By Louise Parkes
Victory for Alex Ripper and Wild at the Bar in today’s Individual Final ensured it was all gold for Germany at the FEI European Reining Championships 2013 on home turf in Augsburg. In Thursday’s Team Championship, this year’s host nation came out on top for the fourth time in the history of the event, and, with a superb run today, Ripper added the Individual title with style.
Individual Silver went to Belgium’s Cira Baeck and Colonel’s Shining Gun who finished just 0.5 points off Ripper’s winning score, while German dominance was further underlined by Grischa Ludwig’s bronze medal performance with Custom del Cielo.
A total of nine countries lined out at these Senior Championships which offered one go round to decide the medals. President of the Ground Jury was Francois Zurcher (SUI) and the remainder of the judging panel were Rick Bordignon (ITA), Eugenio Latorre (ITA), George Maschalani (GER) and Karen McCuistion (USA). The highest and lowest scores were dropped to determine the final score, and in the Team competition the lowest score is dropped. The top 20 from the team competition qualified for today’s Individual decider.
The competitors were tested with Pattern 5 in the Team Championship and Pattern 10 in the battle for the Individual title. The event took place as part of Americana, a popular annual showcase for Western riding. Reining first became an FEI discipline in 2000, and was incorporated into the FEI World Equestrian Games™ at Jerez in Spain two years later where the USA claimed team gold. Germany clinched the team title when the inaugural FEI European Reining Championships were staged at Reggio Emilia in Italy in 2003.
Volker Schmitt and Smokin Mifilena (owner Sonja Lubas) started with a 215 for team Germany. Sylvia Rzepka and Hot Smokin Chex (owner Curtis Hof) followed next, but it was obvious that horse and rider had not grown into a team yet. Finally a kick in the second lead change ended in a score of 194, which was tough for the German team as the Austrian and Italian team had already enjoyed great runs.
Rudi Kronsteiner and Whizoom (owner Jennifer Nixdorf) had a brilliant run for Austria earning highscore 223. Tina Künstner-Mantl and Heza Sure Whiz followed with a 216.5 and Martin Mühlstätter aboard Chic N Roost (owner Andrea Castrucci) added a 215.5 for team Austria, resulting in a total of 655.
The first rider for Italy Mirko Piazzo and Cody Gio Phoebes (owner Giovanni Grenzi) had bad luck. The stallion crossfired once and in the end the score was 211.5. So the following Italian riders risked everything – and were not always lucky. Massimiliano Ruggeri and Spat Split And White (owner Le Colomare QH) had a penalty in their right spin and came out of the arena with a 218.5 – as did the following two Italian riders. Pierluigi Fabbri and Malerba Fiednora‘s Rooster Nic had penalties in their first circle, and Giuseppe Prevosti‘s great Chic Magnetic (owner Equus QH) obviously had trouble with the ground and could not show his normal superb stops. This resulted in a total score of 655.5 for Italy.
In the meantime, Alexander Ripper and Wolfgang Müller‘s Wild At The Bar had presented a fine run with great stops scoring a 221.5 for Germany. So everything depended on the last rider Grischa Ludwig – and he did it. Grischa who had been 5th in the 2010 WEG in Kentucky and Custom Del Cielo (owner Fabian Strebel) gave a superb performance ending with three great stops and a score of 221.5. This was a total score of 659 points which was gold for Germany.
“I’m so happy,“ said German Chef d’Equipe Nico Hörmann. “It was a tough competition, but we made it, and the way in which that was achieved shows the spirit of our team.”
The Italian team which had earned gold twice before, was obviously a bit disappointed, but Trainer Filipo Masi said: “That’s what competition is like – sometimes you are luckier than other times. Our riders did their best, and I’m very proud of them!!“
As was the Austrian Chef d’Equipe Gerold Dautzenberg, whose team of only three riders had missed silver be only half a point. “We did not have a fourth result which might have been scratched,” he said. “But our riders gave everything for the team. Tina and Martin were great especially if you consider that Martin and Chic N Roost did not have much time to get accustomed to each other, And then of course Rudi who rode highscore.”
The Belgian team followed on fourth place scoring a 652 with NRHA Million Dollar Rider Bernard Fonck and his great Rooster Spurs (owner Wolfgang Wagner) scoring a 220.5 – the best result of his team, with Cira Baeck and Colonels Shining Gun following (220), Matyas Gobert and Soulas A Cinch scored a 211.5, and Ann Fonck-Poels had to correct her gelding Top Of The Top by using her second hand which was a 0.
France finished fifth, Great Britain sixth and the seventh place achieved by Finland was quite a triumph as this was their debut in Team competition. The Netherlands finished eighth with Switzerland in ninth and last spot.
There were five German riders qualified for the final including individuals Steffen Breug and Mona Dörr. The full teams from both Italy and Austria also made the cut along with Belgium’s Bernard Fonck, Cira Baeck and Matyas Gobert and Cedric Guerreiro and Bastien Bourgeois from France while Josh Collins and Francesca Sternberg flew the British flag. The Netherlands was represented in the Individual Final by Rieky Young, Finland by Maria Mustonen and Switzerland by Adrienne Speidel.
But it was Alexander Ripper aboard his stallion Wild At the Bar who stole the show with a spectacular second-last-to-go performance . The two showed a brilliant run scoring a 225 which was individual gold for Germany. Ripper, a multiple Bronze Trophy Champions, NRHA Breeders, Futurity Reserve Champion, NRHA Breeders Derby Champion and 2012 Germany previously claimed team and Individual gold at the Championships in 2003. Cira Baeck (BEL) and Colonels Shining Gun earned silver only half a point behind (224,5) and bronze went to Grischa Ludwig (GER) who scored a 223 aboard Custom Del Cielo.
“This is the best moment of my life,“ said Ripper happily. “I knew that my horse could do it. He is strong in every manoeuvre and a real showhorse. Baeck commented: “Of course I would have preferred gold, but I’m happy anyway. I got this wonderful horse a month ago only, and he was fantastic. We will be a great team!”
Grischa was tired, but very happy: “I’m so glad about bronze – but I would have been glad anyway, as Custom Del Cielo has been better than ever. This horse gave all he had for me today.”
FEI European Reining Team Championship: GOLD - Germany 659: Smokin Mifilena (Volder Schmitt) 215, Hot Smokin Chex (Sylvia Rzepka) 194, Wild at the Bar (Alex Ripper) 221.5, Custom Del Cielo (Grischa Ludwig) 221.5 ; SILVER Italy 655.5 - Cody Gio Phoebes (Mirko Piazzo) 211.5, Spat Split and White (Massimiliano Ruggeri) 218.5, Malerba Fiednora’s Rooster Nic (Pierluigi Fabbri) 218.5, Chic Magnetic (Giuseppe Prevosti) 218.5; BRONZE - Austria 655: Whizoom (Rudi Kronsteiner) 223, Heza Sure Whiz (Tina Kunstner-Mantl) 216.5, Chic N Roost (Martin Muhlstatter) 215.5.
FEI European Reining Individual Championships: GOLD - Wild at the Bar (Alex Ripper) GER 225; SILVER - Colonel’s Shining Gun (Cira Baeck) BEL 224.5; BRONZE - Custom del Cielo (Grischa Ludwig) 223.
On the podium for the Team Championship at the FEI European Reining Championships 2013 in Augsburg, Germany are: (L to R) silver medallists from Italy, gold medallists from Germany and bronze medallists from Austria. Photo: FEI/Art & Light.