FEI Dressage Youth European Championships report: Team Germany dominate *H&H Plus*

  • German riders take home three of the five team gold medals on offer, while the British contingent enjoy strong individual performances, by Selene Scarsi

    FEI Dressage European Championships for Children, Juniors, Young Riders, U25 and Ponies, Stable Unikornis, Hungary, 9–30 August

    A single location hosted all five divisions of the dressage youth Europeans, over three weeks of competition. The Hungarian venue, which had already been assigned the children and under-25 championships, stepped up to replace Hartpury, the original venue for the junior and young rider Europeans, and Strzegom (ponies), both of which were forced to cancel due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

    The children-on-horses and junior classes were dominated by Germany both individually and as teams. Fourteen-year-old Emily Rother claimed the gold medal in the children division with over 86% in the individual test, riding Jasper 224, a nine-year-old Oldenburg by Jazz Rubin, in only their fifth show together.

    In the junior classes, Germany took an easy team gold led by Anna Middelberg on the Belissimo gelding Blickfang HC, who also won the individual gold.

    Valentina Pistner and QC Flamboyant (by Fidertanz x De Niro) were the surprising discard score in the team test after the horse got his tongue over the bit. The seasoned competitor didn’t let the below-par performance affect her: she proceeded to produce a silver medal-worthy individual test and went one better in the freestyle, winning it with a fraction below 80%.

    “It’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster,” commented the 17-year-old. “My motto is, ‘Just do it, stay calm and try your best,’ because that’s all you can ever do. This is my third European Championship and my ninth medal: now it may be time for us to step up to another level.”

    Conversely, it was the Netherlands that dominated the young riders division. Team Germany had a particularly rocky road to Budapest as, just before departure, two team horses were declared unfit to compete and had to pull out and, unbelievably, of the two nominated reserves only one was able to step in, as the second reserve was also unsound.

    Germany were therefore in the surprising position of only being able to field a three-rider team, with a further last-minute change taking place when team anchor Lia Welschof had to swap her top horse Linus K for her reserve, First Class.

    Both individual medals also went to Dutch riders: last year’s junior silver medallist Marten Luiten stepped up to the higher level with an individual gold on the Ampere x Gribaldi mare Fynona, while favourite Daphne Van Peperstraten took the freestyle on Greenpoint’s Cupido.

    Flying the flag

    Two Brits competed individually in the young rider section. Emily Bradshaw and Enjoy Amaris V produced a solid performance in the team test, while a few too many mistakes in the individual test meant they missed out on  the freestyle.

    “I was very lucky to have my coach Bert Rutten at the show to train us each day, and my mum Sue has been amazing stepping in as chef d’equipe and helping things run smoothly for everyone,” said Emily. “It’s been a strange year but I feel so lucky that we were still able to compete at a Europeans in my final year as a young rider: huge thanks to Arie Yom-Tov at Stable Unikornis for putting on such a lovely championship,” she added.

    Alicia Lee and Bonita also impressed at their first Europeans, qualifying for the freestyle – although an unfortunate injury prevented the pair from performing in it.

    “I was so excited to be selected for the Europeans as this year was looking to be written off, and I was over the moon to score plus-69% for both the team and individual tests,” said Alicia, who trains with Darren Mattia and Carl Hester.

    “Bonita felt completely unfazed by the heat and atmosphere and was her usual energetic and focused self. It was so exciting to qualify for the freestyle and I was gutted not to be performing our music as Bonita managed to overreach prior to the vet check. But she is fighting fit again now and I’m looking forward to training on, with the aim of under-25 grand prix next year.”

    “A heart of gold”

    In the under-25 section, the Netherlands picked up another team gold, with Germany’s Ann-Kathrin Lindner and FBW Sunfire (by San Amour) winning the individual gold. The freestyle went to Denmark’s Anne-Mette Strandby Hansen, riding the most experienced horse of these Europeans: the established grand prix horse Foco Loco W, who competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics, as well as the 2018 World Cup Finals, under Yvonne Losos de Muñiz.

    Anne-Mette works as a rider at Helgstrand Dressage but was a newcomer on the Danish team, having only once before represented her country internationally (10 years ago, in a pony CDI). She produced a polished freestyle, rewarded with nearly 80%.

    “I’m so lucky I got to ride this horse and it’s unbelievable what he did for me – he has a heart of gold. When people started whistling at the end, he just lifted his legs higher and higher,” commented the rider. “I only got the floorplan last Monday and I rode it just once at home before coming here: I’ve never competed in a grand prix freestyle before!”

    Individual Brit Lewis Carrier produced two solid performances to qualify for the freestyle.

    “I was so pleased with the tests and the scores, with the highest being almost 70% and being placed just outside of the top 10,” said the rider, who trains with Gareth Hughes and Paul Fielder.

    “Qualification for the freestyle was very tough and close but I was thrilled to be able to ride in it. Diego loves to perform in the freestyle, as he gets excited about the atmospheric music. Riding to my music is always very heartfelt as I chose music from films that I love and I arranged it myself,” added Lewis, who finished 16th.

    The other Brit in the class, Ellie McCarthy, rode her stallion Sir Lancelot M to a personal best score of 68.74% in the team test inter II. The Lordanos son returned to the ring in July this year after almost two years out of competition due to injury.

    “In the individual, Lancelot felt even better than in the inter II, but I made too many mistakes which ended on three movements scoring a four – we still ended on a 66.69%. It’s gutting to not have qualified for the freestyle but I’ve got to remember that I’m so grateful to be riding Lancelot again after him having so long off, let alone competing at a European Championship and scoring a personal best,” commented Ellie.

    In the pony division, Germany were unreachable: with a discard score of 75.88%, they took team gold with a 10% lead over silver medallists Denmark. Individually, Lucie-Anouk Baumgürtel – a double individual gold medallist twice already, in 2016 and 2017 – and the nine-year old Zinq Nasdaq FH completed an impressive hat-trick that saw her take both individual and freestyle gold. She set a new world record in the individual test of 82.35% (previously held by Britain’s Phoebe Peters) and went on to win the freestyle with over 85.7%.

    Britain’s sole representative in the pony championship, Annabella Pidgley and Cognac, improved on their mid-60s team test to score 67.83% in the individual, finishing 29th.

    Team medallists

    Gold – Germany
    Silver – Denmark
    Bronze – Netherlands

    Gold – Germany
    Silver – Netherlands
    Bronze – France

    Gold – Germany
    Silver – Denmark
    Bronze – Netherlands

    Young riders
    Gold – Netherlands
    Silver – Germany
    Bronze – Denmark

    Gold – Netherlands
    Silver – Germany
    Bronze – Denmark

    Ref Horse & Hound; 3 September 2020