Defending series champions, Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill NRW, strutted to victory with considerable ease at the sixth leg of the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2013/2014 Western European League in Neumunster (GER). A performance that oozed confidence, cohesion and comfort ensured the 31-year-old rider and her 14-year-old stallion have satisfied the qualifying criteria for the Final, and they did it in style when posting a personal best Freestyle score of 90.375.

They pipped runners-up Anna Kasprzak and Donnperignon from Denmark by almost seven percentage points, while Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl celebrated her 28th birthday by clinching third with a highly impressive performance from Unee BB. And with Isabell Werth (Don Johnson) lining up fourth and Fabienne Lutkemeier (D’Agostino) finishing fifth, the raw strength of the German contingent was indisputable. Team trainer, three-time Olympic team gold medallist and double FEI World Cup™ Dressage champion Monica Theodorescu, will be spoiled for choice in deciding the three riders to represent Germany at the Final which will take place in Lyon (FRA) in April.

Early lead

Going third of the 15 starters, Charming Boy belied his veteran status when the 18-year-old gelding took the early lead with a score of 75.225 for Sweden’s Sofie Lexner. However Finland’s Terhi Stegars and Axis TSF soon re-set the target when posting a mark of 77.175. The pure appeal of this neat and handsome 15-year-old Trakehner stallion is always difficult to resist, and the small but packed stadium of spectators showed their appreciation with a wild round of applause for this pair’s performance.

It was The Netherlands’ Hans Peter Minderhoud who was holding the advantage at the halfway stage however on a score of 78.350. The Dutchman brought a new ride, the 12-year-old stallion Johnson B, to the German fixture and placed seventh in yesterday’s Grand Prix, but the horse showed even more of his potential today with nice piaffe, extravagant canter pirouette and big, open movement that rocketed him, temporarily, to the top of the leaderboard.

Minderhoud described Johnson B as inexperienced even though he has had the horse since he was a three-year-old. “He did all the Young Horse classes, he went to Verden and did the Small Tours but then he was out for a while and was breeding a lot. Now he has grown up and he knows all the stuff, so he’s now ready for the World Cups and bigger international shows” the Dutch rider explained.


His score would be overtaken by Lutkemeier and D’Agostino who, third to go after the break, produced a mark of 80.050, only for that to be blown away by Langehanenberg’s result with Damon Hill. The defending champions cruised through their Freestyle floor plan, nailing every movement and flawless in their communication. Such is their understanding of each other now that the pair move as one, the stallion seemingly keen to put on his best possible show each time he enters the arena, just like his rider.

“He is so much with me and working with me and he wants to present himself to the crowd. The arena here is only as big as a dressage arena with no extra space so the audience is very, very close. That’s not easy for every horse, although most of them seemed to manage it really well today, but it surely suits Dami (Damon Hill NRW) because he just can’t get close enough to his fans – he loves it!” said Langehanenberg afterwards.

From there it was always going to be a procession for the minor placings, and Denmark’s Anna Kasprzak produced a Freestyle full of strong canter pirouettes, bouncy canterwork and rhythmic passage to rack up 83.575 to go into runner-up spot. That proved too good for the remaining two, Isabell Werth’s Don johnson FRH posting 80.250 that left her fourth place when, last in, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl earned a mark of 82.425 to slot into third. This latter score marked another step-up in form for this German rider whose results have been ever-improving all season.

Von Bredow-Werndl comes from a family with a real sporting tradition, her father, Klaus, is a former German sailing champion and her mother, Micaela, was a member of the German junior national ski team for seven years. Her brother, Benjamin, also competes for Germany in Dressage and her parents run Dressage Centre Aubenhausen which is located between the towns of Bad Aibling and Rosenheim, Germany.

Best result

“This is the best result my horse and I have had” von Bredow-Wrendl said. “We really enjoyed it and we had a great ride I think, we had a lot of fun. I didn’t have to change anything for today (after yesterday’s Grand Prix). Having said that, the warm-up arena is cold and the main arena itself is extremely warm so it feels like you’re entering into a sauna! My horse really enjoyed it though, and I think the crowd did as well” the German rider added.

Runner-up, Anna Kasprzak, said she was “super happy” with the performance of Donnperignon. “I knew yesterday (after the Grand Prix in which he also finished second to Damon Hill NRW) that he would be better today. For every competition that we have together we keep learning so much from each other. It is such an amazing feeling to become even better every time, every performance” the Danish rider pointed out.

And Judge at C, America’s Liselotte Fore, admitted to finding today’s competition quite a jaw-dropping experience. “I had never seen the horses or the riders here before, so I came in with a fresh pair of eyes. The performances were incredible and my eyes kept getting wider and my mouth didn’t stop dropping – it was unbelievable!” she said.

“It is great when a judge can use the upper scale of the marking, always wanting to give 9 and 10s! It was great to see the riders and horses working in such harmony, the performances were exceptional and I enjoyed it tremendously” she added. It wasn’t just the riders who showed courage and determination today however as the Ground Jury didn’t hesitate to mark riders for what they saw on the day regardless of those rider’s results in yesterday’s preliminary Grand Prix competition, and there were some significant changes.

High points

For Langehanenberg, the satisfaction of achieving another personal best Freestyle score and her faith in her ever-reliable stallion were the high points today. She laid down her previous personal best of 89.775 when topping the second round of the current Reem Acra series at Stuttgart (GER) last November. “Another personal record – it is really incredible!” she said. “Dami is so willing to work and he enjoys so much being in the arena. He’s absolutely amazing!” she added with delight.

And she applauded the spectators for their support for all the competitors today. “We are here in North Germany where there are so many great horsemen and I think the audience really has a great understanding of the horse. They clap every rider, no matter how they perform, and they give us all a great feeling. No-one always has a good ride, but even if you go badly here you go home with a good feeling because you know the spectators appreciate what you are trying to achieve”.

She thanked the show organisers and sponsors. “Thank you to Paul and Bettina (Schockemohle) as the show here is fantastic and I want to thank our sponsors, especially Reem Acra and her support for the Dressage FEI World Cup™ series – it’s really special. In an era when it is difficult for organisers to find sponsors, the likes of Reem Acra are there and ready to invest in our sport” Langehanenberg said.

Now for the defending champion it is time to settle back and plan her campaign before the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final in April. “Normally we don’t do too much between shows but it depends on the length of time – we will have to sit down and discuss what to do after this weekend” Langehanenberg explained. She is buoyed up by today’s score – “we are absolutely in the 90s now, and I really believe in Dami” she said. And she is looking forward to Final.

Asked today if she can reclaim the title, she replied “I don’t know, every day is a new day. We will try to do a strong performance without mistakes and we will do our very best – we can’t do any more than that!”.


1, Damon Hill NRW (Helen Langehanenberg) GER 90.375; 2, Donnperignon (Anna Kasprzak) DEN 83.575; 3, Unee BB (Jessica von Bredow-Werndl) GER 82.425; 4, Don Johnson FRH (Isabell Werth) GER 80.250; 5, D’Agostino FRH (Fabienne Lutkemeier) GER 80.050; 6, Johnson 6 (Hans Peter Minderhoud) NED 78.350; 7, Millibar (Nanna Skoborg Merrald) DEN 78.200; 8, Axis TSF (Terhi Stegars) FIN 77.175; 9, Smeyers Lazander (Marcela Krinke Susmelj) SUI 75.475; 10, Charming Boy (Sofie Lexner) SWE 75.225; 11, Don Lorean (Alexandra Barbancon Mestre) ESP 74.475; 12, Biggles (Kristian von Krusenstierna) SWE 74.250; 13, Uzzo (Patrick van der Meer) 72.250; 14, Famous Boy (Borja Carracosa Martinez) ESP 71.950; 15, Romeo-Star (Elena Sidneva) RUS 71.725.

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