The 2003 Annus Horribilis of Anky van Grunsven is totally over. The Dutch diva is back with a bang, and not just with a small poof. Anky scored a 83.450% for her French chanson inspired kur to music and left all competition far behind her.
While Salinero was tense and nervous in the Grand Prix test on Friday, on Sunday during the finals, the horse had settled down and seemed extremely rideable. Only in the tempi's Salinero seemed to tense up again, but in the piaffe-passage, traversal movements and pirouettes he was brilliant.
"It's my best Kur on Salinero so far," Anky said at the press conference, adding "I'm very pleased with him." Judge at C Volker Moritz, praised Anky's test for its creativity. "Salinero is just breath taking," Moritz confessed.
The generous 83.45% score makes you wonder whether the judges have decided that Salinero is now the better horse compared to Rusty. Rust and Salinero achieve the same marks at this moment, though Rusty is still two regions above Salinero because of his looseness and his overall relaxation in his achievement to be perfect.
Finishing second at the Finals was Anky's student Edward Gal, the new shooting star of the Netherlands. Aboard his KWPN stallion Gestion Lingh (by Flemmingh), Gal rides to very modern, refreshing music based on Indian tribal themes and Gregorian techno music. Lingh effortlessly piaffes and passages through the ring and shows lovely extensions that sometimes could be more engaged from behind.
Dutch Chef d'equipe Bert Rutten was ecstatic about these Dutch achievements. While at the 2001 European Championships, Holland was not even able to qualify for the Special, in Dusseldorf, the nation seemed totally back in the picture. "Don't count your chickens before they are hatched," Rutten said. "We'll see what happens at Athens, but this has been a great moral boost for the Dutch dressage."
Schmidt Excels, Kemmer Fails
The third placed rider in the freestyle was German Hubertus Schmidt, the crowds' favorite. Riding the elegant, charming mare Wansuele Suerte (by Warkant), Schmidt gave an example of what lightness, softness, and willingness really. If you had to point a finger at the one and only "happy horse" in the ring, the finger would be directed to Wansuele Seurte. Owned by Martina Teichert, Wansuela performed a kur on music by German pop star whose fame has not yet reached outside Germany. The music appealed much to the German fans who went bezerk after Schmidt's ride. The judges gave him 78.87%.
"I'm very pleased with my mare. I was not so on Friday when she was more tense and phlegmatic," Schmidt said. With his top 78% score, Schmidt can be added to the German Olympic team contestants. "I have not really planned much ahead than today. I first want to look at the outdoor season and the German Championships, before I can say something about qualifying for Athens," the level-headed Schmidt said.
Finishing fourth was the other title hopeful Heike Kemmer on Bonaparte (by Bon Bonaparte). Kemmer had a great World Cup season aboard her chestnut Hanoverian and was considered to be the only rider who could duel with Van Grunsven. While in the Grand Prix, the difference between the two riders was minimal, in the freestyle Kemmer was forced to risk it all but she blew it. Heike Kemmer was absolutely going for it and Bonaparte looked extraordinary. He was quicker to the aids, looked fresher and more electric at the beginning of the test, but when he scooted off in the extended canter, making an unrequested flying change at the end of the centerline, Kemmer had to slow him down. Bonaparte verged on losing his impulsion in the piaffe and Kemmer had to push him to keep him forward. When she halted at G, she knew that her 2004 World Cup Title had flown away. She received 78.650%
Nikolaus Does His Best
The rebirth of Nikolaus we saw in the Grand Prix, quickly died off in the freestyle. While on Friday Nikolaus seemed to be a transformed horse, trotting with the most expression ever seen in him, in the kur he was again the tense, unhappy horse who struggled through his test while Guenter Seidel did everything in his power to present him as best as possible.
Riding to Brazilian carneval music, which make your hips go wiggle wiggle during the test, Seidel has opted for music that does not relax his horse, but makes it cramp up even more, unfortunately. Nikolaus (by Weinberg) was good in the extensions and travesal movements but in the piaffe and passage, he avoided back usage and moved hectically. The paire scored 76.975%, finishind sixth. We cannot help but decide that Nikolaus has reached his limit and that a 77% mark will be his absolute maximum ever.
The consolation Finals were won by Australian Kristy Oatley-Nist aboard Rosemount Quando Quando (by Quattro B). Nist's Oldenburg licensed stallion has only been doing the Grand Prix since 2004 and competed in Dusseldorf because Nist's first choice Don Bolero stayed home with an injury. Nist rode with gusto and Quando Quando brims with expression and talent. The duo received 71.625% and dominated the B-finals.
American Leslie Morse finished fifth in the B-finals with a 69.100% score. The World Cup finals have been a great learning experience for Morse and her fairly inexperienced Grand Prix horse Kingston, who had to battle against some of Europe's biggest heavy weights in one of the smallest indoor arena's on the continent.
Text and Photos by Astrid Appels of Eurodressage.com
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