Monthly Archives: September 2014

WEG Jumping Finals Set The Stage For Las Vegas

There was a great sense of anticipation and excitement in the air as the Show Jumping competition of the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games got underway in Normandy, France, last week; not unlike what the buzz will be in Las Vegas next April for the 2015 Longines FEI World Cup Final!

Great Britain, one of the Gold Medal favorites with a team comprising Olympic and European Champions, had a major setback before the competition even began as Ben Maher had to withdraw Jane Clark’s Cella due to a small overreach injury before heading to France. Belgium then withdrew Jos Lansink’s mount Ensor de Litrange before the first horse inspection.

Team U.S.A. was also favored for a spot on the podium after a very successful summer on the European circuit which included victories in Nations’ Cups at Hickstead and Dublin as well as a second-place finish at Aachen. The team comprised Olympic veterans Beezie Madden and McLain Ward, as well as veteran Kent Farrington and youngster Lucy Davis who were both making their WEG debuts.

Ireland's young superstar Bertram Allen and Molly Malone V won the opening Speed class at WEG - (c) Hippo Foto Team - Leanjo De Koster / FEI

Ireland’s young superstar Bertram Allen and Molly Malone V won the opening Speed class at WEG – (c) Hippo Foto Team – Leanjo De Koster / FEI

A total of 153 horse-and-rider combinations started the first leg of competition with 35 nations in the Team competition and 54 countries having riders in the Individual competition. The opening leg was a speed class and Ireland’s young superstar Bertram Allen (only 19!) had a fantastic round on Molly Malone V, his Dublin Grand Prix winner, which proved unbeatable. Patrice Delaveau of France finished second on Orient Express HDC, while Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet and Conrad de Hus finished third just ahead of 2013 World Cup winner Beezie Madden and Cortes C. Germany’s Daniel Deusser and his 2014 World Cup winner Cornet d’Amour finished 7th. After the first round, France led the Team standings with Sweden second and the US third.

For the next round of Team competition, the course was nothing short of breathtaking in its design, and it also proved influential in the standings. Some felt that perhaps the horses may have been distracted by the artistic jumps which included a Viking ship, a giant hand that held brushes like Normandy’s famed impressionist painters, a gun with a knot tied in its barrel, and a medieval fortress, to name a few; but it was a masterpiece to look at!

Jeroen Dubbeldam (NED) and Zenith SFN make history for The Netherlands with double Gold (c) Hippo Foto Team - Dirk Caremans / FEI  only rider to produce four clear rounds he secured his second Gold Medal of the Games and became the first Dutch rider to win the Individual World Championship

Jeroen Dubbeldam (NED) and Zenith SFN make history for The Netherlands with double Gold (c) Hippo Foto Team – Dirk Caremans / FEI

Only 20 of the 144 starters managed to cross the finish line fault-free, and only two teams managed to have no penalties added to their overnight score, including the Dutch Team who rose from fifth place to the top of the leaderboard, and Brazil, who jumped up from 12th place to fifth, which earned them a spot in the top-ten team finale.

Super performances by Team U.S.A., specifically clears from McLain Ward on Rothchild and Beezie Madden with Cortes C, moved the US into second, and Madden into second individually. Germany, the WEG 2010 Gold Medalists, moved into third after clears from both Marcus Ehning on Cornado NRW and Daniel Deusser on Cornet D’Amour. Host nation France dropped to fourth, but their star Patrice Delaveau and Orient Express HDC jumped into the individual lead. Sweden’s Rolf-Goran Bengtsson and Casall Ask stood third, while Germany’s Deusser and Dutch rider Jeroen Dubbeldam with Zenith SFN rounded out the top five.

The pressure in the final round of the Team competition was intense, especially for France who desperately wanted a win on home soil. Penelope Leprevost, a member of the French team said it best, describing entering the arena as being “like entering a boiling cauldron.”

Team Gold for The Netherlands, while France takes Silver and the US takes Bronze (c)  Hippo Foto Team - Leanjo De Koster / FEI

Team Gold for The Netherlands, while France takes Silver and the US takes Bronze (c) Hippo Foto Team – Leanjo De Koster / FEI

In the end it was The Netherlands who captured Team Gold on a score of 12.83. This was their second championship title, having won at WEG 2006 in Aachen. The Gold Medal team included Maikel van der Vleuten on VDK Group Verdi TN N.O.P., Jur Vrieling on VDL Bubalu, Dubbeldam on Zenith SFN, and Gerco Schroder on his Olympic mount Glock’s London N.O.P. Both Dubbeldam and Schroder had been members on the Gold Medal team in Aachen.

 

Team USA's Beezie Madden and Cortes C - 'Best Horse' of the show (c) Hippo Foto Team - Leanjo De Koster / FEI

Individual Bronze medalist Beezie Madden of the US and Cortes C – ‘Best Horse’ of the show (c) Hippo Foto Team – Leanjo De Koster / FEI

France re-claimed their Silver Medal from WEG 2010 in Kentucky with a score of 14.08, edging out the US who took Bronze with 16.72. As the second-to-last rider to go, Beezie Madden had all the pressure knowing she had to go clear to clinch the Bronze. She demonstrated why she is regarded as one of the world’s best by producing one of only ten clears in the competition, which secured the US a spot on the podium and propelled her to the top of the standings in the Individual competition. Sweden’s Bengtsson held second, while Denmark’s Soren Pedersen and Tailormade Esperanza De Rebel S moved into third. Overnight leader Delaveau of France dropped a rail and three spots to end the day in fourth.

With the weight of the team competition off their shoulders, the riders focused on the individual medals as the top 29 in the standings competed in a two-round competition hoping to earn one of just four spots in the Final. Madden and Ward were among the top contenders and they advanced with 19 other riders to the second round. In the end, just 3/10th of a penalty kept Ward from joining Madden in the Top Four, as the two-time Olympic team Gold Medalist and 2006 WEG team Silver Medalist wound up fifth.

The home crowd went wild with the news that Delaveau, who grew up only 40km away, not only made it through but actually led the rankings. Sweden’s Bengtsson and The Netherlands’ Dubbeldam joined him and Madden for the final battle for Gold.

France's own Patrice Delaveau and Orient Express HDC take both Team and Individual Silver at WEG (c) Hippo Foto Team - Leanjo De Koster/ FEI

France’s own Patrice Delaveau and Orient Express HDC take both Team and Individual Silver at WEG (c) Hippo Foto Team – Leanjo De Koster/ FEI

The final round at WEG is different from all other competitions in that the top four riders ride not only their own horses, but each other’s horses as well. The format is controversial, but it’s truly exciting to watch the world’s top riders compete over a world-class course with only minutes to prepare on horses which they have never ridden!

Dutch rider Jeroen Dubbeldam wins Gold (center),  France's Patrice Delaveau takes Silver (left) and  US rider Beezie Madden takes Bronze  (c) Hippo Foto Team - Leanjo de Koster / FEI

Dutch rider Jeroen Dubbeldam wins Gold (center), France’s Patrice Delaveau takes Silver (left) and US rider Beezie Madden takes Bronze (c) Hippo Foto Team – Leanjo de Koster / FEI

Dubbeldam’s rides on all four horses was pure harmony. As the only rider to produce four clear rounds he secured his second Gold Medal of the Games and became the first Dutch rider to win the Individual World Championship. It was disappointment for Delaveau who was achingly close to Gold and who had to settle for Silver after receiving one time penalty in the third round on Casall Ask. Madden secured the Bronze medal with a total of 12 faults, her second WEG individual medal after having won Silver in 2006.

Madden’s amazing mount, Cortes C, owned by Abigail Wexner, earned the ‘Best Horse’ title as he was the only horse to produce clear rounds with all four riders. In addition, he jumped four clears out of five rounds in the earlier competitions.

The thrilling finale to WEG gives us good insight into the excitement we can expect next April at the 2015 Longines FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas. Don’t miss your chance to watch the sport’s absolute best horses and riders go head-to-head in Las Vegas next April; be sure to order your tickets today!

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World Equestrian Games Dressage Medalists Shine In Normandy

The 2014 World Equestrian Games (WEG) got underway in Normandy, France, last week and the world’s best dressage riders and horses headlined the first week of competition at the d’Ornano Stadium.

Packed stands at the  d'Ornano Stadium for the Dressage competition

Packed stands at the d’Ornano Stadium for the Dressage competition – photo (c) Nicole Graf Ussher

There were trials and tribulations, along with cheers and tears, over the four days of competition, and spectators were treated to phenomenal performances of which they couldn’t get enough. The stands were filled and the stadium was abuzz, just as it will be next April for the 2015 Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Finals in Las Vegas when the FEI World Cup Finals in both dressage and jumping return to the Entertainment Capital of the World!

At WEG, there was drama before the Games even started. Germany’s Matthias Alexander Rath had to withdraw his superstar Totilas due to a last-minute injury. It was a great disappointment for fans who were looking forward to a rematch between the famous black stallion and the Olympic Champion Valegro, ridden by Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin, who was beaten by Rath just the month before at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany.  The Dutch Team also had to make adjustments to their roster as Danielle Heijkoop’s Kingsley Siro and Edward Gal’s Glock’s Undercover were also placed on the injured list, and Gal had to call upon his second horse Glock’s Voice to step in.

Grand Prix Team Competition

The Grand Prix Team competition got underway under ominous skies that continued throughout both days of the Grand Prix, and several unlucky riders had to perform their tests in torrential rain.

Germany win Team Gold - photo (c) Hippo Foto Team - Leanjo de Koster / FEI

Team Gold for Germany – photo (c) Hippo Foto Team – Leanjo de Koster / FEI

Germany, which uncharacteristically took only the Bronze medal at the 2010 WEG in Kentucky, reclaimed their Gold. Fabienne Lutkemeier, who was called upon last minute to replace Rath, got the unlucky draw as first rider to go with D’Agostino FRH, but the 24 year-old kept her cool and scored 73.586%, while teammate Kristina Sprehe and Desperados FRH received the best score of the first day, 78.814%, which gave the Germans a head start.  Helen Langehanenberg put in a top performance with Damon Hill NRW to score 81.357%, while Isabell Werth and Bella Rose 2 earned 81.529%. Werth’s dreams of an individual medal were unfortunately dashed, as she had to withdraw the mare from the rest of the competition after slightly injuring herself.

 

Great Britain takes the Silver: (l-r) Carl Hester, Michael Eilberg, Charlotte Dujardin, Gareth Hughes - photo (c) CO Normandie 2014PSV

Great Britain takes the Silver: (l-r) Carl Hester, Michael Eilberg, Charlotte Dujardin, Gareth Hughes – photo (c) CO Normandie 2014PSV

Great Britain once again proved their well-deserved placement at the top of the sport, and repeated their Team Silver medal from WEG 2010. The Brits have become sweethearts of the sport, as the former underdogs have fought their way to the top and are now regulars on the podium. Olympic gold medalist and 2014 Reem Acra FEI World Cup champion Charlotte Dujardin and her dancing horse Valegro didn’t disappoint their fans or the judges, earning the top Grand Prix score of 85.271%. Her teammate and trainer Carl Hester and Nip Tuck earned their own personal best score of 74.186%, which added to the continuation of their fairy tale. The big gelding was purchased by Carl and friend Jane de la Mare as an unattractive yearling for only 1,000 Euros and he lives out in a field – not the usual story for a top international Grand Prix horse! Teammates Michael Eilberg on Half Moon Delphi along with Gareth Hughes and DV Stenkjers Nadonna also performed well, earning 71.886% and 69.714% respectively.

The Netherlands wins the Bronze medal and Selfie of the day! (l-r) Adelinde Cornelissen, Edward Gal, Diederik Van Silfhout and Hans Peter Minderhoud (c) CO Normandie 2014PSV

The Netherlands wins the Bronze medal and Selfie of the Day! (c) CO Normandie 2014PSV

Despite losing two top horses from their original lineup, the Dutch fought valiantly, but in the end had to settle for the Bronze. A super performance from Hans Peter Minderhoud and Glock’s Johnson in the pouring rain received a 74.357%, while Diederik van Silfhout and Arlando NH N.O.P., also put in a fantastic effort which earned 73.414%. On the second day of competition the heightened atmosphere seemed to rattle Glock’s Voice a little, but the 2010 WEG triple gold medalist Edward Gal expertly guided him to a 72.414%. Two-time World Cup champion Adelinde Cornelissen and her Olympic partner Jerich Parzival N.O.P. showed their expertise, earning a 79.629%.

Team U.S.A.’s fourth place finish was impressive after a superb performance by Olympic veteran and 2009 World Cup champ Steffen Peters and Legolas 92, who scored 75.843%. Team ‘newbie’ Laura Graves and Verdades performed amazingly well under pressure, and scored 74.981% in her first-ever WEG appearance and her first European tour. Spectacular! Adrienne Lyle and her Olympic partner Wizard had a solid test which earned 72.000%, as did Tina Konyot and Calecto V, who received 69.643%.

Grand Prix Special

With team medals decided, the riders focused on their individual performances and the Grand Prix Special proved exciting indeed, as the top 30 competitors moved forward. Great Britain’s golden girl Dujardin came to WEG on a mission – to win both of the individual Golds and to become the first rider to hold Olympic, European, World Cup, and World Champion titles at the same time – the first three of which she had already won. Although they didn’t put in a mistake-free test, the duo scored a fantastic 86.120% in the Special to clinch the Gold. One down and one to go!

Germany's Kristina Sprehe and Desperados FRH win the Bronze medal in the Grand Prix Special  © Hippo Foto Team - Leanjo de Koster - FEI

Germany’s Kristina Sprehe and Desperados FRH win the Bronze medal in the Grand Prix Special
(c) Hippo Foto Team – Leanjo de Koster – FEI

Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill, another crowd favorite, took the Silver with 84.468%, while teammate Kristina Sprehe and the elegant Desperados FRH took the Bronze with 79.762%. It was a tough day for Holland’s Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival who had a super test, but unfortunately had entered the arena after the allotted 45 seconds which meant extra penalties and a finish just out of medal contention with a score of 79.328%.

Laura Graves and Verdades, a horse her mother bought for her as a foal which she then trained to Grand Prix herself, were the highest placed American duo, finishing in 8th. Steffen Peters and Legolas 92 finished 10th.

Grand Prix Freestyle

Golden girl Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro claim their second gold medal at WEG in the Grand Prix Freestyle - photo (c) CO Normandie 2014PSV

Golden girl Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro claim their second gold medal at WEG in the Grand Prix Freestyle – photo (c) CO Normandie 2014PSV

It was a perfect day for the individual medal finale as the sun shone down on the sold-out stadium of 20,000 and the excitement in the air was palpable. The crowds cheered with each rider that came through the tunnel into the arena, and when you thought it couldn’t get any louder it did – especially when Dujardin and Valegro trotted in. This was only the third time they had performed to their ‘new’ music, but it seemed like old hat and this time the pair was foot-perfect, and they scored a whopping 92.161% to win Gold and make Dujardin’s wishes for two WEG Gold medals come true.

Dutch rider Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival N.O.P. take the Bronze -  (c) CO Normandie 2014PSV

Dutch rider Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival N.O.P. take the Bronze – (c) CO Normandie 2014PSV

A dazzling performance from Langehanenberg and Damon Hill NRW earned 88.286% to secure the Silver, which will be added to their collection of Olympic, European, and World Cup Final medals. It was a much brighter day for Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival, as the pair danced their way to a well-deserved Bronze medal with a score of 85.714%.

The U.S.’s Graves and Verdades had the performance of their life with a beautifully harmonious Freestyle which earned them an 82.036% and fifth place among the greatest riders in the world. What an exciting combination to have for Team U.S.A.’s future! The top stars of the 2014 WEG and their amazing accomplishments promise to make the 2015 Reem Acra FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas a historic event you won’t want to miss; be sure to reserve your tickets today!

WEG fairy-tale for U.S. rider Laura Graves and Verdades who finished 5th in the world! photo (c) Susan J Stickle

WEG fairy-tale for U.S. rider Laura Graves and Verdades who finished 5th in the world! photo (c) Susan J Stickle