FEI EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS FOR PONIES 2021
FEI Press Release by Louise Parkes
Quality performances were the order of the day at the FEI European Championships for Ponies 2021 in Strzegom, Poland where France claimed Team and Individual gold in both Eventing and Jumping, and Germany dominated the Dressage podium.
A partnership that set the quality standard from the very start was Germany’s Rose Oatley and the fabulous 11-year-old palomino gelding Daddy Moon. In a week when they simply shone they took triple gold and posted two new world record scores, the first in the Team Championship where they led their side to victory when earning a mark of 82.629, and the second in yesterday’s Freestyle when they were rewarded with 89.700 for a spectacular demonstration of grace, concentration and quiet togetherness.
They were joined by Antonia Roth (Daily Pleasure WE), Julie Sofie Schmitz-Heinen (Carleo Go) and Antonia Busch-Kuffner (Kastanienholf Cockney Cracker) to clinch Wednesday’s team title on a final tally of 236.172. Denmark’s Sophia Boje Obel Jorgensen (Adriano B), Cornelia Munch Sinding (Terbofens Charico), Karla Marillo Skov (Steendieks Diamond de Dali) and Selma Ludvigsen (Egelykkes Perfetto) posted 221.714 for silver. And the Netherlands were close behind in bronze, Ilse de Wilde (Falco), Jill Kempes (Next Black Magic), Veerle Van Hof (Vinkenhove Xander) and Bridget Lock (Don Davino Horsepoint) putting a final score of 218.428 on the board.
Italy just missed out on a podium placing and Belgium, Poland, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, France, Finland, Czech Republic and Ukraine lined up behind them in that order.
In Friday’s Individual medal decider 14-year-old Oatley, whose mother Kristy Oatley has competed for Australia at four Olympic Games, challenged the world record score set by German compatriot Lucie-Anouk Baumgurtel and Nasdaq at last year’s European Pony Championships in Hungary, falling short by just 0.081 when scoring 82.270 for gold. Team-mate Roth took the silver with 81.027 and bronze went to Denmark’s Jorgensen on 79.676.
“I can’t really describe what happened today. I’m overwhelmed with my feelings. My pony was just amazing in the test and I can’t believe that we are now the European champions!”, Oatley said afterwards. But there was even more to come.
Because yesterday the podium placings were exactly the same in the Freestyle, but the scores were even more sensational, with four pony/athlete combinations earning over 80% and Oatley leading the way once again with that 89.700 which blew the previous world record of 85.825 set by Great Britain’s Phoebe Peters and SL Lucci in 2015 completely out of the water.
Roth’s silver-medal-winning score was 85.090 and Jorgensen’s 83.050 took the bronze, while Germany’s Schitz-Heinen just missed out on a podium placing despite a super mark of 82.810.
The Eventing Championship was another thriller in which France took a strong hold from the start and never let go.
Mae Rinaldi topped the individual rankings after a brilliant dressage test for a score of 23.2 with Boston du Verdon, and she would go on to take the Individual title while also leading the French team to glorious gold.
Her team-mates Mathieu Cuomo (Celeste du Montier) and Zoe Ballot (Voltair de Lalande) were lying third and sixth after the first phase on marks of 26.4 and 28.1 respectively, so France went into cross-country day ahead of Germany in second and Ireland in third place. And the cross-country phase saw many changes to the leaderboard as the 24-fence challenge really tested rider skills from start to finish. In all there were 10 eliminations on course from a starting field of 46.
The combination fence at 11 proved particularly influential in the early stages as riders struggled to find their line to the second element. So when that news was brought back, many opted for the longer route here as the day progressed. Zoe Ballot’s tour of the track was exemplary, the addition of 4.4 time penalties still moving her up a place to fifth overnight. But compatriot Mathieu Cuomo suffered a very different fate.
Lying third with his pony, Celeste du Montier, he was still flying when coming down to the penultimate double of bush fences. But a slip on the bending line to the second element saw the little stallion unable to take off again, and the resultant 20 penalties and time may well have robbed this 14-year-old rider of his chance of an Individual medal placing.
In contrast, fourth French team-member, Valentin Quittet Eslan who was lying 35th with Winnetou as the day began, rocketed all the way up to tenth when producing a superb clear within the time of 6minutes 37seconds. The 15-year-old Dutch-bred Winnetou is a perfect example of a wonderful pony that has served many different riders over the years, in 2019 helping Team France to European silver with Lilou Ducastaing in the saddle.
So at the end of the day the French were still in the lead on 96.4 with Germany’s Ella Kreuger (Golden Grove Simon), Pita Schmid (Sietlands Catrina), Marie Hoffmann (Penny Lane WE) and May Marie Fernandez (Maruto) less than five penalty points behind. And the Irish were still still in bronze medal position when Ted O’Leary (Rockon Pedro), Caoimhe Crozier (Kildromin Banjo), Sarah Keane (Lon Mac Liomhtha) and Ben Connors (Cornafest Fred) finished with 116.3 on the board.
As the final Jumping phase began Connors and his Connemara gelding were lying in silver medal spot on their dressage score of 30.3, just 0.1 ahead of The Netherlands’ Sophie Weening and her brave and bold Hip Hop who raced around the cross-country track the previous day pulling hard all the way and clearly enjoying every moment of it. Mae Rinaldi still held the lead with her French stallion Boston du Verdon despite the addition of 5.2 cross-country time penalties, but on a score of 28.3 couldn’t afford a jumping error if she was to grab Individual gold. So when the leading trio all held firm in the Jumping arena yesterday the Individual podium places remained unchanged, and France claimed team gold on a final tally of 104.4 with Germany in silver on 114 and Ireland in bronze on 132.3.
Rinaldi was delighted with both her result and her brilliant pony. “I’m very happy with my individual victory, but also for the whole team. It’s a dream come true. Boston is a great pony, he is amazing in all three phases…and I love him!”, said the new European champion.
And the French proved unstoppable again in the Jumping Championship.
Anna Szarzewski (Vaughann de Vuzit), Lola Brionne (Clementine), Nohlan Vallat (Daenerys D’Hurl’Vent), Jeanne Hirel (Vedouz de Nestin) and Marie Ann Sullivan (Ken Van Orchid) had gold all sewn up when collecting just eight faults in the team competition. But it came down to a two-way tussle for silver and bronze when The Netherlands and Norway were tied on 13.
Sharp clears against the clock from Siebe Leemans (Voodstock de L’Astree), Ava Eden Van Grunsven (Special Lady) and Milan Morssinkhof (Carrick 13) sealed silver for the Dutch side that also included Logan Flechter (Minerva For Play) and Renske Van Middndorp (Jolly). When Thea Gunleksen (Parc Cookie) and Mikkel Fredin Nilsen (Attyrory Warrior) each had a fence down the Norwegian side that also included Dina Nicolaysen (Electra), Rasmus Aasland (Poetics Floura) and Oda Therese Oddsen (Javas Alun) withdrew and settled for the bronze.
After his team’s victory, French Chef d’Equipe Olivier Bost said, “the course design was perfect. I was stressed because we had very strong teams here from Ireland, Germany and Great Britain and I think today’s course was difficult, especially because the riders were under a lot of pressure. But in the end I’m a very lucky man!”
And he had even more luck yesterday when Hirel and Sullivan claimed Individual gold and silver ahead of The Netherlands’ Leemans in bronze.
As it came down to the closing stages the pressure was intense and for the final few it was still all to play for. Leemans and Voodstock de L’Astree jumped double clear to remain on just the four faults they collected in the team competition and when Norway’s Thea Gunleksen and Parc Cookie did the same that left them on level pegging.
Laure Tijskens and Navayo were third-last into the ring but the Belgian National Champion had a stop that put them out of contention and now only the French pair, Sullivan and Hirel, were left to go.
Sullivan was carrying three time faults picked up earlier in the week but she left all the poles in place once again so Hirel had little room for manoeuvre. A couple of time faults wouldn’t matter but a fence down would be disastrous. Holding her nerve however the 15-year-old rider brought Vedouz de Nestin home clear, and as she galloped through the finish she dropped her reins and punched the air with delight. It was a superb feat to finish without a single fault after five super-tough rounds of jumping over tracks up to 1.35m in height.
It wasn’t quite done yet, because that left Leemans and Gunleksen in a head-to-head to decide the bronze, and although the Norwegian produced the quickest time in 38.83 seconds it was at the expense of a pole down, so Leemans’ clear in 41.40 would see him stand on the third step of the medal podium.
Caption: Germany’s Rose Oatley and Daddy Moon won three gold medals and broke two world records at the FEI European Championships for Ponies 2021 in Strzegom, Poland. (FEI/Lukasz Kowalski)