Germany's Fabulous Four Go for Four in 2024 CDIO Wellington Nations Cup

Thu, 02/22/2024 - 22:42
2024 CDIO Wellington
The FEI Nations Cup participants at the 2024 CDIO Wellington run their lap of honour :: Photo © Astrid Appels

--- Text © Eurodressage (this article expresses Eurodressage's' eye-witness account and opinion about the competition)

A fabulous foursome of German riders secured the country's fourth, consecutive win in the FEI Nations' Cup in Wellington on Thursday 22 February 2024.  Germany won with  213.369 points, while the US team placed second with 210.978 points, and Sweden’s tally of 198.956 points secured them third place.  

The 2024 FEI Nations Cup series began today at the Global Dressage Festival as Wellington, where the kick-off in the series traditionally takes place. This year there were no more excuses and the format for the only U.S. based CDIO competition of the year was now adapted to the European standard: at Grand Prix level. No more quick-fix, mixed teams of small and big tour combinations to expand the field of riders. 

Four For the Fight

Four teams were scrambled together and while Germany and U.S.A. easily found their four contestants, Canada struggled to field three after a slew of riders could not/did not/would not get selected to ride, for various undisclosed reasons.

Felicitas Hendricks waves to the crowd
Sweden was able to gather a team of four initially as plenty of Swedish ex-pats live in Florida, but in the end Karin Persson dropped out and Christina Devine was out of her depth as an amateur Grand Prix rider asked to play with the big boys, but surely relished the experience.

The Under 25 CDIO Nations Cup competition fell through, though, as only three U.S. riders were able to make a team. There were no(t enough) Canadian U25s in Wellington this year, and there is one Australian visitor, Kate Kyros, who is making the most out of her Wellington premier. 

So the field ended up with fourteen competitors which were judged by a very experienced panel, consisting of Christof Umbach (LUX), Michael Osinski (USA), Mariette Sanders - Van Gansewinkel (NED) and the Siamese judges twins, Katrina Wüst (GER) and Elisabeth Max-Theurer (AUT). 

Germany's Fourth Victory

The weather in Florida has been atypically cool this time of the year and while the sun shone brighly in the morning, there was a chilly wind sweep over the show grounds. For the afternoon CDIO Grand Prix class the sky became overcast and, to be honest, the weather was perfect for the horses. 

Fourth Victory for Germany
Germany came out strong with two experienced men on the team - Frederic Wandres and Michael Klimke - flanked by young female talent: Felicitas Hendricks and Anna Christina Abbelen. It was ladies first as both girls were the two high scoring riders for their nation. 

The 23-year old Felicitas Hendricks is a familiar face in Wellington, having spent numerous winters with her uncle and trainer Christoph Koschel snowbirding in Florida. In 2023 her partnership with the 13-year old Oldenburg Drombusch (by Destano x Dimaggio) truly began to flourish as they scooped up double gold at the 2023 European Under 25 Championships and the pair has easily found her stride in the senior division. 

The bay gelding Drombusch is a real steady-eddy and although his laboured breathing might suggest otherwise, he can make the Grand Prix look easy. The pair showed soft footed half passes, fluent trot extensions and regular, energetic passage work. In the piaffe the horse stays small and rather on the forehand but he stays on the spot and in rhythm, except for the second piaffe in which he crept forward with the left front leg. The collected walk was not entirely regular in front. The horse stayed very consistent in the head-neck position and Hendricks sits quite and rides with minimal aids. On the diagonals in canter the horse was slightly more bent to the right and the right pirouette was the better one of the two, but they finished their lovely ride with clockwork rhythm on the final centerline. They scored 72.087% for the victory and all judges were aligned. 

Anna Abbelen on Sam Donnerhall
Anna-Christina Abbelen and her 17-year old Oldenburg gelding Sam Donnerhall (by Samarant x Donnerhall) landed third place with 70.826%. The pair rode very elegant half passes and Anna's tall horse has a bouyant passage, but in piaffe he gets rather stretched in the frame and there was some visible half-halting to keep him closed. Overall the pair painted a balanced, steady picture with straight one tempi changes and small pirouettes. 

Frederic Wandres was up for a challenge today riding a catch ride, Jemma Heran's 12-year old Oldenburg gelding Total Recall (by Totilas x Sandro Hit), in order to bring the German team to four.  The bay is a little pocket rocket and Wandres is clearly too tall for this horse, but it was a fun experiment to watch, although it looked quite laboured. The judges on the long side loved it (with scores of 72 - 73%), the ones of the short side kept it a bit more realistic with 68-69%. They finished fifth with 70.456%. The pair showed off big lofty trot extensions and Total Recall has fabulous flying changes, although there was an issue in the twos and the horse kicked to the spur in the ones. He has a lot of talent for piaffe with clear sit, but got wide at times. The uphill extended canter was a highlight. 

Michael Klimke on Domino
Michael Klimke and Uwe Kappel's 12-year old Westfalian mare Domino (by Den Haag x Weltmeyer) were first to go in the class and although the mare was light in the contact she fidgeted with the tongue today that popped out on occasion. This affected the score. The mare has a great talent for piaffe and showed good one tempi changes. They got 67.565%. 

"An Honour"

The Germans were thrilled with their fourth victory. "Yes, we won—not one time. We've won four times in a row. For me, it's an honour to be here and all of these years," said Klimke.

Class winner Hendricks added, ""It's been a great journey, and it's great to be back on the senior German team. I had a fantastic team with great teammates and great team spirit. I think the scores are reflecting our improvement, but it's not just about the scores. I think I was able to do a more detailed test today than last year, for example...There are still things to work on, and it's far away from being perfect, but when is it ever perfect? We just keep working on it, and it's just getting better and better."

Frederic Wandres on Total Recall
Hendricks has been coming to Florida since she was 16 and this year she has won five out of five classes in Wellington since January. "The season can't really be going any better for me right now. It's a great honour to be showing this horse in this fantastic venue. He's so happy to be here, and he's always happy to be showing. That's just the best feeling in the world, when they're so happy and willing to give their all in the ring."

“When we saw that we have to bring four grand prix horses, that meant for us we really have to bring four good ones,” explained Wandres, who rides for Hof Kasselmann. “I have Bluetooth here with me, but I have another plan with him, so I asked Jemma, our Australian friend, if I can maybe have the ride on Total Recall and she directly said yes. I really liked this test ride and there is a lot more in that horse.”

“Sam is really strong in all the extensions like the extended trot, extended canter,” said the 28-year-old. “He has a great passage, and I really could celebrate my half-passes. I’m super honored to be on this team and it’s always fun because we know each other from home. We all come from the same region in Germany, from the Münster area.”

Silver Star Spangled Banner

Team USA: Williams, Kohmann, Ebeling, Nichols
The United States also repeated their runner-up effort from a year ago. Their lead rider was former German Kevin Kohmann, who became a United States citizen in 2021. He recently married his partner, Devon Kane, with whom he runs Diamante Farm. Aboard the Kane's 14-year old Hanoverian gelding Dünensee (by Dancier x Davignon) he spearheaded the American campaign to silver in this Nations' Cup. 

Kohmann and Dünensee, who was previously trained and competed by his coach Christoph Koschel, impressed with very consistent canter work: secure tempi changes, a solidly ridden zig zag and good pirouettes. The horse tilted to the right a few times. The passage is sure footed, in piaffe the horse stays rather small but remains on the spot. The transitions are not always as engaged, but Kohmann stays quiet in the saddle and slowly motors on. The trot extensions were nice.  He scored a personal best of 71.326% with marks going from 69.783% to 72.283%. 

Jan Ebeling on Jubi's Tenacity
Team USA's second highest scoring rider was 2012 Olympian Jan Ebeling on the 14-year old Danish warmblood Jubi's Tenacity (by Tailormade Temptation x Don Schufro). The black gelding is a sturdy, strong horse that excelled in his small pirouettes and regular half passes. The horse was quite compressed in the front, but showed good piaffes that were in rhythm. There was a good 4-beat rhythm in the extended walk. In the two tempi changes the horse swung the hindquarters to the right and at times one wishes the ride to sit a bit more supple in the saddle with a pelvis following the motion of the horse.  They posted 70.087% for a 7th place. 

Former Under 25 rider Erin Nichols piloted her 15-year old KWPN gelding Elian Royale (by Johnson x Amidou) to 8th place with a personal best of 69.565%. The compact chestnut is a good allround horse with no weakness in the three basic gaits. He crossed the legs well in the half passes, and in piaffe he can produce a good rhythm but still leans a bit too much on the forehand. The one tempi changes were nice. 

Jennifer Williams and her home trained 10-year old KWPN gelding Joppe K (by Rousseau x Santano) placed 9th with 68.652%. This sympathetic chestnut is at the start of his Grand Prix career but already showed off an established trot tour and he strode well in the extended walk. In the passage one wishes a bit more power from behind. Overall the horse's head position could be more still instead of being half-halted left right. The zig zag was well executed. 


Kevin Kohmann on Dunensee
The U.S. team riders were thrilled with their second place in the Nations Cup. "I'm super thrilled to be here and sit here with these [riders], some old teammates," Kohmann said. "To be the anchor rider for my team made me even more proud. Then to get the top score—what else can I say?"

“Today my half-passes were great and the pirouettes were super," Kevin added. “Every show I feel more comfortable riding these movements and push a little bit more. Every time it’s a bit better."

“I’m really proud of them,” said U.S. Chef d’Equipe Traurig. “I’m proud of Erin, the youngster, for going in there and putting in a mistake-free test, which is rare. Kevin’s horse has gotten better and better now, and Jan’s horse also has shown improvement. Jennifer’s horse has a lot of quality that has continued to develop. I’m very happy with how the team performed today.”

Sweden Got Bronze

Sweden cheering: Vilhelmson, Devine, Darcourt
The Swedish team relied on multiple Olympian Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven as anchor, her assistant rider Caroline Darcourt, and Christina Devine. The three ladies were all smiles on the podium and seemed to throughly enjoy the day.

Vilhelmson probably had one of her better tests on long-time partner Devanto, Antonia Ax:son Johnson's 15-year old Holsteiner by De Chirico x Lorentin, with whom she placed fourth on 70.500%. He was light footed in trot, but could have been a bit more supple in the back as at times his strides looked quite produced. The passage was absolutely lovely and the second pi-pa combination flowed very well even though the piaffe travelled forward. Devanto does not have the most ground covering walk and gets short in the collected and this is probably where the pair loses most points as the canter and trot work in general are a forté. Today there was a slight loss of elasticity in the right rein, which had its effect on the zig zag and right pirouette, but the final centerline was really sweet. 

Caroline Darcourt on Lord Django
Caroline Darcourt and Antonia Ax:son Johnson's 14-year old Hanoverian Lord Django (by Stalypso x Londonderry) looked like a My Little Pony: so gorgeous, so eye-catching but really compact. Darcourt makes a very pretty pair with him. He showed good shoulder freedom in the trot half passes, was lightfooted in passage but at times appeared more engaged with the right hind. In piaffe he crosses the hindlegs, the second one was better as ridden more forward. The tempi changes were delightful and the zig zag good. They posted 70.152% for 6th place. 

Christina Devine and the 15-year old Danish warmblood gelding Slaebaekgaards Santino (by Sir Donnerhall x Carano) could not display that finesse that the other professionals brought to the table. Her long-lined, long-legged gelding really climbd in the trot extensions and covers huge ground in the half passes, but it is collection and closing in the frame that he finds very challenging. 

Canada Fourth

Denielle Gallagher on Come Back de Massa
The Canadian team fielded three riders for the Wellington Nations' Cup with team captain Denielle Gallagher and Ellen Lazarus' 12-year old Lusitano Come Back de Massa (by Galopin de la Font x Quixote) being the anchor of the team.  Gallagher and her gorgeous buckskin Lusitano scored 66.891% for 11th place. The horse certainly had plenty of quality for the Grand Prix work and is gifted in piaffe, but he did not show case enough self carriage in passage today and shuffled in the zig zag, for instance. The highlight movement of their ride was a wonderful uphill flying change after the extended canter. 

The 26-year old Rakeya Moussa is only competing in her second season at Grand Prix level and has taken her 16-year old Belgian bred KWPN gelding Davidoff van het Trichelhof (by Lord Leatherdale x Wall Street) from Young Riders level into the big tour. The pair is coached by Katherine Bateson.  The horse is a lovely personality with a sweet piaffe, but overall was not equally elastic in both reins. The rider held a stronger contact with the right rein. On their FEI Nations' Cup debut they posted 65.630% for 12th place. 

Mathilde Blais on Fedor
Canada's most seasoned team rider, Pan American Games bronze medal winner Mathilde Blais Tetreault and her 14-year old KWPN bred Fedor (by Johnson x Negro) had an off day. The horse hurried in all three trot extensions, breaking the rhythm in two, and rushed in the half pass right. The contact with the bridle became heavier during the test and the hind quarters got lost. They did not show a second piaffe at all and had a hiccup in the two tempi changes. The right pirouette was good.  Fedor is certainly talented enough but the 5G connection between rider and horse was today at 2G Edge today. Tomorrow's another day.  

- Text © Eurodressage - Photos © Astrid Appels - NO REPRODUCTION ALLOWED / NO SCREEN SHOTS for social media

If interested in photos, please send me an email. Florida rates apply for this horse show as our colleague Sue Stickle is the official photographer

Related Links
Scores: 2024 CDIO Wellington
Germany to Defend Title in FEI Nations Cup at 2024 CDIO Wellington
Swedish Team Announced for 2024 CDIO Wellington
German Team Announced for the 2024 CDIO Wellington
Canadian Team Announced for 2024 CDIO Wellington
U.S. Teams Named for 2024 CDIO Wellington