Spain's Hard Work Pays Off
By Mariano Santos
Spain has a long equestrian tradition and, over the last decade, high-performance dressage has developed spectacularly. The 2002 World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Spain was the beginning of a brilliant age for us. Team bronze and individual silver medals were more than was expected by most of the Spanish equestrian family. A momentary spark of good luck? Absolutely not! These results were followed by a team silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games, which confirmed Spain as a serious dressage country. This did not happen by chance. Spanish success in recent years is the result of well-coordinated hard work. A structured plan was carefully laid out in the early 1990s with the invaluable help of the Spanish Sport Council and also the Spanish Olympic Sports Association. This gave Spanish riders the opportunity to be trained by well-known coaches, such as David Hunt, Jurgen Koschel and Jean Bemelmans, who brought the Spanish squad to a spell of glory never known before.
After the 2004 success, Spain had to face the replacement of the old team horses, and today a totally new team is on the stage. Participation with a four-rider team at WEG in Kentucky is a main objective for the Spanish Equestrian Federation. Looking at the high-score performances from last year at the European Championships, being ranked in the top five is a realistic goal. Now let's take a look at who's who in Spanish dressage:
Jordi Domingo Coll (28) rides Prestige, a 1997 black Dutch Warmblood gelding by Ferro, owned by the rider. Trainer: Jean Bemelmans. Experience: Olympic Games 2008, European Championships 2007 and 2009; best score: 71.149 (CDI5* Cannes, 2009); best moves: passage and canter.
Beatriz Ferrer-Salat Serra di Migni (43) rides Faberg, a 1996 black Hanoverian gelding by Falkland, owned by S.L. Deliber. Trainer: Jean Bemelmans. Experience: Olympic Games 2008, 2004 (individual bronze medal & team silver medal), 2000 and 1996; WEG 2002 (individual silver medal & team bronze medal), 1998, 1994; European Championships in 2001, 2003 (individual bronze medal & team silver medal) and 2005; best score: 72.583 (CDI3* Sunshine Tour, 2008); best moves: extended canter, flying changes, pirouettes.
Juan Manuel Mu'oz Diaz (40) rides Fuego XII, a 1998 grey PRE stallion by Utrerano VII, owned by Miguel Angel de Cardenas. Trainer: Jean Bemelmans. Experience: Olympic Games 2008, European Championships 2009 and 2007; best score: 69.745 (European Championships 2009); best moves: piaffe, pirouettes.
Rafael Ortiz Alcala-Zamora (39) rides Gnidium, a 1995 grey PRE stallion by Perdiguero II, owned by Yeguada de Azores. Trainer: Rafael Soto. Experience: current Spanish dressage champion; best score: 66.292 (CDI3* Sunshine Tour, 2008); best moves: piaffe, pirouettes.
Claudio Castilla Ruiz (26) rides Jade de MV, a 1999 grey Lusitano stallion by Musico, owned by Manuel Vidrie. Trainer: Jean Bemelmans. Experience: European Championship 2009; best score: 66.170 percent; best move: passage.
Carmen Naesgaard Rodriguez-Passolas (22) rides Ciowa, her 1996 bay Hanoverian gelding by Cheenok. Experience: European Championships 2008 and 2007 and Young Rider World Cup Final 2008. Trainer: Isidro Maldonado; best score: 64.680 (CDI3* Sunshine Tour, 2009); best move: flying changes.
Juan Antonio Jimenez Cobo (50) rides Piconero IV, a 1999 grey PRE stallion by Lotero II, owned by Yeguada Jesus Ovelar. Trainer: Jean Bemelmans. Experience: Olympic Games 2004 (team silver medal) and 2000; WEG 2006, 2002 (team bronze medal); European Championships 2009, 2005 (team bronze medal), 2003 (team silver medal), 2001 and 1999; best score: 63.574 (CDI3* Vierzon, 2009); best moves: passage, pirouettes.
The final composition of the team competing in Lexington depends on a pre-selection at the CDI3* Sunshine Tour in March and participation in different shows in Europe combined with training stays at Bemelmans' in Krefeld, Germany. It is notable that at the moment over half the prospects represent home breeding--the famous Iberian horses. In charge of the final decision, the selection team consists of our National Trainer Jean Bemelmans, the National Dressage Department manager and Spanish chef d'?quipe Bobby Fernandez de Bobadilla and the Spanish Dressage Committee Chairman Rosa Fradera. Let's wait and see!
Mariano Santos Redondo is CEO of Alcor Segovia SA, Building Company. A successful dressage competitor, he became an FEI "I" dressage judge and has officiated at many international competitions including Young Horse classes and the FEI World Dressage Challenge program. He also is an FEI Dressage Chief Steward. Based in Seville, Spain, he breeds horses at his Yeguada El Tremedal.
Eastern Europe: Past and Present
By Natalia Rubashko
In the history of dressage in Eastern Europe--or, rather, in the former Soviet Union--there are many riders and horses we are proud of. The most outstanding is the black stallion Absent, probably the best known Akhal-Teke horse of our age. At the tender (for dressage horses) age of 8, he won the gold medal in individual dressage under Sergei Filatov at the 1960 Rome Olympics with an astounding score of 82.4 percent. Absent went on to a bronze individual medal (again with Filatov) at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. In 1968, under Ivan Kalita, he was a member of the Soviet Olympic gold medal dressage team in Mexico. Absent was named "Horse of the World" by the Association of Equestrian Journalists. He competed until he was 17 and retired to stud at Lugovskoi State Stud Farm, where he died at the age of 23. A monument to him stands at the farm today.
In any kind of sport, there are periods when public interest goes down or flares up. This probably happens because certain sportsmen personify the ideal as representatives of a sport. About 40 years ago, Elena Petushkova was one such dressage rider. Because of her, dressage became more understandable to people in the USSR. She won the Olympic dressage gold medal, was one of the greatest exponents of the equestrian art of dressage and was the first woman ever to become the World Champion.
Petushkova claimed international fame aboard the Russian Trakehner stallion Pepel (by Pilgrim). They won team silver at the 1968 Olympic Games and were World and European champions in 1971. At the 1972 Olympic Games, they won team gold and individual silver. They claimed bronze at the 1975 European Championships. Their partnership ended in 1977, but they were a successful, solid combination for 13 years. Following her sporting career, Petushkova devoted much of her time to promoting and developing dressage in the USSR and later in Russia. Her contributions to the sport, both internationally and in Eastern Europe, are immeasurable.
After the disintegration of the USSR in 1991, the Soviet republics suddenly became independent countries. At that time, the young states faced serious economic problems and that affected the development of equestrian sport, particularly dressage. They had to forget about international dressage competitions for a long time as equestrian sport suddenly passed from state-supported to self-sufficient.
Much time was lost, but national equestrian federations eventually formed. Today, Eastern European dressage riders dream of returning to their former glory days as elite equestrians. They try to participate in many international dressage competitions, including the WEG. It's a good chance to gain experience in competing side-by-side with top riders. Belarus, Russia and Ukraine plan to send only individuals to the WEG in Kentucky. Here are the riders who would like to make the trip:
Russian Grand Prix dressage rider Alexandra Korelova is 21st on the FEI Dressage Ranking List. She rides Balagur (by Raskat), a 20-year-old Orlov Trotter stallion. This breed is relatively unheard of among the European warmbloods that dominate the sport. It is a rare situation when one horse can take an entire breed into modernity and bring centuries of breeding tradition back into the spotlight.
The grey Balagur began his long and eventful career as a circus horse. He was then bought by the mounted police, where he remained until age 10. He was then noticed at a parade by none other than Elena Petushkova. Her knowledgeable eye detected his potential for piaffe and passage, and she was right.
In 2009, in Neumnster, Alexandra and Balagur scored a perfect 10 for piaffe. This performance earned them second place in the Grand Prix Freestyle with 78.000 percent. At the 2008 Olympic Games, they were fifth in the Grand Prix Special and sixth in the Freestyle. At the moment, Alexandra is not sure they can participate together at the WEG in Kentucky, but she hopes so.
The best Belarusian rider is Iryna Lis. She is 87th on the FEI Dressage Ranking List and trains with Kyra Kyrklund. Iryna has the 12-year-old bay Latvian gelding Redford, owned by the Republic Olympic Equestrian & Breeding Centre. (Belarus is the only country in Eastern Europe that supports equestrian sport.) Iryna started to compete with Redford in Grand Prix in 2007, and their debut at international competition was at the 2008 Olympic Games. At the European Championships in 2009, the gelding (by Homers) earned 30th place in Grand Prix and 38th place overall. Their best result for 2009 was a 68.550 percent in Vejer de la Frontera, Spain.
Olga Klimko was a member of the USSR dressage team at the 1988 Olympic Games, and she competed at the 1992 Olympic Games--the last time Eastern-European dressage riders competed together as one team. Now Olga represents Ukraine, but most of the time she lives and trains in Germany. She rides the 17-year-old bay Bavarian gelding Highlight 36. They take part in one of Germany's most interesting national Grand Prix tournaments, staged in Heroldsberg during the summer. In 2008, they were fourth in the Grand Prix Freestyle with 70.100 percent. At the 2009 European Championships, they were 40th in Grand Prix, and Olga is 94th on the FEI Dressage Ranking List.
Natalia Rubashko is an FEI "C" judge for dressage and eventing. A dressage competitor at the national level, she is a member of the Equestrian Federation of Belarus, where she has been a member of the organizing committees of International Events (dressage, jumping, eventing) since 2000.
Denmark, Determined and Focused
By Leif T'rnblad
Denmark is a small country with only 5.8 million inhabitants, but the equestrian scene is relatively large. Our equestrian federation has 80,000 members and more than 10,000 licensed riders who compete above the local riding club level. A good and active breeding scene supports this and Denmark's long tradition in dressage.
The country has been in the forefront of European and world dressage since Lis Hartel won Olympic silver medals in 1952 and 1956. Another Danish dressage star is Anne Grethe Jensen T'rnblad, who won an Olympic individual silver medal on Marzog in 1984 and again at the 1986 World Championships and World Cup Final. At the 2006 WEG, Andreas Helgstrand stunned the equestrian world on Blue Hors Matine. The pair won a silver medal in the Grand Prix Special and a bronze medal in the Grand Prix Freestyle. At the 2008 Olympic Games, the Danish team--Nathalie zu Sain Witgenstein, Helgstrand and Anne van Olst--won the bronze medal. These three riders also represented Denmark at the European Championships last year, although Helgstrand now rides another horse. In addition to these top three is Sune Hansen, the First Rider at the large Blue Hors Stud.
The Danish team has been trained for many years by Rudolf Zeilinger, who bases his riding style on the famous Willi Schultheis school. Here are the riders who may be at WEG:
Nathalie zu Sain Wittgenstein--daughter of the Danish Queen's sister, Benedikte, and the German Prince Richard--lives in Germany with her parents at Schloss Berleburg. She is engaged to Alexander Johannsmann, son of a former German show jumping team member. Nathalie won the Danish championships on her home-bred Rigoletto but, at the Olympic Games and European Championships, she rode another home-bred horse, Digby. Nathalie is known for her classical way of riding and has been trained by Kyra Kyrklund and Klaus Balkenhol. Kyra's husband, Richard White, is now training her.
Andreas Helgstrand, who for many years worked as rider at Blue Hors Stud, has now embarked on a new career as an independent stud owner and horse trainer/rider in the northern part of Denmark. He got his world reputation on Blue Hors Matine, but he has also ridden Blue Hors Casmir and Don Schufro. Last year, Andreas won the unofficial World Championships for 5-year-old horses on H?nerups Driver. Andreas bought Carabas in Germany two years ago and competed him at the European Championships last year.
Anne van Olst lives in Holland with her husband, who owns and runs one of the largest studs there. She has represented Denmark at many championships and Olympic Games since 1988, but she has only been in the latter final once and that was at the Olympic Games in 1992 with the Dutch horse Chevalier. She is, however, always among the top four in Denmark.
Sune Hansen is the newest team member. He is employed at the Blue Hors Stud and is now riding Blue Hors Casmir. Sune is a talented young rider, but he lacks top-level competition experience. However, he has many good horses to ride at the Blue Hors Stud. Among those is Romanov, a horse that could be among the top three if Sune can manage the horse's temperament. Recently engaged to Emily Ward, an FEI dressage rider from Antigua, Sune is trained by Rune Willum and Rudolf Zeilinger.
The Danish dressage team has high hopes for the WEG in Kentucky. It has a team with young riders and promising horses. Denmark will also send a team to the WEG para-equestrian competition.
Leif T'rnblad is a management consultant and an FEI "O" judge. He has officiated at many international shows, including the 2008 Olympic Games and the 2010 World Cup. As a rider, he was former team captain for the Danish dressage team, and he won a team silver medal at the European Championships. He and his wife, Anne Grethe, train dressage horses in Copenhagen, Denmark (http://www.tornblad.dk/uk/home.html).
This article is reprinted from the May 2010 issue of Dressage Today magazine.