by Louise Parkes
There is a new spring in the step of the FEI World Cup Dressage Western European League as it begins its second quarter-century with the 2010/2011 opening leg at Odense, Denmark later this week. The recent announcement of a three-year sponsorship deal with fashion designer Reem Acra, who puts her name to both the Western European season and the overall series final, hails the blossoming of a fresh era in the history of this sport which has enjoyed astronomic growth in popularity in recent times.
Largely responsible for the upsurge of interest in top-class dressage has been a single horse-and-rider combination who won their way into the hearts of horse-lovers all around the world over the last 18 months during a sensational record-breaking spree. The Netherlands’ Edward Gal and the fabulous black stallion Moorlands Totilas have, in terms of competitiveness, appeal and pure ability, raised the bar beyond all expectations and transformed the once-demure dressage world into a showcase of extreme excitement. It was confirmed last week that the stallion has been sold however, and so his partnership with Gal is ended. But their legacy is a raised profile for the sport on which they have left an indelible impression.
The sport has changed a great deal since Denmark’s Anne-Grethe Jensen and Marzog first held the FEI World Cup Dressage trophy aloft at the end of the inaugural 1985/1986 season in s’Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands. And, down the years, there have been many favourites and crowd-pleasers including double-champions Christine Stuckelberger and Gaugin de Lully from Switzerland (1987-1988), Monica Theodorescu and Ganimedes (1993-1994) and fellow-German Ulla Salzgeber with Rusty (2001-2001). But the unchallenged super-champ was Holland’s nine-time winner Anky Van Grunsven whose successes spanned a 13 year period from 1995 to 2008 with the help of two great horses – Bonfire and Salinero.
Whether Gal and the stallion could have come anywhere close to that record we will now never know, but in their wake are a whole range of new target-scores including the 86.457% they registered in the Grand Prix at Aachen this summer and the 92.30% they posted in the Freestyle at the FEI World Cup Dressage qualifier at Olympia in London, Great Britain last December, three months before they claimed the 2009/2010 FEI World Cup Dressage title.
They dominated the medal podium at the recent Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, USA on their final outing together, but the American fixture also highlighted the enormous and developing talent of some other great dressage partnerships including Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris who took team, Grand Prix Special and Freestyle silver for Great Britain. Bechtolsheimer and her 15 year old gelding showed more flair, confidence and purity of execution than ever before and are likely to continue to make a major impact during the coming season as will the Netherlands’ Adelinde Cornelissen whose World Championship dream was dashed when her horse, Jerich Parzival, bit his tongue leading to heart-breaking disqualification on their first visit to the Kentucky arena.
Cornelissen will be determined to make up for that deep disappointment during the six-month Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage season which, after the opening leg in Odense next weekend, moves on to Lyon (FRA), Stockholm (SWE), London (GBR), Frankfurt (GER) and Mechelen (BEL) before the end of the year. The action re-opens at Amsterdam (NED) in January 2011 and then there will be just three more qualifying opportunities at Neumunster (GER), Gothenburg (SWE) and s’-Hertogenbosch (NED) before the Reem Acra-sponsored Final in Leipzig (GER) which will run from 27 April to 1 May.
Riders from three other qualifying leagues – Central Europe, North America and Asia/Pacific – will join the best from the Western European series in this final clash which will decide the fate of the 2010/2011 title.
Facts and Figures:
Top fashion designer, Reem Acra, recently signed a three-year sponsorship deal for the FEI World Cup Dressage beginning with the 2010/2011 season.
FEI World Cup Dressage celebrates its 26th season during the 2010/2011 series.
The star Dutch partnership of Edward Gal and the stallion Moorlands Totilas were the 2009/2010 series champions.
Gal’s victory in s’Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands last March was the tenth Dutch success in the history of the series.
The first-ever winner of the FEI World Cup Dressage series was Denmark’s Anne-Grethe Jensen, riding Marzog.
The most successful rider in the history of FEI World Cup Dressage is The Netherlands’ Anky Van Grunsven who claimed the title nine times over a 13 year period stretching from 1995 to 2008 and riding only two horses – Bonfire and Salinero.
FEI President, HRH Princess Haya – “The FEI is delighted to welcome Reem Acra as a new Dressage sponsor. The Reem Acra brand will add even more glamour to what is already one of the world’s most stylish sports, and it is wonderful to have such a celebrated sponsor for the Western European League and for the Final.”
Reem Acra, the leading fashion designer who has signed a three-year sponsorship for FEI World Cup Dressage – “I have always loved horses and have watched and admired Dressage events for many years. For me it is the most beautiful and stylish discipline within the equestrian world, so I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to take a more active role in the sport.”
Western European League Calendar 2010/2011:
1 Odense (DEN), 21-24 October
2 Lyon (FRA), 27 October – 1 November
3 Stockholm (SWE), 26-28 November
4 London Olympia (GBR), 14-15 December
5 Frankfurt (GER), 15-19 December
6 Mechelen (BEL), 26-30 December
7 Amsterdam (NED), 27-30 January
8 Neumünster (GER), 17-20 February
9 Göteborg (SWE), 24-27 February
FINAL Leipzig (GER), 24-27 March
FEI World Cup Dressage, the only worldwide series in this discipline, has entered its 26th season. The series, created in 1985, comprises four leagues: Western European, Central European, North American (including Canada) and Pacific (Australia, New Zealand, Asia). Each FEI World Cup Dressage qualifier consists of a Grand Prix test, which in turn is a qualification for the Freestyle to music competition, where league points are accumulated towards places in the Final. Judged on both technical and artistic merit, the FEI World Cup Dressage combines art, sport and partnership between horse and rider at the highest level and consistently proves a winning formula with audiences all over the world.
Technical Note: The FEI World Cup Dressage Champion does not earn points in his/her starts but is automatically qualified to the next Final with two FEI World Cup Dressage qualifiers completed. Riders not belonging to the Western European League (WEL) or Central European League (CEL) cannot earn points in the WEL unless they have declared to compete in the WEL 2009/2010. These riders may however transfer the results from a maximum of three (3) WEL qualifiers to their own League. Points earned by CEL riders will be transferred to the CEL standings.
THE COMPLETE RULES CAN BE DOWNLOADED FROM www.feiworldcup.org.
The Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), founded in 1921, is the international body governing equestrian sport recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and includes 133 National Federations. Equestrian sport has been on the Olympic programme since 1912 with three disciplines – Jumping, Dressage and Eventing. It is one of the very few sports in which men and women compete on equal terms. It is also the only sport which involves two athletes – horse and rider. The FEI has relentlessly concerned itself with the welfare of the horse, which is paramount and must never be subordinated to competitive or commercial influences.
FEI Director Press Relations
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