13 September 2018

Isabell Werth is in tears as comeback queen Bella Rose helps Germany defend their Dressage Team title at Tryon 2018

Germany took gold at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games Dressage Team event on Thursday evening, with the USA in second and Great Britain in third. Sweden were knocked into fourth by a mere 0.2%.


Isabell Werth and Bella Rose – selected over Weihegold – led the Germans to yet another title, adding to Sonke Rothenberger’s superb performance from earlier in the day. Germany had headed into the second day in the lead thanks to Wednesday’s heroics from Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Dorothee Schneider.


Laura Graves, Edward Gal, Isabell Werth, Charlotte Dujardin, Carl Hester and Patrik Kittel were some of the stars on show in Tryon during a thrilling day.


Bella Rose had been a rising star for Werth before suffering an injury in 2014 that put her out of action for more than three years. Werth burst into tears after posting 84.829 to put the result beyond doubt with the biggest score of the competition.


"Most people know that my heart is so close to this horse," Werth said. "She is a gift, I saw that when I first met her as a three-year-old and she has never lost it.


"Her lightness, her elegance, she never wants to make a mistake, she’s full of power and energy, it is the greatest pleasure to work with her!"


While Germany came into day two with a healthy lead, nobody could afford to rest on their laurels with such fierce competition amongst the top handful of teams.

Thursday’s competition would decide not only the team medallists, but also determine which individual riders moved forward to Friday’s Grand Prix Special. On top of that, the top six teams would also qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, 2020.


Sonke Rothenberger delivered as expected, shooting to the top of the leaderboard after his performance with Cosmo where the pair broke through the 80% Grand Prix barrier for the first time ever outside of a freestyle with an 81.4%.


The Swedes kept up their fine form with Therese Nilshagen putting up a solid performance, backed up later in the day by teammate Patrik Kittel and Well Done de la Roche who achieved a personal best.


A 78.3% was needed to knock GB out of third place and secure a medal for Sweden, but 78.21% was the final score - much to the relief of the British riders and the dismay of the Swedish supporters.


The USA were not to be outclassed either, with Kasey Perry-Glass clocking 76.7% before the break for the fourth rotation of riders which would include big names such as Isabell Werth, Edward Gal and Charlotte Dujardin.



The latter and Carl Hester of Great Britain both posted scores of over 77% on their mounts, but it was the Germans who reigned supreme throughout.


With only six riders to go it was still Rothenberger leading the pack – with teammate Werth and rival Laura Graves poised in the wings with their eyes on the top spot.


Werth was under serious pressure to perform, not just because of her spotless record but also thanks to a controversial choice of horse.


Werth, who made clear that her first choice of ride was the Bellissimo M mare Bella Rose who has recently returned to competition after four years off had to prove the naysayers wrong, especially as Bella Rose had been selected over both her double World Cup-winning mare Weihegold, and her established GP gelding Emilio.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, Werth did just that – she and Bella Rose scored a personal best and knocked teammates Rothenberger and Cosmo out of the top spot with a score of  84.7% propelling both Germany and Werth to the top of the leaderboards.


With Graves and Verdades still to go though and with the combination regularly scoring over 80%, Werth and Germany still weren’t home dry.


Dressage superstar Gal and his equine partner Glock’s Zonik were the penultimate combination and despite a very low chance of clinching a medal Gal was all business, comfortably slotting himself into the top five and doing enough to secure Olympic qualification for the Dutch in 2020.


Perhaps the rider facing the most pressure was the home nation’s darling Graves, who was last to go and fully intending to throw down the gauntlet and stake her claim to the top spot.

Any mistakes would mean a fall from the podium for Team USA, as well as a fall from grace from Graves herself, currently lauded as America’s premier Dressage rider.


A few errors in the walk meant that Graves and Verdades didn’t post quite the mid-80s score she would have been hoping for, but her score was good enough to retain the silver for the USA and finish second place individually after the team competition.


Follow tomorrow's Grand Prix Special Individual competition on FEI TV from 10:30am EST (3:30pm BST / 4:30pm CET)


Text by Sophie Baker

Images by Martin Dokoupil / Liz Gregg


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