Anky and Salinero Launch a Dressage Comeback in the Deep End of the Pool at Falsterbo WDM; Second to Kittel in Grand Prix

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Five-star dressage traveled to Falsterbo in Sweden this week. Today's Grand Prix winners Patrik Kittel, Anky Van Grunsven and current WDM series leader Anja Ploenzke did a great job of interviewing themselves and each other in this clip kindly provided by World Dressage Masters.

Three-time Olympic dressage champion Anky van Grunsven of The Netherlands has hung up her chaps, at least temporarily. She's traded in her Stetson and dusted off her top hat. Good-bye to the cowboy boots and hello to a brand new pair of sleek, tall Petrie dressage boots. Anky's back in the dressage ring!

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Just so you remember Anky's style: There was no small-tour warm-up for Salinero. No quiet local show. Anky has traveled to Falsterbo is Sweden where she and her star horse Salinero returned to competition after almost a year off while the big gelding recovered from an injury to his withers. The champions dove into the deep end of the pool for their comeback:? Falsterbo Horse Show is host to the World Dressage Masters (WDM) Five-Star Dressage Competition. Stephen Clarke, London 2012 Olympic dressage judge, was in the judge's panel.

But the sun didn't shine on the former champions today. Anky and Salinero were second (71.298) to Sweden's Patrik Kittel on Watermill Scandic's (75.191) in the Grand Prix. Kittel was the only rider to receive a score of 10 from a judge. The USA's Catherine Haddad-Staller was fifth with Winyamaro.

Anky's uncharacteristically downside Twitter message this afternoon summed it up: "I rode like sh.. Sorry Salinero".

Yes, she was apologizing for only scoring in the low 70s. She achieved a score only a handful of riders ever achieve, and on her first test on the first day of her return. Less than a month ago, Totilas and Matthias Rath scored only a 73.4 in the same test, and it wasn't their first time out.

Anky's analysis of her ride: "Salinero did not do a proper halt both times and our tempi changes every stride went totally wrong.?Salinero did a great job, unfortunately me not really. However I still?thought my test was not?that bad, but when I saw it?on video afterwards, the speed and activity in the trot was absolutely not good, way too slow. Our piaffes were great, but we started our test with 44% because of the halt. Our marks were not good enough in trot to get a higher score. I was quite fed up, because during our training yesterday he went great!?Tomorrow is the freestyle, and I am looking forward for it and I will go for it!"

"It was a surreal experience to sit a position above Anky, who I respect so much as a person and as a rider," said Kittel later today.? "We had a lot of fun in the press conference Anky and I!. I can tell you though I will not be sleeping easy tonight with the Queen of the Kur ready to do her thing tomorrow!"

Salinero made the eleven-hour drive from Anky headquarters in Erp to Falsterbo in Sweden with his groom, Willeke, in advance of Anky's arrival on Wednesday. Salinero's journey included a ferry between Germany and Denmark. Anky wasted no time and schooled Salinero in the main arena on Wednesday night.

Salinero is a 17-year-old Hanoverian by Salieri with a raft of Olympic gold medals, world championships and european championships on his resume. Presumably, he quickly remembered what a horse show stadium was all about.

Van Grunsven proved herself to be one of the world's most versatile equestrian athletes last year at the World Equestrian Games. When she failed to be named to the top four riders on the Dutch dressage team, she found herself in the unique position of being an alternate to both dressage and reining. Although a relative newcomer to reining, Anky had to step in for a team rider and compete in the reining at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky, when everyone expected to see her in top hat and tails.

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Greetings from Falsterbo: dressage competitors schooling on Thursday.

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Here's a clip from Patrik Kittel and Watermill Scandic's winning test today, after the rain stopped.

Competing against Anky were and will be some of the very best Swedish dressage riders, including (besides Kittel) Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfv?n on Favourit. Falsterbo is also one of the events that Swedish team manager Bo Jen? will be using to select his team for the European Championships in Rotterdam, The Netherlands later this summer. The European Dressage Championships is the most important event of the year for Swedish dressage, as the competition offers a final chance for those with hopes of qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Games. This makes Falsterbo a vital event for prospective Olympic riders.

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Interesting cultural facts: Sweden's biggest horse show is known not only for its dressage and international grand-prix showjumping, which offers over $1 million in prize money, but also for its night scene: concerts and on-the-grounds clubbing make the show a destination for many more people than those who can tell piaffe from passage or an oxer from a liverpool! The show has a dog hotel, runs its own campground, and is at the end of a peninsula at the southern tip of Sweden.

The schedule calls for the kur to be competed on Saturday. The sound system should be no problem at all!

With Anky is her husband, Dutch team coach Sjef Janssen, who also coaches Kittel.

Follow the results from Falsterbo dressage throughout the weekend.

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