- Text by Astrid Appels - Photos © Dirk Caremans
The 2022 World Cup Finals are the winter season highlight competition of the year and set to begin at 19h00 today after being postponed by half an hour.
Euroressage will be posting "quick notes" on the tests
After a whirlwind year of non-stop action in 2021 with the Olympics, European Championships and CDIO Aachen all taking place in a two-month time period, there was a short respite during the autumn of winter before the 2022 World Cup Finals in Leipzig became the next, big meet of the dressage elite.
The World Cup circuit is all about bringing together the best of the best but in a way a feeling of unfair sport is attached to this competition series. The World Cup shows are very much "upon invitation" and good riders from "exotic" nations get very little (to no) opportunity to compete at the CDI-W qualifiers.
While some of the Western European League qualifiers were cancelled due to corona restrictions, in the end plenty of qualifiers took place across Europe, yet still in February the FEI dressage committee altered the criteria for the Finals, making it much easier for the diva's to choose their ride for Leipzig, only requiring one start this season per horse instead of the minimum two.
Also it were sour grapes for early season leader Frederic Wandres, who lost his overnight top spot on the ranking for the finals due to a sudden rule change. Only if he decided to bend over backwards and cut his Florida business trip short to pump up his horse for an extra qualifier, he could have made it.
Head to Head
In the end the starters field for the 2022 World Cup Finals brought little surprise and the exciting title match to look forward to is another head to head between Olympic champion Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and the world's most decorated dressage rider, Isabell Werth.
Werth has been a perpetual winner and key player for Germany since the start of her career, only experiencing a lul in her career in the mid 2000s. The rise of Von Bredow-Werndl must have been a shock as the young star from Bavaria and her Swiss owned Trakehner mare now appear untouchable at the moment, even for the legend that Werth is. It will all come down to flawless riding in Leipzig.
Let the Games Begin
keep checking in for quick notes from the Short Grand Prix as I will add commentary and impressions to this article as the class moves along...
American rookie Anna Buffini made her World Cup debut on the 15-year old Hanoverian mare Davinia la Douche (by Don Frederico x A Jungle Prince). The pair produced a respectable round with no major bobbles, but overall there could have been more forward energy and flow. The piaffes were a bit back-stepping, the zig zag laboured, and in passage the mare keeps the hindlegs out, but Buffini succeeded at achieving a polished round which earned her 69.643%.
French double Olympian Morgan Barbançon and her 16-year old Oldenburg Sir Donnerhall II (by Sandro Hit x Donnerhall) is riding her fourth World Cup Finals. The Swiss based rider unlocked a new level of presenting her long legged stallion. They showed big sweeping half passes and correct extended trots with the poll as highest point. The passage is floaty, but the piaffe stays a bit earthbound. The one tempi changes were delightful, the pirouettes had much scope, but could have been a bit quicker in the striding. They scored 71.936%.
Florida based Yvonne Losos de Muniz (DOM) qualified for the World Cup Finals as the non-league rider. In her 17-year old Dutch mare Aquamarijn (by United x Gribaldi) Yvonne has a real pocket rocket.. There is tons of shoulder freedom in the extended trot, but there could be more overtrack. The mare really crossed the legs in the half passes, but did not properly relax in the extended walk. The two time changes were correct but the mare swung in the hindquaters, the ones were much better. The pirouettes were a bit big. Aquamarijn is quick and off the ground in the passage. The got 71.355%.
Dutch based Yessin Rahmouni (MOR) and Willeke Bos' 12-year old licensed stallion All at Once (by Ampere x Gribaldi) rode their first World Cup final after keeping in Tokyo last year. The black stallion is highly talented, but started with a halt that was not square and the rhythm in the right half pass could have been more regular. The passage was elegant and lightfooted, the piaffe leaned a bit on the shoulders instead of sitting frol behind. There was hardly any extended walk or lengthening of the neck shown. The zig zag was well controlled. The tempi changes have a very nice expression, but the horse got tight and behind the vertical. The final centerline was nice and elegant. He got 69.806%
Next to go is Danish Nanna Skodborg Merrald, who opted to ride Agnete Kirk Thinggaard's 17-year old Oldenburg mare Atterupgaards Orthilia (by Gribaldi x Donnerschlag). Out of the five first combinations this is already the third horse with Gribaldi blood !! The mare is again excessively frothing foam from her restless and often gaping mouth. The muzzle is covered in this white fluff. The mare is very classy in her way of going, with lovely piaffe-passage and well regulated trot extensions. The extended walk had good overtrack, the collected stayed clear in the rhythm. The canter work was very precise with small pirouettes, good one tempi changes, nice relaxed canter extension. The final centerline had great passage, nice sit in the piaffe although the head and mouth need to be more quiet for even bigger points. Square but stretched final halt. Good ride. 75.752%.
Dutch Thamar Zweistra chose her younger Grand Prix horse Hexagon's Ich Weiss for the World Cup Finals instead of Double Dutch. The 9-year old by Rubiquil x Negro is in his second year at international Grand Prix level. The grey stallion doesn't have the most streamlined, modern topline, but the horse has a lot of energy and willingness to go. The passage is off the ground, the trot half passes covered good ground. In the piaffes he still comes too much on the forehand though. He showed big, straight tempi changes, good sit in the right pirouette, but he blocked a bit at the onset of the left one. 70.902% came on the board.
It's busy times for Dutch based Brit Charlotte Fry. Last weekend she was showing Glamourdale and Inclusive at the CDI Opglabbeek in Belgium and now she's presenting her 2019 British team horse Dark Legend (by Zucchero x Tango) in her first World Cup final! They showed a ground covering trot extension, nice even trot half passes, a good halt and rein back. The passage was even, electric, but in piaffe he becomes narrow and almost steps on his own hooves. The walk could cover more ground. The zig zag was very well ridden, although the exit could have been more polished. The twos were straight, but there were issues in the ones. The length in the neck of the 14-year old was better although the entire test could still be a bit less handheld. The end halt was not square, but he was immobile.
Spaniard Juan Matute Guimon is the youngest rider in Leipzig, aged 24, and competing in his first World Cup Finals with his long-time partner Quantico, a 16-year old Hanoverian by Fighting Fit x Constant that put him on the Spanish team at the 2018 World Equestrian Games. The pair started with a trot extension that was very uneven in the rhythm behind and without overtrack. The half pass right was also not as regular as it should be. Also in the passage he got uneven behind with the left hind leg doing more of the work. There were two hooves overtrack in the extended walk, the collected was clear in the 4-beat rhythm. There was a bit of a wobble in the two's, the right pirouette and one time tempi changes on the centerline were very nicely ridden. In the final piaffe at X the horse was pulling the hocks high instead of taking the weight behind. The final passage was a bit better than the first one. 70.808%
The Short Grand Prix is quite an interesting test: the movements come quick and fast and the ride is over in a flash. There's not time to go for a pee in between rides or even grab a snack as the next one is in the arena before you blink.
Portuguese Olympic sensation Rodrigo Torres and his home-bred 12-year old Lusitano stallion Fogoso HorseCampline (by Rico x Raja) are the first to go after the break. The grey stallion did not achieve sufficient overtrack in the first extension, just having instep. The trot half passes were graceful. The first passage also lacked some regularity behind with more left hindleg activity. The piaffe was on the spot. The extended walk was quick in the tempo but with sufficient overtrack. Torres, who rides with his stirrups touching his ankles, rode correct tempi changes, very secure and small pirouettes with the right one being the better one. The final passage did not look as fresh and quick behind, but in the piaffe the horse knows the trick. The horse always stands calm and collected in the halt with great self confidence. 70.977%
Denmark's Carina Cassoe Kruth and the 11-year old Danish warmblood mare Heiline's Danciera (by Furstenball x De Niro) had a bit of a ride with highlights and issues. They did not stand immobile in the halt at entry, but the trot extension was so supple and bouncy. The left half pass was the smoothest and both had much scope. The passage is very elegant and easy looking, the first piaffe on the other hand was laboured, on the forehand, and travelling forward. The zig zag was well ridden, big straight two tempi changes followed but there was a bobble, the right pirouette was too big, the onset of the ones was a bit difficult and a trip-up followed. The left pirouette was smaller. The final passage was lovely. In the piaffe the more looked insecure with her bopping head and trembling lip. She is super active and up behind (from a side view), but in fact crosses the hindlegs and is not taking the weight. Instead leaning forwards on the shoulders. They got 75.094%, but individual marks ranging from 73.421% (Christensen, DEN) to 77.237 (Fransen Iacobeaus SWE).
Swedish Patrik Kittel and Blue Hors stud's Oldenburg bred Blue Hors Zepter (by Zack x Wolkentanz II) are a new combination but the 14-year old horse is established in the Grand Prix work. They began with a good first trot extension, but a bit of an abrupt exit from the rein back. The piaffe was early to the marker, the passage could be more collected and carrying. The extended walk was clear in the 4-beat rhythm. The zig zag was tidy. The last two tempi change was short behind, there was a double beat in the right pirouette, the left pirouette had better striding. Good extended canter but the transition down to trot was counterbent. Zepter did not really have those hindlegs tucked under in the passage on the final centerline, but the piaffe at X was nice and on the spot. 74.662%.
Defending World Cup champion Isabell Werth had the 17-year old Oldenburg mare Weihegold (by Don Schufro x Sandro Hit) quite light footed in the trot work. A correct trot extension with overtrack, the left half pass was more elastic than the right one, but still good quality. The passage is really lovely, off the ground, regular and stepping under. The piaffe, however, does not have the proper sit. Maybe it's the mare's age that she no longer really wants to take the weight on those hindlegs. She stays fairly straight in them, even though the rhythm is good. The extended walk was poor: no clear 4-beat rhythm, barely instep, not enough stretch in the neck. The collected walk was short too. I wonder what the judges score this! (online system doesn't show it yet). Good, confident two tempi changes. Small pirouettes and good one time changes except for a shorter first one. The rhythm on the final centerline with superb passage was good, also the transitions, but the quality of the piaffe is no longer what it used to be. The end halt was not square. The score reflects no difference between former greatness and this swan song ride. 79.756%
Canadian born American Ashley Holzer and Diane Fellows' 15-year old Hanoverian mare Havanna (by Hochadel x Rodgau) rode a conservative trot extension and a rather slow left half pass. The mare could swing more over the back with a forward tendency overall. Very nice rein back. Havanna is regular in the passage work but could move the hindlegs more towards the center of gravity, same in the piaffe, where she is in rhythm but with the hindlegs out. Clean walk, meticulously ridden zig zag, correct tempi changes, but in canter Havanna stays a bit croup high throughout. 72.519%
Helen Langehanenberg and Gunther Fielman's 14-year old Holsteiner mare Annabelle (by Conteur x Linaro) rode a big trot extension although there could be more spring off the ground. Decent half passes, good rein back although the halt was not square. Piaffe on the spot but not balanced and on the forehand (front leg leaning too much backwards). Very nice zig zag, two tempi changes could be more forward and ground covering, looked a bit overcollected. The ones appeared more secure. Left pirouette too big. Nice canter extension, but there could be more uphill tendency. Lovely passage on the centerline up to X. Piaffe again on the spot, but still too much on the shoulders. Albeit a ride pleasant to watch. 75.019%
And then there's the Danish dynamite: Cathrine Dufour on the Pidgley family's 10-year old Westfalian Vamos Amigos (by Vitalis x Hotline). I like to see more bending in the corners and lateral elasticity! The horse stays too straight with no flexion in those corners. The extended trot is too electric, creeps behind the contact. Wonderful trot half passes, very uphill and expressive. The passage is so off the ground and quick.. this is where the electricity pays off, but it could even be tuned down a notch. Very ground covering extended walk. Lovely two tempi's and ones , but in the pirouettes he verges on doing them with double beats. Vamos Amigos still has tons of energy and power left on that final centerline. Mega passage, good piaffe on the spot. Very pleasant ride to watch. 80.019% a new leader and personal best!
The Moldovan Alisa Glinka, who has been based in Moscow (RUS) as well as Cap d'Antibes (FRA) with her horse, presents the 11-year old Aachen (by Ampere x Sunny Boy). She represents the Central European League in Leipzig. Lovely piaffe and passage with smooth transitions. Good walk bits. In the zig zag the horse sways with the hindquarters. Correct two tempi changes although Aachen gets a bit tight in the croup. Slight hesitation before the left pirouette, the right one was nice and quietly ridden. Safe, agreeable test with the piaffe and passage as highlight although Glinka loses the hindlegs a bit before the final halt.
Last to go in the best starting position, Olympic champion Jessica von Bredow-Werndl on the 15-year old Trakehner mare Dalera (by Easy Game x Handryk). Nice relaxed, correct trot extension. Not entirely regular in the rhythm in the left half passes, smoother to the right. Halt for rein-back was not square but good reverse steps. Wonderful passage, smooth transition, maybe a tiny bit too forward in the piaffe, but flawless transition out. Very nice, relaxed extended walk, collected walk ok, not the strongest movement of the mare. Effortless two tempi changes, very soft and consistent in the contact. Smooth tempi changes, easy pirouettes. The downward transition to trot could be smoother. The final centerline was wonderful, so easy, light, as if the rider doesn't even have to do any riding. Lovely. 84.793%
I will be inserting photos into this article as soon as possible.
by Astrid Appels
2022 World Cup Finals