Denmark’s World Games Team–Lars Petersen, Mikala Gundersen, Anna Kasprzak, Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein
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Aug. 12, 2014
By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
The Florida-based riders Lars Petersen on Mariett and Mikala Münter Gundersen on My Lady on Wednesday were named to the Danish dressage team for the World Equestrian Games along with the country’s No. 1 combination of Anna Kasprzak on Donnperignon and Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein on Digby that she pulled out of retirement.
The team for the WEG in Normany, France with dressage scheduled to start Aug. 25:
–Lars Petersen, 48, based in Wellington, Florida and Mariett, a 16-year-old Danish Warmblood mare (Come Back II x Sidney), owned by Lars and Marcia Pepper.
–Anna Kasprzak, 24, based in Denmark, and Donnperignon, a 15-year-old Finnish Warmblood gelding (Donnerhall x Mozart 1179), owned by the Kasprzak family.
–Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, 39, based in Germany and Digby, 17-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Donnerhall x Sandro), owned by her mother, Princess Benedikte of Denmark.
–Mikala Münter Gundersen, 45, also based in Wellington, Florida, and My Lady, a 14-year-old Danish Warmblood mare by Michellino, owned by Mikala and Janne H. Rumbough of Palm Beach, Florida.
The reserve is: Anders Dahl, 38, based in England, and Wie Atlantico, a 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Wie Weltmeyer x Rondo), owned by Anders and the family of his wife, Fiona Bigwood.
For Lars, this will be his first championship team since he rode Blue Hors Cavan at the World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain in 2002. Normandy will be his fourth world championships.
Some of the Danish team horses have been on a roller coaster in recent years.
The most recent was Nathalie’s decision to “unretire” Digby from championships based on peak performances at premier events this year. Digby was retired from international championships at an emotional farewell at the Europeans in Herning, Denmark last summer.
Digby likely will be the most experienced championship horse and the only pair to compete at three WEGs.
Nathalie and Digby began their international career in 2006 and since then the record includes both the 2006 Aachen and 2010 Kentucky world championships; the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics; 2009, 2011 and 2013 European Championships and the 2008, 2010 and 2011 World Cup Finals, the last in which the pair were reserve champions.
Three months ago, Anna Kasprzak’s Donnperignon underwent an eye operation that caused the horse to miss the Danish championships.
Donnperignon had lost all sight in the left eye. Brian Gilger, professor of ophthalmology at North Carolina State University, was brought in to remove diseased and calcified portions of the cornea, and the surgically removed area covered with a tissue transplant from another part of the eye.
Mariett, Lars Petersen’s mount, probably had the most unlikely recovery from injury when the mare tore off a complete hoof in a freak stall accident. After a year of rehabilitation, owner Marcia Pepper wanted Lars to bring the horse back to fitness then to keep riding Mariett as the pair began producing competitive results on Florida’s CDI circuit in 2012.
Two years later, Lars, who now owns the horse with Marcia, was the leading combination at the 2014 Gobal Dressage Festival, the top money winner and ranked No. 1 on the World Cup North American League. Mariett was pulled out of the Final when the horse developed an abscess just days before the annual global individual championship.
He was one of the top riders in the world when he rode Utopia for Denmark at the European Championships in Lipica, Slovakia in 1993 and the World Games in The Hague in 1994. He competed Uffe Korshojgaard at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and the European Championships in 1995 and Blue Hors Cavan at the 1998 Rome and 2002 Jerez WEGs, as well as two World Cup Finals placing second in 2002 and fourth in 2001 as well as the 1999 and 2001 European Championships.
In this year’s Danish Championships, Lars and Mariett were second and Mikala and My Lady third.
Lone Bang Larsen and Fitou L won the championships but the horse was not fit and Lone chose to withdraw the horse before team selection.
Mikala and her jumper rider husband, Henrik, moved to the United States more than a decade ago.
She has competed American-owned horses on both sides of the Atlantic, but has enjoyed the most success on My Lady beginning their CDI Grand Prix career 2 1/2 years ago.
The pair were on Danish teams in the Nations Cups in Rotterdam in 2013 and 2014 and at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen this year. She and My Lady finished third in the Danish Championships this year.