Tag Archives: FEI

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

Werth Wins Grand Prix, but Runner-Up Graves Looks a Powerful Threat

Isabell Werth and Weihegold OLD. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

The legend that is Germany’s Isabell Werth (49) steered her wonderful 13-year-old mare, Weihegold OLD, to victory in the Grand Prix as the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final 2019 got underway at the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg (SWE).

But the World No. 1 rider, and the most decorated athlete in the history of equestrian sport, is taking nothing for granted as she chases down her third consecutive, and fifth overall, World Cup title.

“I can feel the breeze on the back of my neck!” she admitted, after the World No. 2 combination of America’s Laura Graves (31) and Verdades slotted into second place on a day when US riders were highly impressive.

Indeed, the deciding Freestyle competition looks set to be another thriller, and the sold-out stadium will be throbbing with excitement. Third-placed Dane, Daniel Bachmann Andersen, said it suited his stallion Blue Hors Zack when the crowd clapped enthusiastically as they came into the ring. But Judy Reynolds’ Vancouver K didn’t feel the same way, spinning around with fright and boiling over at times when they were first to go. The Irishwoman, whose Freestyle programme is a big crowd favourite, just shrugged it off after finishing 14th of 18 starters. That blip is already confined to history as far as she is concerned.

It was America’s Kasey Perry-Glass and Goerklintgaards Dublet who headed the leaderboard with a score of 77.267 at the halfway stage after a performance that oozed partnership between horse and rider. And when Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg and Damsey posted 76.957 as the second-half action began, the US rider was still out in front. But then Werth set off with Weihegold and the big scores just kept coming in, the precision and quality of the mare’s work seeing them post 81.755 to soar out in front.

Bachmann Andersen’s Blue Hors Zack did a lovely test. “He’s just getting better and better!” said the Danish star who temporarily slotted into second when putting 78.152 on the board, but Werth’s lead looked very vulnerable when Graves followed him into the ring, fourth-last to go. Some big early scores suggested the American just might oust the defending double-champion, but there was a little mistake in extended trot and the final scoreline of 80.109 left Werth in pole position.

The German superstar and multiple champion knows the story is far from over, however, and Graves reminded her of that at the post-competition press conference. You could tell that the American meant it when she said, “I’m incredibly hungry to be at the top of the podium and I’ll do my very best tomorrow. I know there is a real chance; I believe in this horse – he’s 17 but in the best shape ever!”

But Werth has been to battle, and won, so many times before, and as she said, “Gothenburg holds great memories for me.” It was here that she posted her very first FEI Dressage World Cup Final win with Fabienne in 1992. Can she do it again 27 years later? As she said, “Tomorrow is a whole new game – we will have to wait and see.”

Result here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

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

Guerdat Seizes Early Advantage with Alamo

Steve Guerdat with Alamo. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

Former double-champion, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat (36), scorched into the lead as the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2019 Final kicked off at the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg (SWE). Before he cantered into the ring, third-last to go with Alamo, the leaderboard looked like a Belgian whitewash with Pieter Devos (33), Olivier Philippaerts (25), and Francois Mathy Jr (48) holding the top three places after brilliant runs over the 13-fence course set by ace Spanish course designer Santiago Varela.

Defending champions, America’s Beezie Madden (55) and her 13-year-old stallion Breitling LS, had just dropped the very last fence, so with three seconds added to their super-fast time of 60.74 seconds would have to settle for tenth spot at the end of the day. But Guerdat cut a completely clean path to break the timers in 61.28 seconds for the win, squeezing Devos and his gelding, Apart, out of pole position by just three-hundredths of a seconds.

It was the perfect beginning to the seasonal finale that brings together riders from all around the globe, some making a very career-defining debut at the top end of the sport after qualifying from their regional series. So Varela’s challenge was to build a track that not only tested Guerdat, confirmed this week as World No. 1 rider for the fourth month in a row, but also suitable for others much further down the order including Chile’s Rodrigo Carrasco, who is ranked 1,465 but who returned with his brave grey, Acapulco FZ, with just six seconds to add to their tally.

The action began with a dramatic dismount for Guerdat’s good friend and team-mate Beat Mandli who tried a very difficult turn inside the first fence on the approach to the planks at fence 11. His 11-year-old mare Dsarie just couldn’t make it and stopped, unshipping her rider. Guerdat admitted that he had been tempted to take that turn too, but after Mandli’s elimination decided against it. “It was really bad luck for Beät. I felt sorry for him and it killed a bit of the options. And I didn’t need to do it,” he pointed out.

His decision to bring the less-experienced Alamo to these Finals instead of his top ride, Albfuehrens Bianca, wasn’t an easy one to make.

“Bianca is my number one choice for the (Olympic) Games next year, so I thought maybe on the way to there she doesn’t need to do all the Championships. I thought if I have a slightly small chance with Alamo, I will take it!” — Steve Guerdat (SUI)

Alamo proved he is made of the right stuff, presenting his rider with a lot more than a small chance.

“I’m very happy; he jumped well. I had a fast round without taking too much out of the horse. I know that this horse does not go as fast as my other horses, but I know he is quite quick, so I just tried to stay focussed on my plan and what I wanted to do. I didn’t think too much about the others were doing,” he said.

The London 2012 individual Olympic champion has won the coveted Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ title twice before, first under the bright lights of Las Vegas (USA) in 2015 and then again the following year in Gothenburg. His recollection is that he was lying “fourth or fifth” after the first competition on those occasions, but he modestly insisted that holding the top spot going into the second competition may prove irrelevant.

“We can expect a lot of places to move around; it always changes a lot on the second day,” he pointed out. “I think a mistake is much more important tomorrow than today. Everything looks good today, but everything can look much different tomorrow!” said the man who is hoping to make his 13th Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final another winning one.

Watch highlights here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

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

It’s Not Going to Be Easy for Beezie in Gothenburg

Beezie Madden secured her second Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ victory in 2018 riding Breitling, and she goes for a hat-trick at next week’s 2019 Final in Gothenburg (SWE). (FEI/Liz Gregg)

She’s going for a hat-trick of titles and America’s 12th when the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final 2019 gets underway in Gothenburg (SWE) next week. However, US superstar Beezie Madden will be under no illusions about what lies ahead of her. She may have double Olympic gold, World Championship team and individual silver and two World Cup titles under her belt, but the world no. 8 rider knows that there is a host of European rivals determined to stand in her way. And amongst them is a rock-solid and on-form German contingent.

Although the USA held the advantage over the early years, Germany became the most dominant nation in the Jumping World Cup series in more recent times, with Daniel Deusser posting his country’s tenth victory in Lyon (FRA) in 2014. But McLain Ward put the USA on level pegging when coming out on top in 2017 and last season’s win by Madden pushed her country out in front. Deusser, however, has had a stormer of a season in the 2018/2019 Western European League qualifiers, with three sensational wins backed up by several other great performances to leave him with a massive 99 points at the head of the league table. He’s a force to be reckoned with right now.

And cementing the German strength, fellow-countryman Christian Ahlmann, champion with Taloubet in 2011, finished second in this series. He brings one of the most exciting horses you can expect to see next week, the gorgeous 10-year-old grey Clintrexo Z, who showed spectacular athleticism when clinching a last-to-go victory at Mechelen (BEL) in December. This stallion’s confidence, balance, and turning skills will play a big role as rideability, courage, and quick decision-making will be key to success over the courses designed by Spain’s Santiago Varela in the tight confines of the Scandinavium Arena. Rounding up the German contingent is 1993 champion, Ludger Beerbaum.

The host nation is also well-armed with reigning European champion Peder Fredricson, the talented Irma Karlson and Henrik von Eckermann all flying the flag. And Von Eckermann has a score to settle. He might have forced Madden into a jump-off for the title at last year’s Final in Paris (FRA) but for a last-minute mistake which dropped him to third. But he brings out the brilliant Toveks Mary Lou once again, and on current form they are a very significant threat.

The star-studded line-up includes so many of the top names, and it’s difficult to look past Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat and Martin Fuchs, but the Final is also about seeing new faces from far-flung places along with the developing younger generation.

Gothenburg is the end of a very long journey for South Africa’s Lisa Williams and her horse Campbell. They’ve experienced a series of incredible complications since leaving their home country to travel to the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon (USA) last year, but they overcame them all and deserve a very special welcome when they ride into the ring next week. They qualified for this Final two years ago, and Sweden is the end of the line before the 52-year-old rider heads back home.

America’s Eve Jobs (20) and Kelli Cruciotti (21) will be two of the youngest riders in action, and the five-strong US line-up is completed by Georgina Bloomberg and last year’s runner-up, Devin Ryan. Americans filled three of the top four places in 2018, so nobody is taking them for granted this time around and American ladies have an exceptional record.

Only five female athletes have taken the title in the history of this prestigious series that every rider wants to win, and they all have one thing in common. Melanie Smith (1983), Leslie Burr Lenehan (1986), and Katharine Burdsall (1987) all flew the American flag, while three-time winner Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum from Germany (2005, 2008, 2009) was born in Los Angeles, California. Madden became the fifth lady champion when pipping Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat in a thrilling jump-off back in 2013 and she will be flying the US flag with her 2018 winner, Breitling LS, when the action gets underway next week.

She’ll have to go like the wind in Thursday’s (4 April) first competition and then jump big and clean again on Friday (5 April) to qualify for Sunday’s (7 April) title-deciding showdown.

Full details here.

Gothenburg Horse Show website here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

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

Can Graves Go One Better in Gothenburg?

German superstar, Isabell Werth, returns to defend her title at the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2019 Final in Gothenburg (SWE) next week. She’ll have to fend off many powerful opponents, including America’s Laura Graves. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

Demand for tickets for the FEI Dressage World Cup™ and Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Finals has been so incredibly high that the show organisers are providing a big-screen experience for those who can’t access a seat in the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg (SWE) on the deciding days. “The tickets have long been sold out and we have been working for a long time to come up with a solution that makes it possible for more people to take part in this year’s horse party!” said Gothenburg Horse Show Project Manager, Patrik Fredriksson. So, in co-operation with EuroHorse, all visitors can watch Saturday and Sunday’s thrilling Final action live on-screen in the adjoining Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre which hosts a hugely popular equestrian fair.

The excitement is already palpable with just days to go before the doors are opened to many of the best horse-and-rider combinations in the world next Wednesday, 3 April. For Germany’s Isabell Werth, it’s a matter of taking on all challengers in her bid to add a fifth Dressage title to the extraordinary list of achievements that has confirmed her status as the most successful equestrian athlete of all time.

Stalking her every inch of the way will be America’s Laura Graves who, partnering the now 17-year-old Verdades, has come dangerously close to ousting the German star over the last few seasons. They were runners-up at the Finals in 2017 and 2018, and, at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon, USA last September where they helped clinch team silver, only Werth and Bella Rose stood between them and individual gold.

Graves has to be hungry to go that one step further which would see her become only the third American FEI Dressage World Cup™ title-holder in the 34 editions of the series.

It was in Gothenburg in 2003 that Debbie McDonald claimed the USA’s first victory partnering Brentina, and Steffen Peters steered Ravel into pole position in Las Vegas six years later.

Look at the line-up though and there are many other hopes and dreams to be realised. Could Patrik Kittel and Delauney OLD become only the second-ever Swedish champions? It’s 21 years since Louise Nathorst and LRF Walk on Top triumphed on home soil in Gothenburg, pipping the legendary duo of The Netherlands Anky Van Grunsven and Bonfire, while Isabell Werth and Anthony FRH finished third.

Can Denmark’s Daniel Bachmann Andersen produce the same level of expertise that saw him win the final leg of the Western European League at ’s-Hertogenbosch (NED) two weeks ago with the one-eyed stallion Blue Hors Zack? What an amazing story that would be: only one other Dane has ever done it and that was Anne-Grethe Jensen with Marzog who pinned Great Britain’s Christopher Bartle, now one of the world’s most celebrated coaches, into second place with Wily Trout, while Switzerland’s Christine Stuckelberger finished third with Rubelit von Unkelruf. That was at the inaugural FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final staged in ’s-Hertogenbosch in 1986 – all of 33 years ago but, like all great sporting moments, embedded into the memory of those who witnessed it.

And then of course there’s Ireland’s Judy Reynolds and Vancouver K, a horse purchased for the price of a second-hand car who has broken Irish records like it’s going out of style in recent years and who, at 17 years of age, is better and fresher than ever. This pair has a big fanbase – Reynolds has achieved every little girl’s dream in finding a horse to take her to the top of the sport, and the diminutive and super-talented rider has been consistently threatening for a podium placing at majors over the last few seasons. Gothenburg holds good memories for them because they finished eighth at their first FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final there in 2016 before moving right up to fourth in Omaha (USA) the following year. They’ve been achieving personal-best scores in quick succession over the last few months and their “Riverdance” themed floorplan and music will get the toes tapping and the hands clapping for sure – the Gothenburg crowd are guaranteed to fall in love with them. Could they completely break the mould and become the very first Irish winners? What a story that would be.

Gothenburg is Sweden’s second largest city, located on the west coast of the country with a stunning archipelago just around the corner. It’s a great city to visit and it’s already starting to fill up with fans wanting to get a glimpse of their favourite equestrian stars and waiting for the action to kick off with warm-up classes and national events on 3 April. The first competition in the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final, the Grand Prix, will take place at 13.00 on Thursday 4 April and the deciding Freestyle will hold centre stage on Saturday 6 at 16.00. It’s going to be a week of spectacular sport, and for Dressage fans the biggest question is: can anyone beat Isabell? We’ll have to wait and see.

Check out all the details here.

Gothenburg Horse Show website here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

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