Aachen, Germany—July 23
You could hear a pin drop when Isabell Werth and Weihegold OLD entered the Deutsche Bank Stadium. Then, the sound of cheerful Italian pop melodies that accompany the freestyle routine of the World Cup winners began and Weihegold started to dance.
Dressage can be so simple: From the passage into the piaffe and back out again, back in, back out, totally in rhythm, one step like the next, totally relaxed. There is currently no other horse in the world that can match the quality of the Oldenburg Don Schufro daughter in these movements.
As Dr. Evi Eisenhardt, Chief Judge at C, explained: “My colleagues and I wished we could have awarded 11s and 12s today.”
Among others, that is namely what they would have awarded for Weihegold and Werth’s transitions. The mare didn’t make a single mistake throughout the entire freestyle. The result: 89.67 percent and Werth’s 11th win at Aachen. U.S. phenoms Laura Graves and Verdades had to settle for third after some mistakes in their freestyle.
After the final salute, the silence was broken. The crowd exploded and gave the six-time Olympic gold-medalist standing ovations. Werth confirmed after her ride: “I had a super feeling today. She was with me from the first to the last moment, we were in perfect harmony. I wanted to carry on where we left off at [the FEI World Cup Final where they won in Omaha with the same freestyle] today and I think we succeeded in doing so.”
Here, the judges also wished they could have awarded some even higher marks, namely when Sönke Rothenberger and his Dutch Warmblood gelding, Cosmo, flew through the dressage arena in extended trot. The just-10-year-old Van Gogh son showed his full potential today, which comprises of much more than just his extended trot. “I am delighted! I did have a slight bobble before the piaffe/pirouette. He looked at the crowd. But overall I was really happy with him. He’s only 10 years old and achieving second place here at Aachen is great. He’s one of a kind with his movement and I think today he showed his potential in piaffe. I think it all worked together with the music; I was really happy,” said Rothenberger.
Rothenberger’s mother, Gonnelien, won Olympic silver with the Dutch dressage team in 1996 and the career of her 22-year-old son and his 10-year-old gelding have already exploded. From the Young Riders camp, to the first Grand Prix starts, through to the first team appearance at the 2016 Aachen CHIO and from their straight on to claiming team gold at the Rio Olympic Games.
Last year, the pair weren’t able to compete in the freestyle because they were “only” the fourth best German pair. And now they delivered a score of 85.75 percent and came second in the Deutsche Bank Prize.
Third place went to the challenger from the United States, Graves with Verdades. The pair’s ascent is just as steep as Rothenberger and Cosmo’s. They competed at the Soers for the first time in 2014. Nobody knew them. Afterwards the former hairdresser, who gave up her job for her horse and her dream of riding on the international dressage circuit, was the talk of the town.
And now, three years later she travelled to Aachen with a clear goal: To beat Isabell Werth!
Yesterday she succeeded in doing so in the Grand Prix Special, the MEGGLE Prize. But today, this was not to be. The 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Florett As was very strong at the beginning, but then the mistakes started creeping in in the canter tour, which pushed the final score down to 82.55 percent.
Graves wasn’t able to hide her disappointment but she was sporting in her acceptance of the result. “It’s the way it had to be today. We had mistakes in the one-tempi changes and on the final center line. I was just glad the judges rewarded us for the good things. It was completely fair,” she said.
Graves’ U.S. teammates Kasey Perry-Glass and Olivia LaGoy-Weltz also competed in the Grand Prix freestyle. Perry-Glass took ninth on Goerklintgaards Dublet (75.50%) while LaGoy-Weltz claimed 12th on Lonoir (74.42%).