Tag Archives: FEI World Cup

Langehanenberg Steals the Limelight on Home Ground in Neumünster

Photo: Helen Langehanenberg and Damsey FRH. (FEI/Stefan Lafrentz)

The extraordinary ups and downs of sport were highlighted once again when Helen Langehanenberg (35) and Damsey sealed a superb victory at the seventh leg of the FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2017/2018 Western European League on home soil in Neumünster, Germany. At the previous round in Amsterdam (NED) three weeks ago, the 2013 FEI World Cup™ Dressage champion had to retire when her 16-year-old stallion got his tongue over the bit and their performance fell apart. However, it was perfect harmony every step of the way as their strong score of 83.800 pinned compatriots Dorothee Schneider (49) and Sammy Davis Jr into runner-up spot while Denmark’s Daniel Bachmann-Andersen (27) and Blue Hors Zack slotted into third.

“This was maybe our best result ever – Damsy felt great; he had the perfect mixture of freshness and motivation and he just performed the way every rider wants; the communication between us was really easy!” — Helen Langehanenberg GER (1st)

The atmosphere in the Neumünster arena is notoriously intense. As runner-up Schneider said, “Everything about this show is brilliant, especially the crowd who is so close that it feels like they are also riding your horse!” That didn’t stop her from posting 81.565 for second place and moving even closer to Sweden’s Patrik Kittel at the top of the Western European leaderboard. With just two qualifiers left to go, in Gothenburg (SWE) next weekend and ’s-Hertogenbosch (NED) two weeks later, that’s a really good place to be, because only two German riders can join defending champion Isabell Werth at the Final in Paris (FRA) in April, and sealing one of those two spots is a battle in itself. A total of nine riders, and a maximum of three from any nation, can make the cut from the Western European series.

Spain’s Morgan Barbancon Mestre, fourth to go with Sir Donnerhall ll, caused a stir when stopped by the Ground Jury because her floorplan had been changed overnight. When this was resolved she was allowed to compete, but it was Marie Emilie Bretenoux and Quartz of Jazz from France who led the way at the halfway stage with a mark of 76.300. This, however, would be improved on again and again, Denmark’s Bachmann-Andersen presenting a lovely picture of relaxation and balance with his 14-year-old stallion that rocketed him into the lead on a big mark of 81.475 with six left to go.

Langehanenberg pushed him off his pedestal immediately, however, and Schneider then pinned him back to third, but the talented Dane has now moved into joint-fourth on the leaderboard and looks set to make a big impression at the Final. Langehanenberg winner won’t make it to Paris. “I’m expecting a baby in June, so this was our last show before that and it’s the perfect result! I hope to be back in the saddle again in July though,” Langehanenberg explained.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Ruth Grundy
Manager Press Relations
Email: ruth.grundy@fei.org
Tel: +41 787 506 145

Nassar and Lordan Shine Again with Second Longines Victory in Thermal

Photo: Nayel Nassar and Lordan. (FEI/Glen Burgess)

Madden’s Cross Country Trip More Than Worthwhile

Two years ago, Nayel Nassar (EGY) won the World Cup qualifier at Thermal (USA) with his then 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding Lordan. In 2018, the partnership returned to form with a second victory in the desert, as the duo won the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping™ Thermal, the final leg of the west coast sub league of the North American League.

Six combinations cleared the Alan Wade (IRL) designed track in the first round, and all produced a second clear effort in the jump-off. Beezie Madden (USA) and Breitling LS led early with a time of 39.92 seconds, but Nassar and Lordan, who also won the World Cup qualifier at Wellington (USA) last season, sped past them by nine-tenths of a second, crossing the timers in 39.02 seconds. Mandy Porter (USA) and Milano, who won the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Sacramento (USA) in October, rounded out the top three with their 40.56-second time.

He’s such a trier,” Nassar said. “We know each other so well at this point, and we have a good partnership to get us through all the little intricacies in the courses.”

“He is such a trier! We have a good partnership to get us through all the little intricacies in the courses.” — Nayal Nassar (EGY)

Nassar said that Lordan’s naturally shorter stride might have played to his advantage in the jump-off, because he maintained a forward pace from the start.

“The first line was way more forward for me than anyone else,” Nassar said. “So, I was already faster there, and [also] probably on the turn back to the last line. I took a pretty big risk there. I jumped the double [from] right to left, and I could see all the tracks [from the other horses], and I was way inside there, and I just found the first shot out of the corner.”

After competing in Wellington last week, Madden made the cross-country journey from Florida to California to compete at Thermal. The trip proved worthwhile, because Madden’s runner-up finish jumped her from 11th to third in the east coast sub league standings of the North American League, which should put her safely in position for qualification to the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Paris (FRA) in April.

“I didn’t do that many World Cup [qualifiers] in the fall,” Madden said. I needed some more chances to get points. My plan might be to take him and one other [horse to Paris].”

The final leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League will take place on the east coast at Live Oak Plantation in Ocala (USA) on Sunday 18 March 2018.

By Catie Staszak

FEI Media Contact:

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

Coyle Cruises to First Longines Victory in Wellington

Photo: Daniel Coyle (IRL) and Cita. (FEI/Ashley Neuhof)

Daniel Coyle (IRL) didn’t let up from start to finish, and the 23-year-old swiftly earned the first World Cup qualifier victory of his young career at the $220,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Wellington (USA) aboard Ariel Grange’s Cita.

Jumping on the expansive grass field at the Jacobs family’s Deeridge Farms, Coyle mastered a large, technical track designed by fellow Irishman Alan Wade. Only five of the 40 competitors qualified for the jump-off, which featured the defending champion of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final, McLain Ward (USA), two-time Olympic gold medalist Laura Kraut (USA), and 17-time World Cup Finals veteran Margie Engle (USA). Second to go in the jump-off, Coyle jumped clear once again and set an unbeatable time of 34.79 seconds.

Last to go over the shortened track, Kraut, aboard St. Bride’s Farm’s Confu, made a valiant run at Coyle’s time but settled for second, finishing her round in 35.14 seconds. Engle and her veteran partner Royce finished third with a time of 35.30 seconds.

“It’s an amazing feeling to beat any one of these two women, and everybody in that jump-off!” — Daniel Coyle (IRL)

“It never makes it any easier when the riders are as good as they were. I saw Margie’s round and thought that was going to be tough to beat, let alone McLain and Laura, [who were jumping] after me.”

Coyle’s winning formula was to get ahead early.

“I did [one fewer] stride [than Laura] in the first line [of the jump-off], and I think that’s only the real place that I got her,” he explained. “I don’t think there was much difference in time there. I was really tight back to the third jump, and then I just tried to smooth out the finish instead of trying to do something crazy.”

Eight of the top 20-ranked American riders in the east coast sub league of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League competed in Wellington. With a fifth-place finish aboard HH Callas, Ward sits atop the standings, although he is automatically qualified based on his victory in last season’s final. Alison Robitaille (USA) sits second in the rankings, while Beezie Madden (USA), Leslie Howard (USA), and Laura Kraut (USA) all advanced their standings.

With his result, Coyle, ranks 10th in the east coast sub league standings, and he may now consider competing at the final stop on the North American League. That will take place at Live Oak Plantation in Ocala, FL (USA) on Sunday 18 March 2018.

By Catie Staszak

FEI Media Contact:

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

Espoir Lives Up to His Name and Produces a Brilliant Win for Belgium’s Devos in Bordeaux

Photo: Pieter Devos and Espoir. (FEI/Richard Juillart)

Three-time champion Marcus Ehning from Germany finishes second ahead of Spain’s Manuel Fernandez Saro in third

A brilliant performance from his horse called Espoir secured a place at the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2018 Final for Belgium’s Pieter Devos (31) at the second-last leg of the Western European League in Bordeaux (FRA). Setting a sizzling standard at the halfway-stage of the 10-horse jump-off against the clock, the pair couldn’t be caught despite the best efforts of three-time champion Marcus Ehning (43) from Germany who had to settle for runner-up spot and Spain’s Manuel Fernandez Saro (43) who lined up in third.

With 29 points already to his credit, Devos knew he had it all to do. Something in the region of 40 points is required to confirm that ticket to the finale in the French capital city next April and time is running out. But it wasn’t just the win and those 20 extra valuable points that pleased him most; it was the two spectacular rounds produced by his 14-year-old gelding, whose name in English translates to “hope”, that really lifted his spirits.

“I came here in the hope of qualifying; this was one of the last chances and even though I had a good indoor season I needed those extra points. Of course, the win is great and I’m excited to go to the Final; it will be my first and I’m really looking forward to the experience. But to be honest the very best thing is the feeling Espoir gave me today. He had a break and did his first World Cup in Leipzig when we had one down, and tonight he felt like he is right back in great shape and that makes me very, very happy!” — Pieter Devos BEL

Switzerland’s Paul Estermann and Lord Pepsi were first to go clear over Italian course designer Uliano Vezzani’s jump-off track, but Saro and Cannavaro set a new target when clearing the line in 38.40 seconds. Sixth to go, Devos always looked like he meant business, galloping into the ring and setting off with fierce determination.

“Before I went in I thought I’d be happy to finish in the top five, but in the end I took a risk between the first two fences and that went well, so of course then I got more ambitious and I just wanted to win! The crowd was great; they were shouting at me all the way to the last so I took the risk there as well!” — Pieter Devos BEL

His time of 36.53 seconds was always going to be difficult to beat, and although Ehning, second-last into the arena, looked set to put up a big challenge with Cornado NRW they broke the beam in 38.09 seconds for second place.

Ehning has now moved up to third place on the Western European League table which continues to be dominated by Frenchman Kevin Staut, while Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann lies second and Devos makes a meteoric rise to seventh position. The top 18 qualify for the Final and the pressure will be at boiling point when the last qualifier gets underway in Gothenburg (SWE) in three weeks’ time.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

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

Pacific and Central European League Athletes Earn Tickets to Paris Final

Photo: Mary Hanna riding Calanta. (FEI/Stephen Mowbray)

Australia’s Hanna tops the Pacific League Final; Russia’s Merkulova and Karasiova from Belarus claim the two Central European slots

Mary Hanna (63) claimed the single available qualifying spot for the FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2018 Final in Paris (FRA) in April when coming out on top at the Pacific League Final at Boneo Park, Boneo (AUS) last Saturday. Riding the 11-year-old KWPN mare Calanta, the five-time Olympian, who has also competed at three FEI World Equestrian Games and three FEI World Cup™ Dressage Finals, posted a strong Freestyle score of 75.390 to pin fellow-Australians Alex Hellyer (Bluefields Floreno) and Brett Parbery (DP Weltmieser) into second and third places.

Hanna’s campaign began when claiming first and second with Boogie Woogie and Sancette at Werribee almost 12 months ago, but she didn’t line out in Sydney last August where Judy Dierks steered Diamond Star into pole position ahead of Parbery and Weltmieser while Rozzie Ryan slotted into third with Harrah R.  And when the action moved on to Boneo in October it was Parbery who reigned supreme ahead of New Zealand’s Julie Brougham (Vom Feinsten) while Dierks finished third.

Hanna once again dominated when returning to the arena for the fourth leg of the series in Werribee in December where Calanta scored 74.400 for the win ahead of her other ride, Boogie Woogie. But when it was Boogie Woogie that finished second to Parbery’s Weltmieser in last weekend’s Grand Prix in which Hanna’s World Cup nominated ride Calanta had to settle for eighth place, it seemed the 2018 FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final might not be on the cards for the seasoned veteran. It all changed on Freestyle day, however, when a personal-best score booked her spot in spectacular style.

In the Central European League, riders qualify for the Final using a points system based on finishing places at the qualifying legs, and the two spots up for grabs went to Russia’s Inessa Merkulova (53) and Hanna Karasiova (33) from Belarus. The 11-leg series began in Minsk (BLR) last April where Russia’s Elena Shaivoroniskaya (Sandra) pipped Karasiova (Arlekino) and then moved on to Mariakalnok (HUN) where Spain’s Morgan Barbancon Mestre (Sir Donnerhall ll), Germany’s Banjamin Werndl (Der Hit) and Portugal’s Bonaventura Freire (Sai Baba Plus) filled the top three placings.

At Lipica (SLO), Switzerland’s Marcela Krinke Susmelj (Smeyers Molberg), Austria’s Belinda Weinbauer (Sohnlein Brilliant MJ) and Italy’s Valentina Truppa (Ranieri) filled the top three steps of the podium and then it was on to Nizhnly Novgorod (RUS) in June where Merkulova (Avans) pipped Karasiova (Arlekino). Later that month, Swedish star Patrik Kittel (Well Done de La Roche) claimed maximum points for his win in Brno (CZE) where Hungary’s Nikolett Szalai (Willy the Hit) finished second. Karasiova dominated at Taillinn (EST) in August where she steered Zodiak into pole position and Arlekino into third but it was Merkulova who stole the limelight in Moscow (RUS) in September when first with the fabulous Mister X and third with Avans, and following another win at the New Century venue in Moscow later that same month she cemented her position on the leaderboard. Merkulova has competed at three FEI European Championships, four FEI World Equestrian Games and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. She has also lined out at six FEI World Cup™ Dressage Finals, and with Mister X has posted top-10 finishes in the last four editions.

Estonia’s Dina Ellermann (Landy’s Akvarel) pipped Karasiova for the top spot in Taillinn in October and Denmark’s Malene Kohlschmidt Ebbesen (Mira) won the tenth leg in Zakrzow (POL) before Karasiova concluded her impressive campaign with a first and third placing at the final Freestyle in Moscow in December which earned her the second berth for this region at the Paris Final.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Leanne Williams
Media Relations and Communications Manager
leanne.williams@fei.org
+41 79 314 24 38

Luis Alejandro Plascencia O Leads Longines Podium Sweep for Mexico in Guadalajara

Photo: Luis Alejandro Plascencia O and Da Vinci. (FEI/ Peter Llewellyn)

Heading into the jump-off of his World Cup qualifier debut, 26-year-old Luis Alejandro Plascencia O (MEX) was confident despite the pressure and channeled that to a victory in the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Guadalajara (MEX).

“There was only one clear round, and I knew my horse was naturally faster – I was confident I could catch [the leader] without going crazy!” — Luis Alejandro Plascencia O (MEX)

Plascencia, the penultimate competitor in a seven-horse jump-off set by 2016 Rio Olympic Games Course Designer Guillerme Jorge (BRA), guided home the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion Da Vinci to victory in just his second four-star grand prix, crossing the timers in 40.66 seconds. Gustavo Ramos (MEX) and his longtime partner Izzy Miaki, the only other combination to produce a double-clear effort on the day, held on to the runner-up position with a time of 42.50 seconds, while defending champions Francisco Pasquel (MEX) and Naranjo finished third, capping a sweep of the top three placings for the host nation.

“I’ve had my horse for a little more than a year and half now, and he jumped amazing today,” Plascencia said. “He’s very consistent, and today, the track was very, very nice. [Jorge] is my favorite designer. Everything was technical, there were no tricks, there was not a specific hard [area on course where all the rails fell], and well, I loved it!”

Last to go in the jump-off, Sarah Scheiring (USA) and Dontez knocked a rail at the final fence, earning them a fifth-place finish and the designation of being the highest-placing American pair. The points accumulated from the effort moved Scheiring from 11th to fifth in the east coast sub league standings of the North American League. The top seven U.S. riders from the east coast will qualify for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Paris (FRA) in April. Jamie Barge (USA) and Luebbo finished 13th and sit fifth in the west coast sub league standings, just a point away from Jenni McAllister (USA), the current cutoff for that sub league.

There are three stops remaining on the 2017-2018 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League calendar. Competition resumes on the east coast in Wellington (USA) on Sunday, 4 February 2018. The west coast sub league concludes in Thermal (USA) on Saturday, 10 February 2018.

By Catie Staszak

FEI Media Contact:

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

Werth and Weihegold Are Awesome in Amsterdam

Photo: Isabell Werth and Weihegold. (FEI/Digishots)

Defending series champions, Germany’s Isabell Werth (48) and her magical mare Weihegold OLD, cruised to victory at the sixth leg of the FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2017/2018 Western European League in Amsterdam (NED). The dynamic duo floated through their Freestyle test to post 88.540, almost a full percentage point more than their winning score at the third leg of the series on home ground in Stuttgart in November.

The capacity crowd packed into the RAI Arena included stars of many other sports along with Dutch royal family member Princess Margarita, Countess of Colorno, who is a Board Member of the show organisation, Jumping Amsterdam. But it was the German Dressage queen who claimed centre stage when pinning the home side’s Edward Gal (47) with Glock’s Zonik into second, and her compatriot, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (31), into third with Unee BB.

“Weihe was really fantastic today. I can’t describe the feeling of this power and collection; she’s like a metronome – we can do whatever we want! The atmosphere in the arena was electric so I had to be careful because she was very hot. She produced really magnificent piaffe/passage, but I stopped breathing in the collected walk because she was SO ready for the canter!” — Isabell Werth GER (1st)

Last to go, she was chasing the super leading mark of 81.860 produced by Gal and his exciting young stallion who really settled to his job. “It’s five weeks since we finished third at Olympia (London) and there is a visible improvement,” said the man who claimed the FEI World Cup™ Dressage title in 2010 with the great Totilas. This was just the third Freestyle test for the 10-year-old Zonik. “He’s getting stronger and stronger and more motivated; suddenly we are making big steps forward and I have high hopes for him for the future!” he added.

As Werth rode into the arena, her compatriot Jessica von Bredow-Werndl was just leaving after posting an impressive 81.195 with Unee BB who couldn’t take his eyes off Weihegold. “The older he gets the more powerful he gets – I think he’s going through a second youth; he certainly had plenty of extra energy today!” said von Bredow-Werndl of her 17-year-old stallion. And her result has moved her up to second place on the Western European League leaderboard behind Sweden’s Patrik Kittel who once again wowed the crowds with a great performance from Deja to finish fourth.

As title defender Werth doesn’t earn points at the qualifiers but must compete in at least two legs of the Western European League with the horse she intends to take to the Final in Paris in April and with two in the bag, and both winning ones, with Weihegold she is now turning her attention to her back-up ride, Emilio, who topped the line-up in Lyon in November. “Obviously Weihe is my first choice, but Emilio will go to the last two qualifiers in Gothenburg (SWE) and ’s-Hertogenbosch (NED),” she explained. She’s missing the next leg on home ground in Neumunster in three weeks’ time due to another commitment, but she has her fourth FEI World Cup™ Dressage title clearly in her sights.

When asked how she is feeling ahead of the 2018 Final which will take place in the French capital from 10 to 15 April, she replied, “I’m happy but I never say I’m confident; that’s not my way. This is sport – you never know what’s going to happen so you always have to stay awake!”

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Leanne Williams
Media Relations and Communications Manager
leanne.williams@fei.org
+41 79 314 24 38

Laura Graves Posts Highest Ever AGDF Score in Week Three

Photo Credit: ©SusanJStickle.

Wellington, FL – January 26, 2018 – Laura Graves and Verdades comfortably captured the FEI World Cup Grand Prix Freestyle presented by US P.R.E. Association with a mesmerizing performance on her own and Curt Maes’ 2016 Rio Olympic team bronze medalist, Verdades. The pair’s emphatic 84.675% is the best score ever given at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF).

Ranked fourth in the world, Graves and Verdades’ floorplan exudes complexity, and includes passage half-pass, two-time changes on a curve melting into one-times and ultra-steep trot half-passes.

“He is such a hot horse that I rode him three times today,” said Graves, 30, who trains with Debbie MacDonald. “We brought him out at lunch time and with the wind he was a little crazy and we were a little concerned as we know what he can be like. But I am excited about this score – and the score from the grand prix [79.63%].”

Graves crafted the test, which carries a high degree of difficulty, for the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy when she was unexpectedly selected.

“I was thrown into the fish tank that year, so I studied all the other riders’ floorplans. And the music comes from Rudy, a football movie about an underdog kid,” said Graves, who admitted that she had actually arrived at the show without her music and had to have a new copy burned.

Although this was their third highest score ever, Graves will be altering the floorplan ahead of the CDI5* AGDF show (February 8-11).

“He’s such a clever horse that he guesses what’s going to happen, which is why we’re going to change it,” she explained.

The podium order was unchanged from the previous day’s grand prix: Sweden’s seven-time Olympian Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén filled second on Lövsta Stuteri’s 15-year-old gelding Paridon Magi (by Don Primero) with 79.05%, while home rider Shelly Francis partnered Patricia Stempel’s ever-improving 14-year-old Danilo, by De Niro, to third place with 76.15%.

Vilhelmson Silfvén had to ride in one of the rain squalls that passed over.

“Magi felt extremely electric, and it’s hard to ride outside when there’s a lot of wind – the rain is okay – but generally the test felt really good. He’s a fun horse to ride in the freestyle because you can do difficult things on him,” she said.

Francis said: “I’m so happy with my horse; he’s getting much more honest in there. He’s hot, but he’s now using the hot to come to work with me. We had a little mistake in the one tempis, but he came right back to me.”

All three riders are aiming to qualify for the FEI World Cup Dressage Final in Paris in April and, ultimately, the FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Tryon in September.

American judge Janet Foy, who was presiding from C, said: “Two of us judges here are also judging at the World Cup final – plus we’ve done other qualifiers in Europe – and these top three rides were wonderful and would fit right in in Paris.”

During the freestyle break, Danish Olympic rider Andreas Helgstrand – who has recently set up a sales barn in Wellington – gave a masterclass for spectators featuring PRE horses. American under-25 rider Kerrigan Gluch and Danish team member Mikala Münter were the test riders, with Münter riding 73-year-old Janne Rumbough’s grey international grand prix horse Junior ahead of his imminent retirement.

Heather Blitz (USA) bolstered Praestemarkens Quatero’s 2018 resumé further by landing the day’s Prix St Georges CDI3* class, presented by Triple Crown Nutrition, adding to their two small tour wins in week one of the 2018 AGDF. In this class, Blitz was the only rider to crack 70%, scoring 70.324% on her own nine-year-old Danish warmblood by Quaterback. The combination boasts six wins from their seven CDI small tour starts.

Two judges had the second-placed Norwegian combination of Alexandra Gamlemshaug Andresen and her own nine-year-old Empire B (by Sting x OO Seven) as the winners. This promising duo were stepping out into senior international ranks for the first time, having been on the youth circuit, culminating in the European Championships for young riders in August in Roosendaal, France. Andresen, who is just 21, scored 69.676%.

British rider Susan Pape’s Prix St Georges CDI1* winner Harmony’s Eclectisch has an equally sparse competition history, but roared to victory with a final total of 69.529%, including a high score from the M judge, Janet Foy, who awarded 74.265%.

The nine-year-old black licensed stallion by Zenon x Olivi was acquired in November by American dressage sponsor Leslie Malone of Harmony Sport Horses, having previously been owned by Andreas Helgstrand, among others.

For more information and results, visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.

Taloubet Triumphs One Last Time for Germany’s Christian Ahlmann at Leipzig

Photo: Christian Ahlmann and Taloubet Z. (FEI/Daniel Kaiser)

In a fairytale finish to his fabulous career, the 18-year-old super-stallion Taloubet Z carried Christian Ahlmann to victory in front of their home crowd at the tenth leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2017/2018 Western European League in Leipzig, Germany. Last to go in an edge-of-the-seat 15-horse jump-off it seemed it would be almost too good to be true if they could beat the rest of the world-class field at a show where they enjoyed so many successes over the years. But they did it and, in his usual style, the extraordinary Taloubet made it look like a walk in the park one last time. There was hardly a dry eye in the house during the prize-giving ceremony in which the German duo took centre stage ahead of runners-up Carlos Lopez and Admara from Colombia and Dutchman Harrie Smolders with Zinius.

Ahlmann isn’t normally one for big emotion, but the 43-year-old rider’s voice kept breaking when he tried to talk about the horse that was such a prolific winner, and that carried him to four World Cup Finals, who claimed the FEI World Cup™ Jumping title at this very same venue in 2011 and who was so tough that he was still capable of claiming team bronze and individual ninth place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The German star admitted that he felt under incredible pressure.

“I really didn’t want to mess it up for him! This was just a normal World Cup, like we have every week. But it was very special because it was the last class for Taloubet, and we took the risk to jump him so he could say goodbye, here where everyone knows him, and leave the sport in great shape. So to have a good result and to finish with a proper round like that under pressure, it makes me so happy! It’s the greatest day of my life for sure, not for the points or for the money; it’s much more than that. It’s because this great horse who still has all this power even at this age is ending his career in a great way, with a great win!” — Christian Ahlmann GER (1st)

“Yes, for everyone else today was a dream, but for me it was a nightmare!” said course designer Frank Rothenberger after 15 horse-and-rider combinations made it into the jump-off. It was a cracker, however, and Lopez appeared to have it in the bag when scorching through the finish in 43.39 seconds with the gelding Admara who seems to have found his perfect “other half” since partnering up with the Colombian rider two years ago. Smolders and Zinius, winners at the previous leg in Mechelen (BEL) last month, gave it their best shot but fell short by two-tenths of a second when second-last to go.

The arena fell silent as Ahlmann and Taloubet set off on their final adventure together, but it exploded with sound when, turning to the last full of running and at a flat gallop, the German duo broke the beam two-tenths of a second quicker than Lopez for the win. Even the Colombian runner-up wasn’t disappointed: “Today is all about Taloubet anyway,” Lopez said.

And with just three qualifiers still left to go, the next in Zurich (SUI), Ahlmann has now qualified for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2018 Final in Paris (FRA) in April. Like Smolders, who has also made the cut, that wasn’t on the German rider’s radar until now. “I’ll have to have a re-think about that now,” he said.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

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

Smolders Is the Master at Mechelen

Harrie Smolders and Zinius pictured with FEI President Ingmar de Vos.

Dutchman Harrie Smolders (37) out-paced all comers to win the ninth leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2017/2018 Western European League at Mechelen in Belgium. Riding the 13-year-old gelding Zinius, he set an unbeatable target with a fearless run when fourth to go in a seven-horse jump-off. Runner-up spot went to Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann (36) who has now soared to the top of the league table while Italy’s Luca de Lorenzo (30) lined up third. Smolders was a man with a plan.

“I never won before at Mechelen and I really wanted to do it, so I was totally focused. When I got into the jump-off I just wanted to win. I was never riding for second place so I took the risk by taking a stride out to the last. And this is very special because I came here with all my family – my kids, my wife and my parents – it was an unforgettable moment and I’m very thankful to the crowd. The atmosphere here is always really intense and it gives us even more of a push to show what we can do!” — Harrie Smolders (NED)

This result with Zinius was particularly rewarding because this is a horse that is stepping up to the plate.

“He is still developing, but now that Emerald and Don (his other two top horses) are having a break he gets a chance to show in the biggest classes and he has picked it up very quickly. I’m a bit surprised that he makes it look so easy!” Smolders added.

It was no walk in the park either, with Eddy Geysemans’ tough first-round track getting the better of many of the best in the sport. The time-allowed of 67 seconds saw three miss the cut into the jump-off when picking up just one annoying time penalty, but German ace, Ludger Beerbaum, already had four on the board with Chacon before getting four more for an awkward jump at the last and then hitting the deck when Chacon mistakenly took on part of the double at fence five in the wrong direction. The man who claimed Germany’s first-ever FEI World Cup™ title back in 1993 is under medical care with an open shoulder fracture, and the horse world is wishing him a very swift recovery.

Two more former World Cup champions, Beerbaum’s fellow-countrymen Christian Ahlmann with Taloubet Z and Daniel Deusser with Cornet d’Amour, led the way against the clock with Deusser setting the standard when clear in 40.51 seconds. But Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann and Mary Lou were almost two seconds quicker when breaking the beam in 38.74 to put it up to the rest of them. Smolders wasn’t intimidated, however, stopping the clock on 38.19, so when de Luca and Halifax van het Kluizebos were clear in 39.97 seconds and Frenchman Roger Yves Bost posed no challenge in 42.17 seconds it was game over.

As 2018 begins and with just four of the 13 Western European league qualifiers remaining, the next taking place in Leipzig (GER) on 21 January, Smolders has 25 points on the board and may re-think his new year agenda.

“I wasn’t planning to go to the Final in Paris but now we might have a meeting and set some new goals,” he said. “I will do a few qualifiers anyway and I want to get Emerald out to a few shows, maybe get him ready by Gothenburg (in February) if I can. We will see, but this win is the perfect end to a great year for me!” said the delighted winner.

By Louise Parkes

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Shannon Gibbons
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shannon.gibbons@fei.org
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