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August 15, 2006

Kemmer Rides Onto The Team At A Dramatic German National Championship

The only thing hotter than the weather at the German Dressage and Show Jumping Championships, held at Münster, Germany on July 20-23, was the fight for the medals and for a ticket for the German dressage team for the World Equestrian Games. And the weekend provided plenty of drama.

After the championships, German Federation officials named the team that will compete at the WEG in Aachen, Germany, using the top four finishers. Heike Kemmer won the overall competition aboard Bonaparte, while Isabell Werth followed in second on Warum Nicht FRH, and Nadine Capellmann confirmed her team spot with third place overall on Elvis VA. Those three ladies will be joined by the top male finisher, and fourth overall, Klaus Husenbeth on Piccolino.

In dressage, the national championships have been the only official trial for championship teams. Therefore, men and women ride together, but in keeping with the tradition of the German national championship, a male and female champion are pinned at the end of the weekend.

Husenbeth and Piccolino's win in the men's championship ahead of Hubertus Schmidt on Wansela Suerte and Jochen Vetters with Fanano booked his ticket to the WEG. Vetters, a dressage instructor, was national dressage champion of the former East Germany many times and is the first former East-German dressage rider to win a medal in German Dressage Champion-ships in the 16 years since the two countries merged.

Before the German Cham-pionships, a big question mark hovered over the 2004 Olympic and 2003 and 2005 European team champions Kemmer and Bonaparte, who were the title defenders for the ladies' division.

The 13-year-old chestnut gelding has shown significant improvement over last year's performances, especially in the piaffe-passage tour, and has become more powerful in the overall impression. But he and Kemmer missed the CHIO Aachen in May due to inflammation from a small cut on his leg.

Therefore, Münster was his first outdoor show this year, and after being runner-up behind Werth and Warum Nicht in the Grand Prix, they won the Grand Prix Special (76.92%) and the freestyle (82.40%) in great form.

"After we were not able to compete at Aachen, we totally concentrated on the German Championships and we have shown that we are fit on the spot," Kemmer said. "Bonaparte is a horse who doesn't need much showing, because he is not worried by the surroundings of the show ring. What was important, was to bring him in form and condition again after his injury, and this could be done at home."

At Münster, Kemmer rode her new freestyle for the first time--to a medley of singer-songwriter songs of the '60s. "I have the feeling that Bonaparte likes this kind of music as much as I do," she said.

And, she is very optimistic for Aachen. "The team nominated for the WEG is a super team, and I am convinced we are going to defend our team World Champion title successfully."

With their second place in the 2006 FEI Dressage World Cup Final, Werth and Warum Nicht laid the base for their WEG nomination. They confirmed their potential with an overall second place at Münster, winning the Grand Prix, placing third in the Special (75.48%) behind Werth aboard Satchmo (76.20%) and second in the freestyle (82.00%) respectively. Their freestyle score could have been even higher, but the transitions had room for improvement.

Werth was able to underline that Satchmo has also become a reliable partner and it was understood, by some remarks of the Dressage Committee members, that though Satchmo is not officially nominated, if Warum Nicht would drop out, Werth could also compete Satchmo at Aachen.

Capellmann and Elvis had paved their way onto the WEG team with three victories and the title of the dressage champion at CHIO Aachen in May. At Münster, the reigning double World Champion showed some weaknesses in the Grand Prix, since Elvis refused to cooperate in the piaffes, even showing strong resistance.

The Aachen native took drastic measures to correct the problem. The evening of the Grand Prix, she split with her trainer of the past 12 months, ex-boyfriend and Elvis' former owner, Martin Schaudt. She blamed irreconcilable differences of opinon about the training methods for the split. For Capellmann, the partnership between horse and rider has priority over a powerful dominance of the rider.

German team coach Holger Schmezer took over training Capellmann and Elvis before the Special and will continue to do so at least till the WEG. And, as Capellmann said, "In the Grand Prix Special, I had already returned to my own way of riding. And Elvis cooperated much better in the piaffes again."

They looked back to their former strength, with much more ease and expression in the freestyle test, which entertained the crowd with its medley of Elvis Presley songs. They scored 79.85 percent but had two mistakes in the hind legs in the one-tempi canter changes. The piaffes were well done but could be still improved.

Smiling as he took fourth for the WEG team was Husenbeth, the only member of the German top riders with a real professional career besides the equestrian sports. "I have believed in a medal [at the German Championships], but not really in the title and the nomination for Aachen," he said. Since February he has shown consistent, top quality rides, which distinguish themselves by their ease and harmony between rider and horse in the best classical way.

Schmidt was disappointed with his fifth place overall, since the the silver medallist from the 2005 European Championships will now fill the team alternate spot for the WEG.

But nothing could compare with the disaster which struck Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff at Münster. In contention for a WEG team spot with Sterntaler-Unicef, Linsenhoff was shocked when the horse displayed a potent dislike for one corner of the ring in the Grand Prix, refusing to go near it. Though they showed significant improvement in the Special and freestyle, they couldn't overcome their last place in the Grand Prix and climb to a team spot.
 
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