Riesenbeck 2023: Dujardin back on individual podium
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Whilst home favourite Jessica von Bredow-Werndl claimed the gold, Britain stole three of the first five placings and Charlotte Dujardin returned to the podium, with Imhotep coming of age in the FEI European Championship Grand Prix Special.
Following their solid performance in yesterday’s Grand Prix, home favourites Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera BB returned to the top step of the podium, successfully defending their European title claimed at Hagen in 2021. Today, the exquisite 17 year old mare by Easy Game delighted her home crowds, returning to absolute peak form to earn 85.593 % - the third highest Grand Prix Special score in history, only the legendary Totilas and Valegro have achieved more.
The contest for the remaining medal positions was immensely close, with three highly decorated leading ladies of the sport going head-to-head for European glory. Denmark’s Nanna Skodborg Merrald has big shoes to fill with the absence of Cathrine Dufour, and has admirably taken up the position of anchor; her test with Blue Hors Zepter in the Grand Prix had mistakes, but today the pair barely faltered, powering home for 82.796% and stealing the silver medal in the process.
In the battle of the Brits, it would be Charlotte Dujardin to once again prove her unrivalled test riding prowess, piloting Carl Hester and Coral Ingham’s ten year old talent Imhotep to a huge new personal best score of 82.583%. The combination opened their test with a ten, convincing the judges from the off with a superb square halt before displaying a full test of polished, powerful work. Imhotep truly never misses a beat, the rhythm shown across all three paces and the movements is something to behold; the trot tour boasted plenty of energy and expression, well balanced alongside controlled passage steps in the complex Grand Prix Special programme. The Everdale son produced consistently strong marks from start to finish, but there were real highlights towards the end of the test, where the canter pirouettes earned a spattering of high marks. Whilst ‘Pete’ is an immense talent, high praise must go to his jockey; every short side, every corner, every step is ridden with purpose and poise, no stone is left unturned by the twice Olympic champion.
“I have to help him through it and keep it confident,” Charlotte explained following her performance, “I’m so proud of him. I think he’s got even more in him, I feel like there’s heaps more to come and next year is going to be so exciting – I think I’ll be able to take the handbrake off and finally ride what he’s got.”
“I came here wanting to enjoy every minute of it and just give our best, I wanted to come out and feel like I did my best and Pete did his best.”
With Charlotte spearheading the British charge, although closely followed by her peers, the rider was full of praise and hope for what’s to come with an exciting team around her: “It’s amazing, we have three horses who’ve just scored over 80% in an Individual test – going in to next year with that is pretty special, obviously that test doesn’t count towards the team medals here but it does in an Olympics. We couldn’t have asked for any more and I’m just so proud of all of our horses.”
Reigning World Champions Lottie Fry and Glamourdale had an early draw in the final group of riders to go and opened the floodgates on the 80% scores, with hers the first rewarded by Kurt Christensen (DEN), Ulrike Nivelle (GER), Michael Osinski (USA), Maria Colliander (FIN), Isobel Wessels (GBR), Raphaël Saleh at (FRA) and Eduard de Wolff van Westerrode at (NED). The picture perfect combination would finish just outside of the medals on 81.763% but there was plenty to celebrate within their test. The extended canter is a real highlight and not only earned six 10s and one 9, but gasps from an educated Riesenbeck audience; Glamourdale displays unmatched expression for the tempi-changes and his lateral work is a strong mark-earner too, presented in superb balance by his elegant rider. A finer moment in the test that stood out was the transition from canter to trot before the concluding two sequences, seamless communication and subtle aids show great unity in the relationship between horse and rider.
Lottie was thrilled with the 12 year old stallion for his efforts: “He felt really good in there today, he was much better than yesterday and so much more focused. Everything felt really good, we had one small blip in the one-tempi changes behind but apart from that he was foot-perfect and I couldn’t fault him. He was so much more with me, the pirouettes felt a real highlight today and I’m really pleased with how much his extended walk has improved. I couldn’t ask much more of him.”
After making a serious statement on day one, the nine-month partnership of Carl Hester and Fiona Bigwood’s Fame returned to the arena today to build on their opening success. Once again Carl showed the 13 year old stallion to his flamboyant best, maximising his talent in both expression and harmony to achieve fifth place with 80.106%, a new combination personal best for the Grand Prix Special. Consistency was key to this performance, with Carl climbing up the rankings throughout the test; all three piaffes raised the score, as did the immaculate canter pirouette and one-tempi change line at the end of the canter work. An impressive final centre line sealed the deal on a superb placing and score for the six-time British Olympian and the latest superstar to benefit from his guidance.
“It felt easy, he felt so relaxed – I've never had him so relaxed, it was a completely new feeling because usually he gets a little tense. It’s like he’s grown up at the show, he accepted all of my aids really nicely and I had a lovely ride. It was another notch up on yesterday, building bricks as it were, I can’t expect more of him.”
“It’s been amazing to ride here, I think because I do less competing now I enjoy it more when I’m at shows like this. It’s great to be able to just concentrate on the horse and have him walk out on a long rein at the end, these things are so important to you as a trainer and rider, I couldn’t be happier.”
Gareth Hughes completed another stellar day for the entire team in Riesenbeck, earning 74.651% for 14th position, with his own, Rebecca Hughes, Ruby Hughes and Julia Hornig’s Classic Briolinca once again proving her laudable consistency that’s seen her earn her place amongst the world’s best. There were nines for the canter pirouettes – a masterclass in how to ride this movement – as well as more top marks for the two-tempi changes. Gareth’s accuracy and precision in the saddle, partnered with Briolinca’s optimum balance, fluency and harmony makes for great test viewing, great results and a very happy rider: “I’m very happy. This is her third or fourth championships, she gives everything she’s got, she’s 17 years of age now. She’s a true professional, she’s beautiful and she tries her heart out.”
“She was really focused and I think it’s one of the best tests she’s done, we had one blip going into the piaffe out of the right passage – but she picks right back up and doesn’t take it to the other movements. She’s a star.”
The crowds in Germany, and those watching via FEI TV and ClipMyHorse worldwide, are treated to one final face-off on Sunday as the top 18 combinations return for the Freestyle competition, with Carl, Lottie and Charlotte returning as worthy challengers to the ultimate medals.
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.
Individual placings – top ten and British riders
1. Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera BB, 85.593% (GER)
2. Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Blue Hors Zepter, 82.796% (DEN)
3. Charlotte Dujardin and Imhotep, 82.583% (GBR)
4. Lottie Fry and Glamourdale, 81.763% (GBR)
5. Carl Hester and Fame, 80.106% (GBR)
6. Isabell Werth and DSP Quantaz, 78.252% (GER)
7. Frederic Wandres and Bluetooth OLD, 77.052% (GER)
8. Therese Nilshage and Dante Weltino OLD, 76.140% (SWE)
9. Emmelie Scholtens and Indian Rock, 75.957% (NED)
10. Carina Cassøe Krüth and Heiline’s Danciera, 75.547% (DEN)
14. Gareth Hughes and Classic Briolinca, 74.651% (GBR)