The German dressage team (Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff/Sterntaler-Unicef, Nadine Capellmann/Elvis VA, Hubertus Schmidt/Wansuela Suerte and Isabell Werth/Warum Nicht FRH, 222.37) became the undisputed victors at the Aachen CDIO. They won ahead of Denmark (209.87) and Sweden (209.54), followed by Switzerland (207.41) and the Netherlands (205.95).
“This victory at Aachen was very important for us, after we were beaten for the first time ever last year by the Dutch team,” said German team coach Holger Schmezer. “Aachen is Aachen and always something special, but even more so this year because Aachen will host the World Equestrian Games in August. Nevertheless, we may not overestimate our victory, since the Netherlands did not compete with their first team.”
Capellmann was especially happy, after returning to the team with her 10-year-old, Hanoverian gelding Elvis VA after a three-year absence from German Nations Cup teams. The reigning individual and team World Champion won the Grand Prix (75.83%) as well as the Grand Prix Special (76.24%) and the freestyle (80.85%), though the winning margin in the Grand Prix was very small.
Only one judge placed her first (three judges had her second and one had her third), while four judges chose Kyra Kyrklund and Max as the winners, but Stephen Clarke had Kyrklund in fourth place, which was the deciding factor in favor of Capellmann.
For Elvis, the freestyle was a debut, since the 10-year-old had never competed in one before. To win his first freestyle with an 80.85 percent was certainly a novelty. But his freestyle, choreographed by Capellmann, used a wide range of well-known Elvis Presley songs, in which the voice of the rock legend, though just in the titles, could be heard. Until now, vocal music has been considered totally inappropriate by the judges.
“Of course, we have [investigated the rules] very well,” said Capellmann. “It says in the rules that vocal music is unwelcome, but it is not forbidden. Considering my score, the judges obviously liked it. I think when you use Elvis songs, you have to hear his voice. It just belongs together.”
High praise came from Joep Bartels, the founder and former director of the FEI World Cup Dressage Final: “I have drawn up these regulations myself for the World Cup. But there should always be room for development, and I am very enthusiastic about the way Nadine Capellmann has used the music.”
Without a doubt the crowd also loved it. But it seems strange that so far all efforts in this direction have been stonewalled and that someone had to ignore a very distinct convention to bring the issue to the fore. Of course, in dressage many things are upside down at the moment. The danger with this kind of musical arrangement–that the entertaining nature of the freestyle will be given even more emphasis and the sporting value will be pushed more in the background–is certainly not to be denied. The future will show if the musical style will go this way.
A New Formula
This CDIO used the new formula for World and European championships, with the best 30 horses from the Grand Prix competing in the Grand Prix Special and the 15 best combinations of the Special advancing to the freestyle. For the Dressage Champion of Aachen, however, the percentages of all three tests were counted together.
After winning all three legs, the title was, of course, won by the Aachen citizen Capellmann, who won for the first time in 2004 with Farbenfroh. Later that year she became the individual and team World Champion at Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.
She’s cautious about any prognosis for this year’s World Equestrian Games. “Everything went very fast with Elvis. First of all we have to qualify for the German WEG team at the German Championships in July,” she said. “As far as our chances against Anky van Grunsven and Salinero, I cannot say. So far, we have not competed against each other.”
When it comes to the distribution of the individual medals, Finland’s 1990 World Championship silver medalist Kyrklund wants to have her share. The former World Cup champion and the 11-year-old Max placed second in all three CDIO classes.
“I believe we have really grown together now,” she said. “I had a very good feeling, and I am happy that the judges have seen it the same way.”
Third place (79.37%) in the freestyle went to the Dressage Champions of Aachen 2005, Jan Brink and Bjï¿½rsells Briar. The Swedish combination, who just placed third in the FEI World Cup Final in April, improved in each of their tests at Aachen. The freestyle was one of their best tests, and the stallion was in good self-carriage, with active hindquarters.
In the Special they suffered under the strong rain showers and upcoming thunderstorm and had some mistakes in the tempi changes to place fourth. One rider later, with Andreas Helgstrand and Blue Hors Don Schufro, the test had to be interrupted after the third movement. About half an hour later the Danish rider started again and did his test as if nothing had happened, placing fifth. In the freestyle he was fourth.
Linsenhoff and Sterntaler-Unicef showed some very strong rides to place sixth in the Grand Prix and third in the Special. In the freestyle the Oldenburg gelding got a bit tense, only placing 10th.
Ignacio Rambla’s PRE stallion Distinguido 2 showed he has matured even further with a great Special performance. Their excellent freestyle could have even scored higher than 73.82 percent (seventh). They had just a very slight mistake at the end of the one tempis, but no ride was perfect. In the piaffe-passage tours one step was like the other with great expression and lowered hindquarters.
Werth and Warum Nicht FRH did not qualify for the freestyle. The World Cup silver medalists had started off very well in the Grand Prix, placing third (74.83%). But in the Special the Hanoverian gelding shied from the loudspeakers close to the ring and was quite tense the whole test, placing only ninth. Only three riders per nation are permitted in the freestyle, and they were fourth for the Germans.
Heike Kemmer and Bonaparte, who have shown a significant improvement over the winter season, could not compete at Aachen since the horse was injured on the Monday of the show. Klaus Husenbeth and Piccolino, the 2003 and 2005 European and 2002 World Team Champions, showed they would be ready to ride for the team again by winning the Grand Prix and the freestyle of the CDI tour at Aachen.
Up For Grabs?
While Germany was competing with their strongest team at Aachen, all other teams were still trying out. Jean Bemelmans, the team coach of last year’s third-placed Spanish team from the Europeans, set his hopes on the 2005 team with Beatrice Ferrer-Salat aboard Beauvalais and Juan Antonio Gimenez with Guizo, both of whom were not competing at Aachen. He also hopes to include Ignacio Ramblas with Distinguido and that Invasor will be back in time for Rafael Soto.
“But I like also the performances of Josï¿½ Ignacio Lopez and Nevado Santa Clara at Aachen, so he might become the fourth team member, in case one of the other four cannot compete in the WEG,” he said.
Danish team coach Rudolf Zeilinger also seems to be getting a strong team together. “Andreas Helgstrand, whom I give a real chance to be among the top riders for an individual medal, and Lone Jï¿½rgenssen are very certain for the team. The other two team members will be recruited from the three other riders at Aachen–Joachim Thomson with Mikado Engvang, who did a great job for his Aachen debut; Anders Dahl with Mr. G; Fie Skarsï¿½ with Mï¿½nchhausen; and, if he is fit in time, Rigoletto and Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein.”
A team to watch will be the Swiss, which placed fourth at Aachen. Silvia Iklï¿½ and Salieri CH have already proven their strength over the past World Cup season. Christian Plï¿½ge and Regent, team members since the 2002 WEG, showed one of their best Grand Prix tests ever and could have scored around 70 percent, similar to their team colleagues Marcela Krinke Susmelj and Corinth. For the impressive 10-year-old, bay gelding it was just his third international appearance, but he convinced with a superb piaffe-passage tour.
His 67.41 percent in the Grand Prix was low, especially considering that his Grand Prix Special, which did not go as well as the Grand Prix, scored a 67.12 percent. The commentators of the Aachen Dressage Radio, all recognized dressage judges themselves, emphasized that tests are often judged by names and not by performances.