Monthly Archives: July 2014

Elite Dressage Horses and Riders Prepare for WEG

To say that the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG), to be held in Normandy, France, on August 23-September 7, is going to be exciting is an understatement. A record 76 National Federations have declared their intention to participate, which is 15% higher than any WEG in the past! In the dressage competition, a total of 39 national federations have entered – 28 countries will have Team representation, and 11 countries will have athletes competing as Individuals. Over 300,000 tickets have been sold for WEG thus far, and the dressage finale, the Grand Prix Freestyle to Music competition, is already sold out!

With the official nominated entries due in later this month, top dressage riders from around the world are still competing ferociously for their chance to compete at WEG. The last major WEG qualifying competition, the Aachen CHIO Equestrian Festival in Germany, is in full swing as I write this, and most of the world’s the top horses and riders are there in attendance. Aachen is a required outing for many nation’s short-listed riders, but for those who have already secured their team spot, it is an excellent dress rehearsal for next month’s WEG.

Adrienne Lyle (USA) & Wizard at 2014 Nations Cup Wellington (c) Susan J Stickle

Adrienne Lyle (USA) & Wizard (c) Susan J. Stickle

The U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF) selected a short-list of eight horse-and-rider combinations for the dressage competition at WEG, all of whom travelled to Europe weeks ago to prepare and attend the two final mandatory outings. The first was the Fritzens CDI4* that took place in Austria earlier this month, and the second is the on-going competition in Aachen. The U.S. contingency made a strong showing in Austria, with seven members of the Short List participating at the event. Laura Graves and her own Verdades, took second place in the Grand Prix and also the Grand Prix Special in which four of the top seven placings went to U.S. riders. Team veteran Steffen Peters and Legolas 92 claimed second place in the Grand Prix Freestyle while Tina Konyot and her own Calecto V took third.  Adrienne Lyle with Wizard, as well as Caroline Roffman riding her own Highness O also proved competitive at Fritzens, and have been named to the U.S. team for the Nations’ Cup CDIO5* competition at Aachen this week along with Graves and Konyot. Roffman will replace Peters who was slated to compete with Legolas 92, but he has withdrawn from the competition due to personal illness. However, the pair have completed their one compulsory mandatory outing (Fritzens), so are still assured of a place on the WEG Team by U.S. team Chef d’Equipe Robert Dover.  Unfortunately Jan Ebeling’s 2012 Olympic partner Rafalca suffered a minor injury upon arrival in Europe, and over the weekend it was announced that the 17 year-old mare has been withdrawn from contention for WEG, and is now officially retired from competition.

Charlotte Dujardin (GBR) and Valegro will be looking to make history © Dirk Caremans

Charlotte Dujardin (GBR) and Valegro will be looking to make history © Dirk Caremans

The Americans will have their work cut out for them at WEG. The world’s top-ranked horses and riders will all be going for Gold, and no one more so than Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain who is seeking to make history aboard Valegro by winning their fourth major title. The duo won individual and team Gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics, took Gold at the 2013 FEI European Championships, as well as the 2014 Reem Acra FEI Dressage World Cup Final held last April. They are ranked number one in the world, and have broken the world record (even their own!) in the Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special, and Grand Prix Kur to music. No rider has ever held all four titles concurrently, and although the dancing pair seem unbeatable, there are quite a few that are going to try!

Carl Hester (GBR)  riding Nip Tuck at the WEG Dressage Test event at Stade d'Ornano, main venue for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™

Carl Hester (GBR) riding Nip Tuck at the WEG Dressage Test event at Stade d’Ornano, main venue for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™

Dujardin’s mentor and British Olympic teammate, Carl Hester, is causing a stir with fans in regards to which horse he will ride at WEG. It may be a last minute decision by Hester whether he rides Dances With Wolves or Nip Tuck, a horse that is fairly new to the Grand Prix scene, but who won the Grand Prix Special at the WEG Test Event in Caen just a few weeks ago, and dominated the Hartpury CDI 3* in England over the weekend.

Edward Gal is setting his sights on bringing home another WEG gold for the Netherlands - this time with Glock's Undercover  © Dirk Caremans

Edward Gal is setting his sights on bringing home another WEG gold for the Netherlands – this time with Glock’s Undercover © Dirk Caremans

The Netherlands will be looking to claim another WEG, having won team Gold at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky. Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival, her Silver and Bronze medal winning partner at the 2012 Olympics, have come back into flying form after the big chestnut was successfully treated for cardiac arrhythmias last year, and the pair have won their last three outings. Edward Gal will be making his third WEG appearance, this time with his 2012 London Olympic partner Glock’s Undercover. Gal won both individual and team Gold at the 2010 WEG aboard his former ride, Totilas, the famous black stallion that set the dressage world on fire with his exuberant movement, and has been at the center of controversy ever since he was sold to Germany for Matthias Alexander Rath to compete.

Helen Langehanenberg  (GER) and Damon Hill NRW © Dirk Caremans

Helen Langehanenberg (GER) and Damon Hill NRW © Dirk Caremans

The Germans are historically top equestrian competitors, and are well-known for their arsenal of fantastic horses and riders. After a two-year hiatus due to injury, Totilas and Rath have only just recently returned to competition and they are in winning form already, their partnership seeming to come together under the watchful eye of Dutch coach Sjef Janssen, trainer and husband of Dutch Olympic rider Anky van Grunsven. Helen Langehanenberg, currently ranked number two in the world, will be seeking to take the center spot on the podium aboard champion stallion Damon Hill NRW. The pair have been out of the spotlight for the past couple months since their Silver Medal winning performance at the 2014 FEI World Cup Final, and will most certainly have used their time away from the show ring to perfect their performance. The duo won a team Silver medal at the 2012 Olympics, along with Kristina Sprehe and Desperados FRH who took third place last month in both the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special at the Perl CDI4*, the first German WEG Selection Trial. They also have their sights on a German team spot.

With so many of the world’s best horses and riders heading for Normandy, combined with the thought of Valegro and Totilas going head-to-head, dressage fans around the world are already on the edge of their seats. It should also set the stage for a fabulous FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas next April!

Previous World Cups: A Look Back At The Historic Moments

As the excitement continues to build for the 2015 FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas next April, I thought it might be fun to look back at some of the groundbreaking moments and historic feats from the five previous FEI World Cup Finals held in Las Vegas.

As we’ve discussed before, there was a great sense of anticipation for the initial Final in Las Vegas in 2000, with an expectation that the dynamic sport of show jumping (dressage wouldn’t be added till 2005) would be presented like never before. Well, it certainly turned out to be the case and no one expressed it better than Max Ammann, creator of the World Cup, who said after that initial event that, “World-class sport and world-class entertainment were combined to create arguably the greatest equine extravaganza that has ever existed!”

Showgirls add to the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas

Showgirls add to the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas

And based on the thousands of people who have come to Vegas for each of the following Finals, the world agreed! With Vegas performers like Susan Anton and Clint Holmes, amazing opening ceremonies, fireworks (yes, inside the arena!), laser light shows, Vegas showgirls and surprises galore (remember footing expert Oliver Hoberg flying down from the arena ceiling?), everyone has special feelings about the pageantry that is the Las Vegas World Cup.

Still, with all this, it is always the competition that holds center stage and in the Finals in Las Vegas, we have seen some accomplishments as dazzling as the world-famous Las Vegas strip. When we held the first World Cup Final in Las Vegas in 2000, all the talk was about whether or not Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil could achieve an unprecedented “three-peat” by winning the Final for a third consecutive year.

Rodrigo Pessoa

Rodrigo Pessoa

Pessoa and his horse, Gandini Baloubet du Rouet, pulled off a remarkable victory, a feat all the more amazing as the horse had stepped off of the plane with a 105 degree fever! Despite the added pressure, Pessoa pulled out two fault-free rounds on the final day to clinch the win and etch his name in the record books with an accomplishment that has yet to be duplicated.

In 2003, Pessoa came close to another title, but this time had to step aside for German Marcus Ehning. Entering the third and final day of competition, Malin Baryard of Sweden held first place, entering the last two rounds, as the leader always does, with a score of no faults. Ehning and Pessoa were tied for second place with two faults each. Despite the mounting pressure, Ehning and his Oldenburg mare, Anka, laid down two perfect trips while the other two each had a rail down in the first round with Baryard dropping another in the second round. Ehning thus won the first of his three World Cup championships one day after his 29th birthday. Pessoa finished in second place and Baryard was third.

In 2005, Anky van Grunsven won her record seventh World Cup Final

In 2005, Anky van Grunsven won her record seventh World Cup Final

In 2005, dressage and show jumping fans were united as the two World Cup Finals merged into one incredible equestrian event for the first time ever. Dressage’s debut in Las Vegas saw Anky van Grunsven of The Netherlands win her record seventh World Cup Final (she now has won nine!) with a score of 86.725% in front of a sold-out crowd of over 11,500 people! The showstopper, however, was America’s Debbie MacDonald, riding the legendary Brentina, owned by Peggy and Parry Thomas for whom the Thomas & Mack Center is named. She rocked the house with her freestyle performance set to Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” The crowd was electric as Debbie paraded around the ring with an enormous grin on her face. The air in the arena was unlike anything that had been seen in dressage before.

Debbie MacDonald rocked the house!

Debbie MacDonald rocked the house!

In show jumping, California native Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum of Germany won the first of her three World Cup titles, with her husband, Marcus Beerbaum, placing 11th. Meredith claimed the win aboard her standout 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Shutterfly, who dropped only one rail through five rounds of jumping.

In 2007, Beat Mandli of Switzerland won his first World Cup Final after more than a decade of trying. Entering Sunday’s final two rounds, the top seven riders were separated by only four faults, and many believed that rookie Daniel Duesser of Germany, winner of this year’s Final in Lyon, France, would take the win. Mandli had other plans and, after a first round that saw nine of the top 10 riders incur faults, he came away with the win.

In dressage, Isabell Werth of Germany was crowned champion, riding Warum Nicht FRH to a decisive victory in front of a sellout crowd of 11,925. Werth, who had also won the World Cup title in 1992, received a dazzling score of 84.250%.  Placed first by all five judges, she was awarded two artistic scores over 90.000%, and a perfect 10 for music and interpretation, the only one in the competition to receive such marks. Imke Schellekens-Bartels of The Netherlands scored 77.950 riding Sunrise to finish second, slightly ahead of  Steffen Peters of the United States who was third on Floriano with 77.800.

Steffen Peters

Steffen Peters

In 2009, the last year the World Cup was held in Las Vegas, Peters turned the tables on Werth and claimed the dressage title. The then 44-year-old from San Diego edged Germany’s two-time champion with an inspirational performance, while Anky Van Grunsven placed third. What made Peters’s win even more exciting was that it was only the second win ever for the United States in the 23 year history of the Dressage World Cup!

In one of the closest Finals in World Cup history, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum secured her third title on Shutterfly, narrowing edging American McLain Ward on Sapphire and Holland’s Albert Zoer on Oki Doki. “Horses like Shutterfly only come along once in a lifetime,” Meredith said afterward of her longtime partner, “and I’m very lucky to have him.”

Meredith Michaels Beerbaum

Meredith Michaels Beerbaum

Full House at Vegas World Cup by KLeckIn so many ways it seems that this incredible sport we all love so much is at its best when it’sin the Las Vegas. Every time the World Cup returns, it is sure to be memorable. Well, Las Vegas, get ready ‘cause here we come again; the 2015 FEI World Cup™ Finals are coming home to Vegas and promise to be more exciting than ever!