A real WEG atmosphere settled itself in the dressage arena during the CDIO Nations' Cup Grand Prix on Thursday at the CHIO Aachen. The American riders were able to put direct pressure on the German A-team and with two phenomenal rides by Lisa Wilcox and Debbie McDonald, the American dressage team was only 49 points short from a golden victory. Aachen truly became "Jerez revisited".
Winner of the CDIO Grand Prix was Ulla Salzgeber, who once again presented a super fit Rusty. No rider is currently able to show his horse with such lightness and ease as Salzgeber. Entering the ring in a posting trot with the horse deep and relaxed, Salzgeber him picked up within seconds after the bell rang and put him into the correct classical dressage frame. Rusty excelled in the traversal movements, receiving 9's and 10's for his flying changes, and his piaffe did not show the occasional right hind leg twitch. Rusty was solid, Rusty was electric and Rusty is still the best dressage horse in the world. The judges vowed for that with a 75.88% score and a first place.
Although Salzgeber and Rusty hold a firm grip on that number one position, the crowds were overwhelmed by Lisa Wilcox' performance. Remembering and impressive Relevant at the World Equestrian Games in September 2002, he is now twice the mount he was before. His piaffe and passage, movements which turned him into a firecracker, have developed into a perfect picture of quietness, balance and impulsion. Relevant flows over the footing, bouncing off the ground with grace and strength in each pace. Wilcox was completely flawless in her test and scored 73.54%, which placed her second.
In third position were Debbie McDonald and Brentina, whose score would have equaled Ulla and Rusty's, if the error in the tempi changes every two strides and one small blurb in the changes every single stride had not happened. Although Brentina's engagement is not visualized by hind legs touching her belly -- as some people prefer to see -- the mare is constantly responding to her rider's aids and she accelerates from behind with ease. Wonderful extensions and a balanced piaffe and passage stand proof for the mare's super impulsion and her great work ethic. With 73.25% they followed in the wake of Ulla and Lisa and delivered an important contribution to the American silver medal position in the Nations' Cup.
Germany claimed the number one spot in the team competition with great rides from Salzgeber, Husenbeth (71.67%), Linsenhoff (69.63%) and Kemmer (68.58). Finishing first with 5212 points, Germany beat the USA (5163) and Spain (4875) and The Netherlands (4875) who tied for third place. Holland lost valuable points with a unfulfilling ride from Marlies van Baalen on Idocus. The bay stallion threw up his head in the first piaffe and the communication between rider and horse was from then on disturbed. Some mistakes in the flying changes and in the pirouette pushed Marlies' score down to 61.54%. "Idocus is a man with a will of his own," Hinnemann commented. Marlies was obviously disappointing, as she had just finished eighth in the Dutch Dressage Championships the week before.
Tune into Horsesdaily and Dressagedaily for live coverage of the 2003 CHIO Aachen.