The final leg of the Western European League in ’s-Hertogenbosch (NED) brought the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2022/2023 qualifying season to a close and, with just three weeks to go before the action gets underway at the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final 2023 in Omaha (USA), the Definite Entries are confirmed.
It’s been another busy season and already there is plenty to celebrate for League winners around the globe.
Athletes competing in the Central European League have known their fate for some time now, Lithuania’s Justina Vanagaite and Moldova’s Alisa Glinka clinching the two qualifying spots on offer in this region.
There were 13 legs in the series and Vanagaite was clear winner when picking up maximum points at four legs, in Pärnu (EST), Perila (EST), Samorin (SVK), and at the penultimate round in Zakrzow (POL). All were achieved with her ultra-consistent dark bay BWP gelding Nabab whose results are even more impressive for the fact that he is only 10 years old this year.
The 33-year-old athlete from Vilnius (LTU) only moved the horse up to Grand Prix level in 2021, and such has been their meteoric rise in the sport that she made history as the first-ever Lithuanian rider to compete at an FEI European Dressage Championship when lining out in Hagen (GER) that year where they finished 58th.
Last summer the pair competed at the ECCO FEI World Championships in Herning (DEN) where they finished individually 44th, and Vanagaite then set her sights on qualification for the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final 2023 with a longer-term view to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. So far, so good for the talented and ambitious duo who will be ones to watch in a few weeks’ time.
Glinka, who finished just ahead of Vanagaite when individually 57th at Hagen EC two years ago, was also a history-maker as the first-ever Moldovan rider to compete at an FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final in Leipzig (GER) last year. The 35-year-old, who is also an actress, then headed to the World Championships with her top ride, the 12-year-old Oldenburg called Aachen, and with the maximum points collected in the Central European League legs at Olomouc (CZE), Lipica (SLO), and Samorin (SVK) this season has earned that second-spot ticket to Omaha.
Estonia’s Dina Ellermann finished third in the League ahead of Hungary’s Csaba Szokola in fourth, Lithuania’s Sandra Sysojeva in fifth, and Poland’s Zaneta Skowronska-Kozubik in sixth place.
There were three legs in the Pacific League including the Final in which just two athletes competed, with 21-year-old Charlotte Phillips pipping fellow-Australian Kerry Mack.
Phillips and CP Dresden finished fifth in the Freestyle at the opening leg at Werribee in Victoria where Mary Hanna came out on top with Syriana ahead of Jayden Browne and Willingapark Sky Diamond and a total of seven contested for the honours.
Mack finished second at the CDIW(A) in Melbourne with Mayfield Limelight behind Lindsey Ware and Aristede in pole position, and only Mack and Philiips battled it out in the Final at Bawley Point in New South Wales last month.
The Ground Jury of Stephen Clarke (GBR), Susan Hoevenaars (AUS), Juan Carlos Campos Escribano (ESP), Susan Hobson (NZL), and Jobina Kennedy (AUS) awarded the winning mark of 74.275 to Phillips and the 15-year-old CP Dresden while Mack and her 15-year-old Australian Warmblood Mayfield Limelight scored 68.140. Both athletes qualified for the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final 2023 but are unable to travel.
Scores for athletes in the North American series were collected from 10 qualifiers in the USA along with two of the Western European League legs in Madrid (ESP) and London (GBR) and Steffen Peters, veteran of five Olympic Games, five World Championships, and five FEI Dressage World Cup™ Finals topped the leaderboard here.
The 58-year-old athlete won three legs, all in Thermal in California, to clinch top spot ahead of fellow-Americans Alice Tarjan in second and Anna Buffini who claimed the third and last spot on offer in this region.
Riding the 15-year-old Suppenkasper, with which he helped clinch team silver at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and who also carried him to team silver at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018 in Tryon, USA, Peters produced consistently strong winning scores of 80.020, 81.590, and 80.785. Crowned series champion in Las Vegas, USA back in 2009 with Ravel, he is bound to be a crowd favourite in Omaha at this year’s finale.
Tarjan and the 10-year-old mare Serenade MF won the first leg in Devon and the third leg in Tryon, also collecting points for finishing second and fifth in Wellington, Florida. The 43-year-old rider will be competing at her first FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final, but 28-year-old Buffini lined out at last year’s Final in Germany with FRH Davinia La Douce, finishing 12th in the Freestyle. She concluded this season’s League tied on points with Sarah Tubman (First Apple), but higher average scores gave her the edge for that third qualifying spot.
Tubman had to settle for fourth in the final League standings ahead of Claire Darnell in fifth and Charlotte Jorst in sixth place.
Singapore’s Caroline Chew has qualified for the Final as the non-league rider, picking up her final qualifying score in Wellington, Florida with the 19-year-old Tribiani.
Not for the first time, Germany dominated the Western European League table with five-time series champion Isabell Werth leading the way ahead of compatriot Ingrid Klimke in second spot.
The Netherlands’ Dinja van Liere finished third ahead of Denmark’s Nanna Skodborg Merrald in fourth while Germany’s Benjamin Werndl finished fifth. However, Benjamin will not join his sister, Olympic individual and team gold medallist and reigning FEI Dressage World Cup™ champion Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, because each National Federation can only send three horse/rider combinations and Jessica and her brilliant mare TSF Dalera BB will defend the title they won 12 months ago.
The partnership that claimed individual double-gold at last year’s World Championship, Great Britain’s Charlotte Fry and Glamourdale, won the last leg of the League in ’s-Hertogenbosch (NED) and are comfortably qualified for the 2023 Final, but the stallion won’t be travelling. So since Fry has only competed once with both of her other rides – Everdale and Lars van de Hoenderheide – this season she will not be on the Omaha start-list because the minimum requirement is two starts per horse.
Sweden’s Patrik Kittel lies seventh on the League table ahead of The Netherlands’ Thamar Zweistra in eighth and former series champion Helen Langehanenberg from Germany in ninth. There are nine qualifying places from this League and they have not, as yet, been finalised.
Omaha is a happy hunting ground for the multi-medalled Isabell Werth who reigned supreme with her great mare Weihegold OLD at the same venue back in 2017 before going on to make it three-in-a-row in Paris (FRA) and Gothenburg (SWE) over the following two years.
by Louise Parkes