Japan, Italy, Eastern Europe/Poland and Hungary's WEG Dressage Prospects

Dressage Today hears from Japan, Italy, Eastern Europe/Poland and Hungry about how they're preparing for dressage at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

By Ayako Tanaka

Dressage is the most popular equestrian sport in Japan. Currently 5,124 riders are registered with the national federation as dressage-only competitors, 82 percent of the total. Ages range from young to senior. There were 45 officially sanctioned dressage competitions and 13 federation-hosted dressage competitions in 2009.

According to the Japan Equine Affairs Association, in 2005, there were 15,468 riding horses. Many are Thoroughbreds, and there are still five Japanese domestic breeds that are preserved. Interest seems to be increasing, especially among senior riders who have retired and want a social activity. Dressage became big news in Japan when 67-year-old

Hiroshi Hoketsu competed at the 2008 Olympic Games riding Whisper 115. At the time, the horse unfortunately was frightened by the Jumbotron, resulting in a lower-than-normal score. However, Hiroshi and his 13-year-old Hanoverian mare have qualified for WEG, where they will have another chance to perform at their best. Also qualifying for the Japanese dressage team (at press time): the 2009 national champion, Mieko Yagi, riding Taiso Dow Jones, a 16-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by Team Shin Taiso; Hiroyuki Kitahara on Why Me, a 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by the Japan Racing Association; and Yuko Kitai riding SIG Fairytail, a 13-year-old gelding owned by Miki House.

By Dr. Vincenzo Truppa

Italy organized the WEG in Rome in 1998, the European Championships in 2007 and other European championships for Juniors, Young Riders and ponies. These have, of course, increased the popularity of international dressage in Italy. Also, the freestyle has brought a lot of interest to dressage for Italian horse lovers. Italy has made significant investments in the past to develop top Young Riders and many are now seniors. Of course, top riders also need top horses to express their potential. Therefore, the aim is to present a good team. The team’s final composition will be a matter for the Italian Federation based on results, but I can see some promising combinations with riders Monica Iemi, Roberto Brenna, Piero Sangiorgi and Anna Campanella.

Recently, the Italian championship took place in Turin, and I am proud to say that my daughter, Valentina, won with the 12-year-old Danish horse, Chablis. She has also won three Young Rider World Cups and several European champion medals, two of which were gold. Valentina trains with me, but sometimes we ask top trainers to have a “check” on how our training proceeds. Our other Grand Prix horses are Corallo Nero del Castegno, a 10-year-old Italian-bred, and Eremo Del Castegno, an 8-year-old Italian-bred. Both horses came from Guerino Boglioni, owner of the Castegno breeding station. Every year, we choose one foal, which is then reserved for Valentina when he reaches the age of 3. We have other young horses in work and many of them are from Castegno breeding. Mr. Boglioni’s niece, Federica Scolari, is a successful Italian Young Rider and trains with us on her horse Beldonwelt del Castegno.

Since 2004, Valentina has been a Carabiniere–one of Italy’s top President’s Guards and police officers–and she, therefore, rides in uniform. She lives with her boyfriend and enjoys the cinema, good restaurants, sea holidays and mostly riding under her father’s care.

Eastern Europe/Poland & Hungary
By Wojtek Markowski

For dressage riders, participation at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) is something special because it is the most prestigious FEI championship besides the Olympic Games. The history of dressage in Central and Eastern Europe mirrors the changes in economy and politics carried out in this part of Europe from the end of the 19th century to the present. When you read the names of Olympic medalists in dressage between the two world wars, there are riders from Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria. Such results are understandable as those countries were part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and most of the competitors came from cavalry schools and Reitlehrer institutes supported by the monarchy.

After World War II, most of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, influenced by Soviet Union, became communist or socialist. Equestrian sport grew slowly during the time of Stalin’s dictatorship. Riding was not permitted as sport. After Stalin’s death, changes began that gave a green light to equestrian sports and, by the end of the 1950s, most countries were again developing their love of jumping and eventing. Dressage developed as a strong discipline in the Soviet Union and in other countries who had Soviet trainers. In Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania, high-level dressage commenced in the 1970s and developed slowly.

The end of the 1980s marked a turning point as economies changed to free-market principles. This dramatically influenced every sport because they lost their main sponsor–the state. But, nearly 20 years later, equestrian sport has grown and riders from these countries are more visible in competition. For Poland, the best recent result has been Ania Bienias on Celbant, who placed 22nd at the 1998 WEG. For Hungary, Gyula Dallos placed seventh in the Grand Prix Freestyle at the 1994 WEG riding the famous white stallion Aktion.

Most federations will not be sending riders to the WEG in Kentucky because out of 20 Eastern European countries–not counting Russia, Belarus and Ukraine (see DT’s April 2010 issue)–only nine riders made it onto the FEI’s Dressage Rider-Ranking List. At this time, only Poland and Hungary intend to send individuals.

Katarzyna Milczarek (34) is an engineer and one of most experienced Grand Prix riders in Poland. Her current world ranking is 33. She competes on the 10-year-old grey Holsteiner stallion Ekwador, a horse with a strong passage, changes of the leg, extended walk and trot. She trains and breeds horses with her partner, Jaroslaw Klima. Her trainers include Anna Piasecka, Wanda Wasowska, Inge Theodorescu, Victor Ugriumov and Ernst Hoyos. Katarzyna has ridden in three WEGs. At the 2009 European championships, she was 23rd. She placed 11th in her first World Cup Final.

The second Polish rider is Michal Rapcewicz (28) on Randon, a 13-year-old Polish-bred gelding. Michal is a law student who bought Randon from Anna Bienias and, in 2006, took part in the WEG placing 43rd. At the 2008 Olympic Games, he placed 16th in the Grand Prix. In 2009, he placed eighth at World Cup Final. Based in Holland, his trainers include Sjef Jansen and Mark Peter Spahn. Randon has a big heart. His strengths include piaffe, passage-piaffe transitions, half passes and changes.

We hope Katarzyna and Michal qualify for the Grand Prix Special and, with luck, the final. We hope the Polish societies in America will support our riders, which will be much appreciated.

From Hungary, two riders are expected to attend the WEG: Robert Acs with Weinzauber 2, a 13-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by Robert and his partner, Aniko Losonczy; and Zsofia Dallos on Druppy, a 13-year-old Czech Warmblood owned by the Dallos family. At the moment, Robert is 106th on FEI Rider-Ranking List and Zsofia is 143.

Robert’s interest in horses is a family tradition. His father, Jozsef Acs, was an event rider. Robert was the Hungarian Junior and Young Rider champion many times. He debuted at Grand Prix in 2002. This year, he received a wild card for the World Cup Final, but illness of his horse prevented him from attending. He has trained with Gyula Dallos, Jozsef Lovasz, Stefan Lange and Udo Lange. Weinzauber’s best movement is his passage-piaffe tour.

Zsofia is also from a family of horsemen. Her father competed the successful Hungarian stallion Aktion, and her mother, Beata, competed on international circuit as well. Zsofia has participated in European championships for Juniors and Young Riders then moved successfully to the adult international classes. She plans to participate at WEG, depending on her spring competition results.