Judges split on Carl Hester’s freestyle as European Dressage Championships gears up for thrilling climax

  • Britain’s Carl Hester is currently lying in sixth place in the European Dressage Championships freestyle. The hot 12-year-old Jazz son En Vogue did not give Carl an easy ride, visibly reacting to the atmosphere and making some expensive mistakes.  The pair scored 78.38%, with Carl doing a fantastic job and the horse’s talent and quality helping boost their marks despite the tension. Highlights included their line of 21 one-time changes and the first double pirouette.

    There was a notable discrepancy in the judges’ marks for Carl’s test with the Finnish judge at B, Maria Colliander,  awarding his 75.97%, and Austria’s Thomas Lang, sitting directly opposite at B, deeming the test worthy of 83.35%.

    Carl described his test as a “good learning curve” for himself as a rider.

    “At the end of the championship you don’t want to work them too hard, but he was way too fresh today – fresher than he was at the beginning,” explained Carl, who said Vogue had been excited even just having a gentle walk that morning.

    “In the warm-up he was very nervous and wanted to get out of the ring and go home. I admit we both felt the same – we’ve done six tests in six weeks,” joked Carl, who also explained that the blip just prior to their second double pirouette, when it appeared that Vogue was spooking at his own droppings on the ground, was actually down to the gelding being a little nappy as he turned up the arena away from the entrance.

    “Our freestyle is a difficult test and he has to be relaxed, and he wasn’t, but he did the best he could considering how he was feeling,” Carl added.

    Finland’s Henri Ruoste is currently in the lead at the midway point of the European Dressage Championships freestyle, having achieved a personal best of 82.6% with the hugely expressive 11-year-old jumping-bred gelding Kontestro DB. This flamboyant horse, a son of Contendro, has improved over the course of the week, and his test was full of wow factor, with remarkable airtime in his passage, and huge tempi changes.

    “I’m really happy – yesterday we had a couple of tricky moments, but all in all, today was really nice,” said Henri, explaining that the gelding jumped as a youngster, but did not prove careful enough over fences.

    “He is so hard working and so mentally with me. Sometimes he tries a little bit too much, but that fact that he is with me is really nice.”

    Sitting just behind Henri in second at this stage is Denmark’s Daniel Bachmann Andersen and the nine-year-old Marshall-Bell, who posted 82.05%.

    “That was really fun to ride – he was light and really listening all the way, and relaxed but still on. I had to improvise a little bit as we did this freestyle only once at the Danish championships in May and we haven’t really trained it at all,” said Daniel, who won team bronze earlier in the week.

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