But Jan Brink steals the show with wins in the Grand Prix and Grand Prix freestyle.
Catherine Haddad was on a roll. One weekend before the Gothenburg CDI-W, at Neumünster (Germany), she and her 12-year-old Danish gelding Cadillac won the national Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Special. Then, in the Grand Prix at Gothenburg (Sweden), Feb. 18, the dark brown went even better, breaking 70 percent for the first time.
“I knew what I expected and I got it! It took a long time to develop Cadillac to this point. I rode him with a plan in my mind, and he fulfilled the expectations. He was fabulous in the Grand Prix. I never had a better feeling on him. We came very close to Jan Brink. I almost beat Jan Brink, and this in Sweden! Two judges—including a Swedish one—had me in first place! I am really excited about that!”
With 70.21 percent, Haddad and Cadillac, whom she bought as a 6-year-old, became runners-up in the Grand Prix behind Brink and Briar 899 (70.68%). Germany’s Ellen Schulten-Baumer placed third aboard Donatha S (69.36%).
But the next morning Haddad woke up terribly sick. “I don’t know if it was food poisoning, maybe it was just the flu. After eight hours, it calmed down, so I decided to perform in the World Cup freestyle in the evening. We would have had a good chance for one of the top places, but I felt so weak that I was only able to hold the reins. With Maximus it would not have been such a problem, but Cadillac still needs me in the freestyle.”
They started their test a little dis-organized, which was no surprise considering Haddad’s condition. With 71.35 percent they finished seventh, performing to music by Loreena McKinnet. “It is lyrical, beautiful music, which suits Cadillac, who is a very elegant horse,” said Haddad.
Fighting For The World Cup
After the World Cup qualifier at Neumünster, Haddad had been in seventh place in the Western European League, of which the top seven riders will qualify for the Rolex FEI World Cup Final. But at Gothenburg she had to let the three top-placed riders—Jan Brink, Minna Telde and Ellen Schulten-Baumer—as well as sixth-placed German rider Heike Kemmer, pass her. She dropped to 11th in the standings.
“Even with the 11th place I guess there is still a good possibility to be granted a wild card,” said Haddad.
She will bring both horses to the CDI-W ’s-Hertogenbosch (the Nether-lands) on March 19-22. If Haddad does qualify for the final, she does not know which horse she will choose. “Cadillac is the stronger performer in the Grand Prix, Maximus still in the freestyle. At Neumünster, it was the first time that the crowd reacted to the Gladiator music like they do in other countries. Maybe in Germany they do not understand the beginning of the music and that it is from the Gladiator movie, but the crowd at Neumünster cheered us enthusiastically.”
A U.S. citizen running her own barn at Vechta in the north of Germany, Haddad is pleased with her new trainer situation. “After training 10 years with Rudolf Zeilinger, I have been training mainly on my own since January. Morten Thomsen from Denmark comes every eight weeks to my place, and Richard White, the partner and husband of Kyra Kyrklund, looks after me at horse shows, which is really helpful. I increased my technical knowledge working at home with Zeilinger, but he had no time at horse shows because of his many other obligations. This is a great development for me now to get support from Richard at the shows.”
Briar’s Swedish Farewell
Gothenburg, which has frequently hosted the FEI Dressage World Cup Final, was a regular qualifier for the first time this year and was advertised as the comeback of Anky van Grunsven’s Olympic and World Cup Champion Salinero. But one day before the show, van Grunsven had to withdraw due to back problems.
Gothenburg nevertheless had its special moment. The 11,227 spectators of the freestyle qualifier saw Brink and Briar as winners in their last performance on home grounds before the 18-year-old stallion competes in his last World Cup Final. With 77.20 percent they achieved their highest score this season. Brink had been determined to show his best possible performance on the celebrated Swedish stallion, with whom he has written Swedish dressage history over the past 10 years and won several team and individual medals in international championships.
“I felt emotional in a positive way,” said Brink. “Doing the last test ever in your own country is quite something. I was so inspired that I really did manage to make Briar go the extra mile! Briar still isn’t feeling old, and he could go on doing this for a longer time. But I have decided that this was to be his last show in Sweden. It’s wonderful that we managed to preserve the best for the end.”
And the Swedish audience honored them with standing ovations. His second-placed Swedish colleague, Minna Telde, debuted her new freestyle to a U2 medley for a score of 75.60 percent.
“I only got my music last Monday, and I was thrilled with Don Charly’s response to the music,” she said. “He responded better than I expected in doing the two-tempi and one-tempi changes right to the music.”
After Christmas she bought out the former owner of Don Charly, and now the 12-year-old gelding belongs to her. “Which is a very good feeling,” she admitted.
The 15 competitors in this year’s Western European League came from six nations, but eight of the competitors were from Sweden, which underlines the power of this dressage nation, which will be further enhanced by Germany’s top trainer Hubertus Schmidt as national Swedish coach.
Ground jury chairman Linda Zang of the United States commented: “It was really good sport. I enjoyed each minute. And the tension was right up until the end of the competition.”