Cornelissen Inherits The Crown At World Cup Final

Apr 30, 2011 - 1:43 PM

Leipzig, Germany—April 30

First there was Anky van Grunsven on Salinero. Then there was Edward Gal on Totilas. Now, there is Adelinde Cornelissen on Jerich Parzival.

Tonight, Cornelissen seized the world title that so many have been expecting her to collect as she and Parzival danced their way to the top of the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Final. “He has started to really like being in the ring now,” Cornelissen said of the rangy chestnut gelding, who has had a reputation of spookiness and tension in the ring in the past. “Before, he was a bit scared and afraid in the ring, but now when we start the test, he sees the crowd, grows a bit bigger, and thinks ‘My God, that’s cool.’”

The judges were unanimous in giving Cornelissen the win, and her final percentage was at 84.80, more than 4 points ahead of Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein on Digby. Listen to Cornelissen talk about her test here.

Parzival’s newfound confidence showed, as Cornelissen used his power, athleticism and range of movement to her advantage. Her freestyle, which includes refrains from the Nutcracker ballet, includes difficult movements such as passage half-passes interspersed with piaffes, and extended canters into one-and-a-half pirouettes. Her final center line features complete piaffe pirouettes to the right, then the left, at X.

Last year, Cornelissen and Parzival were second in the World Cup Final to superstars Gal and Totilas. Totilas wasn’t showing at this Finals, after his transfer to German rider Matthias Rath, and contrary to what one might think, Cornelissen misses him. “If there’s someone better than you, it always makes you work to get to a higher level,” she said. Cornelissen is in fact one of the few to beat Totilas; she prevailed over him in the European Championships Grand Prix Special competition in 2009.

Many have asked Cornelissen if this title erases the bad taste in her mouth after Parzival went lame just before the 2009 World Cup Final in Las Vegas, Nev., and then was eliminated from his test during the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (Ky.) last year. She scoffs at the idea, insisting that those incidents are in her past, and don’t haunt her the way the press would like to think. “Everyone keeps reminding me of this, but I never look back. I’ve forgotten about all that. I look forward. Things like that are horse sport, the ups and downs that we have to take,” she said.

While Cornelissen knew from the start of the Final that she was the hot favorite to win, Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein admitted that she was absolutely shocked to be second behind Cornelissen both in the Grand Prix and in the freestyle. “He’s the emperor of my stable now!” she said of her Digby, who was bred by her mother and whom she’s ridden since he was 4. “I’m still pinching myself—I can almost see the black and blue mark on my arm. I’m speechless.” Listen to her happy reaction.

Sayn-Wittgenstein’s freestyle was to music from West Side Story. She started with a piaffe-passage tour, and highlighted Digby’s canter pirouettes and piaffe to the judges. “Digby has matured with age. He likes the crowd, and he doesn’t really spook, so I can concentrate on riding a nice, fluid test,” she said.

And while Sayn-Wittgenstein’s freestyle was the only other one in the 80s, at 80.03 percent, she admits she held back a bit. “It was a good freestyle, but I have to say that in the Grand Prix I had a bit more power and expression. I didn’t want to push too much tonight and get mistakes. I went for a little bit of a safer ride without any mistakes,” she said.

German rider Ulla Salzgeber claimed third aboard Herzruf’s Erbe. The chestnut gelding suffered an injury while competing in the ring during the 2009 Aachen CHIO (Germany), so he’s a bit behind in his experience. But Salzgeber rode him confidently for a freestyle score of 78.82 percent. Click here to hear her discuss her ride.

For the American contingent, the placings didn’t reflect the value of their World Cup experience. Jan Ebeling’s freestyle on Rafalca earned him a 72.58 percent, which left them in 11th, but Ebeling was over the moon with that result. For him, Rafalca’s solid test was a vindication. He finally put to rest the doubts that were raised after Rafalca had a mental meltdown at the 2009 World Cup Final.

“I wanted to show everyone that my horse can actually do it and that she’s not a crazy horse,” Ebeling said with a smile. “I’m thrilled to be getting this kind of score in Europe with this company. The freestyle is fun for her, and she was awesome. She gave it all; I couldn’t ask for more.” Ebeling rides his freestyle to music from the soundtrack of The Mission.

“It’s technically a very difficult freestyle. I start with one-tempis into a one-and-a-half pirouette, and then two-tempi changes on a curve and one-tempi changes out of a one-and-a-half pirouette. The whole beginning is technically challenging. At the end, we do a fan of piaffe pirouette. If you do these things, it’s taking a risk. If it goes well, it’s great, but if you have one mistake, it’s really bad. The score depends on one or two steps, not the 25 other steps,” Ebeling said.

Ebeling might have had a bit of a flashback to 2009 when Rafalca spooked at something in the warm-up area just before their test. She lost her composure for a few moments, but Ebeling quickly got her attention back on the task at hand. “I know that she can get that way. My coach, Wolfram Wittig was there and he was very calm. He told me to do very simple steps, just halt and trot to calm her down. He kept me calm and helped me through it. It’s nice to have someone like that on the sidelines,” he said.

One For The Future
Just behind Ebeling was German-based U.S. rider Catherine Haddad-Staller, who rode Winyamaro into 12th with a 70.16 percent. Winyamaro just made his international grand prix debut last May, so Haddad-Staller looks at the World Cup Final as a step in his education and progression. “I’m thrilled to have made it to the Final with this horse this year. I never expected that. I’ve already won my race before I got to Leipzig, so I can’t be happier,” she said.

Winyamaro’s freestyle is an upbeat, joyous celebration of his cheeky character and extravagant movement, set to a medley of Pink tunes. “[His performance here] was what I was working toward. I’ve been having a hard couple of days here with some of the excitement in the warm-ups and the atmosphere in the ring. He was really concentrated and on it. He laid it out there tonight,” Haddad-Staller said.

“I think it was one of his better rides. It’s not his best set of points, but it definitely was one of his better rides. The trot half-passes were huge, and the extended trots were really good. I had some great passage in there, and I loved the one- and two-tempi sequence,” she said. Haddad-Staller had the misfortune to draw the spot of first to go in the freestyle, but she was philosophical about it. “Somebody has to go first!” she said.

Though Shawna Harding and Come On III were at the bottom of the results list, in 14th, Harding was extremely happy with her performances, since this was Come On III’s first trip to Europe and first appearance on the world stage. “Coming into this huge stadium atmosphere, I was super proud of him because he can be a very nervous horse. It’s sink or swim at these things, and he kept his head above water,” she said.

“He stood at the halt in the Grand Prix and the freestyle, which is a rarity with him. He’s wants to go and he has trouble keeping his feet still,” she said. “I thought our trot half-passes and our canter half-passes were very good. He was kind of over-achieving in the canter pirouettes, so they were a bit smaller than I’d like for them to have been. My canter extension was nice, but then he saw something in the stands and changed early.

“He did try to relax today in the extended walk, which we didn’t have at all in the Grand Prix, which cost us a lot. We kind of bounced our way through the collected walk again. Those are things that cost a lot of points, and I think it’s just his green factor popping in. He feels super strong. He’s getting a lot of confidence in the ring. It’s just maintaining that little bit of focus. It’s just baby stuff—all part of coming into an atmosphere like this.”

Harding didn’t even really have the World Cup Final as a goal—she didn’t find out for sure she had qualified until after the last West Coast CDI-W on April 3. Three days later, she had Come On III packed and on a truck to the airport. Since she won the $25,000 grant of the Carol Lavell Advanced Dressage Prize in February, she’d originally planned to spend the fall training and showing in Europe. But with the World Cup travel booked, she revised her plans and will be spending the summer there instead. She brought a younger horse, Rigo, along with Come On and will be training with Johann Hinnemann.

Harding is tickled to have won the grant. “It is huge help that I need because Come On is my own horse. I do train horses and teach for a living. I am not a lucky sperm club candidate,” she said.

Click here for full results

 The Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final




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