Germany dominated the Junior category while the Italians claimed a huge haul of Young Rider medals at the FEI European Reining Championships for Juniors and Young Riders 2015 which drew to a close at Givrins in Switzerland yesterday. Staged over two days at Corinna Schumacher’s CS Ranch which lies halfway between Geneva and Lausanne, the event attracted 46 riders from nine countries. The flags of Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Switzerland all flew high, and competition for a podium placing was intense from the outset.
The 2014 Championships saw a clean sweep of gold for the Italians who had produced a hat-trick of victories the previous year. And although they didn’t achieve the same level of gold-medal-winning success this time around they still secured a place in the history-books when the Young Rider Individual standings showed six Italians in a row.
Italy was chasing a fifth consecutive victory in the Junior Team event, but, on her home turf, it was Corinna Schumacher’s talented daughter Gina who clinched victory for Germany. There were five nations battling for the medals here, and Schumacher was last to go for her side. Jakob Behringer and Rascal Sensation got the eventual champions off to a flying start when producing the highest score of the day, 216.0. But when Lena-Marie Maas and Stun Gun registered 209 and Shawn Wagner and Hollys Electricspark posted 203 the result was far from decided.
It all came down to the last-line riders, and Schumacher really threw down the gauntlet when steering Gunners Enterprise home for a score of 215 to move the final German tally on to 640.0. So although Italian anchorman Eric Ranieri Volpe and Exxcaliber rounded up the competition with the second-highest mark of 215.5, it just wasn’t enough when the scoreboard showed a final team total of 637.5. The Italian scores were consistently strong - both Linda Martinelli and Playgirl on the Rocks and Lisa Werdaner and Arc Pleasetogunyou posting 211 while Irene Merlotti and Snapplejack scored 208. But they had to settle for silver ahead of the impressive three-member Belgian side of Nimroid Vannietvelt (Im Smart and Wimpy), Jinke Stevens (Don John Escape BB) and Amber Heidebuchel (Wimps Lil Prize) who rounded up their total on 628.0 to take the bronze.
The team from the Czech Republic finished fourth on a score of 609.0 ahead of Great Britain in fifth with 596.5. German team coach, Nico Hoermann, said after his side’s victory - “all the riders worked hard to achieve this much coveted medal, and we look forward to the Individual competition now!”
Mr Hoermann’s confidence proved well-founded when his side added Junior Individual gold and bronze. Gina Schumacher produced a near-perfect ride with her 11-year-old paint horse stallion Gunners Enterprise whose stable-name is Digger. They were untouchable for gold when scoring 219. “My horse was great for me once again, and I am thrilled with this second gold medal!”, Schumacher said afterwards. “I cannot thank my team members and coach enough, my trainer Shawna Larcombe and of course my mom and family who are my greatest supporters!”
Italy’s Eric Ranieri Volpe claimed his second Individual silver medal in a row with his flashy seven-year-old Quarter Horse gelding Exxcaliber when posting 217.5. “I cannot believe how special my horse is!” he said. “Of course when you’re out there your goal is the highest step of the podium, but I am very happy and honoured to have been part of the team yet again.”
It was Germany’s Jakob Behringer and his seven-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, Rascal Sensation, who stood on the third step of the podium when scoring 215.5. “My goal was to qualify for my team for the very first time, and I have to thank my trainer Grisha Ludwig for bringing me here”, he said. Having already produced the highest score of the Team competition the previous day he had every reason to be bursting with pride. “It’s a dream come true, and I still cannot believe it!”, he added. It was an impressive result for the Germans who filled four of the top-five places when Lena Marie Maas (Mr Stun Gun) slotted into fourth ahead of Anna Voss (Mandys Little Magnum) in fifth. "I feel like I'm in heaven!" said coach Hoermann. "It's my first time coaching the Juniors and Young Riders and I must say this is a fantastic group. My hat goes off to all of them and Gina did an amazing job, especially considering this is not the horse she was supposed to ride here."
Young Rider Team
When it came to the Young Riders category however it was an Italian landslide. Big scores of 218 for Andrea Pedrotti (Wimpys Short Step BB) and 216.5 from Alessio Baldi (Icarus Jack) ensured that when Enrico Sciulli (The Gunner King) posted 212 then Sara Ambrosini’s (Figlia di Arc Think Chic) 210 was the drop-score as they already totalled a massive 646.5. In fact the final scoreboard mirrored precisely the same result as at last year’s fixture at the same venue, with Germany lining up second ahead of Austria in third. Just four nations contested the medals here, and it was The Netherlands that missed out on a podium placing.
The Italians finished a massive 14 points ahead of the German silver medallists who posted 632.5, while the Austrian’s 609 gave them a 5.5 point advantage over the Dutch. “I am thrilled with our athletes even though in the past we have claimed both (Junior and Young Rider Team) gold medals” said Italian coach Filippo Masi de Vargas. “The level of competition is getting better every year, and the athletes on the team of course change. Regarding the Young Riders, what can I say? We made history! I am truly proud and honoured to have such a great group of athletes!” he commented.
Andrea Pedrotti was delighted with his huge score that anchored the Italian team victory. “This has been one of the most emotional experiences ever, and I am truly happy with the way my horse went for me. I cannot thank my team, my coach and my trainer enough for getting us here!”, he said. Fabienne Kramer (Dual Tuck Tari) produced the highest German team score when posting 214.5, and the rest of her team-mates were closely bunched when Jennifer Luhmer (Peppys Lil Dreamer) earned 209.5, and both Daniel Kalk (Sheza Custom Crome) and Isabeau Riemann (Charlys Cool Running) posted 208.5. Anna Lisec and Whizable took their second team bronze medal in a row for Austria, and was joined on the third step of the podium by Eva Maria Hammerschmid (Golden Jac the Boss), Sophie Frimmel (Taris Bright Sunshine) and Lara Kaefer (Sujo Badger).
Young Rider Individual
Of the 18 who battled it out for the Young Riders Individual medals, Alessio Baldi produced the most thrilling performance with the nine-year-old Quarter Horse RS Icarus Jack to pin fellow-Italian Andrea Pedrotti into silver medal spot. Baldi’s score of 218.5 left him a full mark in front, and he said afterwards, “I was so honoured to be able to ride for my country for the very first time and am even more honoured to bring home two gold medals! I will always cherish this great experience, and of course I want to say a huge thank you to Mauro Esti for allowing me to ride his horse here”, he said.
Pedrotti was almost overwhelmed by the results he produced over the two days of competition. “Wow!” was his first reaction when adding Individual silver to his team gold medal. “After the Italian Derby last June I started riding with Pierluigi Chioldo and Marco Pettinari and I cannot but give them credit for taking me where I am today” he said. “Being selected was a big thing for me, being able to work with my horse and achieving this result is simply incredible. I have to thank my family for always supporting me. Without them this could not have been possible”, said the grateful competitor.
And bronze medallist Enrico Sciulli was thrilled with his result too. “I still can’t believe that we did this!” he said. “Riding in FEI competition is our goal every year and had it not been for Giovanni Guerra who allowed me to ride his horse this would not have been possible” he pointed out. Three more Italians also slotted into the line-up with Riccardo Calascibetta (Ultra Shine) in fourth and Sara Ambrosini (Figlia di Arc Think Chic) and Martina Penato (Ms Twist Whiz) sharing fifth place.
The 2015 edition of these Championships was another memorable one from an Italian perspective. “Our riders performed a work of art!” said Roberto Cuoghi, head of the Italian National Federation’s (FISE) Reining Department. “They were all extremely professional, showed to the best of their ability and showed us all what team spirit is about. They cheered for everyone, have a wonderful relationship among them and are all loyal to each other. These are all elements that help our sport grow, and I cannot but be proud of them all! A thank you to the riders, the owners, our coach, our Federation, our hostess Corinna Schumacher, her staff and of course the FEI,” he added. FEI Secretary General, Sabrina Zeender, attended the event and was greatly impressed.
“These Championships were fabulous and dynamic, providing super sport. The quality of the riders was outstanding and the infrastructure at the venue is amazing. The complex here is state-of-the-art and the perfect place to stage a Reining Championship at any level. It is really exciting to see so many Young Riders and Juniors with so much promise. Their talent suggests great things for the future of this sport!”, she said.