Mill Spring, N.C. – Sept. 13, 2018 – Following a hard-fought battle for the top honors at the FEI World Equestrian Games ™ Tryon 2018 (WEG), it was the team from Germany that proved to reign supreme, defending their 2014 WEG title and emerging as the clear victors and world champions thanks to four high-scoring rides across the two days of competition. Always one to watch, Isabell Werth and Bella Rose secured the best individual marks of the first phase with 84.829 percent, a personal best, to qualify for the Grand Prix Special and solidify her nation’s place atop the rankings. Riding on home turf, Laura Graves and Verdades quarterbacked the United States of America to garner the silver medal, and the four members of the team from Great Britain hoisted the bronze.
Starting on a high note, Germany began the second day of team competition with a pair in the lead after the first half of entries rode down centerline Tuesday, as Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Beatrice A. Bürchler-Keller’s TSF Dalera BB had earned 76.677 percent to set the early score to beat. Dorothee Schneider and Matthias Herbert’s Sammy Davis Jr. sat not far behind in the standings with 75.062 percent. Riding a nearly mistake-free test to usurp his teammate for the lead spot and add another top score to his team’s collection, Sönke Rothenberger and Cosmo, the 11-year-old gelding owned by Rothenberger im Gestüt Erlenhof Gmb, finished their Grand Prix as the first partnership to hit the 80 percent benchmark with an overall score of 81.444 percent.
As the fifth-to-last duo to take to the arena, Werth and the 14-year-old mare Bella Rose, owned by Madeleine Winter-Schulze, left nothing to chance and demonstrated another level of excellence with a masterful test that earned 84.829 percent, a performance that catalyzed tears for the accomplished rider during her final centerline and well after she had dismounted. Though four subsequent pairs would try to overcome the top duo, none would be successful, and the German team clinched the team title with a composite percentage of 242.950.
Werth is no stranger to the winner’s circle, having won numerous championships across the globe including ten Olympic medals in her five appearances, making her the winningest equestrian ever at the Olympic Games. Though she is most notably known for her recent successes aboard Weihegold OLD and Emilio 107, the German rider chose to take up the reins for the second time on Bella Rose at the WEG. In 2014 at the Normandy Games, Werth and Bella Rose tested their way to a score of 81.529 percent to help Germany capture the team gold medal, but an injury soon thereafter kept the mare out of commission until her return to the FEI show ring in 2018. Thanks to Thursday’s medal-winning ride aboard Bella Rose, Werth can add another accolade to her extensive collection and has exhibited that the talented champion in her stable is back in top form.
As the final contenders to take to the U.S. Trust Arena, Laura Graves (USA) and the fan-favorite Verdades, co-owned by Graves and Curt Maes, were challenged to break up the current one-two rankings of the two top Germans, Werth and Rothenberger. Undoubtedly one of the most decorated horse-and-rider combinations in dressage today, Graves and the 16-year-old gelding lived up to their deserved reputation with a stellar performance to the tune of 81.537 percent, making them only the third pair of nearly 80 original competitors to break the 80-point threshold. With their score, Graves and “Diddy” edged out Rothenberger and Cosmo by less than one-tenth of a point to capture the second-best individual score of the Grand Prix phase and help her team clinch the silver medal. American teammate Kasey Perry-Glass navigated mother Diane Perry’s Goerklintgaards Dublet to the team’s next-highest percentage of 76.739, while Adrienne Lyle and Betsy Juliano’s stallion Salvino earned 74.860 percent for their efforts. Piloting one of his newer and greener mounts, Steffen Peters directed the 10-year-old gelding Suppenkasper to marks of 73.494 percent, and the team concluded with final marks of 233.136 percent.
Aiming for redemption after just missing the podium with a fourth-place team finish in 2014 at WEG, the United States team was eager to prove their prowess in the dressage ring with a medal this year. Only Graves returned with a WEG-veteran mount in the form of Verdades, while Peters and Lyle were in the irons aboard newcomers Suppenkasper and Salvino, respectively. Perry-Glass and Goerklintgaards Dublet were both rookies to the WEG competition but displayed their worth to the team with the second-best scoring test of the American rides. The team’s silver medal finish qualified them for a coveted slot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
One of the bronze medalists, Charlotte Dujardin and Mount St John Freestyle, the 9-year-old mare owned by Emma and Jill Blundell, proved to be the frontrunners for Team Great Britain, earning a score of 77.764 percent to claim fifth place. Carl Hester and the 10-year-old gelding Hawtins Delicato, owned by Hester, Lady Anne Evans and Ann Cory, followed suit, awarded a near-identical score of 77.283 percent from the panel of judges to slip into the sixth position just behind their British counterparts. Spencer Wilton and Super Nova II, the horse he co-owns with Jen Goodman, raked in marks of 74.581 percent and teammate Emile Faurie rode Hof Kasselmann KG’s Dono di Maggio to a score of 72.795 percent for the cumulative team tally of 229.628 percent, just two-tenths of a percent better than the team from Sweden.
As the 2014 WEG silver medalists, Great Britain returned to the 2018 global event with something of a target on their backs, though this year only two of the members from the 2014 team returned – Dujardin and Hester. Noticeably absent was Valegro, the horse that has been the backbone of British dressage for years with Dujardin in the saddle and is considered by many to be the greatest dressage horse of all time. In 2014, Dujardin and Valegro earned two gold medals individually and were major contributors to the team silver, but the gelding’s recent retirement allowed the team to showcase that the country is still a quality producer of sport horses, with three of the 2018 Grand Prix horses 11-years-old or younger. Without Valegro to carry the team, Britain was presented with a unique opportunity to prove the talents of their young and inexperienced equine athletes, and they each delivered with noteworthy scores that earned the team another WEG podium finish.
With team competition concluded, qualified horses and riders will now focus their efforts toward the latter two phases: the Grand Prix Special and the Grand Prix Freestyle. The events are scheduled to take place Friday and Sunday, respectively, but the schedule is subject to change considering the offshore hurricane. Dressage action will be completed by weekend’s end when coveted medals will be awarded to the three overall highest-scoring combinations.
Results: Day 2 of Grand Prix Team Competition and Individual Qualifier
Rider / Country / Horse / Owner / Total Score
1. Isabell Werth / GER / Bella Rose / Madeleine Winter-Schulze / 84.829
2. Laura Graves / USA / Verdades / Laura Graves, Curt Maes / 81.537
3. Sönke Rothenberger / GER / Cosmo / Rothenberger im Gestüt Erlenhof Gmb / 81.444
4. Patrik Kittel / SWE / Well Done de la Roche CMF / Françoise Trembley, Brigitte Bigar, Muriel Perret / 78.199
5. Charlotte Dujardin / GBR / Mount St John Freestyle / Emma Blundell,Jill Blundell / 77.764
6. Carl Hester / GBR / Hawtins Delicato / Carl Hester, Lady Anne Evans, Ann Cory / 77.283
7. Edward Gal / NED / Glock’s Zonik N.O.P. / Glock HPC Holding B.V. / 77.189
8. Kasey Perry-Glass / USA / Goerklintgaards Dublet / Diane Perry / 76.739
9. Jessica von Bredow-Werndl / GER / TSF Dalera BB / Beatrice A. Bürchler-Keller / 76.677
10. Daniel Bachmann Andersen / DEN / Blue Hors Zack / Blue Hors APS / 76.211
United States: 233.136
Great Britain: 229.628
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Isabell Werth (GER) – Grand Prix Team gold medalist
On riding Bella Rose instead of her other horses:
“This was so special. If you know the story of this horse and you know how long we have worked together, the ups and downs and the injury, it is so brilliant to come back with this performance. There were a lot of questions before about why I chose Bella Rose after just a few competitions and not Weihegold OLD, the number one in the world, and that is difficult to explain. It is not a decision against the other horse, it is a decision for this horse because she is outstanding when she is like this. I knew that she could do it and I believed that she would show it, but you never know. I am very happy that she showed it like this because now everybody understands.”
On Bella Rose’s recovery from injury:
“It was first the question to find everything, and then to give the time. The biggest difficulty was to bring her up in a calm way because this horse wants to move the whole time. To say ‘please just 10 percent, 20 percent, slowly, slowly’ was the most difficult thing. I needed more than one year. She came to my stables when she was three and we built her up to a Grand Prix horse. Her last competition was 2014, then she had an injury and we needed a lot of time to bring her back. Now it’s 2018 and she’s back in the spot and better than ever.”
On Bella Rose:
“Today she was super in everything. The piaffe-passage and the transitions, everything was amazing. The charisma is so special of this horse. She is easy to ride, but you need to find the right way for her temperament. She wants to do it by herself, and when I sit on this horse I know anything is possible. As a rider, I know she has everything she needs and that makes me very, very confident. She is not spooky at all or ever confused by the situation. She doesn’t want to make mistakes so the mistakes were my fault. I was electrified when I saw her when she was three, it was my first view, and I didn’t lose it throughout the years. It’s always a pleasure and special to work with this horse.”
Sönke Rothenberger (GER) – Grand Prix Team gold medalist
On his test with Cosmo:
“I had an amazing feeling already when I went outside around the ring. I really felt that my horse was sharp and ready to perform today, which is not something you expect with such weather and such high humidity because it’s pretty tough on the riders and the horses. All in all, I had bits and pieces which could go better, like the halt rein-back, but he also had some amazing highlights in there. It really lets me look forward to the following days. He gave me so much in the last extended trot, I don’t think there are so many horses which give so much, which have this caliber. It felt really easy for me and I think that’s what he’s about. I think the Special is his test with all the passage and trot extensions, he really knows how to perform there. Of course, today is important to get the gold medal for the team. I hope he can continue what he achieved throughout the season.”
On his show preparations for WEG:
“I think it’s important with such a young horse to really show him at the shows which are important for the qualification process for Germany. We did strategic shows. If I had four or five Grand Prix horses then I would love to go to more. I really have to be happy to have such a horse like Cosmo and have to treat him like that.”
On his goals:
“You still have the best of the best left to ride, so we will see. The dream is to win gold and from the beginning, I knew the last few years that if everything works out my horse can beat anyone but it’s always something else to perform on the day when it’s needed so that’s the task. At home, a lot of people are World Champions and Olympic Champion but then doing out here, that’s the goal.”
Laura Graves (USA) – Grand Prix Team silver medalist
On her reaction to winning the silver team medal:
“I’m feeling a bit under the weather so I was a little nervous about that going in more than anything, but I’ve been laughing because adrenaline is such an amazing thing. From the second I got in the saddle I just felt totally ready to go. Sure, it’s a lot of pressure, but it’s an amazing team to ride on because no one would ever hold a hard feeling because we all know we’re riding our best and it’s the best competition in the world — very top horses, top riders and we all know what we’re capable of and we’re all going to push for that, but we also know this is horse sport and this is what makes it so interesting. I’m really proud of what we were able to accomplish today.”
On her plan for the rest of the competition:
“The horses have to go again already tomorrow for the Special which is a long test, then a day off before the Freestyle. We will see who is the fittest. It truly will be a test of that in this weather. Verdades is always fresh. He’s like Benjamin Button, he just gets younger and younger every year, but we really have to rely on our team, manage them properly and make sure they stay well rested.”
Kasey Perry-Glass (USA) – Grand Prix Team silver medalist
On her test:
“It felt great! He was 100 percent in the warm-up and I really felt like he brought the power and everything that we were looking for in the test. Just a little bit of rider mistake on my part — his changes are so big that sometimes he can get a little away from me and that is what happened in the ones.”
On competing in front of a home crowd:
“It’s funny because if you had seen him in the ring the last two days he was so quiet, he walked around on the buckle and doesn’t really care. I always expect him to get a little bit pumped up once everyone starts cheering, and I feed off of it. Right when we went into the test he calmed down because he knows his job and is really happy in it and working together as a team.”
On Goerklintgaards Dublet and his training:
“The moment we bought him I knew he was special. He just has an elegance about him and he is so sensitive. He can be hot, but he is also sensitive to my aids. Fine-tuning that has been a huge part of our training, and there are times when I’ll half-halt him a little bit and Debbie [McDonald] will tell me it’s too much. I had to really figure that balance between asking for more and not asking for too much. I think we are really right on the cusp on being great with that. He has every opportunity to be up with Isabell [Werth] and Laura [Graves]. We have done it once before, and I know he can do it again. I’m gonna cry because I love him so much. I think a happy horse is a supple horse, and I think he is happy in his body. We take very close care of him. Even our vets and physios say – knock on wood – he feels like an 8-year-old. I’ve put in a lot of work to make that happen.”
Adrienne Lyle (USA) – Grand Prix Team silver medalist
On her reaction to winning the silver medal:
“It’s something I dreamed of my whole life. This is my first medal for me and being on this team is just fantastic. I have a wonderful owner Betsy Juliano, and I have Debbie McDonald who has been with me since I came to her, never having really done anything. She brought me up through the U25 and through my first Grand Prix, and she’s just invested so much time and effort. I’m so proud that I can do this. I feel very blessed just to be here. So many stars have to align just to get a horse to Grand Prix level, let alone make a team or medal silver at WEG. I couldn’t be happier.”
Caroline Griffith (GBR) – Chef d’equipe of Grand Prix Team bronze medalists
On her reaction to winning the bronze medal:
“What’s been truly exciting for us is the young horses that we have for the future at this championship. The way that the riders have produced them during the year and the support staff that have helped them, this is really exciting to have three young horses, we do have a slightly older statesman in terms of horsepower who has been our mainstay, but the guys have done such a great job in producing these young horses and the tests that you are able to watch were quite incredible for horses of that age, and that demonstrates to me the caliber of our riders. I think we knew there was a possibility [of winning a medal] but I say things can go right and things can go wrong, but everyone has pulled together and we have great atmosphere and confidence, and that helps.”
Carl Hester (GBR) – Grand Prix Team bronze medalist
On his test with Hawtins Delicato:
“He walked into the arena on a long rein and went around the edge twice. I thought ‘I’m going to have a good ride today’, and I did. He has such good paces. He might not be the superstar flash of some of the others, but he’s so good with his hind legs. It’s so difficult with a horse this age and inexperienced. He’s done five Grand Prix, so to come here and get through that is great. He’s been very difficult with flying changes. I could feel myself overriding as we were going so I had to think ‘sit still and let it happen’ and he was great.”
On the British-bred Hawtins Delicato:
“He’s the whole package really. He’s extremely beautiful. He’s a Diamond Hit Regazoni bred in the UK. His mother has bred a lot of good horses. He’s not a one-off so it’s a very good mother line. I’ve had him since he was 5 years old, and I saw him when he was 4 years old cantering past me at a show. I watched him go by and I thought ‘I must have that horse.’ I went and found out about him, and learned he was bred three miles up the road from where I live. It’s quite a good story really. I walked out of the ring and I saw his breeders standing on the side there. He was bred in England, so it’s good for British breeding as well as our nation. They’ve come to watch their child and I could see them crying.”
On the daily schedule and venue:
“We’re over an hour away from the venue so traveling can be a challenge sometimes because we have to ride early. Footing is fantastic and stables are fantastic. It’s interesting to ride at a venue in the beginning. The first days here is looked like Beirut, but every day these people have worked so hard to make this happen, so it’s really good. I’m really thankful that they’ve managed to do it, and I know it’s a huge effort for everybody to come. That’s what we’re here for, to ride. I’m very happy.”
On his reaction to winning the bronze medal:
“I think the most exciting thing is that for the last 6 or 7 years people have just thought British dressage is Valegro and that was it, so the fact that Valegro has retired – and that horse was amazing and the best thing that happened to our country – it has given us the will to keep on trying to win medals and produce other horses. For that I’m very grateful. I think this has proven that we do still have depth in British dressage, which was the main point of coming here. We’re very happy.”
Charlotte Dujardin (GBR) – Grand Prix Team bronze medalist
On her test with Mount St John Freestyle:
“It was hot! I can’t tell you how hot it is to ride, it is unbelievable. I am really, really proud. Freestyle is 9 years old. I honestly didn’t know how she was going to be because she’s never been in that sort of environment before. I think it was her sixth Grand Prix, so again, very inexperienced. A few little mistakes, easy to iron out, but for her age and what she’s done, I’m really really proud. She felt brilliant. When she came in everybody clapped. She kind of rose, she just loves the atmosphere. It doesn’t make her afraid. I think to be able to go out there and ride, you wouldn’t think she’s 9 when you see her go.”
On Mount St John Freestyle:
“Carl [Hester] always called her a little bit like Mrs. Valegro because she has the same attitude. She goes in the arena, and she’s not afraid of anything, she tries so hard. She has those similarities to him. I know when she’s strong, the mistakes aren’t there and it’s going to be very exciting. I think she may be as good as him one day. The extended trots, the piaffes and passage [are her specialties]. At home, she hasn’t been beaten, and everything she’s done she’s won. She’s not been in a field of horses this strong before, and for the first time and go in that arena and perform, she didn’t let anybody down so I’m really, really happy. I’ve had her since she was a 5-year-old and competed her up the levels, so to have her here at major championships at 9 years old, I feel very proud. For me, it is as good as winning another gold that I’ve brought her here and I’ve achieved it again.”