FEI Dressage World Cup Enters 37th Season with Danish Welcoming First Leg

Nanna Skodborg Merrald (DEN) riding Blue Hors Zepter - second place in the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final - Omaha 2023 Copyright ©FEI/Richard Juilliart

FEI Dressage World Cup 2023-2024 Western European League – written by Louise Parkes

Three athletes from the Danish team that clinched bronze at the recent FEI Dressage European Championship 2023 in Riesenbeck, Germany will be in action when the first leg of the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2023/2024 Western European League gets underway on their home ground in Herning (DEN) next week.

Nanna Skodborg Merrald, who also took Grand Prix Special silver in Riesenbeck, Daniel Bachmann Andersen and Andreas Helgstrand will be joined by compatriots Anna Kasprzak, Nadja Aaboe Sloth, Anna Zibrandtsen and Lone Bang Zindorff as the battle for qualifying points towards the Final which will take place in Riyadh (KSA) next April begins.

37th season

The FEI Dressage World Cup™ is entering its 37th season, and only one Danish rider has ever taken the title. That was Anne-Grethe Jansen who came out on top with Marzog at the inaugural series finale at ’s-Hertogenbosch (NED) in 1986, pinning Great Britain’s Chris Bartle and Wily Trout into second place and Switzerland’s Christine Stückelberger and Rubelit von Unkelruf into third. 


Jansen came back to finish second with the same horse in 1987 at Essen (GER), and since then there has been an irregular run of second-place finishes for Danish contenders at the Final. 

Lars Petersen steered Blue Hors Cavan into runner-up spot at ’s-Hertogenbosch (NED) in 2002 and Princess Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein and Digby were second behind The Netherlands’ Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival in Leipzig (GER) in 2011. Cathrine Dufour and Vamos Amigos were runners-up in Leipzig (GER) in 2022 and Skodborg Merrald was second at the 2023 Final in Omaha (USA) last April partnering Blue Hors Zepter.

For the second year in succession it was Germany’s star partnership of Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and the mare TSF Dalera BB who reigned supreme at the US fixture, having already swept all before them at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and the FEI Dressage European Championship in 2021.

Eight nations

Athletes from eight nations – Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, Netherlands and Sweden – will compete next week including Swedish veterans Tinne Vilhelmson Silfven riding Devanto and Patrik Kittel with Touchdown. 

Kittel has long been a stalwart of the popular indoor FEI Dressage World Cup™ series and is much-loved by spectators around the globe for his joyous and flamboyant Freestyle performances, while Vilhelmson Silfven stood second behind The Netherlands’ Hans Peter Minderhoud at the 2016 Final on her home ground in Gothenburg (SWE). Caroline Darcout (Lord Django) and Marina Mattsson (Helix) will complete the Swedish line-up.

For Finland, Emma Kanerva who competed at the London 2012 Olympic Games, will compete with the 12-year-old stallion Greek Air who won the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special at Neustadt Dosse (GER) in August this year. Germany will be represented by 23-year-old Felicitas Hendricks, who with Drombusch OLD took double-gold at the FEI European U25 Championship in Pilisjászfalu (HUN) in July, and by 24-year-old Raphael Netz who has enjoyed a string of successes with Great Escape Camelot this year. 

This pair helped their country to second place in the Nations Cup at Rotterdam (NED) in June where they also finished third in the Freestyle, and in August they won the Grand Prix and finished second in the Freestyle at CDI-W at Wierzbna Bialy Las in Poland. 

Corentin Pottier (Gotilas du Feuillard) from France, Yuko Kital (Amandori) from Japan, Justina Vanagaite (Nabab) from Lithuania and Dutch competitors Devenda Dijkstra (Hero) and sisters Denise and Jeanie Nekeman (Boston STH and Ferrari) wrap up the startlist for Herning next week.


The Danes however look set to be the ones to beat, Skodborg Merrald who is currently number three in the world rankings, bringing Blue Hors Don Olymbrio, the 15-year-old chestnut KWPN stallion with which she finished third in the Freestyle at Hagen (GER) in April and second in the CDI4* Freestyle at Aachen (GER) in July this year. Like Bachmann Andersen she was a member of the historic Danish side that won World Championship team gold in Herning in 2022. 

Bachmann Andersen brings Zippo MI, the 11-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding he steered to victory in the Nations Cup in Falsterbo (SWE) this summer where the pair also finished second in the Grand Prix Special.

And double-Olympian Helgstrand will partner the exciting nine-year-old KWPN stallion Jovian who was a winner as both a 5-year-old and 7-year-old at the FEI World Breeding Dressage Championship and who was on that bronze medal winning European team in Riesenbeck last month. 

First stop

The Western European League consists of 11 legs, and Herning is the first stop before Lyon (FRA), Stuttgart (GER), and Madrid (ESP) all host rounds in November. Then the action moves on to London – ExCel (GBR) and Mechelen (BEL) in December before the new year begins at Basel, St Jakobshalle (SUI) and Amsterdam (NED) in January 2024 followed by Neumunster (GER) and Gothenburg (SWE) in February and finally ’s-Hertogenbosch (NED) in March. Only London – ExCel will stage the Short Grand Prix as the preliminary competition, all the other venues opting for the traditional Grand Prix.  

The top nine finishers in the League will qualify for the 2024 Final along with the defending champion, von Bredow-Werndl, who is automatically qualified provided she competes twice during the season.

The story of the 2023/2024 season will begin to unfold with the Grand Prix in Herning on Saturday 21 October at 13.15 local time followed by the Grand Prix Freestyle on Sunday 22 October beginning at 14.15. It’s going to be another super season, so don’t miss a hoofbeat…..

Further information about the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2023/2024 series here

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