The week (or two) that was….

1 Jul

Rotterdam and Aachen provided lovers of horse sport with so much drama, so much quality performance. It is almost difficult to realize that the bar will probably be raised again in August , at European Championships.

At Rotterdam, the German team won show jumping Nations Cup. At Aachen, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, the Dutch team produced a 2nd round of sheer brilliance and athleticism and determination and won  show jumping  Nations Cup. Dutch showjumper Gerco Schroeder and his partner London’s  performance (double clear) rivaled anything in the dressage arena for harmony and partnership.

Gerco  London

(London is by Nabab de Reve x Ta Belle van Sombeke s. Chin-Chin)


And what is there to say about Nick Skelton and Big Star (Quick Star x Jolanda s. Nimmerdor). This pair won the Rolex Grand Prix at Aachen, giving Skelton his FOURTH victory in this class, sharing this feat only with the legendary Piero d’Inzeo.

Skelton of course broke his neck in a fall  13 years ago, retired–and then promptly decided to start competing again, matching his international successes and perhaps even exceeding them. He is considered one of the ‘real-life’ role models for  Jilly Cooper’s tell-all, bare-all extravaganza, “Riders” and  gives no indication of slowing down.

Nick Big Star  Sportfot                                                               Nick and Big Star     (Sportfot)


Dressage at both Aachen and Rotterdam had all the drama and performance values of true championships.

Not so long ago, top dressage performances were based on obedience and clean tests, in the same way that gymnasts and figure skaters performed compulsory movements and  double or triple anything was thought to be unachievable.

Now, of course,  the sky is the limit for outrageous performance values, sheer athleticism, and risk. Thank you, freestyle originators (Joep Bartels, this means you. And of course Dr. Reiner Klimke, and Wolfgang Niggli) who decided to create World Cup despite all the nay-sayers and discouragement from those who said freestyle would be the death of the sport.

Once in a very great while, something so perfect for its time comes along–Rembrandt/Nicole Uphoff, Bonfire/Anky van Grunsven, and more recently Totilas/Edward Gal — that it seems the ceiling has been hit.

Valegro/Charlotte Dujardin have, of course, set new world records in both the Grand Prix and Grand Prix  Special, leaving  only the kur record, at least on paper. Their top performances have come closest to ticking all the boxes.

Everyone has made a run , but no one can match the complete artistry, the partnership, the serenity and power, the level of expression, the harmony and brilliance that was Ed-and-Toto. Not even Ed and his new partner, Frits , aka Undercover (Ferro x Mimosavrouwe   s.Donnerhall). Not even Charlotte/Valegro  (Negro x Maifleur s. Gershwin), and so far, not even Helen Langenhanenberg/Damon Hill (Donnerhall x Romanze s. Rubinstein).

These star combinations and others will meet in August at European Championships.

Far from worrying about one another, they have loads of rivals on the horizon: for sure,the unbelievably brilliant Akeem Foldager, now ridden by Danish team member Andreas Helgstrand.  Everyone knows that if the rider can find the key to the horse’s serenity, their performances could raise the bar.

For now, the bar is still here:

Ed and Toto the end at WEG






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