Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dressage: FEI: European Championships: British riders add silver and bronze individual medals to the European team gold already in the bag

British Equestrian Federation Press Release
Date: 20/08/11. For immediate release

GB’s Carl Hester and Laura Bechtolsheimer once again rose to the fore in magnificent form to claim individual titles in today’s grand prix special. Their medals add to the team gold already won two days ago by the accomplished quartet of riders at a championship where British dressage has truly come of age. The pair claimed silver and bronze respectively in a nail-biting contest at the FEI European Dressage Championships 2011, Rotterdam, 20 August.

Dutch threat Adelinde Cornilessen was first of the big guns to ride with her reigning European Champion horse Parzival.  Despite an error of course they set the bar high, posting a massive score of 82.113% for their home crowd that the British and German riders would have to go all out to beat.

GB’s team rookie and talk of the town, Charlotte Dujardin was first to try her hand with Valegro. The young combination wowed the judges as they had in their grand prix test but a couple of expensive mistakes kept them out of the eventual shakeup to finish sixth with a healthy 76.548%.

Laura Bechtolsheimer was having the “ride of her life” with the huge chestnut gelding Mistral Hojris until he dropped off the hand after the extended walk. “When a big horse like that loses the impulsion it’s hard to keep everything together and the errors creep in.” She explained. “He got away from me in the grand prix test on Thursday; maybe I warmed him up just a bit too much to be sure the same wouldn’t happen again today.” But beautiful riding still coaxed him round for a score good enough for 79.196%.

Penultimate rider to go, Carl Hester, knew he was in with a shout if he and his horse Uthopia, who he co-owns with Sasha Stewart, could repeat the quality of work they’d produced just two days before for the grand prix. The pair danced their way through a sparkling test, again producing spectacular extended trot and passage work but an unfortunate slip-up in the one time changes caused a third Brit to drop vital points. “I was completely focussed trying to ride my extensions for 10’s and the passage as high as I could get them. It felt amazing until he tripped in the canter work, I got out of timing and we just lost our rhythm.” said Carl who still earned a PB of 81.682%.

Only the record breaking super-stallion Totilas, last to go with his new German rider Alexander Matthias Rath, could knock a Brit from the podium. Instead Rath, who has struggled all week to create the magic we know his mount is capable of had to settle for 77.039%.

Adelinde’s proved a score that couldn’t be beaten and the Dutch lifted gold leaving the rest of the spoils for the British: Carl Hester claimed silver, his first ever individual medal and Laura Bechtolsheimer equalled her 2009 European performance to take the bronze.

“I either had to steal one or win one to make my career complete” joked Carl “I’ve come here with a young horse and he’s produced the best work he’s capable of at this time. Our focus was the grand prix and the team medal but I just enjoy riding the special so much, to win silver is amazing.”

“Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve” quipped Laura “I’m still really happy with bronze and especially to get two British riders on the podium is just fantastic! I’m so proud!”

Earlier in the day Britain’s fourth rider Emile Faurie and the 12 year old Dutch bred gelding Elmegardens Marquis posted a respectable score of 68.542% to finish in eventual 21st place.

Carl Hester, Laura Bechtolsheimer and Charlotte Dujardin all ride in tomorrow’s final, the grand prix freestyle to music competition, where a second set of individual medals is up for grabs.