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With no Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro in 2017, dressage followers were wondering who would step forward to take her spot in the limelight.
Germany’s Isabell Werth dominated headlines and was a permanent feature on podiums throughout the whole year, but our review of the years shows that she was pushed close by a number of exciting young riders.
The FEI World Cup series kicked off with a bang at Amsterdam. Carl Hester was there to defend his title but could only finish second as Werth and Weihegold OLD were unstoppable, taking first place with a score of 90.7%.
February was a month where Werth was once again making headlines. First she was back at Neumunster and defended her title, this time with her second horse, Don Johnson FRH. Werth was back at the Gothenburg horse show just days later where she rode her third horse of the season to victory beating out Patrik Kittel and fellow German Jessica von Bredow-Werndl.
The FEI World Cup FEI World Cup™ Dressage Finals took place in Omaha, Nebraska, with Werth, on her Olympic mount Weihegold OLD, securing a third win in the competition. The German finished well clear of the field, with her closest rival Laura Graves and Verdades, who secured a personal best of 85.3%. Great Britain’s Hester finished in third place.
Team GB were given something to really applaud with a team victory at the FEI Nations Cup™ Dressage at Internationaux de dressage de Compiègne. Spencer Wilton and Super Nova also took the top spot in the Grand Prix Special.
A bit of bad luck for the Dutch team helped the USA on their way to a gold medal in Rotterdam’s FEI Nations Cup™ Qualifier. Madeleine Witte-Vrees’s horse Cennin lost a shoe only minutes before their test and could not compete, which meant that the entire Dutch team was eliminated. Graves showed her commitment and skill by anchoring the USA team to victory, with Sweden and Germany finishing in second and third.
The home crowd were cheering as Sweden, led by Kittel and Deja, rode to home victory in the FEI Nations Cup™ Dressage Qualifier at the Falsterbo Horse Show. Another strong performance at Aachen meant that heading into the final event (Hickstead) Sweden had amassed an unbeatable amount of points in the series, making them 2017 FEI Nations Cup™ champions.
August was all about the FEI European Championships™ in Gothenburg. The Germans were in control of the team event right from the start and convincing performances from all team members easily gave them the gold. Denmark and Sweden took second and third.
German rider Sonke Rothenberger, at just 22 years old, finished in second place on his 10yo gelding Cosmo with a phenomenal score of 90.614%. The pressure was on Werth who unsurprisingly stepped up to the plate to take gold, but she really had to dig deep and give it everything she had to beat out her fellow German by only 0.368 marks.
Young Danish rider Cathrine Dufour would have been absolutely thrilled with her performance on home soil at Herning. Aboard Atterupgaards Cassidy, the 24-year-old beat out top-ranked Werth and Don Johnson FRH to take the top spot. This young rider proved she is definitely one to watch for the future.
Both Werth and Kittel brought their second horse of the season to the World Cup Qualifier in Lyon, with the former showing why she is the sport’s most decorated athlete by posting yet another win on Emilio, a horse who came to her unpredictable, wild and dangerous. Kittel came in third aboard Deja but the real treat of the day was Spain’s multiple Olympic, European and WEG medallist Beatriz Ferrer-Salat and her 16yo gelding Delgado, who impressed enough to earn a silver medal.
It was the home crowd’s favourite Emile Faurie and his stallion Delatio who truly stole the show at the London Olympia World Cup Dressage. The pair, taking part in their first Grand Prix freestyle after just two months together, were just pipped for gold by Kittel.
With Werth in imperious form and so many exciting riders coming through, it’s impossible to predict who will prevail at the FEI World Cup™ Finals gold in Paris in April. The competition is stiff, with Dufour, Graves, Kittel and Dorothee Schneider all looking like they could push the German. Catch all the dressage action during 2018 on FEI.tv.
Text by Sophie Baker