After two riders and continuous rain at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, Germany is leading the provisional team ranking in front of the title holders from the Netherlands and the Olympic team champions from Great Britain.
The day started early for the German contingent with Fabienne Lütkemeier and D’Agostino FRH being the first rider out, scoring 73,586. Her lead held until Kristina Sprehe presented Desperados, delivering a ride with the stallion that all judges saw in first place with a wide margin lead of 78,814. “Normally he is nervous at the first competition of a show, but not today. I felt a little tension in the tunnel going in but in the arena he was fully concentrated and relaxed,” Sprehe said after the ride. “If anything the pirouettes could have been a little better. But that was my fault. I should have taken more risks.”
A pleased Monica Theodorescu, national coach for the team and individual trainer for Sprehe, is looking forward to Tuesday. “Fabienne rode a great test and Kristina was super strong. Not one wobbly moment. She really presented him with confidence. We can take a breather now until tomorrow.”
The reigning European champions are keen to regain the world title that eluded them for the first time in Lexington 2010.
Defending champions Netherlands have been affected by two major exchanges in the team, bringing in Diederik van Silfhout and Arlando NH N.O.P. as their first starters. “Considering the horse’s little experience he did very well,” van Silfhout said after a careful ride. The nine-year-old Arlando has done “only 8 or 10” grand prix up to now and Silfhout praised the team for “accepting me so well.” It was up to Hans-Peter Minderhoud and 12 year-old Glock’s Johnson’s TN to follow and push up the Dutch result with his score of 74,357.
Minderhoud has every reason to be pleased. He competed in one of the heaviest downpours that beset the competition programme and spent a lot of his warm-up time sheltering from the rain before deciding that he just had to go out there and get a soaking. He said the footing in the arena “was not slippy but a bit sticky” and that his horse, Glock’s Johnson “felt it a little at the beginning of the test and was not so expressive, but then he went forward as usual after that and went quite well”.
“The first part of the test was not as expressive as it could have been. The start bell came very suddenly and Johnson was still a bit stunned by the wet footing. You could well hear the swishing noises when he moved,” Minderhoud described his ride in the wetness of Caen.
The Dutch rider talked about how proud he is of his 12-year-old stallion who was a real eye-catcher in the ring. “I have him since he was three years old so he has been in our stable for almost seven years. He has been breeding a lot so he has two jobs to do. He did his first Grand Prix in January, at the World Cup at Neumunster (GER) he was really good and again at the World Cup Final in Lyon (FRA). He is developing really well and he has a lot more improvement to come in the future. He’s not spooky, he’s quite a clever boy and he always wants to work with you,” Minderhoud said.
The British team started out with Gareth Hughes and inexperienced DV Stenkjers Nadonna, ranked 15th at the end of Day 1. The mare was clearly awed by the atmosphere, leaving it to Carl Hester to save the first day. Hester’s Nip and Tuck delivered a personal best and a confirmation about trusting one’s instincts.
Hester said: “He cost €1000 as yearling and here I am at the World Championship with him, 24 years after my first WEG in Stockholm. This horse clearly shows that dressage isn’t just elitist.”
The rider is full of praise for the Dutch gelding whom he describes as “the biggest horse in the stable but so naïve.” He did his first grand prix test only in May this year, at Saumur.
“I’m delighted – we’re in the hunt with The Netherlands and Germany and this was a personal best for my horse. He’s 10 years of age and he’s only just stepping up there. I’m very excited about the competition tomorrow and for the rest of the week,” he said.
“My other horses, maybe, could have gotten higher marks but I know Nip and Tuck for so long, I knew I could absolutely trust him and he proved me right.”
Hester enjoyed the enthusiasm of the spectators who greeted his arrival with a great roar. “You don’t really know what to expect with this crowd, they’re very enthusiastic and it was such a nice reception going in. It’s 24 years later for me, because I rode in Stockholm (at the first World Equestrian Games in 1990), so I’m really happy to be here again on another horse and to get that result.”
With the multiple record-breaking partnership of Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, and Michael Eilberg with the handsome mare Half Moon Delphi still to come it seems the British could rally strongly on day two.
In his WEG debut, Canada’s David Marcus got his country off to a good start, riding Chrevi’s Capital to 12th place with a score of 70.357%.
The pair demonstrated fluid half-passes, soft and elevated passage, and straight and correct two-tempi changes.
“I think he’s a world-class horse,” said Marcus of the 14-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Chrevi’s Cavallo x Weinberg). “I let him do his thing, and I think he did it really well.
“I think Capital really tried. He’s coming into a whole new level of confidence and rideability. I think it was pretty good.”
Competing during a constant rain, Marcus, 33, and Chrevi’s Capital had the support of the crowd in the Stade d’Ornano.
Fellow Canadian team member Karen Pavicic rode Don Daiquiri to a score of 69.486%, putting Canada in 10th place among 24 nations.
It will be Germany’s Isabell Werth who gets the second half of the team competition off to a start in the morning, and if she can persuade her mare, Bella Rose, to shimmer and sparkle like she did at Aachen (GER) last month then her country’s position will be further reinforced. Germany also has the super-talented partnership of Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill NRW to rely on as anchors.
The top 30 athletes in the individual standings move forward to the Grand Prix Special on Wednesday, August 27. From there, the top 15 contest the Grand Prix Freestyle on Friday, August 30, to determine the individual medals.
Team Grand Prix Part 1 (after 2 riders from each team have completed):
1. Germany 152.4: Desperados FRH (Kristina Sprehe) 78.814; D’Agostino (Fabienne Lutkemeier) 73.586.
2. Netherlands 147.771: Glock’s Johnson TN (Hans Peter Minderhoud) 74.357; Arlando NH N.O.P. (Diederick van Silfhout) 73.414.
4. Great Britain 143.9: Nip Tuck (Carl Hester) 74.196; DV Stenkjers Nadonna (Gareth Hughes) 69.714.
Individual Standings after Day 1:
1, Desperados FRH (Kristina Sprehe) GER 78.814;
2, Glock’s Johnson TN (Hans Peter Minderhoud) NED 74.357;
3, Nip Tuck (Carl Hester) GBR 74.196;
4, D’Agostino (Fabienne Lutkemeier) GER 73.586;
5, Arlando NH N.O.P (Diederik van Silfhout) NED 73.414;
6, Norte Lavera (Jose Antonio Garcia Mena) ESP 72.414;
7, Wizard (Adrienne Lyle) USA 72.000;
8, Santana (Minna Telde) SWE 71.171;
9, Mariett (Lars Petersen) DEN 70.800;
10, Noble Dream Concept Sol (Marc Boblet) FRA 70.686.