Isabell Werth and Emilio. (Stefan Lafrentz/FEI)
Gothenburg (SWE), 24 February 2017 – He was once so frightened and unmanageable that no one could get on him as a young horse. But in the hands of one of the most celebrated equestrian athletes of all time, the 11-year-old gelding Emilio gave Germany’s Isabell Werth her fifth victory in the FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2017 Western European League qualifier at Gothenburg in Sweden. Her score of 84.200 put her well ahead of Swedish runners-up Patrik Kittel and Delaunay (80.910) while Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Unee BB (80.845) slotted into third.
Werth (47) only had a two-day turnaround after winning the previous leg of the series with Don Johnson at Neumunster (GER). “So I asked my rider at home to prepare Emilio in the right way – and I think she did that!” she said after her Grand Prix success. However, she said the horse lost a bit of confidence in the Freestyle. “I realise now that he needs more training because he didn’t always know what to do and we had two mistakes, in the pirouette and tempi changes,” she explained. However, that has just inspired her ahead of the last qualifying leg in ’s-Hertogenbosch (NED) where she will again compete Emilio in two weeks’ time. “I’m really excited about going there now,” said Werth who holds an unassailable lead at the top of the league table.
Her preferred ride for the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final in Omaha, Nebraska (USA) next month is her Olympic mare Weihegold, but she now considers Emilio a strong reserve. Werth’s perseverance with this horse is really paying off. “He has great potential; already his piaffe and passage are fantastic!” she said.
Talking about the erratic behaviour that left Emilio with something of a reputation in his early years, she explained, “It was as if he could see something out of the corner of his eye when you tried to get in the saddle; he was terrified and would go crazy.” There seemed no future for a horse with such a dangerous and debilitating level of inexplicable fear. “He nearly went to heaven,” Werth said of the gelding for whom she now has very high hopes.
“Emilio was lucky to come to Isabell; not all horses find the right people!” said Kittel (40), who was thrilled with his result with the ever-improving Delaunay. The Swedish star has now moved up to ninth place on the league table from which the top nine will qualify for the Final. He won’t be travelling, however; “it was never in my plan,” he said, but von Bredow-Werndl (31), who holds sixth place, certainly will. She has the next few months carefully mapped out. “I will go to Omaha, then do two more shows and then I take a break,” said the rider whose is expecting her first baby in August.
Detailed result here
Isabell Werth GER (1st): “For Omaha (FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2017 Final) Weihegold is my first choice and Emilio is my second choice, but there is no need to put pressure on him (Emilio) so we will see how it works out.”
Patrik Kittel SWE (2nd): “I’m not going to Omaha – we all make plans and my plan is different. This year my goal is the European Championships here in Gothenburg. Delaunay has blossomed here this week. I wasn’t sure he could cope with the atmosphere in there today but he was great; he has matured a lot and I’m really happy with him.”
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl GER (3rd): “I’m happy even though at first I was better than Patrik (a higher mark), but then the score was changed! I’m happy with my ride and it’s super to be in top three.”
Annette Fransen Iacobaeus, Ground Jury President: “Today’s competition was very exciting; we saw some really good riding. We had a mixture of less experienced and top riders today.”
Isabell Werth GER (1st), when asked to rank Emilio amongst the horses she has competed during her career: “That’s like asking a mother which child she loves the most! Horses today are different. Gigolo was a wonderful horse but breeding has changed and so have the horses. Emilio is definitely one of top ones; he has great passage and piaffe.”
Full standings here
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By Louise Parkes
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