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The German – Dutch Dressage Rivalry…. Is Dressage A Big Melting Pot Now?

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Dutch Fans at the 2011 European Championships - photo by Ashley Holzer

There is a lot of talk on the net right now about the fact that Matthias Rath would like to train with Sjef Janssen.  Well, if you don’t know these two then I guess you would say “ok, sure, whatever.”

But let me remind you that Matthias (German guy) is riding Totilas who is Dutch bred, Dutch trained and grew up training Sjef’s way (Dutch guy, who happens to be the Dutch Olympic Team coach/evaluator/head honcho).   Sjef and Anky (van Grunsven, has won a few Olympic Medals) have been together for decades and he is credited with making Bonfire and Anky a top horse/rider combination.

Then they did it again with Salinero and Painted Black and Nelson and and and….. you get the idea.  Then there is Adelinde, Edward and Hans Peter whom all work with Sjef.  But not as well known, is that Sjef has also trained Canadian Ashley Holzer and I read somewhere that he helped Ashley find Pop Art (this I could be wrong about this, but they do work together, see article here).  He is also known to have helped bring Swede Patrik Kittel to the limelight with Scandic.  There are other top riders too, this is just a little taste.

But a Dutch guy training with a German rider?  Not sure I can even find an example.  There are examples of Dutch riders going German – like Ellen Bontje training with Conrad Schumaker as well as Coby van Baalen and daughter Marlis training with Johann Hinneman.  And these are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.   When I read that Matthias (who trains with his father) was wanting to work with Sjef, I swear I felt the earth move as all those old, staunch Germans rolled in their graves.

 These two countries have been on the competitive edge for decades!  Germany reined supreme (note the pun – I didn’t write “reigned”)  .. well, forever till the Dutch won team Gold until 2007 European Champs in Italy. They have quite different training techniques and different approaches to breeding, but with this collaberation does this mean that dressage is turning into a big melting pot?

Is this a good thing for the sport?  I am sure there will still be the classical-ists who think competitive dressage turns into circus, and there will be the Spanish Riding School in Austria as well as the Cadre Noir maintaining the high standards of their history.

What we can see is that this union between Matthias and Sjeff has sparked a wee bit of controversy between these competitive nations.  See article here……

So the Dutch Federation does not want Sjef training Matthias until after the London Olympics because he is German.  I can see a human rights issue here since Sjef is training Patrik who is Swedish and probably will help Ashley, who is Canadian, sometime between now and the Olympics and is likely to train Morgan, who is from Spain, the new owner of Painted Black.  Hmmm….. do you think the Dutch and the Germans are a wee bit competitive with each other?

Any thoughts?