Dressage, rather like show jumping does not really have a ‘closed season’ so in this article we look at the top riders of 2019. There has been some great sport throughout the year and there have been several combinations who caught the eye. Isabell Werth from Germany has dominated the world rankings and has taken all before her with a collection of seriously good horses.
The first main event of the year in April was the World Cup Finals, which in 2019 was held in Sweden at Gothenburg. Fifty year old Isabell Werth started the way she intended to continue for the year by winning both the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle, thus impressing the seven judges to take the title outright on Weihegold. OLD Isabell Werth has been a top competitor on the world dressage stage for thirty years. She first burst onto the scene in 1989 riding for the German Dressage Team, and getting a Team Gold Medal in the European Championships. Since then, she has become the most decorated equestrian athlete in history. She has competed in five different Olympic Games. In fact, every Olympics since 1992 to 2016 except Athens in 2004; and collected ten medals, six of them Gold and the other four, Silver. She has been World Equestrian Games Champion nine times, World Cup
Champion five times and European Champion no less than twenty times in her illustrious career. Arguably, her most famous horse was Gigolo FRH, on whom she won eight individual Gold medals. He was last seen in the Sydney Olympics in 2000. At the time, she had two top horses to replace Gigolo, Anthony FRH and another well known horse Satchmo 78. Although Anthony added to her medal haul, Satchmo was the one, with whom she collected a further five Gold medals. In recent years, she has ridden possibly her best and current horse, Weihegold OLD, an Oldenburg mare born in 2005. She has won a staggering twelve Gold Medals on this horse, including this year’s World Cup Final.
In 2018, she brought out her next horse of fame, Bella Rose II on whom she has won the World Equestrian Games in 2018, and this year won a further three Gold medals on this horse at the European Championships. It is interesting to note that none of Isabell’s horses have been stallions and her success has been equally divided over the years with both mares and geldings. (Her two current top horses are both mares.) It goes without saying that she will end 2019 ranked the world number one, not for the first time! She is also currently the world number two on a different horse with fellow Germans Dorothee Schneider and Jessica von Bredow Verndl in third and fourth ranked places.
The top ranked rider, who is not a German is from the United States – Laura Graves. She started the year well by winning the silver medal at the World Cup Finals behind Isabell Werth, riding Verdades, a seventeen year old KWPN gelding. 32 year old Laura started her international career on her current horse Verdades, which she brought as a foal from the Netherlands. Laura grew up in Vermont in the US on the family farm and she always had an interest in horses. Verdades, by her own admission was a difficult horse. He dumped her on one occasion breaking her back. Rather disillusioned, she decided to go to Boston to become a beautician and tried to sell the now infamous Verdades, but without success. Finally, she decided that horses is where she wanted her future to be, so returned home.
Laura and Verdades started their Grand Prix in 2014, where she competed at The American Dressage Championships and where they came seconds, and doing so automatically qualified for the World equestrian Games in Normandy the same year. Although there were no medals on that occasion, the following year the pair competed in the Pan American Games where they won their first Gold Medal. This was a team Gold, but she also came home with the Individual Silver. In 2016, the pair travelled to Brazil for the Rio Olympics where further success was recorded with a team Bronze. At the World Cup Finals in Omaha in 2017, she collected her first world individual medal – silver – beaten by Isabell Werth. A year later, she retained her Silver Medal in the Paris World Cup Finals before recording further success at Tryon in the World Equestrian Games with another Silver medal. She also got the record score ever in her Freestyle at Aachen and was the first American to hold the world ranking number one slot in dressage. This year, the pair collected yet another silver in the World Cup Finals as well as other wins in both Europe and The US. She is currently ranked number five in the world.
Fifty year old Dorothee Schneider has been a stalwart of the German dressage team since the London Olympic Games where she collected her first metal ware – a team Silver medal. She is the daughter of Hans Schneider, an elite German dressage rider and also a well known dressage judge. Her best horse is arguably Showtime FRH, upon whom she has won two team Gold medals at The Olympic Games in 2016 and the European Championships this year. Her other medal winning horse was Sammy Davis Junior, with whom she won Team Gold at the World equestrian Games in 2018. This year she has been recognised for the equestrian work she has done throughout her career by winning The Riding Master. She is currently in third place on the world ranking list.
Thirty three year old Jessica Von Bredow Werndl comes from a family of sportsman. Her brother, Ben is also a dressage rider, her father was German national sailing champion and her mother was very useful on the ski slopes. In 2004, Jessica won the Gold medal for the Young riders European Championships. After ten years, she surfaced once again on the world stage in the World Cup Finals having qualified with a win in Gothenburg. In 2015, she again qualified for the World Cup Finals where she won the Bronze medal riding Unee BB. In 2018, at the Tryon World Equestrian Games, she won her first Gold medal with the German Team riding her new mount TSB Dalera BB. This year, on the same horse she again was a gold member of the German team at the European Championships.
Other riders to catch the eye this year have been Charlotte Dujardin, who since the retirement of Valegro has been bringing on her new ride, German born Mount St John Freestyle. She has also been competition with Erlentanz and has been rising up the rankings once again since 2017. Judy Reynolds from Ireland has had her most successful year so far when putting in several good performances at international level riding Vancouver K. Both Cathrine Dufour and Daniel Bachmann Andersen from Denmark have been riding consistently well and both ended up in the top ten ranked riders. Cathrine’s main ride for the year was Atterupgaards Cassidy and Daniel was riding Blue Hors Zack.
Although the World Cup qualifying series continues, it is most unlikely that Isabell Werth will be knocked off her top spot at the year’s end. Charlotte Dujardin is looking a threat to end in the top ten with a couple more entries in the World Cup Qualifiers including her home venue in London at Olympia.
The editor Bernard Simpson has been involved with horses and the industry for over 40 years. Together with his wife, he bred many flat racehorses including some which were Royal Ascot winners. He is also experienced in equine media using video, photography and journalism. Bernard currently lives in Wiltshire. He and guest authors now present this blog and hope you like our articles.
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