The atmosphere in the crowd was electric, as the arena glowed blue in anticipation of the 12 riders vying to see who would earn points to qualify for the FEI World Cup Finals in Gothenburg next April.
Only nine Dressage riders from the league will advance to Sweden, and the competition was stiff amongst the world’s best this week in London.
At the end of the interim break, Great Britain’s Lara Butler was in the lead on 74.170 percent, followed by Minne Telde of Sweden, who closed the first half of the programme with a charming freestyle performed to Christmas music.
Tempi changes plagued many of the riders in the second half of the evening, and the proximity of the ring to the crowd had a few horses more nervous than usual.
Riding second after the intermission, Charlotte Dujardin and Hawtins Delicato, who came in second in the previous day’s Grand Prix, turned in a nice test for her 80.030 percent, but it wasn’t without errors.
Hayley Watson-Greaves, also of Great Britain, gave a fantastic performance with a high degree of difficulty on Rubins Nite, executing clean transitions and powerful extended work. But with a score of 77.005 percent, it wasn’t quite enough to challenge her countryman.
Next up, Frederic Wandres, 31, sporting a jaunty holiday bow tie, showed what his young Hanoverian Duke of Britain could do, and their huge canter and expressive movements won over the judges for 80.030 percent and higher artistic scores than Dujardin.
Neither Great Britain’s Richard Davison nor Hans Peter Minderhoud could touch that score, although Minderhoud went all out, demonstrating power and expression aboard Glock’s Dream Boy, a stunning black stallion new to the Grand Prix circuit.
In spite of having a few wobbly transitions where his horse went off his leg momentarily, Minderhoud snagged the bronze spot with 77.990 percent, thrilled to have taken two medals on two consecutive days.