Just seven days ago the same partnership claimed the honours in Frankfurt, and today they were still full of Christmas sparkle when holding multiple-champion Isabell Werth from Germany back in second place with Warum Nicht, while The Netherlands' Jeannette Haazen and Nartan slotted into third.
Imke Schellekens-Bartels and Hunter Douglas Sunrise made it a back-to-back double of victories in the 2009/2010 FEI World Cup Dressage series when heading the line-up for the second time in seven days at Mechelen in Belgium this week. © Hippo Foto/Dirk Caremans.
Schellekens-Bartels knows, however, that she cannot afford to rest on her laurels. "Only three Dutch riders will be allowed to compete in the final at Den Bosch" she said, "so we all really have to fight hard for the marks and to take a place at the Final".
Even the winner was feeling sorry for Adelinde Cornelissen who went into the competition as firm favourite having won Saturday's Grand Prix with a very nice test from Parzival. But luck was just not on her side, because the big chestnut gelding put his tongue over the bit when she brought him back to walk halfway through the test and even though she managed to produce some very nice work from him the partnership was severely marked as a result to finish in 11th place. Dutch Ground Jury member, Jan Peeters, said afterwards "that's the sport. Adelinde did all the right things when it happened but she had to lose marks," he said.
Isabell Werth was heading the leaderboard with just two riders left to go, the German rider looking fit and well only a few weeks after the birth of her baby boy. She earned a mark of 81.54% with Warum Nicht but she felt that she had ridden a better test in the Grand Prix - "I made some canter mistakes today, they were my fault," she insisted, but she was very happy to be back in action and so competitive in her first serious outing since the baby's arrival.
Werth was still riding her horses two weeks before giving birth and was very quickly back in the saddle afterwards. "In all I was not riding for about four weeks and I couldn't wait to start again - I have to ride - it's an addiction!" she said, although her motherly instincts kicked in quickly as she rushed off after the competition to get back to baby Frederik.
Werth's good mark was bettered by a lovely performance from Schellekens-Bartels who knew she was going well from the moment she entered the arena. "My mare was even a bit sharper - in a good way - than she was last week. There were so many good riders and good horses here today, I thought to be honest that I would be doing well to be in the top three, especially since Isabell is back, but I was a bit sharper myself too!" she added.
She found herself and her horse perfectly synchronised with the music - "the canterwork was amazing, every step fitted the music and it felt great!" she said, and the spectators agreed as they thoroughly appreciated what they witnessed.
The good work was not all over yet however as another of the four-strong Dutch contingent, Jeannette Haazen, was last to go and she too produced a lovely performance from Nartan to slot into third behind Werth. Haazen was lucky to be there at all because she lives in Maaseik in the north of Belgium and was unable to exercise her horses and unable to drive her horsebox following heavy snowfall earlier in the week. She has found it impossible to get planning permission for an indoor arena at her farm and so must work her horses outside in all weathers, and the snowstorm put at stop to that while her horse-lorry could not cope with the snowdrifts. She left for Mechelen two days behind schedule, so her result is all the more creditable.
The show itself was severely affected by the weather conditions causing chaos throughout Europe. Last Monday almost 80% of the tents at the showground buckled under the weight of the snow and it took two days, an extra 66 workers, and a whole of lot effort to ensure the fixture went ahead.
None of that was bothering Schellekens-Bartels, tough. She has accomplished the mission she set out for herself and is now well on her way to a place in the final line-up for the FEI World Cup Dressage series in March. So this week she was returning to her family who are never happy for her to be away during the Christmas season but with whom she is now planning a big New Year's Eve party - "yes, and we will have plenty to celebrate," she said, "its been a great week for myself and my horse!".
2009/2010 FEI WORLD CUP DRESSAGE - STANDINGS after Round 6 at Mechelen (Bel) - Provisional
1. Adelinde Cornelissen, Monica Theordorescu - 41
3. Imke Schellekens-Bartels - 40
4. Jeanette Haazen - 39
5. Edward Gal, Matthias Alexander Rath - 35
7. Anky Van Grunsven - 34
8. Aat Van Essen - 32
9. Hubertus Schmidt - 27
10. Patrik Kittel - 26