths, team grooms Francesca Gorni, Richard Hauwaerts, Lucy Scudamore and Steph Sharples, the dedicated owners behind each horse and the wider support network at British Equestrian.
The funding that the British Equestrian World Class Programme receives from the National Lottery and UK Sport is pivotal in preparing our teams for achieving success at senior championships and supporting them on the ground. The British Equestrian teams are supported by partners – Bates Saddles, Dodson & Horrell, Fairfax & Favor, Haygain, NAF and Toggi – and team suppliers – Equi-Trek Horseware, Lotus Romeo, Marksway Horsehage and Point Two.
Results – Thursday 7 September
Team placings – top five
1. Great Britain – 242.220
2. Germany – 239.674
3. Denmark – 228.727
4. Sweden – 221.522
5. Netherlands – 218.603
Individual placings – top top and British riders
1. Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera BB, 84.612% (GER)
2. Charlotte Dujardin and Imhotep, 82.422% (GBR)
3. Lottie Fry and Glamourdale, 81.258% (GBR)
4. Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Blue Hors Zepter, 78.556% (DEN)
5. Carl Hester and Fame, 78.540% (GBR)
6. Frederic Wandres and Bluetooth OLD, 77.888% (GER)
7. Isabell Werth and DSP Quantaz, 77.174% (GER)
8. Carina Cassøe Krüth and Heiline’s Danciera, 75.761% (DEN)
9. Therese Nilshage and Dante Weltino OLD, 75.621% (SWE)
10. Patrik Kittel and Touchdown, 75.171% (SWE)
12. Gareth Hughes and Classic Briolinca, 74.564% (GBR)
Photos: Kevin Sparrow Photography