2015 World Young Dressage Horse Finals – Outrage in the Five Year Olds!

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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.

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Andreas Helgstrand and Fiontina, and before you say, just an isolated moment…

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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.

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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.

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Fiontini goes more sweetly than her sibling for Severo Jurado

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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…

73 thoughts on “2015 World Young Dressage Horse Finals – Outrage in the Five Year Olds!

  1. If money talks and that is the only important thing in Dressage competition, then you cannot call is competition of horse and rider. At this point what is the point to competing as it really looks like a waste of time, effort & money. And morally, how do you get away with abuse right in front of the judges?

  2. Thank you for this acute and intelligent response! Most of the articles on the Verden freakshow rave shrilly, leaving me feeling stuck in The Lego Movie With Equines – and despairing.

  3. So sad, so horrible. I watched this torture of the horses and got a true havy headake! I decided not to spent my time anymore to watch this cruelty, it simply makes me unhappy and deeply sad. I whish things would change for the better of the horses. I bread myself dressage horses and I would turn depressed, if on of mine would be ever be tortured like this. It looks like perversion and it must be sick perverts spending there time by harming anymals to mental and sometime phyical death?!?!

  4. I’m against every equine-sports – but at least one should be able to ride a horse in balance and without weight in hands!

  5. Why is it that rider’s need to hang on with there hands and not use there thighs your hands are meant to be soft and light. Its cruel on the horse im no expert but its just wrong.

  6. I’m not sure how she looks better with Charlotte on her. If you watch, Charlotte can’t even sit the horse and flopping all over the saddle while hanging on the reins. I sure wish the judges would go back to the correct classical dressage instead of the modern day dressage and reward talent and not a name.

  7. Phew! It’s great to have such candid reporting. Not all the sugar-coated junk we get here in N.A. It is hard for truth to break through consistently. Perhaps in time… Wish the audience did the scoring. 🙂

  8. Err, your thighs wont keep you on a horse – its about core strength , weight, lower leg and balance !

  9. We know the judges suck- but what about the crowd?? Why are riders like Andreas not being ‘boo’ed out of the ring???? That would take effect really quickly!!! Rough backwards riders would lose sponsorships AND points if the crowd audibly let the powers that be know their thoughts!!!

  10. Andreas Helgstrand, has got a bad reputation in Denmark, were I live for being a cruel animal abuser, in the cruel way he mistreats horses. And I know many kind horse people – who treats their horses with love, kindness, respect, compassion and true horsemanship, who thinks he should not be allowed to have anything to do with horses….. because he is an animal abuser in the rough and cruel way, he treats horses.

  11. Remember the saying “Bad things happen when people do bad things but worse happens when good people see it happen and do nothing about it. I strongly agree with Danne Rudy…..people need to vote with their feet and start booing. Perhaps then the establishment will take notice and at the very least, mark the combination down.

  12. Sorry, what is that. Bad bad pictures. Bad Riders in hyperflexed horsenegs. I am shocked.

  13. I agree that there is a problem with the way that young horses are ridden. However – knowing the sport from the inside – people discussing the animal crualty and the bad, bad riders continuesly seems to ignore the fact, that most of these proffesional riders are under an extreme pressure to perform. The owners and the breeders wants results, the sponsors are also looking for results. If they only cared about presenting their horses in a no-result, but participating fashion, they could ride the horses themselves or find a young rider, who would be happy to show the horse for them.
    Often they know that climbing the tree requires some proffesional, who will do the job. And most of the proffesional riders would very likely not ride the horses this ” tight”, if they did not have the pressure of performance put on them. I am sure, that Andreas Helgstrand did not begin riding horses with intent of being mean to them. Or with the purpose of abusing horses. I am sure that, if the horse had jumped the arena because of stress, and he could not have done the test on the horse, the same critics would be discussing, how terrible he was, because he was not able to control the horse.
    Nothing is just black or white – especially not in a sport with living animals. What should change, is the money involved in the sport. Then I am sure that the general welfare of the horses would improve ( if a good result in Verden for a young horse, would not mean 1-2 mio. EUR more or less in the price of the horse).

  14. Whoever is saying that Charlotte is flopping about unable to ride it, have you watched the video??
    There are not many people that could get on and ride a young horse with that sort of natural power, talking at the same time.
    I am pretty sure you arnt on the list!!

  15. Bravo for reporting it how it was. Just a pity the judges hadn’t the same courage to speak out. They should have stopped Helgstrand and kicked him out. This man is single handedly still bringing the sport of dressage into disrepute, when others like Carl Hestee/Charlotte Dujardin and the young Germans are trying to put the Art back in with humane training.

    Judges, its about time you mustered some backbone and stood up for the horse.

  16. Just as a beginning, the flash strap on all 3 of these horses is too tight! The flash is meant to stabilize the bit, period. No cavesson is meant to clamp shut the horse’s mouth and lock it’s jaw, and the flash strap in particular. In each picture, the young horse has it’s lips curled back and teeth almost look bared! I feel sorry for all 3 of them.

  17. Very interesting. I think there is a reason that most young horse competitors /winners do not go on to grand prix. Broken as soon as they turn 3, and sometimes earlier, ridden in an unnatural and forced frame 6 days a week and asked to do movements they cannot possibly be strong enough to perform. Their musculoskeletal system cannot cope,and if by some miracle they manage to stay sound they have gone sour by the age of 7. I would like young horse classes banned, or starting at 6 years old at the least. I understand the breeders need to make money, but should that be more important than horse welfare?

  18. All the photos shown demonstrate training with emphasis on placement of the neck. Not one horse looks trained within Classical understanding of development of the horse.

  19. I think animal rights viewers should personally and en masse write letters to the trainers and owners and calmly discuss the problems they see.We backed my little mare 1/4 percheron 1/4 TB 1/2 dutch warmblood filly at 4 and rode in a string halter at the walk a teensy bit for 3 days .Then at 7 we started her to be ridden.She had many experiences out and lots of groundwork.She had been underfed by previous girl who gave her to me as a filly with an attitude.She did not get withers til 9 and was full grown at 11 15.3 HH A perfect partner she is and so helpful and charming to ride and be around.Good food and love go a long way. It is so sad to see these tween mares -not even teenagers abused when they are so intelligent and kind( as my mare is.) I agree with the person who dislikes all horse sports-it is fun simply to own,care for well and appreciate these amazing animals.I am so thrilled every day to be privileged to have my 3 mares -2 are rescues 1 of whom is a mustang from an Oregon indian reservation where most of their horses were sent to slaughter and the babies fed only hay until my friend took 700 babies home ,fed them milk and adopted them out. There should be proper laws made for any animal owners to protect all animals from cruelty and abuse.With the horses the stallion stations can have rigid rules for when to start under sadddle(6 formost warmbloods) and when to go forward with upper training and NO ROLKEUR AND HEAVY HANDEDNESS WITH TIGHT FACE TACK.uugh

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