23 March 2017

For the Game-of-Throners among you, Cersei Lannister once said, "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground".

Now while Dressage is possibly the furthest you can get from George R.R. Martin's masterpiece, there is certainly no middle ground when it comes to the FEI World Cup™ Final in Dressage, as only one rider of eighteen will come away from the arena as victor.


And with the recent retirement of Valegro, the competition is going to be red hot as the remaining riders and horses battle it out for top honours in Omaha.


Last year’s winner, Hans Peter Minderhoud, won the final World Cup qualifier in his home country of the Netherlands at s-Hertogenbosch with a beautiful test and a personal best Freestyle score on Glock’s Flirt - and obviously will be looking to defend his title this year. 




Even with Hans Peter’s incredible performance at s-Hertogenbosch, Isabell Werth remains the rider to beat in Omaha. 


The most decorated Dressage rider in Olympic history was unbeatable in her five previous outings for the World Cup Series, winning all five on three different horses


She has been in incredible form and has qualified top of the Western European league, traditionally one of the strongest leagues with the imposing presence of Germany, The Netherlands, Great Britain and the Scandinavian nations. 




These two riders could have a face-off to remember for years to come if they both bring their A-game...

...but as any Dressage fan will know – you have to watch out for almost any rider with a German or Dutch flag alongside their name. 


With that in mind, Edward Gal of The Netherlands and Jessica von Bredow-Werndl of Germany could feature pretty strongly too. 


Move over Steffen Peters


American dressage fans can look forward to the presence of Laura Graves, who’s had a meteoric rise since starting to compete at Grand Prix level in 2014.  


This has included an individual fourth and team bronze in Rio last year, along with fifth place at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in 2014 and a fourth place at the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Finals in 2015.


If you have to move away from your TV, definitely don’t do it when Laura Graves’ test starts, because she is in with a real chance of claiming her first World Cup medal this year.


Laura is a rider to watch not only for 2017, but for many years to come. 



If you have to move away from your TV, don’t do it when Laura Graves’ test starts!

Another dark horse is the ever-present Carl Hester.

We wouldn’t expect a win from Dressage’s most likeable character, but he will turn in a solid performance and garner appreciation and praise from his loyal fans. 


And who knows – despite some spookiness, the enormous Nip Tuck managed to clinch a convincing win with Carl at the London Olympia qualifier, so the pair could surprise us! 





This is only the second appearance by Carl Hester at an FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final

The last time was in 2005



And then there’s Judy Reynolds, the first Irish rider to qualify for the World Cup Finals. 





We don’t expect her to finish with a medal – but she did Ireland proud in Rio last year and has had a very solid run through the qualifiers. Podium finish or not, her test will be a fun one to watch.


When it comes to the final scoreboards though, we’d wager our money on seeing Isabell Werth at the top. 


Text by Sophie Kate Baker

Images by Liz Gregg, RIchard Juilliart & Cara Grimshaw


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