It’s all-systems-go for the Blu Hors FEI European Dressage Championship in Herning after all horses passed this morning’s first veterinary inspection. A total of 65 came before the veterinary panel at the Danish venue, and only one was sent to the holding box. However the grey stallion, Norte Lovera, passed on re-inspection so will compete for Spain’s Jose Garcia Mena when the event gets underway tomorrow afternoon. A total of 18 nations will be represented over the next five days, while 14 countries will battle it out in the team competition. The Germans are defending champions and are chasing their 22nd team title, while The Netherlands’ Adelinde Cornelissen will be hoping to record her third consecutive victory in the Grand Prix Special, and a back-to-back win in the Freestyle.
The British have been the headline-catchers in recent times. They followed their rise to prominence when scooping their very first team title at the last FEI European Dressage Championships in Rotterdam, The Netherlands in 2011 by taking Olympic team and individual gold in London (GBR) last summer. And although they arrived in Herning without key team-members Laura Tomlinson and Mistral Hojris they are expected to keep the opposition on their toes.
Gareth Hughes was called up with DV Stenkjers Nadonna at the last minute when Mistral Hojris sustained a slight injury. Tomlinson was not prepared to take any risk with the 18-year-old horse that has achieved so much for her during his sparkling career. Michael Eilberg, son of Ferdi Eilberg who has been so instrumental in putting British dressage on its road to recent success, completes the British foursome alongside Hester and Dujardin.
But Hester has only ridden his Olympic horse Uthopia occasionally since last year’s golden summer and relatively little has been seen of Olympic individual and team champions Dujardin and Valegro either. Whether the British can return another European team success remains to be seen. And it’s wide open for the Individual medals too.
Helen Langehanenberg said today that the German side are fully focused as they set off in pursuit of that 22nd team success - “we will all do our very best and we will fight to the very end. We are all in great shape” she pointed out. And, asked if she personally felt under a lot of pressure following her victory in the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final in Gothenburg, Sweden in April she replied, “I’m freeing myself from expectations, I will go and do my best, and once my test is done I cannot change anything. The last decision is with the judges”, she said.
The expectation is that the battle for the Individual medals will be played out between Langehanenberg, Dujardin and defending champion Adelinde Cornelissen. But Langehanenberg will be very much within her comfort zone in Herning’s impressive MCH Arena. Her stallion, Damon Hill, thrives in the spotlight and really enjoys the big moments.
“Dami (her stallion Damon Hill) likes a big stadium” Langehanenberg said this afternoon. “Yesterday he gave me a good feeling in there, I think he really likes it. It’s a bit like London (Greenwich Park, venue for the equestrian events of the London 2012 Olympic Games) “- he goes in and he says “oh, this is pretty nice in here!” and he stands even taller and feels proud and good about it” she explained.
She said the sport of Dressage has become much less predictable, and that this is a good thing. “It’s so important that people can no longer look at the starting order and say ‘well that will be first, and that will be second and that third’ and so on. There was a time when you knew what to expect, provided the rider didn’t fall off or something you could tell how it would work out! But it’s not like that anymore, it’s very different these days and it’s great for the audience, and for the sport, because we have real competition and you can’t possibly know what the outcome will be” she said.
She has come to Herning with a fresh horse and in good form. “At the German Championships we won all three tests and it was the same in Aachen (in June). Dami had a three-week break after that but he’s in really great shape and we are all ready for action!”, she pointed out.
The Blue Hors FEI European Dressage Championships begins tomorrow (Wednesday 21 August) at 14.30 with the first part of the Team competition which concludes on Thursday with the awards ceremony at 14.25. The Grand Prix Special takes place on Friday and the Championships draw to a close following Sunday’s Freestyle.
President of the Ground Jury for the Blue Hors FEI European Dressage Championships is Denmark’s Leif Tornblad. Foreign Judge is Sweden’s Magnus Ringmark, Foreign Technical Delegate is Germany’s Gotthilf Riexinger and the Ground Jury Members are Susan Hoevenaars (AUS), Dietrich Plewa (GER), Gustav Svalling (SWE), Isabelle Judet (FRA), Francis Verbeek (NED) and Andrew Gardner (GBR). There is also a Judges Supervisory Panel consisting of Eric Lette (SWE), Henk van Bergen (NED) and Dieter Schule (GER).
Facts and Figures:
- 18 nations represented: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Great Britain, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, Sweden, Ukraine, Spain.
- 14 nations fielding teams: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland and Sweden.
- 65 competitors.
- 4 nations represented by individual riders: Ireland, Russia, Spain and Ukraine.
- This is the 26th edition of the FEI Dressage Championships and the fifth time for the event to take place in Denmark.
- The Danish capital city of Copenhagen hosted the first two Championships in 1963 and 1965.
- Germany has won the FEI European Dressage Team title on 21 occasions, undefeated between 1965 and 2005.
- The defending team champions are the British who made history with their very first victory in these Championships at Rotterdam (NED) in 2011.
- This year The Netherlands’ Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival will be chasing their third consecutive title in the Grand Prix Special and a back-to-back win in the Freestyle competition.
- The British team includes Charlotte Dujardin who took team and individual gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games and Carl Hester who was also on the gold medal winning side.
For further information on the ECCO FEI European Championships 2013 go to website: european-herning.dk/GB.aspx