Lexington, Ky.—Oct. 1
While everyone expected Moorlands Totilas and Edward Gal to make a clean sweep of all three dressage medals—Team, Grand Prix Special and Grand Prix freestyle— at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, it was still a relief for Gal that he lived up to that heady expectation by capturing the last of that gold medal trio tonight.
“When I came, I knew I could do it, but then it had to happen,” Gal said after the freestyle. “It was a lot of pressure, because I know I can make a mistake and Totilas can make a mistake. It’s really so fantastic to come here and win all the tests. I don’t know what to say. It’s just sinking in a little bit. That I did that together with Totilas is just amazing.”
Gal, of the Netherlands, and Totilas topped the freestyle on the incredible score of 91.80 percent over Great Britain’s Laura Bechtolsheimer on Mistral Hojris (85.35%) and the United States’ Steffen Peters and Ravel (84.90%).
Gal and Totilas’ test started off a bit rough—the horse broke to canter in the first extended trot and stepped out of the passage for a split second early in the test—but they quickly pulled it together. Right before Gal and Totilas entered the sold-out arena, the audience exploded over the end of Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz and Fuego XXI’s test.
The Spanish pair was the definite crowd favorite of the night, and Gal spent a few more minutes outside before entering the pandemonium. The crowd booed loudly when Fuego’s score (81.45%) was announced, which at that time put him into second place, not first, as the crowd would have liked.
“I stayed out a little longer and let the crowd go down a little bit,” he said. “There were people everywhere, and yesterday we practiced it with no one at all. It’s quite different at the start, and that’s why he went into canter at the beginning. He keeps being impressed a little with the surroundings, but it went well, so I’m very happy.”
Bechtolsheimer’s horse also had a few mistakes in his test, including a fumble in the two-tempis and a moment of hesitation in the piaffe, but like Gal she got her horse back together quickly.
“I was worried about tonight because my horse has always found the freestyle a little difficult to deal with,” she admitted. “I’m really happy with my performance, and the fact that I got another medal is just indescribable.”
Icing On The Cake
Steffen Peters chose to dedicate his ride tonight to someone who has affected him recently—his 2008 Olympic Games teammate Courtney King-Dye, who’s still recovering from a traumatic brain injury sustained early in the year. Peters, Del Mar, Calif., also wore his helmet in the medal ceremony victory lap in honor of King-Dye.
“I sent an email to Courtney and said, ‘Tonight, I’d like to dedicate my ride to you.’ She has inspired me with what she has gone through in the last six months. I saw her right after her accident in March, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to see. What she overcame in the last six months was so amazing. I have so much admiration for her, and I wanted to show it in the honor round.”
Peters and Ravel’s freestyle, set to music by Coldplay, Rolling Stones and “The Safety Dance,” showcased Ravel’s pirouettes and half-passes. Though he had a small mistake in the one-tempis, the rest of Ravel’s test went off without a hitch.
“I felt like there was just as much pressure for me and Ravel in the Special, and that was one of my biggest accomplishments,” Peters said. “That felt unbelievable. That was the icing on the cake, and tonight we sprinkled a little more metal on top of that icing. It’s a pretty good-looking cake.
“We started out with a tough team competition,” Peters added. “In the past, if we would have had those scores it would have been enough for a team medal. Not so much anymore. It’s amazing how much the standard has risen.”
Linda Zang, President of the Ground Jury and judge at C, also commented on how much the competition has improved and how impressed she was with all three top horses tonight.
“I was sitting here thinking that when you’re sitting and judging and looking at these top three, they’re actually for me three totally different types of horses and performances. Totilas shows so much power, but is at the same time very easy and seems very light. Laura’s horse for me has a lot more power, and he’s a very big horse and that kind of propulsion is wonderful. Laura comes out and gives 100 percent. Steffen is very elastic and soft, and it’s a different kind of harmony. For me, each is a different type of harmony and balance, but they all have harmony.”
For full Grand Prix freestyle results, visit the WEG website.