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August 25, 2011. Last Saturday in Rotterdam, Adelinde Cornellisen (NED) and Jercich Parcival won the European Dressage Grand Prix Freestyle Championship with an 88+ score, a talling 4% closer to the ideal 100% than nearest contestants Carl Hester(GB) and Uthopia and Patric Kittel (SWE) and Watermill Scandic. Seven Judges, presided by Fourhage (NED), scrutinized each footfall  of 15 performers, awarding scores above eighty to eight of them, and scores above 70 to all of them!

How did Cornelissen and Parcival prevail?

Parvcival’s Freestyle test which was delightfully choreographed to accentuate  Parcival’s transitions between movements, as well as the movements themselves.  Having no errors to the last line, compared to her nearest competitors, but only somewhat inferior qualities of motion, Adelinde passaged the CenterLine to D where she piaffe pirouetted 360 degrees right, then reversed to piaffe 180 degrees left, and passaged the centerline to X, halted and saluted! Audio-visual recordings of the performance sound respectfully hushed gasps, gushes, sighs, and squeals from the gallery, 90 degrees into the left sweep. I, too, was thrilled, and so not surprised by the score.

Apparently Cornelissen and Parcival have been doing this freestyle for a while; they’ve got it down pat. I read that she is planning a new Kur for London 2012. I wonder what her choreographic collaborators could invent that will get higher scores for use of the arena, degree of difficulty of the movements, music and interpretation. But, of course, it is the exercise of imagination that makes freestyle so much fun.

But, good as Cornelissen/Parcival got, other tests deserve close scrutiny…

Carl Hester rode relatively young —ten-year-old —-stallion, Uthopia, to brand new bespoke music, and exhibited three excellent gaits, in the required GP variations. ALL of the best qualities of motion are intrinsic to, and, thus far, retained in this horse. Although the judges are not supposed  to consider the rider’s position and seat, correctness and effect of the aids, as in other FEI tests, Uthopia could not have danced this test so gracefully without a rider; Hester’s contact is exemplary!

But there were the three little glitches:  irregular step in the first passage/piaffe transition, one too large canter pirouette, and an over reaction from the horse to half-halt influences causing momentary loss of forward motion, each of which cost technical points. And the degree of difficulty of the movements was modest, as it should be for such a young horse. I am looking forward to seeing this horse get a little stronger, and this combination become a little more confident in each other. Uthopia is a star still rising!!!!!!

The judges were right about the bronze, too, from what I can see. Although I have not been following Patric Kittel and Watermill Scandic—I was put off by the blue tongue episode–I do like the way this man sits a horse, and I am pleased by the cadence of this horses motion. This is a more mature horse, 14 I think, and so stronger and more confident. The horse seems to be genuinely enjoying himself. The quality of the horses motion is, however, less than ideal, by the fact the horse’s back is down, by which I mean concave to the rider’s seat, rather than up, as would permit the more desirable flow of energy from the horse’s haunches, across his back, through to the poll. Still, the performance is foot perfect, no irregularities. So ‘Scandi Man,’ I heard Patric call him, deserved every point and the bronze medal he garnered.

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Surfing around the videos embedded above and watching other combinations’ tests at the European Champs can help all of us train our eyes. There is much to learn.

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