Omaha, Neb.—April 5
Coming into the main arena for the FEI Dressage World Cup Final, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl felt TSF Dalera BB’s attitude change. The mare had been super relaxed in the warm-up, but just as she emerged from the tunnel, into the arena, a loud bell clanged above them.
“There was a stupid noise just above us, it was like ringing bells, like cow bells,” she said. “It was like really fast ringing bells. It was strange, really strange.”
The distraction left the defending champion’s mare a bit off her game, but the pair still put in a class-winning 79.92% performance in the Grand Prix.
The German rider said she was surprised by how tense her mare felt.
“Maybe I should have gone to more competitions in between [last year’s final and now],” she said, “because usually she’s used to competing [more], and now I didn’t have to because I was already qualified after two World Cup competitions.”
The pair had two costly mistakes, one in the first halt and the other during the walk tour.
“Actually when I entered the arena and the centerline, I felt very confident, and I don’t know why she stepped back [in the halt],” von Bredow-Werndl said. “She was just a little overexcited, and the walk, that was super expensive—she couldn’t wait. That cost too many points.”
Nonetheless, she was pleased with how the day went.
“I expected this atmosphere, to be honest, and yeah, she’s amazing,” she said. “She’s—knock on wood—extremely fit, and that shows because she’s really powerful, and I can’t be more happy with her. Mistakes, OK, but what counts is how her form, how her performance was in total, and that was amazing.
“All we can do is give it our best,” she added. “We can’t influence the judges. We can’t influence the other competitors. We can only influence our performance, and that’s what counts.”
Watch part of their winning test, courtesy of FEI.tv:
Slotting in behind her was her compatriot Isabell Werth, who has five titles to her name, including winning the last time the Final came to Omaha back in 2017. She brought DSP Quantaz, whom she rode to team bronze at the Blue Hors FEI Dressage World Championships (Denmark) last year, and the pair scored 77.48% for second.
“I was very happy because it was not so easy, after two days quarantine and more or less three days off, to start to bring him in shape for the Grand Prix,” she said. “[It] also was a lot of his temperament and [being] strong-minded, and he was a bit scared in the first familiarization with the noise, so that was not so easy for him to become focused. That was a bit day-by-day, and it improved a bit, but I didn’t expect that footwork was so good today.
“So [I’m] totally happy that he was so focused, and that he was still of course a bit on fire, but he was very with me, very focused without big mistakes,” Werth continued. “I think there was a lot of highlights, and at the end I was really happy with the result and with my ride today.”
Slipping into third was Denmark’s Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Blue Hors Zepter on a 76.16%. It was a solid performance for the pair who have only done two shows prior to coming to Omaha. The gelding had previously been shown by Sweden’s Patrick Kittel.
“My expectation for the show was to improve some technical things from the last competition, and I did that,” she said. “Then I had some mistakes, so the score is not as high as it was last time. But that time it was also without mistakes, so this time if it had been without the two mistakes, it definitely would’ve been a personal best, and that’s how it is when you want to improve something—sometimes some other mistakes happen.”
Dutch rider Dinja van Liere was expected to be a top challenger with Hermes N.O.P., but withdrew shortly before her test. She posted on her social media that the stallion had likely stumbled and was not 100 percent.
Mixed Day For U.S. Riders
Of the three U.S. riders to qualify for the final, it was veteran Steffen Petters who had the best showing, finishing fifth with a score of 74.58% on Suppenkasper.
“The crowd got a little bit excited in the beginning, and I think I reacted to that more than ‘Mopsie,’ ” he said. “Mospie stayed super calm and had a really powerful test, a really clean test, but also a really relaxed test for the walk, the halt and the reinback, and that is with him such a very very fine balance, and all that worked great today. This was clearly better than the world games in Denmark last year.”
Peters was thrilled with how Mospie warmed up and said that he carried that feeling all the way through their test.
“I told [U.S. technical advisor Debbie McDonald], ‘Debbie he feels better than yesterday,’ and that’s the feeling I kept through the ring,” Peters said. “He was very rideable, super honest, and you know, after five Olympics, six World Cups, I’m so honored and privileged to ride a horse like that. And to represent the United States here at home is a huge honor.”
Peters said this was a different experience than his last final in 2017, when he brought Rosamunde, who had a lower average score than Mopsie.
“At that time her maximum score in the Grand Prix was a 72 and a 75 for the freestyle. so I knew the Top 10 was somewhat achievable, and I think Mopsie can rank a bit higher,” he said. “And I really think that’s what he showed today.”
Anna Buffini is riding in her second World Cup Final, and she took ninth with FRH Davinia La Douce on a 70.04%.
“She was really, really good,” she said. “It’s the best test she’s done in a big arena—this electric, this nervous—and just to have no mistakes has been our struggle our whole career together. To go in there and have a mistake-free test is everything you dream of.”
Buffini has a special “Top Gun: Maverick” themed freestyle planned for Friday’s competition, and she’s excited to get to share it with the crowd, especially after their welcoming reception when she entered the arena today.
“[It was] even better than I imagined. It was crazy. I’d never experienced that before,” she said. “I’m always in Germany or Holland, and they’re always cheering for Isabell and Ingrid [Klimke], and the fact that they’re cheering that loud for us is crazy. I’m still like, ‘People know who I am?’ It’s very crazy, so I was thrilled. They’re amazing. I’m so glad we get to have a home championship for them.”
It was a difficult World Cup Final debut for Alice Tarjan and Serenade MF. They finished 15th on a score of 67.06%—the lowest score of their international Grand Prix career—but Tarjan still felt the mare did good work.
“I’m really pleased with her,” she said. “She was really good. We had obviously a serious miscommunication in the first piaffe, but it was really honest on her part, so that’s horses. That’s what happens. She did the rest of the test for me. A little mistake in the ones, but overall I was pleased.
“I think overall the quality is getting better,” she added. “Obviously there’s a lot more training to do; it’s a process.”
Today’s Grand Prix only served as a qualifier for the freestyle on Friday at 6:15 p.m. Central Time. The placings today will help determine the order of go for the competition.
The Chronicle has a reporter on the ground in Omaha, bringing you photo galleries and stories about each day’s competition at the FEI World Cup Finals on www.coth.com. Also make sure to follow along on the Chronicle’s social media outlets: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
For useful links and more information on how to follow the competition, click here.