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June 16, 2006

Mannheim Victory Remains In Germany With Wulschner

The 43rd May Market Horse Show at Mannheim, Germany, concluded on May 9, after eight days of showing, with the $76,944 Energie Grand Prix of Mannheim. The show includes the traditional May Market, which was originally an agricultural fair and still offers lots of local and rural flavor, attracting nearly 400,000 people per year.

Riders from 22 nations competed, about 15 different nationalities in show jumping as well as top starting fields in four-in-hand driving, reining, dressage and paralympics. In show jumping, five of the top eight riders from the FEI World Cup Final at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, competed at Mannheim.

But victory in the grand prix stayed in Germany. The former East German rider Holger Wulschner claimed the feature class aboard the 10-year-old, Holsteiner gelding Clausen. As the second of eight starters in the jump-off, he set the unbeatable mark of a clear round in 34.60 seconds.

The final starter, Christina Liebherr with L.B. No Mercy, had won the $38,472 BW-Bank Championat of Mannheim on Sunday afternoon, May 7. So she had the chance to become only the second woman (other than Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum) to win the Championat and the Grand Prix of Mannheim in the same year. But the 27-year-old Swiss rider took the turn to the double combination too tightly and placed fifth with one refusal.

The 1996 Olympic champion Ulrich Kirchhoff finished second to Wulschner aboard the Holsteiner gelding Carino, ahead of the 2003 European Champion Christian Ahlmann aboard Lorenzo.

Peter Wylde, of the United States and Fein Cera had two poles down in the triple combination in the initial round and did not qualify for the jump-off. Earlier, the pair had been placed fifth with a clear round in another class with a jump-off.

On Sunday, Liebherr, last year's Swiss European team champion and individual silver medalist, bested Sweden's 2004 Olympic team silver medalist Rolf-G�ran Bengtsson with the 18-year-old mare Tepic La Silla (0-0/32.04), with whom he won the Grand Prix of CSI Neumuenster (Germany) in February.

Wylde finished third aboard the 10-year-old gelding Quo Vadis (0-0/32.74).

Conrad Homfeld, who will be the FEI technical delegate at next year's European Show Jumping Championships, to take place August 15-19 at Mannheim, was making his first visit to the show grounds.

"You can see the work of professionals," said the 1984 Olympic team gold and individual silver medalist. "It already looks very good, but they will improve the conditions for the riders even more by creating another big arena, where the horses can be warmed-up and trained. I know the team around [show director] Peter Hofmann are very thoughtful people. They try to avoid any problem before it occurs. I know the Europeans will become a state-of-the-art event."

Homfeld, who was responsible for the courses at the German Masters at Stuttgart in 2005 and will take over that job this year, achieved some of his greatest successes on German soil. He won the 1985 FEI World Cup Final at Berlin and was team World Champion and individual silver medalist at Aachen in 1986.

The 54-year-old former rider looks positively upon his new role. "I have been asked already several times in the past by the FEI if I would accept the job of a technical delegate, but I always refused it," he said. "Mannheim is the first time I accepted such an assignment. I think that Germany is the heart of the show jumping sport. The Germans define the sport, no matter if some people like to hear that or not. It is fun to work with people who are so skilful as they are at Mannheim. It also gives me a chance to learn from them."

And he did venture a prediction for this year's WEG at Aachen: "Marcus Ehning and Ludger Beerbaum are for me great favorites for this year's World Championships. It is admirable how consistent their success is in this sport."

The 2007 European Show Jumping Championships will be Mannheim's second time as host--it also held the event in 1997.

Hofmann, the President of the Mannheim Riding Club and for 24 years the organizer of the Mannheim May Market Horse Show, said, "They will be the highlight of the 400th anniversary celebrations of the city of Mannheim. At Mannheim the bicycle, the car and the tractor were invented and made the horse unnecessary in work and transport. But [the horse] has regained its place in society as a leisure and sport partner. So for the 400th anniversary of Mannheim we want to celebrate the horse, not only with the European Championships, but also with a lot of cultural events, since I believe that the horse and the art of equestrian sports [are] cultural assets we have to preserve."
 
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