To say the pressure was on as the last six riders of the 2019 FEI Dressage World Cup™ Finals Gothenburg prepared for the Freestyle would be inaccurate. It was intense. It was everything a World Cup Championship should be. Each movement shuffled the leaderboard. Each centerline was energized by the crowds applause pushing horse and rider to perform their very best until the final salute.
In the end, it was the multiple Olympic, World Cup, and World Equestrian Games (WEG) champion Isabell Werth and Weihegold OLD from Germany who would be crown the victor. The duo looked determined as they performed their freestyle, attempting perfection to replace USA’s Laura Graves from the top. A bobble in Werth’s one-tempi changes in a very technical test cost them a final mark in the 90% range. However, their test was enough to move them into first with 88.871%. This was Werth’s fifth World Cup and third consecutive World Cup win with Weihegold OLD, the 14-year-old Oldenburg owned by Christine Arns-Krogmann.
“I could take all the risks at extended canter and the pirouettes were great. We could not have been better,” said Werth. Noting the slight miscommunication in the one-tempi changes Werth remarked “I was arrogant there, so that was my fault! I love what I do, and this is what keeps me so competitive!”
Entering the centerline to the theme of Rudy, USA’s Olympic and WEG veteran Laura Graves with her own and Curt Maes’ 17-year-old Dutch Warmblood Verdades, threw down the gauntlet for Werth to chase. As the second U.S. rider to go, the pair earned the first 10 of the day on their half-pass movement. “Diddy” and Graves were picture and foot-perfect earning a final score of 87.179 % to take the lead. In the end, a slightly more technical ride from Werth separated first and second place by only 1.692 percentage points moving Graves into second.
“My horse (Verdades) likes his job and never puts a foot wrong when I ride him, although at the barn he knows he’s the boss,” said Graves. “He was so rideable today; the crowd was amazing, and I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as me!”
Sweeping the third podium spot in a dramatic way, Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg aboard Damsey FRH, the 17-year-old Hanoverian stallion owned by Louise Leatherdale & Susanne Meyer, were the last combination to go in the Scandinavium Arena. Producing a forward test, the pair quickly ticked off each box climbing the leaderboard. During their test, it was evident Langehanenberg and Damsey FRH were feeling the atmosphere and decided to go all in on their last centerline. Damsey FRH’s final movement, the extended trot, was so bold and powerful traveling to the judges booth at “C”, their final halt was within centimeters of the boards earning an 86.571%.
“I am thankful and really proud of him,” said Langehanenberg. “The clapping motivated him at the end of the test, and I think he would have been quite happy to start all over again!”
Friday’s Grand Prix podium finisher, WEG veteran Daniel Bachmann Andersen and Blue Hors Zack, the 15-year-old Stallion owned by the Blue Hors Aps from Denmark, were a favorite in the Freestyle. After producing an efficient and lovely test, the pair earned an 85.468 % to place them in third with four riders left to go. It wasn’t until Langehanenberg concluded her test that Andersen and “Zack” moved in to fourth.
The Olympic and World Cup veteran contingent representing the U.S. of Laura Grave’s with Verdades, Adrienne Lye with Salvino and Kasey Perry-Glass with Goerklintgaards Dublet were a force throughout the competition. Perry-Glass and Goerklintgaards Dublet, the 16-year-old Dutch warmblood gelding, produced a brilliant freestyle earning fifth place with an 84.975%. Lyle and Salvino, the 12-year-old Hanoverian stallion owned by Betsy Julian LLC, beautifully danced with Lyle to a personal best of 81.832% for seventh at the 2019 FEI Dressage World Cup™ Finals Gothenburg.