Farewell to a Great Imposter as Dutch Dressage Star Adelinde Cornelissen Loses “Trophy Horse” Galahad to Colic; Relaxed Understudy Gelding Was Her “Rio Horse”

Adelinde and Galahad at 2012 World Cup ceremony

Beautiful imposter: One of the most photographed horses in dressage never won a cooler, a ribbon or a trophy for his owner. Adelinde Cornelissen rode her up-and-coming horse Galahad in prize ceremonies to spare the nerves of the World Cup champion, Jerich Parzival. Galahad, who was being prepared to become Adelinde's "Rio horse" for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, died this weekend after severe colic. (TJR file Kit Houghton photo via FEI)

Adelinde Cornelissen’s up-and-coming dressage star Galahad, 13, has died after a severe colic episode in The Netherlands. Cornelissen announced her horse’s death on her Facebook page.

The Dutch Warmblood gelding was widely known as her “Rio horse”, in anticipation of qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

Cornelissen’s current grand prix horse, Jerich Parzival, was bound to be replaced by a younger horse. And Cornelissen knew just the horse when she saw him.

In fact, he was Parzival’s half-brother, also sired by Jazz. She named him Galahad, after the gallant knight of King Arthur’s Round Table.

Was there symbolism in the choice of Galahad’s name? Parzival and Galahad were, after all, two of the three knights who persevered in attaining the Holy Grail in the legend.

Once upon a time, there was a problem in the sport of dressage. It’s one you haven’t read about much, if ever, but here it is: some show horses have psychological issues with the awards ceremonies that follow competitions. Piaffes, passages and pirouettes only look difficult; what is really difficult for some horses is having a ribbon pinned to their bridles. And that lap of honor? Torture.

Just ask show ring photographers, who will tell you about some close calls–and some close hooves–that often have them dodging and ducking.

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This video features the late Galahad with Adelinde Cornelissen as she sings his praises and notes, “For Parzival, the prize-giving is a bummer.”

So, when Adelinde was competing Parzival, she would bring along new horse Galahad for the prize ceremonies. The wide white blaze of his big liver chestnut head is startling to see on prize photos; Parzival is a bright chestnut with an irregular and narrow white strip on his face.

From reports, it was a good rehearsal for Galahad, whose debut at grand prix with Adelinde in the saddle was much anticipated, but never realized.

Adelinde’s use of Galahad at shows is nothing new. You can win the Olympics, the World Cup, and every award that the sport offers, but you can still fall off your horse when the whites of the eyes start to show during prize ceremonies. Just ask Anky van Grunsven. That’s exactly what the Dutch star did in 2007 at the CDI Flyinge in Sweden. She was seen on crutches the next day.

After that, Van Grunsven popularized the practice of bringing a buddy horse to shows to ride in a prize ceremony. How many photos of Anky riding a lap of honor show her reliable gelding Nelson instead of Salinero?

In the United States, USDF rules state: “A substitute horse can be used in the ceremony providing it is appropriately tacked up. However the owners should understand that the awards photos will show the substitute.”

For Cornelissen, life imitated art (or legend, at least), since Parzival the knight was known for his sensitivity and Galahad for his pure and steadfast character. Surely there is a third knight–Bors from the King Arthur tales was there with Galahad and Parzival–waiting somewhere to become her Rio ride.

–by Fran Jurga

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2 Responses to “Farewell to a Great Imposter as Dutch Dressage Star Adelinde Cornelissen Loses “Trophy Horse” Galahad to Colic; Relaxed Understudy Gelding Was Her “Rio Horse””

  1. [...] yesterday, The Jurga Report published news that Cornelissen’s upcoming grand prix horse, Galahad, had die… over the [...]

  2. [...] Farewell to a Great Imposter as Dutch Dressage Star Adelinde Cornelissen … Beautiful imposter: One of the most photographed horses in dressage never won a cooler, a ribbon or a trophy for his owner. Adelinde Cornelissen rode her up-and-coming horse Galahad in prize ceremonies to spare the nerves of the World Cup champion, … Read more on Practical Horseman Magazine (blog) [...]

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