Spain’s Beatriz Ferrer-Salat and Delgado claimed their second successive victory in the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2015/2016 Western European League at Stuttgart, Germany today. Impressive winners in Lyon, France three weeks ago they were even more harmonious this afternoon when pinning Germany’s Isabell Werth and Don Johnson FRH into runner-up spot.
There was a top-class turnout from the host nation, and on an afternoon of quality competition German riders also filled third and fourth places with Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl and Unee BB getting the advantage over Fabienne Lutkemeier and D’Agostino. Only three horse-and-rider combinations broke the 80 percent barrier, but there was very little separating fifth-placed Dutchman, Diederik van Silfhout (Arlando NOP), from Germany’s Dorothee Schneider (UlrichEquine’s St Emilion) in sixth and Italy’s Valentina Truppa (Fixdesign Eremo del Castegno) in seventh spot.
Schneider set the first real target score when posting 78.125. The 46-year-old rider who, with the lovely mare Diva Royal, was a member of the silver medal winning German side at the London 2012 Olympic Games has found a fabulous new prospect in the 10-year-old stallion UlrichEquine’s St Emilion. The partnership is clearly very much still in the making, but the black horse’s potential was more than evident as he produced hugely expressive piaffe and passage on his debut at World Cup level.
Italy’s Valentina Truppa, continuing her remarkable return to the top end of the sport after a career-threatening head injury sustained in June, presented a lovely clean test from the 14-year-old Fixdesign Eremo del Castegno. The picture looked a little different, with the 14-year-old gelding showing no tension and relaxing into his work to earn 78.000 which slotted them into second spot temporarily. However, two horses later, The Netherlands’ van Silfhout forged out in front with a mark of 78.700.
The 27-year-old rider, who made a strong contribution to Dutch team gold at this summer’s FEI European Championships in Aachen (GER) produced power and drama from the 10-year-old Arlando NOP, another young horse filled with promise.
But it was Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Unee BB who posted the first over-80 percent score, helped by a demanding floorplan that included a testing transition from piaffe to canter pirouette. With big artistic scores the pair put 80.150 on the board to go into the lead, only to be immediately demoted by German Dressage queen Isabell Werth with Don Johnson.
Werth produced one of her very best performances with the 13-year-old gelding who can be notoriously naughty but who, today, was on his very best behaviour. “Johnny” was clearly enjoying himself in Stuttgart’s Schleyer Halle, his big ears pricked from the outset and paying maximum attention all the way he shot to pole position with a mark of 82.975, and now it was up to the remaining two to better that.
Ferrer-Salat wasn’t to be intimidated however. “I thought I could do a little better than Isabell” she said afterwards, and she was right, her chestnut gelding who has overcome multiple setbacks throughout his career clearly demonstrating once again that persistence pays off. The lightness, the cooperation, the confidence and the amazing ebb and flow of the silent conversation being played out between horse and rider was once again a joy to witness, and the judges rewarded another fabulous test from this pair with the winning score of 83.300 – last to go, Lutkemeier, proving no threat with her mark of 79.900.
Ferrer-Salat was delighted with her own performance today. “I had a very good feeling, my horse was really listening to me. He did super pirouettes, and I was very happy with the half-passes, they were much better than in the Grand Prix” she said. She admitted however that “at one point I was too quick and I got ahead of my music today, but I still had a great feeling and I was so happy with my horse.” Even though she also won yesterday’s Grand Prix, she said Delgado was much happier in the arena this afternoon. “Yesterday he wasn’t so easy, he was edgy, but the great thing about this horse is that he completely trusts me. Even in the prize-giving this evening he was nervous and afraid, but I asked him to trust me and then he was fine – that is how we are together” she explained.
Runner-up Isabell Werth was pleased too. “Today was as good as in Aachen (European Championships) and that was the aim. Johnny did an excellent job” she said. And President of the Ground Jury, Dr Dietrich Plewa, said “we had very good sport today.” Commenting on the top performances of the afternoon he pointed out, “Delgado is so elastic and does such great passage and piaffe and Don Johnson has so much power while Jessica (von Bredow-Werndl) is very much in harmony with her horse.” He added “it was a great competition to judge and the result was so close it could have gone any way, but I think we got the right winner.”
Event Director, Gotthilf Riexinger, had the last laugh at the Ground Jury’s expense however when he commented on the accuracy and consistency of the marks submitted by spectators who, at this event, also get the opportunity to award points for each rider’s test. “It’s wonderful to have spectators also judging the competition – it really gets them involved, and here in Stuttgart they really know their sport. In fact I’m thinking I can start saving money next year if the the spectators can do the judging for me instead…..” he joked.
Photos: FEI/Karl-Heinz Frieler