New Zealand’s Julie Brougham and her lovely Vom Feinsten have done a quality test in the Grand Prix competition at the Rio Olympics. While Julie is delighted with how it all went, unfortunately their score of 68.543% doesn’t look like it will be quite enough to take them through to the GP Special. Julie currently sits in 18th place. Thirty horses have completed their test with another 30 tomorrow.
But Julie’s score does, however, topple the long-standing New Zealand Olympic dressage high score of 68.04%, which was set by Kallista Field and Waikare back at Sydney in 2000.
“I’m really thrilled with my horse. I think he did such a good job for myself and all the supporters in New Zealand. He had the most extraordinary perfect work-in, it was absolutely perfect. He got in here and just got a little tense with the crowd, so we just saw that odd little error slip in like that halt-reinback where he just didn’t stay halted enough. On the whole it was a clear round. I think he had some lovely quality moments and he didn’t run away with me.”
The leader after the first day’s competition is Germany’s Dorothee Schneider with her lovely Showtime FRH on a score of 80.986%.
Dorothee had one small mistake when Showtime broke to trot coming out of the second pirouette on the final centreline, but she was thrilled with her ride all the same. “I’m very, very happy with the test. I’m very happy that the horse stayed the whole time in front of my aids, and worked with me… the feeling is amazing. He feels like he wants to do this with me together. It’s easy. I don’t have to do anything with pressure.”
Another German, Sönke Rothenberger, is in second place on Cosmo on a score of 77.329. Great Britain’s Fiona Bigwood on Orthilia is third on 77.159 and Edward Gal (Netherlands) is on 75.271 in fourth place. Twelve horses finished with a score over 70%.
While Julie’s score was well behind the leaders, she certainly didn’t look out of place. She was very positive afterwards, having enjoyed riding her test. “I thought his extended trots were nice, I thought he had a lot of power, and he was very responsive and came back to the half-halt very well. I thought his two- and one-time changes were very good. He hesitated a little in the first canter pirouette but did a lovely pirouette, actually both were nice. His canter zig-zag was good, all even and symmetrical.”
At that stage she had not had a chance to look at the video or analyse how the marks came. “I thought they sounded a little bit low. I thought, come on boys and girls, up them a bit. Come on, 70!”
She didn’t think at that stage that she would qualify for the next stage. “It would have been nice to be [riding] on the second day but these things happen.”
The eventers were all ringside to support Julie, after having quite the night drowning their sorrows. Julie was very pleased to see them there. “It was very reassuring – it was nice to see them there being supportive; it was great. They said well done and everything afterwards and said, ‘The judges are a bit tough, aren’t they?’ I said, ‘Yes, I know, I am one of them [at home].’ Everyone wants to be the winner.”
Julie may allow herself to relax now. She may even have a glass of wine tonight. “I have been SO teetotaller since I have hit this place.”
Australia’s Mary Hanna was another who was pleased with her horse, Boogie Woogie 6. They are currently in 15th place on 69.643% so will probably not make the cut either.
“I know there were some obvious mistakes but the horse has only been doing Grand Prix for less than a year now. He is very young, I think he is one of the youngest horses here. That was by far his highest score, it was a personal best for him. I am hoping he is going to be hitting his straps for Tokyo, that is my plan.”
There was quite a shock for the fans when Adelinde Cornelissen retired only part of the way through her test on her London individual silver medallist Parzival. The horse didn’t look right at all, and while she was scoring sevens, it certainly wasn’t what we expected of the Dutch team stalwart. Adelinde said that the horse, who is 19, wasn’t well yesterday. “When I came into the stable he had a swollen cheek and we think he had been bitten by a spider or a mosquito. His body was full of toxins and he has been on liquids for nine hours. This morning he looked better and the team vet said I could give it a try.
“But in the arena he felt totally empty and I decided to not continue. He did not deserve this.”
Sönke Rothenberger, aged just 21, was riding the youngest horse in the field, nine-year-old Cosmo, at his first Olympics in the German team. Bred to show jump, the horse showed talent for dressage and he brought Sönke – who spent several years jumping – back to the sport. The pair put in a very accomplished performance, defying his tender age, and are now sitting in second place. “It was a dream and I still don’t realise it to be here.”
Sönke and Cosmo were led into the arena by Sönke’s father, former Olympic champion Sven Rothenberger. The horse was led right up to near the judges’ boxes. One other horse was led into the arena by a groom, but nowhere near as far as Cosmo was. Sönke explained this: “There is a new rule that allows the horse being led up to this point and we decided to make use of it. It is the first time for Cosmo to be in such a large arena and we did not want to take any chances. It was to avoid all the risks.”
In the team standings after the first day Germany leads with 79.157, and the Netherlands is second on 75.271 but no longer has a discard score due to Adelinde’s retirement. Great Britain is third with 74.921 but of course still has its big guns, Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester, to ride tomorrow. The USA is fourth on 73.957, Sweden fifth on 73.357 and Denmark sixth on 71.064.
The first two British riders did a great job. Backing up Fiona’s 77.157, Spencer Wilton and Super Nova II scored 72.686 for a lovely test overall – though the pair had a hair-raising moment right before going in. Trotting up the outside of the arena, Super Nova got a fright when the judges’ bell rang, and spun a full 180 degrees. Spencer did extremely well to get him back under control, but as a result the first few movements were quite understandably marred with tension.