‘We need to work on the pirouette’: Olympic medal contender has eyes on the prize after group-topping performance

  • The final rider in group five, Germany’s Dorothee Schneider, produced a workmanlike dressage test on Showtime FRH, to take the lead with 78.82% at the Tokyo Olympics. Their marks were trending at 80% until the canter work, but his first pirouette ground to a halt and Dorothee lost a stirrup. The scores plummeted from eights and nines to fours, which proved especially costly, as pirouettes carry double marks.

    The pair are ranked four in the world and highly touted for a medal.

    “All the extension and trot work, he was extremely good and in front of me, and he has a very good hindleg coming into the passage,” Dorothee said. “The first pirouette was very expensive for my score. He was not really in front of my inside leg, so I couldn’t ride him forward into the stride and he was tense. So he stopped, and I am not happy about that, but it happens. The second pirouette was good, and the flying changes, so there is positive stuff.

    “We have to think about the pirouette, but I can prepare it in the next few days,” she added.

    “He listens to everything I ask him”

    Sweden’s Juliette Ramel saved the best until last, with her final centre line clinching 73.369% and the second qualifying berth for Wednesday’s grand prix freestyle. She was riding her team stalwart, Buriel KH, a 15-year-old gelding by Osmium. She was disappointed by a few errors – notably in the one-time tempi changes.

    “It was annoying to have three mistakes, but the rest felt pretty good,” said Juliette, who is riding alongside her sister Antonia who came into the team when Patrik Kittel had to withdraw. “Buriel has so much character – he tells you exactly what he likes and what he doesn’t. But when I ride him, he is very with me and listens to everything I ask him.”

    Marlies von Baalen finished just outside the automatic qualifying spots in third, riding Go Legend for a score of 71.615%. The Totilas son is a newcomer to international grand prix this season. Marlies felt there was room for improvement.

    “My horse felt good, and I think we had some very nice parts,” said Marlies, 40. “In the first piaffe we had a little miscommunication, we had a few mistakes in canter and there were a couple of things that weren’t very fluent.”

    “He wanted to crawl under a rock”

    Australia’s Kelly Layne had a day to forget when Samhitas reared up in the piaffe right in front after the judge at C, after a promising start. The rest of the test was unsettled, leaving them on a score of 58.35%.

    Kelly said she had “a rockstar out in the warm-up” but the 12-year-old Sir Donnerhall gelding suffered from stage fright in the big ring.

    “Outside he was like, ‘bring it on’, but he suddenly realised he was alone in there,” said Kelly, 46. “He got a little bit inside himself, like he wanted to crawl under a rock and not be there. But every time I said ‘you’ve got to keep going’, he kept going.”

    Kelly had been forced to withdraw from Rio team selection due to injury, but came off the reserve list to compete in Tokyo.

    “My horse is still a bit green, and that showed tonight,” she said. “But I am thinking for the future for that horse, and for me, to come to this championship. You learn so much. I think it can just catapult you forward.”

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