Lexington, Ky.—Sept. 30
There’s a lot of yellow, red and black near the top of the standings after Day 1 of eventing dressage at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. German riders took three of the top four placings, with only William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain sneaking into the pack of leaders.
But veterans like Fox-Pitt (third, with Cool Mountain), Ingrid Klimke (second, with FRH Butts Abraxxas) and Dirk Schrade (fourth, with Gadget de la Cere) were no match for 29-year-old individual rider Simone Deitermann. The German up-and-comer scored a 36.0 with Free Easy NRW to lead the field by a margin of more than 5 points.
“I can’t believe it,” said a very smiley Deitermann. “He’s a very good horse, and he did a very good job, and I’m happy. I’ve ridden this horse for nine years, which is a very long time. We’ve trained a lot together, and I think he’s perfect.”
Unlike her company on the press conference panel, Deitermann isn’t a full-time professional rider. She studies economics in Germany and works part time as an accountant.
“This is my first world championships here, and our other riders have more experience than me, so I think [me being an individual] is a good idea!” she said with a laugh.
Deitermann and her 13-year-old Westphalian gelding placed 12th at their first four-star this spring, the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton CCI**** (England). After a clear cross-country round there with minimal time faults, she said she’s looking forward to the course here on Saturday.
“I think it’s a very tough course with a lot of technical fences, but it’s a beautiful course and a very fair course,” she said. “But you can ride very positively and be rewarded.”
Klimke, who’s always a top performer in the dressage ring and posted a 41.3 with her 13-year-old veteran Abraxxas, agreed with that assessment.
“It’s a fair course because if you have the proper line and speed, the horses have a chance to really realize what their duty is,” she said. “Definitely the time will not be easy. You must be sure that for the last combination you have enough left in the tank to take the direct route there.”
Fox-Pitt scored a 42.0 with Cool Mountain, the 10-year-old British Thoroughbred with whom he won the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** here this spring. That victory came as a surprise at the time, but five months later it’s giving him a big boost in confidence on his second visit to this venue with the horse.
“A lot of horses here have never been in an atmosphere like that [in the WEG main arena] before,” he said. “I have great advantage having been here in the spring, and Cool Mountain’s a very relaxed horse anyway. He did very well here in the spring [when he won the dressage], so I was confident he would go well again, and he did.
“But we had an arena familiarization on Tuesday, and it was mad,” he added. “We had about 80 horses galloping around in there, and it could only have done harm. Luckily we were allowed back in there again to teach them it was a place to be quiet. I was worried at first; I’d been preparing myself to have a new Cool Mountain on my hands, but he settled down. It’s quite daunting when you go down that chute [into the stadium] with the loud clapping. I think a lot of horses did quite well in there, considering the atmosphere.”
Fox-Pitt also concurred with the German leaders that Saturday’s cross-country would be a fair championship test.
“We’re all very lucky to have ridden many good Mike Etherington-Smith courses before, so we’re walking it with a lot of confidence in his design,” he said.
Even without Dietermann’s score counting toward their team, Germany leads the nation standings with 83.8 penalties. Two riders from each nation have now competed, with two left to ride tomorrow. Australia stands second on 91.0, and Sweden is third just .7 points behind. Great Britain (93.2) and the United States (96.5) round out the top five.
Solid U.S. Performances
Two of the five total U.S. riders entered the dressage arena today, and Buck Davidson came out on top with Ballynoe Castle RM. They scored a 47.0 on their relaxed, correct test to land in 11th place.
“He’s got a very good trot,” said Davidson, of Riegelsville, Pa. “Sometimes he gets a little bit nervous in the walk, and sometimes he gets a little bit nervous in the canter. He felt like he held it all together pretty well today.”
Davidson said he did feel “Reggie” get tense in the canter to the left, and that he missed one lead change, but he was pleased nonetheless.
“He’s still green at this level, but this was his best score to date. He’s only 10 years old,” he said. “I think he liked the big cheer as he came in the ring. He pepped up there for a second. I was happy with my ride.”
Boyd Martin wasn’t far behind Davidson, landing in a three-way tie for 14th place on a 49.5. He’d been worried that Neville Bardos, with whom he’s been intensely drilling the dressage in the lead up to the WEG, wouldn’t be able to relax in the intense main stadium atmosphere. But as the lead-off rider for the team, he got the benefit of a smaller, quieter crowd in this morning’s session.
“The dressage isn’t Neville’s strongest phase,” said Martin, of West Grove, Pa. “He’s a fired up, fit Thoroughbred from Australia, so I was glad to get through the test without any big blow-ups. He was a good boy actually, especially in the canter work.”
Although it had previously been announced that there would be a 9 a.m. start tomorrow morning, the schedule has been changed. Dressage will resume at 8:30 a.m., and Karen O’Connor and Mandiba will be the first U.S. pair of the day, at 11:32.
Visit our eventing landing page tomorrow to join in our live blogging coverage from the dressage with members from the Professional Riders Organization, including Gina Miles, Tamie Smith, Silva Martin and Julie Richards.