The exciting and prestigious Grand Prix qualifier for the World Equestrian Games dawned on a crisp Highveld winter’s morning on the 18th of May 2013. The atmosphere surrounding the Peter Minnie arena at Kyalami Equestrian Park was electrifying with spectators packed into the stands. Unfortunately, none of the competitors achieved the 64% qualifying score required for the World Equestrian Games but the feeling was that the chance to ride at this historic show was enough consolation for most riders.
This was possibly the most important class of the entire show as it acted as the qualifier for the World Equestrian Games in Normandy 2014. The winner of the class was Adriaan Van Wyk on Othello 216 (Jetset D x Fair Play) with a score of 61.87%. Adriaan arguably has the most exposure to this level having campaigned in Europe with Othello for most of last year. Adriaan handled the pressure with the ease of a pro, showing much showmanship and flair. The partnership showed elevated extended trots, an effortless and balanced transition from extended trot to passage and good passage. Unfortunately, the piaffe travels too forward but shows great promise for the future as Othello develops his strength. The canter work was also solid with uphill sequence changes, a bold extended canter and small balanced canter pirouettes.
Nicole Smith was second with Rubens (Rubinstein I x Nimmerdor) with a score of 59.92%. Nicole’s skill at this level is shining through thanks to her international experience on her Grand Prix mare Victoria. Unfortunately, Rubens struggled in the piaffe and passage in the Grand Prix test. Both movements lacked the elevation seen in some of the other combinations and it appeared that Rubens needs time to develop his strength with these movements. The canter work showed some good moments with good two’s, a ground covering extended canter and a solid canter zigzag. A costly mistake in the one’s and labored canter pirouettes unfortunately affected the score.
Andrea Harrison and Marinier (Wellington x Tangelo) continued their successful run in the show with a well-deserved third place with a score of 59.70%. Expensive mistakes in the piaffe affected the score as there was much resistance in the piaffe and the final piaffe at X was not even shown. Despite this, Marinier’s passage is still one of his highlights as he demonstrates great harmony with Andrea in this movement. There was good crossing in the trot half passes and balanced transitions into passage. The canter work was polished with excellent sequence changes and small pirouettes despite a momentary loss of rhythm as Marinier exited the second pirouette.
A special mention must go out regarding Chere Burger and her new Grand Prix ride, the imported Danish Grand Prix horse Fern Hill Derry (Ricardo Z x Farhaan xx). Despite the tension and the costly mistakes resulting from this tension, this horse has all the talent in the world and showed us some glimpses into the work the partnership will be able to produce in the future. This new partnership is still experiencing a few teething problems, but it is a horse that the DressageAfrica team would dearly love to find in their Christmas stockings.
Grand Prix Special
Another historical first was the Grand Prix Special being ridden for the first time on South African soil. As a spectator watching the riders maneuver through the Grand Prix Special test, you get the sense of the skill, strength and harmony required by horse and rider and the reason why dressage is still considered an Olympic sport.
Andrea Harrison and Marinier added another title to their long list of achievements with a win in this class with a score of 60.46%. It has been a joy to watch Jenny Neill’s wonderful schoolmaster in his journey back to the competitive arena. The trot work was excellent with Marinier offering better piaffe than in the Grand Prix test, although still lacking in elevation and travelling too forward. An unfortunate break in the extended trot was costly, but otherwise the trot work was fluid with no major issues. The sequence changes were straight and correct although could have been more expressive and the pirouettes remain Marinier’s forte as he finds it easy to sit and elevate the forehand.
Candice Hobday and her Florestan I mare, Filina, came second with a score of 58.37%. Candice was riding with a brace on her hand due to an unlucky accident that necessitated a skin graft on one finger. Whilst Candice handled riding with a brace beautifully, the added hindrance of the brace may have affected the sensitive mare. Unfortunately, expensive changes in the rhythm in all of the extended trots except for the last extended trot would have affected the score. The piaffe, however, was the best piaffe of the day with the mare using herself well. Although the piaffe travelled a bit forward it shows plenty of promise for the future. Unfortunately the mare struggled with the passage but as the mare shows a natural ability for those movements we are sure that as she gains strength the passage will improve. The canter work remains the partnership’s highlight with solid and expressive sequence changes and a bold extended canter although there was a mistake with the flying change after the extended canter. The canter pirouettes were labored and there was an unfortunate rider error that unnecessarily affected the score.
Nicole Smith and Rubens were a very close third with 58.31%. They showed a polished test, which again demonstrated Nicole’s international experience and flair but there were a few costly mistakes in the canter pirouettes, piaffe and passage which prevented them from breaching the 60% barrier.
With the Grand Prix tests finished, the magnitude of what South Africa has achieved starts to sink in. A massive congratulations goes out to all the Grand Prix competitors who were brave enough to take on the challenge of competing in this prestigious competition. You have made all South African dressage riders proud. As we have seen with the introduction of each new level to South African dressage, the more we as competitors are exposed to the level, the better we become at it. We might be a long way from achieving the 70% and 80% scores being achieved on the international stage but the fact is we have taken the first step, which is often the most difficult step of all.
Article by DressageAfrica team
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