2006 World Cup Finals, A Stepping Stone for the Future of American Dressage

Text and Photos by Astrid Appels - www.eurodressage.com

From a competition point-of-view, United States flag-bearers Arlene Page and Leslie Morse had a great 2006 World Cup Finals in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Page showed the world that her 10-year old Hanoverian gelding Wild One is world class potential and Leslie Morse's Tip Top displayed the top quality talent and potential that is in him, but requires confirmation through experience.

Both ladies gave raving reviews about the organization of the 2006 World Cup Finals, but they were also critical in their evaluation of their road to Amsterdam and the path that now lies ahead of them 'en route' to the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany, in August 2006.

As Americans, Morse and Page are disadvantaged having only the national Dressage in Florida show circuit as preparation for the World Cup. "The winter season for us is a down time while in Europe they are building up for the World Cup Finals," Morse stated. "We have to come a long distance from a completely different environment. In the States, we have hurricanes, tornadoes, land slides and can only be ready by June, which is good for a team event like the WEG, but not for an individual competition such as the World Cup."

Furthermore, American dressage riders suffer more as they have to fly their horses to Europe each time they want to rally for a world class competition. The quarantine procedures on mares and stallions are grueling, making the trip even more strenuous administratively, emotionally, physically and psychologically. "You must realize how hurting it is for our horses to travel so much," Morse stressed. "I wish my horses could get AirMiles."

2006 World Cup Finals, A Stepping Stone for the Future of American Dressage

To Become More Accommodated to Accommodating

Both Page and Morse feel that U.S. Dressage has much room for improvement to step up and join the world class, European (?!) level of dressage. "We have to become more accommodated to accommodating," Morse urged. "The judges will give us the score for goodness -- making it to the World Cup -- but we have to step up and show them more, show them that we can really score. The whole master game is knowing where to build highlights in the test and knowing how to build an audience like Anky and Isabell do. We have to present it to the audience and make a show."

Probably one of the best steps U.S. Dressage undertook the past few years was hiring Klaus Balkenhol as team trainer. "Klaus and Judith empower us in a family way. My four-and-a half year old daughter was painting easter eggs with Judith [Balkenhol]. Klaus is a base that makes us feel at home," Page explained. Arlene received a USET grant to train with Balkenhol in Germany. "I feel mental responsibility if you get a grant. You have to bring home this education."

As preparation for the 2006 World Cup Finals, Balkenhol staged an unofficial show for Leslie and Arlene at the equestrian center in Ankum, Germany, with the help of Ullrich Kasselmann. "Klaus made a contrived show for us. We went up to Ankum, and invited friends to come, he hired a judge and had us ride both the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix freestyle," Page said. "This was incredibly important. As Americans we need to be able to clock off a Grand Prix over 70%. Klaus is good at looking at "windows". He helps you make an improvement and secure it."

Page, who made her big international debut on European turf, added that "everybody on the team is helping us feel comfortable. Leslie has been a big 10. She helped me how to deal with the Europeans in the warm up, because "It's them or you" and she's passing all her knowledge down."

2006 World Cup Finals, A Stepping Stone for the Future of American Dressage

Founding an "American Riders' Club"?

Arlene suggested that an "American Riders' Club" should be established which supports and promotes American dressage riders at national and international shows. "Our riders need to be pro-active and come up for their rights," she said. "For instance at the CDI Wellington, somebody came up to us and said it was not legal to work our horses in the main arena [before the U.S. League Finals]. This is not an FEI rule! In Europe, the riders would say, 'we don't ride if you don't allow us in'." Page stressed the importance of a club that would help riders to improve their opportunities at competitions and that would advance American dressage world wide.

Page's short-term plans are preparing Wild One for the 2006 World Equestrian Games. "I'm taking my horse home and will give him rest until he's bucking in the paddock. I won't work him seriously until he's fresh," she said. Page has check marked the CDI Raleigh and the CDN Gladstone on her calendar. The Festival of Champions is the final American qualifier for the WEG.

Morse is staying in Europe a little longer and will be showing at the CDI Hagen (April 27-May 1, 2006). "Personally, I need to stay where the shows are. I get better and faster through them." Morse can stay in Europe until May 17 and will then fly home for the selection trial Gladstone.

Check out Horsesdaily's extensive coverage of the 2006 World Cup Finals

Take a look at the Phelpsphoto Databasein which you can find more than 35 photos of the 2006 World Cup Finals as well as hundreds of archived pictures from previous finals. Do a search by show "World Cup Dressage Finals - 2006"