What happens in Vegas won’t be staying in Vegas when the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2014/2015 Final comes to town next April. Show business is at the beating heart of the US city that attracts a phenomenal number of visitors every year. And when you combine that with the sponsorship of a New York fashionista and the most attention-seeking horse-and-rider combinations on the planet, then you have a mouth-watering recipe for a spectacular showdown between the superstars of this ever-expanding sport at the Thomas & Mack Arena in six months’ time. The equine stars have often been called “dancing horses” in recent years, particularly since Freestyle has come to the fore.
Performing difficult and demanding movements to music has ensured increasing public interest ever since Holland’s Anky van Grunsven first broke the mold. Partnering the legendary Bonfire, and later Salinero, she turned the previously ultra-conservative discipline into a fascinating and entertaining sporting spectacle during her 13-year FEI World Cup™ Dressage winning spree that began in 1995 and ended in 2008. During that time she lifted the trophy on nine occasions, and the Dutch head the leaderboard for most wins in the series with a total of 14.
Throughout van Grunsven’s career however she was always stalked by Germany’s Isabell Werth, who has claimed the FEI World Cup™ Dressage title twice. Werth recorded her first victory in 1992, at the age of 23, and the second at Las Vegas in 2007. She knows what it takes to sparkle under the spotlight having done it so many times, and she kicks off her 2014/2015 campaign at Odense in Denmark next Sunday on top form, having been part of the gold-medal-winning German team at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Normandy, France just a few weeks ago.
She won’t have an easy ride however, because the line-up for the first round of the nine-leg series is a heavyweight one that includes Dutch double-champion Adelinde Cornelissen partnering the 17-year-old Jerich Parzival. Together this pair clinched individual bronze at Normandy, and if their form carries through then they will be a tough act to beat. Also in action is Edward Gal with his top ride Glock’s Undercover. This horse has an uncanny likeness to Totilas, the black stallion with whom the Dutchman lifted the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage trophy in 2010.
During his short career with this great horse, Gal single-handedly raised the level of the sport, becoming an overnight sensation after his medal-winning appearances at the 2009 FEI European Championships in Windsor, Great Britain and following his World Cup success by taking triple-gold at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky (USA). Totilas showed mesmerising power and extravagant movement with Gal in the saddle, and one of the most exciting prospects for the forthcoming season is the possibility of a head-to-head between the black stallion, which is now competed by Germany’s Matthias Alexander Rath, and the British duo who have taken the sport by storm over the last two years.
All the titles
Defending Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ champions, Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, currently hold all the titles on offer in the sport. They set the world on fire when taking double gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games, and their magical quality is second to none. It seemed they were all but unbeatable until coming up against Rath and Totilas at Aachen, Germany this summer where the German pair came out on top. That means there is now a score to be settled, and Dressage fans all over the globe are hoping that the two greats will have a re-match at the Reem Acra season-closer under the bright lights of Las Vegas next year.
Before all that however, competitors from Western Europe, Central Europe, North America and the Asia/Pacific regions will also be fighting for a qualifying spot. The Western European season visits Lyon (FRA), Stuttgart (GER), Stockholm (SWE) and Olympia in London (GBR) before the end of 2014, and the last four qualifiers will be held between January and March 2015 in Amsterdam (NED), Neumunster (GER), Gothenburg (SWE) and ‘s-Hertogenbosch (NED).
With another German double-champion, Ulla Salzgeber who reigned supreme with Rusty in 2001 and 2002, included in Sunday’s first-leg start-list along with Holland’s Hans Peter Minderhoud and the talented Swedish duo of Patrick Kittel and Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven, the 2014/2015 series looks set to be a winner from the very outset.
Reem Acra FEI Hub gives access to extensive information about the series. The complete rules, calendar, updated ranking and results are available here
FEI World Cup™ Dressage, the only worldwide series in this discipline, is now in its 29th season. The series, created in 1985, comprises four leagues: Western European, Central European, North American (including Canada) and Pacific (Australia, New Zealand, Asia). Each FEI World Cup™ Dressage qualifier consists of a Grand Prix test, which in turn is a qualification for the Freestyle to Music competition, where league points are accumulated towards places in the Final. Judged on both technical and artistic merit, the FEI World Cup™ Dressage combines art, sport and partnership between horse and rider at the highest level and consistently proves a winning formula with audiences all over the world.