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The invincible Golden Dancer

What emotion when watching the test of the German stallion Golden Dancer in the individual finals at the European Dressage Championships at Barthahus in Denmark in 1996. Ridden by Jana Kun, the superb and gorgeous palomino a performed a magical test, perfect, brilliant, precise, faultless and obtained an average score unequalled up until 2007 of 76.97% (more than seven points ahead of the Vice-Champions! ). For me, this stallion is a must for dressage. I dream of crossing him with the daughters of FS Don’t Worry or Dornick B, even if it makes no chronological sense as far as German selection is concerned…! 

Constantin the dancer

What emotion when I came face to face with the famous Dutch Welsh B stallion Constantin at his handler’s August Ellers in the autumn of 2002.  Constantin was presented to me loose in an indoor arena.  He was 22 years old.

I watched a 1m34 pony, renowned for jumping bigger than his own height, notably over a fence of 1m40 with two Shetland ponies underneath during a show, show three paces in a way I had never seen before and have not seen since. The pony literally played with his legs, extending his front legs so that they were horizontal in a way that was both extremely supple and strong at the same time, whilst engaging his hindquarters so that they almost touched his stomach, with a forward propulsion and perfect straightness. At canter, he had a length of stride and balance which should theoretically have been inconceivable for a pony of his size, and a way of putting his quarters to one side as a sort of support, cantering first on the right leg then changing lead all by himself to the left looking right at us, sure of himself and the effect he was having as if to say ‘Incredible, eh?’  It was marvellous. This little pure bred pony had an unimaginable action, largely comparable to the top riding ponies rigorously selected for dressage in Europe, and it is unsurprising, and yet so extraordinary, that when crossed with small mares (horses) he is amongst the best German stallions Dressman, Dornick B, Golden Dancer, Don’t Worry etc.

Identity : eyes at the end of her hooves

What emotion when watching the numerous demonstrations of the pure genius of Identity.  It was at the European Championships at Le Touquet in 1998. Identity, great international winner, mythical, today a broodmare for the Syndicat Linaro, certainly didn’t have the same odds as the best pony on the international circuit since its conception in 1978, Colton Maelstrom. 

Alongside Colton Maelstrom, Machno Carwyn and Inishannon, Identity was part of the quartet of ‘geniuses amongst geniuses’ (of which the rest was made up of Super Tramp, Mr Boogie, Promisses and Queen). She can count five participations at the European Championships, two individual places at as Vice-Champion of Europe in 1995 (Achselschwang - Germany) and in 1996 (Barthahus - Denmark), an individual bronze medal at Hartpury (Great Britain) in 1997, a team gold medal at the 1995 European Championships and without doubt holds the greatest number of international Grand Prix victories (no less than 7 from 60 participations). At Le Touquet, she was ‘piloted’ by Olivier Vanderhasselt who was not, at that time in any case, the most gifted of the Vanderhasselt brothers to have ridden the extraterrestrial.  I remember the particularly impressive triple in the second round of the individual finals (Le Touquet being one of the biggest Championships along with that of Hasselt in 1993 and Saumur in 2006): the young Belge arrived at the bottom of it, a little lost, at which point he dropped his reins in front of the enormous combination, and to a gasp from the audience that they couldn’t contain, the springy and brilliant grey found her stride by herself and managed with a surreal zest to proudly eat up the three 1m35 jumps one after the other. It was completely mad we were totally stunned. She completed a magnificent double clear in the Nations Cup on the Sunday, leading her team to second place on the podium. 

Dornick B suspended time

What emotion in 2002, at the European dressage championships at Hagen, when the German dressage stallion Dornick B entered the arena to give his 10-minute test in front of the judges. The public were frozen in amazement: the stallion floated on a second arena above the ground and everyone had the feeling that they were part of a special moment, witnessing a momentous performance. His trot was quite simply sublime. In 2007, ridden by Louisa Lüttgen, he scored the best average of all time: 77,35%.

Nabor - smaller than the jumps

What emotion to come face to face with Abdullah in miniature!
At the European Championships in Hasselt in Belgium in 1993, the same year that I discovered Why Not ridden by Gerco Schroder (who would come 5th with her the following year), as well as Colton Maelstrom who at her first participation wouldn’t qualify for the individual final, and finally Linaro in person, who also failed to qualify this time for the final, I equally got to meet the extraordinary German riding pony stallion Nabor.

Far more handsome than after his retirement from the sport, round, perfectly muscled, perfectly untenable as well, he had a crazy presence: a reduced version of Abdullah, the champion of the Los Angeles Olympics! He really moved me when he bravely won these individual finals, swamped by the huge fences the like of which no pony of his size had faced before. In the Nations Cup, after 12.25 faults in the first round, he completed a very worthy track with 8 faults in the second round.

Our little dots

What emotion every year at the French Championships at Lamotte-Beuvron when watching the young children show jumping in the A classes on their Shetland ponies, putting heart and soul into finishing the 40cm course (or nearly! ) as quickly as possible, with marvellous enthusiasm and total faith in their Pompon or their Allumette in each class.  A sight that makes your eyes well up! 

Linaro - too high

What emotion when Linaro finished lame after his second clear round in the individual finals at the European Championships at Barthahus (Denmark) in 1996, and above all to see his entourage hurrying with ice, compresses and the whole works to wrap around his near fore. Unfortunately, the liver chestnut stallion, well set to win the title (none of the four others had had double clears, nor had completed the jump off free from penalties, and he should have been the last to go) was unable to continue in the jump off. No matter how strong and fit, Linaro was physically unable to support his repeatedly excessive efforts: at Barthahus he left 40 to 50 cm of space over each fence. Our consolation: his defeat would allow the charismatic German stallion to start a very famous group of successful pony stallions!

Queen, a queen…unlucky at the last?

What emotion when 1m42 Queen won, at the end of an astonishing jump off which left her adversaries with no chance, the individual finals at the European Championships at Le Touquet in 1998 ridden by the Swede Helin Hultberg. It was incredible.

That year she beat everyone: Colton Maelstrom, Identity, Aron, Mr Polo and the others.
She would do it again with a double clear in the Nations cup two days later: she didn’t have a pole down throughout the whole Championships! The following year, in her adopted country of that time, she had another clear in the first round of the individual finals and unsettled in the warm-up just before going to jump, surely a lack of confidence or a little exhausted, she got herself eliminated. Helin was inconsolable: ‘I’d set out to win again’. In Poland in 2004, clear in the first round of the individual finals she was still with no faults until the very last fence in the second round… where her rider Alexander Zetterman couldn’t find the right stride and where the little chestnut had no choice but to stop, putting his jockey on the floor. The only double clear in the finals was accomplished by the European Champions Hannah Paul and Mister Amontilano… we all knew: that year Queen should either have been Champion once again or Vice-Champion. In 2006, still competing for Sweden, this time ridden by Wilma Hellström aged 13, she won the qualifier for the finals at Saumur. At the end of the first round of the final Wilma and Queen were amongst the three couples that had accumulated only four faults. Last to go in the second round after neither of the other two had gone clear, Wilma and Queen didn’t touch a single pole… until the last fence… which cost them their gold medal when the top pole fell. Nevertheless, they once again had the chance to climb onto the highest step of the podium, last to go in the jump-off of the six couples having accumulated a total of 8 points over the two rounds.  Hurtling into this ultimate round only one couple had gone clear, and very slow: Daniel Neilson and Micklou Madness – all the others had had a pole down. Once again, up until the last fence, Wilma and Queen were clear, having gone far more quickly than the British (more than five seconds faster). Hadn’t Wilma realised? Heading towards a trivial oxer at the end, sure of victory, Wilma pushed the energetic Queen on too deep, without pulling her back, which cost them the fatal bar at the last fence. Result: fifth place. But the very beautiful and charismatic Queen undoubtedly touched and moved the public: she was the true Queen of Saumur.

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