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WoSJ Exclusive; Bo Kristoffersen and Andreas Schou on Super League’s Newcomer Denmark

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Bo Kristoffersen. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.After a convincing victory in the Meydan FEI Nations Cup Promotional League final in Barcelona in September last year, the Danish showjumping team qualified for the 2011 Super League series. It was a young team that pulled it off with Andreas Schou and Uno’s Safier, Emilie Martinsen and Caballero, Thomas Sandgaard and Rubber Ball, as well as Tina Lund and Zamiro. Out of these four riders, only Schou and Lund are familiar faces on the international scene. The victory was no less than a triumph for the Danish team.

In Denmark’s equestrian federation they needed time making their decision to whether or not they were to participate in the prestigious series – but just before Christmas the federation informed that they had decided to give it a go and compete with the “big guys” in 2011.

There is no doubt that it takes both excellent horses and riders to survive the Super League. Poland had a hard time throughout the entire 2010 series and ended up withdrawing, Spain performed well in several of the series’ legs - but that still wasn’t enough to keep their place and even the likes of the great showjumping nation Holland struggled – saving themselves at the last minute with a victory in Dublin. It takes little explaining to understand that the Danish team will need to perform at their absolute best competing against Germany, France, Ireland, Great Britain, Belgium, Holland and the US – the absolute best showjumping nations in the world.

Andreas Schou. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.So – can Denmark survive? To find out WoSJ has taken a closer look at the Danish participation, their goals and preparations. So we met up with Andreas Schou - the best Danish rider in the world ranking these days - and Bo Kristoffersen, former Danish top rider turned trainer who runs a training stable in Germany together with Rolf-Göran Bengtsson – to hear their opinions on the matter.

Andreas and Bo agree on at least one thing; “It won’t be easy”. Denmark must prove their very best in every competition, and due to the lack of horses they have to make their team selection very carefully. “We also need to save our horses so they are in peak form for every leg of the Super League,” Andreas explains. “As an example we will probably not ride the horses in the grand prix, only in the Super League classes,” he continues.  “Just look at Sweden”, Bo says “they had quite a strong team last year with riders such as Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Malin Baryard Johnson - and they still didn’t make it”.

“Most of the candidates to join the Danish team in the Super League only have one horse at Grand Prix level and there have not been made any big investments in new top-level horses,” Andreas explains. “On the contrary they lost one of their best horses when Karina Rie Trulsen’s stallion Lord If De Chalusse was sold to the Ukrainian businessman Alexander Onyschenko a couple of months ago,” Bo states. So; which horses/riders combinations can the Danes choose from? “There are Tina and Charlotte Lund, Thomas Velin, Emilie Martinsen, Thomas Sandgaard, myself and my brother Christian,” Andreas points out. “Most of our riders only have one horse to their disposal, while I, Emilie and Thomas Velin are the only ones that have two at this level,” the 24 year old continues. “So of course it will be hard to rotate the riders and their horses for each of the eight shows from May to August in a way that is satisfactory.”

“Maybe we will be able to end up as number four or five at a show or two,” Andreas says, “but there is no secret that we lack top horses compared to other nations in the series”. “In Denmark we have some really good younger horses that are likely to compete at top international level in two or three year’s time. So in the perfect world we should have gotten this opportunity three years from now,” Andreas explains. The young Dane is positive though – he is convinced that their participation in the Super League will give them the experience they need for the future, and that this will help them raise the level of Danish showjumping. One thing is the experience Denmark’s best riders and horses will gain from riding the Super League classes, another side to their participation is the fact that it gives room for other more up and coming Danish riders to compete at bigger shows as well while the top riders are concentrating on the Super League.

Charlotte Lund is a potential candidate for the Danish Super League teams. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.Another factor to whether or not Denmark will be able to hold on to their place in the tough showjumping series is the European Championship in Madrid in September. “This will be their last chance to try and qualify for the Olympics in London in 2012, making it a very important event indeed,” Bo says. “And in order to have a real chance on qualifying they need to bring their top riders and horses. In addition the horses need to be in top form, fresh and sound. This might be hard to combine with staying in the Super League, and also might force Denmark to make a choice at some point as to what is most important,” he continues. To make it in the Super League, Bo believes that the Danish team need to strengthen their string of horses - as well as showing rock solid discipline. “It won’t be the beginning of the series that separates the Danes from the best. It will be the three last legs when the shows at Hickstead, Dublin and Rotterdam is coming up very closely at the same time as the Danish team are close to the Europeans. At this point they will have to use other horses than their top ones who will need rest and preparation for Madrid, and I think that will be a challenge,” Bo says. “And they can absolutely not be tempted to compete the same horses that are used for the Super League in the Grand Prix’s that follows on the Sundays at Super League shows.”

A new aspect to this year’s Super League is a change in the rules that actually can make the Danish team’s choice to whether to continue or not in the series less complicated.  Last year there was a 200 000 euro fine if a team did not make it to the start – this year the teams can choose to withdraw without such a fine.  Such a decision is a definitive one though, and the team will lose all points gained up to that time and will not be invited to participate in the remainder of the series. “I think it is likely that Denmark will make use of this option at some point to make it through a tough season with both Super League and the European Championships,” Bo points out. “Their choice will probably need to be made around Aachen,” he continues.  Emilie Martinsen is one of Denmark's strongest cards. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.

On the question on the Danish team’s goals Andreas says:”Apart from gaining experience for the future, I think our goal is to do our best - and not to regret trying!” “But I’m positive and I think it’s worth a shot, but of course I am also realistic!”

Well, it for sure will be interesting to follow this year’s Super League; it’s going to be tough with the best nations in the world opposing each other in the eight legs that start in La Baule in the middle of May and conclude in Rotterdam in the end of August. The two last placed teams in the overall standings here will be relegated to the Promotional League. The question still is; will Denmark be one of them, or will they survive?

[Editor’s comment: After this interview was done Emilie Martinsen acquired the stallion Quintender, and thus strengthened her string of horses for the season ahead.]

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To learn more about Andreas Schou and his brother’s fantastic stable at Schou & Skouboe in Denmark, you should read our WoSJ Exclusive article “Schou & Skouboe - a promise for the Danish showjumping future”.

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