Dressage was the main attraction at the Thomas & Mack Center Friday afternoon, but this time the performers were judged on their entertainment value as well as their riding skills during the Dressage Showcase at the 2015 FEI World Cup™ Finals in Las Vegas. The star-studded showcase was complete with music, costumes, laser light shows, pyrotechnics and performances that can only be found in the "Entertainment Capital of the World." The 2015 FEI World Cup™ Finals features both the Reem Acra FEI World CupTM Dressage Final and the LONGINES FEI World CupTM Jumping Final. The FEI World Cup™ Finals has returned to the United States for the first time since 2009, and provides a unique opportunity to witness the world's best horses and riders in both show jumping and dressage competing under one roof at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
The afternoon's events were kicked off by "ShowStoppers", who performed the National Anthem, followed by the opening performance by Le Reve, voted "Best Production Show in Las Vegas" for an unprecedented four years running. Both productions are features at the Wynn Las Vegas.
The Rising Star competition featured horses that are on their way up the 'competition ladder' in the sport of dressage. First into the arena was U.S. rider Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo, a 9 year-old stallion that Sabine has been riding since he was 3 years-old. The pair have won six competitions this year already at FEI Prix St. George and Intermediaire level, and look to be a promising duo for the future. They also proved popular with the crowd who cheered every time the expressive bay gelding did an extended trot across the arena.
Steffen Peters, the 2009 FEI World Cup™ Dressage Champion who won the title the last time the Final was held in Las Vegas, performed the Grand Prix Freestyle to Music aboard the 8 year-old bay mare Rosamunde. The pair have had much success at the Grand Prix level this year, with wins in both Wellington, Florida, and San Juan Capistrano, California. Steffen placed third in Thursday's Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Grand Prix competition aboard Legolas 92, and the crowds cheered for their favorite U.S. rider as soon as he rode into the arena.
The Pas de Deux was full of fun and excitement as the dressage riders and horses performed in pairs to music while dressed in costumes. David Blake and Shannon Peters brought the vibe of Gotham City to the main arena dressed as Batman & Poison Ivy while riding Ikaros and Weltino's Magic respectively. Next in the line-up was Mette Rosencrantz on Marron and Anna Dahlberg on Rico with their Wild Wild West performance dressed as a cowboy and Indian, complete with five-gallon hat and headdress. The final combination was Charlotte Bredahl-Baker, dressed as Olivia Newton-John, rode Chanel and performed alongside Jan Ebeling dressed as John Travolta who rode Darling. They performed to the well-known songs from the movie Grease.
The spectators clapped along as the horses danced in sync across the arena. The duo earned the loudest cheers from the crowd, as well as the most points from judges Linda Zang, Stephen Clarke, and Hans-Christian Matthiesen, which gave them the victory.
"It's also really important to get the judges dancing during the performance," said Linda with a laugh. "And since this is my era, I gave it a 10!"
A highlight of the afternoon was the honoring of Parry Thomas, one of the men after whom the Thomas & Mack Center is named. Parry, now 94 years-old, is credited as a key force behind the development of Las Vegas into the entertainment and gaming capital that it is today. Parry has been a long-time owner and supporter of dressage along with his wife Peggy, and they owned the 2003 FEI World Cup™ Dressage Champion Brentina, who was ridden by U.S. Olympic rider Debbie McDonald. Brentina was officially retired at the Thomas & Mack Center during a ceremony held at the 2009 FEI World Cup™ Finals, and today another special retirement ceremony was held. This time it was for Parry's dressage horse Wizard, who won many international competitions with rider Adrienne Lyle. The pair represented the U.S. at the 2012 London Olympic Games and the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Caen, France. It was an emotional day for all involved as Debbie McDonald, who trained Adrienne and Wizard, also took part in the ceremony.
The four horse-and-rider Quadrille performance was the perfect ending to the afternoon as the glam of Las Vegas returned to the main arena. Geunter Seidel dressed spectacularly as Elvis while riding Zamorin, while his 'Las Vegas Showgirls' dressed in sparking red outfits included Michelle Reilly on Umeeko, Sarah Christy on Xirope and Elizabeth Ball on Orion.
The Reem Acra FEI World CupTM Dressage Final will conclude with Saturday afternoon's Grand Prix Freestyle, which will determine the 2015 Champion.
The LONGINES FEI World CupTM Jumping Final continues with Friday evening's jump-off class and Sunday afternoon's two-round Final, as well as Saturday evening's $75,000 Canadian Pacific Grand Prix of Las Vegas.
VIP guests of the FEI World Cup™ Finals are being treated to top amenities that can't be duplicated anywhere else in the world at the Taylor Harris Club presented by The National Horse Show. The Taylor Harris Club includes a private VIP hospitality area complete with deluxe food and beverages as well as VIP preferred parking.
Started in 1979, the FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final is an annual international showdown among the world's best show jumping horses and riders. In the 36 Finals held through 2014, Germany (10) and the United States (9) have emerged with the most titles, having won the championship nineteen times between them. Previous FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals held in the United States include Baltimore (1980), Tampa (1989), Del Mar, CA (1992) and Las Vegas (2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009).
First held in 1986, the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final features the world's best dressage horses and riders. The United States has won the championship twice - in 2003 (Debbie McDonald with Brentina) and 2009 (Steffen Peters with Ravel). The Final has been held in the U.S. in Los Angeles (1995) and Las Vegas (2005, 2007, 2009).
Las Vegas Events is a private, not-for-profit organization that serves as the exclusive major special events agency for the city. Founded in 1982, LVE is funded by hotel room tax. Through its Signature Event initiative, LVE has created a model to integrate all elements of special events and formally improve communication between event producers and Las Vegas' hotel properties and sponsors. Since 1991, Las Vegas Events has produced, presented or supported more than 600 events.
For further information, please visit the World Cup's website at www.WorldCupLasVegas.com.
Live streaming of the 2015 FEI World Cup™ Finals is available at: www.feitv.org