Wellington, Florida – Anky van Grunsven made a repeat performance at the 2010 EXQUIS World Dressage Masters winning Saturday evening’s Grand Prix Freestyle as she did back in 2009. Riders were competing for a piece of the $84,000 prize money and van Grunsven’s win earned her nearly $30,000. She took the win with her long-time partner, the 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding Salinero, and a score of 84.450 percent. Finishing second was the American pair of Steffen Peters and Ravel with a score of 81.70 percent. Peters and the 11-year-old KWPN gelding, owned by Akiko Yamazaki, showed once again why they are at the top of American dressage.
Peters was recently named the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s Horseman of the Year for the second year in a row and Ravel was again named the Horse of the Year. Steffen said he had a lot of horse coming into the arena and that made him ride some of the moves a bit conservatively, including opting not to ride one-handed tempis, as he had done with the twos. “I didn’t have the guts,” he said, “But looking back, I should have.” Even so, Peters said had he taken more risks, he doubts he would have earned enough points to move ahead of van Grunsven. “I think Anky’s ride tonight was one of the best freestyles I have seen.” Particularly strong was the pair’s piaffe, passage and pirouettes. “And this might sound silly, but he halted perfectly,” Peters said of Salinero.
Van Grunsven was clearly overjoyed with her win. She and Salinero have been competing together at the top of the sport for the past six years and she said they’ve developed a close relationship. “He’s still fit and still very happy and it’s nice to feel that it’s still there,” van Grunsven said. “Earlier, he thought, ‘There I go’ and now, he thinks, ‘There WE go,’ not always, but mostly.” Van Grunsven did, however, arrive in Florida with a lot of horse and it showed the first day of competition when she placed second behind Peters in the Grand Prix on Thursday. She said Friday’s schooling session, in which riders had the opportunity to school in the main ring under the lights, made a huge difference in Salinero. “It was really good could practice yesterday. He gets nervous with this atmosphere,” van Grunsven said. “If I hadn’t done yesterday, it would have been problem. But tonight, he was very concentrated”
Van Grunsven, as well as many riders, thanked Anthony Kies, CEO of World Dressage Masters for making the five-star CDI a reality in Florida. Kies praised the Wellington venue and said this year’s Florida Masters competition “was fantastic. You had three of top riders in the world and I don’t think that happens every day. I’m thrilled that we have them together.”
Van Grunsven admitted that she had also been getting in some reining training while in Florida, but when asked if she might try to compete internationally as a reiner, she said it was unlikely considering how difficult it would be finding time for both reining and dressage. She admitted she still had much to learn about reining. “Reining is hard, is all about control.”
Third-place finisher Isabell Werth was pleased with her ride on Satchmo 78 despite the fact that she had mistakes at the end of the ride that cost her some points and earned her a 78.950. “He was full of power and energy,” she said of the 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding. “He was brilliant but at end was a mistake. Next time I have to do it better.” But overall, Werth said she believes there is little in her freestyle ride that can be improved. “I don’t know what I could do better with him. The test is already full of difficulties and he was really concentrated.”