First Competition Day at 2014 WEG in the Books
Andrea Fappani (USA) and Custom Cash Advance are in the lead after the first individual reining qualifier.
Photo: Dirk Caremans/FEI
The Alltech Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) World Equestrian Games (WEG) kicked off today in Normandy, France, as dressage, para-dressage, and reining riders took to their respective arenas.
Reining: Team USA Takes the Lead on First Competition Day
The reining team competition and first individual qualifying round took place today in the Parc des Expositions in Caen. Piet Metsdagh (BEL) riding RS Spat Man O War was first in the arena. The pair closed their run with a score of 216.5, which remained unbeaten until 12 horses later, when Andrea Fappani (USA) closed his pattern with a 224.
Riding Custom Cash Advance, an 8-year-old Quarter Horse stallion by Custom Crome and out of Cash In Roan, owned by Silver Spurs Equine, Fappani thrilled the crowd and his score held until the end of the first part of the individual competition.
“This horse has been shown very successfully in the past by other professionals but I’ve only competed with him twice before coming to the games and today I tried to do my best,” said Fappani, a native Italian who now represents the United States. “I was careful in the spots I wasn’t confident about. I had tried to qualify for team USA in 2010 and didn’t make it by one point. I was pretty disappointed at the time so I am thrilled to be here today.”
The second pair combination for Team USA, Jordan Larson and HF Mobster (Colonels Smoking Gun x Dun Its Black Gold), owned by Heritage Farms, closed their pattern with a 221. “I’m pretty happy with our run today,” Larson, who has been showing this horse since 2011, commented.
Team USA is currently leading on a score of 445. Fappani and his mount lead the first individual qualifier rankings and Larson lies in third place.
After 41 horse-and-rider combinations had performed, Ann Poels-Fonck representing Belgium aboard Nic Ricochet (Ricochet Rooster x Minnie Nic), scored the second highest mark of the day, 222.5.
“I’m really happy with my score and my horse’s performance today,” she said. “This was not the horse I was supposed to ride here originally. Last week I was lucky enough to have its owner, Manuel Bonzano of Italy, offer to let me ride it. It has been successfully shown by Manuel in non-pro competitions in the past and was wonderful for me today. I must admit the crowd was also fantastic!”
The total score for Team Belgium, including Poels and Mestadgh’s performances, is 439. This puts them in second place behind Team USA.
Team Germany are third with 436.5 points thanks to Ludwig Grisha’s performance aboard Ruf Tuf Juice (Little Ruf Peppy x Smart Like Juice). Riding the horse owned by Fabien Strebel, Grisha earned a score of 218.5 and is also tied for third place in the individual standings with Australian Martin Larcombe who rode Wimpys Cute Tune (Wimpys Little Step x Gwyneth), owned by XCS Ranch LLC.
Team Australia closed with a total of 435 thanks to the performance of Shaun Saunders who slid Sparkin Tinsel (Tinsel Nic x Setting Off Sparks), owned by Corinna Schumacher, to a score of 217.
The second part of the team reining competition, which features 16 nations, and the first individual qualifier will take place tomorrow at 8:45 local time.
Dressage: Germany Takes the Early Lead
Germany holds the advantage over the defending team champions from The Netherlands after the first day of dressage. It could have been a daunting task for competition pathfinder Fabienne Lutkemeier (GER) who was first into the arena at Stade D’Ornano in Caen early this morning. But the 24-year-old from Paderborn showed great strength of character when posting a score of 73.586, and when German teammate Kristine Sprehe added the best mark of the day (78.814%) the the country that took bronze in 2010 confirmed their sense of purpose.
“I woke up at 5 o’clock this morning, it’s a terrible time to start (the dressage test) but I had to be first in this competition!” said Lutkemeier with a laugh after making her 8:00 a.m. appearance. “I was very delighted with the trot tour but there was a mistake in the flying changes and I’m disappointed about that. I know we can do better. I wanted to ride fresh but controlled, but I decided to take a calculated risk and I believe it paid off.”
Sprehe reflected, “I felt very confident today, and Desperados was wonderful to ride. Normally he can be a bit nervous in the first competition at an event, but today he was fantastic. The piaffe could be better, but I wasn’t brave enough this morning. The stadium doesn’t impress him too much so he was really relaxed.”
With only two riders from each team in action today, it is still all to play for in the team championship when the action resumes tomorrow morning. The Dutch lie second following a lovely performance from Hans Peter Minderhoud and Glock’s Johnson who posted 74.357 after Deiderick van Silfhout rose to the challenge to score 73.414 with Arlando NH. Van Silfhout only got his team call-up when Danielle Heijkoop’s Kingsley Siro was withdrawn last Thursday, but the 26-year-old rider showed exactly why he was on the reserve list.
Minderhoud has every reason to be pleased—he competed in one of the heaviest downpours that beset the competition programme today and spent a lot of his warm-up time sheltering from the rain before deciding that he just had to go out there and get a soaking. He said the footing in the arena “was not slippy, but a bit sticky” and that his horse, Glock’s Johnson “felt it a little at the beginning of the test and was not so expressive, but then he went forward as usual after that and went quite well.” Asked what he hoped his score might be today, he replied, “I was looking for a score a bit better than Kristina’s (Sprehe)! I was hoping to get a little higher but there were a few small things. Overall I am quite happy even though this was not our best test of the season.”
With Edward Gal and Glock’s Voice, and Adelinde Cornelissen with Jerich Parzival yet to come, the Dutch will be hoping to pull ahead of their German rivals by tomorrow evening.
Great Britain holds third spot thanks to Carl Hester’s mark of 74.186 with Nip Tuck. Gareth Hughes was the first Briton into the arena, scoring 69.714 with DV Stenkjers Nadonna, but Hester really raised the British game with his relatively inexperienced ride who charmed the ground jury for individual third place.
“I’m delighted," Hester said. "We’re in the hunt with The Netherlands and Germany and this was a personal best for my horse. He’s 10 years of age and he’s only just stepping up there. I’m very excited about the competition tomorrow and for the rest of the week. For both my owner and myself it’s very exciting.”
Nip Tuck was not an expensive purchase, so his presence at a world championship is all the more exceptional. “He cost me 1,000 Euros," Hester said, "so to me, that he’s doing this—that’s like my gold medal to be honest. I know he did his absolute best in there for me and did everything I asked.”
With the multiple record-breaking partnership of Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, and Michael Eilberg with the handsome mare Half Moon Delphi still to come it seems the British could rally strongly tomorrow.
It will be German star Isabell Werth who gets the second half of the team competition off to a start in the morning, and if she can persuade her mare, Bella Rose, to shimmer and sparkle, her country’s position will be further reinforced. And, Germany also has the super-talented partnership of Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill NRW to rely on as anchors. The battle for supremacy will be played out in full as the day progresses, and it promises to be a thriller to the very end.
Two Americans rode today, and both are currently sitting within the top 20: Adrienne Lyle and Peggy Thomas' Oldenburg gelding Wizard scored a 72.000 to sit in seventh place, while Tina Konyot is sitting in 17th place with her own Danish Warmblood stallion Calecto V on a score of 69.643.
Tomorrow, there are another 50 riders who also have their hopes and dreams, and some of them will be trying very hard to better the German rider’s result.
Team Test Kicks Off Para-Dressage
The para-dressage team competition kicked off today with athletes from as far afield as Argentina, Australia, Canada, Israel and the United States at La Prairie racecourse.
Hannelore Brenner (GER), defending world champion and double gold medallist at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, earned the top Grade III score of 72.474% on Women Of The World, despite heavy rain. European champion Sanne Voets (NED) on Vedet PB N.O.P. was next in line on 72.053% ahead of Denmark’s Annika Lykke Risum with Aros A Fenris in third on a mark of 69.868%.
“I’m really happy to be here with my horse,” Brenner said. “It’s our eighth championship and every year she is so wonderful. “She is nearly 19 years old and she was really fantastic. There are some things we can do better but I am happy with the ride. I want to ride the best I can with my horse but I know there are some really good horses, so we will see how we can do.”
With less than one percentage point separating Brenner and Voets, it is clear that the competition for the individual title in Grade III will be close.
Voets said of her first ride at the games, “I think we had a very nice test today with a lot of control. I started a little safe because this is a very important test for our team result. Our main goal here is to medal so we’re on track for Rio 2016. During the test he was there with me, so I started to take a few more risks. I think every step was a little bit better and that was the goal for today.”
Today’s competition saw a return to the arena for Risum, just seven months after giving birth to a baby boy. The three-time world silver and paralympic bronze medallist said, “It was okay but a little bit weak. I think the horse was a little bit tired and maybe I was as well. We had no big mistakes, so that was overall a good test but I could have pushed him a little bit more forward. It’s really good to be back, but it’s a big challenge as well as I’ve only been preparing for this event for four months, so with that in mind I am really pleased.”
The morning’s Grade III competition also saw some younger athletes take to the international stage to represent their countries for the first time, including Canada’s Roberta Sheffield and Australia’s Elizabeth Sobecki and Chelsea Higgins.
A field of 25 riders took to the arena for Grade Ib, including all three London 2012 medallists, competing against each other for the first time since the games in Greenwich Park.
The competition marked a clear return to form for Great Britain’s Lee Pearson riding Zion, who took the win with an impressive 77.960% ahead of Austria’s individual freestyle London 2012 gold medallist Pepo Puch on Fine Feeling S with 76.520%. Italy’s Silvia Veratti on Woikoski Double U were third on 72.000%. London’s other gold medallist, Australia’s Joann Formosa, winner of the FEI’s Against All Odds 2013 award, finished in seventh place on Worldwide PB with 71.200%.
Today’s victory for Pearson, his first major international competition since London, was sweet, he said: “(Zion) went into the arena and he was a bit tense, but I was still really pleased with him and the trot work was phenomenal. He’s a brilliant horse to train. He’s so laid back and he learns very quickly, I’m very excited about his future career.
“It’s an honor to be on the selected squad and put back on the team. I’m still looking forward to the individual test as it has more trot work and from what friends and family have told me his trot today was keeping me above Pepo (Puch). I’m really pleased for the team as well. Days like today you wish it was a medal day.”
Puch was equally happy about his performance, particularly given the wet conditions. ”I am really happy, especially as my horse doesn’t like rain,” he said. “Normally when it rains she goes back in the stable. It is very nice of her to do this, especially in this rain and with the water on the floor it is not easy to hold the horse in line.”
Third placed Veratti was thrilled with her result: “I didn’t expect that. I expected a worse position, and I’m staying positive,” she said.
This afternoon also saw the debut of the youngest competitor in the para-dressage competition, Sydney Collier (USA), who is just 16 years old. “It was an incredible experience to be riding with such amazing riders and for my first time my horse was super well behaved,” she said.
Day two of para-dressage will see athletes in Grades Ia, II, and IV take to the arena for Round 1 of the team competition, before Team Round 2 and individual competitions on Aug. 28 to decide the team medals in Normandy.
POLL: Big Spender