Freestyle Day at the Hippodrome

After a tense week of competition, the final day at the Hippodrome in La Prairie racecourse finishes with all five grades competing in the Freestyle tests with their dancing horses. Fifteen medals gleamed in the sun after the top riders from each grade battled it out for Freestyle glory.

Freestyle Day at the Hippodrome
© PSV Photos

First to go were the grade II riders, where The Netherland’s Rixt van der Horst doubled her gold tally to take the title on Uneik with a score of 76.35%. “This is a dream come true,” she said, “I think maybe tomorrow this will sink in but I am just so happy!” This is Rixt’s first major international and her first ever Freestlye test which was aptly named “Flying High”.

Narrowly missing out on gold, just 0.1% behind Rixt was Canadian rider Lauren Barwick on a score of 76.25% and third place went to The Netherlands once more, this time to Demi Vermeulen riding her 12 year old Dutch Warmblood mare, Vaness “I am very happy, still a little bit disappointed with the score but I have to enjoy that I have a medal,” she said.

Grade Ia also saw the form book thrown out the window with British favourite Sophie Christiansen only managing to take the silver medal. She was beaten by Italy’s Sarah Morganti who scored an enormous 78.80% to take the gold on board Royal Delight. “I can’t believe it,” she said of the win, “the horse was beautiful, we both love this test, she was on the music and was perfect, we couldn’t have done more.” Sarah confessed that this medal has surpassed her expectations, “I hoped and worked a lot for a medal, I dreamed of a gold so this is just a dream come true.” The nine year old mare has a long and illustrious career ahead of her under this up and coming rider.

Sophie achieved a score of 77.55% with Janeiro 6, and was very emotional as this is the last competition with her current trainer Clive Milkins, “I wanted a gold for Clive,” she said, “but I am content with silver, we couldn’t have done any more in that arena.” The bronze medal went to German rider Elke Phillip riding her seven year old Hanoverian gelding Regaliz to a score of 76.75%.

The grade 1b Freestyle competition went true to form and gold was once more in the ownership of Great Britain’s Lee Pearson. He rode the flamboyant Zion to the highest score of the entire week at the Hippodrome. “I’m only disappointed I didn’t beat Charlotte Dujardin’s score!” he joked, “It has been an amazing competition for me, I don’t think he could have gone any better for me today, people always told me he is not a world championship horse, well…he is now!

Pearson’s strongest competition came from Austrian rider Pepo Puch all week and today he claimed the silver medal with a score of exactly 78%, “today we danced to our Rio themed carnival music and the horse and I had a great time,” he said of his test, “Fine Time S is a hormonal diva but she has tried hard for me all week.” Puch is extremely pleased to be coming away with his medals, “I have been injured all season and very nearly didn’t make it here,” he said, “so to come away with two silvers after little training is great.” Third place went to Dutch rider Nicole Den Dulk riding Wallace with a score of 75.15%

In a repeat of history from the grade III Freestyle at the 2013 European Championships, The Netherlands’ Sanne Voets took the gold ahead of her rival, Individual Champion Hannelore Brenner from Germany. Sanne rides at small tour level during the winter season and produced some polished flying changes and lateral work to receive a score of 77.45%. “I just can’t believe it yet!” she laughed, “this is the reward for a lot of hard work, the partnership I have with my horse is indescribably special and he tried so hard for me today.”

Hannelore finished on a score of 76.2% with her mare Women Of The World to claim the silver which will accompany her gold from yesterday. The Freestyle music for this combination matched them perfectly, and they looked harmonious throughout, “I am very happy about my horse because she was so engaged and willing to work, it was a beautiful feeling,” she said. Hannelore was pleased with her medal colour also, “I am happy with my riding and if there is someone better then that is ok, I am happy with the silver.” The bronze medal went to Denmark’s Annika Lykke Risum with a score of 73.05% riding Aros A Fernis, this result will have made up for her disappointment in the lack of a medal on the Individual Championship day.  

The grade IV freestyle test was won by current Paralympic champion, Belgian rider Michele George. Crowned the Individual World Champion earlier in the week, George now adds Freestyle gold to her collection. She rode FBW Rainman to a score of 78.65%, “I am really excited and happy,” she said, “it’s another dream come true, but it was a very hard competition because I know Sophie is very strong in her Kur.”

Great Britain’s Sophie Wells was once more denied the gold by just 0.6% with a score of 78.05% on board Valerius. She rode a determined, immaculate test with an extremely complex and brave floorplan that split the judges with scores ranging from 73% to 81%. Sophie was visibly disappointed with her marks but was pleased with her performance, “I am really pleased with how the test went, I rode every step and couldn’t have done any more,” she said, “I am really pleased with my horse though, I am so proud of him.” Third place went to Dutch rider Frank Hosmar who piloted Alphaville N.O.P to a score of 75.95% to clinch the bronze once more.

CLICK HERE for a full list of all of the Para Dressage World Equestrian Games results and all of the news from throughout the week.

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