The first show-jumping competition in Rio, that servers as qualification for the individual riders, but does not yet count towards the team rating, was quite challenging. In the end 24 pairs stayed clear and 50 pairs had either zero or four penalty points, but one or another experienced rider had some trouble. Penelope Leprevost fell and was therefore eliminated (but is still allowed to compete for the team). Jur Vrieling and Zirocco were disqualified due to excessive use of the riding crop, but are still allowed to compete for the team – that certainly is a rule that should be revised. Belgium’s single rider, Nicola Philippaerts was also eliminated, but then disqualified due to excessive use of the spurs. Some other pairs were also no joy to look at: at the last combination, the double combination that looked like a plank, many horses were distracted.
The German riders did not have problems meeting the requirements. Christian Ahlmann, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Daniel Deußer stayed clear, Ludger Beerbaum made a slight mistake and therefore the last fence fell.
Christian Ahlmann was happy about his start with KWPN stallion Taloubet Z by Galoubet A/Polydor: “I’m happy and content. If you have to go from 0 to 100 after such a week it’s not always that easy. It’s great that we were able to confirm the impression we gave in the warm up.” He only jumped few fences during the warm up with the 16-year-old horse, less than most of the other riders. “If it wasn’t such an important event I would not even jumped these fences with him,” so Ahlmann said. “It was just to satisfy my consciousness and to show him the arena.” However, he took the first competition seriously, like all riders of the German team. “Once we didn’t take it seriously and as all of us know it was a complete disaster.”
Second German rider was Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum with Swedish gelding Fibonnaci by For Feeling/Corland. The 46-year-old rider was positively surprised by her substitution in the morning and then was really happy about her horse’s performance: “Even though we only had so little preparation he showed his ability. The course was challenging enough for the beginning. I had expected it to bee easier. However, the better horses jumped well and we’re at the Olympic Games.”
Daniel Deußer and First Class by Balou du Rouet/Feinschnitt I also showed a safe first round. “The first pressure has been taken away,” the 35-year-old rider said, relieved. “We had to wait a whole week, that led to mounting pressure. It’s a big relief that the beginning went so well.” When he walked the course in the morning he felt it would be very challenging. “There were some new obstacles that the horses had not seen before and we didn’t know how they would jump them. One could see that some had a problem with the combination, but as a whole the course was reasonably well to jump.”
Ludger Beerbaum also wasn’t dissatisfied even though he and Casallo by Casall/Carolus I had one fence down. The Holsteiner Wallach mastered the course quite well, so Beerbaum said: “The last combination went so smooth, I was relieved and thought I’ll just let him jump – and then the bar just fell. But I’m -really- content. There are still two rounds and I’m sure something will come up.”
The mistake – if nothing unfortunate happens- shouldn’t hurt Beerbaum too much. If he’s top 45 after the first team competition and top 35 after the second team competition than the counter will start from zero when it comes to the individual rating.
German national coach Otto Becker was satisfied with his team’s performance. “That we had such a great start even though we had to substitute a rider makes me happy. It’s especially nice that Marcus was present at the warm up – I have to compliment him. The team really acts as one.”
Becker also didn’t mind Ludger Beerbaum’s and Casallo’s mistake: “At the moment it’s insignificant. Today only determined the starting order for the team. The two rounds are important. It’s a pity that today’s results don’t count. We can’t buy anything with theam. But we’re happy that we were able to confirm the performances of the last weeks and we hope to stay in full swing. But I have that feeling that all of us are highly focused.”