Seventy looks good on you, CHIO Rotterdam. They say age is just a number, but when it comes to the Dutch equestrian extravaganza (some flair is deserved here), we say seven decades is something to celebrate. Now the longest running 5* event in the country, the big 7-0 kicked off June 21 and spanned through Sunday, June 24, in the beautiful Kralingse Bos in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. CHIO Rotterdam has proved exceptional staying power and for good reason - hosting exciting classes like the FEI Nations Cup in both show jumping and dressage, and a Longines Grand Prix.
With the World Equestrian Games looming near, top riders from around the world chose Rotterdam for the WEG qualification chase. One of the most unique things about the show is the combination of top-level show jumping and dressage, which attracted the continent’s cream of the crop like a magnet. If we’re honest, we had a lot of favorite moments. But for your sake, we’ve narrowed it down to just five.
Edward Gal piloted the stunning dark bay stallion to a winning test in the Grand Prix on Day 1, the first part of the FEI Dressage Nations Cup. With the home turf advantage, the Dutch rider pulled in a score of 76.975% to win and place The Netherlands in an early lead. The 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood competed in his first ever international Grand Prix last year at Rotterdam, and has since proved himself as a rising star in the world of equine athletes.
‘'Last year I rode Glock’s Zonik here for the first time in an international Grand Prix and I see we haven’t just improved a great deal, but that there is room to keep on improving’’, said Edward. ‘'And the judges like to see Glock’s Zonik perform, that’s nice too!''
Is horse-crush Monday a thing?
2. Alan Wade Creates a Killer Course and Sharpens His Skills for WEG
Course designer Alan Wade, alongside Louis Konickx, crafted the course of our dreams for Friday’s Longines Grand Prix, putting together the perfect combination of challenging but fair to both horse and rider. The Irish master of fences is known for presenting artfully conceptualized tests, devoid of any dirty tricks or unnecessary fluff, but definitely not devoid of challenges. He favors simple lines and varying types of fences, and aims to build courses that demand a thoughtful and athletic ride from all of the horse and rider combinations on the start list.
With only four riders going clear in the jump-off, Alan’s course put on a riveting show. Alan has been named the Course Designer for the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina, USA this fall, and if his courses will be anything like this one, we can’t wait to watch.
3. Belgian Rider Jos Verlooy Ends a 70 Year Curse
In the 70 year history of CHIO Rotterdam, no Belgian rider has topped the podium in a 5* grand prix. Until now. Jos Verlooy and 13-year-old stallion Caracas tackled the course with masterful speed and precision, leaving all rails untouched and a blisteringly fast time on the clock, earning a well-deserved win and changing history. Jos’ coach Harrie Smolders helped him create a strategy for the tough jump off and the approach proved to be unbeatable, as five horse and rider combinations couldn’t beat Jos’s jump-off.
At only 22 years of age, Jos is an up-and-comer who isn’t afraid to make waves and showcase his ability. The new guard is coming and shaking things up, in the best way possible.
4. The Dutch Team Wins the FEI Dressage Nations Cup on their Home Turf
Dressage is elegant, intricate, and incredibly athletic - but competition isn’t always edge-of-your-seat exciting. The final competitions of the FEI Dressage Nations Cup - the Grand Prix Special and Grand Prix Freestyle - begged to differ, and left viewers with bitten nails and an adrenaline hangover. Going for the big win, the Dutch home team was neck to neck with team Sweden up until the final rider.
Edward Gal and Glock’s Zonik continued their banner week with another strong showing by winning the Freestyle, despite the stallion feeling his oats a bit in the warmup, reportedly being a little too enthusiastic about Patrik Kittel’s (SWE) mare. Hey, a strong woman is hard to resist.
Hans Peter Miderhoud had a great ride on another handsome black-bay (it’s a team theme) - Glock’s Dream Boy. ‘’It's the best test I’ve ridden so far with this horse.” Hans said. “Dream Boy doesn’t get spooky in this entourage and he never complains, but just does his thing.”
Swedish rider Therese Nilshagen and Dante Weltino Old took the win in the Grand Prix Special, but the Dutch team was able to narrowly edge out the Swedes for some well-earned glory.
5. Belgium Rode the High of Friday’s Longines Grand Prix Win to FEI Show Jumping Nations Cup Victory
If CHIO Rotterdam was prom, Belgium would definitely be crowned prom king. The team has had a top year, sitting comfortably in the top 3 in the Europe Division 1 Nations Cup standings, but when in the Netherlands, the Dutch come out in full force as tough competition, not to mention hard-to-beat teams from Europe and the US. The Belgian team, consisting of Nicola Philippaerts, Niels Bruynseels, Jos Verlooy, and Pieter Devos, was not daunted by fellow competitors and put in some truly beautiful rounds to earn their spot atop the podium.
Speaking of the Dutch, Harrie Smolders had the interesting challenge of competing against his student, Jos Verlooy, in the big event. Harrie put in a fast and clean round, but his team ultimately came in behind Germany and Jos’ home country of Belgium. We’re pretty sure that counts as a win though.
Photos by Jessica Pijlman, Nils Boeser, and Judith Kuivenhoven with Made by Jessy Photography.