By Nancy Jaffer

Carl Hester and Jane de la Mare’s Nip Tuck wowed the judges at the FEI World Cup Dressage Final last night (1 April) with their freestyle to the theme from the TV series Mr. Selfridge. But they couldn’t get past the world’s number one rider, Isabell Werth of Germany, and American star Laura Graves.

Even so, the British rider fulfilled his ambition of making the podium in Omaha, Nebraska, finishing third on 83.757%, with two of the seven judges giving him over 90% for his artistic marks.

“I did hope for a place and I rode for a place,” he stated after the awards ceremony in the CenturyLink Center, where the 14-horse competition played to an enthusiastic crowd of 8,578, many of whom had never seen international-level dressage.

Isabell rode Weihegold OLD, marked at 90.704%, to take her third World Cup title in 25 years. Laura’s ride on Verdades, scored at 85.307%, was a personal best. Carl understood that.

“When you’re competing in your home country, and you have home support, you get the wind under your tail… and that took her to another level,” he contended.

“Winning isn’t in fact the most important thing. The horse doing his best for you in a situation like this is what counts,” said Carl. He has had the Dutch-bred gelding he nicknamed Barney for 12 years, since he was a yearling.

“He didn’t make one mistake with curved changes, double pirouettes, a complete piaffe pirouette and passage half-passes. I throw in all the difficulty he’s good at. He’s so beautiful in his shape and his frame. It’s just nice to have some long lines to show that off,” commented Carl, who had also finished third behind Isabell and Laura in the grand prix two days earlier.

Judy Reynolds of Ireland, who won two freestyles in the Eastern US last autumn, was fourth on Vancouver K with 79.571%.

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Although it was the first time the Cup had been held in Omaha, a Midwestern city with a population of more than 900,000 in its metropolitan area, the well-run show drew nothing but raves from riders, trainers, officials, grooms and spectators. CenturyLink was able to house the arena, stables, warm-up area and 140 vendors under one roof. It’s linked by a skywalk to a hotel across the street, so no one staying there had to go out in the rainy weather.

Full report from the dressage and showjumping World Cup finals in H&H this Thursday (6 April issue).