“After the game is before the game” in Riesenbeck
FEI Dressage & Para Dressage European Championships in less than six weeks
“After the game is before the game” – coaching legend Sepp Herberger knew this many years ago. What applied to the legendary football coach is still relevant in modern Equestrian sports at Riesenbeck International Equestrian Center (GER).
Staying up-to-date with the international events is the goal for tournament director Karsten Lütteken and his team this year like never before. Hardly have the Jumping horses of the Longines Global Champions Tour left the stables when the facility is being transformed and prepared for the noble Dressage horses for the FEI Dressage & Para Dressage European Championships (September 5th to 10th). In less than six weeks, the best Dressage riders in Europe will participate in a tournament that many experts consider to be “highly exciting” to determine who will lead the way towards the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Will there be a generational shift? Which nation will leave its mark on the European Championships? Can the young stars among the dressage horses already fulfill the hopes of their riders and some experts?
The jumping arena becomes a dressage stadium
Until these questions can be answered in the newly constructed Dressage arena, the focus is on “fulfilling a sporty schedule in advance,” says Karsten Lütteken. He has no concerns about the transformation of the Jumping area into a functioning Dressage stadium. “Our infrastructure is designed for it. What we are doing now is creating a sand arena, and bringing the stands closer to the action. The VIP area will remain, as will the warm-up arenas. The Para Dressage will have a complex area at the event hall with a competition arena, preparation area, and warm-up hall,” he says. And he is certain: “It will be completed on time and look fantastic.”
The German squad is set
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (GER) has never been to Riesenbeck. However, the world’s top-ranked Dressage rider, winner of the Dressage Freestyle and Grand Prix Special in Aachen (GER), and defending champion at the European Championships, trusts one person: “It will certainly be a fantastic tournament. Because when Ludger Beerbaum organizes something, we can be sure that everything will be perfectly prepared for horses and riders!” The host of Riesenbeck International, who didn’t have much time to watch Dressage competitions during his active career, is delighted with the praise from the charming Dressage rider and feels “even more motivated to give our all and ensure that we experience an exciting and successful event.”
While Riesenbeck works tirelessly on the spatial arrangements, some nations have already announced their European Championship squads, including Germany. Officially, it is still a longlist that the German Olympic Equestrian Committee (DOKR) published after the last European Championship selection in Aachen. But since only four pairs are on this longlist, the plan is likely for this quartet, as defending champions, to represent Germany in Riesenbeck: Olympic champions Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera BB, Sönke Rothenberger with shooting star Fendi, World Championship bronze medalist Frederic Wandres with Bluetooth OLD, and as a reserve horse Duke of Britain FRH, and multichampion Isabell Werth with DSP Quantaz. As reserves, Matthias Alexander Rath with Thiago GS, Katharina Hemmer on Denoix PCH, and Bianca Nowag-Aulenbrock with Florine OLD have been named. A strong team! But are they strong enough to keep the Danish team world champions at a distance?
The Danes have also already nominated
The Danish team is missing their strongest rider in recent years, Cathrine Dufour. This year, Carina Cassøe Krüth and Heiline’s Danciera are on the longlist from the victorious FEI Dressage World Championship 2022 team in Herning (DEN). Daniel Bachmann Andersen and Nanna Skodborg Merrald are also on the list, though with other horses. Bachmann Andersen was nominated with Vayron, whom he took over from Helen Langehanenberg’s stable only a few months ago, and with Zippo. Nanna Skodborg Merrald has three horses to choose from: Blue Hors St. Schufro, Blue Hors Don Olymbrio, and Blue Horz Zepter. The latter, with whom she was second in the World Cup Final this year and once third (Grand Prix Special) and second (freestyle) in the CDIO5*-Tour in Aachen, is likely the favorite for a team spot. And they should also have a say in the individual medals.
The other pairs that want to compete for Denmark in Riesenbeck are Andreas Helgstrand with Jovian or Queenparks Wendy, Anna Kasprzak on Addict de Massa, Lone Bang Zindorf with Thranegaardens Rostov, and Nadja Aaboe Sloth with Favour Gersdorf. In theory, Anna Zibrandtsen and Quel Filou would also be on the longlist. However, the team silver medalist from the 2017 European Championships has other plans on the weekend of the Championships: She is marrying her partner, Thomas Hansen.
Charlotte Fry has the choice – Jessica von Bredow-Werndl relies on Dalera
The British, third-placed at the CHIO Aachen, have the current Individual World Champion, Charlotte Fry, among their ranks. She currently has seven horses available to compete at the Grand Prix level. For the European Championships, alongside World Champion Glamourdale, Olympiad partner Everdale, and the Belgian chestnut Lars von den Hoenderheide are options. She was highly placed in Aachen with the latter two. However, the audience naturally hopes that Fry will ride Glamourdale at the Championships.
It would be the first meeting of the World Champion with Olympic Champion Dalera, a duel between the powerhouse and the elegant dancer. This doesn’t mean that the individual ranking has to be decided between these two. Because there’s also the “other Charlotte,” the three-time Olympic Champion Charlotte Dujardin.
After her baby break, she and her World Championship partner, Imhotep, returned stronger than ever. In Aachen, they came dangerously close to the two double Olympic Champions Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Dalera BB in the Grand Prix Special and finished third in the freestyle behind von Bredow-Werndl and Nanna Skodborg Merrald on Blue Hors Zepter. As mentioned earlier, the latter pair is likely among the promising candidates for an individual medal. Who the British will select will only be announced shortly before the entry deadline. The National Federation speaks of August 4th.
Then the countdown to the European Championships begins. In early September, the dressage horses move into the stables at Riesenbeck International. The FEI Dressage and Para Dressage European Championships 2023 begin on September 5th.
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