The beautifully decorated “Festenhallen” at Frankfurt with stars on the ceiling.

I’ve taken my Christmas holidays early and headed south to Frankfurt, Germany for the 40th annual Festhallen Reittunrnier Frankfurt, an indoor competition in the city. The “Festhallen” is a 100 year old domed hall, part of the giant convention center, beautifully decorated for an important competition.

Starting at 7:00 Thursday morning, the first class offered was part of the “Nürnberger Burg-Pokal” which is a championships for young Prix St George horses, aged 7-9; throughout the year there are qualifiers where the winner is invited to Frankfurt for the final, plus one or two wild cards are given.

Thursday was the warm up class for Saturday’s final. I spent more time in the warm up than the competition ring and didn’t take any notes, but the winner, Charlott-Maria Schürmann, is a Young Rider who went in there and spanked all those older professionals. She and her 9 year old stallion Burlington 14 clearly won by over 2% points. Included in the top five were former competitors at the Young Horse World Championships, Damon Jerome (rider Uta Gräf) and Dresden Mann (with Ingrid Klimke). Complete results can be seen HERE

The rest of the day was full of classes that couldn’t compete with the shopping area, so I bailed and went and spent too much money on some great things, then on to the Frankfurt Christmas Market for more shopping and mulled wine!

Friday morning’s first class was a national Grand Prix with a very international group of 15 riders. In order of go, here are my impressions:

Dennis Callin & D’accord 58 (USA) I’ve heard Dennis’ name a bit over here but never seen him ride. On Thursday, not knowing who I was watching at the time, I admired him schooling D’accord with harmony and softness. So I was sad for him when he had too many mistakes, mostly in the canter, to produce any good results. 60.128%/14th place

Dennis Callin and D’accord

Uta Gräf & Le Noir 35 (GER) I love Uta; she always has a smile and laugh ready, she is a lovely rider, and has the craziest hair in German dressage (sorry, no close up of that). Le Noir is super relaxed, charming, and correct in his training. This stallion maybe doesn’t have huge gaits but he’s reliable and put in a nice test. 68.298%/6th place

Uta cantering in for her test, while the two ladies in front of me get their dogs settled.

Madeleine Witte-Vrees & Blom’s Wynton (NED) Wynton was the youngest horse in the class, at just nine years old. This gorgeous stallion was Champion at the KWPN licensing of 2007, went on to be successful in the young horse classes, and is now showing he’s got all the right parts to be a top Grand Prix horse. If I had to stop drooling over this horse and be critical, he rushed a little in the extended trot and his tempo in the canter was a bit quick. That’s being picky because this young guy did everything, had a lot of highlights and I will expect to see him and Madeleine doing impressive things in the next years. 69.745%/5th place

My crappy camera can not do justice to this sexy stallion!

Rainer Schwiebert & Helenenhof’s Carabas (GER) Carabas has been a successful Grand Prix horse for a while, first winning the 2008 German championships for young Grand Prix horses (then called Medien Cup), then being sold to Denmark, and now back in Germany. He’s a handsome horse who showed a pretty normal trot, good walk, and lovely canter which brought his mark up significantly today. He looks very relaxed in the ring, soft in the passage & piaffe. His rider looks awkward in the saddle but gets the job done and keeps the horse happy in his work. 65.532%/10th place

Carabas

Hayley Beresford & Jaybee Alabaster (AUS) Not an especially brilliant moving horse but does all the work nicely. He had trouble in the first transition to piaffe, where he then showed good steps but it’s a bit unreliable. There was a mistake in the canter half-pass, but he showed lovely pirouettes. Nice riding from Hayley. 66.128%/8th place

Hubertus Schmidt & Dark Diamond (GER) The horse showed some unbalance in the trot half pass right but otherwise the trot was quite nice. The piaffe and passage was, I hate to say it, terrible today. It just looked too uncertain and full of mistakes. The canter was rushed, could be more uphill, and the mouth was often open and the horse was playing with his tongue. Hubertus Schmidt is such a lovely rider that I’ll chalk this disappointing ride to an “off day”. 61.149%/13th place

Patrick van der Meer & Uzzo (NED) Uzzo won the five year old World Championships for Dressage Horses in 2006, and this year was the individual rider for Netherlands at the Olympic Games. Watching this pretty, elegant horse trot around I could only think holy crap! Just stunning in the work. The first passage & piaffe wasn’t amazing but it improved throughout the test. Walk & canter were good. Only in the last piaffe at centerline Uzzo got a bit stressed but they maintained their cool. Patrick looks like a nice rider, keeping a soft curb rein and Uzzo quiet in the mouth. So nice! 70.213%/4th place

Uzzo & Patrick van der Meer. Even my crappy camera can see how good they look!

Jessica Werndl & Unee (GER) The trot work was good, correct and powerful. The walk was clear but maybe a little rushed, canter all good. Nice pair, nice test. 68,000%/7th place

Christoph Koschel & Diamond Boy (GER) This was the biggest disappointment of the morning. Diamond Boy decided that cantering was better than trotting and continued to break into the wrong gait – first out of the halt, then the second passage & piaffe tour was ALL canter. The trot in between was good, the walk fine, the actual canter was gorgeous, and when he did passage and piaffe it was lovely. However the mistakes were too big and expensive. They are a new pair though and I expect we’ll see big things from them as they get more experience together. 59.277%/15th place

Christoph Koschel & Diamond Boy

Emma Kanerva & Donnelly 3 (FIN) Donnelly used to be ridden by Hubertus Schmidt, Emma’s trainer. She is doing a lovely job with him. It was a lovely, flowing test except for the big mistake of the horse breaking to canter in the left trot half-pass and never actually showing half-pass in the trot. The judges were generous giving her 2’s and 4’s, but it’s a double mark/co-efficient movement so it really brought the score down. Bad luck in that today. 62.894%/12th place

Donnelly & Emma Kanerva

Nadine Capellmann & Girasol 7 (GER) This mare is STUNNING, and today’s test was the most relaxed and harmonious I’ve seen from the pair. It started with a wiggly halt but showed a gorgeous trot tour with super extensions and the piaffe and passage were beautiful. The collected walk was a little sticky and the canter a little tense with a small mistake in the zig-zag. However the last centerline of passage and piaffe was awesome 71.064%/2nd place TIE

Nadine & Girasol

Girasol is such a talented mare!

Dorothee Schneider & Forward Looking (GER) Dorothee was part of the silver medal Olympic team on a different horse, and she is a lovely rider with anything I’ve seen her on. Forward Looking is a big, strong, super elastic mare with lots of swing in the trot. There was some loss of rhythm in the half-pass right, the extended walk was a little rushed. The canter was good and clean but the mare could carry herself a little more uphill, which was evident in the one’s. A really nice partnership which I believe will get bigger scores as they go. 71.064%/2nd place TIE

Forward Looking with Dorothee Schneider

Aat van Essen & Mac Rider Premier (NED) this little chestnut has a short, thick neck which distracts from the whole picture, never mind the rider sitting in a bit of a weird position. To me his highlights were the extended trot (his neck got longer!) and his HUGE flying changes that looked like the most fun to ride. However he looked tight throughout, didn’t show much lengthening at all in the extended walk or much bend in the half-passes. 64.851%/11th place

Fabienne Lütkemeier & D’Agostino 5 (GER) This is a girl who it’s easy to be jealous of. At 20 years old she placed 2nd in the 2009 Nürnberger Burg-Pokal final with D’Agostino, whooping a lot of grown up professional butt. The next year she and her horse won triple gold at the 2010 European Young Rider Championships and the Young Riders World Cup Final. This year they were the reserve combination for London. She’s 23. I might be a little envious of her successes… So it should be no surprised that she threw down a very expressive, bold, professionally ridden test. Some mistakes but really good. 71.617%/1st place

Fabienne Lütkemeier & D’Agostino

**It’s important for me to say that there was an EXPLOSION OF CHILDREN before and during Fabienne’s test, as literally tour buses of Frankfurt school children came into the stadium. They tried to be good and quiet, but they are children moving around, trying to find seats with their pals – there’s no way for them to be silent. Fabienne rode with total focus and kept her horse with her the whole time. Very impressive.

Look! Children! At a dressage competition?! Just ignore them Pia!

Pia Fortmüller & Orion 195 (CAN) From what I know, Orion can be a bit of a spooky, looky horse, so for him to keep it all together and focused on Pia during previously mentioned Child Explosion meant that Pia was doing a lot of things right! Go girl! In today’s ride Orion could have more expression in the collected trot work, but his extensions and passage are fantastic. The piaffe got too quick in the rhythm and he had a mistake in the two’s. Otherwise good canter with super pirouettes and good walk. Pia really is a beautiful rider, the contact looked so nice during this nice, uphill ride. 65.660%/9th place

Pia & Orion, looking good for Canada!

RANDOM THOUGHTS & OBSERVATIONS:

Between the classes this is what they use to tidy up the arena. The kids were cheering and clapping louder for him than any rider!

The Child Explosion was nicely handled by the Frankfurt show team. The announcer welcomed the children: “so happy you can be here, and we just want you know that the horses are trying very hard to focus on and listen to their riders so if you could try to be still and quiet when they are performing that would be great, but you can clap and move around in between.” The kids were actually pretty good, and the riders were indifferent to it all really.

It’s fun to sit in an educated audience. Most mistakes in the test were met with a collective, sharp intake of breath from the knowledgeable folks around me.

Warmup arena at Frankfurt

After the class, before the awards ceremony, I saw the new German Dressage Coach, Monica Theodorescu talking with Nadine Capellmann, in what looked to be a review of her ride. Monica was making “uphill” motions with her arms & hands, I’m assuming breaking down some particular movement. Nadine looked serious. The immediate review & feedback was impressive.

Looks like a lot of riders are choosing D-rings as their bradoon (snaffle) bit now.

Stars hanging from the ceiling at Frankfurt Festenhallen.

Final scores for Grand Prix at Frankfurt