There’s a whole new burst of energy in Belgian dressage in recent times, and the inclusion of Flore de Winne and Larissa Pauluis in the startlist for the forthcoming FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final 2024 in Riyadh (KSA) has boosted that energy even further.

At the FEI European Championship 2023 in Riesenbeck, Germany last September, Belgium bagged one of the three places up for grabs for teams not already qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. It was a huge moment as it was the first time in 100 years for the country to make the cut by direct qualification rather than having to use the composite team route which relies on rankings.

Both de Winne and Pauluis were part of that team that not only took the qualifying spot but did it in real style, seizing the second of the three available places thanks to sparkling personal-best performances from Pauluis and her 14-year-old gelding Flambeau and from Charlotte Defalque and Boticelli.

De Winne, who celebrates her 29th birthday today (April 5), was the rookie of the team. Only in her second season competing at Grand Prix level she too scored strongly with the black stallion Flynn FRH who was just nine years old at the time.


The pair were real eye-catchers and further developed their partnership throughout the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2023/2024 Western European League series.

They finished sixth in London (GBR) in December, posting a Freestyle mark of 77.020, and then produced the first of two consecutive 80% scores to take third with 80.330 on home ground in Mechelen (BEL) as the year was winding to a close.

In Amsterdam (NED) in January they put 80.315 on the board for sixth place, and although they dropped all the way to 15th and last at the final leg of the series in ’s-Hertogenbosch (NED) last month it is clear that this is a combination full of future potential.

De Winne finished equal-tenth in the Western European League qualifying series.

More mileage

Belgian champion, 44-year-old Larissa Pauluis, is considerably more experienced, and with the 14-year-old KWPN gelding Flambeau competed at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021.

They lined out in five of the eleven legs of the Western European League this season, and in November finished eighth in Lyon (FRA) and eleventh in Stuttgart (GER). They posted another eighth place in Mechelen at the year’s end, and in their final two outings, at Neumünster (GER) in February and ’s-Hertogenbosch (NED) in March, they filled sixth and ninth places respectively.

However Pauluis has opted to bring the 12-year-old chestnut stallion First-Step Valentin to Riyadh instead. During her super-busy Western European League campaign she also rode him twice, finishing eighth in Madrid (ESP) in November and fourteenth in Basel (SUI) in January, finally finishing joint-14th on the WEL leaderboard.

First time

It will be the first time for Belgium to be represented by two athletes when the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final 2024 kicks off on 17 April, and both are really looking forward to the challenge.

“I’m really happy, and it’s an honour to go to my first World Cup Final!” Pauluis said yesterday. She’s very proud of how well the horse she has had since he was just over two years old has grown to the top level of the sport.

“Valentin is a really nice ride. In his 5-year-old year in 2017 he was awarded the title of champion of France. In Belgium he had six outings and six victories and he qualified for the World Championships where he finished in eighth place and he was champion of France for six-year-olds. In 2019 he was vice-champion of France for 7 year olds and he was twice top-10 in the World Championships at Ermelo at age five and seven,” said the rider who has had the horse under her wing since he was two years old and who knows him very well indeed.


Flore de Winne said yesterday that going to the Final in Riyadh “is an opportunity not to be missed!”

She acknowledged that herself, Pauluis and Defalque are making waves in the sport right now and are flying the Belgian flag high, “and we hope to continue to be exceptional and to enjoy the moment! We are lucky to have very reliable horses and people around us, and this is already a very special year for us – and it can only get better!” she added.

She described Flynn as her “once in a lifetime horse.” He’ll travel, along with Pauluis’ stallion Valentin under the watchful eye of her father who wants to be with them every inch of the way to the Final.

“I never rode Grand Prix until I got him at six years old, and he has gone to Grand Prix level with a dummy on his back – me!” she said with a laugh yesterday. “What he’s done is so extraordinary and he keeps on giving his all even though I’m not the most experienced rider.”

She and Flynn will be joining a sparkling line-up at the 2024 Final in Riyadh so don’t miss a hoofbeat…..

Find all you need to know about the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final 2024 here.