Ulla and Herzruf’s Erbe Win NEUMÜNSTER World Cup Kür With Personal Best Score

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Ulla Salzgeber and Herzruf's Erbe on their way to winning Neumünster World Cup Kür. © 2011 Göran K. Josefsson

NEUMÜNSTER, Germany, Feb. 20–Ulla Salzgeber and Herzruf’s Erbe posted their personal best score Sunday to lead a German sweep of the FEI Reem Accra World Cup qualifying kür and move to the top of the Western European League standings.

Ulla and the 12-year-old gelding scored 81.350 per cent, the first time they have broken 80 per cent, while compatriot Isabell Werth on her Olympic mount Satchmo was one-half percentage point back on 80.850 per cent. Fellow German Helen Langehanenberg on Damon Hill NRW placed third on 77.675 per cent. The Netherlands’ Hans Peter Minderhoud on Exquis Nadine was fourth on 77.100 per cent

Ulla’s victory in the CDI4* broke the tie with Isabell for leadership in the highly competitive WEL after eight of 10 indoor competitions leading to the Final in Leipzig, Germany April 27-May 1.

The 52-year-old Ulla produced a performance that oozed professionalism, confidence, control and harmony.

The Holstenhalle in Neumunster is an atmospheric venue that buzzes with the excitement of its informed and enthusiastic audience, so horses are tested to the limit.  Despite the tension however, the 15 starters produced work of the highest caliber.

“We all love to work as a judge and to see spectators close to the riders.” said Ground Jury President Gary Rockwell of the U.S. “But in Neumünster the atmosphere is extraordinary – you can feel the electricity and the enthusiasm for each competitor – it’s a lot of pressure!”

The Netherlands’ Christa Laarakkers had the advantage going into the half-way break having reset the target-score at 73.125 per cent with Divoza Horseworld Ovation, but that was immediately surpassed by a mark of 74.275 per cent from Germany’s Anja Plönzke who steered the 12-year-old Le Mont d’Or through an energetic and rhythmic display as the action resumed.  And from there it just kept getting better.

Jeroen Devroe and Apollo van het Vijverhof produced a most elegant passage during their calm and polished performance to raise the bar to 76.350 per cent. Next to go, though, was Isabell Werth with Madeleine Winter-Schulze’s 17-year-old Satchmo and the 41-year-old rider was smiling even before she began.

Patting Satchmo both in front and behind the saddle as she put in her final preparations, the four-time Olympic team gold medallist set off with gusto and quickly picked up big marks for fine pirouettes and expressive trot half-passes during which the horse really stretched for his stride. Not content with having clearly made a big impression already, Isabell finished with one-handed piaffe and extended trot down the center line for another leading score of 80.850 per cent.

Isabell Werth and Satchmo at Neumünster. © 2011 FEI

Ulla Salzgeber would not be intimidated.  She followed the 76.200 per cent from Denmark’s Princess Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein and Digby with a spell-binding ride that earned the only artistic mark of 90.00 handed out by the judging panel – from judge at B, Leif Tornblad – as she soared ahead with a score of 81.350 per cent. Her strong chestnut with his big, deep chest and powerful shoulders seems designed perfectly for this job and created fabulous extended trot and piaffe along with controlled and balanced passage as the clear messages from Salzgeber’s experienced hands and perfectly-positioned legs invited him to give his best. As she also finished with a one-handed flourish there was no doubt that the lead had changed once again.

It would be for the final time, although The Netherlands’ Hans Peter Minderhoud and Exquis Nadine’s mark of 77.100 per cent was good enough for fourth behind the final competitor of the day – Helen Langehanenberg – who scored 77.665 per cent with Damon Hill NRW to slot into third.

Helen Langehanenberg, who with her husband runs a string of 20 horses from their base at a rented stable near Munster in Germany, has been enjoying a great season with her top two rides Damon Hill and Rsponsible and is now well-qualified for the Leipzig Final.

“I only ever dreamed of having a season like this!” Helen said. Now, she must now decide whether to campaign at one or both of the last two legs of the qualifying series.

“I will talk with my trainer, Klaus Balkenhol. Maybe I will go to Göteborg or Den Bosch but I’m not sure. Perhaps Den Bosch would be good because then I have about a month before the final, but its great to be in this position right now.”

Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill NRW. © 2011 FEI

Isabell was also delighted with Satchmo,  “he did a great job.  There was a little mistake in the two-tempis, but the result was quite close. Satchmo is brave and I decided to really go for it at the end of the test today – it might have been a bit over the top but dressage should be fun too, and not always so serious!”

Isabell said she will compete in Sweden later this week “because I’m a hard-working lady and I am lucky enough to have three great horses in the top ten right now – that means I have to compete a lot more.”

She plans to ride Satchmo at the Final in Leipzig”.

For Ulla Salzgeber there was also a huge sense of achievement.

The rider who won back-to-back FEI World Cup Dressage titles with the great Rusty in 2001 and 2002 was already happy after heading the line-up in Saturday’s Grand Prix.

“It is 10 years since I have been part of a press conference at Neumunster and it’s nice to be back again” she said.

“Herzruf`s Erbe did a lovely test and the crowd was absolutely fantastic. I`m overwhelmed at the moment!”

With the only Göteborg, Sweden, later this week and ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, Mar. 24-27 remaining as qualifiers, standings are:

1. Ulla Salzgeber Germany 77 points;
2. Isabell Werth Germany 74
3. Adelinde Cornelissen The Netherlands 63
4. Hans Peter Minderhoud The Netherlands 60
5. Richard Davison Great Britain 57
6. Helen Langehanenberg Germany 55
7. Catherine Haddad USA 54
T-8. Christa Laarakkers The Netherlands 48
T-8 Patrik Kittel Sweden 48
10. Jeroen Devroe Belgium 42

Complete results:Neumünster GP Kür Results

Western European League standings: WC WEL Standings 22-02011