Dance Little Spook and Masi de Vargas claim gold in Aachen

By Simona Diale

medelistsExcitement and great reining were the key words at the FEI European Reining Championships in Aachen (GER) today. Twenty of Europe’s finest horses and riders performed in the Deutsche Bank Stadium with Giovanni Masi de Vargas of Italy clinching individual gold with Quarter Dream’s Dance Little Spook between the reins.

Last to enter the arena, the 22-year-old flawlessly guided the talented seven-year-old mare, by Smart Spook out of Sailors Dance, through pattern number nine. His deep stops, fast spins, smooth lead changes and perfectly painted circles pleased both the crowd and the judges who paid him back with an outstanding score of 222 and the top step of the podium.

“Earning two gold medals here is unbelievable and so emotional,” said Masi de Vargas, who also posted the highest score in the team competition on Friday when Italy took home the gold. “I cannot thank my team enough, our coach and the president of the Italian Equestrian Sports Federation (FISE), Cav. Vittorio Orlandi, for being here to cheer for us.”

The pressure was on for Masi de Vargas once it was his turn to enter the arena. German veteran Grischa Ludwig and the eight-year-old stallion Shine My Gun (Colonels Smoking Gun x Shiners Mistress), owned by Stephanie Maudas, had thrilled the crowd with their run and their perfect spins. Once they had performed their last stop, a 221 appeared on the scoreboard, meaning the duo just missed out and had to settle for individual silver on home soil. “I came here aiming for the gold,” Ludwig said. “I did not have much luck in my last stop but it was a great fight until the very end and I am proud of our results.”

Germany also kept the bronze medal at home as Elias Ernst and USS N Dun It (Reminic Dun It x USS Entrprise) closed their run with a 219. The talented 10-year-old stallion is owned by Christine Wilinski. “I can’t describe my feelings! To show here is awesome and the crowd was super,” said the young German rider.

Setting the pace

Austria’s Daniel Schmutz and BH Cielo Dry opened the competition with a score of 214.5. Closing the first judging block, and raising the score by a point, was the duo that made it through from the second qualifier, Verena Klein of Germany and her Olena Joe Cody.

Italy’s team veteran, Pierluigi Fabbri, was in the lead following the second of four judging blocks after posting a 217.5 aboard Broadway Jaba (Little Red Jaba x Tuff Lady Boss), owned by Az. Agricola Pollarini.

With a strong performance, Klaus Lechner of Austria and Cody Rooster Delmaso (Ricochet Rooster x Made Of Lacy), owned by Giulia Gaupmann, received a 218.5 from the judges, the highest score prior to the last five competitors which also earned them fourth place overall.

Following the last drag, expectation and high class reining kept the public glued to their seats and the final tussle between Masi de Vargas and Ludwig couldn’t have been a better advertisement for the sport. There was no better way to close the 2015 edition of the FEI European Reining Championships in Aachen!


Giovanni Masi de Vargas – “I started competing in 2009 in junior competition and this is my ninth FEI medal. This is the first time I’ve competed in a senior championship and it’s been an amazing experience.”

Grischa Ludwig – “I was fifth in the World Equestrian Games in 2010, and fourth last time, then I was individual third in the European Championships in 2013 and now second here, so the tendency goes up!”

Ralf Hesselschwerdt, President of the Ground Jury – “We expected a very close run and it turned out to be that. Grischa ran a great pattern, performed awesome spins, and at that manoeuver he was ahead of Giovanni, his horse anticipated the last stop and that pushed him half a point behind Giovanni. Giovanni was very consistent, his run reflected smoothness and finesse and nobody deserved it more than he did.”

The Reining family

Asked about the friendship/rivalry between them, the medalists answered:
Giovanni, better known as ‘Dido’ – “We compete every month against other. It’s a real friendship.”

Grischa – “I’m a bit older than Dido, and I’m a very good friend of his father’s, in fact we’ve had some fights on horses! I’ve known him (Giovanni) since he was that high (demonstrating with his hands) and I always told his father that he would grow to be a top top rider. When I saw him compete in junior competition through the years, I knew that he was a rising star. Reining is a family, we are the reining family. I’d like to thank the organisers here and say that this is probably the best organised reining show we’ve ever shown in. It’s unbelievable how much they’ve done for us.”

Reining competitors often refer to the connections they develop within the sport as being as close as family. That was literally true in Aachen. Filippo Masi de Vargas, Italy’s team coach and Giovanni’s father summed up his feelings by saying: “I’m bursting with pride and honored to be part of this team gold and individual gold all Italian experience. Each and every competitor here was wonderful and they all showcased the sport of Reining to the best of their ability.”

Audio Interviews

Gold medallist Giovanni Masi de Vargas (ITA), English:

Gold medallist Giovanni Masi de Vargas (ITA), Italian:

Silver medallist Grischa Ludwig (GER), English:

Silver medallist Grischa Ludwig (GER), German:

See full results from the FEI European Championships Aachen 2015 here

Photo Caption: The individual medal podium at the FEI European Reining Championships (from left), silver medallist Grischa Ludwig (GER), gold medallist Giovanni Masi de Vargas (ITA), and bronze medallist Elias Ernst (GER). (FEI/Dirk Caremans)

This image and others from today’s Championship are available free for editorial purposes here with password FEI2016