Saturday, May. 25, 2024

Werth Prevails In A Grand Prix Special Full Of Surprises

The top riders in dressage proved that even they can make mistakes in the Grand Prix Special of the Olympic Games, Aug. 16 in Hong Kong, China.

Throughout Satchmo’s trotwork, Isabell Werth of Germany was earning scores in the low 80s, far ahead of her competitors, but when she went into her first piaffe, the unthinkable happened as Satchmo performed six or seven steps, then reared up and began backing up for several steps.
   

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The top riders in dressage proved that even they can make mistakes in the Grand Prix Special of the Olympic Games, Aug. 16 in Hong Kong, China.

Throughout Satchmo’s trotwork, Isabell Werth of Germany was earning scores in the low 80s, far ahead of her competitors, but when she went into her first piaffe, the unthinkable happened as Satchmo performed six or seven steps, then reared up and began backing up for several steps.
   
“There’s nothing I could say is the reason,” said Werth, who posted the top score in the Grand Prix and led her team to the gold medal two days earlier. “Horses are animals, and anything can happen. I have to look at the video. I don’t know what happened; I was really surprised.”

But even with a few judges giving her 0s for the movement, Werth ended up winning the Grand Prix Special (75.20%). “I had a super feeling until the mistake, and afterward it was easy again. It was 1 second, but it was at the wrong time,” she said. “This horse is so outstanding. It was going too straight and easy, and something had to happen.

“I was a bit upset like everyone else, but the most important thing was to get him back as soon as possible. I have no idea what he saw, or why he was spooky, but OK, then he was going on again.”

She said she knew her test was scoring high in the beginning, because after the half pass to the right, she could hear the spectators, who could see the running score, whispering.

And Anky van Grunsven of the Netherlands had left the door open with two mistakes—Salinero cantered through part of his trot half pass and had a bobble in his two-tempis, to score 74.96 percent and finish second.

“I was really disappointed; even in training [the half pass] has not ever gone wrong,” she said. “In the two tempis I took a risk and had another stupid mistake. I was happy for the rest of the test, but at this moment, I am still thinking how this could happen. The rest was a good test, but at this moment it doesn’t feel like it. Maybe in an hour I will be happy again.”

But she is always strong in the freestyle, which will be the second leg of the individual competition, on Tuesday night, and she hasn’t conceded the gold medal yet. “I have a good freestyle, and everyone knows I don’t give up until the end,” she said.

Heike Kemmer of Germany was thrilled with the test that put her third (72.96%) with Bonaparte. “His ears and neck were in front of him, his half passes were forward, and he was steady in his neck in the piaffe,” she said. “Bonaparte is soft-going and loose. If I put too much pressure on him, he won’t look like that. I can’t push him like other horses; it has to come from him.”

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She shared her secret for getting that extra brilliance: “I talked a little in the stable about what I wanted tonight, and that helps because he understands my German words,” she said with a smile.

As Kemmer entered the arena, the time clock on the scoreboard read -1, signifying that she was a second over the 45 seconds allotted after the judge rings the bell. The penalty, said FEI delegate Mariette Withages, would be 2 points per judge for the first movement, but she wasn’t sure whether they had been deducted or not.

Kemmer’s teammate Nadine Capellmann said she had the worst ride of Elvis’ career tonight, scoring 67.24 percent to stand 17th. “I have no idea why. He’s used to the atmosphere, and it’s not the climate. That would be too easy [an excuse],” she said.

Peters Stands A Close Fourth

Steffen Peters of the United States remains in striking distance of a medal, in fourth place on 71.80 percent with Ravel. “He was much more used to the arena and settled. It was just a real pleasure and fun to ride,” he said. “The whole trot felt great—the half pass, passage. He had a more relaxed walk. I couldn’t be happier. I was hoping he’d do exactly what he did at home in the selection trials, and this test was very close to that.”

Although Ravel did struggle in the second piaffe, Peters said he just needs more confirmation. “He usually does two piaffes great [and a bobble in the third],” he said.

Several horses seemed to struggle in the humidity, but Ravel wasn’t affected, said Peters. “I had more horse tonight than in the Grand Prix, and I have plenty left for the freestyle,” he said. “I’m beside myself that I qualified.”

But even as he celebrated his own ride, he was thinking of his teammate Debbie McDonald. “I would like to dedicate this ride to Brentina and Debbie,” he said. “I feel terrible about what happened to them [in the Grand Prix] and what was said about her afterward.”

Courtney King-Dye scored a 70.80 percent for eighth place with a ride where she pulled out the stops but didn’t quite achieve what she was hoping for. “When I started out, I knew now was the time to go for it to be anywhere near medal contention,” she said. “I didn’t get my half halts as good as I usually do. I went after a lot of expression. I could have ridden him better in preparation and right outside the ring. I usually say, ‘Stay here,’ and this time I said, ‘Come on, let’s go.’ In the first extended trot I thought we’d end up back at our stable at home.”

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She usually allows Mythilus about four or five steps of extended trot before taking him back, but today King-Dye let him take her. “He can have an unbelievable extended trot that I can get at home, and I wanted to see if I could [do it here]. We’ll end up lower down [in the standings, but it was worth the risk. It was a great experiment, and I don’t regret it. You’ve got to take risks when you can.”

The Russian Star
For much of the evening. Alexandra Korelova of Russia led the standings with a 71.40 percent on her former police horse, Balagur.  “The piaffe and passage is best for him, and I’m very pleased we could show it tonight,” she said.

Korelova acquired Balagur from the police force when he was 11 and didn’t know how to walk properly. She made a video and sent it to George Theodorescu. “He said take him and come to me quickly,” she said. She trains in Germany with George and Monica Theodorescu.

She’s looking forward to the freestyle, since he especially like the crowds, applause and music. “He is the best partner—I have so much luck to get this horse; it’s a dream,” she said.

Pop Art Makes The Freestyle
Ashley Holzer of Canada was pleased with Pop Art’s Grand Prix Special, which scored 68.76 percent to put her 15th and made the cut to the freestyle.

“I thought it was great, much better than the other day. He was sucking back wind, taking deep breaths, but he kept going. The beginning of the test was spot on, and he had beautiful piaffe and passage transitions. The half pass in the canter he stalled a little before the change, but that’s not his favorite movement. He came back and picked up and did his changes well.

“It’s the first time he’s had to come out in the second test and ramp it up a lot,” she added. “I said, ‘You’ve got to pick your feet up out of the sand.’ To come this far and pull for me—he did very well. He tried today because I asked him to.”

Holzer said the humidity has played a big role in the competition. Her groom timed her warm-up tonight and stopped her if she exceeded 8 or 9 minutes of work at a time. “The humidity is a factor I didn’t take into account,” she said. “Normally he hardly breaks a sweat in the Grand Prix. To make that many mistakes [on Thursday] in the Grand Prix was not him. We’re all seasoned riders who came out and aimed for that day, and very few pulled off a personal best. [The heat] is a whole different level of stress, and I don’t think we’re taking that into account enough. But it’s impressive how these horses are trying.”

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