Great Britain won the second leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ Dressage 2013 series at Rotterdam, The Netherlands yesterday where team member, Charlotte Dujardin, produced the biggest score of the competition with a strong performance from her London 2012 Olympic Games double-gold medal winning partner, Valegro. Just over 1.5 percentage points gave the British the edge over the host nation in the final analysis, while, despite fielding only three riders, Sweden lined up third. However it is the Dutch who hold the advantage at the top of the league table as the four-leg pilot season moves on to Aachen, Germany next week. The British failed to start at the opening round in Vidauban, France last month when, having arrived with only three riders, one horse didn't pass the first horse inspection.
This time around they brought the full complement of four horse-and-rider combinations, and although two of the side, Daniel Watson (Fideramber) and Gareth Hughes (DV Stenkjers Nadonna) were considerably less-experienced, the combined scores of the best three team-members secured success. Dujardin finished at the top of the individual rankings with 82.191, Carl Hester was fourth with Fine Time on a mark of 71.532 and first-timer Hughes was most impressive when slotting into seventh with DV Stenkjers Nadonna when posting 70.149. British pathfinder, Watson, scored 67.830 with Fideramber.
Highest Individual Marks
Some of the highest individual marks of the day however were collected by The Netherlands' Edward Gal and Glock's Undercover who filled runner-up spot on 79.660. This pair's passage/piaffe work was often sensational, but they were penalised by a big mistake in the tempi changes. Dutch Chef d'Equipe, Wim Ernes, said afterwards that the partnership "is getting better and better, but there is still plenty more room for improvement. I'm very pleased with Edward's progress" he pointed out.
A total of seven nations competed, with Denmark slotting into fourth ahead of Germany in fifth, France in sixth and Belgium in seventh place. Yesterday's competition brought the FEI Nations Cup™ Dressage pilot season to the half-way stage.
First to Go
Madeleine Witte-Vrees was first to go for the home team and scored 68.404 with Blom's Wynton while Hans Peter Minderhoud and Glock's Tango posted 69.681. Patrick van der Meer and Uzzo raised the bar higher when awarded 69.766 but it was Gal's result that boosted The Netherlands' position and ensured they remain in front going into the next leg in seven days' time.
They are only four points ahead of Sweden at the top of the league table while the British lie third, another four points further behind. Yesterday's Swedish performance was all-the-more creditable for the fact that there were only three riders in the side. And Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven's score of 75.788 with Don Auriello proved crucial when Mads Hendeliowitz (Weihenstephaner) posted 63.447 and Cecilia Dorselius (Lennox) registered a mark of 68.660.
Less than two marks separated the remaining four teams, with the average scores between 66.00 and 68.00. Germany was the only other country to field three riders.
Olympic champion, Dujardin, said afterwards that the concept of the FEI Nations Cup™ Dressage series is "fabulous! We had two new riders on our team, so to pull off the win with them, and to give them their first experience at this level, is a great opportunity for everyone".
She talked about her own performance yesterday. "I'm really happy. Obviously there were a few blips, but Valegro has not been out since December" she explained. "His last competition was at Olympia, so to come here and perform the way he did, and with such confidence, was brilliant. I had a really good ride, but I know there are a few things I need to sharpen up" she added.
It seems Valegro's success hasn't gone to his head. After setting a new world record in the Grand Prix at London Olympia with a score of 84.447, the 11-year-old Dutch-bred gelding had "a bit of a holiday, he went out in the field a lot" according to Dujardin. "When he came in he went hacking a lot with a friend of ours, Trish Gardner who is 76 years old - although actually she probably won't be too happy with me for mentioning that!" the British rider said with a laugh.
Next Big Target
The European Championships at Herning, Denmark in August are the next big target for the gentlemanly horse and his talented rider who will turn 28 next month. "We made a plan to get going here in Rotterdam, and after this I'm not quite sure yet what we'll do. We may go to Hickstead, but it's all up to Carl (Hester) to decide" Dujardin said.
If the British want to win the inaugural FEI Nations Cup™ Dressage series however they still have plenty of work to do with an eight-point gap between them and the leading Dutch at this stage.
The FEI Nations Cup™ pilot series takes place over four events. CDIO 3* Vidauban, CDIO 5* Rotterdam and CDIO 5* Aachen all took the option to stage a Grand Prix competition as part of this trial FEI Nations Cup™ Dressage season, while CDIO 3* Hickstead has chosen to stage a Freestyle to Music competition to bring the test series to a close.
The third leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ Dressage 2013 pilot season takes place next Thursday, 27 June, in Aachen, Germany. Just one further leg remains after that, at Hickstead (GBR) on Sunday, 3 August.