The preliminary rounds for the five-gait test took place yesterday morning. The basic gaits walk, trot and canter were shown, along with tölt in two speeds, and two long straights in pace. Tölt and pace are counted twice. The five-gait testing is generally characterized by more speed.
Nadia Des Courtis on Ós of Árnaholt. Photo: Henk Peterse.
Preliminaries are always a rollercoaster of emotions. Here you can see the full range of international riding, from strong participant countries with excellent horses up to countries that can only send one rider.
You see nervous young people and cool veterans and everything from rough riding to true horsemanship. The rider can choose the music to be played during his or here round, which varies from classical music to hard techno beats.
Each participant, each horse and each song paints a special image, leaving behind a feeling and memory unlike all others. Then the nuances disappear with the finals being a class where everyone is exactly at the same level. The variety of pictures and emotions is gone.
Riders like French Nadia Des Courtis on Ós of Árnaholt did not present much spectacular movements, but impressed with a well-ridden, subtle horse with good contact on the bit that had no reason to fight against the hand of its rider. Des Courtis’s ride was immaculate and simply beautiful.
Among the 45 participants were 15 young riders. They tend to handle their horses more gently, don’t have the courage to ride for victory and not enough experience to deal with a disobedient horse. This begs the question whether it’s motivating for young riders to start their careers at the world championships, or rather intimidating.
The ‘fireworks’ from Iceland were striking. Every time one of the Icelandic riders entered the arena, it seemed to set everything on fire.
The crowd celebrated its favorites and every single ride of the Icelandic team proved exceptional, not only in terms of music selection, but also in riding style: the force and motion of the Icelandic horses are tremendous, almost overwhelming. A strong cold northern wind seemed to sweep through the arena during their round. You can only feel it, if you have experienced it.
The performance of Jakob Svavar Sigurðsson on Alur frá Lundum was simply outstanding. The rider was close to his horse, physically and mentally. Jakob has trained Alur from an early age, and in spite of his sporty riding style they performed in great beauty and harmony.
The same goes for the reigning champion, Magnús Skúlason on Hraunar frá Efri-Raudalæk, competing for Sweden. The stallion impressed with incredible elasticity of the hindquarters and smooth, fine transitions. In spite of the high tempo he could take the curves in soft bending—a real exception in Icelandic horse sports. Hraunar is a subtle horse.
As always, ambition ruled in the arena. But friendly gestures, praise and petting could also often be observed. A small pause and breathing together before the next part of the test. Riding is mostly about teamwork.
Dagmar Trodler reports for Iceland Review from Berlin.