Sara Hernmarck reporting from the Reem Acra World Cup Grand Prix Kür at Olympia Horse Show in London.
Merry Christmas everyone – I hope you are enjoying this festive season as much as I do! At the moment I’m in the north of Sweden, not very far from Lapland.
I love Christmas and everything that comes with it. And just as the Christmas light on Oxford Street in London indicates that Christmas has begun, Olympia Horse Show fills the same purpose for us horsey people.
Olympia has played a key part in my Christmas traditions since I moved to England four years ago. When I lived in Sweden the Stockholm Horse Show (which is the Swedish equivalent to Olympia) was the show to kick off Christmas. I love Stockholm Horse Show to bits, I really do, but there is something special about Olympia. Whether it’s the atmosphere or the champagne bar that makes it is hard to say, not that it matters though.
This year was extra special since we got the watch double Olympic gold medallist Charlotte Dujardin and her stunning partner Valegro compete for the first time since the extraordinarily successful Games this summer. Olympia this year was also very special for Charlotte’s mentor and trainer Carl Hester since it was his last show on his Olympic horse Uthopia. Carl and Uti delivered a lovely test as always, only with a little less energy than at the Games, but who can blame them for that?
Charlotte and Valegro were as dashing as always and even though I saw the magic partnership make a mistake for the first time, they still managed a stunning 87.97%.
Kür record holder Edward Gal returned to Olympia where he broke the record in 2009 with Moorlands Totilas. Only this year on Glock’s Undercover who is ironically enough very similar to Totilas being black and having the same massive and expressive paces. Having massive paces is not always a positive thing as it opens up more room for mistakes, which unfortunately was the case this time. Knowing Edward and his delicate riding style and epic feel for horses, I’m certain that when the penny drops and Undercover gets a little more experience we will see them back on the podium as you can clearly tell it’s only the beginning of a new magnificent partnership.
One thing Edward know how to do exceptional is the kür test. Since the music is meant to improve the test it’s beyond important to get it right. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched music test that doesn’t compliments neither the horse nor the floor plan. I just don’t understand how you a) can pick music that doesn’t suit the horse or b) don’t match the floor plan with it. I appreciate that it’s really difficult to make a kür but I’m not talking about people making their music for the first time, but the professionals that doesn’t get it right. But enough ranting, it’s Christmas after all.
Impressive as always was German dressage queen Isabelle Werth with new inventive lines showing off her immense skills. A movement I had forgotten about is the left-to-the-right piaffe (and yes I just made that up, not the piaffe part, but the rest). To explain it, it’s when you’re piaffing on the spot turning first to the left, back to the middle, then to the right and back in the middle.
I was going to award Michel Eilberg ‘improvement of the night’ (well, since I saw them last) for his stunning and constant on the beat performance with Half Moon Delphi, a mare that reminds me very much of Andreas Helgstrand’s wonderful Matiné (YouTube their kür performance from WEG-06 and you’ll see what I mean). But then Sweden’s Minna Telde and Santana have improved so much already since the Games this summer I couldn’t just leave them out. Plus the fact that Minna rode the prize giving with reindeer antlers on Santanta’s head made it impossible not to give her some extra points for that. Gotta love some good Swedish humor. Santa-na. See what she did there?
The surprise of the night’ goes without doubt to Norwegian Sidsel Johansen who I’ve never seen before tonight and WOW. Now this is a partnership to keep an eye on for the future. We will see more of those two for sure. Norway seems to work that way, two years ago Siril Helljesen popped up with her gorgeous ballerina Dorina and now Sidsel with stunning Schianto.
And since I can’t let it go, here’s my tips and tricks for planning a kür :)
- Know your horse’s strengths and weaknesses. If he get’s stressed after the canter and won’t walk, do the walk before the canter etc.
If his changes are excellent make sure to really show them off by placing them where the judges can see them properly.
- Adapt the difficulties after your abilities. You want to be able to perform the test without mistakes, but still showing off your skills to the judges.
- Always put in a straight line “without any movements” that you can use if you’ve done a mistake earlier. Ofcourse you’ll need to do something on that line so if the test has run bulletproof without mistakes, make sure you have a plan B for that line.
- A brilliant way to know where you are in your music is to use bells, drums or other ‘secret signals’. For example in my music, if I pass A after the changes when a bell rings (a nice bell, don’t you worry) I know that I’m in time with my music. If I’m early I’ll make sure to take out a corner and if I’m late to cut the corner a little to catch up.
- Adapt the music to the type of your horse. A chunky horse can look big and clumsy with heavy music but can also look impressive. It’s a matter of trying it out.
- A really nice way to get the music to blend in with the ride is to make sure the changes, piaffe and passage for example are on the beat of the music as it makes the test flow.
Now enjoy the rest of Christmas for you who celebrate it and I wish you all a Happy New Year!