‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands—April 21
While competitors and judges alike admitted that they were slightly disappointed with the level of yesterday’s competition in the Grand Prix test for the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final, there was no disappointment today as riders put everything on the table to vie for the title. Helen Langehanenberg set the bar high for last year’s winner, Dutch rider Adelinde Cornelissen, when she laid down an expressive freestyle for a score of 85.21 percent.
“I saw her points before I went in and said, ‘OK, I have to sharpen him up now,’ ” said Cornelissen of her mount Jerich Parzival. “It's actually thanks to Helen here who rode a really good test that my test was better today.”
Cornelissen’s score of 86.25 percent jumped her into the lead, sealing her second consecutive World Cup title aboard Parzival. But it wasn’t a completely clean sweep—judges Katrina Wüst and Isabelle Judet had Langehanenberg and the charismatic stallion Damon Hill NRW in first.
“All three [of the top three riders] did a top job, but they were, of course, different,” said Ghislain Fouarge, president of the ground jury for the freestyle. “[Langehanenberg] is a very elegant rider, and she can easily beat Adelinde in this moment if everything is OK. So she should change her freestyle just a little bit, and the degree of difficulty should be higher.”
But Cornelissen added that her horse isn’t at his best yet.
“In my training, I’ve made my planning up until London,” she said. “Because I really wanted to ride here I made a little peak last week. But in London it’s going to be a bit higher, so I’m not worried. I don’t know what percentage Parzival is at, but it’s not 100 percent yet.
“It is not just that I really wanted to defend my title, but also I really wanted it because it is in Holland. I really wanted to show Parzival to the home crowd, and I’m really happy we managed this,” Cornelissen added.
Parzival, a 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Jazz—Fidora, Ulft) gelding, faltered only once, towards the end of his freestyle in the final piaffe and passage tour.
“I haven’t visualized my test. I was completely focused, and I didn’t want to miss a step. I’m not really sure what was the best part yet,” said Cornelissen. “The only thing I know is that in the end, after my piaffe pirouette, I was doubting what to do. Sometimes I stay in piaffe and sometimes I go forward in passage so Parzival was like, OK, we’re going now.”
Though she’s still using an older freestyle, which includes refrains from the Nutcracker ballet, Cornelissen plans on debuting a new one before the Olympic Games. But her current freestyle still earned her two scores of 9.5—from judges Stephen Clarke and Fouarge—for music and interpretation.
“Adelinde did a fantastic freestyle,” said Fouarge. “Everything fits, the degree of difficult is very high and the choreography is also very good.”
Damon Hill’s test highlighted the horse’s super passage and piaffe—he earned only scores of 8.5 and 9 for his piaffe—and was set to a mixture of modern and dramatic music.
“I tried to give everything we could, and I think it nearly worked out,” said Langehanenberg, who rides for Germany. “I am really happy. Of course I tried to make it a little difficult for [Adelinde], but she has done such great tests before I knew she could do it.”
Langehanenberg, 29, has ridden with Klaus Balkenhol for several years. She piloted Damon Hill, a 12-year-old Westphalian (Donnerhall—Romanze, Rubinstein I), to seventh at last year’s final.
Italy’s Valentina Truppa and Eremo del Castegno, third yesterday in the Grand Prix, was also third today (81.23%). Her energetic freestyle music was a favorite of the judges and kept the crowd of about 9,500 spectators interested too.
“I know this type of music is very good, especially for the public,” said Truppa. “I really like it because we are an Italian rider with an Italian horse and Italian music.”
Early in the class Fouarge was forced to eliminate Polish rider Katarzyna Milczarek and her mount Ekwador when he saw a spot of blood on the horse’s side.
“It is always sad to eliminate somebody because of blood, but none of us want to see blood on the horse,” said Fouarge. “When she came in I didn’t notice it, but when she passed just in front of me I saw it. Especially since it was a grey horse with thin skin, it can happen. It can always happen.”
Watch clips from the top three rides:
U.S. Riders Finish 15th And 16th
Jan Ebeling admitted that yesterday isn’t one of his best memories. (Ebeling finished 17th in the Grand Prix after picking up penalties for entering the ring late and for mistakes in the test.) But he was pleased to present a fresh focus with Rafalca in his freestyle today, earning a 69.87 percent with a much-improved test for 15th place.
“I recently wrote an article for a magazine about what to do when you have a disaster in the show ring—how to move on and fix mistakes,” said Ebeling, of Moorpark, Calif. “When something bad happens in the ring, it’s so tempting to change something—to make the noseband tighter, or use sharper spurs or add another 10 minutes in the warm-up. But I know from my own experience and from teaching others, you have to stick with what you know works.
“I thought my piaffes were really good, and I think it’s also a difficult freestyle,” he continued. “I think it maybe could have scored a little better, but it is what it is. To me, what really counts is that I’m satisfied and pleased with how the horse went. I’m just glad we didn’t have another bad go, because who needs that?”
Rafalca, a 15-year-old Oldenburg (Argentinius—Ratine, Rubinstein) owned by Ann Romney, Beth Meyer and Amy Ebeling, had a mistake in the two tempis and wouldn’t stand in either halt. But the mare looked joyful through much of the test, and Ebeling ended the ride on a high note with his piaffe fans and one-handed passage.
“I had one mistake in the twos, right at the hardest part when she comes to the rail, and she was distracted,” said Ebeling. “Then she had a bit of a spook there at the end, so on my next trot, when I came to that end of the arena, I cut it a bit short. But she was awesome. She was great; she was back to normal, and I was very pleased.”
Shawna Harding and Come On III also had a mistake in the two tempis and scored a 68.82 percent.
“I think the music is really great and lot of fun to ride to,” said Harding. “The atmosphere was just a little closed, and he got a little nervous. He did everything I asked and his ones were nice. He’s a good boy to go in there and do this for me. He never says no.”
Full results for the freestyle available online.