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Success for Adoptable Horses Spotlighted at Hampton Classic Horse Show

Adoptable equines and volunteers from EQUUS Foundation Guardian Charity, Rising Starr Horse Rescue, with Brianne Goutal-Marteau, Valerie Angeli, Georgina Bloomberg, and Jill Rappaport @ Geoff Tischman Photography.

The sun was shining in full force for the opening Grand Prix at the 2021 Hampton Classic on Sunday, August 29, when adoptable equines paraded before spectators prior to the start of the competition. The parade previewed the equines who would be featured the next day at the Equine Adoption Meet & Greet presented by the EQUUS Foundation.

Leading the parade was EQUUS Foundation EQUUStar, top International rider, and sponsor of the Hampton Classic Animal Adoption Day, Georgina Bloomberg. Bloomberg was joined by renown animal welfare advocate, media personality, and best-selling author, Jill Rappaport, and Valerie Angeli, EQUUS Foundation VP, with a special appearance by super model and horse advocate, Christie Brinkley.

Top equestrian and EQUUS Foundation EQUUStar, Brianne Goutal-Marteau, joined Bloomberg and Rappaport to meet and greet spectators at the Equine Adoption event.

“We are so grateful to the Hampton Classic Horse Show to have this opportunity to showcase adoptable equines and to raise awareness on how horses become at risk and how everyone can help, and to Georgina Bloomberg for making this event possible,” said Angeli.

“The 2021 event was especially rewarding because seven equines from EQUUS Foundation Guardian charity, Rising Starr Horse Rescue in Wilton, CT, found forever homes directly as a result of the event. We can’t say enough about how much we love our partnership with Georgina and the Hampton Classic Horse Show and would like to give a shout out to Shanette Cohen, Executive Director of the Hampton Classic Horse Show, and her staff.”

“It just goes to show that awareness and visibility is everything,” said Kelly Stackpole, Executive Director and Founder of Rising Starr.

Bunny and Turtle are 10-year-old mini donkeys who arrived at Rising Starr when a vet convinced the owner to surrender them instead of euthanizing them. They will live now out the rest of their lives at a private farm in North Salem, NY.

Rising Starr became aware of two black three-year-old Falabella Pony/Mini Horse cross mares, Daphne and Velma, from a Craig’s List ad and acquired them to keep them from winding up at auction and the threat of slaughter as many horses do when sold this way. They were adopted by Laurel Crown Farm, a Long Island show barn, where they will be their much-loved mascots.

Xander, a 13-year-old chestnut Quarter Horse, had been purchased at an auction in Texas, and was transferred to Rising Starr. When Xander’s new owners came to Rising Starr to take him home, they also fell in love with rescues Gunner and Odin, and adopted them as well. So Xander, Gunner, and Odin went to their new home together as pleasure and trail horses at a beautiful, private farm in the New York Catskills.

There was also interest in Violet, a Thoroughbred/Quarter cross from Rising Starr Rescue. Learn more about Violet here.

In addition to Rising Starr, the Retired Racehorse Project participated with a demonstration by Erica E. Rossner aboard the talented Mr. October (“Toby”), a chestnut gelding and son of famous Thoroughbred, Smarty Jones, who won the Kentucky Derby and The Preakness in 2004. With his career as a racehorse having come to an end, Toby, now seven years old, is showing major promise as a hunter/jumper/eventing prospect and is representative of the many off track Thoroughbreds who excel at their second careers and depend on opportunities to be all they can be.

Trainer Rob West from the Mustang Heritage Foundation was also on hand to enlighten spectators on how wild Mustangs are at risk and currently their lives and quality of their lives sadly depend on adoption and second careers as mascots and riding horses. West demonstrated the versatility and bravery of the Mustang with Mocha, only two months out of the wild and who will be available for adoption at the upcoming Mustang Makeover event, and two of his own Mustangs, Lori Darlin and Moonshine Lady.

The close of the 2021 Hampton Classic Horse Show also marked the conclusion of a matching campaign for the EQUUS Foundation, where donations made from August 16 through September 5 would be matched by prize money won by EQUUS Foundation Equine Ambassador, Lafitte De Muze, and donated by his owner, Cheryl Olsten, up to $30,000.

“We are thrilled to announce that Cheryl increased the match to $35,000 on learning that we received $35,000 in donations during the campaign to directly benefit EQUUS Foundation Guardian charities involved with the rescue and re-homing of horses in need of next chapters,” said Lynn Coakley, EQUUS Foundation President. “We are deeply grateful to Cheryl Olsten, Lafitte De Muze, his rider, Amanda Steege, and our donors for helping to make wishes come true for America’s horses in need of help.”

View more photos of Hampton Classic Equine Adoption Day here.

Contact the Hampton Classic at PO Box 3013, Bridgehampton, NY 11932, Tele: (631) 537-3177, E-Mail: Info@HamptonClassic.com, Website: www.hamptonclassic.com.

To learn more about the EQUUS Foundation and their mission, please visit www.equusfoundation.org.

Max Kühner and Elektric Blue P Win the Turkish Airlines – Prize of Europe

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Following Tuesday evening’s Official Opening Ceremony, 2021’s edition of CHIO Aachen well and truly got underway with Wednesday’s Turkish Airlines – Prize of Europe, a qualifier for Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix. The two-round Frank Rothenberger-designed course over 14 obstacles was staged in the iconic 40,000-seater Hauptstadion and contested by 48 horse and rider combinations representing 16 nations.

In the first round, Philipp Schulze Topphoff and his 11-year-old grey mare, Concordess NRW, set the early pace, going clear in a time of 84.86s. The German’s time was eventually bettered by both Ireland’s Darragh Kenny and his 14-year-old stallion, VDL Cartello, and Pieter Devos of Belgium and his 13-year-old mare, Mom’s Isaura, after they completed the 17-fence course fault-free in 84.37s and 84.77s, respectively.

With the best 25% of Round 1’s finishers qualifying for Round 2, nine further stellar combinations would progress, including the current world number one-ranked rider from Germany, Daniel Deusser (Bingo Ste Hermelle), Tokyo 2020 Team bronze medallists, Jérôme Guery (Eras Ste Hermelle) and Gregory Wathelet (Full House Ter Linden Z), Dutch duo Bart Bles (Gin D) and Marc Houtzager (Sterrehof’s Dante N.O.P.), Portugal’s Luciana Diniz (Vertigo du Desert), Patricio Pasquel of Mexico (Babel), Israeli Daniel Bluman (Gemma W), and Max Kühner from Austria (Elektric Blue P).

First to go, April’s winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters, Max Kühner, set off at blistering pace, completing the shorted nine-obstacle second round course without posting a penalty in 56.36s. One by one, and without success, the remaining riders desperately tried to better Kühner’s impressive time, which looked increasingly impossible. Daniel Deusser looked to be in contention, but put the penultimate pole down, and Gregory Wathelet was eventually outdone by the last. Jérôme Guery came within half a second of the Austrian’s time, while Luciana Diniz went agonisingly close, finishing just 0.19s off top spot. When Ireland’s on-form Darragh Kenny put three down, an ecstatic Kühner claimed the win, a seemingly perfect preparation for him and his champion 10-year-old bay gelding ahead of Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix.

Commenting on his Rolex Grand Prix strategy for his Major-winning partner, Elektric Blue P, Kühner, commented: “Tomorrow I will rest him and I will ride him on the flat a little bit. I will feel him and he will tell me what we do next. Either I will just leave him and work him until Sunday, or I will do one more small class, just to keep him a little bit in the rhythm and jumping. Sunday will be very big, so if we go all these days without jumping him, it might be too big in the beginning. He’s a very careful horse, so I’ll probably jump him in one more small round, which will keep him in the rhythm.”

Read more here.

© 2021 Rolex – Rolex Grand Slam

Tryon Fall Horse Trials: Boyd Martin Aces Advanced

Boyd Martin and Wabanaki ©Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Mill Spring, NC – September 13, 2021 – Boyd Martin (Cochranville, PA) and Wabanaki conquered the White Oak Cross-Country Course to win the Advanced A Division at the Tryon Fall Horse Trials at Tryon International Equestrian Center & Resort (TIEC) with a final score of 47.3. Sitting fourth after the Dressage and Show Jumping phases, Martin stepped up to the occasion and put in the fastest Cross-Country round of the day to add only 7.2 time penalties and take the win. Wrapping up her weekend in second place with a final score of 51.1 was Lillian Heard (Cochranville, PA) and Dasset Olympus, the 2013 Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Debbie Greenspan. Third place honors were awarded to Lucienne Bellissimo (Wellington, FL) and Atlantic Vital Spark, the 2010 Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Horse Scout Eventing LLC with a score of 51.6.

Martin, who topped the competition aboard Wabanaki, the 2011 Hanoverian gelding owned by The Dawnland Syndicate, began on top after a Dressage test that earned the duo a score of 32.1. Though the tough competition proved to be no big deal for Wabanaki, Martin shared that his mount is still new to the Advanced division: “It’s his third crack at the level. He was absolutely fantastic for where he is in his training. He still needs to grow, learn, and get more seasoned. Tryon put on a spectacular event. Obviously, it was a difficult and tough competition, but it was a great learning experience for the young ones.”

Martin galloped to a time of 6:43 seconds in the cross country phase of the competition, over ten seconds ahead of Heard’s time of 6:54 seconds. The White Oak Cross-Country Course with tracks set by Captain Mark Phillips (GBR) offered Martin the perfect number of challenges, while still building Wabanaki’s confidence. Martin commented, “There were a lot of difficult combinations followed by easier fences. It was good for the young ones to have a tough question and then nice and easy ones to keep them confident.

“Hats off to Tryon, because the footing feels like the golf course it is. The footing out there is spectacular,” Martin emphasized. “I love Tryon and everything about it. The venue is world class from the Dressage rings to jumping under the lights last night in front of the crowd. There’s great stabling. The Cross-Country course takes a bit of riding because it used to be a golf course, so it has those mounds and dips, which is good practice,” Martin relayed. “Tryon has been unbelievable with the irrigation system. Walking out on the course, the grass was all spongey, which the horses love.”

For full results from the Tryon Fall Horse Trials, click here.

For more info and results, visit www.Tryon.com.

CHIO Aachen 2021 Rolex Grand Slam ‘Rider Watch’

Steve Guerdat at the CHIO Aachen 2019 (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

After immense anticipation, CHIO Aachen returns on 14-19 September following a one-year hiatus, as a result of COVID-19. An exceptional list of 66 riders from 17 nations, which includes 19 of the world’s current top 30-ranked athletes, are confirmed to travel to the North Rhine-Westphalia city in the west of Germany, bringing a total of 210 extraordinarily talented horses. Unsurprisingly, home nation Germany will be represented by no fewer than 18 athletes, with current world number one, Daniel Deusser, the stand-out and in-form rider.

As well as hosting feature classes on each of the five days of world-class equestrian action, including the Mercedes-Benz Nations´ Cup team jumping competition, the globally renowned show, which dates back to 1924, is set to conclude with the inimitable 1m60 Rolex Grand Prix, the third Major of the year, as part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Newly-crowned Live Contender, Steve Guerdat – following his stunning victory in Sunday CP ‘International’ at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ – will now continue his epic Rolex Grand Slam journey at CHIO Aachen where he will defend his Live Contender status.

Current world number one-ranked rider, Germany’s Daniel “Double D” Deusser travels to CHIO Aachen with a stable of four horses, including his 11-year-old mare, Killer Queen Vdm, with whom he finished second in the Rolex Grand Prix at last month’s Brussels Stephex Masters.

After flying the flag for Switzerland at last week’s CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, current world number three, Martin Fuchs, is accompanied by five of his star horses, including his two geldings, nine-year-old Leone Jei and 13-year-old The Sinner, and his seven-year-old mare, Diva Van Het Cauterhof Z, who will feature in the classes for Young Horses.

Also present in Calgary is Great Britain’s Scott Brash, who in 2015 became the first and only rider to be crowned the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Champion. Current world number four, Brash will be hoping to start his Rolex Grand Slam journey at the CHIO Aachen, and brings three of his horses, Hello Jefferson, Hello Shelby, and Hello Vittoria, the former who the Scot partnered to an impressive Grand Prix victory with at Valkenswaard in July.

Much to the delight of show jumping fans worldwide, Brash’s British teammate – the recently crowned Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Individual Jumping champion and current world number six – Ben Maher teams up with his formidable 12-year-old gelding, Explosion W. The duo looks to be the ones to beat, and are sure to have their sights set on victory in the Rolex Grand Prix on the final day of the competition. Maher also travels with his highly regarded seven-year-old, Point Break.

Currently sitting 10th in the world rankings, recent European Team Jumping champion and the only rider to compete at each of the Majors since the inception of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in 2013, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat puts his faith once again in Albfuehren’s Maddox. His 10-year-old stallion travels to CHIO Aachen alongside his gifted 12-year-old gelding, Victorio des Frotards.

Joint world number 27-ranked riders, America’s Laura Kraut and compatriot Jessica Springsteen both travel to westernmost Germany full of confidence after the pair played an integral role in securing the United States’ Team Jumping silver medal at last month’s Olympic Games. Kraut travels to CHIO Aachen with her Olympic partner, 11-year-old gelding Baloutinue, and her experienced 14-year-old gelding, Confu. Meanwhile, Springsteen travels with 12-year-old stallion, Don Juan Van De Donkhoeve, with whom she partnered at Tokyo 2020, and her stand-out 14-year-old mare, Rmf Zecilie, with whom she won the Rolex Grand Prix at the Brussels Stephex Masters just over a fortnight ago.

© 2021 Rolex – Rolex Grand Slam

BLM Plans Feedlot to Hold 4,000 Wild Horses

Increased funding from Congress has enabled the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to dramatically increase removals of wild horses and burros from our public lands this year.

It’s expected that more than 17,000 wild horses and burros will be removed in FY2021, a more than 50% increase over last year.

Now BLM is scrambling to find places to hold our removed wild horses and burros. Their answer? Factory farm-style feedlots.

One current proposal would allow 4,000 wild horses and burros to be confined in dirt pens on just 100 acres of land near Winnemucca, Nevada. These iconic, once wild and free animals will be forced to live, eat, and sleep in their own waste – which is a recipe for disease and death in such confined quarters.

Not surprisingly, this is a BLM partnership to benefit a livestock transport company. Once again, our magnificent wild horses and burros lose everything while Big Animal Agriculture gains.

Please take a moment to express your strong opposition to this ill-conceived plan.

Each of us must be on the record objecting to this proposal for the many legitimate humane, environmental, and tax-dollar accountability problems it creates. Please take quick action here!

The Cloud Foundation
www.thecloudfoundation.org

Steve Guerdat and Venard de Cerisy Win the CP ‘International’

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

2021’s edition of the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ culminated with the week’s pinnacle class, the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex. The second Major of the year, as part of the revered Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, welcomed 28 horse and rider combinations, who would go head-to-head in their individual quests to become the Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender. Austrian Max Kühner had his sights set on retaining his Live Contender status after winning the Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters in April.

The ultimate show jumping test for horse and rider, the Leopoldo Palacios-designed course would be contested over 14 demanding obstacles within the confines of Spruce Meadows’ imposing International Ring. With the competition watched on by 2,000 excited and knowledgeable spectators – the maximum allowed under COVID-19 restrictions – and with just 12 pairings progressing to Round 2, the stakes were high, with the riders all too aware that there was very little margin for error.

Australian Rowan Willis, a familiar face at Spruce Meadows, set the early Round 1 pace with his 15-year-old mare, Blue Movie, jumping fault-free in 80.99s. Home favourite Mario Deslauriers confidently progressed to Round 2 with his 12-year-old mare, Bardolina 2, crossing the line in 83.00s without a penalty. Swiss Steve Guerdat and Australian Hilary Scott were the only other riders to navigate the Round 1 course without picking up any penalties. The eight riders also advancing to Round 2 included Egypt’s Nayel Nassar, Canadian Erynn Ballard, Kent Farrington, McLain Ward, Will Simpson, and Natalie Dean from America, Mexico’s Carlos Hank Guerreiro, and Briton Scott Brash.

In a change of fortunes, American duo, Kent Farrington and McLain Ward, faultlessly steered their equestrian partners around the second round course, after each put a fence down in the first. Hot on the American pair’s heels was reigning Rolex Grand Slam champion, Scott Brash, who added just four penalty points to his first round score. However, it was former world number one Steve Guerdat who was to assume top spot after he effortlessly guided his prodigious 12-year-old gelding, Venard de Cerisy, around the 14-fence course. Following Guerdat’s performance, the final two riders to go were Deslauriers and Willis; however, neither were able to match their first round scores, meaning the three-time World Cup winner (2015, 2016, 2019) and 2012 Olympic Individual jumping champion won the CP ‘International’, and in doing so was crowned the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Live Contender.

The only rider to compete at each of the Majors since the inception of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, Guerdat commented: “I’ve been dreaming of winning these classes since I’ve been a little kid. Since I can remember, Calgary and Aachen have always been the shows that I want to win. I’ve been lucky enough to win Geneva a couple of times, but Aachen and Calgary have been missing. I’m not going to quit until I win them – I have one of them now, and I’m going to aim for the other one very soon. This is what drives us riders, I guess.

“Venard is a very strong, brave, and powerful horse. He has a lot of blood and energy in his jump. He doesn’t have the best of techniques, but because of his power and will to do good all the time, we’ve had the chance to understand each other over the years. He’s a very sensitive horse – he’s very difficult to get on and off, you can’t move him, and he’s a little bit shy with everything. But once he sees a jump, he just wants to jump it.”

Read more here.

© 2021 Rolex – Rolex Grand Slam

Tiffany Foster and Brighton Win the Suncor Winning Round

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Twenty-five combinations contested Saturday’s 1m50 Suncor Winning Round in a wet International Ring following overnight and early morning rain. However, spectators’ spirits were not in the slightest bit dampened, as they were treated to some world-class performances from not only Canada’s finest equestrian athletes, but also a number of leading riders from eight other nations, who descended on Calgary for the 2021 edition of the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’.

Round 1’s proceedings were dominated by the home nation, with four Canadian riders amongst the 10 who eventually progressed to Round 2, including Tiffany Foster and her 15-year-old gelding, Brighton, Amy Millar and her 11-year-old gelding, Christiano, and the experienced duo of Eric Lamaze and Jim Ifko, who were partnered by 11-year-old gelding, Kino, and the 12-year-old La Silla-bred mare, Celine Ls La Silla, respectively. The Irish trio of Jordan Coyle (Centriko Volo), Daniel Coyle (Ivory TCS), and Conor Swail also made the top-10 cut, and were joined in the Winning Round by the talented 23-year-old Belgian, Zoe Conter (Dawa De Greenbay Z), the in-form Egyptian, Nayel Nassar (Igor Van De Wittemoere), and British rider, Matthew Sampson (Geneve R).

But in the end, it was Tiffany Foster’s day to shine in front of an enthralled crowd, after she and the brilliant Brighton did enough to see off a late challenge from Conor Swail, beating him to top spot by three tenths of a second, with the current world number 59-ranked rider, Nayel Nassar, slotting into third place.

Delighted with her long-time partner, Brighton, Foster commented: “The Suncor Winning Round here at Spruce Meadows is a kind of unique event, as you know you don’t carry your faults, which means you’ve got to get into that top 10, so it’s always better to carry a little bit of rhythm. Brighton seems to love this class, so I just ride my round. The good thing about him is he’s super-fast, so even if I happen to have one down, I’m usually in with a shout, but he’s clear more than not!”

Read more here.

© 2021 Rolex – Rolex Grand Slam

Sand Wash Basin Wild Horses Get Reprieve

BLM has called an end to the abuse-ridden wild horse roundup inside Sand Wash Basin HMA. It’s believed that massive public outcry and political pressure from Colorado Governor Polis influenced the agency’s decision to stop the roundup before they reached their goal of capturing 783 horses.

Sadly, roundup operations continue outside the HMA to the north, almost to the Wyoming border. There are advocates on the ground documenting, and we will keep you informed as we learn more.

In a press release, The Cloud Foundation founder and former Wild Horse Advisory Board Member Ginger Kathrens called upon the BLM to change course:

“The brutal Sand Wash roundup is over, thanks to the thousands of calls, messages, and emails from people not only in the United States but around the world who value our wild horses. It’s shameful that the BLM does not value them at all. The inhumane practices in this roundup are blatant violations of the BLM’s own animal welfare guidelines. It is high time that this program be totally reviewed, and the travesties of the past be corrected.”

TCF worked in conjunction with the Sand Wash Advocacy Team (SWAT) prior to the roundup in an effort stop what – predictably – became a deadly event. Your efforts resulted in nearly 9,000 messages, calls, and emails sent to BLM and our political leaders. YOU made a difference in the lives of the Sand Wash horses who have been spared.

Thank you for your support of our cherished wild horses and burros. You can read the full press release here.

The Cloud Foundation
www.thecloudfoundation.org

McLain Ward Wins the Tourmaline Oil Cup

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

On a breezy and autumnal Calgarian afternoon, 28 horse and rider combinations representing 12 nations contested Friday’s feature class at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, the 1.55m Tourmaline Oil Cup. Legendary course designer Leopoldo Palacios set the pairings – which included three out of the world’s current top 10-ranked riders – 12 testing obstacles, with the Venezuelan and his team of assistants making full use of the vast and iconic International Ring.

American McLain Ward set the early pace with his 15-year-old bay mare, HH Azur, going clear in a time of 72.51s, within the 75-second time limit. Compatriot Kent Farrington and his 14-year-old gelding, Creedance, looked to be on imperious form, breezing around the course fault-free. In a show of American domination, winner of 2019’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, Beezie Madden and her 15-year-old La Silla-bred Stallion, Breitling LS, also made light work of the 15-fence course. Much to the delight of the crowd, home favourites Tiffany Foster and Erynn Ballard progressed to the shoot-out, both aboard their talented 10-year-olds, Hamilton and Gakhir, respectively. In-form Nayel Nassar from Egypt and his veteran 19-year-old gelding, Coronado, was joined in the jump-off by Brazil’s Eduardo Menezes and his stallion H5 Chagauns and Australia’s Rowan Willis partnered by his grey stallion Ashton Dakota.

First to go in the jump-off was recent Olympic Team silver medallist, McLain Ward, who set a blistering time of 37.38s, which looked hard to beat, after the next seven riders – Rowan Willis, Kent Farrington, Eduardo Menezes, Erynn Ballard, Beezie Madden, and Tiffany Foster – all failed to navigate the eight-fence jump-off without penalties. Last to go, it was apparent that Nayel Nassar was playing it safe, with his sights set on second spot, eventually crossing the line without a fault and finishing runner-up behind deserved winner, Ward.

On his victory and his mare HH Azur’s stunning performance, the two-time Olympic Team gold medallist commented: “I don’t know if I particularly did it better than any of the other riders; she just jumped it better! I actually wasn’t upset by my position in the jump-off. I was just going to ride my plan. I know what her strengths and weaknesses are at this point, and I thought if I put a little bit of pressure on, there might be some mistakes and that played out.

“HH Azur is going to jump the Nations Cup tomorrow for our team, and then Casper, a stallion I’ve been kind of bringing along, who’s a phenomenal jumper and has had a strong summer in Europe, is the horse I’m aiming towards the big Grand Prix on Sunday.”

Read more here.

© 2021 Rolex – Rolex Grand Slam

Fairytale Finish in Freestyle for von Bredow-Werndl and Dalera

(L to R): Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour (silver), Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (gold), and Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin (bronze). (FEI/Liz Gregg)

Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl was filled with emotion after clinching her third gold medal of the week when topping the Freestyle at the FEI Dressage European Championship 2021 in Hagen (GER).

“It’s like a fairytale; the ride today was the best I ever felt!” said the 35-year-old athlete who also swept all before her at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games this summer. “It may not have been the highest points ever, but for me it was the best feeling I ever had with Dalera. I was very emotional after finishing. No matter what points or what place I got, I was so happy!” she added.

Scoring 91.021 when third-last to go, she finished almost three percentage points ahead of Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour who took silver with Bohemian, and it was Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin and Gio who grabbed the bronze.

Going fifth from last, Dujardin put 87.246 on the board, and she might have expected that would not be enough for a podium placing with the final German partnership of Isabell Werth and Weihegold OLD still to come. But second-last into the arena, Werth’s multiple medal-winning mare was clearly lacking energy and power, and their score of 84.896 left them in fourth place.

Pleased

Dujardin was hugely pleased with her result. At only 10 years of age, Gio is still very much on a learning curve, with little exposure to top sport other than his sensational results at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games where he won double-bronze. This performance was even more impressive.

“I’m so proud of him; it’s only his second time through that music and as you could see the degree of difficulty is immense. The Olympics was the first time I rode it and it was mistake-free there; unfortunately I made a mistake in the ones on the centre line today – rider error, not horse error – and I thought that would have cost me a medal. It’s still frustrating that I made that mistake and I’m so cross with myself because he tried so hard – but obviously we have medalled!” said the 35-year-old athlete.

She really pulled out all the stops, including taking all the risk in extended canter. “All week I hadn’t pushed him full out because he is a young horse and I want him for the future and he did the Olympics. He tried for me every day here; he did a great Special (on Thursday where the pair finished fourth). I was so proud of him, and we just missed out on a medal. So I thought today, I’ll just put that extra bit in,” she said.

Competitiveness is in Dujardin’s DNA. “I went in there wanting a medal for sure. I wasn’t going down without a fight! And being the first of the last five combinations, you know you have to give it a good go, set the standard. I felt we did that, even with a mistake. We got 87 percent with those mistakes; without those mistakes, who knows what it might have been? I asked him to step up and he sure did! she added.

And having finished his test, the little horse, whose rider calls him Pumpkin, was completely relaxed as he left the ring.

“That’s the thing with him: he just gets more and more confident and that’s his first time in an arena with that atmosphere; he’s not used to crowds. He’s just brilliant; he switches on and does his job, and then he switches off and off he goes home!” she said.

A joy

Dufour was equally pleased with Bohemian, whose test was a joy to watch, filled with energy and power.

‘I’m really happy, first because I had a super ride – almost flawless – we had a tiny mistake in the ones at the end and that was totally my mistake. We have grown a lot since Wednesday this week and today he felt so happy, so ready to deliver. It was just so super-easy going. I was back to no pushing, no forcing, just enjoying and dancing with him!” said the dynamic 29-year-old Dane.

Her emotional music from Les Miserables added a poignancy to her performance. “It expresses something about where I am in my life. It delivers a kind of message – that I’m really enjoying life and I’m in a good place now and that my horse and I have found our path together. I feel really comfortable with what I’m doing with my team, with the people I have around me. I have a super family, an extra family, and it feels fantastic!” she pointed out.

But the new European Freestyle gold medallist was happiest of all.

Talking about Dalera’s magical Freestyle performance, von Bredow-Werndl said, “She was 100 percent focused, she was light, she was on fire, but not too much. Two days ago (in the Grand Prix Special) she was a bit too hot so I couldn’t ride for example the extensions fully, and then it looked a little bit tense sometimes, but today it was a perfect, perfect kind of energy.

“She loves what she does, and I feel it in every second and every movement. Even my collected walk felt super today. The feeling was the best I’ve ever had so far, in my whole life, on any horse!

“That’s why I was pretty emotional when I finished because this is not normal – that a horse improves during a competition. Today she had no wet hair (sweat), either in the warm-up or after the competition, and that’s crazy!” she said.

Atmosphere

The spectators at Hagen certainly added to the great atmosphere and the new European triple champion, who also has two Olympic gold medals in her trophy cabinet after this extraordinary summer, commented on the difference it makes to have them there.

“It’s so great to ride in front of an audience again; it feels completely different; we were carried by them I think, and they were so supportive of all the riders during the week. I hope it will stay like this; it’s so good to have this back!”

Von Bredow-Werndl has led Germany to a glorious summer of gold, and now has next year’s FEI World Equestrian Games in her sights. However, Dufour gave her fair warning that she and her Danish compatriots will be ready and waiting when the action begins on their home ground in front of their home crowd in Herning next August.

She intends narrowing the gap between herself and the German star over the next 11 months.

“Right now, we can only aim at Jessica’s marks, and congratulations to her on a great season this year. It’s exciting with the WEG next year in Denmark. I’m sure the Danish audience will put pressure on the Germans!”

For now, however, the Hagen hosts can continue to bask in a golden glow.

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

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