View Full Version : "Dutch Treat, Deutschland Under Alles" - an Analysis of the European Championships

Mike Matson
Aug. 31, 2009, 08:13 PM
Olympic freestyle designer Karen Robinson's analysis of the European Championships.


A few excerpts, including thoughts about the music for Totilas' freestyle.

I don’t doubt for a minute that the right horses and riders were on the podium after the European Championship Dressage freestyles on Saturday. After watching Adelinde’s ride, I wasn’t sure if Edward would beat her. Until I saw him. He did have a pretty significant mistake in the one tempis, but clearly the judges gave him enough tens for other things to compensate. And honestly, the world has never seen the likes of Totilas. With Edward aboard, it is nothing short of magic. When Anky went (and I think it was a wise choice to go back to the French music, which more clearly enhances Salinero and highlights the choreography than Wibi’s subtle piano score), I actually wondered if she could beat Adelinde - the judges weren’t sure either, and were divided on the ranking of the two Dutch ladies. Artistically, Anky is still the queen in my opinion, even if Salinero is no longer the greatest athlete on the block. The best German result was Matthias Rath, in sixth. I don’t remember ever seeing the Germans finish so far down the board. Sure, they were lacking stars due to the loss of a few heavy-weights this summer (would someone please give Hubertus a new wonder horse? I miss him!), but it still has to be heartening to the rest of the world after such complete domination for the past many decades.

I do think the judges found a new way to lose their marbles, however. I wonder if one of them would reply to my email asking whether they made a collective, conscious decision to use the full scale of marks more than they have ever done before. The scores at these Euro Champs were so much higher than any championship in history, it’s almost as revolutionary as if someone shaved a second off the world record in the 100 m sprint. It’s true that higher marks will help the sport’s public image (though not even three world records could entice the Queen to watch what was going on outside the castle window - she escaped to Balmoral for the week). I just worry that they forgot the word ‘moderation’ in Windsor. Edward set a new world record with a mistake in one of the key exercises at Grand Prix level. He received 95% artistically from two judges, and 94% from another. The mood and energy of the music suit the marvelous Totilas, and there are some musical transitions that work with movements to give an opportunity for interpretation marks. Let me put it this way: I enjoyed that freestyle more than others which had a matching beat but absolutely no emotional element (Laura Bechtolsheimer’s music comes to mind), but as long as the rules clearly state that the rhythm of the footfalls must match that of the music, Edward’s freestyle is entirely lacking in that regard. Entirely. As I said in my blog a few days ago, the FEI should consider changing the rules on extensions and lengthening of the frame, but I do not believe they should change the rules about the music’s rhythm. If Edward rode to music that matched Totilas’ gaits AND had the right dramatic mood, the effect would be out of this world. But where on earth could the judges go with the marks in that situation, given how highly they have already rewarded music that simply does not meet the basic rhythm criteria?

Aug. 31, 2009, 09:23 PM
Thanks for the post. Her comments on Gal's music and the footfalls were my feeling as well but beyond that it was a beautiful FS

Sep. 1, 2009, 02:03 AM
Deutschland will come back - no doubt...but ironically the dutch school- if Gal/Adelinde and Anky are what is working better- and it's maybe just timing but it's also some ingredients that Sjef has been using for a long time- that people don't really realize but they are working - it's ingredients of the french school- used very smartly and wisely- that helps to bring out the best in their horses- it's a 'new' eye on selecting the horses and it's a way to bring them along with a super fit rider that does not impact too much on the horse...it's all working....!!

anyone wonder why the top three are skinny as bones, fit as a fiddle and lanky and trained thru all the way?
anyone read the DT article on Steffen's workout program?? that's one clue to the puzzle right there...! I wish there were some workout fitness experts on this board..
the other half of the puzzle are the horses...now Germany produces a lot of them- but I wonder how much natural hotness plays into this? Me thinks a lot...I know that Toto's Trak/Dutch mix is pretty hot and I know that Parzi is a hottie- and I know that Mistral is Michellino= which is super sensitive and hot- and we all know about Sal...so there...
Hot is part of the puzzle...hot and smart- not hot and running..

just my 4 cents...

Sep. 1, 2009, 04:46 AM
Astrid/EuroDressage also has an excellent analysis of the top freestyles:

As with Karen Robinson's article it is nice when to read such a detailed analysis of each performance.

Of course, it is their opinion, but at least they give very detailed back-up
to their opinion.
Makes the discussion that much more interesting than just: "So amazing, a new bar has been achieved " or "meh, not that great" :cool:

Gal pulled out a staggering test and improved his own world record from 89.400 to 90.750%. The pair were worth their salt at the European Dressage Championships, but their Grand Prix was probably technically the best performance of the entire week. Their kur, however, had everyone at the edge of their seat and Joost Peeters' dramatic music accentuated the grandeur of the combination.


Though the music hardly ever supports the strides and tempo of the horse's movements (which is an FEI requirement) it still impresses with its thundering classical sounds. Totilas was very electric to the aids and a bit over eager at the beginning of the ride. They entered in passage and the horse showed several irregular steps with more activity from the right hind leg before he settled into a regular rhythm.


The first extended trot showed an exorbitant front leg but not enough understep, the second one was phenomenal. The canter work was of an astonishing level: a fantastic extended canter and perfect, on the spot double pirouettes. Musically the pirouettes are wonderfully marked by a chiming church bell but the bell ringing seem to return randomly in the canter work which weakens the artistic solidity. In the two tempi's Totilas lost some straightness in the body and swung his hindquarters to the right. In the one tempi's the stallion got tense and tight and blocked behind twice. The canter half passes were well balanced and ground covering.

Mike Matson
Sep. 1, 2009, 08:10 AM
claire, thanks for posting the report from Astrid. Very informative!

Sep. 1, 2009, 02:45 PM
Very interesting Mike and Claire thank you for posting.:D

Sep. 1, 2009, 03:01 PM
Very interesting! I do think that's why I don't love the music- the rhythm that matches the footfalls is one of my favorite parts of the kur, especially when it's done creatively!

All of the videos I've seen had either poor audio or commentators. I wonder how much that just dampens the whole ride.