Belgian Laurence Vanommeslaghe Takes Wellington By Storm, CDI 4* Kur Victory with Personal Best

Sat, 02/12/2022 - 11:18
2022 CDI-W Wellington - Global Dressage Festival / Week 5
Laurence Vanommeslaghe and Edison win the 4* Kur at the 2022 CDI-W Wellington Week 5 :: Photo © Sue Stickle

Belgian Grand Prix rider Laurence Vanommeslaghe is taking the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington by storm. At her first CDI show on American soil, she and her KWPN gelding Edison finished third in the Grand Prix (70.609%) and made a bang by winning last night's 4* Grand Prix kur to music.

Vanommeslaghe and Edison (by Johnson x Balzflug) achieved their first-ever CDI victory and a career best of 79.115%, just edging out the winners of the qualifying Grand Prix, Frederic Wandres (GER) and Bluetooth OLD, who were second with 79.045%. Third-placed Benjamin Ebeling — last to go of the 10 riders — clinched third riding Illuster Van De Kampert to 77.370% for the USA.

Captured the Heart of the Crowds

After the pandemic-induced drought of shows, the spectators were keen to show their support, and almost immediately after Vanommeslaghe began her test, whoops rang out, and the crowd clapped along to her bold heavy metal-themed soundtrack.

“I was so delighted,” beamed Vanommeslaghe. “I was very tense because there was a lot of public for me, and it was our first international show in a long time. I could really feel the support of the crowd. My tension went away when I could hear them. I think the horse likes the music — and the public — he really likes to move in rhythm with the music.”

Judge at C Jane Weatherwax, who awarded over 80%, said: “Music that powerful could be a bit much for the horse, but your horse is so powerful, and it really worked — especially the music for the passage. It was very fun. There was interesting choreography in the class. I think most of the riders chose their degree of difficult wisely and were able to pull it off.”

Game Changer

This was a game-changing result for the Paris-based 50-year-old rider, who was competing outside Europe for the first time and whose previous top score was 75.525% from the spring of 2021. She has had the horse for two years after finding him in Holland.

Laurence and Edison in the Grand Prix
“Unfortunately, the horse was injured before the European Championships [in Hagen in September of 2021], so I had to rest him for several months,” said Vanommeslaghe, who rode the 13-year-old gelding by Glock’s Johnson TN to music by Joost Peters. “That’s why my summer season in Europe ended early and why I decided to come here.

“It’s the first time that my horse flew [on a plane], and this is all a big adventure for me,” she added. “The show is amazing. We will finish the season here and then go back to Europe and try for the Belgian team for the World Championships [in Denmark in August].”

Laurence is not a newcomer to the Belgian team selection. With her now retired Hanoverian gelding Avec Plaisir (by A Jungle Prince x Hitchcock) Vanommeslaghe rode for Belgium at the 2014 World Equestrian Games. She won the 2014 Belgian Championships and was back on the team for the 2015 European Championships. 

Now or Never

With Avec Plaisir at the 2015 European Dressage
Championships in Aachen
Vanommeslaghe, who holds a PhD in political science at the Sorbonne university in Paris, has brought three horses to Wellington: Edison, Havalon (by Hotline x Wolkentanz II), and  Ibanero van de Vogelzang (by Belissimo M x Weinzauber). They arrived at the beginning of January.

Last weekend, Laurence piloted Edison and Havalon into their first test in Wellington, a national Grand Prix class, which she won on Edison with a whopping score of 75.00%. She is training with Christoph Koschel after having worked with his father Jurgen a decade ago.

"About 10 years ago, I trained with Jurgen in Hagen and competed a full winter in Ankum with my first GP horse, my beloved Avec Plaisir," Laurence told Eurodressage. "I had wished to make the trip to Wellington for several years. I have had a short competition season last summer with my horses, and everybody was fit now, so this was a little bit now or never!"

Wandres and Ebeling in Top Three

Second-placed Wandres said of Bluetooth OLD: “I had a very good feeling during the test. For me that’s very important, because I had some shows when I started with him where he was a little bit shy, and I could not take what he offered me in the warm up into the ring. So that is already much better, and we find more and more together.”

Frederic Wandres and Bluetooth
Wandres is another rider on the hunt for a start at the Championships in Herning, and third-placed Ebeling is also eyeing a spot there. Both riders plan to contest the five-star show at AGDF 7.

“It was such a big environment in there tonight,” said Ebeling. “There was a little bit of tension from my horse. The show organizers do such a great job of advertising the show, so of course there was a big audience, and he got a little excited. We had some mistakes related to tension, but overall I was very pleased.”

Olympic medalist Andreas Helgstrand of class sponsor Helgstrand Dressage — who has himself ridden Bluetooth in the past — was impressed by what he saw.

“The quality, especially the second half, was very exciting to see, very close,” he said. “I always love to see horses with good piaffe and passage. Frederic did a super job on Bluetooth, and it was fun to see a horse you have ridden yourself. We want to support the dressage here, in this perfect place.”

-- GDF Press release, edited by Eurodressage
Photos © Sue Stickle - Lily Forado - Astrid Appels

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