It was the second start and second victory this year for Jan Brink and Bjorsells Briar of Sweden in the Grand Prix freestyle at the Neumunster CDI-W, Feb. 16-19 in Neumunster, Germany.
The seasoned pair, who took bronze at the European Championships last year, scored 79.53 percent to claim the seventh FEI World Cup qualifier of the year.
But qualifying for the World Cup Final isn’t Brink’s focus.
“I want to concentrate on the World Equestrian Games at Aachen instead,” he explained. “Bjorsells Briar is 15 years old and not so young anymore, so I have to take care to save his energy. But Neumunster is always such a fabulous show that I wanted to compete here, and it’s not so far for me to travel.”
The overall impression the pair presented was strong and powerful, but it was only toward the end of the test that the chestnut stallion really gave the feeling that the rider had the horse in front of him.
Sometimes Briar got a bit twisted in the poll and could have given a more upward impression. But he was also clearly relaxed and showed an excellent extended walk.
The day before the Swedish combination had been the runner-up in the Grand Prix behind Andreas Helgstrand of Denmark on Blue Hors Cavan.
Isabell Werth finished second in the freestyle with the 10-year-old Weltmeyer-son Warum Nicht FRH (79.33%).
” ‘Hannes,’ as we call Warum Nicht, has become much more certain, and he’s gathered a lot of experience over the last three World Cup qualifiers,” in which he’s been third twice and second once, said Werth.
“Unfortunately, he still got tense in the tempi changes in the freestyle test as well as in the Grand Prix, and he made mistakes in these movements. But, in general, he’s much more relaxed.”
And she’s aiming Hannes at the World Cup Final. “It’s good to have a second top mount in the barn,” she said. “My top goal this year is to qualify for the WEG with Satchmo.”
Warum Nicht may not be her second horse for long, though. The chestnut gelding seems very similar to Werth’s Olympic Champion Gigolo, not just in his appearance, but also in his attitude.
Helgstrand grabbed third in the freestyle (77.88%), where Blue Hors Cavan didn’t appear as powerful as he did in his winning Grand Prix performance. He made one or two mistakes, but his fine connection between hand and mouth, his relaxed frame, the good activity of his hindquarters, his swinging back, and the perfect adjustment between movements and music came together for an impressive performance.
Russian rider Elena Kalinina animated the audience to storms of applause with the expressive, dark brown gelding Royal Black Label, riding to the swinging music of Frank Sinatra and Glenn Miller. She trains in Germany with Jean Bemelmans.
Lone Jorgensen of Denmark and Hardthof’s Ludewig had their best placing in the Grand Prix. They earned 7s for the piaffes and ended up in third place with outstanding extensions and tempi changes worth 8s and 9s.
Overall the quality of rides in the World Cup freestyle qualifier was at an outstandingly high level. Fourteen of the 15 combinations scored above 72 percent, which observers considered completely justified, and the atmosphere in the sold-out Holstenhalle was exuberant.
German team coach Holger Schmezer was especially pleased with the performances of the German combinations.
“Neumunster and the horse show next weekend at Bremen are the first two shows of the year where the team horses are competing,” he said. “Of course, this does not say anything about a nomination. The outdoor shows and the German championships at Muenster mid-July will have the most impact on the decision of who will make it onto the WEG team. But, the shows in Neumunster and Bremen serve as the first test of the fitness and the health of the horses. The top mounts have presented themselves in a very good form.”
Ellen Schulten-Baumer and Donatha S placed sixth in the freestyle with their pleasant and harmonic performance, and they now share the lead in the current standings of the Western European World Cup League with defending champion Anky van Grunsven.
Two more Dutch riders sit in third and fourth place–Edward Gal and Laurens van Lieren. The German pair of Ann-Kathrin Linsenhoff and Werth are in the fifth and sixth positions. Jï¿½rgensen (seventh) and Britain’s Laura Bechtolsheimer (eighth) are the only non-Dutch and non-German riders qualified for the World Cup Final right now, but there’s one more qualifier still to come at ‘s-Hertogenbosch (the Netherlands) on March 24-26.