The preparations for the forthcoming eventing season are in full swing. The perfect time for a chat with Hans Melzer and Mike Etherington-Smith about their plans and goals.
Team Trainer Hans Melzer is convinced that the German eventers are well prepared for this year’s challenges: “All horses benefitted from the mild temperatures during the winter. Whilst in Warendorf earlier this year, we noticed how fit the horses were after being worked outside throughout the past months.”
The focus is definitely on the World Equestrian Games in Tryon. Depending on their qualifications, there are a number of different classes to get the horses and their riders well on their way to the games. However, most of the members of Germany’s so called Olympic squad will compete their horses in Luhmühlen’s CIC***: “We are expecting most riders to compete in the CIC*** Meßmer Trophy. Only Michael Jung is considering taking La Biosthetique Sam to Badminton and fischerRocana to Kentucky instead. Outside of the Olympic squad we have a number of promising horse-rider combinations who stand a chance to compete at the WEG. They will compete in Luhmühlen’s CCI****, as this could provide them with the necessary qualifications for Tryon. Felix Etzel, Marina Köhncke, Jörg Kurbel, Anna Siemer and Falk-Filip-Finn Westerich are candidates to take this route. It’s certainly possible that one or more of these riders could be selected, as Sandra Auffarth, Bettina Hoy, Michael Jung, Ingrid Klimke, Andreas Ostholt, Kai Rüder and Josefa Sommer only have one horse each on this level. At the moment, Andreas Dibowski is the only one who has got three horses which could be contenders for the games. Irrespective of their individual goals for this season, I think one of Luhmühlen’s great attractions this year is that Mike Etherington-Smith will also design the Europeans next year.”
Due to his current success in show-jumping, there have been some slightly anxious rumours that Michael Jung might have some aspirations to focus more on his show-jumping career. Luckily, this doesn’t seem to be the case: “fischerTakinou and Lennox are back on form and Michael has got six very promising eventing prospects he’s planning to compete at Le Lion d’Angers. He enjoys eventing way too much to give it up,” assures Melzer.
￼￼After his Luhmühlen debut in 2017, Mike Etherington-Smith is planning to design courses that will be up a notch in terms of degree of difficulty and size. “Last year was really all about getting a feel for the course, the terrain, and the layout and how the event works. Now I am getting more familiar with the venue and the opportunities that present themselves I am feeling more comfortable. The courses will be a bit more intense this time and I am
starting to use changes of direction to create a different feel. I am a great believer in looking afresh each year at the overall layout and route of the courses to explore what can be done better and whether we are making optimum use of what there is.”
At the same time, Etherington-Smith is aware of his key responsibilities: to produce courses that develop horses and athletes. “I obviously hope that the best will come out on top yet at the same time I must recognise that some (horses and athletes) will be doing their first 4 star. The experience must be a positive one that sees horses grow as they go around.”
There are some major changes in
this year’s courses: “We have built a
number of new fences but the
primary changes are at the two water
fences, where we have done a lot of
ground wor k. There are several
reasons for this not least to give a
different flavour to these fences and
the questions being asked but also to
give spectators something different
to see. We need to look at the overall
package and ensure that the courses
continue to develop, offer new
questions, and add variety I also have the European Championships very much in mind with these developments”, explains Etherington-Smith.
The DHL water complex has undergone the most visible changes: “I didn’t really like the island as it was, since it provided limited opportunities. Plus the ground on top of it had become soft in places which made the decision to change it very easy. The changes here are therefore designed to create different questions and I believe that there is now the opportunity for greater variety here in terms of the questions that can be asked going forward.”
￼While Ethington-Smith is happy to share his general ideas, he doesn’t want to show his hand concerning his plans for next year’s European Championships: “I am not going to give away anything at this stage other than all roads are leading to the Europeans. I have pretty much designed that course and am working backwards from it without hopefully giving anything away.”