Leipzig, Germany – April 10, 2022 – A new FEI Dressage World Cup™ champion was crowned on Saturday at Leipzig, as Germany’s Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl won first prize in the Grand Prix Freestyle.
The reigning Olympic and European champion and her mare, TSF Dalera BB, made the record books as the first time the title has been won by a German rider on home soil since the start of the series in 1986.
Second place was awarded to Cathrine Dufour of Denmark and the amazing Vamos Amigos, only 10 years old and new to Grand Prix competition. German rider Isabell Werth, the defending champion from Gothenburg in 2019, when the Finals were last held, took home the bronze medal with her longtime partner Weihegold OLD.
It was an emotional performance for Werth, as the 17-year-old mare will be retired from competition after Saturday’s award ceremony. The two have won numerous prizes together, and there was nary a dry eye in the arena as the pair gave their final salute for the judges.
There was electricity in the air at the Leipziger Messe on Saturday night, as the sell-out crowd anticipated history in the making. Thursday’s Short Grand Prix had put Von Bredow Werndl on top, chased by Dufour and Werth. Would a new rider take over the World Cup title, or would Isabell Werth be the first to take four consecutive championships?
The roster for the Grand Prix Freestyle on Saturday was a list of Dressage legends, as well as incredibly talented young riders on the way up. Every single programme, choreographed uniquely for the riders to their own music, had something special for the audience.
Anna Buffini of the USA had the daunting task of being first in the arena. “I am thrilled with her today!” she said of her Hanoverian mare FRH Davinia la Douce, with whom she scored 74.011 percent. “We had a full house, such a huge environment, and she went in there and tried so hard. I couldn’t be happier with her!”
Buffini wound up in third place at the interim, behind Yvonne Losos de Muñiz of the Dominican Republic in first place, who scored 75.386 percent with Aquamarijn, and Thamar Zweistra of the Netherlands, on a score of 75.125 percent with Hexagon’s Ich Weiss, the youngest horse in the event.
Sweden’s Patrik Kittel, known as Dressage’s “Greatest Showman,” got the second half of the programme off to an energetic start with Blue Hors Zepter, a newer ride for him. The three-time Olympian, riding in his eighth World Cup Finals, earned 76.725 percent from the seven international judges, moving them into the lead for the moment.
Kittel was happy with his marks and for the learning experience with his mount. The pair will definitely be a combo to watch next season as they grow together.
The Swede’s lead didn’t last long, however, as former champion Helen Langehanenberg of Germany won 78.839 percent using ballet music by Tchaikovsky that perfectly suited the leggy Holsteiner Annabelle.
Said Langehanenberg, “I am so proud of Annabelle. She gave me the best feeling ever. Maybe I risked a little too much, which resulted in a few mistakes, but I don’t regret anything. We are at the World Cup Final, if you don’t risk something here, where else?”
Both Ashley Holzer of the USA and Morgan Barbançon of France tried in vain to top Langehanenberg’s score, but it was Isabell Werth, the most decorated Dressage rider of all time, who first broke into the 80s.
The lyrics to “A Question of Honour” rang out across the arena as she guided the stunning Oldenburg to a halt with just one hand. Werth’s score of 85.921 percent with Weihegold won a standing ovation from the crowd and laid down a huge gauntlet for the remaining four athletes.
Denmark’s Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Atterupgaards Orthilia moved into second place next on a score of 81.254 percent, the first of three Danish pairs in a row to close out the programme before Von Bredow-Werndl.
Fifth in the world rankings, Carina Cassøe Krüth then took over second with a tremendous score of 84.971 percent aboard Heiline’s Danciera. A few mistakes in the one tempi were easily outweighed by textbook piaffe and passage work. But would it be enough to make it to the podium?
Countryman Cathrine Dufour bumped Cassøe Krüth down a slot with an 86.164 percent from the judges, after a super clean programme to music from “Les Miserables” on the 10-year-old Vamos Amigos.
As has been the case this year, it all came down to Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl, eager to add another major win to her banner season, especially since she won’t be at FEI World Equestrian Games™ this August, as she’s expecting her second child that month.
Using the same music that won them an Olympic gold at Tokyo, Von Bredow-Werndl and Dalera earned marks of 10 from multiple judges for their piaffe work and transitions. With a score of 90.836 percent, triumph was theirs, and it was time for victory laps and spraying Champagne at centre ring.
Just off the podium, Cassøe Krüth finished in fourth place, followed by Merrald, Langehanenberg, Barbançon (Sir Donnerhall II OLD), Kittel, Holzer (Havanna 145), Losos de Muñiz, Zweistra, Buffini, Yessin Rahmouni of Morocco (All At Once), Rodrigo Torres of Portugal (Fogoso Horsecampline), Juan Matute Guimon of Spain (Quantico), Alisa Glinka of Moldova (Aachen), and Charlotte Fry of Great Britain (Dark Legend).
Isabell Werth had no regrets about her third-place finish. “I’m really happy. It was a great last show,” she said. “It was very emotional! The standing ovation for Weihegold was just great.”
The German “Queen of Dressage” commented that the full house was a nice change after cancelled shows and empty halls during the pandemic. Whilst some horses struggled with the crowds, others loved the attention.
“Weihegold deserved such an atmosphere,” said Werth. She added of their pairing, “After so many years together, it’s a lifetime partnership. Often it’s longer than a marriage!”
Catherine Dufour was as surprised with her finish on Saturday as she was after the Grand Prix two days earlier, saying the choice of music helped power her mount through the programme and inspire her at the same time. “He was even more on fire in the ring today!” she exclaimed. “It was right on the edge, but I’m so proud.”
With tears in her eyes, Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl was at a loss back in the warm-up area after the show. “I can’t describe it in words. It was so emotional when I finished the test.”
“I didn’t even realise it,” she said of the crowd, and she’s known for blocking out all distractions until she’s out of the ring. “Now the feeling is unbelievable!”
The new champion was quick to deflect praise onto her horse. “This mare is just incredible. When I enter the arena, I know she will give her very best. Always. She leaves her heart in there.”
There are probably many Dressage fans who left their hearts in the Leipziger Messe this weekend too. Next year’s FEI Dressage World Cup™ Finals will be held across the pond at Omaha. But there’s plenty more excitement to come, with the 2022 FEI Dressage Nations Cup™ season starting soon.
FEI Grand Prix Freestyle
Rider / Country / Horse / Owner / Total Score
1 . Jessica von Bredow-Werndl / GER / TSF Dalera BB / Béatrice A. Buerchler-Keller / 90.836
2. Cathrine Dufour / DEN / Vamos Amigos / Sarah Pidgley and Cathrine Dufour / 86.164
3. Isabell Werth / GER / Weihegold OLD / Christine Ams-Krogmann / 85.921
4. Carina Cassøe Krüth / DEN / Heiline’s Danciera / Poul Thøgersen / 84.971
5. Nanna Skodborg Merrald / DEN / Atterupgaards Orthilia / Blue Hors Aps / 81.239
6. Helen Langehanenberg / GER / Annabelle / Günther Fielmann / 78.839
7. Morgan Barbançon / FRA / Sir Donnerhall II OLD / Morgan Barbançon and Marie Carmen Mestre Pons / 76.986
8. Patrik Kittel / SWE / Blue Hors Zepter / Blue Hors / 76.725
9. Ashley Holzer / USA / Havanna 145 / Diane Fellows / 75.532
10. Yvonne Losos de Muñiz / DOM / Aquamarijn / Yvonne Losos de Muñiz and Sylvia Ines Muniz Losos / 75.386
11. Thamar Zweistra / NED / Hexagon’s Ich Weiss / Stau Hexagon B.V. / 75.125
12. Anna Buffini / USA / FRH Davinia la Douce / Anna Buffini / 74.011
13. Yessin Rahmouni / MAR / All At Once / Stal 104 BV and Yessir Rahmouni / 73.679
14. Rodrigo Torres / POR / Fogoso Horsecampline / Rodrigo Torres / 73.593
15. Juan Matute Guimon / ESP / Quantico / Juan Matute/ 72.882
16. Alisa Glinka / MDA / Aachen / Alisa Glinka / 71.389
17. Charlotte Fry / GBR / Dark Legend / Charlotte Fry and van Olst Horses / 67.550%