Caen, France—Aug. 25
There’s a saying that you don’t need luck if you’re good enough. And then there’s the German team at this year’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, which has been dealt a fair share of bad luck. They lost star Totilas to lameness last week, and then they drew the first spot here for the Grand Prix team competition—meaning Fabienne Lutkemeier on D’Agostina FRH started the tests at 8 a.m.
But the Germans are so good they don’t really need luck, and at the end of Day 1 the team is enjoying a healthy lead over the Netherlands and Great Britain.
With the two riders who’ve competed for the United States so far—Tina Konyot on Calecto V and Adrienne Lyle on Wizard—that team is sitting fifth. (The current scores only account for the highest-placed rider after Day 1.)
Kristina Sprehe with Desperados FRH is the highest-ranked rider so far, with her test contributing a 78.81 percent for Germany.
“It’s not his best, but I’m really happy today,” Sprehe said. “He was very concentrated. The atmosphere is fantastic. The canter, the pirouettes, the passage—they all had a really good feeling. The first piaffe could have been more active.”
Lutkemeier, who was the last-minute call up from the reserve list due to the withdrawal of Matthias Rath on Totilas, scored 73.58 percent. That has her ranked fourth individually after the first set of horses and riders.
“I didn’t know until last week [that I’d be competing here],” she said. “I thought it was a pity for Matthias. I’m very sorry. I think it’s always hard for a sportsman who can’t ride in the World Equestrian Games if you’re qualified, but on the other hand I was happy that I got a chance. I’m happy to be here.”
Hans Peter Minderhoud, who rode Glock’s Johnson TN into fifth individually (74.35%) and was the highest-ranked Dutch rider today, admitted that he didn’t want the Germans quite so far ahead after the first day. But the Dutch team was forced to substitute in two of their alternates when Edward Gal with Glock’s Undercover and Danielle Heijkoop with Kingsley Siro NOP both withdrew for veterinary reasons.
Gal is now riding Glock’s Voice tomorrow, and Diederik van Silfhout, the youngest member of the team, went first today on Arlando NH NOP. Their score of 73.41 percent was good enough for fifth.
“I was looking for a score better than Kristina’s today, but it was not so easy,” Minderhoud joked. “We were really happy with Diederik’s marks, and I had a good mark, too, so that’s fine. I hope Edward and Adelinde [Cornelissen, with Parzival NOP] finish the job tomorrow, and we have a nice medal. I don’t know what Edward will do tomorrow with Voice, maybe less points than Undercover, but you never know. We’ll see what happens.”
All teams today battled a steady rain that fell harder throughout the afternoon—and then corresponding soggy footing. Great Britain’s Carl Hester, sitting third individually with Nip Tuck on 74.18 percent, went in the last group of the day. He’s also hoping for a nice medal for his team, which includes 2012 Olympic gold medalist Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro.
“I trust this horse; that’s the reason I brought him here,” said Hester. “Uthopia could maybe get a higher mark; Dances With Wolves could maybe get a higher mark. But I felt that this horse—I know him so well. Gareth’s horse is also very sensitive, so we needed a horse we could trust. I said to the selectors, ‘This is the horse I want to take. I trust him, and I know him, and I think he’ll do the best he can.’ He did. He’s not ready to be a top horse yet, but he has the right temperament. He went beyond my expectations today.”
Hester purchased Nip Tuck, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Don Ruto—Irean) with jumper blood on his dam’s side, as a yearling from the Netherlands for just 1,000 euros.
“He didn’t really walk, he didn’t really trot, he didn’t really canter," said Hester. "Then when he started to learn Grand Prix, he became a really different type of horse. He was never successful on the way up, but now he’s come into his own. People would watch him and say, ‘His hind leg’s not very good. His trot’s not very big. He’s tense all the time.’ I would say, ‘But it feels like he’s going to be good. He might not look it, but he feels it.’ He made the World Games.”
72 Or Bust
Adrienne Lyle’s goal for her Grand Prix was a 72 percent, and she met that when she scored a 72.00 percent on Wizard. Lyle—second to go for the United States, which drew 10th in the team order—is placed seventh after Day 1. Though her test was held in some of the worst of the rain and in the afternoon when the arena footing was holding quite a bit of water, Lyle didn’t feel Wizard respond negatively to the conditions.
“He’s not always a good mudder,” she said. “We were playing around with him in warm-up, making sure he was OK with it splashing. Sometimes it backs him off a bit, but as I was going through it, I was thinking, ‘OK, he’s really staying with me.’ ”
Wizard, a 15-year-old Oldenburg owned by Peggy Thomas, had one glitch in his one-tempis but otherwise put in a clean test.
“It’s always my fault,” said Lyle, 29, of the mistake. “I think I got a little off my seat, and he got a little backed off, maybe because of the water. I think I jumped ahead of him a little.”
This is Lyle’s first time riding on a U.S. team at a major international competition. She competed as an individual at the 2012 London Olympics Games. Though her selection didn’t go entirely as planned, with controversy over Caroline Roffman’s exclusion, she’s learned to deal with the mental pressure of contributing to an overall team score.
“There were some changes towards the end of the process, and I think everyone had not only the team but also the riders' interests at heart,” she said. “I think it sorted itself out, and I think all we had to do was keep trying to prove ourselves as the summer went along—and let Wizard speak for himself.”
Konyot, Palm City, Fla., was the lead-off rider for the United States, and her Calecto earned a 69.64 percent for 17th after Day 1. This is the last major international championship for the 16-year-old Danish stallion. He also did the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (Ky.) and the London Games.
“There were some small mistakes that cost us points, but overall I’m thrilled. He was quite energetic. I feel like he got an 80 [percent],” said Konyot. “It was my goal to get here with my horse. This is his last hurrah. I’m going to Deauville [in France, near Caen] to ride on the beaches after this. That’s my [retirement] ceremony.
“It’s always a wonderful experience to represent your country,” she continued. “This may be a bit more special because I’m retiring him, and I don’t know what it’s going to be like to not have him. I’m not retiring. I have horses coming along, but it’s a big experience to get here. It feels so good to do this with my boy for the last time. He’s not the greatest dressage horse, but he’s the greatest horse. There are no other horses here that are going to go galloping down the beach in Normandy. Of these 103 horses, I have the only one that will do that.”
Tomorrow Laura Graves and Steffen Peters ride for the United States on Verdades and Legolas 92, respectively.
Other Monday World Games Happenings:
Canadian David Marcus faced some of his demons today when he entered the arena in similar conditions—a downpour—that resulted in the elimination of Chrevi’s Capital at the London Games. There the horse came unglued when a camera operator threw a rain cover over his equipment, but today the gelding wasn’t fazed by the atmosphere. The pair earned a score of 70.35 percent to sit 12th after the first half.
“Sadly he is familiar with those conditions,” said Marcus. “I was a bit nervous, which I’m not normally, it’s not something I normally battle, but today with the rain… Overall I was really happy. It’s taken a lot of time getting his confidence up. I didn’t have one feeling of nervousness today. If anything he felt like I could really ride him and push him a little bit.”
Christian Brühe, a German competing for Palestine, is riding the only U.S.-bred horse in the dressage competition. He found Cinco de Mayo, a 15-year-old Holsteiner (Coriander—Ipsa, Alcatraz) bred by Karen Reid, in Cesar Parra’s barn before the horse had shown at the Grand Prix level.
Competing as individual, Brühe obtained his Palestinian Fédération Equestre Internationale passport in 2011.
Want to know what else is happening in other disciplines here at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games? Visit the Chronicle's hub page! Only curious about dressage? Read all about that on the dressage specific page.