Saturday, May. 18, 2024

Germans Dominate New Eventing Competition At Aachen


Germany showed they will be the team to beat at the forthcoming European Eventing Championships when they easily won the new team competition at the world-famous Aachen show in Germany, July 6-8. German rider Frank Ostholt and Air Jordan also took individual honors.
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Germany showed they will be the team to beat at the forthcoming European Eventing Championships when they easily won the new team competition at the world-famous Aachen show in Germany, July 6-8. German rider Frank Ostholt and Air Jordan also took individual honors.

Putting on a good show at Aachen, historically the home of show jumping and dressage since 1927, was of supreme importance to the German eventing fraternity, who have long struggled to find an equal footing to the other two Olympic disciplines in which the nation reigns supreme.

Politically, Germany also still struggles with the endurance factor of eventing, and so achieving a happy competition, with no falls or “bad sights,” was of the utmost importance to the show organizers. When the entire field of 34 riders returned home from cross-country with only seven disobediences between them, this was considered a triumph.

Ostholt, a member of Germany’s gold-medal team at last year’s World Equestrian Games, said: “I am so happy to be eventing at Aachen again. I’d like to see more team competitions for eventing. It was also the perfect format with cross-country last. It is the most important phase of our sport, and this format means you have an instant winner.”

Algotsson Stands Second
Germany beat Great Britain, silver medalists at the WEG, easily by 19.4 penalties, but Ostholt himself was nearly caught by the fast-finishing Swede, Linda Algotsson on the 17-year-old Stand By Me, members of the third-placed team.

Whereas Ostholt was 9 seconds over the optimum time of 7 minutes, which meant his 5-penalty dressage lead dwindled alarmingly, Algtosson was bang on time and ended up just 1 penalty behind in the final reckoning.

Stand By Me, a homebred Swedish Warmblood, is one of the great servants of the sport. He has won two European silver medals, in 1999 and 2003, plus a World Cup Final in 2003 and, last month, the Bialy Bor CCI*** (Poland).

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“He owes me nothing,” said Algotsson, formerly a full-time teacher. “Last year he had a stifle operation, so every competition is a bonus. I don’t know if we will go to the European Championships. At present, I am just enjoying every competition as it comes.”

Nicolas Touzaint, the reigning World Cup Champion and European Champion in 2003, was third for France on his second string, Hildago de I’lle, who has suffered blips on his last two championship runs. The horse hit one of the huge spread fences in the final, main arena stretch of the cross-country and nearly slipped, but Touzaint, one of the great horsemen of modern times, made a masterful recovery.

Karin Donckers was fourth individually for Belgium on her mare Palmyra, and Zara Phillips, the World Champion, was fifth and best Briton on Toytown, who was having his major outing of the year, having been withdrawn from Badminton CCI**** (England).

“He was pretty keen, but our cross-country was good,” said Phillips. “It’s great to be back here. Rudiger Schwarz [course designer] has built another fantastic course, and finishing in the main arena this time was par-ticularly special.”

Toytown looked in terrific form, as the 14-year-old builds up to his European title defense at Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy, in September. He was equal sixth after dressage, Phillips rescuing the situation impressively after the chestnut gelding erupted in the medium walk. He also hit just the last show jumping fence, when becoming a little onward bound heading toward the collecting ring.

“He always has to do something. He likes to let me know who is in control,” said Phillips, who always enjoys less pressure when competing abroad.

To put the situation in context, the Queen’s granddaughter, who at times shared a rarefied warm-up arena with fellow world champions Isabell Werth and Jos Lansink, was faced with only three cameras while warming up for dressage, in comparison to German dressage team member Nadine Capellmann who was snapped by about 20.

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Best Of The Best
Most of the seven nations able to field eventing teams were clearly testing new combinations for the Europeans, but the winning German team undoubtedly contained its best riders, despite the withdrawal of Bettina Hoy on Ringwood Cockatoo and the retirement before the competition of Ingrid Klimke’s 16-year-old Olympic ride Sleep Late. The German team ended up being the same four male riders who finished in the top 11 at Badminton.

Andreas Dibowski, this time riding Little Lemon, finished individually sixth; Peter Thomsen, a full-time DHL worker, was eighth on his dressage score with the New Zealand Thoroughbred The Ghost Of Hamish, and stalwart Hinrich Romeike, the dentist, was ninth on his lovely gray Marius Voigt-Logistic, despite plowing ungracefully through the first show jump.

The Germans owe much to their trainer, Christopher Bartle, who has imbued them with confidence over the years, so that the event riders do not now feel second-class citizens to their jumping and dressage compatriots, nor to the rest of the eventing fraternity.

“The distance between winning and losing is really only about a centimeter,” commented Bartle, “but these riders have all been taught the basics so well, it is only a matter of giving them the confidence to believe that they can keep up with the best in the world.”

Schwarz, designer at last year’s WEG, had produced an immaculately presented but watered down three-star CIC version of last year’s championships course, on perfect going, which this time finished in the main arena. It caused only seven mistakes from the 34 starters, but only five riders finished inside the time.

These included Britain’s Frances Whittington on Sir Percival, 15th. “I have never been to anything like this,” he said, “but Aachen has shown the way to the rest of the world in putting on an event like this. We could all learn a lot.”

Kate Green

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