FEI-Press: Fifty-five of Europes and possibly the worlds best riders have gathered at Hof Kasselmann in the idyllic surroundings of Hagen a. T.W. in Western Germany for the 2005 FEI European Dressage Championship. The following 17 nations, 15 of which are taking part in the team competition, are represented (in the alphabetical order): Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden and, of course, home nation Germany.
GERMANY Klaus Husenbeth (Piccolino) Heike Kemmer (Bonaparte) Ann-Kathrin Linsenhoff (Sterntaler-Unicef) Hubertus Schmidt (Wansuela Suerte) Germany are titleholders and have been so since 1965. To try and conquer the title for the 21st consecutive time, they are lining up a strong team, three members of which were part of the Olympic gold team squad in Athens last year. However, the retirement of Rusty and Ulla Salzgeber after the Olympics has left a void, which will perhaps give a strong challenger the opportunity to try their chance.
AUSTRIA Caroline Kottas-Heldenberg (Exupery) Victoria Max-Theurer (Falcao) Nina Stadlinger (Egalité) Renate Volgsang (Davidoff) Austria is represented by a very young team. Victoria Max-Theurer, daughter of 1980 Olympic champion Sissy Max-Theurer who, aged 19, has been competing on the international scene for only two years and is the competitions youngest rider. Her fellow team member Caroline Kottas-Heldenberg, aged 23, is in her very first Grand Prix season.
BELGIUM Jeroen Devroe (Paganini) Philippe Jorissen (Pikante Pia VD Bergerhoefe) Mieke Lunskens (Jade) Belgium, who are a strong Jumping and Eventing nation, had not entered a team in a European Championship for several years. Mieke Lunskens, who was successful internationally in the mid-1990s, rides the 14-year gelding Jade, who is an interesting crossing between a Trakehner with a Portugese thoroughbred.
DENMARK Andreas Helgestrand (Blue Horse Cavan) Lone Jörgensen (Hardthofs Ludwig G) Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein (Rigoletto) Fie Skarsö (Muenchhausen) This strong Danish team counts two Las Vegas FEI World Cup Dressage finalists Jörgensen and Helgestrand. Fie Skarsö, who is new to the team, has attracted attention with her 10-year old Trakehner stallion Muenchhausen.
FRANCE Dominique DEsmé (Roi de Coeur) Constance Menard-Laboute (Lianca) Hubert Perring (Diabolo St. Maurice) Karen Tebar (Falada M) The most experienced French team member is undoubtedly Dominique DEsmé, who is turning 60 this year. She was on the national squad more than 30 years ago at the 1974 World Championship at Rheims. Hubert Perring is a member of the French mounted police. Karen Tebar, a German by birth who changed nationality in 2003, competed at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games placing 24th in the Grand Prix and 21st in the Grand Prix Special.
GREAT BRITAIN Fiona Bigwood (Mr G de Lully) Wayne Channon (Lorenzo CH) Carl Hester (Escapado) Emma Hindle (Wie Weltmeyer) Emma Hindle was a remarkable 8th at the 2003 European Championship with her 15-year old stallion Wie Weltmeyer whom she is also competing this year. Fiona Bigwood has been riding her 12-year old gelding Mr G de Lully for less than a year, but the partnership is proving very successful.
THE NETHERLANDS Edward Gall (Geldnet Lingh) Anky van Grunsven (Keltec Salinero) Laurens van Lieren (Hexagons Ollright) Sven Rothenberger (Barclay II) Needless to say that with such a team The Netherlands have come to Hagen with one ambition in mind: win the European title for the first time in history. The duel between The Netherlands and Germany has been going for many years but connoisseurs say that this year luck may possibly go Hollands way. Anky van Grunsven, double Olympic champion, holds the absolute record of seven FEI World Cup Dressage Final victories. Sven Rothenberger was individual European champion in 1991.
POLAND Katarzyna Milczarek Jasinka (Lecantos) Zaneta Skowronska (Romeo) Jaroslaw Wierzchowski (Wieland) This is the debut of the current Polish team on the Western European circuit.
PORTUGAL Miguel Duarte (Oxalis de Meia Lua) Andre Parada (Landim) Carlos Pinto (Novatel JCL Puy du Fou) Nuno Vicente (Mostradamus de Top) Few people remember the last time a Portuguese team took part in a championship. It was probably almost 60 years ago back in 1948 in London. The appointment of German trainer Martina Hannoever-Sternberg by the Lusitano Breeding Association has clearly made a difference. All team members are riding Lusitano horses which are not frequently to be seen at top Dressage level. Interestingly, Andre Parada, for whom it is the second season at Grand Prix level, was formerly to be seen in the bullfighting arena.
RUSSIA Elena Kalinina (Royal Black Label) Alexandra Korelova (Balagur) Vera Minaeva (Gepard) Russia has clearly been out of Dressage luck lately. The championship, originally allocated to Moscow, was withdrawn from the Russian Federation only two weeks before it was due to begin owing to organisational problems and lack of financial guarantees. Moreover, the teams most experienced rider Elena Sidnevas 13-year old Hanoverian Artex-Condor RBB failed at the vet inspection. The team is therefore left with three members. These, however, are of great talent; especially Elena Kalinina, winner of the Horses and Dreams festival held at Hagen earlier this year as well as the FEI World Cup Dressage qualifier which took place in Moscow two weeks ago.
SPAIN Beatriz Ferrer-Salat (Beauvalais) Juan Antonio Jimenez (Guizo) José Ignacio López Porras (Nevado Santa Clara) Ignacio Rambla (Distinguido) Spain have made their way up to the highest level in the most consistent way. Olympic and World medallist Beatriz Ferrer-Salat Hill once again rely on her faithful 18-year old Hanoverian Beauvalais; Jose Ignacio Lopez Porras, rider at the Royal Rider School in Jerez de la Frontera, will be having his championship premiere with the 10-year old Lusitano Nevado Santa Clara. Additional Hispanic flavour will be brought on by Ignacio Rambla on the 13-year old Andalusian Distinguido.
SWITZERLAND Silvia Iklé (Salieri CH) Christian Pläge (Regent) Marie-Line Wettstein (Le Primeur) Marcela Krinke-Susmelj (Fibrin) Silvia Iklé, who is the most successful Swiss rider at the moment, holds vast international experience. She was on the Swiss team at the 1990 Stockholm and the 1994 The Hague World Equestrian Games and is now competing in her seventh European Championship.
SWEDEN Jan Brink (Björells Briar) Louise Nathosrt (Guiness) Tinne Vilhelmson (Just Mickey) Jan Brink, individual European bronze medallist in 2003 who placed 7th in Altehns last year, is the pier of the team. Unfortunately, Kristian von Krusenstiernas gifted gelding Wilson failed the vet inspection.
Belarus had also nominated a three-rider team: Iryna Liz (Problesk), Svetlana Yevshchik (Dombai) and Galina Zotova (Verona). Unfortunately, Lizs mount Problesk did not pass the vet inspection. Yevshchik and Zotova therefore continue as individuals.
Finland, Ireland and Italy have entered individual riders only: Kyra Kyrkland (Max) and Tanja Ylikoski (Roi du Ballet) for Finland; Heike Holstein (Welt Adel) and Claudia Montanari (Don Vittorio) for Ireland and Italy respectively.
The Grand Prix competition, which determines the team placings began this morning and is taking place over two days. Teams consist of either three of four members. The results of the best three riders are added up to make the team total. The lowest score or drop score is discarded. The team winners will be known tomorrow at the end of the Grand Prix.
A very special tribute should be paid to the amazingly efficient Organising Committee and its leaders Ullrich Kasselmann and Paul Schockemöhle, who in only two weeks, have organised a first class event offering all the conditions for top class sport.