A horse who was once so frightened and erratic he “nearly went to heaven” has come up trumps for Isabell Werth in a World Cup dressage qualifier.

The 11-year-old gelding Emilio recorded a score of 84.2% in Gothenburg, Sweden, on Friday (24 February), to take the competition from Swedish runners-up Patrik Kittel and Delauney, on 80.91%.

Isabell said the horse lost some confidence in the freestyle, and that she was realised “he needs more training because he didn’t always know what to do and we had two mistakes, in the pirouette and tempi changes”, but that she will also compete him at the final qualifier in the Netherlands in a fortnight’s time.

Isabell explained Emilio had “something of a reputation” in his early years.

“It was as if he could see something out of the corner of his eye when you tried to get in the saddle, he was terrified and would go crazy,” she said

It seemed as though there was no competitive future for a horse with such a dangerous level of inexplicable fear. “He nearly went to heaven”, said Isabell, who now has high hopes for the gelding.

“Emilio was lucky to come to Isabell, not all horses find the right people!” said Patrik, who was delighted with his second place.

Isabell can now not be caught at the top of the table, with 80 points compared to second-placed Kristy Oatley, on 55. Carl Hester is in joint third on 54.

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The World Cup final will be held in Omaha, Nebraska on 27 March to 2 April.

“Weihegold is my first choice and Emilio my second choice [for the final], but there is no need to put pressure on [Emilio] so we will see how it works out,” Isabell said.