European Championships 2015: Spain Earns Olympic Berth09.05.2015
In a nail-biting European Championships full of surprises, Spain's national dressage team, which included HGF's Grandioso III, secured for themselves a place in Rio with an overall Fourth Place finish in Aachen, Germany.
There are many stories about this European Championships, written about in all of the major news outlets--the final and unexpected outcome among the top 3 teams, and the controversy surrounding the retirement of Totilas, the elimination of two top horses, a broken collarbone, some contested judging, and so on and so on....
But there were other stories that were written mainly in the non-English dressage news--in Spanish, Swedish, French, Danish and Russian--for each it's the story of the Team Competition, the race which would determine who (besides Germany, Netherlands, Britain, USA and Australia) would send a team to Rio next year. It's safe to say that the pressure for those teams who were still vying for an Olympic spot was 10 times greater than that of the top 3. And the results that emerged at the last minute turned out to be unpredicted by even the best analysts.
The sense of pressure produced mistakes in virtually every test--the clean test was the exception even among the very top riders at this European Championship. The tests were not held in the usual Deutsche Bank stadium, but in the main stadium where jumping is normally held. This in itself was an issue for many horses who found the huge extended lawn which surrounded the arena and then the far-away walls of stands to be isolating and intimidating. The heat was another factor, particularly on Wed afternoon and all day on Thursday, which then broke to cold rain for Saturday and Sunday. Many pairs with high rankings and averages dropped into the 60s due to tension in the horses which produced errors and surprises. This was the case at all the levels, not the least for the highest ranked horses.
Daniel and Grandioso did their Grand Prix on the first day, and scored a conservative but high-ranking 71.3%, which had them individually in 7th place after the first day, and, with Norte's results, the team in a tentative 5th place. We needed good rides and no surprises from our two warmbloods to keep ourselves in one of the three coveted places. There was lots of bad news for a few of our rivals, and some really good luck for at least one team, but for us it was the value of all the effort of the team that produced our results in the end.
Following a brilliant ride by Morgan Barbencon with Painted Black (who is retiring after this show), by 7 pm we knew that we had clinched the Olympic qualification with a preliminary Fifth place, going with only the first three scores from Norte, Grandioso and PB. By this time, those countries that made us the most nervous, Denmark and Belgium, were out of contention, and we believed we had little to no chance to pass Sweden with strong scores from Tinne Wilhemsen and Patrick Kittle. Our security in the rankings allowed Bea to ride without pressure, but she was taking nothing for granted. Her career high score of over 77% clinched a stunning finish of Fourth Place for Spain!
Spain's last minute surge took many by surprise, as did strong performances by Russia and France, who came within hairs of each other. Daniel and Grandioso ranked 21st in the Grand Prix and went on to finish 26th of the best horses in all of Europe following the GP Special.
All of us at HGF are so pleased to have been a part of the experience of this European Championships. This show was particularly difficult due to many things--the pressure of what was at stake, the lower than normal scores generally across the board, the electric atmosphere in the arena, the distracting scandals and the irresponsible "news" reporting during the thick of the competition. However, now that the smoke has cleared, what is evident is the strength of the team spirit in Spain, which held together through the ups and downs.
In his own right at the age of 16, Grandioso continues to be a groundbreaker for the PRE horse: the first to win a CDI at Grand Prix in the US, a multiple winner of CDIs in Spain and Europe, two-time National Champion of Spain, the highest scoring PRE in the history of Aachen CHIO, and a team member consistently since London 2012 helping Spain achieve many medals in the nations cups and high placings as a country in world championships.
As of September, 2015, Grandioso remains the highest ranked Iberian horse in the world, a position he has held unchallenged since this time in 2013. What the next year will bring is anyone's guess...Dani and Grandioso will continue to train with hopes to maintain their relevance to Spain as their final competition year together approaches.