Defending champions Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill NRW romped to victory in the latest leg of the World Cup dressage series, posting a personal best freestyle score of 90.375.
Their performance in Neumunster on Sunday oozed confidence, cohesion and comfort, and ensured the 31-year-old German rider and her 14-year-old stallion have satisfied the qualifying criteria for the final.
The event was the sixth leg of the Western European League, and the combination pipped runners-up Anna Kasprzak and Donnperignon from Denmark by almost seven percentage points, while Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl celebrated her 28th birthday by clinching third with a highly impressive performance from Unee BB.
And with Isabell Werth (Don Johnson) lining up fourth and Fabienne Lutkemeier (D’Agostino) finishing fifth, the raw strength of the German contingent was indisputable. Team trainer, three-time Olympic team gold medallist and double FEI World Cup Dressage champion Monica Theodorescu, will be spoiled for choice in deciding the three riders to represent Germany at the Final which will take place in Lyon, France, in April.
Going third of the 15 starters, Charming Boy belied his veteran status when the 18-year-old gelding took the early lead with a score of 75.225 for Sweden’s Sofie Lexner. Finland’s Terhi Stegars and Axis TSF soon re-set the target when posting a mark of 77.175. The pure appeal of this neat and handsome 15-year-old Trakehner stallion is always difficult to resist, and the small but packed stadium of spectators showed their appreciation with a wild round of applause for this pair’s performance.
It was The Netherlands’ Hans Peter Minderhoud who was holding the advantage at the halfway stage on a score of 78.350. The Dutchman brought a new ride, the 12-year-old stallion Johnson B, to the German fixture and placed seventh in Saturday’s Grand Prix, but the horse showed even more of his potential today with nice piaffe, extravagant canter pirouette and big, open movement that rocketed him, temporarily, to the top of the leaderboard.
His score would be overtaken by Lutkemeier and D’Agostino who, third to go after the break, produced a mark of 80.050, only for that to be blown away by Langehanenberg’s result with Damon Hill. The defending champions cruised through their Freestyle floor plan, nailing every movement and flawless in their communication. Such is their understanding of each other now that the pair move as one, the stallion seemingly keen to put on his best possible show each time he enters the arena, just like his rider.
From there it was always going to be a procession for the minor placings, and Denmark’s Anna Kasprzak produced a Freestyle full of strong canter pirouettes, bouncy canterwork and rhythmic passage to rack up 83.575 to go into runner-up spot. That proved too good for the remaining two, Isabell Werth’s Don Johnson FRH posting 80.250 that left her fourth place when, last in, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl earned a mark of 82.425 to slot into third. This latter score marked another step-up in form for this German rider whose results have been ever-improving all season.
Von Bredow-Werndl comes from a family with a real sporting tradition, her father, Klaus, is a former German sailing champion and her mother, Micaela, was a member of the German junior national ski team for seven years. Her brother, Benjamin, also competes for Germany in Dressage and her parents run Dressage Centre Aubenhausen which is located between the towns of Bad Aibling and Rosenheim, Germany.
Judge at C, the USA’s Liselotte Fore, admitted to finding the competition quite a jaw-dropping experience. “I had never seen the horses or the riders here before, so I came in with a fresh pair of eyes. The performances were incredible and my eyes kept getting wider and my mouth didn’t stop dropping – it was unbelievable!” she said.
“It is great when a judge can use the upper scale of the marking, always wanting to give 9 and 10s! It was great to see the riders and horses working in such harmony, the performances were exceptional and I enjoyed it tremendously,” she added.
The Ground Jury didn’t hesitate to mark riders for what they saw on the day regardless of those rider’s results in the previous day’s preliminary Grand Prix competition, and there were some significant changes.
The next and last qualifying leg of the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage 2013/2014 Western European League will take place in Gothenburg, Sweden on Saturday, March 1.
Result: 1, Damon Hill NRW (Helen Langehanenberg) GER 90.375; 2, Donnperignon (Anna Kasprzak) DEN 83.575; 3, Unee BB (Jessica von Bredow-Werndl) GER 82.425; 4, Don Johnson FRH (Isabell Werth) GER 80.250; 5, D’Agostino FRH (Fabienne Lutkemeier) GER 80.050; 6, Johnson 6 (Hans Peter Minderhoud) NED 78.350; 7, Millibar (Nanna Skoborg Merrald) DEN 78.200; 8, Axis TSF (Terhi Stegars) FIN 77.175; 9, Smeyers Lazander (Marcela Krinke Susmelj) SUI 75.475; 10, Charming Boy (Sofie Lexner) SWE 75.225; 11, Don Lorean (Alexandra Barbancon Mestre) ESP 74.475; 12, Biggles (Kristian von Krusenstierna) SWE 74.250; 13, Uzzo (Patrick van der Meer) 72.250; 14, Famous Boy (Borja Carracosa Martinez) ESP 71.950; 15, Romeo-Star (Elena Sidneva) RUS 71.725.
Western European League – Standings after Round 6:
1. Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven SWE – 74
2. Isabell Werth GER – 63
3. Anna Kasprzak DEN – 55
4. Edward Gal NED – 51
4. Jessica von Bredow-Werndl GER – 51
6. Hans Peter Minderhoud NED – 50
7. Fabienne Lutkemeier GER – 48
8. Marcela Krinke Susmel SUI – 46
9. Charlotte Dujardin GBR – 40
10. Nanna Skodborg Merrald DEN – 37
11. Patrick van der Meer NED – 27
11. Terhi Stegars FIN – 27
13. Daniele Heijkoop NED – 25
14. Matthias Kempkes GER – 23
15. Malin Hamilton SWE – 21
16. Ellen Birgitt Farbrot NOR – 20
16. Marc Boblet FRA – 20
18. Ester Soldi ITA – 19
18. Simon Missiaen BEL – 19
18. Hayley Beresford AUS – 19