Dutch team leads dressage after first day

September 28, 2010

Dutch riders Imke Schellekens-Bartels and Hans Peter Minderhoud gave the Netherlands a strong lead over Germany in the Dressage Championships at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky overnight.

Edward Gal interview (English)
In het Nederlands

Dressage leaders Imke Schellekens-Bartels riding Hunter Douglas Sunrise.
Interview (English)
In het Nederlands

Christoph Koschel and Donnperignon are in second place.
Interview with best placed British rider, Fiona Bigwood

Hans Peter Minderhoud and Exquis Nadine are third.
Interview (English)

© Peter Nixon/FEI

Riding Hunter Douglas Sunrise, Schellekens-Bartels, 33, took the individual lead by scoring 73.44 percent. Aboard Exquis Nadine, Minderhoud, 36, moved into third place individually by scoring 72.25 percent. Their team total of 145.70 has put their team more than 5 points ahead of Germany (140.34) at the halfway point of the team competition.

The Netherlands are the new powerhouse in the world of dressage. But a superb test from Christoph Koschel and Donnperignon who slotted into second has guaranteed the old rivalry with Germany will continue unabated as the second tranche of riders take their turn. When Koschel's mark of 72.368 was added to the 67.702 awarded to team-mate Anabel Balkenhol and Dablino who slotted into 12th place, then Germany was assured of second position on the team leaderboard at the halfway stage with just over five points separating the two nations. But they need to be careful, because the British were impressive when taking two top-10 places - Fiona Bigwood and Wie Atlantico de Ymas filling fourth spot and Maria Eilberg and Two Sox claiming tenth. And with Carl Hester and Laura Bechtolsheimer still to come, the British are a force to be reckoned with.

Great Britain (138.34) is third in the team standings, the United States is fourth (136.17), and Canada is fifth (135.70).

The Dutch riders are not ready to celebrate yet. "We still have two riders to go, and anything can develop. We will see what happens," said Minderhoud.

Each was satisfied with their performances, though. Minderhoud was especially pleased because only two days ago, Exquis Nadine slipped while walking back to the stables with Minderhoud after training.

"She did the splits, with her hind legs out behind her, and she scraped her hind legs and her knee. But she was not lame and had no swelling, and she really did her job today. She has such a good attitude in the ring," said Minderhoud.

Schellekens-Bartels explained that an error in the canter zigzag was her fault, not her horse's fault. "It was a really, really good test, but I forgot to prepare for the change [of lead], and she just went sideways. She did what I told her to do. I just made a mistake," said Schellekens-Bartels.

It was during the penultimate session that Koschel took his turn with his 11 year old dark-chestnut gelding Donnperignon who has enormous presence in the ring. And the judges were in general agreement about the quality of his performance - judge at E Ghislain Fourage (Ned) awarding 72.340, judge at H Linda Lang (USA) awarding 75.435, judge at C Stephen Clarke (GBR) awarding 72.979, judge at M Cara Witham (Can) awarding 69.574 and judge at B Evi Eisenhardt (Ger) awarding 72.979.

The horses the crowd are all waiting to see, however, will be on stage later, and dressage fans are in for a real treat because this week the giants of two continents - The Netherland's Edward Gal and the breath-taking Moorlands Totilas and US stars Steffen Peters and Ravel will at last go head-to-head. Ravel stole the limelight when winning the FEI World Cup Dressage title in Las Vegas in 2009, while Totilas has broken so many records in the last 14 months that he has become one of the most famous horses on the globe.

Today at the Kentucky Horse Park, Gal received his first copy of a new book produced by Dutch photo-journalist Jacob Mellisen which celebrates the life and times - to date - of Totilas.

Gal said that his star horse has travelled well to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. But he's a bit fresh. "He spent two days in quarantine and he could only be walked in hand so he was a bit wild when I got back up on him - we will have to see how he is tomorrow!" he said.

US riders Katherine Bateson-Chandler, on Nartan, and Todd Flettrich, on Otto, scored 69.61 percent and 66.25 percent to currently stand fifth and 16th of the 20 starters. The US team claimed the silver medal at the 2002 World Games.

Tomorrow's action begins at 8.34am local time and history will be re-written if the Dutch can take the World team title for the first time. But with Matthias Alexander Rath and Isabell Werth still to go for Germany, the page has not yet been turned.

The history of the Dressage World Team Championship has been completely dominated by Germany since 1966, but for a single victory for Russia, ironically on the hallowed German turf at Aachen, back in 1970. The Netherlands won the team silver medal in 1994, 1998 and 2006.

The Grand Prix team competition will climax today (local time), with sessions starting at 8.30am and 2pm. The awards ceremony will immediately follow the competition.