The Spectator

Sunday, April 22, 2007
Posted by Lynndee

Las Vegas – Isabell Werth is the 2007 World Cup Dressage champion – a title she last held 15 years ago. It was in 1992 that Werth earned her first World Cup victory with Fabienne. This time she did it with Warum Nicht FRH in a ride that Dr. Dieter Schüle, head of the judge’s jury, called a “freestyle you don’t often see.”

“Isabell’s performance was outstanding,” he said. Werth agreed, although she gave much of the credit to her partner. “Today, it was just easy. I didn’t expect that he would be so relaxed when he went in. I could start from the very beginning to take risks,” she said.

Werth’s win was earned with a score of 84.25 percent. Coming in second was the Dutch pair of Imke Schellekens-Bartels and Sunrise with a score of 77.95 percent. Although happy with her finish and her score, Schellekens-Bartels said the mare is capable of even more. “My preparation was not that easy today. She started to go into season before the Grand Prix and today she really was in season. So I had a really difficult warm-up, but I decided that we must just go for it and I gave everything and I was very pleased with the ride. It wasn’t the best form we have had. She can do a lot better, but I’m happy.”

If anything will test the composure of riders it’s the environment of the World Cup. Dressage riders, accustomed to competing in quiet environments with few spectators, were put to the test at the 2007 World Cup Dressage competition and no where was the test more stringent than Saturday evening’s final event to determine this year’s world dressage champion – the Grand Prix Freestyle competition.

The U.S. was well-represented by the team of Steffen Peters and Floriano who finished third with a score of 77.80 percent. It was a superb ride but one in which both Peters and Schüle agreed that Floriano was a bit tired at the end. “I’m still extremely excited for a horse that is 17 years old and still wants to put in so much effort,” Peters said of Floriano. Frequently asked if he’ll retire Floriano, Peters said he takes it month by month and will let Floriano tell him when it’s time. “If he keeps going like he’s going tonight, then we’ll give it another shot for another year. But if at any point he doesn’t want to do it any more than it will be a wonderful finish for him.”

The twelve riders who earned the right to ride for the world title faced a sold-out crowd of more than 12,000 who had packed into the Thomas and Mack Arena at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
DeRosa Photo:Isabelle Werth Tetley Photo: Steffen Peters

Opening Ceremonies, Vegas Style

California-based dressage rider Sabine Schut-Kery was once again given the honor of carrying in the American flag for the opening ceremony that was followed with entertainment by Simply Ballroom. Adding to the pressure was perhaps the fact that riders were vying for approximately $300,000 in prize money – the actual amount was in Swiss Francs – the most ever allocated in a dressage competition anywhere in the world. Of that prize, Werth earned approximately $110,000 of it, Schellekens-Bartels received around $50,300 and Peters got about $25,500.

Before Saturday’s competition began, the competitive field had been narrowed by one when Tinne Vilhelmson of Sweden withdrew the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Solos Carex from competition. But word is the physical problem is minor and it was reported that both Solos Carex and Andreas Helgstrand’s mount, Blue Hors Matine, which was withdrawn before competition even began because of a minor injury sustained in shipping, were expected to be back on the European competitive circuit soon.

First to face the pressure of the final World Cup Dressage competition was Iryna Lis from Belarus and the 17-year-old Trakhener gelding Problesk (Bek x Oreol). Ride to classical music, much use of pirouettes. First part of the test done completely in half of ring by C. It’s never easy going first and the gelding seemed a tad tense. But she set the stage for the night and spectators loved her. She finished with a score of 68.85 percent.


Catherine Haddad and Maximus Enjoy the USA- And the USA Enjoys Her

Next to go was American Catherine Haddad and the 13-year-old Danish gelding Maximus JSS (May Sherif x H’jvangs). They rode to music from the Gladiator and started with the dialogue asking the gladiator’s name. He replied, “My name is Maximus.” The crowd caught the meaning and loved it. It set the tone for the ride with spectators expecting a confident, self-assured ride from the gelding to match his music. And they were getting it. The opening half-pass work was beautiful from the view at C. Maximus may not have shown the pizzaz shown by some, but he certainly displayed quiet confidence. The canter work set to music that gave the impression of going into battle must have sent chills down the spines of some.

The one-handed trot half-pass was nicely done and the final salute in slow motion was very popular with the crowd. Haddad was clearly pleased, encouraging the crowd to applaud her horse. Her slow exit and waves to the crowd led announcer Brian O’Connor to say, “Enjoy it Catherine. There’s no rush to leave.” The judges loved her artistry, giving her a score of 74.00 percent for artistry. But her technical score of 63.00 percent brought her overall total to 69.65 percent.
Tetley Photo: Catherine Haddad


The Show Continues with Leslie Morse and Tip Top

The American pair of Leslie Morse and Tip Top 962, a 13-year-old Swedish Warmblood stallion (Master 850 x Chagall 455), were next to go riding to show tunes. Tip Top didn’t seem as relaxed as Maximus, but the stallion has luster. There did seem to be a bit of difficult in some of the piaffe work. Tip Top, however, often seems to have energy to burn and when channeled in the right direction, he can shine. The judges gave them a 70.00 percent for artistry but 62.00 on technical marks for a final score of 65.85 percent.

They were followed by Dutch rider Marlies van Baalen and the 15-year-old Dutch stallion BMC Kigali (Wolfgang x Voltaire) riding to music with a New York, New York theme. This pair had the sort of toe-tapping music that can please an older crowd. Good thing for van Baalen that Kigali isn’t in the habit of swishing his tail through the ride because as thick and flowing as it is, it would be a major distraction. One other thing this horse had was a really nice, forward-moving walk. They ended with an in-your-face salute right before Schüle, the judge at C, and with a final score of 68.05.
Tetley Photo: Leslie Morse and Tip Top


Edward Gal - Returns to Las Vegas to a Hearty USA Welcome

Next came the highly-popular Edward Gal from the Netherlands. Gal and the 14-year-old Dutch stallion Group 4 Securicor IPS Gribaldi (Kostolany x Ibikus) received one big welcoming round of applause. But Gal had a bit of trouble in his passage and piaffe work with the stallion at one point jumping forward from the piaffe and breaking out of passage a little later. The trot half-pass work following went well but the stallion then gave Gal a bit of difficulty with the contact in his walk work.

It wasn’t the best showing for these two and they finished with a final score of 64.90 percent. Show jumper Michael Whitaker got it right when he said earlier in the day commenting on his own poor showing in competition Thursday – “Horses aren’t machines,” and hence, every day is different.
McCormich Photo: Edward Gal- Warm Up


Courtney King and Idocus Get Standing Ovation

There was no doubt who was the crowd favorite among the first group to ride before the competition break – Courtney King, competing in her very first World Cup, was loudly welcomed into the ring. King, who has had quite a winning year, competed with the 17-year-old Dutch stallion Idocus (Equador x Zonneglans) riding to collection of show music, including that from “The Wizard of Oz.” One couldn’t tell this was their first World Cup appearance, this pair looked as confident and composed as any veteran World Cup team. They had their minor problems, such as losing the canter rhythm in a pirouette, but it was a spectacular ride.

Their final halt was dead on and King and Idocus got a standing ovation. It was one happy young rider who left the ring and the judges were just as happy with King and Idocus as they seemed to be with themselves. Their technical score was 71.50 percent and their artistic score was a whopping 79.00 percent, giving them a final score of 73.20 percent.
Harold LaDue Photo: Courtney King and Idocus


Half Time Entertainment to an Enthisiastic Crowd

The ring break featured entertainment, of course. And it was a quadrille, of sorts, with two pairs of Lusitano horses and riders from Brookside Lusitanos and Oliveira Dressage. They performed in the dark with lights running from nose to tail and around the fetlocks. Give credit to those willing to take such a risk, with the lights, particularly on the legs, there’s no way to hide mistakes in rhythm and gait. Problems with passage and piaffe are especially evident. The crowd loved it and the beat of the passage and piaffe music got the whole arena stomping and clapping. Hopefully, the horses and riders had as much fun as spectators.

How could they not with such an enthusiastic crowd? When the Lusitanos finished their dance, the spectators took over and this dressage crowd was more than willing to strut their stuff for the camera. King’s fan club made its presence known with a huge banner that caught the attention of cameras. As had become a feature of the ring breaks, free T-shirts were shot into the crowd. And using one powerful air gun, “bullets” of T-shirts made it as far as the upper stands.
Harold LaDue Photo: T-Shirt Shooter


The Show Goes On - Imke Schellekens-Bartels Dances to First Place

Following the 25-minute break, the battle for the World Cup resumed with five of the world’s top riders bringing up the rear end of competition. First to go in the second half was Sweden’s two-time Olympian Jan Brink riding the 16-year-old Swedish stallion Briar 899 (Magini x Krochet). Briar seemed a bit tense at the start but one thing this horse did appear to be is light on his feet. He can show some lift, especially in his passage half-pass, and he’s got nice trot extensions, which Brink made wide use early in his ride. There were a few baubles in his ride, but for spectators, it was a pleasure to watch. The more educated were sure to have picked up on the technical difficulty of the ride. Brink jumped to the lead after receiving a score of 73.50 percent for his technical score and 81.00 percent for his artistic for a total final score of 76.45 percent.

Brink was followed by Dutch rider Imke Schellekens-Bartels riding the 12-year-old Hannoverian mare Sunrise (Singular Joter x Werther). The pair rode to a classical style of piano music specifically composed for Schellekens-Bartels and that one might like to describe as “bold.” It exuded confidence and strength, which for much of the ride, Sunrise exhibited, but there was a bit of tension and a spooky moment. Space is tight in the Thomas and Mack Arena and Schellekens-Bartels learned just how tight when Sunrise had a momentary spook right at C. But the pair recovered quickly from the momentary loss of concentration and went on to finish with a score of score of 77.95 percent that put them into first place.
Tetley Photo: Imke Bartels and Sunrise


Isabelle Werth And Warum Nicht FRH Give Gold Medal Performance

But that leadership position was soon to be challenged by the next rider to go – Germany’s Isabell Werth aboard the world’s top-ranked horse, the 11-year-old Hannoverian gelding Warum Nicht FRH (Weltmeyer x Wenzel). This pair is used to competing under international pressure and it showed. They were every bit as confident as one would expect such a team to be. ‘Professional’ is a word that also describes well this pair’s ride. Everything seemed well done, even the transitions within the music, often a weak spot of musical freestyles.

Werth finished her ride with a one-handed passage down centerline and when it was all over, the American dominated crowd let her know just how much they appreciated the chance to see this world-famous rider live. Her final score was going to be hard to beat. With 79.50 percent received for a technical score and an amazing 92.00 percent for artistic, Werth got a total score of 84.25 percent. Tetley Photo: Isabelle Werth

The first to attempt to beat Werth was Finland’s Kyra Kyrklund riding to the music of “Caberet.” Kyrklund and the 12-year-old Swedish gelding Max (Master 850 x Alpen) were an elegant pair but had a tough score to beat. Max seemed a tad tense following in the footsteps of Warum Nicht but he and Kyrklund did turn in a world-class performance, it just wasn’t enough to beat the leaders.

Still, Kyrklund was super happy with their World Cup ride. A relative youngster, Max showed his tremendous talent and potential in their freestyle ride. In the end, Kyrklund and Max couldn’t beat Werth and Warum Nicht. Their final score was 77.50 percent, which landed them in fourth place at the end.
Harold LaRue Photo: Kyra Kyrkland


Steffen Peters and Floriano Finish with Flair

Batting clean-up was the American pair of Steffen Peters and the 17-year-old Westphalian gelding Floriano (Florestan I x Weinberg). They were America’s only chance to beat the German team. The pressure was on, but this veteran pair had been in this situation before, most recently at the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen were they rode last. If they felt the pressure, they didn’t show it and as Peters himself later put it, pressure “is usually something I benefit from.” Their ride was a beautiful finish to the evening’s competition, but not entirely flawless.

Peters ended the ride a one-handed passage that looked superb until the last moment, when Floriano broke before the music finished and had to regain his passage for a few more steps. Still, Peters had a big smile at the end and did have every right to be pleased with the great effort made by his long-time partner. Peters and Floriano finished with a score of 77.80 percent earning them a well-deserved third place in the world championship competition.

Grand Prix Kur to Music - 2007 World Cup Finals

  • 1. Isabell Werth - Warum Nicht FRH - 84.250 (Germany)
  • 2. Imke Schellekens Bartels - Sunrise - 77.950 (Holland)
  • 3. Steffen Peters - Floriano - 77.800 (USA)
  • 4. Kyra Kyrklund - Max - 77.500 (Finland)
  • 5. Jan Brink - Bjorsells Briar - 76.450 (Sweden)
  • 6. Courtney King - Idocus - 73.200 (USA)
  • 7. Catherine Haddad - Maximus - 69.650 (USA)
  • 8. Iryna Lis - Problesk - 68.850 (Russia)
  • 9. Marlies van Baalen - Kigali - 68.050 (Holland)
  • 10. Leslie Morse - Tip Top - 65.850 (USA)
  • 11. Edward Gal - Gribaldi - 64.900 (Holland)

More Coverage and More to Come at HorsesDaily On the Scene at the Rolex FEI World Cup Final