Aachen didn’t go really according to plan?
No not at all! We really wanted to win the Nations Cup, the Nations Cup in Aachen is something special and we wanted to win at home. However it started going wrong before it even started properly, we had the idea it would be nice for Sandra and Wolle and Michi and Sam to be in the German team with Ingrid and Julia but both Sandra and Michi had to withdraw as their horses weren’t 100% fit and so the team wasn’t the one we had been planning with. The next problem was refusals at 16A where Julia was disqualified and Ingrid had a run out, this was followed by Dibo (Andreas Dibowski ed.) with problems in show jumping and on top of all this Kai’s (Rüder ed.) horse didn’t want to go in the start box resulting in Kai starting 45 seconds late which caused a lot of stress for the horse and then at a jump at one of the water complex there were further problems and they were lucky to stay on course. Looking at the thing as a whole it was just not good! However it is now clear that Chipmunk is Julia’s number one horse, this was clear to me before she won in Aachen, she has never had a stop on course with him and the win in Aachen confirms after the win in Bramham that he is in top form and totally reliable. The list hasn’t changed because of what happened in Aachen, it was a wakeup call for all involved and we have still got enough time to work on any problems and have hopefully learnt that one should take nothing for granted. It didn’t work as planned in Aachen and now we need to regroup and concentrate making sure that this doesn’t happen again at the WEG.
So will there be any change of plans due to the problems in Aachen?
No, everyone that knows the sport knows that things like this can happen, nobody is a machine, neither horse nor rider and as a pair they are working and competing in a great sport but everyone has days where things don’t go right. We didn’t plan that all should have a bad day at once especially in the run up to a championship but we still have one more event in Strzegom where it is planned that almost all those on the list will be riding so we have a chance to see them all again on the same course.
Who will be actually riding in Strzegom?
We made a ranked longlist, so the first five will be definitely riding, Dibo (Andreas Dibowski) ed.) with Corrida, he will also ride Avedon but only dressage and show jumping as Avedon is his substitute horse and are entered for Burghley. Ingrid with Hale Bob, Michi with Rocanna, Kai with Colani Sunrise, Julia with Chipmunk, then Sandra and Josefa Sommer with Hamilton and Jörg Kürbel these 3 are our first reserve list. They are all riding again in Strzegom and out of these eight we will announce a ranked short list.
It is not yet clear exactly how long the XC course will be in Tryon, there seems to be problems with the ground?
Yes I saw this when I was at the test event, they started removing a hill very late, the part connecting the first 7.5 minutes in the valley with the finish didn’t go according to plan, they actually wanted three plateaus and now it is only two so at the end now there is a climb of 70 meters which is a lot and then the grass seed didn’t grow, then there were problems with the ground and now there have two version, the classic distance of 10 minutes and one of around 8 minutes finishing on the first plateau and it will all depend on the weather and if the get the ground properly prepared on time.
I think the final decision will be made on August 10th and I heard for example the Australians will decide on their short list after this information is available. Will this affect your decision?
No, we are working with the 10 minute version and will not change anything.
Things didn’t go too well for the British riders in Aachen but this apart they are back at the top in the world rankings; do they have Chris to thank for this?
Yes definitely, if you see what went on in Burghley and Kentucky where it was won by a British rider and also the results in Badminton. He has huge reserves of 4 * riders to call upon no other land can compare with this, they are in a strong position but then so are the New Zealander, they are always a strong team but this year they are particularly strong, Jonelle having won 2 4* events this year, Australia is also always good . America at home you also have to count as one of the favourites, they don’t have all the problems the other teams will have with the long flight, quarantine etc so they do have a small home advantage. Sweden has to be counted and also France after the Europeans last year and their top results in short test this year. I think it will be exciting and now the coefficient has been dropped the results are all so close together it can be decided by a couple of seconds on the XC course.
After Aachen there were a few complaints about the judging of the dressage with up to 10% differences between judges. Can anything be done to regulate this?
Not really, you must not forget the judge at B has a very different view of the test and as long as they are constant throughout their judging then it shouldn’t be a problem.
We recently had a Nations Cup using the new team format for Tokyo, what do you feel about it?
Totally confusing, with points for this and that and substitute riders. For me the disadvantage is we only have three riders and no drop score. I am glad it will only be like this at the Olympics.
You don’t think the FEI will introduce this for other team events?
No, no it would confuse the whole sport! They have only done it to help equine sport remain Olympic and to achieve this the FEI are prepared to go along with this sort of compromise. We won’t be seeing Indonesia or Uganda eventing at the Olympics but the small countries like Switzerland and Belgium vote for it because they are lucky if they can get a team of three together.
A look to the future – there seem to be an increasing number of up and coming 3* riders?
Yes, this is mainly due to our new U25 series which provides younger riders with money to compete at higher levels early than before. Also the Europeans next year in Germany where we can nominated 12 riders is a deciding factor for many, they see the chance perhaps of riding in the championship team and it also keeps good 3* horses in the country which would otherwise perhaps have been sold abroad.
And the top riders with up and coming young horses?
Yes we had a bit of a gap this year with Ingrid with only one horse and Michi with only Rocanna but they have both a number of very promising 7 and 8 year olds and also Sandra, her youngster is now reserve horse for WEG as Wolle is not fit. Older riders for example Dirk Schrader und Peter Thomsen also have a number of horse now performing at 3* level with the hope of perhaps competing at the Europeans next year. We don’t of course have a huge number of riders but we have definitely more than we used to have at this level and I must say a lot of the younger ones are top quality riders with a very good training and long term I can see some of them riding at senior championship level.
Interview: Heather Reimer
12 Weeks until WEG 2018, what is the selection process for the German team starting with Luhmühlen?Most of the German championship riders are riding in Luhmühlen, Michi Jung is really the only one that isn’t as he only has one horse and she (fischerRocana FST ed.) will compete later on in the season. She has already done Vairano and Kentucky. Four weeks after Luhmühlen those who have competed in the CIC3* will ride in Aachen and the fiinal selection event will be in Strzegom three weeks later, so most of the candidates have another 2 or 3 events to complete in. Aachen is too soon for the horses that have done the 4* in Luhmühlen and the organisers in Strzegom kindly put back their event by one week so there is a three week break after Aachen. Three weeks after Strzegom the horses fly to the US and WEG 2018 starts one week later. Running up to a championship it is always good for the horses to compete in an event but it also good for the riders. The long list will be announced after Luhmühlen and will contain 15 names; we are allowed 5 starters and are can nominate 3 times this amount. It may be 15 riders and 15 horses or 10 riders and 15 horses. As we have done previously we will divide the nominees up into blocks to give the riders more of an idea as to where they stand and to help them with their planning. The actual team will be announced after Strzegom which takes place from 9 – 12.08.2018. Between Luhmühlen and Aachen there will be a long list training in Warendorf; just two days, one day cross country and the other day for the dressage test that will be ridden in Tryon.
Will there be a repeat of the cooperation with Andrew Nicholson or somebody similar?We are not planning it at the moment. It didn’t’ work schedule wise for Andrew this year and he is working with the Australians. I also have to say most of our riders learnt so much from Chris it is not really necessary to have someone to walk the course with them.
The new dressage scoring without the coefficient, do you feel it is achieving what it was meant to achieve? Or how do you see this development?In my opinion it was a bad decision because firstly you see how close together the dressage results are and secondly it makes the show jumping even more important than before. We can’t use Badminton as an example because the ground conditions were not good so that hardly anyone made the time. However under normal conditions those riders at the top after dressage will be good through the cross and inside the time, which leaves the show jumping as the deciding factor. It has always played a role but now it carries even more weight. Previously with the coefficient those who rode a very good dressage had a small bonus but this is now lost. 4 or 5 years ago as the half points were introduced we had a similar problem as the marks came closer together and now we have the problem again but much more extreme with perhaps just one or two tenths between riders. If you ask me the judges now have to start using the complete range of scores available to them and give 10s but also 2s so that the scores are no longer so close together. If you are unlucky in the show jumping and have just one pole down you can drop from 4th to 22nd place. In team competition it could end up with time faults in show jumping deciding the final result. It makes it all too show jumping dependant.
Do you think they will keep this new system if there is general criticism?I see it from a German point of view, there is very little difference now between a really good dressage and a good dressage and that is not good. I am not sure if they really thought it through properly and what the real effect on the results would be. Of course we always try and take good show jumpers with us, but this year for WEG it has become a very important deciding factor.
There are a large number of German entries for the CIC3* in Luhmühlen this year is there a particular reason?During the past couple of years we have made it clear to the riders we would like them to ride the national championships and this year they are all here except for Michi Jung. This means of course it will be a really good competition and whoever wins will really be the German champion.
We haven’t had rain for 6 weeks, how is the ground holding up in Luhmühlen?We have a huge advantage as we have the use of large agricultural spray irrigation equipment and have been regularly watering the main areas of the course as well as exercise areas etc. This means that the grass has had a chance to grow and the ground underneath has remained in good condition.
Final question – who do you see on the podium in the 4*?we haven’t really got any experienced horses starting, in fact 4 are doing their first 4* and although Andreas Dibowski is a very experienced rider his horse is not easy in the dressage. I expect good results from the others but I see Nicola Wilson and Bulana as favourites, they were 2nd here last year and 3rd in the Europeans, there is no doubt they are a super combination!
Interview + photo: Heather Reimer