Tag Archives: FEI

Belgians Best Irish in Thrilling Sopot Showdown

Pieter Devos and Apart. (FEI/Lucasz Kowalski)

Belgium posted a back-to-back double when coming out on top in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Poland 2019 staged at the popular seaside town of Sopot (POL). The team included two members of last year’s winning side, Pieter Devos (33) and Niels Bruynseels (35), who were joined by Gudrun Patteet (34) and Yves Vanderhasselt (40) to do it all over again.

But the roller-coaster competition went right down to the wire, the result decided in a tense third-round jump-off against Ireland in which Devos’ chestnut gelding, Apart, rattled a few poles but left all the fences standing to bring it home for the 2018 series champions.

He had only just sealed the jump-off slot in round two when Belgian Chef d’Equipe, Peter Weinberg, asked Devos to take on Ireland’s Paul O’Shea in the third-round showdown.

“I said OK, I’ll do it, and normally Apart is very, very fast, but today he got a bit stressed when we had to go back into the ring almost straight away. But he always gives me everything and hey, everyone is very happy if you are last to go and you win it for your country!” — Pieter Devos (BEL)

It was a very different story at the halfway stage when the Dutch seemed to already have it in the bag after three effortless clears. Belgium, France, and Ireland were all chasing with four-fault scorelines, and Team Germany were close behind with just five on the board, but the French were hampered by the withdrawal of pathfinder Simon Delestre as round two began. So despite clears from Olivier Robert (Tempo de Paban) and Roger Yves Bost (Sangria du Coty), they were obliged to add the four collected by Alexis Deroubaix and Timon d’Aure at the final Longines planks and that saw them lose their grip.

Meanwhile, Dutch domination collapsed when Willem Greve (Zypria S) also hit the last, Bart Bles (Israel vd Dennehoeve) and Doron Kuipers (Charley) both faulted at the open water and Kevin Jochems (Cristello) lowered fence 10 on the course designed by Poland’s Szymon Tarant who was making his debut at 5-Star level.

In contrast, the Irish stood firm with double-clears from Paul O’Shea (Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu) and Shane Sweetnam (Alejandro) backed up by a second-round clear from Peter Moloney (Chianti’s Champion), which meant that Bertram Allen (Harley vd Bisschop) didn’t need to return to the ring.

The Belgians didn’t have such an easy run of it when Vanderhasselt’s mare, Jeunesse, hit the second element of the penultimate triple combination. Bruynseels and Delux van T&L had been foot-perfect second time out and Patteet and Sea Coast Valdelamadre Clooney posted the second part of a brilliant double-clear, but if Devos couldn’t leave all the poles in place then he would be handing the top step of the podium to their Irish rivals. Typically, however, he didn’t flinch, and a jump-off was now on the agenda.

You could hear a pin drop as O’Shea led the way against the clock for Ireland, but his 12-year-old gelding hit the first fence before coming home to break the beam in 46.97 seconds. It seemed Devos would just walk away with it now, but the normally fully focused Apart seemed uncharacteristically lacking in concentration and hit the top pole at the first element of the penultimate double really hard, only for it to roll back into place. They crossed the line three seconds off O’Shea’s target time, but their zero score would seal it for Belgium.

Devos was delighted with Apart’s performance: “He has done a lot of great things, and has won many 5-Star Grand Prix and World Cup classes, but this is his very first Nations Cup and to go double-clear and then win it in the jump-off is very special!

“My wife (Caroline Poels) rode him up to 5-Star level and then I took over – he’s a fantastic horse with a great character. When he’s in the ring he gives me everything!” Devos added.

A total of 10 countries are contesting Europe Division 1 this season, and following this third round of the series, Belgium has moved into second place behind the leaders from France. Each country has been allocated four points-earning opportunities throughout the seven-leg league, and Sweden, the only country that has not collected points to date, will be making their seasonal debut at Geesteren (NED) where the Dutch will be hoping for better luck on home ground.

Only the top seven nations in Europe Division 1 will qualify for the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2019 Final in Barcelona (ESP) in October where there will also be one last remaining Olympic qualifying spot up for grabs.

Watch highlights here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

New Zealand Olympian Tim Price Debuts in Eventing World Number One Slot

Tim Price (NZL) on Cekatinka JRA at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018. (FEI/Martin Dokoupil)

Lausanne (SUI), 4 June 2019 – Olympic athlete Tim Price (NZL) has topped the FEI Eventing World Rankings for the first time, overtaking Ros Canter (GBR) who last month ended the reign of compatriot Oliver Townend to hold the position for just 31 days.

Tim Price (40), who has been competing for over 15 years at the top level of the sport, took part in his first Olympic Games in Rio 2016, where team New Zealand finished fourth, one fence off the medals.

A sensational year in 2018 established his presence as a prominent athlete, with wins at Burghley CCI4* (GBR) with Ringwood Sky Boy and Blair Castle CCI3* (GBR) with Pats Jester. His second FEI World Equestrian Games™ outing at Tryon 2018 resulted in an eighth-place finish in the individual and seventh in the team standings with Cekatinka JRA.

His third-place finish at the CCI5*-L in Lexington (USA) this year with Xavier Faer was a contributing factor to his rise to the top, along with 10th place at Badminton CCI5*-L with Ringwood Sky Boy.

“I have to admit to wanting to achieve this for some time,” he said, following the release of the latest FEI World Eventing Rankings. “It’s gone from a dream, to a driving force, to a reality.

“It feels pretty special that’s for sure, mainly because it’s more a recognition of consistency, rather than just outright winning. I try to bring the best out of every opportunity I have. Not always to win, but always in a way that has my horses wanting to give effort for their own satisfaction and enjoyment. For me, it’s the coming together of all the hard work, a strong focus and great partnership with my equine friends.”

Former world number one Ros Canter has dropped to number four in the rankings. Other big movers in the top 10 are Kristina Cook (GBR), up from 33rd to fifth, Australia’s Christopher Burton, from 37th to sixth, and Andrew Nicholson (NZL), who has jumped from 31st to eighth.

With more CCI5*-L and CCI4*-L competitions coming up in the next few months and the FEI Eventing European Championship in Luhmühlen (GER) from 28 August – 1 September 2019, there will certainly be more exciting sport action to follow and more changes in the ranking list can be expected.

View full FEI World Eventing Rankings here.

Tim Price – early career

Tim Price started competing at the top level in 2002 with a horse called Desamoray.

After several attempts at the top level he was ranked 20th at Pau CCI4* (FRA) with his horse Vortex in 2008. The duo claimed the same spot at Badminton CCI4* the following year. His first CCI4* win came at Luhmühlen (GER) in 2014 with Wesko, and the same partnership came second at the CCI4* in Lexington the year after.

Tim is married to Jonelle Price (NZL), who is also a world class Eventing athlete having won team bronze at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

They became the first husband and wife to represent New Zealand in Eventing at the Olympic Games when they participated together at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. They also became the first married couple from New Zealand to compete at a World Equestrian Games (WEG) when they rode at the 2014 WEG in Normandy (FRA).

FEI media contacts:

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations and Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Olga Nikolaou
Media Relations Officer
olga.nikolaou@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 56

Foutrier Seals It for France in Swiss Thriller

A champagne celebration for the French team after victory at St Gallen (SUI). (FEI/Richard Juillart)

The reigning Olympic champions from France gritted their teeth and galloped to victory in the edge-of-the-seat Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Switzerland at St Gallen (SUI), where a feisty Italian foursome claimed runner-up spot and the host nation, clear favourites at the outset, had to settle for third.

This second leg of the Europe Division 1 series came down to a nail-biting three-way jump-off in which Guillaume Foutrier (42) and his 10-year-old gelding Valdocco des Caps clinched it when second to go against the clock. And Swiss hearts were broken when once again their own Nations Cup title slipped from their grasp. It has been a long wait since their last St Gallen success back in 1996, but once again it wasn’t to be, despite a titanic effort from the crack side fielded by Andy Kistler.

“In France we love to win – this was a great day!” said French anchorman Kevin Staut whose team was already home and hosed with three clears in the first round before he took his turn with his new ride Calevo 2 who lowered only the final oxer. Italy also completed round one on a zero scoreline, but the leading nations were closely stalked by Switzerland, carrying just four faults as round two began.

Swiss course designer Gerard Lachat presented a superb 12-fence test that required accuracy, balance, and control. The double of uprights at the second-last proved pivotal for many, and it was at the first of these that Swiss pathfinder and world individual silver medallist Martin Fuchs faulted with Chaplin. So when Niklaus Rutschi and Cardano CH hit the middle element of the triple combination then there were definitely going to be four Swiss faults on the board.

Clears from Fuchs, Rutschi, and Paul Estermann riding Lord Pepsi changed everything second time out, however. Last-line rider and World No 1, Steve Guerdat, didn’t need to return to the ring because the Swiss result couldn’t be improved. But his day wasn’t over, because Guerdat and his great mare, Albufuehrens Bianca, would be called up for a third-round jump-off when both France and Italy completed the second round also with four faults on the board.

Double-clears from Penelope Leprevost and Vancouver de Lanlore and Nicolas Delmotte with Urvoso du Roch set the French up nicely, but Foutrier misjudged his take-off at the open water and when Staut’s inexperienced gelding hit the following oxer then that settled France onto a two-round four fault total.

Riccardo Pisani’s stallion, Chacclot, hit the first element of the now-infamous double at the end of the track, but if anchorman Luca Marziani and Tokyo du Soleil could produce his team’s third double-clear of the afternoon, following foot-perfect runs from Giulia Martinengo Marquet with Elzas and Paolo Paini with Ottava Meraviglia Di Ca’ San G, then it would be an Italian victory. An uncharacteristic foot in the water meant it would go to a three-way battle against the clock, as there was nothing to separate the three sides.

The Swiss crowd held its breath as Guerdat led the way into the third and final round. He had no choice but to throw down a super-fast target time, but, running strongly down to the remaining two elements of the triple combination, Bianca clipped the front bar with her hind feet for four faults in 43.46 seconds.

Chef d’Equipe, Thierry Pomel, selected Foutrier to fight for the French. And although his time was slower than Guerdat’s, he left all the poles in place when breaking the beam in 44.09 and Italy’s Martinengo Marquet couldn’t better that when crossing the line almost a half-second slower. She still had plenty to celebrate, having racked up three fabulous clear rounds with her lovely 10-year-old gelding.

“Like in every Nations Cup there was a lot of pressure, but it’s a nice story, especially when it ends like this!” said Staut. Talking about Foutrier’s winning ride, the Olympic team gold medallist pointed out, “Guillaume has been a really tough rider for a long time. He’s very consistent and he has this horse for two years now. Today he handled the pressure and was really focused on bringing home something great in the jump-off. When Steve had one down, he went for a safe, fast clear round because we knew Julia’s horse is not the fastest.”

Once again there was new shining star in the British team that finished fourth, as 24-year-old James Wilson steered Imagine de Muze to one of the six double-clears posted on the day. Team Brazil finished fifth despite elimination for last-line rider Stephan Freitas Barcha who took a fall from Artois D’Avillon at the final element of the combination in the second round. The competition was suspended while he received medical attention in the arena. A statement confirmed that “he was always conscious and responsive, but was taken to hospital for further examinations. The horse remained unharmed.”

The Europe Division 1 series now moves on to Sopot (POL) in two weeks’ time.

Watch highlights here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Canadians Prove Untouchable on Home Ground at Langley

Nicole Walker and Falco van Spieveld. (FEI/Rebecca Berry)

There was plenty to celebrate when the hosts posted an emphatic victory in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Canada at Thunderbird Show Park in Langley (CAN), where Ireland finished second and USA slotted into third ahead of Mexico in fourth and Israel in fifth place.

However, despite his side’s overwhelming success, Canadian Chef d’Equipe Mark Laskin said, “It was a bit bittersweet. It’s great to win here, especially on our home field, but there were two parts to this equation. The first part we took care of, but the second part we just missed.”

He was of course referring to the fact that Canada has finished third, and last, in the 2019 North/Central America & Caribbean League from which only two of the three competing nations can qualify for the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final in Barcelona (ESP) in September. Those two places go to Mexico, winners of the previous two legs of the series, and to USA who have pipped the Canadians for the second spot by a narrow margin of just 10 points.

There is no denying the new energy and excitement in the Canadian side, however. With three first-round clears they grabbed the advantage, and they held on so firmly that anchorman, Mario Deslauriers, didn’t have to ride again in the second round because the win was already in the bag.

Ireland, USA, and Mexico were all sharing second place with eight faults apiece going into round two, and when the Irish added nothing more they would be runners-up while USA had to count four more faults to finish third on 12. Mexico finished another fence further adrift, on 16 faults despite a superb double-clear from Salvador Onate and his fabulous gelding Big Red who produced one of five foot-perfect performances on the day.

When both pathfinder Lisa Carlsen and her busy bay mare Parette and second-line rider Nicole Walker with the super-cool Falco van Spieveld each put a second clear round on the board, the Canadians were already looking like runaway winners. And although Tiffany Foster picked up her second four faults of the afternoon with her promising nine-year-old Figor when next to go, that was still good enough to clinch it.

When asked afterwards if she knew when she was riding into the arena that a clear or four fault result would seal the win, Foster said with a laugh, “I’m not great at math but I figured that one out! When I was coming down the last line, I had Mario in mind – I was thinking, he’s going to kill me if I have another one down and he has to jump, so we held it together!”

Walker said she was “super-delighted for everyone” on her team and with the “spectacular” performance of her horse. She wasn’t wrong about the latter as Falco van Spieveld made it all look like a training exercise. “He’s the best partner I could possibly ask for – in the barn he’s super easy and he’s a bit lazy at home, but when he goes in the ring he’s so reliable,” said the 25-year-old who works in the family business with the Stronach Group, and who trains with Irish rider Cian O’Connor on a regular basis.

Reflecting on where the result leaves Team Canada, she concluded, “We would have liked to make it to the Final in Barcelona, but the cards didn’t fall in order for us today; that’s the way it goes. Now our big plan is the Pan Ams where we will be looking for Olympic qualification.”

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Swiss Win Mighty Opening Battle at La Baule

Niklaus Rutschi and Cardano CH. (FEI)

In a spectacular start to the Europe Division 1 series, Switzerland pipped reigning series champions Belgium in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of France 2019 at La Baule (FRA) where the host nation lined up third.

Clear rounds are key to success, and there were plenty who managed to leave all the poles in place on the track set by crack French course designer Frederic Cottier despite a testing time-allowed of 75 seconds. But double-clears are even better, and when the Swiss posted two of the five recorded, thanks to superb efforts from team pathfinder Niklaus Rutschi (53) and anchorman Steve Guerdat (36), they beat the Belgians by a single penalty point.

It was Guerdat who clinched it when last into the arena, shouldering unbelievable pressure as only this man can. But it was Rutschi who set it all up with a fantastic performance from his 11-year-old gelding Cardano CH. He had every reason to be proud.

“It’s a dream come true! We have this horse since he was a foal and we are good friends together. Last year he was injured so he had a long break, but he’s right back to his best now. He’s one of the best horses in the world – he’s scopey, he’s careful, and he just needs his rider to his job properly!” — Niklaus Rutschi (SUI)

It was neck-and-neck between the Swiss and Belgians at the halfway stage when both sides finished the first round with four faults on the board. The Irish were close behind with five while last year’s La Baule winners from Brazil were sharing fourth place with the French on eight faults. Germany carried 10 into the second round, but the British and Canadians were already looking vulnerable with 18 and 19 faults respectively before the action resumed. However, the spotlight shone brightly on a new young British star when Amy Inglis (22) followed a first-round clear with a single time-fault in round two with her lovely mare, Wishes.

French hearts were lifted with three rock-solid second-round clears that saw them climb up the leaderboard when both the Irish and Brazilians faltered, but it was the Belgians and Swiss who would slog it out for the win in the closing stages, and it went right down to the wire.

A clear from Nicola Philippaerts and H&M Chilli Willi gave the Belgians a great start to round two. And when Niels Bruynseels’ second clear of the day from Utamaro D’Ecaussines was followed by just a single time fault from Pieter Devos and Claire Z, they looked bullish because even without the services of their final partnership, Gregory Wathelet and MJT Nevados S, they could finish on no more than five faults.

Rutschi’s second clear of the competition was followed by eight faults from Bryan Balsiger (21), but Paul Estermann (55) pulled it back for the Swiss with a foot-perfect run from Lord Pepsi and that set it up for one final showdown. If Wathelet could return a zero score, then the Belgians could discard Devos’ single time fault and it might just force a jump-off with the Swiss.

But the vertical that followed the 4-metre-wide open water had hit the dirt plenty of times during the day. “It was difficult because the horses were inclined to look at the crowd in the tribune behind, instead of at the fence,” Rutschi explained. And when that fell, then Devos’ four faults was the discard as only the best three results from each of the four-member teams are counted, and now Belgium were definitely finishing on those five faults.

So as Switzerland’s Guerdat rode into the arena with the brilliant mare Albfuehrens Bianca, with which he claimed individual bronze at last year’s FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon, USA, the result was hanging in the balance. A fence down and it would be all over, a single time fault and it would go to a jump-off, but a clear round would win it. And you could hear a pin drop as the London 2012 Olympic individual gold medallist and three-time Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ champion steered his fiery mare through the track one last time.

“Being able to give the win to your country is one of the best feelings. It’s for these kinds of moments that I love our sport!” Steve Guerdat said after clinching it, Bianca still bursting with energy as she bounced through the finish one more time.

This result puts Switzerland at the top of the Europe Division 1 league table at this early stage of the eight-leg series which now moves on to their home ground in St Gallen (SUI) in two weeks’ time. Each team in this series has four opportunities to collect points towards qualification for the prestigious Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final 2019 in October where, along with the much-coveted series trophy, one last Olympic qualifying spot will also be on offer.

Watch highlights here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Magical Mexicans Make It Two-in-a-Row

Lorenza O’Farrill and Queens Darling. (FEI/Hector Vivas)

The host nation turned on the magic once again to win the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Mexico 2019 at Coapexpan with a gutsy and determined performance. The Mexican side of Patricio Pasquel (47), Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane (25), Lorenza O’Farrill (49), and Salvador Onate (41) produced a spectacular result, confirming their supremacy without having to call up anchorman Onate in the second round and pinning USA into runner-up spot while Canada finished third.

O’Farrill was hailed the hero of the day, her second-round clear with the 14-year-old gelding Queens Darling wrapping it all up nicely. But it wasn’t just the second consecutive Mexican success in the three-leg 2019 North and Central America and Caribbean League that she and her team-mates were celebrating; it was O’Farrill’s sensational return to the top end of the sport against all the odds.

“I’m out of myself with proudness and emotion!” said the lady who suffered a life-altering back injury when kicked by a horse leaving a prize-giving ceremony seven years ago. Her condition deteriorated to the point where she couldn’t walk, but after a series of surgeries, and now sporting six screws in her spine, the athlete who lined out at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Rome (ITA) in 1998 has now bounced back to her very best.

With just three teams in action, it was a compact but intense affair. Mexico and USA were on level pegging with nine faults apiece at the halfway stage, but the Canadians already looked vulnerable as the action resumed, carrying 14 faults from which they would never recover.

America’s Richard Spooner was foot-perfect both times out with his 10-year-old grey, Quirado RC, but the man whose nickname is “The Master of Faster” picked up a time fault in each round. Eve Jobs, at 21 the youngest competitor on the day, kicked out only the narrow vertical at fence six in the first round before returning to put in a copybook clear with Venue d’Fees des Hazelles. Nicole Shahinian-Simpson’s feisty mare, Akuna Mattata, fell afoul of the bogey oxer at fence nine that caught out so many in the first round and added five more in the second round and this brought the US total to 15 faults.

When O’Farrill followed Pasquel’s second-round clear with Babel, and another four-fault result for Gonzalez Dufrane and his sweet mare Hortensia van de Leeuwerk, with a superb clean run, the game was up.

The Canadians made a great recovery with second-round clears from Lisa Carlsen (Parette) and Nicole Walker (Falco van Spieveld), but it was too late as they completed on 22 faults. Alex Granato and Carlchen W rounded up the US effort with a 12-fault result, but the Mexicans were already home and hosed with their team total of 13, so Onate, who had racked up an uncharacteristic 12 faults first time out with Big Red, didn’t need to run again when listed last to go.

O’Farrill said that her comeback hasn’t been easy.

“I had to work on myself inside and out with physical therapy and mental training, but it’s been worth every minute!” — Lorenza O’Farrill (MEX)

Her husband bought Queen’s Darling as an 8-year-old, but they had a couple of falls so his wife took him over and began to enjoy some success. When she was going into surgery her husband promised that Queens Darling would be waiting for her when she was better and since she returned to the saddle she’s been working on the horse’s spooky nature – “I can’t change him so I use it to my advantage!” said the rider whose steeds are naturally supremely fit because they live 3,000 meters above sea level in Mexico City and whose other ride, the mare Calvira, won Friday’s Longines Grand Prix.

O’Farrill is now looking forward to the third and last leg which will take place in Langley (CAN) in a few weeks’ time where the result of the North and Central American and Caribbean League series will be decided. In the lead with 200 points on the board, Team Mexico holds the lead followed by USA on 170 and Canada with a total of 140 points.

Watch highlights here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

FEI Sports Forum 2019 Live and On-Demand

Lausanne (SUI), 14 April 2019 — The eighth edition of the FEI Sports Forum 2019, which will be held at the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne (SUI) on 15 and 16 April, will be live-streamed on fei.org.

Day 1 will begin with a session dedicated to gender equality, particularly in governance positions in equestrian sport. This will be followed by a session on preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games with a focus on climate mitigation plans and the optimisation of equine and human performance in a challenging climate. The first session of the afternoon will be dedicated to a review of the FEI legal system, including a proposed way forward regarding pony measurement, as well as sanctions and measures related to Eventing Risk Management. The closing session of the day will look at the future of Reining.

Day 2 will focus on Endurance with the whole day dedicated to the questions, challenges and reshaping of this discipline.

Timetable of sessions (all times CET):

15 April – Day 1

Morning

  • Opening – FEI President and IMD representative – 09:00-09:30
  • Session 1 – Gender Equality – 09:30-10:30
  • Session 2 – Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games – 11:00-12:30

Afternoon

  • Session 3 – Review of Legal System – 14:00-16:30
  • Session 4 – Future of Reining – 17:00-18:30

16 April – Day 2 – Reshaping Endurance

Morning

  • Session 5 – Qualification of Horses and Athletes: reducing welfare risks – 09:00-11:00
  • Session 6 – Educating Officials and correct application of the rules – 11:30-13:00

Afternoon

  • Session 7 – Improvements and innovations to shape Endurance – 14:00-15:30
  • Session 8 – Wrap-up by the Secretary General and open Q&A

FEI Media Contacts:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Vanessa Martin Randin
Senior Manager, Media Relations & Communications
Vanessa.Randin@fei.org
+ 41 78 750 61 73

Guerdat Shows Nerves of Steel to Seal His Third Title

Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat (centre) celebrates in style with his compatriot and runner-up Martin Fuchs (left) and third-placed Peder Fredricson from Sweden (right). (FEI/Liz Gregg)

Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat (36) showed exactly why he is the No. 1 rider in the world right now when holding his nerve under the most intense pressure to take the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2019 title at the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg (SWE). This was his third time to lift the trophy in the long history of the prestigious series, and his glorious win sees him join an elite group of three-time champions.

He had thrown down the gauntlet when topping Thursday’s opening competition, but a fence down on Friday saw him come into the two-round finale in third place, and two points off Spain’s Eduardo Alvarez Aznar (35) at the head of the leaderboard. Guerdat wondered if his 11-year-old gelding Alamo was ready to step up to the level of sport they faced. The horse had never jumped courses as big as this before. Course designer, Spain’s Santiago Varela, set them an enormous test, but Alamo didn’t crumble.

“I was a bit unsure going to the final today as this is his first championship and I was a little nervous on Friday after the speed class, but in the end he has been amazing all week!” said the man whose won his first title in Las Vegas (USA) in 2015 and his second in Gothenburg a year later.

There were only five first-round clears, and Guerdat moved into pole position when Alvarez Aznar dropped out of contention with two fences down, and second-placed Swede, Peder Fredricson (47), faulted once with Catch Me Not at the bogey water-try vertical at fence 10 on the tough 13-fence track to the dismay of the crowd. But the home hero and reigning European champion was still very much in the hunt, in third carrying five penalty points as round two began with Guerdat at the head of affairs carrying two, but only a single point ahead of fellow-countryman Martin Fuchs (26) and Clooney who had three on the board.

You could hear a pin drop when Fredricson returned to take on the simply colossal second-round track, but there was an explosion of sound when he brought his grey gelding home with nothing to add. The Swiss pair now had no breathing space: any mistake would ensure a Swedish victory, but Fuchs didn’t falter, Clooney showing all the class that secured individual silver for his talented young rider at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon (USA) last September.

Now Guerdat had no room for manoeuvre – nothing but a foot-perfect run would do. Alamo showed a little inexperience on the way but there’s nothing quite like a horse that gives you everything it’s got, and the Dutch-bred did just that to bring it home.

“It’s up to the horse to jump the fences, so I really tried to focus on my riding and give the him his best chance, and he responded really well,” Guerdat said. He’s growing ever-fonder of Alamo, although he admitted that the horse he holds closest to his heart will always be his great partner Nino des Buissonnets who carried him to Olympic glory in London seven years ago.

It was a bit of a frustrating result for Fuchs because he has now finished second in two major events, last year’s World Championship and the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final. “But if I have to be beaten it is great if Steve wins; he is my friend and training partner. Clooney was amazing; he jumped both rounds easy; he is one of the best horses in the world. Two times second place is already a great achievement, and I am already looking forward to the European Championships this summer!” he said. That top step of the podium will surely come their way very soon.

But it was Guerdat who reigned supreme, and he now joins an elite group of three-time World Cup winners that includes Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Marcus Ehning, Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa, and Austria’s Hugo Simon, the man who won the very first title in Gothenburg in 1979.

“When I was young, I used to dream of winning the World Cup, and when I finished second twice I wondered if it would ever happen. So when I won in 2015 it was very special, and to win here in Gothenburg the next year was even better, because this is such a great show; the crowd is like nowhere else and the atmosphere is unbelievable. To win three times, and to do it in Gothenburg again today – this makes me very proud!” — Steve Guerdat (SUI)

Result here.

Watch highlights here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Werth Proves Unbeatable One More Time

Isabell Werth. (FEI/Christophe Taniere)

In a competition that built to an incredible climax, Germany’s Isabell Werth (49) stood firm to win the FEI Dressage World Cup™ title for the fifth time in her extraordinary career. They came from all around the globe to take on the most successful equestrian athlete of all time and gave it everything they had, but she didn’t buckle under the pressure. That’s not her style.

As she entered the arena, second-last to go of the 18 starters, the crowd held its breath in anticipation. They had watched rider after rider throw everything they had at her, piling on the pressure as they also bid for the trophy they all want to win. The spectators were in a frenzy when Sweden’s Tinne Vilhelmson Silfven and Don Auriello drew the first half of the competition to a close with a breathtaking ride on her great Don Auriello, and they went into complete over-drive when it re-started with a new leading score from their own Patrick Kittel and Delaunay OLD.

But Laura Graves (31) blew the competition wide open when strutting to a score of 87.179 with just five left to go. As the American pointed out, her gelding Verdades, one of the five stunning 17-year-old horses who have graced this Final, is just getting better with age and she stayed out in front despite a spectacular ride for Denmark’s Daniel Bachmann Andersen (28) who didn’t hold anything back when steering the stallion Blue Hors Zack to a score of 85.468.

With a beautifully balanced test during which her elegant horse Goerklintgaards Dublet looked like he could do one-tempi changes all day, another of the strong American contingent, Kasey Perry-Glass, slotted in behind him. So, Graves was still holding court at the head of the leaderboard as Werth set off. But it wouldn’t be for long.

“My ride was really fantastic; my mare did a perfect test and she really deserved the win!” said the lady whose trophy cabinet is laden with gold medals, including six from Olympic Games, eight collected at World Games, and 12 from European Championships who put 88.871 on the board. Werth is never altogether pleased when asked what still drives her, at almost 50 years of age, to still be hungry for success, but she replied simply, “I live what I do… and this is what keeps me so competitive!”

Reflecting on her performance she said, “I could take all the risks at extended canter and take her back and the pirouettes were great. We could not have been better!” Except, as she admitted, in the one-tempi changes where there was a little blip. “I was arrogant there, so that was my fault!” she said.

She may have been brilliant once again, but the prize for the most exciting test went, without a shadow of doubt, to her compatriot and 2013 champion Helen Langehanenberg who finished third on a mark of 86.571 after a performance that, quite literally, ended with onlookers gasping in disbelief. None more than Judge at C, Magnus Ringmark, whose expression was priceless as the German rider’s 17-year-old stallion Damsey FRH exploded down the centreline in a massive extended trot, halting only inches from his table. “I thought he was going to end on my lap!” the Swedish Ground Jury member laughed afterwards.

“The sport has changed a lot since I won my first Final,” Werth reflected. That was 27 years ago, also in Gothenburg riding a horse called Fabienne. “We now have such a professional team around us, and there are great improvements on all sides. It is very important for us to keep the respect for the horse for the future and it’s great to see so many older horses still performing at this level; it shows how well they are cared for and how much respect their riders have for them,” she said.

Both runner-up Graves and third-placed Langehanenberg were riding two of those 17-year-olds, still full of the joys of life and still intensely competitive. Langehanenberg said of the hard-pulling Damsey FRH, “I am thankful and really proud of him. The clapping motivated him at the end of the test and I think he would have been quite happy to start all over again!”

This didn’t just mark Werth’s fifth victory; it was also her third in succession and, each time over the last three seasons, it has been Graves who she has had to pin back into runner-up spot.

“Like Isabell said, it is our duty to take care of our horses and try to keep them healthy. My horse likes his job and never puts a foot wrong when I ride him, although at the barn he knows he’s the boss! He was so rideable today, the crowd was amazing, and I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as me!” said the American.

The greeting the riders received in the prizegiving suggested that the crowd most certainly did.

Result here.

Watch highlights here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Spain’s Alvarez Aznar Jumps into Lead, but Sweden’s Fredricson Steals the Show

Peder Fredricson and Catch Me Not. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

When the first-round winner, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat, said the second competition at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final 2019 in Gothenburg (SWE) would shake up the leaderboard, he wasn’t wrong. A single mistake tonight sees him go into Sunday’s two-round title-decider lying third on the leaderboard, but only two points behind Spain’s Eduardo Alvarez Aznar at the head of affairs and a single point behind Peder Fredricson who set the Swedish crowd alight with a sensational home victory this evening.

Defending champions, America’s Beezie Madden and Breitling, posted by far the quickest time in the eight-horse jump-off but, like many others, fell victim to the turn the very last. She has moved right into contention, however, up from tenth to equal-fourth place in the overall rankings alongside Belgium’s Niels Bruynseels and Olivier Philippaerts and Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs. And there’s only a single fence between Poland’s Jaroslaw Skrzyczynski and the top of the leaderboard. It’s really tight and all to play for going into the finale which is guaranteed to be a thriller.

Yesterday Fredricson looked forlorn as he sat at the post-competition press conference as best Swedish rider after finishing in eleventh place with H&M All in, but what a difference a day makes. Tonight’s victory with the aptly-named grey, Catch Me Not, has changed everything.

“I was so disappointed yesterday and was not expecting to win today, so I’m really happy tonight!” said Fredricson.

Austria’s Max Kuhner and Chardonnay led the way against the clock and set a sensible target when clear in 39.44 seconds. “First to go is never easy. As my horse is not really a naturally fast horse the strategy was to be fast enough and clear,” he explained. Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum and Cool Feeling hit the first fence when next to go but Frenchman Olivier Robert made it all the way to the last before faulting there.

Skrzyczynski’s 10-year-old mare, Chacclana, was foot-perfect in a time of 39.68 before Fredricson nearly lifted the roof off the Scandinavium Arena when scorching in to take the lead in 37.94 seconds. Madden was almost three seconds quicker coming to the last, only for that to fall and when Bruynseels suffered the same fate with Delux an T&L; only Alvarez Aznar was left to threaten Fredricson for the win.

“Going into the jump-off I felt it was safer to be in the top places for the final on Sunday so I didn’t risk all,” he explained afterwards, but his time of 37.97 was still plenty good enough for runner-up spot ahead of Kuhner in third and Skrzyczynski in fourth place. “I was not expecting to be leading tonight but to have a good round. My horse is not the fastest, but he is very consistent,” said the modest Spanish rider who finished sixth at last year’s Longines Final in Paris (FRA) and who now has the best of the draw for Sunday’s finale.

“I want to be on the podium of a Championship and I am now in a good position, but I have to stay focused and have a good ride on Sunday,” he added.

His compatriot, course-designer Santiago Varela, pointed out that the game is far from over yet.

“I want to say congratulations to the riders; they did a great job tonight. Today was a new day but a lot can change on Sunday because we have two more rounds. We are only half-way through this evening – there’s a lot more jumping to do,” he warned.

Result here.

Watch highlights here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46