Quick Notes from the 2024 World Cup Finals' Kur to Music

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 15:38
2024 World Cup Finals
The convention center where the 2024 World Cup Finals in Riyadh are being held :: Photo © Dirk Caremans

- Text © Eurodressage (this article expresses Eurodressage's views and opinion about the competition)
- Photos © Dirk Caremans - NO REPRODUCTION ALLOWED

The 2024 World Cup Finals in Riyadh will go down as quite a special edition surrounded by discussion over sportwashing, human rights, and animal welfare. With an outspoken demand for a change in dressage judging more centered on harmony and animal welfare, all stakeholders arrived on edge in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

However, after the Grand Prix it proved that the sport seems quite resilient to change and the Finals will find their conclusion this afternoon with the freestyle to music. Who will succeed Jessica von Bredow-Werndl as World Cup champion? 

While last year in Omaha it became a drop out race with only 13 competing in the Kur, this year in Riyadh 15 riders will go down the centerline. The U.S.A. and Germany are best represented with three pairs, while small dressage nation Belgium has two. 

So here we go (it starts at 16h15).  The judges panel includes Thomas Lang (AUT), Eva-Maria Vint-Warmington (EST), Janet Foy (USA), Hans-Christian Matthiesen (DEN), Elke Ebert (GER), Susan Hoevenaars (AUS), and Peter Storr (GBR)

Quick Notes

Anna Marek on Fayvel
First to go in is American Anna Marek on Cyntha Davila's 14-year old KWPN gelding Fayvel (by Zizi Top x Houston). Oh ow, music is not so good to hear on the live streaming so it will be a lot of guessing from my part. Halt wide behind. Is that a tongue showing or just a lot of white froth coming out on the right side of his mouth? She begins with some piaffe-passage followed by a trot extension and trot zig zag. The piaffe pirouette is first ridden quite forward before turning, but nice rhythm. Good clear collected walk, nice relaxation in the extended walk with good V-moment.  Two tempi changes on the half circle and then ones on the diagonal (do I hear the Safety Dance, that's Steffen peters' music?). Correct changes.  Little miscommunication in the right canter half pass, 1.5 pirouette.  Marek has to do quite a bit of riding on Fayvel in that second trot extension. In the piaffe turn, the hindlegs stay a bit too much out, but the passage itself was pretty. Good square, immobile halt. Plenty of difficult lines in her freestyle.. overall like to see this horse a bit more in front of the aids and more quiet in the contact. 74.518%

The Riyadh World Cup Finals are the first ever on the Asian continent. In between rides the camera pans to the crowds and you see a highly international crowd in the stands - male and female.

French Morgan Barbançon and the 18-year old Oldenburg Sir Donnerhall II OLD (by Sandro Hit x Donnerhall) is next to go. Halts a bit wide, but immobile, yet deep (and trembling lip). Big extended canter, followed by a pirouette on the centerline. Morgan rides to French songs. canter zig zag and another double pirouette. Big one tempi's and then a transition into two's on the cirtcle followed by more one's.. Big changes but Sir D is a bit of a rocking horse in them.. could be more balanced. Tilts to the left in the extended walk, but plenty of overtrack and relaxed. Nice passage to the music but in the first piaffe he creeps forward. A bit of passage half pass. Extended trot is nicely uphill but a lot of flash in front and a minimum of overtrack achieved. Very nice trot half pass to the right, passage half passes not truly a half pass. And we're back in canter... Canter half pass to the left, pirouette on the centerline, change on the long side and then the same to the right. Third piaffe too forward, the fourth piaffe also does not really find the rhythm but the final passage to Celine Dion's I'm Alive was nice. 75.336%

Melissa Galloway on Windermere J'Obei W
New Zealand's Melissa Galloway and the 14-year old Windermere J'Obei W (by Johnson x Pompei Court xx) flew all the way from down under to The Netherlands to prepare and qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics (but has Wendi Williamson breathing down her neck with good scores achieved in New Zealand). The World Cup Finals are a snack on the side. She begins with a piaffe pirouette even though that's not the horse's strong suit. He's very stretched  frontlegs forward-hindlegs out and does not show the collection, sit and shifting of the hindlegs under the body, yet keeps a rhythm in what he's doing. The passage is nice though and a good extended trot followed. Rides to a potpourri of 1980-1990s tunes turned into a dance version (Jump, Tina Turner, Queen). Clear collected walk, extended walk ok. J'Obei can do very nice pirouettes, but they are often big, straight two and one tempi changes. Last trot extension not regular nor showing the required overtrack. Finishes with passage on the centerline towards a halt near G. 73.807%

Benjamin Ebeling on Indeed
American Benjamin Ebeling is the youngest competitor in the group, aged 24, riding  the 16-year old Danish mare Indeed (by Hofrat x De Niro).  Begins with a piaffe pirouette which is leaning on the forehand, then passage and another piaffe.. lacks a bit of steam. Is riding to Gwen Stefani (No Doubt). Very nice two tempi changes to the music. Walk to Ed Sheeran. His mare has plenty of overtrack and good relaxation.. There could be more V-moment in the rhythm. Nice symmetrical floorplan. Correct one tempi's. Rides 18 more one tempi changes on the joker line. Then a pirouette with a transition into piaffe but that's not truly a piaffe pirouette she's doing. The steps remain small. Tilts to the right in the half pass right, but overall Ebeling is riding a nice polished test. Another piaffe turn coming out of an extended trot. Mare is getting tighter in the neck and losing the hindlegs a bit towards the end of the test. Finishes with some passage towards the end halt. 72.511%

Larissa Pauluis on First Step Valentin
Right before the first break it's Belgian Larissa Pauluis aboard the Lepage family's 12-year old Westfalian stallion First Step Valentin (by Vitalis x Fidermark).  She gets the prize for the nicest braids from me. Not entirely immobile in that half. Begins with a passage half pass to the right, followed by a trot half pass to the left. This liver chestnut has a lot of freedom in the shoulder and a flashy front leg, which shows in the half passes and trot extensions. First piaffe ok, on the spot. Passage is floaty, but he tends to swing in the hindquarters instead of engaging under the body. Good overtrack in second trot extension, followed by a transition into collected walk, then extended walk with plenty of overstep. Rides to instrumental music I don't recognize. Horse is quite busy in the mouth. Correct two's (could be straighter from behind), correct ones but they could be more supple. Good canter extension. Horse is obedient to the aids and following his rider's cues but like to see the hand more quiet instead of half-halting backwards (which makes the mouth go open each time). Good final piaffe pirouette and passage, but sloppy finish in the halt. 72.929%

Now a short break. Time to make a cup of tea.

And we're back with a Belgian: Flore de Winne on the 10-year old Hanoverian stallion Flynn (by Fahrenheit x Sir Oldenburg). I'm a girl of the 80s so I grew up with house music and techno and I love this music. It's deep, it's heavy and it fits the horse. First passage a fraction uneven. The piaffes are slightly better: lense tense, on the spot. The piaffe turns make it easier for him as he tends to cross behind, but in the third one he leant too much on the forehand. Nice trot half passes, good overtrack in the extension but a little hurried. Collected walk gets lateral alas (6.1). Plenty of overtrack and good relaxation in the extended walk. Smooth two tempi changes, straight tones, but then not sure if the line was supposed to continue or not? Was that a mistake? Unsure. A bit swinging in the next one tempi line but all correct. Finishes with more passage and another piaffe turn. Nice easy going test, but for me the horse sparkled a bit more in the Grand Prix. 76.139 %

Matthias Rath on Destacado
The first of the German trio enters: Matthias Rath and Ann-Kathrin Linsenhoff's 11-year old Hanoverian stallion Destacado (by Desperados x Londonderry). This is a Steven Spielberg freestyle. Walk at entry tense, but very nice halt. Rides to Jaws. Had secretly hoped he would perform his 1001 Nights freestyle, made by Slings. Would have suited the venue perfectly. Gets wide behind in the piaffe. In passage there is plenty of airtime but the stallion does not truly move the hindlegs under the body towards the point of gravity. Indiana Jones for the trot half passes. Big trot extensions with a lot of bounce but the frame could also lengthen more. E.T. for the canter. The two tempi line but a bobble at the end. Jurassic Park in the zig zag and walk. Very good extended walk! Horse stays quite curled in the neck, would to see a more open gullet and him stretching into the contact. Correct one tempi changes that could cover more ground. Canter is uphill but the neck does not move. Horse is better in this Kur than in the Grand Prix. Struggles with the rhythm in piaffe turn at the end. Again passage that has much airtime but the hindlegs are out. Good square end halt. 77.850%

Justina Vanagaite on Nabab
Lithuanian Justina Vanagaite and her 11-year old Belgian warmblood Nabab (by Sir Donovan x Krack C) begin with the imperial march of Star Wars for their piaffe-passage opening. Then Indiana Jones for the extended trot, the music is over tempo for the trot half pass left. She got her spurs back on (in Doha she rode without them). Extensions are ground covering but he falls a bit on the forehand. Piaffe pirouette could have a bit more energy. Good relaxation in the extended walk. Early canter strike off to the music. Nabab is very obedient but gives a bit of a heavy/tired look. Canter music, not sure Inception or Batman? Obedient two's, nice pirouette but the exit a bit abrupt. Nice right pirouette. The one tempi changes are significantly shorter to the left. Another diagonal of two's going into ones. Finish with Ukrainian music and one handed passage. Vanagaite always rides with a blue and yellow rhythm on her lap in support of Ukraine. 75.104%

Kevin Kohmann on Dünensee
The third American, German born Kevin Kohmann on his mother-in law Terri Kane's  15-year old Hanoverian Dunensee (by Dancier x Davignon). Bit of an unbalanced halt (very tight in front). Begins with a double pirouette left, small hiccup in the two's which were otherwise very nice. From  canter in piaffe, nice. Passage lacks a bit of collection and self carriage. Also slightly hesitant in the rhythm of that piaffe turn. Music is by Avicii and Hinterland. Extended walk is tense and hurried. Good ones on a bent line. Overall the bridle contact is soft, at times the rider's hands could be more quiet. Transition canter - piaffe didn't work. Horse was a bit confused. Another piaffe but the left hind trails a bit. Plenty of overtrack in the trot extensions. 72.364%

German based Spaniard Borja Carrascosa on his own and Petra Hofmann's 11-year old Westfalian Sir Hubert B (by Sir Heinrich x Florestan). Enters in big medium canter, I want to see more bending in that first corner please!  Trot half pass followed by passage half pass and then a piaffe turn. struggles to find a good rhythl. The trot half pass right was uneven and leaning on the hand. In principle Sir Hubert can do a really nice piaffe, but he seems to be holding himself a bit..

Borja Carrascosa on Sir Hubert B
Tense collected walk, extended walk much better . Gets tense on the short side at A. Pirouettes are tense and the hindlegs are almost jumping together. Crooked in the left extended canter, nice one tempi changes, big pirouette right. Two's into ones. Rider seems to have work hard to accomplish it all. Horse tends to bop the hindquarters high in the piaffe (Bruno Mars). Finishes with brief moment of one-handed passage.  73.036%

Germany's 25-year old Raphael Netz and Sonja Krall's 13-year old KWPN gelding Great Escape Camelot (by Johnson x Turbo Magic) enter standing wide behind in halt. Horse really picks up his feet in the passage, but then keeps pulling those hocks high in the piaffe and loses some balance. Nice trot half passes, very elegant. Good overtrack in the trot extension but gets quick. Expressive in the passage half passes.  Camelot is a bit mouthy. Don't recognize the music, heavy orchestral. Collected walk could be a bit more closed. Loses the 3-beat rhythm in the canter at times. Straight two tempi. Music sounds Mulan/Shogun/Samurai like..Finishes with a piaffe pirouette and passage on the final centerline. Overall the horse gets a bit hectic. I would like to see him slow down a bit. 76.482%

Small break and then the final four are going. 

Everdale travelled the ring when blood appeared in his
mouth. He was immediately excused
Winners of the Grand Prix, Dutch based British Charlotte Fry and Van Olst's 15-year old KWPN stallion Everdale (by Lord Leatherdale x Negro), will be riding for the title. Did I spot blood on the horse's mouth while Fry was going round the ring? Yes. Matthiesen rings the bell and she won't be able to start. Eliminated. Such a pity.

Denmark's Nanna Skodborg Merrald premiers a new Spiderman inspired freestyle for the 16-year old Blue Hors Don Olymbrio (by Jazz x Ferro). In the piaffe he really lowers the haunches, but is not so secure in the balance. Good trot extension but lengthen more in the frame, not just the stride.  Hesitant in that trot half pass right, not truly smooth and regular. Miscommunication in the start of the piaffe pirouette which was not fluent. Good relaxation, rhythm and overtrack in the extended walk. Only a very short bit of collected walk before the canter strike off. Nice extended canter. Don O can really take the weight on the hindquarters in the pirouettes. Secure two tempi changes, nice ones. Another diagonal with two's that go into ones.. all very secure.  The final passage looks a bit clunky and shaky left-right but lots of bounce and expression. Same comment from the Gp counts: I like to see the hands more quiet so the horse keeps the mouth a bit more closed, but Don O was very obedient and willing. 81.429%

isabell Werth and Quantaz
And now Isabell Werth and Vici Max-Theurer and Madeleine Winter-Schulze's 14-year old Brandenburger Quantaz (by Quaterback x Hohenstein). Will the Queen of Dressage grab her sixth World Cup title at her 25th World Cup Finals? She rides her Bonnie Tylor kur. Halt is square but not on the bit, piaffe turn a bit stretched, like to see more crossing behind in the half pass right. Good trot extension. Small spook in the half pass right. Smooth into the piaffe, good rhythm and on the spot, but too much on the forehand still, nice trot extension. The extended walk was poor in rhythm again, leans towards lateral, the collected mwa.. mediocre and crooked.. Piaffe turn and a big swoop into a double pirouette. Not as tidy as in Riesenbeck.  Big zig zag, but he's very mouthy in it and gaping. Double pirouette right could be smaller.. The two's are very laboured and he's fighting the bit. Big onset to the left pirouette. Those ones were not pretty, cowboy style swinging left right both horse and rider.  That final canter pirouette - piaffe pirouette is cool. Best piaffe then follows. Snorts in that last piaffe pirouette that breaks the rhythm. OK.. lots of nice things, but it was quite the job.. Definitely not sailing to victory..Wonder what the judges will do with that. 81.404 % and behind Merrald. Correct!

Patrik Kittel on Toudhdown
Final ride of the Finals: Swedish Patrik Kittel on Sommarkvarn's 12-year old Swedish warmblood Touchdown (by Quaterback x Sack). Last year the Finals did not fit in his schedule and outdoor season preparation, this year it did on identical dates.  Entry in walk. Big trot extensions but quite a bit of pulling on the reins to collect him again. James Bond music.  Passage half pass, looks a bit unsteady. Good crossing in the trot half pass. Passage is not passage, but slow trot with hindlegs out. Piaffe turn very wide behind and creeping forward. The passage is not evenly sustained in the half pass, trot half passes go much more smoothly. Passage not enough collection. Again wide in the piaffe turn. Visible half halting in the next passage bit. Strong contact in the transition down from the extended trot and into the walk, mouth gaping. Very good extended walk: nice marching. Good collected walk, stays clear in the rhythm. Lots of foam in the horse's mouth, more on the right side than left. Strong contact in the extended canter right. Big two tempi changes, but a bit tense. Gets deep in the canter half pass, gapes. Expressive extended canter but again very hand ridden and not seat ridden to collect into the pirouette. Big uphill one tempi changes. Piaffe on the spot and more uphill this time, but still wide behind. Really nice music. Another wide piaffe turn. Extended trot but then total handbrake, lots of pulling to the final halt. Lightness? 81.661%.

Kittel wins and bags the money: 77,709 euro for the freestyle (+11,000 euro in the Grand Prix). After 13 years he's back on the podium and this time the highest step. After bronze with Scandic in the Kur at the 2011 European Championships, he wins the 2024 World Cup Finals with Touchdown. Louise Nathhorst won the 1998 World Cup Final as first Swede, Kittel is the second in history.

Signing off.

- Photos © Dirk Caremans - NO REPRODUCTION ALLOWED

Eurodressage Coverage of the 2024 World Cup Finals