Italian riders swept all before them at the FEI European Reining Championships 2011, which came to a close at Wiener Neustadt, Austria yesterday.  In an extraordinary run of form they claimed gold in all three team championships, and took both gold and silver in each of the individual divisions.

Competitors from 10 countries were in action throughout the week, but the remaining nine had to bow to the supremacy of the Italian performers who out-rode all others.  They began with success for their Junior Team on Tuesday, and they never looked back.

A total of 30 riders lined out in the Junior Team Championship in which the combined score of 643 points provided Italy with a clear victory over Germany in silver medal position while The Netherlands took bronze.  Germany’s Alisa Muller and Sparkling Cielo produced one of the highest early scores with 211 on the board, but it was Italy’s Giovanni Masi and his American Quarter Horse stallion Remins Remedy who produced the best result of the day. Rewarded with a mark of 220 it helped secure the ultimate honour for Masi and his team-mates Sara Ambrosini (Maxplease), Lara Lorengo (BH Shot O Lon) and Nicolo Boretti (Sun Olenas Red Chicka).

“I’m so glad about our success” said Italian coach Filippo Masi.  “I knew I had four good riders on the team but, with the exception of Giovanni, they had no experience at this level.  Also Germany had a strong team” he added.  Trainer, Kay Wienrich, was happy with the achievement of the German side.  “They all did a great job and I’m especially glad as we had three young and inexperienced riders in the team – and all four have qualified for the individual final.”

There were 21 young reiners from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland and the Czech Republic in the Junior Individual Championship won by Masi, who celebrates his 18th birthday tomorrow.  A score of 225.5 gave him a clear nine-point victory over Italian team-mate Lara Lorengo and her American Quarter Horse gelding BH Shot O Lon.  Italian Chef d’Equipe, Roberto Cuoghi, was delighted with the result. “We worked hard for it and also we were lucky of course, but Filippo Masi is doing such a great job – we are very proud to have him as the trainer of the seniors now as well,” he pointed out.

Bronze went to Germany’s Laura Spielmann and her mare Little Peppy Olena who scored 212.5.  The 18-year-old, who trains with Christine Burig and Nico Hormann, was 2009 German Champion and 2010 German Reserve Champion.  “This is a new milestone for me,” she said afterwards, “I’m really happy – my horse really gave everything!”

The Italian Seniors clinched the second team title of the week with a convincing score of 662.5 points which left them ahead of Germany in silver medal spot while Austria took bronze. The Netherlands’ Ricky Young and Brady Chex set the target score at 219.5 early in the competition, but the two highest marks were achieved by Italy’s Giuseppe Prevosti riding Enzo Gola’s Skeets Flamin and Austria’s Rudi Kronsteiner with his stallion Ima Mega Antares which was  Reserve Individual European Champion in 2009.  They both put up a score of 223.00 on the board, while Prevosti’s Italian team-mate Stefano Angelucci steered AB Captain Badger to come in with 221.00 for the second-highest mark of the day. Added to the results produced by Massimiliano Canu (Hesa Mega Whiz) and Cristian Dallapozza (Whiz Ruf Peppy), this was more than good enough to secure the gold for Italy yet again.

“I knew we had a good team, but I also knew that Germany and Austria had brought fine horses as well. So we simply went on and tried to do our best. And we were lucky,” said Italian team manager Cuoghi. He also heaped praise on the event organisers.  “A big thank you to Helmut Schulz for his hospitality and great organisation.  Everybody is so friendly here, and the facility is great!” he said.

German team trainer Kay Wienrich was satisfied with the silver medal result from Sylvia Rzepka (Doctor Zip Nic), Nico Hormann (Smart Spookster), Christina Toksdorf (Ruf Lil Martha) and Oliver Wehnes (Lil Ruf Bandit).  “What can I say – it was fantastic!  Our riders were even better than we hoped.  Oliver has his horse for only four weeks and it was his first European Championship – he was great!  And Sylvia and Nico did a superb job as did our youngest, Cristina”.

The host nation missed the silver medal by the smallest of margins and Austrian Chef d’Equipe, Helmut Schulz, said afterwards, “we would have loved to win silver but the Germans were better and deserved it.  We had one great ride and some bad luck with the others, but I’m glad about the medal all the same,” he said as his team walked away with the bronze.

In the Individual Championship it was another Italian whitewash of the top two slots, as Prevosti reigned supreme ahead of Brighenti, with Austria again having to settle for bronze when Rudi Kronsteiner (Ima Mega Antares) lost three points for a simple mistake when slowing down after the first fast circle.  “It was my fault,” Kronsteiner admitted afterwards, “I asked him too suddenly and then I got that reaction. Ima Mega Antares was perfect otherwise.  I’m angry at myself – but that’s how the sport is.  Giuseppe and Davide were simply better and deserved to win,” the sporting Austrian said.

Gold medallist Prevosti, who is a multiple champion, has been riding the seven year old stallion Skeets Peppy since April.  “Kelly Sweifel trained him and she did an awesome job!” he said. “He is such a great minded horse. I’m so happy and I would like to thank Enzo Gola for giving me this wonderful horse, and Lara Maiocchi and of course our trainer and coach Filippo Masi for his confidence in me!”  Brighenti and his 14-year-old stallion Dualin For Me were on the gold medal winning Italian team at the World Championship in Manerbio.  “I’m so glad – I can’t believe it!” he said, “and what is even more, my great friend Pepe (Prevosti) has won the gold medal! Thanks to my family and my Dad for helping me all the time, and of course to Giovanni Franco for his fine horse!” he exclaimed.

The Italian Young Riders completed the team medal haul in a tough five-nation competition that saw Belgium take silver and Germany slot into the bronze medal spot. Italy’s Guglielmo Fontana (Sparkle Poco Hickory), Chiara Bartoletti (Sailor Lyla), Gloria Spiaggi (Smart Zen) and Manuel Cortesi (ML Great Spirit) scored a total of 648.5 points to overtake the Belgians who had been in the lead for some time.  In the end just 3.5 points separated the top two teams while the German bronze medallists were 8.5 points further adrift.

This third team gold medal for Italy brought rousing cheers from the crowd, and when trainer Filippo Masi was asked about his recipe for success he replied with a smile “Luck! We had very good riders and horses, but the other teams were really strong as well.”  Belgian Chef d’Equipe Sally Baeck said her side had hoped to make it hard for the Italians – “and we did! Our riders were great – silver for the second time!”, while Germany’s Paul Kratschmer added that “we had the maximum of our potential here and the competition was tough, but our people did their best”.

Manuel Cortesi and his American Quarter Horse stallion ML Great Spirit produced the top score of 221.  And 19-year-old Cortesi, who took bronze at the 2009 FEI European Reining Championships, scored even higher when awarded 222 to win the Individual title yesterday.  The battle for silver was played out in a run-off between his Italian team-mate Andrea Ianetta (Little Sugar Speedy) and Belgium’s Matyas Gobert (Chicky Smart Jac) who both recorded first scores of 219.5.  Ianetta’s nine-year-old stallion proved the stronger horse in the final analysis however, earning 222 in the run-off while three-time Belgian champion and 2009 European silver medallist Gobert picked up a mark of 219.

The sporting spirit was was not lost on the Belgian bronze medallist.  “I had a lot of stress in the run-off as I knew Andrea and how good he is. It was difficult for my mare as well as this was her first big event and the run-off was very close to the final ride.  She gave all she could for me”.  And Belgian Chef d’Equipe Susy Baeck added, “it is simply unbelievable – Matyas is Belgium’s big future talent and we are looking forward to him riding in the Seniors!”

For individual champion Cortesi it was all about his stallion ML Great Spirit which was given to him by owner and breeder Eugenio Latorre just two months ago.  “He is an absolutely honest, strong and very smart horse who loves to be in the show ring.  I’m so happy about this success for Italy and I’d like to thank Eugenio and his wife Bonny for giving me this amazing horse – and my father who has supported me so much!”      

Junior Team Championship:  GOLD – Italy 643 – Maxplease (Sara Ambrosini), BH Shot O Lon (Lara Lorengo), Sun Olenas Red Chicka (Nicolo Boretti), Remins Remedy (Giovanni Masi); SILVER – Germany 628.5 – Sparkling Cielo (Alisa Muller), Guns Red Obsession (Sofie Eckebrecht), Top On Cutie (Sabrina Baumgartner), Little Roosters Gal (Fabienne Kramer); BRONZE – Netherlands 616.5 – BQ Fancy Starlet (Famke Alegra), Great Kid Whiz (Megan Schmidt), Twist N Freckles (Trudy Van de Plas), Little Smart Jameen (Alissa Leloux).

Young Rider Team Championship: GOLD 648.5 – Italy – Sparkle Poco Hickory (Guglielmo Fontana), Sailor Lyla (Chiara Bartoletti), Smart Zen (Gloria Spiaggi), ML Great Spirit (Manuel Cortesi); SILVER – Belgium 645.00 – Chicy Smart Jac (Matyas Gobert), Juans Stolen Gun (Nathalie Van Den Broeck), The Rumble Bee (Shana Vanhove), Hesa Juicey (Giverny Cappoen); BRONZE – Germany 636.5 – Frosty 2 (Laura Stein), SES Topsail Whiz (Vanety Korbus), Miss Estrella Del Cielo (Josefin Lintner) Jacs War Leo (Andre Aschau).

Senior Team Championship: GOLD – Italy 662.5 – Whiz Ruf Peppy (Cristian Dallapozza), Hesa Mega Whiz (Massimiliano Canu), Skeets Flamin (Giuseppe Prevosti), AB Captain Badger (Stefano Angelucci); SILVER – Germany 656.5 – Lil Ruf Bandit (Oliver Wehnes), Ruf Lil Martha (Christina Tolksdorf), Doctor Zip Nic (Sylvia Rzepka), Smart Spookster (Nicolas Hormann); BRONZE – Austria 652.5 – Dun It Whiz Jerry (Markkus Morawitz), Smart Rattle Snake (Dennis Schulz), Ima Mega Antares (Rudi Kronsteiner), Dun It On The QT (Martin Muhlstatter).

Junior Individual Championship: GOLD – Remins Remedy (Giovanni Masi) ITA 225.5; SILVER – BH Shot O Lon (Lara Lorengo) ITA 216.5; BRONZE – Little Peppy Olena (Laura Spielmann) GER 212.5.

Young Rider Individual Championship: GOLD – ML Great Spirit (Manuel Cortesi) ITA 222.00; SILVER – Little Sugar Speedy (Andrea Iannetta) ITA 222.00 (in two-way run-off);  BRONZE – Chicy Smart Jac (Matyas Gobert) BEL 219 (in two-way run-off).

Senior Individual Championship: GOLD – Skeets Flamin (Giuseppe Prevosti) ITA 226.5; SILVER – Dualin For Me (Davide Brighenti) ITA; BRONZE – Ima Mega Antares (Rudi Kronsteiner) AUT 225.00.