The Blue Hors FEI European Dressage Championships are at stage in Herning Denmark starting Wednesday Augsut 21. Horses have found the way to their temporary stables and all riders, coaches and fans are looking forward to one of the most intriguing encounters in dressage history. Will it be the British again, however weakened by missing Mistral Hojris and Laura Tomlinson-Bechtolsheimer, tyo grab the gold medal? Will it be the eager German taking 'their most won' gold medal back? Or the Dutch, back in full shape with a recovered Jerich Parzival, the number one horse of the world, next to prominent Gal and his other teammates? Or possibly the Danes or Swedes by surprise, growing to the occasion at home turf or neighbouring turf for medal honours?
Unfortunately the latest news is that Patik's Kittel' Watermill Scandic is unable to compete. Patrik Kittel on his website today: "After a great training ride this morning, where Scandic felt totally normal, he came out of his box for a walk this afternoon and was not sound. Closer examination showed Scandic had swelling on the right front. The Swedish team vet has pinpointed a small bleeding, and will return home to check the injury out further without risking his future performances.
Toy Story is now on route to fill Scandics big shoes, and I hope I can do a good job for the Swedish Team."
Let's consider some history. It was at the last European Championships in Rotterdam (NED) in 2011 that the British bounced to prominence, claiming their very first team title and sending a warning shot across the bows of the other nations that had previously been so dominant.
Winners of the FEI European Dressage Championship in Rotterdam Great Britain, (L to R) Charlotte DUJARDIN riding Valegro, Carl HESTER riding Uthopia, Laura BECHTOLSHEIMER riding Mistral Hojris and Emile FAURIE riding Elmegardens Marquis Picture Peter Nixon/FEI
Germany had long towered like a Colossus over the sport, taking the team title on 21 occasions since the first event took place in Copenhagen (DEN) back in 1963 and undefeated in the battle for the team honours right up until 2005 before the Dutch managed to break their spell at La Mandria (ITA) in 2007. Thanks to sparkling partnerships like Anky Van Grunsven and Salinero, Edward Gal and Totilas and Adelinde Cornelissen with Jerich Parzival, the Dutch then became the ones to beat, but another new era began with the British breakthrough two years ago that has set the template for everything that has followed ever since.
The interest in the British team and Dujardin's individual triumph at the London 2012 Olympic Games has been little short of phenomenal. They must know that expectations are great, with Dujardin awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) following her double Olympic gold medal victory, and Hester earning an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire), for their contributions to last summer's glorious Olympic result. Living up to those expectations will be no mean feat.
Charlotte Dujardin Picture Julia Rau
However yet another new order has been establishing itself over the intervening months. Working quietly away in the background was Helen Langehanenberg, a member of the silver-medal-winning German team in 2011 who by a tiny mistake was just squeezed out of a medal placing in London last summer. Langehanenberg and the gorgeous stallion, Damon Hill, was determined to take the top step of the podium at the Reem Acra Final this spring and did so in convincing style. She comes to these FEI European Dressage Championships as a formidable threat, and with a powerful back-up team that includes Kristina Sprehe (Desperados FRH), Isabell Werth (Don Johnson FRH) and the youngest talent Fabienne Lütkemeier (d'Agostino) putting Germany in a very strong position indeed.
Helen Langehanenberg Picture Julia Rau
Meanwhile the Dutch have been regrouping, despite a health scare for Cornelissen's Parzival who had to be treated for arrythmia last month. The big chestnut gelding missed the Dutch National Championships as a result, but he has recovered so well that he has been selected to join Glock's Undercover with Edward Gal on board, Glock's Romanov ridden by Hans Peter Minderhoud, and Kingsley Siro with Danielle Heijkoop in the saddle for the forthcoming Championships.
Edward Gal and Glock's Undercover Picture Julia Rau
There was a real buzz about Gal and Undercover during the Dutch Championships, and with Minderhoud in flying form and number one Cornelissen and Parzival back in business, it seems there is a fascinating three-way contest for the team title in prospect, while it is also very open for the individual medals. Cornelissen of course will be on an additional personal mission in this context, as she will be hoping to top the Grand Prix Special for the third consecutive time and perhaps also make it a double of Freestyle titles.
A kiss for Parzival Picture Julia Rau
Sweden's Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven and Don Auriello will also be ones to watch, their recent results suggesting they will challenge strongly. They will be joined by team-mates Minna Telde with Santana, Patrik Kittel with reserve horse Toy Story and Malin Hamilton with Fleetwood. The host nation of Denmark will be competitive with Andreas Helgstrand (Akeem Foldager), Anna Kasprzak (Donnperignon), Lone Bang Larsen (Fitou L) and the always-reliable Nathalie zu Sayn Wittgenstein (Digby) flying the home flag.
Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven and Don Auriello Picture Peter Zachrisson/FEI
A total of 14 countries have entered teams - Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland. And six nations will be represented by individual riders - Armenia, Ireland, Poland, Russia, Spain and Ukraine.
The action will begin on Wednesday 21 August with the first part of the Team Competition and the team medals will be decided the following day. The individual Grand Prix Special will take place on Friday 23 August and, following a rest day on Saturday, the Freestyle will bring the entire ECCO FEI European Championships 2013 to a close.
President Leif Tornblad
The task ahead of the Ground Jury will not be a simple one. Led by President Leif Tornblad (DEN), judges Susan Hoevenaars (AUS), Dietrich Plewa (GER), Gustav Svalling (SWE), Isabelle Judet (FRA), Francis Verbeek (NED) and Andrew Gardner (GBR) must choose their champions from a wide-ranging wealth of talent this discipline probably has never witnessed before. Testament to the level of excellence now almost commonplace in this ever-changing sport, they too will be tested to the limit before the new champions are crowned! We wish all competitors, trainers, grooms and judges the best of luck!
Facts and Figures:
The FEI European Dressage Championships 2013 will take place at Herning in Denmark from 20 to 25 August.
Competitors from 20 nations will participate.
14 countries have entered teams: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland.
6 nations will be represented by individual riders: Armenia, Ireland, Russia, Spain, Poland and Ukraine.
A total of 69 horse-and-rider combinations are listed in the definite entries (17 July 2013).
This is the 26th edition of the FEI Dressage Championships and the fifth time for the event to take place in Denmark.
The Danish capital city of Copenhagen hosted the first two Championships in 1963 and 1965.
Germany has won the FEI European Dressage Team title on 21 occasions, undefeated between 1965 and 2005.
The defending team champions are the British who made history with their very first victory in these Championships at Rotterdam (NED) in 2011.
This year The Netherlands' Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival will be chasing their third consecutive title in the Grand Prix Special and a back-to-back win in the Freestyle competition.
The full list of entries for the FEI European Dressage Championships 2013 is available HERE.
Visit also the recent history of the results of European Championships, at the EC 2003 Hickstead GBR 2005 Hagen GER 2007 La Mandria ITA 2009 Windsor GBR and 2011 Rotterdam NED at the dressagedirect website here.