Lexington, Ky.—Sept. 29
An individual gold medal for Moorlands Totilas and Edward Gal seemed like a given going into the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, but that didn’t make victory any less sweet for the phenomenal combination from the Netherlands.
Gal scored 85.70 percent, a margin of 4 points over second place and 7 points over third in the Grand Prix Special.
Yet earning silver and bronze wasn’t any less pleasing to Great Britain’s Laura Bechtolsheimer and Steffen Peters of the United States. Neither Great Britain nor the United States has ever won an individual dressage medal at a WEG.
“I can tell you pretty much exactly how many years, days and hours have passed since Hong Kong when I missed that bronze medal [at the Olympic Games]. Only Shannon, my wife, knows how tough that was,” said Peters. “That it finally happened today was huge. I had to wipe away some tears on the podium.”
Listen to an interview with Peters.
The atmosphere in the press conference was jovial, as it was clear that all three medalists were as thrilled for each other as they were with their own wins.
“It’s exciting to be a part of the sport when it’s developing so much and so fast,” said Bechtolsheimer, 25. “To be competing and constantly having your game pushed up by the guys around you who are also getting better and better makes it really exciting. It’s a lot more open. It used to be a given that Isabell [Werth] or Anky [van Grunsven] would win; it was just a matter of which one took the top place. Now we can really fight for it and feel like we have a chance. That’s made the sport more exciting and a lot more friendly.”
Listen to an interview with Bechtolsheimer.
The competition today was fantastic, and the top three horses were truly in a class of their own. “Toto” scored numerous 10s—many for his piaffe and passage, but also a 10 from one judge on each canter pirouette, the extended canter and the canter half-pass. Gal himself earned straight 10s for his rider score.
“What impressed the judges, especially with the first three, was the harmony of the riding,” said Australian judge Mary Seefried, who judged at C today. “These horses were so well trained, so responsive, so able to create energy within themselves. It was the precision of the riding itself. It was goosebump territory for all of us watching.”
Totilas was more relaxed in the Special than in the Grand Prix test according to Gal. “I could take a little bit more risk today, and it worked out. He gave me a fantastic feeling. I really had a good ride today,” he said.
Listen to an interview with Gal.
But he wouldn’t speculate on his chances for a third gold medal (he currently has a team gold as well as his individual medal) in the freestyle. “Normally the freestyle is my best test, and I hope I can show it off on Friday. It will be a very big show here with all the lights and the people and the atmosphere. We’ll just have to see how Totilas will react to that. I’ll do my best and I’m sure he will do his best,” he said.
However, he was happy to quell the rumor that Totilas had been sold. As far as Gal knows, the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion (by Gribaldi) will get back on the plane for the Netherlands at the end of the competition.
Middle Of The Pack
The two other U.S. riders who competed in the Special—Katherine Bateson-Chandler on Nartan and Tina Konyot on Calecto —finished in 19th (68.87%) and 20th place (68.62%) respectively in the 31-horse field.
Mistakes in the tempi changes kept Bateson-Chandler’s scores down. “I’m going through the test [in my mind now], and all the silly things were mine. That horse tried his heart out. I’ve never had a ride like that where a horse is so honest and tried so hard, so I’m thrilled with him,” she said.
Konyot got into trouble when Calecto took uneven steps behind in the passage—normally a highlight of their test. “I lost a lot of points in my first passage where he was skipping behind, but that’s something that I created with that horse. He didn’t have any hind leg at all,” she said. “I was very, very happy, actually. It was a very nice ride, but I had a better feeling yesterday. My horse was a little bit rounder, and he had a better overall look yesterday. Today in the canter he was a little bit buggering off with me.”
Although the scores appeared closer between the judges than during the Grand Prix test, there were still some major discrepancies—Konyot earned 69s and 70s from four judges, while Cara Whitham at E scored her 63.33 percent.
Seefried said the judges had reviewed the tapes from the Grand Prix and discussed their marks last night.
“I think that was a very useful discussion for all of us,” she said. “But yes, today there were a couple of instances where there were some differences that we do not find acceptable. The FEI standard is a variation of 5 percent. Normally judges will have a discussion on any scores that demonstrate more than 5 percent in the difference. During the competition we did have a discussion about it.”
Seefried was referencing the test of Gal’s teammate and long-time partner Hans Peter Minderhoud.
Exquis Nadine had two rather impressive mistakes—she went violently sideways instead of cantering out of the passage, and then she leaped athletically into the air during the passage before the piaffe on the last centerline. Four judges gave her scores between 65 and 67 for the test, while Linda Zang at B rewarded the test with 75.62 percent. Boos and catcalls went up from the educated crowd after those scores were posted.
“One judge was very impressed with the good parts of Hans Peter Minderhoud’s test,” said Seefried. “It was something rather dramatic and exciting that happened when they went down the line, and she also went down [in the scores] during that time here. But the good points outweighed the lower points that Hans Peter had.”
Gal said Minderhoud described Nadine’s performance as “going a little bit wild.”
“But he was not really sad about it,” said Gal. “He said she did her best. Sometimes she can got hot, and then it’s over, but he was still happy. I will take him home anyway.”
Gal and Minderhoud had never been on a team together, so to be on the first Dutch team to win WEG gold was particularly special. “Ending up with gold is really amazing. It tastes like l’amour,” he said with a grin.
Be sure to visit the Chronicle’s WEG Dressage page and find full dressage results on the WEG website.