Category Archives: FEI

LOTTO Strzegom Horse Trials: The Countdown Is On!

Photo: Mariusz Chmieliński.

The competition for valuable points in the third leg of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup and the fight for the medals of the Polish Championship takes place in Morawa.

The LOTTO Strzegom Horse Trials competition will start with almost 350 horses at the start, nine cross-country tracks, riders representing 22 countries, and great riders, including the current Olympic champion.

The equestrian triathlon, as eventing is often called, is one of the most spectacular horse sports. It consists of three tests: Dressage, Cross-country, and Show Jumping. During the four days of the tournament, the horse and rider combinations will compete in ten international classes, ranging from one to four stars, including the FEI Eventing Nations Cup. The show will also be the playground of the Polish Championships of seniors, young riders, and juniors.

The arenas of Strzegom will host, among others, the current Olympic champion, Julia Krajewski from Germany, her compatriot Andreas Dibowski, the team Olympic gold medalist, as well as Jonelle and Tim Price from New Zealand, currently fifth and sixth in the world ranking of the International Equestrian Federation. We will also see the leading Polish athletes, members of the national team, including Mateusz Kiempa, Jan Kamiński, Małgorzata Korycka, and Kamil Rajnert.

On Thursday, the riders will start the competition with the dressage test. The cross-country tests will be held for three days and promise to be exciting. The athletes will have nine routes to face, with a total length of nearly 35 kilometers. Over 240 obstacles with a maximum height of 120 cm will be placed over the courses. The longest route will measure 5700 meters. The last test of the equestrian triathlon, the show jumping, will require extreme precision and technical skills.

“Not only the sports competition promises to be exciting. After two years of the Covid pandemic and restrictions for the public, this year we are opening the stands to the audiences and we are planning many attractions,” says Marcin Konarski, chairman of the Organizing Committee.

Special attractions await the youngest fans. In the Little Fan Zone, kids be able to ride a pony, learn how to groom a horse, and meet the stars of the show. A special part of the program is a mini cross-country, performed by children on ponies, and willing kids will be able to try their hand at the jumping competition on foot.

The competition will be held from 23 to 26 June at the hippodrome in Morawa near Strzegom. Admission to the competition is free. Parking costs PLN 20.

Entries: https://www.strzegomhorsetrials.pl/images/2022/01/LSHT_ENTRIES_CCI_2022.pdf

Timetable: https://www.strzegomhorsetrials.pl/en/time-table.html

Contact:
www.strzegomhorsetrials.pl
press@strzegomhorsetrials.pl

Swiss Steal the Show at St Gallen

Martin Fuchs and Leone Jei (FEI/Martin Dokoupil)

They’d been waiting a long time – a full 26 years since last topping the line-up on home ground at the Grundenmoos Arena – so the Swiss victory in the first leg of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup 2022 Europe Division 1 series at St Gallen was extra-sweet.

Even though they were lying equal-second with The Netherlands and Norway carrying eight faults at the halfway stage of the eight-nation contest, Michel Sorg’s side was filled with confidence. In the end, three second-round clears wrapped it up.

Whip hand

Great Britain had the whip hand at the halfway stage when, with only the best three scores counting for each team, they could drop one of the four-fault efforts posted by Joseph Stockdale (Equine America Caaharel) and Jack Whitaker (Equine America Valmy de la Lane), because pathfinder Harry Charles (Casquo Blue) and anchorman John Whitaker (Equine America Unick du Francport) were both foot-perfect.

But Stockdale was the only member of Di Lampard’s side to keep a clean sheet second time out when they were forced to add eight faults to their scoreline for a final tally of 12. And The Netherlands’ Jack Ansems (Fliere Fluiter), Sanne Thijssen (Con Quidam RB), Jur Vrieling (Long John Silver), and Marc Houtzager (Sterrehof’s Dante) overtook them for runner-up spot when finishing on the same score but in a quicker time.

Team Germany finished fourth on 16 faults, Belgium finished fifth ahead of Brazil with a faster 20-fault result, Norway racked up 24 for seventh spot, and Austria finished eighth and last on a total of 28.

Pressure

It came right down to the last rider into the ring to decide the result, all the pressure piling onto the capable shoulders of the legendary John Whitaker who could force a jump-off with the eventual winners if he could steer a second clear course over Gerard Lachat’s 12-fence track. Both Harry Charles and his nephew Jack Whitaker had collected four faults apiece this time out, but if Uncle John could add another zero to Stockdale’s clear, then it would go to a third-round head-to-head to decide the result.

It was looking really good until Unick du Francport clipped the middle element of the triple combination, leaving the cool, calm Swiss clear winners, adding nothing more to their first-round scoreline.

They were favourites from the outset, and the double-clear posted by pathfinders Martin Fuchs and Leone Jei proved pivotal. The Swiss star, who turns 30 next month and who recently added the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ title to the individual European gold medal he bagged last September, produced two spectacular rounds, while team-mate, 20-year-old Edouard Schmitz, followed a first-round mistake with Quon at the first element of the double at fence four with a brilliant run at their second attempt.

Pius Schwizer was looking foot-perfect until lowering the final two fences in round one, but produced a copybook second effort with Vancouver de Lanlore. The enthusiastic spectators gasped in disbelief when Swiss anchor Steve Guerdat made it all the way to the last with Venard du Cerisy in round one only for that to fall, and as it happened, the 2012 Olympic champion didn’t need to jump again because the job was done and dusted.

History-making

There was a real sense of history-making and Fuchs was delighted to be part of it. “Whenever I was on the team in St Gallen we never won, but we said this year now we have to win, and finally we did it!

“We were confident because Edoaurd’s horse jumped really well and Pius’ horse too, and we changed his plan for the second round to put an extra stride in the last line. And Steve had one rail at the last fence, so we all thought he would deliver in the second round, but in the end, he didn’t need to go,” he explained.

Lachat’s course certainly played its part, the line from fences six to eight proving particularly influential. “After the water jump (fence 6), there was the plank and then a short five strides to a liverpool oxer – you needed good rideability and a careful horse, and you needed scope for the oxer, so this kind of asked everything of the horse and rider,” he pointed out.

Big moment

It was a big moment posting this historic result in front of the home crowd.

“We knew we had a strong team as we were already good in the Grand Prix. I think the crowd knew that as well and they really cheered for us this afternoon. This is an amazing feeling. I felt my horse was super today and I’m happy we could contribute to this home win!” Fuchs added, while Schmitz said, “I will never forget this day!”

Guerdat was quietly happy with the result too. “I’m now a little older, so my fault at the last fence in the first round bothered me a little less than it used to! In the Nations Cup at the end, it is the team result that counts and it worked out today. It has been a great show, with great public, perfect organisation, and very nice courses from Gerard. We will have nice memories from this weekend for sure!” he said.

Swiss Chef d’Equipe Michel Sorg also had plenty to be happy about. “Edouard was already good in the Grand Prix at La Baule a few weeks ago and again here on Saturday – I am really happy that he confirmed that here today and I’m really proud of all my team!” he said.

Result here.

by Louise Parkes

Media contact:

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

Ireland Cruises in Canada

Andrew Bourns (IRL) riding Seatop Blue (FEI/Mackenzie Clark)

As the rain began to fall on course for the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Canada, the Irish felt right at home.

Langley, British Columbia’s Thunderbird Show Park hosted six teams for the final leg of the North and Central America and Caribbean division of the Nations Cup series, but none could put enough pressure on the four-man squad of Daniel Coyle (Legacy), Shane Sweetnam (James Kann Cruz), Andrew Bourns, and Conor Swail (Count Me In). Led by Chef d’Equipe Michael Blake, the group finished on just five faults. It was a closer race for the remaining podium placings, as Mexico rallied for second (13 faults) ahead of Australia (22).

“You’ve got to be careful — for me anyway — in the Nations Cup not to get too complacent in the second round. We had a great first round, but a lot of other teams got stronger in the second round. We had to come back just as strong,” said Bourns.

Peter Holmes’ technical 1.60m track offered little breathing room, which led to rails falling throughout his winding course. As other teams struggled to crack the code to a clear round, Ireland quickly pulled ahead, finishing the first round with just four faults against them and two rails in hand. The group would only draw off in the second round, as Coyle improved upon a four-fault score to jump clear and Bourns produced one of just two double-clear efforts on the day aboard Seatop Blue. When Sweetnam added just a single time fault aboard his exciting 9-year-old James Kann Cruz, it clinched the win for the team. Team anchor and World No. 5 Swail did not even need to jump a second round with his partner from the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Finals, Count Me In, despite Mexico adding just 1 fault to their total in Round 2.

“Obviously we have got good depth, and I’m so lucky to have such a good bunch of people,” Blake said. “It’s very easy to drive a good car, and we’ve got one here.”

Ireland has made the podium in every Nations Cup event at the venue since 2017, including a 2018 victory. Swail and Coyle were on that squad and bookended their teammates, who delivered with meaningful mounts. James Kann Cruz excelled in the Irish Sport Horse gelding’s Nations Cup debut, while Bourns recorded his first Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ victory with a horse that his parents picked out as a foal.

“My father is here, so it’s a real family affair,” Bourns said. “I have to say, [Seatop Blue] is just as part of the family as I am.”

FULL RESULTS

By Catie Staszak

FEI Media Contact:

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

Houghton Hall Proves a Happy Hunting Ground for Home Talent

Tom McEwen and Bob Chaplin. (FEI/Libby Law)

A team consisting of multi-medalled riders and young talent scored a home win at Houghton Hall (GBR) in the second leg of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™. Team GB finished on a three-phase score of 114.0 penalties, a narrow margin over an all-female US team in second on 117.9. Sweden, another all-female quartet, were not far behind on 122.0 penalties, and are now Series leaders on 160 points after a third placing in the first leg, Pratoni del Vivaro (ITA). Britain and Switzerland are in joint second place in the current Series Standings, on 100 points.

Tom McEwen, who won team gold and individual silver medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, led the CCI-S 4* section from start to finish. He was joined by Piggy March, who won team gold and individual silver at last year’s European Championships, and two younger riders who were making their Senior Team debut for Great Britain, although 22-year-olds Heidi Coy and Phoebe Locke have both had success on Youth Teams at the European Championships. Locke was unfortunate to fall off another horse earlier in the day, and was stood down by medics from competing, so her team horse was withdrawn. Despite the precaution, Locke is reported to be in good medical health.

Coy, the daughter of Dairy Farmer, is based with her horses on the family farm in Leicestershire which produces milk for Stilton Cheese. Her double clear to finish third individually on the diminutive mare, Russal Z, was a substantial help to the team. “I have produced her up the levels. The pressure was there. I didn’t want to let my team, my horse, or my owners down. I was mainly thrilled with her fantastic dressage score because this has always been her weaker phase. To follow it up with a double clear — you can’t ask for much more. She has a heart of gold and she tries her best for you even though she looks like a little pony – she is only 15.3hh. I’m so grateful to be on a team with the likes of Piggy and Tom. Phoebe and I did Young Riders and Pony Teams together, so it’s nice for us to be on this team together.”

McEwen, who also scored the fastest cross-country time of the day on Bob Chaplin, summed up the performance: “We were down to three members for the cross-country after poor Phoebe withdrew, but the team has done amazingly. The British team has such strength and depth, they could pick many teams. I was really pleased with my horse Bob, who is off to Luhmuhlen to do his first five-star. He has been phenomenal this year, so I am looking forward to it.”

Discussing the significance of The Nations Cup Series, McEwen said: “They are great for introducing younger people on teams. It’s a good way for them to gain experience and also for everyone to get the swing of things when it comes to team competitions. Otherwise, it comes around once a year and it all feels rather important.”

The FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing Series moves to Strzegom (POL) from 22-26 June, the third of nine events in the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ Series.

Full results here.

by Eleanore Kelly

Media contact:

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

Sweden Takes Command in Compiègne

Antonia Ramel (SWE) and Curiosity. (FEI/Laurent Zabulon)

Heading into the final day of competition at the FEI Dressage Nations Cup™ in Compiègne (FRA), it was apparent it would take a monumental shift in momentum for Sweden to relinquish its grasp on the lead. Still, the dominance with which the squad of Juliette Ramel (Buriel K.H.), Antonia Ramel (Curiosity), and Patrik Kittel (Touchdown), led by Chef d’Equipe Jo Bena, executed victory was eye-opening. When Kittel and Touchdown received an 82.025 percent score for their Freestyle, it left Sweden’s final margin of victory at 32 points. Spain (48 points) finished second, with Belgium (51 points) third.

The win marked the third for Sweden at Compiègne in the last five years, having also triumphed in 2018 and 2021.

“We were a bit ahead of the others this time, and I’m very happy about that. They are doing so well in the ring and also in their training, and it looks very promising for the future,” said Chef d’Equipe Jo Bena (SWE).

Each point was equal to an athlete’s placing, with lower numbers reflecting top performances. All athletes competed in Saturday’s Grand Prix before splitting across Sunday’s Grand Prix Special and Grand Prix Freestyle tests, with the three best results tallied. No Swedish rider received a point tally in double digits, with all three making the podium in at least one test. After recording just 10 points from the Grand Prix, Sweden was even more dominant on Sunday, adding just six points to their score. While Kittel was the highest placing Nations Cup rider in the Grand Prix Freestyle, Juliet Ramel finished second in the Special (75.277%), with Antonia Ramel just behind her in third (72.043%).

“The horses have done very fault-free tests, and if there have been small faults, we have still be able to pick it up with high points,” Kittel said. “I think that’s what I’m most happy with. The thing is: the horses have all just been there for us through the entire weekend.”

Sweden put forth a squad of veteran riders — each an Olympic veteran — but the horses brought forward were mixed in experience. Touchdown had only performed two previous Freestyle tests at the CDI5* level and had never before contested a CDIO event. Curiosity, formerly trained in jumping, is also new to the level, having represented Sweden in one previous Nations Cup event at Aachen (GER).

“He’s been with me for a long time,” Antonia said. “He was in the beginning a jumping horse, which he did until he was six. I’ve educated him on my own, and I’ve had him now for seven years.”

With three appearances in the Olympic Games and a bronze medal from the European Championships, Buriel K.H. stood tall as the equine veteran of the group. The gelding performed with remarkable consistency, recording just 3 points in the Grand Prix (75.391%) and two points in the Grand Prix Special.

“He’s an amazing character. He always has my back,” Juliette said. “I’ve had him since he was 7; now he’s 16. So we’ve had a long partnership.”

Sweden’s win put them atop the standings for the 2022 FEI Dressage Nations Cup™ season with 15 points. Spain sits second with 13 points, two ahead of Belgium (11 points). The FEI Dressage Nations Cup™ returns 23-26 June in Rotterdam (BEL).

“It means a lot [to start the season strongly]. It’s always good to have a victory in a five-star Nations Cup to start with, and then we can go on with the rest,” Bena said. “And we have been lucky and also good, I would say, [in previous years], because we have won in Compiègne before. We like it very much here.”

By Catie Staszak

FEI Media Contact:

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

Swiss Team Prove Age Is No Barrier in Eventing with Nations Cup Win

L to R: Beat Sax, Mélody Johner, Nadja Minder, Robin Godel, and Chef d’equipe Dominik Burger. (FEI/Richard Juilliart)

It was a double victory for the Swiss, when Robin Godel’s Jumping clear round clinched the individual prize and a win for Team Switzerland. This was the first leg of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ and took place in Pratoni del Vivaro (ITA). France, who were overnight leaders going into the final day, finished a close second, and Sweden, who were overall winners of the Series in 2021, finished third. The home side Italy was fifth.

It was a tense finish after the French team left Godel no room for error in the Jumping phase. The 23-year-old athlete kept his cool on Grandeur de Lully CH, to incur just one time penalty which sealed the deal for his team. “I was very focused, but I tried to have only good pressure,” he said after his round. “It was an amazing week for the team. We did good on the cross-country; the four riders were very impressive and the horses gave all they had. For the World Championships it is exciting.”

Speaking about this as a test event for this year’s FEI World Championships for Eventing, Godel said, “It is amazing here; the ground is wonderful; I have never cantered on ground like this. For the World Championships, we want qualification for Paris (Olympics) and that’s the main focus and for sure we will be going for the podium too.”

Pratoni has proved a happy hunting ground for the Swiss, who won the Nations Cup here in 2019. The team this year consisted of two Nations Cup first timers: 62-year-old Beat Sax, who has just one horse to compete and has been eventing for 45 years, and 20-year-old Nadja Minder. They were joined by Tokyo Olympic riders Godel and Mélody Johner.

Six-time Olympian Andrew Nicholson has been coaching the Swiss team for several years and summed up their performance: “It was outstanding. They keep getting better, more confident, and are pulling together as a team. They are passionate and want to do it and they are making the younger ones hungry, which then pushes the older riders.”

Saturday’s Cross-Country shook up the leaderboard and left it tight at the top. Switzerland finished just 0.1 of a penalty behind France going into the final phase. Germany, who led the way after the dressage phase, was relegated to 9th after just two of their team members completed. Sweden, who was in eighth after the dressage, produced four strong Cross-Country performances to climb to third.

Pratoni del Vivaro will be hosting the FEI World Championships for Eventing and Driving, from 15-25 September. Course Designer Giuseppe della Chiesa and Director of the Championships concluded: “From a sports side the cross-country went well here this week. From the side of the organisation, there’s a lot to do yet but we are getting there, and it was very important to have this competition as a Nations Cup and also as a test event. The nature of the soil here is something unique. Horses love it and if it rains, it doesn’t change it and there are very few places in the world like that. It is an important venue as the Olympic venue in 1960 and is one of the very few Olympic venues which is still used for the same purpose.”

The FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing action moves to Houghton Hall (GBR) from 26-29 May, the second of nine events in the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ Series.

Full results here.

by Eleanore Kelly

Media contact:

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

Fuchs Wins the Title with the Horse of His Heart

(L to R) runner-up Harrie Smolders (NED), winner Martin Fuchs (SUI), and third-placed Jens Fredricson (SWE). (FEI/Richard Juilliart)

Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs was rightly proud when standing top of the podium as winner of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2022 Final in Leipzig, Germany. He came so close to clinching the trophy at the last Final in 2019 when slotting in behind his compatriot and three-time champion Steve Guerdat, and as he said, “I’ve been a couple of times second in Championships, and you obviously have it in mind you could be second again with the best riders in the world coming after me today.”

But in the end, he and his trusty steed Chaplin were the only ones in the leading pack to stand firm in the closing stages. Chaplin gave him everything, and more, over two rounds of tough jumping in which only three of the 30 starters left both courses intact. When Sweden’s Jens Fredricson was one of those, he finished third behind The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders who claimed the second step of the podium.

Held the lead

America’s McLain Ward held the lead as the final day began, but a first-round error with Contagious left the 2017 champion vulnerable. He shared a four-fault tally with Smolders as the second round got underway, with Fuchs stalking the two of them carrying just five and on level pegging with young British star Harry Charles riding Romeo.

But a pole off the first element of the triple combination second time out saw Charles lose his grip, and when Smolders’ gelding, Monaco, clipped the following vertical, then Fuchs was quickly moving up the order.

Ward had no leeway now when last to go; any mistake would see his advantage unravel, and when his 13-year-old gelding lowered the middle element of the triple combination and also the white planks three fences from home, Fuchs had it in the bag, becoming only the fourth Swiss rider in the long history of the FEI Jumping World Cup series to hold the trophy aloft.

He rode Chaplin in Thursday’s first competition but swapped for The Sinner in Friday’s second leg. “After having a rail down on Friday, I wasn’t so sure I had made the right plan. But then I was still sitting in third place, so I thought two clear rounds with Chaplin on Sunday and we’ll be on the podium.

“That I end up winning this prestigious and historical competition obviously is a dream come true. All the best of the best riders’ names are written on this trophy and now to add mine is fantastic!” he said. He is the second member of the Fuchs family to win it; his uncle Markus Fuchs took the title with the brilliant Tinka’s Boy back in 2001.

Upset

Talking about losing his lead in Friday’s competition but somehow holding on for victory, he said, “When I came out on Friday, I walked to the warm-up and was pretty upset, but then Steve said, ‘Congratulations, now you must win on Sunday after what you did today!’ In hindsight when I looked at the video of my round, I was very happy, though obviously I was a bit lucky that I ended the course with these four points. It was a good plan that Chaplin had two days of rest and came back today to produce two clear rounds”

This was Smolders’ second time to finish in runner-up spot; his last was partnering Emerald back in 2016 when Guerdat posted the first of his three wins. But the Dutchman was delighted with his horse. “This was his first Championship, and I wasn’t sure how it would be. We knew he could do it one day, but over three days it’s a totally different story. He was coping with it very easily, so I think this won’t be his last Championship,” the delighted Dutchman said.

Plenty to celebrate

Meanwhile, Jens Fredricson also had plenty to celebrate. The older brother of Swedish phenomenon Peder Fredricson never touched a pole, and although others may have been surprised to see him on the podium, he wasn’t a bit surprised himself. He was lying ninth as the day began, and he and his horse, Markan Cosmopolit, were in spectacular form.

“I had great expectations actually and I enjoyed every second; it’s fantastic to be here doing what I love!” he said.

He describes himself as a “hobby rider” but his CV would suggest he’s long been a serious contender with a lifetime of international successes behind him. “I work at Flyinge and Stromsholm. I’m responsible for the next generation of riding instructors in Sweden,” he explained.

His last time at an FEI World Cup Final was on home ground in Gothenburg in 2013, and he admitted he’s made quite a few changes to his riding style since then. Partly due to the influence of his younger brother, Peder.

“I had the advantage of watching him going up to World No. 1. We talked almost every day so even if I wasn’t at the shows, I was there mentally. I followed his thinking and his development and I tried to do the same things, and I’ve changed a little bit my approach to the fences, and I now have a horse with very big scope. So I can sit a bit more still and have a better style. Before I used to throw my heart over and then we went over together; now when I look at the videos of my riding and it looks quite okay! I’m blessed that I have such good contact with my little brother. One of the most fantastic things in our sport is that I’m 55 years old and getting better every day. If I was running 100 metres, I would be less good every day!” he said with a laugh.

He also pointed out how great it is to see the younger generation rising through the ranks. “You want young riders coming up; there are some in their 20s like Jack (Whitaker, GBR) and Harry (Charles, GBR) and others. It’s important to have positive young riders coming along with good horses; that’s how the sport develops and gets better,” he pointed out.

Biggest names

Fuchs of course is one of those, not yet 30 but already one of the very biggest names in the sport. Over the last five years he has rarely been off the podium at any of the majors, taking individual silver at the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2018, runner-up at the last World Cup Final in 2019, and following with individual European gold that same year before taking team gold and individual silver at the FEI European Championships in 2021. Now he’s topped all that by taking the trophy every rider treasures: the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup.

And he did it with the big, brave, and charming Chaplin who he calls “the horse of my heart!” Many of the Swiss rider’s biggest wins were achieved with his brilliant grey Clooney who he describes as “a superstar and the most talented horse I’ve ever had.” But Chaplin is also super-special.

“He is just the biggest fighter; he doesn’t have the ability that Clooney has, but at the end he always gives everything. It was nice in the past few weeks because we got a lot of photos of his first foals, because last year he started breeding with some mares, so in the last two weeks we have a lot of pictures of new Chaplin babies so that was exciting. And now to come here and win the World Cup Final with him….”

For sure that is a dream come true.

Result here.

by Louise Parkes

Media contact:

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

Bram Storms Round to Become FEI Driving World Cup Champion

L-R: Boyd Exell (AUS) in second place, Bram Chardon (NED) World Cup Champion, and Glenn Geerts (BEL) in third place. (FEI/Richard Juilliart)

In one of the tightest finals in recent history, Bram Chardon (NED) brilliantly held his nerve and clinched his second FEI Driving World Cup™ title in an exhilarating drive off against reigning champion Boyd Exell (AUS) and Glen Geerts (BEL). After a cat and mouse game of swapping positions between the two favourites, it was the 28-year-old soon-to-be father who triumphed in Leipzig.

“I was a bit disappointed about the two knock-downs and I thought I gave Boyd too much room to win. After Friday I was so confident and to have the two faults made me worry a little bit about my final position, but this is amazing and I am so happy!” said Chardon.

After the first round, held late on Friday night in the Leipziger Messe arena, Bram was ahead of Boyd by just under 8 seconds, so started Sunday’s second round on zero. Each driver carried over 50% of the difference between their score and Bram’s going into the final day and as the tension mounted, Boyd, with a penalty score of 3.78, stated, “It’s less than one ball down between us!”

Former champion Koos de Ronde (NED) was the first to drive Jeroen Houterman’s (NED) twisting course, the route unchanged since Friday but the position of some of the obstacles slightly altered. Koos had paid the price for his attacking approach on Friday, clocking up a penalty of 18.99 to carry forward. Back on his usual smooth form, he only nudged one ball, and in a time of 143.19 finished fifth on 166.18.  Next in was Mareike Harm (GER), the first female to compete in an indoor FEI Driving final. Her horses, who she also drives at outdoor events, were off pace in 155.51 and with one ball off, plus a penalty of 14.05, she dropped to seventh on 173.56.

Wild card driver Michael Brauchle (GER), who had set a competitive time on Friday, rolled three balls to add to his time of 144.22, plus a penalty of 10.57 to finish sixth on 166.79.  As the fourth starter, Glen Geerts (BEL) carried over 10.27 but drove a fantastic clear and finished on 148.89 to put himself into the final three. Belgian teammate Dries Degrieck, in his first FEI indoor season, dropped out of contention for the drive off with an unlucky ball on the final obstacle number 13, which cost him the valuable place as he finished behind Glen on 159.68.

As the intensity in the arena grew, Boyd pulled off one of the best rounds of the competition to close the gap between him and Bram. Leaving all the balls on top, he clocked up a time of 132.42, which plus his penalty put him on 136.2.

Admitting that he was extremely nervous, Bram drew on all his experience and matchplay to drive an even faster time of 132.33 but knocking one ball, finished on 136.33, which flipped the order and put Boyd into first place ahead of the drive off between the best three.

The enthusiastic crowd got behind the drivers and increased the already electrifying atmosphere, clapping to the beat of the music. First in was Glen, with his big outdoor horses, who he says are 1.5m longer and up to 20cm higher than the other teams. Having not considered that he would be in the drive off, he said after that he hadn’t thought about the different routes in obstacles 5 & 9 when two gates were taken out. While in 5, he knocked cone 6, so the clock was stopped and he was given an additional 10 penalties. He started again, having taken the foot off the pace, and with another ball down, ended his competition in third place on 323.73.

Bram re-entered the arena and rising to the challenge, produced another exceptional round in 118.39, knocking one ball. But he had done enough to really apply the pressure to Boyd.

All eyes were on the Australian, who was aiming to take his tenth indoor title, and he began in convincing style with all those watching believing that he would retain his title. Yet everyone gasped as right at the end, his horses lost balance between the final two obstacles and he hit cone two, rolling the ball, which crowned Bram World Champion.

In a rousing gesture during the prizegiving, the loudest cheer went to Bram’s proud father, the legendary Ijsbrand Chardon, multiple champion, who came in to hold the reins while Bram took to the podium. After receiving their prizes, champagne was sprayed around then the three drivers performed their famous ‘showboat’ before Bram was left alone to absorb the cheers from an adoring audience and exit at the gallop with his stunning grey horses wearing their new, red winners’ rugs.

Still grinning at the press conference, Bram commented that it was fantastic to have Mareike in the final, and he hoped it went to prove that driving a four-in-hand wasn’t all about strength, but as much about the training and getting the equipment right.

A fitting finale to a fantastic competition, after a much-shortened season, the drivers are now looking towards the outdoor event at Kronenberg (NED). All being well, we can look forward to a full programme of FEI Driving World Cup™ events for the 2022-23 season and much more excitement in this riveting contest between the world’s very best.

Full results here.

by Sarah Dance

FEI Media Contact:

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

Von Bredow-Werndl and Dalera Triumph, while Werth Retires Weihegold in Style

Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (FEI/Richard Juilliart)

There’s nothing like a big win on home ground, but there’s also nothing like retiring a superstar horse in front of a wildly enthusiastic crowd, so the Freestyle finale had it all when Jessica von Bredow-Werndl steered Dalera to victory at the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final 2022 where the sport said a rousing farewell to Isabell Werth’s great mare, Weihegold OLD.

The Leipzig Messe was electric with excitement all night, and some of the equine stars shrank under the intensity of the noisy atmosphere during the first half of the competition.

But when it came down to the wire the big names really rose to the occasion, and it was Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour who lined up second with her new young star Vamos Amigos, while Werth and Weihegold finished third.

Raised the bar

Werth raised the bar when putting a score of 85.921 on the board when fifth-last to go in the field of 17, Weihegold producing a stunning test that was full of energy and beautifully ridden by the lady long known as “The Queen” of dressage. The knowledgeable crowd was with them every step of the way, knowing that this was their last performance together as the mare was to be retired. When they came to a halt, the crowd rose to their feet with an enormous roar to acknowledge them.

Team gold and individual silver at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, European team gold in 2017, three FEI Dressage World Cup™ titles in a row including the last one in 2019, and team gold at last year’s European Championships in Hagen (GER) amongst their many achievements – their record has been extraordinary.

Denmark’s Nanna Skodborg Merrald followed with an impressive performance from the big-moving Atterupgaards Orthilia, who posted 81.239 for second place temporarily; next in was her compatriot, Carina Cassøe Krüth, whose ride on the light-footed, loose-limbed Heiline’s Danciera included fearlessly forward one-tempi changes. The crowd held their breath until the scoreboard showed 84.971 – Werth was still out in front.

Looked threatening

However, the last of the Danes had yet to come, and Cathrine Dufour always looked threatening when steering Vamos Amigo through a brilliant test, although clearly she wasn’t pushing the 10-year-old to the limit in extended canter. It was no wonder because, as she said afterwards, “He was a bomb today for sure!” He certainly looked explosive but contained himself to the very end and, once his rider relaxed the rein, wandered out the arena like he’d heard a crowd like this a million times. He certainly hasn’t though.

“He’s never been in a ring as full as this before; he was really brave today!” Dufour said with delight.

But the story certainly wasn’t over yet because the lady who has dominated the podiums at both the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and the European Championships last summer was yet to take her turn.

Crest of a wave

Jessica von Bredow-Werndl arrived in Leipzig for this week’s Final on the crest of a wave but, as she pointed out, a little “rounder” than usual because she is expecting her second baby to arrive in a few months’ time. However, the little bit of extra weight wasn’t bothering Dalera as the pair executed yet another exquisite test that demonstrated the delightful harmony between these two.

The balance, rhythm, accuracy, and lightness, and the drama of their tempi changes all came together to present the loveliest picture, and as they pranced up the final centreline, it was clear the result was done and dusted. When their score of 90.836 was announced the crowd erupted yet again.

Winner von Bredow-Werndl said afterwards, “I just wanted to come here and of course it was my goal to show what we have shown the last couple of months, but it couldn’t have been better to take a little break now and come back soon!”

Dufour joked that she shouldn’t rush returning to the sport after her baby arrives – “Just stay away for a while!” she suggested with an enormous laugh.

The Danes had every reason to be on a high, Dufour filling second spot, Cassøe Krüth finishing fourth, and Skodborg Merrald lining up in fifth place, while Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg had to settle for sixth. It was a show of mighty strength from Denmark, and it’s a real shot in the arm ahead of this summer’s World Dressage Championships on their home ground in Herning in four months’ time.

Really fantastic

“It’s really fantastic to see how the system in Denmark has gone so well over last four or five years, and you clearly see what has been produced – riders bringing young horses to the top; the two girls that are here are really cool and they can perform under pressure, myself included, and of course we love to put pressure on the girls sitting here!” she said, looking at Werth and von Bredow-Werndl.

“But there is still some way to go; we saw that in 2020 suddenly things change, so for now we are going to keep the horses sharp, try to make a good plan, and then really just enjoy that the Championship is going to be on Danish soil. That is quite fantastic in itself, and we are looking forward to inviting everyone for a great battle and great sport,” Dufour added.

When asked about the Ukrainian flag she had pinned to her tailcoat, she explained, “There is an awful situation going on right now, so I’m wearing it to show support to the people affected by this crazy war.” Newly-crowned champion, von Bredow-Werndl, leaned forward in agreement and added, “We all carry that flag in our hearts.”

Flowing again

After the prizegiving, the emotions were flowing again when Werth and Weihegold entered the arena for the mare’s retirement ceremony. “When you are in a competition you are focused on that, and of course the last line (of their Freestyle) was also quite emotional and when they gave Weihe the standing ovation that was very great. But to go in with the team of people who have been around for the last seven or eight years – that was really emotional, to feel the atmosphere,” Werth said. However, she felt it was the perfect send-off in the end. “It was what you wish for a horse like her, to give her the last honour – it was just super!” she added.

Meanwhile, von Bredow-Werndl reflected on the performance from Dalera that made success possible. “There are no words! She was phenomenal – she always leaves her heart for me in that square (in the arena), and it is not natural at all, and at the same time she does it again and again. I have the feeling even now that we are not yet at the end of our journey together!” said the athlete who believes her mare has even more room for improvement, and who became the sixth German athlete to win the coveted FEI Dressage World Cup™ trophy since the first Final took place back in 1986.

Result here.

by Louise Parkes

Media contact:

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

Lupacchini Steals the Title for Italy

Lorenzo Lupacchini (ITA) and Rosenstolz 99 (FEI/Richard Juilliart)

Under the lights of the Leipziger Messe, the 2022 FEI Vaulting World Cup™ Champions were crowned. No-one could keep French Manon Moutinho from the female title, whilst Lorenzo Lupacchini took his chance to bring home the glory for Italy. Janika Derks and Johannes Kay gave a spine-tingling ultimate performance to win the Pas de Deux.

After a great start in the Technical Test the trio of Manon Moutinho, Corrine Bosshard, and Saitiri pulled out a show stopping Free Test with a perfect artistic score to win the final on 8.431.  “I am really happy. I could not have expected more from me, my horse, or my lunger. It was a really good experience to start this new season 2022. There is still some work to do, but we are only in April and I am very pleased.”

Bringing back her 2019 winning freestyle theme wasn’t enough for German defending champion Janika Derks.  She had to settle for second place, 8.257.  Making her mark in her first individual World Cup final, Kimberly Palmer (USA) was one of only three female individuals scoring over 8 points and finished in third place (8.009).

The men’s competition went to a tense finish. After slipping from the horse in one of his risk exercises, Lambert Leclezio (FRA) (8.628) had to watch the title go to Lorenzo Lupacchini (8.795). The Italian barely lost a point as he performed gracefully on top of Rosenstolz.

“I am really really happy because I didn’t expect this result. I just participated for enjoying. I was on the third place so far, so I had nothing to lose and nothing to win. So I tried to give emotions and not only exercise,” said Lupacchini.

He becomes one of only two athletes to have won the FEI World Cup™ Final in the Individual and Pas de Deux class. Jannik Heiland completed the podium for Germany (8.019).

An exquisite final performance from the German pair, Janika Derks and Johannes Kay, concluded the FEI Vaulting World Cup™ Final as well as their vaulting careers. Alongside Nina Vorberg and Humphrey Bogart OLD, they left the audience with goosebumps as they became World Cup Winners (8.754). Screaming with delight as he landed his final dismount, Johannes later summed up his experience “Yes, once in my life I competed in the World Cup: that was here and today and that was the last time – and we have won. But winning was not important to me. We made the thing out of it, what we wanted to make out of it. That worked out; we are satisfied… To have found such a beautiful conclusion, in such a beautiful atmosphere – it doesn’t get any better than that.”

Romana Hintner and Eva Nagiller managed to improve on their first round performance to move up into second place (8.016) leaving Chiara Congia and Justin van Gerven in third (7.960).

It has been an historic Final in Leipzig. France and Italy each took the title for the first time in their respective classes. Wrapping up the experience and marking the career end for Janika Derks: “I think we have achieved exactly what we wanted to achieve here again: having fun with the sport, just enjoying it – this was just the perfect show for both of us to find closure for us.”

Full results here.

by Joanne Eccles MBE

FEI Media Contact:

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