Thursday, May. 30, 2024

Freund Experiences A Dramatic Weekend At The World Championships For Young Dressage Horses

Jana Freund and Dramatic endure a spooky arena and bad weather to win gold in the 6-year-old final.

Luck was on Jana Freund’s side in Verden, Germany. A second chance and some good fortune led the German to victory aboard Dramatic in the 6-year-old final during the World Championships For Young Dressage Horses, July 31–Aug. 1.
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Jana Freund and Dramatic endure a spooky arena and bad weather to win gold in the 6-year-old final.

Luck was on Jana Freund’s side in Verden, Germany. A second chance and some good fortune led the German to victory aboard Dramatic in the 6-year-old final during the World Championships For Young Dressage Horses, July 31–Aug. 1.

After a few spooks and a disappointing performance in the qualifier, Dramatic’s score of 7.0 left him standing 35th out of a field of 40. The slate was wiped clean, however, in the consolation final, and the black Hanoverian stallion (Don Frederico—Weltina, Weltmeyer) rose to the occasion.

An impressive performance and a score of 8.64 in the consolation final put Dramatic at the top of the class and gave him the opportunity to advance to the final on Sunday. He was second to compete and faced tough competition, including last year’s 5-year-old gold medalist Cayenne W.

In an unexpected turn of events, though, gusty winds overcame the show grounds during the final, ruffling tent flaps and unsettling the horses. The hot-tempered and spooky horses were visibly affected, but Dramatic kept his cool under the unfavorable conditions.

Dramatic’s incredibly powerful and ground-covering trot earned him a 9.6 to add to his score of 8.5 at the walk and 8.8 at the canter. Performing better than he had all weekend despite the high winds, Dramatic won gold with a score of 8.78.

Silver medalist Polka Hit Nexen (Sandro Hit—Polka Nexen, Temple Wind), a Dutch Warmblood mare under Danish rider Dorthe Sjobeck Hoeck, was a crowd and judge favorite as a 5-year-old, but struggled under the conditions Sunday. After losing her balance in an extended trot, the mark for submissiveness was lowered to 7.9, and her final score was 8.62.

The bronze medal went to qualifying round winner Diamantenbörse (Diamond Hit—Glanzstern, Rubenstein I) under the command of German rider Jessica Süss. The Oldenburg mare lacked a bit of energy and power in the final, but she was still the image of a  rideable and cooperative dressage horse, earning a score of 8.52.

Desperado Doesn’t Falter

The 5-year-old gold medalist, Desperado, was unbeatable at Verden, winning the qualifying round and the final.

The Oldenburg gelding (Dressage Royal—Balalaika, Rouletto) impressed the judges with his suppleness and harmony with his rider. After scoring 8.76 in the qualifier, Desperado and German owner/rider Nadine Plaster stepped it up a notch to win the final with an 8.84.

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Plaster purchased her winning mount last year at the Oldenburg auction in Vechta (Germany). “We were very lucky to be able to buy this horse,” she said. “We trained thoroughly throughout the winter and qualified for the World Championships in Warendorf [Germany].”

The Trakehner stallion Imperio (Connery—Isar VI, Balfour), who was ridden by Anna-Sophie Fiebelkorn of Germany, claimed the silver medal. The pair scored an 8.58, a mere 0.04 higher than bronze medalist Silberaster.

The Oldenburg mare Silberaster (Sandro Hit—Sonnenlicht, Canaster I), ridden by German Helen Langehanenberg, was the crowd favorite going into the final on Sunday. Although she improved slightly upon her qualifier scores with an 8.54, it wasn’t enough to win gold.

Dr. Vincenzo Truppa, president of the ground jury, was pleased with the horses in the final. “Obviously, we looked for quality in the basic gaits, but equally important was the degree of education. We feel it is crucial that young horses should be schooled in the proper way. This quality particularly is expressed in the harmony between rider and horse,” he said.

A Learning Experience

Jennifer Hoffmann knew that she and Rubinio would have to dazzle the judges to receive high marks at the World Championships For Young Dressage Horses. And she did just that, scoring an 8.06 to finish fifth out of 29 in the 5-year-old consolation final.

Hoffmann, 34, Carlsbad, Calif., and “Ruby,” her Westphalian stallion (Rubin Royal—Farina, Florestan), were one of only three U.S. contenders at the championships.

Her fellow U.S. riders included Katie Robicheaux and her Dutch Warmblood Williams (Paddox—Jaconda, Michelangelo), who finished 34th in the 5-year-old qualifying round with a 7.2, and Willy Arts with his Dutch Warmblood mare Valeska DG (IPS Krack C—Polimbria, Farrington), placing 30th in the 6-year-old qualifying round with a 7.18.

Hoffmann bought Ruby two years ago as a 3-year-old in Germany and has since kept him there in training with Henricke Sommer. She travels back and forth from Germany to her breeding, training and sales barn, German Dressage Inc., that she manages with her husband Jürgen in California.

“I would love to have Ruby at home, but he’s making such a career in Germany. He just doesn’t have that opportunity here [in the United States],” said Hoffmann.   

To prepare for the championships in Verden, Hoffmann and Ruby competed at the National Dressage Show in Greven, Germany, in July. Practicing similar tests to the ones at Verden, the pair bested a field of 20 with an 8.2.

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“Ruby is sensitive, powerful, and has a lot of elasticity and power from behind,” said Hoffmann. “His trot is super cadenced and powerful. He has a big, swingy walk that I can ride to the fullest in the tests. It shows the judges that he’s really relaxed and true through the back.”

Ruby’s trot is definitely one of his strengths, earning him an 8.2 in the consolation round at Verden. He also scored 8.0 for both walk and submission, 7.8 for the canter and 8.3 for general impression.

In the qualifier round for the final, however, Ruby’s youth got the best of him. It was his first time experiencing an arena filled with sponsor banners, large speakers and lots of photographers.

“He immediately got tense and a little spooky, but he’s not a horse to turn and run off. He looked to the outside a lot and was a little timid around the arena,” explained Hoffmann. “I tried to be too careful and backed off a little bit. I could have pushed and asked for more.”

Ruby’s lack of bravado around the ring was enough to drop his score to 7.24, placing him 33rd. Nevertheless, Hoffmann made the best of not qualifying for the final round and took the opportunity to watch and learn from the other riders.

“It became clear to me what I had to do the next day and how to ride the test better. World Championship competition is a whole other ballgame. I bumped it up a notch the next day [in the consolation final],” said Hoffmann.

Ruby received scores ranging from 8.2 to 8.9 all year across Germany, so Hoffmann knows what a quality horse she has under her. “I just needed to bring out his best,” she said.

The second time around, both horse and rider were on the same page. Although their fifth place finish in the consolation round fell just short of qualifying them for the final, Hoffmann was still extremely pleased.
Having the chance to compete in Germany and watch European riders perform provided Hoffmann with more insight into how to be competitive outside the States.

“The Germans ride their horses more open and forward and really go for it. They ride a lot more risk, and the judges reward that. It’s all or nothing,” Hoffmann observed. “We need to watch that more and pick up on it. We tend to ride a little too careful and conservative.”

An avid supporter of the young horse program in the United States, Hoffmann believes that Ruby’s success in Germany is a step in the right direction. She suggests that riders and judges observe more of these championships in person.

“You really aren’t aware of just how big and forward they want it until you are there,” said Hoffmann. “We need to visually be more part of it. The comments are a lot different, and the way they score is different.”
 
Alexandra Beckstett

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