Quick Notes from the 2022 World Cup Final Kur to Music

Sat, 04/09/2022 - 18:01
2022 World Cup Finals
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl wins the 2022 World Cup Final :: Photo © Dirk Caremans

-- Text by Astrid Appels - Photos © Dirk Caremans

The 2022 World Cup Final winner will be determined tonight in the Kur to Music finale starting 19h10.

Fifth Time in Germany

Five times the World Cup Finals were held in Germany, but never has there been a German winner in Germany. 

This year the east German town of Leipzig is the host city, just like in 2011, when Adelinde Cornelissen won the title. In 2004 Eurodressage saw Anky van Grunsven ride Salinero to victory in Düsseldorf. In 1999 Anky and Bonfire won in Dortmund and in 1987 Swiss Christine Stückelberger won the finals in Essen on Gaugin de Lully.

Kur Crux

It is no secret that I'm not the most passionate fan of freestyle judging. Let me explain:

The amount of points given by the judges in a freestyle test is far less compared to a technical test, making the scoring more arbitrary and less precise. In the freestyle riders have the ability to avoid their horse's technical weak points as they can design their own floorplan, so you will not get the full range of movements that truly test rideability, harmony and relaxation, which a Grand Prix or special does.

Furthermore, if riders make no mistakes, the final ranking of a freestyle class is often the reverse of the order of go.. With each riders that leaves the arena the points are a little higher, no matter the quality of music or the precision in riding to the music. Late or early to the music, de nada!

The arena for the short Grand Prix on Thursday
The event was sold out on Saturday
Photo © digishots
The quality of the music productions goes from toe-cringing, inspirationless dingaling-ding-ding tunes to amazing professional productions that thrill the body and soul. So a freestyle finals is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.. Or you know exactly what you are going to get and it's Kinder Surprise with risk for salmonella poisoning (this is a joke! read this article if you don't read the news).

VIP Lounge

The World Cup comes close to an invitational show as the right to ride at qualifiers depends on the flag you have on your saddle pad and your World Ranking score (bigger names get easier access to starting slots).

The starters field should represent riders from across the globe but this year a Pacific League rider is missing, but that was made up by putting a (Dutch based) Moroccan on the list. There is no Latin American rider, but as non-league rider Yvonne Losos de Muniz, from the Dominican Republic, is competing in her third World Cup Finals and flying the flag of the Central American and the Caribbean.

So let's see what these 17 VIP dressage riders bring to the table tonight. 

Let's Begin

Anna Buffini with Davinia la Douce
American Anna Buffini and the 15-year old Hanoverian mare Davinia la Douce (by Don Frederico x A Jungle Prince) kicked off the party as first to go. Riding to music from the Korean pop band BTS with her own voice in it. She rode tempi changes on curved lines followed by double pirouettes. There was a bobble in the two tempi changes. The overtrack in the extended walk was lacking, but the mare stayed focused on the rider. In passage the horse keeps the hindlegs a bit too much out, but she is obedient. The passage half passes could have been a bit more polished; but the piaffe turns were good. At the end there was a sweet extended trot line and then with a piaffe pirouette before x on the tunes of Dynamite as finish. A nice schoolmaster round. 74.011

Yessin Rahmouni and the 12-year old KWPN stallion All at Once (by Ampere x Gribaldi) rode to fitting middle eastern music which underlines the elegant movements of his black stallion, but there was no real story line with a crescendo, which is what audiences like. The passage on this horse was lovely, nice freedom in the shoulder in the trot half passes and extended trot, although the frame needed to lengthen more. Piaffe could be a bit more balanced, but is still nice. It was unclear if the rider was attempting an extended or collected walk as the neck did not lengthen at all nor did he give a bit of slack in the reins. The horse could have had more overtrack. Overall the horse was kept too tight in the neck in many movements, but All at Once, who can play the distracted stallion, seemed totally with his rider in Leipzig. Transition down to passage was early to the music. Very nice final passage on the centerline. 73.679%

Yvonne Losos de Muniz on Aquamarijn
Yvonne Losos de Muniz and the 17-year old KWPN mare Aquamarijn (by United x Gribaldi) rode to dramatic Spanish military style music and began with a very eager trot extension, followed by passage and piaffe, and then canter work. Very nice, metronome one tempi changes to the music in no less than three lines, big striding in the extended canter. The mare showed good ability to sit in the double pirouettes but they could be a bit more balanced. The mare did not properly relax in the extended walk and hurried in her steps. Nice leg crossing in the half passes. In piaffe the mare does not lower the haunches, but keeps the rhythm. Overall the contact could be lighter as the riding is quite hand held. There are more points to be gained with a bit more riding from the seat instead of the hand, and polish in the transitions between the movements. Nonetheless a very expressive test with good atmospheric music. 75.386%

Dutch Thamar Zweistra and the just 9-year old Hexagon's Ich Weiss (by Rubiquil x Negro) rode to music by Queen, just like Laurens van Lieren did, the son of the owner and breeder of the horse (Leunis van Lieren). Strong first trot extension into a half piaffe pirouette and then out again in extended trot. Passage was not always entirely regular, but the horse was fresh and active. In the piaffes the grey stallion still leans too much on the forehand, but in the right pirouettes he can take the weight on the hindquarters. The left double one lacked a bit of bending and was too big. Two tempi changes on a half circle, very nice confirmed one tempi changes. Ich Weiss was actively marching in the extended walk, the collected clear in the rhythm. The bending in the left trot half pass could have been better. Ends with a piaffe pirouette that stayed in rhythm and passage half passes. 75.125%

Portuguese Rodrigo Torres and his home-bred 12-year old Lusitano stallion Fogoso HorseCampline (by Rico x Raja) began with a little miscommunication as the horse cantered instead of passage.  In the three extended trots, the horse could swing more over the back so as to achieve the required overtrack. The passage was very correct, although could have been a pinch more powerful. Sweet trot half passes. Fogoso stands out by his amazing rideability and willingness to execute his riders aids. The one tempi changes were short but correct. There was a mistake in another tempi line. They finished with a piaffe pirouette and some passage on the centerline.  Torres rode to Pink Floyd's "We don't Need No Education" and an interesting sound of money dropping for the piaffe-passage. 73.593%

Alisa Glinka on Aachen
Moldovan Alisa Glinka has a horse in the 11-year old Aachen (by Ampere x Sunny Boy) with a metronome piaffe-passage. Riding to Bizet's opera Carmen, they began straight with rhythmical passage, a clear piaffe pirouette and then an extended trot (in which he dove a bit deep). Another long line of piaffe and passage followed in which the passage could cover a bit more ground. Aachen relaxed well in the extended walk but strode a bit hurried and quick. More piaffe-passage before a canter strike off. The two tempi changes could have a bit more uphill tendency and expresion.. Also in the extended canter the horse dropped deep and nodded his head instead of keeping the poll as highest point. One double left pirouette was a bit big. There was a mistake in the ones.. The canter music was quite overpowering for this type of horse and the way the canter was carefully ridden. On her joker line - her final centerline - she rode the two tempi's again. Also she did not ride the required amount of tempi changes, which affected the score. 71.389%.

Spaniard Juan Matute Guimon and Quantico, a 16-year old Hanoverian by Fighting Fit x Constant, rode to very catchy music, a pop and R&B mix of La Camiseta Negra for the canter as well as tunes by Bruno Mars.  The first passage was not even with the horse clearly showing more left hindleg engagement than right, nor was the right trot half pass even. The first piaffes stayed a bit small. The trot extension was slightly better than the one shown in the short Grand Prix but Matute rode with his hands very high on the neck and a short rein, instead of keeping the contact quiet from the withers. There was a mistake in the two tempi line at the end, which made the onset to the right double pirouette a bit tricky. Very nice extended canter (also with high hands), strong second line of two tempi changes transitioning into ones. The canter work is always the strongest scoring phase for this pair. Quantico ran out of steam in the final piaffe pirouette and lacked some impulsion in the last serpentine line of piaffe-passage to finish on a truly high note. 72.882%

Charlotte Fry on Dark Legend
British Charlotte Fry on Dark Legend (by Zucchero x Tango) rode to the same music Lottie she uses for Everdale with tunes including Sia’s Titanium and Jason Derulo's Let Me Take You Dancing. They began with a piaffe pirouette, which was more a small volte than a pirouette, but then her horse spooked and cantered, losing the passage. Another major spook at C and two spins followed. Fry continued with a big extended trot on the right track.  Dark Legend was clearly not at ease, very restless with the mouth, opening and closing it, but Fry continued and made the best out of the situation. This was not an easy ride for her. The horse did not relax in the extended walk and curled the neck instead of stretching into the contact. In canter there were some high notes like the super straight two tempi changes, but then he lost a bit of the stride in the double pirouette right. Good two tempi changes into ones followed, but Dark Legend remained very tense. Tricky ride for Fry. 67.556%. 

Very short break now. Barely time to run to the toilet and grab a cup of tea!

Part Two

I must admit - one 10-minute break is way too short! I prefer two breaks in a class like this so you can rest your brain a second, get a refreshment, and then continue watching.. It feels more like a race than a freestyle. 

First after the break was Swede Patrik Kittel on Blue Hors stud's 14-year old Oldenburg bred Blue Hors Zepter (by Zack x Wolkentanz II). The Billy Idol music was a bit too quick for the rhythm of the slower and loftier moving Zepter, even though the tunes are very catchy. Patrik always brings good freestyle music to the game (nothing beats his Depeche Mode kur though!!). Zepter looked a bit constrained/held in front, I would have like to see him a bit fresher and forward. Good right trot extension, good relaxation and overtrack in the extended walk. Zepter got wide in front in the piaffe turn near X. There was a big loss of balance in the left double pirouette and the two tempi changes could have been straighter. The right pirouette had better balance but was a bit big and there was a hiccup in the one tempi changes. The final piaffe pirouette is better, but in the final passage the horse could have been a bit more closed.  It shows that this partnership, formed in December, is still quite new with Leipgzig being only their second CDI together.An interesting test to watch nonetheless, but too many issues. Still the judges gave it 76.725%.

Helen Langehanenberg on Annabelle
German Helen Langehanenberg rode her fifth World Cup Finals today on Gunther Fielman's 14-year old Holsteiner mare Annabelle (by Conteur x Linaro). Nutcracker music for this bay mare. Very nice piaffe turn, sweet combination of passage half passes and trot half passes. In the passage I would like to see a bit more suspension as well as in in the trot extensions, which are ground covering but lacking swing in the topline and proper back usage. It looked a bit hurtled. Helen rode the Tinne Vilhelmson move of extended and collected walk with a piaffe in the middle. Big canter extension, but the croup stayed high. The two tempi changes on the bent line were correct but short. Canter half passes with a double pirouette on the centerline, the left one was big, the right one better on the spot. The one tempi changes were also short and in the last change she almost jumped out of the line. A mistake happened on the correction line for the one tempi changes. The final piaffe pirouette and passage had nice rhythm and energy. A good finish of the test. 78.839%

American Ashley Holzer and Diane Fellows' 15-year old Hanoverian mare Havanna (by Hochadel x Rodgau) rode to Camila Cabello's Havanna. The extended walk was good in rhythm and just enough in overtrack, the collected walk was very clear but then slowly developed towards a lateral before the canter strike off. Correct two tempi changes on the circle, no mistakes in the ones, but they were quite short. The piaffe is a problem point: even though they are exactly on the spot, the mare does not sit at all keeps the hindlegs straight and just pulls the hocks high. Holzer and Havanna had no major issues in their ride, but the mare swooshed her tail a lot and could be gymnasticized more. She looked blocked in the back, which showed in the laboured trot half passes, for instance. Still Havanna obediently followed her rider's cues and they finished with a nice passage zig zag.

Ashley Holzer with Havanna
French Morgan Barbançon and her 16-year old Oldenburg Sir Donnerhall II (by Sandro Hit x Donnerhall) began their Celine Dion inspired freestyle with an extended canter on the centerline followed by a left double pirouette, zig zag and a right double pirouette, which was the better one. Big, uphill one tempi changes, immediatetlly followed by two tempi changes on the circle and then back to one tempi changes. The extended walk does not have the best rhythm.  The first piaffe was crooked to the right. Huge trot half passes, nice passage half passes, a small rhythm mistake at the start of an extended trot. Sir Donnerhall stays much more consistent and steady in the poll, but has developed a bit of a trembling lower lip. Very high degree of technical difficulty in this test: canter half passes with single pirouettes on the centerline. Final passage off the ground and light footed, but can be a bit more even. 

The swan song of Weihegold (by Don Schufro x Sandro Hit): Rio Olympic silver medal winner, 2017 European Champion, and double World Cup Champion under Isabell Werth. Last time they are riding their Samba freestyle. Super passage and flawless transitions, but the piaffe does not have the best site. Safe trot extension on the centerline, correct right halt pass, not spectacular (as the mare has a normal trot), piaffe turn not as snappy as she used to them, but correct. Small bobbles in the second piaffe where she loses the rhythm and pulls the contact for a second. The collected walk is very poor today, lateral. Very well ridden zig zag. Werth's freestyle music is great !! it really works time and again. Flawless two and one tempi changes. Good energy in the canter extensions. No overtrack at all in the last trot extension. The music changes to Sarah Brightman's "Question of Honour", not the normal ending of this freestyle. Hmmm.. i preferred the original music, but understand the message. Final piaffe pirouette, small hesitation as the mares anticipates a halt, but a few more passage steps to an opera voice as final crescendo in celebration of a spectacular career for this Oldenburg mare. 85.921%

Danish Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Agnete Kirk Thinggaard's 17-year old Oldenburg mare Atterupgaards Orthilia (by Gribaldi x Donnerschlag) ride to wonderful piano music which highlights the mare super elegant, light footed way of moving. There still could be a it more of an emotional storyline there to sweep you off your feet.  Lovely piaffe-passage start, uphill trot extensions in which you really see the mare climbing. The right trot half pass has the hindquarters trailing. The second trot extension was too flashy in front with not enough overtrack.  The left half pass is much better. The extended walk has sufficient overtrack, but there could be more V-moment in the rhythm. Clear tempi changes, good solid pirouettes. The transition from extended canter into a piaffe pirouette went via walk. Energetic final passage. Orthilia is a world class horse, she was that at the 2016 Olympics under Bigwood and is proving her worth now again under Merrald. The only eye-sore is the gaping mouth with excessive foam to which the judges  seem to turn a blind eye. 81.254%. Can you imagine the score if this horse was more stretching into the contact, longer in the neck and with a closed, happy mouth!? Sky's the limit.

Carina Cassoe Kruth and Heiline's Danciera
Danish Carina Cassoe Kruth and and Poul and Ingrid Thøgersen 11-year old Danish warmblood mare Heiline's Danciera (by Furstenball x De Niro) ride to Dirty Dancing, Fame and Footloose music. Both halts are not square. The first passage is super bouncy and engaged, the two piaffes unbalanced with hindlegs crossing. Very nice regular rhythm in the passage half passes. Huge trot extensions, but it would be nice to see that nose more out. Excellent extended walk. The right half pass is not entirely even in the rhythm despite massive ground cover, left one much better. Big tempi changes but behind the vertical. Last left double pirouette a bit big, the right one much better. Mistake in the ones on the half circle towards the end of the test. Big passage at the end, the mare crosses behind in the piaffe pirouette. 84.971%.

Danish Cathrine Dufour rides the Pidgley family's 10-year old Westfalian Vamos Amigos (by Vitalis x Blue Hors Hotline) to the difficult Les Miserables' freestyle of her two-year older Olympic horse Bohemian. The passage is so electric, off the ground and regular, but the piaffes are all totally unbalanced today (wide in front and behind, swaying left to right).  The extended trots are too electric for me. it looks spectacular and there is big overtrack, but I prefer a bit more relaxation and harmony. Very nice collected walk. The canter part and the final passage line are musically the strongest parts of this freestyle. Little spook in the left canter extension. The two tempi changes are correct, but she lifts him a bit with her hands. He gets tight in the neck when collecting for the right pirouette, stays tight  and behind the vertical in the ones. OK, there is so much quality there but today this pocket rocket looked too much like a hot tamale and required too much steering in front. He did stand square (bit stretched) and immobile at the end though! 86.164%. Was it better than Weihegold? Need to think about it.

Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Dalera BB
Germany's Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and the 15-year old Trakehner mare Dalera (by Easy Game x Handryk) finish the Finals today with their tradition LaLa Land freestyle which fits the horse like a glove.  So relaxed, so harmonious, so easy. The passage so elegant and regular. Smooth transitions in and out of piaffe. Werndl slowed down the left trot half pass in order not to lose the rhythm. Lovely piaffe turns, big trot extensions with plenty of overtrack. Could stay a bit more swinging in the back in the collected walk, the extended was ok. Correct tempi changes although those to the right are scopier than the ones to the left (fraction high in the croup there). A tiny bit more striding in the canter half pass to the right coming out of the pirouette, but the zig zag was so smooth and easy looking. Effortless one tempi changes. Always soft in the contact, poll up, this is dressage pure, this is total enjoyment! A final one handed piaffe and passage. Gosh. Only the end halt was not square, nor immobile.. but boy.. What a test ! This is what dressage should look like. Period ! 90.836%.

Valegro vs Dalera?!

Now my final thought is this: Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro hold the Kur World record (94.300%). Was this overscored as she got it on home turf at the CDI-W London?

Is Dalera underscored? Is Valegro truly the better horse if you compare the two at all levels (gaits, riding, execution of movements)? It's comparing two titans, but to me the balance tips towards Dalera, purely for the harmony, effortless, lightness in the contact. 

After her baby break maybe Jessica von Bredow-Werndl needs to ride at the CDI-W London or in Great Britain because the last five (!!!) kur World records were ridden there: three times in a row at the CDI-W London (makes you wonder why?!), once at the 2009 Euros and before that at the 2009 CDI Hickstead.

- by Astrid Appels

Related Link
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2022 World Cup Finals