Showmaster Werth Wows on Wendy in 2024 CDIO Aachen 5* Kur to Music

Mon, 07/08/2024 - 13:36
2024 CDIO Aachen
Isabell Werth and Wendy wow the crowds in the 2024 CDIO 5* Grand Prix Kur to Music :: Photo © Astrid Appels

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

Showmaster Isabell Werth proved once again she knows how to play the game by delivering another winning freestyle to thunderous applause in the Deutsche Bank stadium at the 2024 CDIO Aachen on Sunday 7 July 2024.

The 5* Freestyle top three was a German affair with Frederic Wandres and Ingrid Klimke joining Werth in the winner's circle. 

Seventeen riders ended up competing in the closing class in Aachen: Nanna Merrald dropped out with St. Schufro because "he had some kind of allergic reaction in the mouth." American Marcus Orlob pulled out his 9-year old mare Jane to save her for Paris and on the day itself Danish Nadja Aaboe Sloth also withdrew. She told Eurodressage that Favour "is having a hot hoof this morning, presumably a hoof abscess." After a stellar week with a personal best, Nadja sadly could not finish it with the Kur.

The judges for the freestyle were Magnus Ringmark, Isobel Wessels, Henning Lehrmann, Susanne Baarup, and Raphaël Saleh.

The Greatest Showman

It was Isabell Werth's 15th Aachen career victory, this time aboard Bolette Wandt and Madeleine Winter-Schulze's 10-year old Danish bred mare Wendy, a horse she has been riding for six months and has fine-tuned into a German Olympic team ride. With a freestyle score of 89.095% she has put herself into race for an individual medal in the Kur amongst the big five (Dalera, Glamourdale, Blue Hors Zepter, Imhotep and Mount St. John Freestyle).  

With a mainly German crowd filling the sell-out stadium of 7,000 to the brim, the applause after each ride for a German rider is a fraction louder than for any other combination in the class. Aachen is always Germany's best PR stunt as it usually puts the odds in the country's favour by coaxing particularly generous freestyle scores out of the judges, which linger in the head for the annual summer championship to come in a few weeks time. 

Oh Wendy

Werth is clever and Werth plays it smart. Her intelligence (and experience) as a high performance athlete and as an educated, non-practicing lawyer is put to use as she strategically maps a show plan with each horse in her barn. Patience, feeling, skill and ability work in her favour and she is bright by continuing to collaborate with one of the best freestyle designers on the planet, Michael Erdmann.

Werth and Wendy
Isabell has a discography unparalleled to any rider with superb Erdmann freestyles tailored to each of her horses. Also for Wendy she had one pre-emptively made with Paris in mind and, boy, is it a cool one. Three songs dominate in it: the pop song "Stumblin In" (by Cyril) which begins with the lyrics "Our love is alive, and so we begin - Foolishly laying our hearts on the table - Stumblin' in" followed by some Dire Straits and then Barry Manilow's Mandy, sung as "Wendy". The music is so cool, so fitting, and cloyingly tugs on the heart strings of the spectators (and judges). Who doesn't like a bit of sentimentality?

Queenparks Wendy, aka Wendy de Fontaine, truly grew in the competition and with a floorplan designed to her strengths she delivered her best round on Sunday morning. Werth sponged out the hectic Andreas put in the mare and has her now rhythmically moving in the piaffe and passage, although the basic training flaws still pop up their head: a piaffe with the left hind swinging out, the passage at times on the forehand and not truly carried from behind. And Werth consistently keeps her flexed to the right (so crooked) throughout in the pi-pa. The extended trots (just two rather short diagonals) were not as good as in the Special .. just one hoof overstep and a lot of leg throwing in front (7 - 8). A highlight in the test were the canter half passes ridden in a zig zag and the canter extension. Also the two's were ridden with more ease than before. The pirouette left shows more elasticity than the one on the right and in the one tempi changes the right hind leg does not come as much under as the left hind.

Overall you want to see Wendy a bit more off the hand and more on the hindquarters (she now leans into the contact, while Werth constantly tries to keep her soft and light with a fair connection between hand and bit). This will be essential for the scores to go up even more and achieve a lightness and independence for which team mate Dalera is famous (even though this mare is less elastic in general). 

Kur Magician

Isabell Werth knows how to play the freestyle game and the emotionally, poppy music at the end of the test as well as her visual satisfaction with the ride (a broad smile on her face as she throws her head back in amazement in the piaffe pirouette (it reminded me of Rafael Soto's gesticulations in the saddle) had the crowds clapping and cheering  in support of her final piaffe-passage line. The final piaffe turn was not the best with the horse going wide and lightly back-stepping, but who cares? It's nice to see the riders show connection with the audience and the game, but the judges need to stay focused and not get carried away. Isabell delivered an amazing performance and everyone was eating out of her hand. The judges were equally mesmerised and rewarded her Kur mastery with a winning 89.095%. The crowd broke out in a roar, stomping feet, and the atmosphere in Aachen was amazing.  Isabell bagged her 15th Aachen victory and 62,800 euro in prize money over three rounds.

Big smile in the final piaffe pirouette
"It's unbelievable," said Werth at the press conference. "I had a little walk this morning and an easy warm up. This was our day. From day to day we came closer, especially in the Special. I had a lot of competitions in my life, but this one is one of the most special. She was so cool."

At the time of the press conference the German Olympic team had not yet been announced, but when the riders were asked if they had already "heard birds whispering," Werth laconically replied: "No, I can count."

In the last two press conference Isabell was asked what it's like to take over a ready-made Grand Prix horse instead of producing it herself. She replied, "it's different. You have to figure out the details and accept the way she is moving, the exercises. Then you slowly improve this or that." She also explained it was getting to know the horse in the stable. "In the beginning she didn't even want an apple. We had to get to know her at now. She loves bananas and now she's quicker than an elephant (coming to you for treats)."

On Sunday she added, "It's a pleasure to get the opportunity to try and get her. We went to Le Mans to get an early 3* result and then took more time to prepare. We rode Aachen (Festival 4 Dressage) and Mannheim. Then in Balve she had a different plan, a little injury and we had to take the shoe off. Then Rotterdam and now Aachen. The communication is nearly perfect. This is only possible because the mare has such a fantastic character."

Breathing Out

For German Frederic Wandres the CDIO Aachen and final German team selection trial was a mental game that kept him on the edge of his nerves as he could smell that spot on the German team but had to deliver one last time to seal the deal.

Frederic Wandres and Bluetooth
Aboard the 14-year old Oldenburg gelding Bluetooth OLD (by Bordeaux x Riccione) he was third in the Grand Prix after some mistakes and felt the heat burning from Ingrid Klimke, who was second. In the Special the tables were turned as Wandres was third (with Dutch Dinja van Liere second) and Klimke fourth. In the freestyle Frederic again moved ahead of Klimke and made himself count as Germany's number three. It was a close call.

Riding to Jackson Five's "Can You Feel It" and music by Earth, Wind and Fire (arranged by Nicole Pendzich), Wandres and Bluetooth produced very nice trot extensions with clear lengthening of the stride and big crossing of the legs in the half passes. The passage half passes were a bit flat and in the piaffe turns Bluetooth tends to get wide behind. The extended walk was nice in rhythm and overtrack, the collected not so through the body. The canter half passes were very well executed, the tempi changes worked out. There was much go and engagement in the canter extensions. The left pirouettes were good. In the right ones Bluetooth does double beats behind (6 - 7). Wandres has plenty of skill to assist his horse fault-free through the test but overall one would like to see a bit more autonomy with the horse not requiring the support of his rider to pilot him through the movements. 

Wandres' catchy music appealed to the home crowd who equally rooted for him and clapped with excitement. The pair scored 83.010% and placed second with all five judges. 

"It was a little easier today," said Wandres at the press conference who admitted the week was a psychological roller coaster. But today the sun was shining, the atmosphere electric. We arrived on Monday and my horse was still fresh today. The technical mark was good, we had a bit of tension in the walk. For the artistic mark, we'll practise the kur once or twice at home. I'm finally happy now."

#Tanz Mit Franz

Ingrid Klimke on Franziskus
Ingrid Klimke put her eventing career on the back burner to focus on German team selection with Wilhelm Holkenbrink's 16-year old Hanoverian stallion Franziskus (by Fidertanz x Alabaster).  The pair is much beloved in Germany with a huge fan club and massive social media following. As one of the few riders who is still able to classically school her horses, you notice the difference in so many details. The way she holds her hands, the way she sits on a flat saddle and doesn't need those modern, ridiculous knee blocks, the way Franziskus truly bends and is actually ridden through the corners. There is so much deliciousness in her riding and tests, but overall Franz did not improve in the show but his form was rather downward trending.

In the freestyle they rode to Despacito and Alvaro Soler's Sofia, but there was immediately a big mistake at the start as the horse break into canter in the extended trot. In the passage the hindlegs were dragging, but in the piaffe Franziskus beautifully takes the weight behind as it should be. The ones were good, the two's were performed on a half circle. Towards the end of the test unfortunately Franziskus became uneven in the passage as well as in the final extended trot. The end halt was beautifully square, as usually all her halts are. They scored 81.385% for third place. 

"it's the first time I rode this Kur and I was risking too much in the first extension," said Klimke. "Then I played it safe. Everything was nice and smooth and on the music. The crowd gives you a very special feeling. It's knowledgable. They know what they see and want."

Two hours after the freestyle the German Olympic team was announced: Dalera, Wendy, Bluetooth and Franziskus as reserve. The official FN press release did not mention a second reserve, but Raphael Netz confirmed to Eurodressage that he has been invited to join the training camp in France and will be on standby until two hours before the vet check.

Personal Best for Basquin

French Pauline Basquin achieved a personal best score of 81.120% in the freestyle, finishing fourth.

Pauline Basquin and Sertorius de Rima Z
The set-up for the Olympics in Paris could not be better for her image and "score-glow", even though her 14-year old Selle Français bred Sertorius de Rima Z (by Sandro Hit) lacked a pit of sparkle in Aachen this week after what must have been a very tiring season for him, before the most important show in his career, the Olympics. The pair only rode at major events this year: the World Cup qualifiers in Amsterdam in January and 's Hertogenbosch in March. The 5* in Fontainebleau in April. The 5* Nations Cup Compiegne and 4* in Le Mans in May, the 5* Nations Cup in Rotterdam and another three tests on his plate in the 5* CDIO in Aachen.

Sertorius looked fresh in his mind, but came across as a bit more stiff in the body. They rode to David Bowie's "Let's Dance" and Stromae's "Alors on Danse" and showed correct trot extensions, a good combination of collected walk - piaffe turn - extended walk, but the piaffe was on the forehand. There was some tension in canter.  The rode the difficult movement of a double pirouette straight into a piaffe pirouette for which they picked up points. In the final passage the horse was not so engaged behind and ran out of steam, but he regained his energy in a good final piaffe.

The home team of France will head to the Paris Oympics with Basquin as the spearhead, joined by Corentin Pottier and Alexandre Ayache.

Aachen was the last show for the FEI Definite Entry deadline on 8 July and the die has now been cast for all teams. In three weeks time the world will rally at the Castle of Versailles for the most anticipated competition in three years time: the Olympic Games. 

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

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Related Links
Scores: 2024 CDIO Aachen
Werth and Wendy Seal the Deal in the 2024 CDIO Aachen 5* GP Special on Four Seasons Day
Team Germany Makes it a One-Two-Three in the 2024 CDIO Aachen 5* Grand Prix