Dutch again dominate dressage at Europeans

August 28, 2009

Adelinde Cornelissen produced 6.5 minutes of magic to win gold in the Grand Prix Special at the Alltech FEI European Jumping and Dressage Championships at Windsor, Great Britain, yesterday.

On another extraordinary afternoon her Dutch team-mate, Edward Gal, set a new world record with Moorlands Totilas, but it was a short-lived moment in the spotlight as Cornelissen simply blew it away with a spectacular last-to-go test with the fabulous Parzival.


On another record-breaking day of dressage, The Netherlands' Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival claimed gold in the Grand Prix Special at the Alltech FEI European Jumping and Dressage Championships at Windsor. © Kit Houghton/FEI


Adelinde Cornelissen © Dirk Caremans

Ground Jury President Stephen Clarke from Great Britain put it in perspective afterwards when he said, "I've judged a few championships in my time but I've never seen sport like this. This was the greatest moment in dressage history - we've never seen riders performing at such a level before and now the sport is wide open - anyone can win. I want to applaud the courage of the riders who rode so brilliantly under pressure - this was an outstanding day," he said.

As the final group took their turn it was another Dutch champion, Anky Van Grunsven, who set the real target with a much-improved test from Salinero who had been, by their exceptional standards, disappointing in the team competition. Yesterday, however, they worked more as a partnership, and accuracy and confidence were much more in evidence as they re-set the parameters with a mark of 77.917%, although the 15-year-old gelding still fiddled in his halts.

"He concentrated very hard today, we did have two little mistakes with the halt but I go day by day," she said, thinking ahead to Saturday's Freestyle for which she is easily qualified.

The real battle was waged between the final three, Gal throwing down the gauntlet with the mesmerising Totilas who ratcheted up a total of 32 perfect 10 scores thanks to fabulous passage and piaffe and wresting the world record for the special from Germany's Martin Schaudt and Welthall who set the standard at 82.50% in 2005. Gal's 83.042% swept that away, but as it happened he had some weak scores as well as strong ones, and his shift in the first halt and low marks in some of the tempi changes and extended walk would come back to haunt him.

Britain's Laura Bechtolsheimer rose to the occasion on her European Championship debut to produce a sparkling ride from Mistral Hojris that bounced her up to silver medal position with a mark of 80.083%, but as it happened there was even more excitement to come.

"Before I came into the ring I didn't know what the others had scored and when I finished I thought I was second so I congratulated Edward!" Cornelissen explained.


Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas, silver medal winners in the Grand Prix Special.© Kit Houghton/FEI
Her great big chestnut Parzival simply filled the arena with personality and poise, obediently executing each movement with consistent precision and with a power and passion that was all his own. As the marks registered on the leaderboard it was clear something amazing was unfolding - Gal's record was about to be overtaken by an even more sensational performance and as Cornelissen's mark of 84.042% was announced the spectators roared with approval.

"I always knew Parzival can do the work," said the 30 year old, whose career has advanced a little since she started riding Shetland ponies at the age of two. A qualified teacher, she has been focusing on equestrianism in recent years but has only one Grand Prix horse - the chestnut giant who stood quietly while his rider bandaged his legs before going back into the ring for the prize-giving. This is a very unique one-on-one relationship between horse and rider, and it showed in everything they achieved.

So what is the secret of the success by the Dutch in dressage? "Its about how we ride, it feels good and it look good, but its not just about training," said Edward Gal. :We just keep the horses happy. You need to adapt your riding to your horse and not the other way around".

Bechtolsheimer was delighted when awarded bronze in the final analysis - "I'm still feeling a bit shaken up," she said, "but I was more determined than I've ever been going in today and my horse is extremely generous to me" she pointed out.

Gal admitted that he might have overdone it a little in the warm-up leading to tension in the arena - "the passage and extensions were good but the walk was tense - but he's only nine years old," he said. Gracious in defeat he added "being second to Adelinde today was not bad - what happened was good for the sport, good for the riders, good for our horses - I'm delighted!".

Golden girl Cornelissen sat contemplating her triumph as Stephen Clarke concluded "what we have seen is really something, at times the hair was standing up on the back of my neck! Salinero (Anky Van Grunsven) was also brilliant in parts, and that's the exciting thing about it. At odd moments we were saying to each other "10's are just not enough" to reward what we have seen!" he said.

"That's the pleasure of judging, believe it or not we don't like to give low marks and only do it when we have to, when its appropriate we love to give high marks - that's the excitement of the sport".