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WoSJ Exclusive; The Showjumping Year of 2012

Sunday, 30 December 2012

For us this photo of a gold winning Peter Charles sums up 2012. It was the year when dreams came true! Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.Thanks to riders such as Nick Skelton, Ben Maher, Scott Brash and Peter Charles dreams came true in 2012! Also showing us the stuff that dreams are made of in 2012 were Steve Guerdat, Rich Fellers, Edwina Tops-Alexander and Christian Ahlmann - just to mention some! This is our review on the showjumping year of 2012, which no doubt mostly was all about the Olympics in London – but also about some other amazing wins, new talents, some big horse sales, two suspensions, drama surrounding a silver medalist and farewells to some of the greatest stars in the sport. This is the story of what happened in the world of showjumping in 2012, and who made the headlines. 

January: The first month of the year continued where December left us – with lots of news of ownership changes that took place right ahead of the Olympic deadline 31.12.2011. Titus to Edwina Tops-Alexander, Cadjanine Z to Gregory Wathelet, Sultan and Al Capone to the Saudi Equestrian – and lots of changes on paper for many other top horses allowing them to compete in London with their respective riders.

Rolf was number one in the world from January until November. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson. There is also a change on the top of the Rolex Rankings; Rolf-Göran Bengtsson starts the New Year with a bang and becomes number one in the world – pushing Eric Lamaze down to second. “I can live with being number one in the world! Joking aside; it feels really good to be on top,” Rolf says to WoSJ. The Swedish rider stays on top of the rankings until November 2012. Rolf is also in the limelight when he won Sweden’s most prestigious sports award at the Swedish Sports Gala.

On the other hand 2012 doesn’t start well for poor McLain Ward, who takes a bad fall during a Grand Prix in Wellington. Ward has to undergo surgery to repair a compound fracture of his patella (kneecap), keeping him out of the saddle for a long time – but luckily he returns in time for the Olympics.

February: The second month of the year starts with the tragic news of the passing of the 8 year old Belgian stallion Ugano Sitte. The horse tragically breaks his leg when he is lunged in trot, and the injury is so serious that the owners decide to put the stallion to sleep. Ugano Sitte´s rider Dirk Demeersman loses a really promising horse in the beginning of its career.

The good news in February is that Tim Stockdale returns to the saddle! Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.Good news come Tim Stockdale’s way though. In February he returns to the saddle after breaking his neck in three places in the middle of October 2011. "I just did a little walking with a horse, and a little trot. The feeling was fantastic," Stockdale said afterwards.

Awards are handed out to some of the world’s best riders; Billy Twomey is given the The Irish Field Senior Show Jumper of The Year Award at the Irish Horse World Awards, Janne Friederike Meyer is awarded with the title Sportswoman of the year in Schleswig-Holstein and Jessica Kürten wins the Irish Times/Irish Sports Council Sportswoman of the Month Award for January.

The United States Equestrian Federation announces Robert Ridland as the new Chef d’equipe for their showjumping team from 2013. Ridland will follow the legendary George Morris, who retires in 2013 after six years of service.

Known for his many horse transactions, Ukrainian rider and billionaire Aleksander Onischenko steps into the spotlight again – for two reasons. First for the news of three of his horses being seized by Belgian authorities. The story is followed by Onischenko falling off his horse Ledgepoint during a training session at the Mediterranean Equestrian Tour in Oliva Nova, Valencia, forcing him to take a few weeks off. 

A man with better luck is Kevin Staut, who takes the overall win in the Western European league for a second year in a row. “It’s nice to be on top, it shows consistency throughout the season,” Kevin said afterwards.

In March it is known that Katchina Mail will retire after a very successful career. The French superstar is one of many horses to leave the sport in 2012. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.March:  There is no month that goes by without a famous horse changing hands. This month Laura Kraut’s top ride Cedric is sold to Cherry Knoll Farm, but luckily Laura remains as his rider. The lovely grey gelding was put out on the market already in the fall of 2011, but surprisingly nothing happened before Olympic deadline like one could have expected. Haras des Coudrettes and Edith Mézard secure Olivier Guillon a new and promising ride; the eight year old mare United Love. Jessica Kürten gets the ride on the 10 year old stallion Voss, earlier ridden by British riders Simon Crippen and  John Whitaker. Xavier Marie and Haras de Hus announce that Michel Robert takes over the ride of Zeta de Hus from Kevin Staut; a sign of what was to come later in the year.

It was the end of the sport career for another wonderful horse as Katchina Mail at 14 years old ends her sports career to be used for breeding instead. The French bred mare had a very successful career under Patrice Delaveau with some big international victories.

March: Reed Kessler hits the spotlight big time, and never looks back! Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.Another great star leaves this world; the 21 year old stallion Tlaloc M - also known under the name Dollar de la Pierre - suffers from colic and can’t be saved. Tlaloc M was one of the best horses in France during his career, and was on the winning team at the WEG in Jerez in 2002. In 2003 he got European silver with the French team.

Finnish rider Nina Fagerström starts on a new chapter in her career, leaving Stephex Stables in Belgium to start off on her own with her boyfriend. Nina had great success as a Stephex rider, taking home some big wins on horses like Mouse and Talent.

A huge talent steps into the spotlight in the world of showjumping as she ends on top of the 2012 USEF National Show Jumping Championships and Selection Trials for the U.S. Show Jumping Team. Reed Kessler – who turns 18 later in 2012 – shares the victory gallop with veteran Margie Engel. Kessler is to return in the news many times during 2012, quickly becoming a media favorite as her amazing results keep coming.

April: The month opens with the news that Katharina Offel is back on Alexandre Onischenko´s horses, after she stopped riding for the Ukrainian millionaire in 2011. The co-operation results in Offel bringing Vivant to the Olympics.

April sees Rich Fellers and Flexible take home the World Cup title to the States. Photo by Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com.New partnerships form as well. Reveur de Hurtebise goes from Malin Bayard Johnsson to Kevin Staut. The Swedish mare Nice Stephanie goes to Penelope Leprévost after the Megret family buys the 8 year old mare for the French rider – while Gustavo and Carolina Mirabal of Venezuela, owners of G&C Farm, announce a new partnership with Olympic gold medalist Rodrigo Pessoa. Steve Guerdat gets the ride on Chips, Edwina Tops-Alexander on Rackham ‘Jo – while Eurocommerce California is sold to Ali bin Khaled Al Thani from Qatar. Daniel Deusser is announced as the new rider at Stephex Stables, after having worked for Jan Tops for several years.

No April without an April Fools’ Joke. Jos Lansink enters in the news saying that he is trying to qualify for the Olympics - not just in showjumping but also in dressage. An article with pictures is put out on Anky van Grunsven's website and of course several medias believe the story and in Jos' new plan.

April is also the month of the Rolex FEI World Cup Final. After four tough rounds and a man to man jump-off it is Rich Fellers and the incredible Flexible who are crowned as winners in the Rolex FEI World Cup Final 2012 in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. It was a popular win for Fellers and his chestnut stallion!

It was the tragic news of Camilla Enemark passing away after fighting an aggressive brain tumor since 2006 that made the most impact in April. The 31 year old Danish rider was a part of the Danish team at the Europeans in Madrid where she performed very well despite the fact that she was undergoing chemotherapy.

May; Kevin Staut and Haras de Hus go their separate ways. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.May: Lots of riders are in the center of attention this month. Edwina Tops-Alexander is one of them as she is named Equestrian Australia's international athlete of the year, and also opens the month as the first to be selected for the Australian equestrian team.

Another rider in the news is Kevin Staut. In May it is known that Staut and Haras de Hus have decided to go separate ways after five years of collaboration. Some of Kevin’s former rides such as Prestige St. Lois de Hus, Zeta de Hus and Banda de Hus had at this point already been placed with other riders such as Martin Fuchs, Michel Robert and Gregory Wathelet. Later in May Michel Robert is announced as Haras de Hus’ new rider.

Denis Lynch enters the headlines after a very dramatic fall off Night Train during a lap of honor in La Baule causing a debate about the use of helmets during the prize giving ceremonies as the pictures of Denis and his flying helmet went around the globe. Denis suffered from two broken ribs and was out for several weeks.

The amazing Sapphire is retired in May. Photo by Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com.A tear is brought to many showjumping fans’ eyes as McLain Ward's fantastic mare Sapphire retires from the sport. The 17 year old chestnut BWP mare by Darco and McLain have two Olympic team gold medals to look back on and a team silver from the 2006 World Equestrian Games. The combination also won the famous Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows in 2009 as well as having several other great victories together.

May also sees the world of showjumping taking a farewell with Kellemoi de Pepita. The mare tragically passes away after a colic attack. The 14 year old mare was sold to Qatar in 2011 after a very successful career with Michel Robert; the pair won a silver team medal at the European Championships in Madrid in 2011, and won the Global Champions Tour Final in Doha in 2009, as well as the Top Ten final in Brussels in 2008.

Other horses in the news are Titus and Spartacus TN. Titus is reunited with his former rider Guy Williams after being sold to Edwina Tops-Alexander in the end of December 2011, while Spartacus TN moves on from Eric van der Vleuten to Marco Kutscher who goes on to have great success with the stallion.

In June Abdullah Sharbatly is in the news, but for the wrong reasons. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.June: The most debate this month is caused by the how the suspensions of Khaled Al Eid and Abdullah Sharbatly are dealt with. First the two riders get an 8-month suspension by the FEI Tribunal following both Al Eid’s horse Vanhoeve and Sharbatly’s horse Lobster 43 testing positive to non-steroidal-inflammatory drugs, phenylbutazone and oxyphenbutazone at two separate events in 2011 and 2012. At this point it looks like the two riders will miss out on the Olympics, but the story takes a new turn as both riders appeal the decisions to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Surprisingly to most the two riders have their bans reduced by CAS; from eight months to two. The reduced ban means that both riders can compete again with immediate effect and that Olympic participation is no longer in danger. A little later in June Abdullah Sharbatly qualifies for the Olympics on Sultan at a two star event.

On the bright side British showjumping star Nick Skelton is awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to equestrian sport. “It is a great honour. I am really chuffed with it and very happy to receive this award. It was a shock and I am really pleased,” the 54-year-old rider, who has won more than 2,000 classes and over £6.5 million in prize money over the years.

In June Chacco-Blue tragically passes away. The stallion owned by Paul Schockemöhle became 14 years old. He was educated by Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst – and from the beginning of 2011 competed by Andreas Kreuzer. Together the two ended third in last year’s Aachen Grand Prix.

July's unexpected twist and turns ends with Denis Lynch dressed in the Australian colors at the Olympics. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson. July: In the beginning of the month Horse Sport Ireland nominates Denis Lynch and Billy Twomey to compete at the Olympic Games in London for Ireland. Ireland did not manage to qualify as a team, but Lynch and Twomey still managed to secure two individual places for their country. Later in July, things take an unexpected turn for Lynch as his ride Lantinus is disqualified during the CHIO Aachen due to hypersensitivity. Following Aachen, Horse Sport Ireland decides not to proceed with the nomination of Lynch to represent Ireland at the Olympic Games. Instead Cian O’Connor is nominated on Blue Loyd. Lynch asks the Court of Arbitration for Sport to consider the withdrawal, but CAS dismisses the application filed by the Irish rider.

In July a legend takes a legendary win; Michael Whitaker wins the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen on GIG Amai. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.Some great sport also takes place in Aachen, and Michael Whitaker writes history winning the prestigious Rolex Grand Prix on GIG Amai. Since rumor has it that Michael had written his name on the winning wall in Aachen already the Thursday before the GP, he probably felt himself that it was time after trying to win this class for nearly 30 years!

Beverley Widdowson, owner of the 11-year-old grey gelding Carlo 273, is awarded the prestigious title of “Owner of the Year” by the FEI and International Jumping Owners Club – while Belgian rider Philippe Le Jeune is knighted with the distinction Commandeur de l'Ordre de Léopold.

Olympic teams are announced. Some riders see their dreams come true while other misses out for various reasons, such as Angelica Augustsson, Michael Whitaker, Philipp Weishaupt, Malin Baryard-Johnson, Ludger Beerbaum, Marco Kutscher, Patrice Delaveau and Khaled Al Eid.

When dreams come true. August 2012. British team gold. Photo by Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com.August: The eight month of the year is all about the Olympics in London, and expectations are high as to what the Games will bring for the sport. The first individual qualifier at the 2012 Olympics brings with it plenty of lovely clear rounds, but also some unexpected drama for the British, German and American riders as Peter Charles, Christian Ahlmann and Beezie Madden all struggle unexpectedly. Day two brings even more surprise as the Saudi Arabian team takes the lead after the first round of the Olympic team competition and favorites Germany and France made a shocking exit together with five other teams. The Olympic team competition gets a dream conclusion though as the home team brings home the gold after a thrilling jump-off against the Dutch team. This was Great Britain’s first Olympic jumping gold since 1952, and the first Olympic jumping team medal in 28 years – the last came in Los Angeles in 1984. Amazing performances from Nick Skelton and Big Star, Ben Maher and Tripple X, Scott Brash and Hello Sanctos and Peter Charles aboard Vindicat secure the gold, while the Netherlands wins silver and the bronze goes to Saudi Arabia after great performances from the entire team.

The individual medal winners Steve, Gerco and Cian. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.Swiss rider Steve Guerdat becomes Olympic Champion as the only rider to produce two clear rounds over Bob Ellis’ very technical tracks in the individual final in London. Steve and Nino des Buissonnets leaves Gerco Schröder on the appropriately named London and Cian O’Connor on Blue Loyd to battle it out in a jump-off between silver and bronze, and Gerco takes home yet another silver for the Netherlands – while Cian, who made it to the final when Rolf-Göran Bengtsson withdrew, wins the bronze.

For the Dutch silver medalist, the party quickly comes to an end. Right after the Olympic triumphs, London is seized. The story features all over the world as the seizure supposedly is made due to big financial problems for the former owners of the stallion, the company Eurocommerce. Other Eurocommerce horses are also seized together with London, bringing their competition activities to an immediate stop. The situation quickly evolves, and throughout the next months there are new stories every week as to whether or not London can compete. Poor Gerco is caught in the middle of all the drama.

August sees the end of Vigo d'Arsouilles career. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.A champion retires right after the Games; for Vigo d’Arsouilles the Olympics is the last competition. The wonderful 14 year old stallion by Nabab de Reve x Fleuri du Manoir moves on to a breeding career after winning gold at the WEG in 2010 with Philippe Le Jeune.

Horses change hands; Marco Kutsher’s ride Satisfaction FRH is sold to Denmark, Carlos V.H.P.Z –ridden by Nicola Phillipaerts – is sold to Emilie Martinsen, Denis Lynch’s amazing nine year old ride Contifex goes to Syrain rider Ahmad Saber Hamcho, Edouard de Rotschild purchases Werner Muff’s Olympic partner Kiamon and the promising stallion Don VHP Z is sold to American rider Saer Coulter.

Germany wins the Top League, a series that comes to its end in 2012.

The biggest headlines in September are caused by Carlo 273 - the nearest you'll come equine royalty. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson. September: Three lovely horse change hands. First Nick Skelton’s successful ride Carlo 273 is sold and his new rider is Sergio Alvarez Moya. Carlo did extremely well under Skelton, winning numerous classes together over the years including taking home two bronze medals at the Europeans last year in Madrid – both with the team and individually.  Carlo quickly moves on to more success under Sergio, dominating in the Western European World Cup league during the autumn of 2012. Alberto Michan’s Olympic ride Rosalia La Silla is also sold, to Qatar. The 11 year old mare impressed many in London where she ended fifth with her Mexican rider. Then Peter Charles' Olympic partner Murka's Vindicat W is sold to the talented American rider Jessica Springsteen.

Two other great horses are also in the news:

After a fantastic partnership together with Roger-Yves Bost, Ideal de la Loge leaves the French rider. – while the amazing 19 year old stallion Stakkato retires, and is thanked off in Warendorf at the Bundeschampionat.

McLain Ward has a good month as he wins the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix on Antares F. As does Olivier Philippaerts who wins the $1,000,000 CN International Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows on Cabrio vd Heffinck.

September: Hunter's Scendix returns to Lanaken with Brecht Brille to win the Sires of the World for the second year in a row. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.At Spruce Meadows a tribute to one of the greatest showjumping horses of all times takes place. A statue made in Hickstead’s likeness is unveiled during a touching ceremony, with Eric Lamaze present. A few days earlier it is known that Lamaze takes a break from competition. Luckily for his fans, it’s a short one – and Eric will only be out of the ring until January 2013.

At the World Breeding Championships in Lanaken, Dayro Arroyave and Gangster de Longchamps win the 6-year-old final, while the 5-year-old final goes to Toni Hassmann and Con Cara. Florian Meyer zu Hartum and Chacciana take the 7-year-old final, and Hunter's Scendix wins the FEI Sires of the World for a second year in a row with Brecht Brille.

October is another great month for Nick Skelton. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.October: Olympic team gold medalist Nick Skelton receives no less than four awards at the British Showjumping awards ball, while another gold medalist – Steve Guerdat - once again proves that he has got what it takes when it matters the most as he wins the first prize of 330 000 Euro in the OI Grand Prix in Rio de Janeiro on Nino des Buissonnets. Another Olympian continues her good year; Reed Kessler adds yet another accolade to her impressive year with a win in the $100,000 President's Cup Grand Prix.

The Western European World Cup league kicks off in Oslo, before moving on to the rest of Europe – with Sergio and Carlo dominating the circuit along with becoming crowd favorites.

Björn Nagel goes back to compete for Germany, after flying the Ukrainian flag for the past six years. "I had some really interesting years with the Team of Alexander Onyschenko and we didn't go separate ways because of a fight. But now I have new goals and have made some other priorities," Björn Nagel stated.

Another rider is also in the news. Ben Maher strengthens his string of horses, taking over the ride on Jane Clark’s horses including the top mounts Urico and Cella, previously seen under Mario Deslauriers.

It’s also farewell to a legend; Laura Kraut's former top ride Anthem is put to sleep. On her Twitter account Laura writes about her famous partner: "It's a sad time for all of us as my great partner, Anthem, had to be euthanized this week. He's been enjoying retirement in Holland with a wonderful family who loved him as I did, but unfortunately it was his time. He was a special friend and partner. I will miss him."

November; Edwina makes history!November: Steve Guerdat takes over as number one on the Rolex Ranking, bringing a fantastic year to even greater heights! Two leading lady riders are also in the news; in a thriller GCT final, Edwina Tops-Alexander and her extraordinary Cevo Itot du Chateau makes history winning the tour for the second year in a row. It’s pure girl power in Abu Dhabi. As Katharina Offel wins the final on Fidji Island.

The Furusiya FEI Nations Cup is launched by the FEI; bringing the Nations Cup series into a completely new look. The world is divided into six regions for the purpose of qualifying teams for the final. The Nations Cup will be under a four-year sponsorship package from the Saudi Equestrian Fund.

Celia Rijntjes, who has groomed for Rolf-Goran Bengtsson for 13 years, wins the award for Best Groom at the FEI Awards – while Athina Onassis de Miranda makes headlines when she buys Edwina Tops-Alexander’s former ride Rackham Jo, as well as Eric Lamaze who gets to new promising stars in Big Smile and Rosana du Park.

December; Christian Ahlmann ends the year on top of the world!December: The biggest horse sale of the months is probably the one of London bronze medalist Blue Loyd who moves on from his Irish home with Cian O'Connor, to Austria. Coriana vh Klapscheut also makes headlines as she is sold from Eric Lamaze to Pilar Cordon.

Sadly, the month also is the time for goodbye to Alexander Onischenko’s Olympic ride Comte D'Arsouilles who tragically deceased after a colic attack.

Mark Bellissimo and Donald Trump announce that they will host the first annual $100,000 Trump Invitational to benefit the 2013 FTI Consulting Great Charity Challenge presented by Fidelity Investments® (FTI GCC), bringing some real glitz to the world of showjumping.

Olympic team silver medalist Marc Houtzager crowns a fantastic year with two big wins – one in the Gucci Grand Prix in Paris and one in the World Cup qualifier in London. Both victories come on his Olympic-silver ride Sterrehof’s Tamino.

Christian Ahlmann is another rider that gets a great finish to 2012. He wins the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final on Taloubet Z, before taking over the Green and Gold Armband as the new number one in the world a few days later.

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