Martin Plewa: Eyes on the ground for walk pirouettes at the Euros *H&H VIP*

Opinion

The standard was high in the dressage at the eventing European Championships — even those riders ranking 50-60th scored over 60%. And the top couple almost reached 80%. Although we lost the multiplying factor of 1.5 in eventing dressage last year, this result shows it’s still so important to do a good dressage test to win a medal.

We saw lots of horses with really good movement, while in years past many eventers had quite an ordinary trot and a canter that wasn’t expressive. Now, we see horses who can show extended trot like dressage horses and well-balanced collected canters.

Of course, with event horses you still often see a bit of tension because they are trained for cross-country, but it’s just a slight tightness or a short neck — there were no dramas. And most riders managed to get their horses under control and supple again.

The organisers were generous with allowing time for familiarisation in the arena, which is easier to do with an all-weather surface than on grass, when it’s necessary to protect the ground. This meant horses were generally quite relaxed in their tests.

Areas of weakness

I was a little surprised that some riders still had issues with the flying changes, which are now usually quite correct at five-star.

The walk half-pirouettes are also a weakness. It’s important riders show a clear transition into collected walk before the pirouette — many didn’t prepare properly. Then horses must keep a clear four-beat rhythm on a small turn and riders maintain absolutely regular contact, bend and flexion. This is a movement every horse can learn to do.

When training flying changes and half-pirouettes, riders need experienced eyes on the ground to tell them what’s going on. Both are movements where riders may not feel if something is wrong.

A happy horse

Michael Jung’s test stood out because he just had one mistake, in extended walk — without that, he would have topped 80%. FischerChipmunk FRH showed a great outline, was very well balanced, supple and through in his body, with good basic paces. He fulfilled the scales of training perfectly. From first to last salute, Chipmunk showed how horses should be trained — a happy horse in good balance, with a closed but chewing mouth.

A little further down the leaderboard, I felt Kitty King’s Vendredi Biats had great potential, as did German individual Nadine Marzahl’s Valentine 18. Ludwig Svennerstål’s El Kazir SP lacked suppleness over the back, but he’s a nice horse for the future. Elmo Jankari’s Duchess Desiree was tense, but she’s a very good mover.

We judges were generally well aligned in our scores. Laura Collett had the most disparity in the top echelons, with Anne-Mette Binder giving her 22.1 and me awarding 28.3. Both Peter Shaw, who gave her 26, and I thought London 52 had a slightly short neck and should step more towards the bit, which accounts for our lower marks.

From the long side, where Peter sat, it’s often easier to see the outline and if there are any contact or tongue issues than when on the short side.

Ref Horse & Hound; 5 September 2019