Some days it’s the small things that make all the difference, and today was one of those. For The Netherlands’ Dinja van Liere it was all smiles when she rode to the end of her Grand Prix test with a perfect halt from the 10-year-old Hermes who posted the highest score on the opening day of the Team competition at the ECCO FEI World Championships in Herning, Denmark to give her country the overnight advantage.
But just moments before, Great Britain’s Gareth Hughes had a very different experience when, excited by the clapping of the crowd, Classic Briolinca just couldn’t stop dancing at the end of a great performance and never came to a proper halt. Precious lost marks may well have made the difference between fifth for the British team or a higher placing going into the second day.
However in a sport in which human and horse compete as one, the influence of the equine partner’s flight instinct is never far away so nothing can ever be completely predictable. It’s part of the magic and the challenge of it all…
As the Grand Prix Team Championship goes into its second day tomorrow when the medals will be decided it’s still a wide-open competition. The 12-time champions from Germany are hot on Dutch heels thanks to Benjamin Werndl and Famoso OLD who put the second-best score of the day on the board with 77.003. And they have two more stars to come tomorrow when Isabell Werth (DSP Qantaz) and Frederic Wandres (Duke of Britain FRH) take their turn.
Ingrid Klimke kicked off the German effort with a smart 75.683 from Franziskus to ensure they were always going to be right in the mix. It was a personal best for this partnership.
“That was my major aim, and I got it!”, said the lady who is a longtime legend in the sport of Eventing and who is experiencing the very first Dressage Championship of her sparkling career. “He was with me the entire test. There was not a single moment in which I didn’t feel absolutely confident with our performance. Of course he loves the extensions and in the last trot diagonal he knew what comes next. He lowered his croup in the corner and he wanted to show everyone how great a mover he is!” she pointed out.
Today’s leading rider, van Liere, felt her stallion could have done even better. “Normally his piaffe and passage are brilliant but he didn’t do them to his best today and the same for the pirouettes”, she explained. But she got it spot on in the halt, her horse was not in the least bothered by the spectators’ clapping as the pair marched down their final centreline.
“Hermes is a clown – he likes the applause and he knows it’s for him! When he enters the arena he doesn’t like to hear it (clapping) but when he finishes he thinks of course this is for me, because I’m the best!” said Dinja van Liere.
Team Denmark are in third following two solid performances from Nanna Merrald Rasmussen and Carina Cassøe Krüth, the latter’s mark of 76.863 deciding this first-day result for the Danes who are firm favourites for the title.
Merrald Rasmussen was close behind with a personal best 76.724 and she was very pleased about that. Talking about her Olympic ride, the 18-year-old stallion Blue Hors Zack, she said “he hasn’t done a lot since Tokyo, just two competitions because he’s been very busy breeding. He has done many, many shows in his career and he needs to be a little bit hungry when he is going out. If I do too many shows with him he will be a bit bored with it. He has to be fresh and happy to go out again, and that was the plan here and why we didn’t take him to Aachen,” she explained.
“I did the Danish championships with him and he was super. You never really know, he is 18, I wondered should he really be on the team again and then we took him to the Danish Championships and he was on fire! So we thought ok do the same routine before coming here, no shows just a lot of normal work at home, that was the plan and it has paid off!”, said the rider who followed her success at her home Championships in June with getting married one week later.
She said she felt “just super, super proud!” to produce that personal best in front of her home crowd. “They were supporting me like crazy at the end, the tears were almost coming. Normally you get a hand-clap down the centreline in the Freestyle but this was just special!” she said after the spectators went a little wild.
When team-mates Daniel Bachmann Andersen (Marshall-Bell) and Cathrine Laudrup-Dufour (Vamos Amigos) complete the Danish effort tomorrow they will be hoping for an even bigger response from the sidelines because they have Blue Hors FEI Dressage World Championship team gold clearly in their sights.
With the Swedes in fourth thanks to Juliette Ramel’s 76.164 it’s really tight at the top of the leaderboard however, and with the best three scores to count for every nation anything can happen when the battle resumes in the morning.
Intermediate results here