April 27—Gothenburg, Sweden
Helen Langehanenberg and Adelinde Cornelissen traded wins throughout the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final  qualifying season, and so it wasn’t too surprising to see them both at the top of the leaderboard today. But the order— Langehanenberg in first and Cornelissen and second—might have surprised a few who were expecting Cornelissen to take the World Cup title for the third year in a row.
It took an extraordinary Grand Prix freestyle and an extraordinary score—88.28 percent—for Germany’s Langehanenberg and Damon Hill NRW to come out on top. The Netherlands’ Cornelissen and her Olympic Games silver medal-winning partner, Jerich Parzival, settled for second on 86.21 percent—almost the exact same score that was good enough for first last year .
“It’s just a dream,” said Langehanenberg. “It was a brilliant feeling to ride [Damon Hill], and he gave me so much confidence during the test. I’m kind of speechless. It was really the best test we ever had, from my feeling. He told me during the test, ‘Don’t do too much. I know what we have to do, and we’ll make it together.’ He didn't need too much support.”
All five of the top riders in the freestyle earned scores over 80.00 percent, with Edward Gal third on Glock’s Undercover (84.44%), Sweden’s own Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven fourth on Don Auriello (82.66%) and Isabell Werth fifth on Don Johnson FRH (80.42%). Gustav Svalling, president of the ground jury for the class, gave all three of the top-placed riders at least one 10 each.
“These guys, they are phenomenal,” said Svalling. “They are such good riders. I think that when Edward [Gal] rode Totilas, that made the judges give a little more 10s. Before that we didn’t give so many 10s. Now it’s easier.”
“You should all be thankful to me,” joked Gal, who rides for the Netherlands.
Langehanenberg was second at last year’s World Cup final in the Netherlands with Damon Hill, and she helped Germany to team silver at the London Olympic Games.
“There’s been no real big change, but I think everything has settled a little more, and he’s even more powerful now,” said the 30-year-old rider of the 13-year-old Westphalian (Donnerhall—Romanze, Rubinstein I) stallion owned by Christian Becks. “I said after London, ‘Wow, he’s so great, and what can we do better?’ You have the feeling it’s already perfect, and then he tops it again.”
Cornelissen’s test today was a vast improvement over the Grand Prix, when Parzival spooked, spun and ran backwards for a short time. The Dutch rider is trying out a new freestyle for the 16-year-old gelding.
“It was a lot better today than on Thursday, because we kept on going forward! I gave it my best shot, and Parzival also did. I love the new music. It’s, of course, still a bit different. If you do the old one, you’re on full automatic because it’s been done so many times, and I have to think about this one still. In a couple of shows it’ll be perfect,” said Cornelissen.
Gal and Glock’s Undercover are still a fairly new partnership, with just one year of international Grand Prix competition together. “I think almost everything changed with the horse this year,” he said. “When I got him, he was so over-excited. Now he’s much more relaxed. I can make him longer in the neck. I think it can get even better, so we’ll work on it.”
Cornelissen, Gal and Langehanenberg will now aim for the European Championships, scheduled for August in Denmark.
“I hope there are bigger scores to come. I hope we can still improve some little things, but I’ve not thought about what yet,” said Langehanenberg. “We’ll look at the video from today, and we’ll see. He’s a brilliant horse. We’ll keep on going.”
Canadians Place 14th and 16th
Canada’s Jacqueline Brooks, riding for Canada, picked up 14th on D Niro—who’s earned quite a reception here based on his Swedish heritage. The pair’s score of 68.66 percent wasn’t their highest freestyle score, but Brooks said D Niro was slightly backed off by the atmosphere in the Scandinavium today.
“He’s not been in venues with this much atmosphere,” said Brooks. “He would have to get used to that. I was pleased; he kept his head together. He had some expensive mistakes in there, and that’s unfortunate. I was pleased with how I rode him; I was pleased with the problem solving in there and how I helped him. In the piaffe, he was barely on the balance there, but I was able to say to him, ‘Just do what you can,’ and then he never stopped. When a horse tries that hard, I appreciate that.”
Fellow Canadian Jaimey Irwin, riding at his first World Cup Final, picked up a 66.64 percent for 16th aboard Lindor’s Finest. He was first in the ring today, performing a freestyle designed by Zap Productions.
“This is also my first time competing in Europe,” said Irwin. “It’s a lot to take in. This is only [Lindor’s] second big indoor show; the first was the Royal in Toronto. This is a lot more stressful and a lot more atmosphere.”
Irwin came over with his wife and fellow Grand Prix rider, Tina Busse-Irwin, and his wife and Lindor’s owner, Ute Busse. “I’m very lucky to have Tina as my wife. She does the same thing I do, so she’s always very good to talk to. She always gives very good advice. She understands, and she’s very focused. She has a very good idea of where you have to go and what you have to do to get that score,” said Irwin. Results available online, at the Gothenburg Horse show website .