Anky van Grunsven Reclaims European Champion's Title

Text and Photos by Astrid Appels/ (No reproduction allowed)

Anky van Grunsven has reclaimed the European Champion's title at the 2005 European Dressage Championships in Hagen, Germany, after having been without it for five years.

In 1999 Anky was crowned European Champion on home turf in Arnheim, this year she ruled in the lion's den, Germany. Aboard her 11-year old Hanoverian gelding Salinero (by Salieri x Lungau) she won all three tests of the individual championship and claimed the individual gold medal. German Hubertus Schmidt won the silver and Swedish Jan Brink got bronze.

In the nations' competition, Germany won its 21st European team gold, while Holland landed in its perpetual team silver medal position. Sweden and Spain shared the bronze, as Spain offered to split the bronze medal in an extraordinary act of sportmanship.

With only two weeks to organize the 2005 European Championships, Ullrich Kasselmann showed Bob Geldoff skills in rallying a large audience to the show and organizing a meticulously run show, where everything was perfect -- from the stabling, to the footing, to the hotels and parties.

Anky Displays Her Master Skills in Hagen

Text and Photos by Astrid Appels/ (No reproduction allowed)

Though Anky scored 77.417% in the Grand Prix, 76.160% in the Special and 83.000% in the Kur, her overall victory was not a walk in the park. Her temperamental Salinero required all of Anky's riding skills in order to keep the lid on the cooker.

In the Grand Prix, Salinero showed a fantastic piaffe-passage tour, but a mistake in the single tempi's meddled with her score. Yet, 77.417% put her well ahead of second placed Hubertus Schmidt on Wansuele Suerte (74.625%).

In the Special, the lid did blow off the cooker. Salinero was tense from the start. The passage, which was so spectacularly electric, was a piaffe barely moving forward. A kick to the spur at the transition from passage to canter proved the tension was still there. The flying changes every two strides went completely wrong with two major errors on the diagonal. Mariette Withages still scored it a 5, while Cara Whitham correctly gave it a 2.

Anky and Salinero scored a more than generous 76.160% for a tension fraught Special.

In the Kur to Music, Salinero was completely transformed. He was much more harmonious and relaxed with a passage moving forward again. The transitions were good and the flying changes were in order. Only the walk was a problem, as he did not stretch his neck in the extended walk and did a leg yield from F to E instead of going straight. No new world record, but 83.000% was enough to build up a 6% advantage to silver medallist Hubertus Schmidt in the overall ranking.

Schmidt Silver, Brink Bronze

Text and Photos by Astrid Appels/ (No reproduction allowed)

Talk about two lovely poetic, alliterations (S-S, B-B), but, unfortunately this reporter would liked to have seen it the other way round.

Hubertus Schmidt lived up to his reputation of having a real happy horse under the saddle. Wansuela Suerte (Warkant x Wachmann) was relaxed, cool, harmonious in every single movement. She looked tender behind in all her extended trots, but the piaffe passage was lovely, light and rhythmical. You don't get to see the electric spectacle of Salinero in Wansuela's gaits, but this horse is not nervous in her work nor is she sweating throughout the test. The judges did not seem to agree on her walk (which shows little overtrack). Some scored it 9, others gave 5. Schmidt made no major mistakes in any of the three tests and freewheeled his way to scores of 74.625% (Grand Prix), 75.720% (GP Special) and 80.525% (Kur). The silver was his.

Though Wansuela's harmony is heart warming, Jan Brink and the Swedish stallion Bjorsells Briar are a more fascinating pair to watch. The 14-year old Briar (Magini x Krocket) has matured so much in his work this year and really seems to feel good doing his job. If one is to judge quality of paces, Briar would be the silver medal horse, but a mistake in the two's in the Grand Prix and a major spook and blow up in the two's in the Special forced Brink to settle for individual bronze.

A Thriller Nations' Competition

Text and Photos by Astrid Appels/ (No reproduction allowed)

Never before has a nations' competition at any major international championships been so tight at the one at the 2005 European Championships. Germany won its 21st European team gold and Holland had to settle for silver, while Spain and Sweden shared the bronze.

On home turf, Germany put in a strong fight for the gold. "We perform better when we are put under stress," Heike Kemmer said and that's what she did. Her Bonaparte (by Bon Bonaparte) was not in top form with very poor piaffe reprises in the Grand Prix. The extensions were nice though and her score of 72,833% was a bit overrated. Hubertus Schmidt became the anchor member of the German team with a clear ride and a 74,625% score. It was German Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff who saved Germany's bacon. For the first time at a major championships in recent years, Linsenhoff was able to ride a clean ride, as she normally makes a mistake here and there. On her 10-year old Sterntaler Unicef (Sion x Manstein), Linsenhoff scored 9's and 10s for the extended walk and trot. Her zig zag, however, had imperfections in the half passes to the left and one of the pirouettes was too big and not jumped round the leg. Her score of 74,250% was more than generous and made her win the Grand Prix on day one. Germany collected 221,708% in total.

Prior to the show, most people betted on Holland to win team gold with Las Vegas Aces Salinero and Lingh on the Dutch team, while Germany had no real mind blowing stars in the absence of Rusty. A fever one week before Hagen made Lingh look like a servant instead of a king in the show ring in Hagen. The horse could not live up to the expectations and showed himself in very poor form in the Grand Prix. Fortunately, he got better in the Special and the Kur, but the damage was done for the nations' competition. Holland's third team member Laurens van Lieren on Hexagon's Ollright experienced a reality check in Hagen. In search for a third star on the Dutch team, the judges have been scoring this rider extremely high at shows in Holland this season. In Hagen, the international panel was much more conservative, especially for Van Lieren's Grand Prix ride for which he could have received a bit more than 70.833%. Holland got 221,167% in total which was only 0.542% (!!) short of the gold.

Sweden and Spain both gathered 213,125% in total, but the FEI rule says that the third rider with the highest score determines the bronze. Ignacio Rambla scored 69,500% on Distinguido, Louise Nathhorst got 68,625%, so bronze went to Spain. However, in an act of friendship, fair play and sportsmanship, Spain requested the FEI to change the rule so that they could split the medal with Sweden. FEI Dressage Committee Chairwoman Mariette Withages made several phone calls to the FEI headquarters in Lausanne on Friday and the next, on Saturday July 30, 2005, there was a special medal ceremony in which Spain symbolically handed over the bronze to Sweden.

For more information and photos of the 2005 European Dressage Championships, visit

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