Goodbye to Two Great Champions..?

12 Mar





Two individual Olympic gold medals. Umpteen World Cup Finals. World Championships. European Championships.

It has been the stuff of drama, of dedication, of passion, of ambition, of athleticism,of dreams.


Anky van Grunsven is one of the few equestrians who is known everywhere by just the one name, “Anky”. It is a brand of clothing, of tack, an equestrian center,a definition of class and grace under pressure.

First,there was Prisco. Then the incomparable, Bonfire.

For a long time now, there has been Salinero. The diva, the naughty boy, the explosive and brilliant performer. Together, he and Anky have brought crowds to their feet, most recently at the London Olympics, where this 18-years-young competitor danced through the freestyle and placed  individual 6th  after helping the Dutch team–once again–achieve an Olympic  medal.

Salli a youngster again (   Salinero, 18 years young

This weekend, Indoor Brabant will feature a retirement ceremony for Salinero. As is fitting, Anky’s long-time rival and equally great horseman, German Champion Isabell Werth, will be part of the night’s activities, much as she and Anky have been rivals for the top spot of the podium over several Olympics.

But will this be Anky’s retirement from competition as well? She has been expanding her time and energy in coaching new combinations, as well as developing the equestrian center. Not to mention raising her two children with long-time partner and husband, Sjef Janssen (also one of the few figures in equestrian sport known worldwide by the one name.)

There can be no dance without the partner, so we will all have to wait and see if Salinero’s successor, the stallion Upido, is over health problems and can be aimed for Rio. Because even Anky says there are no younger dance partners after Upido.

So perhaps for the last time: Bedankt, Anky! For taking the sport to new heights, for giving us so much pleasure, for allowing us the chance to enjoy and feel what it is to be a champion.


Sadly it is also the nature of  current horse sport that Isabell Werth will have to see if her own German Federation will sacrifice her on the bonfire of prejudice and bias and politics that is German dressage. Isabel;l will ride and compete an Indoor Brabant and I can only hope that common sense and some semblance of fair play infuses the FN (German Federation) in time to make sure that this is not the last international competition for the great Isabell.

Isabell’s horse, El Santo, competed at a German national dressage show last year ,was drug-tested and was found positive for cimetidine (Zantac), a stomach medicine for humans and horses. Under the German drugs/medication regulations, this is a prohibited substance (but allowed by FEI).

Isabell has pointed out that she KNEW she would be drug-tested so obviously did not consciously give El Santo anything, and that El Santo lives next door to her great old champion, Warum Nicht, who does indeed live on cimetidine during a lengthy lay-up, and that somehow El Santo’s feed/water must have become contaminated.

Here and now–I believe Isabell. I hope it is NOT the last time to say: Danke, Isabell, for all the great moments and great horsemanship.





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