World Equestrian Games Dressage Freestyle Canceled–Official

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Laura Graves trotting Verdades for the World Equestrian Games freestyle veterinary inspection two hours before word leaked out that the musical performance for medals was in jeopardy because of Hurricane Florence. © 2018 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

TRYON, North Carolina, Sept. 15, 2018–The World Equestrian Games dressage Freestyle was canceled Saturday after the riders pulled out because of too many schedule and competition venue changes forced by Hurricane Florence.

The decision by the riders to withdraw led to an official announcement by the organizers hours later cancelling the event. Earlier in the week, endurance was canceled after a botched start.

“Despite the best efforts of the whole Tryon 2018 team and the officials, who have been working on plans for rescheduling since yesterday (Friday) evening, including meetings with the chefs de mission and chefs d’equipe, the logistics of putting all necessary elements into place in time have proved insurmountable. As a result, and very regrettably, the dressage freestyle will now be cancelled,” the organizers said in a statement.

“This was not an easy decision, but we have explored every option, including trying to reschedule the horse departures, and even looking at moving the competition into the indoor with a change of footing, but the logistics of making all this happen are just not possible,” Tryon 2018 organizing committee President Michael Stone said.

“We know this is desperately disappointing for the 15 athletes who had qualified their horses for the Freestyle, and of course for all the spectators who had bought tickets, but the weather has simply left us with no choice. Horse welfare has to be the top priority and flying the horses out on the same day as competition doesn’t work, so sadly the decision to cancel the Freestyle had to be taken.

“Although we are devastated that this decision has had to be taken, we’ve had two absolutely world-class competitions here at Tryon, including yesterday’s Grand Prix Special, and to see Germany’s Isabell Werth and Bella Rose taking double gold and Team USA claiming silver was a real treat for Dressage fans.”

The decision does not affect the Olympic qualification process, as this was completed on Thursday. The teams that have earned their ticket to Tokyo 2020 are Germany, USA, Great Britain, Sweden, Netherlands and Spain.

The cancellation of the freestyle of the top 15 dressage riders from eight nations was a shocking end to the world championships held only once every four years, and the first time this has occurred since the combined championships were inaugurated in 1990.

It came after perhaps the most amazing–some said the best in history–team competition decided by two days of the Grand Prix and the individual championships of the Grand Prix Special.

Isabell Werth leading Bella Rose at the horse inspection ahead of the scheduled World Equestrian Games freestyle that was later canceled. © 2018 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Germany won the team event for the seventh gold in eight of these championships, the United States took silver and Great Britain bronze.

Isabell Werth on Bella Rose the next day captured the individual gold with America’s Laura Graves on Verdades taking silver for the best U.S. individual result ever while Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain on Mount St. John Freestyle, the successor to Valegro, took bronze.

The approach of torrential downpours from Hurricane Florence was the major obstacle, and had already led to the likelihood of re-scheduling the musical performance for Monday.

Other issues included that European dressage horses were scheduled to be shipped out Monday afternoon. Several riders objected for the sake of horse welfare to have their horses undergo the nine-hour flight to Belgium the same day as the competition.

Although only 13 horses–two of the 15 were Americans–in the freestyle were to return to Europe, the European shipping contractor reportedly refused to make changes to accommodate disruption of the dressage schedule. Flight schedules were likely to be disrupted by the hurricane, anyway.

The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) was also reported by sources to have objected to staging the freestyle in a second major arena next to the main arena because of European television contracts that now will not be fulfilled because of the cancellation.

Mount St. John Freestyle being jogged by Alan Davies at the horse inspection for the World Equestrian Games freestyle. © 2018 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com