Many horse enthusiasts know the hustle-bustle atmosphere of the world’s biggest horse fair, Equitana, in Essen in the west of Germany. While it is a fantastic place to meet like-minded people, see and buy the latest horsey equipment and to enjoy displays, from Olympic champion masterclass to alternative riding styles, it might not be the most ideal setting for sensitive dressage horses.
Dressage at Equitana
In its second year, the World Cup Finals went Equitana because the initial organizer Dortmund bowed out. The late Wolf Kröber, inventor of Equitana, stepped in and offered to host the world’s best dressage riders to music for their 1987 finals.
In a way this unique setting was perhaps what the World Cup Finals needed in its early stages in 1987. It gave the discipline the chance to reach a bigger overall public and visibility and attract horse lovers for whom dressage so far had been a book with seven seals.
Qualifying for the 1987 Finals
The second World Cup season in the autumn and winter of 1986-1987 featured 13 qualifiers all over (western) Europe, one less than the previous season.
Swiss Christine Stückelberger turned out to be the winner of the (European) league, having won four of the qualifiers at whole. She won three with her 1986 reserve World champion Gauguin de Lully CH and one with the horse she previously rode in the finals of 1986, the Oldenburg gelding Rubelit von Unkenruf.
One point behind the Swiss was Dutch Annemarie Sanders who came 2nd on her evergreen, the 18-year-old Westfalian gelding Amon. Both had won at Rotterdam on home-turf. Third in the league was German George Theodorescu with the impressive Dutch gelding Sonny Boy (by Jashin) who had won the last qualifier at Neumünster.
Two pairs of the 12 finalists in Essen were from North America and were selected/invited: Cindy Ishoy from Canada and Robert Dover from the USA; the former on the Hanoverian geldings Dynasty (by Darling) and the latter on Federleicht (by Federgeist xx). Only a season later both oversea countries got their own leagues with a few qualifier.
Title defenders Anne-Grethe Jensen and Marzog from Denmark had won at Stockholm. Germany was the only country with three starters in Essen. The Netherlands qualified two lady riders, whereas Sweden and Yugoslavia had one rider each.
Over 4,500 spectators filled the exhibition hall with the big arena in the middle on Friday when the first part, the Grand Prix, took centre stage. Whereas the spectators’ enthusiasm was a delightful affair for the discipline itself, horses and riders not always dealt well with the crackling atmosphere that arose from people coming and going.
Nonetheless, Swiss Christine Stückelberger and her compact Swedish bred, but Swiss registered stallion Gauguin de Lully CH (by Chagall x Gaspari) managed to beat the previous years winners and reigning individual World champions Anne-Grethe Jensen and Marzog (DWB by Herzog) into second place.
Hot on their heels was the oldest participant of the final, the late George Theodorescu with the 11-year-old chestnut gelding Sonny Boy who was certainly on a rise after his win at the qualifier in Neumünster, ahead of Herbert Krug on his 1984 Olympic team champion, the Danish bred liver chestnut gelding Muscadeur.
However, the enthusiastic crowd took Canadian Cindy Ishoy and her Hanoverian Dynasty (by Darling) especially close to their heart and showed their preference for the Schultheis trained pair, particularly in the freestyle a day later.
Kur to Music
Compared to present choreographies, Christine Stückelberger’s and the freestyles of many others might appear all too simple structured, but to put things into perspective the freestyle to music was rather in its infancy and secondly the term "harmony" had not yet been pushed aside by the word "spectacular" in the world of dressage.
The 40-year-old Stückelberger relied on classical music by Haydn, Schubert and Bizet, quite matching the movements of her good natured stallion who remained without fault in front of a 6,000 counting audience for the Kur.
George Theodorescu managed to beat the Danish fairytale pair of Anne-Grethe Jensen and her now 14-year-old gelding Marzog (by Herzog) with the rather inexperienced chestnut gelding Sonny Boy who later carried his student, Italian Daria Fantoni, to three consecutive Olympic Games. By a whisker they had to be content with a third place overall behind Stückelberger and Jensen.
Long before the times of spectator judging, the crowds’ favourite, Cindy Ishoy from Canada and her 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding Dynasty, placed an excellent 4th. Their time would come in the Olympic year of 1988.
-- Text by Silke Rottermann
All photos © Elisabeth Weiland - NO REPRODUCTION ALLOWED !!
Scores: 1987 World Cup Finals
Blast from the Past - The Inaugural 1986 World Cup Finals
Eurodressage Coverage of the World Cup Finals from 1999 till 2023