Archive | June, 2013

Everyone from Europe–put your hand up!

24 Jun

judgepanel Two



Judge panel for Rotterdam CDIO 2013:

                      Plewa  GER

                      Hoevanaars   AUS

                      Gardner   GBR

                      Tornblad DEN

                       Verbeek  NED

                       Van Daele  BEL

Judge panel for Aachen CDIO  2013:

                      Plewa  GER

                      Hoevanaars  AUS

                       Gardner   GBR

                       Tornblad   DEN

                        Verbeek  NED

                        Judet   FRA

                        Lang  AUT

Judge panel  European Dressage Championships  2013

                       Plewa   GER

                        Hoevanaars  AUS

                         Gardner   GBR

                         Tornblad   DEN

                         Verbeek  NED

                         Judet  FRA

                         Svalling  SWE

                         Alonso  MEX  (reserve)

  Am sincerely hoping that no judge in interviews says they are tired of the same-old same-old when it comes to the kurs, as they will undoubtedly be watching the same floor plans and hearing the same music at least 3 times for many of the competitors.     


      5* judges from the Americas:







                               Steiner—note: this is Axel’s last year judging 5*.

Yes, there is a team from the U.S. at Aachen, but certainly none at Rotterdam and obviously none at the Europeans.

This was  an opportunity for clearly unbiased judging, and no one  (FEI, talking to you) took the opportunity to ask for at least one foreign judge to come from the Americas or anywhere outside Europe .  Maribel Alonso (Mexico)  is RESERVE judge.

Yayy globalization.


Verden, here we come!

17 Jun

Vitalis Charlotte(Anita Nardine)


July 25th, 2013, Charlotte Jorst and Vitalis  (Vivaldi x D-Day)  will start their Big Adventure, when they leave for World Young Horse Dressage Championships in  Verden.

Vitalis received a 92 from the judges in his FEI 6 year old test at Flintridge, and goes to Europe with high hopes that the U.S. might actually be on the podium when all the dust at  Verden has settled.

Vitalis comes to this ambition as though born and bred for it—which he was. His dam was  a mare champion in Holland. His sire, Vivaldi, is one of the most popular dressage sires in the world and both sides have produced very successful Grand Prix horses. Vitalis was reserve champion in Germany before moving back to Holland, where he was shown for more honors by Dutch star rider Hans-Peter Minderhoud (who also trains/competes the dad, Vivaldi, at Grand Prix).

It all sounds like an easy decision to make—go to Europe, find a horse you click with, bring it home and let the ribbons begin. But everyone in the horse world knows it is never that easy and the road is long, much of it  treacherous and frustrating.

Charlotte Jorst and her family live on a ranch  in Nevada, outside the high-beam focus of Southern California’s ‘center of dressage’ glare. She has loved horses, ridden horses, much of her life. In her original home, Denmark, she rode ponies until age 18, and then put away the dreams for a while in order to have a family and work in the business world alongside her husband, as part of  the  design company they created, Skagen, famous for its watches  jewelry, and other personal items. As their children grew up, and the company developed a life of its own,  Charlotte was again able to indulge her passion for horses, and in particular, dressage.


 In 2012, the Jorsts sold their company to Fossil.

“It is important to have big dreams,” says Jorst. “If anyone had told me my husband and I would have made such a successful business and then sell it for so  much money, I might have just shrugged. But we worked hard and now is the time to try for another dream. We have a family, the children are old enough now—so I want to try for Young Horse, I want to aim for the Olympics.”  She says all this with a brilliant smile, her blend of happy optimism and ambition the fuel of a true top athlete.

Jorst had already bought an FEI schoolmaster – “I wanted to see for myself what the CDI atmosphere was about.”  She found an amateur-friendly schoolmaster, spent some time figuring out what kind of horse was successful, what kind of preparation was necessary, what trainer she could best work with. For the past 6 years or so, she has trained with Volker Bromann, and their mutual respect has continued to grow.  Holder of the German Reitlehrer FN, Brommann believes in strong foundations, cross-training and  “always emphasis on riders becoming better riders”   in order to have better partnership with the horses.

All Jorst’s horses at home live out much of the day in big paddocks—including Vitalis. “I do not have an indoor, they go in snow, ice—all kinds of weather and I think that is very healthy for them,” she says. If she cannot be home, she makes sure her horses get out: they are walked under saddle for an hour or so each day, in order to keep them happy without undue stress. She adds, “When I’m home I ride and decide how much how little, day by day. There’s no magic bullet.  it is just the every day–you try to motivate them to want to do the work, and you condition them so they can do the work.”

If Verden does not take too much out of Vitalis, the plan is to return to the U.S. and go to the National Championships at Lamplight with both Vitalis and her Developing PSG partner, Adventure (Special D-Ferro). She bought Adventure on the same trip to Europe as Vitalis, and knew they clicked the second she sat down on him.

Asked if she any plans for new horses, she laughs. “No new horses until these retire or I wear out– who knows!”

FEI: It is run like Wal-Mart. Why can’t it run like Costco?

10 Jun



The Walton family who own Wal-Mart are one of the richest families in the world and the GNP of Wal-Mart—built on the backs of starving employees worldwide—is greater than many countries in the industrialized world. Greater than 157 countries, at last comparison

No unions, no dissent, no camaraderie.

Sound familiar?


Meanwhile Costco embraces its employees, pays one of the highest wages in its sector, and is slowly but surely reaching  immense power and status .taking over from Wal-Mart.

What will it take for the horse world to get off its collective ass of inertia and stand up for itself?

No matter how petty, how venal, how stupid, how corrupt, how two-faced, how hypocritical…the horse world raises the alarm, discusses it to death and then sits on its hands and does…nothing.

At World Cup Final a few years ago, McLain Ward and his great partner Sapphire were poised to win. And then the FEI trotted out hypersensitivity. Vets poked at Sapphire’s cannons with pencils, recorded the number of ‘flinches’ and…well, everyone who cares knows the story.  Link to the FEI admitting the elimination was ‘incorrect’:

It was a chance—much discussed—for the riders and their sponsors to stand up and say, Enough. Enough with the ridiculous ,improbable, silly defined allegations of guilt with no presumed innocence or appeal.


But of course, they did not. Everyone slunk off and eventually, a winner was declared, minus the participation of Ward and Sapphire. Not even Ward’s own Federation stood up.

Now we have Nations Cup in St.Gallen ,and this time, the riders and teams were united in their concerns for welfare of the horse—the fences were deemed unsafe to jump, given the conditions.

Everyone talked about refusing to compete.

Eventually, only the German team stood up and said No.

Of course, the FEI retaliation was well known—DQ from the Finals this year and relegation next year to a lesser series. (It remains to be seen what the final decision will be.)

Like it or not, Germany remains one of the essential powerhouse nations in horse sport. They helped create the EEF, (European Equestrian Federation) the ONLY check and balance to the immense power of the FEI.


So  now might be the time for federations to stand up and just say No and take back their sport and at least a little of their dignity. The Americas can have an American Equine Federation for North Central and South America; Asia can certainly band together in an Asian Federation, etc.

Instead of being mere puppet figureheads and designated FEI “regions” , they can wield some actual say in their own organization.  Why this does not happen should be a concern for anyone who values horse welfare.


Next HORSESPORTNEWS: Interview with Charlotte Jorst, who with  equine partner  Vitalis (Vivaldi x D-Day) and the rest of  her team will go to World Young Horse Championships in Verden later this summer and try to reproduce their success in the Six Year Old Tests–or maybe even reach higher peaks.

‘Tis a puzzlement…

2 Jun


Hats off to  top trainers!

Carl Hester and Dances With Wolves (Golly) are 4 for 4 in GP competition, with Golly getting almost 76 in the GPS today! This super-sized partner is proving his heart is as big as the rest of him. Here’s hoping Olympic gold will be followed by more.


Also 4 for 4 is Edward Gal and the black Dutch stallion Voice, including an 81+ in the freestyle last night. Of course, Edward trained the 2nd place horse, Rubin Cortes for nearly 2 years before handing him over late last November to current rider Christoph Koschel. Not to mention 3rd place Romanov, who has only been together with Hans-Peter Minderhoud for weeks rather than months. Ed regained this lovely stallion’s trust and focus, and the future looking brighter for the Dutch.



This week was the annual Dressage Issue of  a major U.S. horse magazine, Chronicle of the Horse.


 COTH ,as it is known  has a wonderful spotlight piece on Hilda Gurney, truly the heart and soul of American dressage.  There can be very few dressage enthusiasts in the U.S. (and beyond) who do not have a favorite ‘Hilda story’, as she has touched the lives of so many in the sport, not to mention the sport itself. I’ve told a couple on this blog—including going with Hilda to the special-needs school where she taught, bringing with us the Olympic medal partner, Keen, as well as her mom’s FEI horse, Pasha, so that she could perform piaffe, passage and a couple of tempis on the postage-stamp lawn that the school carved out of the cement in the play area. We used Pasha for the pony rides because Keen was too tall for us to really hold the kids on in the saddle (just imagine taking ANY horse, let alone an Olympic medal horse, to a school ground these days, let alone giving ‘pony rides!’ )

Hilda’s influence ranges over the history of dressage, and maybe even more importantly, the need to love the horses, the partners, and to keep that love as the foundation for the sport.

HildaLeonidasHilda on home-bred Leonidas

On the other hand…COTH also has an extensive feature on the owners in top sport—the unbelievably important role they play; how they feel about the downs as well as the ups; how and why they became sponsors and owners, as well as interesting sidebars. Applause for all the owners mentioned,they are highly deserving  of the attention,  but could not help noticing the glaring omission: not one acknowledgement, not one comment, not one mention of the owners who bought Olympic partner Rafalca for Jan Ebeling, and have recently purchased an exciting new partner for Jan, the 10 year old stallion , Rassolini,  winner of Germany’s most prestigious small tour event, Nürnberger Burgpokal. (This competition has provided a huge number of Germany’s Olympic and championship team horses).


The ‘Three Amigos’ ( a name they gave themselves) — Ann Romney, Beth Meyer and Jan’s wife, Amy– have supported American dressage as well as their rider for many years, and all too well know the highs and lows of horse sport.

Sure, there was a media storm in 2012 thanks to  the presidential campaign of Ann Romney’s husband Mitt Romney, but no one—then or now—chose to really ask any of the three owners about dressage or top sport. This magazine  issue would have been the perfect opportunity.

‘Tis a puzzlement.’


St Gallen, Switzerland held a qualifier for the FEI Nations Cup showjumping series, and the competition was eventually cancelled, at a great loss to organisers, sponsors and infrastructure. Estimates of the loss are placed as high as one million Euros.

 But what is such a loss compared to the loss of ONE possible Championship-level equine?


The entire German team and its coach, Otto Becker, decided the rain made the ground completely unsafe, and refused to  compete in the second part of FEI sponsored Nations Cup class, forfeiting the right to appear in the Finals.

The Dutch team and its coach, Rob Ehrens, were right behind the Germans in making  the same decision—but thanks to FEI, um, suggestion, decided not to risk disqualification and relegation (demotion to a lesser league). So they jumped on—to miserable results which gave them 7th of 8th place and no real points anyway. Fortunately (!) ,by the next morning, even the FEI admitted the grounds were unsafe for horse welfare and thus the entire show came to a close.

As the FEI Web of Obfuscation shrouds show jumping in at least as much mystery and non-comprehension as any other horse sport, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Will the German show jumping team really not be represented in Nations Cup at Rotterdam, let alone Aachen?


Maybe it’s better for dressage to live in a smaller country (hahahah). In any case, next week , Global Champions Tour , the mega-gala-showjumping circuit that is the brainchild of Jan Tops, is holding its next event at  The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, London.  Saturday evening’s entertainment will feature a dressage gala, highlighted by  a pas des deux performed by Olympic medalists Charlotte Dujardin and  Laura Tomlinson . Not to mention freestyles AND a quadrille.

It should be interesting to see how ticket sales go, as this has something of a World Cup feel to it.

Of course, part of the draw will be the equine partners—will Valegro and Mistral Hojris strut their stuff in the pas de deux?  Or will Charlotte appear on Uthopia?
Anxiously awaiting.