It was Ukraine's Katharina Offel who truly mastered this evening’s class with an impressive jump off execution aboard her lovely bay gelding Pour le Poussage. The German-born Ukranian lady rider is no stranger to success and certainly grits it out with the very best all over the world. So truthfully, it was no surprise the Olympic rider bested all the boys and landed the lead in a fifteen horse jump off with a time of 41.06 seconds.
It was a strong class of 49 combinations with plenty of international talent that would certainly confirm to many of the riders, despite their confidence during the course walk, that today's win would not be such an easy acquisition. As Tiffany Foster confirmed, the course, set by Italy's Uliano Vezzani, was set large enough for the first day but offered the riders enough breadth that we all could expect a jump off of impressive measures.
The first to jump clear was in fact the first combination to compete; Great Britain's Alexandra Thornton, who was clean and confident with her 11-year-old gelding Caballero 84. Jumping to a time of 50.44 seconds, the young British jockey was conservative but clear which meant she could expect a decent result. Despite best efforts from seriously fast combinations such as Kent Farrington and Blue Angel as well as Daniel Deusser and Mouse, it was Germany's Hans-Dieter Dreher who impressed the Dutch crowd with one of his classically fast and well-deserved rounds, crossing the finish line aboard Embassy II with a time of 41.22 seconds.
Everyone attempted to unseat the Germany jockey, who maintains a strong presence in the sport of international show jumping. Quiet and soft spoken, Hans-Dieter Dreher is certainly one of the hardest working riders during a round of competition. Fighting for every inch, Dreher rides every round as if it were his last.
Drawing close to the end of the class, it was the Ukraine's lady of steel, the lovely Katharina Offel who blew everyone's socks off with a fantastic round aboard her relatively new mount, the 10 year old Westphalian gelding Pour le Poussage. This combination have impressed through out the season, so it really came as no surprise.
Landing after the final fence, Katharina managed to shave .16 seconds off Dreher's time and land the lead for Ukraine, pushing Hans-Dieter to second place. World number one ranked rider and season ranking leader Christian Ahlmann finished in third position after a solid attempt aboard the adorable Little Lady Z. The hosting nation would be pleased as their very own Harrie Smolders finished in fourth position aboard Regina Z.
A wonderful conclusion to our first day of competition as we look to tomorrow's Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Valkenswaard. Who will win this year?