Isabell Werth Slams FEI “Short” Grand Prix to Debut at London Olympia World Cup

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Isabell Werth on Bella Rose celebrating the World Equestrian Games individual gold medal. © 2018 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

FRANKFURT, Germany, Dec. 17, 2018—Isabell Werth, the German dressage superstar and the most decorated Olympic equestrian in history, dismissed as making no sense shortening the Grand Prix that will have its first experiment at the World Cup event at London Olympia on Monday night.

“This is not the option for me. It is not the truth we will get more media and more spectators because we cut the test,” Isabell told dressage-news.com at the Frankfurt CDI4* with the finals of both the Nürnberger Burg-Pokal for developing Small Tour horses and the Lousidor Prize for developing Grand Prix that were sellouts despite weather colder than usual.

The “short” version that the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) still calls Grand Prix has been criticized by some of the world’s leading trainers, judges and riders. The new version drops some requirements such as the reinback, most piaffes with transitions and the zig zag so it no longer makes the test what is considered the epitome of dressage–the training of horses to display in harmony with the rider classical, elegant performances to the best of their ability. Developments in breeding over the past two decades have produced what are considered by most segments of equestrian sport as unmatched for lightness, athleticism and attractiveness.

Isabell, at the age of 49 and the mother of a young boy, has earned a total of 10 Olympic medals, four World Cup titles and a slew of world and European Championships in a career at the top of international dressage spanning three decades. Her talent was on full display at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina in September where on Bella Rose she led Germany to team gold and took individual gold in the Grand Prix Special that she described as “fantastic” sport with top class stabling and footing. But she was critical of the FEI for the cancellation of the Grand Prix Freestyle by not being able to rearrange transport home for the dozen European horses qualified for the musical finale.

On the issue of the “short” Grand Prix she clearly gave no credence to the reasons given by the FEI for the test that was devised by British Olympian Richard Davison as a member of the FEI Dressage Judges Working Group looking at ways to improve acceptance of dressage to a wider audience.

“We have six minutes for the Grand Prix now and to do it in three minutes makes no sense,” said Isabell who currently has the world’s No. 1 horse in Weihegold OLD, No. 3 on Bella Rose and No. 4 with Emilio.

“The most important thing it is worse for the horses because we can’t show the horses in the way we should show them. First of all, we have to show basics and we have to show the Grand Prix exercises in a proper way.

“In three minutes it is rush, rush, rush.

“It will be more difficult for the weaker nations than for the top nations.

“I’m sure it makes no sense at all. I am quite sure it can’t be the future.

“I didn’t see a contract with a TV network for a short Grand Prix. If they show me a contract for one hour of prime time TV for a short Grand Prix then we can discuss it.

“It is nothing, just political stuff. They think they have to do something new, something special. Their opinion is they want to make it more interesting.

“I’m sure that it’s not the truth. You could see here (in Frankfurt) the freestyle at St. Georges level at five minutes and we could entertain the people. We need one minute more for Grand Prix.

“At the end to come in then to go out it’s two minutes more.”

The “short Grand Prix?

“For what?” she asked. “It’s just an opinion to try to change something without sense.”