A fabulous Freestyle finale brought the third and last week of the FEI Dressage European Youth Championships 2020 drew to a close at Pilisjàszfalu in Hungary today, with Germany’s Lucie-Anouk Baumgürtel the runaway star of the Pony Championships having bagged three gold medals.
A total of 51 combinations started in the Pony Team test in which Baumgürtel was joined by Antonia Roth, Shona Benner and Rose Oatley to take the title. A final scoreline of 232.771 gave them more than a 10-point advantage over the silver medallists from Denmark who pinned The Netherlands into bronze by less than a single percentage point.
From a field of 11 nations, Belgium finished fourth ahead of Austria, Poland, Ireland, Finland, France, Czech Republic and Italy in that order.
A great pathfinding score of 75.971 was posted by 14-year-old Roth partnering the nine-year-old stallion Daily Pleasure WE. And when 16-year-old Benner and Der Kleine Sunnyboy WE, Team and Freestyle bronze medallists at the 2019 championships in Strzegom (POL), put 75.886 on the board then Germany was already out in front on Wednesday with two riders still to go.
Youngest team member 13-year-old Oatley and her 10-year-old palomino pony Daddy Moon then raised the bar on Thursday morning when scoring 76.743. So when 16-year-old Baumgürtel posted a massive 80.057 then German gold was safely secured.
After the first day The Netherlands lay in silver medal spot ahead of Belgium in bronze, but the fourth-placed Danes eventually overtook the Dutch which pushed the Belgians off the medal podium. Scores of 76.743 and 75.228 from Sophia Boje Obel Jørgensen (Adriano B) and Liva Addy Guldager Nielsen (D’Artagnan) really lifted the Danish effort, while the pure consistency of the Dutch side, and a smart mark of 75.314 from anchor Lara van Nek (Baumann’s Despino NRW), bagged the bronze.
It was a German one-two-three after Friday’s first stage of the Individual competition, with Baumgürtel once again leading the pack after posting a spectacular new record score. Great Britain’s Phoebe Peters set the previous European Pony Individual record at 81.39 at Malmo (SWE) in 2015 where she won triple gold, but Baumgürtel blew that out of the water when awarded 82.351.
And then she had to sit back and wait to see if anyone else could improve on that. In the end her victory was clear-cut, as none of her rivals earned over 80 percent.
When the Individual competition resumed yesterday her compatriots, Roth and Oatley, were holding silver and bronze, the former posting 77.297 and the latter, daughter of Australian Olympian Kristy Oatley, putting 76.649 on the board for a test filled with glorious trot extensions but hampered by mistakes towards the end.
In the team event Oatley’s score had been matched by silver medallist Sophia Boje Obel Jørgensen from Denmark. And when the Dane and the charming gelding Adriano B, gold medallist for Alexander Yde Helgstrand last summer, produced a lovely performance yesterday their mark of 79.000 ensured it wouldn’t be an all-German podium as they slotted in behind Baumgürtel and pushed Oatley off the podium.
Baumgürtel’s haul of European medals already included Team and Freestyle gold at Vilhelmsborg (DEN) in 2016, Team bronze and Freestyle gold at Kaposvar (HUN) in 2017 and Team gold at Bishops Burton (GBR) in 2018. She intended competing at the Junior Europeans last summer but it didn’t happen when her horse was injured. So she decided to return to Ponies in her final year of eligibility, and she has enjoyed every moment of it.
“Nasdaq is the pony of a lifetime, he gave me an amazing feeling and I’m so happy!” she said after accepting the Individual gold medal. “We bought him as a four-year-old stallion so he’s with us for five years and it has been lovely to see him develop”, she added.
Last year her sister, Lana-Pinou, took over the ride on the pony that brought her all her previous successes, Zinq Massimiliano, so Lucie-Anouk didn’t have high expectations this time around. “I can’t believe it, it’s amazing because I have only been riding Nasdaq since September of last year and he has come so far! When we made it to the Europeans I didn’t expect anything to be honest, I just wanted to enjoy a great pony time and I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to ride here in this lovely place!”, said the rider who hails from Munster region of Germany.
In today’s Freestyle finale she proved untouchable again. The standard of competition was breathtaking, and when Oatley and Daddy Moon set the target at 81.400 with just four more to follow, that really piled on the pressure. Her super-cute Daddy Moon was elastic, responsive, expressive and on the button all the way, and his diminutive rider didn’t hide her delight after riding into her final halt.
But, to the strain of Queen’s “Its a kind of magic”, Baumgürtel followed with another extraordinary performance from Zinq Nasdaq that saw judges Orsolya Hillier (HUN), Eduard De Wolff Van Westerrode (NED), Ulrike Nivelle (GER), Paula Nysten (FIN) and Eva-Maria Vint-Warmington (EST) award 85.735, just fractionally short of the Freestyle world record for ponies set by Phoebe Peters at those 2015 championships.
Denmark’s Liva Addy Guldager Nielsen and D’Artagnan put 78.390 on the board when third-last to go and then her team-mate Sophia Boje Obel Jørgensen threw down a great challenge with a relaxed, harmonious test for 82.555 that moved her into silver medal spot. The question now was whether the final rider, Antonia Roth, could push fellow-German Oatley off the podium once again, but a break in counter-canter proved costly with Roth’s score of 79.710 leaving her in fourth place this time around and the happy, smiling Oatley with the bronze medal around her neck.