Hilary Moore Hebert: World Dressage Masters

This year’s World Dressage Masters in Wellington, Florida, proved that luck goes both ways. After three tremendous years, the January 24-27 event proved just as electric. Even before you entered the arena, the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center was filled with so many equestrian vendors, spectators and gourmet food trucks that it was clear you were at a CDI5*. Adding to the atmosphere was most “home team” of U.S. Olympians with Steffen Peters and Legolas 92, Tina Konyot and Calecto V, Adrienne Lyle and Wizard, and Heather Blitz and Paragon, on the schedule to compete.
Friday’s Grand Prix did not disappoint with Swedish Olympian Patrik Kittel and Watermill Scandic H.B.C. in first place with a personal best of 77.681 percent. Right behind, in second, was Olympic teammate Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfvén piloting Don Auriello to a 76.851 percent. The U.S. Olympians were right behind with a 75.149 percent for Steffen Peters and Legolas 92, followed closely by Heather Blitz and Paragon with a 74.064 percent.
Unfortunately, the luck went both ways at the event. After Dutch Olympian Edward Gal came down with the flu and could not compete, fellow Olympian Hans Peter Minderhoud (NED) chose to withdraw Withney van t Genthof after Thursday’s jog raised some questions and he felt the horse was not 100-percent after the Grand Prix. The men made the most of it, offering a demonstration of the Grand Prix movements before Saturday’s freestyle with Minderhoud aboard Gal’s Interfloor Next One. Gal, between coughs, joked that Minderhoud was having such a nice ride because his mount was so well-trained. The third to leave the CDI5* were U.S. Olympian Tina Konyot and Calecto V. After their Grand Prix test, blood was found on the stallion’s side in the final equipment check—grounds for immediate elimination.
That left seven strong pairs to go on to the Grand Prix Freestyle on Saturday night, with everyone excited about how close the competition appeared to be going in. In the end, Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfver and Don Auriello danced to top honors with an 84.075 percent in what Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) judge Stephen Clarke called “absolutely what dressage should be about.” In second and third place were Kittel with an 82.525 percent and Peters with an 80.175 percent, respectively. With the top finishers dancing to music by The Who, Billy Idol, Coldplay, U2, David Bowie and Queen, the atmosphere was like a nostalgic rock concert—complete with an appreciative audience that stood and cheered after their favorite performances. Vilhelmson-Silfver, when talking about her winning ride, summed up the entire event when she said, “be in the moment, otherwise you are behind.” Now that this tremendous CDI5* has proven it is here to stay in the United States, we can safely look forward to next year’s event with as much enthusiasm. “The whole show has been fantastic,” says Clarke. “To bring this level of dressage to North America—we should congratulate everyone.”

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