Longines FEI European Dressage Championships 2019: Will anyone challenge the German giants?

And who will claim the Olympic qualifying spots?

When the Longines FEI European Dressage Championships 2019 get underway in Rotterdam, The Netherlands next Monday (19 August) the biggest question will be whether athletes from any other nation can seriously challenge the mighty Germans.

There may have been brief lapses in their domination of the team gold medal leaderboard – the Dutch coming out on top in 2007, 2009 and again in 2015, and Great Britain victorious in 2011 – but in the 56-year-history of this event that takes place every two years, the German record is phenomenal. A total of 23 team titles, with the last posted in Gothenburg (SWE) two years ago where team-member Isabell Werth brought her personal European medal collection to a staggering 21 when adding both the individual Grand Prix Special and Freestyle titles.

The undisputed Queen of international Dressage, Isabell Werth, headlines the stellar German side who go into next week’s Longines FEI European Dressage Championships as defending champions. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

In total Germany has scooped 18 individual golds, their nearest rivals from The Netherlands taking seven while Switzerland and Great Britain have four apiece and Austria, Denmark and France each have one. The record books show 24 female individual champions and a relatively modest eight male individual title-holders, the latter including the great Reiner Klimke from Germany who reigned supreme with Dux in 1967, with Mehmed in 1963 and with Ahlerich in 1985.

The most recent male champion was The Netherlands’ Edward Gal whose Freestyle gold-medal-winning performance with the fabulous black stallion, Totilas, at Windsor (GBR) in 2009 was nothing short of unforgettable.

A total of 70 Dressage athletes from 24 countries will contest the medals this time around. And of the 15 participating teams, the biggest challenge to the defending champions from Germany look set to be the British, the Swedes, the Danes and of course their great old rivals, the Dutch.

The British will be hoping to put on a really strong show with the exciting nine-year-old mare Mount St John Freestyle ridden by Charlotte Dujardin who will be joined by Carl Hester with Hawtins Delicato, Gareth Hughes with Classic Briolinca and newcomer Charlotte Fry partnering Dark Legend. Dujardin creates a ripple of excitement wherever she goes and no matter what horse she rides, and the lady who broke multiple world records during her thrilling partnership with the now-retired Valegro showed that her latest ride has huge potential when taking individual bronze in the Grand Prix Special at last year’s FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon, USA.

Sweden sends Patrik Kittel, Therese Nilshagen and sisters Antonia and Juliette Ramel, while Denmark fields Daniel Bachmann Andersen, Anders Dahl, Cathrine Dufour and Agnete Kirk Thinggaard. Edward Gal, Anne Meulendijks, Hans Peter Minderhoud and Emmelie Scholtens will fly the Dutch flag, but it seems the opposition have much to do to kee the the German side of Sonke Rothenberger riding Cosmo, Dorothee Schneider with Showtime FRH, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl with TSF Dalera and Werth with her adored Bella Rose in check.

The only change from the gold-medal-winning German team at last year’s WEG is that Schneider has replaced Sammy Davis with Showtime, and this pair are in flying form at present, seriously threatening fellow-countrywoman Werth with great performances at CHIO Aachen (GER) last month.

The team medals will be decided in the Grand Prix which starts on Monday and runs over two days, and the competition for placings all the way down the line will be intense. Because the three best teams not already qualified will earn a place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Chasing those three coveted spots will be Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Switzerland. Japan is qualified as host country while Germany, USA, Great Britain, Sweden, Netherlands, Spain, Russia, Canada, Brazil and Australia have booked their slots.

Ireland makes history with the first-ever Championship team in Dressage – Kate Dwyer riding Snowdon Faberge, Heike Holstein with the Irish-bred Sambuca, Anna Merveldt with Esporim and Judy Reynolds with Vancouver K.

The Grand Prix Special title will be decided on Thursday 22nd and the Grand Prix Freestyle will bring the 29th FEI European Dressage Championship to a close on Saturday 24th.

Longines FEI European Championships 2019 website here

Full list of entries here