Britain is Back! Past, Present, Future (?) Performances Heading to Tryon World Games

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Charlotte Dujardin celebrating on Mount St John Freestyle after the pair’s victory in the CDI4* Grand Prix Freestyle at the Royal Windsor Horse Show.

May 12, 2018

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Great Britain’s back!

The success of Charlotte Dujardin on Mount St. John Freestyle and Carl Hester partnered with Hawtins Delicato at the Royal Windsor Horse Show has roiled the World Equestrian Games medal prospects exactly four months before the first horse rides down the centerline in the Grand Prix at Tryon, North Carolina.

Just when the post-Valegro world looked less promising when Britain failed to medal in the 2017 European Championships for the first time at an Olympics or a championship since 2009 the performances of the two pairs out of the Carl Hester School of Dressage thrust the nation back into the podium equation.

The Big Tour debuts were only a month apart for Freestyle, a nine-year-old German-bred Hanoverian mare that was bought by Emma Blundell as an elite foal in Germany when establishing her Mount St. John stud in northern England, and Hawtins Delicato, a British-bred Hanoverian gelding and a year older, owned by Carl and two British partners.

But the results were dramatically higher than Carl posted initially with his Olympic mounts, Uthopia in 2012 and Nip Tuck in 2016, or Charlotte with Valegro. And Valegro went on to help create history in 2012 with the country’s first ever Olympic medals, team and individual golds, take team silver and individual gold in Rio de Janeiro four years later while their record scores at all three Grand Prix levels still stand.

Prognostications with an entire summer of competitions in front of the approximately 100 dressage riders and horses that will eventually make it to Tryon, North Carolina can be summed up as they were in the New York magazine, The Independent, 130 years ago, “The complete fulfillment of his prognostication surprised even him.” So, sticking our neck out…

Dressage-news.com compiled both past and current records to get an idea of where teams stand as nations are preparing for the world championships staged once every four years between Olympic cycles. Nominated horses and riders, including those for teams of a minimum of three combinations and a maximum of four enabling the lowest score to be dropped have to be declared by Aug. 13, three months away.

Carl Hester riding Hawkins Delicato at the Royal Windsor Horse Show.

Few would argue that Germany is odds-on favorite for gold–four top prospects have all achieved at least 80 per cent at Grand Prix that will decide the team competition–Isabell Werth on world No. 1 Weihegold OLD and on No. 3 Emilio, world No. 5 Sönke Rothenberger on Cosmo and two-time Olympic medalist Kristina Bröring-Sprehe and Desperados FRH as well as four other combinations that have already attained Grand Prix scores between almost 76 and 78 per cent so far this year.

The United States so far this year has four combinations that total the highest Grand Prix scores after Germany–Laura Graves on Verdades (81.413 per cent); Adrienne Lyle on Salvino (76.478 per cent), Steffen Peters on both Suppenkasper and Rosamunde (each with 74.587 per cent), Sabine Schut-Kery on Sanceo (74.00 per cent) as well as Kasey Perry-Glass on Dublet (73.935 per cent) and Olivia LaGoy-Weltz on Lonoir (73.783 per cent).

Laura Graves is the only rider to beat Isabell and Weihegold since the 2016 Olympics, which the American pair did in the Grand Prix Special at Aachen, Germany last year and in the Grand Prix at the World Cup Final in Paris a month ago.

All of the American combinations plus Ashley Holzer on Havanna will be in Europe over the summer, to compete in the top CDIO5*s, Rotterdam and Aachen, Germany, to select the top four pairs for Tryon with the realistic goal of repeating the 2002 World Games team silver medal performance.

Denmark is considered a contender for the medals podium, the 2017 European Championship silver medal team led by Cathrine Dufour and Cassidy, the only Danish combination ever to achieve 80 per cent at Grand Prix. Ranked No. 4 in the world, Cathrine and Cassidy beat Isabell on Emilio in both the Grand Prix and Freestyle at Gothenburg, Sweden in February.

Daniel Bachmann Andersen on Blue Hors Zack is the second ranked Danish partnership with their best Grand Prix result this year of 74.739 per cent. Anders Dahl on Selten HW has the next best 2018 Grand Prix score, 72.326 per cent. Anna Kasprzak on Donnperignon, the country’s top duo for most of the past six years, has not competed since the European Championships last August. Anna is pregnant and Donnperignon is 19 years old.

Sweden took bronze at the 2017 Europeans, and seven-time Olympian Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén is the top scoring rider this year on Paridon Mago (75.870 per cent). She has also been working with Don Auriello, back from an injury timeout, her 2012 and 2016 Olympic and 2014 World Games partner. Patrik Kittel has Delaunay (75.413 per cent) and Deja (74.689 per cent). He also is competing Sezuan, the winner of three world young horse championships ridden by Dorothee Schneider, at stallion shows. It is not known if the nine-year-old stallion is ready for Grand Prix.

The Netherlands with Edward Gal on Glock’s Zonik (77.696 per cent) and Madeleine Witte-Vrees on Cennin (73.975 per cent) could be given an outside chance with another well scoring combination, as could Spain that is in a similar situation with Beatriz Ferrer-Salat on Delgado (75.370 per cent) and Severo Jurado Lopez on Deep Impact (75.152 per cent).

Charlotte Dujardin om Valegro in their first championship, the 2011 Europeans in Rotterdam. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The Windsor Grand Prix result for Charlotte Dujardin and Freestyle of 78.587 per cent has been surpassed this year only by Isabell on her top two horses, Weihegold and Emilio, Laura Graves on Verdades, Cathrine Dufour on Cassidy and Kristina on Desperados . The jump for Charlotte and Freestyle was from 75.152 per cent attained in the Netherlands a month earlier.

In comparison, Valegro’s first Grand Prix in March, 2011 was awarded 73.723 per cent. By August that year their score was up to 78.830 per cent and by year’s end was 81.043 per cent. The pair’s London Olympic Grand Prix score was 83.663 per cent.

For Carl, Uthopia’s first Grand Prix in March 2010 was 71.106 per cent. At the 2011 European Championships where the pair led Britain to team gold it reached 82.568 per cent and at the Olympics a year later was 77.720 per cent.

Nip Tuck’s first Grand Prix was 71.460 per cent in May 2014, three months before the World Equestrian Games in Normandy where it was 74.186 per cent and at Rio de Janeiro two years later had climbed to 75.529 per cent.

Uthopia ridden by Carl Hester at the 2011 European Championships where the pair led Britain to team gold. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com