Febraury 19, 2007

It was no surprise that title defender Isabell Werth won her third FEI World Cup victory at the weekend in in Neumünster, after having won in Odense and Frankfurt as well earlier in the season.

The surprise however in the sold out Holstenhalle came from Scandinavian power, reaching for all the FEI World Cup tickets they could possibly get. "I suggest we will continue in having the last decisive qualifier in Neumünster, as it worked out as a really 'Krimi' here", the chairman of the judges Mariette Withages enthusiastically commented on the rides. The seventh FEI World Cup Qualifier of the Western European League reached the climax when the last three riders entered the arena.

Isabel Werth (GER) celebrating her third FEI World Cup victory in Neumünster. Karl Heinz Friele
In the Grand Prix it had been like no riders and horse combination could avoid making mistakes. Especially the series of changes suffered from a lack of certainty. Isabell Werth had made mistakes in the two tempi changes and the one tempi changes as well.

The most experienced horse, 17 year old Swedish master Björsells Briar, also made mistakes in both the one and two tempi changes and didn't show to his advantage in Grand Prix. What a change one day can make. Although Jan Brink himself was influenced by a tight schedule combining the Swedish stallion test with riding three stallions there together with competing in the Neumünster FEI World Cup qualifier, nothing could be seen anymore from less good timing and a less perfect ride. Briar had a great test.

Jan Brink commented: "Even a horse like Briar can just make mistakes after a pause in showing. But today he performed to his best. He was very fresh, motivated and willing to do everything he possibly could! I hope it will stay this way, as he not only is my hope for the FEI World Cup Final but still is my number one horse for the OG in Hong Kong as well."

After Brink, Danish Andreas Helgstrand entered the arena with his young hope Gredstedsgard Casmir. Riding on well chosen pop music of the seventies he did a perfect job. "This no doubt was my best test ever", Helgstrand agreed happily. He ended with the merest of a margin behind Jan Brink, something the audience didn't agree with.

Isabell Werth was the last to go. Her test also went much better than the Grand Prix the day before. "A win is never decided before your ride", Isabell Werth commented. "I know always the pressure is on and my Danish and Swedish friends really made me go for it. Yesterday's mistakes in the changes I purely have to blame on myself. 'Hannes' has improved a lot since last year, especially in the piaffe and passage. I am happy it paid off in the arena and am looking forward to the Final."

Looking forward to the Final also are the Scandinavian riders, which will be represented very well. No less than five Scandinavian pairs will show in 's-Hertogenbosch in The Netherlands. Kyra Kyrklund today had a very good ride and secured her place in the Final. Yesterday Kyrklund and Max had had some problems. In Grand Prix the egg-bar shoes of Max were filling with the footing, which caused some irregularities and mistakes as the footing very quickly dried in the hoof. "Well, since riding with one hand is allowed in a Freestyle, I can add a pause for scratching the feet", Kyra joked afterwards. However scratching the feet before entering the arena proved to be enough and Kyra and Max were rewarded with a wonderful percentage and fourth place, which brought them into the Final. Danish Nathalie zu Sayn Wittgenstein rode the home bred Digby to the next placing in Neumünster. "After a deserved show pause of two months, Digby has done a wonderful job here. In winter he wears no shoes, so we have experienced no problems."

Only Swedish Louise Nathhorst regrettably just dropped out for the Final. "As 's-Hertogenbosch is a wonderful show and my younger horses Isidor definitely can use some more experience, we still might go to the Final in 's-Hertogenbosch and compete in the other tour with the Grand Prix Special", Louise Nathhorst added.

Title-holder Isabell Werth will be the only German competitor in the World Cup Final. Isabell Werth is looking forward to it: "I really prefer to do the big shows where I really can meet competition and challenges. I never have gone competition out of the way. That's what makes the sport going, meet and compete!"