The 2014 FEI World Cup Finals in Dressage and Show Jumping were held April 17 – 21 in Lyon, France, and what an exciting competition it proved to be! It was the first time that France hosted the two World Cup Finals at the same venue, something that was first done in Las Vegas in 2005, and it was a resounding success.
Seventeen of the world’s best dressage horses and riders battled it out in the 29th edition of the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final, and it was Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin, ranked number one in the world, and her record-setting horse Valegro, who won it all.
Dujardin, a double gold medalist at the 2012 London Olympic Games, and the reigning European Champion, has now become the first-ever British rider to win the coveted Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage title.
Dujardin and Valegro, who has only been competing at the Grand Prix level since 2011, set the tone for the high-stakes competition, winning the opening Grand Prix on the first day, and breaking their own world record with a score of 87.129%. In the Grand Prix Freestyle, the pair virtually brought the crowd to its feet for a standing ovation after their winning performance, which consisted of new music and choreography – a routine they had practiced only twice at home before arriving in Lyon. The duo earned a remarkable score of 92.179% putting them well ahead of defending champions Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill NRW from Germany, who finished in second place with 87.339%, while Edward Gal of The Netherlands and Glocks’s Undercover took third with 83.696%.
Both U.S. riders, Tina Konyot and Cesar Parra, performed well at the Final, and improved their scores as the competition went on. Konyot, from Palm City, FL, rode Calecto V, her 2012 London Olympic Games and 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games partner, to 11th place in the Grand Prix, scoring 70.443%. The pair scored 71.929% in the Grand Prix Freestyle and finished the competition in 12th place.
Parra, from Whitehouse Station, NJ, and Van the Man scored 65.543% in the Grand Prix for 16th place, and finished in the same spot after scoring 68.429% in the Grand Prix Freestyle. Both riders were pleased with their horses’ improved performances at the Final.
Having won the two previous Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals, the U.S. was hoping for a hat-trick, but it was not to be, and there were many reversal of fortunes as the competition progressed. In the end, it was Germany’s Daniel Deusser who clinched the title and took center stage on the podium after a fantastic week of competition aboard Cornet D’Amour. He finished with an overall total of two faults, edging out former World Cup Champion and countryman Ludger Beerbaum, who rode both Chaman and Chiara in different legs to finish in second place on a total of four faults. Great Britain’s Scott Brash, ranked number one in the world, and Ursula XII finished with a five-fault total to take third place.
It was tragic news for the French camp, as Patrice Delaveau, who was carrying the dream of a nation on his shoulders, looked poised to win on home soil after sharing a joint-lead on a zero score with Olympic champion Steve Guerdat of Switzerland. Unfortunately he was forced to withdraw his horse Lacrimoso prior to the last phase of the Final due to a minor foot problem. France has only won the World Cup Final once during the 36-year history of the competition, and that was ten years ago, when Bruno Broucqsault and Dileme de Cephe took the coveted title in Milan, Italy. Guerdat was also edged out of the competition and was relegated to a final fifth place behind Germany’s Marcus Ehning who took fourth.
Twenty-seven of the world’s best horses and riders started in the first round of the third and final phase, with 22 riders, including seven Americans, qualifying to return for the second round. Course designer Frank Rothenberger created challenging tracks throughout the competition, which produced a shake-up in the leaderboard as the competition progressed, and only four horse-and-rider combinations produced double clears in the last round.
Defending champion Beezie Madden led the way for the U.S. aboard her 2013 winning partner Simon, starting the final leg with four faults, and sitting in a tie for fourth place. A rail down in the each of the first and second rounds meant the pair dropped to eventual 7th place, with a total of 12 faults.
U.S. Team veteran McLain Ward, Madden’s two-time Olympic gold medal teammate, produced one of seven clears in the first round, but unfortunately the pair had a rail down in the second, adding four faults to their score and dropping them to final 9th place with total of 17 faults. Finishing right behind in 10th place was teammate Charlie Jayne and Thatcher’s Chill R Z, completing on 23 faults.
Rounding out the top 20 for the U.S. were Katie Dinan with Nougat du Vallet, former World Cup champion Leslie Burr Howard on Tic-Tac, and Lucy Davis with Baron, finishing in 15th, 16th, and 17th places respectively. Charlie Jacobs and Flaming Star made their World Cup debut and finished in a respectable 20th place.
Kent Farrington won the second leg of the competition, and did qualify for the final phase, but decided to save Voyeur for another day and withdrew from the Final.
The 2014 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final may have only just finished in Lyon, but everyone is already looking forward to the excitement of the 2015 Finals in Las Vegas, which are only 357 days away.