Leipzig, Germany - The Reem Acra FEI World Cup Final got underway Thursday evening with the Grand Prix presented by Sparkasse. The U.S. sent three combinations to the arena in Hall One of the Leipzig Exhibition Hall. The American horse/rider combinations did not disappoint in the field of 17. First in the arena for the U.S. was Jan Ebeling and Ann Romney's Rafalca. This veteran pair demonstrated fluid trot work emphasized by a solid half-pass and had a consistent canter tour. Throughout the test, Rafalca was the picture of obedience and finished with a fluent centerline. The 52-year-old from Moorpark, CA, could not have been more proud of his longtime partner and found vindication tonight for a tense FEI World Cup Final debut in Las Vegas in 2009.
"I couldn't be happier with her, she didn't really have any mistakes and she handled the arena really well, for me that was one thing I really wanted to show everyone, she is not as silly as she was two years ago in Vegas."
Rafalca and Ebeling earned a score of 68.191% to finish the Grand Prix in 10th place.
Next in the ring for the U.S. was Shawna Harding and her own Come On III. They finished in 15th place on a score of 64.696%. This pair from Aiken, SC, started off their test with a strong first centerline and flowed into a powerful extended trot. Throughout their entire time in the arena, Harding and Come On III displayed expressive canter gaits, highlighted by determined canter work.
The final pair for the U.S. was Vechta, Germany, based Catherine Haddad-Staller and her own Winyamaro. The chestnut gelding with four white socks demonstrated flashy movement throughout the test to score 67.34% and finish in 11th place. They had an accurate test highlighted by active trot work and a bold lengthening. In the second canter pirouette on the centerline, the pair lost their rhythm but recovered the next movement with a fluid extended trot.
Haddad-Staller was pleased with the maturity that the 11-year-old demonstrated on such a large stage.
"I was quite happy with my ride, my horse is quite young for this type of tournament. I was pretty happy excited he made it into the FEI Finals. He was quite distracted in some parts of the test. It wasn't my most relaxed test, but I was quite happy he kept it together in there."
The Netherlands' experienced pair of Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival captured the victory in the grand prix presented by Sparkasse scoring 80.957%.
All three American combinations have qualified to compete in the grand prix freestyle on Saturday evening.
Anne Gribbons, the USEF Dressage Technical Advisor was thrilled with all three of these combinations moving onto the freestyle, but was not surprised by their strong performances this evening.
"I love it, I love it, I really do. We didn't expect anything else," she said.
The Grand Prix Kur for the Reem Acra World Cup Dressage Final will take place Saturday April 30 in Hall One and is set to begin at 6:00 p.m. CEST.
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