Florina and Claudia Rüscher – wonderful in the five year old class…
Story Christopher Hector and Photos Roz Neave
By the time our big September stallion magazine was finished, there was only time to make it to the World Young Dressage Horse finals at the weekend, still better late than never. I did sit through the klein final for the six-year-old horses. It was a chance to get my eye in, and a handle on where the judges were heading.
I thought the judging was really subtle, and horse friendly. Aggressive over-riding was seen for what it was, and the scores adjusted accordingly. The standard of the horses continues to improve – although I have a slight worry that we are now developing a specialist breed of young horse horses. Which I guess is not surprising.
When I started trying to make sense of Warmblood breeding, the leading studbooks were still proclaiming the aim of producing an all-round horse. That’s like ancient history now, with specialist dressage and jumping streams well in place, and a specialist eventing stream emerging. Given that the market for Young Horses is highly lucrative, and that the process is so much quicker, why not a young horse stream?
Certainly when I look at the preliminary lists for the shows on this trip, the World Young Dressage Horse, the Bundeschampionate, and the European Championships, it is fairly apparent that the stallions that are siring the young horse starters, were in the main, young horse stars themselves (and in the vast majority of cases didn’t go on to ‘The Big Sport’) and the successful stallions in producing horses for the Euro Champs, were themselves, Grand Prix horses.
The winner of the six-year-old class was Quarton, by Quaterback out of a Don Schufro mare, the horse is a nice fusion, getting some of the legginess of Don Schufro (unfortunately, his head too) with something of the pizzazz of Quaterback – who, unlike Don Schufro who was a respectable Grand Prix competitor – stalled after his Bundeschampionate glory. It’s to be hoped that the stitching on the reins has been well checked, since the rider has a very firm hold. Just where do these little girls get all this arm power? Are they spending hours in the gym or does their riding time provide strength training enough?
So on to the Five-Year-old final. The judges were Susanne Baarup, Eddy de Wolff van Westrode and Isabelle Judet, with Dr Dietrich Plewa the judge entrusted with communicating the views of the panel to the masses. They were looking, he said, for quality basic gaits, the standard of training (remember that bit) and general appearance, conformation, temperament and quality.
Dear me he got all of those in abundance with the first horse out in the class, the Small Final winner, Florina, ridden with exquisite tact by Claudia Rüscher. The Hanoverian is by Fürst Romancier out of a Donnerhall mare, a nice fusion of young horse star, and Grand Prix master. Perfect frame, loose and soft through the back, the pair flowed around the arena, the mare’s ears pricked, her eye bright and engaged, and when asked to give rein on the half circle, she just effortlessly loosened her neck and followed the invitation down. At times the contact looked a little tight, like the noseband, and it was a less than perfect final trot, but everything else had been wonderful. Trot – 8.8 , walk 9.5, canter 8.6, submission 8.4, general impression 8.8 for a 8.82 total.
“A wonderful horse,” said Dr Plewa, and to that, amen.
Dorothee Schneider had another lovely soft test on the Trakehner mare, Zikade (Singolo / Tambour). Like Claudia, Dorothee sits sweetly in and with the horse’s back. 8.28 and the final was off to a great start.
The first jarring note came with the Spanish rider, Severo Jesus Jurado Lopez, riding for Holland on the Dutch stallion, Franklin (Ampère / Ferro). Lopez is based in Denmark where he works in Andreas Helgstrand’s stables. For the first time we saw some seriously unpleasant riding, the tension making the trot passagey, the walk choppy, and finally the pressure gets too much and the stallion blows up in the corner. Sadly the judges pay 9 for the manufactured trot, 7.2 for the walk, 8 for the canter, 7.4 for submission, and 8 for general impression, total 7.92.
Plewa told the rider that he would ‘like to see him more natural’, although it was ‘spectacular’. Back when the Grand Prix was very nastily spectacular, my friend Christoph Hess advanced the theory that Young Horse classes might bring about improvement, since the judges would have to go back to watching natural paces. Now, Carl, Charlotte, Helen and Isabell, seem to have turned around dressage at the highest level, it seems we have to guard against the disease of spectacular in the Young Horse Classes once again.
Andreas Helgstrand and Fiontina, and before you say, just an isolated moment…
The test of Andreas Helgstrand and Fiontina (Fassbinder / Romanov) was, quite simply disgusting. The mare was hauled together so crudely, that at one stage it looked as if she might fall over. That awful dealer’s trot, with the front legs waving, the rider hauling her down in front. The poor mare is crooked a lot of the time, hauled around by half halts that are so rough and aggressive. Sure this is a wonderful mare, but it is genuinely difficult to ‘see’ her as she is ridden so out of rhythm and given no opportunity to show her natural brilliance. Sadly the once knowledgeable European dressage crowd has been dumbed-down since most of them love this display of flash and trash. But, after the judges have taken his pupil to task, surely they will nip this ugliness in the bud?
Not so. 9.2 for that awful artificial trot, 9.3 for the walk, 9.2 for the canter, 8.5 for submission, 8.9 general impression. Total 9.02, sadly the jury has lost its nerve and caved in to the pressure.
In the break I talk to a few of the people I really respect on the dressage scene, they are unanimous, this is appalling judging.
“If this is dressage, then we must throw the classical principles out the window,” said one enormously successful trainer of young, and Grand Prix, horses… Aside from a clutch of wildly patriotic Scandinavians, I could find no experienced observer who was not outraged.
Quantensprung and Vera Nass
The Hanoverian stallion Quantensprung (Quando Quando / Donnerhall) is everything Fiontina was not: loose, rhythmic, and sweetly shown by Vera Nass. Trot 9.1, walk 9, canter 9, submission 8.7, general impression 9 for an 8.96 into second, but the forces of darkness are still in the lead.
Fiontini goes more sweetly than her sibling for Severo Jurado
Luckily for the judges, Hanne Lund, who bred both the mares, had two foals that season, and Fiontini goes more sweetly than her sibling for Severo Jurado, who received his warning earlier in the class. This is truly another super mare, properly engaged, and quite relaxed, she is much nicer – or has been given the opportunity to show her qualities better – than her two months younger sister (both bred by ET). The crowd starts to applaud as she comes down the centre line, and you suspect there is a small round of applause in the judges’ box as she strides towards them. Fiontini has got them just a little off the hook.
Trot 9.8, walk 8, canter 9.1, submission 9.6, general impression 94, for a total of 9.18 and victory.
Still it is hard not to feel a bit soiled by the judging on the second place getter…