With all the authority that she carries as the most consistently successful athlete in the sport of Dressage, Germany’s Isabell Werth strutted to victory with Emilio at the third leg of the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2023/2024 Western European League in Stuttgart (GER) on Saturday.
In a competition in which multiple rising stars and established performers produced combination-best results, it all came down to Werth’s last-to-go ride, and she aced it with confidence and style.
Emilio was in the zone from the first beat of their musical score. There was a level of true togetherness about the pair throughout their test, and the 17-year-old gelding gave his all. Werth could feel an extra dimension to him tonight.
“I think he was feeling really proud of himself so he just wanted to do his best!”, said the lady whose record in equestrian sport is second to none.
From the outset, the competition was a fascinating one. It was Swedish star Patrik Kittel who, just before the halfway break, put a big target score of 81.340 on the board with the 13-year-old Bonamour.
This pair have not competed together at top level many times, but they have posted three recent wins including a Grand Prix/Freestyle double in Budapest (HUN) last month.
Next to come close to that target was exciting young German, 24-year-old Raphael Netz, who didn’t hide his delight when posting a personal-best 80.115 with the 12-year-old Great Escape Camelot. This young man has a formidable record at U25 level and finished seventh with Camelot at the opening leg of the Western European League in Herning (DEN) four weeks ago.
Then the Finnish partnership of Emma Kanerva and her lovely chestnut Greek Air also posted a PB of 80.375 with an exhibition of real partnership before Denmark’s Nanna Skodborg Merrald set the new standard at 82.965 with Blue Hors Don Olymbrio.
The handsome stallion showed a charming blend of power and light-footedness. The pair’s only error was a slight blip in tempi changes, and the horse seemed to eyeball judge at C as he turned from his final halt knowing he had done a really nice job.
Class of his own
But Emilio was in a class of his own today.
said Werth after bringing the competition to the perfect conclusion with a score of 86.880 which put the result beyond any doubt.
Madeleine Winter-Schulze’s gelding simply cruised through his test with incredible ease and as he carried Werth up the final centreline for their one-handed ride to halt. The crowd went wild because they knew they were watching the winners.
The atmosphere in the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer Halle was something all the leading riders talked about post-competition. “It was outstanding – something more than ever today, the support of the crowd was incredible!”, Werth said.
For Skodborg Merrald her result today was her third runner-up finish from three starts so far this season, but with 51 points already on the leaderboard she is well on the road to the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final 2024 which will take place in Riyadh (KSA) next April.
She too felt the electricity in the fully packed stadium. “It was like a party in there – that was the craziest atmosphere I’ve ever experienced!”, she said.
And third-place Kittel agreed.
“You never know how horses will react with so many people, the music and the special atmosphere, but my horse did a great job and I really enjoyed it!”, he said.
He has no intention of stepping back from further legs of the league despite his strong lead on the league table with 68 qualifying points already accumulated so far. “My horses are really fit and in great form so I’m happy with today and I intend to keep going!”, he pointed out.
Werth meanwhile will be taking her time in planning her season with a view to the Final. “I need to sit down and work it out, because of course we have to look towards Paris (2024 Olympic Games) too. I will ride some more qualifiers but I’m not sure which ones I will go to just yet”, she explained.
The next of the 11 Western European League qualifiers is just a week away when the action moves to Madrid (ESP), so don’t miss a hoofbeat…..
FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2023-2024 – Western European League, written by Louise Parkes