- Text © Eurodressage (this article expresses Eurodressage's' view and opinion on the competition) - Photos © Stefan Lafrentz
The 2023 World Cup Finals in Omaha, USA, on 4 - 7 April 2023 come to a conclusion tonight with the Kur to Music class which determines the winner of the Cup. For the second time, the CHI Health Center in Omaha welcomed the world elite in dressage and show jumping, their inaugural edition was in 2017. The 2023 version seems to have been jinxed when it comes to the field of competitors as only 13 of a normal 18 will ride down the centerline for their freestyle.
What Happened in the Days Before?
Sixteen instead of 18 horses arrived at the venue last week and a further three was withdrawn over the course of three days. Hermes and Franziskus were not fit to compete and Torveslettens Titanium had mild colic signs today and was pulled.
The Wednesday Grand Prix class so very few spectators in the seats, not entirely unusual on a mid day, but for the World Cup Finals people are expected to make a holiday out of this once-a-year event. Ticket prices were from 80 to 600$ a piece and apparently for the Freestyle the stands will be much fuller. Let's see. It's a pity for the organizers, who staged a top class event and offered a lot of extra's behind the scenes with demos, meet and greets and a trade fair in the other exhibition hall. Omaha also welcomed the show jumpers and vaulters so there was plenty to see.
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl is the hot favourite for the title, which she captured last year in Leipzig, after already placing third on Unee BB at the 2016 and 2018 World Cup Finals in Gothenburg and Paris. After riding on the crest of a winning wave with twenty successive CDI victories since the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, von Bredow has not yet met her match. A duel with World Champion Lottie Fry on Glamourdale is expected for either Aachen or Riesenbeck. The next show Glamourdale is scheduled to compete at is next week's CDI 5* in Fontainebleau, France.
In Omaha, the first small chinks in the armour were shown as Dalera was hot to trot and not with her rider a full 100%. With more time to settle in and get familiarized with the indoor arena in Omaha, Jessica is expected to have soldered these chinks. Her challengers most likely are Isabell Werth (on Quantaz) and Nanna Skodborg Merrald (on Blue Hors Zepter).
Burning the Midnight Oil
The freestyle begins at 18;15h local time, which means that European dressage aficionados who didn't jump the puddle, have to burn the midnight oil and get up at 1h15 past midnight to join in on the live stream.
First to go is Singaporean Caroline Chew on the 19-year old Norwegian warmblood Tribiani (by Solos Landtinus x Landadel). Riding to filmic music with an Asian theme ringing through, Chew appeared thrilled with her test as she continues to string one opportunity after the other, writing history for Singapore as its first rider at the World Equestrian Games, Olympics and World Cup Final. One trot extension appeared a bit hurried with the horse losing the rhythm. Straight two tempi changes. The one tempi changes started off croup high and one change didn't come through but in general the horse has nice straight changes. In the final passage work he trailed with the hindquarters. Chew wrapped it up with a piaffe pirouette at the end. 72.971%
Lithuanian Justina Vanagaite enters the arena to Star Wars' imperial march with her 10-year old Belgian warmblood gelding Nabab (by Sir Donovan x Krack C). More Steven Spieglberg/John Williams tunes ringing through the speakers (Indiana Jones). Big trot extensions, lots of ground cover in the half passes. The music is too up tempo for the rhythm of the horse, but understand the theme Vanagaite is going with. The passage is powerful but in piaffe the horse leans on the forehand, also in the piaffe pirouette. Extended walk is hurried and tense and the horse does not properly stretch the neck. Nice left extended canter, although there is quite a few meters of collection going on before the pirouette follows. Pirouette right is fairly big, but the horse is very obedient. There is a break in the one tempi line. Another line follows with two tempi changes going into ones. Vanagaite finishes her test with very patriotic Ukrainian music, almost a war marching song, while she rides the passage one-handed and makes a low thumbs' up to the crowd. The crowds go wild as Justina cheers and waves to the audience in appreciation. Justina also rides with a Ukrainian ribbon on her lapel in support of the country against the War and invasion of Russia. 73.693%
Talking about crowds.. a look into the seats shows that the stadium is maybe half filled even though the judge at C, Janet Foy (USA), disclosed on social media that it sold out for tonight. Combinations also enter from inside the arena, while traditionally they ride around it. The judges' tables and flower decoration take up too much space here in Omaha.
Belgian Jorinde Verwimp and the 11-year old Oldenburg Charmer (by Charmeur x Quattro B) is next to go. Do I hear the Cranberries or Within temptation? Big trot extension, followed by a passage in which the hindlegs need to come under more. The piaffe turn at C reveals that Charmer is not truly piaffing, but leaning on the shoulders and hopping behind, alas. The second piaffe turn is a bit more regular. Good ground cover in the trot half passes. Canter work to Sia's Unstoppable. Kicks to the spur aid in the one tempi changes. Charmer is still in full development at Grand Prix level and overall he did all that was asked for by the rider, but in canter the transitions and execution of the movements looked a bit unpolished, one flying change didn't come through. The bay has big flying changes, but swings behind. 71.900
French Morgan Barbancon and the 17-year old Sir Donnerhall II (by Sandro Hit x Donnerhall) ride to French music with lots of piano tunes and begin with canter work. High degree of technical difficult with one tempi changes on the short diagonal, a circle of two tempi changes and a diagonal of ones. Not all are through and straight. Plenty of activity and ground cover in the extended walk. The piaffe is small. Horse does not stay entirely in rhythm in the trot half pass to the left and following extension. Also the second piaffe stays rather small. Horse seems more flexed to the right at the end of the test and gets a bit fussy in the mouth in the final piaffe-passage work. Morgan finishes with Celine Dion's I'm Alive. I preferred his Grand Prix test in which he looked fresher and more together.
Riders who have finished their test have to sit on chairs like with figure skating and regularly wave to the camera. It's a bid odd.
American Alice Tarjan and the gorgeous, elegant mare Serenade MF (by Sir Donnerhall x Don Principe). The pair rides to piano music with violins. The 10-year old American Hanoverian bred mare shows a nice double pirouette. Rider swings her legs all over the side of her horse in the flying changes. Would be nicer to see the aids a bit more discretely, also in piaffe and passage Alice's lower leg is positioned so far back. The flying changes are big and also in the pirouettes, Serenade shows good ability to collect and sit. The long levers of the curb and the curb rein held quite firmly bother my sensitive eye. I prefer a lighter contact so that the mare would keep the mouth more closed. She gapes in the half passes and tongue almost comes out. In piaffe she keeps a good rhythm but swings the hind legs out from under the body to compensate for not really taking the weight behind. Greeting from Sir Donnerhall in the trot half passes, same style of hindleg use in the trot half passes as with Sir Donnerhall II (out, not under). Nice bouncy trot extensions. Serenade has a lot of airtime in the passage. Finishes with piaffe pirouettes. Lovely talented mare, but there is much room for improvement in the way she's presented. 75.207%
The 31-year old German based Australian Simone Pearce rides the 14-year old Oldenburg Fiderdance (by Fidertanz x Don Schufro) to poppy music. Energetic trot extension and half passes, the passage could be more carrying from behind, also in the passage half pass. Looks a bit like he's out of steam. Good activity and rhythm in the extended walk, maybe Fiderdance can stretch his cresty neck a little bit more with the nose out? Very elegant pair. Canter work looks very controlled and easy going. Rides to Ready Or Not Here I come by The Delfonics. Nice! One change not really through. First change of the two tempi line also not through, other changes look nice and smooth. Mistake in the ones. Very nice extended canter. Finishes with a canter pirouette left (bit counter bent) and straight into a piaffe pirouette to end with an one)handed extended trot while the crowds cheer. Sweet. Nice presentation, pleasant to watch. 76.811%
Seen lots of piano hands so far. Am I too old school to say that a hand should be a fist with the thumb on top?
Now there is a break. Time for a cup of tea.
Nothing new under the son. Thamar Zweistra again rides to the music of Queen, originally composed for Laurens van Lieren two decades (!) ago. She enters in extended trot with her 10-year old home bred NRPS stallion Hexagon's Ich Weiss (by Rubiquil x Negro). Big trot extensions, but quite tight in the neck. Passage serpentine with piaffe on the centerline and then canter strike off. Mistake on the circle of two tempi changes. Ich Weiss is a bit clunky but so obedient and working for his rider. A bit rushed in the canter extension in which he loses the 3-beart rhythl. Lovely straight one tempi changes. The extended walk has good activity and two hooves overtrack. After the walk there is Spanish music all of a sudden, is this something from the Queen reportoire I don't know? I want to see more flexion in the corners, the horse stays quite straight in the body in the corners. Finishes with engaged passage work. 78.204%.
Swedish Johanna Due Boje and the 15-year old Swedish mare Mazy Klovenhoj (by Bocelli x National Zenith xx) ride to Irish folk music. Nice rhythm supporting the passage beat and piaffe turns. Strong start. Bouncy extended trot, there could be a little more overstep though. Flutes support the trot half passes. Breaks into canter in the second trot extension. Pity. The two tempi changes were correct but can be more forward and ground covering, appeared a bit too collected. In the extended canter, the mare gets too enthusiastic and Due Boje needs to use the handbrake it seems. Nice relaxation and overtrack in the extended walk. Canter work is to Riverdance music . Very nice piaffe passage with a bit of one handed passage at the end. I'm sure that ride will please her rider.
By the way, if I name the wrong songs, feel free to correct me. I'm not a musical whizz and there is no time to research it now as these are live comments.
American Anna Buffini on the 16-year old Hanoverian mare Davinia la Douce (by Don Frederico x A Jungle Prince) which she bought as a schoolmaster from the Balkenhol family. The mare lived up to all expectations and more, taking Buffini to her second World Cup Finals. Last year she rode to BTS K-pop music, this year she changed it up and stayed current with Top Gun Maverick music. Starts with a passage circle, the canter strike off is flawed, two tempi changes. Correct one tempi changes, followed by an pirouette. Downward transition to passage is a bit hesitant. The mare does not really passage with the hindlegs under the body and this also translates into the piaffe in which she not truly sits, but Davinia follows her rider's aids and cues. The extended walk doesn't really come to fruition. No real neck strecth and the overstep is very limited. Very nice left trot half pass. By the way, did you notice how beautifully this rider sits in the saddle, centered, hands in the correct position, lower legs not swinging like the blades of a helicopter. Concludes her test with a piaffe pirouette in which the rhythm is quite good. 77.843%
Brace yourselves, Isabell Werth enters. The multiple world cup finals' winner brought Madeleine Winter-Schulze and Victoria Max-Theurer's 13-year old DSP bred Quantaz (by Quaterback x Hohenstein) to Omaha and rides to Bonnie Tyler music. From halt to piaffe. Lightfooted trot work, smooth left half pass, huge trot extension although he gets a bit strong in the contact there. Passage is regular, not the most understep behind. It all looks very polished, the master shows itself. The rhythm in the extended walk is poor despite the overtrack (6.1à, but he stays more regular this time. The collected walk is just slow. Piaffe turns into a canter pirouette to the music of Total Eclipse of the Heart. Big canter extension although it could be more uphill, Quantaz seems mouthy. No mistakes in the two's but not very straight either. Correct ones, but they look a bit laboured. Another canter pirouette into a piaffe to which the crowd cheers and starts to clap. Clever riding, although the final piaffe pirouette is a bit flat. Werth seems to be having fun ! It's always great to have her at the party. 85.761%
A look in the stands and it does feel like the stadium has filled up to 2/3rds.
German Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Beatrice Burchler-Keller's 16-year old Trakehner mare Dalera BB (by Easy Game x Handryk). Jessica rides her French chanson freestyle in preparation of Paris 2024. Edith Piaff supports the piaffe-passage work. The halt at entry was again not entirely immobile. Smooth passage work, big trot extensions, easy rhythmical piaffe turns, the contact is always light and soft. In the trot half pass right I wished to see her hindlegs more under the body. Aah, that collected walk is very dangerous in the rhythm but gets better on the short side. Plenty of overtrack in the extended walk. Silky smooth canter extension and easy pirouette followed by effortless two tempi line. Good one tempi changes. Excellent transition from canter to passage, lovely piaffe, regular passage. Well done! That's in the bag. 90.482%
American Steffen Peters is the penultimate rider to go with Akiko Yamazaki's 15-year old KWPN gelding Suppenkasper (by Spielberg x Krack C). "It's going to be ok," the music says as he enters the ring to electronic dance tunes. The canter strike off is a bit swaying, but Peters rides a strong canter tour to "The Safety Dance" with good tempi changes and nice sit in the pirouettes. From canter pirouette into piaffe. Very nice clarity of rhythm in the extended walk. Horse gets a bit nervous in the piaffe part with a trembling lower lip. The passage half pass could have a bit more bending. Like his choice in dance movement which really supports this horse and gets a beat going. The American crowds cheer in the extended trot, which could cover a bit more ground. Bee Gees for right half pass passage, the horse starts bopping the head a bit too much. The piaffe problem (in which Suppenkasper gets wide in front) is solved in the freestyle by allowing the horse to move a bit more forward. Nice extended trot finish, a bit behind the music though. Suppenkasper looked better today than in the Grand Prix, more steady in the contact and head position. Fun music. 83.921%
The final rider to go, Danish Nanna Skodborg Merrald on the 15-year old Oldenburg gelding Blue Hors Zepter (by Zack x Wolkentanz II). Instrumental version of Andrea Bocelli's Con Te Partiro supports first piaffe-passage work. Passage could have been more engaged but that first piaffe was lovely. Floaty passage half followed by a piaffe pirouette and another passage half pass. Horse stays nicely up in the frame. Good trot extension but nose should come more out, the curb is always quite on. Good collected walk, lovely extended walk. Small pirouettes. The canter music is drums alternating with piano, not really anything I recognize. Big two tempi changes and canter extensions. All seems to be going according to plan. The cute chestnut sits in the pirouettes, straight one tempi changes. A nice piaffe fan at X before passaging into a final halt. This ride was probably more accurate than Isabell Werth's, but the Isabell's degree of technical difficulty is higher and her music is more catchy. 87.146 % to finish second.
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2023 World Cup Qualifiers and Finals