There are 41 years between the oldest and the youngest competitors at the European Showjumping Championships – and both were pleased with their performances on the first day.
Sweden’s Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, 61, jumped clear on Zuccero to finish on 73.60 seconds, and in seventh place overnight. Liechtenstein’s Jennifer Hochstadter, who turned 20 on 4 August, tipped just two poles to sit in 47th place.
Rolf-Goran is a championship veteran; he won individual European gold in 2011 with Ninja La Silla, he has a team and an individual Olympic silver medal to his name – and he won individual bronze and team silver on Isovlas Pialotta at the Europeans in 2001, two years before Jennifer was born.
Rolf-Goran and Zuccero’s performance was good enough to take the lead, with 30 combinations gone.
“A round like that, you feel good, for sure!” he said.
Rolf-Goran said the 11-year-old stallion came to him as a seven-year-old and was competed by his stable jockey Bart van der Maat until he was eight, when Rolf-Goran took over.
“I did youngster classes with him in the beginning and then slowly, slowly I took step by step up,” he said. “I haven’t pushed it because I was maybe missing other horses to support him and I didn’t want to bring him up to the first-horse position too early. And I think that’s my feeling now.”
Rolf-Goran said he keeps everything as natural as possible, with no boots behind, and that he knew he would be a good horse early on.
“That’s what we always hope but you never know when they are young and very careful,” he said. “They may not show the very biggest scope, and I think it’s important you don’t overdo it in the beginning with too-big fences too early; they get ‘Ooh, this is high’. They grow slowly into it and then when they are brave and they say ‘I can do this’, you raise the bars a little bit. A horse like this is fantastic to have.”
“I was supposed to do the young rider championships this year, but we decided to try to qualify for the senior,” she said. “And we did it.
“Yes, I’m young and, but I think it was the best idea to come here and compete with the best ones. When I did the course-walk, I was very stressed. But when I rode my horse, it was better; I was smiling.
“I had eight faults but they were silly mistakes and my horse was jumping so nicely.”
Jennifer first rode the KWPN mare, who jumped at the Tokyo Olympics with Moroccan rider Ali Al Ahrach, two years ago, and their first FEI competition was a 1.50m.
“When I tried her, she gave me so much confidence,” she said. “The first day, I jumped 1.50, 1.60, which was so new for me, I’d never done it before. Then we went to Paris, my first CSI5*, two weeks later. It was crazy but she gave me so much confidence, it was normal.”
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