Monica Theodorescu: “Sanction the judges too”

The “Aachen Dressage Youngstars” – an international show for aspiring young dressage riders – starts on Thursday. The German dressage coach will also be on-site and is taking part in the show programme on Saturday evening at the “Youngstars Late Night”. We spoke with Monica Theodorescu about the show for young talents, the situation on the German dressage scene and the discussion about the judges.

Question: What does it mean for the young dressage riders to have their own show in Aachen?
Monica Theodorescu: I am convinced that the Aachen Dressage Youngstars will take on a high standing. It is good and important that the aspiring talents can compete at high-class indoor shows, a show like this towards the end of the year was exactly what was missing. There is the World Cup and international competitions indoors, but there wasn’t anything in this magnitude for the youngsters. The Aachen Youngstars can now adequately fill this gap, it is especially very important for the Young Riders, who are just about to join the senior level circuit.

Question: Why is this transition so difficult?
Monica Theodorescu: It is a totally different level. Grand Prix is ridden at senior level and Grand Prix is very difficult and the step forward in this sport is huge. The transition is rarely seamless, when the athletes start competing at this level for the first time, many of them start hyperventilating because they notice: This is a completely different kettle of fish. The exercises, which are much more difficult, follow each other in much faster succession and this surprises a lot of the young riders at first.

Question: How do you assess the situation regarding the German youngsters?
Monica Theodorescu: Very, very good. The German dressage riders won 16 gold medals at Championships this year – the seniors make up the smallest group here, that shows how well-aligned we are in the young talents field.

Question: What is the reason for this?
Monica Theodorescu: Our promotion system, which is very open. It starts off with the pony riders – the Children’s group is going to be added to the list soon – and ends with the difficult transition into senior level sport. Two national coaches take care of the young athletes per age group. There are training courses, trials and qualifiers through to Championships – and now also a top indoor show. The exchange with the district associations also runs very smoothly. And also very important: The top judges are also implemented in the youngsters sector, experience and visual judgement are critical here.

Question: The judges are probably not such a major theme on the youngsters scene as it is at senior level…
Monica Theodorescu: Indeed it is!

Question: …how do you assess the discussion and the diverse proposals that currently prevail within the dressage sport?
Monica Theodorescu: Riders, horses and judges form the basis of our sport. The judges know that they have a big responsibility and the riders know that they have to live with the judges’ rulings. As far as the procedure is concerned, a great deal has already been tried out and – luckily – a lot of it was quickly discarded again. Of course, we would all like a uniform system with as little discussion as possible. Even if the discussions and emotions are part of the sport.

Question: The FEI has now initially withdrawn its proposal of striking the extreme upper and lower deviations in the marks.
Monica Theodorescu: Which would never have led to improved quality anyway.

Question: And instead…
Monica Theodorescu: …further training is to be carried out. And if a judge has performed poorly several times, sanctions should be considered.

Question: What form could this take on?
Monica Theodorescu: It could be that more seminars have to be attended, but it could take on the form of suspensions. If a rider performs poorly, he isn’t placed. If a judge judges badly, nothing happens. Of course, everyone can make a mistake or have a bad day, but principally the judges’ rulings have to be accepted. However, sanctions have to be considered in the current discussion, the sport certainly won’t become more transparent by merely striking the marks.

Question: In the jumping sport, the German dominance seems to be declining, at least if one looks at the world ranking list. Your colleague Otto Becker recently said that among other things this is due to the fact that good horses are often sold abroad early on. Do you see this becoming a danger for the dressage sport too?
Monica Theodorescu: A lot of horses are indeed sold at a very young age, but I haven’t observed that this has become a threat for us yet. From an economic point of view, I can understand the breeders and horse owners. Because it is very difficult to find sponsors for an aspiring young horse. We find ourselves in the fortunate position of still having patrons and sponsors, who have allowed us to keep the top horses. For instance, take a look at our current team horses, this is all made possible with the aid of private support, even if we did lose a top horse this year, namely Helen Langehanenberg’s “Suppenkasper”.

Question: We will experience top horses and top riders at the Aachen Dressage Youngstars from Thursday onwards. A special treat awaits the visitors on Saturday evening, at the “Late Night”, among others we will be able to see you in action…
Monica Theodorescu: Yes, I am really looking forward to it. Together with the two aspiring your riders, Julia Hamm and Jill de Ridder we will give insights into our training and I have the pleasure of commenting the exercises of the two of them. It is going to be a fantastic evening.

Photo: CHIO Aachen/Holger Schupp

Photo: CHIO Aachen/Holger Schupp