It’s Even Sweeter When You Win Gold in Your Home Country
The crowd in Herning went wild over Denmark’s first-ever World Championships dressage gold medal
Text and photographs by Jennifer O. Bryant
In the 1980s and 1990s and even into the 2000s, when a international dressage championships rolled around, the results were practically a foregone conclusion: Germany atop the podium, followed by the Netherlands, with a smidge of competition lending a modicum of excitement to the quest for bronze. The USA began occupying that position in 1992, alternating with a few other nations, such as Denmark and Spain.
The dressage team competition at the Ecco FEI World Dressage Championships Herning 2022 was not that predictable sort of affair.
To begin with, the German team was down one major player: 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games team and individual gold medalist Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera BB, sidelined because the rider is due to give birth this very month. Meanwhile the other mainstay of Team Germany, the legendary Isabell Werth, was campaigning a new mount, the 12-year-old German Sport Horse stallion DSP Quantaz (Quaterback x Hohenstein).
There are new faces on the scene in the US, too, following the retirement in 2020 of the leading horses Verdades and Goerklintgaards Dublet. Joining established veterans Steffen Peters on Suppenkasper and Adrienne Lyle on Salvino were newcomers (to the US team, anyway) Ashley Holzer on Valentine, and rookie Katie Duerrhammer on Quartett.
And since the 2012 London Olympics, Great Britain has been a dressage world power, too, led by Charlotte Dujardin, who has brought several newer mounts to top placings since the retirement of her legendary partner, Valegro. As for the Netherlands, the cast of characters changes a bit but they’ve never faded away; the Dutch are always in it to win it. Finally, to the delight of the Herning 2022 host country, Denmark, which has always been in the mix but hasn’t seen a World Championships medal podium since it won team bronze in 1982, has been on an upward trajectory in recent years, led by breakout pair Cathrine Laudrup-Dufour and the 10-year-old Westfalen gelding Vamos Amigos (Vitalis x Blue Hors Hotline).
With high scores from Krüth (76.683%), Rasmussen (76.724), and Andersen (76.584), the Danes were in a comfortable medal position, although the Brits issued a strong challenge, led by 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games team bronze medalist Charlotte Fry on the 11-year-old KWPN stallion Glamourdale (Lord Leatherdale x Negro). Fry was one of only two riders to break the 80% mark in Herning, with powerful trot work and a jaw-dropping canter tour earning a score of 80.838%.
But it was Laudrup-Dufour’s day to claim the spotlight, and as if on cue as she and “Vamos” prepared to enter the arena at Stutteri Ask Stadium, the sun broke through the day’s relentless clouds and bathed the bright-bay gelding in early-evening golden light. The rather boisterous crowd hushed and seemed to hold its collective breath through the brilliant, harmonious test. During the last few seconds, some in the audience began to shout and clap with joy and were sternly hushed by those who understood that the noise could upset the horse. (Several riders, including the USA’s Ashley Holzer on Valentine and Adrienne Lyle on Salvino, saw their final halts and salutes disrupted by clapping during the last steps of their passage down center line.) Laudrup-Dufour’s test earned the highest score of the Grand Prix, 81.864%, and gave Team Denmark the edge it needed to win the gold, topping Great Britain by fewer than 1.5 percentage points (235.451 vs. 234.223).
Assisted by strong performances from Fry’s teammates—Charlotte Dujardin on Imhotep (77.407%), Richard Davison on Bubblingh (68.851), and Gareth Hughes on Classic Briolinca (75.978)—Team Great Britain won silver. Hughes did not attend the post-competition press conference, and Davison revealed that Hughes had been diagnosed with COVID-19 the day of the competition and hadn’t been feeling well when he rode his Grand Prix test Saturday. (Officials assured the members of the press in attendance, some of whom seemed skeptical, that all current Danish and federation coronavirus protocols had been followed.)
Germany, led by Werth, took team bronze. One of Werth’s teammates is a familiar face to equestrian enthusiasts but is more commonly seen blazing around a cross-country course: the versatile and talented eventing medalist Ingrid Klimke, who showed that she knows her way around a dressage arena with the best of them. Klimke piloted the 14-year-old Hanoverian stallion Franziskus (Fidertanz 2 x Alabaster) to a score of 75.683%.
Stepping out of the shadow of his sister, 2020 Tokyo Olympic German team and individual gold medalist Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, was Benjamin Werndl. He rode the 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding Famoso OLD (Farewell III x Welt Hit II) to the German team’s second-highest score, 77.003%. Rounding out the team was Frederic Wandres on Duke of Britain FRH (Dimaggio x Rubinstein) (76.661).
As for the USA, it wasn’t our moment to shine. Yesterday I documented Valentine’s unfortunate meltdown in the piaffe-passage tour with rider Ashley Holzer (https://yourdressage.org/2022/08/06/world-championships-day-2-first-day-of-grand-prix-update/), although the strong performance by newcomers Katie Duerrhammer and Quartett was an uplifting highlight. On day 2, there was a parallel up-down, beginning with veteran Steffen Peters’ team-leading test aboard the 14-year-old KWPN gelding Suppenkasper (Spielberg x Krack C).
Of their effort, which earned a score of 74.767%, Peters said: “It was a clean test, and I’m proud of him. The extended canter, thank god, worked out, and he did come back to me. That was probably the most fun part. The extensions, I just don’t dare to push it. It’s always, ‘Mopsie, a little bit less.’ That’s pretty amazing when you have so much power underneath you. I think we can step it up a bit tomorrow” in the Grand Prix Special.
Fellow veteran pair Adrienne Lyle and the 15-year-old Hanoverian stallion Salvino (Sandro Hit x Donnerhall) might have had an even higher score than Peters—they earned 74.394%—had it not been for some uncharacteristic bobbles. “Vinny” appeared to have some loss of balance after the first canter pirouette, then trotted before picking up the wrong lead, which Lyle swiftly corrected; then the audience clapping began to distract him just prior to the final salute. Team USA finished sixth on a team total of 220.00.
But half of the team members will live on to fight another day—tomorrow, that is, in the Grand Prix Special, the first dressage individual-medal competition at Herning 2022. The top 30 from the Grand Prix advance to the Special, and Peters (15th) and Lyle (18th) made the cut.