While I will let the other media tell the story of how the Dressage Grand Prix to determine the team medals unfolded with the Dutch claiming the Gold, Great Britain the Silver and Germany the Bronze (U.S. was just two points behind), I thought I would tell you about what transpired in the press conference since today was a day of mixed emotions.
To begin with, it was no surprise that the Dutch won the Gold despite the tragedy that befell one of their members. Word has been spreading over the past year about the brilliant horse Moorlands Totilas ridden by Edward Gal and how he is unbeatable. To have him on the Dutch team was a tremendous boost. The horse frequently gets 10s, the highest score you can possibly get, because of the perfection in his movements and transitions. Today was no different and he led the pack with a score of 84.043. With his score and good scores by his teammates the Dutch won despite the elimination of one of their riders.
Cornelissen was just in the beginning of her ride on Jerich Parzival when suddenly the bell was rung. Adelinde thought at first that perhaps she had gone off course but then president of the ground jury Dr. Steven Clarke (who was the C judge), pointed out that there was blood in the horse’s saliva and in accordance with the rules they had to be eliminated.
“According to the dressage rule it is common practice when blood comes from the mouth that the result is elimination,” explained Dr. Wojtek Markowski, the technical delegate. While all the judges felt badly Dr. Markowski explained, “The rules are very clear and we cannot do anything about this.”
“It was a tiny spot on the tip of his tongue and it stopped bleeding by the time we got back to the barn,” explained Adelinde. In response to her thoughts about this she added, “On the one hand it really sucks that you can’t finish a test. He was really doing well in the warm-up. He’s doing amazing at the moment. On the other hand I am kind of happy that he is okay and can start training tomorrow again. It’s nothing serious.”
The Dutch Chef d’Equipe, Sjef Janssen, responded as well commenting, “In principle I think it is a fair rule but I think it would be fair to inspect the horse and if it is minor let the horse compete. It’s a fair rule because when you see blood you don’t know how serious it is.” The suggestion was made to review this rule and in principle it was taken into consideration.
“I feel really bad about it. This is a tragedy because the horse was doing really well and warmed up well,” added Jan. “It’s really painful for everybody involved. Everybody was very depressed. I saw many tears back in the stables. Everybody was very disappointed.”
Adelinde’s teammates had mixed feelings. “On the one side we are very happy but it is a little bit of mixed feelings. We all cried a little bit,” Edward admitted.
“That was the hardest thing I’ve done,” said the British judge, Stephen Clarke. “She was so gracious. The moment I said, I am very sorry there is blood in the mouth. She turned the head and understood. That’s horses. She took it like a real professional.”
While everyone expected Edward Gal and Totilas to be on top it was British rider Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistal Hojris who really rose to the challenge and her score reflected that.
Clarke said that he gave her high marks throughout the ride. “I can certainly remember giving Laura several tens. I thought the last piaffe was the best one. Laura’s final line coming straight towards me was a clear ten. Today we were shown piaffe as well as we could ever hope to see it.”
Bechtolsheimer was clearly delighted with her ride and is hoping she can repeat that in the freestyle. “I am just dealing with today. I really hope I can deliver a performance like that tomorrow. It comes down to what we all do tomorrow. It’s not going to be easy to stay where we are, never mind move up. I guarantee it will be exciting.”
“It was definitely the best score and the best ride I’ve ever had. He didn’t make any mistakes. Today he actually made my life pretty easy. The fact that it was rewarded with the best score I ever had was great,” commented Bechtolsheimer.
As a member of the British team, Bechtolsheimer’s score helped catapult them into the Silver Medal position. For the Brits, this medal marked a milestone. It’s the first time a British team has ever medaled in Dressage.
Her teammate Carl Hester remarked, “British Dressage has been waiting for a superstar like Laura to build all our confidence. Our horses are finding it equally as difficult to match Mistal. The other three of us feel that our horses couldn’t have gone any better. Of course we are all happy with our rides.”
When Gal spoke about his ride it was about the fact that he had to work to earn his score. “It was quite difficult because there was shouting when we came in the arena and it made him tense so at the beginning he was a little bit tense but then the second part of the test was better.”
In fact, it was more than just shouting. When Gal and Totilas entered the arena, not only was the applause deafening but the huge crowd all stood up in honor of this special horse. Word has spread quickly about what a talented combo these two are.
In the Special the scores do not carry over. Everyone starts with a clean slate. Knowing that Gal added, “I hope he will do as good as he did today but you never know.”
Disparity in the Scores Leaves Many Puzzled
One other controversial topic that was also brought up was the disparity of marks in many of the tests. There was frequently as much as a 10 point difference. Clarke was not happy about this.
“Over the two days we had quite a few differences of opinion,” he admitted. “We will go from this meeting and spend another few hours going through the videos and the sheets to find out where our differences were and to discuss our differences. I am not trying to hide from that. We had differences and that is not acceptable. But luckily even with those differences, the system that we have with the five judges still ended up putting the horses in the right places. It is not good enough. We have to try to draw a clearer conclusion. We are always working hard to do that. Now through the FEI we have a large training program. Now we meet once a year to thrash these things out and it is not really enough. We are well aware of the differences we had and we are taking it very seriously.”
Steffen’s superb ride and score of 78.596 moved him into the third spot. Those who qualified now move on to the Special and then the Freestyle to determine the ultimate winner.
As always, feel free to email me with your questions or comments (firstname.lastname@example.org).