The German team secured a crisp, clean victory in the third leg of the FEI Nations Cup Dressage series on home soil at the Aachen CDIO. The powerful team were favourites from the outset and lived up to expectations when topping the winner’s podium by a margin of more than seven percentage points over Denmark, while the United States finished third. A total of nine countries were represented at this penultimate leg of the pilot series, which will come to a conclusion at Hickstead, Great Britain in early August.
The American effort was strengthened by an individual fifth-place finish for Steffen Peters and the 11-year-old Legolas. Peters has had Aachen in his sights all season, bringing the horse to Hagen (Germany) in April and then flying them both back to the United States before crossing the Atlantic again for this latest event in their calendar.
He is enthusiastic about the concept of FEI Nations Cup Dressage, and Legolas, who has been partnered with Peters for last 18 months, continues to demonstrate an impressive level of improvement every time out, today scoring 75.298 percent.
U.S. teammates Tina Konyot on Calecto V (71.06%) and Jan Ebeling on Rafalca (70.93%) helped boost the team to third, while Shelly Francis and Doktor were the drop score (69.59%). See full results of the class.
Reigning Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage champion, Helen Langehanenberg, headed the individual rankings and left the team result in little doubt with yet another lovely performance from the stallion Damon Hill NRW as the competition was drawing to a close.
They consistently scored over 80 percent throughout her test and finishing with the squarest of square halts. As she leaned forward to give her stallion a big hug he shook his head as if to say “yes, that was pretty good alright!”, and there is no doubt that this pair are the ones to beat on the circuit right now.
Talking about Damon Hill NRW, Langehanenberg said: "He will have a break after Aachen. The time between the German Dressage Championships [at Balve three weeks ago] was quite short. When he has a break he goes jogging but doesn't have any dressage training. Hopefully we can look forward to [the European Championships], but first he will get a rest now. I had a great feeling today, he felt fresh and willing to go in and was moving forward, it was a pleasure to ride him and I had fun—and I think he did too!"
The runners-up from Denmark were well-pleased however. As hosts of the Ecco FEI European Championships in Herning in eight weeks time they came to Aachen with the intention of making the best possible impression and they succeeded, with Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein and Digby bolstering their position when slotting into third place ahead of team-mate Anna Kasprzak and Donnperignon in fourth.
However it was Anabel Balkenhol’s solid ride with Dablino FRH that set Germany on the road to success. Posting a score of 77.043 with her 13-year old-gelding, she provided her side with a solid platform and when Isabell Werth steered Don Johnson FRH to a mark of 73.979 and then Langehanenberg produced the only score over 80 percent—81.128 percent—that clinched it.
The German win was not without its moments of drama. While Lutkemeier set the stage and Balkenhol followed with a score that would take quite some beating, it wasn’t all plain sailing for the multi-medalled Werth, who had what new German Chef d’Equipe Monica Theodorescu described as “a little time error in the warm-up." Werth admitted afterwards that she didn’t keep an eye on her watch. “I thought there were three riders before me but I was ready 10 minutes too early and he [Don Johnson FRH] was a bit over the point!"
Theodorescu continued: "It is a new situation for me to have the honour to be part of this team. Helen and Damon Hill were prepared really well, they were very precise, very elastic and on the point. The horse was fit and supple and harmonious.” She said Werth “had a very good ride with no mistake and showed all her skills”, and when asked what was the biggest surprise of her day she replied, “well it wasn't really a big surprise but it was Annabel getting to show what is in her horse, I'm very happy for her,” she said. Theodorescu will name her team for the European Championships on Sunday.
Later in the day, the Dutch team captured victory in the show jumping Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup (see results), defeating Belgium and Germany. The U.S. did not field a team in that class.
U.S. four-in-hand drivers, however, turned in strong performances. Chester Weber drove to first place in both the individual and team dressage tests, helping the two-man U.S. team take second place in the team competition.
As the FEI Nations Cup™ Dressage pilot series moves towards its conclusion at Hickstead on 4 August the Dutch hold the lead. But they have only a two-point advantage over Sweden at the top of the leaderboard, while Germany lies third after today’s victory, another eight points further adrift.