Sensational Showjumping and Dressage at Rotterdam as Brits Find Their Mojo

The European Championships for all the major sport horse disciplines take place every two years. This year Rotterdam in Holland host the dressage and show jumping at the same time which is unusual as normally different venues host each discipline separately. Spread over a week, dressage and showjumping take it in turns to provide the sport. Rabobank were the title supporters, and Longines were the title sponsors.  for both the dressage and showjumping European Championships. There are two main championships for each, a team and an individual champion is decided throughout the week. This is the sixth time that Rotterdam have hosted European Championship Competition.

Show Jumping Championships

This championship is important for the teams of Great Britain, Ireland, France, Italy and Belgium as none of them have yet qualified for the Tokyo Olympics next year, and there are three places available for qualification.

The format for the showjumping competition was the same as the dressage. Four team members ride in three rounds. The worst round from the four team members get disregarded. In the first round, the speed round, all riders ride against the clock with no jump off over fences no bigger than 1.45m. Riders do not get faults for knocking fences down, but get time penalties instead. The course was designed by Louis Konickx and Quintin Maertens.

Peder Fredricson (SWE)

There was general agreement that the course was technical but fair. There were 70 riders from fifteen countries. After day one, the top team were Germany followed by France in second and Sweden third. The team from Great Britain were in fourth. So far in the individual competition, Sweden’s Peder Fredricson was in the lead with Max Kuhner from Austria in second with Britain’s Ben Maher in third.

Day Two

Day two saw a bigger course with a top height of 1.60m. Sixty eight of the seventy riders who started on day one came forward. In another fair but technically built course, the water jump proved troublesome for many. Team Austria had a dreadful time with three of their four riders being eliminated or retiring, so they came out of the competition. Only Max Kuhner riding Chardonnay 79, in individual silver medal position overnight completed for Austria. Of the other fourteen teams in this one round class, only the best ten would go on to compete in the final round on day 3.  This was an exciting class. Several riders expecting to go well had bad days at the office which changed the leader boards for both the team and the individual championships.

Jos Verlooy – Bronze Medal winner

The top team of the day was Belgium who collected only 8 faults with one of their riders out of the four which meant that they could disregard Jerome Guery’s 8 faults and end the day on zero faults. The Belgian other team members, Pieter Devos, Jos Verlooy and Gregory Wathelet ended the day in gold medal position. The German team, in the lead on day 1 slipped into silver medal after two of their riders Christian Ahlmann and Marcus Ehning unusally collected 8 faults each. Their other two riders, Simone Blum and Daniel Deusser both had clears which meant that Germany added 8 points to their overnight score of 4.22.

Holly Smith

The other notable team of the day was Great Britain whose first two riders Holly Smith and Ben Maher had clears; Amanda Derbyshire collected 8 faults and Scott Brash collected 4. This meant that Amanda’s score could be disregarded which allowed Great Britain to hold bronze medal place going into day 3 with 13.41. Ben Maher, however, was individually in gold medal position following his clear round with a total individual score of 0.62 riding Explosion W. The Irish team had a terrible day, dropping to eighth place from fifth. France dropped from second to fourth, and Sweden dropped to fifth. The teams eliminated from the competition were from Portugal, Spain, Norway, Israel and Austria.

Day Three

In the final day of the team championships, all four riders from the current top ten teams do it all again over a different course plus 10 combinations who are in the top 40 riders individually, but whose teams have been eliminated.

The course was very different to yesterday’s in that there was no water jump, the problem jump of day 2. The course was very airy with very few fillers within the jumps. The jumps were large but the related distance between each was uncomplicated. Some of the horses seemed fatigued after their exertions of the first two days. There were however, several clear rounds including Ben Maher on Explosion W who was one of the early runners which meant that he would go into the final individual class in gold medal position.

The winning Team from Belgium

There was no change in the final order for the medals. With only one more fault from the Belgian team which counted, they retained the gold medal with a total of 12.07 faults over the three rounds. Germany won silver with a team total of 16.22 faults and Great Britain won Bronze with a final total of 21.41 faults over the three rounds of competition. For the final showjumping class to sort out the individual medals, the state of play after the team events was Ben Maher in gold, Belgium’s Jos Verlooy riding Igor in silver and Martin Fuchs from Switzerland in bronze. There was less than a jump between the three top places. The only other rider who had not knocked a pole down at this stage was another Belgian rider, Gregory Wathelet.

Final day

Ben Maher. Just missed out on Gold

The final day of these Championships saw the individual European showjumping champion. There was a two round competition. The first was for the top 25 riders individually over the past three classes which make up this championship. The second is for the top 12 combinations from the four proceeding rounds. The course comprised big fences with reasonable related distance between each. The water jump reappeared again, and probably the most difficult element was the time allowed. Only 75 seconds before time faults kicked in, it was very tight and the first 12 to go all had time faults. Only six of the 25 starters had clear rounds. Of the top three, Ben Maher in gold position jumped a lovely clear round and stayed in the top spot before the last round of competition with 0.62. Less than a fence behind ben with 3.46 was Martin Fuchs from Switzerland. He also jumped a clear round, but bronze medal position Jos Verlooy from Belgium had one pole down. He retained his position however as he had over a fence between him and the fourth placed horse. As a general observation though, it was most surprising how many empty seats there were in the arena for this penultimate part of the championships.

Martin Fuchs – Winner of Gold – just!!

The final 12 ran over a shortened course from the one jumped earlier in the day. Steve Guerdat from Switzerland chose not go. The time allowed for this course was 60 seconds. The final fence was the biggest seen for the whole week – an Oxer 1.80m wide by 1.74m high. This was an eventful 11 horse shootout. There were only two clear rounds. One particularly impressive from Dutchman Marc Houtzager riding Sterrehof’s Calimero who half way round found himself competing with a protester on course. He went on regardless and managed to ignore the hollas from the crowd and of course the protester with their placard and claimed his clear round. The other was Sweden’s Henrik Von Eckermann riding Toveks Mary Lou, a great round, but without the potential interruption. Of the rest, four collected 4 faults including sadly Ben Maher who went last but could not afford a fence down. Having jumped clear all week, the penultimate fence, an oxer with a water tray underneath came down. This meant that Ben won silver medal as he was a minuscule 0.16 behind Martin Fuchs of Switzerland who rode Clooney 51 in a very careful round and got just one time fault leaving him on 4.46 for the week and Gold medal. Ben ended up with 4.62 with silver. Jos Verlooy took bronze with a score of 6.12 riding Igor.

It was a sad end for Britain’s Ben Maher in a way, loosing the gold medal after being in the lead for so long during the week, but a silver medal is no mean feat – that’s showjumping though!!!!!

In a previous article, we more or less said that Great Britain hadn’t a hope of gaining qualification to Tokyo, never mind getting any medals. We now have to eat our words, but are delighted to be proved so wrong.

Dressage Championships

Fifteen countries sent teams comprising of four riders in each team except Luxembourg who sent only three. As with all FEI team championships, the top three scores from the four riders count and the worst is disregarded. There were a total of 59 combinations going in front of the seven judges over two days. With half of the riders competing on day one, Germany held the lead with their second rider, Dorothee Schneider riding ShowtimeFRH scoring 80.233%.

Gareth Hughes. Had personal Bests all week.

Great Britain held silver medal position, also with their second rider, Gareth Hughes riding Classic Briolinca with 76.351%, a personal best for Gareth Hughes in a major competition. Sweden ended the day in third with top scoring Theresa Nilshagen riding Dante Weltino Old with 75..466%. The first riders for both Germany (Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl) and Great Britain’s (Charlotte Fry) provided a good platform for both teams getting mid 70%.  Both France and Luxembourg had a rider eliminated which meant that all the remaining French rider scores would count in the final tally and unfortunately with only three riders to start with, Luxembourg were eliminated from the whole competition as they now only had two riders to count.

Day Two

On day two, the other half of the draw rode their tests. Traditionally, each country keep the better riders for the second day, and this year was no exception. The top spot was always likely to be claimed by Germany who sent the same combinations to the Europeans which they had at Aachen recently, where they were simply unbeatable.

Sonke Rathenberger

No surprises then that their penultimate rider Sonke Rathenberger riding Cosmo scored 79.084% and their top rider 50 year old Isabell Werth on Bella Rose scored the top mark of all 59 combinations of 85.652% This not only gave Germany gold medal but Isabell Werth top spot for the individual going into the Grand Prix Special two days later. Great Britain, in second place at the end of day one, first saw Carl Hester riding Hawtins Delecato. He added to the really strong silver medal position with a score of 78.323%. However, our final rider, Charlotte Dujardin riding Mount St John Freestyle was eliminated following a steward’s inspection after she had finishing the test. A spot of blood was found on the horse’s near side flank. The rules are that if any horse has any blood on it anywhere in any FEI competition, that rider is automatically eliminated. Sadly, despite Charlotte getting a score of 81.910%, putting her in individual silver medal position, due to the blood found, it was all in vain. As a result the British team just missed a medal and were fourth. The Netherlands took silver medal with consistently good scores of the upper 70% with Sweden coming third just one point behind on a total of 229. In fact there were only 2 marks between the second to fifth teams. There were four eliminations, all for blood found on horses during the steward’s inspections. After her test, Charlotte was obviously devastated and commented “I’m obviously absolutely devastated – nothing like this has ever happened to me before. The health and welfare of my horses is always my number one priority, but of course I accept the decision.” Clearly this was an extraordinary thing for such a dedicated, professional and caring rider to happen. It was further reported that Charlotte received some really base and vile messages via the trolls on social media. We would just like to say how abhorrent we find this.

Winners Germany – Quite Unassailable

Day Three

The Grand Prix Special was completed with thirty of the 59 entrants appearing. It was comfortably won by Isabell Werth with 86.520%. In Silver was another Germany rider, Dorothee Schneider with 85.456% and in bronze was Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour with 81,337%. It would appear that German dressage is quite unassailable at the moment, so congratulations to them. Special mention in dispatches is Gareth Hughes who got his best score ever with 78.085% with fellow Brits, Carl Hester and Charlotte Fry getting 77.508% and 73.815% respectively.

Final Day

Isabell Werth – Won at All three levels.

The final class in this championship for dressage was the freestyle. It was pretty clear before the start that a German would win it. Isabell Werth was in pole position having won everything so far, and she did oblige, winning the class with 90.875%. Whether she should have done remains a mute point. She made several small mistakes during her freestyle in that her transitions were not as crisp as they might have been, but her final piaffe passage to the halt was absolutely faultless, and as someone said, there were so many tens, they were being picked up off the floor!! In Silver medal was Dorothee Schneider with 90.561% who probably should have had a better score we think, but the winner in our minds was in fact fellow German Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl who rode maybe not the most difficult test, but was virtually faultless, particularly the walks, which were sublime. She ended with bronze on a score of 89.107%. Clearly, going into the Olympics next year, the team and riders to beat will be the Germans. At present, an unlikely prospect for everyone else!!

Winners – Gold Isabell Werth, Silver Dorothee Schneider and bronze Jessica Von Bredow Werndl

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