Mill Spring, N.C. – Sept. 14, 2018 – Isabell Werth of Germany saved the best for last Friday afternoon at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018, riding Bella Rose to the highest score as the final entry in the Individual Grand Prix Special. The gold medal is her second of the week after leading her country to the world champion honors in the team competition Thursday, which coincidentally mirrored the nations represented by the top three finalists in the second individual phase. In the Special, Werth topped an all-woman podium, with USA’s Laura Graves and Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin claiming the silver and bronze medals, respectively, after finishing in the same positions only 24 hours prior.
Of the nearly 80 initial contenders from across the globe, only the top 30 combinations following the Grand Prix, advanced to the Grand Prix Special spanning the day Friday. Athletes from Germany, USA, Great Britain, Sweden and The Netherlands comprised most of the qualified field, with each of the four horse-and-rider partnerships from the five teams earning a slot in the test. The remaining ten duos hailed from Belgium, Portugal, Denmark, Australia, Ireland and Russia. Though numerous pairs performed strongly throughout the day to the tune of scores in the upper 70 percentiles, it ultimately came down to the final four riders: Laura Graves (USA), Sönke Rothenberger (GER), Charlotte Dujardin (GBR) and Isabell Werth (GER).
In the irons aboard Verdades, the 16-year-old gelding owned by Graves and Curt Maes, USA’s Graves was tasked with besting the current leading marks of 79.726 percent, earned just one test prior by Patrik Kittel and Well Done de la Roche CMF of Sweden. Improving upon her opponent’s score, Graves navigated Verdades expertly throughout the 10-minute test to reap 81.717 percent from the seven judges, hoping to add a gold medal to the silver already added to their trophy case. Sönke Rothenberger of Germany, in the irons aboard Rothenberger im Gestüt Erlenhof Gmb’s 11-year-old gelding Cosmo, gave it his best effort and looked as though he might surpass Graves, but finished just shy of the American pair topping the scorecard with 81.277 percent, less than half of a percent off the lead.
Second-to-last to take their turn around the arena, Great Britain’s Dujardin and Mount St. John Freestyle, hot off of their bronze medal in the team competition, managed to leapfrog Rothenberger and Cosmo to capture second position with a test that earned them 81.489 percent, once again within the same percentile as the previous two to ride. While a score topping 80 is impressive in any right, the tally is especially so considering the fact that Emma and Jill Blundell’s Mount St. John Freestyle is the youngest horse in the pack at only 9-years-old and still new to the Special, having only competed in the event a handful of times.
Last to ride and always formidable, Werth and Madeleine Winter-Schulze’s Bella Rose exerted their dominance over the dressage ring yet again, raking in a commanding score of 86.246 percent with their textbook test to separate themselves from the rest of the frontrunners. In a league all their own, Werth and the 14-year-old mare concluded the day more than four points ahead of the next-closest challengers, easily clinching the coveted gold medal in the Individual Grand Prix Special.
Bella Rose’s gold medal with Werth marks her third in World Equestrian Games competition, with the first coming in 2014 during the Normandy Games where the Germans rode to the team championship, and the second added to her repertoire with a repeat performance Thursday afternoon. The 2014 WEG was one of the last major competitions for Bella Rose prior to a hiatus from the showring due to an injury, and Werth has spent the past few years slowly rehabilitating the mare. With a score of 86.246 percent, Bella Rose has hit a new personal best in the Special, and Werth has proven that taking her time with Bella Rose was the appropriate course of action. The horse only returned to international competition earlier in the year, but has taken minimal time to prove herself once again as a top force in the global dressage sphere. At the CDI4* in Cappeln last month, together the pair accrued a near-flawless score of 87.000 percent in the Grand Prix Freestyle, and will aim to maintain that momentum headed into Sunday’s final medal opportunity.
With two of the three phases of dressage competition now complete, the top qualifiers will return to the U.S. Trust Arena for the third and final portion of riding, currently scheduled for Sunday. The crowd-favorite Grand Prix Freestyle will be comprised of only the upper echelon of individual horse-and-rider pairs that have performed well enough over the first days of competition to earn eligibility for the final awards of the discipline.
Results: Individual Grand Prix Special
Rider / Country / Horse / Owner / Total Score
1. Isabell Werth / GER / Bella Rose / Madeleine Winter-Schulze / 86.246
2. Laura Graves / USA / Verdades / Laura Graves, Curt Maes / 81.717
3. Charlotte Dujardin / GBR / Mount St John Freestyle / Emma Blundell, Jill Blundell / 81.489
4. Sönke Rothenberger / GER / Cosmo / Rothenberger im Gestüt Erlenhof Gmb / 81.277
5. Patrik Kittel / SWE / Well Done de la Roche CMF / Françoise Trembley, Brigitte Bigar, Muriel Perret / 79.726
6. Kasey Perry-Glass / USA / Goerklintgaards Dublet / Diane Perry / 78.541
7. Edward Gal / NED / Glock’s Zonik N.O.P. / Glock HPC Holding B.V. / 77.751
8. Juliette Ramel / SWE / Buriel K.H. / La Pomme HB / 77.280
9. Carl Hester / GBR / Hawtins Delicato / Carl Hester, Lady Anne Evans, Ann Cory / 77.219
10. Therese Nilshagen / SWE / Dante Weltino OLD / Dressurpferde Leistungsz, T. Nilshagen / 75.821
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Isabell Werth (GER) – Individual Grand Prix Special gold medalist
On her ride with Bella Rose:
“We had three other riders with more than 80 percent already, so I knew that we had to do our best to get our goal, the gold medal. I felt so safe on her and so happy the whole time. She has so much energy and is so patient to go and present herself. It’s always great to go in with a horse when you know that there’s a chance because the horse is so good, and it’s up to you if you can show it in the right way, and that was the case. Of course, I feel so sorry for Madeleine [Winter-Schulze,] she’s in the hospital and I said, ‘I’m going to try my best to bring the gold medal and champagne with me to the hospital,’ and I will do it as soon as possible.”
On her test’s highlights:
“It was from the start. It was full of power and when we started to trot and got to the first extended trot, I said ‘wow, she wants to go.’ I think the half-passes couldn’t be better, the piaffe-passage couldn’t be better. She goes so easy and there’s no trouble. This horse’s charisma and liveliness make a rider really happy, and she’s such a nice horse.”
On riding the first dressage gold medal-winning mare:
“Weihegold OLD is a mare and of course Bella Rose. I have always loved working together with mares. Stallions are always a bit difficult and have an opinion. I always say a good stallion is a gelded stallion. Bella is more focused and concentrated, but it comes when it comes. I’m not looking for the sex when I look for a horse. If it’s a mare it’s great, as well as a gelding or stallion, so this I can’t change in the end.”
On riding Bella Rose at WEG after recovery from injury:
“We needed a lot of time to have her recover and bring her back. Also, because of her temperament, it was difficult to cut her down and slowly increase it by ten percent and then twenty percent. I think there was no other horse I was hand-walking longer than this horse, watching and seeing if everything went well. From the beginning of this year, I started step by step in my mind how to bring her back into accepting that she had to be in other atmospheres. June was her first competition back and it was very special, very surprising for me because we needed the experience again. We went step by step in three shows before we came here to Tryon. It was super work in training together to bring her back up to this level, and I hoped that she would be back here at the top and it worked.”
“The operation went well and she is in a very good mood and waiting for me. It’s really good to hear. She’s at a super hospital and they’re taking care of her in a good professional way. The surgery went well, and it was an isolated break so if everything goes well she can leave next week. I said now she gets a new leg.”
Laura Graves (USA) – Individual Grand Prix Special silver medalist
On her ride with Verdades:
“I think when you’re looking at scores this high, it really has to be a test that from start to finish is pretty flawless. I’m lucky enough to be on a horse that really wants to do his job and, especially in this heat, I think it’s a real test of a horse’s character. You ask them to go and they show up for you, and my horse certainly did that today. For me, it’s always a matter of riding this horse in his mind. Physically he will do whatever I ask him to, but getting him to go where he’s a little bit afraid to go is always my challenge. Today I’m very proud of how he let me ride him. It’s been incredible here the past two days, I just keep laughing because even before the stadium was open, we would be schooling in the warm-up arenas and he kept kind of dragging me towards the stadium. Both today and yesterday he has trotted me himself in there, like he knows he has a bunch of fans and he’s ready to show off.”
On the upcoming Freestyle competition:
“We have a bit of a change, my Freestyle music arrived last night so it should be a big surprise for everyone. I think it’s a really exciting sport for everyone to watch. So many horses in such top form, it’s exciting for all of us right up until the very end. We all have great horses and we are all tough competitors. It’s anybody’s day on Sunday.”
On preparing for the heat:
“I live in Florida so this is a bit like winter for me. It’s not really extreme conditions for us, even this hurricane gets as far west as we are and we get some rain, for me that’s pretty normal for this time of year. I do think that’s a bit of an advantage. My horse has a breathing condition, he roars because half of his larynx is paralyzed. Even in this heat he makes a lot of noise, but the second he is done working he is normal and gets cooled out so it’s definitely an advantage.”
Charlotte Dujardin (GBR) – Individual Grand Prix Special bronze medalist
On her ride:
“My ride today I really felt was unbelievable. I couldn’t have asked for any more from her, she’s only 9 years old, and that was only her third ever Grand Prix Special, so to come out with 81 percent is amazing. I probably rode a little bit safe yesterday but it was so hot that I didn’t want to push her and fry her, so I thought I had an easy ride yesterday, maybe I could go a bit more today. I thought I had nothing to lose today and I’m going to go in there and see what happens, and she just took that challenge on. She is such a fighter and she just delivered. For me, personally, there weren’t any lows. I rode in between the sandwich of Isabell and Sonke, so I knew I really had to up my game to come out and look like I know what I’m doing. Freestyle had to really up her game and we did. Her extended trots are incredible, her passage is incredible, the passage is there and coming. She’s getting more and more confident. I know next year when she’s stronger and more confident that I’m going to give Isabell a good run for her money. We’ll be back fighting.”
On riding a mare:
“I love mares. I’ve always ridden mares, and I have seven mares at home that I’m currently putting through training. Some people love them and some people hate them, but I think if you get a good one you have everything. They can really give you everything they have. I think it’s a great test as a rider to see what you can do. I’m with Isabell about the stallions, I think I prefer to stick with the mares and the geldings.”
On the upcoming Freestyle competition:
“She has done two [freestyles] with my old ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ music of Valegro’s. She does actually have her own music that got finished last night, so as for what to expect, I have no idea. Hope and pray.”
Kasey Perry-Glass (USA) – Individual Grand Prix Special sixth place
On her reaction to her test with Goerklintgaards Dublet:
“I’m so excited. I knew today was going to be a fight for us, just going out after a couple of days and having a little bit of a mistake yesterday. But he gave it his all, and he was right there with the power and the elasticity that he always has. I’m just so proud of him. I think that he gets a little bit more fired up in [the Special]. I think there’s a lot more for him to focus on and it keeps him really compact and together, and it just shows off his best suits. The piaffe-passage is his forte, so I was really excited about that.”
On her break following the 2016 Olympic Games:
“I took a big break last year. We kind of went straight from Rio to another big year in Europe, and Rio was our first year at Grand Prix. I think we were still just meshing and it was such an honor to be on the bronze medal team [at the Olympics] because it kind of pushed us right into the top. I think we really needed a break to rekindle our partnership and really get to know each other outside of dressage, and I’m glad I did it. It worked out perfectly and now I know him that much more. I know where I can read him, if he needs a break, if I need to get on him. I know him very well now.”
On Goerklintgaards Dublet:
“Every time I talk about that horse I get emotional, he’s special. He is the first horse that I’ve had at this level and I couldn’t have asked for a better horse. He’s perfect on the ground and on his back. Just a big teddy bear! If you follow my Instagram, that’s all I post about. I want people to know that about him. I just find such joy loving on him.”
Steffen Peters (USA)
On his performance and plans with Suppenkasper:
“He delivered in the team competition, that was great, and today didn’t happen. Since it is the fourth WEG for me it is quite embarrassing, of course. I have to learn to ride this horse better. He went quite a bit better with his previous rider, Helen Langehanenberg, and I need to ride him as good as her. We are worlds apart at the moment. At the moment, it is back to the drawing board and hopefully figuring things out.”