‘…is that which blows between a horse’s ears.’ (Arabian Proverb)
In 1920, almost a century ago, merchant and avid equestrian Eduard Pulvermann built a new type of course for show jumping in Hamburg. His idea was to include obstacles that would resemble those found in the landscape of Holstein in Northern Germany, two hills, a huge wall, with a sharp, almost vertical descent of 3 metres, followed immediately by a 1,65m plank, and of course ‘Pulvermann’s Grab’, named after its inventor and known to Eventing as ‘Coffin’ today. 1230 metres total length, 17 obstacles with 26 efforts, a time-allowed of 188 seconds. Except for some minor adjustments and improved safety precautions, the course is exactly the same as it was, 97 years ago.
Only a few metres away, the German Dressage Derby is also a very special affair. Three pairs qualify for the final which includes a change of horses. Each rider competes the modified Grand Prix with his or her own horse and those of the other two opponents. A winner is named for both riders and horses, determined by the combined score of all three performances.
But these arguably impressive numbers and historical facts cannot remotely explain why this tournament is such a special, unique, wonderful experience. Neither, I’m afraid, can these lines. Therefore, just a few more words on this year’s tournament before I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Derby week 2017 was, in many ways, nothing short of perfect. The weather was outstandingly beautiful for most of the time (in Hamburg that means: no rain and above 18°C). The crowds were enormous, probably close to 100,000 in total for the entire five days of competition. And the competitions themselves were absolutely enjoyable and high class as well. Having been to the tournament 18 years in a row now, I am usually quite content with the winners of the Derby, knowing what it takes to compete and successfully complete this course which has been called the most challenging one in the world. But I think, I’ve never been so happy with basically all of the results in all of the top level classes.
Slovenia’s Pato Muente, born in Argentina and now living in the Lüneburg Heath (Lüneburger Heide), some 60km south of Hamburg, was the surprise winner of the ‘main event’, the 88th German Jumping Derby. Early on in the competition Muente and his 10 year old Holsteiner mare Zera achieved a rare clear round. And in a three-way jump-off their nerves proved to be the strongest. The new Derby champion is also notable for his very exemplary riding style, something which already earned him the style award a year ago as well as the acknowledgment of the, in large parts at last, quite well-informed audience. Gilbert Tillmann (with a horse named Claus Dieter…) and Nisse Lüneburg (Cordillo) completed the podium, last year’s champion Billy Twomey of Ireland (Diaghilev) came in fourth and the crowd’s favourite (and, yes, mine too…) Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann (Cellagon Anna) achieved a highly respectable sixth place.
The 59th German Dressage Derby went to England and with Emile Faurie saw a decorated but distinctively modest and highly likeable winner. Faurie, a two time Olympian, won team Gold at the 2011 European Championships with the formidable British team, consisting of Charlotte Dujardin, Carl Hester and Laura Bechtolsheimer. 18 years before that in Lipica, he had already won individual (Bronze) and team (Silver) medals. What makes this win extra special maybe, is Faurie’s involvement in several other aspects of his sport. From riding instructor to national coach and international judge and, to him perhaps most importantly, his ‘Emile Faurie Foundation’, aimed at providing disadvantaged children with the opportunity to ride.
It should be noted that the best horse was the 13 year old Hannoveraner stallion Delatio, regularly presented by third place finisher Tatyana Kosterina of Russia. For whatever reason, Delatio performed much better with the other two riders than with Kosterina herself…
And then there was Casall…
Long before the tournament it had been decided that Casall ASK, an outstandingly successful 18 year old Holsteiner stallion, should be retired from competition here in Hamburg. A big goodbye ceremony was scheduled, as was an auction to sell eight of Casall’s foals.
But Casall, together with his rider Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, managed to write the perfect encore himself. Less than half an hour before the retirement ceremony he won the final competition of his career. And it wasn’t just any class, but the CSI5* Grand Prix of Hamburg, a stage of the prestigious (and well payed…) Global Champions Tour. Casall remained flawless in both rounds and the jump-off, and so we were privileged to witness a fairy-tale ending to a legendary career.
You can watch highlights of Casall’s final start and the farewell ceremony here:
But now, here are a few more pictures of the German Jumping and Dressage Derby 2017: