There was a real show of strength from the Dutch contingent at the sixth leg of the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2022/2023 Western European League at Mechelen in Belgium today where they filled five of the top seven places in the competition won by Dinja van Liere and Hermes NOP.
Van Liere and her 10-year-old stallion, who clinched bronze in both the Grand Prix Special and Freestyle at the ECCO FEI World Championships 2022 in Herning, Denmark this summer, were firm favourites coming into this round of the 11-leg series, but the form-book was turned on its head in yesterday’s Grand Prix.
Mistakes proved costly for many of the main contenders and the leading Dutch duo had to settle for third behind Great Britain’s Lottie Fry and Everdale in second, while a fault-free performance from van Liere’s World Championship team-mate Marieke van der Putten and the 10-year-old Totilas gelding Torveslettens Titanium RS2 won through.
Today however Hermes was right back in the groove, giving his 32-year-old rider his full attention as he pranced his way through a sparkling test for the winning score of 85.815. Dutch compatriot Emmelie Scholtens and Desperado finished second ahead of Fry in third and van der Putten in fourth, while Denmark’s Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Blue Hors St Schufro finished fifth. And then Kirsten Brouwer (Foundation) and Thamar Zweistra (Hexagon’s Double Dutch) rounded up a great Dutch day when slotting into sixth and seventh places.
On a mark of 76.980, Brouwer was leading the way at the halfway stage, but Fry and her Tokyo 2020 Olympic team bronze-medal-winning ride Everdale raised the bar significantly when putting 83.865 on the board with a test that included lovely extended canter and perfect tempi-changes.
That looked hard to beat, but van Liere and Hermes soared out in front when scoring 85.815. As she explained afterwards, today’s performance was about putting every piece of the jigsaw into place. She mentally ticked off every movement as she went along.
“After every exercise I was saying OK – done! I was focusing on doing all the exercises without any mistakes today and of course piaffe/passage is always his highlight, he does it with such ease. The main thing was I was so happy that I had his focus the whole time during the test so I had more confidence that he really wanted to do it again!” said van Liere.
Scholtens and Desperado, winners at Mechelen when it was last staged in 2019, squeezed in ahead of Fry when posting 83.865 for runner-up spot when third-last to go. She was delighted with her result. Talking about Desperado she said “he did amazing today! I loved the atmosphere here in the arena and I think my horse did too. I am very pleased with him. He did not do too many shows last year so I am really happy!”
Meanwhile third-placed Fry is relishing the whole FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2022/2023 season. She produced a stunning performance to win the previous Western European League leg in London (GBR) partnering her World Championship star, Glamourdale, and today was thrilled with Everdale’s performance.
“It felt like a great improvement from yesterday. He really likes his Freestyle and I think this was one of his best performances. I was very pleased how he coped in the arena because sometimes the crowd can catch his attention. There is so much more to come from him and so much more I can improve. 2023 will be very exciting!” she said.
Van Liere talked about what Hermes has been up to since shining so brightly in Herning this summer. The 10-year-old stallion had a break before competing at Indoor Friesland (NED) in October and then travelled to Lyon (FRA) for the second leg of the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2022/2023 Western European League later that month. But he didn’t compete.
“He did something crazy in the stable there and on the first day of the competition he was not fit to compete. Of course he’s a stallion and maybe he’s a bit stallion-ish in the stable – I don’t know what he did during the night! So we took him home again. We then took a bit longer with him to be sure he was healthy and feeling fit and fresh again, so he had maybe another month of vacation and this is his first competition since then.” He made his return to action a winning one today.
Van Liere is pleased to have two Grand Prix horses to ride and says the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final 2023 in Omaha (USA) next April is a target for her.
“I have two really good horses to compete. I’ll ride Hot Chocolate in Basel (SUI) and Hermes in Amsterdam (NED) and then in s’Hertogenbosch (NED) it will be Hermes again. We will see, when he’s fit like this it’s definitely an option (for Hermes), and the World Cup competitions are the nicest competitions to ride!” she stated enthusiastically.
Basel will stage the next leg in two weeks’ time, and with 31 points to date van Liere has moved into twelfth place in the Western European League standings which continue to be be led by Germany’s Ingrid Klimke. The top nine will make the cut to the Final, and on current form today’s winner looks set to make a strong bid for one of those coveted qualifying tickets.