All Horses Pass First Horse Inspection for PSI FEI European Jumping Championships at Herning

It was “thumbs up” for Rolf-Goran Bengtsson and Casall Ask in the First Horse Inspection for Jumping horses at the ECCO FEI European Championships 2013 in Herning, Denmark today.  The Swedish rider is set to defend the Individual title he won in Madrid, Spain two years ago when the action gets underway with the opening Speed competition tomorrow afternoon.  Photo: FEI/Jacob Melissen.
It was “thumbs up” for Rolf-Goran Bengtsson and Casall Ask in the First Horse Inspection for Jumping horses at the ECCO FEI European Championships 2013 in Herning, Denmark today. The Swedish rider is set to defend the Individual title he won in Madrid, Spain two years ago when the action gets underway with the opening Speed competition tomorrow afternoon. Photo: FEI/Jacob Melissen.

All horses passed the first veterinary inspection ahead of tomorrow’s opening competition in the PSI FEI European Jumping Championships at Herning in Denmark.  However if this afternoon was anything to go by, then there is plenty of excitement ahead as both Olympic champion, Steve Guerdat, and Dutch star Jeroen Dubbeldam had to endure a tense wait when their horses were amongst the few sent to the holding box for re-examination.
 
Guerdat’s London 2012 Olympic gold medal winning ride, Nino des Buissonnets, and Dubbeldam’s mare Utascha SFN each got the green light from the veterinary commission led by Hans Schougaard on re-inspection however.  A total of 92 athletes from 22 countries will contest the Jumping medals at this week’s ECCO FEI European Championships which, for the first time, bring together the three disciplines of Jumping, Dressage and Para-Dressage.
 
On Springs
As usual some of the Jumping horses were on springs today, and the Italians had extra encouragement from an enthusiastic terrier who accompanied them as they trotted up in front of the veterinary panel.  It was a cool and windy afternoon, and Norway’s Victoria Gulliksen found herself being towed by her chestnut gelding, Urval, while Switzerland’s Janika Sprunger also had some difficulty pulling up a very fresh Palloubet d’Halong.  Some of the mares were in particularly sharp form, and a very bossy Gotha FRH proved more than a handful for Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann, but she passed the inspection with flying colours and, no doubt, her rider will be back in charge tomorrow.
 
Fellow-Swede and defending Individual champion, Rolf-Goran Bengtsson, was his usual cool self of course, and his bay stallion Casall Ask powered his way to approval.  As the first-ever Swedish winner of the European title when coming out on top in Madrid, Spain two years ago he has the weight of expectation sitting on his shoulders as the action gets underway this week.  But the unassuming rider said today, “it’s nice to come back as defending European champion and I want to do as well as possible. I’ve had a long preparation with Casall and I’m really looking forward to the week ahead.”  He said he’s put a lot of thought into getting the balance right for his 14-year-old stallion in the lead-up to the event.  “It’s important not to do too little, and not to do too much - we finished our plan three weeks ago and he is feeling really good” Bengtsson pointed out.
 
Germany defends the team title, and despite the fact that the squad has undergone several late changes they have such strength in depth that they are still likely to be the ones to beat.  The withdrawal of Philipp Weishaupt and Monte Bellini brought Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Bella Donna into the side but the American-born German rider suffered a back injury while competing in the Grand Prix at Dublin Horse Show last week so Marcus Ehning and Plot Blue have been called in to replace them.  German riders will be chasing their eighth team gold in the 54-year history of the FEI European Jumping Championships.
 
Dressage Drama
Sweden’s Patrik Kittel withdrew his top ride, Watermill Scandic, from the Blue Hors FEI European Dressage Championship this evening due to injury. The horse with which he won bronze in Rotterdam two years ago was exercised happily this morning but was later found to be unsound in his right foreleg. Following an ultra-sound scan it was decided the stallion should not compete and as a result, Toy Story is travelling by road tonight to replace him. 
 
It is a big blow to the Swedish side, but Chef d’Equipe, Bo Jena, said this evening “I immediately thought about Toy Story as our reserve and the decision was taken to transport him from Germany as soon as possible”.  The horse is expected to arrive in good time for the First Horse Inspection which will take place at 9.30am tomorrow. “Patrick took the situation professionally” Jena said. “These things happen with horses, there is never any guarantee but now he needs to rethink his strategy on how to work with Toy Story” he added.
 
Para-Dressage
Tomorrow also brings the First Horse Inspection for the JYSK FEI European Para-Dressage Championship.  While the Jumping and Dressage action will be played out in the 10,000-seater MCH Arena, which is normally home to Danish Superleague soccer team FC Midtjylland, the Para-Dressage competitors will compete in the nearby JYSK Arena.  Danish Para-Dressage star Stinne Kaastrup was the centre of attention this afternoon, and the 18-year-old who took team and individual silver along with Freestyle gold in Grade 1b at the 2011 Europeans in Moorsele, Belgium talked about her prospects with her new horse, Steffi Graf.  She lost her brilliant little New Forest pony, Labbenhus Snovs, last summer and struggled with a replacement horse that was 1.60cms tall. 
 
But her new ride, Steffi Graf, is “about 157cms and she’s lovely because she just wants to please me” Kaastrup explained.  “When I ride her I get the same feeling that I had with Snovs. She’s not the most flashy but she has a good walk and she really wants to learn”.  Kaastrup knows that after just four months together there may be some unrealistic expectations of what they can achieve this week. “But I don’t feel under pressure, I feel people will take that into account.  We’ll do what we can do for now, and that will be good enough” said the consummate professional. 
 
The Para-Dressage First Horse Inspection will take place tomorrow at 13.00 while the opening Speed leg of the PSI FEI European Jumping Championship gets the real business underway at 16.45 local time.
 
For further information on the ECCO FEI European Championships 2013 go to website: http://european-herning.dk/GB.aspx
 
FEI Online Press Kits
Extensive information on the P.S.I. FEI European Jumping Championships, Blue Hors FEI European Dressage Championships and JYSK FEI European Para-Dressage Championships, can be found in the FEI’s Online Press Kit Zone: www.feipresskits.org. Each press kit includes an event preview, athlete biographies, competition timetable, Championships history and key contact details. 
 
FEI TV
The P.S.I. FEI European Jumping Championships and Blue Hors FEI European Dressage Championships will be live on FEI TV, the FEI’s official online video platform, starting on 20 August at 16.45 local time - see the complete live schedule here: www.feitv.org/live. Key performances and interviews with medal winners will be available as video-on-demand from the JYSK FEI European Para-Dressage Championships.




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