Totilas & Edward World Champions in WEG Gold Medal Sweep, Mistral Hojris & Laura 3rd Silver, Ravel & Steffen Double Bronze

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Laura Bechtiolsheimer, Edward Gal and Steffen Peters on the WEG Grand Prix Freestyle medals podium. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Laura Bechtiolsheimer, Edward Gal and Steffen Peters on the WEG Grand Prix Freestyle medals podium. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

LEXINGTON, Kentucky, Oct. 1–Moorlands Totilas was ridden by Edward Gal to a gold medal sweep with a dominating victory in the World Equestrian Games Grand Prix Freestyle under lights Friday night, while Great Britain’s Laura Bechtolsheimer on Mistral Hojris collected her third silver medal and Steffen Peters and Ravel won their second bronze in an unprecedented medal haul for the United States at a world championship.

Before a sellout crowd of 25,000 in  the main stadium of the Kentucky Horse Park, Edward and the 10-year-old black stallion scored 91.80 per cent to come with a half a percentage point of their world record.

The scores for Laura and Mistral of 85.350 per cent was a personal best while for Steffen and Ravel the score of 84.90 per cent came close to the top result in their historic sweep of the CDIO at Aachen, Germany, in 2009.

The Friday results seemed popular with the crowd on a chilly night of the third medal competition in the dressage world championships that are part of the WEG and are held once every four years and in the United States for the first time. The crowd, however, booed and jeered what they thought were scores that were too low for Juan Manuel Muñoz Diaz on the captivating gray PRE stallion Fuego Xii who finished fifth on 81.450 per cent.

The freestyle wrapped up the dressage competition, one of eight world championships at this WEG–dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, jumping, reining, vaulting and para-dressage. Endurance and reining finished earlier this week and the eventing will conclude Sunday.

For Edward and Totilas, the reigning European Champions, the pair leave Kentucky and their first time in America with gold for the Dutch team and individual golds in the Grand Prix Special and the freestyle. The sweep was the first for the pair at a major championship.

They won team gold and individual gold for the freestyle at the Europeans, but were beaten by team mate Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival In the Grand Prix Special and in their first World Cup Final in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, last March again lost to Adelinde and Parzival in the Grand Prix. At this WEG, Adelinde and Parzival were disqualified after the horse bit his tongue at the start of the Grand Prix team event, drawing blood.

Totilas wearing gold boots in the victory gallop after the Grand Prix freestyle. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Totilas wearing gold boots in the victory gallop after the Grand Prix freestyle. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Adelinde was in the stands to watch the freestyle.

Adelinde Cornelissen at the Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Adelinde Cornelissen at the Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The 25-year-old Laura Bechtolsheimer has become Great Britain’s superstar for leading her team to silver at the 2009 European Championships at Windsor, England, and now team silver at this WEG as well as her two individual silver medals, by far the best result at a world championship for Great Britain.

Steffen Peters and the 12-year-old KWPN gelding Ravel have achieved what no other American has in winning a medal in the world championships, and making it two bronzes. He became the first American to win an individual Championship medal in Dressage in the 78 years since Colonel Hiram Tuttle and his horse, Olympic, took bronze at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1932.

And in a special moment, he dedicated the ride to 2008 Olympic team mate Courtney King-Dye whose battle to recover from a horse injury seven months ago inspired him. In her honor, he wore a safety helmet emblazoned with a U.S. flag in the awards ceremony.

Steffen Peters on Ravel wearing a safety helmet in the Grand Prix Freestyle victory gallop to honor Courtney King-Dye. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-new.com
Steffen Peters on Ravel wearing a safety helmet in the Grand Prix Freestyle victory gallop to honor Courtney King-Dye. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-new.com

Laura Bechtolsheimer set the bar high when producing great trot extension, lovely passage, and pleasing piaffe with her 15-year-old gelding to begin the final-five showdown with a score of 85.35 per cent.

“My horse has found the freestyle difficult, but thankfully he concentrated enough to stay with me tonight,” she said. “We made little mistakes in the two-time changes and a little in piaffe, but he showed his true colours and just picked it up again afterwards. I’m very proud of my horse.”

Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The most spectacular performance of the night came from the Spanish partnership of Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz and the stallion Fuego XII.

The crowd had fallen in love with them earlier in the week, so they were already particular favorites, but no-one could have expected them to produce the form they found Friday. Prancing into the ring with his knees almost touching his nose, the gray stallion demanded attention.

The routine set to their Spanish soundtrack brought spontaneous cheers during Fuego’s first extended trot.

There was lots more to come however, including one-handed one-tempi changes, and by the time Diaz steered his horse up the centreline–in passage and once again using only one hand–the crowd was openly cheering.

 Juan Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz riding Fuego XII one-handed. ©2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Juan Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz riding Fuego XII one-handed. ©2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The showman Diaz couldn’t contain his excitement at the halt, and nearly parted company with his horse who shot forward as the Spaniard whipped off his hat and thumped the air with his fist in delight.  The crowd went wild, and voiced their disapproval when this partnership were awarded 81.450 per cent, which the crowd thought was not enough.

Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz almost unseated from Fuego XII. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz almost unseated from Fuego XII. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Edward was next to go, but delayed Totilas’s entry into the ring to let the noise settle down.

“This arena is impressive, there was no-one at all here when we were practicing yesterday but so many people today–although we all had to deal with it,” he said, referring to the electric atmosphere which prevailed all evening.

Totilas broke in his first passage and then burst into canter during his first extended trot, but soon he was in that mesmerising rhythm, building up his performance and registering big scores. All five judges put him firmly first.

Peters had the unenviable task of following him into the ring but Ravel didn’t let him down.

Quietly and calmly they made their way through their routine with lovely half-pass and extended trot and with a score of 84.850 per cent slotted into bronze medal position behind Laura and Mistral Hojris.

Last to go was Holland’s Imke Schellekens-Bartels could change the medal-order, and although Hunter Douglas Sunrise showed her customary bounce and exuberance it wasn’t enough to squeeze onto the podium.

Edward praised the people behind him including Dutch Chef d’Equipe Sjef Janssen, Nicole Werner and Hans Peter Minderhoud.

“We work as a team, and we’re doing a great job, but a horse like Totilas helps a lot!” he said.

Knowledge of his horse was key to their success.

“You have to be good to a horse and to have fun with him, to respect him,” he said. “We are horse people who know what’s good for a horse and what’s not good, and that’s important.”

Asked if he was relieved after the big build-up to Friday night’s performance he said: “when I came in I knew I could do it but I had to make it happen. At the end I have three gold medals, it’s so fantastic to come here and win all the tests, it’s just sinking in a little bit now.”

Ground Jury President Linda Zang of the U.S. put it into perspective.

“Tonight we were judging three completely different horses,” she said. “Totilas has so much power but is easy and light and Edward does a great job to keep him in frame and to work happily with him. Laura’s horse is big and powerful, the propulsive power is wonderful but she has to keep him balanced–she gives 100 per cent. Steffen’s horse is elastic and soft and has a different kind of harmony.”

Complete results of the freestyle:

1 13 NED
NED
E. Gal Moorlands Totilas 91.800 445
2 11 GBR
GBR
L. Bechtolsheimer Mistral Hojris 85.350 413
3 14 USA
USA
S. Peters Ravel 84.900 406
4 15 NED
NED
I. Schellekens-Bartels Hunter Douglas Sunrise 82.100 390
5 12 ESP
ESP
J. Muñoz Diaz Fuego XII 81.450 382
6 10 GER
GER
I. Werth Warum Nicht FRH 80.000 383
7 6 DEN
DEN
N. Sayn-Wittgenstein Digby 78.750 380
8 5 CAN
CAN
A. Holzer Pop Art 76.550 369
9 8 AUS
AUS
B. Parbery Victory Salute 76.350 363
10 7 GER
GER
C. Koschel Donnperignon 76.100 363
11 3 SUI
SUI
M. Krinke Susmelj Corinth 75.300 360
12 2 GBR
GBR
F. Bigwood Wie-Atlantico de Ymas 73.400 355
13 9 GER
GER
A. Balkenhol Dablino 73.250 347
14 1 AUT
AUT
P. Gmoser Cointreau 71.500 344
15 4 POL
POL
M. Rapcewicz Randon 70.400 344