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June 20, 2006

Ehning Continues Winning Streak At Aachen

Unbelievably bad weather and an unbelievably good atmosphere could only be possible at Aachen. In spite of thunderstorms, icy winds and heavy rainshowers, a good mood prevailed at Aachen, May 17-21 in Aachen, Germany.

On the final day of competition alone, 51,000 spectators watched the show jumping, dressage and driving, and the winners in all three disciplines had one thing in common--they are riding a wave of success.

Just four weeks after winning his second World Cup title and two weeks after winning the Grand Prix at CSIO La Baule (France), Marcus Ehning earned his first victory in the Grand Prix of Aachen aboard Noltes K�chengirl.

In the $293,784 Grand Prix of Aachen, last year's winners Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Shut-terfly opened the six-horse jump-off with a risky ride. Before the double combination, which became the deciding factor in the jump-off, she cut the turn too tight, and Shutterfly knocked the rear pole with his hind legs for an eventual fifth place.

As the next starter, Ehning set the unbeatable mark of a clear round in 55.81 seconds with K�chengirl. Canadian rider Eric Lamaze posted a careful round aboard the

10-year-old stallion Hickstead in 58.60 seconds. But the last starter, Frenchman Herv� Godignon aboard Obelix, outdid him by .19 seconds.

The 2003 European Champions, Germany's Christian Ahlmann and C�ster, had rails down at the double combination as well as at the last fence to place sixth. In 55.64 seconds, Brazil's Bernardo Alves and Canturo posted the fastest time but had a pole down at the second element of the double combination to place fourth.

Two U.S. riders entered the second round: Beezie Madden and Authentic had 4 penalties in the first round and had another 8 penalties in the second round to finish 12th. Jeffery Welles and Armani, who were on last year's winning Nations Cup team, had two poles down in the second round to place 14th.

With one pole down and a slower time, McLain Ward and Sapphire did not qualify for the second round and finished 19th. In Friday's qualifier for the grand prix, Madden and Desilvio placed third.

Highs And Lows For Engle
At the end of the first round, Margie Engle and Hidden Creek's Perin competed as the final starters and provided some shocking moments. The winners of the Northrhine-Westphalia Prize on Thursday afternoon approached the triple combination without enough energy and climbed over the first and second elements. At the third element, an oxer, Engle fell into the fence as her 16-year-old, Westphalian gelding took off. He jumped into the air and came down into the oxer, kicking the poles on his rider and landing on her with one hoof.

Eventually, Engle, who has always been one of the toughest riders, stood up and walked out of the arena with a bleeding lip and nose. Later, she was diagnosed with a concussion, but she was lucky to have obtained no further injuries.

Engle won the Northrhine-Westphalia Prize ahead of Ireland's Jessica K�rten aboard Quibell and Switzerland's Markus Fuchs aboard Granie. Although Engle is the only U.S. rider on both Super League teams, she does not know which horse she would prefer for the WEG.

"It is great to compete on both Super League teams. It is hard to tell which of the two horses I would prefer. Perin has more experience, and I know him better. Quervo Gold is younger and has all the capabilities as well," she said.

Germans Nearly Perfect
In Nations Cup In the Mercedes-Benz Nations Cup, the second leg of the Samsung Super League on Friday afternoon, Ehning and Gitania, the fourth starters of the German team, did not have to compete in either round. In the first round the German team (Ludger Beerbaum/L'Espoir, Christian Ahlmann/C�ster and Michaels-Beerbaum/Shutterfly) finished on a perfect score of 0 penalties.

Close on their heels were the U.S. riders coming out of the first round with just 4 penalties. In the second round, Engle and Quervo Gold, the 12-year-old son of the 1996 Olympic gold medalist Jus de Pommes, had one pole down. Lauren Hough and Casadora, who had had 14 penalties in the first round, posted a clear second round, as did Ward and Sapphire, who had one pole down in the first round.

Madden retired Authentic after one pole down, so with the Germans guaranteed the win, Ehning did not have to ride in the second round. With 4 penalty points, the German team took victory in front of its home crowd ahead of the United States (8) and Great Britain (11).

In addition to the proven combinations of Michael Whitaker/Portofino and Robert Smith/Marius Claudius, the British team also includes two "new" combinations--John Whitaker with his new championship hope Peppermill and 20-year-old Tim Gredley aboard Omelli.

With its second win in the Super League, Germany has increased its margin over the United States, whose team has been second in both competitions.

George Morris emphasized that the Super League Nations Cup events are serving as selection trials for U.S. riders. "I wanted to see how Margie Engle and Lauren Hough would do in the Aachen arena, since they were not on last year's Nations Cup team at Aachen. Jeffery Welles and Armani did very well on this site in last year's Nations Cup. I was very pleased with how the team did here."

In Need Of An Overhaul
Although U.S. Chef d'equipe George Morris was pleased with his team's performance at Aachen, he is concerned about the general state of show jumping in the United States.

"Of course, I would have preferred to win [at Aachen], but I am very proud of how our team is doing in spite of the fact that true horsemanship is deteriorating in the States," he said.

"The sport has become mainly a business, seduced by money, which is certainly not good for the sport. It is a very special sport because of the horse and the feeling with the horse. This sport is about loving animals. It is an art sport, not a brute sport, not football, not wrestling."

Morris acknowledged that he has made a good living off the sport. "But that has never been my main aim," he insisted. "I felt love and passion for the horse; the rest developed out of that."

He worries that top horsemen like Bertalan de Nemethy, Michael Matz, Rodney Jenkins, Bill Steinkraus and Bernie Traurig are becoming fewer and further between. "The consequence is that the new generation has less good horsemanship," he said. "There are people who want to have an easy road to success with their children. The quick success is the most important for them. They are not interested in the journey, just in the result.

"Many trainers of today are corrupted by money," he added. "Horse trainers like de Nemethy did not allow that behavior, no matter how much money the client had. Today the tail is wagging the dog. The rich people are telling the sport what to do. The professionals should not allow that, but this development can be seen all over the world, not only in the States."

He recommended a return to the principles of the U.S. Pony Clubs: "The children should start again to groom the horse, to saddle it themselves, to take care about the blacksmith, produce a green horse, to be occupied with all the things around the horse, really get a feeling for the horse again. The journey counts, not just the results."

Morris regrets the decline of U.S. riders in the international arena. "For decades, they have set the example for good riding, for forward riding, for good horsemanship," he said. "Besides a few exceptions, this is not the case anymore, and the recent successes cannot obscure this fact."
 
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